Vent Spotting

A Tour

The date: Sunday 6th October
The time: 2:00 – 5:00 pm
The event: Vent Spotting Field Tour
The place: The intersection of Elizabeth and Bathurst Streets, Hyde Park, Sydney

The Field Tour began on Gadigal land, at the site of the intersection of Elizabeth and Bathurst Streets, Hyde Park. The site is the location of the Hyde Park Obelisk, Sydney’s first civic monument erected in 1857 to honour the Mayor of the time, George Thornton, and is the first vent stack chimney of Sydney’s first sewer system. The Obelisk, nicknamed Thornton’s scent bottle is property of Sydney Water and served as sewerage duct vent, allowing noxious gases to escape from the sewer (now days it severs the storm water system). It is the only sewer vent constructed of sandstone. Initially, after the Obelisk, vent shafts were constructed using bricks, ornate and fairly major features in the city landscape. This technology was replaced with smaller, steel tube vents, which were used at intervals of approximately every 350 metres of sewer.

The Field Tour turned down Elizabeth Street, heading away from the Obelisk, towards Park Street.  As we walked along Park Street towards William Street we pasted the first above ground Ladies lavatories constructed in 1910 on the corner of Elizabeth and Park Streets. In 1955, the Ladies lavatories considered a failure was replaced by the Hyde Park Family Centre but it too was considered a failure and it was deconstructed in 2000 replaced with humble grass.

On the intersection of William and Bourke Streets was the second sewer vent of the tour. This vent was not so grand and it was head to foot green, it was located behind a building in a fenced off, almost empty concrete space. The top of this vent was rotating continuously, unlike the more common wire ball design of the vent shaft opening cover. We then crossed from the right side of William Street, to the left and turned right onto the other side of Bourke Street where our route continued. This half of Bourke Street we spotted approximately five to six small sewer vents. We then took a slight detour, turning into Burton Street and onto Sherbrooke Street (a dead end) to see a vent before retracing our steps back onto Bourke Street and continuing on.

Bourke Street turns into Forbes Street but right at the transference where the Streets intersect with Foley Street there is a Square known as Taylor Square. In the center of Taylor Square sits Substaion 6, part underground men’s conveniences constructed in 1904 and part electric substation constructed in 1907. In 1938 After much debate (and petitioning) Council modified the southern end of the existing Substation to accommodate “suitable” women’s conveniences. This was not the first public toilets for women in Sydney (located in Hyde Park) but this was the first in Taylor Square, 55 years after the first male public urinals in Taylor Square.

The opposite end of Taylor Square is bordered by Oxford Street, the Field tour continued down Oxford Street, in the direction of Liverpool Street, heading back towards Hyde Park. A vent was spotted on the right side of Crown Street, we detoured to get a closer look before retracing our steps back onto Oxford Street, the next leg of the Field Tour was down the opposite side of Crown Street. We spotted one vent on the intersection of Crown and Burton Streets, turning left onto Burton St and after walking five metres or so we spotted one more.

The final leg of the Field Tour culminated with walking from Burton Street to Oxford Street onto Liverpool Street and crossing to the corner of Hyde Park from which, when looking into Wentworth Avenue the final vent of the Field Tour was spotted.

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