|List||National Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Listed place (01/08/2007)|
|Place File No||1/14/051/0021|
|Summary Statement of Significance|
Finch’s Line and
the Devine’s Hill ascent are important as a particularly challenging
segment of the 250km long Great
North Road. The road, built with convict labour,
was commenced in 1826 and completed in 1836. This segment of the Great North
Road contains a rich array of features associated with convict road building,
including traces of the first road, known as Finch's Line constructed in 1828,
the later road re-alignment ascending Devine's Hill built between 1829-32, the
archaeological remains of a convict stockade which housed convicts during the
building of the road, the landscape setting of the roads including the massive
retaining walls and buttresses on Devine's Hill, culverts and the landscape
along the roads and between the routes.
Governor Darling promoted the building of roads to assist in the development of the colony. Built as one of the Governor’s three ‘Great Roads’, it linked Castle Hill just west of Sydney to the fertile and recently settled Hunter Valley. Road access via a permanent land route would provide the means of moving people, goods and large numbers of stock to the expanding district. Expansion and exploration were key aims of Governor Darling's administration and were sanctioned by the British Government which saw the economic opportunities they would bring. Road building was a civilising improvement and it played an important role in the transition of the colony from penal outpost to colonial settlement.
The Old Great North Road is also important for its role in the story of convict punishment. The system of using convicts in road gangs was a form of additional punishment, for offences committed in the colony and was known as secondary punishment. It was a particularly harsh form of punishment deliberately designed to deter criminal activity in Britain and in the Australian colonies. The very worst convicts were placed in leg irons. The road gangs worked in isolated and harsh conditions for months on end with limited shelter from the elements and reduced rations. Despite these drawbacks the construction of the Great North Road was a significant achievement.
The monumental buttressed retaining walls and associated drainage system on Devine’s Hill are an impressive example of the ambitious and exacting nature of work that involved surveying, engineering, blasting, quarrying and masonry carried out by the convict gangs under the direction of assistant surveyors. These structural features as well as the associated quarrying sites are still intact today and are undisturbed by development on or in the vicinity of the road.
Without such development, the Old Great North Road can provide information about colonial road construction and about how convicts lived and worked in this place. Evidence of convicts personalising their work can be found in convict graffiti rock carvings and the '25 R. Party' engraving indicating the road gang responsible for building this part of the road.
The Old Great North Road is regarded as outstanding for its social value. It has a long history of community support with the Convict Trail Project being set up by local communities in 1994. Since then the Convict Trail Project has grown and become an over-arching community organisation that draws together members of the community, government, research and heritage professionals. It has developed an extensive website providing detailed information about the road and its history. It has also instituted an 'Adopt a Convict' project, the ultimate aim of which is to produce a biography of every known convict who worked on the construction of the Great North Road and its branches. Some 1 400 men are thought to have worked on the road during its construction.
The Old Great North Road is valued as a public resource, a public thoroughfare and for its educational potential for present and future generations.
The convict built Great North Road
runs in a generally northward direction from Sydney
for some 250 kilometres to Jerry’s Plains in the Hunter Valley.
North of Dural the road runs through farmland to the Hawkesbury River at Wiseman’s Ferry. On the
northern side of the Hawkesbury
River the terrain rises
steeply to a heavily dissected sandstone plateau cut by rivers, creeks and
ravines. The road rises from the Hawkesbury via the Devine’s Hill ascent to the
plateau and then follows the narrow ridge-top of the Judge
before descending at its northern end to the rich lands of the Hunter River
Valley. Devine’s Hill
precinct is located within a 43 kilometre portion of the Great North Road that
the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) terms the Old Great North Road
(OGNR) to distinguish it from other portions of the route which have been
The nominated place is the 7.5 kilometre portion of the Old Great North Road incorporating the 1.8 kilometre Devine’s Hill section of road (built 1829-32) and the abandoned 5.2 kilometre Finch’s Line (built 1828) which provide ascents from the Hawkesbury River on its northern side, opposite the town of Wisemans Ferry, to the sandstone plateau in an open forest setting plus the link road (0.5 km) joining them. The precinct lies within the Dharug National Park and the natural setting retains the qualities of the physical environment in which the convict road builders would have laboured. The scale and extensive nature of the road structures along this portion of the Old Great North Road represent the most advanced aspects of road engineering in the colony in the 1820s.
The Devine’s Hill precinct of the Old Great North Road is part of a large complex of bushland that surrounds Sydney to the north and west, and is contiguous with the north-eastern extremity of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The environment of the Old Great North Road landscape reflects the ecology and ecosystems of this greater whole. While the plant biodiversity of the study area is a small part of an extensive whole, a number of threatened species grow in close proximity to the road.
The sandstone landforms make an important contribution to the character of the Old Great North Road due to the effect of differential weathering and contribute significantly to the aesthetic appeal of the landscape. The geology of the area is predominantly Hawkesbury Sandstone containing shale lenses but the ascents from the Hawkesbury River and the descent to the MacDonald River also pass through a narrow band of Narrabeen Series rocks (Bryan 1996). Both sandstone and shale have been extensively used in the construction of the Old Great North Road (NPWS 1999:15). The combination of monumental stone construction, rugged landscape, distinctive vegetation, spectacular views or aspects and intriguing sandstone formations has inspired a range of aesthetic responses to the Old Great North Road and its landscape, both historically and in the present community.
Where the Old Great North Road traverses the plateau it is through natural bushland and for much of the route, no signs of development can be seen in any direction. The setting of the Old Great North Road is important as it provides a sense of what nineteenth century travel was like. The scenic quality of the Old Great North Road landscape derives from the contrast between monumental stone remains and the seemingly undisturbed nature of the bush around them. Important views across undisturbed bushland are gained from the ridge top locations of the road, while the Finch’s Line provides spectacular views over the Hawkesbury River and Wisemans Ferry.
The Old Great North Road lies
in the country of the Daruk (Dharug)
people who were the first inhabitants of the place and have occupied the area
for at least 11 000 years. Evidence of this occupation includes deposits,
middens, rock engravings, stone arrangements, paintings and axe grinding
grooves. The rock engravings are the most visible sign of the prehistory of the
area, with the Hawkesbury sandstone area engravings containing a distinctive
style. Aboriginal groups criss-crossed the area to harvest
and manage seasonal crops. The Old
Great North Road follows approximately a
travelling route of Aboriginal people.|
Daruk country is located west of the Sydney region to the Blue Mountains, on the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, and inland to Mount Victoria. The Sydney Eora people referred to the Daruk as 'climbers of trees', and men who 'lived by hunting'. This is reflected in early descriptions of the Daruk people, as they climbed trees to hunt mainly for possums.
Following the establishment of the European penal colony at Botany Bay in 1788, the development and expansion of New South Wales through its first two decades was slow. The early governors concentrated on establishing the colony rather than expansion. As the colony’s primary role was that of penal establishment, the early governors first imperative was to ensure the colony’s survival by securing an adequate food supply. Finding good farming lands and establishing productive farms were the key to survival. Early attempts at cropping brought little success and when better lands were located to the west at Parramatta and on the Cumberland Plain generally, agricultural success followed. The infant colony had at last secured a foothold on a vast continent. The successful establishment in 1788 of a settlement on Norfolk Island, 930 miles to the north-east of Botany Bay helped secure a food supply for the mainland colony in its early years, aiding the success of the Sydney Cove settlement.
