The Wood-Carters Of Early St. George

by B.J. Madden – Kingsgrove

In Notes on the Early Life in Peakhurst, written in the 1930’s by Mr George Peake, son of Issac Peake and grandson of John Peake, it is stated that during the Gold Rush in the 1850’s, firewood was carted from the present St. George district to a place in Darlinghurst where there was a water pump, and sold there at good prices (copy held by Hurstville Historical Society).

However, he says that, after the gold rush, there was a slump, money was scarce, and firewood nearly had to be given away. The wood-carters no longer went to the pump, but the wood was cut into small pieces almost ready for use, hawked around the streets, and sold by one shilling’s worth instead of by the load.

In an article about old residents of Newtown in 1922 (Smith S.D., ‘Municipality of Newtown Diamond Jubilee Souvenir’, 1922 – Mitchell Library: 352.911/1A1), is the story of Mr T Deaman, (who was 73 years of age at that time and so was born between 1848-1850) and his connection with the wood-carters, perhaps from as early as the mid-1850s:

“I claim that Mr Tom Deaman, of Alice Street, Newtown is Newtown’s longest resident.

‘Tom’ Deainan was born in the district 73 years ago, and has lived in it ever since. He started work as a nipper in the fuel business, and stayed in that business, and was never in any other, to the end, and now resides in Alice Street.

Actually it was outside the municipal boundaries of Newtown as we know them today that Mr Deaman was born; but he was brought within the boundary shortly after his birth, and has never gone outside. The family home is in Alice Street.

Mr Deaman’s first job was among the ‘Bushmen’ as they were then known. Fuel for practically all purposes was wood-logs from gum trees, felled, stripped, dried and split. And a hardy breed they were who engaged in the work.

The logs prepared, you took your dray in early morning out Gannon’s Forest (Hurstville and Bexley these days), loaded up and started for town. You did your best to sell it at some works, or to some householder, on the way, of course. If you didn’t you went up Oxford Street, and took your place in the line by the ‘old pump’ (from which the householders around drew each day’s supply of water).

When a buyer came along and bought it (6/- per load was about the usual price), you took it home and packed it into his wood-house for him. Then you went out Gannon’s for another load. If (as sometimes happened) you didn’t sell out, you very rarely took the load home, but ‘dumped it’ on one of the paddocks, down near where Grace Bros’ is now, say.

They don’t go into the bush at Bexley ( ! ) nowadays, and sell loads of logs up Oxford Street (!) these days; but Mr Deaman is still in the fuel business – or, rather, the boys still carry on the same old biz (that is probably almost 60 years old) with never a break. Dad sits back and takes it easy these days.”

This article was first published in the September 1980 edition of our magazine.

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The Aboriginal Tribes of the Sydney Region

by B. J. Madden – Kingsgrove

In the short space of 70 years, the world of the Aboriginal tribes of the Sydney region, which had remained unchanged since the Dreamtime, became a living nightmare. The land which had been theirs alone for so long was suddenly and irretrievably lost to the fair-skinned newcomers of the First Fleet. The aborigines were in no way prepared for the cataclysm which engulfed them as settlement spread, and they found themselves dispossessed not only materially but also spiritually.

A recently-published book by Keith Willey, When the Sky Fell Down, traces the dynamic years of the colony’s growth between 1788 and 1860. It is the story of the effects of the exploits and achievements of the white men on the country’s original inhabitants. Keith Willey had used such information as is available in personal journals, newspaper articles and official documents to find the world of the nineteenth-century aborigine.

A number of the incidents mentioned in the book are of interest to our local area.

The attack by aborigines on Bond’s far at Punchbowl on 1 October, 1809 was not an isolated incident. It was part of the resistance, verging on what we would now call guerilla warfare, by the aborigines to the white settlers who were taking possession of their hunting grounds. As mentioned in an article in the Canterbury and District Historical Society Journal Series 2 No.8, the aborigines were led by Tedbury, who was the son of Pemulwoy, and both father and son had been leaders of the resistance to the white settlers over a number of years. Keith Willey’s book discusses this quite extensively.

Willey refers to a trial of a number of settlers on the Hawkesbury in 1799 on charges of having murdered two aboriginal boys. During the trial, Sarah Hodgkinson, whose husband had been killed by aborigines about 3 weeks earlier, admitted asking the defendants to kill the boys. Is this the same Sarah Hodgkinson who was given 60 acres at the present-day Canterbury-Ashfield on 12 November 1799? If so, it is an example of the possibility of finding local history information and references in a variety of unlikely sources.

Another interesting reference is to Mahroot, also known as the Boatswain, who was said to be the last man of the Botany Bay tribe, who gave evidence to the N.S.W. Legislative Council’s Select Committee on Aborigines in 1845. Mahroot was born at Cooks River, probably about 1796 and he related the changes which had resulted from the arrival of the white men. Some of his evidence was hearsay, since the First Fleet arrived 8 years before he was born. When he was born, the Botany Bay tribe numbered about 400. By 1845, it had been reduced to 4 people, himself and 3 women. His evidence stands almost alone as an aboriginal overview of the succession of calamities which befell the tribes of the Sydney area after the arrival of the First Fleet.

Not mentioned in Willey’s book is the fact that Boatswain died on 31 January 1850. The Sydney Morning Herald of 2 February 1850 refers to him as “the well-known Aboriginal Boatswain, whose intelligence and superior manner, coupled with the fact of his being the last of the Botany Bay tribe, rendered him a favourite with all who knew him, and especially with his white countrymen.”

Willey’s book, which is very readable, increases our understanding of this era of Australia’s history.

This article was first published in the September 1980 edition of our magazine.

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The Affairs Of Rose Vale Villa, Rockdale

Written & Illustrated by Gifford and Eileen Eardley

William John Iliffe was born in London in the year 1842 and came to Sydney as a young lad in 1852, where he followed various pursuits in the nature of employment. It is evident that he had a natural bent for plant cultivation for he took up an area of ten acres of land at West Botany, a one-time bush hamlet now known as Rockdale. Here, against the border of Rocky Point Road, he established the Rose Vale Nursery, and more or less concentrated his efforts on the growth of numerous varieties of roses. At one time, so it has been related, he had more than eighty-thousand plants, each growing in separate earthenware pots, to supply the demands of the gardeners of Sydney Town.

The Cottage of James Morse, Rockdale

Unfortunately there does not appear to be any record or illustration of the design of the original Iliffe homestead at Rockdale, however, William Iliffe succeeded in his business and eventually married Sarah Morse, who lived in a small double-fronted cottage almost opposite the nursery property. In 1873 the splendid stone residence, aptly known as Rose Vale Villa, was erected, the walls being constructed of exquisitely wrought sand- stone, insofar as the facade was concerned, taken from the quarry which then existed at the eastern end of Bestic Street where it then terminated at the north-western slopes of Rockdale Hill.

Rose Vale Villa, Rockdale

Rose Vale Villa was a commodious one and a half storied residence which contained, on the ground floor, a large Drawing Room, a Dining Room, an-Entrance Hall and two Bedrooms. Upstairs there were four Bedrooms contained within the slated roof slopes, each served by attractive dormers, two at the front of the roof and two at the back, whilst end windows, with stone mullions, admitted. light from the end gables. The deep overhanging barge-boards of the gables were excellently cut into pierced pattern-work. The two stone chimneys were gems of their kind and followed an Italian design, the top of each being enclosed with a rectangular shaped cut stone slab. The smoke apertures were placed immediately beneath the coping slab and, arranged in groups of three, were shaped like round-topped pigeon holes. There were separate verandahs at ground floor level, one at the front, and another at the northern side, each being provided with cast-iron supporting posts and a delicate cast-iron fringe, which was of the type now known as Sydney Lace. Each verandah was entered from path level by gracefully curved hand-cut steps. Full length French windows, complete with double folding shutters, were provided to the main rooms. The Drawing Room projected from the facade to the front level of the verandah and contained an excellently wrought three-sided oriel window, the flat roof of the extension being surrounded on three sides by a stone-topped balustrade, supported at short intervals by stubby turned stone pillars. A really beautiful entablature adorning a residence which may be regarded as one of the finest of the stone cottages erected in the St. George District.

The kitchen and scullery, together with a breakfast-room, were formed by an eastern extension at the rear of the main building, access being given by a side verandah. This arrangement was common to houses of the period, as it served to keep cooking odours from the bedrooms and living rooms, and also had the merit of giving, to a certain extent, safety against fire, when wood was so universally used in fuel stoves and clothes boiling “coppers”, The scullery, apart from its general purpose for washing clothes and dishes etc., also came into use for “washing up” humans on the occasion of the normal weekly tub. The everyday business of hand and face washing was generally relegated to the sanctity of the bedroom wash-stand, where the marble top supported a large water basin and a jug- of ornate floral pattern inlaid in its voluptuous curves, together with a china soap-stand, ring-stands, and similar bric-a-brac.

East of the kitchen was a large packing shed, built of timber scantlings, its sides and roof covered with corrugated iron, purely functional without any architectural merit There were. some eight or nine heated-glass-houses which gained winter warmth from a coal heated boiler per medium of circulating hot-water pipes. Each hot- house possessed a small water trough, replete with gold-fish, to provide the necessary humidity for the plant growth.

Double white-painted gates provided entrance of vehicles to the property from the Rocky Point Road,’ the entrance, being flanked by a huge “monkey-nut” tree (perhaps a Scotch Fir) which provided edible items of great interest to the local children. These nuts were often taken by the girls of the family to the Zoological Gardens, then at Moore Park in Sydney, where the monkeys, although interested in the offering, and appreciated the gesture, found that they ‘had no hammer to crack them open and they were too hard for the teeth.

Some fifty feet away from the entrance gate, on ‘the northern side of the drive, were the stables, -cart-houses, harness-room, feed-loft, and beneath the same roof at its southern end were two small rooms dedicated to the use of John Ah Hee, a delightful kindly-natured and tiny Chinese gentleman with an enchanting surname. The stable building housed the, four-wheeled flat-topped horse-drawn lorry,- which, under the care of the nursery overseer, Lambert Laurence, made the daily round, of the Sydney florist shops, such as Searles and Birmingharns in Oxford Street. John Iliffe had two horses for, this work, using one at a time in the lorry. There was a fine white coated animal named “Victor” and a more demure lass, of brown, colouration, who answered to the name of “Dolly”. The horse paddock ‘ranged northwards along the frontage- of Rocky Point Road to the intersection of Bestic Street, and covered about an acre of grazing, land. Leaving the stables the drive curved round to the south in order to reach the confines of the packing shed where the lorry wagon was loaded with orders gained for the daily round. In addition to the glass-house equipment there was a large edifice given over to the propagation of ferns.

Quantities of the seeds of the Kentia Palm were specially imported from Lord Howe Island, and, under the care of John Ah Hee, were individually planted in separate earthenware pots, and, when about a foot or so in height, found a ready market for the decoration of drawing rooms of both cottages and more pretentious houses of suburban Sydney. Another speciality was the importation from Japan of Haresfoot Fern; the roots of which were fashioned, or rather entwined, to represent monkey and other animal shapes, houses, boats, and kindred subjects, they were even to be purchased wrapped around coconuts fitted with a short length of cord for suspension purposes. On arrival these seemingly hairy roots were first soaked in water and then hung in the green-house until they sprouted, and when covered with a mass of tiny fern shoots, were ready for distribution per medium of the florist’s shops. These pretty novelties were in great demand by people fortunate and interested enough to maintain a bush house.

The trickling creek, known as Bray’s Drain, flowed through the Iliffe property, about midway in its depth, its banks being covered with tuber-roses and overtopped by rhododendrons. Between the horse paddock and the creek was a large area devoted to rose growing, these plants also extending to the eastern boundary fence. Opposite the drive, on the eastern side of the creek, was the Bulb Garden, given over to narcissus of various sorts, daffodils, and such like botanical treasures. East of this floral paradise was the cow-paddock where two cows dined in comfort amidst a surround of the local bushland. South of the bulb garden, and also on the eastern side of the creek, was a flower garden, usually riotous with colour, then an acre of feathery-plumed pampasgrass, and then another acre devoted to camellia trees.

