New Lambton Colliery

“In the depths of the bush, about half a mile to the south of the rising and flourishing township of Lambton, there was celebrated, on Thursday last, an event of no ordinary interest and importance.”

Thus began a Newcastle Chronicle report on the ‘turning of the first sod’ of the New Lambton colliery on 25 June 1868.

James and Alexander Brown were mining coal from the ‘Old Dog and Rat’ pit in East Lambton when they had a lucky break in 1868. On learning that the owners of Lambton colliery had failed to make payments on a mining lease, the Browns quickly stepped in and bought the mineral rights for 265 acres in the area we now know as New Lambton.

They immediately investigated the potential of their acquisition by commencing a trial shaft in April 1868. In June, at a depth of 100 feet, a good payable seam of coal was found and the Browns committed to developing a colliery at a cost of £10,000.

To inaugurate their new venture the Browns invited their employees and local dignitaries to a ceremony at the site on 25 June 1868. Two barrels of ale which had previously been conveyed to the ground, were at once tapped, speeches made, and the assembled company called upon to drink “Success to the New Lambton Colliery”.

Success came quickly, a new working shaft 16 feet in diameter was sunk, an engine house erected and a railway constructed to convey coal to the port. The colliery attracted miners and their families, and a town began to grow. Just a year later New Lambton was described as “going ahead, and buildings of all descriptions are multiplying fast.”

By 1884 the payable coal was exhausted, and the Brown’s moved on to establish other mines. The pit closed, but the town endured. The Chronicle was correct in asserting that the event celebrated 150 years ago was of no ordinary importance, for it marked the birth of New Lambton.

Major T S Parrott’s 1893 map of Newcastle showing the railway and a shaft of the New Lambton colliery. National Library of Australia.

 

Google Earth, showing the New Lambton Colliery mining lease, railway line, and a shaft located near present day Oxford St.


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

Additional Information

In working out the history of the New Lambton colliery I have used the following sources:

  1. Contemporary newspaper articles retrieved from Trove.
  2. “The Coal Mines of Newcastle NSW”, George H Kingswell, 1890.
  3. Map of Waratah Coal Company blocks, 1873. National Library of Australia.
  4. T S Parrott’s Map of the country around Newcastle, 1893. National Library of Australia.
  5. Plan of the Hartley Vale Railway, 1867. State Library of NSW.
  6. The Hartley Vale Railway Colliery act of 23 Dec 1867
  7. “Coal, Railways and Mines, Vol 1”, Brian Robert Andrews, 2004. (Although much of Andrew’s information is taken from the above sources.)

Trying to work out the history of the New Lambton Colliery, and the mines of J and A Brown in Newcastle is a tricky matter for a variety of reasons.

  • The newspaper articles are sparse and often very cursory, and can sometimes contain errors.
  • The term “pit” is ambiguous – it could mean
    • a specific shaft
    • a collection of mine buildings at a particular location
    • a mining lease
    • a mining company
  • Suburb names in a mine name can be misleading and bear no relation to geography. The classic example of this is the “East Lambton Colliery”, which was located in New Lambton, and operated by the Waratah Coal Company!

Bearing in mind these difficulties, here’s my summary of the Brown’s  mining leases and the history of New Lambton colliery.

Colour Notes
White Development of this 310 acre lease commenced in 1861. It was initially known as Brown’s Pit, and later as the Hartley Vale Colliery. The colliery was ready for production at the end of 1864, but was a commercial failure.
Blue This 280 acre lease was obtained by J&A Brown in 1862. Two pits  (marked as A and B pit on the 1867 Hartley Vale railway map) were commenced to the north of the Lambton colliery railway in 1866. The B Pit later became known as the “Old Dog and Rat Pit.” This pit was connected to the New Lambton/Hartley Vale railway via a tunnel underneath the Lambton railway.

In 1867 the “New Lambton Coal Pit” was opened on this lease, to the south of the Lambton colliery railway, with a short curved branch line off the New Lambton railway. This pit later became known as New Lambton A Pit when the new ‘B’ workings were opened up in the 265 acre lease in 1868. (See below.) Some time around 1883 the New Lambton A Pit was renamed New Duckenfield Colliery.

Green This 265 acre lease obtained by Stephen Foyle (on behalf of the Browns) in late 1867 when Morehead and Young failed to pay rent on lease. A trial pit was finished in June 1868 and a celebration held to inaugurate the “New Lambton Second Coal Working”, the first New Lambton coal working being the 280 acre lease in East Lambton. A working pit was commenced soon after. Somewhat confusingly, this New Lambton second coal working also became known as “the B or New Lambton Pit” (Kingswell)

Kingswell gives two contradictory dates as to when this pit ceased. On page 46 he states that the “B or New Lambton Pit” was “worked until the beginning of 1888”, and in the very next paragraph state that in 1884 “the old B Pit (was) finally abandoned.” (Although possibly this second reference is to the Old Dog and Rat pit in East Lambton?)

Orange/Red This 640 acre area consisting of two 320 acre leases was obtained by J&A Brown and Stephen Foyle in March 1867. The December 1867 Hartley Vale Railway act shows that the Brown’s intended to build a railway to this lease, but it was not completed at this time. After the New Lambton second workings began to wind down in 1884, the New Lambton ‘C’ Pit was commenced in this area in 1884, and the railway finally completed in March 1884.

