New Lambton’s Super Sentinel Steam Lorry

When you’re in a time of technological change, it’s hard to know which innovations will last, and which will fade away. That’s a problem New Lambton council faced 100 years ago, when they moved to mechanised transport.

In August 1923 the council decided to sell their horses and drays and purchase a steam powered “Super Sentinel” lorry. Manufactured in Shrewsbury, England, the lorry was sent by ship to Sydney for final assembly. The council advertised for a driver, and with the economy still suffering a high rate of post-war unemployment, received 96 applications for the position. 

With the truck’s arrival early in the new year, council arranged a public demonstration on 19 January 1924. The Newcastle Morning Herald reported “The Super Sentinel steam lorry purchased by the council for £1400 was given a very successful trial on Saturday afternoon, in the presence of the aldermen of the municipality and several visiting aldermen. The machine was driven by Mr. C. J. Robinson, and the various steep grades were easily negotiated with a 6-ton load of gravel.”

Despite the glowing appraisal of this new technology, reality did not measure up to expectation. The following year breakdowns regularly kept the lorry out of action. At a fiery council meeting in October 1925, some blamed the driver for operating the truck inappropriately.  With continuing breakdowns, a motion was tabled in March 1926 to dispose of the lorry. The motion was defeated, but soon afterwards council decided to supplement the troubled steam machine by purchasing a petrol lorry, the first of many more to come. The “Super Sentinel” continued to be used until the amalgamation of suburban councils into Greater Newcastle Council in 1938. In June 1941 Newcastle council briefly brought the steam lorry back into service to assist the effort to conserve petrol supplies during the war. When war-time rationing ended, the age of steam powered road transport was soon over, and petrol and diesel power has dominated to this day.

The “Super Sentinel” steam lorry with a capacity of 6 tons, on Russell Road New Lambton, 19 January 1924.
The same location on Russell Road in 2023. Note that the bullnose verandah roof of the house on the right has been replaced at some time.
A Terex TA400 diesel powered truck with a capacity of 38 tons, at the Rankin Park to Jesmond bypass construction site.

The article above was first published in the January 2024 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

Advertisement for driver for New Lambton’s steam lorry. Sydney Morning Herald, 25 August 1923.

In the article I wrote that the Super Sentinel was “manufactured in Shrewsbury, England” which seems to contradict a 17 October 1923 report on the imminent arrival of the “steam lorry which was ordered by the New Lambton Council from the makers in Scotland.” The apparent discrepancy is explained by the fact that the steam waggons were originally manufactured by the Allen and MacLellan company in Glasgow, Scotland, but with growing demand for their vehicles, in 1915 they opened a new factory in Shrewsbury, England, dedicated to the manufacture of steam powered vehicles.

Greg and Silvia Ray’s Photo Time Tunnel website has a couple of photographs of the Sentinel steam lorry from 1941, when Newcastle Council brought it back into service to assist with the conservation of petrol supplies during World War 2.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
24 Jul 1908
22 Jul 1908
After many years of relying on contractors for the carting of material, New Lambton council "decided to purchase a horse and tip dray for general carting, and the Mayor, along with Alderman Mitchell and the council clerk, were appointed a sub-committee to purchase material for the erection of stables and sheds in the yard of the council chambers."
5 Oct 1921Detailed description of the Sentinel Steam Waggon, manufactured in Shrewsbury, England.
31 Aug 1922Another detailed description of the Sentinel Steam Waggon.
3 Aug 1923
1 Aug 1923
New Lambton Council - "At a special meeting held during the week, to consider the transport, it was decided to purchase a Sentinel steam lorry at cost of £1160, and the existing plant (horses and drays) be sold, and, further, that applications be called for driver under conditions fixed at a wage of £6 per week."
17 Aug 1923
15 Aug 1923
New Lambton Council meeting - "M. Whylie, asking council's opinion re applications to be called for driver for proposed Sentinel steam lorry. As driver of the present plant, he claimed preference to the position, if proficient, and able to pass necessary test. This he would be prepared to do at his own expense."
25 Aug 1923Advertisement for the position of Steam Lorry Driver at New Lambton.
14 Sep 1923
12 Sep 1923
"Ninety-six applications were received for the position of driver for the steam lorry ... it was decided to hold a special meeting to finalise the position of driver on Monday night week."
28 Sep 1923
26 Sep 1923
"Alderman Cameron moved that as the motion in connection with the appointment of driver for steam lorry was for consideration of local applicants firstly, and seeing that Mr. Scowcroft was not a resident, the resolution passed at the special meeting of the council held on 24th September appointing him to the position, be rescinded, and that a fresh ballot be taken at the next ordinary meeting of the council. He contended that the method adopted was not fair, as it allowed a minority to exclude any applicant. The motion was carried."
12 Oct 1923
10 Oct 1923
After having his appointment as steam lorry driver rescinded, a fresh vote by the aldermen results in Scowcroft appointed again.
17 Oct 1923"The Super Sentinel steam lorry, which was ordered by the New Lambton Council from the makers in Scotland, at a cost of £140, is expected to arrive next month. The machine is fitted with a three way tipping waggon, allowing of the material to be deposited on either side or from the back. It will have a capacity of from five to six tons. The steam lorry will replace the council's present plant of three horses and three drays, and it is anticipated will effect a material saving in time and expense."
10 Dec 1923"New Lambton Council has accepted a tender of £190 for the erection of a garage to house the council's Sentinel steam waggon. The Mayor (Alderman Brown) will supervise the erection of the building."
3 Jan 1924"W. Adams and Company, Limited, advised New Lambton Council that the Sentinel steam waggon would be delivered in the second week in January. The council decided that the driver be sent to Sydney for instruction on the waggon, and that the test of the machine be made from Greta-road to Evescourt-road, via Russell-road, then up Rugby-road to Brett-street and Carrington parade."
11 Jan 1924The Sentinel steam lorry which was ordered by New Lambton Council some time ago arrived at Sydney by the steamer Tairora on January 3, and it is being assembled. It is expected that the lorry will be handed over to the council on Saturday, January 19, when it will undergo a test, to which representatives of the various Newcastle district councils are being invited.
15 Jan 1924"We are advised by the local house of Wm. Adams and Co., Ltd., that the first super-Sentinel model to arrive in Newcastle will be delivered to the New Lambton Council on Saturday afternoon next, 19th, at 3 p.m., when official trials by the council will take place. After the official trials, the waggon will be on view at the park, where the fireman's gala is being held."
21 Jan 1924
19 Jan 1924
"The super Sentinel steam lorry purchased by the council for £1400 was given a very successful trial on Saturday afternoon, in the presence of the aldermen of the municipality and several visiting aldermen. The machine was driven by Mr. C. J. Robinson, and the various steep grades were easily negotiated with a steam pressure of 190lb, the machine being gauged to 230lb, and carried a 6 ton load of gravel. On reaching the highest point an exhibition of the machine's three-way trip was given. It ran very smoothly, silently on route of trial, and was driven to the sports, where the general criticism passed was more rates'." - Newcastle Morning Herald
21 Jan 1924
19 Jan 1924
" 'Jump on the waggon, boys, and we'll all have a ride.' This was the Mayor's injunction on Saturday to the aldermen and visitors who assembled to witness the trial of the new Super-Sentinel waggon purchased by New Lambton Council. The test was a severe one, and fully demonstrated the capabilities of the 'super.' With a load of six tons of gravel (irrespective of the human contingent) the Sentinel climbed Russell road and then backed down, demonstrating the brake control. Then it went along Regent street and up to Evescourt road, a test good enough for anything in New Lambton. Afterwards it proceeded to Rugby-road, where the unloading facilities of the waggon were demonstrated. Either side may be tilted, also the back. All present were satisfied with the demonstration." - The Newcastle Sun
22 Oct 1925
21 Oct 1925
"New Lambton Council possesses a motor lorry. It is used for carrying road-making material about the municipality; but it is out of action at present. This was tho subject of a long, and at times angry, discussion at last night's council meeting. The council must try to prevent the constant stoppages of the lorry for repairs, because these were a drain on the funds."
30 Nov 1925"At the beginning of 1924 the old system of carting by horse and dray was changed and mechanical transport by a steam waggon substituted. This has proved an economical method of traction, hauling quarry metal over a distance of three miles, and enabling a road to be completed at less cost than the metal could be purchased either at Broadmeadow or at Adamstown. Carrying out the same work under old conditions would have been prohibitive."
3 Dec 1925
2 Dec 1925
"A report on the lorry was placed before the council, and created considerable discussion. Alderman Brown gave a verbal report of his interview with Mr. Parsons, which substantiated the written document. It referred to several matters of repairs, which could have been done by the driver."
17 Dec 1925
16 Dec 1925
"The detailed report of an engineer on the lorry was then considered. The Mayor reported the synopsis of the whole question, and the resignation of the driver, with its subsequent withdrawal. The driver was given an opportunity of making a statement. The assistant driver was also given the opportunity of stating his case, in which he said that both drivers had been made scapegoats, which was an unfair proposition. No action was taken."
25 Mar 1926"New Lambton Council some time ago purchased a steam lorry for traction work on the streets. Great things were expected, but expectations have not been fulfilled. At last night’s meeting of the council Alderman Auckett tabled a motion to dispose of the lorry by tender.” Alderman Auckett: "The lorry has not been satisfactory to any one. It has cost a considerable sum for repairs, and as it has not given satisfaction we should get rid of it."
8 Apr 1926
7 Apr 1926
"In a report submitted to the council, the engineer (Mr. Williams) recommended that a light type of motor lorry, from two to two and a half tons, be purchased for street and gravel work, and that the present steam lorry be retained for a further period. During the winter months, the engineer stated, to carry on satisfactorily, the council would be compelled either to employ drays continually or purchase some lighter vehicle to carry gravel to places where the heavy steam lorry could not go."
6 May 1926
5 May 1926
"Why is the steam lorry not giving satisfactory work, and what is the cause? These questions were put to the New Lambton engineer, Mr. Williams, at the local council meeting last night. In reply, the engineer said that the driver was the cause. He said he was old, and his nerves were not good, and he could not do the work. He recommended getting another driver to do the work for a month. The recommendation was adopted."
17 Jun 1926"The council has added to its road making plant by the purchase of a 2½ ton motor lorry. The council possesses a 6-ton steam lorry. The lighter machine has been acquired for maintenance work, and it will do away entirely with horses and drays."
22 Jul 1926
21 Jul 1926
New Lambton Council - Mr. R. Lathlean was appointed motor lorry driver. There were 102 applicants for the position.
14 Jul 1927
13 Jul 1927
"The acting foreman reported that the steam lorry was again in commission after the overhaul, and, according to the driver was giving satisfaction."
9 May 1936New Lambton council "has the most modern and comprehensive plant of any municipal council in the district. The plant comprises four motor-lorries, a steam lorry, two steam rollers, a footpath roller, a road grader, four concrete mixers, and scores of subsidiary roadmaking tools."
10 Feb 1938
9 Feb 1938
"A resident of Mackie-avenue complained that the council's steam lorry damaged a water-pipe leading to his property."
20 Jun 1941"An old steam waggon which has been lying idle in Corlette-street depot for several years is to be brought back into service again by Greater Newcastle Council to haul metal and gravel. This is one step in the council's programme to assist the Government in conserving supplies of petrol."

