Maritime Archaeology

The following outlines the conduct and findings of the maritime archaeological excavation and associated surveys undertaken in fulfilment of the Minister’s Conditions of Approval for the Windsor Bridge Replacement Project -SSI_4951B3. The findings of the maritime archaeological investigation are summarised in the following dot points:

  • New historical research revealed that the Period 3 Windsor Wharf was built in 1862, not 1874 as indicated in the SCMP. The wharf was designed by Edward Orpen Moriarty, Engineer-in-Chief for Harbour and River Navigation at the time. E. Moriarty was involved the construction of major maritime infrastructure in NSW, such as the Tathra Wharf;
  • A plan of the 1862 wharf was found in State Archives, which clearly shows the remnant pile rows of the earlier Period 2 Windsor Wharf, which was begun by Howe and McGrath and completed under the supervision of Francis Greenway;
  • Remains of the timber retaining wall (Period 2a) constructed in 1814 across the front of Thompson’s Square and the structural remains of the 1820 Greenway (Period 2c) Wharf were identified;
  • The association of the extant piles and walers with the 1862 (Period 3) Wharf was confirmed and recorded;
  • Identified was a ballast layer that may have been laid down as part of the 1815 wharf (Period 2b) extensions. Another ballast layer was identified as being associated with the Greenway Wharf. Also, from the mid-19th century onwards, there had been a number of episodes of bank and riverbed stabilisation involving the dumping of rock;
  • Samples of the ballast rock analysed were found to have derived from Hawkesbury Sandstone, the closest sources to Windsor being along the Hawkesbury River upstream from Richmond, downstream from Cattai. Some of the sandstone once had oysters growing on them, which suggests that the stone may have been picked up downstream of Wiseman’s Ferry or even Sydney Harbour – as the water at Windsor is too fresh for oysters to grow. One of the rocks sampled has similarities to a type of gneiss found in ballast in Sydney Harbour which originated in Brazil;
  • The artefacts recovered from the excavation covered a wide range of dates from pre-colonisation, in the form of Aboriginal stone artefacts to decimal coins and a watch from the last quarter of the 20th century. It is believed that this was the first underwater excavation in Australia where Aboriginal artefacts were found;
  • The variety of artefacts found represented the commercial aspects of the former wharf site, as well as vessel repair and maintenance;
  • One of the more salient aspects of the artefact collection is its personal nature, ranging from coins, buttons, buckles, harmonicas, pen knives, toys and fishing tackle – including copper pins bent into hook shapes. These finds tells us much of the Windsor community’s interaction with the River, via the wharf site, for over 200 years.
  • A survey along of the toe of the scour protection on both banks of the river in August 2019, 8 months after it was laid, found little evidence of scouring.

The above information is extracted (and edited) from the Windsor Bridge Replacement Project Salvage Excavation Report – Maritime Archaeology (DRAFT), Cosmos Archaeology, 2019, p. iii.