As the early governors found, the settlement at Botany Bay was hemmed in by mountains and early exploration of the region was undertaken by boat along the coastline and along the navigable rivers. Land exploration followed. The Great Dividing Range to the west, a rugged limestone plateau to the north and more rugged limestone country bisected by deep gorges to the south, all well forested, acted as a limit on expansion. In 1798 Governor Hunter sent an exploratory party south-west. It examined the country as far as the present day site of Goulburn. The mountains to the west continued to hamper westward exploration and the high plateau north of the Hawkesbury River halted exploration to the north. Following the discovery of fertile lands at the mouth of the Hunter River, a new penal settlement was established there in 1804. Known originally as King’s Town and later as Newcastle, it was accessible only by sea which added to its value as a place of secondary punishment for convicts who had re-offended in the colony. It was sufficiently distant from the colony at Port Jackson that escapees could not return to Sydney Cove, there being no known over land route. The harsh conditions associated with a place of secondary punishment were readily achieved by putting the convicts to work mining the local coal, timber getting and making quicklime in addition to building the gaol, a wharf and other necessary infrastructure. Free settlers were not permitted to settle in Newcastle or the Hunter Valley for fear they might aid escaping convicts and ships were prohibited from calling at Newcastle unless they were licensed to do so. This isolation was considered desirable to prevent convicts from escaping, a practice which in reality continued undeterred (Convict Trail Project – History).
The early governors of New South Wales were continually faced with problems of the supply of convict labour. Uncertain as to the rate of inflow of convict numbers from Britain, they had to balance the demands of free settlers for assigned convict labour to work on farms with the need to use convict labour on public works.
Governor Hunter who held office from September 1795 until September 1800 found his capacity to develop the colony limited by the reduction in the numbers of convicts transported to New South Wales. The Napoleonic Wars which commenced in 1793 had increased the demand for convict labour in British shipyards and there was a consequent reduction in the numbers of prisoners transported. While nearly 5 000 convicts had been transported between 1788 and 1792, less than 2 000 were transported between 1793 and 1799 (Crowley 1986:24). This constant shortage of labour forced a reduction in the level of public works carried out and Hunter even called on local landowners to repair roads as was the practice in Britain.
Governor Macquarie, who held office from January 1810 until December 1821 and is regarded as the great builder in early Australian history, transformed the colony from a military/penal settlement to a civil colony. Shortly after his arrival in the New South Wales in 1810, Macquarie using mostly convict manpower instigated an ambitious program of public works intended to ameliorate conditions of life in the colony and to elevate the status of Sydney Town in particular. Macquarie is noted for the many public buildings including hospitals, churches and courts he erected during his period as governor. In 1810 Macquarie announced plans to erect new townships at Liverpool, Windsor, Richmond, Castlereagh, Pitt Town and Wilberforce. He instigated the building of a turnpike road from Sydney to Parramatta and extended it to the Hawkesbury. During the period 1810-15, 4 284 felons, 29 percent of whom were female, were transported to New South Wales. While many convicts were assigned to settlers, poor seasons and a depressed economy resulted in the supply of convict labour exceeding the needs of the settlers and Macquarie directed the excess pool of convict labour to public works. In response to an economic depression in 1812 and to address a serious unemployment problem Macquarie instituted a policy to meet the ensuing economic crisis through an extensive policy of road making and public building (Crowley, 1986:64-65).
The original settlements had almost taken up the land of the Cumberland Plain and it was clear that new arable land was needed. Governor Macquarie warned Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State, that ‘Disposable Lands are now getting Very Scarce in this part of the Colony’ (Crowley, 1986:46). From 1812 onwards, small numbers of well-behaved convicts were placed on farms at Paterson’s Plains, situated on the Paterson River, a tributary of the Hunter and by 1818 a number of the best-behaved convicts were permitted to occupy farms of 30 acres at Wallis Plains also in the Hunter Valley (Webb 1999:1).
In 1813 Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Wentworth found a way across the mountains to the west with the potential of finding new arable lands. As early as 1814 Macquarie planned to mark out a road to the west to be ‘completed to admit of a provision cart passing over it’ (Ellis, 1973:269). Macquarie realised building the road would be a hazardous and laborious undertaking and duly appointed William Cox of Clarendon, formerly of the New South Wales Corp and then Magistrate at the Hawkesbury to undertake the work. The hazards were both bush rangers and the Indigenous peoples of the area who not infrequently attacked and plundered outlying farms. The road which was to commence at Emu Ford on the Nepean River and run 154 miles to Bathurst would follow the track set down by Evans who in late 1813 had been despatched by Macquarie to confirm the route reported by Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson and to explore the country further west in the hope of finding good grazing lands. The road would climb more than four thousand feet and wind for more than seventy miles among sandstone cliffs. Macquarie ordered they should cut through the forest a tunnel twenty feet wide, through which carriages could pass each other with ease. They were to grub the stumps in forest country and fill in the holes, so that a four-wheeled vehicle could negotiate the surface without difficulty or danger. In bush country the grubbed way was to be only twelve feet broad, since the Governor conceived this to be sufficient, though he preferred sixteen feet (Ellis, 1973:271). For this work a gang of thirty convicts with a guard of eight soldiers was committed to the task which took six months to complete. The road took the name Cox’s Road and on 25 April 1815 Governor Macquarie accompanied by his wife Elizabeth set off by carriage to travel the new road to the Bathurst Plains arriving on May 4th. On May 7th after choosing the site for a new town he officially named it Bathurst. By 1815 settlement had expanded in the north along the valley of the Hunter River, in the north-west on the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury, to the west as far as the footholds of the Blue Mountains and in the south-west towards Bringelly and the Cow Pastures, most settlement being within forty miles of Sydney with the exception of the settlement along the Hunter River. Also by 1815, with increasing numbers of free settlers and an available convict labour force, Macquarie was keen to expand to the west, south and north where good grazing lands lay. The colony’s European population more than doubled in the six year period from 1815 to 1821. By 1815 the European population of New South Wales totalled 12 911 and by 1821 it reached 29 783, of whom there were 1 489 free settlers, 1 884 native-born, 6 891 ex-convicts, 12 235 prisoners and 7 284 children (Ritchie, 1988:144). Almost half the population lived in Sydney. By 1821 the colony’s cattle numbers had trebled to 72 998 from the 1815 numbers and the sheep numbers doubled to 121 875. Over the same period the land under crop had grown by 40 percent to 32 273 acres, and the area held by farmers and graziers had been augmented from 95 637 acres in 1810, to 208 547 acres in 1815, and to 381 467 acres in 1821 (Ritchie, 1988:158). The colony was expanding and its permanency seemed assured.
Settlers with capital were arriving to populate small groupings in the areas north of Sydney and the fertile flats along the Hunter River. The colony was expanding slowly as routes to new grazing lands to the south and west were established. In 1817 John Oxley explored the country to the west of Bathurst and later that year the area around Port Macquarie. The following year Hamilton Hume investigated the Lake Bathurst area and the Goulburn Plains with the line of exploration extending further south. In 1820 the ex-convict Joseph Wild reached the Molonglo River.
In 1819-20 John Howe, the Chief Constable at Windsor found a route northward through to Wallis Plains in the Hunter Valley and in April 1823 Major Morisset, former commandant at Newcastle, found a way south from Newcastle to Windsor.
The cost of transporting goods along Cox’s Road over the Blue Mountains was expensive and slowed the development of the Bathurst Plains, however, by 1818 settlers were firmly established in the area. Most of the real development outside of the Cumberland Plain during the governorships of Macquarie, Brisbane and Darling was in the Hunter Valley which was found to be considerably more promising for successful farming than any other area so far discovered. It had rich alluvial soil suitable for all types of agriculture whilst the Bathurst Plains were suitable only for sheep; transport by sea was of course much cheaper than by land and the survey of the Hunter Valley proceeded much more rapidly than that of the Bathurst Plains. If a rural population were to develop in the Hunter Valley, the convicts had to be located elsewhere. By 1822 Newcastle, a town of 1 000 people, with a handsome church which could hold 500, ceased to be a penal settlement and the convicts were moved further north to Port Macquarie, and in 1824 to Brisbane. By the 1820s the Hunter Valley was the most populous and extensively used area with a population of around 4 000 or perhaps 14 percent of the total white population of the mainland colony (Crowley, 1986:47).