New Lambton Quarry Tramways

“There are at present no streets that can lay any claim to the name – they are simply cart tracks and foot tracks and when one of these becomes too bad to travel on owners of vehicles simply go and pick out another.”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 29 March 1886.

Such was the state of roads in New Lambton in 1886 some 18 years after the town began. The need to improve the streets was a major impetus for formation of New Lambton council and was extensively discussed in their very first general meeting in March 1889. To turn rutted dirt tracks to solid roadways the council needed gravel, and as they owned no land, they sought assistance from the local collieries.

For the roads in the southern half of the town, the New Lambton Land and Coal Company allowed the council to obtain material from their quarry at the top of Addison Road. To transport the gravel down the hill, in 1890 the council constructed a 400-yard tramway down to Evescourt Road.

For the roads in the northern half of town, Thomas Croudace, manager of Lambton colliery and mayor of New Lambton, agreed in 1891 for the council to use the company’s quarry in the pit paddock hillside. As before, a tramway was constructed to get material down to the streets. Unsurprisingly, the combination of skips, rails, and a steep incline proved irresistible to local lads. In October 1891 a 13-year-old boy was severely injured when the skip he was riding down the hill left the rails.

After the initial construction of roads, the council does not appear to have used the Lambton colliery quarry again. The company sold the land to developers in 1956 and the location of the former quarry is now hidden by housing. In Addison Road the council purchased the quarry in 1896 and continued using it until the 1920s. The land is vacant today, but still has a few reminders of its past use lying amongst the undergrowth.

A 1906 view over New Lambton, with the Lambton colliery quarry in the hillside above. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Newcastle University, Living Histories.
The Lambton colliery quarry is now obscured by housing.
At the top of Addison Road a drill hole in a fallen rock is a reminder of the site’s past use as a quarry..
Portion of Barrett’s 1910 map showing the Lambton colliery quarry, and the New Lambton Council quarry at the top of Addison Road. Newcastle University, Living Histories.

The article above was first published in the December 2023 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

New Lambton colliery began operations in June 1868 and a township soon formed around it. The following year The Newcastle Chronicle reported on the progress of the town, including the state of the roads …

As yet no streets have been formed, and, with the exception of a kind of a main road, leading through the mostly inhabited part of the township, there is no other thoroughfare, and from the multiplicity of the stumps that are still visible, even in close proximity to the houses, perambulating the village in a dark night must be a difficult undertaking. It would be most advisable for the residents to take early steps for making one or two tolerably passable streets, for the lack of this convenience in any township is a serious drawback.

The Newcastle Chronicle, 16 September 1869.

Despite this advice for better roads, seven years later the roads were still in need of much attention.

Bad roads are now the order of the day, and between Old and New Lambton they are in a very bad and almost impassable state, owing chiefly to the recent heavy rain.

The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 5 August 1876

Twelve years on, the lack of decent roads was a leading inspiration for the residents of New Lambton to press for the creation of a municipal council.

It is rumoured that an effort is to be made to have this town incorporated and proclaimed a municipality. There are at present no roads or streets other than the main road to Newcastle that can lay any claim to the name. They are simply cart tracks and foot tracks and when one of these becomes too bad to travel on owners of vehicles simply go and pick out another, which for a time suits them, and so on. If the place was incorporated, this state of things would soon become a thing of the past, because regular streets would be laid out, made, and maintained, and every traveller and resident would enjoy the benefit – a benefit which would far more than recoup the few shillings per year the inhabitants would pay in rates.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 29 March 1886.

Addison Road Quarry

Within a year of the council being formed in 1889, the Improvement Committee was seeking permission from Alexander Brown (managing director of the New Lambton colliery) to use their quarry for road making materials. At the council meeting of 12 March 1890 the committee recommended …

That a deputation wait upon Mr. A. Brown to see what terms he would allow the council to open out quarries upon lots 36 and 37, near Mr. Hincks’ house; also to see upon what terms he would allow the council the use of 400yds of rails and sleepers. 2. That a tramway be laid from the proposed quarries down to near Mr. Hilton’s place, a distance of about 400yds; also that a tip and shoot be erected.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 14 March 1890.
Lots 36 and 37, Section R, DP1949 – the location of the quarry referred to in the 12 March 1890 meeting of New Lambton council. SIX maps.

The 12 March 1890 meeting of New Lambton council refers to the quarry being “near Mr Hincks” house. Land title Vol-Fol 1468-110 shows that Richard Hincks’ property was at the top of Addison Rd, opposite the quarry. Sometimes the newspapers referred to the quarry as “Hincks quarry”, simply because it was near his house.

Property of Richard Hincks. Vol-Fol 1468-110.

The improvement committee’s report recommended that a tramway be laid “down to near Mr. Hilton’s place, a distance of about 400yds”. Land title Vol-Fol 992-68 shows that Matthew Hilton owned lots 22 and 23 near the bottom of Addison Rd.

Matthew Hilton’s property, Addison Rd, New Lambton. Vol-Fol 992-68.

We have no information on the exact route of the tramway, but a straight line of 400 yards in length (shown in yellow below) matches the distance between the quarry and Hilton’s property.

The quarry (left) and Hilton’s property (right), with the distance between them being approximately 400 yards.

The council’s request to use the colliery’s quarry proved successful. The council meeting of 26 March 1890 reported …

From the Mayor and Alderman Gray, who had interviewed Mr. A. Brown, when that gentleman offered to allow the council to work the gravel quarry on lots 36 and 37 on the New Lambton estate at the rate of 4d per yard, and the use of rails and sleepers for a tramway free of charge

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 28 March 1890.

The council then called for tenders to construct the tramway.

Four tenders were received, resulting in the tender of Hinton & Co., being accepted for the sum of £23 18s 6d. The tender of Hinton and Co. was also accepted for the construction of a tramway hopper, for the sum of £79 18s.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 16 May 1890.

Hinton completed the tramway, but being more work than he anticipated he asked the council for extra payment. The curt response was that …

… the contractors to be informed of the previous decision of the council to the effect that they cannot feel justified in paying extras, as the work for which extras are claimed was provided for in the specifications.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 16 August 1890.

In February 1896 the council resolved to “negotiate with the New Lambton Company for the purchase of lots 36 and 37, section S, near Hinck’s, for a quarry” and also “to place the tramline in order.” The Company agree to sell the the two lots for £15 each, but after a further inspection of the site the Mayor reported that …

… he was of opinion that the council would act wisely in purchasing four allotments from the New Lambton Co., as it was clear the gravel extended with a much larger face in the two allotments through from the present quarry. Alderman Williams moved, “That £50 be offered to the company for the four lots.”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 21 February 1896.

