The Affairs Of James Beehag, A Rockdale Pioneer

by Gifford Eardley

Amongst the earliest settlers of the Rockdale area was Mr. James Beehag, a descendant of a French Huguenot farming family formerly known as Behague, who was born at Southminster, a village set amidst the wheatfields on the flat lands of the English country of Essex. This rural village is placed at a meeting of crossroads midway between the tidal River Crouch and the wider sea-estuary known as the Blackwater River, the shore-side shoals of the North Sea being about five miles eastward.

Together with his brother William and sister (later Mrs. E. Way of Messrs. E. Way and Company, formerly drapers in Pitt Street, Sydney, sited in the block between Market and King Streets) he came to Sydney about the year 1836. According to report James Beehag first settled on the site at present occupied by the George Street store of Messrs. David Jones, located at the south-western corner of the intersection of George Street and Barrack Street, almost immediately opposite the General Post Office. About 1838 he moved to what can now be described as north-western Canterbury where, by all accounts, James Beehag was the first to settle in this area. Here he developed a market garden in the vicinity of the Liverpool Road, the property having an area of some thirty acres. The district at that time was a primeval forest which ranged over the low hills and their intervening shallow slopes. It has been mentioned that fresh water was one of the problems against the local settlement and, perhaps the nearest permanent household supply was at the casuarina tree-fringed Cooks River, which flowed a few miles to the south of the Beehag property.

James Beehag, who was of the Presbyterian faith, married Miss Mary Burnett at Scots Church in York Street, Sydney, where the ceremony, held on May 4th, 1840, was conducted by the Reverend William McIntyre. Their first child, named Isaac, was born on July 18th, 1841, and baptised on July 25th of the same year. The family address at this period was simply Liverpool Road and the happy couple were listed as farmers. Other children of the marriage were – Margaret (who married Samuel Tattler), Robert, Gideon (who married Elizabeth Eggleston), Elizabeth (who married William Humphries) and James (who married Elizabeth Humphries).

Tattler family outside Samuel Tattler’s residence (courtesy Bayside Library)

In 1852 the Canterbury property was sold and the Beehag family moved to the wilds of West Botany where they obtained a triangular shaped block of land some seventy acres in extent. The northern alignment ranged along Bay Street, Rockdale, from its junction, at an apex corner with Rocky Point Road (now Princes Highway) eastwards to the western corner of Pat Moore’s Swamp, located about midway between the present West Botany Street and England Street at Brighton le Sands. The westernmost portion of this plot was largely taken up by a low sandstone hillock, now quarried away for the passage of Bay Street, which once sloped southwards to the later made alignment of Chapel Street. This portion of the property was of little use for farming purposes, consequently when the need arose for a site to erect a Wesleyan Chapel, about 1854, it was offered for sale to the chapel authorities. A small edifice was subsequently erected and provision made for a cemetery. This old-time chapel (and its adjacent Methodist Church of much later construction) still stands in good order, both being situated amidst a wealth of lovely trees, the outstanding feature in the shopping area now known as Rockdale.

According to at least one early map the Beehag grant extended eastwards beyond the swamplands to the western shores of Botany Bay, then an area of sand dunes covered by a dense forest of age-old gum trees and a wealth of picturesque coastal scrub ranging from geebungs to banksias. The new farmland, in its original state, was likewise covered with a forest of huge black-butt and blue-gums, intermixed with angophora trees on the drier slopes. The pellucid fresh water stream, known as Black Creek (or by the less distinctive name of Muddy Creek), flowed through the estate, its banks being lined with feathery-leaved, sombre-hued, casuarina trees. It was hard work to fell the trees of the forest, burn their trunks and branches, remove the stumps, and drain and level, and then plough, the rich fertile land thus exposed for the cultivation of vegetables. No roads went by and a circuitous bush track wound its way northwards, avoiding where possible the marshy tracts bordering the western shore of Black Greek to gain the Cooks River Dam at Tempe. Here a connection was made with the old Cooks River Road which gave access to Sydneytown and its market place.

A small four-roomed cottage of locally burnt bricks was built, a tiny separate kitchen being placed at the rear in accordance with ancient custom. This double-fronted home possessed a shingled roof of silver-grey slats cut from the local she-oaks, and its four rooms had inter-connecting doorways without the benefit of a divisional hallway, In due course a large two-storied weatherboard packing shed was constructed at the eastern side of the little homestead to which lean-to’s were added to house the stables, feed-room, and the two-wheeled dray.

In addition to what may be regarded as his Bay Street estate, James Beehag was fortunate in obtaining another grant of similar land on the lower slopes of Kogarah Hill, east of Rocky Point Road and reaching to the border of Pat Moores Swamp. This land was also suitable for market garden purposes and portion of it, at the eastern end of the present Toomevara Street, is still under cultivation by a family of Chinese people. It is not known at this late date as to whether James Beehag undertook the development of his southern estate of fifty-four acres.

Mary Beehag died about 1853, when the eldest child, Isaac, was twelve years old, and the youngest, James, had attained his second birthday. It was a sad blow to the family to be bereft of their mother, and it is understandable that in due course the husband married Maria Hamilton, A second family eventuated, five in number, which comprised William, Samuel, Arthur, George, and Mary (who married Mr. Spackman).

Social conditions in the West Botany area of somewhat isolated farmlands were very much on the primitive side to say the least in the mid-period of last century. The community were beset by all manner of feuding and petty thieving. For instance, James Beehag’s cow strayed from its pastures into the surrounding bush and was never seen alive after it had been posted as missing. A search party later discovered that the animal had been shot, its carcass dismembered, and its flayed skin burnt in a fire, one of the culprits giving evidence of the theft and the slaughter. Then again the eldest son, Isaac, became the proud owner of a pony, which inadvertently strayed into a neighbouring market garden situated at the north- western corner of the present intersection of West Botany Street and Bay Street. The farmer of this land was not amused at the intrusion and subsequent eating of his precious vegetables and succeeded, in his rage, in slashing the pony’s jaws apart with an axe, an injury which caused the poor animal to be destroyed. These unfortunate happenings, amongst numerous others, did little, to create neighbourly feelings amongst those concerned with their livelihood in the immediate area.

