When people think of heritage listing it is quite easy to pick the things that are likely to be listed. The Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Old Parliament House. You know the big important stuff. Just for some fun I thought I would look at only the NSW State Heritage Register and pick 5 items that I bet not many people would pick as heritage items.
I was never a regular resident of NSW but one thing that I remember was that sign with the golfer on it that you could see from the window travelling into Central by train. This neon gem is listed on the State Heritage Register. Just the sign; not the building, the land or site but only the sign and the metal structure supporting it. As of 2013 it was the only animated neon sign from the 1950s left insitu in Sydney. Now it is gone, the building on Elizabeth Street demolished for redevelopment. But fear not, this gem is currently under the care of the Powerhouse Museum so it is likely that at some point again we will be able to see that iconic golfer taking his chip shot.
Because when you think of heritage you think of sewerage right. The BOOS (I will be using the acronym because I really like using it, BOOS), anyway back to BOOS. BOOS was an engineering marvel. BOOS is a brick lined gravity fed tunnel that replaced the 5 sewerage outlets into Sydney Harbour. Completed in 1889 BOOS was the first ocean outfall sewer of its type to be built in Australia. This was at a time before Melbourne had its first reticulated sewer (burn Melbourne). BOOS was so well engineered they could start lining it with bricks before the tunnels had even been completed. BOOS was an important element in the development of the city and become an element in the psyche of Maroubra and the surrounding area. Go BOOS.
The Papyrus of Ani is an Egyptian Funerary text dating from about 1450 B.C. It was written for a Theban scribe named Ani and is basically an instruction manual, complete with spells about what Ani’s journey to the land of the dead will be like. So what do you do when you are building a masonic temple in Sydney? Why you recreate sections of this scroll in low relief plaster around the room of course. Obvious when you think about it. Included are thrilling episodes from the after-life of Ani including the release of his soul from his body and his judgement by Anubis. The frieze was saved when the original lodge (Scottish Royal Arch Temple) in College Street was demolished in 1969. It took 8 years until a suitable new home was found in Petersham. Actually, the work is phenomenal. The colours and iconography are beautiful. The room is open to the public on one night a year I have heard so maybe call out the Petersham Temple, it can’t hurt. The original Papyrus of Ani was stolen from the Egyptian government for the British Museum. They still haven’t returned it. Apparently theft is entirely fine as long it is being done for such a venerable institution. Okay, I have some very definite thoughts on this issue that I will make the subject of a future post.
Having listed a sewerage pipe, sign and hieroglyphics the next obvious choice for this list is a ladder. But not just any ladder, the extraordinary Shand Mason 50 foot ladder. These ladders were telescopic and supported on a hose box that sits over the axle of the carriage. I am going to stop being flippant about these now. These ladders are rare surviving relics from the early for brigade in Sydney. If you are near Penrith go to the Museum of Fire and check them out. These ladders saved lives and show how the early fire brigade was continually improving its technologies and capabilities. These ladders are a step in the progression to modern day firefighting technology such as the Turbine Aided Fire Fighting Machine (the slightly underwhelmingly named TAF20), drones loaded up with chemicals to start controlled burns and face masks with thermal imaging technology built in.
The final entry I have chosen is a pathway. Now I am not talking the path across your front lawn or down to the shops; we are going for big here. The pathway from Targangal (Kosciuszko) to Bilgalera (Fisheries Beach) links the highest point in Australia to the east coast. This is 265km of tracks, roads and firetrails that follows a traditional Aboriginal pathway from mountain to coast. What this 20m wide heritage listed tracks represents is a tangible link to the past and present life of Aboriginal people in NSW. It is associated with seasonal gatherings of Aboriginal people and also provides direct evidence of the crucial role Aboriginal people played in early exploration and settlement by white colonists. What makes this particular pathway unusual is that it has been surveyed along its length and verified by physical evidence in the form of archaeology, food resources and markings on trees; further verification has been undertaken by cross-referencing with diaries and journals of early white settlers and explorers.
So there you have it 5 items that I bet you didn’t realise were heritage listed in NSW. From sewers to signs and hieroglyphics to highlands the NSW state heritage register is not all about buildings and bridges. But it is not only NSW that peddles in the unusual. Do you know that Historic England has listed about 15 bike sheds or that Heritage Victoria is fond of listing a toilet.
Heritage is often seen as boring and staid but there are many things that are listed that are unusual, unexpected or just super interesting. Go have a look for them.
Coming up next on Heritage Gest….
I guess I will get into the spirit of the season or here is your obligatory Christmas related post.