Public stairways

There are some 14 sets of finely crafted stone stairs in the inner Sydney area which give access up and over the high ridges which surround Sydney Cove, with many more to be found in and around the city's older suburbs. The inner city network of lanes and stairs made of local sandstone is still the quickest way to get around.


The quarrymen cut the radiant Sydney sandstone and those who fashioned it for use in building and road construction were the stonemasons. The Renaissance saw stonemasonry return to the prominence and sophistication of the Classical age. Colonial Sydney aspired to such grandeur. The buildings of colonial Sydney were literally hewn from the city's bedrock. They found in the yellow Hawkesbury sandstone of the Sydney basin the ideal material from which to build the city. It was of a high quality and easy to work. In the first 100 years of its settlement, Sydney yielded 4.5 million tons of sandstone for walls, gutters, homes, buildings, churches, gateposts and cathedrals. Stonemasons were the first workers in Australia to win the 8-hour working week and for this reason always march first in May Day processions.

Prior to the 1850's, most heavy work was carried out with the aid of draft animals or hired labour. The arrival of steam power and subsequently the internal combustion engine meant that many of the harder aspects of the trade were simplified but the Master Mason's skill and ability to carve and shape stone remains substantially unchanged.

The Rocks and Millers Point Stairs

Merriman Stairs

Agar Steps

Caraher Stairs

Playfair Stairs

Links to Stairs in Woolloomooloo and Victoria St Kings Cross / Potts Point (former Darlinghurst Ridge)
Three stairways connect Brougham Street in Woollomooloo to Victoria Street: McElhone Stairs (1904), Hordern Stairs (1882) and Butler Stairs (1869).

Typically, these well-used stairs give good views towards the city and harbour.

Butler Stairs

McElhone Stairs

The Mick Fowler commemorative plaque is at the top of McElhone Stairs. on McElhone Stairs leading down to Woolloomooloo reads: “Memorial Plaque/to/Mick Fowler/Seaman, Musician & Green Bans Activist/ 1927-1979/For his gallant stand against demolition / of workers homes with the Builders /Labourers Federation Green Bans/ They were hard old days, they were battling days they were cruel but then in spite of it all, Victoria Street will see low income housing for workers again from his friends.

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