When Isaac was a sturdy lad of eighteen he was engaged in cutting firewood at the Black Forest, later known as Gannon’s Forest and now as Hurstville. This wood, cut to a size suitable for domestic stoves, was taken by horse dray into Sydney and hawked through the back streets for the benefit of the housewives. It was necessary for the lad to sell his load, as the financial return was so essential for the sustenance of the large family at Bay Street, He dare not bring back the load to the farm for this reason.

James Beehag (courtesy Bayside Library)

James Beehag (senior) retired from business as a market gardener in 1883, and went to live in a two-storied house in the Arncliffe section of West Botany Street. Here he largely devoted himself to municipal affairs, being elected an alderman of the first West Botany Council, and in the second and third years of office he filled the position of Mayor. In the fourth year he resigned, but in the fifth year he again occupied the Mayoral chair for another two years, after which he resigned from the Council. At this period he was engaged, with William Hamilton Beehag, the eldest son of his second marriage, in the operation of a market garden located in West Botany Street almost opposite the intersection of Wickham Street, James Beehag (senior) died on September 10th, 1894, and was interred at the Wesleyan portion of the Rookwood Cemetery.

Edward Draper, Ernest Draper and Eliza Draper (nee Tattler) (courtesy Bayside Library)

With his demise the estate and garden at the southern side of Bay Street was divided amongst the children of his first marriage, Isaac, Margaret, Elizabeth, and James (junior), all of whom continued to live on their portions of the once so extensive property. However, Robert and Gideon moved to St. Peters and Newtown. Margaret lived at the original cottage, later moving to a more commodious residence erected nearby. Her eldest daughter, Eliza Tattler, eventually married Mr. Edward Draper, a nurseryman, whose family still carry on the business. Strangely enough the original home is more or less intact, together with the large barn, but the second house on the property had been dismantled.

The aforementioned subdivision resulted in the formation of a short dead-end thoroughfare which was named James Street in honour of James Beehag (senior). This street gave access to several of the subdivided properties and was extended, under the title of West Botany Street, southwards to link with President Avenue at Kogarah. The erstwhile rural area is now occupied by all manner of factories and only a portion of the swamp land, together with Draper’s Nursery, remain to give an inkling to the wise of the former activities of that life-long gardener, James Beehag (senior).

For her kind assistance in the preparation of this article, the author is indebted to Mrs. Mary Ann Beaman, a charming lady approaching her ninetieth year, who is a grand-daughter of James Beehag.

James Beehag’s cottage, muddy creek

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

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Walk and Drive Guides

During Local Government Week, August 1998, Rockdale City Council launched a series of walk and drive guides to encourage a broad appreciation of the city. They highlight points of interest in the 1991 Rockdale Heritage Study by Meredith Walker and Terry Kass. The Heritage Adviser, Gary Stanley, produced the guides. The council was merged with City of Botany Bay Council in 2016 to form Bayside Council.

These guides are now available in the Resources section of our website:

  • Arncliffe Heritage Walk – This two-hour walk features many fine Victorian and Federation houses and public buildings.
  • Bayside Drive – This half hour 10km drive takes in the southern suburbs of Ramsgate Beach, Dolls Point and Sans Souci.
  • Rockdale Heritage Drive – This 2-hour, 25km drive will give you an understanding of the original landscape, how the City developed, and highlights important natural areas, places and buildings which have been identified as heritage items, or of historic interest.
  • Rockdale Heritage Walk – These one-hour walks feature many fine Victorian and Federation houses and public buildings.
  • Wolli Creek Drive – A half hour 10km trip across the Bardwell Valley and down Wolli Creek Valley gives some indication of the land and original vegetation of the City.


Extract from The Propeller, February 1941

There’s many an old resident of the St. George district who will probably tell you, with proud memory of his schooldays, that you’re not a “dinki-di” Sydneyite until you’ve polished off a pocket full of five-corners. And, without any prompting, he’ll very likely add that, “As a ‘nation’ of five-corner eaters we are slipping”. Oddly enough there is a considerable amount of truth in such comments, since, in the days of fifty and more years ago, the name “five-corner” was a household word in many of the suburbs of Sydney, especially around St. George. In the five-corner season of the early summer it was a name that hung on the lips of almost every schoolboy — yes, and his sister, too. There’s many a local schoolroom whose floor has been littered with the well-chewed seeds of these wild berries of the bush. Indeed, it is familiarly known amongst those of the older generation that five-corners once enjoyed such popularity that, in season, they were bought and sold as a regular line in the old Paddy’s Markets, Sydney, and in some of the city fruit shops arid many a local boy and girl made pocket money by gathering them.

Yet today the chances are that nine out of every ten persons you meet haven’t even the faintest idea what a five-corner is, or wouldn’t even recognise a five-corner bush if they happened to see one. Moreover, amongst the new generation of school kiddies the pioneer custom of gathering and chewing five-corners has been rapidly replaced with the modern habit of ice cream licking and the munching of chewing-gum. In truth, what was once a most distinctively Australian pastime is gradually disappearing into the limbo of forgotten things. The reasons for these changes are, in a way, interesting, and several factors nave contributed towards them.

