I feel the earth move, under my feet

It isn’t all facts and figures, or straightforward historical topics, here at the Dictionary of Sydney. We’ve also invited some very imaginative writers to come up with different viewpoints on the city’s history, and they have obliged us.

King Street Newtown 2003

Ground level graffiti in King Street, Newtown, 2003. Photo by Megan Hicks.

One is Megan Hicks, whose work you can follow at her blog Pavement Graffiti,  here. She has written two entries for the Dictionary, Reading the roads and The decorated footpath. Both will inspire you to look again at the surfaces you are walking and driving on, and to wonder about the ephemeral markers that people create around them.

Stone paving King Street 1900

King Street in the rain c1900. Photo by Frederick Danvers Power, From the collection of the State Library of New South Wales a422001 / ON 225, 14

Of course, the ground of the city has changed over time. From leaf litter and native grasses, to dust and mud when it rained, then gravel, woodblocks, stone, concrete, asphalt and stone again, the walking and driving surfaces of Sydney have interacted with feet, shoes, hooves, wheels, rails and tyres.

Every now and then, a relic is uncovered, as when in 2010 a patch of woodblock paving was uncovered by workers who were fixing the drainage in a lane off Druitt Street. All the City History Program and Dictionary staff rushed over the road to take a look. Despite having been in the ground for over 100 years, they were still as hard as iron, as we could tell when a worker dropped one, and the clang echoed off the walls. The blocks were carefully sealed and left in place.

Tram lines exposed in Glebe Point Road

Tram lines exposed by roadwork in Glebe Point Road, 2010. Photo by Adam JWC, Wikimedia Commons

There are also lots of places in Sydney where the tramlines sometimes resurface through the asphalt.

What other relics might be hidden under the roads and footpaths?


About Emma Grahame

Emma Grahame has been Editorial Coordinator of the Dictionary of Sydney since May 2007.
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4 Responses to I feel the earth move, under my feet

  1. Krissie says:

    This is so interesting. A good reminder to slow down and pay more attention to what I’m walking on too. (and I can’t get the song out of my head now!).

  2. megan says:

    Thanks for the story about the clanging woodblock, Emma, and thanks also for the lovely photograph of King Street in the city around 1900. I love rainy day streetscapes but this one is particularly interesting because it clearly shows how that wide footpath is paved with sandstone flagging.

    • emmagrahame says:

      Hi Megan – glad you like that pic, it’s gorgeous isn’t it! So clear how slippery they would have been too… I found on Friday that the State Library have featured it in their latest series of promotional bookmarks as well.
      I’ve found some more pictures of paving as well from the 1860s/70s and they’ll be progressively added in to your essay as well – hope you like them too!

  3. This is a really fascinating post. I don’t know if this is too much information but I am a compulsive viewer of holes in the road when there are road works. This information gives me a means of interpreting what I’m seeing now, thanks to Emma and Megan.
    Great reading!

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