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.

Adamstown Aldermen (1886-1938)

Adamstown Council was incorporated on 31 December 1885 and remained until March 1938 when 11 local municipal councils merged to form the City of Greater Newcastle Council. During its 52 years of its existence, Adamstown Council had 84 different aldermen, 32 of whom served as mayor.

The file linked to below contains a summary of all the aldermen that served on New Lambton Municipal Council in the years 1889 to 1938.

Entries in the table that are underlined are hyperlinks to a relevant newspaper article in Trove. To make sense of the information in the summary document, it is helpful to understand how council elections were organised, and how I have used different text and background colours to represent changes in the council membership.

Adamstown Council Chambers on the opening day, 22 August 1892. Photo courtesy of Newcastle Region Library.

Council elections

Elections in the Adamstown Municipal Council were initially governed by the NSW Municipalities Act of 1867. The council had 9 aldermen, who served terms of three years.

Initially the municipality was incorporated in 1886 without a ward system, but prior to the 1891 election, the municipality was divided into three wards (North/South/East), with three aldermen to represent each ward. Each February the term of three aldermen expired (one from each ward), and nominations were called to fill the expiring positions, so that over a three year cycle the terms of all nine of the aldermen expired. If only one nomination was received for a particular ward, that nominee was automatically elected to the council without the need for a ballot. If there was more than one nomination in a ward the returning officer would set a date within the next seven days at which a ballot would be held, where the ratepayers of the council area would vote for aldermen.

The position of Mayor was not voted on by ratepayers, but rather on the first council meeting after the election, the nine aldermen (including the three newly elected/returned aldermen) would vote for who they wanted to be Mayor. In contrast to the position of aldermen who were elected to a term of three years, the position of Mayor had a term of only one year.

In the event of any casual vacancies, nominations for the vacancy would be called for, and an election called if there were more nominees than vacancies. Casual vacancies in Adamstown were caused by resignation, death, or in the case of the 1920 election, there being a shortage of nominees.

On 26/2/1906, the Municipalities Act (1897) was replaced by the Local Government Act (1906). The system of electing 3 aldermen each year was changed to elect 9 aldermen every 3 years. The election of a Mayor was still held each February, with the Mayoral term running from the first day of March to the last day of February. At a council meeting on 12 March 1919, the aldermen voted to abolish the ward system in Adamstown.

Although there are numerous pieces of legislation relevant to local government in the period 1871 to 1938, the main acts relevant to the content on this page are:

Colour coding

In the documents I have used different colours to indicate the means by which people entered and exited council positions:

  • The foreground text color indicates how a person entered a council position:
    • Blue indicates the person was elected unopposed.
    • Green indicates the person was a successful candidate in an election.
    • Black indicates a continuation in office.
  • The background colour of a table cell indicates how a person exited a council position:
    • Yellow indicates a resignation.
    • Light pink indicates expiration of a term, and the person did not seek re-election.
    • Darker pink indicates expiration of a term, and the person was defeated when seeking re-election to another term.
    • Light gray indicates that the person died while serving their term of office.
  • For entries prior to 1906, where three aldermen retired each year, the names of the retiring aldermen are shown in italics.

Each new row in the table represents a change in the makeup of the council, with the exception of the council/mayoral elections of February 1919, December 1920, December 1921 and December 1935 where the aldermen and mayor remained unchanged.

Miscellaneous Observations

In the period 1886 to 1938:

  • 32 different people served as Mayor.
    • The longest serving Mayor was Theophilus Robin, who served a total of 5 years as Mayor during the period 1908 to 1917, on three separate occasions.
    • Edden St is named after Alfred Edden, who served as Mayor in 1889 and 1891.
    • In comparison with Lambton, Adamstown liked to share the Mayoral honours around. Adamstown council operated for 15 years less than Lambton council, but had four more than Lambton’s 28 Mayors.
  • 84 different people served as aldermen.
    • Often there are variant spellings for the same aldermen. In the spreadsheet I have used a consistent spelling of names, based on the variant that seems to be used the most, and on a separate worksheet listed the variant spellings. The most curious case is that of Matthew Loyden/Lydon, who prior to 12 February 1900 is consistently spelled “Loyden” and after 12 February 1900 is consistently spelled “Lydon”.  And on that exact date he is spelled “Loyden” in the Newcastle Morning Herald, and “Lydon” in the Daily Telegraph!
    • The longest serving alderman was Matthew Lydon who served a total of 22 years and 6 months in the period 1888 to 1917, on two separate occasions.
    • The shortest term of an aldermen was that of R Keogh who filled a casual vacancy for 8 months in 1925.
  • This page is titled “Adamstown Aldermen“, for they were all men. For most of the life of the council, this was by law, for while both men and women were entitled to vote, the Municipalities Act of 1867 and the Local Government Act of 1906 was explicit in restricting council service to men. e.g. section 69 of the 1906 act says:
    “Any male person whose name is on the roll of electors for an area shall, if not disqualified, be eligible to be elected and to act as alderman or councillor of the area.”
    By the time of the Local Government Act of 1919, this gender exclusion for office was no longer in place, however in the remaining 20 years no women were nominated for or elected to Adamstown Council.
  • Four people died while serving in office, James Gray in 1916, Thomas Rutherford and Matthew Lydon in 1917, and Allan Randolph Cameron in 1936.
  • There were 22 occasions when an alderman or mayor resigned their position. In most cases the reason was that the person had left the district, or because of ill health.

James Gray, Undertaker

James Gray of Adamstown, was a leading businessman, citizen, and alderman who died on 30 May 1916 while holidaying in Blackheath, just a few days before his 73rd birthday.

