Heritage and conservation register

Item

Field Value
Name of Item Cable Ferry Crossing, Mortlake
Item Number 4301056
Type of Item Built
Item Sub-Type ****
Roadloc  
Address **** Pellisier Road Putney 2112
Local Government Area Ryde City 
Owner Roads and Traffic Authority
Current Use Vehicular Ferry
Former Use Vehicular Ferry

Statement of significance

Field Value
Statement of significance The Mortlake ferry service on the Parramatta River has a high level of historic significance and rarity value at a State level, especially when considered as one of a group of ten extant vehicular cable ferries operating in NSW, under RTA control. The Mortlake ferry service is a rare surviving example of one of the earliest and most prevalent forms of river crossings instituted in NSW after European settlement and is the only remaining vehicular ferry in use on Sydney Harbour and its tributaries. Vehicular ferries were widely used due to the extensive river system throughout the State, and were typically instituted at tidal crossings that were either too turbulent or too wide to accommodate the construction of bridges. As bridge technology developed and the State economy grew, the vast majority of the ferry services in NSW have since been replaced with bridges. The physical fabric of the Mortlake/Putney ferry service, including the approach ramps on either side of the river, the apparatus associated with the ferry operations (such as the boom gates) and the ferry vessel itself, have the capacity to represent the important characteristics of the large number of ferry crossings in NSW, only ten of which are still in operation. The Mortlake Ferry, also known as the Putney Punt, also has local historic and aesthetic significance. The service began operations in 1928 for the express purpose of allowing employees at Australian Gaslight Company (AGL) who lived on the northern side of Parramatta River to reach their workplace in Mortlake. As such, it has played a significant part in the development of the local economy and industry. Today, the Mortlake ferry service is of social value to local community as a leisurely means of crossing the river at this point. It is part of the Parramatta River landscape, and is a picturesque and quaint component of the transport infrastructure of Sydney.
Date Significance Updated ****

Description

Field Value
Designer Department of Main Roads (DMR)?
Builder Carrington Slipways
Construction years 1928 - ****
Physical description The ferry is a rope - cable - guided ferry having a steel guide rope on the eastern side and drive rope on the west. Propulsion along the rope is by a 4 cylinder Perkins diesel driving a drive wheel system. The ferry has ramps at each end consisting of a primary ramp surfaced in steel grating, and a secondary flap, which has steel checker plate. The level and angle of the ramps are hydraulically controllable from the control cabin.

Deck facilities include the following:

*Control cabin with engine and ramp controls, safety equipment etc.;

*Road deck marked for three lanes of traffic. There are hand operated swing gates at each end of the deck;

*Pedestrian passenger waiting room opposite the control cabin. Routes on and off the ferry for pedestrians are marked on the deck. Pedestrians on Mortlake side use right hand side of approach ramp to alight the ferry. The waiting room has containers with life vests;

*Davit supported dinghy;

*Anchors for emergency deployment.

In operation the ferrymaster uses the engine and brake to align the ferry as it approaches the ramp, and adjust the ramps to suit the traffic load being carried. On grounding, the flaps slide up the ramp till the inertia of the ferry is lost. The deckhand hooks a chain from the ferry to a safety chain on the ramp, opens the swing gates and uses a remote control to raise a boom on the ferry approaches. Vehicles then exit the ferry to be replaced by vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. The docking procedure is reversed for departure, and the ferrymaster sends a warning by radio of intention to move, thus warning craft such as the Rivercats, which ply this waterway.

The ferry approaches form an essential part of the ferry infrastructure. On the south side of Parramatta River the road approach is in concrete of considerable age. Likewise the ramp is concreted, with insert steel rails. Between the ramp and concrete road there is a bitumen section of recent reconstruction. Facilities on the shore include a waiting room, a staff shed, modern boom gate and old handraised half gates, which are no longer in use. There are also a pair of chain wire gates which are closed during ferry outages, which occur daily between 9.30 and 2.20, and at night from 5.25 pm to 6.20 am. The ferry cables are fixed to terminal posts, one of which is a timber pile and the other a steel pile. The boom gates and wheels and posts are original.