As Governor of New South Wales between December 1821 and December 1825, Thomas Brisbane did not have the same expansionist views as Macquarie and saw the need for consolidation of the colony. He was no doubt influenced by the views of Commissioner Bigge who reported in 1822-23 on the affairs of the colony. Brisbane sought to promote settlement of the colony by settlers who really wanted to improve the land and to deter speculators with fictitious capital. He saw the need for more accurate surveys of the settled areas and gave less encouragement to land exploration than either his predecessors or successors. Brisbane reduced the number of road gangs, whose members often indulged in dissipation and crime, and the numbers employed on public works in Sydney, and organised in their place gangs to clear land for settlers in return for payment to the government; this greatly speeded up the rate of clearing.
Commissioner John Bigge had been sent to the colony of New South Wales in 1819 by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Bathurst to conduct a commission of inquiry into the colony. Bigge’s assignment to New South Wales sprang from Bathurst’s decision in 1817 to examine the effectiveness of transportation as a deterrent to felons. The leading object of the inquiry was to 'ascertain whether any, and what alteration in the existing system in the colony can render transportation once again a deterrent force' (Kerr 1984:57). Bigge’s Commission issued on 5 January 1819, authorised an investigation of ‘all the laws, regulations and usages of the settlements’, notably those affecting civil administration, management of convicts, development of the courts, the Church, trade, revenue and natural resources. Bathurst wanted transportation made ‘an object of real terror’ and any weakening of this by ‘ill considered compassion for convicts’ in the humanitarian policies of Governor Macquarie should be reported. Where the existing administration was too lenient the commissioner could recommend the establishment of hasher penal settlements. He was also to disclose confidences of the private or public lives of servants of the Crown and leading citizens and officials ‘however exalted in rank or sacred in character’. Bigge completed his tour of the colony in 1821 (Australian Dictionary of Bibliography online). These three reports were published by the House of Commons on the State of the Colony of New South Wales (1822), the Judicial Establishments in New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land (1823) and the State of Agriculture and Trade in the Colony of New South Wales (1823). Bigge considered the governor's building programme as wastefully expensive and discontinued some construction projects.
Governor Ralph Darling who held office from December 1825 to October 1831 shifted the emphases of surveying from marking out settler’s sections to the trigonometrical survey which under pinned the introduction of a uniform land system. Governor Darling had for a brief period been the acting Governor of Mauritius during which he initiated a program to improve the roads to increase the use of wheeled vehicles and lessen the demand for slaves who were used to manually carry goods and palanquins, as well as to promote economic development. Government labour was used and teams of men were sent to work on the roads. The provision of better roads had the benefit of re-directing the available slave labour from such work to the sugar industry in which it was widely used. Hence Governor Darling came to the colony of New South Wales with experience as a colonial administrator who had seen the linkage between economic development and the provision of a good road system.
Governor Darling not only improved the civil administration of the colony but also encouraged exploration and expansion. To encourage the latter he instigated a road building and improvement program for the roads that lead to the north, west and south of Sydney and up the Hunter River valley from Newcastle. Governor Darling had instructions to assign all convicts capable of reform to settlers and to send all incorrigible convicts to the penal settlements. The latter proved impossible and he increased the severity of the conditions in the penal establishments and employed hundreds of convicts in chain-gangs on road works and other public works.
By 1830 the settled areas of New South Wales, the nineteen counties as defined in Governor Darling’s order of 14 October 1829, extended from the River Manning in the north to the Shoalhaven in the south and inland to the modern Australian Capital Territory, Yass, Cowra and Wellington. The most remote stations were some 200 miles from Sydney, and some 3 500 000 acres had been appropriated in one way or another, of which less than 15 percent was in the original area of the County of Cumberland (Crowley, 1986:47-8). Thus between 1815 and 1830 the radius of the settlement ringing Sydney had expanded from 40 miles to 200 miles.
It is within this context of colonial expansion that the Great North Road was conceived. Extending 250 km through rugged terrain, it symbolised the drive to extend the colony beyond the Sydney basin and provide permanent road access to the recently settled farms in the Hunter River valley. Road access via a permanent land route to the Hunter Valley would provide the means for moving people, goods and large numbers of stock into the expanding district.
Built between 1826 and 1836, the Great North Road was the first road conceived by Governor Darling as one of a number of 'Great Roads' that would form a network radiating from Sydney. Modelled on the 'Great Roads' of England that radiated from London, the network would serve to expand the colony by providing an easy means of access to the newly settled areas. The Great North Road was the first of the network and the increasing number of convicts being transported to New South Wales provided the labour force.
It was the first of three ‘Great Roads’ to be constructed, the others being the Great South Road which ran from the Cross Roads south of Liverpool to Goulburn, and the Great Western Road that ran from Emu Plains on the Nepean River to Bathurst. They were commenced in 1829 and 1830 respectively.
The words of the philosopher Adam Smith in his essay of 1776, An Inquiry into The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 'Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of carriage, put the remote parts of the country nearly on a level with those in the neighbourhood of a town; they are, upon that account, the greatest of all improvements' (Royle 1987:8 and Jackman 1966:213), may well have influenced Governor Darling’s aim to build a substantial road system radiating from Sydney to bring the newly settled areas within easy access of Sydney.
Unlike Britain’s road system developed from the early Roman roads that had been built to move armies and later toll roads and turnpikes built to move commercial traffic, the newly conceived colonial roads would by necessity have to be constructed through undeveloped bushland. The labour to build the roads could readily be provided by the growing pool of convict labour available in the colony while serving the penal requirements of punishment, reform and deterrence in a cost effective manner.
Road building advanced significantly in the latter half of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century when the Scottish engineer John Metcalfe designed and built three-layered roads which comprised a base of large rocks, a middle layer of smaller rocks and stones and an upper layer of gravel all of which settled to form a smooth, hard road surface. Metcalfe was the first of a number of engineers to apply scientific principles to the design and building of roads. The notable Scottish engineer, Thomas Telford further advanced road-making technology by designing roads with a raised foundation under the road centre which in turn raised the centre of the road surface allowing water to drain easily from the surface. He also pioneered modern road making techniques by analysing road gradients and alignments, and by calculating the thickness of the stone required in a road base to withstand the weight of the horses and carriages a road would carry. While Telford engineered modern road construction methods, it was a third Scottish engineer John Macadam who advanced the methodologies by raising the road surface above the surrounding landform, using a camber on the surface to improve drainage and enhanced road surfaces by using binding agents such as fine gravels, slag and slurry. Later tar was used to bind the road surface providing a smooth sealed surface. Such roads were known as macadamised roads. Macadam published two treatises on road building, Remarks on the Present System of Road Making in 1816, and 1819, Practical Essay on the Scientific Repair and Preservation of Roads.
In the period 1765 – 1815 Britain witnessed a shift in civil engineering techniques from tailoring the size of carts and stage coaches and in particular the width of their wheels to suit the existing roads, to designing roads capable of carrying any type of wheeled conveyance. These developments in road building paralleled other major civil engineering advances in the building of docks, canals, bridges and the earliest railways (wagonways) using horse power. The steam locomotive was yet to be fully developed, though early experiments with steam propulsion were conducted at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1820 the Institution of Civil Engineers was formed in Britain and Thomas Telford was invited to be its first President. It was against this background that the early colonial engineers employing the new principles of road building, designed and constructed the first ‘Great Road’ in the fledgling colony of New South Wales.
