Unwins Stores

After Photo

Unwins Stores “Before “photoAfter Photo

A “Georgian ” Building constructed in around 1846, some 60 years after the end of the Georgian epoch. That year Neptune was discovered, Britains Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel introduced the “corn Laws ” to Parliament, the Island of Venice was connected to the Mainland by a causway and railway , and the Fashion in building design was the Romanesque style, or that of the Gothic Revival.

George Unwin then, caused to be built  a simple utilitarian structure , with no regard for the then current Architectural trends. There is no simpler way to build a solid masonry structure, even the mouldings,copings cills and string course are purely functional. That is not to say that the building is not well constructed, relieving arches occur above evert lintel .

Returning to Historical context, the Sydney Shipping Gazette of 1846records daily departures and arrivals of of various vessels: the Steamship “Driver ” is mentioned carrying 500 tons of coal to Aukland. Sail predominated though  with Barques of 500 odd tons and Schooners of 100 tons or more travelling to and from New Zealand , often carrying Troops and Artillery  to the Bay of Islands to deal with the Maori uprising.Cargoes are listed in detail, down to nails and other iron and steel, all of which had to be brought in from Britain by ship, when shipping losses were high. It wasn’t until the late 1860s that the Lighthouse network on the east coast of Australia  was completed . I once worked on Fingal Bay  Lighthouse in Port Stephens , the Iron Cupola was, according to a hand inscribed makers plaque, was cast in Long Acre , London in 1865.

The Rocks area then would have been teeming with activity, and Unwins Stores , perhaps recently completed ,or perhaps having Welsh slate from the hold of a recently arrived Barque installed to its roof, looking down on it all.Through two word wars, the Great Depression , and near miss from the wreckers ball in the 1970s.

So to the present day with The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) commissioning a refurbishment of the Terraces:  The work entailed repairs to the timber roof structure, re roofing in Welsh slate, replacing box gutters, rainwater heads and gutters in copper, completely repointing, and replacing eroded sandstone where required.

The “before” photo shows the George Street elevation was covered with a layer of peeling pink acrylic paint , under which it turned out were successive layers of lead based paint. As the “after ” photo testifies , the underlying Sandstone was in surprisingly good condition, the Masons pick marks remaining sharp and deep.

As you travel North along George Street and the Terraces come into view, they appear as a “New” building , as though the 1840s original had been transported through time, and planted there. The intention was certainly not to achieve an as new appearance , this was just one of those rare occasions where a careful understated approach yields a spectacular result.

Unwins stores is not  a preserved facade , fronting a modern structure , but an intact early Victorian Building. A genuine survivor , in the heart of a modern city. For me and my team of Stonemasons , it was a privilege to play a part in its preservation.

 

Author :  Ted Higgins.

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