The lost chambers of Waratah

My next article for the Lambton and New Lambton Local (coming in May) is on the Lambton Courthouse, erected 1879, and demolished in 1937. In researching the article I discovered that in neighbouring Waratah, where they had missed out on a having the courthouse constructed, that court sessions were being held in the Council chambers.

I was aware of three different council chambers/town halls in Waratah, and wondered which one was used for court sittings. It was none of the ones I knew of, and the more I looked the more places I found where Waratah Council had met. Read all the details on my Waratah Municipal Council page.

In a nice coincidence, as I finished writing that page this evening, I realised that it is 146 years to the day since the first ordinary meeting of the Waratah Municipal Council on 21st April 1871.

Waratah Courthouse, originally the Waratah Municipal Council Chambers. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

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."

Copper Smelter, Waratah

The Hunter Living Histories site has just published an article on Robert Perrott, including some sketches he did of various places around Newcastle in the late 1800s. Of particular interest is a sketch of the copper smelting works near Waratah.

Copper smelting near Waratah, at Newcastle. (Sketch by Robert Perrott, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW)

This was the works of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company, which commenced operation in 1872. The Maitland Mercury reported on 18 June 1872

On Tuesday last a very interesting ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Waratah in the presence of the local manager of the establishment and a few gentlemen from Newcastle, namely, that of lighting the first fires in two of the copper smelting furnaces of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company’s works near Waratah.

The smelter operated for about 47 years, and the land was sold off in 1918 and 1919, as reported by the Maitland Mercury on 6 Nov 1919.

A 1910 map by A. Barrett shows that the smelter was situated in modern day Broadmeadow, where UGL Limited (formerly Goninans) is now located.

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

The smelter had two large brick smokestacks, that were highly visible points in the landscape, and often appeared in the background of photographs of the time.

View from New Lambton towards Broadmeadow, with copper smelting stacks in the background. circa 1887. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Stormwater drain construction at Hamilton North., April 1900, looking towards New Lambton. The Waratah copper smelter stack is visible in the background. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

View of Waratah copper smelter from Glebe Rd Hamilton South in 1897. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

An interesting aspect of the Perrott sketch of the smelter, is how some details are quite accurate, but other details not so accurate, probably for aesthetic reasons. When we compare the sketch with a 1906 Ralph Snowball photograph of Waratah taken from somewhere near the present day Mater hospital, we see that Perrott has reproduced the smelter building and stacks reasonably accurately. However in the sketch the smelter appears to be at the base of a hill, but the smelter was actually located on the flat plain of Broadmeadow, and that hill is Merewether Heights some 4km in the distance.

Sketch of Waratah copper smelter by Robert Perrott.

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

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."