The confluence of colonial expansion, the arrival in the colony in 1825 of Governor Darling with instructions to implement the Bigge Report and the growing number of convicts in the colony made the building of the Great North Road possible. The colonial authorities in Britain wished to reassert the penal nature of the colony and the Bigge Reports (1822 and 1823) recommended a greater emphasis on punishment. Governor Darling saw in a road building campaign in New South Wales an opportunity to reintroduce harsh punishment, revive the threat and fear of transportation as a punishment for crime in Britain, and maintain order among the convicts in the colony itself. He believed the road gangs would be an appropriate and economic way to deal with those convicts who had committed additional crimes in the colony (secondary offenders). Sending secondary offenders to remote penal settlements such as Norfolk Island was difficult and expensive. The road gangs served as a step in a graded system of punishment with transportation to Norfolk Island reserved for the most serious offenders. The increasing numbers of convicts arriving in New South Wales following the Napoleonic War provided the Government with a large, cheap labour force. The convict construction of roads was a most visible 'civilising improvement' to the landscape, it facilitated the spread of settlement, enhanced transport and communication and was a means of overcoming the wilderness and extracting wealth from it (Karskens 1985:17). The Great Roads to the north, south and west of Sydney formed part of Governor Darling’s extensive public works program and consolidated his vision of 'fine and all encompassing roads' (Karskens 1982:197) which would transform a 'wretched country' into one of unparalleled civilisation (Karskens:1982:194). Governor Darling formed the Roads and Bridges Department to administer the project and he developed the massive convict road-gang system, with its organisational complexities of supplies and accommodation, to accomplish it (Karskens 1985:29). Governor Darling agitated constantly for more surveyors for the colony and the staff of the Surveyor General’s Department increased from five surveyors in 1826 to 30 surveyors and two draughtsmen in 1830.
The use of road parties and road gangs was the means to implementing the ‘Great Roads’ building program and gangs were moved between the various roads to meet the changing labour needs as the building of each road progressed.
The difficulties of road building through rugged unsettled terrain first involved surveying a line of road and then constructing the road. Exploration of the land was still being undertaken and not infrequently a better route would be discovered as further exploration of the country occurred. Road building in the early days of colony could best be described as a 'work in progress' rather than a single endeavour as occurs with modern road making. This was particularly evident with the Great South Road. Surveyed in 1829, construction was slow and intermittent with various portions being re-surveyed and at times alternate routes were taken as better alignments were identified. It was not until the early 1850s that the Great South Road reached the town of Yass.
The Great Western Road was closer to the Old Great North Road in both character and construction. Visible to the west and some fifty kilometres from Sydney Cove, the Blue Mountains with their impenetrable terrain posed a major barrier. Not actual mountains, but rather a deeply incised sandstone plateau rising from less than a hundred metres above sea level to 1 300 metres at its highest point the terrain presented a maze of sandstone mesa that end at sheer cliffs separated by deep inaccessible valleys. The plateau in places extending as far as 180 kilometres inland was subject to the extremes of weather including winter frosts and at times snow.
Following the building of the roughly hewn Cox’s Road across the Blue Mountains, other routes through the mountains were found including Bells’ Line from Richmond via Mt Tomah to Cox’s River in 1823, Lawson’s Long Gully line that ran down Mt York (1823-24) and the line established by Lockyer in 1828-29. Governor Darling instructed Surveyor-General Mitchell to re-examine the route and decide on another gentler decline from Mt York. Mitchell set another line of road with a descent from Mt Victoria and this led to a bitter dispute between the two men that long affected the road building program and the management of the convict road gangs. Ultimately it was the line via Mt Victoria surveyed by Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell in May 1830 that was constructed as part of the Great Western Road. The steepness of the terrain and Mitchell’s preference for straight lines of road made construction of the road a major engineering feat, particularly the Victoria Pass section which required extensive cutting and the building of enormous stone walls.
Conflicts arose between the Governor, the Surveyor-General, the assistant surveyors, the military and the convicts. The road construction was undertaken amid competing priorities and demands from each of these groups. The Governor was under instructions from Britain to minimise costs and ensure the penal system acted as a deterrent to further crime. He was in conflict with his Surveyor-General who exercised control over the assistant surveyors supervising the actual construction work. This estrangement affected the management of both the road making process and penal management on all the great roads (Rosen 2006:15). It was compounded by the military’s dissatisfaction with guarding convicts, a duty they considered as non-military and below their station.
A number of stockades to house the convicts was built along the route as work on the Great Western Road continued through the 1830s. When much of the major construction work on the Old Great North Road was completed in 1832 preparations were made to march irons gangs from the Old Great North Road to the Great Western Road. The descent via Victoria Pass was completed in 1832 and a stone arch bridge built by David Lennox across Lapstone Creek completed in 1834. The latter, known as the Horseshoe Bridge, is now the oldest stone arch bridge on the Australian mainland (Rosen 2006:18).
The road gang system
Road gangs were of three types, iron gangs, unironed road parties and bridge parties. They reflected the desire in penal management philosophy to target punishment and provide opportunities for the grading of punishment and ameliorating the chances of corruption. Organisation of the gangs between 1826 and 1830 was through the Office of Roads and Bridges, and from 1830 the Surveyor-General’s Department. But an incremental series of administrative changes in response to penal management issues split responsibilities, such as welfare, security and road works, and culminated at the end of 1836 with control being placed in the hands of the Royal Engineers. An Assistant Surveyor was appointed to supervise works along particular lines of road and the construction work was carried out by convict labourers under the immediate supervision of soldiers from the veteran companies. The road gangs and their administration had a turbulent history with conflict between the military guards who considered overseeing convicts a non-military role and the civil administration. Governor Darling removed the military from such duties in March 1828 due to their misconduct and introduced the use of convict overseers who received a small gratuity according to their merit and responsibilities. The military did, however, retain security roles in guarding road parties and stores, and pursuing absconding prisoners. The use of convict overseers led to abuses of power and corruption and only served to compound the problems of convict gang management. Control of the road gangs ultimately reverted to the military in 1837 when all convicts were ironed.
Iron gangs consisted of up to 60 men under the supervision of a principal overseer with three assistants. Road parties worked un-ironed and were made up of 50 better behaved men under the supervision of a principal overseer and two assistants. Well behaved and skilled men worked un-ironed in a ‘Bridge Party’ of up to 25 men under the supervision of a single overseer (Karskens 1985:58 and Karskens 1986:19). The gradation allowed for the classification of prisoners and institutionalised a means by which good behaviour and work could be rewarded (Rosen 2006:20).
In 1828 Governor Darling claimed that the 1 260 men then employed on the roads averted the necessity of establishing yet another costly penal settlement, where they would be ‘eating the Bread of Idleness’. He considered them ‘… the very refuse of the whole Convict Population and Double distilled Villains’ (Rosen 2006:19-20 after HRA Series 1, Vol XIV, pp 69-72).
