Adamstown Tram, 1900-1950

Tram services in Newcastle began in July 1887 with the opening of the Newcastle to Wallsend line. Other areas wanted a piece of the action and immediately began agitating for extensions to the tram line. In October 1887, Adamstown Council sent a deputation to Sydney asking for a line to their municipality, but it took another decade of lobbying before the Government finally approved the Adamstown line.

Construction began on 22 January 1900 of a one-mile single track that branched from the Wallsend line at the Nine Ways in Broadmeadow and ran along Brunker Rd. A steam tram service commenced on 13 August 1900, and the line was subsequently electrified in 1925.

Originally the tram terminated at the Public School, and this was a source of much contention. The tram whistle disrupted meetings of the Methodist (now Uniting) Church, and the shunting of engines back and forth across the Glebe Rd intersection to couple up with carriages for the return journey to Newcastle caused much traffic congestion.

In 1927 as part of the tram line duplication, the terminus was moved to just south of Glebe Rd, but this caused as many problems as it solved. With the terminus now in the centre of the narrow main shopping street, in an era when car and bus traffic was increasing, congestion was even worse. In 1929 a widening of the street by 18 feet failed to fix the problem, so in 1938 the tram line was extended south a further 100 yards to place the terminus past Victoria St.

As competition from bus services increased, some advocated that the tram system should be closed, while others argued that it should be extended. Eventually, with falling patronage and rising costs, the service proved unsustainable, and at 11:41pm on Sunday 16 April 1950 the last tram from Adamstown returned to the city.

Seventy years on, with passenger numbers on Newcastle’s light rail exceeding forecasts in its first year of operation, who knows, maybe we will one day see a return of trams to our suburbs?

The Victoria St terminus on the last day of the Adamstown tram service, 16 April 1950. Photo courtesy of Greg and Sylvia Ray from their book “Destination Newcastle”.
The same location in Brunker Rd Adamstown in 2020.

The article above was first published in the April 2020 edition of The Local.


Additional Information

Union St

One piece of information that I deliberately excluded from the published article, to keep it simple, was that the main shopping street of Adamstown that we now know as Brunker Rd, was originally called Union St. A real estate poster from 1921 shows the tram line running along Brunker Rd to the terminus at the Public School. South of Glebe Rd, the roadway narrows and becomes Union St.

Portion of real estate poster from 1921 showing Union St Adamstown. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

In 1925-1926, Adamstown Council negotiated with the Main Roads Board, and reached an agreement to widen Union St. The work progressed during 1927-1929 and an official opening of the newly widened street was held in November 1929, where it was noted that …

“Prior to its being widened, Union street, with a roadway of only 30ft, was long regarded as dangerous for traffic … The roadway [now] is 42ft wide and the footpaths 12ft, the total width being 66ft. To widen the street, it was necessary to resume a strip of land 18ft deep on the western side, and the buildings were either demolished, and new ones erected, or they were moved back to the new alignment.”

I haven’t been able to confirm when exactly Union St was changed to be an extension of Brunker Rd, however a search of Trove reveals that the Union St name seems to disappear around 1949.

The end of trams

The view that it was competition from the motor buses that killed off the tram system is starkly presented in a commemorative postcard from 1950 which stated …

Born 5 July 1887. Died 10 June 1950. 63 years old. R.I.P.
In rememberance of Newcastle’s trams, which were finally suffocated by the deisel ‘buses.

(Note that the dates in the postcard are slightly off – the Wallsend line opened for public traffic on 19 July 1887, and the last tram ran on the Waratah line on 11 June 1950.)

A commemorative postcard from 1950 lamenting the ‘death’ of Newcastle’s trams. From the Arthur Perry collection, Living Histories, University of Newcastle.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
7 Oct 1887"The agitation for an extension of the tram line, which has been going the rounds of the district, has at length reached Adamstown."
1 Nov 1899
31 Oct 1899
"The Cabinet decided to-day to construct the tramway extensions from Broadmeadow to Adamstown and from Tighe's Hill to Mayfield."
20 Jan 1900"The amount of work that the tramway extension from Broadmeadow to Adamstown will provide has caused considerable disappointment to be felt by the local unemployed, many of whom were more than hoping that the work would be sufficient to enable them to relieve families dependent on them. But there should not have been disappointment, as it was not at any time officially represented that the extension, the length of which is only a mile, covering an easy route, and requiring only simple work, would provide employment for a large number of men."
19 Jan 1900
22 Jan 1900
Construction of Adamstown tramway to be "begun on Monday by the selected men, who will apply pick and shoved to several small hills. At noon to-day Mr. Creer will meet the men at the Broadmeadow waiting shed. About 10 capable men will meet present requirements,."
30 Apr 1900"The tram extension is proceeding slowly, and now the rails are laid to the municipal boundary of Hamilton and Adamstown. Now that the tramway is nearing completion there are people who argue that the tram terminus will not be in the proper place at the Public School, and that the terminus should be at the Carrington Hall, or down the Glebe-road, near the reserve."
14 Aug 1900
13 Aug 1900
Opening of the Adamstown Tramway.
16 Dec 1901"Many of the local aldermen say that the tram terminus is in the wrong place. The principal objections are that the tram stands in the centre of the road and starting as it does from a point directly opposite the Primitive Methodist Church door, the whistling annoys the congregation."
31 Jan 1925
2 Feb 1925
"Slowly but surely the antiquated steam tram is disappearing from the streets of Newcastle. The latest section of tramline to have electric overhead wires strung above it is that between Broadmeadow and Adamstown."
8 Jan 1927"The duplication of the tram line from Melville-road to Adamstown tram terminus has been completed and put into use. Delays which were unavoidable are now overcome, and a faster service established. While the public will appreciate the duplication of the line, the making of the terminal in front of two main business premises, at the intersection of Union-street and Glebe-road, is regretted; in fact, some of the trams make the stop right across the intersection of Union-street and Glebe-road, which at times is dangerous, carrying traffic four ways, and being the main road to Sydney, with an every day increase of traffic. "
19 Mar 1931"Newcastle Transport Trust, by allowing the trams to terminate in the middle of Union-street, has defeated the council's aims, and has created one of the most dangerous spots in the district. Before the street was widened, and before the trams were electrified the terminus was at the public school stop. The steam trams stopped here while the engine shunted across the Glebe-road intersection and back again to couple up with the front portion of the trams for the return to Newcastle. In August, 1925, Alderman Wiggins commenced an agitation to have the bottle-neck eliminated. The work was started in 1928 and the new widened street opened for traffic at the end of 1929. In the meantime the trams were electrified and the Tramway Department made the terminus right at the intersection. Council agitation caused it to move the terminus further along to the middle of Union-street, which was very unsatisfactory to the council. At present the tram loiters here, in the middle of the council's' parking area. If vehicles park at shops on either side of the tram and stay there for any length of time, traffic is completely held up."
7 Apr 1932 Council debates having "the tram terminus fixed at its original position in front of the school, pending the extension of the tramline."
19 May 1938"The suggested abolition of Adamstown tram service was not received very favourably in that suburb yesterday, though in some quarters it was thought that an adequate omnibus service might meet demands, particularly during the slack hours. While the people of Adamstown, particularly those in the western portion, seek improved transport facilities, any suggestion to abolish the tramway service was criticised."
6 Sep 1938"Adamstown tram terminus has been extended, not to Rifle-street, but to a point opposite the Mechanics' Institute, just beyond Victoria-street. For many years the terminus was near the intersection of Glebe road and Union-street, but the growing traffic problem and public agitation caused its removal recently to the locality mentioned."
10 Oct 1946"The State's tram, bus and railway services are, generally, in a grave position, the Auditor General (Mr. Swift) warns the State Government in his annual report … The disconcerting feature is the disproportionate increase of working expenses relative to earnings through the years … the number of passengers carried on buses increased, but there was a decrease in tramway travellers.”
17 Apr 1950
16 Apr 1950
"After 50 years and 8 months' service, the Adamstown tramway closed last night when tram No. 252 left the terminus at 11.41 o'clock bound for Gordon avenue depot."
17 Apr 1950
16 Apr 1950
"MR. T. H. GRICE, of Brunker - road, Broadmeadow, 70-year-old former ganger for the Tramways Department, last night fulfilled an ambition when he travelled on the last tram to run from Adamstown to Newcastle before buses took over the route. Mr. Grice retired from the department almost 10 years ago. He was on the first electric tram to operate on this route, on January 2, 1925."

