Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.

Ballast Point

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Ballast Point

Ballast Point is a two-hectare sandstone neck of land jutting into Sydney harbour, high above a deep water frontage on the eastern extremity of the Balmain peninsula. [1] Its name probably comes from rockfalls at the bottom of the outcrop which provided ballast for unladen ships.

Early owners

George Cooper, the Comptroller of Customs at Sydney, bought most of the land fronting Waterview Bay in 1840, including Ballast Point. [2] These grandiose purchases were financed by mortgages which he attempted to service by selling land in building lots. [3] The economic climate ensured a slow return and his mortgagees soon foreclosed. Declared insolvent in 1842, he was dismissed from his post. [4]

In 1842 Cooper's mortgagee commissioned John Frederick Hilly to survey Ballast Point and lay out a subdivision named Glenelg Crescent. Hilly, later a successful architect and rival of Edmund Blacket, laid out on paper many allotments fronting a wide avenue which curved around the headland, [5] but the sale did not survive the 1842 financial crash. [6]

In 1852 Ballast Point was then sold to Thomas Perkins, a merchant at George Street, Sydney, who was then living in Pembroke Villa located on Johnston Street in Balmain. [7] By 1864 Perkins had built and occupied Menevia, a large two-storey sandstone villa almost in the centre of the site, facing the future site of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. [8]

Oil terminal

The house remained in the Perkins family until purchased in 1928 by the Texas Company (Australasia), later Caltex Australia. [9] The house was soon demolished and the site converted to an oil terminal. The land, however, with minor waterfront reclamations, has retained its original shape.

Over time the oil company built 30 storage tanks at Balmain terminal, as it became known, and for many years petrol was stored there. The frequent movement of trucks on local streets made life unpleasant for residents. From 1938 the Balmain terminal housed the only grease plant in Australia. Petrol storage ceased when the company's refined oil terminal opened at Banksmeadow, Botany Bay. In more recent years, Balmain terminal supplied bunker fuel and lubrication to ships in Port Jackson. [10]

Open space for people

In 1994 Caltex released plans to redevelop the site for a mix of medium-density residential use, community facilities and public open space. Supported by Leichhardt Municipal Council, strong resident action intensified from 1997 when Caltex sold the site for development, with a provisional completion date of 2005. [11]

In response to a campaign by residents, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, on behalf of the state government, took over the site for use as public open space in 2002, under the New South Wales Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991. [12] Consultants were appointed to investigate remediation of contaminated areas, and to assess the heritage significance of Indigenous occupation, the industrial use of the site and any remains of Menevia. In 2005 a preliminary archaeological investigation found physical evidence of Menevia.

Following four years of consultation, planning, design and remediation, the construction of Ballast Point Park commenced in 2008.


[1] Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Jan 1842, p 3e

[2] New South Wales Land Titles Office, Old System Title Book U Number 863 (Ballast Pt to G Cooper)

[3] New South Wales Land Titles Office, Old System Title Book 24 Number 337 (Ballast Pt mortgage to J T Goodsir)

[4] Leichhardt Historical Journal, Annandale Association, Balmain Association, Glebe Society, Sydney, no 22, p 61

[5] 'Glenelg Crescent better known as Ballast Point 65 Building Allotments to be sold by Auction by Mr Stubbs on Wednesday Feby 2nd 1842', sales plan, State Library of New South Wales

[6] Sydney Morning Herald, 11 January 1842, p 3; 1 February 1842, p 4

[7] New South Wales Land Titles Office, Old System Title Book 24 Number 337 (Ballast Pt to T Perkins); Bk 24 No 556/557 (Pembroke Villa to T Perkins)

[8] Sands' Sydney Directory 1865–67; New South Wales Department of Commerce (formerly Department of Public Works) Public Works Detail Survey Balmain Sheet 6, 1887

[9] New South Wales Land Titles Office, Certificate of Title Volume 2738 Folio 82 transfer B684376 (to Texas)

[10] 'Busy Balmain Terminal has Vital Function', leaflet, no date

[11] 'Ballast Point, Birchgrove, an overview for the community, The Ballast Point Proposal recently lodged with Leichhardt Council', no date

[12] Village Voice, Federal Publishing Company, Alexandria NSW, November 2002, p 16