All in all Rose Vale Villa was the show place of Rockdale, with its flower dotted lawns, kept in immaculate condition by Ah Hee, and its hydrangea and azalea bordered walks. People came from everywhere to purchase flowers at three pence per bunch, to inspect its green-houses and its hot-houses, coming away with all manner of beautiful plant gems which the green fingers of William John Iliffe and John Ah Hee had so lovingly raised.

As before stated this latter Celestial gentleman lived within the stable, at his own desire, and his only recreation appeared to be his Saturday night jaunt to visit his compatriots living mostly in the Haymarket area of Sydney town. Otherwise he chose to dine in solitary state, in his own domicile, on the numerous rice dishes that he concocted, intermixed with pieces of pork and duck, the latter having the appearance, as far as the skin was concerned, of having undergone the rigours of French polishing. John Ah Hee used chop sticks for eating and never, under any circumstances, did he dine with company. It is interesting to note that his little teapot, together with his chop-sticks, are still cherished, as mementos of a kindly gentleman, by members of the family.

One of John Ah Hee’s few pleasures was to sit beside the driver of a horse-drawn hearse at funerals associated with the Iliffe family or immediate friends of that family. On one occasion when John Ah Hee was absent in town, the stable rats decided to have a feed of wax-matches, the resulting conflagration, although surprising to the rodents no doubt, burnt down the stables and the two roomed domicile. John Ah Hee was found temporary accommodation with his countrymen until such time as the stable structure was rebuilt and his domicile re-established. John Ah Hee was said to be well over ninety years of age, and completely blind, when he passed away. According to Chinese custom he was temporarily buried at Rookwood Cemetery, and after a passage of ten years or so, his remains were disinterred and sent back to his ancestral grave in China. It should be mentioned that William John Iliffe held a very high opinion of the character and merits of John Ah Hee, and made provision in his will “that he should be retained and kept in comfort to the end of his days”.

At one period a florist shop was established in the Sydney Arcade for the sale of seedlings, palms, ferns, and floral products of the Rose Vale Nursery. This shop was later taken over by two maiden ladies, the Misses Balcom and Baptist. Another venture was the purchase, and development, as a nursery of some forty acres of land at the head of Stoney Creek, located at the corner of Stoney Creek Road and Croydon Road, extending along the latter thoroughfare to its junction with the Forest Road, the house being erected near this latter junction. This land was subdivided by Messrs. Peach Brothers about 1917, the housing allotments being served by streets named after members of the Iliffe family, such as Ada Street, Hancock Street, Rose Street, and Iliffe Street. The beautiful expanse of the Bexley Golf Links and the adjacent Kingsgrove Park were also included, at one time, in the estate.

There were five children in the Iliffe family who, in turn, were named Emily, Harriet, Annie, William, and Ada. After the death of William John Iliffe the eldest girl (married to Mr. Hancock) carried on the business at Rose Vale Villa. Harriet married Thomas Smith and resided in a cottage fronting Bestic Street at the north-eastern corner of the Rose Vale property. Annie passed away at the early age of nineteen years, whilst William died in babyhood. The youngest girl, Ada, married Frederick Mumford.

After the closure of the Rose Vale Nursery the family opened a florist’s shop on the original property, with its frontage to Princes Highway. About this period, although the major part of its land had been subdivided, Rose Vale Villa came into use for wedding receptions and similar small public gatherings, for which its tree clad surround and interior beauty were well suited. The former nursery gardens, at their subdivision, were served by extensions northward of York and George Streets.

About 1962 the Rockdale Municipal Council became interested in the purchase of the Rose Vale Villa for the establishment of a regional folk museum. However, the purchase price of £27,500 was beyond the council’s resources for this particular cultural venture and the matter lapsed. The house was later demolished but fortunately the stones of the beautiful facade were given to the council for inclusion in some structure which, someday, we hope, will again show their beauty to the best advantage. The site of the old home is now occupied by the Rose Vale Garage, constructed after the manner of its kind, but conveys no semblance of the erstwhile beauty of the famous house once known so far and wide as “Rose Vale Villa”.

The authors are indebted to Mrs. Cottrell, and her sister Mrs. S. A. Messer, and also to Mr. Clive Smith, the florist of the Tramway Arcade at Rockdale, descendants of the Iliffe family, who have kindly supplied much of the information utilised in the preparation of the above essay.

This article was first published in the May 1970 edition of our magazine.

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The Village of Arncliffe

by Mr. V. M. Saunders

It is necessary to be aware of a historic plan, of subdivision for most of the area covered by present-day Turrella and Arncliffe which was executed in the year 1861 and was only recently recovered for historical inquiry after lying in obscurity for about 90 years.

This comparatively large area was described in the plan as the “Town of Wincanton-Parish of St. George” and covered the original grant of 100 acres to Mr. Reuben Hannam (indicated on the plan as the village of Arncliffe – now mostly Turrella) and the 66 acres to his son, David (now the region radiating from about Arncliffe railway station).

The Town of Wincanton

This blue-print for the future town of Wincanton was surveyed for David Hannam who was not only the leading landowner in the area about this time but was widely regarded as its leading citizen. Mr. Hannam died in 1872.

But the plans of Mr. Hannam, Governmentally approved, for his vast domain to find a place in local history as the Town of Wincanton did not come to pass. Whilst the area covered by his own original grant was known in the district as Wincanton for over a decade, by a curious turn of events, the whole of his two estates later came to be called after the village portion of his scheme – Arncliffe.

At this distance in time, although the exact details have yet to be fully established, it is probable that the failure of Hannam’s venture to have been handed down to posterity as the Town of Wincanton, was attributable to the passing of the Municipalities Act in 1858.

At all events, towards the end of 1870, a Committee of prominent district identities, had been charged with the task of establishing boundaries in connection with the formation of the new Municipality of West Botany, and, after consulting the wishes of the majority of the residents, the Arncliffe Ward and West Botany Ward were named and defined.

The first election in the new Municipality was held in 1871 and from that time onwards, it would appear, that the name of Arncliffe became popularly established. And so apparently the political strength of the villagers of Arncliffe (and Tempe, their Arncliffe Street neighbours) won the day in deciding the future name of their domain.

Why this area developed ahead of Wincanton (proper), until the advent of the Illawarra railway, we shall see.

The early settlement developed mainly adjacent to the watercourses of Wolli Creek and to a lesser extent, to the creek which once lowed through Kelsey Street. These provided an adequate water supply so necessary to the early settlers engaged in such rural pursuits as market gardening, fruit growing and dairy farming.

In an age when churches were the focal point of community life, it was indicative of the trend of the early development that the first local church came to be erected at Arncliffe village (about 1865) on a site now indicated as the corner of Hirst and Edward Streets, and thus in close proximity to the early settlement.

There is evidence that the building was also used as a public school about this time and was the forerunner of the present Arncliffe Public School, the original building of which was opened in 1880.

The present church on the site (old St. David’s Church of England) was built in 1879 and, following the population trends, the new St. David’s was built on Forest Road in 1914.

(Another chapel was built at Arncliife village in the early 1870’s and was known as the West Botany Primitive Methodist Church).

Historic Arncliffe Street

The main roadway of this early settlement was Arncliffe Street (shown in maps as early as 1857) which was developed adjacent to Wolli Creek and ran from immediately at the rear of “Tempe House” Avoiding the rocky prominences it found its way to the Favell property, “Hillside” at the foot of Hannam Street (this historic property (about 1842) has lately been subdivided for home sites).

Parts of the original Arncliffe Street have disappeared over the years mainly through the construction of the Illawarra and East Hills railways and the sewer carrier but in its heyday acted as a thoroughfare for the horse-drawn vehicles which carried the produce of the rural industries to the markets of Sydney town. It was augmented as an alternative “way out of the valley” when Dowling and Loftus Streets were opened up about the 1880’s.

Several historic homes were built adjacent to the old Arncliffe Street (now divided into Turrella and Lusty Street) such as “Avondale”, “Wolliville”, “Valencia”, and “Kirnbank”. Of these only the latter remains as a relic of its age.

Arncliffe’s Non-rural Industry

Fronting Hannam Street, several historic homes are still extant including Nos. 57 and 67, the former having been built by one of the pioneers of the area, a Mr. Sam Jeeves, whilst the latter was the homestead associated with a Woolwash which stood adjacent to the creek nearby decades before the turn of the century.

Another early industry in the area was McNamara’s boiling-down works which also provided employment for the local populace and once stood adjacent to the junction of the original Hannam and Arncliffe Streets.

And so from this brief outline something may be gleaned of the character of the early Arncliffe settlement prior to and about the time of the advent of the Illawarra railway (1884) which stimulated a much larger development and population about the area whose name had once been known as Wincanton.

An interesting aspect of this story is that at the time of the naming of the railway station (now Turrella formerly the village of Arncliffe) it too came near to being named Wincanton – 70 years after David Hannam’s plan had launched the same name, but the reasons for its application on the local scene at such widely different periods have not yet been established.

This article was first published in the January 1967 edition of our magazine.

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An Early Illawarra Suburban Journey – 1890 Period

by Gifford Eardley

A journey from Sydney to Hurstville in the early eighteen-nineties passed through a terrain which has been considerably altered, unfortunately not for the better, in the last seventy years or so. In the description of scenes and homes along the route no attempt has been made in this essay to group the various items in order of their chronological development, an arrangement which has facilitated the compilation of the story.

The old rambling terminal at Sydney, which was known in those far off days as Redfern, had a distinctive charm of its own. Steam trains chugged their noisy way from Bridge Street to terminate beneath the sheltering roof of the station concourse, there to intermingle with a clustering road traffic consisting largely of hansom cabs, horse drawn omnibuses, and delivery vans of diverse sorts and sizes. Sundry hitching posts catered for a motley assortment of unattended horses contentedly munching chaff from nose-bags, made usually from sugar-bags, which were roped around their necks. There were itinerant drivers of vehicles for hire calling for custom with the arrival of each train, particularly those inward bound from country areas which generally afforded good business. Then there was the clamour set up by youthful conductors of the various horse omnibuses calling attention to their runs via George, Pitt or Castlereagh Streets to the main shopping centre or onwards to the Quay. Above all, apart from the shrieks of locomotive whistles, were the pip-squeaks uttered by the steam tram motors as they departed from hence in a flurry of steam and smoke, dragging two or three unwieldy and ungainly double-decked tramcars, on their way to Elizabeth Street and places north as far as Bridge Street.

It was a grand sight to see the country trains arrive with a “D” Class “HIGH FLYER” at the head-end. These trains usually steamed into Platform No. 6 and, after passing beneath the huge arched train shed, which covered platforms Nos. 5 and 6, came to a panting rest with the engines in the open, hard against the terminal buffer stops. These express engines were kept in splendid condition, their black chimneys were embellished with a burnished copper coping at the top, whilst the steam domes, placed amidships were of highly polished brass. It is little wonder that generations of men have almost worshipped the majesty of the steam locomotive. Great days.

Proceeding through the bustling throng of people and keeping a wary eye open for a fractious horse, we wend our way towards Elizabeth Street and finally arrive at platforms Nos. 1 and 2 which had been built specially for the Illawarra Line traffic. This double faced platform was curved throughout its narrow length and was partly covered by a centrally located roof of spartan simplicity. Here our train of four-wheeled box cars was drawn up. There was usually a single first class car and four second-class cars allotted to the Hurstville run, one of the latter vehicles being fitted with a small brake compartment for the guard. Occasionally one or two of the former third class were included much to the chagrin of would-be passengers. These old-time vehicles had open sides above the waist-lines and some were not fitted with oil lamps for night travelling. They seated forty passengers at a real pinch who were jammed together in a perfect maze of wooden forms, some of the seats being without backs. In wet weather travelling was really miserable as umbrellas had to be used to keep out the side gusts which swept across the carriages.

