Built Heritage of North Head
The built heritage
of North Head accurately reflects the use of the headland since 1828 for
quarantine of passengers and crew from ships arriving with contagious
diseases. As the needs for quarantine lessened in the 20th Century other
uses of North Head were introduced. The remains of defence structures
and the School of Artillery buildings remind us of the impact of World
North Head contains several individual sites of heritage significance:-
The vulnerability of the Colony's early settlers to ship-borne diseases and epidemics was highlighted by the Quarantine Act of 1832, which led to the establishment that same year of the Quarantine Station at Spring Cove, a settlement which by 1837 covered the whole headland. The waters surrounding Quarantine Beach and Store Beach are where European vessels were first quarantined.
The history of the Quarantine Station, which is well illustrated by its buildings, sites, landscapes and the functions that took place there, interconnects with a number of key themes in Australia's history. The demands of quarantine, and the spotlight this cast on health standards, forced improvements in conditions experienced by immigrants, through the 19th century in particular.
The procedures established for the quarantine of inbound shipping set the foundation for responding to the various local smallpox, plague and influenza epidemics up until the 1920s. The Quarantine Station dramatically demonstrates, in its developments to separate and deal differently with different classes and races of people, the changes in the social attitudes of the Colony.
The Quarantine Station (together with the facility at Point Nepean), as Australia's primary quarantine facility for 166 years, held a unique in the history of the nation. Apart from the recent loss of two of the oldest and most significant buildings to fire, the Station's remarkably well preserved set of quarantine structures, landscapes features and inscriptions make it a place of great rarity.
The Station has the best representative collection of quarantine-related buildings, equipment and human memorabilia (eg. inscriptions) of any Australian Quarantine Station. The moveable heritage associated with the Station is of great cultural significance, particularly when in situ within the Station. The Quarantine Station is also significant in the interface between Australia's European and Asian history, being one of the few Australian sites taken into conservation ownership and management directly after its original function and use had ended.
The Quarantine Station site has strong and special emotional associations for the diversity of people quarantined there, many of their relatives, and those who staffed the facility during its extensive period of operation.
The Quarantine Station's Third Cemetery contains the graves of victims of the post-World War I influenza epidemic and many others. It is one of very few remaining sites that demonstrate the "winding down" period in Australia's quarantine history. The Third Cemetery is not well conserved. Its remaining inscriptions and other ephemeral material evidence of burial practices are gradually being destroyed by weathering.
The School of Artillery precinct forms a central part of the North Head peninsula, which was one of the six sites that formed the first officially decreed group of military reserves in Australia. As the headquarters of the First Heavy Brigade (the "coastal artillery brigade"), it performed a critical role in the defence of Sydney, Australia's largest population and industrial centre, during the only time when the nation has faced the threat of invasion.
The restrained art deco polychrome brick detailing of core buildings on the School of Artillery precinct demonstrate a high degree of creative accomplishment for the period of their construction (i.e. just prior to and during WW II). The extensive reinforced concrete tunnel system on this precinct was "state of the art" for this period.
It was arguably the single most important, and the first constructed in the national chain of major coastal artillery facilities installed in the 1930s in anticipation of a naval invasion. As the School of Artillery, the site performed a key role in the development of Australia's military (i.e. artillery) capability from 1947 to 1997.
As the headquarters of the First Heavy Brigade, the School of Artillery with its precinct's WW II and prewar structures (together with the North Fort and other WW II major artillery sites at North Head) is one of only nine Australian coastal military sites that demonstrate the climactic point in the development of artillery defence against attacks on major ports by naval vessels i.e. with the installation of the 9.5 inch guns. Many of the other sites are badly deteriorated and are not being conserved. As part of the WW II defence installations at North Head and seventeen other coastal sites around Sydney, the precinct's prewar and WW II structures demonstrate the final stage in the development of the "outer line" of defence of the city of Sydney.
The School of Artillery precinct has strong and special associations with the Australian military, and especially with Army personnel who were stationed there during its military use from 1936 to 1997.
The School of Artillery precinct illustrates in its fabric the course of its development as the former headquarters of the First Heavy Brigade. It also contains disused structures from that period (such as the former plotting room and underground tunnel system) that have the potential to demonstrate the military technology in use at the climactic moment in the development of land-based artillery defences against naval attack.
This heritage is maintained and presented to the public at North Fort which has been set up as an artillery museum.
These buildings were part of the Quarantine Station. Quarantine Station staff helped care for seamen who were suffering from venereal diseases. The buildings are currently used by the Australian Institute of Police Management.
If you are interested in historical information, you may like to visit Manly Warringah and Pittwater Historical Society's website.
This page was coded for the North Head Sanctuary Foundation
by Judith Bennett.