If you didn’t know it was here, you’d walk right past this subterranean garden on busy Oxford Street. It’s only small and is set below street level, so it’s easily missed. However if you’re in the area, it’s worth a quick stop.
Stairs lead down to a small but beautiful sunken garden and pond which is set in the preserved ruins of an old 19th century reservoir.
Ferns, flowers and green leafy plants are planted around the remnants of historic walls and brick vaults. The empty water chambers have also been retained and you can peer through into the cavernous spaces. Elevated boardwalks allow you to look down upon the whole thing.
It is reminiscent of ancient Roman ruins. Whilst it’s on a much, much smaller scale, you can almost imagine yourself at the Roman Forum.
The reservoir is an interesting part of Sydney’s early history. Fresh water was always a problem in the new colony. Right from the start the search for a reliable and permanent supply of clean water had plagued the colony.
Throughout the 1800s, reservoirs and dams were being constructed. The Paddington Reservoir was built in 1866 and as the city expanded and demand increased, a second chamber was added in 1877 to ensure a holding capacity of 2 million gallons. Unfortunately the location wasn’t elevated enough and by 1899, the reservoir was decommissioned.
Later it was converted into a garage workshop and later a service station, until 1990 when the old roof finally collapsed, forcing the whole thing to be closed. Finally in 2006, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer were taken on to create a public space and garden on the site.
* Entry is free.
* For anyone with mobility issues or pushchairs, there is an elevator at the back of the garden area.