Physical Condition
and/or
Archaeological Potential
Original condition assessment: 'Good condition' (Last updated: 15/11/2004.) 2007-08 condition update: 'Good.' (Last updated: 17/4/09.)
Modifications and dates ****
Date condition updated 17 April 2009

History

Field Value
Historical notes The Mortlake Ferry is a vehicular cable ferry that plies the Parramatta River at a crossing between Hilly Street in Mortlake and Pellisier Road in Putney. It is the last remaining vehicular ferry (or punt) operating on the Parramatta River, and in Sydney more generally. Other existing vehicular ferry services close to the Sydney region include five on the Hawkesbury River at Wisemans Ferry, Sackville, Lower Portland, Webbs Creek and Berowra Waters.

Ferries, both passenger and vehicular, were an essential link in the transport infrastructure of Sydney throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as the city is built around the harbour and the network of river systems that flow into it. Vehicular ferries were particularly vital at tidal crossings, such as the point between Mortlake and Putney, where the cost of the construction of a bridge of sufficient design merit to make the crossing was prohibitive, in terms of finance and the availability of materials and manpower to build it.

A number of vehicular ferries operated on Sydney Harbour, the Georges River to the south and Parramatta River to the west in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Vehicular ferries were particularly important for linking North Sydney and the south side of the harbour in this time. In c1842 the Sydney Ferry Company began the first vehicular ferry between these two points, which operated until 1932 at which time the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened to traffic. On the Parramatta River, a vehicular ferry service was first established in c1832 between Bedlam and Abbotsford Points, which was replaced by the first Gladesville Bridge in 1881. In most instances, bridges have since replaced earlier vehicular ferries operating on Sydney Harbour, and the Parramatta and Georges Rivers (OHM Consultants, 1998, pp 8-11). The Mortlake Ferry is a highly significant remnant of this early and prevalent form of transport as it is the only remaining vehicular ferry in use on Sydney Harbour and its tributaries.

The Mortlake Ferry, also known as the Putney Punt, began operations in 1928 (OHM Consultants, 1998, p 11). The Hon Robert Thomas Ball officially opened the Mortlake Putney ferry service on 16 May 1928. Ball was the Secretary for Public Works in George Fuller's coalition government (1922-25), and was also a minister in the Bavin Government at the time the ferry service was instituted by the Department of Main Roads (DMR).

The ferry service was commenced to enable employees at the nearby Australian Gas Light Company (AGL) who lived in suburbs on the northern side of the river to reach their workplace. Pressure came from the 'Putney side' for the institution of the service, and was primarily led by the Putney Progress Association. Otherwise, gasworks employees on the northern banks of the Parramatta River 'were confronted by a round trip via the Meadowbank-Rhodes punt or rowing them selves across or again using the passenger ferry but this would not always have been at convenient times for the worker.' (Information supplied by Concord Heritage Society Inc, letter from G M Cashman to D Brown, Town Clerk, Concord Council, 24 February 1982). This ferry would also have been a benefit for residents on the southern side of the river to access Ryde and other suburbs to the north, and as such would have been a supplement to the nearby Ryde Bridge.

Both Mortlake and Putney were named for towns on the Thames River in England. The AGL established gasworks at Mortlake in 1883 (moving form Darling Harbour). The suburb was subdivided for sale the following year, and would have provided housing for workers employed at the gasworks. Evidently a ferry service of some description was servicing the suburb during in the 1880s (and possibly earlier), as a subdivision plan for Mortlake prepared in 1884 shows a 'steamer wharf' at the end of Tennyson Road (then named Burwood Road), a little to the south of the present ferry wharf (Pollen, 1996, pp 179-180).

Construction began on a bridge between Ryde and Rhodes/Concord in 1933, which was officially opened in 1935. However, workers at AGL continued to use the Mortlake-Putney ferry service. The Mortlake Ferry service is still in operation, although the new bridge threatened the viability of the service, and despite intermittent attempts by the DMR (and later the RTA) to remove it. That the service remains is a testament to the strength of the local community, who have campaigned to keep it operational since this time (OHM Consultants, 1998, pp 11-12).