The sale of 4 lots of land totalling 1.2 acres was completed in September 1896.

Sale of land from “The New Lambton Land and Coal Company” to “The Borough of New Lambton”, September 1896. Vol-Fol 1203-130.

In October 1896, the newspaper reported that

A boy named Benjamin Taite met with a painful accident yesterday morning. He was walking along the rails of the Quarry line, and somehow or other slipped and fell on his arm, breaking both bones near the wrist.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 26 October 1896.

It is not absolutely certain which “Quarry line” is referred to, but I strongly suspect that it is the Addison Road quarry line, as this is the quarry recently purchased by the council and which they had expressed their intention earlier in the year “to place the tramline in order.”

There are various references to the quarry in the ensuing years. At a 1924 council meeting, correspondence was received from “S.A. Mining Company, granting permission to council to remove gravel from Hincks’ quarry.” At first glance, this appears a little odd, as the council owned Hincks’ quarry, so why would they need permission from the Scottish Australian Mining Company? This can be explained by viewing the extent of the quarry in a 1944 aerial photograph, and overlaying land boundaries, and noting that the quarry extended into Scottish Australian Mining Company land holdings. Presumably this extension westwards was because that was where good gravel could be obtained.

A 1944 aerial photograph overlaid with council’s 1896 purchase of land for a quarry (white) and the extension purchased in 1925 (purple), which shows that the quarry also extended westwards into the land holding of the Scottish Australian Mining Company.

In October 1924 New Lambton Council …

… on the recommendation of the Mayor, decided to increase its quarry property. The council will acquire two blocks of land at a cost of £25 each. This land adjoins Hinks’s quarry, and includes another block. The land contains gravel for street construction and repairs.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 9 October 1924.

This land purchase (lots 3 and 25 of Section S of DP1949) was completed in April 1925. Vol-Fol 3735-122.) There is a brief mention of Hincks’ Quarry in 1926.

The steam lorry had been engaged for the fortnight in street patching with gravel from Fern Quarry. The motor lorry arrived on July 8, and was being used in carting gravel from Hincks’ quarry, and was doing good work.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 15 July 1926.

After this date there are no more mentions of this quarry being actively used, presumably because the council was now sourcing its gravel requirements from the larger Fern Quarry (located on Peatties Road Kotara) that they purchased in August 1926. (Vol-Fol 3808-23)

Lambton Colliery Quarry

A note on street names: The Lambton colliery quarry was used for the construction of streets in the northern part of New Lambton, on the Commonage. Due to a mix up many of these streets were given one name by the council, and a different name by the Lands Department in Sydney. Eventually the council had to give way to the Lands Department names. Hence a number of street names mentioned below in council reports are now known by a different name. See the article “Sadly Bungled Street Names” for further details.

In June 1890, Thomas Croudace, alderman on the New Lambton council and also manager of the Lambton Colliery …

… offered on behalf of the company, to allow the council to quarry chatrock on the Lambton Company’s estate at a price to be fixed at a future date.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 7 June 1890.

Chatrock is gravel smaller than pea gravel, but larger than sand. In April 1891 the council made formal moves to request use of the Lambton colliery quarry.

Alderman THOMAS moved, that a deputation, consisting of Aldermen Capewell, Lonsdale, and Hitchcock, wait upon Mr. Croudace, and ask his permission to use the colliery quarry for Dent and Gibson streets contracts.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 24 April 1891.

The Mayor (Thomas Croudace) intimated that he would do his utmost as regards letting the council have gravel to make Dent and Gibson-streets.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 8 May 1891.

The request was granted and the council then called for tenders for the extracting gravel from the quarry. In July 1891 the contractors, Messrs Friel and Curran, wrote to the council …

… stating that the gravel in the colliery quarry was much heavier than in Russell-street, and asking for consideration; the means of conveying it would also be inconvenient and costly.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 3 July 1891.

Although no formal resolution of the council regarding the transportation of gravel is recorded in newspaper reports, the council decided that a tramway down the hill was required, and sought the co-operation of the Lambton Colliery in its construction. In October 1891 the council resolved …

… That Aldermen Lonsdale and Capewell wait upon Mr. F. Croudace in regard to the speedy completion of the quarry tramway … The MAYOR and Alderman DEAN reported that Mr. F. Croudace had promised to provide rails and sleepers for the tramway in Dent-street.”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 23 October 1891.

With a lack of worksite security combined with the lure of adventures, soon afterwards the paper reported that

ON Tuesday evening a serious accident happened to a boy, aged 13 year, son of Mr. Simeon Davies, New Lambton. It appears the boy, with a companion, was riding on some full skips, which were being brought down a steep incline from the quarry in the Lambton Colliery paddock. The skips left the rails and threw the boys off, injuring the boy Davies severely. He was at once conveyed home and medical assistance procured, when it was found that his arm had suffered a compound fracture, and his leg was fractured above the ankle. It is feared the injuries to the arm will necessitate amputation. The boy at present is in a critical condition.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 29 October 1891.

It is unclear when the council ceased using the Lambton colliery quarry as a source of gravel. The last mention in the newspapers is in June 1892 where the Mayor is permitted to engage men “in quarrying gravel in Russell-street, also in the colliery quarry.” Presumably after the council purchased the Addison Road quarry in 1896, there would have been little need to use the Lambton colliery quarry.

Portion of Parrott’s 1893 map, that shows the Lambton colliery quarry, the tramway leading down to Wickham Road, with the words “Tram” and “Quarry” colourised for emphasis. National Library of Australia.
Close up view from 1906 of the Lambton colliery quarry and the path of the former tramway down to the streets of New Lambton. Newcastle University, Living Histories.
In a 1938 aerial photograph the path of the quarry tramway can be clearly seen leading from the former quarry near the intersection of Croudace St and Russell Rd, down to Wickham Rd. Newcastle University, Living Histories.

The land on which the quarry was located was sold by the Scottish Australian Mining Company in July 1956 (Vol-Fol 7114-143) and by the mid 1960s suburban development of the area was well underway.

Aerial photography from 1966 shows ongoing suburban development in the former Lambton colliery pit paddock and quarry area. NSW Historical Imagery.

Other New Lambton quarries

The reports of the meetings of New Lambton council mention numerous other local quarries in the period 1899 to 1938. Some of these are named by location. Some are named after a person, although it is often not clear whether the person is the owner of the quarry, the main worker in the quarry, or just someone who lived nearby as was the case with Hincks’ quarry.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
16 Sep 1869Report on the first year of New Lambton's development, including the state of the roads.
5 Aug 1876Bad roads between Lambton and New Lambton.
29 Mar 1886Report on the state of New Lambton, and the desire for a municipal council to improve the roads.
14 Mar 1890
12 Mar 1890
Council requests use of the New Lambton colliery quarry, and the erection of a tramway down the hill.
28 Mar 1890
12 Mar 1890
Council's request to use the New Lambton colliery quarry granted by A. Brown.
11 Apr 1890
9 Apr 1890
New Lambton Council decides that "tenders be invited for the formation and laying of about 400 yards of a tramway."
16 May 1890
14 May 1890
New Lambton Council - tender for construction of quarry tramway and hopper awarded to Hinton and Co.
7 Jun 1890
4 Jun 1890
"Alderman CROUDACE offered, on behalf of the company, to supply the ashes and to allow the council to quarry chatrock on the Lambton Company's estate at per yard; the price to be fixed at a future date."
16 Aug 1890
14 Aug 1890
“From Messrs. Hinton and Co., contractors for the quarry tramway and hopper, asking for extras”
4 Jul 1890
2 Sep 1890
"the matter of obtaining eight skips for the tramway connected with the quarry be left in the hands of the supervising committee and Alderman Thomas"
24 Apr 1891
22 Apr 1891
"The foreman reported verbally that the Mayor had promised to allow the council to obtain gravel from the colliery quarry. Alderman THOMAS moved, that a deputation, consisting of Aldermen Capewell, Lonsdale, and Hitchcock, wait upon Mr. Croudace, and ask his permission to use the colliery quarry for Dent and Gibson streets contracts."
8 May 1891
6 May 1891
The Mayor (Thomas Croudace) "intimated that he would do his utmost as regards letting the council have gravel to make Dent and Gibson-streets."
5 Jun 1891
3 Jun 1891
New Lambton council resolution that "the matter of calling tenders for quarrying gravel in the Lambton Colliery quarry be left with the Mayor."
3 Jul 1891
1 Jul 1891
"From Messrs. Friel and Curran, stating that the gravel in the colliery quarry was much heavier than in Russell-street, and asking for consideration; the means of conveying it would also be inconvenient and costly."
23 Oct 1891
21 Oct 1891
New Lambton council, seeking co-operation from "Mr. F. Croudace in regard to the speedy completion of the quarry tramway."
29 Oct 1891A 13 year old boy is injured while riding the skips down the tramline from the Lambton Colliery quarry.
17 Jun 1892
15 Jun 1892
"That 1s 4d per cubic yard be paid to any men the Mayor may engage in quarrying gravel in Russell-street, also in the colliery quarry."
7 Feb 1896
5 Feb 1896
New Lambton council seeks to purchase the Addison Road quarry.
21 Feb 1896
19 Feb 1896
"From Mr. Alexander Brown, managing director of the New Lambton Company, offering lots 36 and 37, section R, for £15 each as a quarry, the council to pay cost of transfer."
19 Mar 1896
17 Mar 1896
Motiona at New Lambton Council "That the managing director of the New Lambton Land and Coal Co. (Mr. A. Brown) be requested to dedicate and align Carrington Parade and Addison-road for the purpose of enabling the council to form and make the roadway to the quarry in a proper manner."
26 Oct 1896
25 Oct 1896
"A boy named Benjamin Taite met with a painful accident yesterday morning. He was walking along the rails of the Quarry line, and somehow or other slipped and fell on his arm, breaking both bones near the wrist."
22 May 1913
21 May 1913
"The recent rains had caused the hill on the Addison-road to slip away, and blocked the road to the gravel quarry."
11 Sep 1924
10 Sep 1924
Correspondence from "S.A. Mining Company, granting permission to council to remove gravel from Hinck's quarry, at the same royalty and conditions applicable to Fern quarry, until such time as the latter quarry was again available."
9 Oct 1924
8 Oct 1924
Decision by New Lambton council to extend the Addision Rd quarry by purchasing two adjoining blocks of land.
15 Jul 1926
14 Jul 1926
"The steam lorry had been engaged for the fortnight in street patching with gravel from Fern Quarry. The motor lorry arrived on July 8, and was being used in carting gravel from Hincks' quarry, and was doing good work."
24 Aug 1950"A landslide in Addison-road, New Lambton, was not due to mine subsidence, according to an expert's report. An inspection of a nearby disused gravel quarry indicated the underlying strata consisted of about four feet of clay shale sub-soils lying on a bed of hard conglomerates."

