Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Fort Philip

The hexagonal Fort Phillip on Windmill Hill c1891-1921 (NSW State Library)
Standing high on Windmill Hill above The Rocks, Fort Phillip was one of the initial fortifications built to defend the colony.   It was named after the founding Governor of the Colony, Admiral Arthur Phillip.

Construction began in 1804 (after the Dawes battery was completed, see previous post) in a hexagonal design to protect from threats coming from the ocean to the east, and the hinterland to the west.  The walls were made of locally quarried sandstone several feet thick.  However, with 3 walls completed, construction ceased and the fort was never finished.


The original Fort Phillip design


The Fort repurposed to a Signal Station c1842 (NSW State Library)
Though the guns remained there until the 1820s after which it languished.  In 1840 the land was considered more useful as a signal and telegraph station so the Fort was mostly demolished and repurposed. One wall, which still stands today, was converted to serve as the semaphore station's platform and the rest was levelled in the 1850s for the construction of Sydney Observatory which remains there today.
The redesign of the Fort area to become the Observatory and Signalling station

The fields of observation from Windmill hill are excellent, but the range for 19th century ordinance would have been challenging (Note this is a Krupp cannon captured from the Boers, part of a South African War Monument on the site)
The remodelled Signal Station, incorporating part of the original outer walls
The outer wall of the Signal Station - original from Fort Phillip
Outer North Wall - original sandstone revetment 
The excavated magazine entrance inside the original Fort


Excavation work in 2011- this view shows the use of the original wall as part of the semaphore station, and the entrance to the magazine.

The Observatory (with Timeball Tower atop for synchronising marine chronometers)

A relatively minor site, but one that the lad and I enjoyed visiting on a sunny summer day.

References:
http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/the-colonial-fort-that-never-was/2008/10/20/1224351155229.html

http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/sydney-observatory-and-fort-phillip/

http://dictionaryofsydney.org/building/fort_phillip

8 comments:

Michael Awdry said...

Another fascinating post Paul, I am really enjoying these. You get a real sense of the thickness of the wall in the latter shot with the excavation work, it would have been quite a thing if ever completed.

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Rodger said...

This one I have been to and spent a bit of time wandering around!

Captain Darling said...

Great work Paul, loving your guided tours of the old defences of Sydney, well done!

I wasn't even aware of this fort and its history!

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phann son said...


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An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!