Ferry Lane

Location: off Lower Fort Street, Millers Point
This otherwise insignificant accessway in Millers Point had its five minutes of fame on Australia Day (January 26) 1900, when the sewerage system of the home of one Arthur Payne of No. 10 Ferry Lane was isolated as the source of the Bubonic Plague sweeping through The Rocks. Payne, who worked as a driver on the Walsh Bay wharves, his family and neighbours were rushed to the Quarantine Station and most of the timber buildings in the vicinity were burned to the ground.

The North Shore ferry from Walsh Bay to Blues Point began operating in 1848 and it was around that time that this narrow laneway came into existence. Serving as the main thoroughfare from The Rocks and Millers Point to the ferry wharf at Walsh Bay, Ferry Lane was surfaced with cobblestones brought as ballast on ships out from England. The lane was soon lined with tiny cottages, some wooden, some stone, built almost on top of each other up the hillside.

Ferry Lane was all but abandoned during the Bubonic Plague, its wooden houses burnt down and stone cottages left as burnt out shells as residents were evacuated and the area fumigated. The Walsh Bay end of the lane disappeared completely in 1908 when the foreshore was extensively excavated to make room for Hickson Road, the new wharves and the associated buildings it would service. Ferry Lane now stopped at Davis Street which in 1905 had its name changed to Downshire Street.

Below: Corner Ferry Lane (far left) and Pottinger Street, Millers Point

In 1914, the remaining houses in the middle section of Ferry Lane were demolished including Payne's tiny cottage at No. 10 and its neighbour, No. 8. The site was cleared and flattened to the level of Downshire Street and a grassed area created. It became known as The Paddock and the local children have played here ever since, even to the present day.

When a block of units was erected to the east of Ferry Lane a few years ago, the lower end of the lane was re-modelled and a feature made of the foundation stones of Numbers 8 and 10 Ferry Lane (below) which were found intact under a pile of rubble during the restoration work.

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