Styphelia tubiflora photograph by Peter Woodard

Let some of the old residents of St. George — all experienced five-corner eaters — have a word or two about schoolday memories of these native fruits. For instance, there’s the well known veteran of Hurstville, Mr. Jack Chappelow, whose father’s home, more than fifty years ago, stood amid thick bush down behind Allawah Railway Station, towards Blakehurst. With happy recollections, Mr. Chappelow remembers how, when he was a boy, the five-corner bushes grew thickly around the old homestead. He noticed that they seemed to flourish best along the rocky sandstone slopes, or else down on the sandy flats – but few, if any, would be met with back on the heavier clay country, such as occurs behind Hurstville and around Dumbleton or towards Campsie. In his young days this veteran, with his mates would make regular “expeditions” through the bush gathering in the spoils of the five-corner crop. They would spend hours filling tins and other containers – much the same as youngsters, and oldsters, do today when the blackberries are ripe. When a sufficiently bulky quantity had been accumulated Mr. Chappelow would give them to the local wood-carters to be taken into Newtown – which was then the nearest shopping centre. There they were sold by the shops to the public. And that’s how Jack Chappelow and his youthful mates earned odd shillings as pocket money, which was a novelty then for most children. Mr. Chappelow recalls that he gave many a pocketful of five-corners to Lochrin Tiddy – the man who, more than fifty years back, was the very first returning officer of Hurstville. Practically everybody, both young and old, chewed the wild fruits of the five-corners in those distant times, and such a custom proved a novel diversion to help break the monotony for those whose daily life was not readily furnished with the common enough sweetmeats of modern 1941. Along with the five-corners the pioneers also gathered from the bush such other wild berries and fruit as ten-corners, top-corners, ground berries, geebungs, native grapes (a bitterish as they are), lilli pillies, and the sour native currants.

Persons who have resided for any considerable time around the lower parts of Kogarah and Rockdale, and between Sans Souci and North Brighton along the flats, are the ones who have probably had much more experience with five-corners than anyone else in St. George. This is for the simple reason that the “fivie” bushes once grew the thickest of all in those areas, especially from Sans Souci to Cooks River, where they stood in veritable ”jungles” — so dense, in fact, that it was far easier to crawl along under them than to try and brush through. And, in that sandy country, such an adventure was invariably attended by the risk of coming face-to-face with marauding snakes, or else being tormented and stung by no end of “red joeys”. Many a tale about the “fivies” of Brighton will the old hands tell you. At the height of the season some of the “regulars” would spend hours down at the lower ends of Bestic and Bay Streets while they filled empty flour bags with the ripening berries – most of which would be lying on the ground under each bush.

Mr. Kinsela, of Sans Souci, and formerly of Bexley, is another of the “old school” who has many happy recollections about five-corner picking. He recalls the time, when he was a boy, when “fivies” could be bought at the old Paddy’s Markets, Sydney, for a penny an egg-cup full. Large quantities of them were traded there; and in later years certain city fruit shops displayed them for sale. Yet now-a-days it’s a safe wager that you won’t find a single five-corner in the whole of the city. One of their best collecting grounds, says Mr. Kinsela, was the scrub and bush that once spread thickly on either side of Woniora Road, from South Hurstville down towards Tom Ugly’s. Many a tin and basketful he and his school mates gathered down that way, after spending whole afternoons amongst the bushes. Today you could walk for miles around that locality – and Brighton too, for that matter and not see one five-corner bush. There are, however, odd ones still growing here and there in isolated patches, particularly in a spot like Oatley Park, or way out around Lugarno. On the Sutherland side of George’s River, and in wide bushland areas such as the National Park, lots of five-corners may yet be found in favourable situations.

Because of the overwhelming spread of suburban settlement within the last three decades most of the localities in St. George, and other parts of coastal Sydney, where “fivies” once flourished, have been entirely swept clean of their natural scrub and bush. In similar fashion to the more lordly gum-tree, the humble five-corner bush and his mates is fast disappearing beneath the crush of sardine-packed suburbs. No doubt that is one of the primary reasons why the pioneer tradition – handed down from the aborigines and the first white settlers – of five-corner gathering and eating is dying off. Another factor also in this historic change is that youngsters of the present generation are much more privileged with pocket money than their grandfathers were. Moreover, there are greater inducements today in the way of buying ready-made pleasures and pastimes. Youngsters, as a consequence, are more readily attracted to the civilised “fruits” of the sweet shops and the milk bars; and that goes too for the grown-ups.

And now, finally, a word or two about the five-corner bush itself – what the botanists will tell you. In the first place, the five-corners — of which there are eleven different kinds or species – are true native plants of Australia, and found no where else in the entire world. Not only did they grow principally in New South Wales, but they are confined almost solely to the coast and eastward slopes of the Blue Mountains. One or two types of five-corners, in fact, will be found nowhere else but on the sandstone zone of which Sydney is the centre. Thus it can be said that five-corners are unknown to the majority of Australians.

Styphelia tubiflora by James Sowerby circa 1794

These wild plants are classed as members of the Australian heath family — of which they are said to be the largest and most beautifully coloured. Their botanical name is Styphelia; which was taken from the Greek word “styphelos”, meaning rough; which describes the stiff, compact and harsh nature of the shrub and its foliage. As mature fruit-bearing shrubs they may be found in heights of anything from two feet to eight feet and even taller, depending on the situation in which they are growing. Their leaves are on the small side – for example, smaller than those of the Christmas bush – and are of plain shape, but have sharp pointed tips. In the different kinds of five-corners the flowers vary in colour from pink and red to yellow, green, and white. They are tube-shaped, with lung stamens poking out through the opening. Honey-eaters and insects are fond of the flowers, as they hold sweet drops of nectar. It is in the late winter and early spring months that the five-corners come into bloom, and the ripening berries will be found from then on into the summer. Odd ones, of course, will be seen in fruit out of season. Now, it is an interesting point that the popular name of the shrub – five-corner – is really descriptive of its fruit, each of which is “wrapped-up”, so to speak, in five small leaves, which first held the flower. This produces the characteristic of five points or corners; which is an outstanding guide to the identity of this shrub. Each berry is described by botanists as being in the shape of a drupe, meaning that it has the appearance and structure, generally, of an olive, but on a much smaller scale. Oddly enough there is nothing startling about its flavour, and not much flesh covers the one central seed. It is, however, on the sweetish side when fully ripened, and has a distinctive taste, though only mild, which is not quite like any other wild berry. It is certainly the very opposite of the native currants! The succulent fruit of the five-corner, by the way, is properly ripe when it has fallen to the ground beneath the bush; although many “fivie” enthusiasts prefer to pick and eat those that are still amongst the green foliage.