The Department of Main Roads (DMR), and latterly the RTA (since 1989) operated Mortlake Ferry from 1928 to 1992. Although the RTA continues to maintain and repair the ferry, it has contracted out the ferry operations to a private operator since 1992. The ferry cables are replaced every 12-15 months, and the ferry is slipped every three years at the Mortlake Slipways. The slipway is located to the south of the Mortlake approach ramp and is used for the maintenance of RTA-owned ferries operating in the Sydney region (including the Mortlake Ferry and the five vehicular ferries servicing the Hawkesbury River).

The suburbs of Mortlake and Putney are now largely populated by white-collar workers. As such, the ferry has become a commuter service for local residents working in the city, as noted on a site inspection in August 2004. This changing demographic is reflected by the restricted operating times for the ferry, which is in service Mondays to Fridays 6.20am-9.25am and 2.20pm-5.25pm. The large apartment construction program under way was cause for optimism that patronage would increase.

Listings

Field Value
Heritage Listing Reference Number Gazette Number Gazette Page
Local Environmental Plan  253  30  1464 
National Trust of Australia register       
Local Environmental Plan - Lapsed    155  12119 
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register       
Local Environmental Plan - Lapsed    14  332 
Local Environmental Plan  85     

Assessment of Significance

Field Value
Historical Significance The Mortlake/Putney Ferry service has historic significance at a State level because it is a remnant of an early form of transport across tidal river crossings in NSW, before the introduction of large span bridges. It is the only remaining vehicular ferry in use on Sydney Harbour and its tributaries. The service also has local historical significance because it played an important role in the local economy and the development of industry along the Parramatta River in the twentieth century. The ferry service was put into operation by the DMR in May 1928, in order to enable employees at the Australian Gas Light Company (AGL) in Mortlake, who lived in suburbs on the northern side of the river, to reach their workplace. Later, the service would have proved beneficial for residents on the southern side of the river to access Ryde and other suburbs to the north, and as such would have been a supplement to the nearby Ryde Bridge, completed in 1935.
Historical Association The Mortlake/Putney ferry service has historical associations with the Putney Progress Association, members of which campaigned for the institution of a ferry service to convey residents across the river to work at AGL and other industries on the southern banks of the river at Mortlake.
Aesthetic/Technical Significance Vehicular ferries provide a unique means of transport for road traffic, and give both users and spectators a glimpse of a past approach to transport, in which the leisurely pace of the ferries was at home. In its site, the ferry provides a part of the landscape of the harbour. The vessel itself, although being only 44-years old was considered of modern design when built. However, against current naval architectural trends, it appears quaint, with its Samson posts supporting ramp cables, and visible mechanisms such as guide pulley wheels and the ramps themselves.
Social Significance The ferry service was commenced in May 1928, in order to enable employees at the Australian Gas Light Company (AGL) in Mortlake, who lived in suburbs on the northern side of the river, to reach their workplace. Later, the service would have proved beneficial for residents on the southern side of the river to access Ryde and other suburbs to the north, and as such would have been a supplement to the nearby Ryde Bridge, completed in 1935. Today, with the gasworks closed and the suburbs of Putney and Mortlake now largely populated by white-collar workers, the service has become a commuter ferry for local residents working in the city. It is of social value to local community as a leisurely means of crossing the river at this point, and is part of the Parramatta River landscape. As such, it is a picturesque and quaint component of the transport infrastructure of Sydney.
Research Significance The site as a whole has the capacity to inform on the vehicular ferry as a transport mode. The original boom gates with hand wheel are extant on the southern ramp. The ramps, cable anchor posts, safety chains and related equipment unite to provide an insight into vehicular ferry technology.
Rarity The vehicular ferry service plying the Parramatta River between Mortlake and Putney is a rare surviving example of one of the earliest and most prevalent forms of river crossing instituted in NSW after European settlement. Vehicular ferries were widely used due to the extensive river system throughout the state, and were typically instituted at tidal crossings that were either too turbulent or too wide to accommodate the construction of bridges. As bridge technology developed and the State economy grew, the vast majority of the ferry services in NSW have since been replaced with bridges. The tangible remnants of the Mortlake/Putney Ferry service including the approach roads and ramps on either side of the river, the stretch of waterway between the approaches, associated infrastructure to do with ferry operations, such as the boom gates, and the ferries themselves have rarity value for this reason. The Mortlake/Putney ferry service also has rarity value at a State level, as it is the only remaining vehicular ferry in use on Sydney Harbour and its tributaries. Bridges have since replaced earlier vehicular ferries operating on the harbour and the Parramatta and Georges Rivers. The Mortlake Ferry is a highly significant remnant of this early and prevalent form of transport on Sydney Harbour.
Representativeness The Mortlake Ferry service has representative value as one of a group of ten extant vehicular cable ferries operating in NSW. The tangible remnants of the Mortlake Ferry service including the approach roads and ramps on either side of the river, the stretch of waterway between the approaches, associated infrastructure to do with ferry operations (such as the boom gates) and the ferry itself, have rarity value for this reason. The ferry vessel (Ferry No 28), while not necessarily uniquely linked to this site, was built in NSW, and is representative of vessel construction of its day (1960).
Integrity/Intactness ****
Assessed Significance State

