Bare Island was named by Captain Cook when he referred in his journal to "...a small, bare island..."
The decision to build a fort on Bare Island was made in 1877 after a visit from two British military advisors, Major General Sir William Jervois and Lt-Colonel Peter Scratchley. Botany Bay was seen as the back door to Sydney making the city vulnerable to a seaborn attack. The construction of a fort at La Perouse reduced this vulnerability. Plans for the fort were drawn up by the Colonial Architects Department and tenders for construction were called for in 1880. The successful tender was by John McLeod and Co, who had also constructed the Georges Head and Middle Head batteries. With five gun emplacements and bomb proof connecting passages, Bare Island fort was completed in 1885 at a cost of 34,000 pounds. Construction costs well exceeded the original official cost estimate. Work on barracks inside the fort began in 1889.
In 1890 a Royal Commission found that the construction of Bare Island fort was faulty with the concrete being of an inferior quality - it had started falling down almost before construction had been completed. The Royal Commission was highly critical of the construction material - reluctant at times to refer to the material as concrete. Two clerks of the works, Henry Purkis and Edwin Colley, were responsible for inspecting the project and were found to be neglectful of their duties. The contractor was asked to repay a portion of monies paid to him, and was banned from future government contracts. The Colonial Architect Mr James Barnet was ultimately blamed for failing to oversee the construction and to restrict the amount of additional funds paid to the contractor.
By 1902 Bare Island was no longer part of coastline defences, with only a handful of military personnel manning the fort. In 1912 the barracks were converted into a nursing home for war veterans from the Crimea, Sudan and China campaigns. It continued in its role of home for war veterans until 1963 with the exception of the War years when it was occupied by garrison forces.
The Randwick District Historical Society became caretakers of the island in 1963 and established a Museum on the site. In 1967 the National Parks and Wildlife Service took control and the fort was declared a historic site.
List of References
- A Randwick Ramble, Randwick and District Historical Society, 1994 (LH919.441/RAN)
- Historic La Perouse (LH711.4/MUS)
- Ports of New South Wales December 1979, volume 2 number 7, pages 30-32.