This article was first published in the February 1964 edition of our magazine.

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The Historic River

At the official gathering held at Kurnell on 6th May, 1899, to set apart 251 acres as a public reserve and a National Memorial to Captain James Cook, Mr. Joseph Cook (Minister for Lands) referred to the fact that Cook discovered the river so named after him. The following is an extract from his speech:

“I have in my possession temporarily (thanks to the courtesy of Mr. Huntington) a facsimile of Cook’s own chart of Botany Bay, and it shows that he proceeded in his boats up Cook’s River as far as the dam.”

Chart of Botany Bay by James Cook (courtesy National Museum of Australia)

The earliest reference we have to the name Cook’s River is in the year 1800, when Surveyors Grimes and Meeham, in their field books for the years 1799 to 1802 refer to surveys of farms at Cook’s River. it is interesting to know that in the early days and for many years, wild flowers grew in great profusion along the shores of the river. It was described as a peaceful and beautiful river, and the banks, especially in the upper reaches, were covered with tall trees.

The river, from the source at Rookwood, near the eastern boundary of Liberty Plains to the dam at Tempe, is 9.25 miles long, and from the dam to Botany Bay it is 3.25 miles long, making a total length of 12.5 miles.

About eleven years ago the river was diverted in an almost straight line from Tempe to Botany Bay.

That portion of the river from Shea’s Creek to Botany Bay was filled in so as to enlarge the Mascot Aerodrome.

The first place of interest on the banks of the filled in portion of the river at the entrance to Botany Bay, was to be seen the ruins of the old Macquarie style building with a high chimney. After the river was filled in the chimney of his historic building was removed. This building was used from 1858 to 1888 as a pumping station for the water supply of Sydney. The Botany and Randwick swamps, known officially as the “Lachlan Swamps”, were linked up as a chain of ponds. A tunnel was commenced in September 1827, to convey this water to Sydney. This work was under the direction of Mr. James Busby, Mineral Surveyor, and it was completed a few years later. The tunnel was known as the “Busby Bore” or Busby Tunnel.

Busby’s Bore stand pipe at Hyde Park, watercolour possibly by C. H. Woolcott

At the former Cook’s River tram terminus, the road bridge crosses the river within about 100 feet of the site of the original bridge, owing to the river altering its course, and the old river-bed forming a dead-end. The dam at this old bridge was constructed by convict labour, under the superintendence of Mr. Colvert, during the year 1835. On the Sydney side of the river stood a little wooden toll bar at the entrance to the bridge. The toll gate was closed at night. All horses and vehicles were charged a small fee to pass through, but foot passengers went through free.

On the Arncliffe side of the river from the bridge was the line mansion known as “Tempe”, built and occupied by Mr. Alexander Brodie Spark.

Further along the river was the old Unwin’s Bridge, formerly a wooden structure, built by convicts in 1836, and so named after the Unwin family who resided in a pretty home at Undercliffe known as “Wanstead House”, named after their native home in Essex, England. Further along the river on the right hand side was the old home of the Hon. Thomas Holt, known as “Warren House”, with its beautiful lawns and gardens. The estate consisted of about 140 acres.

When nearing Canterbury, on the banks of the river, was an old stone building erected by the Australian Sugar Company, and it bears the inscription: A.S. Co., 1841. A dam was built across the river to ensure a supply of fresh water. The first sugar was placed on the market during 1842 and the business was transferred to Sydney in 1855.

Sugar Works, Canterbury by Frederick Garling 1840s

This article was first published in the February 1964 edition of our magazine.

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Rosevale Villa Demolished

(article from February 1964)

Historic Rosevale Villa, one of the last pioneer homes left in Rockdale is no more and although its stones were marked and every care taken in its demolition it is unlikely that it could ever be rebuilt.

Rosevale Villa, circa 1960 (courtesy Bayside Library)

The soft sandstone mouldings which have withstood the ravages of time for almost 100 years crumbled badly as they were being moved and the large stone blocks from which the building was made fared little better.

This is a great disappointment to this Society which fought for its preservation from the time the “FOR SALE – DEVELOPMENT SITE” notice was posted on its front fence.

Also to be demolished in the reasonably near future is the Bray Family home in Market Street, Rockdale, which stands in the way of the large parking area being developed at the rear of the Rockdale Shopping Centre.

Bray Homestead, sketch by Gifford Eardley (courtesy Bayside Library)

Although much older than Rosevale Villa, this cottage does not have the same architectural merit as the first named building and in recent years has been obscured by a number of additions.

This article was first published in the February 1964 edition of our magazine.

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The Blacksmiths And Farriers Of Rockdale

by Gifford Eardley

Without a doubt one of the most attractive places for small boys in old time Rockdale was the blacksmith shop of Duncan Roy, whose premises were sited on the northern side of the Town Hall. Standing at the wide doorway facing Rocky Point Road children gazed in awe at the shower of sparks rising from the red-hot iron as it was hammered upon the anvil when making horseshoes and other implements then in common demand. There was a charming atmosphere about the interior of the roughly built premises, the acrid smoke from the fire, the wheeze of the hand operated bellows, the restlessness of the horses who, tinged with fear, were waiting to be shod, the murky sunlight filtering into the gloom through the rear windows, and the leather-aproned blacksmith in person, a mighty man was he. One is filled with nostalgia for this era which has almost disappeared into the limbo of forgotten things, as today there are very few practising blacksmiths, and those who remain are inundated with business. Sadly enough there are few, if any, of the younger generation desirous of learning the skills associated with the blacksmith’s trade.

