New Lambton Copper Smelter

Mike Scanlon in today’s Newcastle Herald has an article about the naming of Christo Road in Waratah. In the article he quotes from a letter from a reader, Greg Archbold, who says of John Penrose Christoe

“He arrived in Newcastle about 1869 to establish a smelting works at New Lambton where I believe (the old) Goninans is now located. “

This location is indeed correct, although the various suburbs and names mentioned in connection with the smelter makes things a little confusing.  The smelter was the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company, which operated until about 1917.

Photograph of Waratah copper smelter by Ralph Snowball, 1906. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The location of the smelter is now in the modern suburb of Broadmeadow, but at the time the smelter was built, Broadmeadow wasn’t a suburb or town – it was a swamp. So the smelter was variously described as being “within a mile of New Lambton” or “near Waratah”, those being the closest townships.  The association of the smelter with New Lambton was reinforced by the fact that the land the smelter was built on was the leasehold property of Messrs. J. and A. Brown, who owned the New Lambton colliery, and who had an exclusive agreement to supply coal to the smelter. For this reason the works were often referred to as “The New Lambton Copper Smelting Works”.

Corporal Barrett’s 1910 map of Newcastle shows the location of the smelter, and also shows that Christo Road was originally called Newtown Road. (Newtown was the original name for Hamilton North.)

1910 Barrett map overlaid on Google Earth, showing the location of the copper smelter near Waratah.

A 1906 real estate poster shows Christo Road mis-spelled as both “Christie Road” and “Christie St”.

1906 map showing Christo Road as “Christie Road”. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Real estate advertising that doesn’t align with reality is nothing new. The 1906 poster above shows the promise of neatly laid out roads and residential blocks in the Waratah West region near Christo, Creer and Morpeth roads.  However a 1944 aerial photograph of the area I recently obtained from Newcastle Library, shows that 38 years later, there was only Christo Rd and a tiny smattering of houses in the area.

Christo Road Waratah West in September 1944. Newcastle Region Library, Local Studies.

Christo Road Waratah West, 2016.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
6 Nov 1869"The English and Australian Copper Company, who carry on extensive smelting works in South Australia, are about to establish similar works within a mile of New Lambton.
12 Feb 1870Construction of the English and Australian copper smelting works at Broadmeadow has been in progress for three months, and smelting "will be commenced in about two months." (This was a wildly optimistic estimate, as smelting eventually commenced in June 1872, more than two years later.)
The manager is "Mr. Christoe, a gentleman of great experience in copper-smelting."
15 Sep 1870The weather has significantly delayed the opening of the smelter.
"For upwards of two months there was such an accumulation of water at the establishment as to defy the possibility of the works being proceeded with, and thus the company were unexpectedly debarred from carrying out their design in the contemplated time as regards the inauguration of the process of smelting."

The manager of the smelter is Mr. Christoe.
15 Jul 1871Advertisement for a General Manager for the New Lambton Smelting works.
6 Feb 1872Mr Christoe supervising operations at the Burwood Copper Smelter, Glenrock lagoon.
18 May 1872Copper ore has been received, but smelting has not yet begun.
18 Jun 1872Lighting the first fires in two of the coppersmelting furnaces of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company's works near Waratah.
2 Oct 1917Smelting of ore has ceased.
"The business of the company during the past year had to be conducted under conditions of great risk and anxiety, which finally forced the board reluctantly to instruct the manager in Australia to cease making purchases of ore, to smelt out all copper available, and to close the smelting works, a process that has been carried through."
6 Nov 1919"The long connection of the English and Australian Copper Company, Limited, with the Newcastle district has been finally severed through its having recently sold the land that was the site of the works, known as the Waratah works."
8 May 1920"The chimney stack of the old copper works, which was felled some time ago, gave about 150,000 bricks."

Cycleway ambivalence

Newcastle Council is currently constructing a new section of cycleway on Jackson St Hamilton North, which is on my regular route of cycling to work. I’m feeling pretty ambivalent about it. On the one hand I’m pleased to see any money spent on cycleway infrastructure. But on the other hand this project continues a tradition of building cycleways where they are least needed, and by implication not building them where they are needed.


Jackson St, Hamilton North.

Jackson St in Hamilton North is effectively a hybrid one-way street/cul-de-sac, as you can’t turn into it from Griffiths Rd. Apart from school start/end times it is a very quiet street with virtually no traffic, and therefore little added benefit in having a cycleway separate to the road. (If you click on the photo and zoom in, you can actually see a person standing in the middle of the street, with absolutely no danger of being hit by a car!)

Its a similar scenario on Griffiths Road alongside Richardson Park, where last year the council constructed a cycleway along a section of road that already had a wide and rarely occupied verge/cycle lane.

Griffiths Rd, Hamilton North.

Griffiths Rd, Hamilton North.

And the same scenario on Hobart Rd New Lambton, a year or two ago when a new cycle path was constructed along a section of road with a rarely occupied parking/cycle lane.

Hobart Rd, New Lambton.

Hobart Rd, New Lambton.

I’m guessing that the reason why the cycle paths are being built where they’re not really needed is that council has only a limited budget for cycling infrastructure – the places where cycleways are needed are in congested areas, where construction would be difficult and expensive, and the budget isn’t big enough. So instead the only option is to spend the money on smaller, easier projects, which will tend to be in locations where a separate cycle path isn’t really needed.

So where is it needed? My regular cycling route from Lambton to Wickham is fairly cycle friendly, so I don’t have much to complain of. The most obvious spot for improvement is Chatham Rd, Clyde St, and the Clyde St railway crossing in Hamilton North. I’d love to see a  dedicated cycle path along this stretch.

A cycleway here, please.

A cycleway here, please.

Actually, if I dream big dreams like Mark MacLean, I’d love to see a cycleway built on the following route, after the former gasworks site is remediated and turned into a nature reserve.

A cycleway here, pretty please?

A cycleway here, pretty please?

And finally, there is one other thing that makes me less than excited about the new cycleway in Jackson St – and that’s the pace of construction.

Jackson Street shared pathway construction.

Jackson Street shared pathway construction.

The council’s sign says that constructing 375 metres of cyclist pathway is “expected to take four months”! That works out to an average rate of progress of 3.1 metres per day! That’s a rate that I was going to describe as “glacial”, but when in the interests of scientific accuracy I looked up how fast glaciers can travel, I found that back in 2014 the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland made a new world record when its pace was measured at more than 46 metres per day, which is 15 times faster than the Jackson Street cycleway. I am thus forced to invent a new adjective, and describe the pace of construction as “subinfraglacial”.

Jakobshavn Glacier. (WikiMedia)

Jakobshavn Glacier. (WikiMedia)

Freyberg St – Then and Now


University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections site has a large number of old real estate posters, some of which contain photographs. Due to age and the size of the photos, most of them are just grey blurs, but this poster of the Birdwood Estate in New Lambton from 1941 contains a few reasonable quality images of Freyberg St. I visited Freyberg St yesterday and took photos to match the old photos from the poster.FreybergA1941 FreybergA2016 FreybergB1941 FreybergB2016 FreybergC1941 FreybergC2016

Then and Now 15


Lambton colliery and Lambton township, looking north from Russell Rd, New Lambton. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Lambton colliery and Lambton township, looking north from Russell Rd, New Lambton. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

On the North Lambton hill in the background, three streets are visible going up the hill – on the left hand side is Dent St, on the right hand side is Morehead St, and the thinner shorter street in the middle is Grainger St.


In the modern photo, Dent St and Grainger St are hidden by houses and trees, but Morehead St is still visble.