Gray arrived in Australia from the north of England around 1878, and lived in Brunker Rd Hamilton West (now Broadmeadow) working as an undertaker. In 1885 he moved to Adamstown, and while continuing as an undertaker he also worked as a carpenter, ran a hardware and furniture shop and accumulated a substantial property portfolio.

Gray was one of the early proponents for the establishment of Adamstown Council in 1885. His desire to serve as an alderman was a model of perseverance, with multiple unsuccessful attempts to be elected. Conceding defeat on the fourth occasion in 1894 he was undaunted, stating that he “would again make an effort to get in to the council.” The following year he finally gained a place when elected to fill a casual vacancy. He went on to serve as an alderman for 15 years and was elected Mayor on three occasions.

Ralph Snowball’s photograph of 8 December 1910 shows James Gray in front of his business premises in Glebe Rd. Dressed in black, standing with his hand on the wheel of his Beeston Humber motor car, Gray is at work as an undertaker for the funeral of Jane Gilpin. Her son Edward is presumably the man standing at the front of the car.

This is one of Snowball’s finest carefully composed photographs, and in the dead centre is a very curious detail. In the glass windshield beside the reflection of Edward Gilpin, there is a slightly blurred image of a woman in a hat. But there is no woman standing next to Gilpin. Is this a ghostly apparition? Is it an accidental double exposure?  Or are we witnessing a clever piece of photographic artistry performed by Snowball, paying homage to Edward Gilpin’s beloved mother?

James Gray, undertaker, 8 December 1910. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
The mysterious reflection of a woman in the car windshield.

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


Location of the photo

Although I am not 100% certain of the location of James Gray’s premises in Snowball’s photograph, my best guess is that it was on the south-east corner of Glebe Road and Teralba Road.

Probable location of James Gray’s business.
The corner of Glebe and Teralba Roads, Adamstown. September 2019.
Old street directory of Adamstown showing the location of Crown St and Thomas St.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
30 Mar 1880First mention of James Gray as an undertaker. His address is given as “Commonage, Hamilton”.
26 Jan 1884James Gray is one of the 153 petitioners calling for the establishment of Adamstown Council.
21 Oct 1884For Sale: A four-roomed house and shop. Commonage, Hamilton.
5 Dec 1884Last advertisment for JAMES GRAY, Undertaker, with the address given as "Commonage, Hamilton."
26 Jan 1885First advertisement for JAMES GRAY, Undertaker, with the address given as "Adamstown".
13 Feb 1888
11 Feb 1888
James Gray's first unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Adamstown Council.
10 Feb 1890
8 Feb 1890
James Gray's second unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Adamstown Council.
5 Jul 1890James Gray leading a movement to have Adamstown Council divided into wards.
5 Jan 1891James Gray is instrumental in submitting a petition to the government to have the Municipality of Adamstown divided into 3 wards. Interestingly the name before Gray’s in the petition is “Jane Gilpin”, the woman whose funeral he would organise as undertaker nearly 20 years later, and be the subject of Ralph Snowball's photograph.
30 May 1891At an appeals court, the property of James Gray described as a "carpenter's shop and residence, Glebe-road."
24 Oct 1891Further evidence of James Gray's subsantial property holdings - an advertisement to let a butcher's shop in Crown-street. (Crown St was the short section of Teralba Rd to the south of Glebe Rd.)
14 May 1892In municipal appeal court, James Gray's property portfolio is described as consisting of "six four-roomed cottages assessed at an annual value of £16 5s each."
13 Feb 1893
11 Feb 1893
James Gray's third unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Adamstown Council. In giving thanks to those who voted for him, Gray stated that "it was improbable that he would again offer his services to the ratepayers." That was a short-lived sentiment, as he stood as a candidate again the following year.
30 Dec 1893At an inquest concerning a fire in one of James Gray's rental cottages, his occupation is stated as "undertaker and carpenter". Gray "had an overdraft at the A.J.S. Bank for £150 … for seven or eight years, and had built five houses."
12 Feb 1894
10 Feb 1894
James Gray's fourth unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Adamstown Council. "Mr. GRAY said he had contested for a seat in the council and been defeated four times. He had a large interest in the municipality, and would again make an effort to get in to the council."
21 Jan 1895
19 Jan 1895
Mrs Gray, the wife of James Gray, accidentally kills her niece, Eleanor Turner, aged 13.
22 Jan 1895
21 Jan 1895
The inquest into the death of Eleanor Turner hears that she died from injuries inflicted by a knife thrown in anger at her by Mrs Anne Gray, after a dispute with her niece. The jury hands down a decision of manslaughter and Mrs Gray was released on bail to await trial.
21 Feb 1895
20 Feb 1895
Anne Gray sentenced to six months in Maitland Gaol for the manslaughter of Eleanor Turner.
15 Jun 1895"Mrs. Anne Gray, the woman who, on February 21 last, was sentenced to six months in Maitland Gaol for the manslaughter of Eleanor Turner, has been released by order of the Department of Justice. She arrived at her home in Adamstown on Thursday, having served four months of her sentence."
29 Sep 1908
28 Sep 1908
Death of James Gray's first wife.
13 Apr 1910James Gray advertises his Beeston-Humber motor car for sale for £450.
8 Dec 1910"Relatives and friends of Mr. EDWARD GILPIN are invited to attend the Funeral of his beloved Mother, JANE GILPIN. To move from her late residence, Thomas-street, Adamstown, THIS AFTERNOON, at a quarter to 3 o'clock, for Methodist Cemetery, Sandgate, JAMES GRAY, Undertaker."
(Thomas St is now the northern end of Date St in Adamstown.)
14 Jan 1915David Lloyd acquires Gray’s undertaking business.
21 Apr 1915First mention of James Gray's second wife.
2 Jun 1916
30 May 1916
Death of James Gray.
1 Jun 1916Funeral of James Gray.