General Roberts Hotel, New Lambton

In 1868 the New Lambton Coal Company struck a payable seam in their mining lease adjacent to Lambton, and a new township began. Unlike Lambton where private ownership of land was promoted, the New Lambton proprietors did not offer their land for sale. With no ownership, there was no incentive for townspeople to construct anything but the most basic of buildings. In 1890 when land was first sold in the town, New Lambton had just three hotels, all of them hastily erected wooden structures.

In 1898 Frederick George Roberts purchased land on the corner of Lambton and Tauranga Roads, and built a weatherboard store, selling groceries, draperies, ironware and clothing. In July 1902 he applied for a publican’s license to open a hotel on the site of his store. Despite police objections the licensing court granted the application, in part swayed by Roberts’ plans to erect a substantial brick hotel, in contrast to the other hotels nearby that were described at the time as “a very disappointing lot indeed”.

By September 1902, the store was demolished, and the builder William Knight was constructing a new brick hotel designed by the notable local architect Ernest George Yeomans. On 18 April 1903 120 years ago this month, Roberts announced by advertisement that his “new hotel will be opened for business today, containing 20 spacious and well ventilated rooms.” He named it the General Roberts Hotel, after Frederick Sleigh Roberts, recently commander of the British forces in the Second Boer War. Within a year Phillip Byrne had become licensee, and Ralph Snowball photographed the hotel soon afterwards. Looking west along Lambton Rd and Alma Rd, the photo shows the General Roberts Hotel on the right, and beside it the remnants of a cutting where the New Lambton colliery railway once ran.

General Roberts Hotel, 15 July 1904. Photograph by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Lambton Rd and the General Roberts Hotel in 2023.

The article above was first published in the April 2023 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

Map from land title Vol-Fol 1021-213, showing portion 1324, the site of F G Roberts store and then the General Roberts Hotel. Note the New Lambton colliery railway running north to south, under a bridge on Lambton Road.
Portion 1324 was purchased by Frederick George Roberts of Waratah, hotelkeeper, on 18 November 1898. Vol-Fol 1021-213.
F G Roberts Store, Lambton Rd, New Lambton, NSW, [1902]. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Roof damage to F G Roberts store in New Lambton due to cyclonic wind storm on Tuesday 7 November 1899. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Australian Town and Country Journal, 18 November 1899.

At the corner of the main road and Tauranga-street another brick hotel of 18 rooms, to be known as “The General Roberts,” has just been completed. This is built with red, pressed, tuck-pointed fronts and ornamental parapets. The fronts have those useful adjuncts, spacious colonnades. The building is tastefully finished both inside and out, and standing on a prominent site is a landmark in the municipality. Formerly on this site stood Mr. Roberts’ w.b. store, which has been demolished to make place for this hotel. The architect was Mr. E. G. Yeomans. and the builder Mr. W. Knight.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 17 April 1903.
Advertisement of the opening of the General Roberts Hotel. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 April 1903.

Within six months of opening the hotel, F G Roberts was looking to sell the hotel business, but retain ownership of the land and buildings.

Advertisement of the sale of the General Roberts Hotel business. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 23 October 1903.
General Roberts Hotel, corner of Lambton Road and Tauranga Road, New Lambton, NSW, 15 July 1904. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Roberts sold the land and buildings of the General Roberts Hotel to Tooth & Co on 25 November 1918. Vol-Fol 1021-213.
Entry in a card in the Noel Butlin archives, showing that the General Roberts Hotel was rebuilt in 1957, at a cost of £65,672.
General Roberts Hotel in 1959, shortly after the rebuild of 1957. Noel Butlin Archives.


Variant spelling of names is shown in square brackets

  1. Frederick George Roberts (April 1903 to April 1904)
  2. Phillip James Byrne (April 1904 to June 1905)
  3. John Keim [Kiem, Kilm, Kien, Kiern, Kierns] (June 1905 to April 1913)
  4. Edward Butterworth (April 1913 to April 1916)
  5. John Drummond (April 1916 to May 1919)
  6. Oliver O Woods (May 1919 to September 1919)
  7. Frank Burden (September 1919 to July 1927)
  8. George James Embleton (July 1927 to April 1928)
  9. Leonard P Damerell [Damerill] (April 1928 to January 1929)
  10. Joseph Patrick Quinn (January 1929 to November 1945)
  11. William Thomas Garaty (November 1945 to June 1957)
  12. James Robert Rose & Mary Rose (June 1957 to January 1961)
  13. Albert Frederick Seales (January 1961 to April 1966)
  14. David Alfred James Blanch & Ann Blanch (April 1966 to March 1968)
  15. Joseph Moody & Ellen McReadie (March 1968 to ????)

Names and dates of licensees from 1919 onwards are taken from the General Roberts Hotel cards in the Noel Butlin archive.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
2 Jan 1899"A large general store, and residence for Mr. Roberts is in course of erection at the corner of Lambton and Taurangua roads."
11 Jan 1899"Mr. E. G. Yeomans was found to be up to his eyes in architectural work … A shop and dwelling for a Mr. Roberts, at New Lambton, is half completed."
18 Nov 1899
7 Nov 1899
Roof damage to F G Roberts store in New Lambton due to cyclonic wind storm.
21 Sep 1901"TENDERS are invited for the ERECTION of WEATHERBOARD COTTAGE in New Lambton for Mr. F. G. Roberts."
10 Feb 1902"I FREDERICK GEORGE ROBERTS give notice that I desire at the next Quarterly Licensing Court, to apply for a CONDITIONAL PUBLICAN'S LICENSE for Premises situate at New Lambton already erected at the corner of Lambton-road, but requiring additions and alterations to make them suitable to be licensed. These premises, if a license be granted, are to be known as the GENERAL ROBERTS HOTEL, and will contain when completed, eight rooms exclusive of those required for the use of my family."
11 Apr 1902"At the Licensing Court to-day an application was made by Frederick George Roberts for a conditional publican's license for premises situated on the main Newcastle Cardiff road at New Lambton, proposed to be used as an hotel." Decision reserved pending the hearing of two other applications for hotels in the vicinity.
4 Jul 1902"At Newcastle Licensing Court, Frederick George Roberts applied for a publican's conditional license for premises to be erected on the Lambton-road, New Lambton … Ernest George Yeomans. architect, deposed that he prepared the plans before the court. The house would have brick walls."
16 Jul 1902
15 Jul 1902
"Frederick George Roberts applied for a conditional publican's license for premises to be erected at New Lambton." The Bench had inspected the current hotels "and found them a very disappointing lot indeed, and the existing accommodation was not sufficient." Application of F G Roberts was granted.
23 Aug 1902"TENDERS are invited for the Erection and Completion of a BRICK HOTEL, for F. G..Roberts, Esq., at New Lambton."
27 Sep 1902"The work of excavating for the foundations of the new hotel which is to be built at the corner of Taurangua and Lambton roads, is well forward. The building, which is to be commodious and substantial, will, it is estimated, cost between £1600 and £1700. Mr. William Knight is the contractor and Mr. Yeomans the architect."
17 Apr 1903
16 Apr 1903
"Frederick G. Roberts applied for a certificate for a publican's license for premises at New Lambton, to be known as the General Roberts Hotel. The application was granted."
17 Apr 1903"At the corner of the main road and Tauranga-street another brick hotel of 18 rooms, to be known as 'The General Roberts,' has just been completed."
18 Apr 1903
18 Apr 1903
Advertisement for the opening of the General Roberts Hotel.
19 Jun 1903Phillip James Byrnes applies for the renewal of his licensee for the Hand of Friendship Hotel. The renewal is objected to due to unsanitary premises and inadequate accommodation. By April 1904 Byrnes is licensee of the General Roberts Hotel.
23 Oct 1903"TO Hotelkeepers and Brewers.- For Sale by tender, Free House, Lease, License, Furniture, and Goodwill. Tenders to close 12th Nov.; 1903. -Apply F. G. ROBERTS, Proprietor, New Lambton."
20 May 1904
1 Apr 1904
Phillip J Byrne issued a publican's license for the General Roberts Hotel.
20 Jun 1905"NOTICE.-Having taken over the license of the General Roberts' Hotel, New Lambton, where I hope to see all my old friends and acquaintances. JOHN KEIM, Late of Tighe's Hill."
22 Sep 1927Throughout its history, the "General Roberts Hotel" has often been erroneously referred to as the "Lord Roberts Hotel."
5 Jul 1946
4 Jul 1946
"Considerable damage was done yesterday to the balcony of the General Roberts Hotel at the corner of Lambton and Taranga Roads, New Lambton. A coal-laden lorry knocked out two of the posts on the gutter alignment and the balcony flooring sagged."
15 Oct 1947Applications for the demolition and rebuilding of 12 hotels, including the General Roberts Hotel in New Lambton.

