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.

Lambton Aldermen, 1871-1899

Thomas CroudaceMy latest article for the Lambton Local is out, this month on Thomas Croudace, the father of Lambton.

Thomas Croudace served as alderman and mayor on both Lambton and New Lambton municipal councils at various times, and as part of my background research for the article I have been summarising who served as aldermen and mayor of Lambton Council from when it was incorporated in 1871, through to the end of 1899 when the council was bankrupt and virtually defunct amidst the ructions of the commercial failure of the electric light system.

Authors note: Since writing this blog post I have completed the task of summarising the Lambton alderman for all the years of the council and more complete and authoritative information can be found on my Lambton Alderman (1871-1938) page.

I had made a couple of attempts at the task of documenting council representatives on previous occasions, but struggled to work out what details to include and what format to present the information. This time I’ve worked out a nice compact way of presenting the data, with colour coding to indicate additional information.

AldermenSnip2The list of aldermen is available in two formats:

Entries in the table that are underlined are hyperlinks to a relevant newspaper article in Trove.

To make sense of the information in these documents, it is helpful to understand how council elections were organised, and secondly how I have used colour coding to represent changes in the council membership.

Council elections

Elections in the Lambton Municipal Councils were governed by the the NSW Municipalities Act of 1867. The council had 9 aldermen, who served terms of three years. Each February the term of three aldermen expired, and nominations were called to fill the expiring positions, so that over a three year cycle the terms of all nine of the aldermen expired. If three or less nominations were received for alderman, the nominees were automatically appointed to the council without the need for a ballot. If there were more nominations than positions available the returning officer would set a date within the next seven days at which a ballot would be held, where the ratepayers of the council area would vote for aldermen. The three candidates with the most votes would be declared elected.

The position of Mayor was not voted on by ratepayers, but rather on the first council meeting after the election, the nine aldermen (including the three newly elected/returned aldermen) would vote for who they wanted to be Mayor. In contrast to the position of aldermen who were elected to a term of three years, the position of Mayor had a term of only one year.

In the event of any casual vacancies, nominations for the vacancy would be called for, and and and election called if there were more nominees than vacancies. Casual vacancies could be due to resignation, death, or by an aldermen being absent from council meetings for three months without leave being granted.

Colour coding

In the documents I have used different colours to indicate the means by which people entered and exited council positions:

  • The foreground text color indicates how a person entered a council position:
    • Blue indicates the person was elected unopposed.
    • Green indicates the person was a successful candidate in an election.
    • Black indicates a continuation in office.
  • The background colour of a table cell indicates how a person exited a council position:
    • Yellow indicates a resignation.
    • Light pink indicates expiration of a term, and the person did not seek re-election.
    • Darker pink indicates expiration of a term, and the person was defeated when seeking re-election to another term.
    • Orange indicates that the person’s positon became vacant after three months of continued absence from council meetings, without leave.

Each new row in the table represents a change in the makeup of the council, with the exception of the February 1897 election when the aldermen and mayor remained unchanged.


In the period 1871 to 1899:

  • 14 different people served as Mayor.
  • 56 or 57 different people served as aldermen.
    • The exact number is hard to pin down as it is unclear whether T. Screen (1874-1876) is the same person as Thomas Screen (1888-1890)
    • The obituary of Thomas S. Jones in 1917 states that he was an alderman for eight years, thus confirming that the Thomas Jones (1872-1874) is the same person as Thomas S. Jones (1889-1894).
  • Two people died while serving in office – Peter Grant in 1876, and Dr. J.J. Hill in 1882.
  • On only two occasions (1885, 1897) did the regular election in February result in the same set of aldermen serving for a successive year, and only in 1897 did the aldermen and mayor remain unchanged.
  • On three occasions a vacancy occurred due to an alderman not attending council meetings for three successive months – John Beveridge in 1881, Thomas Croudace in 1886, and Enoch Higgs in 1887. It is not clear on any of these occasions whether the reason was sickness, laziness, busyness, or wilfulness.

