Tank Stream Fountain | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Tank Stream Fountain

Item details

Name of item: Tank Stream Fountain
Other name/s: Children's Fountain, Herald Fountain.
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Parks, Gardens and Trees
Category: Fountain
Primary address: Herald Square, Sydney, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Herald SquareSydneySydney  Primary Address
Alfred StreetSydneySydney  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

The sculpture is of historical, aesthetic and social significance. The sculpture relates well to the simple rectilinear shape of Herald Square. It is an excellent example of civic sculpture rich with symbolism and artisanship.
Date significance updated: 03 Feb 06
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: WALKER Stephen
Physical description: A series of figurative and non-figurative forms in bronze. Linked by five separate linked pools. From the central fountain four columns in bronze rise out of the pool. The Children's Fountain features a selection of native flora and fauna. The fountain features organic motifs and forms representative of the pre-European ecosystems of the tank stream. The fountain traces the crucial importance of water to life in Australia. The central fountain features four vertical elements representing the seasons. Category:Statue, Monument or Fountain. General Details:Refer to Archaeological Zoning Plan.
Further information: ArtistDesigner:WALKER Stephen BirthDeath:1927_ sex:Male Nationality:Australian Biography:Born Melbourne 1927; 1945-1948 studied painting on a part-time basis at Melbourne Technical College; 1948_1950 full-time student at Hobart Technical College; 1951_1953 taught in Hobart at the Technical College; 1952 circa began to produce sculptural work predominately in wood; 1954_1956 assistant to Henry Moore in England; 1957 returned to Tasmania; 1960-1961 won Italian Government scholarship and subsequently studied in Rome and Florence; 1963 awarded an UNESCO scholarship and studied in Prague; 1964 returned to Australia; 1967 set up a studio at Arcadia NSW; 1973 established a studio in Campania Tasmania where Walker is presently based. OtherWorks:Commissions: 1953 Woodcarving for foyer of Commonwealth Bank of Australia Hobart; 1958 hanging screen for Commercial Bank of Australia Hobart; 1959 aluminium and cement sculpture for facade of T.V.T. Building Hobart; 1961 T. V. Station Entrance Launceston; 1967_1968 entrance facade of Commonwealth Banking Corporation Offices Martin Place Sydney; 1968 Sculpture for R.G. Menzies Library Australian National University Canberra. Entrance lobby Department of Supply Anzac Parade Canberra. Front entrance of Moresby House Canberra. Department of Works Woden Town Centre Philip Canberra. Sculpture Fountain for Macquare University Sydney; 1969 Farest Landscape fountain for Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Melbourne. Fountain for RACV building Melbourne; 1969-1971 Tidal Pools sculpture fountain Bank of NSW Martin Place; 1972 memorial Fountain using Huon pine to French explorers Botanical Gardens Hobart; 1972 Fountain at Claremont Shopping Centre Hobart; 1973 Play sculpture in wood for grounds of Friend's School Hobart; 1973-1975 Sculpture in wood and bronze for Western Australian Insitute of Technology Perth; 1974 Spring Landscape in bronze produced in 1968 and installed in public buildings Harrington Street Hobart in 1974; 1975 Supreme Court Building Hobart. (Compiled from Scarlett K op cit pp. 670-677.) Foundry:Cast in Hobart at Walker's own foundry in Campania Tasmania. Cast using wax sheets. FabricationDate:10/1979 InstallDate:16/4/1981 RelocationDate:N/A Inscriptions:'The Sydney coat of arms/the tank stream fountain/and the landscaping of /the square were donated to the /city of Sydney for the pleasure and /enjoyment of citizens and visitors by /John Fairfax & Sons limited proprietors of /the Sydney Morning Herald /to commemorate the 150th anniversary/of the first publication of the Sydney /Herald on April 18 1831./The right Hon. the Lord Mayor of Sydney Alderman Douglas W. Sutherland A.M. /accepted the gift of behalf of citizens/on April 16 1981/J.O. Fairfax L.P. Carter O.B.E.Chairman Town Clerk/John Fairfax Limited'/(The Fairfax crest.) Western side: '1788/A stream flows into Sydney/Cove. The European settlement/of Australian begins along its /sandstone banks. Soon drought /strikes and storage tanks are carved /from the stone Hence the name. tank /stream/The seasons pass/1981 /The tank stream fountain recalls/mankind's past dependence on this /flowing stream and our links/with life around this region/Sculptor: Stephen Walker' Plaque set into the eastern wall facing west adjacent to the Children's Fountain: 'The Children's Fountain/ Dedicated to all the children who/have played around the tank steam/Presented by John Fairfax & Sons Limited 1981' Two memorial plaques at either end of Herald Square one at Pitt Street end faces east one at George Street end faces west. The inscription are identical on both plaques: 'The Herald's first Press the Columbian 1831'. Acquisition:The fountain was accepted on behalf of the citizens of Sydney 16 April 1981; it was presented by John Fairfax & Sons Limited. CurrentOwner:Sydney City Council ResearchAssistant:Sharon Veale

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.


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 http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/barani )

On 25 June 1979 Sydney City Council accepted an offer by John Fairfax and Sons Limited to enhance the streetscape between George and Pitt Streets in Alfred Street to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Herald in 1831. The resulting Tank Stream and Childrens Foumtain at Herald Square consists of a cascading fountain with a series of bronze sculptures designed by Stephen Walker. The sculpture represents the largest private gift to the City Council at that time. As Council had already planned to improve the streetscaping in the area, the additional work proposed was treated as an extra on the Concil's existing contract with Melocco Bros Pty Ltd. The additional landscaping work, costing $356 154.50 was subsidised at a cost of $183 495.50. The Herald matched this amount in addition to meeting the costs involved with the sculpture itself. Work proceeded to schedule and the fountain was dedicated by the Lord Mayor on 16 April 1981. Walker's brief from Fairfax and Sons' was to create an association of water and bronze. In doing so, Walker connected the fountain to the Tank Stream, the European settlement's first water supply, at an original outlet close by. By connecting the Tank Stream Fountain to an original outlet of the Tank Stream the artist sought to highlight a union between the Sydney Morning Herald and Sydney's European history.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Association with the Tank Stream and Sydney's early water supply; association with Fairfax and Sons. By linking the fountain to an original outlet of the Tank Stream the artist sought to highlight a union between the Sydney Morning Herald and the history of Sydney's European settlement.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Significant for artistic excellence. Integral to Herald Square. Prominent feature in a public space with high visitation.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Socially significant as the fountain commemorates 150th anniversary of the Sydney Morning Herald, the city's oldest newspaper.
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.

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 LEP 2012I180714 Dec 12   
Heritage study     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1985Circular Quay Heritage Study
Written Scarlett K.1980Australian Sculptors: Thomas Nelson Melbourne pp.673-677.
WrittenAnita Heiss Aboriginal People and Place, Barani: Indigenous History of Sydney City
WrittenSturgeon G.1978Development of Australian Sculpture 1788-1975

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

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 2426030

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