Mount Gibraltar Trachyte Quarries Complex | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Mount Gibraltar Trachyte Quarries Complex

Item details

Name of item: Mount Gibraltar Trachyte Quarries Complex
Other name/s: The Gib
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Parks, Gardens and Trees
Category: Reserve
Location: Lat: -34.46426553 Long: 150.42858999
Primary address: Oxley Drive, Bowral, NSW 2576
Parish: Mittagong
County: Camden
Local govt. area: Wingecarribee
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Illawarra
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
 3 DP1037922
 2 DP1118702
 27 DP1128123
 500 DP1133261
 16 DP11372
 1 DP133145
 138 DP15496
 139 DP15496
 1 DP159328
 2 DP169019
 1 DP222145
 3 DP222145
 1 DP259828
 2 DP259828
 3 DP259828
 4 DP259828
 5 DP259828
 6 DP259828
 9 DP262408
 1 DP700951
 1 DP738591
 2 DP739403
 31 DP771155
 32 DP771155
 1 DP784884
 4 DP803046
 21 DP856512
 22 DP856512
 20 DP862590
 21 DP862590
 6 DP867717
 61 DP876107
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Oxley DriveBowralWingecarribeeMittagongCamdenPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Telstra CorporationPrivate 
Wingecarribee Shire CouncilLocal Government 

Statement of significance:

Mount Gibraltar Quarries are significant as purpose built quarries that were used consistently for 100 years of quarrying, from 1886 to 1986. Today there are six distinct quarrying locations regarded as being historically significant. The trachyte quarried there is unique and provided dimension stone for notable buildings throughout NSW and internationally. The quarries were an important aspect of Bowral's industrial history.

The stone is geologically known as microsyenite and was commercial traded as Bowral Trachyte. Bowral Trachyte became popular for kerbing in the later nineteenth and early twentieth century. The use of Bowral Trachyte by Sydney City's engineers as a hard rock to replace crumbling sandstone kerbs and gutters was the very catalyst which if not initiated, certainly spurred the The Gib's development (Ron Powell pers. comm.)

It was used locally in some quantity, but the bulk of it was exported to Sydney for major city buildings (Challis House, Martin Place; National Mutual Building, George Street; QVB, George Street; ANZAC Memorial, Hyde Park) and major public works (Hawkesbury River Bridge at Brooklyn). These structures have been listed on the State Heritage Register for their architectural, technical and engineering qualities. The trachyte from Bowral and the quarries from which it was extracted are significant for their contribution to the built heritage of the State. The stone from these quarries was used for the commemorative stones for Federation and for the foundation of Canberra and many war memorials.

The ballast quarry was important to the construction of the Great Southern Railway line from Mittagong to Goulburn, in the late 19th century. For a hundred years stonemasons and quarrymen used their remarkable skills for blasting, cutting, trimming, polishing and handling the dense rock. The technologies of the time have technical significance and the quarries, as an entity, formed the basis of social development in Bowral as many families were involved with their operation. It was a major industry for the township of Bowral. An important Spooner depression relief program supported the region by using the stone for improvements on the mountain.

Mount Gibraltar is a volcanic intrusion that cooled in such a way as to form this special rock. 180 million years of erosion have exposed the rock. Mount Gibraltar Microsyenite is the technical term for the stone which was marketed as 'Bowral Trachyte' at the time in the belief it would be exempt from Government tax. Bowral Trachyte, has the unique properties of great strength and durability and decorative potential when polished plus accessibility for quarrying. These quarries are of State significance due to the fact that microsyenite of this quality, both aesthetically and functionally, is rare internationally.

The rock was studied by our great geologists such as Andrew Griffith Taylor, T. W. Edgeworth, David and Douglas Mawson. Architects such as Walter Liberty Vernon, George Macrae, Edward E. Raht; builders such as John Leggat, Loveridge and Hudson, Amos Brothers, Saunders, Phippard Bros., Melocco Bros. and engineers of the railways, road, bridges and dams made use of the stone (Lemann et. al. 2007).

The Mount Gibraltar Quarries are a significant industrial landscape. Although overgrown, with many elements relocated, the quarries retain many elements of their industrial heritage including; scars of the quarrying that show how the stone was removed, (plug and feather technique), machinery and the remains of trackways and tramways.