Miners’ Strike of 1896

Lambton Park has been used for many events in both tranquil and troubled times. This month’s photograph from 1896 captures a key moment in a turbulent year for miners and their families.

Steadily rising demand for coal had caused the selling price to reach a peak of 10 shillings per ton in 1890. However, economic depression in 1892-93 combined with increasing production, nearly halved the price by 1896. In February, the proprietors of Lambton mine announced the pit would close unless wages were cut. The miners, believing the company was using this as an excuse to increase profits at their expense, downed tools and called for a district wide meeting.

Nearly 2000 miners gathered at Lambton Park on 29 February 1896, and resolved that unless wages were increased, they would hold a ballot for a general strike. No increase was granted, and in March a majority voted to cease work. Negotiations continued into April, but …

Easter dawns upon us with anything but a happy outlook. The district is threatened with a great industrial strike, which is calculated to bring privation upon many poor families. Already the shopkeepers are complaining about a falling off in business, the housewives evidently buying only the bare necessaries of life.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 2 April 1896.

With no settlement reached, on 27 April 1896 …

the strike began in real earnest, no less than 3500 miners and others refusing to continue working under the existing conditions.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 28 April 1896.

The economy suffered …

The grocers cannot give credit, and the housewives have little or no ready cash to spend.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate

Families were displaced …

Men who have managed to save a little money are leaving the district for Western Australia, New Zealand, Victoria, and Wollongong.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate

After 11 weeks it was clear that the coal prices would not increase, and wages could not be raised. On 16 July 1896 the men returned to work, at a lower hewing rate than before. Summing up the futility of the strike, a newspaper editorial stated …

Undoubtedly, when the history of this miserable struggle has to be more fully written, the best feature of it will be declaring it ‘off’.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 13 July 1896.
Miners voting for industrial action at an aggregate meeting in Lambton Park, 29 February 1896. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Lambton Park in happier times. Christmas Carols, 18 December 2022. Photo by Thomas Freeman.

The article above was first published in the February 2023 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

In the article I talk about ‘the selling price’ of coal. This is a simplification as there was no single value, but the selling price differed between large and small coal, it differed from one colliery to another depending on quality, and it could differ according to contracts agreed between collieries and buyers.

To track the trend in coal prices, I extracted from the Department of Mines annual reports, the quantity and value of coal sold by the Lambton Colliery for each year from 1875 to 1903. From this the average price of coal per ton for each year can be calculated. The trend shows that the price remained close to 10s per ton from 1885 to 1890. However, the following years saw a steady decline to a low of 6.24 shillings per ton in 1896, the year of the miners’ general strike.

Year Employees Quantity

Avg per ton

1875 280 148573 94096 12.67
1876 391 160990 103304 12.83
1877 421 164267 not specified ?
1878 436 213332 119881 11.24
1879 440 225788 144088 12.76
1880 453 239234 107655 9.00
1881 269 120563 42416 7.04
1882 358 236168 107238 9.08
1883 416 252044 123857 9.83
1884 446 267096 126842 9.50
1885 460 223030 111515 10.00
1886 510 113972 56416 9.90
1887 400 167355 83677 10.00
1888 469 164048 80304 9.79
1889 505 243256 120134 9.88
1890 440 139375 69751 10.01
1891 480 189382 94024 9.93
1892 480 224498 101373 9.03
1893 435 159100 69840 8.78
1894 412 178495 60584 6.79
1895 304 112368 35092 6.25
1896 173 47505 14813 6.24
1897 210 86340 27378 6.34
1898 208 105219 32602 6.20
1899 196 85932 31650 7.37
1900 196 92145 34383 7.46
1901 197 80945 41437 10.24
1902 190 62419 29175 9.35
1903 170 79663 33699 8.46

From 1904 the Department of Mines annual reports do not contain data on coal output and value from individual mines.

The “Farishes Flat” portion of Lambton colliery was leased to Charles Noble on 3 November 1904, and

