Sunday 16 August 2015

Respecting Our Workplace - History In K & L Sheds

When you work in an environment, day in day out, it is easy to take your surroundings for granted even in the unusual historical setting of our own K and L sheds at The Queen Victoria Market. But this is one environment that deserves to be respected.

Our building is from another era with its heavy steel girders, and rivetted cross braces, arches, and supports. When you are concentrating on earning a living from the market, the structure might take a back seat although it is obviously important as a weather protector and a location point for many of our shop fittings. And it gets pretty rough treatment as we go through the process of setting up and packing up our stalls each day – forklifts, storage boxes, shop fittings, vehicles and even simple things like ropes, tapes and hooks all take their toll on the structure.

K & L Sheds were constructed in 1923 and you might notice a name on some of the posts –
Dorman Long & Co. Dorman Long were a famous English steel company with a long tradition of constructing top quality steel structures in the early 20th century. In fact one of their more famous projects was a little thing called the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was started a year after K & L Sheds were put up. Both structures use hand driven rivets for assembly and you can see these clearly in our sheds.

Hand driven rivets were a very robust part of steel construction and they were used in various industries including ship building. Rivets were heated in a furnace adjacent to the work site, quickly inserted in pre-drilled holes and then flattened with hydraulic rams to secure the joint. It was time consuming work requiring skilled labour.

Dorman Long at the time were a universal guarantee of quality in steel manufacture and fabrication. This might explain why our sheds have survived so well. In today’s throw-away society that longevity is rare. So the next time you see a trader or their worker bashing fittings against some of our 90 year old steelwork, give them a tap on the shoulder and suggest they treat the old girl with some respect. This is an historic place and we want to get another 500 or so years out of her.

Thank you to Tim Moore for inspiring this story.