Bradleys Point is the largest intact area of remnant vegetation remaining in the Inner Sydney Harbour area. This is, in no small measure, due to the fact that the point has, since European settlement, until it became a park been in the hands of the military (navy), thus precluding commercial development. At the very end of the 19th century attempts to develop part of the headland as a mining camp came to nought when a public outcry lead to the cancellation of a mining lease which would have permitted the extraction of a coal seam under the harbour in this area.
I feel that the best way to enjoy the point today is to take the 4kms (one-way) Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk from Taronga Zoo right round the point and past Taylors Bay to the beautiful Chowder Bay.
Bradleys Head and thus Point was named after Lieutenant William Bradley, second-in-command of the First Fleet and First Lieutenant of the Sirius, the Fleet’s flagship, which entered Sydney Cove in 1788 signalling the start of European settlement in Australia. Interestingly, Bradley who later returned to England and became Rear Admiral of the Blue in 1812 ended his distinguished career as a petty criminal. After retirement he assumed the fabricated title of Captain Johnson, captaining the non existent Mary and Jane ship. In this role he presented hundreds of letters to shore post offices receiving 2d per letter cartage, as per the regulations. When he was caught he was sentenced to death, commuted to transportation to Australia! Prior to his return to Australia he escaped and fled to France, where he died.
I have digressed, something I am prone to do – I will admit.
As I have outlined in more detail in my Fort Denison review, the unannounced and undetected arrival of two US warships into Sydney Harbour in 1839 spurred local authorities into action. While the planned fort for Rock Island, now Fort Denison, didn’t eventuate at that time, the strategically placed Bradleys Head fort was set up, in the early 1840s, with a stone jetty, circular sandstone gun pit, guns and related accoutrements necessary to ward of an enemy attack on the city.
Fort Denison was constructed in the 1860s when the last British garrison troops left the colony and the city perceived a new potential threat from Russia (indeed also from Germany and Irish Fenians!). In 1871 three 68 pounder guns where added to Bradleys Head and a couple of other batteries. The remains of this 1871 battery (with one restored gun) can be seen today by taking a short walk up the steps to the north of the toilet block here at Bradleys Head.
In addition to the 1871 battery, the original 1840s convict-built gun pit (pictured above) and limestone jetty (popular today with anglers) can still be seen here today.
More striking though than the 1871 battery and earlier gun pit is the large mast which dominates the Head today. This is the original foremast of the HMAS Sydney (I), the first Australian naval vessel to engage with an enemy ship (the German SMS Emden) following the founding Royal Australian Navy in 1913.
If you have read my separate review – HMAS Sydney I Memorial – you will know that the bow of the HMAS Sydney is set into the sea wall at Milsons Point. If you have not done so, do have a look at that review for additional detail on this most important ship from an Australian naval history perspective.
Just back from the foremast of HAMS Sydney (I) you will encounter a much more recent addition to Bradleys Head in the form of a memorial commemorating all four HMAS Sydneys. There is some wonderful detail on the bronze centrepiece of this memorial, depicted below, so do have a close look.
As you leave the area along the path (Memorial Walk) headed in the direction of Chowder Bay you will pass twenty two small plaques – one for each commissioned Royal Australian Navy ship and submarine lost as a consequence of war since the Navy’s founding in 1913.
Today the whole ensemble, from the HMAS Sydney foremast to the Memorial Walk dedicated in 2014 and the Head itself, serves as a reminder of the sacrifice of all Australian Naval personnel lost or injured while serving in both war and peace.
Amid these memorials and naval memorabilia what especially surprised me was the presence of a doric sandstone column, forlornly standing in the water just to the left of the old wharf (barely visible to the right of the tree on the right of image 4 above). This seemingly out of place column is from the first Sydney General Post Office which was demolished in 1863. Now for the naval link. The column was positioned here, exactly one nautical mile from the Martello Tower on Fort Denison, to facilitate naval speed trails in the harbour. It is no longer used for this, or any other purpose.
The small amphitheatre you see, along with a polystyrene house no longer here, was built for and used in the 2000 film, Mission Impossible 2.
Add to all this the striking views of Sydney Harbour, including back to the city, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Fort Denison and a visit to Bradleys Head surely becomes a must do.
There is a road, along Bradleys Point to the Head so should you be unable to do the walk referred to earlier or just wish to explore the naval history and take in the views at this point on the foreshore then you can drive, noting that parking must be paid for.