References

Field Value
Type Author Year Title
Written  Coupe, Sheena  1983  Concord: A Centenary History 
Written  AGL/Bloxham & Chambers  1986  Mortlake 1886-1986, Sydney 
Written  Department of Main Roads  1948  'Main Road Ferries - Their operation and maintenance' in Main Roads, December 1948, Vol XIV, No 2, pp 43-47 
Written  Frances Pollen  1994  The Book of Sydney Suburbs 
Written  Andrews, Graeme  1994  Ferries of Sydney 
Written  Andrews, Graeme  1982  A Pictorial History of Ferries: Sydney and surrounding waterways 
Written  OHM Consultants  1998  Roads and Traffic Authority Oral History Programme: NSW Vehicular Ferries: Summary Report 

Study details

Field Value
Title Year Author Inspected by Guidelines used
Oral History - Vehicular Ferries  1998  NSW RTA    No 
Study of Heritage Significance of a Group of RTA Controlled Bridges & Ferries  2004  HAAH - Sue Rosen and Associates    Yes 

Custom fields

Field Value
Roads and Maritime Services Region Sydney
Bridge Number 591
CARMS File Number ****
Property Number Ferry Crossing
Conservation Management Plan ****

Images

Anchor tethered to deployment post
Anchor tethered to deployment post
Ferry timetable
Ferry timetable
Operators console
Operators console
Putney Point ramp with Putney park in background. Gates on right are closed during ferry closure periods during the day.
Putney Point ramp with Putney park in background. Gates on right are closed during ferry closure periods during the day.
Mortlake ramp on right with RTA refitting facility, Mortlake Slipway, on left
Mortlake ramp on right with RTA refitting facility, Mortlake Slipway, on left
General view of ferry deck
General view of ferry deck
Nameplate 'Built by Carrington Slipways Newcastle'
Nameplate 'Built by Carrington Slipways Newcastle'
Operators cabin or wheelhouse set over engine bay with inboard winding system
Operators cabin or wheelhouse set over engine bay with inboard winding system
Lifeboat and davit system
Lifeboat and davit system
Samson post supporting main ramp with hydraulic actuation and rope backup. Note also navigation lights
Samson post supporting main ramp with hydraulic actuation and rope backup. Note also navigation lights
Mortlake ramp with remotely operated boom in down position. Disused boom is in up position. Operator's handwheel is on right
Mortlake ramp with remotely operated boom in down position. Disused boom is in up position. Operator's handwheel is on right
Ramp at Mortlake terminal showing operators shed on left; RTA Mortlake Slipway on right
Ramp at Mortlake terminal showing operators shed on left; RTA Mortlake Slipway on right
Ferry unloading on Mortlake ramp, showing mainramp grating, secondary flap in steel. Note also painted separation for pedestrians
Ferry unloading on Mortlake ramp, showing mainramp grating, secondary flap in steel. Note also painted separation for pedestrians
Interior of wheelhouse. Note oar stored in roofrack
Interior of wheelhouse. Note oar stored in roofrack
Passenger cabin for pedestrians
Passenger cabin for pedestrians
Mortlake ramp showing both disused booms. Note also steel rub rails cast into ramp.
Mortlake ramp showing both disused booms. Note also steel rub rails cast into ramp.
Interior of passenger cabin
Interior of passenger cabin
View showing Mortlake Ferry midstream
View showing Mortlake Ferry midstream


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