The Mount Gibraltar Forest is significant due to its rarity, being identified as an endangered ecological community under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act and threatened ecological community under the EPBC Act. The unique geology of the area supports a collection of flora that, as an assemblage, does not exist outside of the Reserve.
Date significance updated: 29 Jan 09
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.


Construction years: 1886-1986
Physical description: The quarries have created considerable scars in the side of Mount Gibraltar and are most visible from the southern/Bowral side. At close quarters the works cliffs are impressive with walls of up to 50 metres. The site contains rubble which is used from time to time for current projects, e.g. plinths for plaques and landscaping work within the reserve.

The remnants of the site's industrial heritage are present with various items hidden under encroaching weeds, and infrastructure such as road/track ways, loading benches etc. are emerging due to the ongoing weed eradication programme.

Also contained within the Reserve are several stone structures and steps built during the 1930s through a Spooner Unemployment Program. Part of the same program saw the construction of the Scenic Loop Road and an impressive retaining wall on the western side. These structures comprise the following : Stone Stairway; Bowral Lookout Shelter and picnic table: male and female WC building; Inner Bowl Shelter, Oxley View Shelter' ruined shelter on corner of Scenic Loop, Mt Jellore Lookout and shelter, Mittagong Lookout shelter and Joshua Stokes Memorial.

In general the quarry sites are considerably overgrown, although some portion have been cleared. A network of walking trails runs through the reserve. As a result of clearance programs, some artefacts and infrastructure have been recovered, e.g. steps cut into the rock face, machinery, building materials, etc.

The nominated quarries all lie within the Mount Gibraltar Reserve where the rock supports the Endangered Ecological Community of Mount Gibraltar Forest, now regenerating after 15 years of weed removal.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Some quarries are currently infested by weeds. The site is considered to have moderate to high archaeological potential, as evidenced by the recovery of artefacts from beneath vegetation regrowth; sub-surface deposits are highly likely.
Date condition updated:26 Nov 12
Modifications and dates: Each quarry has a different story passing through several stages of ownership and management. In general terms the following applies.

Quarry A Loveridge and Hudson 1888
Quarry C: Rayward, Pope 1889-1979
Quarry D: Chalker, Loveridge and Hudson 1885 - 1986
Quarry E: Amos, Mascot 1894-1962
Quarry F: Government 1890 -1892
Further information: The Council has dicussed a proposal to undertake an interpretation plan for the sites as part of the rehabilitation work; this would become the 'Heritage Quarry Walk'. Ongoing landscape rehabilitation is occuring at the site.
Current use: Passive recreation and environmental conservation.
Former use: Extraction of unique stone for colonial construction.


Historical notes: Quarrying commenced in the Mount Gibraltar area following the opening of the railway in 1867. William Chaker commenced operations at the site in 1885 at the top of Cliff Street when he opened the NSW Trachyte Stone Quarrying Company (Quarry D). The 'Gibraltar Rock Quarries' were opened by Messrs Leggat and Company in 1886. John Leggat supplied the Bowral Trachyte piers for the Hawkesbury Railway Bridge, his last major project before going broke, still the largest scale use of the stone (Robert Irving pers. comm.).

By 1888 Loveridge and Hudson, who had been quarrying poorer quality stone at Quarry A at the top of Oxley Street, took over Chaker's quarry. Notable builders of the period, they had blocks quarried for buildings such as the Equitable Life Building (George St, Sydney) the Australasia Bank (corner of Martin Place, Sydney) and the anchor blocks for the Hampden Bridge in Kangaroo Valley.

By 1890 the Pope family was quarrying blocks (Quarry C leased from John Thompson) of which the largest was 9 tons 7 hundredweight; these became part of a gate pillar for Centennial Park (Sydney). The blocks were often taken out by rail from a specially constructed siding in Bowral. The quarries also provided local building stone and several quarries provided kerb stones and tramway supports for local towns as well as Sydney.

In 1881 the Amos Brothers acquired Quarry E on the western face of Mount Gibraltar, along Soma Avenue (Amos spelt backward). By 1888 they were producing stone for railway ballast. In 1890 the government resumed part of their land and opened the Government Ballast Quarry (Quarry F). This closed after 2 years and after a court case, Alexander Amos got back the land that had been resumed.

