Cross City Tunnel & Barkers Mill

The Project

The route of the Cross City Tunnel was in the vicinity of several archaeological sites. These were identified in the archaeological assessment covering the route.

The areas investigated were:

  1. Barker’s Mill
  2. Steam Mill Street housing
  3. Bathurst Street / Druitt Street
  4. Bourke Street / BOOS branch
  5. Bourke Street Ramp (John Palmer’s Farm and terrace housing)
  6. Riley Street / Woolloomooloo stormwater drain
  7. Craigend Street


Of these areas, only the remains of Barker’s Mill were substantial, although only a small section of the mill building was impacted by the works. The other main area of interest, the 19th-century workers’ housing centred on Steam Mill Street adjacent to the mill, turned out to have been severely disturbed by later buildings and the creation of 1980s Darling Harbour.

The archaeological testing and monitoring for this project was carried out at various times over 2002 and 2003. Archaeological investigation and recording of the impacted section of Barker’s Mill occurred between 1 March to 16 March 2004. A public open day for Barker’s Mill was held on Saturday 13 March 2004.

Historical Background

The mill, later known as Barker’s Mill, was founded by the businessmen Cooper & Levey in 1825, when they imported a 14 horse-power steam engine and began to build a mill on the eastern shore of Cockle Bay, with the intention of grinding grain. In 1827 Thomas Barker bought Cooper and Levey’s flour mill. In the mid-1840s, Barker diversified into cloth milling.

In May 1872, Barker & Co’s Tweed Manufactory, which was housed in the older mill building, was destroyed by fire, although the flour mill survived. The old mill building was replaced by a single-storey stone building with saw-tooth roof and basement. In 1879 Barker & Co. sold the mill, to Robert Harper & Co., importers, millers and dressers of coffee and various spices as well as oat and maize meal. The new activities required new structures such as circular roasting kilns.

The mill functioned into the middle of the 20th century, although the old buildings were whittled away by new development and new roads. Two walls were identified as belonging to the old mill in 1986 during the planning for the redevelopment of Darling Harbour and were recorded at that time.


Barker’s Mill
At Barker’s Mill, sections of the one metre thick northern, middle and southern wall of the mill building were uncovered. These walls correspond to the original 1820s mill, with the 1830s addition on its southern side. A timber-lined pit was located in the western half of the northern mill building, presumably associated with cloth manufacturing. A segment of millstone was also found. Concrete pads and machine-made brick walls from later buildings were evident on both sides of the mill.

Steam Mill Street housing
The area to the north and west of Barker’s Mill had been 19th-century workers’ terraces. However no remains of the 19th-century housing were found during archaeological investigations, as most of the area had been severely impacted by later Darling Harbour.

Bathurst Street / Druitt Street
The external sandstone and machine-made brick footings of a hotel on the northwest corner of Bathurst and Day Streets were uncovered and recorded.


Casey & Lowe undertook this excavation for Baulderstone Hornibrook Bilfinger Berger (BHBB) Cross City Tunnel Joint Venture.


The excavation photographs used in this report are by Tony Lowe. Other photographs and plans in the attached reports are from the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, NSW Land Titles Office (now NSW LPI), NSW State Records, University of Sydney Archives and Mr Andrew Wilson.

Related Pages and Projects

Darling Walk.


Cross City Tunnel & Barkers Mill