A recent post to the blog raised some questions which I thought might be asked by others, so here is my attempt to answer them.
Q. How and when did the the main spill of bricks get on to the centre of the beach?
A. There appear to have been so many bricks in the main gully that over time, some found their way on to the beach. However the current massive deposition occurred after a violent storm on Sunday 24 January 1999. The 74 millimeters of rain which fell in the area in the space of three hours appears to have saturated the soil beneath the dumped bricks, leading to a landslide which saw them washed on to the beach. (Souther Courier newspaper (SC) 2/2/1999)
Q. Why weren’t they cleaned up?
A. A spokesman for the Prince Henry Hospital, which at the time was responsible for the beach, said “the hospital accepted responsibility for the spillage and would ensure the bricks were removed”. He stressed that the bricks would be removed and that the hospital saw itself as responsible for cleaning up the beach and the bay. (SC 9/2/99)
However by late February, the hospital was less motivated to remove the bricks and was speculating that they had been on the beach for many years and that the storm had merely exposed them by removing their covering of sand. (SC 23/2/1999)
In late March, the hospital released information from a report it had commissioned from the Department of Land and Water Conservation. This report set out to investigate the origin of the bricks and why they had found their way on to the beach. The hospital stated that consultants would be engaged to advise on the removal of the bricks (SC 30/3/1999). However nothing was ever done.
Q. Where did the bricks come from and what were the used for before they were dumped?
A. There are a number of answers to this question.
Firstly, some bricks were from old Prince Henry hospital buildings that had been demolished. For example, many of the bricks in the northern creek and spilling on to the northern beach are probably from the Leper Hospital (lazaret) whose buildings ran along both banks of this creek. The lazaret was demolished in 1966. Judging by their appearance, many of the bricks in the main deposit were also from old hospital buildings.
Secondly, if you look carefully at the edges of the golf course where it meets the cliff faces of the beach, you will notice that in many places bricks are partly exposed. This indicates that landfill, including bricks, was used to shape the golf course. As retaining walls were never built to hold this landfill in place, it was inevitable that some of these bricks found there way on to the beach.
It is also possible that other bricks, in the main gully and elsewhere on the site, were from buildings elsewhere (especially the city). I have been told that many years ago, when the previous generation brick buildings in the city were being replaced by the modern tall steel and concrete structures, corrupt officials and politicians allowed demolition contractors to dump building materials over the cliff in various locations along the coast south of Maroubra. If you explore some of the coastline south of Little Bay, you will notice that there are other locations where bricks have been dumped.
A long term resident of the area told me that as recently as the 1980s, he saw trucks dumping rubbish over the cliffs at Little Bay. He said that it was possible to get away with this because in those days, very few people other than recreational fishermen used the beach. The Souther Courier of 28 January 1987 reported complaints, including a petition, from local residents who believed Randwick Council itself was dumping soil and rubble at Little Bay.
Certainly, this part of Sydney, being the least densely populated part of the Eastern Suburbs has a long history of being used as a landfill rubbish dump. For example, the Pioneers Park area at Malabar (Anzac Parade, Cromwell St and Franklin Street) was used as a landfill dump site from the 1940s to the early 1960s.
It is worth noting that Randwick City Council’s 2008/2009 Draft Capital Works program provides for two major landfill remediation projects:
* Frenchman’s Bay Reserve – remediation of former landfill site ($2,300,000)
* Yarra Bay landfill remediation – post-closure monitoring of former landfill site ($15,000).
Q. Are the bricks there to stop erosion from the water coming from the cliff?
A. Definitely not. Some of the bricks were used as landfill to shape the golf course. The rest were dumped over the cliffs and in the gully by people with no respect for their environment who did not want to bear the cost of having them disposed of properly.
Q. Are they heritage bricks?
A. Not in the sense that you shouldn’t take them. They are just old bricks. But if you feel they have a heritage character that would enhance your house or garden then that’s all the more reason to take some.