Bile Beans Bull****

My September article for “The Local” is now out, this month on Lawson Crichton, manager of the Lambton Cooperative Society Store.

One interesting side discovery from researching this article came from Ralph Snowball’s 1898 photo of the Cooperative Store, where I noticed that one of the advertisements on the front wall of the store was for a product called “Bile Beans For Biliousness”.

Bile Beans was a completely fraudulent product created by Charles Edward Fulford and Ernest Albert Gilbert, and first sold in Australia in 1897. The product was a relatively harmless concoction of plant and vegetable matter, but was heavily marketed with pseudo-scientific attestations as a cure for all kinds of maladies, including constipation, indigestion, rheumatism, influenza, and anaemia.

By the 1930s the product was being marketed as a weight loss pill for women with advertisements proclaiming that …

“Slenderness can be yours without dieting or fatiguing exercise if you just take Bile Beans. Just a couple nightly and you’ll slim while you sleep.”

Thankfully the marketing of ineffective weight loss solutions using pseudo-scientific claims of efficacy, gushing about the natural origins of the ingredients, and targeting women with insecurities about their body image – that could never happen in our modern day and age, could it?

Lawson Crichton

Lawson Crichton was born in Coatbridge near Glasgow in Scotland in 1854. He ended his days in Lambton in 1906, as one of the town’s most prominent citizens.

Crichton arrived in Australia in 1875 and soon gained a position as assistant at the Hamilton Co?operative Store. In 1879 he married Agnes Logan Cherry, daughter of Robert Cherry of the Hamilton Hotel. In 1882 Crichton was appointed manager of the Lambton Co-operative store, situated on the north east corner of Pearson and Grainger Streets. In 1889 he resigned after purchasing a bakery business, but returned in 1896 as manager of the Hamilton and Lambton Co?operative Society.

Ralph Snowball’s September 1898 photograph shows Lawson and Agnes Crichton with several of their five children, and various employees in front of the Lambton store. For an interesting contrast in how some things change while other things stay the same, a close look at the signs on the store is instructive. One advertises “Cadburys Chocolate”, still widely enjoyed today, while another promotes “Bile Beans for Biliousness”, a product thankfully lost in history!

Lawson Crichton was active in many local institutions including the fire brigade, cricket club, football club, and several friendly societies and lodges. From 1899 to 1902 he was also a key member of the Lambton Citizens’ Committee. These were years when Lambton Council ceased to operate having been bankrupted by the failed electric lighting scheme. The Citizens’ Committee under the leadership of Crichton became the de facto local government, looking after sanitation, drainage and street repairs until the Council was reinstated in 1903.

Lawson Crichton died at his residence in Pearson St on 2 July 1906, aged just 52 years. The following day a funeral procession left his home and wound through the streets of Lambton. The impressively large attendance from the many groups he was associated a fitting testament to the high regard he was held in the community.

Lambton Co-operative Store, with Lawson Crichton (manager) and family. September 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Lawson Crichton. Photo from “The Story of Lambton”, Newcastle Family History Society.

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


Bile Beans for Biliousness

In Ralph Snowball’s 1898 photo, just to the right hand side of the main door is a sign that proclaims “Bile Beans for Biliousness Sold Here”.

Bile Beans were a completely fraudulent product created by Charles Edward Fulford and Ernest Albert Gilbert, and first sold in Australia in 1897. The product was a relatively harmless concoction of plant and vegetable matter, but was heavily marketed with pseudo-scientific attestations as a cure for all kinds of maladies.

Bile Beans marketing brochure c.1905. Archives New Zealand

A court in Edinburgh on 20 July 1906, ruling on a complaint from the manufacturers of Bile Beans about another company using the name, makes it pretty clear that Bile Beans were an elaborate scam. The British Medical Journal of 28 July 1906, reporting on the court’s judgement noted that the Bile Beans …

… were said to be made of Australian vegetable substances discovered by a Charles Forde. The place of the discovery, the mode of it, and the instrument of it were all deliberate inventions, without any foundation in fact.

The truth was that the complainers [the Bile Bean Manufacturing Company] had formed a scheme to palm off onto the public a medicine obtained from America, and they created a demand by flooding the country with advertisements, placards, pamphlets, and imaginary pictures. The complainers desired protection for the name “Bile Beans,” but being themselves engaged in perpetrating a fraud upon the public, they were not entitled to any such protection.

Despite the clearly articulated fraudulent nature of the product, it continued to be marketed aggressively and sold throughout the world, with its supposed benefits morphing over time. At various times Bile Beans were claimed to cure an astonishing number of ailments, including …

  • Biliousness
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Dyspepsia
  • Headache
  • Piles
  • Female Weakness
  • Pale faced girls
  • Irregularities
  • Bad Breath
  • Pimples
  • Blotches
  • Dizziness
  • Liver and Kidney Troubles
  • Heart Palpitation
  • Pain in Back and Side
  • Lack of Physical Tone
  • Heartburn
  • Tired Feeling
  • Debility
  • Anaemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bad blood
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Rheumatism
  • Flatulence
  • Influenza

By the 1930s the product was being marketed as a weight loss pill for women, with advertisements proclaiming that …

“Slenderness can be yours without dieting or fatiguing exercise if you just take Bile Beans. Just a couple nightly and you’ll slim while you sleep.”

Advertisement, Launceston Examiner, 21 Oct 1938.

Thankfully the marketing of ineffective dietary supplements using pseudo-scientific claims of efficacy, targeting women with insecurities about their body image, could never happen in our modern age.

