[NEW SOUTH WALES GOVERNMENT PHOTOGRAPHER, attributed]
Panoramic view of Trial Bay, New South Wales, late 1870s.
Albumen print photograph, 220 x 355 mm, laid down on split card (section of original album page), titled Trial Bay in manuscript in negative bottom right; a superb print with rich tonal range and great clarity, in fine condition (very short edge tear bottom left).
Rare early view of the settlement at Trial Bay on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, probably dating to around 1877 when work on the breakwater was commenced by prisoners from the purpose-built Trial Bay Gaol.
The photographer of this unusually wide large format view was almost cerainly commissioned by the New South Wales Department of Works; indeed, he could have been the New South Wales Government Photographer himself, John Sharkie. According to the SLNSW, the “Government Printing Office original negative archive is held at State Archives & Records Authority of New South Wales as NRS 21689 Images [Government Printing Office] & NRS 4481 Glass Negatives. State Library NSW holds a low resolution copy image only.”
Trove locates only one example of an albumen print of this significant image. That particular print forms part of an album held in the collection of the Blue Mountains Library, whose cataloguing notes are salient:
‘Trial Bay had been recognised as a safe shipping refuge from southerlies ever since its naming after the wreck of the Brig Trial in 1817. Between 1863 and 1866 some 90 ships and 243 lives were lost, forcing the NSW Colonial government to act. In 1870 Parliament voted £10,000 towards the construction of a breakwater to form a “harbour of safe refuge” at Trial Bay. The Trial Bay Gaol was established in 1876 as an experimental Public Works Gaol where the inmates would construct the breakwater. Although work started in 1877, it was not completed until 1886 due to difficulties in working the hard stone, inconsistent funding and contractual problems. This [i.e. the settlement in this photograph] may be a settlement that predates the gaol, although there is evidence of stone working in the right foreground. There is also a telegraph pole and wire on the slab building in the left foreground. The gaol ruins are situated on the headland well to the photo right. The photo date may be closer to the mid 1870s. The settlement appears strangely deserted. Format: albumen photoprint, title from album page.’