Cockatoo Island Dockyard

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HM Dockyard, Cockatoo Island
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Part of East Indies Station (1857-1859)
Australia Station (1859-1913)
Garden Island, Sydney in Australia
TypeNaval Dockyard
Site information
OperatorRoyal Navy
Controlled byBoard of Admiralty
Site history
In use1857-1913
Installation information
OccupantsRoyal Navy East Indies, Australia Division
Royal Australian Navy

Cockatoo Island Dockyard or formally His Majesty's Dockyard, Cockatoo Island was first developed by the Board Of Admiralty as a Royal Naval Dockyard beginning in 1857. It was initially a repair and resupply base of the East Indies Station then later Australia Station. The yard was initially managed by the Board of Admiralty and operated by the East Indies Station's Australia Division and finally the Royal Australian Navy until 1913 when it was renamed the Commonwealth Naval Dockyard, Cockatoo Island.


It was established by the colonial Government of New South Wales, commencing operations in December 1857 with the opening of Fitzroy Dock. Planning had begun as early as May 1846, when Governor George Gipps had recommended the construction of a dry dock at Cockatoo Island to the British government to service the Royal Navy's East Indies Stations's Australia Division vessels. Construction had begun in 1851, with Captain Gother Mann as engineer-in-chief, and taken six years. Shipbuilding facilities, such as slipways and workshops, were also established, and the dockyard produced small vessels for the colonial government, in addition to its role servicing British government vessels. It was initially administered by the superintendent of the adjacent prison, but was operated by the Department of Harbours and Rivers from 1864. The main machine workshop was upgraded in the same year.

Fitzroy Dock was lengthened from 284 ft to 400 ft c. 1870, and extended for a second and final time to 475 ft in 1880. Numerous buildings were added to the site during the 1880's, including a Pump House, stores and accommodation for new machinery. It became apparent as early as 1870 that a larger dock would be needed due to the increasing size of ships, and Sutherland Dock was built from 1882 to 1890 at a cost of £267,825. Sutherland Dock, at 635 ft long and 84 ft wide, was said to be the largest dock in the world at completion. Its size allowed it to cater to the larger Royal Navy vessels.

Facilities at the shipyard were expanded significantly in the 1890's following the opening of Sutherland Dock, taking up a larger proportion of Cockatoo Island. Although the Federation of Australia took place in 1901, the New South Wales government remained in ownership of the dockyard. The dockyard was again extensively upgraded between 1904 and 1908, with the construction of a steel foundry, extension of existing workshops, construction of two new slipways, and additional steel-working facilities and cantilevered cranes.

The Royal Australian Navy was established in 1911. HMAS Warrego (D70), initially built in Glasgow but dismantled, shipped to Australia and reassembled at Cockatoo Island, became the first Australian naval vessel built there. It was still in New South Wales ownership at the time. Sutherland Dock was widened in 1911, and the biggest slipway on the dockyard, Slipway No. 1, was built in 1912, as well as a plate shop. In 1913 it was renamed Commonwealth Naval Dockyard, Cockatoo Island