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Prospect, New South Wales

Last Updated: 21st Feb 2017

By Keith Compton


The Prospect Hill area is located in the County of Cumberland which is approximately 29kms due West of the city of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Over the years the operations at Prospect Hill have comprised several quarries: Emu Quarry (being owned by the Emu Boulder Company which was formed in 1883 which was later amalgamated with the Emu & Prospect Gravel & Road Metal Co. Ltd in 1901) [1], Styles Quarry (also known as Styles Blue Metal Quarry), Reservoir Quarry, Widemere Quarry (sometimes referred to as Prospect No. 2 Quarry) and Prospect Quarry (Prospect No.1 Quarry, which was also formerly NSW Associated Quarry - as it was owned by NSW Associated Blue Metal Quarries Limited and later to be owned by Blue Metal Industries Limited - BMI and then Boral Limited).

The geo co-ordinates for Prospect Hill are approximately: 33° 49' 24"S 150° 55' 4"E.

Prospect Quarry Aerial view looking North – date unknown but probably early 1970s


The basic geology of the area, originally called Prospect Hill, is that of Early Jurassic or Middle Jurassic picrite [2] (commonly referred to as dolerite) laccolith (a dome shaped igneous intrusion between rock stratum). Williams and Carr [3] indicate that Prospect Hill is one of a number of Mesozoic intrusions "emplaced into the Sydney Basin sequence at the junction of the Triassic, fluvial Hawkesbury Sandstone and overlying shallow-marine Ashfield Shale".

There have been numerous descriptions of Prospect Hill as comprising: prospect dolerite, or prospect teschenite, but quarrying over the years has revealed that the material is predominantly coarse grained picrite with olivine-dolerite and dolerite.

The locality comprises an area approximately 2.5 kms by 1.4 kms and rises some 60 metres above the surrounding local area. The associated rock stratum comprises Hawkesbury Sandstone and lacustrine Ashfield Shale (a member of the Wiannamatta group of shales).

Wilshire described Prospect Hill as “an annular teschenite intrusion which has invaded the Triassic Wianamatta shale. The outer oval shaped part of the intrusion has discordant contacts and rises about 75 feet above the central part which is occupied by a sill approximately 250 feet thick and which is overlain by 20 to 70 feet of shale” [4].

Early Quarry Visitors

It is interesting to note that there are three significant early geologists who visited Prospect Hill and it is also interesting to note the connections between the three. It should be pointed out that when these geologists visited Prospect Hill, Sydney was still in its infancy with military rule (albeit for the English Crown) and where convict labour abounded. In fact the first European inhabitants of Prospect Hill were convicts. Governor Phillip first settled 12 convicts on the slopes of Prospect Hill in 1791[5]. Rock from Prospect Hill was quarried from around the early 1820s for road construction throughout the Sydney area.

Charles Darwin
The famous naturalist and geologist, Charles Darwin (1809-1892) visited Prospect Hill. At first I was sceptical of this claim. There are some references stating that in 1832, Charles Darwin visited Prospect Hill to observe the dolerite [6]. This cannot be so as Darwin was in South America at that time. I also have seen comments such as “this visit is mentioned by Darwin in his book [diary], The Voyage of the Beagle” [7]. However, the Voyage of the Beagle (1839) does not appear to contain any reference to Prospect Hill. Darwin's visit to Prospect Hill is also not mentioned in the second edition of his "Journal of Researches into the Natural History and of the Countries visited during the Voyage of the HMS Beagle Round the World" published with corrections in London in 1845.

Charles Darwin after his return from his Beagle voyage

Darwin, aged 26, recorded in his journals that three days after his arrival in Sydney in January (i.e.: on 16 January 1836) he headed to Bathurst on horseback. It was Darwin's practice on his Beagle trip to always head inland to view the natural geology, nature and people wherever he went. He took with him one unnamed companion as a guide. He actually left his usual companion (man servant) Syms Covington in Sydney. He rode from Sydney to Parramatta (now a city and which is very close to Prospect) and then rode to and stayed overnight at Emu ferry [8], some 35 miles or 56.3 kms from Sydney and 26 kms West of Prospect).