Lambton Citizens’ Committee

The following is a brief timeline of Lawson Crichton’s involvement in the Lambton Citizens’ Committee.

  • 3 Mar 1900 – appointed to the committee
  • 2 Jun 1900 – appointed as chairman of the committee
  • 21 Sep 1901 – retired as chairman, but stays on committee
  • 5 Apr 1902 – last mention in the newspaper as being on the committee

Community involvement

In the article I mention that Lawson Crichton was active in many local institutions. A search of Trove shows that he was very busy indeed, being involved in the following activities

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
5 Jun 1879
3 Jun 1879
Marriage of Lawson Crichton to Agnes Logan Cherry.
3 Jul 1906
2 Jul 1906
Death of Lawson Crichton.
3 Jul 1906Funeral notices for Lawson Crichton.
3 Jul 1906"HAMILTON & LAMBTON CO-OP. SOCIETY. LAMBTON & HAMILTON STORES CLOSED TO-DAY on account of the death of the General Manager, Mr. Lawson Crichton."
4 Jul 1906
3 Jul 1906
Lawson Crichton's funeral.

Walsh Island Aerodrome

My August 2019 article for “The Local” is now out, this month on the crash of a DC47 aircraft at the District Park aerodrome in August 1944. In researching the article I was intrigued to discover that for a brief period in the 1930s there was an aerodrome on Walsh Island, in the northern part of Newcastle Harbour.

Walsh Island no longer exists as a separate island. With extensive land reclamation over the years, it is now part of Kooragang Island. The name however is retained in Walsh Point at the southern tip of Kooragang Island.

The outline of Walsh Island as it was in 1913, superimposed over a Google Earth image.

The location of Walsh Island was originally a collection of small low islands amidst shallow sand and mud banks in the north arm of the Hunter River. Major T. S. Parrot’s 1893 map shows Goat Island and a pair of adjacent islands evocatively named the Spectacle Islands. The future shape of Walsh Island can be seen in this map in the outline of the mud flats around these small islands.

Parrott’s 1893 map shows the Spectacle Islands where Walsh Island will later be created. National Library of Australia.

In 1898 a number of harbour improvements were instigated in Newcastle by the Harbours and Rivers Department. The Daily Telegraph on 17 March 1898 reported that construction of the northern break-wall at Stockton had commenced under the direction of Mr. H. D. Walsh the resident engineer, and that …

Another work which will be put in hand almost immediately is the erection of the training wall round the mud flat in the north harbor, euphoniously called — in anticipation — Walsh’s Island.

On 28 June 1898 the Newcastle Morning Herald noted that …

The reclamation of the sand-flat known as Walsh’s Island, in the upper portion of the north harbour, is being proceeded with, and a wall is now being built up around the edges by tipping stone, at the rate of 100 tons daily.

After the formation of Walsh Island was completed, nothing was done with it. In 1906 some were arguing that it had been a mistake to put the island there, and in 1907 the J and A Brown Company were suggesting that “the best thing to do with Walsh Island was to remove it altogether.

Walsh Island and the dredge “Castor” Newcastle, NSW, 5 May 1901. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Corporal Barrett’s map of Newcastle shows that in 1910 the southern part of Walsh Island had been constructed, but was devoid of any buildings or industry. The island is marked as being “8 feet above high water mark” and bounded on the left and right by a “low stone wall”.

Walsh Island on Barrett’s 1910 map. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

In September 1912, Mr Griffiths, the State Minister for Works, announced that a new Government Dockyards and Engineering Works would be constructed on Walsh Island. The ceremonial laying of the foundation stone for the new works was performed on 14 June 1913, and the official opening took place on Friday 27 November 1914. At that time the Dockyards and Workshops employed a 1000 men. By 1920 the workforce had expanded to 2500 skilled artisans.

The first recorded use of Walsh Island for aviation occurred on 21 August 1920, when the island had an unexpected visitor from the skies. Lieutenant Raymond Parer and Lieutenant John McIntosh were flying from Brisbane to Sydney, on one of the last legs in their epic seven month problem plagued journey from England to Australia. Facing an unexpected headwind for most of their flight down the coast, they ran low on fuel and needed to land in Newcastle. After making three attempts to land at the old Newcastle racecourse, they determined that it looked to be too bumpy, and after scouting around for other landing sites, eventually touched down on the sands of Walsh Island. They spent the night on the island resting in the home of Mr Cutler (manager of the dockyards), and resumed their journey to Sydney’s Mascot airport the next afternoon.

The impromptu landing of Parer and McIntosh directed attention to the need for “an acceptable aerodrome in this city.” Opinions were divided as to whether a new aerodrome should be situated on Walsh Island or in Broadmeadow. In October 1923 the Government gazetted 52 acres of District Park in Broadmeadow for aviation purposes. Despite the official gazetting, little was done to develop the Broadmeadow site.

On 29 January 1929, Squadron-Leader Charles Kingsford Smith landed his Southern Cross plane at District Park and spent the day inspecting areas in Newcastle suggested as aerodrome sites.

Interviewed a few minutes before his departure, the famous aviator had no hesitation in saying that he favoured Walsh Island as an aerodrome site in preference to those he had inspected at Hexham and Redhead. If an aerodrome were constructed there, a fleet of fast motor launches could be commissioned to run in conjunction with the proposed air service, and would cover the distance separating Walsh Island from the mainland in about seven minutes.

Kingsford-Smith’s endorsement carried weight, for by May 1929 an aerodrome was being constructed on the island.