An examination of convicts in the Great Western Road gangs, many of whom worked on the Old Great North Road, has revealed that they were mainly young, urban and single and on arrival in New South Wales were relatively less experienced as criminals and that their average age was 23. Many had arrived in the colony with the minimal sentence of seven years and they had largely been convicted of property crimes, however, there was a distinct group that had been convicted for military crimes. An examination of court records has revealed that many had spent about five years in the colony before being sent to a road gang with one convict as young as 11 years of age and many under 20 years of age. Their youthfulness brought the muscle and stamina needed for labouring on roads. The ratio of Protestants to Catholics was about 2:1 and English offenders were in the majority with the Irish a very sizable minority. The data suggests that overall the convicts were workers, opportunists and some were the victims of a harsh penal code. Research has also revealed that 40 percent were skilled, 35 percent were semi-skilled and 23 percent unskilled, and that about 50 percent had work experience that had some application for the tasks required. It has been estimated by Shaw that some 5 000 or 18percent of all transported men had been confined at some time to an iron gang in the period 1826 to 1836 (Rosen 2006:31-32).
By 1832 there were 1 200 men out of irons and 400 in irons working on the roads of New South Wales (Rosen 2006:24). The conditions for a convict working in a gang were severe and gradually worsened as the administration of the road gang system tightened. Numerous factors including living conditions that deteriorated as the housing changed from huts to stockades, the isolation of the places in which the gangs worked, the vagaries of the penal justice system with floggings the common means of punishment for those who misbehaved on the road gangs, the corruption of the convict overseers, lack of adequate tools and equipment such as carts, the tensions between the military and the assistant surveyors oversighting the work that played down to the day to day management of the gangs, all acted to make the road gang convict’s life a brutal, degrading and dehumanising experience. The convicts not infrequently rebelled and routinely did the minimum amount of work possible but sufficient to avoid the attention of the overseers. The severity of the conditions and a near starvation diet led many to abscond, some of whom took to bush ranging.
Both the assistant surveyors and the military officer in charge of the guard were jointly responsible for the prisoners wearing appropriate irons. Irons were to be flat, two inches in breadth and with the chain about nine pounds in weight. There were heavier versions for ironed men under additional sentence (Rosen 2006:21).
The use of stockades to house prisoners was commenced in the early 1830s when Governor Bourke who held office from December 1831 to December 1837 introduced their use as part of the process of regularising the road gang system and enhancing security. They were used to accommodate iron gangs and resembled small villages in which the penal accommodation was surrounded by a high fence. Supplied with one blanket each, the convicts slept in huts with tiered sleeping spaces. Ironed gangs were only allowed to work within three miles of their accommodation which imposed a limitation on the use of their labour. The unironed road parties generally lived in un-stockaded huts at more distant sites (Rosen 2006: 21 & 26).
The road gang system was the ‘foundation of public wealth’ because by building the roads, they placed the potential of the rich lands of NSW within easy grasp of ‘respectable’ classes of free settlers (Karskens 1985:34).
Maintaining the penal settlements was an expensive business. Governor Darling was under instruction to reduce costs and increase the labour supply to new settlers. He decided to keep the numbers at the penal settlements down, by putting some of the hardened offenders to work on the roads in irons, and so free the existing road workers for assignment to the settlers (Hirst 1983:94). The road gangs also had the benefit of removing large numbers of convicts from Sydney Town thereby removing the convict influence from the growing civil society of free settlers.
The growing size of the convict population in the 1820s, together with the growing free community, increased the problems of maintaining security within the convict system and protecting the free population from the depredations of escaped convicts. Increased severity of the system was a response to these pressures. It was also a means to introduce another gradation in the hierarchy of the penal system which allowed for further classification of prisoners and thus address some concerns of vocal penal reformers in the United Kingdom. The use of the fully developed system of chain gangs on the roads of NSW was introduced by Governor Darling in 1826, with a view to both putting the convicts to effective and secure public work, and reducing the need to create new penal settlements to deal with the increased number of secondary offenders.
Even with their legs chained many convicts still escaped. They formed a:
‘large proportion of the bushrangers for which Governor Darling’s rule is notable. While bringing order and rule to bear in many places, in this matter the Governor fostered disorder on a large scale. This was the price the colony paid for keeping some of the worst convicts within its borders instead of sending them to a penal settlement’ (Hirst 1983:94).
Colonial commentators of the time, including editor of the Monitor, E.S Hall, alleged that the men in the chain gangs were driven to bushranging by a starvation diet. Their meagre rations yielded about 2 100 calories per day which was almost half that supplied to American slaves and two-thirds of that supplied to soldiery in the British Army between 1813-1857 (Rosen 2006:40 after Nicholas 1989:184-187). Hall gave horrifying accounts of the orgies of floggings at the penal settlements where commandants could award punishment without the formality of a trial and men were driven to despair of life itself (Hirst 1983:179).
Governor Bourke continued the practice established by Governor Darling of using road gangs and to improve the management of the gangs he made the surveyors magistrates with the power to give up to 50 lashes. In 1832, to help minimise the number of convicts escaping from road gangs, Governor Bourke issued instructions for the erection of stockades consisting of convict accommodation huts surrounded by a timber stockade fence, with guard accommodation facing the stockade gateway. From 1834 military guards were placed at each of the stockades at which the road gangs were based. By 1836 Bourke reported that he had 1 000 convicts in irons working in 16 gangs. At the end of that year, supervision of the gangs was transferred from the surveyors to the military officers, who were also made magistrates.
From 1838 to 1851 the gang system stagnated, convict numbers in New South Wales fell from their peak of 38 305 in 1840 to 6 664 in 1847 (Shaw 1966:405-6). This was as a result of the cessation of transportation to New South Wales in 1840. In this context, the role of work gangs both as punishment and as a tool of separation, and as an effective public works force, disappeared, and the last stockade was closed in 1851 (Thorp:1998:116).
Grace Karskens, the key historian of the road, has put the road into the context of convict labour thus:
‘The extensive and varied stone and earthen structures of the Old Great North Road are, at one level, a museum of convict work. They convey to us the mammoth efforts, the tedious and the laborious work: we can see and touch the side drains and cuttings cut and smoothed by hand, the girth and bulk of the stones, the evidence of blasting, and quarrying 'by force of maul and wedge'’. (DEH Draft World Heritage Nomination 1999:89).
Karskens goes on to explain that at a deeper level:
‘The different styles of stonework and approaches to road building seen in the physical remains can be related through the documentary sources to individual engineers, supervisors and road gang parties, and indicate that at least some of the overseers and road builders were skilled, diligent and sufficiently interested in their work to stay on the job in a situation where escape was easy'.
Nineteenth century travellers were deterred from using the road, not only because of the remoteness of the areas through it passed north of the Hawkesbury but also because of the lack of watering places for animals as the road followed the high terrain. Further, the remoteness added to the danger presented by bush rangers. The latter had become a serious problem during the 1820s and 1830s and while both Governors Darling and Bourke were keen to stamp it out, neither was successful.
The Great North Road
The Great North Road runs for a total distance of 250km between Castle Hill just west of Sydney and the Hunter Valley which lies some 140 kilometres directly north of Sydney. It was commenced in 1826 and completed in 1836, with Finch’s Line and the Devine’s Hill section in the vicinity of Wiseman's Ferry constructed between 1828 and 1832. It was a tremendous achievement given the challenges presented by the isolation of the route traversed, the technical difficulties presented by the steep typography, in particular, the ascent (Devine’s Hill) on the northern side of the Hawkesbury River; the conflicting demands of the penal administrators, the surveyors building the roads and the military guards; and the ever present demands of the Colonial Office to minimise costs. Its construction served two purposes. It not only met the needs of the expanding colony by linking the Hunter Valley to Sydney but it also provided the means for employing convict labour in a manner consistent with the penal philosophies of the day.