No. 2 Fighter Sector, New Lambton Public School

When is a school not a school? When it’s a vital part of Australia’s wartime defence. When Japan entered World War 2 in December 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Australia faced a real threat of aerial attack, and a radar defence system was urgently needed to monitor enemy aircraft movements. A radar commenced service at Shepherds Hill in Newcastle in January 1942, and with the establishment of many other radar stations including Ash Island in the Hunter River and Tomaree Head at Port Stephens, a central headquarters was needed to collate information and direct operations of allied aircraft interceptions.

Consequently, on 10 March 1942, the Minister for Education announced with deliberate vagueness that New Lambton Public School was required “to be used for other purposes” and that students would be distributed over Lambton, Adamstown, Hamilton, and Cardiff schools. The school became the site of RAAF No 2 Fighter Sector, the principal coordination and control unit for radar defence operations in the Williamtown and Newcastle area.

The RAAF occupied the three main school buildings, erected temporary buildings in the playground and converted the headmaster’s residence into the unit HQ. Twenty-four hour operations commenced on 29 March 1942 with 134 staff, including 69 from the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF). The school also became the training base for other radar sector units and at its peak in August 1943 had a total of 268 personnel.

In December 1944 the RAAF transferred operations from New Lambton to the radar station at Ash Island, and in January 1945 handed the school back to the Department of Education. The senior boys and girls returned to the school, but necessary restoration and repairs carried out during 1945 meant that the infants’ classes did not return until the following year. The resumption of all classes at the New Lambton site and remembrance of its important war time role was celebrated with a grand “Back-to-school” gala day on 27 April 1946.

Aerial photo from September 1944, showing a number of temporary buildings erected by the RAAF in the school playground.
Commemorative plaque installed in the foyer of the school office in 1995.
Because of the school’s unique association with the RAAF, the school was granted approval in May 1995 to use the RAAF ensign, on display here adjacent to the commemorative plaque.

The article above was first published in the March 2020 edition of The Local.


Acknowledgements

Much of the information for this article I sourced from Peter Muller and John Hutchison’s 1991 book “RAAF Base Williamtown, The First 50 Years”, a copy of which is in Newcastle Library Local Studies section.

Additional Information

Payne’s Paddock School

From March 1942, all students from New Lambton school were distributed to other schools around the area, with transport being provided by the Department of Education. There was much complaint from parents about this arrangement, who campaigned for the erection of temporary school buildings. The slow pace of fulfilling this request led the Parents and Citizens’ association in September 1943 to threaten a boycott, stating …

The matter has come to a stage that if there is no [new] school there will be no New Lambton children attending other schools.

A temporary infants’ school was subsequently constructed in “Payne’s Paddock” on St James Rd, consisting of 8 classrooms built of wood, and a separate administrative block. The temporary school opened for students on 18 April 1944.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 April 1944
A 1944 aerial photograph of the temporary Payne’s Paddock school, overlaid into Google Earth.

The infants attended the Payne’s Paddock temporary school until April 1946, when the completion of restorations and repairs to the New Lambton school allowed them to resume classes there. The temporary school on St James Rd was closed, but became the site of the New Lambton South Public School, opened on 31 Januuary 1950 with an enrolment of 360 students.

WAAAF Hostel

To assist in the accommodation of Womens Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) personnel working at No 2 Fighter Sector, the YMCA opened a hostel, converting a shop and residence on the corner of Hobart and Rugby Roads.