Levelling dredged sand on Walsh Island, 17 May 1929. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

On 23 May 1929, Captain E. C. Johnson, superintendent of aerodromes for the Civil Aviation Department inspected the construction site, and declared that “Walsh Island is an ideal site and will make an excellent aerodrome” and “that judging by the progress made by the Works Department, in levelling the site, it would be ready within six months.” Flight Lieutenant Ulm of Australian National Airways visited Newcastle on 14 June 1929 and landed his DeHaviland Moth aircraft on Walsh Island to inspect the aerodrome preparations. The Daily Telegraph reported that ….

Lieutenant Ulm spoke in terms of the highest praise of the work already done at the aerodrome. When the service is in full operation the Australian National Airways proposes to erect a hangar at Walsh Island.

Captain Ulm after landing on Walsh Island, 14 June 1929. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

In August 1929 the Newcastle Morning Herald reported that …

The work of making ready the site for Newcastle’s aerodrome at Walsh Island is progressing satisfactorily. Three dredges are being kept busy at Walsh Island, and the material they are lifting from the river bed is being deposited on the aerodrome site. It should not be long now before the ground is ready.

A photograph in the National Library of Australia captioned as circa 1930 shows that the area planned for the Civil Aviation airfield is still under construction, with reclamation of the land from river dredging still in progress. On the middle right hand side of the photo there is wide dark straight line which I suspect may be one of the aerodrome runways under construction.

Aerial view of Walsh Island state dockyard and engineering works, Newcastle, New South Wales, ca. 1930. National Library of Australia

Two separate but adjacent airfields were proposed for the island – a smaller airfield to be used by the recently formed Newcastle Aero Club, and a larger airfield to be used for civil aviation.

Illustration from the Newcastle Sun, 15 August 1929, showing the location of the two proposed airfields on Walsh Island – the Aero Club field and the Civil Aviation field.

Although the land reclamation and levelling was performed by the Department of Works, the construction of the aerodrome was also enthusiastically and financially supported by the Government Dockyard. In August 1929, the Newcastle Aero Club in a letter to Colonel Brinsmead, Comptroller of Civil Aviation, wrote …

Dockyard authorities have been engaged assiduously in the preparation of the proposed aerodrome … Arrangements have been made for the construction by the dockyard authorities, of suitable hangar accommodation, and the dockyard is in a position to do so, and is most anxious to carry out all necessary repairs and will cooperate with the club in every way possible.

Construction of the aerodrome runways proceeded during 1929, and by late August it was reported that “one run-way has been practically completed.” A 30 November 1929 report noted that …

An aerodrome has been established on Walsh Island, embracing three runways, each 160ft wide and approximately 2500ft long, situated in the direction of the prevailing winds, enabling ‘planes to land in any direction on the site

With completion of the aerodrome imminent, Australian National Airways announced in September 1929 that …

Before 1929 has run its course, giant triple-engined ‘planes will be roaring over the aerial highway in a regular passenger service between Sydney and Brisbane, with Newcastle as an important port of call en route. Boarding the air liner at Walsh Island, Newcastle passengers booked for Sydney will land at Mascot aerodrome after an hour’s flight. The fare, probably, will be £2.

The airline’s dreams of a passenger service from Walsh Island proved to be premature. Just three months later in December 1929, their plans to use the aerodrome were in doubt …

Mr. M. C. Reid, of Newcastle, who is a director of the company [Australian National Airways], said that the area which would be available when the air service was commenced in January might not be considered sufficient to permit the giant air liners to alight and take off in perfect safety.

Despite the setback with regard to passenger traffic, the Newcastle Aero Club persisted with their plans. In March 1930, at a meeting to present their first annual report to members, the club’s committee noted that the aerodrome “is now fit to be licensed as a training ground” and that they had “asked the Civil Aviation Department to send an inspector to examine the Walsh Island Aerodrome.” Captain Burgess, NSW District Superintendent of the Civil Aviation Department, inspected both the District Park (Broadmeadow) and the Walsh Island aerodromes on 11 July 1930.

When interviewed, Captain Burgess would not commit himself, but is understood to have been of the opinion that the District Park site could be made suitable for an aerodrome if £3000 or £4000 were spent on improving it, but not otherwise; nor would the Walsh Island site be licensed unless improvements, costing at least as much, were made.

For the next two years, arguments were made for and against establishing Newcastle’s aerodrome at Walsh Island or District Park. Despite the fact that “some thousands of pounds were spent on preparatory work at Walsh Island”, the expenditure “was wasted, the site being abandoned”. The location of an aerodrome for Newcastle was effectively settled in August 1932 when the Department of Lands ruled in favour of the District Park site. The Department wrote to the chairman of the District Park Trust (Alderman Jenner) …

The matter of the establishment of an aerodrome at District Park has been given further consideration, and in view or the heavy costs to establish an aerodrome at Walsh Island as an alternative to the District Park site, it has been decided to allow the reservation [in District Park] for the joint purposes of public recreation and aviation.

The other factor in 1932 that doomed the Walsh Island aerodrome was the fate of the Government Dockyard. From the very beginning in 1929, the dockyard had been an avid supporter of the aerodrome project. Unfortunately the dockyard’s enthusiasm was not matched by the NSW Auditor-General, who in his report in December 1930 “found fault with the aerodrome expenditure without authority”, stating that …

… in my opinion, the surplus on the year’s trading was understated, by reason of certain capital expenditure, estimated by the General Manager at £5000, incurred in the preparation of an aerodrome site, having been incorrectly charged as “workshop expenses.”

This creative accounting led to personal consequences for the manager. In January 1932, with the dockyard’s profitability plummeting and a general dissatisfaction with the manager’s performance, the Government announced that …

… Mr. A. C. Waters (general manager of the State Government Dockyards at Newcastle) had received notice that his services would not be required after January 8 … Little has been made public concerning the inquiry into the administration of Walsh Island. It is understood, however, that the expenditure incurred in the attempt to create a Walsh Island aerodrome is one basis of the criticisms offered against Mr. Waters.

