Nepean Naval and Maritime Museum

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Newington Armory


Newington Armory Entrance
Newington Armory Entrance built in 1897

Newington Armament Depot was the Royal Australian Navy's Sydney armament depot from Colonial times through to the development of the Athlete's Village for the 2000 Olympics.

Military magazine - The Sydney Morning Herald in October 1875 reported the recommendations of a Board appointed by the Government of the Colony into the removal of the Goat Island magazine. The second recommendation was That a separate and distinct magazine for merchant's gunpowder, capable of storing about 300 tons, be established on the right bank of the Parramatta River.

The site houses an array of small workshop buildings, each surrounded by protective earth-works. The design purpose is to limit the size of an explosion and direct the blast away from other areas.  This one was dedicated to the maintenance of hand grenades.

In May 1876, the Herald reported that the Government had set aside 3,700 pounds to purchase land on the Parramatta River at Newington, but it was not until 1882 that the land was finally acquired. Construction at the site did not commence until 1897, but it was by then intended to be a military magazine rather than a magazine for civilian merchant's gunpowder as originally envisaged in 1875.
The Government Gazette of 18 June 1895 recorded the formation of: Ordnance Store Corps: C (Ordnance) Branch of the Military Secretary's Department, now a civil branch, to be converted into an Ordnance Store Corps.

Corps comprised No 1 Gun Wharf Section with a Deputy Assistant Commissary General of Ordnance, a Lieutenant and Quartermaster, three Conductors of Stores and one Sergeant Artificer; while No 2 Magazine Section was composed of one Conductor of Stores and three Privates; and No 3 Armourer's Section was composed of a Lieutenant and Quartermaster, with one Armourer Sergeant and two Privates. These appointments were filled by members of the permanent military forces.  Newington Magazine finally commissioned in 1898.

At Federation, the New South Wales Military Forces were subsumed into the new Commonwealth military forces, and in 1902, the military staff of the Magazine, then a Sergeant and three Gunners, were transferred to the new Commonwealth Ordnance Stores Corps.

Royal Australian Navy - The Military Magazine, as it was then known, remained in support of the Army until 1921, when it was transferred to the Department of Navy, to supplement the explosives storage available at the RAN Ordnance Depot at Spectacle Island. All ships remaining in Sydney harbour for more than 24 hours were required to de-ammunition, with the ordinance being carried up the Parramatta River to Newington.

Missiles and torpedoes now on public display.

During the 1920's and 1930's it operated as a sub-depot of Spectacle Island and was gradually expanded to enable mass-detonating explosives, and later all explosives to be removed from Spectacle Island to Newington.

World War II - During World War II the depot expanded greatly by the acquisition of private property under emergency powers, including the Carnarvon Golf Course and the New South Wales State Brickyards. During the early part of the Pacific War, an independent US Navy ammunition depot was built within the depot; and during the later part, additional storehouses were built as part of our contribution to support the British Pacific Fleet.

Post-war - During the mid-1950's the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments agreed that storage of mass-detonating explosives should be transferred to the sub-depot at Kingswood (later RAN Armament Depot, Kingswood) and this occurred progressively from about 1957. RAN Newington continued to store other categories of explosives, and remained the focal point for transshipment of ammunition between road and water, through the attached Newington Wharf.

During the mid-1970's the closure of the depot was first raised in connection with a proposal to hold the World Student Games in Sydney. In 1987, operational difficulties resulting from the adoption of new NATO Safety Principles for the Storage of Explosives focused navy and government attention on the need to relocate the depot to a less populated site. By this time the site was housing torpedoes and missiles, a far cry from the original intention to store gunpowder.

In March 1994 it was announced that the depot would close to allow the 2000 Olympic Games to be held at the adjacent Homebush Bay, and in 1996 the RAN started to empty the site. The RAN finally vacated the depot in December 1999 with the last ammunition operation conducted over the wharf on 14 December of that year.

An electric train moving torpedoes and other naval ordinance.