On 18 January 1836 Darwin arrived at Wentworth Falls, some 113 kms from Sydney. Given the fact that the road through the Blue Mountains would have been relatively difficult terrain despite a "well cut dirt road suitable for phaetons" (open four wheeled-horse drawn carriages), stage coaches and the like - in fact he even states that he saw two on the road to Parramatta) it would have been an arduous journey on horseback. The road was essentially a dirt track 12 feet (3.7 m) wide by 101½ miles (163 km) long, built between 18 July 1814 to 14 January 1815 using 30 convict labourers and 8 guards [9]. This road, interestingly enough, was also a toll road. Darwin's trip was made during a hot Summer, on horseback, with limited supplies and he had daytime temperatures of around 35C to 46C (in fact Darwin records that when he reached Bathurst "half roasted with the intense heat" he "heard the thermometer stood at 119[F]" [48C].

Darwin mentions that whinstone (blue metal) was used in road construction in the [Sydney] area and that this was sourced a few miles from Parramatta. But this hardly indicated or proved that he visited Prospect Hill. Darwin would have returned from Bathurst to Sydney on the same road, and again through the Prospect area between 22nd and 30th January 1836. Yet again there is no mention of Prospect Hill in his Sydney diary.

The following comments by Darwin are included in "Some Brief Notices on the Geology of Australia and the Cape of Good Hope" [10]

“My opportunities of observation consisted of a ride of ninety geographical miles to Bathurst, in a W.N.W. direction from Sydney. The first thirty miles from the coast passes over a sandstone country, broken up in many places by trap-rocks, and separated by a bold escarpment overhanging the river Nepean, from the great sandstone platform of the Blue Mountains. This upper platform is 1000 feet high at the edge of the escarpment, and rises in a distance of 25 miles to between 3000 and 4000 feet above the level of the sea. At this distance, the road descends to a country rather less elevated, and composed in chief part of primary rocks.“

These comments about "trap-rocks" may allude to Prospect Hill or to several other volcanic outcrops, but it is certainly unclear from this diary that he actually visited the site.

Throughout Darwin’s diaries he provides copious comments on the geological formations in the Blue Mountains and Bathurst but no mention of Prospect Hill which was afterall the highest landform between Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

In a publication about Darwin [11] it is suggested that “it is almost certain that Darwin would have carried with him an up-to-date map of the colony, most likely the 1834 map compiled by the explorer Major T L Mitchell, who had been the Surveyor-General since 1828. In addition to a map, it is most likely that he also took a copy of the 1835 New South Wales Calendar and General Post office Directory; which contained a detailed itinerary of the trip to Bathurst”. In other words the itinerary that Darwin took with him was essentially a guide map that any member of the public could use and not one created for, or by, Darwin. There is a reference in that 1835 Calendar which refers simply to the soils of Prospect Hill but again this does not indicate that Darwin used the map to actually visit the site. This was a guide map that essentially gave names and addresses of people living along the route, used for delivering mail and with a few notes to assist the user. I thought perhaps that by Darwin having this itinerary may have been the reason that it was believed that Darwin visited Prospect.

Given that Darwin certainly at least passed through the area, and given his knowledge of geology I considered it highly probable that he would have visited the quarry. Particularly, given the significance of the site at that time; the fact that materials from here were used in road construction; and the geological significance of the dolerite outcrops, it is a surprise that it was not mentioned by Darwin in his diaries if he in fact visited the site.

I also noted that there was no specific mention of Darwin visiting the site in Darwin’s “Volcanic Islands” [12] publication which also discussed much about Australian geology.

At this point I remained unconvinced that Darwin had visited Prospect Hill.

However, my further research indicated that Darwin did in fact visit Prospect Hill. In yet another of Darwin's notebooks, "Notes on the Geology of places visited during the Voyage" [13], Darwin states: "At Prospect Hill the sandstone country is intermitted by a mass of Trappean rocks, the quarry which I saw consisted of a black Basalt(?)[Darwin's question mark was presumably because he was not sure if it was basalt or dolerite; basalt being finer grained than dolerite] the structure of which was roughly prismatic. I imagine, but have no proof that this has burst through the Sandstone." At last, it was clear that Darwin did in fact visit the quarry, although it remains unclear as to whether this was on his outward journey to, or return journey from, Bathurst.

One possible reason for limited notes on the quarry was the fact that the workers at the quarry at that time would most likely only have been convicts and under guard. In 1834 there were around 1000 convict chain gangs in New South Wales, many of which were engaged in the construction of the roads and bridges throughout the colony. Some points about the use of convicts in Sydney at that time are worth noting.