The mining leases of J and A Brown.

The mining leases of J and A Brown in Newcastle, overlaid onto 1873 map.

1944 aerial photograph that shows the remnants of the New Lambton railway traversing the park.

Path of rail line to New Lambton B pit marked in red, and the short branch line to the New Lambton A pit marked in yellow.

Kingswell’s 1225 acres

On page 45 of “The Coal Mines of Newcastle NSW”, Kingswell states that the New Lambton Estate consists of 1225 acres.

In the year 1867 Messrs. J. and A. Brown commenced to work coal from the New Lambton Estate, which at present is the freehold property of Messrs. George R. Dibbbs, and Alexander Brown, M’s. P. It consists of 1225 acres, and is bounded on the north and east by the Commonage, on the south by the Waratah Coal Company’s land, while the estate of the Scottish Australian Mining Company forms the western boundary. Prior to opening a mine the firm obtained a mineral lease of some 280 acres from the Government, and on this block, which lies to the north of the present estate, the now celebrated Dog and Rat, or A Pit, was sunk.

Where was this 1225 acres? It is difficult to be certain, but given that in the next sentence he refers to the 280 lease as being “prior” and to the north of the “present estate”, then it is reasonably clear that the 280 acre lease (blue) is not included in the 1225 acres.

Thus adding the 310 acres (white), 265 acres (green) and the 640 acres (orange/red), comes to a total 1215 acres, which is very close to the figure of 1225 acres that Kingswell state. The discrepancy of 10 acres could be accounted for in two ways. It is possibly simply an adding up error, or possibly because the 265 acre lease on the maps is marked as “ex rds”, and that these excluded roads account for the missing 10 acres.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
3 Dec 1867First mention of New Lambton colliery in the newspapers. The article is reporting on the opening of a section of the Hartley Vale Railway, that leads to a new pit a pit "about half a mile ... from the Lambton Colliery, and which has been denominated by the Messrs. Brown 'The New Lambton Coal Pit.' "
If the distance of half mile is correct then this is almost certainly referring to a pit in the 280 acre lease in East Lambton. The article goes on to state that "The line further leads to a pit on the other side of the South [sic] Australian Company's Railway, underneath which a tunnel has been made." This is possibly referring to a connection to the Dog and Rat Pit which was to the north of the Lambton colliery railway.
4 Jan 1868James and Alexander Brown obtain the mineral lease for what would become the New Lambton mine, after Messrs. Morehead and Young of the Scottish Australian Mining Company indavertently fail to keep up payments on the mineral lease.
27 Jun 1868
25 Jun 1868
'Turning the first sod' of the New Lambton Colliery.
30 Jun 1868"The tunnel now in operation [the 280 acre east Lambton lease] will I believe give remunerative employment to about sixty miners, and I have no doubt, a profitable return to the proprietors for capital invested therein, until the new pit [265 acre lease in New Lambton] is in full working order."
4 Jul 1868"The new railway works at the New Lambton Colliery are being pushed forward as fast as practicably, and are I believe progressing satisfactorily."
4 Jul 1868Advertising for tenders for the sinking of the new working pit, and for earthworks in the extension of the New Lambton railway.
18 Jul 1868"The new line of railway at the new Lambton colliery is making considerable headway but the sinking of the new working pit has been considerably delayed in consequence, I believe, of the difficulties experienced in getting a boiler across a swamp separating the new pit from the end of the present railway."
5 Sep 1868"The extension of the New Lambton railway, is, I believe, progressing satisfactorily, and will, it is expected, in a short time, be so far advanced towards completion as to enable the proprietors to convey direct, any materials that may be required at their new pit, which is now down about seventy feet. It is expected that the coal in this shaft will be found at a depth of about 120 feet."
31 Oct 1868The Brown's New Lambton colliery "line of railway will be shortly completed."
29 Jul 1869"New Lambton is still going a-head, and buildings of all descriptions are multiplying fast. I am glad to see that those enterprising and really spirited men, the Messrs. J. and A. Brown, have commenced making a new line of railway to another new pit."
3 Mar 1877"Plans and specifications have been prepared for a bridge to cross the New Lambton Railway, and tenders will be called for the erection at once."
This was for a bridge on Lambton Rd (where Royal Place is now) to go over the New Lambton railway.
25 Aug 1883"The proprietors of the New Lambton Colliery are sinking a new shaft on their estate some mile and a-half from the present pit." This was the New Lambton C pit, which was located in the present day suburb of Adamstown.
22 Mar 1884"The railway to the new pit [C Pit] on the New Lambton Company's estate has been completed throughout in a very workmanlike manner by the contractor, Mr. Chas. Turner, and a large staff of workmen. The line is about two and a-quarter miles in length from its junction with New Lambton railway to the pit mouth."
1 Aug 1890New Lambton council prepares "specifications for the work of pulling down the New Lambton Railway Bridge, on the main road, and filling up the road."
6 Aug 1890Tenders called for "filling in roadway over New Lambton railway at main road bridge."

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.

Links

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.

PasturageNSEW