Paddington Reservoir | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Paddington Reservoir

Item details

Name of item: Paddington Reservoir
Other name/s: Walter Read Reserve; Paddington Reservoir Gardens (2009+); Reservoir Gardens
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Utilities - Water
Category: Water Supply Reservoir/ Dam
Location: Lat: -33.8853721493 Long: 151.2268845140
Primary address: 255a Oxford Street, Paddington, NSW 2021
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: La Perouse
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP998214
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
255a Oxford StreetPaddingtonSydneyAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
City of SydneyLocal Government30 Mar 99

Statement of significance:

The Paddington reservoir is of State significance. It is an integral part of the original Sydney Water Supply System and is a unique example of construction methods and technology advances in Australia in the nineteenth century. The grassed roof area also provides a valuable public recreation space within the inner city precinct which is of high significance to the local community.

The Paddington Reservoir with its low key appearance functioned with very little public fanfare as a high level reservoir supplying Paddington and its surrounds until the turn of the century. The contribution of the reservoir was largely unsung but it was an essential component of the infrastructure which supported the development of the suburb of Paddington.
The reservoir also had an important role as an open space in an otherwise densely built-up city suburb. Although perhaps not initially intended as a welcome respite of green space, which was also used to house stands for various street processions. The grassed surface became the Walter Read Reserve in 1953 and was a popular recreational space, used by the local residents. The reservoir roof has been a well used, popular recreation space, held in high regard by local inhabitants.

Since the 1950s there have been a number of attempts to demolish the reservoir and/or use the space for carparking. There has been concerted defence by local groups since the possibility of demolition was first raised. The long standing community efforts to preserve the reservoir are a testament to the high level of regard in which it is held by the community.
Date significance updated: 04 Jul 00
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.

Description

Designer/Maker: Edward Bell
Construction years: 1864-1866
Physical description: The Paddington Reservoir is located on the south western side of the Oxford, Ormond and Oatley streets intersection. It is a large semisubmerged rectangular structure of brick construction supported by timber columns and overlaid by a grassed park.

The reservoir was constructed in 1864 and duplicated to the west in 1876. The structure comprises two main chambers measuring approximately 33.4 metres by 31.2 metres each. The two chambers are separated by a division wall to enable either of the chambers to be emptied. Within each chamber a second lower masonry wall, with piers over, divides the chamber in half.

Before conservation and adapation works, it was in semi-ruinous condition.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The reservoir was decommissioned in the late nineteenth century and subsequently used for storage and latterly as a mechanical workshop associated with a service station on Oxford Street. After a roof collapse behind the garage in 1990 it was in disuse.
Date condition updated:27 Feb 14
Modifications and dates: Late 19th c.: reservoir decommissioned and subsequently used for storage
1925: modifications to the structure to accommodate the removal of a number of internal columns (Source: drawings held by the Council of the City of South Sydney).

Latterly (pre 1990) the site was used as a mechanical workshop associated with a service station on Oxford Street.
1990: roof collapsed behind the garage and site was in disuse.

2009: conservation and adaptive reuse works finish and site is re-opened as a public park, Paddington Reserve Gardens.
Current use: public park
Former use: Aboriginal land, farm, water storage; storage; service station / mechanical workshop site

History

Historical notes: Paddington:
This suburb, which took its name from the London borough, lies in what were once paddocks adjacent to Victoria Barracks. It was the first of the early Sydney suburbs that was not self-sufficient - its inhabitants, unlike those of Balmain or Newtown, where work was available in local industries, had to go away each day to their places of employment. Development of the Eastern Suburbs (Edgecliff, Double Bay, Point Piper and Woollahra) surrounded this area with wealthy people's homes so this small hilly suburb lost all hope of harbour views.

The area developed after a road was constructed to link up with a pilot station that was to be built at Watson's Bay (South Head Road). John Palmer, the settlement's commissary, refused to allow people to cross his land grant ('Woolloomooloo'), so the road had to follow a roundabout way through Paddington to bypass his 100 acres.

...only a handful of workers lived in the area, and it was not until 1838, when it was decided to build a new military barracks in Paddington, that life came to the area.

From 1848 when Victoria Barracks had been opened (designed by Lt.-Col.George Barney) and homes for the soldiers and their families had been erected, Paddington began to assume a real identity...The (barracks site) land was sandy - in fact a huge sandhill was located on the western side of the Greens Road area, and the foundation trenches had to be dug very deep, to locate firm stone for the foundations. Stone was mostly quarried in the area: the stone masons were free settlers who had worked on erection of the Customs House at what was then Semi-Circular Quay.

...Once the soldiers and their families moved here, shopkeepers followed. Builders moved into the area and put up 3,800 houses between 1860 and 1890. These terraces give today's Paddington its air of individuality...The first school in the area was opened in the Presbyterian manse in Oxford Street, built in 1845.