In the text "Convict Life New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land" by Bathurst C., [14] it is reported that: "Mr. Surveyor Mitchell, [who had been responsible for later widening the road to Bathurst in the 1830s also using convict labour] who had an intimate knowledge of the gangs and their working in the newer portions of the country, and especially on the Blue Mountains, when giving evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons, said that the working [of convicts] in irons did not destroy the utility of the labour, because the men were kept on those portions of the road where the force had to be concentrated, cutting through rocks and mountains, etc. Generally there was one overseer to about every fifteen men. There was a rule under an Act of Parliament empowering an overseer to punish a refractory convict to the extent of 20 lashes, but usually they were supposed to report to the nearest magistrate, who ordered the flogging.

The gangs were kept to work under a strict military guard during the day, and were liable to flogging for the slightest offence, silence being interpreted obstinacy and a look insolence, according to the state of the gastric juices of the overseer. In some of the stockades the prisoners were locked up at night in caravans or boxes good enough only for savage dogs, in which they could neither stand upright nor sit down except with their legs at right angles to their bodies. In some instances there was not more than a space of 18 inches in width for each man to lie down upon, bare boards being his bed. Hear what Rev. Dr. Ullathorne says about these kennels: "The evil result (numbers being confined together) is much greater in chain gangs, for particular reasons, than in road gangs. One reason is, the degradation arising from their being in chains, and from the distinguishing dress of degradation; but another very serious evil is their being packed very closely together at night after their work is over. I remember once visiting a chain gang near Parramatta, on a Sunday, for the purpose of administering religious consolation, and when I came to the gang I found a series of boxes, and when the men were turned out I was astonished to find the numbers that were turned out of these boxes; I could not have supposed that these boxes could have held such a number; I found that they were locked up there during the whole of the Sunday; likewise during the whole of the time from sunset to sunrise. On looking into those boxes I found that there was a ledge on each side, and that the men were piled upon the ledges and others below upon the floor, and I believe from the bringing together of such numbers of men, heated as they are and excited, the consequences are of a very immoral kind. As I left the colony in haste, I put a question to a clergyman, who has had much experience there, as to the space allowed to each convict in those boxes; the answer given was, that the average was about 18 inches each man, but they varied considerably. He stated to me at the same time that in the hulks he believed it was not more than 19 inches, and that they were so closely piled, some 10 or 14 being put in a small cell, that they had not room to lie on their backs and were obliged to lie sideways."

Darwin certainly would have seen many such convict road gangs and as the quarry used convict labour, he may well have been limited as to the amount of time that he could spend at Prospect Hill. When compared to Darwin's educated and privileged background he also may not have wanted to be too close to the convicts. Darwin may also have been told by Government personnel not to write much comment on the convicts. He was after all mixing with high ranking officials (from the Governor down) and numerous persons of privilege. One of Darwin's notes on convicts reads "they are dressed in yellow and grey clothes, and working in Irons on the roads; they are guarded by sentrys with loaded arms [15].

It is worth noting that the transportation of convicts to New South Wales from England only ceased in 1849, well after Darwin's visit.

James Dwight Dana

James Dwight Dana

James Dana (1813–1895), an American geologist and mineralogist, arrived in Sydney in Summer on 29 November 1839 as part of a United States Exploring Expedition under the command of Charles Wilkes.

Dana obviously spent some time analysing material from Prospect Hill as evidence of his visit is included in Vol 10 of the United States Exploring Expedition [16].

Dana states that “[my] own excursions have enabled me to study rock in the Hunter Valley at Newcastle, and at Puenbuen [17], near Parramatta and Prospect hills, and at various points in Illawarra and the adjoining country towards Kangaroo Grounds [18].

Dana describes material from Prospect Hill variously as:
i "a dark bluish rock, finely porphyritic, with small points (not tables) of feldspar. It occurs at Prospect Hill .
ii A porphyritic basalt, in which the augite and feldspar are both distinct, and some of the crystals of the augite are a fourth of an inch long. It occurs at Prospect Hill.
iii the compact black basalt changes to a compact rock, with disseminated points of feldspar; next, to a porphyritic basalt, with distinct crystals of both augite and feldspar; and next, to the feldspar rock in which Augite is almost wholly wanting"[19].

