Barrett’s 1910 Map

Maps, like photographs, provide a glimpse into the past. They allow us to see the shape of our city as it once was. One of the most important and fascinating examples is Barrett’s 1910 Map of the country around Newcastle N.S.W. Previously, maps were mostly concerned with property, and focussed on details such as parish boundaries and mining leases. Barrett’s map however was born of military needs.

With the federation of Australia in 1901, defence became the responsibility of the national government, and it was soon realised that the scope and quality of current maps were woefully inadequate for military purposes. Because the newly formed Australian Army did not have the expertise, in 1908 Colonel Bridges wrote to the War Office in London asking that surveyors and cartographers be loaned to Australia for a period of two years, to assist in local mapping.

In answer to that request, the steamship Omrah arrived in Australia in April 1910 carrying four soldiers of the Royal Engineers, including Irish born Lance Corporal Arthur Barrett. The men were first sent to Newcastle, and for the remainder of 1910 worked on producing the map that bears Barrett’s name.

It is an exquisitely detailed map, showing individual buildings, the location of churches, schools, post offices, and council chambers. The topography of the land is carefully laid out, with features such as creeks, vegetation, and the contours of hills. Important industrial landmarks such as quarries, mines, factories, and even chimney stacks are comprehensively documented.

Barrett retired from the Army in 1919 to become the proprietor of a bookshop in Melbourne. A print of his 1910 map of Newcastle hangs in the rear room of the Newcastle Family History Society, in the Mechanics Institute building in Elder St. It is well worth a visit, to appreciate close up the beauty and detail of this remarkable and historic map, and for just a moment, to peer into the past.

The Lambton, New Lambton and Broadmeadow portion of Barrett’s 1910 map. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The Lambton, New Lambton and Broadmeadow area in Google Maps, 2018.

The article above was first published in the January 2018 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.

Additional information

Most of the information for this article came from the book Australia’s military map-makers: the Royal Australian Survey Corps 1915-96 by C.D. Coulthard-Clark. The Auchmuty library at Newcastle University holds a copy of this book. (358.20994 COUL)

A digitised copy of Barrett’s map can be found in the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections site.

The article above mentions Colonel Bridges writing to the War Office in London in 1908. This was William Throsby Bridges who became the Australian Army’s first Chief of the General Staff (CGS) in January 1909. He was later promoted to Major-General on the outbreak of war in 1914, and was killed by sniper fire at Gallipoli in 1915. Bridges Road in New Lambton (which did not yet exist when Barrett mapped the area in 1910) is named after him.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
6 Apr 1910
5 Apr 1910
The steamship Omrah arrives in Fremantle from London, carrying four personnel from the Royal Engineers to carry out mapping in Australia: Lance Corporal A.H. Barrett, Lance Corporal E.F. Davies, Lance Corporal R. Wilcock, and Corporal J. Lynch.
27 Apr 1910"Four non-commissioned officers of the Royal Engineers recently arrived in Melbourne by the s.s. Omrah to take up work in connection with the military survey staff. They were Corporal J. Lynch, and Lance-Corporals A. Barrett, E. F. Davies, and R. Wilcock."
12 Jul 1919A. Barrett succeeds R. Chugg as proprietor of the Antiquarian Bookshop, 431 Little Collins St, Melbourne.
4 Jun 1925Death of Arthur Barrett.

Maps – Bridges Road

A glance at any map of Lambton and New Lambton shows the area was never traced out in a grand design by a town planner. It grew haphazardly, and the strangely shaped streets abutting at odd angles forms not only a mosaic on the map but a mosaic in history. Each oddity has a story to tell.

One of the more curious stories is of Bridges Road, for in an 1893 map of the region produced by Major T. S. Parrott of the Engineer Corps Sydney, we see not a road, but a line marked “Unused Railway”. This was the rail line of the ill-fated Australasia Coal Company. Having obtained a coal lease in the Hillsborough area in 1873 they spent a vast sum of money building a railway to connect their mine to the port of Newcastle. In October 1877 the first trainload of coal was taken to the port, but within 18 months, as a result of spectacularly bad management, the company went bust and the rail line fell idle.

By 1894 it was clear that line would not be used again and the rails were removed. The rail corridor was released to New Lambton council in 1915, and by 1918 a short section of road was constructed south of Russell Road. Initially called South Greta Road, in 1919 it was renamed Bridges Road in honour of Major General William Throsby Bridges of the Australian Army, who was killed by sniper fire at Gallipoli in 1915.

Bridges Road was extended several times towards the south in the following years and revealed a surprise in 1962. When the Bridges Road-Northcott Drive underpass was excavated, workers found buried in the earthworks, still intact, the original 1887 wooden viaduct that carried the Great Northern Railway over the Australasian Coal Company’s line. An unexpected and long hidden reminder of the genesis of Bridges Road.

A portion of T.S. Parrott’s 1893 map of Newcastle, showing what is now Bridges Road as an unused colliery railway. National Library of Australia.

The article above was first published in the January 2017 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.

Additional information

This 1915 real estate advertisement shows Bridges Road marked as “South Greta Road”. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Map showing the northern most section of Bridges Rd, with an annotation regarding the gazetting of the road. R13119 – 1603. Public Road. Road Dedicated Gaz 8 Mch’18

This map is from the NSW Historical Land Records Viewer.

