The NSW Government has announced that it will open a 132 year old underground reservoir built in the hills overlooking Newcastle to the public for the first time. NSW Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water Kevin Humphries and Member for Newcastle Tim Owen announced the plans.
An engineering marvel for its time, the reservoir was built in the 1880s on Tyrrell Street not far from the Christ Church Cathedral. Capable of holding two million litres of water when full, its grand internal stone archway remains, along with 32 stunning four metre high brick columns.
Mr Humphries said opening the reservoir to the public would unlock an important part of Newcastle’s history.
“In the late 1800s Newcastle was booming and needed a reliable water supply. This reservoir made it possible for the City to store water and deliver it straight to peoples’ homes,” Mr Humphries said.
“The reservoir is the first underground reservoir of its age to be opened to the public. Being inside the reservoir is an extraordinary experience and I am delighted Hunter Water has decided to share it with the community.”
Member for Newcastle Tim Owen said the tour will build on Newcastle’s already extensive collection of heritage experiences such as Fort Scratchley, the Bogey Hole and Nobbys Lighthouse.
“This reservoir is one of the oldest in Australia and was built before Newcastle had electricity or a train line to Sydney existed,” Mr Owen said.
“The reservoir was closed almost 50 years ago and has been sealed shut ever since. I am delighted the public will now have the opportunity to see inside this remarkable and extremely important part of Newcastle’s history.”
Hunter Water’s Managing Director Kim Wood said tours would offer more than just a look inside the reservoir referred to in Hunter Water archives as Newcastle #1 Reservoir.
“In addition to allowing the public to climb down into the belly of the reservoir, the tour will include a history of the Hunter’s original water supply and reveal a glimpse of life in the late 1800s,” Mr Wood said.
“Work including installing stairs, lighting and improving ventilation is underway to make the site accessible for tour groups and we expect to take the first tour through in early 2015,” he said.
Due to the expected popular demand, the tours will operate by ballot.