DIG’S HIS­TORIC SHIP­PING NEWS

RARE RELIC UN­EARTHED AT METRO SITE

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - News - ROSE BREN­NAN

BUILD­ING for Syd­ney’s fu­ture has un­cov­ered a re­mark­able find from the city’s past.

Dur­ing ex­ca­va­tion for a Metro rail­way sta­tion at Baranga­roo, work­ers found a 180-year-old tim­ber boat — be­lieved to be the old­est of its kind ever un­earthed in NSW, and per­haps Aus­tralia.

The arte­fact is be­ing painstak­ingly stud­ied at the site so it can be prop­erly pre­served.

The boat is be­lieved to have been there since the 1830s and be­longed to Wil­liam Lang­ford, a con­vict who landed in Aus­tralia from Eng­land in 1822.

In the 1850s, the area was a small beach be­tween Cuth­bert’s ship­yard and Lang­ford’s pri­vate wharf, where old boats were stored to be re­cy­cled.

A stone sea­wall dat­ing from the 1850s was also found, built into the boat, and is thought to be a rem­nant of the Lang­ford house, which stood at the base of Clyde St.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists sus­pect that the boat was stripped and left to be buried in the sand 10 to 20 years be­fore the sea­wall was built.

Mar­itime ar­chae­ol­o­gist Cos­mos Coro­neos, who is work­ing to pre­serve the 9m-long, 3m-wide and 1m-deep boat, be­lieves it could be the old­est in Aus­tralia.

“This small ves­sel was de­signed to take on the big seas but not ex­pected to have a long work­ing life,” he said. “We think it would have been like a ute of its time — it was a small-type boat that zipped around pick­ing up bits of cargo, tak­ing own­ers to church across the Har­bour, maybe gone up and down the coast a bit.

“Who­ever con­structed it had a lot of wood avail­able to them but the qual­ity of the work­man­ship isn’t that great as some of the frames are bent wrong. The mar­itime guys were mar­vel­ling, say­ing ‘I’ve never seen any­thing so roughly built’.”

Di Lowen­thal, 75, a dis­tant rel­a­tive of Wil­liam Lang­ford, trav­elled from Ho­bart to see her an­ces­tor’s boat last month. “It was just amaz­ing, I was ab­so­lutely thrilled,” she said. “This is just part of the big jig­saw puz­zle, it’s part of his­tory — not just our fam­ily’s — and I think that’s won­der­ful.”

It is be­lieved Wil­liam Lang­ford and his brother Thomas were both sent to Syd­ney as con­victs af­ter they were caught steal­ing pork on the docks of Lon­don.

They later started a rep­utable boat­build­ing busi­ness at what is now Baranga­roo, which was then a heav­ily in­dus­tri­alised wharf area, and the fam­ily lived at the site for two gen­er­a­tions.

Trans­port Min­is­ter An­drew Con­stance said the boat was a re­mark­able dis­cov­ery. “We’re build­ing Syd­ney’s trans­port fu­ture but at the same time we’re able to get a glimpse into Syd­ney’s long-lost past,” he said.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists at work on the an­cient boat found dur­ing con­struc­tion of a Syd­ney Metro sta­tion. Pic­tures: Toby Zerna

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