Professor Paul Carr, in an article in the newsletter of the Mineralogical Society of New South Wales July 2011 [20] noted that “[i]n 1839-1842 the United States Exploring Expedition of six ships commanded by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes travelled all around the Pacific the U.S. Congress having decided that the nation should take on some leadership in the Pacific Ocean generally ‘showing the flag’ and also mapping coastlines. Accompanying the Expedition was James Dwight Dana, as one of the scientists. The Expedition came to Australia in December 1839 and arrived in Sydney late at night sailing into the Harbour in some disregard of regulations in place at the time due to concern over Russian ships entering. Dana disembarked and stayed for two months whilst the ships went down south to map some of the Antarctic coast. During the time that Dana was in Australia he travelled around a fair amount, down the Illawarra coast, through the Hunter Valley, and also visited Prospect. He collected a few samples which went back to America and whilst most of Dana’s samples would have been eventually sent to the Smithsonian Institute, to the speaker’s knowledge, no-one has been able to find any record of the Australian specimens”.

In my research of Dana's trip, I note from the records of that expedition, that one of the ships accompanying Dana on the United States Exploring Expedition was “The Peacock”. This ship carried all the scientific corps, including Dana [21]. This ship, in fact, came to grief on Dana's return journey to America when it ran aground in a fog and was wrecked and sank off the mouth of the Columbia River in July 1841. The crew escaped, including Dana, with their equipment and records. So perhaps those geological samples from Prospect Hill, to which Professor Paul Carr referred, were on that ship and they are now lying at the bottom of the mouth of the Columbia River!

William Branwhite Clarke
William Branwhite Clarke

Reverend Clarke (1798-1878) was a geologist and Church of England clergyman (ordained in 1823) who arrived in Australia in May 1839 to take up a church position. Clarke was the first trained geologist to settle in Australia and is referred to as the "father of geology" in Australia. While at Cambridge, Clarke had been a student of the noted geologist Professor Adam Sedgwick (under whom Darwin had also studied) and was made a fellow of the Geological Society of London in 1826. Clarke wrote much on the fossils and coal deposits of New South Wales. Clarke was the first person to find gold in-situ at Hartley near Bathurst, New South Wales, in 1841 and he was also the first to find tin in New South Wales in August 1849.

When Clarke heard that James Dana was in Australia he rode to Wollongong (60 miles or 97kms, South of Sydney) to meet up with him and then went on to accompany Dana throughout much of Dana's geological excursions in New South Wales. Clarke travelled with Dana to Toongabbie and Prospect Hill in January 1840 [22].

Clarke was later to be elected to the Royal Society of London in 1876 and it is worth noting that one of Clarke's sponsors to the Royal Society was none other than Charles Darwin.

Quarrying operations at Prospect

Quarrying was first carried out in a limited capacity by the Government from the early 1820s using primarily convict labour. The rock was used mainly for road construction and building purposes. Reservoir Quarry, located on the outside of the south-west corner of Prospect Hill, was the first major quarry opened in the 1880s with the aim of providing hard rock for the Prospect Reservoir which was to become, at that time, the main source of water for Sydney. The first commercial operation of the quarry was not made until 1883 when Sperring and Partner took over the operations from the Government.

In my research of quarry operations I note that at least one person has died as a direct result of quarrying. On 7 December 1898 at the Reservoir Quarry a group of three men were working the face of the quarry preparing drill holes for blasting about 25 feet above the quarry floor when a large stone of about 25cwt fell onto the three workers killing a Mr George Goodsell and resulting in another worker losing a leg [23].

In an 1898 text by Rev J Milne Curran" [24] there is a quote by Wilkinson on the state of quarrying at Prospect Hill as follows:
"On the south side of this hill a large quarry has been opened, immediately adjoining the site of the reservoir for the Sydney water supply. This quarry [the Reservoir quarry] has been abandoned, as road-metal can now be obtained nearer to Parramatta, but the rock on it being less jointed and more uniform in texture than that in any of the other quarries in the district could be hewn in large blocks, and would be suitable for making into slabs for paving-stones. For this purpose samples of the stone should be obtained, for I am of opinion that as regards cost of production and durability it might successfully compete with the basalt flag-stones imported from Melbourne, though the stone from Prospect is somewhat the harder of the two. On the west side of Prospect Hill, on the Lawson Estate, [this was William Lawson, a surveyor and lieutenant, who was one of the three explorers to make the first crossing of the Blue Mountains in May 1813] and also on the north side of the hill, in a small Reserve, some dense basalt is being quarried yielding good road-metal; it occurs in unlimited quantity." In fact the Lawson estate comprised 30 acres west of Prospect Hill, some 500 acres north-east of Prospect Hill and eventually his property was expanded to 3000 acres [25]. Lawson himself employed some 27 convicts on his estate.

