Busby's Bore | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Busby's Bore

Item details

Name of item: Busby's Bore
Other name/s: Lachlan Tunnel
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Utilities - Water
Category: Other - Utilities - Water
Primary address: Centennial Park to Hyde Park, Paddington, NSW 2021
Local govt. area: Sydney
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP110645
LOT1 DP130269
LOT2 DP130269
LOT1 DP174698
LOT1 DP174966
LOT1 DP205794
LOT20 DP230915
LOTD DP33410
LOTE DP33410
LOTF DP33410
LOTG DP33411
LOTH DP33411
LOTJ DP33411
LOT6 DP365
LOT7 DP365
LOTA DP377984
LOTA DP434226
LOTB DP434226
LOTC DP434226
LOTA DP440596
LOTB DP440596
LOTC DP440596
LOT1 DP446553
VOL6544 FOL49
LOT1 DP51145
LOT5 DP59752
LOT1 DP59808
LOT1 DP603938
LOT1 DP604127
LOT1 DP61238
LOT  DP623
LOT2 DP634807
LOT1 DP70537
LOT1 DP742261
LOT5 DP745804
LOT1 DP75105
LOT1487 DP752011
LOT1528 DP752011
LOT1626 DP752011
LOT1627 DP752011
LOT1786 DP752011
LOT1 DP789476
LOT1 DP797239
LOT1 DP826022
LOT101 DP883120
LOT102 DP883120
LOTB2 DP9258
LOTA DP928904
LOTB DP928904
LOTC DP928904
LOTD DP928904
LOTF DP928904
LOT1 DP934462
LOT1 DP945258


Heritage Council Plan 1564
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Centennial Park to Hyde ParkPaddingtonSydney  Primary Address
Centennial Park to Hyde ParkPaddingtonWoollahra  Alternate Address

Statement of significance:

Following the demise of the Tank Stream, Busby's Bore was a crucial element in the provision of water to the early Colony of New South Wales between 1837 & 1880. It is demonstrative of the attempt made by the Colonial Administration to ensure an adequate water supply for Sydney residents. In addition, it was the first major infrastructure tunnel to be built in Sydney, being excavated by hand by convict labour.

The tunnel stretches a distance of 3.6km beneath the city. It remains substantially intact, apart from a small section beneath Oxford Street, which was filled with sand in 1934. It has a high level of archaeological potential, enhanced by its inaccessibility. It remains a tangible reminder of the early public structures built predominantly with convict labour. It is listed by the Australian Heritage Commission on the Register of the National Estate and is included on the National Trust of Australia (NSW) Register.
Date significance updated: 09 Jan 01
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: John Busby
Builder/Maker: Colonial Government
Construction years: 1827-1837
Physical description: Excavated by hand, the bore stretches over a distance of 3.6km beneath the City and varies from 1.2m to 1.5m in width. In places, it is up to 3m high. The tunnel follows an erratic, meandering course, and as recent excavations have shown, several dead-end spurs occur within its length. There are 28 vertical shafts and wells ranging from 6m to 8.4m which were tapped into the bore. When work was completed in 1837, it had the capacity to supply Sydney's population of 20,000 people with up to 1.5 million litres of water per day. Irregularities in the tunnel surface were removed in 1872, when cast segments were introduced to improve the flow. When the Bore returned to service in 1872 there was a huge decrease in the amount of pumping provided by the Botany Pumping Station. After this, the water became tainted from various sources, including the tarmac of the new tram ways, and it was consequently abandoned as a viable source of drinking water.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The bore was not used after about 1886. It was partly filled with sand under Oxford Street in 1934 when the weight of tram traffic caused stone slabs to collapse. Presently thought to be mostly intact except for the section below Oxford Street.
Date condition updated:24 May 00
Modifications and dates: 1840's - construction of water reticulation pipes laid from the bore.
1859 - Augmentation of the bore with the Botany System.
Current use: Disused
Former use: Water Supply