...It is hard to imagine that in 1822 the mansion Juniper Hall (the opposite southern corner of Oxford Street from the Reservoir site) stood alone, without the many neighbours it has today. Set in a flagged garden, it had attic windows that gave panoramic views to Rushcutters Bay and Botany Bay. Juniper Hall was built for Robert Cooper, distiller and emancipist merchant, who with partners James Underwood and Francis Ewen Forbes, had recieved 100 acres from Governor Brisbane in c.1818, covering the whole of north Paddington, and they agreed to erect 3 mansions and a distillery there. A distillery was built at the foot of Cascade Street near Taylor Square and Cooper bought out his partners, and only Juniper Hall was erected...The Coopers were part of the social scene of their day and entertained many notables of that time. After they left the house it was renamed Ormond House to dissociate itself from the gin image and passed through many hands, gradually becoming smothered by the building of small shops in front of the house. Latterly it has been restored by the National Trust and has had a variety of uses.

Today few of the area's original working class residents remain, as the suburb's proximity to the city has made it popular with business and professional people who prefer inner-city living in this historic area. The shopping centre, concentrated on the north side of Oxford Street, has also changed from one serving local needs to one of cafes, speciality shops and boutiques...Much of this is related to the changing population and the Village Bazaar, or Paddington Markets. The bazaar, which has operated since the mid 1970s, draws visitors from all over the city and has contributed to Paddington's development as one of Sydney's favourite tourist spots, along with Bondi Beach and The Rocks (Pollen, 1988, 195-7).

The Reservoir:
The original reservoir was designed by Edward Bell and built in two stages: the western chamber in 1866 and the eastern chamber in 1878. Each measured approximately 33 x 31m (Tonkin, Zulaikha Greer Architects, 2012, 4).

The reservoir was decommissioned in 1899, used for storage and garaging for the Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage from 1914, dewatered c.1920 and used as a mechanical workshop associated with a service station on Oxford Street (ibid, 4). Drawings held by the Council of South Sydney document modifications to the structure in 1925 to accommodate the removal of a number of internal columns.

The roof has been used as a grassed public reserve since the 1930s. The Walter Reid Reserve was established on the roof in 1953. Prior to this it was known as Reservoir Gardens with seats and steps built in the mid 1930s.

The site was classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) in 1985 and in that year an interim conservation order was placed over the property. In 1987 a permanent conservation order under the Heritage Act was placed on the site.

The site was actively used for commercial and public uses until 1993, when, after a partial roof collapse behind the garage, it was closed for safety reasons, stabilised as a structure and for some years was disused. Council subsequently commissioned structural engineering assessments, a plan of management and a conservation management plan by Tanner Architects (ibid, 4).

When Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects and JMD Design were commissioned in 2006 to convert the reservoir to an urban park, the general expectation was that the site would be capped off and a brand new arrangement be built on top. However the architects were captivated by the possibilities of revealing the 19th century structures as a ruin through which the public could wander, taking in the dramatic spaces. The concept for the project was embodied in the existing artefact. An accessible sunken garden and pond, surrounded by pre-case concrete boardwalk, has been inserted into the conserved ruin of the western chamber. The edges of the ruin are contained by concrete up-stands so as to amplify the distinctive curved original brick vaults. A 'Victorian' tree-fern garden hints at the era in which the reservoir was built. The eastern chamber has been conserved with new timber columns and a waterproof concrete structure over, stabilising the brickwork and forming the base for the new landscaped park above. Adaptive reuse of this chamber is part of a future stage of works due to funding limitations. The eastern chamber has limited public access due to level changes and hence is not currently open to the public (ibid, 4).

In March 2009 after extensive conservation and adaptive reuse works, Paddington Reservoir Gardens (a new public park) was reopened to the public (Sydney City Council, 3/2009).

