Walsh Bay Precinct | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Walsh Bay Precinct

Item details

Name of item: Walsh Bay Precinct
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Water
Category: Port facility
Location: Lat: -33.85641666666667 Long: 151.20301666666666
Primary address: Dalgety Road, Windmill Street, Downshire Street, Millers Point, NSW 2000
Local govt. area: Sydney
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Dalgety Road, Windmill Street, Downshire StreetMillers PointSydney  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Roads and Maritime ServicesState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Walsh Bay Precinct is a predominantly intact port and stevedoring facility created by the Sydney Harbour Trust in response to the requirements of maritime trade during the late Federation period. The precinct documents the workings of a technologically advanced twentieth century shipping port, developed specifically to accommodate new mechanised transportation technology. The wharves have a distinctive aesthetic of modular composition within a long wharf building form, and have landmark qualities in the centre of Sydney Harbour. The wharves are unified in materials, form and scale and demonstrate their former maritime use, as well as an important feature of inner Sydney life in the early twentieth century. The precinct as a whole demonstrates technical and creative excellence of the period 1820 to 1930. The Walsh Bay wharves and associated bond stores and streets contain numerous items of machinery and engineering of technological heritage significance due to their scale of construction, use/former use and rarity. Because of the longevity of its previous occupation, the whole of the place has archaeological potential to reveal new information about former structures and lifestyles (both Aboriginal and European) embodied in buildings, structural fabric and occupational deposits.
Date significance updated: 18 Apr 13
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: HD Walsh
Builder/Maker: HD Walsh (superviser)
Construction years: 1906-1922
Physical description: Walsh Bay Precinct is located at the northern area of Millers Point. The Walsh Bay building complex is a masterpiece of early 20th century industrial architecture and an important part of Australia's rich maritime and urban heritage. The wharves and bond stores contain a number of significant archaeological, technological and engineering artefacts. The Walsh Bay complex is believed to be the only one of its type surviving in the world. Presently, the finger wharves, connecting shoresheds, bond stores, Pottinger and Downshire Streets are owned by the Marine Ministerial Holding Corporation, while Hickson Road and Towns Place are owned by Sydney City Council. The Walsh Bay wharves and their associated shore buildings, the bridges over Hickson Road and adjacent bond stores create a cohesive complex of maritime structures. The design of the complex is remarkable in its use of the topography to maximise access to the wharves. The two-storey shore sheds with access at two levels independently were designed to provide rapid shipping turnaround. This use of steep topography has created a sense of enclosure and emphasises the unity of the Walsh Bay area. One of the significant and attractive features of the finger wharves is their simple uncluttered lines, with the individual character of each wharf established by varying detail. Visually, the wharves have a strong, distinctive character created by the use of heavy timber construction and the regular grid-layout of piles, columns, beams, and infill cladding. The whole complex is an important visual element when viewed from the Harbour, from where the simple lines of the wharves can best be appreciated. One of the most impressive features of the Walsh Bay complex is the continuity created by the shore sheds fronting Hickson Road. The attractive brick façade with typical Federation features unifies the complex from the street. The sandstone cliff face on the south side of Hickson Road, the striking brick façade of the shore sheds on the north and the bridges overhead create a canyon-like effect. Other architectural and engineering details include: cast iron railings and decorated posts, bonded brick work, iron ballards, arched and curved openings, trachyte kerbstones and cobbles. The Walsh Bay area provides spectacular view out over the Harbour, with enclosed views between the wharves. (Adapted from SREP16, pp8-9)