The NSW Government quarry on the Mittagong side, supplied rock to a crusher via a double light rail system. There were a great many quarrymen and stonemasons working at the time, some living in poor circumstances in temporary dwellings on top of the mountain. There were many accidents and the men formed the "Berrima District Workmen's Accident Relief and Endowment Fund" as a result.

At his death in 1915, Alexander Amos owned most of the northern and western sides of the mountain. The administrators of his estate sold the summit site to Joshua Stokes, on behalf of the Bowral Municipal Council, for a future reserve while the lower portions were subdivided for housing.

As early as 1894 the Government geologist, E. F. Pittman urged the use of Bowral Trachyte 'for any important building in which permanence might be desired. The "trachyte" may, for all practical purposes, be regarded as indestructible' (Dept Mines Annual Report, 1894, p.104). When Edwards Raht chose the Bowral material for 350 George Street (Equitable Building) he compared it to Cologne Cathedral saying it would last for not a hundred years but a thousand (Robert Irving pers. comm.).

The trachyte was described in 1915 as being "very solid. Its weight-carrying capacity is equal to most of the known granites". The use of Bowral Trachyte by Sydney City's engineers as a hard rock to replace crumbling sandstone kerbs and gutters was thought to be the catalyst which if not initiated, certainly spurred the The Gib's development; the use as a building material came later. Perhaps without the quarry's' successes in developing and serving a market for hard rock, the stone's potential as a superb building material might never have been realised (Ron Powell pers. comm.).

It was thus used extensively in late 19th century Sydney for facades but also for foundations, flagging and for bridge piers, notably in the Hawkesbury (Brooklyn) Bridge. In 1914 trachyte was sent to London and Scotland. The stone was used locally for monuments, public works and private buildings.

The columns of the Queen Victoria Building are made from Bowral Trachyte and were turned on the Abernethy and Co. Stonemason's Lathe, also listed on the SHR. At least 16 structures constructed using Bowral Trachyte are listed on the SHR.

During the depression the Minister for Local Government, Eric Spooner, visited Mount Gibraltar announcing that 60,000 pounds would be made available for relief work. By 1936 the new road and lookouts on Mount Gibraltar were completed. The following year Spooner had plans prepared for the development of parking and picnicking areas on the site. As in earlier periods these workers camped onsite, creating another depression 'Struggletown'.

The purchase of land for a Reserve by Joshua Stokes led to him losing public office for a perceived waste of public money. It was not until after World War II that the local Council implemented a programme of expanding Stokes' original 59 acre purchase. Stokes' forethought was not honoured until 1950 by the construction of the John Stokes Memorial on Mount Gibraltar.

By 1973 only Quarry C was active and changes in building methods and materials had reduced the demand for Bowral Trachyte. There were also strong community concerns over the impacts that quarrying was having on the beauty of the site. Additionally, quality of life near to the quarry was an emerging concern with the regular blasting and expulsion of 'Pope's Dust' into the air. Negotiations with F.J. Pope and Sons saw the quarry close down. Ten years later an application was made to quarry stone for the extension of the National Library in Canberra. In the face of community opposition a deal was struck allowing a small amount of stone to be quarried, but with the remaining active quarry being sold to Council at its completion. The remaining quarrying sites were incorporated into the reserve in 1986.

In 2003 the Department of Public Works removed some loose blocks to repair the steps of the NSW State Library.

The land was neglected until 1995 when a volunteer management committee was formed under the auspices of Wingecarribee Shire Council to 'care control and manage the reserve'. Weed containment activities have been carried out, subsequently revealing some of the former quarry structures.

The Mount Gibraltar Landcare and Bushcare Group ahs been involved with structural projects at the site since its inception in 1995, the following projects have been undertaken by the group:

1995: Inner Bowl Carpark.
1996: Bowral Lookout: Steps to Plinth and Paving and Concrete Path to Gents Toilet and Rim Track.
1996: Jellore Lookout: Steps and platform.
1999: Jellore Lookout: Concrete path to Lookout
2000: Jellore Lookout: Entrance wall.
2001: Bowral Lookout: Wheelchair Access track.
2001: Removed damaged Lions Shelter Shed.
2002: Mittagong Lookout: Walls and Path.
2003: Bowral Lookout: Walls.
2005: Inner Bowl restoration, roof and table.
2010: Bowral Lookout: Landscaping.
2011: Heritage Quarries Circuit Track.

