Walka Water Works | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Walka Water Works

Item details

Name of item: Walka Water Works
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Utilities - Water
Category: Other - Utilities - Water
Location: Lat: -32.7126308625 Long: 151.5488847410
Primary address: Oakhampton Road, East Maitland, NSW 2323
Parish: Maitland
County: Northumberland
Local govt. area: Maitland
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Mindaribba
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT445 DP722263
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Oakhampton RoadEast MaitlandMaitlandMaitlandNorthumberlandPrimary Address
55 Scobies LaneOakhampton HeightsMaitlandMaitlandNorthumberlandAlternate Address
Oakhampton RoadWest MaitlandMaitlandMaitlandNorthumberlandDuplicate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Walka Water Works TrustPrivate29 Mar 99

Statement of significance:

Walka Waterworks is one of the largest and most intact 19th century industrial complexes in the Hunter Valley. The surviving water treatment features at the site constitute the most comprehensive set in NSW and clearly illustrate water filtration and reticulation processes and the major developments which occurred during the late 19th and early 20th century. The pump house, chimney and boiler house are elegant finely executed polychrome brick structures in a traditional configuration which are located within an attractive landscape. The entire complex, including reservoir and tanks, is an important cultural landmark.(Godden & Assoc 1986: 30)
Date significance updated: 01 Oct 97
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: Public Works Department
Builder/Maker: Public Works Department
Construction years: 1882-1886
Physical description: SITE:
The Walka Water Works site's curtilage is roughly diamond shaped, including a hillside zone, footslopes to a U shaped reservoir or dam, with the industrial complex of the water treatment works to the reservoir's north-west.

An isolated stand of an endangered ecological community, Lower Hunter Spotted Gum-Ironbark Forest, has survived in the area because the small catchment around the constructed reservoir lake was bordered for historical civic purposes some 150 years ago and has remained relatively secure in tenure and management since. (spotted gum is Corymbia maculata: ironbark is one of several species of Eucalyptus)(Stuart Read, pers.comm., 30/11/2015). The bush component acts as an island and a stepping stone for fauna within the (largely cleared) Hunter Valley. It has some 300 species of bird recorded on this site alone. Four threatened bird species have been recorded here: Australiasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus)(endangered); black bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis)(vulnerable); blue-billed duck (Oxyura australis)(vulnerable) and freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa)(vulnerable). 18 other threatened fauna species including three more bird species, have been recorded within a 10km radius of Walka Water Works since January 2000, although their specific presence at Walka has not been determined (Maitland City Council, 2015).

The group of buildings known as the Walka Waterworks are located within site boundaries north west of the dam.

The buildings and structures of the complex are generally constructed of load bearing brickwork, with trussed roof structures to the main engine houses, and roofed with corrugated iron.

MAIN PUMP HOUSE - 2 storey polychrome brick structure with walls up to 1 metre thick. It contains a basement approximately 10 metres deep. Six cast iron columns built to support the first floor remain but all other original features have been replaced or obscured by a raised floor, office partitians and a stairway constructed in the 1950s. The first floor retains sufficient fixtures to demonstrate its previous operations. Original sections of flooring remain as do cast iron cross beams, shoes, joists, decorative grills, timber floor joists and the pilaster which carried the overhaul beam crane. A large sandstone block is located within the wall above and below each pair of joists. The original colour scheme is still visible.

BOILER ROOM - attached to the northern end of the main pump house. The roof is double hipped and clad in corrugated iron and has been subject to modifications. Surviving features include the steam header access hole in the southern wall, column capitals, the flue, the access door to the engine room and an unusual configuration of windows beneath relieving arches in the brickwork.

CHIMNEY - polychrome brick standing 36 metres tall. Square base translating through an octagonal section to become a tapering cylinder, terminating in finely corbelled brickwork. A flue leads to the chimney from the centre of the western wall of the boiler room.

EASTERN EXTENSION TO PUMPHOUSE - 1893 - office - original 9 pane windows replaced by 6 pane windows. An extremely unsympathetic entrance and set of stairs have been inserted in the southern wall. Internal amenities installed during the 1950s by the Electricity Commission and plumbing fittings remain.

