Alexandra Canal | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage

Heritage

Alexandra Canal

Item details

Name of item: Alexandra Canal
Other name/s: Sheas Creek
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Water
Category: Canal
Location: Lat: -33.9134899577 Long: 151.1894267400
Primary address: , Alexandria, NSW 2015
Parish: Alexandria
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Botany Bay
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT3 DP878489

Boundary:

The Alexandra Canal is a built waterway following the former course of Sheas Creek in south-eastern Sydney and runs north-west from its intersection with the Cooks River and terminates 200 metres south of Huntley Street in Alexandria.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
 AlexandriaBotany BayAlexandriaCumberlandPrimary Address
 AlexandriaMarrickvilleBotanyCumberlandAlternate Address
 AlexandriaSydneyPetershamCumberlandAlternate Address

Owner/s

Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Sydney WaterState Government 

Statement of significance:

Alexandra Canal is of high historic, aesthetic and technical/research significance. Historically, it is a rare example of 19th century navigational canal construction in Australia, being one of only two purpose built canals in the State, with one other known example in Victoria. It has the ability to demonstrate the NSW Governments initiative to create water transport as a means of developing an industrial complex in the Alexandria and Botany areas and exploiting the use of unemployed labour to achieve its scheme.

It played a seminal role in the changing pattern and evolution of the occupation and industrial uses of the local area and nearby suburbs, which included filling large areas of low lying land for development.

Aesthetically, intact original sections of the canal, comprising pitched dry packed ashlar sandstone, provides a textured and coloured finish which is aesthetically valuable in the cultural landscape. It is a major landmark and dramatic component of the industrial landscape of the area, particularly as viewed from the Ricketty Street Bridge and along Airport Drive.

Scientifically, the excavation of the canal provided a valuable contribution to the understanding of the changing sea-levels along the eastern seaboard and the antiquity of the aboriginal presence in the area. Intact original sections of the fascine dyke sandstone construction are rare examples of late 19th century coastal engineering works.

The area has been assessed as having no potential to contain historical archaeological material associated with the development or occupation of the area, either prior to or since the construction of the canal. As a result, the study area would contain no material of historical significance, or material that could contribute to the significance of Alexandra Canal itself.
Date significance updated: 15 Oct 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.

Description

Designer/Maker: New South Wales Department of Public Works
Builder/Maker: New South Wales Department of Public Works
Construction years: 1887-1899
Physical description: Alexandra Canal is an adapted artificial waterway (formally known as Sheas Creek) which stretches 4.5 km from its southern point at Cooks River to the north near Huntley Street, Alexandria. Its banks are formed by pitching comprising sloping dry sandstone capped with a sandstone caping.

It extends from approximately 0.5 metres below low water mark to approximately 1.5 metres above high water mark. It is spanned by 4 bridges: Shell pipeline bridge, Sydenham to Botany Railway line, Canal Road Bridge and a small footbridge.

The head of the Canal connects to the Sheas Creek Stormwater Channel, located off Maddox Street in Alexandria, leading under Huntley Street and entering Alexandra Canal.

The eastern side of the Canal north of Coward Street is occupied by a series of former mid-twentieth-century woolstore buildings, now used for a variety of purposes (though some are derelict), which are recognised as heritage buildings.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The upper deposits of the study area would consist entirely of introduced fill deposits associated with the reclamation of this area and the construction of the Canal in the 1890s. These introduced fill deposits would have no potential to contain archaeological material associated with the used of this area prior to the construction of the Canal.

The study area is also unlikely to contain extensive deposits associated with the development and occupation of this area prior to reclamation and the construction of the Canal, though any such material would be located well below the current ground surface. The historical use and development of the study area prior to the construction of the Canal would limit the potential of this area to contain historical archaeological material beneath the introduced fill deposits.

The study area would also be unlikely to contain any substantive remains associated with the use of this area since the construction of the Canal or the adjacent woolsheds. The proposed route of the Cycle and Pedestrian Path does not extend across any areas formerly occupied by woolsheds at the southern end of the study area. The method of construction of these sheds would preclude the presence of substantial structural remains and the relatively dated of construction and operation of these structures would also limit the potential for any material associated with this building to be considered as relics within the meaning of the NSW Heritage Act.

On the basis of this evaluation, the route of the proposed Cycle and Pedestrian Path has no historical archaeological potential.