The WAAAF Hostel in New Lambton in 1944.
The WAAAF hostel building in 2020

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
10 Mar 1942"Pupils from New Lambton Public School are to be distributed over Lambton, Adamstown, Hamilton, and Cardiff schools because their building is to be used for other purposes. This was announced tonight by the Minister for Education (Mr. Clive Evatt). Mr. Evatt said the necessary transport for the children to be picked up from selected points, and taken to their schools, was being arranged."
24 Apr 1942"Property at the corner of Hobart and Rugby Roads, New Lambton (a shop and residence), has been selected for the establishment of a leave hostel for the convenience of 'W.A.A.A.Fs' and other service women."
27 Apr 1942New Lambton Parents and Citizens' Association campaigning for "more satisfactory arrangements for the 900 school children of New Lambton, who are now distributed among the Hamilton, Adamstown, and Lambton schools. The association last week agreed that a forceful claim should be made for the erection of portable classrooms at New Lambton to accommodate the transferred children."
5 Oct 1942"For several weeks, Mrs. W. E. Bramble and her daughter, Miss Mary Bramble, have entertained groups of W.A.A.A.F. and R.A.A.F. personnel at their home at Russell-road, New Lambton, on Sunday nights. The number of guests varies, but as many as 80 have attended for tea, and 115 for supper. Mrs. Bramble's chief worry is to secure sufficient tea and sugar to cope with the crowd."
25 Sep 1943New Lambton Parents and citizens' Association stated "that the proposal to keep New Lambton children away from school was not bluff. The matter has come to a stage that if there is no school there will be no New Lambton children attending other schools."
"The commonwealth Government had provided the funds for the erection of accommodation for an Infants' school at Payne's Estate. The Government Architect had completed plans and tenders for the work would be invited this week."
18 Apr 1944Popularly known as Payne's paddock school, New Lambton, these buildings in St. James-road will be "taken over" by the children this morning. Many of the children who will now go to this school have been travelling by bus to Hamilton school since New Lambton Public School was closed.
19 Apr 1944
18 Apr 1944
"Opening yesterday of the temporary school for New Lambton infants in Payne's Paddock, St. James-road. The school has an enrolment of 320 pupils."
19 Jan 1945"A letter Mr. R. Cameron, M.L.A., has received from the Minister for Education (Mr. Heffron) with reference to the department's repossession of New Lambton Public School from the R.A.A.F., indicates that action has been taken to enable two buildings to be re-occupied by classes after the vacation."
28 Feb 1945"The Minister for Education, Mr. Heffron, complained yesterday of the way in which the R.A.A.F. had left New Lambton Public School after they had occupied it … the R.A.A.F. had made structural alterations inside and outside the school. After months of negotiation, he had been unable to get the R.A.A.F. to remove the alterations. Because of this, the infants' part of the school was still unusable."
18 Apr 1945Demolition of RAAF huts proceeding. The old headmaster's residence to be demolished and the playground area enlarged. There are 222 boys at the school. Restoration of the girls' school yet to happen.
20 Feb 1946"The painting of the interior of the infants' department was near completion … the girls were now back in their own department."
6 Apr 1946"Plans are under way for a "Back-to-New Lambton" day, to mark the complete reunion of classes of New Lambton Public School at their old home. The Parents and Citizens' Association proposes to have a roll book completed withl the autographs of past and present pupils and to preserve it as an historical record of the school. "
29 Apr 1946
27 Apr 1946
"THE war role of New Lambton Public School was referred to by speakers at the 'Back-to-school' celebration on Saturday. Saturday's function ... marked the school's full reinstatement."
27 Apr 1946"Many former pupils returned today to participate in the Back to New Lambton School celebrations arranged by the P. and C. Association to mark the reopening of the school after military occupation."
"The boys and girls returned to the school in February of last year, the boys using their own department and the girls the infants' department, while the girls' school was being renovated. The girls returned to their school at tthe end of last year, but the infants remained at Payne's Paddock until this week, when the renovations to the infants' department were completed."
1 Feb 1950
31 Jan 1950
"The new primary school at New Lambton South (Payne's Paddock) ... was opened yesterday for the enrolment of pupils. The buildings, which are of brick, contain 16 class rooms, a special room for a school library, headmaster's and headmistress's offices, staff rooms, special sheds for luncheon for the children, bicycle racks and a separate brick tuck shop ... there was already an enrolment of 360 pupils."

Shifty streets

In my historical researches lately I’ve been noticing how fluid the the street names were, with some streets having multiple spellings (Dickson/Dixon) and some street names morphing over time. Robert How, an investor in the Scottish Australian Mining Company had a street named after him, but the street name somehow acquired a trailing “e” to become “Howe Street”.

The mystery of the extra “e” was solved when I noticed that “Wye Street” was originally called “Wyee Street”. It seems that shifty “e” just wandered in from the neighbouring street and took up residence! If not for the peripatetic positioning of that vagrant vowel the street sign would look like this …

Tharwa Road Lambton

For quite some time as I researched Lambton history, I’ve come across references to “Tharwa Road”, which no longer exists in Lambton. I wondered whether it was a mis-spelling or variant of “Tathra Road”. Recently while perusing old maps I discovered that a 1906 real estate poster map shows that “Tharwa Road” used to be the section of Wallarah Road north of Womboin Road.

Tharwa Road, Lambton. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

It made sense that the road had two names, for they began as two completely separate roads divided by the Lambton colliery railway. Each road was also in a different council area – Tharwa Road in the Lambton municipality, Wallarah Road in the New Lambton municipality.

As early as 1926, residents of East Lambton were agitating to have the roads connected to make a thoroughfare to New Lambton. The joining of the roads appears to have happened around 1941, with The Newcastle Sun reporting on 11 Feb 1941

It was decided to ask the Newcastle Council to attend to … the renumbering of Wallarah Road, which has now been extended to include Tharwa Road.

NLPS Centenary Book Corrections

New Lambton Public School published a booklet in 1980 to celebrate their centenary. Although this book contains much useful information, it also contains a number of errors, which I document below. In doing so, I’m not intending to pass judgement on the authors of the booklet, who in 1980 did not have access to the many online resources available to me today. My intention here is simply to correct the record where I can.

The originally proposed site

The booklet quite correctly states that “The first site chosen was on ground owned by the New Lambton colliery.” This means that the site was south of Russell Rd, that road being the border between New Lambton and Lambton coal leases. The centenary booklet then states that the proposed site was “around the south-eastern section of St James Rd.” I have found no evidence to support that statement. Instead, we know that:

I can only guess that the authors of the centenary booklet incorrectly assumed that the eventual site for New Lambton South Public School (opened 1944) was the originally proposed site for the New Lambton school.

