Paradise, Purgatory and Hellhole: a history of Pyrmont and Ultimo

19 March 2005 - 16 October 2006

This exhibition looks at the transformation of a place abundant in fresh water, game, oysters and fish valued by its Aboriginal inhabitants to the crowded, highly industrialised and distinctive suburbs of Pyrmont and Ultimo.

Close to the city and surrounded by deep harbours, the peninsula became a centre for major industry, manufacturing and shipping.

The sandstone quarries Paradise, Purgatory and Hellhole (named by the Scottish quarrymen who worked there in the 1850s and relating to the degree of difficulty in working the stone and its quality) shaped the early landscape of the peninsula and played a major role in its changing history.

By 1900, the area was providing Sydney with power for its lights and trams and was a major centre for the distribution of Australian wool, flour, milk, sugar and other foodstuffs.

Pyrmont and Ultimo were also home to a bustling working-class community; some of their stories of hard work, personal tragedy and triumph are told here.