Tony Prescott was born in 1947 and is an historian specialising in heritage work. In his interview he recalls his childhood interest in heritage, his first introduction to The Rocks and Millers Point, and his work with the NSW Heritage Branch. He discusses at length the changes in governance and thinking around the preservation of historical areas and the way that that has impacted on the built environment of Millers Point; development pressures on potentially very high value real estate, political forces and planning conflicts. In the excerpt below he elucidates the reasons for Millers Point’s heritage listing.
This interview is part of Housing NSW’s 2005 Millers Point Oral History Project. The City of Sydney acknowledges the State Library of New South Wales as the archival custodian of the project and digital preserver of the masters.
It’s all part of an integral whole really, you can’t separate elements of it. I mean this is the change of mindset that some of us had to work on with people in terms of perceiving Millers Point. They’d see the beautiful buildings and the historic buildings and they’d see them one by one, or they might see a terrace row or a group, but everything was historically interrelated: the parks; the wharves; the lane ways; the steps. I kept on saying to people this is one heritage item, this is one single heritage item, you can’t take it to bits and say that’s heritage, that’s heritage, the whole thing is a single a heritage item. Like a great big building or something that consists of building steps, lane ways, wharves, streets, trees, so on and so forth.
So it is all integral and the lane ways and that are part of that, and steps. It provides such a strong documentation of early Sydney history, or early Australian history even, that is quite unparalleled anywhere else in Australia. You can’t find any urban area with that sort of intactness that demonstrates so much early history in its physical fabric and the way it continues to be owned by the, well, part of its history was its takeover by the government, the fact that it is still in state ownership as a single entity, it has a community living there and that is just totally unique in Australia and very rare in the world, quite frankly, for, I suppose, a European-style city particularly.