At the smoky-end of our train, more often than not, would be a small “F” class tank engine, known to its admirers as the “GREEN DONKEY”, a most unusual nickname for such a chic and speedy little locomotive. Given the right of way by the guard’s whistle and the display of a small green flag, our engine, possibly No. 356, uttered a woeful wail and, slipping its wheels and snorting in fine style, gradually moved its somewhat stiff train over the network of points and crossings, towards the pair of tracks which threaded the famous “Bottle-Neck” tunnel which passed beneath Cleveland Street. On our left side was a white-washed carriage shed which had been constructed cheaply by the lavish use of corrugated iron, beyond which was the busy Sydney goods yard where rows and rows of trucks lined a central roadway and a great gathering of horse drawn vehicles were usually assembled. Clouds of dust arose from the scene amidst which sweating drivers were either loading or unloading the thousand and one items of commerce for which the railway was the common carrier. Presiding over this activity were generally a couple of long-boilered “A” class tender engines which huffed and puffed their majestic way, pulling trucks here and pushing trucks there at the behest of the active shunting fraternity. High above and surrounded by trees was the beautiful church of St. Pauls, dominated by its square tower of old English design.

On the right side of the line was the Darling Harbour Branch which, strangely enough, had little use at this particular period. Hard against the bordering Regent Street was the elaborate Mortuary Station where funeral trains departed twice daily on their slow and mournful journey to Rookwood Cemetery. These trains generally consisted of four ancient four-wheeled carriages, fitted with hard straight-backed seats, and an old-time “Mountain” radial wheeled van which had an elevated lookout above the normal roof level, permitting the guard to be seated aloft and thus keep 4n active eye on the behaviour of his train. Behind trailed the small hearse truck, low and squat, reputed to be somewhat rough in its riding qualities. According to the regulations the corpse, and the friends of the corpse, travelled free.

Immediately south of the Mortuary station was the Wesleyan Church (which has since come under the usage of the Liberal Catholic Church) and a ribbon development of shops facing towards Regent Street. Many complaints were received by the Railway Department from the Church authorities about the prolonged whistling which went on from time to time during the religious services, as irate locomotive drivers sought entrance to this aiding or that. Our No. 356 made its own particular din before plunging into the darkness of the Bottle-Neck Tunnel, beyond the southern portal of which, between the years 1884 and 1891, was located the temporary WELLS STREET JUNCTION SIGNAL BOX. Here the two lines, one up and one down, diverged to form four tracks, two for the Main Suburban and two for the Illawarra Railway. On our left side, grouped within the narrow area bounded on the east by Regent Street Redfern and on the west by the railway fence, was Messrs. Hudsons Timber Yard, of “ready-cut” fame. This untidy mass of sheds was gutted by flames in the mid-nineties and the Company sought other premises. At the right or Darlington side of the line were rows and rows of nondescript terrace houses bordering Eveleigh Street and its bisecting laneways, a scene which has not changed overmuch with the passing years.

Diving beneath the Lawson Street Road bridge our train of yore entered the EVELEIGH Station with its No. 1 platform lined with a motley assortment of strangely designed pint-sized brick buildings which still remain in situ. At the level of Lawson Street was the main station office with its once neat roof of small tiles which glowed in various shades of red and orange after a shower of rain. The Illawarra train passed between the two groups of workshop buildings associated with the maintenance and repair of locomotives and carriages. Close by the present elevated coal stage was the original Eveleigh platform, built primarily to serve the workmen engaged at the railway shops, but removed when its site was required for the building of an extra pair of tracks to serve the Main Suburban service.

The magnificent three bay running shed comes into view, and one could observe a most motley assortment of locomotives awaiting their turn to speed south, west and north. There were huge Baldwin built “American” consolidated engines, a vast assembly of small tank engines destined for the Sydney suburban trains, and all types of lesser breeds champing to be on their way. A grand sight for men and the sons of men.

Clear of the running shed the Illawarra Railway diverged from the metals of the Main Suburban line to curve and follow a down gradient in a southerly direction to the Erakineville Station, at this time located on the northern side of the Swanson Street Road bridge, When the Alexandria Goods Sidings were built about 1912, this station was dismantled as its site was required for the construction of new sidings and junction points, etc. It was replaced by a new station erected on the present location at the south aide of Swanson Street. Clear of the platforms a fine three arched brick bridge carried the railway across Victoria Street. This structure is still in use and it is surprising how few Illawarraites know of its existence or the beauty of its design. A high embankment carries the line on a curve to the south-west to cross a somewhat similar bridge spanning MacDonald Street. The clustered houses and odd looking cottages which form South Newtown lay cheek by jowl on the western hill slopes bordering the track, whilst on the eastern side of the line were grass paddocks, and sundry vegetable and other small farms which spread across the flat land, reaching southwards to the shores of Botany Bay.

Rattling over the Bray Street level crossing and passing its adjacent gate-house with its industrial backdrop, formed by the huge bottle- shaped kilns and belching smoke-stacks of Messrs. Balcewell Brothers brickworks, our train enters the deep cutting over the top of which a high-level bridge carried the Cooks River Road. Next is St. Peters Station hedged in by mighty brick walls and connected with its entrance gateways at Cooks River Road by lengthy stair-ways. The station buildings were quite ornate in appearance and have been adapted for present day usage. The surrounding area was popular as 4 working mans suburb, the older section being clustered around the St. Peters Church of England, historic building which dominates the hill slope, south-east of the station which bears its name.

Johns Street level crossing is met after which, on the eastern side of the line, appeared the large brick works of Messrs. Goodsell with its huge pug pit which has in recent years been filled in with rubbish and now-a-days is a public playing field. Then came the Illawarra Road level crossing, which has been replaced by a road overbridge, and, also on the eastern side of the line, lay the brick-making establishment of Messrs. Charlesworth, its pug pit being in course of reclamation at the present moment. Marshy swamp lands followed the route of the railway on its western side from St. Peters Station to Tempe and it has been stated that at certain tides it was possible to row a boat along the meandering stream as far north as the Illawarra Road alignment.

Approaching Marrickville Railway Station, which, incidentally, was renamed Sydenham in January, 1895, the huge pile of the Baden Powell Hotel was particularly noticeable at the north-east corner of Sydenham Road and Bolton Street and Adjacent to the Sydenham Road Level crossing gates. This hostelry has long been dismantled and the license transferred to a new site at the southern end of Bolton Street. I The former hotel site was later occupied by the old established firm of Joseph Edwards and Sons for the storage of second hand machinery and is now occupied for a similar purpose by Messrs. T. Ward and Company. Rattling over the Sydenham Road Level crossing Marrickville Station was entered, the buildings of which were after the style adopted at the St. Peters Station. The station-master’s residence, a neat brick building of standard design, stood within the railway property at the southern end of the Up platform. Then came the gated level crossing of Marrickville Road which has been replaced by an overhead bridge, a much safer measure.

Beyond Marrickville, on its eastern side, was a large market garden occupying the site of the present day Bellevue Park and a cluster of cottages, which still remain, were dotted over the slopes of a shallow outspur from the ridge followed by the old Cooks River Road, nowadays named the Princes Highway. At the western side of the railway, on the site now occupied by Fraser Park, the junction of the Bankstown Railway and the Meeks Road Sidings, was a dense growth of Swamp Oaks interspersed with numerous Shallow pools of water. This marsh, named Gumbramorra Swamp, was subsequently drained (about 1894) by an extensive system of stormwater channels, one of which is in close proximity to the railway. Bordering this low-lying land are several rocky spurs which, at the time under review, had their gentle slopes covered with tree growth amongst which could be discerned the older homes of the suburb of South Marrickville.

On the same side of the track and on slightly higher ground there were Chinese market gardens which had access, by means of a red-painted “Occupation-gate”, across the railway to Bridge Street. Passing through a rock-walled cutting, crossed at its highest point by the May Street overbridge, the train reached an extensive grassed area forming part of an estate attached to a large stone-built mansion, which fronts Unwins Bridge Road. This old home was once given prominence by Norfolk Island pine-trees, one of which was forked about midway in its height. As the route of the Illawarra Railway divided the property into two sections it was necessary to provide an occupation gate to permit the owners to have direct access. A gate-house, which is still occupied, marks the site cf the former Renwick Street level-crossing and a short distance further south was the more important Unwins Bridge Road level-crossing controlled by the staff of the Tempe Railway Station. The neighbouring goods yard had a large jib-crane for the ready handling of blocks of stone taken from several, local quarries.

Tempe Railway Station was noted for its week-end crowds who travelled by train to enjoy the pleasures of boating and swimming at the then very beautiful reaches of Cooks River. There were no less than three boatsheds, one of which still functions as the Canoe Club to cater for their needs. Boats could be rowed up-stream, through delightful forest country, as far as Canterbury, the river scene being somewhat akin to that of the National Park at Audley.

Immediately south of Tempe Station the railway crossed Cooks River by means of an iron bridge, after which an embankment kept the rails well above the level of a samphire-swamp bordering the branch of Cooks River known as Wolli Creek. This area was formerly named Tempe after a house of that name built nearby about 1825. The home formerly belonged to Mr. Alexander Brodie Spark and, after changing hands a number of times, eventually became a convent and is still in excellent repair. A small cottage, named Pine Farm, occupied the site of the present day Wolli Creek Junction Signal Box and can still, be remembered by the presence of a growth of trees including a splendid white magnolia. Opposite, on the eastern side of the line, was Grundy’s dairy farm which was later removed when the land was taken over for tramway purposes. Here too is a solitary magnolia tree marking the site of the old homestead.

The Arncliffe Street level crossing is now reached with the gate- keepers house adjacent and at a lower level than the track. A particularly fine willow tree in the yard was destroyed because the occupants quite wrongly thought it would make the house damp. To make a damp house dry one covers the walls with ivy and plants poplars and willows nearby. Next door to the gate-house is the old time residence of the Firth family whose property originally extended southwards to the Booth Street alignment. The southern- most portion was eventually sold to Mr. Justin McSweeney who erected the large house named “Kirnbank” which is today in a sad state of disrepair and its tree surround and once famous gardens despoiled in the interests of factory premises. A grove of Swamp Oaks remained till quite recently on the eastern side of the line and formed a fine background to the Mitchell cottage which, for many of its later years, was utilised as an office for the Wolli Creek Tramway Depot. Working on the questionable assumption that beauty is incompatible with industry these trees have recently been removed.

The Illawarra Road now comes into view and what was originally a straight section has been deviated into a series of “dog-legs”, first to avoid the well-designed Western Suburbs sewer viaduct and then the railway lines, beneath which it passes through a fine brick-arch bridge. The fertile flats on the eastern side of the railway were formerly farmed as market gardens but factories being more important than foodstuffs, according to planning authorities, the once prim arrangement of rectangular vegetable beds has been given over to manufacturing interests. Before reaching Arncliffe and on the western side of the line, there was another fertile area under intense cultivation. On this Land was a small stone cottage adjacent to the Wollongong Road which, according to report, was formerly in use by slaughter-men who prepared both cattle and sheep for the Sydney retail market. The steep little hill rising behind the gardens was then known as Vinegar Hill owing to its being owned by Mr. Monk, of vinegar fame. When the hill estate was up for sale it was called “The Knoll” in the realty advertisements.

Passing the gate-house, located at the north-western side of the Done Street level-crossing, the two platforms of Arncliffe Station were entered. The station buildings, similar to those built at Marrickville and Tempe, are still in service although adapted to serve four tracks and platforms. There was a goods yard with two sidings at the eastern side of the Down platform from which a great number of two-wheeled poison carts, constructed by the local firm of Fortescue Brothers, of Loftus Street, Arncliffe, were railed to all parts of the state.

