During his presentation at the 2012 National Trust Forum on Innovation and Invention Mr Bill Jordan introduced us to a convict era tunnel dating from around 1816 that lies beneath Church Street, Newcastle (Australia).
He believes that it is the oldest example of Australian civil engineering works still in use to this day and quite significant. The convict hewn tunnel was used to drain the water from convict era mines out through the cliff face on south Newcastle Beach. It is still in operation to this day and displays sophisticated hydraulic knowledge in its construction and design.
Under the southern edge of Church Street, Newcastle, running between Newcomen and Watt Streets, outside the Courthouse and Police Station, runs a circular drainage culvert, built from two rings of brickwork.
Examination of the bricks and mortar used indicates that it dates from about the middle of the 19th century.
The downstream end of the brick culvert discharges into a hewn rock tunnel, of similar size, which discharges from the cliff face above South Newcastle Beach.
The hewn rock tunnel is believed to have been excavated by convict labour around 1816 to provide drainage for one of the first shaft mines established in Newcastle in the grounds of what is now the James Fletcher Hospital.
Sometime around 2008 a robot camera was sent through the tunnel to ascertain the level of maintenance repairs required to the convict structure.