WESTERN PUMP HOUSE - 1913 - the building abuts the main pumphouse, its form and detail successfully reflecting the original building. The pump house required the bricking in of openings to the main pump house and removal or relocation of the original window joinery. The existing 9 pane windows on the western side of the building are probably the only remaining original windows of the complex. The internal brickwork is rendered and painted but along its eastern side it retains the profile of the exterior of the main pump house. The roof trusses of riveted steel are exposed. The southern wall is constructed of timber and corrugated iron to enable further expansion.

WORKSHOP - A small single storey building north of, and seperate from, the original boiler room. Four cast iron chutes penetrate the northern wall. This wall is a retaining wall built against an embankment which defines the northern boundary of the pumping station complex. This wall is angled with a butressed base and weepholes. Concrete steps adjacent to the east lead to the road above. The building contains fire bricks for use in the Electricity Commission boilers.

BOILER ROOM ADDITION - a lean to roof and western wall of corrugated iron over a timber frame erected between the workshop and boiler room in 1913.

SETTLING TANK - large rectangular tank (220' x 115' x 10') located north west of the pump house complex. The walls are sandstock brick covered with cement render. The floor is concrete. The tank has not been filled and remains largely intact. Several of its associated artefacts and components, including a vertical iron inlet pipe on the eastern side , an outlet and overflow pipes on the southern side and height guage and ladder remain. A steep, centrally located set of concrete steps lead south down an embankment to the filter beds.

FILTER BEDS - Seven beds were constructed in 3 stages. Beds 1-4 were laid out in a grid fashion around a north/south pipe. All were built of sandstone blocks. Beds 2 and 4 have been damamged by the erection of concrete bases for cooling towers associated with the c1950s power station. Beds 1 and 3 have been uncovered and probably remain substantially intact.

Beds 5 and 6 are of different construction, having been added in 1908. They feature off-form concrete walls with pre-cast concrete cappings. Bed 7 was built in 1913 in a similar design to the 1908 beds and is in reasonable condition. The filtration layers of sand, gravel and brick may remain in silt within beds 1,3,5,6 & 7.

CLEARWATER TANK - of brick construction and located below the filter beds. The brick piers of the rim show evidence of the roof line but iron supports for the roof have been removed. The western side features gate piers with brick caps. The intake, outlet and overflow pipes associated with this tank remain in situ.

RESERVOIR - The reservoir edges follow the natural land contours on the northern and western sides and are bounded by an earthern embankment made from material excavated during the construction of the tanks, filter beds and pumping station on the southern and eastern ends. Its internal face is lined with Ravensfield sandstone blocks. A brick byewash(4m x 2m) is located at the southern west extremity of the reservoir. It has an arched, butressed brick face covered with concrete render. The byewash contains a large valve which could be opened to lower or drain the water in the resevoir.

A circular brick structure with an iron trap door is centrally located on the reservoir's north bank and a small valve house is present about 30m fron the eastern wall. A discharge cooling tunnel runs parallel with the northern bank.

CHIEF ENGINEER'S RESIDENCE - 9 room brick cottage. Substantial footings and rubble, a tennis court and an approach road flanked by introduced trees remain.

SECOND ENGINEER'S COTTAGE - footing of the second engineers 6 room brick cottage remain.

An extensive system of concrete paved roads, paths and kerbing installed by the Electricity Commission in the 1950s.
Remnants of the planting scheme installed at the site by the Electricity Commission.

A sparse scatter of plantings from the original period of operation, including an avenue of trees near the Chief Engineer's residence.

A substantial railway formation, including cuttings and embankments, runs from the site of the power station along the northern edge of the reservoir and connects to the North Coast railway main line at the western end of the site. Some sections of the railway track remain in situ. A vehicle track follows the railway line.

A cast iron pipe network and a steel pipe network remain.