Other corrections

  • “New Lambton came into being in 1867”. The correct year is 1868.
  • The statement that the Lambton colliery railway “carried the coal to the wharves via ‘Betty Bun’s Crossing” is incorrect. Betty Bunn’s crossing was on the Waratah coal company’s railway.
  • The statement that the New Lambton colliery railway went “across New Lambton Park to join the line from Lambton pit” is incorrect. The line actually curved to the right before the Lambton line, and was a separate line all the way in to its junction with the great northern railway.
  • The statement that “New Lambton mine opened late in 1867” is somewhat misleading. In 1867 James and Alexander Brown opened up a new pit in their 280 acre “Dog and Rat” lease east of Lambton, and called it “The New Lambton Coal Pit”. The pit they sunk in the suburb of New Lambton wasn’t opened until 1868.
  • The photo of the 1888 New Lambton Colliery Strike is somewhat misleading in that it doesn’t identify that this strike took place at the New Lambton C pit, which is actually in Adamstown.
  • The booklet correctly states that “many smaller [coal mining] operations, often employing two or three men, were common around the turn of the century” and in the next sentence it lists some of the names of the pits. Two of the names mentioned were not small pits. Mosquito pit was part of Lambton colliery, and Dog and Rat pit was operated by the Brown’s mining company.
  • There is a photo captioned “The first steam tram to Lambton 1891”. The photo might be from 1891, but its not the first steam tram, as the tram line opened in 1887.
  • There is a photo captioned “1912 Aldermen New Lambton Council”. The list of names given does not correspond the alderman from that year. The list appears to match more closely with the alderman in 1914-1915. A number of the names are mis-spelled – “Gourd” should be “Goad”, “Jordon” should be “Jordan”

The map

The map in the booklet contains a number of errors, some minor, and some nonsensical.

  1. “Rasberry Gully” is mis-spelled – it should be “Raspberry Gully”.
  2. The rail line to Raspberry Gully is marked as the “Waratah” pit, whereas it should be “South Waratah” pit.
  3. “Betty Bun’s” crossing is mis-spelled. It should be “Betty Bunn’s” crossing.
  4. The location marked for “Betty Bunn’s Crossing” at the intersection of Griffiths and Turton Roads is incorrect. The actual location was further to the west, at the intersection of Acacia St and Griffiths Rd. This was the point where the road between Lambton and Waratah townships crossed the Waratah Coal Company’s railway.
  5. Carrington Parade is shown as a continuous street, instead of split into two disconnected sections.
  6. The New Lambton colliery railway is shown as joining on to the Lambton colliery railway near Womboin Road. Competition between the collieries meant that sharing of rail lines was inconceivable. The New Lambton railway actually traversed the area now occupied by the sporting fields and Hunter stadium, and went all the way in to a junction on the great northern rail line.
  7. The map maker has assumed that the present day “Railway Rd” matches the alignment of the original Lambton colliery railway. This has resulted in a railway course with an impossible right angle bend. The railway actually ran in a fairly straight line slightly to the north of Railway Rd.
Colliery railway lines as marked on a 1918 real estate poster. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

New Lambton Public School

Opening of the school in 1880

This year marks 140 years of New Lambton Public School. It’s an anniversary that would have been celebrated a decade ago, if not for government inaction, squabbling colliery owners, and construction delays.

New Lambton began with a colliery in 1868, and within a year the newspaper reported that

“a good Public School will soon be required, there being now scores of children in the township.” (The Newcastle Chronicle, 16 Sep 1869)

Although the need was great, the government took no action until August 1875, when a deputation from New Lambton delivered a petition to the Minister for Education in Sydney, and a school was approved.

The New Lambton Colliery initially promised land for the school near Evescourt Rd and Victoria St, but nothing happened while the co-owners of the colliery, Alexander Brown and George Dibbs, engaged in a bitter dispute over control of the mine. After two years of fruitless waiting, the school committee asked for the present site north of Russell Rd, as it belonged to Lambton Colliery whose general manager Robert Morehead was known to be a generous supporter of public education.

A contract for construction was awarded to Edward Constable and the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone took place on 30 November 1878. With an expected construction time of ten months the stone was optimistically engraved with the year 1879. But delays due to contractor disputes and a scarcity of bricks meant that as 1879 drew to a close, the Newcastle Morning Herald reported, with a dose of dry humour:

“There is now no prospect of the Public School being ready for opening at Christmas. Many of the children in whose interest this school was first advocated, are now married, and have large families.”

Finally, on 2 March 1880, classes commenced for 270 children. The following Saturday over 400 people gathered for the opening ceremony, where it was remarked that

“the lack of this institution for years past has been so apparent as to make it appear strange that its erection was not an accomplished fact far earlier.”

Students assembled in front of New Lambton Public School, 13 February 1900. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
The school in 2020. The original brick building was demolished in 1954, after suffering damage from mine subsidence.
The original foundation stone was laid in 1878, with the (misplaced) expectation that the school would open the following year. The stone was incorporated into the foundations of the new classrooms built after the original building was demolished in 1954.

The article above was first published in the February 2020 edition of The Local.


The originally proposed site

One of the sources I used in researching this article was the booklet produced by the school on the occasion of their centenary in 1980. 

Although there was much helpful information in the booklet, there were a number of errors, in particular when describing the originally proposed site for the school.

The booklet quite correctly states that “The first site chosen was on ground owned by the New Lambton colliery.” This means that the site was south of Russell Rd, that road being the border between New Lambton and Lambton coal leases. The centenary booklet then states that the proposed site was “around the south-eastern section of St James Rd.” I have found no evidence to support that statement. Instead, we know that:

I can only guess that the authors of the centenary booklet incorrectly assumed that the eventual site for New Lambton South Public School (opened 1944) was the originally proposed site for the New Lambton school.

I have put together a separate page of other corrections of material contained in the centenary booklet.

