Sydney sketching : sketching Sydney. Postcode 2044. Premier Street, Marrickville

July 5, 2011

5 July 2011. 12noon. Bright sunshine, strong winds. Derwent graphite pencils; W&N watercolours; Reeves gouache.

Another in the current line of tall structures featuring decorative brickwork, today’s sketch is one of four local sewerage ventilation stacks, the others being in Carrington Road Marrickville, Stanmore and Lewisham. These are separate from the Petersham Reservoir which apparently fills up overnight and during the day provides water to Balmain, Leichhardt, Petersham, Glebe, Darlington and Newtown. This one is in Premier Street, half way down a hill overlooking the Cook’s River. Sydney is of course all hills and vales; this stack is not near the top of the ridge, where vistas across to Botany Bay have been exploited since Victorian times with magnificent villas (now gone) multi-storeyed free-standing terrace houses (in the justly named Excelsior Street). From this and other ridges, Sydney’s skyline is clearly visible.

This stack is however an imposing local landmark. Apart from two rings of brickwork, it is banded all along with steel reinforcement. I wouldn’t hazard a guess at its height, but I’ve tried to provide some sort of context with parked cars (and a boat) in the street; I thought it important too to specify the power lines, reinforcing the ‘infrastructure’ theme. There is a lot of talk currently about infrastructure and the local Member is the Federal Minister responsible. I’ve been careful to include the local trees, another object of my affection lately. I checked out the base of the stack as best I could, given the two occupied Federation houses either side of the stack.


Meader, Cashman and Carolan describe it thus:

Sewerage ventilation stack, Carrington Road, Marrickville consists of a cylindrical stack of dminishing diameter towards the top, built on an octagonal base. The stack was built in 1898 and was flanked by a pair of Federation cottages built as employee housing.

I’m no sewerage expert, but from what I’ve read, these stacks, at strategic points along the length of the system, are absolutely critical. Without them, no sewerage system! What’s interesting is the local development of water and sewerage supply at the time. In the 1850s, water was pumped to city and suburbs from Botany. This water was so bad, many would have preferred to draw their own water from freshwater streams as they had since 1788. By the 1880s, Sydney was growing to such an extent that water was pumped across town from the Nepean. The inundation of the Tramvale housing estate near Sydenham in 1889, causing 150 people to be left homeless by floods, as well as parts of Marrickville connected to an underground sewerage system in the same year, helped kick along infrastructure of this type in the 1890s, notwithstanding the economic depression of the time. This stack marks the junction of three sewer mains. the Eastern, Western and Northern Main branches. Close by is the Southern Main Sewer, running across the river on a bridge with unusual (and increasingly rare) lattice-girder fabricated steelwork.


Chyrs Meader, Richard Cashman and Anne Carolan, Marrickville: people and places. Hale & Iremonger, 1994.


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