The steel steps and concrete footings for the fuel air pump house can be seen at the edge of the rail track below filter bed 7 (Godden & Associates, 1986: 7-29).
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Archaeological potential low-medium - may be some evidence of aboriginal occupation. Filled in areas may contain industrial archaeological remains.
The structures on the site are generally in a sound and well preserved condition. (Tresev (a) 1986: 33)
Modifications and dates: 1892 - a 3rd pump attached to No.3 beam engine
1893 - eastern extension to main pump house
1908 - filter beds 5 & 6 built
1913 - western pumphouse built
-boiler room addition betwen workshop and boiler room
- pump shed built (now gone - n.d)
- filter bed 7 built
-Babcock and Wilcox boilers, steam economiser, feed pumps and
accessories and a vertical triple expansion 3 plunger pump engine
1949 - concrete floor installed in western pumphouse after water pumping machinery removed.
1950s - Electricity Commission installs amenities in eastern pump house extension and makes alterations to pump house
1975 - Second Engineer's cottage demolished
(Godden & Assoc 1986: 7-29) (Turner 1986: 15)
Current use: Recreation area
Former use: Water pumping station


Historical notes: The Newcastle Borough Council established a Water Committee to try to improve water supply to residents of the inner city area in February 1875 after a very dry period. In 1876 the local member G.A.Lloyd, M.L.A., raised the matter of government help to finance the construction of a water supply for Newcastle. To the surprise of many, other parliamentarians supported the motion. In 1877 Sir Henry Parkes sent noted British hydraulic engineer William Clark to advise on possible water sources for the Lower Hunter towns. Clark had been brought to NSW to advise on Sydney's water supply and drainage problems. Clark's report recommended Walka as the site for a water works which would supply 37 000 people at the estimated cost of 170 000 pounds.

The citizens of Newcastle were pleased with the scheme and its cost and quickly approved the plan. They sent a deputation to Parliament on 5 December 1877 with strong encouragement from John Robertson, the Colonial Secretary. Construction of a water supply was imminent. However, a new government came to power before the end of the year. Another deputation was sent to Sydney, but James Farnell and his government preferred to give preference to the construction of a second water supply in Sydney

At the end of 1878 a new government took over and a third deputation was sent to Parliament. By May 1879 the necessary surveys and cost estimates had been sufficiently advanced to allow the ordering of machinery and iron pipes but the government refused to bow to pressure from the Hunter region to sanction full expenditure. In 1881 the first steps were taken and the Newcaastle and Buttai reservoirs were constructed. Land was resumed for the Walka works in June that year.

The Public Works Department called for tenders to construct the Walka reservoir and associated works in December 1882 and contracts were signed in April 1883. At least four contracting firms were involved, Messrs. T.Smith and M.Burley, George Blunt, James Russell and James Watt and Company. Smith and Burley were responsible for the tunnel which drew water from the river to the pumping station. George Blunt built the reservoir, filter beds and settling and clear water tanks and James Watt and Company of Birmingham supplied and erected the three pumping stations installed at Walka in 1886. James Russell completed the construction of the engine and boiler house although there is dispute as to whether Russell won the contract originally. It is argued that M.Parkhill, a relatively unknown contractor, was given the contract in 1885 but became insolvent, leaving the opportunity for Russell to take over.

The waterworks served as the sole water supply of the Lower Hunter towns from 1887 until 1929 when it was superceded by the Tarro Pumping Station. Industrial development and an increasing population in the period resulted in a growth in demand for water and the need for considerable development and modification at the site. In 1892 the pumps were improved and a third pump was attached to the No.3 beam engine. This was also the year that the Hunter District Water Supply and Sewerage Board took over the works. In 1896-7 a second pipe was constructed between the Hunter River and the waterworks. In 1900 Newcastle was consuming double the water it had consumed in 1892.

The implementation of the waterworks scheme for drinking and washing made possible the provision of sewerage systems to the towns. This improved the health of the community by reducing the likelihood of disease and improving the cleanliness of the population and their urban environment.

