We recently had a literal ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to look inside one of Sydney’s most ornate and historic water reservoirs. Here’s what we found under Centennial Park!

First, the basics. ‘Centennial Park Reservoir No. 1’ is located at the northern edge of Centennial Park, adjacent Oxford Street.

 

Reservoir No.1 was built in 1898

Reservoir No.1 was built in 1898

 

Constructed in 1898 by NSW Department of Public Works, the reservoir came online in 1899 and has remained an active part of Sydney’s water distribution network since. At time of construction, the reservoir was the largest covered water reservoir in Australia.

A second (even larger) reservoir was built adjacent in 1925 (see large rectangular area to the left of Reservoir No. 1 in above photo).

The reservoir has an interesting history, not only acting as an important water repository, but alas featured grass tennis courts at one stage!

 

Grass tennis courts featured atop the reservoir in the early 1900s

Grass tennis courts featured atop the reservoir in the early 1900s

 

Now, to the most recent visit

Every 20 years Sydney Water drains the reservoir for essential maintenance inspections, and in 2012 we had the chance to go underground and walk around the drained reservoir!

 

Proper safety equipment and preparations were required before heading underground

Proper safety equipment and preparations were required before heading underground

 

Down we go! Centennial Parklands CEO, Kim Ellis, leads the way

Down we go! Centennial Parklands CEO, Kim Ellis, leads the way

 

The reservoir was quite dark, but stunningly highlighted by the safety work lighting

The reservoir was quite dark, but stunningly highlighted by the safety work lighting

 

The brick columns support the vaulted roof

The brick columns support the vaulted roof

 

The vaulted roof

The vaulted roof

 

The reservoir can hold around 76.5 megalitres of water (17 million gallons in the old scale)

The reservoir can hold around 76.5 megalitres of water (17 million gallons in the old scale). On our estimation, that more than 30 olympic-size swimming pools!

 

This photo shows size perspective of the reservoir

This photo shows size perspective of the reservoir

 

A stunning heritage feature

Centennial Park Reservoir No. 1 is a stunning piece of heritage, above and below ground. The wrought iron fence, an above the ground feature of the reservoir, was restored in 2000.

 

The ornate reservoir gates

The ornate reservoir gates

 

The wrought iron fenceline with ornately decorated pillars

The wrought iron fenceline with ornately decorated pillars

 

 

The sun sets on the reservoir adventure

The sun sets on the reservoir adventure

 

Centennial Park Reservoir No. 1 is another example of the many and varied important roles played by Centennial Parklands.

posted by Craig Easdown

 

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