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To Make a Bridge. Where did the granite of the Sydney Harbour Bridge come from?

173,000 blocks of granite were sent to Sydney. Bill Morrison was the foreman.  His task was to give each stonemason a detailed plan of the required width, breadth and thickness to an accuracy of one-eighth of an inch. As testimony to the stonemason’s skill, not one stone was rejected. Work to face the support piers and abutment to support the pylons came first.  It wasn’t until the arches met that work began on the pylons.

Shaping the stone by hand
Shaping the stone by hand

In 1927, Sir Bertram Mackennal arranged for Dorman, long and Company to carry out the construction of the granite pedestal for the Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney. It was the largest block to be cut and dressed at the quarry.  William Cochrane and his son, Charlie had the job of surfacing the stone and Bill Benzie and Joe Wallace inscribed the base block.

By 1931, work was drawing to a close.  Australia was in the depths of the Depression at the time.  The small town of Moruya hadn’t really felt the impact of it.  The weekly wage bill from the quarry was around 1,500 pounds, providing a considerable boost to the local economy. The machinery was sold and the buildings were gradually dismantled and removed.  Only one of the cottages remains on site.  The quarry itself is fenced off with a padlocked gate and is sadly neglected.

A majority of families returned to their homeland but John and Mary Gilmore remained in Moruya until they passed away – Mary in 1964, John in 1965. In 1992, a park was opened adjacent to the quarry face on the banks of the Moruya River. Rotary and ‘Skillshare’ constructed a picturesque park with a Rotunda containing information panels about the quarry. Eurobodalla Shire Council erected a sign in 2012 indicating the location of the quarry park.

A group has recently been formed called ‘The Friends of Moruya Quarry Park’.  They will see that the gardens and area is maintained.  Fundraising over the last year has enabled plans for interpretive signs to be placed around the park, hopefully in the very near future.

Christine Adams (nee Greig), the great grand-daughter of John Gilmore wrote the book ‘Not Forgotten – Memorials in Granite’ in 1992.  After her grandmother, Nell passed away in 2008, she has prepared a digital display and public talks about the quarry and maintains interest in the stories of families involved. If you have a story you would like to share please contact Christine: christine.greigadams[at]yahoo.com.au

For more information about the area’s history, visit the Moruya and District Historical Society Facebook page.

People of Granitetown June 1926
People of Granitetown, June 1926
Granitetown streetscape
Granitetown streetscape
Dressing Granite Blocks with Four Cut Machines in Moruya. Courtesy of the State Records NSW
Dressing Granite Blocks with Four Cut Machines in Moruya
Courtesy of the State Records NSW
Trains on the Sydney Harbour Bridge,1932 Courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum
Trains on the Sydney Harbour Bridge,1932
Courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum

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