  • Parish = Newcastle
  • Edition Year = 1912
  • Sheet reference =1
  • Edition number = 2

This 1919 real estate advertisement, shows “Greta Road”, at the time its was being renamed to “Bridges Road”. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

This locality plan from a 1925 real estate advertisement shows that Bridges Rd extended only as far as St James Rd, and that it was also known as Bridges Street. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

This locality plan from a 1927 real estate advertisement shows that Bridges Rd was extended down to Henley Street. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

In 1962, when excavating under the Great Northern Railway embankment in order to extend Bridges Road into Northcott Drive Kotara, the original viaduct bridge over the old Australasian Coal Company railway was rediscovered. J.F. Weber reported on this on page 161 of the September 1964 issue of “The Australian Railway Historical Society”.

Excavations for the Eastern abutment revealed heavy bridge timbers embedded in the embankment and puzzled engineers, on searching old plans, discovered that, at this exact spot, a viaduct of seven 26-feet timber openings had previous existed, being part of the original main-line construction. It had served as a flood opening, the second span being left clear for the possible revival of the Australasia Coal Company’s railway. It had existed until 1902, when the gap was closed by burying the viaduct in an embankment, as only a small opening was required for storm water. The old timbers, when excavated, were found to be still sound and in good condition, 61 years after burial and some 76 years after original erection.


Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
31 Oct 1874Australasia Coal Company, initial share offering closes.
2 May 1876The earthwork for the first three miles of the Australasian Coal Company's line completed.
24 Mar 1877Laying the Australasian Coal Company rail line proceeding … "about three miles of plates have been laid, locomotives being enabled to run within a short distance from the eastern mouth of the tunnels" at Stoney Pinch.
5 Aug 1878
20 Oct 1877
First trainload of coal from the Australasia Coal Company.
14 Mar 1879
12 Mar 1879
At a meeting of the shareholders of the Australasian Coal Company, it was resolved to wind up the company.
16 Aug 1887
15 Aug 1887
Opening of the Gosford to Newcastle section of the Great Northern Railway. The railway passes over the defunct Australasian Coal Company rail line at Kotara.
31 May 1892"Major Parrott of the Engineer Corps, Sydney, has been engaged preparing a military reconnaissance map of the country along the coast between Broken Bay and Newcastle."
12 Jan 1894Australasia Coal Company railway - rails being removed, discussion about the Government resuming the line.
26 Jan 1917Before being renamed "Bridges Road", it was known as "Greta-road Extended".
8 Mar 1918Bridges Road gazetted as a public road – Ref. R13119-1603
6 Feb 1919New Lambton Council honours three Australian Army generals (Birdwood, Monash, Bridges) in the naming of three streets in the municipality.
27 Sep 1924In nominating for a vacant council position, F.W. Shayler's address is stated as "Greta-road or Bridges-street", indicating there is still ambiguity over the name of the street five years after the official name change.

Occident Accident

A couple of months ago in an e-mail conversation with Mark Maclean we noted that in Hamilton North and Broadmeadow there is a “Boreas St” (North) and an “Orient St” (East) and an “Australia Rd” (South).  I jestingly wondered about the missing compass point, and the whereabouts of “Occident Rd” (West).

NSEI actually did a search on Google Maps and found that the closest was an “Occident St” in Nulkaba, which interestingly has a companion “Boreas St” and “Austral St”, but is missing an “Orient St”.

Then a few days ago when I was putting together the web page for my January 2016 article for the Lambton Local, I accidentally and serendipitously discovered on a 1906 real estate map that there was an “Occident Rd”, in neighbouring Waratah West!

WThis road was closed in 1910, and Christo/Christie Rd shortened.

OccidentRdClosedBy overlaying the old map onto Google Earth you can get a sense of where Occident Rd used to be, in the area which is now part of the Acacia Avenue Reserve.

WGESo is there any intentional connection between these streets? I have seen no direct evidence of this, but it is somewhat suggestive that when you look at a map of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve (below) where the reserve boundary is marked in green, that Occident Rd is adjacent to the west boundary, Orient St is adjacent to the east boundary and Boreas St is on a north boundary of the reserve. Coincidence or not? Unfortunately Australia St is not near any boundary.


Not much of a Jewel

LambtonIn Google Maps, if you search for a suburb name, as well as the map result the page will show a photo from the suburb, which presumably is auto-selected by the Google-fairy-bots according to some secret algorithm. Mostly this works. For example for “Lambton NSW” you get a nice photo of Lambton Park and the rotunda.

But search for “Jewells NSW” and you get … a burnt out car and assorted rubbish on a beach track. The Google-fairy-bots might need a bit of help on this one.


NewJewellsUpdate 23 Jan 2016

Searching for Jewells now shows someone’s driveway. A step up from a burnt out wreck, but not exactly showcasing the suburb.

Long shadows in curious places

KahibaRd2015My latest article for the Lambton Local is out, this month exploring the topic of old maps. In the course of researching and writing this article I discovered amongst other things why this building has a kink in it, and the location of Occident Road, the counterpart to Orient Road Hamilton North.

Also I have put together a visual index to the historical real estate maps in the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections photo archive.