HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

20 February 2015

An English syndicate visited Nowra in connection with establishing a large timber block street paving industry at Jervis Bay.

The heading above came from a previous post about some of the industries that could have developed in the region, but for one cause or another never eventuated..
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I had never heard of ‘timber block roads” before, so i looked it up. Here is an extract from a web site called “Sydney Vista” it makes interesting reading.


First Woodblock Paving

Sydney City Council began to use woodblocks as a road surface from the 1880s. By 1900 much of Syndey from Broadway to Dawes Point and from Darling Harbour to Kings Cross was paved in woodblocks. The last woodblocks were laid during the 1930s. The use of woodblocks for road surfacing had been tired in Britain and the United States but was found to be unsatifactory, possibly due to rot from higher rainfall and the use of poorer and more common softwoods found in these countries.

The section of George Street between Dawes Point and Argyle Street was paved in 1888 and used to trial various timbers for woodblocks. Sydney council also experimented with the use of tar and pitch, block spacing, bedding and surface finishing. The best timbers were Australian hardwoods including blue gum, red gum, jarrah, blackbutt, tallowwood, karri and turpentine.

The blocks were brick shaped and laid in stretcher bond pattern. The surface of the woodblocks was top dressed with tar, peagravel and sand to provide a firm surface and improve traction. Consequently George Street North did not require maintenance for five years, proving the cost and labour effectiveness of woodblock paving.

Woodblock paving, Sydney, George Street

The gradual replacement of horse and cart with much heavier automobiles saw an increase in wear of the woodblocks. They were progressively removed from most parts of the city and replaced with asphalt. The woodblocks were great for firewood and during the Great Depression young boys were often caught helping themselves to one or two to heat the family home and cook dinner. The Council also gave redundant woodblocks to the elderly and poor.

Not all the woodblocks in The Rocks were removed. Some remain under the asphalt in sections of George Street. During footpath widening works, woodblocks were uncovered and found to be in very good condition. at least 80 years after they were first laid. Wherever possible the blocks are left in place for future generations to discover.

The original woodblocks were finished with tar and pitch mixed with pea gravel. Tar and pitch are now identified as a health risk and are not permitted in contemporary building works. These materials have been substituted with bitumen emulsion which looks and performs like tar.

Sydney Vista Web Site.

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