Oh look, a shiny book

Oh look, a shiny book. And my name is on the cover.

Julie Keating has continued her series of books focussing on Newcastle suburbs in the 19th and early 20th century. For the latest book on New Lambton, Julie invited me to contribute some of my blog articles on various aspects of New Lambton history.

The book is $25 and can be purchased from New Lambton Post Office, MacLeans bookshop in Beaumont Street Hamilton, and the the Marketown Newsagency in Newcastle West.

Dog and Rat

The origin of the name may be uncertain and the precise location unknown, but the “Dog and Rat” pit was once a celebrated colliery of the East Lambton area. In 1862 James and Alexander Brown obtained a 280 acre mining lease south of Waratah, and in 1866 opened the unremarkably named A Pit and B Pit. By 1871 however, the southern pit was known as the “Old Dog and Rat”.

There have been several explanations offered for the name, that it is rhyming slang for “Griffiths’ Flat” or because miners took their dogs underground to hunt rats. The likely explanation is that it derives from the sport of rat coursing. The earliest report on the origin of the name notes that “although the area was a dense bush, with swampy ground on either side, quite a number of men could obtain a day’s sport with their dogs hunting the rats.” The name of the pit also attached to the road leading to it. What is now Young Rd was previously known as Dog and Rat Rd.

The pit ceased operation in 1884, although there were a few later attempts to extract remnant coal. It is last mentioned in the Department of Mines annual report of 1893, where “David Hughes gave notice that he had ceased all work at the Old Dog and Rat, and filled up all shafts.” The colliery was gone, but the name hung around. In 1925 the East Lambton Progress Association wrote to the Council requesting that the name “Dog and Rat” be discouraged. The Mayor responded that as it was not an official name, there was nothing to be altered.

Where was the pit? Three pieces of information give us a clue. An 1871 report indicates that it was within the Lambton Municipality, which places it north of Womboin Rd. An 1874 report states that it was south of Young Rd. Finally, the western boundary of the Brown’s lease means it was located somewhere in the triangular area below.

The Dog and Rat pit was located somewhere in this triangular area of East Lambton. Google Earth.

Ralph Snowball’s studio at 19 Clarence Rd, New Lambton. The colliery headframe barely visible on the horizon is probably the Dog and Rat pit. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.


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

Location of the pit

Three pieces of information constrain the location of the “Old Dog and Rat” pit to within a triangular area of East Lambton.

1. Womboin Road

A public meeting was held in Lambton on 14 July 1871

“for the purpose of bringing forward from amongst them the most fit and proper persons to be nominated as candidates for the office of aldermen in their newly-appointed municipality.”

The electoral status of one of the participants in the meeting was questioned when …

“Mr. Hindmarsh objected to Mr. Hardy asking any questions, he not being an elector. Mr. Hardy said that he resided within the proclaimed boundary, viz , at the Old Dog and Rat Pit, of the Messrs. Brown, inside of the Lambton railway. The Chairman ruled that he (Mr. Hardy) was an elector.”

A map from a 1906 real estate poster shows that the municipal boundary ran along the Lambton colliery railway adjacent to present day Womboin Rd. Also the phrase “inside of the Lambton railway” suggests that the Dog and Rat pit was to the north of the curved section of rail line.

Portion of 1906 real estate poster, showing boundary of Lambton Municipal Council. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

2. Young Road

In the 1870s when there was a push to get a main road built from Newcastle to Wallsend, there was much dispute about the route that it should take. There were two competing proposals – a southern route that passed through New Lambton (Lambton Rd) and a more direct northern route that follows the line of Young Rd.  On 6 May 1874 Thomas Croudace, an advocate for the southern route, wrote a letter to the editor comparing and contrasting the two proposals. Compare his description of the northern road with the annotated map below.

“The route upon leaving Hamilton1 proceeds north-westerly over the BroadMeadow Swamp2, across the New Lambton3 and Lambton railways4, between the old Dog and Rat Pit5, and New Lambton Smelting Works6, to the ridge whereon old Peacock lives7, and thence to the dividing line of Lambton and Grovestown townships.”

Thomas Croudace’s description of the proposed northern route of the main road.

The “New Lambton Smelting Works” was located in present day Broadmeadow, so therefore the Dog and Rat Pit must have been to the south of Young Rd.

3. Brown’s mineral lease

An 1873 map of Waratah Coal Company leases, shows the 280 acre lease of J and A Brown.

Waratah Coal Company blocks, 1873. National Library of Australia. MAP F 82.

When overlaid into Google Earth, this establishes the western boundary of possible locations for the Dog and Rat Pit.

J and A Brown’s 280 acre lease.

The Snowball photo

The undated Ralph Snowball photo is of his house and studio at 19 Clarence Rd New Lambton, looking towards the north east. On the horizon, a colliery head frame (1) can be seen between two identifiable features – the Waratah Benevolent Asylum (2) on the left, and the chimney of the New Lambton Copper Smelting Works (3) on the right.