The quarrying was a integral part of the lives of those living in Bowral with the 4pm event, a huge, dull thud shaking windows and vases. The following description is from a resident at the time:

We have lived at the very top of Cliff Street in Bowral for forty-six years, in a house built of trachyte for a quarry worker in the 1880s. When we first arrived some blasting in the quarry nearest was still taking place. It seemed quite random, and the explosions came at any time, with no warning. We were finding freshly chipped trachyte rocks in our garden, then one day the explosion was followed by a stone crashing on our roof, and another narrowly missing the pram in which our baby daughter slept. At this my husband rushed up into the quarry to complain, as there were no warning, notices, nets, or anything else being used. He was slightly reassured that they were nearly finished, and I think there was only one more blast before it stopped for good! Following this activity, a large number of huge blocks of trachyte were extracted, but the diamond drill and expansion method were employed, and apart from the noise of the drilling, it didn't worry us at all (Elizabeth Smith pers. comm.)

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. (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Industry-Activities associated with the manufacture, production and distribution of goods Quarrying-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Mining-Activities associated with the identification, extraction, processing and distribution of mineral ores, precious stones and other such inorganic substances. Quarrying stone-
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 Development-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour (none)-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
It meets this criterion at State level because the quarries were a source of distinctive material for late Victorian to interwar construction of numerous significant public buildings, roads and railways and commemorative structures in NSW and internationally. At least 16 State significant buildings listed on the SHR have been constructed using Bowral Trachyte. This site is significant in the development of the built heritage of NSW.

The quarries supported a major depression relief program which constructed the Scenic Loop road over Mount Gibraltar and the infrastructure of shelters and lookouts for passive recreation in the Reserve. The quarries also supported the construction of the Great Southern Railway which opened the region up for further settlement and tourism and contributed greatly to the economic development of the area.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The quarries meet this criteria at a local level as they evoke and acknowledge the fraternity of the quarrymen, builders and stonemasons who worked this site and the thousands of people employed in Depression era works programs.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
It meets the criterion at State level because of its ability to demonstrate the skill and industrial technology of the stoneworkers in managing the extremely hard and durable rock. The quarries are able to demonstrate the quarrying techniques and products of the late 19th to late 20th centuries. The technology required to cut and polish the very hard rock was remarkable, as was the ability to handle its weight.

The massive quarry scars also provide an aesthetic component to the landscape of the iconic landmark of Mount Gibraltar. This is the highest point between Sydney and Canberra and is a considerable regional presence. The Mount Gibraltar Reserve is accessible to the public and reflects the character of the rock in its infrastructure.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
It meets this criterion at local level because the quarry is a natural reserve that is utilised by the local community for recreation activities. It is also an important tourist destination, contributing to the economy of the region.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
It meets this criterion at State level because there is potential for further understanding of the quarrying industry and the scientific understanding of the unique rock. The quarry represents a potential archaeological resource with the archaeological remnants of the entire quarrying process likely present.

The site provides opportunities to understand study and interpret quarrying and stone finishing techniques of the past.

The unique nature of the ecological community at this site represents a an opportunity to further study and understand this community of plants.
SHR Criteria f)
It meets this criterion at a State level because the quarries reveal the unique quality of the rock that also supports the natural endangered ecological community of Mount Gibraltar Forest. The Mount Gibraltar Quarries are considered to be exceptionally rare and possibly unique due to the rarity of the materials quarried there, particularly Bowral Trachyte; this material was only extracted from Mount Gibraltar and was a favoured building stone for a many impressive buildings in Sydney, state-wide and internationally.

The ecological communities on the site have been identified as being rare at both a State and national level.

The site is considered to be rare in a local, State and international context
SHR Criteria g)
It meets this criterion at a State level because they are representative of the extraordinary skills of the early industrial era in NSW.

They represent an industrial landscape that contains the remnants of the quarrying process and its impact on the development of the built heritage of NSW.
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.