The quarrying operations at Prospect Hill in 1901 were amalgamated with another small quarrying operation nearer Penrith (the Emu Boulder Company) and the quarry operator became known as the Emu & Prospect Gravel & Road Metal Co. Ltd.

In June 1902 a rail link to the Quarry from Toongabbie was finally completed. In 1903 The Emu and Prospect Road Gravel and Metal Company operated the Emu Quarry on the Northern side of Prospect Hill. This operation was subsequently purchased in 1919 by the New South Wales Blue Metal Company and in 1921 the company changed its name to New South Wales Associated Blue Metal Quarries Limited. The quarry then became known as Prospect Quarry. It appears that the rail line from the quarry to Toongabbie was closed in 1926.

In 1924 the City and Suburban Blue Metal Quarries, Proprietary Ltd., was formed to create the Widemere Quarry on the Southern side of Prospect Hill. This quarry had its own rail line which was constructed in 1925. This gave the quarry owners a competitive advantage in that it enabled the quarry to have ready access to the State’s rail network via an 8km rail line to the nearby town of Fairfield and enabled the company to deliver the crushed blue metal gravel throughout the Sydney basin.

In 1927, the New South Wales Government Railways (NSWGR) loaned the City and Suburban Blue Metal Quarries a 4-6-4 tank engine (No 3) for hauling the crushed blue metal. Later in 1927 the company purchased a second-hand Avonside 0-6-0 saddle tank steam engine from the South Maitland Railway Company. This engine was scrapped in 1934 and was allegedly destroyed in the quarry with a few well-placed explosive charges. A 2-6-2 steam engine (a converted 0-6-0 tender steam engine) was purchased from the NSWGR in 1933 and was used until the line's closure [26].

The Widemere Quarry rail line was closed in June 1945 apparently due to a shortage of rolling stock after the Second World War and all tracks were removed [27]. It should be noted that the steam trains used on the rail line were generally not suitable due to the relatively tight curves on the rail lines from the quarry thus limiting the size of locomotives that could be used and this further reduced the efficiency of using rail.

The majority of the crushed rock from the quarries has been transported via heavy trucks throughout the Sydney basin.

In 1935 Blue Metal & Gravel Limited (BMG) took over the quarrying operations.

Prospect Quarry 1934 (

In 1946 the Styles Blue Metal Co. Limited took out a lease on land to the west of Prospect Quarry from the State Government Water Board. This quarry, became known as Styles Quarry, and was later operated by the Ready Mixed Concrete Company.

Prospect Quarry 1945 Steam navvy loading a truck ( (I believe that this is possibly a Ruston No 4 Face Shovel)

In 1952 Blue Metal Industries Limited (BMI) was formed as a holding company to operate the quarry. The Prospect and Styles quarries were merged into one in 1967. This company was in turn bought out by Boral Limited in 1982 which operated the quarries until they closed in 2010.

The quarries at Prospect Hill have probably contributed more crushed rock (blue metal) for road and building construction in the Sydney region than any other similar locality in New South Wales (in some years over 2 million tonnes of crushed rock was produced). The quarries even produced most of the landfill for the Sydney Airport runway extension into Botany Bay in the mid 1960s.

Sadly, collecting from Prospect Hill has now come to an end. The quarries have now been remediated for light industrial/factory use. Some bench walls of the quarries have been retained and remain of geologic interest only.

The photographs below are of remnant quarry benches of the Prospect Quarry complex taken in an Easterly to South Easterly direction and show the development of the quarry floor for light industrial use.

Prospect Quarry
Prospect Quarry
Prospect Quarry
Prospect Quarry
Prospect Quarry
Prospect Quarry
Prospect Quarry
Prospect Quarry
Prospect Quarry

The photographs below are of the remnant quarry walls of Styles Quarry, taken in a westerly to north westerly direction.