Relying on the memory of certain members of our St. George Historical Society it may be stated that the forge building, constructed of yellow painted weatherboard, was set back a little distance from the footpath alignment. Its front and rear doorways were of the double door type and of sufficient width to permit the entry of horse drawn vehicles in need of repair. There were two forges in use, both being arranged on the southern side of the low roofed building, and voiding much of their smoke through brick built chimneys which projected well above the roof line Another fire could be arranged in circular fashion in the back yard where cart tyres were heated preparatory to being dropped over the wooden wheel assembly. They were then shrunk into position per medium of buckets of water, thus holding the wheel components together in a tenacious grip. It was a most interesting process, and one which called for a great deal of practical knowledge and skill. It is understood that the iron tyre was curved to form a diameter of two inches less than that of the wooden wheel, the tyre, when heated, expanding to a greater diameter than the wheel at the rate of about three-sixteenths of an inch per foot of diameter.

A horse bus service between Penshurst and the Cooks River (courtesy Bayside Library)

Duncan Roy’s son, Horace, helped his father in the blacksmithing business and was also an accomplished farrier and wheelwright. All manner of horses, from stalwart draught horses to ponies, came to be fitted with shoes and, in the bleak days of winter their waiting owners indulged in local gossip ranged around the warmth of the forge fire, keeping discreetly out of the way of the busy blacksmith, or giving a hand at the wheezing bellows. The average life of the horse shoes was about three weeks, owing to the rough sandstone surface of the streets, together with the continual stamping of the animals brought about by the unremitting attentions of house flies. The horses could only kick backwards and once the smithy had one of the animal’s legs off the ground he was comparatively safe. The cost of a set of shoes was in the vicinity of five shillings.

At the risk of being thought technical one feels that a short description of the tools, and methods of using same, would not go amiss from a purely historical angle. This data was supplied in detail by Mr. W. Manning, of Hector Street, Sefton, who was a craftsman of no mean order and one that specialised in the shoeing of race-horses.

Blacksmith, circa 1880 (courtesy Mt. Barker RSL)

“Shoeing Hammer”. Usually self forged. Made like a claw hammer, the claw being used to cut the ends of the nails off after hammering into the hoof, “RASP”. This was a combination tool with a rough toothed rasp on one side and a file on the other. It was used for levelling the hooves. “CUTTING KNIFE AND TOE KNIFE”. This instrument was shaped like a small tomahawk with a slightly dished blade. “BUFFER”. Used to cut existing nails in the hooves prior to the removal of the old shoes.

The shoeing nails, of “T” brand, were purchased ready made. They were driven for a distance of approximately two inches into the hoof and brought down outside of the hoof where the ends were bent and cut off with the shoeing hammer.


Four pound turning hammer, fitted with a 14 inch handle, was used for shaping shoes on the anvil. The shoe-steel bars were supplied by Messrs. Friend and Company in a range of cross sections A “FULLER” was used to cut the sunken ridge-like depression around the shoe to house the nail heads. These were in at least two sizes, one for ponies and the other for- horses. A “HOLER” was used, fitted with a handle, for piercing holes in the shoe during the early process of manufacture, A “PRICTHEL”, an instrument generally forged from an old worn-out file, about ten inches in length, tapered down to a small square-shaped point. In use for driving through the heated shoe to give the required shape to the nail holes. Four nail holes were driven on the outside of the hoof and three on the inner side was the usual practice.

The front portion of the shoe was shaped to a tapered point, known as the “Big-clip”, which laid against the front of the hoof thereby taking away the road stress from the rest of the shoe. The rear of the shoe was, at times, doubled back on its self, this was known as a”Heel and Bar”. Another variation was to bend back the bar stock at the end of the shoe for a distance of about one and a quarter inches, which with the ‘Big Clip”, assisted in holding the shoe in place when fitted to draught animals.

The horse hoof is about a quarter of an inch in thickness and the sole averages half an inch. Great skill is need in driving the nail upwards into the hoof. A good farrier generally took about ten minutes to shoe four hoofs, although the job has been done in six minutes. The back feet were lifted to the hip to permit a shoe being fitted. Some animals were fractious during the process and care had to be taken against being kicked.

The farrier wore a leather apron split down the middle, and together with a boy who operated the forge bellows for blowing up the fire of slack coal, and also with the hammer striking at the anvil, could make and fit four shoes in about three quarters of an hour. The bellows, constructed of wood and leather, were locally made, but a steel fan type, hand turned through gears, were also in use at some forges. Most other metal work, apart from the manufacture of horse shoes, was generally in the nature of repairs to existing equipment. It was customary for the smith to make a spare set of shoes for his regular horse-owning customers, hanging them on the wall until time as they were needed.

Duncan Roy manufactured such ironwork needed for the construction of horse-drawn vehicles built by the neighbouring firm of Messrs. Welch and Walker, who were wheelwrights and wagon and sulky body builders of repute. Their premises were located on Rocky Point Road about two doors south of Mr. Iliffe’s “Rose Vale” Villa.

There was another blacksmithing establishment at Rockdale, that of Arthur Nicholson, who lived at Jewfish Point, west of Oatley. His premises were largely built of upright wooden slabs, enclosed by an iron roof, the building abutting onto the footpath south of, and in the immediate vicinity of the Royal Hotel. He usually had in his employ two or three Irish boy immigrants, thus giving them a start in life and a chance to learn a specialised trade. Arthur Nicholson was responsible for the shoeing of many of the racehorses kept in the East Kogarah area. However, with the closure of the Moorefield Racecourse and the abandonment of the various local stables nearby, together with the universal adoption of motor transport, the smithies both at Rockdale and Kogarah closed down for the want of business.

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

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A Hospital In Contrast

July 1970, saw the demolition of the original Cottage Hospital of St. George. It was a nostalgic moment as the last of the unique brick and concrete chimneys tottered and fell.

St George Cottage Hospital (courtesy Georges River Libraries Local Studies Collection)

The last patients in “A & F”, as the original hospital has been known for some years, were transferred to other wards mid December last, Since then the original wards have been stripped of handles, locks, fireplaces, honour boards, plaques and all that was of possible historical interest. It is interesting to note that the huge lock of the front door is now the proud possession of one of the present-day Honoraries, himself a member of this Society. This was the lock in which Mrs. Lamrock, wife of Dr. J. Lamrock, would have turned the key to open the Cottage Hospital, on 16th December, 1894, exactly 75 years before.

