Ryde Pumping Station and site | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Ryde Pumping Station and site

Item details

Name of item: Ryde Pumping Station and site
Other name/s: WP005, West Ryde Pumping Station
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Utilities - Water
Category: Water Pump House/Pumping Station
Location: Lat: -33.8099484525 Long: 151.0910199730
Primary address: Victoria Road, West Ryde, NSW 2114
Parish: Hunters Hill
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Ryde
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP131222
LOT5 DP819902
LOT6 DP819902
LOT7 DP819902
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Victoria RoadWest RydeRydeHunters HillCumberlandPrimary Address
51 Hermitage RoadWest RydeRyde  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Sydney WaterState Government 

Statement of significance:

Ryde pumping station as a whole is highly significant as an integral component of the water supply system to much of Sydney. At its completion it was the largest water pumping station in Australia, and today retains considerable fabric and work practices which can be interpreted from that period. While much of the significant plant and equipment has been removed and replaced, it still maintains the overall function and values it was designed for. The significant curtilage includes only the buildings, works, archaeological evidence, machinery and equipment, sheds, and cultural landscape elements (including paths, drives, plantings etc.) up to 1930 listed in the following pages.

The Ryde Pumping Station site contains landscape elements of high significance and has the ability to demonstrate three important and distinct phases of its history by its pre-European vegetation remnants, farming phase remnants and the distinctive 1890s earthworks and group of 1920s plantings associated with, respectively, the 1890s site use, and 1920s major expansion, for the North Shore water supply.

The design of the main civic address both built, (pumping station and residence) and planted, demonstrates the high importance placed on the site at this time of its development. The place continues to make an important contribution to the local townscape and serve as an outstanding landmark group.

The remnant 1920s plantings are likely to have associative value in being with the influence of JH Maiden Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens (!896-1924) and include mature species that are uncommon within the State Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis). The place holds scientific value as a reserve for indigenous vegetation remnants.
Date significance updated: 30 Nov 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.


Builder/Maker: William Adams & Co. Ltd., State Monier Works, Refshaw & O'Brien
Construction years: 1891-1921
Physical description: The Ryde Pumping Station is located in West Ryde, on an irregular shaped block of land bounded by Victoria Road to the north, by Hermitage Road to the south east and by the Strathfield to Hornsby railway line to the west. While the Ryde site continues to be used for water pumping purposes, it also houses the offices of AWT ES & T in a mosaic of permanent and temporary buildings generally dating from the late 20th Century.

The pumping station building which fronts Victoria Road comprises a small Administration Block, the Engine House and the adjoining Boiler House and Economiser House. There is also a reinforced concrete viaduct or coal staith at the south end, which allowed railway coal wagons to be transported to the top of the building and emptied over the coal bunkers inside. Under the Engine and Boiler Houses there are basements and a sub-basement is located under the Engine Room which houses the turbine condensers and auxiliary pumps.

The Boiler House occupies the central section of the Pumping Station and is much higher than the flanking Engines and Economiser Houses, the cladding on the main roof and the monitor is the original fibro tiles.

The Boiler House still contains its rail lines and coal bunkers at roof level, but the boilers have been removed.

The Economiser House is on the west side of the building adjoining the Boiler House but much lower. Its roof structure, cladding and length is the same as the Boiler House. Although it is now empty it originally contained the economisers, induced draught fans and the feed pumps and feed water heater for the boilers.

The south side of the Boiler House is joined by the Coal Staith, a reinforced concrete viaduct which carries a pair of rail sidings for the coal wagons from the high embankment to the coal bunker doors.

Original reservoir valve house: A red brick and stone Queen Anne revival valve enclosure which is located on the western side of the original reservoir. The valve house enclosure is missing its original door case and all windows are boarded up preventing access. Grafitti has defaced the walls.
Its location is most discreet being screened by mature trees and the battered earth wall of the reservoir and is adjacent to the railway line. It is now disused.

Original suction tank (reservoir): Construction of the reservoir is semi-submerged originally surrounded by battered earth walls and constructed of mass concrete walls and floor. In c.1930 Victoria Road was cut adjacent to the reservoir and there are mid to late 20th century trees and fence which now surround the reservoir. In the late 20th century a new roof was fitted to the top of the reservoir. The reservoir is now disused however it serves as a supplementary function to the water pumping station as a surge tank.

Apart from the cutting in Victoria Road and the roofing to the reservoir, the reservoir otherwise would be considerably intact.

To the south west of the original reservoir, historical evidence describes a railway spur to a coal dump which is now turfed. Little evidence survives on the surface of that former use although it may be considered an archaeologically sensitive zone.

80 metres south of the original reservoir are located late 20th century storage sheds, steel framed and steel sheet clad.