Additional Information

Tenders submitted for construction of New Lambton Public School, showing successful tenderer E. Constable, for a price of £3275 and a construction time of 10 months. From the New Lambton Public School centenary booklet.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
16 Sep 1869“A good Public School will soon be required, there being now scores of children in the township; the Public School at Lambton is too far distant for tender children to attend.”
11 Nov 1869“We understand that it is in contemplation to make an application to the Council of Education for the establishment of a public school, at New Lambton, where such an institution is very much required”
20 Jun 1874“Great efforts are being made here to obtain the benefit of a public school.”
22 May 1875“the movement in relation to the opening of a Public School in New Lambton is making progress”
5 Jun 1875"There are 172 children under four years of age, and 427 between the age of four and thirteen years. These children have to walk a considerable distance to the Lambton Public school, and the road (particularly in wet weather) is very bad. Mr. Alexander Brown, one of the proprietors of the colliery, has consented to dedicate a piece of his land to the school board."
31 Jul 1875A deputation to Sydney "for the purpose of presenting to the Council of Education the petition recently signed by the inhabitants of this neighbourhood, praying that a Public School may be established at New Lambton."
10 Aug 1875"The deputation to Sydney have returned. They have been successful in their endeavours to obtain a Public School for New Lambton. It is presumed that nearly three hundred children will attend the school when opened."
1 Oct 1875Governement Gazette: application received for new public school at New Lambton.
23 Oct 1875
15 Oct 1875
Letter from the Council of Education to New Lambton Public School: committee: "1. The Council has finally resolved to establish the School as a Public School. 2. The Council has further agreed to accept the land offered by the New Lambton Coal Company."
8 Dec 1875"There is only one obstacle in the way of commencement with the building at once and that is the delay of Mr. A. Brown in handing over the land promised for the purpose. It is now seven or eight weeks since he promised to come up and hand over the land but has not done so yet."
11 Dec 1875"Mr. Alexander Brown came up on Wednesday, and, in company with Messrs. Sharp and Rippon, examined the most likely pieces of land, and at last picked upon a splendid site on the side of the hill near to the Wesleyan Church."
8 Apr 1876"Nothing further has as yet been done concerning our public school … There are upwards of 300 children in New Lambton able to attend school, the majority of which have to travel to the Lambton public school, which is about two miles distant from some of their homes."
13 May 1876"The delay in handing over the site is the only obstacle to a public school being built in New Lambton. The land was promised some months ago by Mr. A. Brown, jun., but has not yet been handed over, owing probably to the unfortunate disagreement between the Messrs. Brown and Dibbs."
28 Jul 1876"A deputation had visited the Messrs. Brown's recently, but had received no satisfaction, and the promise had evidently been withdrawn." Mr G. Holland of the school committee subsequently "met Mr. A. Brown, sen., in the street at Newcastle recently, and asked him if he would receive a deputation on the school question. Mr Brown informed him then that at present nothing could be done in this matter. The New Lambton people might therefore rest assured that they would not got any land from the Brown's estate. It was therefore their duty to try some other means of procuring a school site."
7 Aug 1876A letter of stinging rebuke regarding inaction on the school: "We are, therefore, in a fix, and must, at least so far as can be seen at present, submit to bring up our children in ignorance … it is rather too bad that a few individuals should be allowed to monopolise hundreds of acres while the public can not procure a few feet whereon a a school can be erected … When next our Legislative wiseacres indulge in their educational clap-trap, it would be well if they would say, 'Educate the children of the colony, but lift not the veil of ignorance from New Lambton.' "
16 Jul 1877"There can be no doubt that the the proprietors of the New Lambton Colliery are in a great measure to blame for this unfortunate state of things, for they have never by word or deed seconded the efforts of the people; but in the choice of a suitable site have thrown every possible obstacle in the way. These gentlemen would do well to take a pattern in this matter from some other colliery proprietors and officials in this district who have evinced a regard for the educational requirements of their workmen's children."
28 Aug 1877
17 Jul 1877
A petition is presented to Minister for Education requesting change of site for the school. “The site proposed is on the Commonage, at the boundary of the Lambton and New Lambton Company's estates, where it is thought that a barrier of coal has been left in.”
31 Jul 1877In the dispute between colliery owners Brown and Dibbs preventing the granting of land for a school, it appears that Brown is the culprit … "I am informed that the Messrs. Dibbs are doing all in their power to further the movement ; but Mr. A. Brown is inexorable, and will not grant anything which will be a benefit to the people."
29 Jan 1878The grant of land for the school, may be held up "until the matter of the Newcastle Common, of which the land in question forms part, has been settled."
16 Mar 1878
11 Mar 1878
"The Minister for Lands has now approved of the appropriation for Public School purposes of the two acres of land at New Lambton, applied for by the Council on 11th October last. Steps will now be taken for the erection of the school building as early as possible."
16 Apr 1878"Failing to obtain a site at New Lambton from private individuals, the Council [of Education] made application to the Government on the 18th October last, for portion of land for the purpose. An intimation that this site has been granted, was received at this office on 20th March instant, and the usual steps have been taken for the erection of a public school with the least possible delay."
10 May 1878"The Commonage land promised for a school site is a portion of the Lambton Company's lease ... it is well known that there is not a better friend of education in the colony than Mr. Morehead, who will, no doubt, forfeit all claim to the land in question as soon as application is made to him, and the object for which it is required made known."
10 May 1878Advertisement: "TENDERS are invited for the Erection and Completion of a PUBLIC SCHOOL, at NEW LAMBTON."
5 Jul 1878Contract for erection of New Lambton Public School has been awarded to Mr. E Constable.
9 Sep 1878"It would appear that the fates are against a public school ever being erected at New Lambton. After years of agitation, tenders were accepted several weeks ago for the erection of a school, but the contractor evidently thinks that some time in the next century will be soon enough to complete his work, as beyond a few stones being carted on to the ground, there is no sign of a start being made."
2 Dec 1878
30 Nov 1878
Ceremonial laying of the foundation stone.
26 Feb 1879Work on the New Lambton Public School "has been stopped, owing to some dispute between the contractor and a contractor, and to a scarcity of bricks."
2 Jun 1879"The new public school building has so far progressed as to be ready for the shingles. The building seems to be of a very substantial nature, and will, when finished, be an ornament to the place, as well as a blessing in an educational point. The children, no doubt, wish it was completed, as those who at present attend school have to tramp up to their knees in sludge to the Lambton school."
25 Dec 1879"There is now no prospect of the New Public School being ready for opening at Christmas. Many of the children in whose interest this school was first advocated, are now married, and have large families."
8 Mar 1880
6 Mar 1880
Official opening of the school on Saturday 6 March 1880. (First day for students was Tuesday 2 March 1880.)

