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Erection of First Buildings at Newington Powder Magazine

Reproduced below is the text of an article that appeared in the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrower's Advocate, Saturday September 4, 1897

A scanned copy of the article is available on the Sydney Olympic Park website. (This is a PDF file, 5.9 MB)

Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrower's Advocate, Saturday September 4, 1897

"NEWINGTON POWDER MAGAZINE

Extensive Operations

A very important work has been going on quietly of late in the construction of the Government Powder Magazine at Newington, where it is intended to store all the powder required for military purposes in the colony. The site chosen is an isolated spot and is about the most out-of-the-way spot that could be found about the river. The land on which the operations are proceeding is a Government reserve between the Newington Asylum and the Parramatta River. The work of constructing the various buildings was begun about seven-and-a-half months ago; and is estimated that it will take about 15 months to complete it.

The powder magazine itself, which is only in its infancy, is to be a very large one, will contain all the powder to be used for military purposes in the colony. The superintendent's cottage and the workmen's cottages have been completed, as have also the guard-house, lock-up and lamp-room. These are neat and substantial red brick buildings with slate roofs. There is to be a cooperage for the repairing of barrels, an examining room and a laboratory, for the making up of cartridges, and a gun-cotton store for the storage of dry gun-cotton. A convenient wharf has been placed on the river, and the river is to be deepened to the wharf. From the wharf, on which the iron gates will form the main entrance, there will be a thorough system of tram lines running around the reserve. One line will run to the gun-cotton store on the right hand side, and a double line of rails will run to the powder magazine. The water has been laid on, and there is a thorough system of fire service throughout.

The work was started on February 15th, and at that time there was nothing but dense shrub all round, so that it is evident a satisfactory rate of progress is being maintained.

The powder magazine is being built with the utmost care and no expenses is being spared to render it absolutely safe. The magazine is dug out of the land, and the building erected with specially strong double walls and damp-proof floors. It will be arched overhead, and at the entrance end will be the lobbies where the workmen will be required to change before entering the chamber.

The magazines are on a very large scale indeed, and will meet the requirements of the colony for years to come. The dry-cotton store on the other side of the ground is being built on much the same lines, but on a much smaller scale. It is proposed to surround the reserve with a high concrete wall and iron fence.

The officials have great trouble now in keeping off the premises those who have no business there. On Sunday afternoons youths come there and seem to think they have as much right to smoke their pipes on a powder magazine as they have elsewhere. The officials have orders not to let any one approach, and have been strict, with the result that some of the ejected ones have promised to use their influence to get the magazine and officials dumped into the river.

But there is no serious objection to the magazines where they are. There are no houses within a distance of nearly two miles and the site was picked by the Government because it was such an out-of-the-way one. The land is not in any municipality, but is not very far from the Rookwood limits.

An ARGUS scribe saw a number of the residents who live nearest the magazine this week and they do not appear to object in the least. There were some, they said, who objected one day and favored it the next, and, as a matter of fact, did not know whether to or not, but there was certainly no reasonable ground for objection and they did not want to make themselves look ridiculous.

There are about 80 hands employed on the works at present, but that is a much smaller number than have been working. At one time there were about 75 hands at work; but the contractors have been hampered by not being able to get sufficient bricks. The wet weather has made the roads to the site very bad, and it is hard work to get the bricks carted to the works. However, when the fine weather fairly sets in, the contractors will be able to proceed with their work more quickly; though, as a matter of fact, there is no cause or inclination to rush the work. The sole object is to get the work thoroughly well and effectively done."

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Robert Curran
borclaud @ tpg.com.au