It is noted that evidence of pre-European occupation of this areas, as well as evidece of the pre-European environment, was discovered during the construction of the Canal in the 1890s below the low water mark. There is always the potential for introduced deposits to contain Aboriginal material, such as isolated stone stools, that have been redeposited and therefore have no contextual significance.
Date condition updated:03 May 00
Modifications and dates: The south-western walling of the canal beyond the Shell bridge is rendered rubble walling. The south-eastern face is rendered rubble walling almost to the railway bridge. These alterations to original fabric reflect alterations to the course of the canal near its junction with the Cooks River during the three phases of airport expansion.

2018: Sydney City Council has combined three former depots into the state-of-the-art Alexandra Canal Depot. This sustainable facility provides waste, cleansing and maintenance services to the southern half of the city. Over 1600 solar panels on its roof generate energy which is stored in metropolitan Sydney's first industrial-scale Tesla battery. This can store electricity to meet the daily needs of 50 homes and 50,000 mobile phones (SCC news, 8/2018).
Current use: Stormwater channel
Former use: Aboriginal land, farm, navigational canal

History

Historical notes: Sheas Creek is a tributary of the Cooks River which begins in the once sandy hills of the present Surry Hills east of Redfern. Dredging commenced in 1887 to adapt Sheas Creek to a canal, with the intention of creating manufacturing and industrial opportunities in the area by offering shipping as a means of transporting cargo. The canal was intended to be the 'Birmingham of Australia' and was constructed under an unemployed work relief scheme.

The canal was originally lined with a fascine dyke as were sections of the Cooks River. The original canal started to the south-west of the exisitng Sydenham to Botany railway bridge and extended to the Canal Road Bridge. In 1894 the canal was to be extended to Buckland Street, Redfern, however only part of this section was ever constructed, the limit of the canal was to the south of Huntley Street, Alexandria.

During this period scientists were called in to record the finding of dugong bones displaying butchery marks and stone axes, which were the subject of an acedemic paper. As sections of the canal were completed, wharves were constructed along the canal to encourage its use.

The canal, as originally planned, was substantially completed in 1900. Major changes to the canal occurred when the airport was expanded over three phases from 1947 to 1970. These changes included altering the course of the canal near its junction with the Cooks River. The canal was never considered a success, its use limited by the shallow draught of the vessels that could use it, constant silting, tidal factors and the advent of commercial road transport in the 1930s. This change became permanent when the two lifting span bridges that crossed the Canal were altered to become fixed in the 1930s. By the early 1940s the navigational use of the canal declined to such an extent that is was decided not to maintain the wharves and they were demolished.

The canal was listed for refurbishment by the former South Sydney Council in 1997 as a response to large parts of the area being transformed from industrial to residential use. Sydney Water launched a $4m cleanup a year later, but this plan was soon abandoned. The South Sydney Redevelopment Corporation, a body created to oversee Green Square, then granted students from the University of NSW $5000 to create designs that would transform the canal into a 'stunning water and green recreational corridor'. By 1999 a $300m plan was announced that would place 25,000 residents, cafes and boating facilities along the canal to create the 'Venice of Sydney'. By 2008, due to costs and difficulties with remediating the waterways and land sites the plans were placed in the 'too hard' basket. One recent grasp to keep the canal (renewal) dreams alive came in 2011 when there were calls for coal seam gas exploration to be carried out on the adjacent industrial land. Today the water continues to be riddled with pollution and the EPA has erected signs warning locals of teh severity of the contamination prohibiting both fishing and disturbance of sediments in the canal (Clark, 2018).

The canal in 2018 was (partly) repurposed as a sustainable depot for Sydney City Council staff, powered entirely by industrial sized renewable batteries. It is at the centre of plans to repurpose the foreshore as a Council depot. Lord Mayor Clover Moore launched the new depot last week, which is powered by 1600 solar panels and a battery capable of storing 500-kilowatt-hours of energy. The canal is central to a $40m naturalisation project by Sydney Water, and the industrial area surrounding it now hosts new forms of business and enterprise, such as high-tech industry, creative spaces and retail, distribution facilities, as well as the new Council depot' Moore said. It is not clear how much of this ($40m) money will go into restoring Alexandra Canal to its former health, despite significant regeneration work being undertaken on its shores (ibid, 2018). Council has combined three former depots into the state-of-the-art Alexandra Canal Depot. This sustainable facility provides waste, cleansing and maintenance services to the southern half of the city. Over 1600 solar panels on its roof generate energy which is stored in metropolitan Sydney's first industrial-scale Tesla battery. This can store electricity to meet the daily needs of 50 homes and 50,000 mobile phones (SCC news, 8/2018).