History in our streets

Chilcott St, Lambton

There’s often a story lurking behind street names. While many of our streets owe their existence to the rise of mines, some have their origin in the demise of mines. The Scottish Australian Mining Company opened Lambton colliery in 1863. Adjacent to the pit they established a small township bounded by Young, Morehead, Croudace and Howe Streets, these being named after managers and directors of the company.

For the next 50 years the company made their fortune underground, but when the coal seam was depleted, they looked instead to make money above ground, in real estate. They began in August 1914 with a modest subdivision of 24 blocks on the south side of Howe St. On 17 January 1920, one hundred years ago this month, the company auctioned a bigger subdivision with 61 building sites. As was the custom at the time the sale was publicised using large coloured poster prints.

The subdivision included two newly constructed streets. Turner St was named after Frederick William Turner, the London based secretary of the Scottish Australian Mining Company. Chilcott St was named after Henry Frederick Chilcott, the Sydney based General Manager.

Chilcott was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1844 and was brought by his family to Australia when he was three. At age 14 he joined the Scottish Australian Mining Company in a junior capacity, and was progressively promoted, eventually becoming General Manager in 1892. Chilcott was also a long-time member of the Colonial Volunteer Forces, a forerunner of today’s Army Reserve, enlisting in 1860 and rising to the rank of Captain by the time of his retirement in 1894.

In a strange coincidence, Henry Chilcott died on 21 January 1920, just four days after the auction of land in the street named in his honour. He was aged 76, still holding the position of General Manager in the company that he had served for an impressive 62 years.

Poster advertising the Scottish Australian Mining Company’s subdivision of land in January 1920. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Captain Chilcott on his retirement from the Colonial Volunteer Force in 1894. The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 21 April 1894.

The article above was first published in the January 2020 edition of The Local.


Acknowledgements

My thanks this month go to Greg Manning, whose research into Chilcott St alerted me to Henry Chilcott’s birthplace being in Ceylon, and led me to the photograph of Chilcott in his military uniform.

Additional Information

EmPloyment Start

There is some slight ambiguity as to the exact year that Chilcott joined the Scottish Australian Company. An article from 1894 states that Chilcott “was born on January 5, 1844” and that “he has been connected [to the company] since he was 15 years of age. This implies that Chilcott joined the company in 1859. However the article reporting his death in 1920 states that he joined the company in 1858, implying that he was aged 14 at the time.

Lambton Streets

The streets in the the early Lambton township were mainly named after managers and directors of the Scottish Australian Mining and Investment Companies, owners of the Lambton colliery.

Street Notes
Young St Named after Matthew Young or Adolphus William Young MP, or possible both. Matthew Young along with Robert Morehead was an early manager of the Scottish Australian Mining Company in Sydney. The mineral leases of the Lambton colliery were original held by “Morehead and Young”, and then subsequently taken over by the S.A.M. Co soon after the company’s registration. Adolphus William Young was a director of the Scottish Australian Investment Company in England.
Croudace St Named after Thomas Croudace (b. 1838, d. 15 Jun 1906), manager of Lambton Colliery and subsequently General Manager of the Scottish Australian Mining Company in Australia.
Grainger St Named after Charles Garston Grainger, director and secretary in London of the Scottish Australian Investment and Scottish Australian Mining Companies. Resigned 1885.
Morehead St Named after Robert Archibald Alison Morehead (b. 1812? d. 9 Jan 1885), General Manager of the Scottish Australian Mining Company in Australia.
Dickson St Probably named after William Henry Dickson, one of the proprietors of the Scottish Australian Investment Company.
De Vitre St Named after James Denis De Vitre, director of the Scottish Australian Mining Company. Retired February 1872.
Elder St Named after Alexander Lang Elder (d. 5 Sep 1885), director of the Scottish Australian Investment and Scottish Australian Mining Companies. Although Elder died in September 1885, he continued to be listed as a director of the company in Australian newspapers until 13 Mar 1886. An updated list of directors appeared on 20 Mar 1886.
Kendall St Named after Charles Holland Kendall, a director of the Scottish Australian Investment Company.
Pearson St Named after Sir Edwin Pearson (d. 1883), director of the Scottish Australian Investment Company.
Howe St Probably named after Robert How, who was named in 1864 as a director of the Cadiangallong copper mine near Orange. This mine was worked by the Scottish Australian Mining Company, and given the overlap of directors between the two companies.  it is quite likely that How was also a director or investor in the Scottish Australian Mining Company. The Government Gazette of 14 Oct 1873, shows “How-street” in the list of Lambton streets. As early as April 1872, the spelling appears with a trailing “e”.
Chilcott St Named after Henry Frederick Chilcott (b. 5 Jan 1844, d. 21 Jan 1920), General Manager in Australia of the Scottish Australian Investment and Scottish Australian Mining Companies.
Turner St Named after Frederick William Turner (d. September 1928) director of the Scottish Australian Investment Company, and secretary of the company in London.

Howe Street

The Lambton Primary School centenary booklet in 1965 stated that Howe St was “named either in honour of the Earl of Howe (prominent Englishman of the day) or John Howe a well known explorer and pastoralist in the Hunter Valley.” I’m a little suspicious of the accuracy of this statement given that I can find no corroborating evidence, and that the centenary booklet has a number of other errors regarding the origin of street names. e.g. the naming of Hill St. Given that all the other street names are of men associated with the mining company, I think it much more likely that it was named after Robert How, one of the directors of the Cadiangallong copper mine .

Croudace Street

One curious anomaly in the early Lambton street names is that at one time there were two Croudace Streets. As well as the north-south road we know today, for some period of time the section of road along the south side of Lambton Park (now Howe St) was called Croudace St. See for example the map on a real estate poster from 1906. (For information on the section of LLoyd Rd running across Lambton Park, see my January 2016 article.)

Real estate poster from 1906, showing Croudace St on the south side of Lambton Park. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

At first I thought this was an error by the map maker, but I found many other maps of the era also had the street labelled as Croudace St. I then found a proclamation in the Government Gazette of 22 Nov 1878 that names the road between Church St and Lambton Coal Company’s railway as being Croudace St – so the map makers were correct in their labels.

In the period 1916 to 1935 the road south of Lambton Park gets referred to as “Howe Street East” and afterwards simply as “Howe Street”.

So why was there two Croudace Streets? It seems that in the 1860s and 1870s street names were still in a bit of flux. When you look at the Government Gazette proclamation of roads there are many names that don’t match what we have today.