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
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions HERITAGE ACT 1977


Mount Gibraltar Trachyte Quarries Complex

SHR No. 1917

I, the Minister for Heritage, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, in pursuance of section 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, do, by this my order, grant an exemption from section 57(1) of that Act in respect of the engaging in or carrying out of any activities described in Schedule "C" by the [owner, mortgagee or lessee of the land] described in Schedule "B" on the item described in Schedule "A".

The Hon Robyn Parker, MP.
Minister for Heritage

Sydney, 20th Day of November 2013



The item known as Mount Gibraltar Trachyte Quarries Complex, situated on the land described in Schedule "B".


All those pieces or parcels of land known as Lot 1 DP 259828; Lot 2 DP 259828; Lot 3 DP 259828; Lot 4 DP 259828; Lot 5 DP 259828; Lot 6 DP 259828; Lot 20 DP 862590; Lot 21 DP862590; Lot 1 DP 738591; Lot 1 DP700951; Lot 1 DP 133145; Lot 2 DP 169019; Lot 31 DP 771155; Lot 1 DP 784884; Lot 1 DP 159328; Lot 2 DP 1118702; Lot 16 DP 11372; Lot 21 DP 856512; Lot 22 DP 856512; Lot 2 DP 739403; Lot 4 DP 803046; Lot 138 DP 15496; Lot 139 DP 15496; Lot 3 DP 1037922; Lot 27 DP 1128123; Lot 61 DP 876107; Lot 500 DP 1133261; Lot 9 DP 262408; Lot 6 DP 867717; Lot 31 DP 771155, in Parish of Mittagong, County of Camden shown on the plan catalogued HC 2574 in the office of the Heritage Council of New South Wales.


1.Works within existing road corridors associated with the repair, maintenance and upkeep of existing sealed roads and fire trails where these works will not have an impact on heritage significance and/or where such work is assessed as necessary to protect public safety.

2.Rehabilitation of bushland managed by Council.

3.Removal of previously quarried stone removed with the consent or approval of Council that does not require quarrying at the site and does not impact on the significance of the site.

4.Maintenance and upkeep of existing picnic areas including but not limited to repair of facilities, mowing and weeding.

5.Repair, maintenance and upgrading of existing underground service and utilities infrastructure where these works utilise or apply to existing service trenches and/or pre-existing structures incorporating an area of 5m parallel to either side of existing cables; where these works do not impact any archaeological resources and relics.

6.Works on existing water supply infrastructure for operational requirements, maintenance and repair that do not involve any excavation or impacts on archaeological resources and relics. Emergency works to restore existing infrastructure assets to protect public health, protect property and/or protect the environment where these emergency works involve no greater soil or vegetation disturbance than necessary.

7.Works on existing telecommunications and television infrastructure for operational requirements, maintenance and repair that do not involve any excavation or impacts on archaeological resources and relics. Emergency works to restore existing infrastructure assets to protect public health, protect property and/or protect the environment where these emergency works involve no greater soil or vegetation disturbance than necessary.

8.Walking trail maintenance and upgrades excluding upgrading of the stone stairway from the Bowral lookout down to the quarries.

9.Upgrades to picnic and lookout infrastructure excluding upgrades to any picnic or lookout infrastructure that was constructed as part of the Depression employment schemes of the 1930s.

10.Any works or actions undertaken in accordance with a Plan of Management for the site prepared under the Local Government Act and/or Crown Lands Act and endorsed by the Heritage Council or its delegate.

11.Any works or actions undertaken in accordance with any adopted Fire Management Plan for the site or the Wingecarribee Bush Fire Risk Management Plan (BFRMP) where these works will not have an impact on heritage significance and/or where such work is assessed as necessary to protect public safety.

12.Council implementation of any notified actions under the Rural Fires Act.
Dec 2 2013

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0191702 Dec 13 1645629
National Trust of Australia register Mt Gibraltar Trachyte Quarries 26 Jun 08   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenLandscan P/L1992Historic, Cultural Landscape Assessment for Wingecarribee Shire
WrittenLemann, Jane; Simons; Wright; Moffat; and Elphick2007The Gib: Mount Gibraltar, Southern Highlands

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: 5060563
File number: EF14/5838; Obj.13/02968

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.

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