South of Arncliffe Station, the railway enters a deep cutting which has always been noted for its splendid clusters of ferns growing in the moist fissures of the rock faces. There was formerly a tunnel beneath the Forest Road or Arncliffe Hill ridge which had to be removed when the lines were quadrupled during the nineteen-twenties. Emerging from the darkness of the tunnel, a rock cutting ensconced the rails for some little distance before a sight could be obtained of the wooded gully which has since become residential and served by Gore and Somerville Streets. An “Occupation gate” crossed the line at Hattersley Street intersection with Rocky Point Road. From this point a wide vista of Botany Bay and its opposing headlands opens out to the east and also a large area devoted to market gardens dominated by the two-storied home of the Beehag family. These gardens and nurseries continued as far south as Rockdale Station and were owned by many pioneers of the St. George district. One German family was particularly hard-working in the method of cultivation and the good wife has been seen in double harness with an ox whilst father was keeping their joint efforts in a straight furrow with the plough. The rocky eminence in the middle foreground was graced by the Rockdale school, and on its western slopes by the grazing paddock, dotted with tall blue gums, which belonged to the Bray family, whose property extended to Rocky Point Road. The old farm-house is still intact and appears to have been built about 1858. For many years there was a deep well in the front garden which was operated by a long centrally pivoted mast with a bucket dangling from a rope at one end and a counter-balance weight and haulage rope at the other.

The western side of the line consisted of a wide valley girt by a surround of low hills which was drained by Spring Creek. This tree-dotted grazing area was originally under the ownership of Mr. Joseph Davis whose fine homestead, known as “Lydham” is still in excellent preservation.

Rockdale Station had two separate opposed platforms and was noted in the early days as being the terminus of Mr. Saywell’s single-line tramway to Lady Robinson’s beach. The tramway office was incorporated in a residence adjacent to the railway station which also served to house the locomotive driver, Mr. Long. The building was notable in having a series of ship’s tanks above the kitchen roof to contain water for the tram engines. Above these tanks was a large wind-mill which operated a pump bolted to the kitchen floor which, in turn, was built over a deep and unfailing well. The tramway platform was covered by a large shed, which served to cover the tramcars and coal staging, and also the facades of a row, or arcade, of small lock-up shops which remain to this day. A level crossing carried Frederick Street across the railway at the southern end of Rockdale Station, the gate-keeper’s residence, a weather-board structure, being within the fence line at the south-eastern side of the track. On the opposite side of the tracks was the railway dam, which supplied water per medium of a Steam pump and tank to the Government locomotives working in the Up direction. When the line was first opened, this was the only supply along the route, and as the small tank engines carried sufficient to run to Hurstville and return to Rockdale, tank replenishment became most necessary. The engine working the Kogarah-Sans Souci Tramway also journeyed from Kogarah to Rockdale to take water before commencing its tramway journey.

The slopes of the Bexley Estate were gradually developing into a good class of residential suburb at this period, and land sales in the area were the order of the day. The eastern side of the track showed a broad vista of market gardens, which reached nearly to the shores of Botany Bay. The small brick homestead of the Skidmore family could be noticed on the southern bank of Black Creek, against the Rocky Point Road bridge. The garden, which came into Chinese hands, was on the northern bank of the creek, and bordered by a row of pine-trees. A feature nearby was a huge gum-tree, one of the original forest trees, which supported high in its branches a large notice board, stating “Woodman, spare this tree in memory of poor old Charley Barsby”. There was evidently some particular sentimental value attached to the old gum which, unfortunately, passed away with the tree when it was felled.

The Harrow Road level crossing had its gate-keeper’s residence, a weather-board structure, on the north-western side of the line, and beyond -6- was a high embankment divided at Black Creek by a two span wooden trestle bridge. The Fry homestead was adjacent and its orchard property has been taken over by Kogarah Council for the purposes of a sewerage dumping depot, the surrounding land being converted into parkland, with a fine showing of willow trees along the drain, which has supplanted the former picturesque creek. This stream was once lined with quince trees which over-hung the deep still pools, where the local children often caught carp, eels, tortoises, quinces, and nasty words from Mr. Fry.

The Fry Estate extended along the creek at the western side of the railway, and was grassed for agistment purposes. There were rock outcrops above the stream, and along the crest of the largest rock was a series of hoardings, depicting an old-time “High-Flyer” steam locomotive, attached to three representations of loaded railway trucks. Pearson’s Sandsoap was the main theme of this unique display, whilst farther south and on the same alignment, was an erection of flat iron, shaped like a huge Noah’s Ark, which served to catch the eye of children of all ages. I think this particular sign advertised Elvy’s Pianos. The rectangular streets of West Kogarah lay ahead, where numbers of brick houses were then being built on the newly opened subdivision.

Gazing at the wall of a slight rock side-cut on the eastern side of the railway one could discern the name “Baxter, 1884” chiselled into the sandstone face, the name representing the engineer who was in charge of the construction of the first section of the Illawarra Railway. Above the shelf just mentioned was a long siding and platform used generally by horse trains catering for the Moorefield Racecourse traffic. The quarry adjacent to the overbridge supplied metal necessary for the ballasting of the Sans Souci Tramway.

Entering Kogarah Station, the station master’s residence was immediately met on the left-hand side and then came the two groups of station offices which were opposite one another, both having a direct road approach. Access to either platform was by means of a foot level crossing at the southern end of the station. The Sant Souci Tramway had its Kogarah terminus at a dock platform’ adjacent to the Down main station platform, an arrangement which facilitated the transference of passengers. In the early eighteen-eighties the trams were operated by small tank engines stabled at Eveleigh Running Sheds, but about 1892 the service was vested in the Tramway Department who introduced the well known steam tram engines.

Kogarah was regarded as the incipient commercial centre of the district of St. George and at the time under review, boasted five stores and other business establishments with a population estimated to be about four hundred. The old Kogarah village was a ribbon development strung out along Rocky Point Road in the vicinity of the Moorefield Racecourse, where its several stores and hostelries served the needs of a predominantly rural community. The present-day shopping centre, adjacent to the station and along Railway Parade, came with the opening of the line and the consequent subdivisions of “desirable homesites”. Perhaps the oldest residences in the latter area were a group of white-washed cottages which faced Railway Parade, immediately south of its intersection with Belgrave Street.

The western side of the line at Kogarah had, as its foreground, the oft-times flooded course of Black Creek, a sort of no-man’s land which supported more than one flock of goats, The creek and railway followed a common course until near Carlton; on the slopes beyond the former Chandler Estate had been subdivided into housing blocks with the many intersecting streets set out in rectangular symmetry, the joy of municipal engineers and town planning enthusiasts, but a complete dead loss from an artistic angle.

It was originally proposed to carry the Illawarra Railway across Georges River at Taren Point, but the attitude of the Holt-Sutherland Estate Company in demanding an extortionate sum for the right-of-way through their extensive property, coupled with the blandishments offered by landed interests in the Hurstville area, induced the Government to construct the line along the present route, a circumstance which explains the great sweeping curve between Kogarah and Carlton.

Most of this section of track is carried on an embankment for grade easing purposes. There was a pedestrian level crossing at the foot of Gray Street and a level crossing with gate-house nearby at Webber’s Road (or Brown’s or the Hurstville-Kogarah Road, now-a-days Willison Road.) Immediately south of the latter road crossing and on the western side of the line was a steam pumping plant operated by the Water and Sewerage Board in connection with the city water reticulation system.

Carlton platform was located midway between Salisbury Road and Winchester Street and opened for traffic in 1887. It is understood to have been constructed of wood which served for a number of years before brick station buildings and platforms were erected on the present site between Mill and Short Streets. The long 1 in 60 grade against down trains made it difficult, at times, for the small tank engines in use on the passenger trains to start away from the platform. Scenically, perhaps the most picturesque part of this line is just south of Canton where a magnificent view of the whole of Botany Bay and its foreshores unfolds in all directions, with the eastern suburbs laid out in panorama with the smoke and spires of Sydney as the background. Entering a somewhat lengthy cutting, the train eventually passed beneath the Lily Street over-bridge adjacent to the comparatively new Allawah Railway Station. Then came Woid’s Avenue level crossing and the overbridge at the Sydney end of Hurstville Station, where the original route of Forest Road was intersected by the railway. This main thoroughfare had to be diverted along the northern side of the station and forms what is today the main shopping centre.

Hurstville Station was unique in having “staggered” platforms, an arrangement which obviated the need of heavy cuttings in the surrounding hillside. Access was gained, in the first instance, by a centrally placed foot level crossing, this danger was later eliminated by a footbridge of unequal levels. There was a goods yard and little else, when the station yard was first opened, but about 1892, a locomotive shed and a carriage shed was erected, where trains and engines could be stored overnight on what has been previously described as a “Bed and Breakfast basis”. A further feature of early Hurstville station yard was the provision of two through roads laid between the outer platform roads, which enabled goods or through trains to pass stationary trains standing at either the Up or Down platforms.

The station was opened with great ceremony on the 15th October, 1884, when, it is is understood, the first Government built locomotive, No, 10 (the second engine to possess this road number) had the honour of drawing the first train. The routine passenger services were handled by small six-coupled side-tank engines of Class N which were nick-named Terriers by their numerous admirers. These were, in turn, superseded by engines of Class “F” which possessed the unusual name, unofficial, of course, of the “Green Donkeys”. Then came larger engines of Classes “M”, “CC” and, finally, “S”, after which came the electrification services, completely devoid of all glamour.

Hurstville was claimed to be a “suburb of greater retirement with easier access to more secluded waters, and a larger area perhaps of country suited to suburban settlement”. In 1890 the village had several stores, two hotels, a post office, three churches, and a number of private residences, the principal settlement being along the slopes of Gannons Hill, approximately half a mile away from the station. The place has changed considerably in the last seventy years, but this development is outside the theme of this story.

This article was first published in the April 1963 edition of our magazine.

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Extracts from the St. George Call – Jubilee Supplement – 1904 – 1954

supplied by Mrs E Eardley. 1977

The first issue of the St. George Call was published in January, 1904. The early days were not without the many difficulties which confront those who endeavour to establish a newspaper, and it was to the credit of the founders of the St. George Call that they placed it on a foundation which proved to be a sound and practicable one. The objective was to produce a newspaper which would serve the district faithfully and well. The past 50 years proves that this objective has been successfully realised!

During that time only 4 men have been in control of the paper. They were the late Mr Dave Christian (the foundation editor), Mr W Reid, Mr W Bruce and the last Mr C J Kelly, who died early this year. Mr Kelly worked on the paper for practically the whole of the 50 years and was one of the most highly respected and best known residents of the district.

• Cottage to let, High Street, Kogarah, 4 rms., kit., bath., etc., fruit trees, garden. Suit married couple to a T. Rent 13/-

• An accelerated tram service is assured by Mr Saywell, from Rockdale to the beach, during the summer months. Shady Nook is brilliantly lighted by thousands of electric globes on Wednesday nights, when trams will run every few minutes.

• There is a growing demand for small cottages about Rockdale, to rent, and for cash purchase. Several small properties have changed hands, and speculative builders would find a splendid investment in the erection of small residences from 8/- to 10/- per week.

• The punt at Tom Ugly’s Point was opened in 1863. A runaway soldier had a boat at the punt point; he had a wooden leg, his leg being shot off by a cannon, and he would never give his surname. We used to call him Tom, and some people, Tom Wooden Leg. The blacks, not being able to mouth this, pronounced it “Tom Woggleg”, and finally “Tom Ugly”. R.Turpin, Jan.30th., 1904. Wm Harris was the first man in charge of the punt at Tom Ugly’s. He was appointed in 1864.