“A & F” meant many things to many people. To the older generation of the community it has been the Hospital, for most of their lives. They and it have grown older together. A fact the younger generation find difficult to appreciate at times.

As one watched the inevitable mounting pile of rubble, the burning of the interior, the falling of the palms, many contrasts came to mind –

  • the growth of St. George in 76 years, from the original 8 to now well over 400 beds,
  • the astronomical rise in costs,
  • the mini skirted uniforms of the 70’s, to the maxi’s of the originals.
  • the availability of parking space and lack of transport of yesteryear, to the lack of parking and increasing transport of today. And now, the Honoraries have lost their “Circle”.
  • the almost constant wail of sirens, a bleak reminder of the cost of progress. Accidents there have always been, but never with the road toll alone, of the present.
  • the compactness of the original cottage, to the spread-eagled buildings of today.
  • the tremendous advancements in medical and nursing skills in the intervening years.

As one passes to remember, tribute is paid to those in all fields who so long ago laid such strong foundations for the Hospital that has served the ever-growing community at all times. As then – so now. Patient care is still the primary concern of the Hospital. Postgraduate and undergraduate teaching is subsidiary to this.

The saga of the 70’s is being written. St. George stands pulsating with growth and expectancy as the rubble is cleared and preparations made for the erection of the new multi-storey block, whilst at the same time maintaining essential services to the community. No mean feat. Already new strides have been made as St. George has swung into the 70’s with the completion of the newly established Professorial Units in Medicine and Surgery. When the history of the 70’s is complete the names of Professors W. R. Pitney and K. R. Cox will join the list of St. George firsts, as being the first appointed full-time Professors of Medicine and Surgery, respectively.

Following are the names preserved for posterity, taken from the lists and plaques previously housed in “A & F”. Each will serve to revive the memories of yesteryear.

Foundation Stone:
“This Stone Was Duly Laid By
on May 19th 1894.”

Hallway – directly opposite the front door –
St. George District Hospital
Erected in Memory of
who passed away 2nd August, 1943
After 30 years service.
Faithful Unto Death
A tribute by His Fellow Employees
Matron & Nursing Staff (Male & Female)

List of Benefactors:
St. George District Hospital
Benefactors £50 & over

  • 1906 Isaac Mathews (Estate of) £63.
  • 1912 W. R. Hall (Estate of) 200
  • 1915 Mrs. Berdoe (Estate of) 60
  • 1915 C. Howard Wood Esq. 100
  • 1916 Mrs. A. C. Sturt (Estate of) 100
  • 1917 Mrs. Coulson (Estate of) 200
  • 1918 D. Draper (Estate of) 117
  • 1919-20 Lieut, H.L. Montague 147
  • 1921 J. Palmer (Estate of) 200
  • 1923 MaryAnn Dewar (Estate of) 200
  • 1923 Mrs. Edwd. Arnold (Estate of) 50
  • 1924 F.E. Rowe, Esq. 55
  • 1925 J. Powell (Estate of) 100
  • 1925 Donated by Residents of Cronulla in Honour of late Mrs. C. J. MONRO 101
  • 1925 P. J. Moore (Estate of) 50
  • 1926 Mrs. J. Packham 50
  • 1926 Dr. James McLeod Memorial Fund 200
  • 1927
    • T.E. Rofe, Esq. 550
    • J. Jackson Esq. 52.10.
    • R.W.S. Harris, Esq. 55
    • A.E. Daiwood, Esq. 50
    • Mrs. D. McAlister 51.1
    • J. Dolden, Esq. 50
    • N.P. Nielsen, Esq. 59
    • W. McConnochie, Esq. 50
    • H.T. Morgan, Esq. 50
    • Miss Phyllis Stroud 50
    • Cronulla Surf L. S. Club 50
    • Nth. Cronulla Surf L. S. Club 50
    • J. P. Hubbard (Estate of) 100
    • Edwin Godfrey (Estate of) 393
    • Chas. Thomas (Estate of) 50
  • 1928 Edwin Godfrey (Estate of) 193.15.9
  • 1928 W. McConochie, Esq. 150
  • 1929 Arthur Horsfield, Esq. 50
  • 1930
    • Mr, C. McAlister (Estate of) 3000
    • Mrs. K.B. Thornton (in Memory of John F. Thornton 100
    • Masonic Lodge Illawarra St. George F. Wilson, W.M. 121.0.8
    • Masonic Lodge Kogarah J.H. Laws, W.M. 123.14.10
  • 1934 Edwin Godfrey (Estate of) 199.16.9
  • 1934 Illawarra S.F.S. Asscn. 120.3.0
  • 1935 Mrs. Elva Kolling 1500
  • 1943 A.H.J. Horn, Esq. 50

Beds Endowed By

  • Arncliffe Parents & Citizens Association
  • Como & District Progress Association
  • Cronulla School Cot Fund
  • Green Coupon Company
  • Hurstville Superior Public School
  • Lancashire Brotherhood of N.S.W.
  • St. George Cricket Association
  • South Hurstville Public School
  • Carlton Citizens Association
  • Mr. & Mrs. Tom Yates £100. Annual Endowment
  • Cambridge Commercial College Hurstville. 1937. G. A. McKenzie F.P.S.A. Principal.
  • Sutherland Auxiliary 1939.
  • Pupils of Oatley Public School
  • Kogarah Mayoral Bed S. R. Bell. Jan, 1940. Mayor of Kogarah.
  • Caringbah Hospital Auxiliary
  • Mr. & Mrs. H. Bentley of Kogarah. 1939.
  • Sutherland Auxiliary 1937.
  • The Ladies Committee of St. George Cricket Club. 1939.
  • The Arncliffe Social Club. 1940.
  • Two by St. George Christian Endeavour Union Golden Jubilee. 1943.
  • Arncliffe Ladies Bowling Club.
  • 1st Arncliffe Girl Guides.
  • Miss J. Graham, Brighton le Sands.
  • “Theodosia” Bed. Donated by Mrs. E. M. Bentley, Kogarah.
  • In Memory of Mrs. Otto Richardson . . Mrs. G. Wallis 1940.
  • Donated by Mrs. F. Thorp, Rockdale.

