Campbells Cove is a small cove to the west of Warrane (Sydney Cove) near Dawes Point and the footings of the Harbour Bridge.
It would have been a hunting ground for the residents before being cleared. In 1794, the land was leased to Henry Waterhouse, commander of the Reliance. He sailed away and returned with the first flock of merino sheep in the colony. The first use of the land by the British appears to have been to graze sheep.
Eora and visiting Aboriginal people were camping close by at the Government Boatsheds on the Eastern side of Warrane from the 1830s through to the 1880s. They were forced to move. Some went to La Perouse, and others went further south to Maloga Aboriginal Mission Station on the banks of the Murray River, NSW. This was in the lead up to the formation of the Aborigines Protection Board in June 1883.
The cove takes its name from Robert Campbell Snr, a a Scottish merchant who is sometimes referred to as the “father of Australian commerce.” Campbell broke the stranglehold that the British East India Company exercised over seal and whale products, which were New South Wales’s only exports in those early days. He began trade with the colony in 1798, taking up residence in 1800 and leading the way for free enterprise in Sydney.
I used to like the cove. It was intimate, quiet compared to Circular Quay and closely connected to the water. [See Warrane post]. A range of steps you could sit on lead down to a promenade with the old sandstone seawall clearly visible. There was no need to change it, to ‘improve’ it.
‘The project’s objectives included creating a greater sense of arrival, converting the old vehicle turning circle into a new public square, providing equitable access and establishing a distinctive curtilage to Campbell’s Stores and The Rocks Heritage Precinct . . . The project’s central plaza creates a shared, multi-use zone, staging and gathering place for the city’s many cultural events . . . The existing promenade was lowered to improve the visual and physical relationship between the stores’ outdoor dining area and the waterfront. This intervention presented several design challenges, the most significant being the interface between the existing concrete and sandstone seawalls. Cantilevering the new boardwalk structure over the heritage seawall ensured the latter was left untouched and allowed for the inclusion of lighting that illuminates both the seawall structure and precast boardwalk.’ Context Landscape Architecture.[i]
[i] 3 Nov, 2020, https://landscapeaustralia.com/articles/campbells-cove/