The work was carried out by convict gangs, some working in irons, who were housed in temporary huts at the stockade camps which were spaced at regular intervals along the road, wherever work was under way. When the road gangs moved on to new sections of the road, the stockade camps were dismantled and the materials re-used or sold. None of these sites survives with standing buildings, few have been shown to have substantial ruins and few have been investigated for archaeological evidence. The Devine's Hill stockade site, however, having been little disturbed since its abandonment as a convict work camp, is likely to contain archaeological remains.
The Great North Road was the first made road north of the Hawkesbury River and the second land access route to the Hunter Valley. It symbolised the drive to extend the colony beyond the Sydney basin and provide permanent road access to the recently settled farms in the fertile Hunter River Valley. The descent into the valley from the south was reasonably straight forward, along the main ridge leading to Wiseman's Ferry. On the northern side of the Hawkesbury, however, there were several possible routes for the new road. The original line of the Great North Road between Baulkham Hills and Maitland was officially surveyed by Heneage Finch in September 1825 (Karskens 1985:45). The line marked by Finch over the ridges from Wiseman’s Ferry to Maitland (including the section now known as Finch’s Line), was a route discovered by Richard Wiseman and shown to Finch. Wiseman was rewarded for this discovery with a grant of 640 acres in the Wollombi Valley (Karskens 1985:45).
Construction of Finch’s Line began in 1828 by No. 25 Road Party, and perhaps No. 3 Iron Gang, under supervision of Lt Jonathon Warner, with gangs working from both ends of the line. It was steep and winding, with difficult hairpin bends, and reflected the standard approach to road building in the colony before the 'Great Road' system was envisaged. It formed part of the cart track which was completed along the route of the northern road by 1829 (O’Conner:1985:10).
In January 1829, Surveyor-General Major Thomas Mitchell resurveyed the perilously steep and narrow road and deemed Finch's Line to be inadequate for a 'Great Road'. Under instruction from Governor Darling, he instead traced a more suitable ascent to the west of Finch's Line, up Devine's Hill. This new alignment reflected Mitchell's straight line approach to road building. Construction of Finch’s Line came to an abrupt end as gangs were transferred to commence the new line over Devine’s Hill in 1829. This abrupt cessation of work on Finch’s Line can be observed today. Finch’s Line terminated along the top of the ridge and recommences further north, with the unfinished section crossing the grassy ridge.
Finch’s Line contains rare, extant 1820s remains relating to road building and to the convict gangs themselves. It features a very steep zigzag ascent with retaining walls of roughly squared masonry up to 5 metres in height. Above the ascent the road follows a relatively flat ridgeline featuring retaining walls and seven stone slab culverts. Finch’s Line also contains an array of early colonial features including a quarry site, three examples of historic graffiti, an engraved mile marker and the remains of a stone hut. It also contains one Indigenous archaeological site, a shelter with art (CMP 2005:5-25 – 5-26).
The re-alignment: Devine’s Hill
The Old Great North Road was built on this new alignment between 1829 and 1832 under the supervision of Lt Percy Simpson who had taken over from Lt Jonathon Warner in August 1828. Mitchell's Devine's Hill section of the road was the most challenging section (in an engineering sense) of the entire Great North Road, and indeed, one of the most challenging on any NSW colonial road. Built with a maximum gradient of 1:30, is construction required substantial cut and fill operations, the building of massive stone abutments to support the road as it wound up the steep sides of the sandstone ridges and the provision of a good drainage system.
The Devine’s Hill ascent and the link road to the top of Finch’s Line contains 46 stone culverts, retaining walls ranging from 0.5 to 9.5 metres in height, incorporating buttresses, culverts and spillways, and stone cut side drains. Adjacent to Devine’s Hill are a number of historical archaeological sites including a convict stockade site, a quarry, a powder cave, three buried culverts and 21 engravings (CMP 2005:5-29 – 5-34).
To reduce the slope at Finch's Line the rock was hand cut with chisels or rock picks, when the area to be reduced was only small. On larger areas the stone was hewn by driving iron wedges into the rock face with a maul until the rock split along the line of the wedges. Wedge pits and chisel marks can be observed along Finch's Line.
Blasting was also utilised to reduce the slope. A jumper bar was driven into the rock face, blasting powder poured into the hole left by the jumper bar, a wick of touchpaper inserted and the top tamped down with clay. Once lit, the rock would be blasted off (Karskens 1985:195-96). Evidence of this type of quarrying, in the form of jumper bar marks, remains on the rock face.
From 1826 the gangs who worked on the roads were under colonial sentence having re-offended since their arrival in the colony. The gangs also fulfilled Governor Darling’s instructions to increase severity, they effectively used distance to remove these ‘undesirables’ from society, and they were a relatively cheap way of building the necessary roads for the colony. By 1830, 1 755 convicts worked on the colony’s roads, in ironed and unironed gangs, 558 of whom were constructing the Old Great North Road (Karskens 1985:32). The construction of such grand roads would not have been possible without this labour force.
On completion of the Devine's Hill ascent in 1832 a number of convict gangs were marched to the Blue Mountains to work on the Great Western Road that had been commenced in 1830. Work on the Great North Road continued to the north of Devine's Hill but was scaled down in 1834 leaving only two small gangs working on the road until 1836 when work was abandoned.
Post convict history
The virtual abandonment of the route was due to steam ships becoming the preferred mode of transport to the Hunter Valley (and hence parts of the road fell quickly into disrepair through neglect) and the nature of the terrain covered by the route (a long and difficult road to traverse with a lack of suitable accommodation and scarcity of water).
Later alternative routes north sealed the fate of much of the Old Great North Road. In 1844 an alternative route north via Peat’s Ferry came to be regarded as far superior, while in 1884, the road from Wiseman’s Ferry through St Albans to Wollombi was formally opened to traffic.
Until the opening of the Pacific Highway in 1930, with a ferry service for cars to cross the Hawkesbury River, the Old Great North Road was part of the major road route between Sydney and Gosford. Simpson’s track (located off the Old Great North Road in Dharug National Park) was a part of this route. From 1859 to 1860, the Northern Telegraph Line was installed between Wiseman’s Ferry and Wollombi along the roadside between Finch’s Line (including 1.8 km of Finch’s Line) and Ten Mile Hollow.
Maintenance work was carried out on parts of the Old Great North Road by the Post Master General (PMG) until 1965 in order to retain access to the telegraph line. This involved the use of a backhoe, grader and small bulldozer on the Old Great North Road. Several wooden culverts were pulled out and replaced with concrete pipes and headwalls during this time.
During the 1970s the Australian Army used the Old Great North Road on occasions to test armoured personnel carriers and six-wheel drive vehicles.
It is likely that the convict worked stone which forms the foundations of a number of houses in the Wiseman’s Ferry area also originated on the Old Great North Road, much of it possibly as edging along the Devine’s Hill section.
In spite of this history of use, the Old Great North Road remained traversable by two wheel drive traffic until about the 1970s. From that time there was an increase in the numbers of privately owned recreational four-wheel drive vehicles and trail bikes, a corresponding increase in usage of the Old Great North Road by these vehicles and a dramatic increase in the rate of deterioration of the surface of the Old Great North Road and damage to other features such as culverts, retaining walls and cuttings.
Since the gazettal of Dharug National Park in 1967 the National Parks and Wildlife Service has monitored the condition of the Old Great North Road and done minor emergency conservation and maintenance works.
Conservation works on Devine’s Hill
Increased usage of the Old Great North Road by four-wheel drive vehicles and trail bikes led to a dramatic increase in the rate of deterioration of the surface of the road and damage to other features such as culverts, retaining walls and cuttings.