The completed project won a number of awards (2009-2011), including the 2011 Urban Land Institute Award for excellence: Asia-Pacific; the 2010 WAN Urban Design Award; the 2010 International Architecture Award, the Chicago Athenaeum and the European Centre for Architecture, Art, Design and Urban Studies); the 2010 National Australian Institute of Architecture Awards for both Urban Design and Heritage Architecture; the Lloyd Rees Award for Urban Design and the Greenway Award for Heritage (projects), both from AIA, NSW and the 2010 Energy Australia / National Trust Heritage Award - Adaptive Reuse (Corporate/Government) (ibid, 5) and an Australian Award for Urban Design in 2009 (Albone, 2018).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Parks-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Other open space-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Changing the environment-
1. Environment-Tracing the evolution of a continent's special environments Environment - naturally evolved-Activities associated with the physical surroundings that support human life and influence or shape human cultures. Modification of terrain-
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 Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences Technologies for reticulated water supply-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences Technologies for reticulated water supply-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Changing land uses - from rural to tourist-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Changing land uses - from rural to suburban-
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 Developing suburbia-
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 Creating landmark structures and places in urban settings-
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 Developing civic infrastructure and amenity-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Water and drainage-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Providing drinking water-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. State government-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - parks and open spaces-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - building and operating public infrastructure-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - conserving cultural and natural heritage-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Developing roles for government - public water supply-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Outdoor concerts and performances-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Activities associated with relaxation and recreation-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Visiting heritage places-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Enjoying public parks and gardens-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Enjoying public parks and gardens-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Paddington Reservoir is an integral part of the original Sydney Water Supply System and is a unique example of construction methods and technology advances in Australia in the nineteenth century.
The two reservoirs of the Botany Swamps Scheme, Crown Street and Paddington are thought to have been designed in the early 1850s by Edward Bell, the City Engineer.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The exterior of the reservoir contains a number of characteristic nineteenth century features. The Oxford Street frontage was lined with an iron palisade fence designed with some care and attention to detail particularly with regard to the fence columns. The fence columns and original air vents above the reservoir were decorative elements topped with a sphere. The air vents were designed in a similar manner but in a more massive scale with the air holes located well out of reach.
The interior spaces, particularly the vaulted ceilings, the arched intermediate and central walls and the ironbark timber columns are a rare nineteenth century public utility interior space. The aesthetics of the spatial qualities presented by that space are particularly evocative of nineteenth century and are unique to the earliest reservoirs.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The reservoir was an essential component of the infrastructure which supported the development of the suburb of Paddington. The reservoir had an important role as an open space in a densely built -up city suburb. The reservoir roof had been a well used, popular recreation space, held in high regard by local inhabitants.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Paddington Reservoir is significant for its ability to demonstrate advances in technology and local manufacturing expertise over time. It demonstrates the waterproofing technology of the period. The level of workmanship and care throughout is also informative showing the range of skills and craftsmanship available in the local building trades.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
The Paddington Reservoir is a component of the first reservoir system designed to supply Sydney City and surrounds. The reservoir is the second of the two reservoirs in the system. Paddington is the only nineteenth century reservoir which is out of commission and capable of being available for public inspection on a regular basis.
The reservoir exhibits a rare, early, large scale use of Portland cement. In its roof the reservoir provides a rare area of open space for the enjoyment of the inhabitants of inner Paddington.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
The reservoir represents the peak mid nineteenth century water storage technology in Australia. The eastern chambers of the reservoir particularly represent a peak in Australia's technological and secondary manufacturing development. Ongoing use of the reservoir as public recreation space represents a significant feature of the Paddington community lifestyle.
Integrity/Intactness: Poor condition. Roughly half of roof structure is collapsed.
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:

Conserve stable structural elements and adaptively reuse. Introduce new fabric in a sympathetic manner.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act Record converted from HIS events


Order Under Section 57(2) to exempt the following activities from Section 57(1):
(1) The maintenance of any building or item on the site, where maintenance means the continuous protective care of existing material;
(2) Garden maintenance including cultivation, pruning and tree surgery (but not including extensive lopping), weed control and the repair and maintenance of existing fences, gates and garden walls.
Jul 31 1987
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementConservation Plan Nov 3 1994
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
HERITAGE ACT 1977
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

FRANK SARTOR
Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval

Listings

Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0051502 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0051531 Jul 87 1284376
Local Environmental PlanSouth Sydney Amending LEP 2000 28 Jul 00   
National Trust of Australia register  9480   
Register of the National Estate 1918021 Oct 80   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Board of Water Supply and Sewerage Annual Reports 1889-91, 1894
WrittenAird M V Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage of Sydney 1788-1960
WrittenAlbone, Charlie2018'Hidden Oasis off Oxford Street'
WrittenC and M J Doring Pty Ltd1991Crown Street Reservoir Site 1857 to 1991
WrittenHenry F J J1939The Water Supply and Sewerage of Sydney
WrittenKelly Max1978Paddock Full of Houses : Paddington 1840-1890
WrittenPollen, Frances (author & editor)1988Paddington, in "The Book of Sydney Suburbs"
WrittenSinclair Knight Consulting Engineers Paddington Reservoir Conservation Plan
WrittenTanner Architects2010Conservation Management Plan - Paddington Reservoir & Walter Read Reserve, Oxford Street, Paddington
WrittenTonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects2010Statement of Heritage Impact - Paddington Reservoir Gardens - Eastern Chamber Access

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

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

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045149
File number: EF14/5502, H09/1635; S90/3464


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