Discover our Stories

The people and places of The Rocks have innumerable stories to tell. It’s not just about the past, but also the present. Whether great events, or personal lives, they are all part of The Rocks’ stories.

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The Rock of The Rocks
The sandstone outcrops on the western side of Sydney Cove were quickly given the evocative name of “The Rocks” by the European settlers. Over the following centuries, the rocks were quarried, filled, and terraced in an attempt to tame their wild nature and make them “conform” to the European vision of civilization.
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Sydney’s Original Town Centre
First Fleet Park and the adjoining George Street, was the site of Sydney’s original town centre. It was here that the marketplace sprang up at the public wharf, and where public, humiliating punishments were meted out to ill-doers.
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The Indian Navy in George Street
The Merchant’s House, a four-storey sandstone town house at 43 George Street, was constructed in 1848. During World War II, up to 200 sailors from the Indian Navy made it their home while 5 ships were constructed for their use in Sydney.
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Creating the Argyle Cut
The Argyle Cut was progressively quarried through the spine of The Rocks between 1832 and 1932. A mammoth undertaking, the stone was often used for nearby building construction, and as fill during the creation of Circular Quay.
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The New York Picture Theatre
One of Sydney’s first purpose-built moving picture theatres opened at 159 George Street, The Rocks, in 1911. For just over 20 years it presented contemporary films of the silent movie era, before closing in 1935.
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William Augustus Miles; Commissioner of Police, Royal Bastard, and Archaeologist.
In 1840, William Augustus Miles was appointed Chief Superintendent of Police and arrived in Sydney charged with the task of reforming the police force. Residing in The Rocks, he also took a keen interest in archaeology and was responsible for the first systematic recording of Aboriginal rock art around the harbour.
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Wind Power
Sydney was an early adopter of steam power, with the first steam engine being installed at Dickson’s Darling Harbour mill in 1813, but for many years wind power was used by industrialists in places where wind was plentiful.
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The Grandeur of the Grosvenor Hotel
For forty years it stood; its views over Sydney and the harbour unparalleled, before being demolished, along with 280 other buildings in The Rocks, to make way for the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
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Margaret Fulton: The Cook and the Communists
Iconic Australian chef Margaret Fulton lived in The Rocks in the 1950s. Through her brother-in-law William Hatfield she was introduced to the bohemian side of Rocks life; coffee, artists, communists, and women drinking in bars!
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The Naval Dockyard
From 1798 until the 1840s the western shore of Sydney Cove hosted the Dockyard, where ships were built and repaired, and a generation of boys were trained to become the master shipbuilders of the following decades.
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Demolition of the Commissariat Stores, 1939
Ever since the New South Wales Government had resumed the harbourside real estate of The Rocks and Circular Quay following the Bubonic Plague scare in 1900, plans had come and gone for the urban renewal of this major gateway to Sydney.
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Con-Trick and Assaults: ASN Hotel (1891–1984)
A pub stood on the south corner of Argyle and George Streets from 1839 to 1984. Originally known as the New York Hotel, the building was demolished and rebuilt as the ASN in 1891, with the grand structure that still stands today.
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Dr Mary Booth and the Empire Service Club
Dr Mary Booth (1869-1956) was a prominent figure in early 1900s Sydney, founding many organisations focused on charity work. In 1923 she launched the Anzac Fellowship of Women 97 George St, The Rocks, largely concerned with assisting migrants and promoting the British Empire.
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Captain William Deloitte and the Pacific Trade
Captain William Deloitte operated trading ventures between Sydney and the Pacific islands in the 1830s-40s. He was particularly instrumental in the development of the New Zealand port of Hokianga on the North Island.
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The Wreck of the Sydney Cove
The wreck of the East India merchant vessel Sydney Cove in 1797, was to lead to the first large-scale mercantile operation in Sydney, established at Campbell’s Cove by Robert Campbell. His sandstone warehouses still grace the shore of The Rocks today.
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First Wave Feminism in The Rocks: Thea Stanley Hughes and the Women’s League of Health
Thea Stanley Hughes brought the renowned Women’s League of Health to Australia in the 1930s. In addition to providing health information and fitness activities, the League also met a social need, enabling female agency and freedom, and is thus a good example of 'first wave feminism' in Australia
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Nurse Francis’ Refuge for Women and Girls, 45 Argyle Street
Nurse Susan Francis was somewhat of a celebrity in Sydney in the early decades of the 20th century. Renowned as a midwife and health care worker, Nurse Francis was active in the growing Labor Party and Union Movements, particularly concerned with the welfare and political representation of women.