  • 14 Oct 1873 – mentions a “Reservoir-street”, which refers either to the present day Grainger St or present day Croudace St.
  • 22 Nov 1878 – mentions a West Street and a Crozier St that do not exist today.
  • 27 Aug 1880 – mentions “Swamp-street”

The naming of the road to the south side of Lambton Park as Croudace St was probably done by some bureaucrat based in Sydney, unaware of the Lambton locality, and unaware that there was already another street known by the locals as Croudace St.

Map showing both Croudace Streets, with Howe St in between.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
15 Jan 1885
1 Jan 1885
On the retirement of R A A Morehead as General Manager of the Scottish Australian Investment Company, Mr. Archibald Shannon the sub-manager becomes General Manager, and "Mr. Henry F. Chilcott, the accountant, who has been twenty-six years in the service of the company, will succeed to the post to be vacated by Mr. Shannon."
17 Jan 1885
9 Jan 1885
Death of R A A Morehead, manager of the Scottish Australian Investment Company.
30 Jul 1892Archibald Shannon, General Manager of Scottish Australian Investment Company and Scottish Australian Mining Company, returns to England. Thomas Croudace becomes General Manager of the Scottish Australian Mining Company, and although not stated in this article, Henry Chilcott becomes General Manger of the Scottish Australian Investment Company. (See article reporting his death in 1920, that states that Chilcott became General Manager in 1892.)
21 Apr 1894Captain Chilcott retires from the Colonial Volunteer Forces.
4 Aug 1894Details of The Scottish Australian Investment Company, listing Henry Frederick Chilcott as "Manager in Australia" and Frederick William Turner as "Secretary to the Company in London."
28 Dec 1895
16 Dec 1895
The "long and meritorious" decoration bestowed on H F Chilcott of the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the Colonial Volunteer Forces, recognising 26 years of service.
14 Jul 1919Last mention in Trove of H F Chilcott, General Manager of Scottish Australian Mining, prior to his death.
16 Jan 1920
17 Jan 1920
"Messrs. Creer and Berkeley will offer at auction to-morrow afternoon 61 elevated building sites at Lambton. These sites form a portion of the Scottish-Australian Mining Company's estate, and are within two minutes of the tram. With bold frontages they face Chilcott, Turner, Croudace and Grainger streets."
23 Jan 1920
21 Jan 1920
"Mr. Henry Frederick Chilcott, general manager of the Scottish-Australian Investment Company, Ltd., and the Scottish-Australian Mining Company, Ltd. died at his residence, Forest Road, Arnclilffe, on Wednesday. He joined the Investment Company in 1858 in a junior capacity, and in 1892 succeeded to the management upon the death* of the late Mr. Archibald Shannon. In 1904 he succceeded the late Mr. Thomas Croudace in the management of the mining company."
* It was actually on Shannon's return to England, not his death, that Chilcott became general manager. Shannnon died in Torquay in 1898.
22 Jan 1920Funeral of H F Chilcott.
6 Sep 1928"The death is announced of Mr. Frederick William Turner, a director of the Scottish Australian Investment Company, at the age of 96 years."

Clash of Armies

Lambton Salvation Army

Sometimes these articles I write take an unexpected turn. This month, what began as a simple story about a church hall in Lambton led me to a little-known period of rioting in the streets fuelled by anti-religious sentiment.

The Salvation Army was founded in London by William Booth in 1865, to preach the Gospel to the poor and underprivileged, and offer aid to the destitute. The Army grew rapidly and arrived in Australia in 1881. On 9 September 1883 they “opened fire” in Lambton with a parade through the streets, followed by meetings in the Music Hall in Dickson St.

While attracting many followers, not everyone was favourably disposed. With their military designations, uniforms and noisy parading through the streets, some considered the Salvation Army to be a “burlesque of religion” and that “its vulgarities are intolerable to people of refinement.”

A semi-organised opposition arose, with a group called the Skeleton Army, also known as the White Ribbon Army. They principally expressed their displeasure by joining the Salvationists’ parades, forming their own musical bands and singing parodies of hymns. The combined noise “made the air hideous”, and confrontations in various suburbs boiled over into push and shove and brawling. In a major encounter between the Salvation and Skeleton ‘armies’ on 21 October 1883, the paper reported that over 2000 people gathered in Hunter St in a scene of “riot, obscenity, jostling, and a pandemonium of discord.”

Throughout 1884 there continued to be disturbances in the streets, however with vigilant policing, and some of its leaders briefly imprisoned for riotous behaviour, the activities of the Skeleton Army gradually waned. In contrast, the Salvation Army ranks grew. In Lambton, after considering purchasing the Music Hall, in 1886 they erected their own barracks in Grainger St.

While no longer in Lambton, 136 years later the Salvation Army remains in Newcastle, well regarded for its service to the needy. Thankfully the Skeleton Army and its discord is now a forgotten footnote in history.

Salvation Army Barracks, Grainger St Lambton. February 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball, University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.
The Salvation Army Community Centre, Cleary St, Hamilton. November 2019.

The article above was first published in the December 2019 edition of The Local.


Additional Information

Newcastle Library Hunter Photobank has a photo captioned “Group outside Salvation Army Barracks at Lambton”. This is almost certainly an error. The photo is not of the Grainger St hall, nor can it be the Music Hall they met in during 1883-1886. The Music Hall was on the south side of Dickson St, and so the ground behind that hall would be sloping down towards the Lambton-Kerai Creek. Note that in this photo there is a building in the background at a higher elevation.

Salvation Army Barracks – unknown location.

The photo is probably of a Salvation Army hall in some other suburb, but which one? I suspected that it might have been Wallsend, but I can rule that out as I found that in Wallsend, the Salvation Army Barracks was in the low part of Nelson St, adjacent to the storm water channel. It was so close to the storm water channel they had to have a bridge to cross from the street to the front door!