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. Changing the environment-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. (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 Developing local, regional and national economies-National Theme 3
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 Landscapes of industrial production-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods Factories-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods Maritime related industries-
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 of canal construction-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements River Transport-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements Wharf and shipping history-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements Maritime navigation and regulation-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements Maintaining maritime transport routes-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements Building and maintaining jetties, wharves and docks-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Building settlements, towns and cities-National Theme 4
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 Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Resuming private lands for public purposes-
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 Sea Wall-
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 Shaping riverine settlement-
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 Shaping coastal settlement-
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 Role of transport in settlement-
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 19th Century Infrastructure-
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 suburban 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 ports-
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 Suburban Consolidation-
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 (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Building wharves and wharfside services-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Ports and shipping infrastructure-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Wharfside and Port Work Culture-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in factories-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working complex machinery and technologies-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Alexandra Canal was built during the 1890s depression using unemplyed labour. It is one of two navigational canals built in NSW and is the only canal built to provide access for water transport for the delivery of cargo in NSW. The canal, the warehouses and factories around it, the bridges that cross it and the remains of the wharves are evidence of attempts by the government to encourage development in the area.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Sections of the canal exhibit relatively intact sections of ashlar stonework which are excellent examples of late 19th century coastal engineering works that provide a pleasantly textured and coloured finish to the canal. The canal is a major visual landmark in the area and has strong landmark appeal, particularly as viewed from the Ricketty Street Bridge.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Item does not have any notable outstanding social values.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The discovery of butchered Dugong bones, aboriginal axes and the remains of an ancient forest in this area, all of which were found beneath the then low water mark during the excavation of the canal, were the subject of an acedemic paper. This paper contributed to the scientific understanding of the changing sea-levels along the eastern seaboard and the antiquity of the aboriginal presence in the area. The Canal exemplifies and is rare tangible evidence of Government initiatives of canal tranportation and implementation of pre 20th century unemploymnent relief schemes.
SHR Criteria f)
[Rarity]
Alexandra Canal is one of two extant navigational canals in NSW and one of the few built in Australia in the 19th and 20th century. It was the only purpose built canal constructed to provide navigational access in industrial areas in NSW.
SHR Criteria g)
[Representativeness]
Alexandra Canal is a representative example of a late nineteenth century coastal navigational canal.
Integrity/Intactness: The course of the canal, at the southern end near the Cooks River, has been altered due to airport expansion. Sections of the stonework south of the railway bridge near the Tempe Reserve have been removed while the remainder is substantially intact.
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.

Recommendations

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
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementAlexandra Canal CMP CMP endorsed by Heritage Council 4 August 2004 - expires 4 August 2009 Aug 4 2004
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 0162115 Nov 02 2209709
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     
Local Environmental PlanSouth Sydney City Council, 2000    
Local Environmental PlanBotany Bay City Council    
National Trust of Australia register      

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Sydney Water Heritage Study1996 Graham Brooks and Associates Pty Ltd  Yes
Heritage Study of the Upper Nepean Scheme1992 Edward Higginbotham & Associates Pty Ltd  No
Alexandra Canal Conservation Management Plan2004 NSW Department of Commenrce, Heritage Design Services  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAllen Jack and Cottier2001Alexandra Canal Masterplan iSBN 0 7347 0220 5
WrittenDPWS Heritage Design Services2003Alexandra Canal Conservation Management Plan
WrittenGodden Mackay Logan2003Alexandra Canal and Sheas Creek Woolsheds. Proposed Alexandra Canal Cycle & Pedestrian Path- Stage 1. Heritage Impact Statement.
WrittenGodden Mackay Logan Pty Ltd Alexandra Canal and Sheas Creek, Alexandria. Proposed Cycle and Pedestrian Path Archaeological Assessment.
WrittenO'Rourke, Jim2016'Old Canal given new lease of life:historic 'forgotten waterway' gets $3.4m revitalisation'

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: 5053860
File number: S92/01472, H00/00607


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