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Mort's Dock, Balmain Coal Mine and Waterview Bay, Balmain

"The heritage and archaeological significance of Mort’s Dock was celebrated with the unveiling of a plaque on 22 May." - www.leichhardt.nsw.gov.au


Dedication of State Significant Heritage Item and Plaque Unveiling – Former Mort’s Dock, Mort Bay Park

To celebrate the listing of Mort’s Dock on State Heritage register Leichhardt Council, in partnership with the Heritage Council of NSW and the Balmain Association, will hold a public unveiling of a plaque recording the State significance of the former Dry Dock.

Mort's Dock was the largest shipyard and engineering workshop in Australia in the latter half of the 19th century. The site developed into the colony's largest private enterprise and in many ways helped establish the colony and Sydney as Australia's premier maritime port. The archaeological remains are possibly the only remains of a dry dock of this size preserved in situ.

An official plaque unveiling will be held on Sunday 22 May 2011 at 2pm at the former dry dock at Mort Bay Park.

timber jetty with building in bay with few housesAll members of the community are invited to attend the plaque unveiling. Coffee and light refreshments will be provided by Leichhardt Council to celebrate the listing of this important historical item.

For any enquiries on this matter please contact Council’s Parks and Open Space Planning Unit at recreation@lmc.nsw.gov.au or phone: 02 9367 9270 during normal working hours.

10 May 2011

VERITY FIRTH MP | State Member for Balmain

Mort’s Dock listed on Heritage Register

Monday 17 January 2011

Balmain’s Mort’s Dock has been officially listed on the State Heritage Register – the highest form of heritage recognition and protection in NSW.

Minister for Planning Tony Kelly, today joined Member for Balmain Verity Firth, and members of the Balmain Association to officially declare Mort’s Dock a State heritage site.

Minister for Planning, Tony Kelly, said the approx. 3 hectare site bounded by Thames, Mort, College, McKell, Cameron, and Yeend Streets, which contains the remains of Mort’s Dock, "has been added to the State Heritage Register for both its social and cultural significance."

Mr Kelly said Mort’s Dock was considered to be of State significance because of its historic, technical, and aesthetic values.

ship at end of slip"It was the first dry dock of its size in Australia - opening one year before Cockatoo Island – and was the largest shipyard and engineering workshop in the colony in the latter half of the 19th century, and for many years the Colony’s largest private enterprise.

"State heritage listing not only celebrates the values of Mort's Dock, but also further protects it because the Heritage Council of NSW must be consulted if any work is to occur," Ms Firth said. Ms Firth welcomed the announcement.

"Local residents value the site because Mort’s Dock was the birthplace of modern industry in Australia, and of Australia as a maritime nation.

"It is important to celebrate and protect the history of Balmain's working harbour which continues to be active to this day," said Ms Firth.

The site has an historical association with Thomas Rowntree and Thomas Sutcliffe Mort who formed the Mort’s Dock & Engineering Company in 1853.

The company was significant in the development of the union movement with the Ship Painters and Dockers Union established on site in 1872, and that the Balmain site was the birthplace of what was to become the Australian Labour Party in 1891.

The site is further associated with former NSW Premier William McKell and former NSW Minister for Justice John Storey both completed apprenticeships on site.

Ms Firth said that the unique way the dry dock has been preserved in situ the structural remains have a high degree of integrity and intactness of fabric, rarely seen elsewhere.

ship being launched, by people with Australian Flag and Terraces in background"The site has the potential to yield scientific and archaeological information that will further contribute to an understanding of NSW cultural, industrial and maritime history, and should be protected for future generations" Mr Firth said.

If people are interested in learning more about Mort’s Dock, they should contact Heritage Branch Maritime Archaeologist, Sarah Ward on 02 9873 8533 or via email: sarah.ward@planning.nsw.gov.au.

Further details of the State Heritage listing can be found on the Department of Planning’s Heritage Branch website at www.heritage.nsw.gov.au/listing.

Balmain Coal Mine

"The surface works were on the site to the north of Birchgrove Primary School. The mine, at first known as the Sydney Harbour Colliery, started operations in 1897 and the last coal was mined in 1931" - Balmain's own coal mine (NSW Government)

Nick Origlass and Mort's Dock

Then on February 21 the Morts Dock boilershop committee – consisting of delegates from the boilermakers and blacksmiths and the Ironworkers, including Origlass and Balmain branch president Joe Leehy – was suspended from work for meeting during working hours without the boss’s permission. This led to a walk-out in the yard." - The Balmain Ironworkers’ Revolt

"Origlass had started work at Morts Dock ship repair yard in Balmain in 1939, moving to live in the area in 1942. Balmain was to be his political base for the rest of his life, and in 1945 the scene of a famous industrial struggle led by the Balmain Trotskyists and focused on Origlass....

Origlass was elected Ironworkers Union delegate in the boiler shop at Morts Dock in 1942 and became an official on all the shop committees....

Origlass was elected to Leichhardt Council in the early ’60s as an ALP member. He stood a good chance of winning preselection for the safe Labor seat of Balmain, but put principles before career. In 1968 he broke caucus discipline and opposed the installation of a dangerous chemical tank farm in Balmain. He was expelled from the ALP, together with his long-time comrade and fellow councillor Issy Wyner....

They stood as Balmain Labor and were re-elected to the council, Origlass later being elected mayor of Leichhardt. He was re-elected mayor in 1972 following intensive red-baiting. A tied 6-6 vote on council resulted in him continuing as mayor after his name was drawn out of a hat. Origlass introduced the "open council" principle for three years, giving residents the right to speak freely at council meetings and committees. He retired from council only in 1995..." - Nick Origlass

Balmoral and Waterview Houses

"Balmain's first residence, "Waterview House" gave its name to the bay...
Balmoral House [Waterview Street] is visible in an 1853 sketch of Waterview Basin...

John Booth's Balmain Sawmills Following the opening of Mort's Dock, new industries were attracted to Balmain. Shipbuilder John Booth came to Balmainin the early 1850s amd diversified opening a steam saw mill..." - pages 19-20, A pictorial history of Balmain to Glebe By Joan Lawrence


Page updated 7 May 2015.