In the midst of the economic depression, the dockyard’s financial position became dire, and on 18 January 1933, the NSW Minister for Works (Mr Weaver) announced that the dockyards would be closed. The workforce was then progressively laid off as the remaining orders were completed. On 4 Jul 1933 it was reported that ..

The Government Dockyard at Walsh Island is at present working on its last job, and the workshop will then be closed down. Engineers who have had a look at the place recently state that it is being completely dismantled, and there is not much valuable machinery there now.

With the closure of the dockyard and engineering workshops, the island was once again practically deserted. The once grand plans of a Walsh Island aerodrome were now dead in the water. In the ensuing years there were occasional suggestions (March 1936, December 1940, May 1950) that the Walsh Island aerodrome could be be completed, but no action was taken.

In 1950 the industrial future of Walsh Island was re-launched by the State Government, with the Newcastle Morning Herald reporting on 30 March 1950 that …

The exchange of land between the Crown and the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd., proposed in the bill before State Parliament, is regarded by industrialists as the first major step in the reclamation of 6500 acres of Hunter River delta islands for industrial expansion.

The reclamation of land, “requiring more than 750,000 tons of harbour silt” commenced in January 1951. Eastern Nitrogen (now Incitec) subsequently established a fertiliser production plant on the site of Walsh Island in 1968.

The re-touched photograph

An undated aerial photograph on the Newcastle Industrial Heritage Association website shows the two adjacent airfields, each with three runways arranged in a triangular pattern. Don Phillips who worked on Walsh Island in the 1940s, in an interview in the Newcastle Herald on 14 September 2018 thinks this is a ‘re-touched’ photo. I agree with him, as the runways here are too crisp and clean in comparison with the rest of the photo, and there is no evidence of any adjoining infrastructure such as roads or hangars. Also the pale colour of the runways and their perfect symmetry is in contradiction to the 1 August 1936 newspaper report that the runways had a “tarred surface” and that “the work was never completed.”

The Aero Club and Civil Aviation airfields to the north of the Government Dockyard facilities on Walsh Island. Newcastle Industrial Heritage Association.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
17 Mar 1898"Another work which will be put in hand almost immediately is the erection of the training wall round the mud flat in the north harbor, euphoniously called - in anticipation - Walsh's Island."
28 Jun 1898"The reclamation of the sand-flat known as Walsh's Island, in the upper portion of the north harbour, is being proceeded with, and a wall is now being built up around the edges by tipping stone, at the rate of 100 tons daily."
18 Jun 1906"Ten years ago an island was built up in the North Harbour, and its usefulness has ever since been a source of discussion. There are many who hold that it was a mistake to put the island there, claiming, as they do, that there is not sufficient water accommodation."
12 Jun 1907"Mr. R. B. Hogue, manager for Messrs. J. and A, Brown, said he thought the best thing to do with Walsh Island was to remove it altogether."
21 Sep 1912Mr. Griffiith, the State Minister for Works informs the local M.P. Mr Grahame "that it had been definitely decided to establish the new Government works at Newcastle on Walsh Island."
16 Jun 1913
14 Jun 1913
"The laying of the foundation stone of the new workshops of the State Government … took place on Saturday last.
28 Nov 1914
27 Nov 1914
The official opening of the State Government Dockyards at Walsh Island.
25 Jun 1920The Prince of Wales launches the "Enoggera" at the Walsh Island dockyards, which now employs 2500 workmen.
23 Aug 1920
21 Aug 1920
Lieutenants Parer and McIntosh while on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney, elect to land on Walsh Island, after running low on fuel.
23 Aug 1920Lieutenant Parer and Lieutenant McIntosh, on one of their last legs in a seven month flight from England, are forced to land on Walsh Island. They originally made three attempts to land at the old racecourse "but no landing was effected, the reason, as Lieutenant Parer afterwards explained, being that the ground looked too bumpy, and there was risk from the fences."
23 Aug 1920"The landing of Lieutenants Parer and McIntosh at Walsh Island on Saturday directs fresh attention to the failure to provide an acceptable aerodrome site in this city. Almost every week, one or more airmen visit Newcastle, and have accustomed themselves to the inadequate accommodation to be found on the old racecourse. The City Council may reasonably be asked to seriously consider, the selection of a site which will not have to be passed over by world-famed airmen; because it Is 'too small and too bumpy.' "
30 Jan 1929
29 Jan 1929
Charles Kingsford Smoth inspects areas in Newcastle suggested as aerodrome sites. "Interviewed a few minutes before his departure, the famous aviator had no hesitation in saying that he favoured Walsh Island as an aerodrome site in preference to those he had inspected at Hexham and Redhead."
8 May 1929"Newcastle's aerodrome, under construction at Walsh Island, will be inspected next week by the supervisor of aerodromes (Captain E. C. Johnston) of the Civil Aviation Department."
23 May 1929"'Walsh Island is an ideal site and will make an excellent aerodrome,' said the superintendent of aerodromes (Captain Johnston) this afternoon, after an inspection of the 'drome there. He added that judging by the progress made by the Works Department, in levelling the site, it would be ready within six months."
14 Jun 1929"Flight-Lieutenant Ulm, accompanied by Mrs Ulm, flew from Sydney to Newcastle to-day to inspect the site of the aerodrome at Walsh Island, which is to be used in the Sydney-Brisbane air mail service."
6 Sep 1929Mr. Mark Reid, Director of Australian National Airways, Ltd announces that "before 1929 has run its course, giant triple-engined 'planes will be roaring over the aerial highway in a regular passenger service between Sydney and Brisbane, with Newcastle [Walsh Island] as an important port of call en route."
5 Dec 1929"Doubt has arisen as to whether Newcastle will be a port of call for the big triple-engined 'planes of the air mail line between Sydney and Brisbane, as was originally intended."
"Australian National Airways Ltd had planned to use the Walsh Island aerodrome as their Newcastle base ... the area which would be available when the air service was commenced in January might not be considered sufficient to permit the giant air liners to alight and take off in perfect safety."
29 Aug 1930"After months of investigation only two sites were found in Newcastle [for an aerodrome]. One was at Walsh Island and the other at District Park. The Walsh Island area has everything in its favor except that it is difficult of access. It takes only about 45 minutes to fly from Sydney to Newcastle, but it would take more than the flying time to get by launch and road from Walsh island to the city."
9 Dec 1930"The Auditor-General has some interesting observations to make concerning the Government Dockyard, Newcastle. He finds fault with the aerodrome expenditure without authority … estimated by the General Manager at £5000, incurred in the preparation of an aerodrome site, having been incorrectly charged as 'workshop expenses'."
21 Mar 1931"Several efforts have been made to establish an aerodrome at Newcastle, and there has been just as many set-backs. Some thousands of pounds were spent on preparatory work at Walsh Island, but it was wasted, the site being abandoned."
7 Jan 1932The General Manager of the Government Dockyards (Mr. A. C. Waters) dismissed. One factor in his dismissal was the unauthorised expenditure on the Walsh Island aerodrome.
18 Jan 1933The Minister for Works (Mr Weaver) announces that "when present orders are completed, within a few months time, the Government Dockyard, at Walsh Island, Newcastle, will be closed down."
19 Jan 1933"The Minister for Works (Mr. R. W. D. Weaver) stated to-night that on account of the continued financial loss in the operation of Walsh Island … that, with the exception of a small staff, which will be retained to carry out Government work, the services of all other employees will be dispensed with."
4 Jul 1933"The Government Dockyard at Walsh Island is at present working on its last job, and the workshop will then be closed down."
5 Aug 1933"The big dockyard at Walsh Island, which closed down some time ago, is being sold piecemeal. Only a workshop will be retained to handle minor repairs."
1 Aug 1936On Walsh Island … "before the engineering shops were closed, a considerable sum was spent on laying down a large area of tarred surface, which was intended for use as an aeroplane runway. The work was never completed, but it was carried so far that some time later several aeroplanes were able to make use of what surfacing had been carried out."