Styles Quarry remnant benches
Styles Quarry remnant benches
Styles Quarry remnant benches
Styles Quarry remnant benches
Styles Quarry remnant benches
Styles Quarry remnant benches
Styles Quarry remnant benches
Styles Quarry remnant benches
Styles Quarry remnant benches

The following view is taken from Prospect Hill looking back to Sydney (29kms distant).

View from Prospect Hill looking East to Sydney


Each of the quarries was primarily known for its Prehnite specimens. However, there was also a wide assemblage of other minerals [28], including: Albite-Anorthite series, Analcime, Apatite, Apophyllite (KF) , Aragonite, Augite, Baryte, Biotite, Chabazite-Ca, Calcite, Chalcedony, Chlorite Group, Feldspar group, Gold, Halotrichite, Heulandite, Ilmenite, Laumontite, Leucite, Marcasite, Montmorillonite, Natrolite, Opal, Pectolite, Phillipsite, Pickeringite, Plagioclase, Pyroxene, Quartz, Siderite and Smectite group.


Prospect was famous for its world-class Prehnite. Mammillary and botryoidal masses of Prehnite were common. The colour variations included transparent white, pale to apple-green, bright yellow-green, honey-yellow, reddish brown, deep golden brown all the way through to black.

Prehnite & poker chip Calcite – Prospect Quarry (self collected 1968)
Prehnite on Dolerite with remnant Calcite – Prospect Quarry (self collected 1964)
Prehnite – Prospect Quarry

Prehnite – Prospect Quarry
Prehnite – Prospect Quarry

Prehnite – Prospect Quarry

Prehnite – Prospect Quarry

Prehnite on Dolerite with Chlorite (the underside has micro Pectolite and/or Natrolite(?) xls in small vughs) – Prospect Quarry

According to England [29], “surfaces of the Prehnite may be smooth and lustrous with no discernible crystal faces. However, more characteristic is the development of either randomly oriented or sub-parallel b{010} faces to 4 mm in length or globular masses of striated lenticular crystals to 4 cm in length, the latter predominating in the paler coloured varieties. Distinct, well formed crystals are rare but occasionally blocky euhedral crystals to 1 cm protrude from the globular Prehnite masses”.

Prehnite with micro to small blocky euhedral Prehnite xls with Calcite - Prospect Quarry (self collected)

The Prehnite is often covered with or encased in secondary Calcite from which the Prehnite is acid etched (I have use Oxalic acid successfully). Other commonly associated minerals are micro cubic Pyrite crystals, Analcime and Pectolite.

Prehnite on Dolerite (the underside has micro Natrolite xls in small vughs) – Prospect Quarry

Prehnite with micro cubic Pyrite – Styles Quarry


The most common zeolite found at Prospect was Analcime. The crytals are generally simple milk white trapezohedrons that are smaller than 1cm but they are known in sizes to 4cms.

Analcime – Prospect Quarry (self collected 1968)
Analcime – Prospect Quarry (self collected)
Analcime – Prospect Quarry (self collected 1968)
Analcime – Prospect Quarry (self collected)
Analcime – Prospect Quarry (self collected 1968)
Analcime – Prospect Quarry (self collected)


Pectolite was not a common mineral in the quarries and was generally found as compact masses of radiating fibrous crystals up to 10-12cm in seams and vughs. Sometimes the Pectolite created moulds over which Prehnite had formed although the attached photo shows the reverse with Pectolite encasing Prehnite.

Pectolite encasing Prehnite (RHS) - Prospect Quarry


Pyrite was generally found as micro cubic crystals sprinkled over Prehnite and Calcite. According to England [30] a section of the Ashfield Shale exposed in the floor of the Emu quarry (which later became the Prospect quarry) in the early 1900's produced roughly spherical groups of Pyrite crystals to 7 cm in diameter.

Pyrite showing cuboctahedral crystals with concave and distorted faces – Emu Quarry


Aragonite was an uncommon mineral from Prospect. According to the Australian Museum some violet strontian-Aragonite also had been found.

Aragonite: Prospect Quarry


Calcite was common at Prospect. It was often found as white fillings in vughs and seams. Calcite was found frequently as simple rhombohedra up to 5cm but dogtooth, nail-head and poker-chip forms were also frequently found. One of the first specimens I ever found (age 13) at Prospect was a small Calcite cleavage rhomb lying loose on the quarry floor.

