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Landmark chimneys preserve Sydney’s industrial past

It’s been many decades since lifelong Tempe resident Laurel Horton witnessed the bright, orange glow of the St Peters brick kilns firing through the night.

Although the flames have long since extinguished, Ms Horton is thrilled that the legacy of St Peters industrial past will remain for many decades to come, with repair works underway on the iconic Sydney Park brick chimneys.

“My uncle Keith and uncle Arthur both worked as brick makers at the old St Peters site. Some of my earliest memories are going past in the tram on the way to my grandmother’s place and seeing this spectacular glow from the brick kilns lighting up the sky,” Ms Horton said.

“St Peters has changed so much since then but I think it’s fantastic that the City of Sydney are preserving the chimneys. They really are a landmark and a reminder of St Peters working class beginnings.

“St Peters became an industrial area in 1841 when the brick makers moved out of the city. The brick kilns were the economic drivers of St Peters.”

The landmark chimneys have towered over St Peters since 1893, when Josiah Gentle established Bedford Bricks on the site.

Ms Horton works with members of the St Peters Cooks River History Group to provide educational tours of the Sydney Park precinct. Along with the BRICK Community Group – made up of descendants of brick workers – they’ve pushed to have the Sydney Park chimneys preserved.

Historian and writer Ron Ringer studied the history of the site for his book Brickmasters :1788 – 2008 and is thrilled to see works underway.

“There are so few examples of Sydney’s industrial past and it’s great to see that the City of Sydney wasn’t going to stand by and allow this fine example of our heritage to collapse,” Mr Ringer said.

The works are being carried out on two of the four chimneys, following structural assessments.

Contractors will clear vegetation from the chimney mortar, repair cracked bricks, rebuild the top section of chimney four, and improve the chimney’s structural stability.

“Sydney Park has come full circle. What was once bushland and orchards became a brickworks site and has since been given back to the community as one of Sydney’s most treasured green spaces,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“Although it’s been many decades since these chimneys were in operation, they provide a striking reminder of Sydney’s rich industrial past.

“Our works mean these 123-year-old chimneys will continue to be an unmistakable landmark of the inner city, Sydney Park and our industrial past.”

The Sydney Park chimneys are south of King Street, on the corner of the Princes Highway and Sydney Park Road. The area contains substantial remains of the brickmaking industry.

In the late 1940s, the brickworks’ 60-metre-deep brick pits, where the bricks were cured and cooled, became a waste depot and this activity continued for almost 30 years. It was later developed into Sydney Park and is now owned by the City of Sydney.

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