According to members of the St Marys Historical Society (1) five sawmills were located on the eastern side of St Marys Railway Station. Three of these are believed to have been located on the northern side of the line, in the area opposite the intersection of Lethbridge and Station Streets, and the other two on the southern side of the line between Lethbridge Street and the Railway Station. All of the mills are believed to have been located between the main line and the flanking roads and to have been linked to that line by railway sidings (2).
No documentary evidence has been found to confirm the use of this area for sawmills, although the only photograph of a St Marys mill shows that it was located on a railway siding . The precise location of the individual mills is unknown.
Historical Information Relating to the Development & Layout of the Site
It has been established that sawmilling was an industry that probably owed its existence to the development of the railway in the early 1860s. However, little information has been found about the establishment and operation of these yards other than occasional references to the number of mills, the effects of weather and the dwindling supply of timber (3). All of these references date from after the commencement of the local newspaper, the Nepean Times, in the early 1880s.
Possibly the most important documentary evidence about the operation of these yards is provided by an undated photograph held by the Penrith City Library and titled ‘Firewood Factory and Workers, St Marys’ (4). This shows a rough timber framed shelter with a corrugated iron, gabled roof protecting a steam boiler and an adjoining lean-to shelter protecting the circular saw bench. A horse-drawn wagon of unsawn timber stands to one side of the shed and a railway wagon loaded with sawn firewood stands on an adjacent siding. The shed is small and crude in its construction and is unlikely to have survived for long after its use was discontinued.
This photograph confirms that the site conformed very closely to the standard plan of a sawmilling establishment of the period . It is presumed that all of the mills were of a similar nature.
Physical Evidence Identified by Site Inspection
There are no standing structures associated with the use of this area for saw-mills and a site inspection revealed no evidence of archaeological remains.
Potential Archaeological Evidence
The documentary evidence indicates that the mills were ephemeral in character. Traditionally these types of establishments removed most, and probably all, structures and relics related to their occupation before they moved on to new sites. It may therefore be concluded that the mills would have left little, if any, evidence of their occupation.
In addition to the limited initial impact of the industry on the landscape one major factor has probably influenced the retention or otherwise of archaeological evidence. Later re-development of the area believed to have encompassed these mills has involved extensive modifications related to the construction of additional railway lines and, on the northern side of the line, new industrial buildings.
On the basis of the archival evidence and site inspection, it may be concluded that no significant remnants of the works would remain in the area as archaeological features.
There are no standing structures related to the development of sawmills at St Marys and no significant archaeological evidence is likely to exist on these sites.
- Nepean Times, 24 March 1906 – “With regard to wood cutting, any time this last 15 or 20 years it has been reckoned the supply was cut out. But still the wood cutter lives …. Mr G. Turner, jnr, has two sawmills constantly going in the railway yard. So the industry cannot be (lead)
- Mr Len Stapleton and Mr Bert Evans
- According to the archivist no information is held by the NSW State Railway Archives which will help to identify the location of these sidings
- Nepean Times, various issues