Farishes Flat Lambton Colliery, change of ownership. Department of Mines annual report for 1904, page 116.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
14 Jun 1890"The Associated Colliery Proprietors are considering the advisability of reducing the selling price of coal … from 11s to 9s per ton … Under their mutual agreement the coal from the associated mines is sold at 11s per ton, and each mine has a stipulated output or vend for the year. No such agreement, however, exists among the other companies, many of which are now selling their coal at a price in some instances as low as 9s per ton. That this is the main reason why a reduction is mooted there can be no doubt. The majority of the larger collieries, and nearly all the older ones, belong to the association, and at present they raise about 70 per cent. of the total district output, but new mines are opening constantly, and, so far, none of them have shown any inclination to become parties to the Associated Proprietors agreement. "
22 Feb 1896
21 Feb 1896
"A special meeting of the delegate board of the Miners' Association was held at the Trades Hall for the purpose of considering principally the position of the Lambton miners. It was also decided to hold an aggregate meeting on pay-Saturday, the 29th instant, at the Lambton Park, at 11 a.m. , to discuss the whole situation as it affects the miners."
22 Feb 1896"Mr. Thomas Croudace, the general manager of the Scottish-Australian Mining Company, says it will be impossible for him to re-open the Lambton pit while he has to paying a hewing rate altogether out of proportion to the selling price of the coal … the miners hold a very different view from Mr. Croudace. They contend that the action has been decided upon solely for the purpose of reducing wages"
28 Feb 1896Letter from Amalgamated Miners' Association to miners … " it has been resolved to hold an aggregate meeting of miners in the Lambton Park on Saturday, 29th instant, to consider the advisability of seeking an advance in the hewing rates. It is needless to remind you of the successive reductions in wages during a period extending over two years, and the imposition of the most exacting and degrading conditions it has been possible to impose at many collieries."
28 Feb 1896"There is no movement with regard to the Lambton Colliery and no apparent prospect of work being resumed. Of the 182 miners who cameout against the reduction in the yardage rates 96 have either succeeded in obtain work at neighbouring collieries, or have left for Western Australia, some 20 having sailed for that colony, leaving 86 still without employment, although some of those remaining are also making preparations for going west. This pleasing result, after barely two weeks' idleness, is hailed with satisfaction in the town, not unmixed, however, with regret that the bone and sinew of the place should be driven from their homes to seek scope for their energies elsewhere."
29 Feb 1896"The result of the aggregate meeting of miners at Lambton Park is anxiously looked forward to by all in the coal trade. It is anticipated that the principal resolutions will be in favour of a ballot being taken as to whether a general strike shall take place or not. Very unpleasant rumours now fill the air.”
1 Mar 1896
29 Feb 1896
Report on the aggregate meeting, where about 2000 persons were present. Two resolutions were moved and passed unanimously.
  1. Demand for hewing rate of 3s 6d per ton
  2. "That in the event of a refusal for the advance in terms of the foregoing resolution within one week from March 9 by the proprietors, a ballot be taken as early as possible after March 16 as to whether 14 days' notice shall be given to cease work until such advance is agreed to.
2 Mar 1896
29 Feb 1896
Detailed report on the miners' aggregate meeting in Lambton Park.
2 Mar 1896Lengthy editorial report on the miners’ aggregate meeting. "Every representation that can be made will not restore a nearly-worked-out mine to its pristine condition, neither will it raise the price of coal in the markets of the world, in which we are now competitors. While we admit the ruinous undercutting of the selling price which has been going on for some time past, the broad fact stares us in the face that any attempt to remedy that state of affairs by the mutual action of the proprietors or their co-operation with the miners has proved ineffectual."
14 Mar 1896"The [Lambton] mine still remains closed down, with no apparent signs of a resumption of work. Consequently, matters are very gloomy in the town. It is, however, gratifying to learn that out of a total of 182 miners thrown out of employment 120 have succeeded in securing work elsewhere in the district, or have left for Western Australia."
16 Mar 1896"The members of the Miners' Association will be asked to ballot for or against a strike, and on this point even the non-unionist miners in the district are to be invited to express an opinion. The history of past struggles of a like kind is of so depressing a character that it is hoped men will not commit themselves to another of a similar nature without giving ample consideration to all the surroundings of the case."
18 Mar 1896"The time having expired for the colliery proprietors to reply to the demand made upon them by the miners for a hewing rate of 3s 6d per ton … the situation is, therefore, now before the miners themselves, who are to be asked to decide by ballot whether there should be a general strike. To bring about this end it will be necessary to have a two-thirds majority of the votes of every miner, whether unionist or non-unionist. Ballot papers are now being distributed throughout the whole of the district."
25 Mar 1896"The question of a general strike, will be placed before the delegate board of the Miners' Association today. In deciding upon this great and serious question they will have before them not only the result of the ballot, but also all the letters sent by the proprietors ... Mr. Thomas Croudace, for instance, suggests an eleventh hour attempt at a conference."
26 Mar 1896
25 Mar 1896
Result of the ballot: 2624 for a strike; 587 against a strike. Miners called to hand in their 14 days notice on 6 April. An invitiation is extended to the mine proprietors to meet the miners in conference before 2 April, in order to avert a strike.
2 Apr 1896"Easter dawns upon us with, unfortunately, anything but a happy outlook. The district is threatened with a great industrial strike, which is calculated to bring privation upon many poor families. Already the shopkeepers are complaining about a falling off in business, the housewives evidently buying only the bare necessaries of life."
4 Apr 1896
2 Apr 1896
Conference between the miners assoication and the colliery proprietors, in an effort to avert a general strike. The conference was relatively amicable, but in the end of little consequence, owing to the absence of proprietors from three of the large coal companies.
8 Apr 1896Miners at 15 collieries have now handed in their 14 days notice to cease work. "If the notices sent in should be carried into effect after Saturday week, there will be something like 4000 miners on strike."
11 Apr 1896"From all the information procurable on the local mining situation every thing points to the strong likelihood of a cessation of work at many collieries in this district on Saturday, 18th inst."
14 Apr 1896"The proposal unanimously adopted was that the members of the [municipal] conference, accompanied by the members for the district, meet the Premier to-night on his arrival at Newcastle en route from Queensland for the purpose of representing to him the advisableness of appointing without delay a court of arbitration in relation to the matters now in dispute."
15 Apr 1896"The miners had given in 14 days' notice on a ballot of a five to one majority to strike." The Premier (George Reid) is asked by alderman of Newcastle Council to intervene to avert the strike.
15 Apr 1896"The fervent hope expressed by many is that at this late hour a strike may be averted; but to suggest means to that end is a difficult matter, as so many of the proprietors refuse to meet the miners' representatives in conference as requested by them."
28 Apr 1896
27 Apr 1896
"The strike began in real earnest yesterday, no less than 3500 miners and others refusing to continue working under the existing conditions. "
16 May 1896"With the exception of some Sea Pit miners, the majority of the strikers seem more than ever determined to stand out. Old residents who have grown weary of strikes in this district declare that they have seldom, if ever, witnessed a more stubborn resistance between capital and labour."
13 Jul 1896"A moderate estimate of the loss of wages alone is £100,000, without taking into consideration the indirect effects of the stoppage to the general community, which is therefore poorer by the above amount than it would have been if there had been no strike … Undoubtedly, when the history of this miserable struggle has to be more fully written, the best feature of it will be declaring it 'off'."
17 Jul 1896Lengthy editorial reflecting on the lessons of the strike … "The principal lesson taught by the result of the strike is one which is not a personal matter between employer and employed. It is the fact that if consumers cannot give a higher price to those having coal to sell, the latter are unable to increase the earnings of those who have the work of winning it."

Leonora Glass Industries

When the old Lambton colliery ceased operation, the pit paddock with its offices and buildings lay idle for a decade. Then 75 years ago, in 1947, a new enterprise began on the site with the opening of Leonora Glass Industries, founded by David Marr and three highly skilled Czechoslovakian glass workers.

Joseph and Henry Vecera and Josef Tvrdik came to Australia from Europe in 1934 to teach glass making at a Sydney factory. They later moved to Newcastle to work in the Electric Lamp Manufacturers Australia factory at Hamilton North. In 1946 the three men and their families became Australian citizens. The following year, along with David Marr (manager) and Alan Little (engineer), they set out to create their own glass making business, renting a portion of the Lambton colliery and setting up furnaces in the former colliery workshop.

In August 1947 they registered their enterprise as “Leonora Glass Industries”, possibly inspired by the town of Lenora in the Czech Republic, just 30km from Josef Tvrdik’s birthplace, where a famous glassworks had operated since 1834. Manufacturing commenced the following month and by December 1948 the works employed 23 people including several young apprentices. At this time they were making 2000 lamp shades a week. In the following years they produced many items such as wine glasses, dishes, ash trays, and car headlight lenses.

While the bulk of Leonora’s output was utilitarian in nature, they also handcrafted fine glassware such as jugs, vases, and decorative ornaments. Museums across Australia hold examples of these works in their collections. In July 1957 glassmaking in Lambton came to an abrupt halt when a fire destroyed the Leonora works. The company quickly recovered, purchasing 14 acres of land on Douglas St Wallsend to set up a new factory. In 1960 the multinational firm Philips Industries took over the glassworks to focus on the manufacture of light fittings. Although business expanded in the 1960s, increasing pressure from low cost overseas competitors in the 1970s led to the eventual closure of the works in 1982

Henry Vecera making a wine glass at Leonora Glassworks in Lambton. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate, 7 October 1947.
Hand blown glass jug from the Leonora Glass Works, 1955. Image courtesy of Newcastle Museum.

The article above was first published in the October 2022 edition of The Local.

Additional photos

Gordon Maybury, of Wallsend, and Sid Bennet, of Cardiff (rear), grind lamp shades at the Leonora Glassworks. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 3 Dec 1948.
Mr. Ernest Sandgren cutting glass at Lambton fine glass factory. Mr. Ernest Sandgren, Newcastle’s only cutter of fine crystal, was Australia’s weightlifting champion for seven years. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 11 Dec 1948.
Milon and Joseph Vecera, 19 year-old twins blowing glass at a Lambton glass factory. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 8 Mar 1950.
Mr. Henry Vecera finishes off a piece of hand made glassware. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 8 Mar 1950.
Three Newcastle youths, from left, Des Williams, George Kildey and Ron Jones, training at a Lambton glass factory yesterday to be glass-makers.
Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 26 May 1953.
The 15 acres of land in Wallsend, purchased by Leonora Glass Industries in October 1957, to build a new glassworks after the Lambton glassworks was destroyed by fire. Vol-Fol 7697-17.
The area of the 1957 purchase of land, shown in Google Earth.
A 1966 aerial photograph, showing the glassworks in Douglas St Wallsend. NSW Historical Imagery.
Leonora Glass, Wallsend. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Official inspection of a prototype at the Philips factory, Wallsend, 1980. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.

Personal details

The following personal details of the three Czechoslovakian founders of Leonora Glass were extracted from National Archives of Australia records searches.

Name Henry Vecera Josef Vecera Josef Tvrdik
Birth 15 Aug 1901, Uhrovec, Slovakia 19 Mar 1899, Uhrovec, Slovakia 12 Jan 1904, Nova Hut, Czechia
Arrival in Australia 11 Nov 1934 9 Nov 1934  
Naturalised 30 Aug 1946 9 Dec 1946 3 Dec 1946
Family Wife, Julia; daughter, Henrietta Julia, born 1928 Wife, Cecile; twin sons, Milon Edward and Joseph Henry, born 1931 Wife, Coralie Violet Mary

Company information

A search of the ASIC Registers shows that Leonora Glass Industries Pty Ltd was registered as a company on 11 August 1947.

Origin of the Name Leonora

I have no direct evidence for the naming of “Leonora Glass Industries”, and what follows is just a reasoned guess.

We know from the notification of intention to apply for naturalisation, that Josef Tvrdik was born in “Nova Hut” in Czechoslovakia. This is the village of Nové Hute in the Czech Republic today.

