Lambton Colliery, 1944

In a previous article I wrote about finding parch marks in Lewis Oval, and suggested that they were due to the railway cutting and tunnel of the former Lambton Colliery. I recently obtained a scan of a 1944 aerial photograph of Lambton from the Local Studies section of Newcastle Library. By overlaying the photograph in Google Earth I can see that my guess was spot on.

The former Lambton Colliery, September 1944.

The site of the Lambton Colliery, 2016. Google Earth.

The 1944 aerial photo overlaid onto Google Earth.

Parched in history

In archaeology a parch mark is where variations in vegetation growth reveal underlying archaeological features. They most often show up where stone or brick ruins underneath the surface means that there is less soil, and in dry seasons the vegetation in these areas will wither before other areas with deeper levels of topsoil, thus revealing the underlying structure in aerial photographs. Parch marks have sometimes appeared in Britain’s Channel 4 program “Time Team“, revealing ancient Roman structures.

The spectacular cropmarks of a Roman villa in North Pickenham. Norfolk Heritage Explorer

The spectacular cropmarks of a Roman villa in North Pickenham, UK. Norfolk Heritage Explorer

I was excited to discover today photographic evidence of some historical parch marks in my own suburb. The present day Lewis Oval in New Lambton is built over the location of the former Lambton colliery, pretty much in the spot shown in the photograph below.

Lambton Colliery. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Lambton Colliery. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Overlaying an old map onto Google Earth confirms that the rail line and inclined mine tunnel entrance used to be where Lewis Oval is now.


I reasoned that these former excavated regions for the railway and mine tunnel would cause slight subsidences in the surface of Lewis Oval, causing water to pool in these areas more, and that in dry times the vegetation in these areas would remain greener for longer. I opened up the historical images feature of Google Earth and browsed through the available images, and bingo – there was an image from 2006 that clearly showed the location of the mine rail and tunnel. I have enhanced the contrast in the image below to make it stand out a bit more.




History in 3D

3880541274_4e36e6d1b6_mAt the end of last year I came across this Ralph Snowball photo of New Lambton in the Ralph Snowball collection in the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections. Because of the damage to the negative, it took me a while to realise that it was not one photo, but two exposures of the same scene. Recently, Robert Watson pointed out to me that the photo is actually a stereoscopic (3D) image.

So with the instructions from a helpful video on Youtube, and using $5 pair of 3.0 magnification reading glasses from a local discount shop plus a small bolt, I was able to make some viewing glasses, and see some of our local history in 3D.


It took me a while to master the technique of getting the 3D effect. I found I got best results when I printed the photos out so that the left and right images were each 7cm wide. I discovered that that I had to cut the two exposures out and swap the images over (the left hand side of the original image was actually the right image, and vice versa). I found that I could achieve the 3D view best if I placed the images on a well lit horizontal surface with a gap of a few centimetres between the images, and then with the glasses close to my nose, use my left eye to focus on the left hand image, and then slowly move the right image in towards the left image until I got the two images to superimpose.

As well as the photo above that got me started on the 3D viewing exercise, I have subsequently found five other stereoscopic images in the Ralph Snowball collection.