In the area shown on historical plans where the original pumping station was located is now a concrete paved carpark adjacent to the railway line, and in part bordered by concrete and block walls which in part formed bins for stock piling of coal and aggregate for works purposes.
Within one of the existing block enclosures are located three remnants of the original reinforced concrete chimney stacks to the 1921 pumping station.
It is possible that the concrete driveway which forms the base of the carpark is possibly over the railway line which fed the original pumping station.

Archaeological evidence remains clearly of the railway tracks which fed the coal bins to the former original pumping station in the area presently covered by a steel framed shed (No. 3). To the west of the shed is a clearly evident railway formation leading from the adjacent railway line and heading in a southerly direction. Little tangible evidence remains of the coal bins although the existing rail evidence needs further archaeological investigation.

To the south east of shed no. 3 was an area in the mid to late 20th century used for testing of subsoil clay pipes and their effects with tree roots as evidenced by the poplars which survive today.

It is possible the footings to shed no. 3 form the original footings of the original loco shed.

Located south west and adjacent to the former locomotive shed is an original timber frame and corrugated iron clad skid shed which is now a rare item in Sydney Water's system of past work practices. It has been recently repainted, but note traditionally they were not painted. The condition would appear to be fair to good and reasonably intact.

To the south east of the original reservoir surrounding the late 20th century brick and concrete valve enclosure is a cutting made in concrete crib wall within the original battered earth wall to the reservoir.

North east of the original reservoir is located the original engineer's residence. It is a late Victorian brick residence using glazed cream brick and understood to be single storey originally with the first storey added soon after. To its second storey addition are original joinery, and detail is to that period including, verandahs and marseilles pattern terracotta tiles with decorative terracotta ridge caps and finials which are more reminiscent of the Federation period. The side walls are painted although a rear utilitarian wing remains unpainted.
To the south east of the original engineer's residence is a brick and corrugated iron privy with original ledged and sheeted doors and vents.
The engineer's residence is substantially intact to the first storey addition period and appears to be in good condition.

10 metres east of the original engineer's residence is a valve chamber which is concrete and houses late 20th century gate valves following the electrification of the pumping station in 1982.

30 metres south east of the engineer's residence is the brick and rendered original efficiency engineer's office dating from the 1921 period. It is a brick building with steel frame windows and original corrugated asbestos sheet roof. An amenity section is located at the southern end of this building. It is now used for office/conference facility but generally is substantially intact and in good condition.

The main existing pumping station is brick with rendered details dating from 1921. The overall construction of the pumping station comprises a brick walled and steel framed interior economiser house with extant bases of the original reinforced concrete chimneys. Timber louvres remain to the original monitor roof. Arched headed windows are in steel and only a few original steel windows remain in the front office areas. Mid to late 20th century security bars have been fitted to the windows and verandah enclosure to the office. The external cladding of the upper most monitor roof is corrugated steel and the guttering has been replaced in colorbond.

Some windows to the offices have been changed from their original steel to timber and aluminium in the late 20th century. A reasonable amount of the interior finishes and joinery in the offices remains intact, although the economiser house has been stripped and disused. On the upper reaches of the boiler house are the original coal bunkers which were fed from the existing reinforced concrete coal staith which heads in a southern direction from the upper reaches of the boiler house. Evidence remains in the concrete floor of boiler and ash pits. Both the boiler house and economiser house are in poor condition. Directly east and adjoining the boiler house is the original 1921 engine house which is of the same construction overall as the boiler house and economiser house.

The existing pumps and engines in the engine house date from the mid to late 20th century following the electrification of the pumping station. On the eastern side of the engine house are the majority of pipes and valves (manifolds) which largely date from the mid and late 20th century.

It is understood a considerable amount of machinery and equipment over the whole site was replaced with the electrification of the pumping station in late 1970's and early 1980's.

The roofing to the engine house is late 20th century sheet metal roofing with original timber louvred monitors to its ridge. At the southern end of the engine house were added some 6 bays which became known as the Mobbs Hill extension. Adjoining the Mobbs Hill extension to the south again is a mid to late 20th century workshop building constructed of brick walls, gable roof with sheet metal roof cladding and roof lights. A separate building to the south of the economiser house is an original brick with flat roof former paint shop, the exterior of which is considerably intact but in poor condition. To the east of the former paint shop is a reinforced concrete neumatic ash tank which appears to be considerably intact but in poor condition.