The villages of Nove Hute and Lenora in Czechia, are 17km apart (26km by road). OpenStreetMap

Just 17km away (28km by road) from Nove Hute is the village of Lenora. The tourism website for the Šumava region describes the origin of the town.

The village of Lenora was founded as a settlement around one of the last glass- works established in the Šumava mountains by Jan Meyer in 1834. Later on the glass-works were taken over by Meyer’s nephew Vilém Kralik. The village was named Eleonorenhain after the Princess Eleonora (1812-1873), the wife of the lord of the estates John Adolf of Schwarzenberg. Czech translation of the name is “Eleonora’s Paradise”. Later on the village adopted Czech version of the name, Lenora.

Sumavanet tourism website
The Lenora Glassworks in the Czech Republic closed in 1996.

Note that while there is Leonora Parade in Waratah West, it appears to have no connection to the Leonora glassworks. The street was formerly a section of Platt Street, and was renamed to Leonora Parade in 1968.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
6 Apr 1946Notice of intention by Henry Vecera, Josef Vecera, and Josef Trvdik to apply for naturalisation. Josef Tvrdik, born at Nova Hut, Czechoslovakia, resident over 11 yers. Josef Vecera, Born at Uhrovec, resident over 11 years, living in Adamstown. Henry Vecera, Born at Uhrovec, resident over 11 years, living in Pearson St Lambton.
7 Oct 1947"A GLASS factory, now operating in a disused building which once was part of the Old Lambton coalmine, aims to produce the finest glass and crystal ware. The company--Leonora Glass Industries Pty. Ltd.- comprises Messrs. Jospeh and Henry Vecera, Mr. Jospeh Tvrdik. Mr. David Marr (manager) and Mr. Alan Little (engineer). Messrs Vecera and Tvrdik are Czech-Australians, who came to Australia in 1934 to teach glass-making at a Sydney factory."
23 Nov 1948“The strange bulbous Dali-like shapes, coloured in streaky and marbled patterns, which yesterday made an appearance as part of the Christmas dressing of a Hunter-street store are not painted marrows or solid-seeming balloons ... they are made of glass. The result of a brain-wave on the part of the window dresser (Miss E. Ritchie), they were specially blown at the Leonora Glass Works at New Lambton.”
3 Dec 1948The development of the fine glass industry in Newcastle by two Newcastle engineers and three Czechoslovakian glassworkers in a factory at Lambton is giving Newcastle boys an opportunity to learn the trade. The factory, which employs 23 after 12 months of operation, turns out 2000 lamp shades a week and some 400 water sets. Production of fine glass-wine glasses and ground glass-is starting.
11 Dec 1948Photo of twins Joseph and Milon Vecera, on the steps of the old Lambton Colliery office, near to where they work in the Leonora Glassworks.
11 Dec 1948Story on Ernest Sandgren, immigrant from Sweden, and Australian weight-lifting champion for 7 years, working as a cutter of fine crystal at Leonora Glassworks.
3 Feb 1949"It was planned with the Leonora glass factory at Lambton to make Newcastle a centre of the fine glass industry in Australia, the Managing Director (Mr. D. Marr) told Newcastle Business Men's Club yesterday. The factory was still in its initial development. It had been operating for 18 months. In the factory there were three Czechs of world-wide experience in the manufacture of hollow blown ware, including the art of stemware. They came from generations of art craftsmen."
8 Mar 1950“The factory is now producing heat-resistant glass in large quantities. About 100,000 such articles have been produced for distribution throughout Australia, in the past 12 months. The Manager (Mr. David Marr) said he believed this was the first time pyrex-type glass had been made in Newcastle.”
4 Jan 1952"MILON and Joseph Vecera, twin sons of Mr. and Mrs. J. Vecera, of Croudace street, Lambton, celebrated their 21st birthday, which was on New Year's Day,' with a party, on New Year's Eve. About 40 people attended the party. Milon and Joseph, who were born in Lausanne, Switzerland, came to Australia when they were four. They are both glass craftsmen at Leonora Glass Works, Lambton, and both play the piano, violin and piano-accordion."
26 May 1953The factory is turning to a new type of glass manufacture for Newcastle. This is the manufacture of pressed glass. A glass moulding press has been installed to manufacture pressed glass dishes, car headlight lenses, ash trays and other goods. The machine is in trial production. When producing fully, it will turn out 1500 articles a day.”

Lambton Colliery Office Steps

In researching the Leonora Glassworks for my October 2022 article for The Local, I came across this photograph from the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate on 11 Dec 1948, of Joseph and Milon Vecera posing on the entrance steps of a building that had been demolished.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 11 Dec 1948

The newspaper incorrectly identifies the site as “Lambton Lodge”, the home of Thomas Croudace. The location is actually the small building at the left in the photo below, where the steps can be seen at the front. Brian Robert Andrews, on page 230 of his book “Coal, Railways and Mines, Volume 1”, has a diagram of the Lambton Colliery surface infrastructure that identifies this building as the colliery office.

Lambton Colliery, 15 August 1900. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Living Histories, University of Newcastle.

The double story building at the right of the photo is the colliery workshops, where Leonora Glass set up in 1947, where the Vecera twins were working in 1948 when they were photographed on the old colliery office steps.

The “Baby” Coal Mines of Lambton-Waratah

In the climate change debate today, there is great concern about the global impact of large coal mines. But 100 years ago, the hot topic in Newcastle was the local impact of little mines. The Newcastle Sun reported in August 1922

“A good deal of activity is noticeable among the “baby” coal mines in the hills of Waratah and Lambton. They are generally one-man affairs, the work is hard and the methods crude.”

Some were tiny burrows in a hillside, others a shaft with a wooden tripod overhead to haul up coal in buckets. In the post war economic downturn unemployed men looked to scratch a living by selling coal to nearby householders, the tough nature of their enterprise reflected in the mine names … “Try Again Colliery”, “Lone Hand”, “Perseverance”.

While the “baby” mines were a boon to some, they were a grievance to many. The councils were concerned about undermining of streets and damage to pipes. Residents complained of water run-off and danger to their properties. An inspection by the Department of Mines in November 1922 attended by miners and residents turned ugly and “the parties became bitter in their denunciation of each other and indulged in heated personal remarks.”

Matters weren’t helped by the Department’s manifest disinterest in resolving the dispute. Their view was that the big coal companies who owned the mineral rights were entitled to sublease to the “baby” miners, and the Department could do nothing. Waratah Council then took legal action against one of the mine owners, and the court imposed a substantial fine. By 1924 newspaper reports on the mines had disappeared. Their closure was due to a combination of factors –poor quality coal, increasing suburban development, the threat of fines, but mainly because households were moving to the new technologies of gas, and coal-fired electricity. Ironically these energy sources that were the solution to the local “baby” mines in 1922, are now central to the global climate change problem in 2022.

The North Lambton Colliery was one of the bigger “baby” mines. It was located near the underground water reservoir on Newcastle Road and ceased operation in 1924. Photo from Sydney Mail, 8 August 1923.
A map from a 1923 real estate poster shows 15 “baby” coal mines in just a two square kilometre area of Lambton and Waratah. University of Newcastle, Special Collections.

The article above was first published in the August 2022 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

The locality sketch on the 1923 real estate poster shows 17 “baby” mines. Many of them are unknown apart from their name on this map.

  1. Bayley’s Reward Colliery
  2. The Bowler Colliery
  3. Brown Hill Colliery
  4. Carclew Colliery
  5. Clay Cross No. 2 Colliery
  6. Federal Colliery
  7. Hanbury Colliery
  8. Meadow Colliery
  9. The Nest Colliery
  10. Perseverance Colliery
  11. Red Bank Colliery
  12. Sea View Colliery
  13. Silverdale Colliery
  14. Talk o’ the Hill Colliery
  15. Try Again Colliery
  16. Winn Colliery
  17. Wright’s Colliery

Other “baby” mines in the Lambton area recorded in other sources such as newspaper reports and Department of Mines annual reports include …

  1. Lambton Heights No. 2
  2. North Lambton Colliery
  3. Braye Park Colliery
  4. Rosehill No. 2
  5. Lone Hand [End?] Colliery
  6. West End Colliery
  7. Tubber Robinson’s mine
The Sun, 12 Nov 1922.

“Lambton Heights No. 2 is the name of this colliery, which has a staff of four men, and an output of 15 tons a day. Its depth is 80 feet, and the coal is drawn to the surface by one pony-power. It is owned by Fitzpatrick Bros., who were too busy grubbing out wealth down below to face the camera.”

The Sun, 12 Nov 1922
The Sun, 12 Nov 1922.

“This is Lone End Colliery, the smallest mine on the field. Its owner, managing director, and whole staff, Mr. T. Morgan, has just hauled a basket of coal to the surface. The shaft is 36ft. deep, and it boasts an output of 14 tons per week. Its owner claims that the coal is part of the famous Borehole seam.”