Drain Plane – District Park Aerodrome

Over the years, I have seen some strange things in the concrete stormwater drains that traverse our suburbs, but nothing compared to what the residents of Broadmeadow witnessed 75 years ago.

At that time, the area now occupied by Hunter Stadium and the Harness Racing Club was an aerodrome. The government had reserved the land for aviation purposes in 1923, but it was little used until the formation of the Newcastle Aero Club in 1928. In 1939, with the outbreak of world, the club’s aircraft were used by the R.A.A.F for training purposes, while a new military airfield was being constructed at Williamtown.

On 10 August 1944 Broadmeadow received an unscheduled military visitor, as the newspaper reported the following day …

Forced down in a storm, a D.C. 47 Army transport plane, with 25 men on board, skidded 200 yards on a wet runway, hurtled through a fence and then crashed into a stormwater channel at Broadmeadow aerodrome. The pilot (broken nose) and radio operator (head injuries) were the only people hurt, although all the others sustained a severe shaking.
In addition to the crew of four, the transport carried 21 members of United States bombing crews coming to Sydney on furlough. North of Newcastle the transport ran into the storm, and the pilot decided to attempt a landing at Broadmeadow. When he put down he was unable to control the plane on the wet runway. As it neared the channel, the plane slewed and it went in, nose first.

The accident was the seventh in two years involving the storm water channel, and this highlighted the unsuitability of the site as an airfield. After the war, commercial aviation commenced at Williamtown in 1947, and in 1961, the Aero Club moved to Rutherford. District Park reverted to its original purpose of public recreation, and the roar of aeroplane engines was replaced by the roar of sports fans.

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

Sightseers crowd around the Douglas 47 aircraft crashed in the stormwater drain at Broadmeadow in August 1944. From the archives of the Royal Newcastle Aero Cub.
The same location, August 2019

Additional information

I have previously written two blog posts on this air accident.

Although the area on the Broadmeadow flats wasn’t officially reserved for aviation purposes until 1923, pilots were using the ground well before that time. In April 1914 the Newcastle Morning Herald reported on the aviation display of Frenchman Monsieur Guillaux …

M. Guillaux’s aeroplane arrived at Broadmeadow yesterday, and is now safely housed in the pavilion on the Show Ground, ready for to-morrow’s performance. A great many people are under the impression that a full view of this world-renowned airman’s feats will be visible from the outside, but it is announced that all the daring somersaults, upsidedown turning, looping the loop, gliding, posing, as the great eagle in mid air, will be done within the enclosure, and not high enough for outsiders to see. Monsieur Guillaux is determined to give a greater and more daring exhibition than has been his lot to perform, and more so in honour of the fact that Newcastle is the first city In Australia that he is giving a public performance in.

An area for aviation in District Park was officially gazetted on 25 May 1923. A map of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve retrieved the Historical Lands Record Viewer, shows that the aerodrome area was officially gazetted or notified on 25 May 1923.

A map of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve retrieved the Historical Lands Record Viewer, shows that the aerodrome area to the north of the storm water drain.