Historical notes: By 1824, the Tank Stream had become so polluted that Governor Darling engaged an engineer to find an alternative source. John Busby, a Mineral Surveyor, proposed that water be taken from the Lachlan Swamps (now Centennial Park). His plan was to convey water through an underground tunnel or 'bore' to the City centre for distribution at the Colony's racecourse, where Hyde Park is presently situated. The Lachlan Swamps area was a low lying marsh containing a plentiful supply of fresh water. It was part of a sandy region known as the Macquarie Reserve, and covered the areas currently known as Moore Park, the Showgrounds, and the Sydney Sports Stadium. Work commenced in 1827 on what is now the south-eastern corner of Hyde Park and subsequently Sydney's first piped water supply resulted. The project began with convict labour and was not completed until 1837 when Sydney was again in the grip of a prolonged drought. In the 1840's, construction began on the City's first water reticulation pipes, laid from the bore to various parts of the township. This led to the eventual augmentation of the Bore with the Botany System in 1859. It continued to serve the City and Woolloomooloo until the Upper Nepean scheme was completed in the 1880's.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Convict-Activities relating to incarceration, transport, reform, accommodation and working during the convict period in NSW (1788-1850) - does not include activities associated with the conviction of persons in NSW that are unrelated to the imperial 'convict system': use the theme of Law & Order for such activities (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Health-Activities associated with preparing and providing medical assistance and/or promoting or maintaining the well being of humans (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Building settlements, towns and cities-National Theme 4

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Busby's Bore was the first major infrastructure tunnel to be built in Sydney. It provided water from the Lachlan Swamps (Centennial Park) via a tunnel to Hyde Park, and later extended to the Harbour. It was the first piped water supply to Sydney.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The majority of Busby's Bore is located underground. There are, however, 36 wells and vertical shafts tapped into the bore. The aesthetic significance includes the important surroundings where these wells and shafts meet the surface. For example, 2 shafts are present on the grounds of the Victoria Army Barracks. These shafts were used to supply water to the barracks and to the former hospital. Centennial Park has a brass monument to signify the presence of the bore, and Hyde Park (north) has a fountain to honour its construction.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
After the contamination of the Tank Stream, Busby's Bore provided a source of freshwater to the city. It is an important feature in the development of the city of Sydney. It is identified by numerous community groups for its significance.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Excavated by hand, the bore stretches over a distance of 3.6km under the city and varies from 1.2 to 1.5m wide and is up to 3m high in places. The bore has high technological importance because at the time of completion (1837) it was one the longest underground tunnels built in Australia.
SHR Criteria f)
It is unique as evidence of Sydney's second water supply. The item is of technical significance. At the time of completion, 1837, it was one of the longest underground tunnels built in Australia.
SHR Criteria g)
Representative of the first major infrastructure tunnel to be built in Sydney.
Integrity/Intactness: Is considerably intact apart from a section underneath Oxford Street filled with pipe and sand.
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:

Manage the place and its significant components in accordance with the Heritage Council State Owned Heritage Asset Management Guidelines and the Minimum Standards of Maintenance and Repair in the NSW Heritage Regulations. Manage significant site elements in accordance with a Conservation Management Plan (CMP). If no CMP exists, consult with Asset Management Commercial Services with respect to commissioning a CMP. When commissioning a CMP, do so in accordance with the Model Brief for CMPs available on ConnectNet. Seek endorsement of the CMP from the Heritage Council of NSW. Works undertaken in accordance with a Heritage Council-endorsed CMP do not require further approval under the NSW Heritage Act. Involve heritage professionals as required under the terms of the CMP, or as otherwise determined necessary. Review CMP every 5 years or in a major change of circumstances, whichever is sooner. Review of a CMP should only be undertaken following consultation with Asset Management Commercial Services . When commissioning a CMP review, do so in accordance with the Model Brief for CMPs available on ConnectNet. Where no CMP is in place, or where works are outside the scope of the existing CMP, assess heritage impacts of proposed works in accordance with Sydney Water Environment Impact Assessment guidelines (e.g. undertake a Heritage Assessment and/or Statement of Heritage Impact as required, obtain Heritage Council approval as required). Consult with the Heritage Manager, Environment and Innovation, when major works are planned which affect items of State heritage significance. Undertake archival and photographic recording before major changes, in accordance with Heritage Council guidelines. Lodge copies of the archival record with the Sydney Water Archives and the NSW Heritage Office. Where the item is listed in a Local Environmental Plan Schedule of Heritage items, determine if works are exempt from approval under the LEP provisions. Where works are not exempt, obtain necessary approvals from the local council, in accordance with SWC EIA Guidelines.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerSydney Water Heritage Register 30 Jun 02   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Sydney Water Heritage Study1996 Graham Brooks and Associates Pty Ltd  Yes

References, internet links & images


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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 4571074
File number: 495026

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