The Sun, 12 Nov 1922

Although “The Sun” has named this mine as “Lone End Colliery”, I suspect that may be an erroneous reference to the “Lone Hand Colliery”. In the annual report of the Department of Mines for the year 1921, Inspector Bissett states that …

“Two small mines were commenced during the year; these were Lone Hand and Rosehill No.2 Collieries.”

The Lone Hand Colliery is mentioned again in the 1922 annual report, but is not mentioned in subsequent years. Note that Rose Hill (occasionally misspelled Roe’s Hill) was the name of the hill to the north of Lambton township, as shown on this 1908 real estate map.

1908 real estate poster showing “Rose Hill” to the north of Lambton. University of Newcastle, Special Collections.

Tubber Robinson’s mine

William Robinson (known as “Tubber”) had a “baby” mine in George Street near Notley Street, North Lambton. He also had mines at Wallsend in the proximity of the High School. William’s brother Jeremiah (Jerry) Robinson had a “baby” mine in Seventh Street, North Lambton.The photo below shows the George Street mine.

Harry (Alf) Cox with his future father-in-law, William (Tubber) Robinson, circa 1930s. Photo courtesy of Ron Robinson.

The photo below of William and his sons with a pit pony, was taken near Robinson’s house in Fifth Street North Lambton.

William (Tubber) Robinson and his sons, Clarence (Joe) Robinson and William Jr (Bill) Robinson, circa 1930s. Photo courtesy of Ron Robinson.

North Lambton Colliery

The North Lambton Colliery, whose photo appeared in the published article, was somewhat different to the other “baby” mines. In contrast to most of the “baby” mines that employed only one or two men and were very short-lived in operation, the North Lambton colliery operated for 20 years (1905 to 1924), and at its peak employed 28 men in 1918. The mine, despite its larger size, used the same primitive techniques as the “baby” mines, sinking a shallow shaft, erecting a wooden tripod, and hauling coal up the shaft in buckets.

The Department of Mines annual report for the year 1905 notes that

North Lambton Colliery.-On 26th September, Mr. J. Jeffries notified, in terms of section 30 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, that he had opened a new mine on land leased from the Scottish Australian Mining Co., the name of which would be North Lambton.

The location of the colliery being close to the water reservoir on Newcastle Road Lambton, can be ascertained from a report to the Newcastle Water and Sewerage Board in February 1906 …

The proprietor of the North Lambton Colliery gave notice that the workings of his colliery are now approaching within 40 yards of the Lambton reservoir fence, and stated his intention of removing coal to that boundary in terms of a lease held by him from the Scottish Australian Mining Company, Limited.

Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 1906.

Similarly, in 1918 …

The engineer of the Water and Sewerage Board reports that it is understood Mr. Long, manager of the North Lambton colliery, intends sinking a shaft near the eastern fence of the Lambton reservoir property. The proposed mining work will probably not affect the reservoir or the pump-house, but might affect the 12-inch scourpipe from the reservoir and some trees.

The Newcastle Sun, 9 September 1918.

The Newcastle Sun of 30 September 1922 noted that the colliery was a …

… tribute mine working the outcrop pillar coal left by the Lambton colliery. The coal from North Lambton, employing sixteen persons, is carried to the Lambton screens, and there put into waggons and sent for shipment.

The Sydney Mail of 8 August 1923 in publishing their photo of the mine, noted that …

This small mine is situated at North Lambton. It has an output of 30 tons per day, and gives employment to 10 men. It has been working for 20 years, and is owned by Mr. W. Long, who is shown seated on his cart, loaded with coal. The winding gear is worked by a horse hauling on the cable.

The North Lambton mine notified the Department of Mines of discontinuance of operations in 1924.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
4 Mar 1921First mention of the term "baby coal mines" in the newspaper.
"The streets of Newcastle are not paved with gold, but underneath them all is something nearly as precious. Coal seams are everywhere, and it is only a matter of digging and coal can be found. Where less fortunate peoples have to pay £5 and £6 a ton for coal, many people in the suburbs of Newcastle just dig in their back yards, and from the baby coal mine there take enough to supply their own needs."
16 Aug 1922Article on the "miniature mines" of Waratah and Lambton.
20 Sep 1922"So that the people who operate "baby" coal mines in the hills of Waratah, and endanger the safety of houses in the vicinity, might have a stop put to their mining, the council asked the Minister for Mines to grant no more permits for the taking of coal from these lands. The official reply received last night was vague and indefinite ..."
25 Sep 1922"Trying to put a stop to the private mining that goes on at Lambton, and endangers the safety of water and gas mains, apart from damaging the roads, the Mayor last week asked the Minister for Mines not to grant permits for this mining. The latter replied that most of the mineral leases were held by a mining company which seemed to have a perfect right to lease certain areas to private people for the purpose of exploiting the remaining coal seams."
30 Sep 1922Description of various collieries in the northern coal field, including a brief mention of the small North Lambton colliery.
18 Oct 1922"Several Inspectors from the Department of Mines will visit Waratah next week, and in company with the Mayor and aldermen, will visit the sites of the "baby" coal-mines in the hills, which have been complained of by residents who are fearful of damage to their properties."
30 Oct 1922"Expert opinion on the question of the damage likely to result to streets and dwellings on Roe's Hill, Waratah, through the opening up of "baby" coal mines, will be given by Chief Inspector Atkinson, of the Department of Mines, who will visit the shafts complained of to-morrow afternoon."
1 Nov 1922
31 Oct 1922
"Many householders came out to emphasise the general grievance when Chief-Inspector Atkinson and Inspector Tennant, representing the Mines Department, made an inspection of the "baby" coal mines on Lambton and Waratah hills yesterday afternoon ... At times the parties became bitter in their denunciation of each other— that is, the property owners and the coal hewers … The Mines Department had to consider the resources of the country, said Inspector Atkinson, and to see they were not wasted ... The inspector intimated that the department could not offer much assistance."
12 Nov 1922A long report on the "baby coal mines" in the hills of Waratah and Lambton, including a couple of thumbnail photos.
15 Nov 1922Waratah council given legal opinon on the "baby" coal mines that "showed that the council had power to stop such mining under public roads. The owner adjoining any land being undermined had a natural and legal right to prevent his land being endangered, but there was no cause for action for damage until the land was disturbed."
29 Nov 1922"Another chapter in the history of baby coal mines was unfolded last night when Waratah Council served a notice upon William Metcalfe to fill in shafts sunk in Sixth and Seventh streets, Rosehill. A prosecution is to follow if the order is not obeyed."
22 Dec 1922William Metcalfe prosecuted by Waratah Council "for having made a hole in a public road without authority… Metcalfe was fined £5, with £4 8s 5d costs, in default one month's gaol."
24 Jan 1923"William Metcalfe, who is working a 'baby' coal mine at Waratah, was proceeded against by the Waratah Council for allowing a shaft to remain in a street of the municipality… A fine of £8 was imposed, together with 8s 6d court costs and 42s professional costs."
25 Sep 1923"North Lambton, more familiarly known as Lambton Heights, merges into the Jesmond district. There are a number of 'baby' coal mines in the district, and the landscape is dotted with wooden tripods, over small shafts, used to lower and raise the miner-proprietors, and the coal they win from their little collieries." [This is the last mention of the 'baby' coal mines in the newspaper, until a couple of references to 'baby' coal mines at Wallsend in 1931.]
23 Feb 1931"After working for six months getting everything in readiness, the largest of the 'baby' mines at Wallsend has begun producing coal."
15 Jul 1931"Owing to the flooding of several small 'baby' coal mines at Wallsend, the already large number of unemployed has been added to. These mines employ between 25 and 30 men."
[Last reference to 'baby' mines in Trove.]

The furnaces of the world

I’m currently researching and writing my next article for The Local, on the subject of the “baby” coal mines of Lambton and Waratah. [Now published here.] These were small operations, involving a few men hewing coal out of primitive shafts and tunnels to be sold directly to householders in the area.

There was great concern in Newcastle in 1922-1923 about the deleterious effects of these unregulated mines on the local environment, with respect to safety, undermining of streets, and damage to water and gas pipes.

In researching this history on the local impact of coal mining I was reminded of the most recent season of the podcast “Australia, If You’re Listening”, on the history of the climate change debate in Australia. Matt Bevan opens the podcast with a quote from the Maitland Mercury in 1912, which shows that concern about the global impact of coal mining has been around for a long time.

The Maitland Daily Mercury, 5 Jun 1912, p5.

“The furnaces of the world are now burning about 2,000,000 tons of coal a year. When this is burned, uniting with oxygen, it, adds about 7,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere yearly. This tends to make the air a more effective blanket for the earth and to raise its temperature. The effect may be considerable in a few centuries.”

The Maitland Daily Mercury, 5 Jun 1912, p5.

The 7 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted in 1912 from coal is miniscule compared to the 14.8 billion tons of CO2 emitted from the burning of coal in 2021. With this 2000 fold increase in emissions, it won’t be a few centuries before the effect is considerable, it’s here now.