Weather Forecast
We have pleasure to announce that we have made arrangements with Herr Von Squeezia the eminent meteorologist, for a weather forecast, to be published monthly, which we publish for the benefit of our subscribers –

  • January 21st – showery, Good iron; it’s coming down now.
  • 22-23rd – fine in some places, wet in others.
  • February 1st: Strongish nor-souther. This should raise Cain.
  • February 2-6th: Cold and hot, with a marine disturbance called “shark’.
  • 7th-8th – Umbrellas will be wanted, as we expect rain or heat.
  • 9th – Thermometer and barometer both going up to 100. Sun very powerful. We suggest free use of cloudy ammonia.
  • 10th – 12 – Whirlwinds and other things in Japan. Variable in this State.

Cricket match at Arncliffe
Players had a row
Language flowing highly –
That we don’t allow.
Before the ‘Sociation,
Witnesses were called,
Result of three hour’s nagging,
One poor chap blackballed.
What time committee got to bed
Goodness only knows,
Been better if the one chap had
Punched the other’s nose!
Coach to Tom Ugly’s Pt.

Wm. Burgess, the contractor for Sylvania Mail, has made application to the traffic office for permission to ply for hire between Kogarah and Tom Ugly’s. In the ordinary course this application was referred to Kogarah Council for an expression of opinion as whether the licence should be granted. At the council meeting on Monday the licence was recommended. Jan.23, 1904.

Bexley School Ball
The building will be formally opened by the Hor. J.H. Carruthers on Wednesday 10th Feb., at 7.30p.m. when a first class musical programme now being arranged by Messrs Alex Edward and C. McKern will be presented.

Orange Grove Butchery – Ocean Street, Penshurst.
Cash prices. Ribs beef from 3 1/2d., Beef Stk.fom 4 1/2d. Corned Round 5d. Sides Mutton 3 1/2d., Hind qtr.4d., Fore qtr. 1/2d., 100 lbs. Corned Beef for 22/6. Freight paid free on all orders over 1 pound.

Rockdale Railway Station – March 31st 1906.
Boxing Day of 1885 was a gala day at Rockdale, when the railway station was officially opened, and about that time the travelling public were satisfied with a service that provided one train in every two hours.

• Rockdale – At a recent wedding in a West Botany Church the uncle of the bride deplored the extravagant waste of rice. He was quite right, as this article of food is likely to be very dear. Furthermore there is a principle – that of frugality – involved.

• Bexley – Mr A C Reed of Gladstone Street, Bexley writes as follows: “I wish to air an old grievance, viz., the straying of cattle. I have had my garden ruined by cows. For some time after the pound was erected the nuisance was abated, but during the last 12 months it is worse than ever. There would be no difficulty in impounding a drove of about 20-30 cattle at any hour of the day. They are not only a pest but a danger, and I trust the Council to take some action in this matter.”

• Feb.6th., 1904: Absolutely painless Extractions. Fee 2/-. Complete upper or lower sets, perfect fit, good masticating powers and natural appearance guaranteed pounds 2.2.0. All work guaranteed. Consultations free. Children half fee. Mr. Alfred Seller, R.D.S. Railway Parade, Kogarah.

• Feb.7th,1904: A Bexley wag writes: I have been so pleased with the get-up of your papers that I enclose a jingle for the eye of the unwary business man, whose name does not appear in your advertising columns:

He sat at the door at noonday,

He was lonely and glum and sad,

The flies were bussing about him,

Led by a blue-winged gad.

Not a customer darkened his doorway,

Not a shadoe of ‘Biz’ was there;

But the flies kept on with their playing

Amongst the old man’s hair.

At last in despair he shouted,

‘Great Scot: I’m covered in flies!’

And the zephyr that toyed with his whiskers asked..

“Why don’t you advertise?”

Hurstville Happenings
April 2nd. 1904. On Tuesday afternoon a painful accident befell a resident of Hurstville named Albert A Jowett, who was kicked in the face by a pony in Ferndale St, Enmore, receiving injuries necessitating his admittance to Prince Alfred Hospital. He was conveyed to the institution by the Civil Ambulance Brigade.

• Hurstville Post Office – The Hurstville P. Office has the distinction of being the first Federal building erected under the supervision of the Commonwealth Public Works Department. It was completed and handed over by the contractors in October 1904, and cost pounds 1,468.0.0. It is built facing Forest Road, conveniently situated near the railway station, on land purchased from the Railway Department.

• Saturday October 27th, 1906 – Hurstville has made good progress since the opening of the railway on October 15, 1884 The establishment of Messrs P Low, newsagent, W C Hume, chemist, J. Carew, boot store, are fine large shops. For many years the premises now occupied by Mr J. Carew did duty as the local post and telegraph office, now transferred to a handsome dwelling almost directly opposite. A further capitalistic venture is the brickworks, now being rapidly pushed on upon the Chappelow Estate. There, a large sum alone is being laid out in machinery, the most modern brickmaking plant being installed, while in addition provision is made for a gasmaking plant for supplying the power.

• July 7th, 1909. Half-holiday for Postmen – In furtherance of the proposal to grant a general half-holiday to letter carriers the postmaster at Hurstville asked the Council as the local governing body, what objections to the change are likely to be raised. When the matter came before the council that body expressed its agreement with the proposal to discontinue the delivery on the particular afternoon, and suggested that this should be Saturday.

List of some of the advertisers appearing in the Jubilee Supplement –

  • St. George County Council
  • Clifford C Cooper – Watchmaker & Jeweller
  • Jarrett’s Shoe Store
  • Turner Bros. of Kogarah
  • Illawarra Suburbs’ Lawn Tennis Association
  • Slazenger Permalon Tennis Balls
  • The Bay Sports Store
  • Lofberg’s Pharmacy
  • F P Killick & Sons – Family Grocers
  • Hal Horder’s Hobby House
  • Freeman’s Shoe Store.
  • Fred Brown & Sons Pty. Ltd., Real Estate
  • Barter’s of Hurstville
  • Dawon’s Toys – Kogarah
  • Tanner Middleton Pty. Ltd. Timber Merchants
  • Prry’s – Kogarah
  • The Allawah Hotel
  • W. Peatfield & Sons – for oils,colours, paper-hanging, ironmongery, crockery or a good job of painting, glazing or decorating.

The Call’s Last Call – 75 year history
25th October 1979

The district’s oldest newspapers, the St. George Call, published weekly since 1904, has ceased publication after 75 years.

Increasing costs and problems with productions of its type in addition to decreasing demand for the paper are the major reasons for the closure. The St. George Call circulated in St. George, Sutherland Shire and sections of Bankstown.

Its demise will follow other former local newspapers including the Hurstville Propeller, Hurstville Express, Rockdale News, The Citizen (Rockdale) and the Cronulla Observer. They all played a part in the district’s earlier history.

The foundation editor of the Call in 1904 was Mr Dave Christian. He was followed by Mr W. Reid, Mr W. Bruce then Mr C. J. Kelly who was connected with the paper for almost half a century.

In later years the Call was managed by the members of the late Mr Kelly’s family until it was sold to Harpham Pty. Ltd., which continued to trade as the St. George Call, in Regent Street, Kogarah.

Mr T. Mead, the Editorial Director of Suburban Publications, which prints the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, and Leader sporting journalist, Horrie Maher, earlier in their newspaper careers worked on the St. George Call.

This article was first published in the August 1980 edition of our magazine.

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Back to Mortdale School

As told by Mr. E. Fletcher, of Frederick Street, Penshurst
Mr. Fletcher was one of the pupils who enrolled in the opening day of the first Mortdale School, built in 1888.
(Booklet obtained by courtesy of Mrs. J. Wotherspoon, Mortdale Public School.)

Please note that some of the terms used in this article reflect the attitude of the author or the period in which the item was written and may be considered inappropriate today.

A Brief History of Mortdale
Because of the shallowness of Botany Bay and the difficulty of clearing land, settlement of the St. George area was slow. But as numbers and the need for land increased the people were encouraged to move to the area.

Early land was at first granted by governors. In 1833 James Oatley, a watchmaker, was granted 300 acres around the Georges River area by Governor Bourke.

In 1861 Thomas Sutcliffe Mort acquired land which was originally called Mort’s Hill but later became known as Mortdale.

The Mort estate was then subdivided. The brickworks was established in 1884. For a time it was the only industry in the area. The bricks were handmade and very soft and porous. This pit closed and was replaced by a mechanised one. Only about thirty or forty persons were in that area then. The brickworks siding came into use in 1886. In 1888 the eastern part of Kemps farm was acquired for school purposes. A few houses mostly semi-detached were now erected. Most of these still exist though some have been modernised. The most prominent building was the two-storied one at the Princes Street corner. It was the first Post Office combined grocery store. About 1897 the Post Office was moved to the two-storied building opposite our present school.

Mortdale Station was opened on 20th March in 1897. The original station has been demolished while a subway replaces the old level crossing and gates. The first electric train in N. S. W. ran from Sydney to Oatley and began operation on 1st March 1926.

Mortdale Public School was erected in 1888 and was a brick building which housed three blocks of desks and forms. Mr. Joseph Coleman was in charge and occupied the school buildings. This has since been demolished. The actual opening was in January, 1889, after the Christmas holidays. As it was not quite ready, the pupils were sent home and came back a week later. In 1892 a classroom was added and Miss Ritz was appointed assistant teacher. She stayed for 3 years. Mr. Garden succeeded Mr. Coleman.

In 1936 the two-storied brick building was erected. Judd’s paddock has been placed at the school’s disposal for additional playground area.

James Oatley had a grant of 300 acres of land on George’s River, also one of 175 acres in the Kingsgrove-Moorefields district, and another of 40 acres in the South Hurstville area. Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, some time prior to 1861, acquired the south-western portion of Dr. Robert Townson’s grant. This portion embraces what is now known as Mortdale. It is from these two persons that Oatley and Mortdale derived their respective names, though originally Mortdale was known as Mort’s Hill.

Like other areas in the St. George district these two were cut up and acquired by others. At Oatley, on the eastern side of the railway, the Griffiths family had a substantial estate which was subdivided and sold at various times from the mid eighties. On the western side what was known as the Oatley Township Estate was dealt with in a similar manner during the nineties. At Mort’s Hill the brickworks, established in 1884, had, and still has, a substantial area, and the Kemp family had a farm area extending from Mort’s Road (now Colbourne Avenue) on the east to Boundary Road on the west. When the railway was put through in 1885 it cut this farm into two practically equal portions. Gates, adjacent to the brickworks, provided access from one portion to the other. Then in 1888, practically half of the eastern portion was acquired for school purposes, and finally about 1920, the balance of the Kemp property was acquired by the Railway Dept. for railway purposes and includes what is known as Railway Reserve. The original farmhouse stood in the paddock below the school, but later a two-storied building was erected facing the road and adjacent to the school residence. These three residences – the old farmhouse, the new residence, and the school residence have since been demolished to make way for school extensions. Towards Penshurst, Mrs. Parkes had a farm area which had also been cut in two by the railway. Gates which were in the vicinity of where the subway is now located, gave access from one part to the other. At Penshurst, Mr. Myles McCrae had an extensive area and his old residence, “Kintail”, still stands. A macadamised road, now known as Railway Parade, ran through this property from Laycock Road to Mort’s Road, and was the only direct access to Mortdale as it then existed. The area bounded by McCrae’s southern boundary (approximately the present Grove Avenue on the north, railway on the west, the present-day Princes Street on the east, and Mort’s Road on the south, had been sub-divided into building blocks sometime during the early eighties). A few houses, mostly semi-detached places, had been erected, and most of them still exist and can be picked out quite readily, though some of them have been more of less modernised.

