Steps and Rock Face "Tarpeian Way" | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Steps and Rock Face "Tarpeian Way"

Item details

Name of item: Steps and Rock Face "Tarpeian Way"
Other name/s: Tarpeian Way, Tarpeian Rock
Type of item: Landscape
Group/Collection: Landscape - Cultural
Category: Historic Landscape
Location: Lat: -33.8608546213387 Long: 151.213050707213
Primary address: Macquarie Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Macquarie StreetSydneySydney  Primary Address
Bennelong PointSydneySydney  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

The Tarpeian Rock/Tarpeian Way is a dramatic and significant landscape feature. Its name is an example of 19th Century Romanticism.
Date significance updated: 04 Aug 11
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.


Construction years: 1880-1880
Physical description: A sheer rock face cut along its north-west side for the extension of Macquarie Street. Steps were cut and constructed in the side of the rock during late last century. The Tarpeian Way is the path above the rock face. It derives its name from the famous rock on the Capitoline Hill in Rome from where prisoners were hurled to their deaths in ancient times. A stairway gives access from close to the Sydney Opera House to the top of the rock and Domain. An early carving in the sandstone cliff is located about 3 metres above the fifth step from the base of the cliff. The carving reads "The Tarpeian Way". It possibly dates from the time of construction in the 1880s. Category:Stair. General Details:Refer to Archaeological Zoning Plan.
Modifications and dates: c. 1880
Further information: Heritage Inventory sheets are often not comprehensive, and should be regarded as a general guide only. Inventory sheets are based on information available, and often do not include the social history of sites and buildings. Inventory sheets are constantly updated by the City as further information becomes available. An inventory sheet with little information may simply indicate that there has been no building work done to the item recently: it does not mean that items are not significant. Further research is always recommended as part of preparation of development proposals for heritage items, and is necessary in preparation of Heritage Impact Assessments and Conservation Management Plans, so that the significance of heritage items can be fully assessed prior to submitting development applications.
Current use: Stairway


Historical notes: The "Eora people" was the name given to the coastal Aborigines around Sydney. Central Sydney is therefore often referred to as "Eora Country". Within the City of Sydney local government area, the traditional owners are the Cadigal and Wangal bands of the Eora. There is no written record of the name of the language spoken and currently there are debates as whether the coastal peoples spoke a separate language "Eora" or whether this was actually a dialect of the Dharug language. Remnant bushland in places like Blackwattle Bay retain elements of traditional plant, bird and animal life, including fish and rock oysters.

With the invasion of the Sydney region, the Cadigal and Wangal people were decimated but there are descendants still living in Sydney today. All cities include many immigrants in their population. Aboriginal people from across the state have been attracted to suburbs such as Pyrmont, Balmain, Rozelle, Glebe and Redfern since the 1930s. Changes in government legislation in the 1960s provided freedom of movement enabling more Aboriginal people to choose to live in Sydney.

(Information sourced from Anita Heiss, "Aboriginal People and Place", Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City )

A prominent sandstone cliff facing the Opera House at Bennelong Point. It derives its name from the famous rock on the Capitoline Hill in Rome from where prisoners were hurled to their death in ancient times. A stair gives from close to the Opera House to the top of the Rock. An early carving in the sandstone cliff is located about 3 metres above the fifth step from the base of the cliff. The carving reads "The Tarpeian Way". It possibly dates from the time of construction in the 1880s.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Community facilities-

Recommended management:

The building should be retained and conserved. A Heritage Assessment and Heritage Impact Statement, or a Conservation Management Plan, should be prepared for the building prior to any major works being undertaken. There shall be no vertical additions to the building and no alterations to the fa├žade of the building other than to reinstate original features. The principal room layout and planning configuration as well as significant internal original features including ceilings, cornices, joinery, flooring and fireplaces should be retained and conserved. Any additions and alterations should be confined to the rear in areas of less significance, should not be visibly prominent and shall be in accordance with the relevant planning controls.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanSydney Local Environmental Plan 2012I186014 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1985Circular Quay Heritage Study
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City

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: 2424601

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

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