Severe droughts in 1902 and 1905-6 produced supply problems and demonstrated that the Hunter River was no longer an adequate water source for the region. In 1908 the number of filter beds was increased from four to six and by 1910 it had become necessary at times to operate three beam pumping engines simultaneously. In 1913 more equipment was installed and a furrther four rapid water filters were installed in 1916. The completion of the Chichester Dam in 1924 saw the waterworks downgraded to a standby function in 1925. The waterworks were shut down as an economy measure in 1931. The engines and pumps were started only so that the plant could be tested or overhauled.
(Turner 1986: 1-16)

In 1945 the works finally closed. Between 1951 and 1978 a portion of the site was leased to the Electricity Commission of NSW for siting of a prefacbricated power plant as a temporary solution to overcome post war deficiencies in generating equipment. The powerplant was decommissioned in 1976 and dismantled in 1978. (Tresev Pty Ltd (a) 1986: 8-9)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Establishment of the complex was a major political and engineering achievement, finally providing a permanent supply of clean water to Newcastle residents.
Changes and developments at the complex document the growth of the demand for water. An expectation of further expansion is evidenced in the temporary nature of the southern wall of the pump house west annex.
The construction, expansion and demise of the waterworks were vital stages in the establishment and growth of the Hunter Valley Waterboard.
The ultimate demise of the site as a water treatment plant and its subsequent development (and demise) as a power station documents significant periods of growth and change in the community.
William Clark, a prominent hydraulics engineer and a number of other noteworthy individuals were closely associated with the complexes design, construction and expansion. (Godden & Assoc 1986: 30-31)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The entire site has been largely unmarred by the construction of any other unsympathetic developments. The reservoir catchment continues to provide a pleasant rural curtilage to the complex.
The pumphouse, chimney and boiler house are finely executed polychrome brick structures which feature a degree of uniformity in materials, form and scale that is typical of many 19th century public buildings.
The combination of elegant polychrome brick buildings, filter beds, tanks and reservoir with the nearby topography creates an element of considerable cultural interest and beauty within an already attractive landscape. (Godden & Assoc 1986: 31)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The complex is an outstanding resource for the interpretation of the importance of 19th century industrial processes. For many years it has been a cultural landmark to the people of Maitland and the Hunter Valley. (Godden & Assoc 1986: 32)
The site is the centrepiece of the most important advance in public health in the history of the Hunter Valley, improving health and cleanliness of the population and their urban environment. Furthermore, without a water supply many secondary industries which provided employment in the Newcastle area could not have been established. (Turner 1986: 16)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The complex is the only complete set of 19th century water filtration equipment extant in NSW and illustrates water treatment filtration processes. The configuration and substantial remains of all major components of the complex, including evident remains of machinery locations and ancillary structures, such as pipes, enable the processes carried out to be clearly understood. The largely intact set of Victorian structures typify the building associations of a 19th century technology.
The evolution of the complex over time provides evidence of the development of steam technology from beam engines to reciprocating engines. (Godden & Assoc 1986: 31-32)
SHR Criteria g)
The intact nature of the site makes it an excellent representation of water filtering and reticulation processes of the period.
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 CategoryDescriptionDate Updated
Recommended ManagementReview a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) 
Recommended ManagementPrepare a maintenance schedule or guidelines 
Recommended ManagementCarry out interpretation, promotion and/or education 

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
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.

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


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0046602 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0046603 Oct 86 1564877
Local Environmental Plan  03 Sep 93   
Register of the National Estate  21 Mar 78   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenConvergence Associates2014Walka Water Works - Master Plan Interpretation
WrittenDon Godden & Associates1986'Industrial Archaeology', in Tresev Pty Ltd., 'Specialist Report for Walka Waterworks Conservation plan
WrittenJ.W.Turner1986Historical & Heritage Significance in Tresev Pty Ltd Specialist Report for Walka waterworks Conservation Plan
WrittenMaitland City Council2015Restoration & Rehabilitation Program - NSW Environmental Trust (grant application)
WrittenTresev Pty Ltd (a)1986Conservation Plan. Walka Waterworks
Management PlanTresev Pty Ltd (b)1986Specialist Reports for Walka waterworks Conservation Plan
TourismWalka Water Works Organisation2007Walka Water Works Campground View detail

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: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045638
File number: S90/05699 & HC 32608

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