The most prominent building was the two-storied one, still existing at the Princes Street corner. Here was located the first Post Office, combined with a grocery store. About 1897 the Post Office was moved to the two-storied building, the front of which has been added to in more recent years, opposite the school, and was managed by Mrs. Phillips. Mort’s Road was macadamised from Princes Street corner to approximately Kemp Street, whence it meandered as a bush track to Forest Road. It crossed the railway through Mort’s Gates. The present business area of Mortdale, bounded by the railway, Mort’s Road. Grump Street (approximately) and Kemp’s northern boundary, which corresponds with the back alignment of George Street allotments, was a fenced paddock of fairly thick bush and scrub, It was known as Newmants paddock. A Mr. Newman lived in a brick cottage nearby and since demolished to make way for railway alterations, which was the only residence that side of the line.

Newman seems to have been the caretaker of this property. About 1894 it was sub-divided into building blocks and sold at auction under the name “Mort’s Estate” ,the auctioneer being Mr. E. C. V. Broughton, and so Mortdale began to grow. Just about this time Victoria Avenue was constructed from Laycock Road (now Penshurst Street), to Mort’s Road Mortdale Station, opened in 1897, was to the southward of the gates, with the platform ramps adjacent to them.

What the population of Mortdale was when the Railway opened in 1885 is doubtful – probably not more than 30 or 40 persons, perhaps fewer. When we took up residence at Oatley shortly after the opening of the Railway, the population increased five persons (ourselves) with one house. Almost simultaneously another family – Mr. Orange and his son, together with his housekeeper (Mrs. Baker) and her daughter – came on the scene. He was caretaker for the Griffiths Estate and lived in the brick cottage in Oatley Avenue between Frederick Street corner and the hotel, and is the oldest building in Oatley. The census of Oatley, early in 1886, was nine persons and two houses. From then on growth was fairly rapid and homes began to spring up in all directions.

Raine & Home and Richardson and Wrench conducted the sales from time to time and special trains brought crowds of people out to attend the sales which were very successful. Oatley’s first Post Office was in a cottage which stood on portion of the site now occupied by the hotel. There are two coral trees growing on the Reserve opposite the hotel. They were planted there by my father over 60 years ago – the more southerly of the two was grown from a slip brought from Tongarra, a few miles outside Albion Park – the other was a cutting off the first tree.

James Oatley’s burial place does not appear to be quite definitely known other than that it took place on some part of his estate. In 1925 a Mr. W. Sivertsen, of Bexley, came across his tombstone lying on some vacant land on the Moorefields Estate. In an article in “Truth” under date 8th May, 1921, reference is made to: “an old grave near what appears to have been a farm. This farm is situated on the country lying between Penshurst and Lakemba. On the slab of stone covering the grave is the following – ‘Sacred to the memory of James Oatley. Obit October 8, 1839. Aetat (Ed: aged; at the age of) 70 years.'” But the site of the grave was not stated in the article. James Oatley was a watch and clockmaker. Frederick Oatley, whose grave is in a paddock at Moorefields, was his son. Many years ago a grave existed on the hill overlooking Mortdale and Oatley. It was on the Oatley side of Boundary Road at approximately the Waratah Street corner, but there was nothing on it to indicate who was buried there. I last saw it about 1897, but it cannot be located now because the site has been built up completely.

On Oatley Point there was, many years ago, a large, round, flat rock, which, judging by its appearance and surroundings, seemed to have been an aborigines’ feasting ground. Wind and rain storms during the past 60 years have covered it with soil and growth and it is not visible now.

Beyond all doubt the district between Hurstville and river owes its rapid growth to the railway’s establishment. The opening of the railway from Illawarra Junction (Eveleigh) to Hurstville took place on 15th October, 1884. The intermediate stations were Erskineville, St. Peters, Marrickville (now Sydenham), Tempe, Arncliffe, Rockdale and Kogarah. Carlton was opened in 1887, Banksia on 21st October, 1906, and Allawah on 25th October, 1925. The extension – Hurstville to Sutherland was opened for business on 26th December, 1885, with Como as the intermediate station. The Brickworks Siding came into use in 1886, Penshurst opened in 1886, Oatley in 1886 and Mortdale, 20th March, 1897. Jannali was opened on 7th February, 1931. The extensions beyond Sutherland took place in subsequent years until Nowra 26 was reached. The duplication between Hurstville and Waterfall was completed by 22nd March, 1891. This was a big step forward as it permitted a more frequent service which hitherto had been confined to three or four trains daily. Oatley platform, which originally was only a dump, was lengthened, and became a station with “up and “down” platforms, and a resident stationmaster in charge. The residence was built on railway land alongside the “down” platform. The deviation, Como to Mortdale, was carried out in 1905 and resulted in Oatley Station being moved about one quarter of a mile westward to its present site and opened on 7th July, 1905. A subway took the place of the original level crossing and gates. The station-master’s residence was abolished. The night officer’s residence which stood near the beginning of the big rock cutting below the school, had been destroyed by fire a few years previously and had not been re-built.

Oatley was re-named Oatley’s in 1889, but the original name was restored in 1890. The present island platform with a goods yard adjoining, was opened on 7th July, 1905. Automatic signals were installed south of the station on 1st November, 1918, and on the north side on 12th January, 1926, The goods yard was closed on 22nd December, 1940. Mortdale Station was moved northward beyond the original gates on 14th September, 1922, The original station has been demolished, while a subway has replaced the old level corssing and gates. Penshurst Station was extended northwards, thus cutting out the level crossing at gates which were replaced with an overhead traffic bridge. It is not possible to name the first station masters at the various stations. Mr. Hall, who lived in the railway residence which stood just about where the Post Office is now, was S. M. at Hurstville for a number of years in those early time. Mr. John Brown was the first resident S. M. at Oatley. He died there on 3rd June, 1902. Mr. Cuneo was S. M. at Como for a number of years.

Hurstville is named after the Rev. W. A. Hurst (Wesleyan) of Tempe, who took a very great interest in the district. Penshurst is named after a locality of the same name in England. Mortdale after Thomas Mort, Oatley after James Oatley, and Como after Lake Como in Italy. Sutherland is named after Forby Sutherland, one of Captain Cook’s seamen and “the first white man to die in this newly discovered land.”

The first electric trains in New South Wales ran from Sydney to Oatley and began to operate on 1st March, 1926, and were extended to Sutherland on 12th August, 1926, and to National Park on 24th December, 1926.

The nearest public shool was Hurstville, which opened in 1876, though there had been schools held in various kinds of buildings for some years prior. Mortdale Public School was erected in 1888, and was a brick building which housed three blocks of desks and forms. My sister and I were two of the pupils enrolled on opening day. Mr. Joseph Coleman was the teacher in charge, and he occupied the school residence, a. brick cottage alongside the school building. The cottage has since been demolished to make way for another building. I think I am right in saying that the actual opening day was in January, 1889, when schools resumed after the 1888 Christmas recess. The school was not quite ready when we presented ourselves and we had to come back a week later. My stay at Mortdale was not a very long one as in 1892 I was sent back to Hurstville, where I had been before Mortdale opened. Somewhere about this time a classroom was added to Mortdale School and Miss Frize was appointed assistant teacher, and she remained at the school for a number of years. I am sorry I cannot add any more details about the school, but no doubt somebody else in the district will be able to do so. Mr. Garden succeeded Mr. Coleman and some old pupils of these two gentlemen will be able to relate some interesting details of Mr. Coleman’s later days and Mr. Garden’s early days at the school.

Naturally, when I returned to Hurstville, my interests centred round that school.

Church Activities
The first Sunday School was organised by an elderly widow (Mrs. Smith) and her three daughters (the Misses Bessie, Georgina, and Florence Smith), and the classes were held in her private residence at Oatley. The cottage still stands and is known as No. 27 Woonoona Parade. There is no way of establishing the exact date of the beginning of the school, but it was about 1889 or 1890. It continued for about three years, when failing health caused the dear old lady to give it up. At intervals during the currency of the school, church services, mainly for children, were held by visiting clergymen, two of whose names can be recalled, viz. (Ed: abbreviation, meaning “namely”), Rev. W. Patterson and Rev. M. Moore. The former came from Parramatta and the latter from Sydney. After the school ceased to function there was a gap until 1894 when Mrs. Saunders and family took up residence in “Dewerara” Cottage, Woronora Parade, Oatley. This residence is still in existence. Soon after her arrival, Mrs. Saunders started a Sunday School and these activities have continued without a break ever since. The school grew so rapidly that it soon outgrew the accommodation available at the cottage. In 1898, St. Peters Church, Mortdale, was erected and the Sunday School was moved to it. Church services were held at the cottage at regular intervals and were conducted by Rev. M. Walker (Wesleyan, and then styled) Rev. McKay (Presbyterian), and Rev. W. Killworth (C. of E). In fact, Mr. Killworth, who was Rector of the Parish of St. George (which extended from Kogarah to the River) was responsible for the building of St. Peter’s Church, Mortdale. This lonely little outpost of 1898 is now the Parish Church of its own Parish. In 1889, Rev, James Clarke was appointed Rector of the Parish of St. George, as it was then known, and continued in charge until 1895. During his travels in the Holy Land, he obtained a bottle of water from the River Jordan and he used this water in connection with baptismal services during the early nineties. My youngest sister was baptised with this water and no doubt there are others living in the district who can claim the same distinction. Mr. Clarke was a fine horseman, a very fast walker, and a splendid preacher. The present St. George’s Church, Hurstville, was erected in 1889, and took the place of a wooden building which was propped up on the graveyard side with several large logs.

Methodist (then known as Wesleyan) Church services were held at regular intervals at Mrs. Kemp’s residence during the early nineties. This residence has long since disappeared to make way for school extensions.

The first public school at Mortdale and the first Sunday School at Oatley have an interesting feature. Mr. Coleman, whose first wife had died, married Miss Florence Smith, thus bringing about, as it were, a union of the two fiist schools. Miss Smith was also the first bride from Oatley. Following an old-time custom, the newly married couple were vigorously tin-kettled for several hours on their wedding night. This was the first and only tin-kettling at Oatley.

It is interesting to note that the large parish of St. George which was sparsely populated, has since been divided into six parishes – Kogarah, Hurstville, South Hurstville, Penshurst, Mortdale, and Oatley, and each one is thickly populated.

During the early nineteen hundreds, church services were also held in the School of Arts Building at Oatley.

Social Life and Services
We had to make our own pleasures and succeeded very well, and taken all round, we were a happy community. Band of Hope concerts, amateur plays and concerts, with occasional tableaux, etc. , afforded enjoyable entertainment. Dances in Hales’ Hall and at various residences also had a good following, and surprise parties were popular. In summer time, boating picnics or gipsy teas as they were called, were a much appreciated and very enjoyable pastime. Oysters were very plentiful and easily obtained. Public holidays saw crowds of picnickers brought to Oatley by special trains, for Oatley Bay was a favourite picnic resort and a very interesting and pretty spot it was, too. Harry Linnark’s Boatshed did a thriving business on such occasions. Even Chinese New Year celebrations and Salvation Army picnics were a regular feature. At one time two pleasure steamers ran from Lady Robinson’s Beach (Brighton-le-Sands of to-day) up the river to Parkesvale, calling in at Como en-route. It was a pleasant and interesting trip.

Early in 1902, a debating club was formed under the high-sounding title of “Mortdale Literary and Debating Society,” and out of it sprang a cricket club – the first, by the way – and we played in the St. George District Competition during the 1902-03 season. We sought and obtained permission from Mr. Percy Judd to put down a concrete pitch in the brickworks paddock, and the matches played drew fair attendances and added some variety to the usual Saturday afternoon pleasures.

Among the first buildings to be erected on the newly cut up Mort s Estate was a shop by Mrs. Hales, in Pitt Street, somewhere about where the Post Office is now located and further along the street she erected a hall where many a pleasant function was held. This hail still stands, though a front has been built on to it, and is now Costello’s Hardware and Grocery Store.

