Ralph Snowball’s House and Studio

Where was Ralph Snowball’s house and studio in New Lambton?

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections site has a number of photographs captioned as Ralph Snowball’s house or studio in Clarence Rd, New Lambton.

Ralph Snowball’s studio, New Lambton, NSW, 11 April 1902

Ralph Snowball Studio, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, [n.d.]

Ralph Snowball Studio, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, [n.d.]

Ralph Snowball’s house, Clarence Street, New Lambton, NSW, 11 April 1902

Chinese Market Gardener at Ralph Snowball’s residence, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, September 1886

The first thing to note is that these are all of the same building. Compare the fence and the verandah in these two photos.

The NSW Land Registry Services has a historical map that shows a property owned by R.G. Snowball on the corner of Clarence Rd and Baker St (lot 1165), and for a number of years I thought that the photographs above were of that location


Recently I realised that couldn’t be right, in particular because in one of the photos of the back of the house (on the elevated side of the block) there is clearly another house to the right. So the Snowball house in this photograph cannot have been on a corner.

Also in the Cultural Collections archive is a photo taken from near the top of Collaroy Rd, looking northwards towards Lambton colliery and township.

Lambton Colliery and township, Lambton, NSW, 15 October 1900

I was able to locate Snowball’s house in this photograph, and notice that the right wall of the Mechanics’ Institute in Lambton, the top of the Lambton Park rotunda, and the chimney of Snowball’s house were in alignment. I was then able to replicate that alignment in Google Earth by drawing a straight line using the Mechanics’ Institute and rotunda as guide points.

Using this alignment in Google Earth, I then inspected the path of that line on a 1944 aerial photograph looking for a matching building – one with an expansive front yard with steps going up to the front of the house, and with the back of the house very close to the street. There was a very good match at 19 Clarence Rd.

A closer inspection of the map with the property owners names shows on lot 1149, although the name is slightly worn away, “Ralph Snowball”.

Finally, when I overlaid this map into Google Earth along with the line I had drawn earlier using the Mechanics Institute and Rotunda as a guide, the line goes straight through lot 1149!

Google Earth shows that lot 1149 (19 Clarence Rd) now has two modern buildings on the block.

Locating this block of land also explains why the Federal Directory of Newcastle and District for 1901 has a listing for “Photographer. Snowball, Ralph, Gwydir Rd”.

Eye surgery

Things have been quiet on this blog for the last few weeks as I’ve had eye surgery to remove a pterygium. Frustrated by the slow progress of recovery I Googled “Pterygium surgery recovery” and found lots of information from the medical provider’s point of view, but not much from the patient’s point of view.

I decided to balance this out a bit by writing up my own Pterygium Tales.

Warning – these tales have some not so pretty photos of my face.

Change the date

Malcolm Turnbull recently released a short video with his thoughts on Australia Day. In it he says …

“Australia Day is a day to come together and celebrate what unites us.”

A thought I wholeheartedly endorse. But he also says …

“I’m disappointed by those who want to change the date of Australia Day, seeking to take a day that unites Australia and Australians and turn it into one that would divide us”

… which is just nonsensical.

26 January marks a day when Europeans arrived on these shores to inhabit this land, and in doing so radically affected the indigenous peoples already occupying the continent. The newcomers of 1788 came with a mix of good, evil, and indifferent attitudes towards the native peoples. They also undeniably brought disease, death, dispossession, and decline to the indigenous peoples. And for this reason, 26 January can never be a date that unites all Australians.

Malcolm Turnbull is 100% wrong when he says that those who want to change the date are being divisive – it is those who want to maintain 26 January as Australia Day who are perpetuating division.

Let’s change the date, so that all Australians can celebrate Australia Day together.