Quarrying in the Kiama District
The basalt rock of the district was initially used for fences and buildings. Notable basalt buildings are the old Kiama Infants School at Black Beach, the Anglican Christ Church and the Kiama Courthouse. The rock walls of the district were also made from basalt. The local basalt was found to be very useful for construction due to its fine grain, hardness, resistance to weathering and ability to be crushed without disintergrating. As the roads of Sydney and the growing colony on New South Wales required a good solid rock base the Kiama basalt was ideal and would be in strong demand for many years, creating employment and industry in the developing community.
John Carson was one of the first quarrymen in the region and came to Kiama in 1855, following in his uncle’s footsteps (James Colley the first Mayor of Kiama). Carson first started quarrying on Pikes Hill, and owned the quarry on the site of the Kiama Leisure Centre today. John Carson’s brother William also came to Australia from Antrim, Ireland and set up a quarry at Brown Street in 1876 and opened the Bombo Hill quarry in 1890.
The first quarry in the area was at Pikes Hill. Until steam crushers arrived in the 1880’s, all quarrying work was done manually. Smaller rocks were created by drilling a hole in the rock with chisel and hammer. Explosive powder was put in the hole, and then blasted. The rock was then crushed using spalling hammers to break rock into ‘spalls’. Knapping hammers were used to smash the rock into smaller pieces, before loading onto drays and taken along Terralong Street to the harbour. The rock was shovelled by hand into wheelbarrows and tipped into holds of the ships. This backbreaking work employed many men in the Kiama area, and hundreds of tons a week was shipped to Sydney in the fleet of ships. Kiama became the principal provider of blue metal for the colony from the 1880’s.
Terralong Street and the harbour were dusty, busy thoroughfares with drays carrying numerous rocky loads to the harbour each day. Numerous homes for the quarry workers and their families were built in the municipality. The terraces on Collins St are the most obvious surviving row of quarry houses, but others can be seen on Pheasant Point, Minnamurra Street, Hindmarsh Park and Bong Bong St.
A tramway to replace the drays along Terralong Street, was started in 1881, but it was not until 1914 that it was finally constructed, following the NSW Government purchase of the Terralong Street Quarry. The two locomotives carried the blue metal from the Quarry to the tops of the hoppers at the harbour, and dropped the loads directly to the ships. One the tramway was built, there was a dramatic increase in blue metal delivered to the ships and a welcome decrease in dust on the main street.
The numerous quarries in the area: Pikes Hill, Terralong Street, Brown Street, Hothersall Street, Barney Street, Bombo Hill, Bombo Point, West Bombo, Minnamurra River, Dunmore and Bass Point have created the current landscape of Kiama. Bombo Point Quarry is now preserved by a permanent conservation order.
There is also an image gallery of Bombo Quarry available.