A map from a land sale poster in 1923 shows an area of the Broadmeadow flat marked as “Public Recreation & Aviation Grounds”. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Although it was officially reserved for aviation in 1923, the ground seems to have been little developed and little used until October 1928 when the local councils began to discuss definite proposals for the development of an aerodrome. In October 1928 the Newcastle Aero Club was formed. Initially they used an aerodrome constructed on Walsh Island in 1929, and the club spent “thousands of pounds” constructing facilities at Walsh Island. However in October 1933, the club obtained a 14 year lease of the District Park aerodrome in Broadmeadow, and the Walsh Island aerodrome appears to have fallen into disuse.

Just weeks after the outbreak of World War 2, the Minister for Civil Aviation announced on 13 Sep 1939 that Williamtown had been decided as the site for a new military aerodrome, and that construction “would begin next week or the following week, and would be carried out as rapidly as possible.”

While the Williamtown airport was being constructed, the R.A.A.F. used the Newcastle Aero Clubs planes at the Broadmeadow aerodrome for training. The R.A.A.F. air base at Williamtown commenced operations on 15 February 1941.

R.A.A.F. Training planes at the Broadmeadow aerodrome, Newcastle Morning Herald, 28 June 1940.

During the war, the Broadmeadow aerodrome continued to be used and a number of accidents occurred during this time.

Photograph of the crashed Douglas C47 transport plane, from the Newcastle Morning Herald, 12 September 1944. New Lambton can be seen in the background.

One humorous side note to the August 1994 crash of the C47 Douglas plane, is that a life size painting of a nude girl on the plane attracted thousands of sightseers. Candice Campbell posting on her Flickr account wrote …

While looking in the store room [of the Royal Newcastle Aero Club] I found a poster with these images and a little bit of amusing info. Apparently on the nose, she had a naked pin up girl painted. After she crashed, the police came along and painted pants on the girl because they thought the public would be offended. I had a look at the image I found of the nose art after the police “attacked” it and it looks pretty funny. You have this beautiful woman, with these horrid pants on…

Towards the end of the war there were discussions whether the aerodrome at Broadmeadow should be expanded or a new aerodrome constructed at Sandgate. Neither of these eventuated, instead in 1947 the military airport at Williamtown opened to civilian traffic for charter flights. Scheduled commercial flights at Williamtown commenced on 20 February 1948.

In 1961 the Royal Newcastle Aero Club was given notice by the Department of Civil Aviation to cease operations at the field at Broadmeadow, and the club moved to Rutherford near Maitland.

In 1969 a sports ground and grandstand was constructed on the Broadmeadow aerodrome site. What is now McDonald Jones Stadium (or Hunter Stadium) was originally known as the International Sports Centre, and was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 10 April 1970.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
24 Apr 1914"M. Guillaux's aeroplane arrived at Broadmeadow yesterday, and is now safely housed in the pavilion on the Show Ground, ready for to-morrow's performance."
23 Feb 1921"One of the pilots of the Orva Aviation Company will to-day and each day this week make flights from a ground opposite the Showground at Broadmeadow."
7 Feb 1922"The corner of District Park, where the Wallsend and Waratah tram lines junction, has been decided on as a suitable site for the aerodrome for Newcastle." (Note that this describes the south eastern corner of District Park, however the eventual site chosen was the north western corner.)
19 Apr 1922"Negotiations have been continued for the establishment of an aerodrome at Newcastle. The Department of Defence, Melbourne, has requested the trustees of the District Park at Broadmeadow to grant a lease of the park at the earliest possible date."
25 May 1923Gazetting of 52 acres of District Park "for public recreation and aviation purposes."
6 Jun 1925Airways Ltd advertising flights "from the Govt aerodrome, District Park, Broadmeadow."
2 Oct 1928"To discuss definite proposals for making part of District Park suitable for an aeroplane landing ground, a conference of district councils and the park's trustees is to be called by the Acting Mayor of Newcastle."
12 Oct 1928
11 Oct 1928
Inaugural meeting of the Newcastle Aero Club, held in the Newcastle Council chambers.
30 Jan 1929
29 Jan 1929
Charles Kingsford Smith, in his Southern Cross airplane, lands at the District Park aerodrome, on his visit to Newcastle to inspect potential aerodrome sites for his airline.
10 Aug 1929Construction of an aerodrome on Walsh Island is progressing. Newcastle Aero club asking permission to use the aerordrome.
25 Oct 1933Fifty two acres of District Park leased to the Newcastle Aero Club for a period of 14 years.
15 Sep 1939Military aerodrome to be sited at Williamtown, with construction work to start immediately.
28 Jun 1940"TRAINING PLANES for the R.A.A.F. Newcastle Aero Club's training planes shown assembled at the Newcastle Aerodrome. The 13 planes were photographed in front of the hangar."
11 Aug 1944
10 Aug 1944
Crash of a Douglas C47 transport plane at Broadmeadow, reported in the Newcastle Morning Herald.
11 Aug 1944
10 Aug 1944
Crash of a Douglas C47 transport plane at Broadmeadow, reported in the "News" of Adelaide.
11 Aug 1944
10 Aug 1944
"The crashing yesterday at District Park aerodrome of an American Army Douglas transport plane has given impetus to the agitation to have the aerodrome improved. In the last two years, seven planes have crashed, either on the aerodrome or through unsuccessful attempts to land there - five of them within the last nine months."
22 Aug 1944"A life-size study in color of a nude girl painted on a crashed plane at Broadmeadow aerodrome is attracting thousands of sightseers every day."
23 Apr 1945Discussion on whether the aerodrome at Broadmeadow should be enlarged, or a new aerodrome constructed at Sandgate.