Moruya Granite Quarry

Moruya Granite was of very fine quality and had already been used in buildings locally and in Sydney, namely the columns of Sydney GPO, the base of the Captain cook Statue in Hyde Park and the columns near the confessional in St Mary’s Cathedral.
When Dorman, Long & Company were looking for suitable material to face the piers and pylons of the planned Sydney Harbour Bridge, Moruya Granite was chosen because of its well-known quality, there was a plentiful supply and because of its location next to the Moruya River for loading the material onto boats. In the contract, there was a clause that stated that: “The State Government would provide, at Moruya, a quarry from which the granite for the bridge pylons could be taken, free of loyalty”.
John Gilmore, a Scottish stonemason, was appointed Manager of the Moruya Granite Quarry to oversee work. He left Scotland with his wife Mary and their nine children in September 1924 to travel by boat to Sydney.
In Sydney, Mr Gilmore inspected the site of where the bridge was to stand as well as taking in some of the sites of Sydney. After a week, the family boarded the smaller steamship the ‘Bermagui’ but because of rough weather, only made it as far as Batemans Bay. The family made the rest of the journey by Mr Chandler’s service car.
They arrived in Moruya on the 11th November 1924. It was Armistice Day and the Presbyterian Bizarre was also being held. The family met many of the townsfolk who would remain friends of the family for many years to come.
The first sod was turned on the 18th November 1924 and in a few months the clearing and levelling was in full swing and a fine face of rock was ready for the taking out of the dimensioned stone.
Mr Gilmore went straight out to inspect the quarry which he found it to be extremely overgrown. Before work could begin, it was necessary to clear the overburden using a horse and cart.
Dorman Long’s Managing Director, Mr Martin, the chief Engineer, Mr Blake and other head office staff came down to Moruya from Sydney to hear what Mr Gilmore thought of the prospects and to plan the layout of the mason’s sheds, office, engine room and the first railways to be laid down when clearing and levelling were finished.
All the machinery was sent down by Illawarra Steamships until Dorman Long’s own three ships were finished being built.
250 employees of 13 different nationalities worked at the quarry in a variety of positions. Mostly there were stonemasons, quarrymen and labourers. There was a shortage of skilled stonemasons in Australia so they were brought in from Scotland and Italy.
They came to Australia with their families, so Dorman Long also built a small village that became known as Granite town. It consisted of simple houses, bachelor’s quarters, a post office, a store, a hall and a school. At the peak of the work the population at Granite town reached 300.
Work drew to a close in early 1932. The quarry was closed the cottages and buildings in Granite town were sold.
In the seven years of quarrying at Moruya, 173,000 blocks of granite were used in the bridge to face the piers and pylons as well as 200,000 yards of crushed stone. Not one stone was rejected.
The Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney was also entirely dressed and lettered in Moruya. Its base block is 7 tons and it consists of 23 blocks in the pedestal.