A number of historical items have been retained and displayed following the redevelopment of the site over the last twenty years. These include a wool bale elevator, hydraulic lifting system, jib cranes and early timber piles. Excavation of the area around Wharf 4 revealed the remains of an 1820s cottage.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:09 Apr 13
Modifications and dates: The shoresheds were demolished in 1976.
Further information: NSW Maritime asset maintained by lessee
Includes the following elements and separate listings:
Inventory No. 44 Walsh Bay Precinct, Pier 1
Inventory No. 45 Walsh Bay Precinct, Wharves 2 and 3 and Shoresheds
Inventory No. 46 Walsh Bay Precinct, Wharves 4 and 5 and Shoresheds
Inventory No. 47 Walsh Bay Precinct, Wharves 6 and 7 and Shoresheds
Inventory No. 48 Walsh Bay Precinct, Wharves 8 and 9 and Shoresheds


Historical notes: The rocky terrain of Millers Point limited its early uses to fortifications, anchorage for whalers and windmills. Economic growth and population pressures resulted in more intensive settlement by the 1820s, and land ownership was confirmed by a number of Crown grants in the 1830s. The decade of the 1830s marks the beginning of the continuum of development which ended in the 1920s and gives Millers Point/Walsh Bay its remarkable historic character. By the 1830s, the present basic road system had appeared together with the earliest buildings still extant. The North Shore ferry began operating from Walsh Bay to Blues Point in the 1840s the location of its wharf is still indicated by Ferry Lane. Other shipping wharves had appeared at Millers Point by the same decade, scattered irregularly along the shoreline from Dawes Point to Darling Harbour.
The Bubonic Plague outbreak of 1900 led to the resumption of most of The Rocks and Millers Point by the Government. Control of the area passed to the port authority, the Sydney Harbour Trust (later the Maritime Services Board from 1936). The Trust’s greatest engineering work in Millers Point was the reconstruction of Walsh Bay. In doing this they made the second major modification of the landscape since the cutting of quarries above Kent Street and the making of the Argyle Cut in the early nineteenth century. The Engineer-in-Chief of the Trust, HD Walsh (after whom the bay was subsequently named), designed and constructed a new system of wharves and stores with associated roads and hydraulic systems to service them. A wide service road, Hickson Road, was excavated around the foreshore and the steep topography was used ingeniously to service the wharves at two levels. The wharves were technologically advanced for the time. They were constructed on a standard modular timber design and incorporated an innovative and successful rat-proof seawall. Construction of the whole complex took place between 1906 and 1922.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Walsh Bay wharves and their associated infrastructure are a virtually intact port and stevedore works created by the Sydney Harbour Trust in response to the requirements of maritime trade at that time. The precinct documents the workings of a technologically advanced twentieth century shipping port, developed specifically to accommodate new mechanised transportation technology.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Walsh Bay is named after HD Walsh, whom designed the Walsh Bay port structures and works, with advice from N Selfe on new wharf facilities c1910.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The wharves have a strong, distinctive character created by the logical use of heavy timber construction and regular grid layout of piles, columns, beams and infill cladding. The precinct is unified in materials, form and scale and contains structures demonstrating maritime uses.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The wharves are a prominent element of Sydney’s character and are likely to be held in high regard by a significant population of Sydney.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Walsh Bay wharves and associated infrastructure demonstrate technical and creative excellence of the period 1820 to 1930.
SHR Criteria f)
The Walsh Bay precinct is believed to be the only one of its type surviving in the world. Walsh Bay is unique in Australia and is of international significance in its association with the whole port-town.
SHR Criteria g)
Demonstrates characteristics of early twentieth century port infrastructure in Sydney.
Integrity/Intactness: Good
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:

• Management of the precinct should be in accordance with the recommendations and policies of the Conservation Management Plan (1999). • Any alterations and additions should be in accordance with the Conservation Management Plan (1999) for the site and supported by a heritage impact statement. Specific Recommendations: • Require the lessee to review and update the CMP every 5 years. • Consider long-term reservation of appropriate timber stocks for wharf piles. • Further opportunities for interpretation of the history and significance of the precinct and other heritage elements within its visual catchment which should be explored and developed.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     
Heritage study     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
NSW Maritime Heritage and Conservation Register201043Godden Mackay Logan  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  State Heritage Register No. 00559 Walsh Bay Precinct

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

(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 4920027

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.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.