Some 10 metres to the south of the Hermitage Road entrance to the site is located a single storey brick and concrete roofed pump and valve house dating from the early to mid 20th century. To the west of this pump house is a turfed area which was formally an ash pit and it is understood a channel exists under the subsoil to the pumping station as archaeological evidence of the management of ash and the development of that management on the site. Adjoining to the south of the ash pit is archaeological evidence in the present driveway of the steel gantry and crane system which stock piled the ash for disposal. The integrity of the early to mid 20th century ash pump house is considerably intact and its condition fair. The integrity of the ash pit has been infilled, although archaeological potential of this area of this site is high.

A considerable number of exotic plantings including Canary Island palms and Peppercorn trees surround the site dating from the original landscaping of the 1922 pumping station. The treatment of landscaping and pathways and driveways within Water Board sites of this period cannot be underestimated as they were purposely designed to be of an asethetically high standard.

Overall the integrity of the buildings which date from the 1922 redevelopment of the site and the original reservoir remain substantially intact. The machinery however including plant and equipment has been largely changed and much of the operational original infrastructure has been lost.

As a cultural landscape the triangular-shaped site contains four distinct layers of site history - pre-European vegetation remnants; 19th century plantings from its agricultural phase; plantings associated with the 1920s pumping station development; and more recent plantings associated with the use of the site as offices.

Remnants of the earlier indigenous vegetation community include several large Grey Gums (Eucalyptus punctata)near the northeast of the site; scattered Turpentines (Syncarpia glomulifera) near the main entry off Hermitage Road as well as elsewhere within the site; a group of White Stringybark (Eucalyptus globoidea) to the south of the pump station; and a solitary White Mahogany? (Eucalyptus acmenioides) to the west of the pump station.

Remnant plantings of Pepper Trees (Schinus molle var. areira) survive from the site's 19th century agricultural phase. Several of these trees are very large particularly those near the front carpark and near he eastern boundary off Hermitage Road.

An impressive group of palm plantings survive along the front site address with Victoria Road as part of the 1920s development phase of the pump station. Species include three Chilean Wine Palms (Jubaea chilensis) - one being on the 1890s suction tank embankment to the west; Jelly Palm (Butia capitata); Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis) and Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera). More early 20th century plantings remain around the former Engineer's Residence including palms, a Cypress (Cupressus sp.), a Pine (Podocarpus sp.) and an unidentified tree worth further investigation.

More recent plantings have been undertaken as part of the work where new buildings and a complex of demountables have been added to the site.
Date condition updated:30 Dec 00
Current use: Pumping Station and offices
Former use: Aboriginal land, farm land, Water Pumping Station and administration


Historical notes: The Ryde area was highly suitable for farming and orchards, and early grants to marines were given to encourage agriculture. In 1792 land in the area was granted to 8 marines; two of the grants were in the modern area of Ryde. Isaac Archer and John Colethread each received 80 acres of land on the site of the present Ryde-Parramatta Golf Links, now in West Ryde. Later in 1792, in the Eastern Farms area, 12 grants, most of them about 30 acres, were made to convicts. Much later these farms were bought by John Macarthur, Gregory Blaxland and the Reverend Samuel Marsden. The district remained an important orchard area throughout the 19th century. (Pollen, 1996)

The first pumping station at Ryde was built by the Harbours and Rivers Department, and handed over to the newly formed MBWS&S (Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage) in 1891. Water was delivered from Potts Hill Reservoir to a balance reservoir at Ryde railway station. From here a pair of 146HP vertical, compound, direct-acting, surface-condensing pumping engines (by J. Watts & Co. Birmingham), lifted 3,400 gal/min of water to Ryde tank and Chatswood, to supply Sydney's northern distribution system.

By 1916 the need to further increase pumping capacity could no longer be accommodated in the existing station. Land on the eastern boundary of the old station was acquired, and a second much larger pumping station built. The new station was completed during 1921 and commissioned on the 15th September. Gradually the new station took over the pumping duties of the old until the old pumping station ceased to operate during November 1930. The old station was used as a store until it was demolished in 1961.

The new pumping station went through continual upgrades and amplifications to raise its pumping capacity from 20 ML/day (including the old pumping station) in 1921, to 66 ML/day in 1956, to 90 ML/day (410ML/day) in 1973, to 590 ML/day in 1982.

In 1921 the station was pumping to Chatswood, Pymble, Wahroonga, Hermitage, Mobbs Hill and Beecroft Reservoirs - thus to most of the North Shore.

By 1982 the conversion to electrification was completed. With 13 pumping units installed and another on standby, the capacity of the station after electrification stood at 700 megalitres per day.

The combination of electrification over steam, more powerful prime movers and improved suction mains, rising mains and manifolds, resulted in the great increase in capacity at the new station. This led to Ryde becoming the largest domestic water pumping station in Australia at that time.