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

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District To Lose Two Of Its Most Historic Buildings

(article from October 1963)

Unless it receives another last minute reprieve, lovely “Rosevale Villa”, for more than ninety years a landmark at the entrance to Rockdale Shopping Centre will soon disappear to make way for a service station.

Rosevale Villa, circa 1905 (courtesy Bayside Library)

Persistent efforts by this Society to the Rockdale Council for removal of the building on Princes Highway have been met with marked indifference and in some cases open hostility.

Rosevale Villa sketch by Cedric Emanuel (courtesy Bayside Library)

The Oil Company which has bought the site on which “Rosevale Villa” stands has agreed to give the building to the Council and take the utmost care in its demolition provided the Council removes and stores it.

Rosevale Villa, circa 1960 (courtesy Bayside Library)

The Council is now trying to have the stones marked free of cost in case it ever is re-erected but from the current temper of the Council this would appear to be a forlorn hope.

The second landmark to go will be the old Brickwood family home in Turrella Street, Arncliffe, which stands in the way of proposed new extensions of the National Cash Register Factory.

This building is about 80 years old and quite unique in that it is the only known building in the St. George District with a covered courtyard and it is suspected, one of the very few in Australia with this distinction.

All this adds up to the very great need of this Society to educate the leaders of the Community and the public at large to the value of these buildings. Practically all the buildings of note in the Rockdale Municipality at least are in areas zoned for industrial, commercial or home unit purposes. All are in the gravest danger of being valued out of existence unless the authorities can be persuaded to acquire at least a selection of them for public purposes.

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

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A Tribute To Jean Elizabeth Preddey

by Jean’s grandson – John Mark Williamson

Gran lived right through the greater part of the 20th century and lived a century herself in doing it. This was a great achievement when you consider those times and how Australia was affected by world events in one form or another.

Gran’s childhood was growing up while Australia was fighting for the Empire in World War One, quickly followed by the incredible Spanish Flu pandemic. We must remember there were no antibiotics in those days and Penicillin’s discovery was another 10 years away. Gran would often tell us how her Father survived this pandemic, despite visiting and helping suffering families, because he chewed tobacco which she maintained killed the germs before they could get into his body!

While going through all this, Gran was educated at Arncliffe School and, in her teen years, she achieved her “Cap and Gown” from the London School of Music the equivalent of a Diploma or Degree in music today. From this Gran went on to teach music at St. Francis Xavier School at Arncliffe.

No TV! These were days of early radio. Radio in Australia was growing rapidly and becoming popular. Gran became a featured singer on station 2UW in Sydney with a very fine Mezzo Soprano voice. She continued to use this gift later on with choir singing in her local church at Bexley as well as in the Billy Graham Crusades of 1957 and 1968.

As Jean grew into early adulthood with her three sisters, they all became, as was the fashion of the times “flappers”, which in turn introduced Jean to her favourite jewellery “Pearls”. The fashions have changed many times since, but the love of pearls never stopped for Gran.

Gran, was also at this time being courted by her husband to be, George. Over the six years of courtship Jean and George were very much into the life that was going on around them in “happening Sydney”. They went on a “joy flight” with Charles Kingsford-Smith in his famous “Southern Cross” aircraft above and around Sydney; they were at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 when Captain De Groot pushed past them on his way to beat Premier Lang cutting the ribbon to open the Bridge — exciting times in Sydney in those days.

After their marriage in 1932 they moved into their new home built on the Preddey Estate in Bexley. This was the start of 55 years of happy and exciting events including the birth of their daughter, Gloria.

When the 2nd World War started, George immediately built a very sturdy backyard air-raid shelter equipped and even fully stocked for a long stay if necessary. George never did anything by halves. When the first siren sounded across Sydney announcing the Japanese submarine attack In Sydney Harbour, George rushed out to his warden duties in the streets of Bexley. Jean and her young daughter, Gloria, meanwhile dressed and hurried to the shelter… only to find it already full of neighbours, so much so, they couldn’t even get in themselves!

For the last 20 years or so Gran lived with Gloria and John at Blakehurst.

A large part of her life evolved around her church activities, teaching Adult Sunday School at Bexley. Using this gift of teaching Gran was a Counsellor at both Billy Graham Crusades in Sydney, guiding enquirers regarding the decision they had made for her beloved Lord Jesus.

Gran also taught Scripture at various schools in the area around Bexley. It was during this time she picked out a young gentleman, Peter Ferguson, as a possible future husband for her Grand-daughter, Kate.

Up until 2 years ago Gran was still taking Bible studies in her home at Blakehurst where she lived with Gloria and John.

A few weeks after Gran fell and broke her leg at Blakehurst she moved into Huntingdon Gardens at Bexley.

While there Gran turned 100 and received so many letters from some very important people round the world, including the Queen of course, that we were all humbled to be there and to have been part of her life.

During her stay at Huntingdon Gardens each staff member bestowed so much love, time and very personal care on her that we shall be forever grateful.

As I close this tribute to a great and loving Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother I will read one of Gran’s favourite Psalms, Psalm 100 – Psalm of Thanksgiving

  1. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands!
  2. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
  3. Know that the Lord, he is God: it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
  4. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
  5. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endures to all generations.

Mrs. Preddy was an exceptionally dear lady and long-time member of our Society. Many thanks to her family for providing us with this information to share with you.

This article was first published in the May 2012 edition of our magazine.

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The Eddystone Lighthouse

by Bettye Ross

At a Service recently our Minister mentioned the Eddystone Lighthouse and said the third builder of this edifice had placed at its base a plaque stating “except the Lord build the house, the builders labor in vain” from Psalm 127:1. This Lighthouse (4th on the site) had been built by John Smeaton. and stood from 1759 to 1882 when it was replaced by one of much greater height.

