K006 : O'Sullivans Folly | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


K006 : O'Sullivans Folly

Item details

Name of item: K006 : O'Sullivans Folly
Primary address: Off Glenraphael Drive, Katoomba, NSW 2780
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Off Glenraphael DriveKatoombaBlue Mountains   Primary Address

Statement of significance:

Refer to Assessment.
Date significance updated: 03 Jul 09
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Peter Mulheran
Builder/Maker: Peter Mulheran and P O'Mara
Construction years: 1899-1902
Physical description: The road is the same as Glenraphael Drive for about a kilometre from Cliff Drive. This section has been extensively regraded as a fire trail and tourist route and preserves little of its original work. Glenraphael Drive then goes independently along the spine of Narrow Neck while O'Sullivans Road curves off to the west at an unsignposted point which is marked by a locked gate at its eastern end. This section of the old road has concrete kerbing and guttering in parts, as it leads to the escarpment above Megalong Valley. The route formerly required a descent by ladder to the valley, but the original ladders have been removed. Vertical steel ladders were built beside the water-pipeline in 1964, but are no longer safe to
be used.

A sandstone overhang with ironstone bands is a distinguishing natural landmark on the final section of the road as it curves away from a corner on its descent. The overhang has been worked by human hands and subsequently heavily reinforced with steel reinforcement rods and mesh. The road terminates at the water-pumping station WPJ 244. The pumping station was partly excavated into the rock face and the concrete roof was designed to follow the same slope as the rock just before the vertical descent into Megalong. On top of the concrete slab a special textile was laid and on top of that a thin layer of topsoil on which plants were encouraged to establish themselves.

There are good views to Boars Head Rock from the road.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:03 Jul 09
Current use: Track; Water Pumping Station
Former use: Track


Historical notes: As tourism and settlement Increased around Katoomba in the 1880s, there was a perceived need for a viable road down into Megalong Valley. In 1899 the new Minister for Public Works, E.W. O'Sullivan, approved works for a road down Narrow Neck and then down the escarpment into the valley. The road was designed by the local Irish entrepreneur, Peter Mulheran, who had opened up Wentworth Falls Reserve and also was a major road-maker in the Burragorang Valley (Austin, Craven, Silvey, A Brief History of the Township of Wentworth Falls, 9).

The road did not follow the earlier walking track out Narrow Neck, was taken to the cliff edge by Mulheran by 1902. The road connected with Dickson's Ladders which had given a short cut for workers at The Glen oil-shale-mine in the 1890s. By this time £2000 had been spent and it was estimated that ten times as much would be needed to replace the ladders with a viable road down the escarpment into Megalong. So the work was aborted In 1902. (Smith,Beaver, Betteridge, Tracks into History, SHI form 3900197, NB 09)

As a result the abandoned road was dubbed O'Sullivans Folly. It was a very small episode in the minister's public career. O'Sullivan, an Irish Catholic by origin, had come to New South Wales via Tasmania and Victoria in 1882 at the age of 36: he was printer by trade, and only later a journalist (he edited the Freemans Journal in 1898-9) and a politician, becoming Minister of Public Works under Lyne in 1899 then under See in 1901 until 1904. O'Sullivan's main public work was the creation of the Central Railway Station and the destruction of Devonshire Cemetery which it caused (Mansfield, Australian Democrat, 159-160). Professor Mansfield regards him as honest, enthusiastic and humane: the glitch at Narrow Neck is not even mentioned in Mansfield's Australian Dictionary of Biography entry (11,107-8) nor in his much fuller biography, Australian Democrat, (151-211). In the context of state-wide problems in these years of hardship through extreme drought and recession, the small matter of a road into Megalong did not rate highly outside Katoomba.

Although there was recurrent interest at Katoomba in taking a road down into Megalong in the first half of the twentieth century, nothing came of this.

In 1964, however, one aspect of the third stage of the Fish River Water Scheme begun in 1943, called for a pipeline from Megalong to Leura. The route chosen took the metal pipe up Narrow Neck just at the site of Dickson's Ladders, to the end of O'Sullivans Folly Road. A pumping station was recognised as necessary but was not built until 1976, ingeniously and unobtrusively slotted into the rock shelf just above the vertical descent into Megalong.(McLachlan, Let's Have Water: a History of the Fish River Water Supply, 76-78, 80).

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The urge to find a route down into Megalong from Katoomba has local significance in the development of roads and walking tracks. The insistence in the study of Walking Tracks of State Significance by Smith, Beaver and Betteridge that O'Sullivan himself is sufficiently important to give this short stretch of road State significance is not shared by the present consultants. The work of Peter Mulheran, well known in Wentworth Falls and Burragorang, in designing and constructing O'Sullivans Folly is also of local significance.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
This road does not fulfil the aesthetic criterion.
Integrity/Intactness: Moderate
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLEP1991K00627 Dec 91 183 
Heritage study K006   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Blue Mountains Heritage Study1983K006Croft & Associates Pty Ltd & Meredith Walker  Yes
Heritage Study Review, Blue Mountains1992K006Tropman and Tropman  Yes
Blue Mountains Heritage Review2003K006Jack, Hubert, Lavelle, Morris  Yes
Technical Audit BM Heritage Register2008K006Blue Mountains City CouncilCity Planning Branch No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenBruce E Mansfield1988O'Sullivan, Edward William (1846-1910), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11
WrittenBruce Mansfield1965Australian Democrat: The Career of Edward William O'Sullivan, 1846-1910
WrittenJim Smith, David Beaver, Chris Betteridge2004Tracks into History: Conservation Management Plan for Walking Tracks of State Heritage Significance in the Blue Mountains, July
WrittenRobin McLachlan with Denis Barrett, Jack Domis and Nick Welling1997Let's have water: A history of the Fish River Water Supply

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1170809

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