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Our history and heritage

A panoramic view of Sydney from the 1873 clocktower

This is the view from the Sydney Town Hall clocktower in 1873. William Francis Robinson took the series of 10 photos.

At the time, the clocktower was the tallest landmark in Sydney.

A unique experience, the journey up the clocktower was not for the faint-hearted, as the Australian Sketcher pointed out.

“I went up with Mr Bradbridge, the city surveyor and Mr McLeod, (the contractor) … we first climbed up a long ladder in the entrance hall, and so reached the first flooring, about 40 or 50 feet above the adjacent street.

"We looked out of an opening into the spacious attendance hall at the back, stepped into the stone balcony on the eastern side, and having talked over the building, moralised and regained our breath, we next ascended a wide and commodious stone staircase for a considerable distance.

"At the end of the staircase emerging on a temporary floor we again rested; and having then mounted two long ladders we reached the room for the clock, and gazed for a while on the view through four large circular openings from which the good people of Sydney are, at some future opportunity, ‘to take their time’.

"Two ladders more, a long one and a short one – brought us up to the pillared Chamber, where we were yet further impressed by the grandeur of the prospect.

"From this spot, two ladders, judiciously placed and carefully guarded, took us up to the topmost platform in the centre of which is the finial, or extreme point of the building, 190 feet above the kerbstone in George-street.”

Australian Sketcher, 14 June 1873, page 43.

Posted . Last updated .

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