Eddystone Lighthouse in 2005 (with helipad and solar panels) alongside the stub of Smeaton’s Tower

But to begin at the beginning I had noticed a replica of Eddystone Lighthouse at Lydham Hall, and knew I had heard of such a landmark before but couldn’t recall anything about it, so I set to at the Mitchell Library and decided to find out what was famous about this Lighthouse.

Firstly of course it is the most famous Lighthouse in the world. It is 14 miles south-west of Plymouth and 9 miles south of Rame Head, Cornwall and stands on ridges of gneiss rock which have been battered about ceaselessly from the sea with 23 jagged pinnacles rising up above the water pointing towards the land. It can only be seen half a mile away and goes down into the depths of the English Channel on a very wide base. Seafarers named it the “Eddy-Stones” because of the turmoil of currents flowing through its rocky teeth. Some sea captains gave this reef such a wide berth their ship was wrecked on rocks of the Channel Islands or the rugged north coast of France.

In 1694 a patent was granted by the crown “to erect a Lighthouse or Beacon with a light upon the rock called Eddystone off Plymouth… as safe direction for ships hereafter to avoid that dangerous Rock upon which the lives of so many of our goad Subjects have perished.” Six years later Henry Winstanley from Saffron, Walden, Essex, a ship owner, inventor, showman, designer, conjurer, engraver and businessman commenced work on the first Eddystone Lighthouse. He had drawn plans up the previous winter and his men armed with picks set to fix 12 iron bars 3½ inches. diameter in a circular pattern on the rock. Pick after pick was discarded too blunt to proceed, but with perseverance six months later the holes were ready for their iron stanchions.

Work proceed slowly and Winstanley, working from the guard ship Terrible, which had been provided for him as an assurety of safety due to England being engaged in one of the numerous wars with France, was kidnapped. It seems the captain of the Terrible strayed from his position to check out a nearby French merchant ship with an eye to looting. However a thick fag descended preventing the French ship being captured and also the Terrible from returning to Eddystone. The kidnapped Winstanley was brought before Louis XIV who was concerned at the incident, punished the officer responsible and after endowing Winstanley with many presents sent him home with the alleged words “your work is for the benefit of all nations using the sea. I am at war with England, not with humanity.”

November 14, Henry Winstanley lit the first Eddystone Lighthouse’s tallow candles suspended in the lantern gallery of this 80 ft. tower. Constant wave and spray prevented the cement between the blocks of the solid base setting, often the tower shook and shuddered as frequent storms assailed it so Winstanley set to and increased its height after encasing the whole circumference with iron bands and also increasing the size and height of its base. This cost Winstanley personally and was finished in 1699 being known as the second Eddystone Lighthouse. He stated he could wish for nothing better than to be in it during “the greatest storm that ever was”.

Winstanley lighthouse, Eddystone Rock, 1813

Unfortunately in November 1703 whilst he was effecting some repairs to his prize one of the greatest storms ever in the British Isles hit and thousands of people died in its few short hours of devastation. Houses were swept away, ships as well, with 8,000 sailors lost, and inland rivers burst their banks. When the sun case the next morning the twisted remains of the 12 iron piles which held the base stood alone. Henry Winstanley had got his wish.

Two years later John Rudyard, a Cornishman in the silk trade, decided he would design and build the next Eddystone Lighthouse and enlisted the services of two expert shipwrights from Her Majesty’s Naval Dockyard at Woolwich. He was to build it of timber and when almost completed in July 1708 lit the first 24 tallow candles on his magnificent structure. Five years later he died but it stood in service for another 46 years until one of the three keepers named Henry Hall woke one night to find a fire in the lantern room. He was a man of 94 years of age, and tried to wake the other two keepers who had had a heave drinking night. Henry using only a leather bucket was flinging the water upwards towards the fire when finally his two companions woke and tried to help but the fire had too firm a hold. The lantern roof collapsed and a bullet of molten lead dripped from its remains towards the gaze of Henry Hall who was looking up. He screamed and said “God help me. I’m on fire inside!” The others were sceptical when Henry stated the molten lead had gone down his throat and the three resumed their efforts with Henry unable to communicate. The inferno was seen from the land and a boat set out to pick the three keepers up but it was not for hours that the men were rescued.

Henry Hall was put under medical attention complaining and mumbling about his awful experiences but it was put dawn to the dreadful experience along with its shock in one of such advanced years. Henry spent 12 days convalescing before he suddenly died. The Doctor to allay all doubts of Henry’s declarations performed a post-mortem only to find a flat piece of lead weighing 7 ounces 5 drams in the pit of his stomach. Today this can be seen in the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh.

John Smeaton of Yorkshire was a mathematical instrument maker who also turned his talents to engineering. He decided to build a new Eddystone Lighthouse of stone and work began August 1756 and was an engineering feat. At last after three gruelling years of conflict between man and nature, the Eddystone reef was once again conquered using 1,493 blocks of stone weighing almost 1,000 tons, 700 marble joggles, 1,800 oaken trenails and £40,000 to do it. He placed an inscription on the last stone “24th August 1759 Laus Deo” as well as the text from the Psalms. Some years later he commented that the glow from the lighthouse appeared 7 miles away.

Late 19th-century colourised photograph of Douglass’s lighthouse (courtesy Photochrom Print Collection – Library of Congress)

Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse stood from 1759 until it was decided to build another taller and larger one. This 5th and last one, still standing, was built by James Douglass 1882 and differed from Smeaton’s use of trenails and dowels to Douglass preferring dovetailing the blocks of stone together.

So next time you are at Lydham Hall take time to see the replica of Eddystone Lighthouse in the cabinet above the stairs and to the right of the back dormer window and dwell for a little time on the mammoth task each of the foregoing builders undertook.

SOURCE: The Rock Lighthouses of Britain: The End of an Era? by Christopher P. Nicholson 2nd Ed. Pub. by Whittles of Caithness, 1995

This article was first published in the September 2000 edition of our magazine.

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