Jesmond Hill horse racing track

Ever since I obtained a 1944 aerial photograph of the Lambton region from Newcastle Library, I was intrigued by this loop of track to the south of Newcastle Road.

My guess was that it was used as a training track for horses.

While researching another unrelated matter in Trove today, I found a 25 June 1921 newspaper article on the Jubilee of Lambton that solves the mystery. The article, in reminiscing on times past, reports that

“Many horse racing events were held at the road known as the Jesmond Hill, from the Dark Creek bridge to the present site of the reservoir.”

The Skyline drive-in

I met up with Paul Zuljan on the weekend, who grew up in Lambton, and we went looking for some places he remembered from his youth, one of them being the old Skyline drive-in theatre.  I vaguely knew where it had been located, but in looking at the following map from 1960, the outline of the theatre is clearly marked.

Portion of Northumberland County District scheme map, 1960. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

I overlaid this map into Google Earth …

… then put an outline around the area, and now the location of the drive-in relative to the modern landscape is clearly visible.

If you have Google Earth installed, you can download the KMZ file for the overlay and outline.

The lost chambers of Lambton

My latest article for the Lambton and New Lambton Local is out, this month on the Lambton Courthouse, that was opened in 1879 and demolished in 1937.

An unexpected outcome of researching this article is that I discovered a few places I didn’t know about before, where council chambers either existed or were planned, in Waratah and in Lambton.

In Lambton, I discovered that before the council was even a year old, in January 1872, it applied to the Minister for Lands to have an area in Dickson St set aside for Council chambers. The land was never used for that purpose. The courthouse was built on the adjoining block in 1877-78, and the block originally intended for the council was resumed in 1886 for the construction of the police barracks and lockup.

The new roos

On 25th April 2017, prior to the main Anzac commemoration service at the Lambton Park Memorial Gates, there was a short ceremony to mark the return of the kangaroo statues to the top of the two main gate pillars.

When the foundation stone for the gates was laid on 19th October 1918, the newspaper in reporting the details of the impending construction noted that …

“On the top of the main piers will be bronze kangaroos, and the heading King and Country.”

The new bronze kangaroos on the Lambton Park Memorial Gates. April 2017.

The kangaroos did indeed get erected on top of the main gate pillars, as the following poor quality newspaper photograph from 1922 shows.

A photo of the memorial gate with the original kangaroos appeared in the Anzac Day edition of the Newcastle Sun, 25th April 1922.

At some unknown time later the kangaroos disappeared from the gate pillars, and there has been some suggestion that they were removed and melted down during the Second World War years as part of the war effort.

However this is unlikely, as it seems that the original kangaroos weren’t made from bronze at all, but “imitation stone”! A newspaper article from 17th May 1921 reported that some of the “thoughtless youth” of the community …

“… have made a target for stone throwing of the imitation stone kangaroos which grace the top of each gate pillar, and have succeeded in almost smashing off the tail of one figure. Another missile has chipped a piece out of the marsupial’s hip.”

Given their construction material, being prone to weathering, and an easy target for vandalism, it seems likely that the kangaroos condition deteriorated, and they were quietly removed.

Full credit to all those involved in the placing of the new bronze kangaroos atop the pillars, ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the gates next year, with ornamentation as originally intended.