Stoker’s Hotel

John Stoker opened the “Gold Miners’ Arms” Hotel in Lambton in 1865 and was the licensee up until 1885. In 1869 Mr Stoker extended his premises and built a large upstairs hall (40 feet by 24 feet) that was often used for various meetings or social gatherings. This hall was often referred to as “Stoker’s Hall”, “Stokers Long Room” or “Druids Hall”. From around 1871 the hotel is also known as the “Gold Miners’ Home” hotel.

In 1916, the new licensee George Malbon changed the name of the hotel to the “Central Hotel” and continued to run it until 1921 when the Licenses Reduction Board delicensed the hotel, paying £1460 in compensation. George Malbon died later that year in September 1921, aged 63. The hotel building was subsequently demolished in 1926.

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections has a couple of photos of this hotel, and by comparing these with one of the frames from a 1904 panorama of Lambton taken from the North Lambton hill, I was able to confirm that Stoker’s hotel was situated on the north-east corner of Elder and Grainger streets.

StokersHallND StokersHall1904

Stoker's Hotel. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Stoker’s Hotel. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

The photo above is not dated but is probably in the period 1884 to 1885, as Ralph Snowball only started his photographic career in 1884, and John Stoker ceased to be the licensee in 1885.

Note at the extreme right in the photo above can be seen a sign advertising “Druids’ Hall”. The hall was constructed in 1869.

Sign for "Druids' Hall"

Sign for “Druids’ Hall”

The "Gold Miners' Home" hotel 1893. Licensee W. Baker. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

The “Gold Miners’ Home” hotel 1893. Licensee W. Baker. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

One frame from a panorama of Lambton in 1904. The "Gold Miners' Home" hotel is visible in the extreme left of this photo. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

One frame from a panorama of Lambton in 1904. The “Gold Miners’ Home” hotel is visible in the extreme left of this photo. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Article Date Event DateNotes
30 Dec 1865First newspaper reference to the Gold Miners' Arms hotel - "On application a license for bagatelle, was granted to John Stoker, landlord of the Gold Miners' Arms, Lambton."
20 Mar 1869First newspaper reference to "Stoker's Hotel"
15 Jun 1869"Mr. Stoker himself is going to extend his premises by building an assembly room sufficiently large to contain 500 people. Such an edifice is very much wanted here, as there is not at present any place in the township (chapels excepted,) able to contain 150 persons."
17 Jul 1869 Mr. Stoker, of the Gold miner's Hotel, is about commencing a large concert-room, forty by twenty-four feet, to be fitted up with a stage, and other necessaries
27 Nov 1869First newspaper reference to the "Druids' Hall".
24 Jun 1871First newspaper reference to the "Gold Miners' Home" hotel. "TO LET in the rising township of Lambton, a Shop and Dwelling-house, with stabling, opposite the Gold Miners' Home. Apply to JOSEPH HUNTER on the premises."
1 Jul 1871First newspaper reference to "Stoker's long room".
18 Jul 1871
15 Jul 1871
Public meeting held in Mr. Stoker's long room, to nominate people for election to the first Lambton Council.
9 Dec 1873First newspaper reference to "Stoker's Hall".
5 May 1875Adding five extra bedrooms for accommodation.
10 Oct 1878Coronial inquest held at Stoker's Hotel into the death of Thomas Syemour and Robert Brown in Lambton Colliery's Mosquito Pit.
27 Nov 1885
25 Nov 1885
The license of the Gold Miners' Home Hotel, Lambton, transferred from John Stoker to William Ralph.
10 Dec 1903The "Gold Miners' Home" hotel is still referred to as "Stoker's Hotel" even 18 years after John Stoker ceased to be the licensee in 1885.
8 Oct 1907
6 Oct 1907
Death of John Stoker, aged 75.
3 Jul 1914License was transferred from Charles Nelson to George Malbon.
21 Jan 1916G. Malbon changes the name of the hotel from "Gold Miners' Home Hotel" to the "Central Hotel".
24 Jun 1916Reduction in licensing fee for the Central Hotel.
17 Jan 1921Central Hotel up before the Licenses Reduction Board.
20 May 1921Central Hotel to be delicensed and compensation paid - £1100 to owner, £360 licensee; total, £1460.
28 Sep 1921
26 Sep 1921
George Malbar [Malbon], the former licensee of the Central Hotel dies aged 63.
10 May 1926Gold Miners' Arms hotel demolished.