Turpentine-Ironbark forest on Wianamatta shale was the main vegetation type for much of the Ryde area. A typical sample is that within the small reserve (Wallumatta Nature Reserve) at Twin Road, Ryde and includes Turpentine and Grey Gum.

During the 19th century much of the Ryde area was cleared for its timber and to provide land for farming while the post-WW II suburban expansion resulted in the further loss of extensive remnant areas of bushland. More recent treatment of the grounds reflects an attempt to soften the impact of the introduction of the many office buildings and demountables associated with the use of the place by Sydney Water and, until June 2001, Australian Water Technologies.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
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 institutions - productive and ornamental-
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 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 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 Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Water and drainage-
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 - providing reticulated water-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Ryde Pumping Station maintains tangible evidence of the largest pumping station in Australia at the time of its construction.

The pumping station continues its original function supplying water to the northern areas of Sydney.

Ryde Pumping Station was for many years considered the most important pumping station in the Sydney Water System and the only one warranting appointment of a grade 1 pumping engineer in charge.

The pumping station and its tangible historical components are clear evidence of former work practices on a scale for its type of operation now rare in the Sydney Water System.

Remnant site vegetation clearly reflects four distinct phases of the site’s history (refer to site description). The steep, highly compacted embankment around the suction tank in the northwest corner of the site is an important tangible element in the site’s development and dates to the early 1890s. The palms reflect the character of plantings usually associated with government-related projects for which JH Maiden (Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens) had involvement and it is entirely feasible that he had advised on the treatment of the early 1920s pump station work before his retirement in 1924.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Ryde Pumping Station buildings and cultural landscape are prominent elements in the townscape of Ryde.

The main engine house and former boiler and economiser houses along with the cultural landscape reflect the importance of civic design at the time of their construction.

The site in its remnant historical buildings provide tangible evidence of high quality industrial design and detailing of government buildings of the time.

The whole of the remnant building/landscape group addressing Victoria Road is an imposing local landmark within the local townscape.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The place is likely to be held in high regard by a broad range of community members and organisations. The historical significance and function the pumping station plays is recognised by organisations such as the National Trust and the Institution of Engineers of Australia along with other members of the community for the important role it has played in the cultural development of Sydney.

The familiar and distinct Victoria Road address likely holds high social value as an important local reference point.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Ryde Pumping Station has been the site of many innovative and substantial attempts at water supply technology. Such evidence includes the following:

- The turbine and powered pumps in 1906 were an early use of a highly successful system.
- The use of reinforced concrete instead of brick for the chimneys in 1918 was a relatively early use of that type.
- The use of electrically welded steam piping in 1921.
- The use of pneumatic ash collection in 1923.
- The use of cement spray ("cement gun") rendering in 1923.
- The pulverised coal fuel for boilers between 1922 and 1927.

The site contains a number of elements which are now rare or if not unique in Sydney Water's System of former work practices including the coal staith, archaeological evidence of railway sidings for former use of the site, substantial late 19th Century engineer's residence, amongst numerous other built elements and movable relics which give evidence to the work practices at the completion of the no. 2 pumping station in 1921.

The remnant representative indigenous vegetation is important in understanding the composition of the pre-European vegetation communities in the Ryde area.
SHR Criteria f)
The West Ryde Pumping Station's site and its significant components comprise the most substantial example of such technology in the Sydney Water System and in NSW if not Australia. The 1920's plantings are rare specific Government landscape design.
SHR Criteria g)
The site's use as a pumping station is representative of the methods used throughout the Sydney Water System to facilitate water supply to local service reservoirs on a more regional basis, albeit none were as large as West Ryde Pumping Station.
Integrity/Intactness: While a considerable amount of original (1921) technology in terms of plant and equipment has been removed, substantial tangible evidence remains of buildings, cultural landscape elements, archaeological evidence of the former work practices and cultural.
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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementWest Ryde Water Pumping Station & Site CMP, prepared in-house by Sydney Water for Sydney Water, not dated but hand-annotated as 'May 2004'. CMP endorsed by Heritage Council 2 August 2004 for a period of 5 years Aug 2 2004
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 0163415 Nov 02 2209709
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Alexandra Canal Conservation Management Plan2004 NSW Department of Commenrce, Heritage Design Services  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenAWT EnSight1996Ryde Pumping Station - Heritage Assessment for Maintenance and Stabilisation Works
WrittenDoring, C & MJ1991Ryde Pumping Station Heritage Study
WrittenPollen, F. (Ed.) & Healy, G.1996Ryde (entry) in The Book of Sydney Suburbs

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

rez rez rez rez rez rez
rez rez rez rez rez rez
rez rez rez rez rez rez
rez rez rez rez rez rez
(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: 5053872
File number: S93/00506

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.