Fort Denison1923

by George F Harris

This seascape features Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour. The island on which it stands was referred to by local Aboriginal people as Mat-te-wan-ye, also spelt Muttewai, meaning ‘rocky island’. Later, it was called Pinchgut by convicts who were punished with time on the island on meagre rations.

Fortifying the island was recommended to strengthen the harbour’s defences. Building began in 1841 and was completed in 1857. The fort was named for Sir William Thomas Denison, Governor of NSW from 1855 to 1861.

This work shows a working harbour and also a place for recreational use. In the foreground, a cutter sails out of Farm Cove and, off the Cremorne Point foreshore, can be seen the navigation light that still operates.

The naval vessel is most likely the Flower-class sloop HMAS Geranium, the RAN’s first hydrographic survey vessel, as it was at Garden Island for repair for most of 1923.