In 1978 the National Parks and Wildlife Service closed the most visually spectacular section of the Old Great North Road, Devine’s Hill, to public use by vehicles and horses. Emergency conservation works were carried out and a broader conservation program commenced in 1997. Since the early 2000s aluminium photo interpretive displays have been installed.
During 1993 and 1994 the National Parks and Wildlife Service carried out repairs on culverts on Devine’s Hill and between 1994 and 1997 road surface stabilisation works were undertaken. During 1997-98 extensive conservation works were undertaken to improve the efficiency of water drainage and to prevent further damage to the road surface and its structures, including:
|Condition and Integrity|
The following information has
been sourced from The Old Great North Road, Conservation Management Plan, Dharug
National Park, November
1999, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and The Old Great North Road, Dharug National Park Conservation Management Plan, March
2005, Volume 1, Griffin NRM Pty Ltd, which is based upon the National Parks and
Wildlife Service Conservation Management Plan 1999. |
The archaeological evidence or fabric of the Old Great North Road is defined as all the remaining physical material of the Old Great North Road and its associated precincts. This includes:
In 1988 funding became available to record the historical features of the Old Great North Road in order to provide an adequate basis for developing a Conservation Management Plan which was published in 1999. Additionally, in 1992 the New South Wales Minister for the Environment closed those portions of the Old Great North Road within Dharug National Park to public vehicular access to prevent further damage to the fabric and for public safety reasons thus protecting Finch's Line and the link section of road joining it with Devine's Hill. The Devine's Hill section of the road had been closed to public use by vehicles and horses in 1978.
The road carriageway was formed as follows:
'Wherever the natural terrain sloped from one side of the road to the other, the lower side was embanked and/or the higher side cut down. A gentle slope was often slightly embanked with a side wall of one or two courses. On very steep slopes both cutting and filling were required and the operations were usually simultaneous, the material from the cutting forming the embankment. Where land was naturally level, it appears that no formation was made at all. The line was simply cleared and a broken stone pavement laid.
Three main methods of reducing the slope were used according to the size of the area. Generally, where a stone cutting was required up to approximately 1.5m/4ft in height, it was hand cut with chisels or rock picks and the face was vertical. Larger stone cuttings were usually blasted out and where retaining walls were required, the exposed rock faces were quarried both to provide stone and to widen the road' (Karskens 1985a:277-9).
Blasting involved the preparation of holes to the depth of rock to be blasted off. This is likely to have required two men, one holding a jumper bar and the other wielding a hammer or sledge. Some time after preparation of the hole, gunpowder was poured in, the top tamped with clay and the rock face blasted off. This process would be begun on the uphill side of the road with successive layers dislodged until the road attained the correct depth (after Karskens 1985a).
Evidence of blasting can be seen in the numerous jumper scars with their distinctive triangular profile and in occasional unused jumper drill holes. Associated artefacts include possible powder magazines at Devine's Hill and Finch's Line and portable artefacts such as jumper bars and sledges.
The cuttings range from road edging a few centimetres high, to walls approximately 1.5m in height.
'Quarrying was carried out with basic tools using primitive methods. While quarrying may have been done using wedge pits, guttering and/or plug and feather methods, there is evidence only for the first of these. This involved the cutting of wedge pits up to 9 cm deep into the rock with a chisel or pick. Iron wedges were then driven into the pits with a maul in order to split the rock. If quarried or blasted rock was unsuitable for wall construction it was discarded over the edge' (Karskens 1985a:279).
Large scale quarrying left a rock face with a distinctive benched profile. Both used and unused wedge pits can be seen along the Old Great North Road, and in places such as Devine's Hill, piles of unused rock can be seen in the gully below.
In general, cuttings are subject only to the effects of natural weathering, however, there are several exceptions where hand-picked rock faces have been scraped, some on a regular basis, by vehicles driving too close.
In general, the alignment of the Old Great North Road is dictated by the landscape with the road largely following the ridge line, however, specific areas such as Devine's Hill ascent illustrate Mitchell's 'straight line' policy of road construction.
Damage to the alignment includes widening and diversion tracks around potholes, ruts and eroded areas.
The Road Surface
The road carriageway was levelled to make it suitable for horse and cart traffic by forming a pavement.
'This was usually done in one of two ways depending upon the composition of the road surface. Broken stone pavements involved putting down layers of stones of various sizes grading from large at the base to small on the top, while sheet stone pavements were formed from the incorporation of natural rock platforms or shelves. For these, they were simply smoothed with picks or chisels and any gaps filled in with broken stones' (Burke 1988:16 after Karskens 1985a).
The amount of broken stone pavement along the Old Great North Road predominates over that of sheet stone pavements.
The road surface is extensively damaged. In some areas the original base course of sandstone chunks can be seen on the surface while in others it can be seen in section. None of the original shale paving remains. Shale paving that can be seen in patches on Devine's Hill was put there by the NPWS in the 1970s and 1990s to prevent water scouring. Damage includes extensive scouring and rutting to the point where the present road surface is more than a metre lower than the original in places. The main cause of damage to the road pavement is:
'The uncontrolled flow of water over the road surface in periods of high intensity rainfall….exacerbated in recent times by the passage of modern vehicles able to exert much greater traction effort at the wheels' (McBean and Crisp 1990a:36).
The general condition of the road surface of the Devine's Hill section of the road is comparatively good due to closure and maintenance including construction of rollover drains and road pavement works. Between 1997-2001 the Devine's Hill section of the road was completely re-surfaced.
'The construction of the road over a ten-year period by numerous gangs under different supervisors resulted in an extremely diverse range of retaining walls, varying broadly in every possible detail. The dimensions vary according to the functions, from between less than 30 cm to over 9.5m in height and between 30 cm and 1m in thickness. In some cases a single course of stone was required to enclose a slight embankment elevating and levelling uneven ground, while in other cases over twenty heavy courses were necessary to support massive formations on precipitous slopes…..The common factor is that all the walls are dry laid. Even walls comprising the smallest and most ill-shaped blocks were not mortared. It appears that either broken stone or a mixture of earth and stones was employed as backing fill for these walls' (Karskens 1985a:340-2).
There are several kilometres of retaining walls altogether. They range in length from a few metres to several hundred metres.
Some retaining walls are intact and some have completely collapsed while others show evidence of stress in the form of local bulging, distortion of the shape of the wall, movement of the buttresses and partial collapse. The two main causes for wall damage on Devine's Hill section are:
'(i) in most instances of wall bulging it was found that water leaking from culverts had resulted in excess fill pressures behind the lower parts of the walls – as the toes of the wall in these locations were constrained and the wall was not reinforced, bulging has occurred;
(ii) some sagging of the walls has occurred where they are not founded on rock and the toes have become undermined' (Jordan and Associates 1997:10).
Other identified causes of local bulging and/or collapse are growth of trees in or adjacent to walls and pressure from vehicles driving too close to the edge of the road. According to Jordan and Associates (1997:10) the walls appear to have been in a distorted condition for a considerable time and there is no danger of collapse.
Drainage along the Old Great North Road takes two forms: side drains and culverts. Their size:
'seems to vary indiscriminately and often without apparent logic. The cross sectional area of many culverts is often smaller at the entry and larger at the discharge end. One is left with the impression that the design of the hydraulics of the road drainage was ad hoc…This indeed is very likely the case as the fundamental design information for proper control of the water would have been unavailable to the constructors of the day' (McBean and Crisp 1990a:35).
(i) Side Drains
The side drains constructed served to collect and channel water and were of three types:
'stone-cut, stone-block edged or merely as a ditch dug in the soil along the side of the road. Stone-cut examples were constructed through areas of sheet sandstone outcrop, where these formed the surface of the road, while ditch-drains were installed in other sections. Stone-block edged drains provided a low wall of sandstone blocks along the inner edge of the drain to prevent road fill material from washing into the drain' (Burke 1988:15 after Karskens 1985a).