Salvation Army Barracks, Nelson Street, Wallsend. 9 April 1906. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Another possibility for the location of the Hunter Photobank photo is Tighes Hill, as a number of Trove articles indicate that the Salvation Army had a big presence and barracks in that suburb.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
25 Mar 1882Report of persecution of the Salvation Army in England. The report is generally favourable to the Salvation Army movement, but describes the views of its detractors thus:
"It may be said for instance, that the entire conception, with its military designations and uniforms, is only a burlesque of religion ; that its vulgarities are intolerable to people of the slightest pretension to refinement, not to say decency ; and that its parade and noise and loud profession encourage a brazen-faced hypocrisy that tend to bring it into contempt."
11 Sep 1883
9 Sep 1883
"The Salvation Army 'opened fire' on Sunday last. They commenced with knee drill in the Music Hall at 7 a.m. At 10.30 they paraded the streets singing hymns and exhorting the people to seek repentance. After the parade, a meeting was held; singing and prayer, and the 'soldiers' giving testimony as to the improvement in their spiritual condition since joining the Army, being the order of the day. Crowded meetings were also held in the Music Hall in the afternoon and evening."
18 Sep 1883
9 Sep 1883
Opposition to the Salvation Army opening in Lambton. "There was a mob of about a dozen young ruffians, on a vacant piece of ground adjoining the premises of the Sergeant of Police, who were amusing themselves by insulting any old individual whom they thought they had got in their power, and banging stones for a long time against a neighbouring house."
3 Oct 1883Complaint that the Salvation Army is merely poaching members from other established churches … "We believe that it is also a fact that their 'converts' with few exceptions, have been previous church-goers."
22 Oct 1883
21 Oct 1883
Evening News, Sydney: "Disgraceful proceedings were witnessed last night in connection with the Salvation Army. The opposition army, known as the White Ribbons, or the Skeletons, extemporised a band, and joined the procession. In Hunter-street nearly 2,000 persons assembled, and a regular pandemonium ensued."
22 Oct 1883
21 Oct 1883
Newcastle Morning Herald: "For some time a counter 'army' to the 'Salvationists'—the 'Skeleton,' 'White Ribbon,' or otherwise, according as the phrase is adopted—have marched in opposition to the detachments of General Booth. Yesterday morning, again, a mass meeting was held at Cook's Hill, where over 2000 persons assembled … The climax was reached about 7 p.m., whilst the Salvation 'Armyists' were making their customary march down Hunter-street, near the police court, towards the Victoria Theatre. Their musicians(?), as usual, poured forth incessant brain-distracting, bedlam-filling, blasts of discord, which were supplemented at the intersection of Bolton and Hunter-streets by the bandsmen and the leather-lunged Skeletonian oppositionists. The effect out-heroded Herod by way of riot, obscenity, general breach of common decency, and Sabbath decorum. Nearly 2000 persons speedily assembled, and the march-past beggared description. Roars, horse-laughter, blasphemy, insulting of females, jostling, obscenity and a pandemonium of discord ensued down to Perkin-street corner."
2 Nov 1883"Mr. W. T. Dent, of Waratah, while driving into Newcastle one night last week, was met by the Skeleton Army. His horse, frightened by the hideous noises, rough music, and ragged banners, shied and bolted. With much difficulty the runaway was stopped. It is expected that some serious accident will result from these processions in the crowded streets in the evening."
14 Nov 1883
13 Nov 1883
"Lambton. The Salvation Army have added a big drum to their band of musical instruments. On Tuesday evening the army in their march were preceded by about thirty lads, singing, parodies on the hymn. This with the cornets, drum, and the army singing the hymns combined, just about made the air hideous."
19 Nov 1883
14 Nov 1883
"On Wednesday evening, an omnibus and the Salvation Army collided in Grainger-street. A little boy named Flarvin was knocked down by the 'bus horses, but beyond a good shaking and some bruises escaped serious injury. One thing is certain, Grainger-street, which is only thirty feet wide, including footpaths, is too narrow for public processions of any kind."
1 Dec 1883
30 Nov 1883
"Lambton. The White Ribbon corps have formed a branch here for the purpose of obstructing the Salvation Army. There was great excitement on Friday evening, and hundreds of people crowded the streets. The police promptly placed themselves between the two armies, and prevented anything in the shape of ruffianism occurring. Had it not been for this, breaches of the peace would no doubt have taken place."
11 Dec 1883"Lambton. I am pleased to see the Skeleton Army is becoming a thing of the past, thanks to some of our police force. I am sure the inhabitants of Lambton are under a debt of gratitude to our sergeant and his staff for the prompt manner in which they have virtually annihilated this White Ribbon nuisance."
31 Dec 1884
28 Jan 1884
In an end of year retrospective, it was noted that in January 1884 ... "Great rioting took place on Bullock Island [Carrington] between the Salvation Army and the White Ribbon Army, the latter being the aggressors. The White Ribbonites consisted of a gang of roughs who made it their business to obstruct and annoy the Salvation Army, ostensibly with the intention of putting them down as a nuisance... The leaders of the larrikins were tried for disturbing a congregation, and although they escaped punishment through a legal technicality, the White Ribbon Army gradually died out."
24 Mar 1884"The Salvation Army still continue to march round every evening, and draw large crowds of people to the Music Hall. The Army proper now numbers about one hundred rank and file. The erection of barracks is talked of."
25 Jun 1884"The Salvation Army treated us to a serenade at half-past six on Sunday morning, and with their bad music, and still worse, bad singing, disturbed the peace of all who like to take an extra nap on the Sabbath morn. This is really carrying the infliction too far."
18 Jul 1884Mr Melville (MLA) described "how the leaders of the 'Skeleton' Army in Newcastle had one by one been brought under the influences of the [Salvation] Army, and how one in particular of that Army confessed to having been paid by publicans in Newcastle to molest the [Salvation] Army."
26 Sep 1884
23 Sep 1884
"On Tuesday evening the Salvation Army and some of the opposing forces came into collision and had a passage at arms, which resulted in the free distribution of black eyes and kindred favours on either side. The case will be brought before the police court."
25 Oct 1884Advertisement in which Joseph Young and Joseph Halliday "acknowledge that WE DID WRONG by DISTURBING the Salvation Army on Sunday, the 19th, at Lambton." Presumably this public apology was in order to avoid prosecution over the incident.
26 Mar 1885The owners of the Music Hall in Lambton dismiss a runour that they have sold it to the Salvation Arrmy.
27 Sep 1886"TENDERS are invited for the ERECTION and COMPLETION of a Salvation Army BARRACKS, Lambton."
6 Sep 1894Tenth anniversary services of Lambton Salvation Army.