The nearest doctor – Dr. McLeod – lived at Hurstville, and the nearest police station was Newtown. The local limb of the law was Constable Guess, who lived in Victoria Avenue. For a long time bread, meat, and groceries were delivered from Hurstville – Fred Mumford was the baker; Tom Hillard, the butcher; and C. A. Morgan, the grocer. Sing Hop, with his horse and van, and Ah See, with his baskets on the bamboo carrying stick, provided fruit and vegetables. Syrian hawkers, with their drapery packs, were almost a pest. Charles Barsby established a drapery and mercery business in Hurstville, and travelled the district with a light vehicle and that settled the Syrians. Milk was supplied by a local dairyman (Mr. Gorman), and the run was usually done by his children carrying cans. A very essential service was rendered by a quiet, unassuming dear old lady – Mrs. Kemp – who was the local midwife. No doubt there are quite a few persons still living hereabouts who were ushered into the world by this good lady. My second sister is one of three and she has the distinction of being the first child born at Oatley.

Mumfords residence and bakery were – and still are – at the corner of Bridge and Forest Roads Hillard’s butchery was – and still is – on the opposite corner. Before erecting the existing shops, he had the old style open-front shop with large cutting block. He made his deliveries from a cutting cart. Morgan’s grocery store is now the Hurstville Bedding Store, and Barsby’s drapery was two doors from it.

Originally there were only two hotels, both at Hurstville – the Blue Post Inn and the Hurstville Hotel. The former received its name from a blue hitching post which stood in front, and was opposite the Public School. Its site is now occupied by a block of flats. Hurstville Hotel still stands, though in a very modernised form. About 1900 a hotel was built in Victoria Avenue, and was the first in the immediate locality. The building now accommodates the Police Boys’ Club.

The brickworks, which came into existence in 1884, was the only industry in the area for many years and is still in a thriving condition. Prior to that a small brickpit existed on the site now taken up by the Memorial Park, Mortdale. The bricks were hand-made and very soft and porous and, naturally, could not compare with the machine-made article, and so this little pit closed down.

These notes have been written mainly from memory, but where it has been possible to obtain confirmatory details, I have done so. In this regard I wish to record my grateful thanks to the Mitchell Library, the Railway Department, and the Manager of the Brickworks, and I am very appreciative of the courteous manner in which they dealt with my requests.

9th September 1955. E. Fletcher.

This article was first published in the March and April 1970 edition of our magazine.

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Nominations for Election of Office Holders – July 2023 Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of the St George Historical Society will be held on Saturday 16th July 2023 at 2pm at Level 3, Rockdale Library.

All office holder positions are empty at the time of the AGM.
Nominations for positions are to be issued to Secretary no later than 7 days before the AGM.
Nominations will also be taken from the meeting floor at the time of the AGM.

Office Bearers to be elected

  • President
  • Vice-President
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
Committee Members
  • Curator
  • Librarian
  • Lydham Hall Management Committee (up to 4 positions)*
  • Lydham Hall Sub Committee
  • Magazine Co-ordinator
  • Public Officer
  • Publicity Officer
  • Research Officer

Office Holder Nomination Form

Position Descriptions

  • President The President is the administrative head of the Society and directs its affairs subject to the control of the Committee. He or she is a member of all sub-committees and shall chair all Meetings of the Society.
  • Vice president The Vice-President acts as a consultant to the President and shall take the place of the President during his or her absence.
  • Secretary The Secretary is the executive officer of the Society and custodian of its records, keeping minutes of the Society and Committee, conduct correspondence, act as liaison officer with officers of other associations.
  • Treasurer The Treasurer is responsible for the recording and reporting of the Societies finances, including the collection of money for membership, sales, events, as well as responsibility for any investments.
  • Curator The Curator oversees the collection by managing the acquisition, preservation and display of objects currently kept at Lydham Hall.
  • Librarian The Librarian oversees the collection of research and reading material available for members and visitors at Lydham Hall.
  • Lydham Hall Management Committee (up to 4 positions) The LHMC is a joint committee with Bayside Council and will consist of 3 councillors and up to 4 members representing the Society. Terms of reference are yet to be finalised but it is anticipated that the LHMC will manage the building and the grounds on behalf of Bayside Council and will support the SGHS in the preservation, management and interpretation of the museum. The LHMC will meet (at least) quarterly to oversee the management of the museum.
  • Lydham Hall Sub Committee (up to 4 positions) LHSC will oversee the day to day activities of the museum including being on hand for openings, setting up exhibitions and events, and general maintenance and care of the house and the collection.
  • Magazine Editor The editor co-ordinates the articles and distribution of the Society magazine, Our History, which is published quarterly.
  • Public Officer The Public Officer is required to liaise with the Department of Fair Trading and the National Charities and Not For Profits Commission for the required correspondence regarding the Societies activities.
  • Publicity Officer The Publicity Officer manages the activities related to the public face of the Society and will be responsible for marketing the aims, events and activities of the Society. The publicity officer will manage the Societies social media (Web page and Facebook page) and will liaise with the Marketing team at Bayside Council to promote the Society and Lydham Hall.
  • Research Officer The Research Officer will undertake research on behalf of the Society and respond to requests for information from members and the general public.

Captain James Cook R. N.

Written by Gifford & Eileen Eardley

Please note that some of the terms used in this article reflect the attitude of the author or the period in which the item was written and may be considered inappropriate today.

Captain Cook and his party at Botany Bay (image from A Concise History of Australia by Clive Turnbull, (New York, N.Y., USA: Viking Press, Inc, 1965), p. 15.)

It is questionable if, after a lapse of some two hundred years, there still remains any undiscovered information relating to the multifarious activities associated with the everyday life of that distinguished Yorkshireman, Captain James Cook. Much has been published about his three historic voyages of discovery, undertaken between the years 1768 and 1779; to we Australians the most important of his achievements was the finding and charting of some five thousand miles of the eastern coast of Australia One can only speculate as to what would have eventuated if this great sailor had not ventured into the South Pacific Ocean, circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand, and sailed westward to gain a land- fall of the Australian Continent at Point Hicks.

The biography of James Cook teems with interest. He was born on October 27, 1728, at Marton-in-Cleveland, a small farming village in Yorkshire, England, the son of a Scottish labourer and his Yorkshire wife. The cottage where James Cook was born has long been demolished but the field in which it stood is called “Cook’s Garth”, It would appear that his early days were spent at a farm at Great Ayton where, between carrying out the usual agricultural chores, he attended the local village school to gain the rudiments of an education befitting his then status in life. At the age of seventeen he entered an apprenticeship with a shopkeeper, generally spoken of as being a huckster, or pedlar, who had his business at The Staithes, a small fishing village gathered around its dividing creek on the rock-bound coast of the North Riding of Yorkshire. This shop has also disappeared, and perhaps the only survival associated with the Cook family may be the neat little home now so well preserved in the Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne.

James Cook was successful in transferring his apprenticeship to a Quaker coal merchant and shipper at Whitby, by the name of John Walker. Under the watchful eye of his new master young Cook served for the next three years in the various colliers plying from Newcastle- on-Tyne and Whitby to the coal depots ranged along the Thames at London. More adventurous journeys were also made across the German, or North Sea, to the Baltic ports, where the coal cargoes were replaced by pine timber cut to lengths suitable for the English market. In addition to learning the first principles of navigation Cook applied his talents to the study of mathematics, and at the age of twenty-seven he held a “Mate’s Certificate acting in this capacity on numerous ships until 1755 when war broke out between England and France It was a time when the infamous “Press Gangs” came into active operation and no male was safe from their attentions, particularly those with any sea-going experience. In this year Mr. John Walker offered him a command. Cook thought it wiser to join his Britannic Majesty’s Navy as a volunteer and, as an Ordinary Seaman, went aboard the H.M.S. Eagle, of sixty guns, which was then berthed in the Thames at Wapping Old Stairs. His next four years were -spent before the mast but they also brought him some influential friendships which culminated in his being raised to the rank of a master. On the strength of this important office he was given command of H.M.S. Grampus, but owing to one of those book-keeping mistakes, which are so common in any, service, it was found that the master in command of this vessel had never left his posting. As a result of this contretemps of the “Silent Service” he was transferred to H.M.S. Garland, as far as the books were concerned, but it was quickly learned that this latter vessel was well away to sea and could not be contacted. However, the third posting which Cook obtained, and actually gained, the mastership of the good ship “Mercury’, under the command of Sir Charles Saunders, was soon engaged in Canadian waters co-operating with the military forces of the intrepid General Wolfe, a gentleman who had designs on the capture of Quebec.

Owing to the lack of knowledge of the then uncharted waters of the mighty St. Laurence River, it was deemed impossible to use the guns of the fleet to the best advantage, consequently a survey of the river, made under the cloak of darkness, became imperative. Cook was chosen for this risky operation, and in a small boat, pulled with muffled oars, he silently stole, night after night, along the river taking the necessary soundings so as to be acquainted with any navigation obstacles. The French forces at length became aware of these nightly excursions and set a watch of Indians to circumvent further ventures in this direction. They closed on the boat, and in the succeeding melee the Indians boarded one end of the boat as Cook left, in a great hurry, at the other end. The survey work, carried out under such difficult conditions, ultimately resulted in the capture of Quebec, much to the mortification of the French.

After all this excitement the British fleet spent the winter at Halifax in Newfoundland, and Cook had the honour of being transferred from the H.M.S. Mercury to the Admiral’s Flagship, the H.M.S. Northumberland, which was classified as a first class man-of-war. Cook now charted the surrounding Newfoundland and his excellent work, coupled with his prowess appertaining to navigational procedure, brought him to the notice of the Admiralty. The H.M.S. Northumberland returned to England in the early part of 1762, and on December 21 of that year Ships-master Cook wedded Miss Elizabeth Batts at Barking in Essex, a lass who came from Shadwell. In the course of their married life the Cook’s raised a family of six children. However, as with most sailors, their married bliss consisted of many disconnected honeymoons, arranged according to the posting of the vessels by the Naval Authorities, Four months after his marriage he was surveying the islands of Miquelon and St. Pierre, and later, in April, 1764, he was placed in command of the schooner Grenville and again sent to the coasts of Newfoundland for further survey work, returning to England each autumn and leaving again in the spring, a routine arrangement which continued until 1967. The publication of his charts relating to Newfoundland, and his observational details concerning a solar eclipse created great interest and brought him favour of the Royal Society, and promotion from the rank of Master to that of a Naval Lieutenant, Just rewards for a great man.

Scientific circles at this period were all agog over the phenomenon of the Transit of Venus which, according to astronomical calculations, would pass across the disc of the sun during the year 1769, The Royal Society considered that the best place for an observation would be on some island in the mid-Pacific Ocean and made application to King George III to make such observation a national undertaking. For once the King was gracious and gave his Royal Consent to the proposition Now followed a hurry and scurry to get things moving. So much had to be considered in detail, particularly things appertaining to qualified personnel, in addition to that appertaining to seamanship in uncharted waters. Alexander Dalrymple was the man chosen to lead the expedition, but he could’ not make a decision one way or the other, consequently he was passed by in favour of Lieutenant James Cook, who, in addition to having the requisite knowledge from a scientific angle, also possessed first class qualities as a navigator. Once the leader was chosen there followed a search for a suitable ship. The East India Company’s vessels were scanned. Likewise one of the three-decked West Indiamen, and also an Admiralty frigate, but all to no avail. Cook’s strength was his self confidence and he had no ‘hesitation in recommending for the contemplated mission the small bargue, of 370 tons burden, named the “Earl of Pembroke”, which had been specially built as a collier for the Newcastle and Whitby coal trade. No doubt Cook knew well the worth of these strongly constructed colliers, broad in beam and of shallow draught, ideal qualifications for the important job on hand, The “Earl of Pembroke” was cleaned of its coal dust, and spent some time in the docks being refitted and armed with ten carriage and twelve swivel guns, just in case. Under its new Admiralty ownership the squat vessel gained the name “Endeavour Bark”, and its holds were stored with pro- visions and gear to last for a period of eighteen months.