For most of the Old Great North Road there is a drain on the inboard side.
'The drains are the least damaged feature of the structures that comprise the road system. Weed growth, build up of debris and choking by silt and debris are the main features. There is some damage by water scour to the edges against the road pavement where the stone edging of single course retaining wall has not been able to cope' (McBean and Crisp 1190a:33-6).
In many places the drains, while sometimes still intact, are no longer functional as the adjacent road surface has deflated to a level below the drain. Along the Devine's Hill section the side drains are generally in reasonable working condition and of adequate capacity except for significant lengths of siltation, blockage by debris and vegetation growth (Jordan and Associates 1997:8).
'Culverts were either constructed from stone or timber and served to divert water from the side drains, underneath and away from the road. Both types of culvert were constructed in a similar fashion, only the basic compositional material varying. A typical stone block culvert had both walls constructed from sandstone blocks and capping stones of thinner sandstone slabs. The inlet and outlet were both composed of stone blocks, sometimes the lintel stone being curved, for purely decorative reasons.
Timber culverts had two parallel support beams running the width of the road, with split slabs used as capping and squared logs used as lintels for inlets and outlets. The lintels were often secured by iron stakes driven into the support beams beneath' (Burke 1988:15 after Karskens 1985a).
There are 46 stone culverts on the Devine's hill section of road. The locations of a further three stone culverts buried by road works near the bottom of Devine's Hill have also been recorded (Webb 1990, 1991c). According to a hydrology report undertaken by Jordan and Associates (1997:8), culverts on the Devine's Hill section are:
'generally adequate with most able to cater for flows similar to or greater than the estimated 100 year ARI rainfall events. An area of concern is between culverts C34 and C36,…where significantly large catchments contribute flows about 2 to 4 times culvert capacity for the 10 year ARI rainfall event.'
Of the stone culverts on the Devine's Hill section 41 are still sufficiently intact to be functional with regular maintenance which this section of the road has received since recreational traffic was removed. Split and missing capping stones were replaced with sandstone blocks on several culverts in 1992/3 by the NPWS. The state of the remainder of the stone culverts ranges from only the inlet or outlet remaining to mostly intact with smashed capping stones. There are seven stone culverts on Finch's Line of road.
'Damage to the culvert arises from two sources. The first is the loss of the protective cover over the capping stones due to scouring by uncontrolled surface water and subsequent damage by modern vehicles. The second is the hydrostatic head build up in a surcharged culvert running full because it is essentially undersize' (McBean and Crisp 1990a:35).
There are no bridges in the Devine's Hill, Finch's Line and link road portions of the Old Great North Road.
There are no wooden structures in the Devine's Hill, Finch's Line and link road portions of the Old Great North Road.
Ancillary and outstanding features
Most of the ancillary and outstanding sites are not on the Old Great North Road itself, therefore, their greatest present threat is natural weathering. Their greatest potential threat is vandalism if they are publicly identified without adequate protection and/or interpretation.
(i) Stockade Site
There were apparently up to six semi-permanent encampments along the Old Great North Road, but evidence of only one, at Devine's Hill, has been found in the study area (Burke 1988 after Webb, pers. comm.). Similar camps are located south of the river within Wiseman's Ferry Historic Site, also owned by the NPWS. Early encampments (1826-7), comprised temporary slab and bark huts in random groups at convenient intervals along the Old Great North Road. Later encampments, known as stockades, were more complex, comprising buildings with stone foundations, hearths and ovens (from Karskens 1985a:59ff).
Only isolated stonework at ground level remains. This includes a well.
(ii) Hut sites
On Finch's Line a short distance from the intersection with the Old Great North Road are the remains of a stone hut that may have been used as a powder magazine.
(iii) Powder Magazines
The small natural rock shelter on Devine's Hill known as Hangman's Rock has been modified with hand cut steps, shelf and post holes. It is thought that this site may have been used as a powder magazine due to its location close to a major quarry. It's open aspect, the presence of postholes, suggesting a barrier, and the fact that the dimensions of the shelf correlate with the dimensions of gunpowder containers of the period (I Webb, pers. comm.).
The sandstone surfaces of the site are suffering from exfoliation caused by modern graffiti and subsequent salt erosion.
Numerous examples of convict graffiti occur along the Old Great North Road. Graffiti from later periods up to the present also occur. The convict graffiti is pecked into the rock-face with a chisel or gad. Initials are the most common form but pictures and words also occur.
Condition ranges from very clear to almost illegible and appears to be related mainly to how deeply the graffiti was originally made.
(v) Water Supply Features
This comprises several hand cut structures including races, basins and wells.
Their condition is generally good as they are subject only to natural weathering and gentle water flow.
(vi) Mile Markers
Three mile markers have been identified: the '1 mile' on Devine's Hill, the '7 mile' and the '1 mile' on Finch's Line. All are engraved except the '7 mile' marker, which is a wooden post, no longer in situ. It has been removed by the NPWS for its protection.
The engraved markers are in relatively good condition but the wooden marker has been badly damaged by fire and termites and only about half the inscription still exists.
(vii) Portable Artefacts
This category includes a number of metal artefacts such as leg-irons and picks as well as larger items such as the '7 mile' wooden mile post (Burke 1988:50), all of which have been removed by the NPWS for their protection. Some other portable artefacts are thought to have been removed by members of the public from places such as the stockade site on Devine's Hill (I Webb, pers. comm.).
The metal artefacts are in varying states of corrosion.
The ascent of Finch's Line is relatively short (about 1km of the 5.2km line) and very steep and narrow with several zigzags where the road widens to form turning circles of 8-10 metres width. The retaining walls are dry laid, roughly squared and coursed and rise up to 5 metres. Much of the line below the ascent comprises an embankment with only one course of stone to delineate the outer boundary, while the line above the ascent, following a relatively flat ridgeline, has walls ranging from one to several courses high. The drainage system comprises sloping roadway to facilitate runoff and seven stone slab culverts (Comber, 1991b). Finch's Line features a major quarry, three examples of convict graffiti, an engraved mile marker (at one mile) and the remains of a stone hut a short distance from the Old Great North Road.
Quarry sites are found on Devine's Hill, Finch's Line and Shepherd's Gully. They demonstrate an array of stone mining techniques including wedge pits and jumper marks where gunpowder has been used. The Shepherd's Gully Quarry appears to have been used in the 20th century, utilising modern earth moving equipment.
About 120ha, 1km north-east of Wisemans
Ferry, comprising an area bounded by a line commencing at the intersection of the
Old Great North Road and an unnamed road (approximate MGA point E 313175 N
6306540), then southerly via a 70m offset to the east of the unnamed track to
its intersection with the Wiseman Geodetic Station (approximate MGA point E
313211 N 6305417), then south easterly via a ridgeline to its intersection with
MGA northing 6304668mN (approximate MGA point E 313806 N 6304668), then directly
to an unnamed creek at approximate MGA point E 313905 N 6304566, then south
easterly via the middle thread of the unnamed creek to its intersection with
the western side of an unnamed track (approximate MGA point E 314207 N
6304034), then southerly via the western side of the unnamed track to its
intersection with the Dharug National Park boundary
(approximate MGA point E 314456 N 6303225), then westerly and northerly via the
park boundary to the intersection of the Old Great North Road and Settlers Road,
then northerly via the Old Great North Road to the point of commencement.|
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Available: http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/adbonline.htm (22/11/06). |
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Report Produced Wed Jul 23 10:52:15 2014