This week on Scratching Sydney’s Surface, the topic is bricks. Yes, that’s right. Bricks.

The landmark chimneys at the edge of Sydney Park are the remnant of Josiah Gentle’s Bedford Brickworks, which were in operation on the site from 1893.

St Peters Brickworks, c1984 (City of Sydney Archives, SRC17506)
St Peters Brickworks, c1984 (City of Sydney Archives, SRC17506)

But it was not the first brickworks here – it was one of many brick, tile and pottery works on the site of Sydney Park – and indeed, in the local area – from the early 19th century.

Former brickworks on the site of Sydney Park, when used as a garbage tip, 1962 (City of Sydney Archives, NSCA CRS 48/2016)
Former brickworks on the site of Sydney Park, when used as a garbage tip, 1962 (City of Sydney Archives, NSCA CRS 48/2016)

The present day suburbs of Erksineville, St Peters and Marrickville are underpinned by Wianamatta Shale, which produces a type of clay ideal for brickmaking.

Once a brick works was established, clay was excavated from ever deepening pits.  Most brick works had workshops and kilns on site for shaping and then firing the clay into an array of products including bricks, tiles, pipes and decorative pottery.

Apart from Josiah Gentle, other notable brickmakers in the Newtown / Erskineville area included Henry Knight, who became involved in local government and Henry Goodsell, who had a brickworks on the site of today’s Camdenville Park. Both men are remembered in street names in the area. Just opposite Sydney Park, the aptly named Bakewell Brothers produced decorative pottery from the late 19th century through to the mid-20th century.

Map showing the brickworks on the site of Henson Park (Marrickville Council History Services, M9/ 112) http://swftnsw.sdp.sirsidynix.net.au/client/search/asset/62385
Map showing the brickworks on the site of Henson Park (Marrickville Council History Services, M9/ 112) http://swftnsw.sdp.sirsidynix.net.au/client/search/asset/62385
Brickworks at Henson Park before it was filled in, 1926 (Marrickville Council History Services, 000858) http://swftnsw.sdp.sirsidynix.net.au/client/search/asset/172798
Brickworks at Henson Park before it was filled in, 1926 (Marrickville Council History Services, 000858) http://swftnsw.sdp.sirsidynix.net.au/client/search/asset/172798

Many of Sydney’s brickpits, including those at Sydney Park, were used as rubbish dumps once the clay was extracted and the brickywards had ceased operation. Other former brickpits were filled in to create parks – examples of public parks that were once brickyards include Sydney Park, Henson Park, Camdenville Park, and Jarvie Park. The Dibble Avenue waterhole in Marrickville is the only open remaining brick pit in Sydney.

 

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