Mort's Dock

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Workers at Mort's Dock lay the keel plate for a new vessel shortly after HMAS Deloraine was launched in 1941.

Mort's Dock is a former dry dock, slipway, and shipyard in Balmain, New South Wales, Australia. It was the first dry dock in Australia,[1] opening for business in 1855 and closing more than a century later in 1959.

Sydney's first dry dock[edit]

Mort's Dock was the brainchild of industrialist Thomas Sutcliffe Mort and former steamship captain T.S. Rountree (or Rowntree). Steam ships had first appeared in Sydney Harbour in 1853 but no repair or maintenance facilities existed to cater for the new vessels. In 1854, Mort and Rountree purchased an area of land at Waterview Bay on the northern side of the Balmain peninsula and excavated a dry dock measuring 123 by 15 metres (404 by 49 ft).

The dock opened in March 1855,[2] a year before the Royal Navy's Fitzroy Dock at Cockatoo Island. The first vessel serviced at the new Mort's Dock was the SS Hunter, a coastal mail steamer running between Sydney and Newcastle.

Growth of general engineering[edit]

Despite being the only commercial repair facility for steamers, the dock was not as profitable as expected and by 1861 Mort and Rountree had leased the majority of the surrounding land for cargo storage, minor engineering and an iron and brass foundry. In 1867, Mort's Dock became principally an engineering facility; including the construction of steam locomotives, ship machinery, mining equipment and steel pipe for the Sydney Water Board. The Mort's Dock and Engineering Company was formed in 1872,[2] but Thomas Mort himself withdrew from active participation immediately afterward, and management devolved to dock manager James Franki. James Peter Franki continued to manage the dock for 50 years finally retiring in 1922. Ship construction and repairs continued at the dry dock and immediate surrounds, and in 1901 the company opened a second dry dock and slipway at Woolwich to cater for demand for commercial vessels and ferries.

Naval contracts and modern era[edit]

Mort Bay Park Balmain, site of Morts Dock & Engineering Company

The outbreak of World War II proved to be a boom time for Mort's Dock. The 1920s and 1930s had seen a decline in the Royal Australian Navy with few vessels constructed and older ships sold off or scrapped. Japan's entry into the war led to a sudden demand for coastal protection and increased offensive power in the Pacific Ocean. Between 1940 and 1945, Mort's Dock constructed fourteen of the sixty Bathurst-class corvettes built in Australia during the war, as well as four of the twelve River-class frigates. By the end of the war Mort's Dock was second only to the Cockatoo Island dockyard in the number of naval vessels produced.[citation needed]

Shipbuilding once again declined in the post-war period, and revenue from engineering leases fell as firms relocated to cheaper land in western Sydney. Mort's Dock closed in 1958, Mort's Dock and Engineering Company went into liquidation in 1959, and ceased trading completely in 1968.[3] The derelict Mort's Dock site was levelled and converted into a container storage terminal for ships berthing at Glebe Island and White Bay. In 1989, the container terminal was closed and the site transformed into a waterfront park.[4] The remaining features of Mort's Dock were listed on the NSW Heritage Register in the same year.[4] The filled-in dry dock is commemorated in the name of the adjacent Dry Dock Hotel, which stands opposite the former location of the gates to the original Mort's Dock site.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bishopscourt". New South Wales Heritage Office. October 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  2. ^ a b Barnard, Alan (1974). "Mort, Thomas Sutcliffe (1816 - 1878)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  3. ^ "Mort's Dock and Engineering Company Ltd". Australian Shareholder's Association. 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  4. ^ a b "Morts Bay Park". New South Wales Heritage Office. March 1999. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 

Coordinates: 33°51′14″S 151°11′03″E / 33.8538°S 151.1841°E / -33.8538; 151.1841