Calcite: Prospect Quarry (self collected)

Calcite: Prospect Quarry

Calcite on Prehnite: Prospect Quarry

Other minerals

Pickeringite masses with minor Halotrichite - Prospect Quarry


Much of the Prehnite and associated minerals collected in the 1950s and in collections today may well be from the Styles Quarry and not Prospect Quarry. Specimens from Emu Quarry (pre 1920) are also usually simply labelled Prospect Quarry. There appears to be relatively few specimens in collections labelled from Styles Quarry as the area was simply regarded as “Prospect”. Given that most of the Prehnite was located in the upper levels of the quarries and that a good deal of Prehnite was collected in the 1950s some of these probably came from the Styles Quarry. It is also possible that specimens from older collections could have been labelled Toongabbie (being the nearest railway station in the 1900s) or even Parramatta (I have seen text references to Prospect Quarry near Parramatta). I have also seen specimens in collections labelled as from the BMI Quarry (simply referring to the ownership at the time) yet this was a combination of quarries held at the time so probably is not strictly valid.

It is virtually impossible to identify any specimen as being from any particular quarry within the complex as the mineralisation appears largely similar throughout each quarry. At the end of the day, unless known with absolute certainty, it is much safer to label specimens from here simply as being from “Prospect” or "Prospect Quarry" or “Prospect Quarries” (in a generative sense); such as:

"Prehnite, Prospect Quarries, Prospect Hill, Cumberland County, New South Wales, Australia".

Many collectors and museums (including the Australian Museum) also simply show the locality as "Prospect Quarry, Prospect, NSW". The reference in this case is to the suburb of Prospect.

It is also usual to abbreviate New South Wales to NSW. At the end of the day the locality is very well known and just saying that a specimen is from Prospect NSW is suffice to know that it is from this locality.

For my own collection, unless I know that the material is from one of the specific quarries I simply now use "Prospect Quarry, Prospect Hill, Prospect, Cumberland County, NSW".

Prospect now Pemulwuy

On 30 January 2004 a new suburb was created called Pemulwuy. The boundaries of this suburb now encompasses most of Prospect Hill. The suburb boundaries of Pemulwuy would appear to include most of the former quarry workings with perhaps the exception of some of the Widemere Quarry. Certainly Prospect Hill itself is now located in the suburb of Pemulwuy and no longer in the suburb of Prospect.

Pemulwuy is named after an aboriginal leader who lived in the area and who actively resisted the British colonisation in the late 1700s and who was eventually shot and killed in 1802.

Accordingly, the locality probably should now be described as Prospect Quarries, Prospect Hill, Pemulway, Cumberland Co., New South Wales, Australia, despite the fact that the quarries only operated when they were part of the suburb of Prospect. In any event, even a shortened locality string - Prospect Quarry, NSW would be enough to identify a specimen as being from this locality as it is so well known.