The “Endeavour Bark” lay quietly at anchor in the Thames whilst the important scientific personnel were being recruited. At this period Joseph Banks, later Sir Joseph, decided to join the expedition. He was a wealthy mart and the then president of the Royal Society. Banks was born on February 13, 1743 at Westminster and over the years had acquired an interest in natural history in all its numerous phases. He was responsible for selecting a staff of eight men, all of whom were well equipped for collecting, studying, and preserving natural history specimens. Dr. Daniel Carl Solander, a Swedish botanist attached to the British Museum, volunteered to accompany the expedition, and Sydney Parkinson, an able draughtsman, was also listed amongst the scientific personnel.

At long last the expedition was ready to leave the shores of England and the “Endeavour Bark” sailed from Plymouth Sound on August 26,, 1768. The ship’s complement included a captain, two lieutenants, three midshipmen, a master, a boatswain, a carpenter, other petty officers, forty-one able seamen, twelve marines, and nine servants Cook was a determined administrator and drove himself as hard as his men, yet they followed him through thick and thin. It is true that some of the crew grumbled as his hygiene requirements, so necessary for their health, and his methods to overcome the malady of scurvy also came in for criticism. This foul disease was brought about by a regular forced diet of salted meat, often in a putrefied condition and generally without vegetables of any kind. It is understood that Cook particularly favoured lemons as an antidote.

After a voyage of some six months the Atlantic Ocean was crossed and the perils associated with the rounding of Cape Horn accomplished. The “Endeavour Bark” now entered the of times tranquil waters of the Pacific Ocean, sailing in a general northwesterly direction to gain the Island of Otaheite, which was reached after another four months had passed. Here a small protective fort on the island was built and an observatory established. After a period of some two months had passed, without trouble from the very interested but uncomprehending native population, the Transit of Venus was witnessed in a cloudless sky. The scientists were jubilant with the success of their observations as they had a bearing on astronomy in general and also bore relationship to the science of practical navigation.

Leaving Otaheite Cook sailed southwards on the homeward journey, intending to pass round the Cape of Good Hope en route, thus circumnavigating the world in the course of the voyage. But his commission required him to investigate the possibility of there being a great land mass in the hitherto unexplored part of the Southern Hemisphere. To this end he reached the coasts of the islands of New Zealand in August, 1769, eventually making his headquarters at Ship Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound, at the north-eastern section of the South Island. From this base he charted the coast lines and took formal possession of the islands on behalf of the British Crown, bestowing on them the name New Zealand, the ceremony taking place on January 30, 1770. After completing the survey of the area Cook left Cape Farewell on March 31, 1770, and steered a westward course for nearly three weeks when land was sighted, on April 19, 1770, by Lieutenant Hicks, and named Point Hicks in his honour. It has been related that “Cook must have been deceived in some way by the sand-hills of the Ninety-mile Beach, for on that part of the Victorian coast there is no such point to be found”.

The hitherto undiscovered eastern coast of the Australian continent was thus discovered. Cook now sailed northwards, making a chart of the shoreline in detail and seeking a harbour where the ‘Endeavour Bark” could be beached and its bottom cleaned and scraped of its weed growth and barnacles. Many of the more imposing natural features were named as they hove into view, such placenames being in general use to-day. Then came a calm which stopped further progress for an hour or two, giving the opportunity, and also the desire, to inspect as to what lay beyond two opposing headlands more or less immediately opposite their becalmed ship. In due course the wind came up and this large enclosed bay was entered, and after the anchor had been dropped near the western shore of the southern headland, which Cook had named Cape Solander, the first landing was made in search of water to replenish the ship’s tanks. This famous place is now known as Kurnell, the name, by all accounts, being an aboriginal corruption of the surname Connell, one of the much later land-holders of the immediate district.

The “Endeavour Bark” dropped its anchor opposite a group of eight mia-mias, constructed of sheets of bark held up by suitably disposed sticks of short length. In the afternoon of April 28, 1770, Cook made his initial landing on Australian soil, his pinnace coming to rest against a low rock outcrop jutting into the shallow water near the shoreline. It was his intention to make friendly overtures to the natives, but these naked savages clearly showed that they were not amused by this, to them, unwarranted intrusion. They followed the landing party along the sandy beach, brandishing their spears and boomerang in a most warlike manner. They were all quite naked and had adorned themselves in fanciful designs carried out in white pipeclay, an ingredient often to be found in layers beneath sandstone rocks. A couple of the men came down to the landing rock with their spears held aloft making threatening gestures and shouting words which could not, of course, be interpreted. Stones were thrown, and later, spears and for their own safety the mariners had to frighten them off with a discharge from their muskets, the weapons being loaded with small buck-shot which would cause more discomfort than injury. These measures were ultimately successful, and the boat party searched for and found a small trickling stream of fresh-water nearby which served to replenish the ship’s tanks.

The scientific members of the expedition had a wonderful time exploring the local forests surrounding the bay, finding all manner of strange plants which, to them, flourished in what appeared to be a topsy-turvy world. They became acquainted with the beauteous flora of the Hawkesbury Sandstone country and also that of the sand dunes ranged along the length of the beaches. The age-old gum trees, of great girth and writhing shapes, were duly admired, likewise the fertile swamplands which lay just beyond the dunes. The creatures of the wild were there in profusion, all of distinct types and unknown to European eyes. The sight of kangaroos and wallabies, which abounded in the scrublands around the bay, filled them with awe and mystification. There were gaudy lorikeets to be appreciated and also shot for the pot. Meanwhile fishing parties found their nets to be so full of stingrays, amongst other fish, that Cook dubbed the locality as Stingray Bay, but the enthusiasm of Banks and his associates led him to record the placename as Botany Bay, and so it has remained for the east two hundred years. The Union Jack was daily hoisted after Cook had formally taken possession of this new and delectable territory.

It is evident from Cook’s chart of Botany Bay that both George’s River and Cook’s River had been explored upstream for at least a mile or so from their respective mouths. It is to be understood that these two names were not bestowed on these streams by Cook, but appear to have been in use at the time of Governor Hunter as both are mentioned in his despatches to England.

Cape Banks at the northern entrance to Botany Bay, and Point Sutherland and Point Solander on the southern side, were recorded on Cook’s chart, together with two markings where freshwater was to be found, one at Kurnell and the other at Towra Point. All in all some three and a half days were spent in a most satisfactory way amidst the delights of Botany Bay and its immediate surroundings, after which the “Endeavour Bark” once again sailed northwards along the coast, the log book mentioned another opening in the sea-cliffs which they did not explore, but on which they bestowed the name Port Jackson, as the entrance apparently gave on to a large harbour.

Pressing onwards Broken Bay was passed and noted. Not having time to explore these several, to him, minor indentations, Cook continued northwards, naming Smoky Cape and Byron Bay en route. At Point Danger the “Endeavour Bark” nearly finished its days upon a sunken reef, hence the placename which still applies. Moreton Bay was next mentioned, likewise the fantastic Glass House Mountains, and so the process of naming outstanding places of spectacular interest was continued until Cape Tribulation was reached. Here the vessel had the misfortune to run aground on a sunken reef and it became necessary to lighten the ship preparatory to floating her off at the next high tide.

Six heavy guns, together with a quantity of chain cable and iron and stone ballast were heaved overboard, together with anything else of a disposable and weighty nature. It was necessary to fully man all the ship’s pumps until about midnight of the following day, when the tide was such that the ship gave a violent lurch and floated free once again. With the now tired men still pumping hard in relays lasting about five minutes each sails were set and two days later the muddy estuary of the stream, which Cook dubbed as the Endeavour River, was entered.

Here the next seven weeks were spent in beaching the vessel and repairing its damaged hull and careening the outer shell generally, The scientists aboard explored the adjacentbush land on their botanizing expeditions whilst the repairs were being made. When everything was shipshape Cook sailed eastwards and searched for and found a channel which led through the Great Barrier Reef and into the compaxtive safety of the open sea. Then a northward course was set to eventually round and name Cape York, and at the nearby Possession Island, Cook once more “hoisted English Colours” and took formal possession of the whole eastern coast and its hinterland, later adding the name New South Wales to his journal.

Satisfying himself that New Guinea and New Holland (or should we say New South Wales) were separate island, Cook set sail for Batavia, arriving at that steamy tropical port on October 11, 1770. Here the “Endeavour Bark” underwent further repair and overhaul at the local dockyard, necessary work which delayed his departure until December 26, 1770. Then rounding the Cape of Good Hope he once again entered the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in England on July 13, 1771, after a most remarkable world-wide voyage which had lasted over a period of almost three years.

It should be mentioned at this juncture that the 1969 Barrier Reef Expedition for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (U.S.A.) was responsible for searching for and eventually recovering the jettisoned cannons, iron, and stone ballast and other material from the “Endeavour Bark”. The cannons were encrusted with coral and other growth and, after most careful cleaning and handling were taken to Melbourne for further treatment and ultimate disposal to approved museums.

Captain James Cook made three voyages to the South Seas, not being fated to return from the last. Among other places he went to Hawaii in the Sandwich Islands. The natives were notorious thieves and one night the ships cutter was stolen. Cook went ashore to see the local king about the affair, and getting no satisfaction, decided to take the king aboard his ship as a hostage held against the return of the missing cutter. Seeing that only bloodshed could follow Cook released his prisoner and hailed for the ship’s boats. As the embarkation proceeded the natives showered the seamen with stones, little damage being done by this volley. The first boat filled with its complement and left the shore leaving Cook to wait for the second boat only a few yards away. Standing on the beach he was struck down by a native, falling into the water and was, in this prone position, stabbed many times. The second boat crew came to his rescue and in the ensuing melee a marine and three sailors were also killed and several others wounded. It is generally presumed that Cook’s body together with the bodies of the other fallen men, were dragged to the tribal huts and there eaten by these cannibalistic savages. A landing party from the ship later recovered his mortal remains, and placed in a coffin, they were committed to the sea with full military honours.

Thus ended the adventurous life on one of England’s greatest sailors, his death taking place on February 14, 1779, at Kealakekua Bay. In this bi-centenary year, 1970, full honour must be afforded to the memory of Captain James Cook, the discoverer of New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia. His statement, when dealing with the charms of Botany Bay in particular, “the land had a very agreeable and promising aspect” still stands today, although we may wonder if he would condone some of the modern “improvements” which have served to ruin its foreshores for all time.

This article was first published in the April 1970 edition of our magazine.

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Designing and Dangerous Men: The Story of the Transported Cato Street Conspirators

The Cato Street Conspiracy of 23 February 1820 was an attempt by a group of radicals to assassinate the British Cabinet while they dined at the house of Lord Harrowby in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London.
This act aimed to precipitate a revolution, depose the King, change Britain into a people’s republic, and liberate Ireland. The conspiracy failed – but not without loss of life.
Much has been written about this event, typically ending with the gruesome hanging and beheading of five plotters outside Newgate Prison on 1 May 1820, or shortly thereafter. More than these men however, were convicted of high treason for the part they played. Another five had their sentences changed to transportation for life, and one to six-months’ imprisonment.
To-date the story of the five transported conspirators has for the most part remained untold. In this book, Kieran Hannon moves the Cato Street Conspiracy beyond May 1820, by exploring the fates of the transported conspirators: Richard Bradburn, Charles Cooper, John Harrison, John Shaw Strange and James Wilson. It is the first attempt to extend the existing Cato Street Conspiracy narrative, and our understanding of this historically significant event.

Kieran presented a fascinating preview of his new book at our February 2021 meeting. Purchase Designing and Dangerous Men: The Story of the Transported Cato Street Conspirators at the Book Depository.