Woolloomooloo Bayc 1875

by unknown artist

Woolloomooloo was one of Sydney’s earliest suburbs. In the 1860s land was reclaimed at the head of the bay, and a new wharf, Cowper’s Wharf, was opened in 1866. By the 1870s the bay was the centre of Sydney’s fish markets, and local timber industry.

Behind the wharf a strong working-class maritime community quickly evolved. Small terraces, public houses, and brothels seemed to cement the disreputable reputation of the suburb. The baths, or seawater pools, which emerged in the 1840s, survived this transition and can be seen on the right of the painting.

This painting records the rapid development of this once picturesque bay at the centre of Sydney’s fishing trade.