1.Penrith Heritage Study, Thematic History, Paul Davies Pty. Ltd. May 20062. Wilshire, HG, The Prospect Alkaline Diabase-Picrite Intrusion New South Wales, Australia,
Journal of Petrology (1967) 8 (1): pp 97-1633.William M.L. & Carr P.F., Isotope systematics of secondary minerals from the Prospect Intrusion, New South Wales, Australian Journal of Earth Sciences (2005) Volume 52, Issue 6, 20054.Wilshire, HG, The Prospect Alkaline Diabase-Picrite Intrusion New South Wales, Australia, Journal of Petrology (1967) 8 (1): pp 97-1635.Holroyd History and the Silent Boundary Project, Research Report by Michael Flynn, August 1997 6.Prospect Heritage Trust Inc website: - viewed January 2013, and Boral Ltd website: From the Ground up - Boral’s first 50 years - viewed January 20137.Darwin, Charles Voyage of the Beagle Chp XIX8.Journal of Researches, Geology and Natural History, Charles Darwin, London, 1839, p 5179. William Cox the Road Builder - Diary of building the Cox's Road, C., Some Brief Notices on the Geology of Australia and the Cape of Good Hope, being the Second Part of the Geology of the Voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. Fitzroy RN, 183611.Nicholas FM & Nicholas JM, "Charles Darwin in Australia" 1989 (Cambridge University Press)
12.Geological Observations on the Volcanic Islands, visited during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle (1844)13.Notes on the Geology of places visited during the Voyage, 1836, p 81414."Convict Life New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land" by Bathurst C., G. S. White, "Free Press Office" (1889), p 265 15.Notes on the Geology of places visited during the Voyage, 1836, - notebook 1416. Vol 10 of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842 under the command of Charles Wilkes, USN – Geology by James D Dana17.I believe that the reference to Puenbuen is in fact Puen Buen in the Bega Valley in the far south coast of New South Wales18.Presumably Kangaroo Grounds refers to Kangaroo Valley on the South Coast although Dana makes several references to Kangaroo Grounds that appear to be in different areas, so the reference may be just to open bush areas where kangaroos were numerous19.Vol 10 of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842 under the command of Charles Wilkes, USN-Geology by James D Dana pp 495-50120.Carr, Prof. Paul, article from “Symposium on ‘The Prospect Intrusion. History, Geology & Member’s Collecting Experiences”, printed in the newsletter of the Mineralogical Society of New South Wales, July 201121.Volcanism in Hawaii Vol 2, US Geological Survey Paper 1350 - Historical Paper - James D Dana and the Origins of Hawaiian Volcanology: The US Exploring Expedition in Hawaii, 1840-184122.Vol 10 of the United States Exploring Expedition during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842 under the command of Charles Wilkes, USN – Geology by James D Dana p 51623.The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate [newspaper], Parramatta, NSW 14 December 188924.Rev. J Milne Curran: A Popular Introduction to the Study of Geology, 1898, Revised ed. p - viewed January 201327.Hall, Karina, “The Widemere Quarry Branch” an article on NSW Rail online library: - viewed January 201328.England, Brian, Minerals of the Prospect Intrusion, New South Wales, Australia, Mineralogical Record May-June 1994 pp 185-19429.England, Brian, Minerals of the Prospect Intrusion, New South Wales, Australia, Mineralogical Record May-June 1994 pp 185-19430.England, Brian, Minerals of the Prospect Intrusion, New South Wales, Australia, Mineralogical Record May-June 1994 pp 185-194


1. Bathurst, C. & White, G.S., Convict Life New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, Free Press Office, (1889) p 265
2. Branagan, D.F. & Packham, G.H., Field Geology of New South Wales, 3rd ed 2000, NSW Department of Mineral Resources pp 115-119
3. van Wyhe, John, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online (
4. England, Brian, Minerals of the Prospect Intrusion, New South Wales, Australia, Mineralogical Record May-June 1994 pp 185-194
5. Explanatory Notes: Geology of the Penrith 1:100 000 sheet 9030 (R00047933) - Jones DC & Clark NR, Department of Mineral Resources, Geological Survey of NSW (1987) (R00047933)
6. Moyal, Ann, Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, vol. 145, nos. 443 & 444, part 1. Friends, Savants and Founders: W.B. Clarke and J.D. Dana.
7. Organ, Michael K. (1990), Clarke, Coal and Controversy: the traumas of Reverend W.B. Clarke in his defence of Australian
geology during the nineteenth century (University of Wollongong)
8.Penrith city: [viewed October 2013].
9. Roads and Traffic Authority Heritage and Conservation Register - RTA Thematic History - A component of the RTA Heritage and Conservation Register, 2nd edition, 2006
10. Tschernich, R., Zeolites of the World (1992) p48
11. Wilshire, HG, The Prospect Alkaline Diabase-Picrite Intrusion New South Wales, Australia, Journal of Petrology (1967) 8 (1): pp 97-163

Photo acknowledgements

The Aerial photograph at the beginning of this article is taken from Explanatory Notes: Geology of the Penrith 1:100 000 sheet 9030 (R00047933) - Jones DC & Clark NR, Department of Mineral Resources, Geological Survey of NSW (1987) (R00047933).

The two old Quarry photographs are from [viewed February 2013]

The photographs/drawing of the early geologists depict these gentlemen close to their ages when they actually visited Prospect.

The photograph of William Branwhite Clarke is courtesy of Ann Moyal (photo in possession of Ann Moyal)

Photographs of the minerals in this article were taken by me and all the specimens, some of which I collected, are in my collection.

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