Replicating those angles as lines in Google Earth, we see that the middle line passes directly over the triangular area in East Lambton where we know the Dog and Rat pit was located. So although we can’t know with 100% certainty, it is highly probable that the colliery head frame in the photo is that of the old Dog and Rat pit.

Annual Mining Reports

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Resources and Geoscience section, has an online archive of historical mining documents in their Digital Imagin Geological System (DIGS) . A number of the annual reports in the archive include references to the Dog and Rat pit.

Year Notes
1879 Dog’s Rat.-Two miners getting house coal on their own account on the New Lambton Estate. No cause of complaint.
1882 Dog and Rat, Waratah Commonage.  August 11.-Messrs. D. Hughes, B. Tonks, and J. Ruttley, of Waratah, gave notice of having sunk a shaft to mine for coal on what is known as the Dog and Rat Estate, leased by Messrs. J. & A. Brown, Waratah Commonage.
1883 Page 129. Dog and Rat pit – 3 men above ground, 19 underground. Tonnage included with New Lambton and New Duckenfield.
1884 Page 127. Dog and Rat pit – 3 men above ground, 10 underground. Tonnage included with New Lambton and New Duckenfield.

Page 140. Dog and Rat. -There are about ten men employed in this mine. The ventilation is good throughout and the requirements of the Act complied with in every other respect.

1885 New Lambton, Dog and Rat, New Duckenfield mines listed together – 178 men employed.
1886 New Lambton and New Duckenfield mines listed together – Dog and Rat has disappeared from the list.
1890 Page 189. On March 29th, Mr. Ruttley notified that he had sunk a shaft at the old Dog and Rat Colliery, and intended to drive in the coal.

Page 189. On September 19th, William Metcalfe and H. L. Price notified that they had commenced mining operations on a portion of the New Lambton estate, near to the Dog and Rat. The pit is known by the name of the Enterprise.

1892 Page 95. Dog and Rat Colliery (North Lambton).-This mine has been commenced during the six months.  There are 4 men, &c., employed, and the Act complied with.
1893 Page 87. Old Dog and Rat Colliery. David Hughes notified, on 17th April, his intention of opening out a portion of the Old Dog and Rat Colliery, on the east side of Lambton line.

Page 88. On 8th August David Hughes gave notice that he had ceased all work at the Old Dog and Rat, and filled up all shafts.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
18 Jul 1871
15 Jul 1871
In a public meeting to call for the nomination of candidates for the newly proclaimed Lambton Municipality, the location of the Dog and Rat pit is clearly identified as being inside the Lambton municipal boundaries.
"Mr. Hindmarsh objected to Mr. Hardy asking any questions, he not being an elector. Mr. Hardy said that he resided within the proclaimed boundary, viz , at the Old Dog and Rat Pit, of the Messrs. Brown, inside of the Lambton railway."
6 May 1874Thomas Croudace, in a letter to the newspaper advocating the southern (New Lambton) route for the main road, describes the proposed northern route as follows - "the route upon leaving Hamilton proceeds north-westerly over the BroadMeadow Swamp, across the New Lambton and Lambton railways, between the old Dog and Rat Pit, and New Lambton Smelting Works, to the ridge whereon old Peacock lives.
18 Sep 1875
14 Sep 1875
A report of an accident and injury to John McCormack on the New Lambton Railway "near the Old Dog and Rat Tunnel".
2 Jul 1881Advertisement for rat coursing to be held at Bunn's Northumberland Hotel, Lambton.
14 Apr 1885First mention of 'Dog and Rat Rd'.
"The late rains have not improved the condition of our roads. The one known as the Dog and Rat-road is much in need of repair. There is a large amount of traffic upon it, and the council would greatly benefit owners of vehicles by expending a few pounds in repairs."
7 Dec 1889In an article on the collieries of the Newcastle district, while describing the New Lambton Pit it is noted that "the Brothers Brown obtained from the Government a mineral lease of some 300 acres in a block, which lies to the north of the present estate. It was there that the famous A, or "Dog and Rat," pit was sunk."
(The exact lease area was 280 acres.)
15 Aug 1891First mention of Young Rd, Lambton, in the newspapers.
2 Jul 1892
1 Jul 1892
At a municipal conference, the road between Hamilton and Broadmeadow is referred to as "what is now known as Young-road, but was formerly known as the 'Dog and Rat road' ".
13 Jul 1899
12 Jul 1899
Last mention of Dog and Rat road in the newspapers, where Mr. E. Bowling presented a petition to Hamilton Council "signed by about 100 people in the district, urging upon the Government to resume and form the old Dog and Rat pit road."
21 Aug 1914Last contemporaneous mention of 'Dog and Rat' in the newspaper, in a letter to the editor about the proposed gas lighting of Lambton streets.
24 Jun 1925
23 Jun 1925
Lambton Council meeting. "Correspondence was received from the president, East Lambton Progress Association, stating that the members of the association desired the use of such names as "Dog and Rat" and "Griffith's Flat" be discouraged. They wished to have that portion of the municipality east of Karoola, Lloyd, and Waratah roads designated East Lambton, and recognised by the postal and other authorities. The Mayor stated that neither of these names appeared in the council's plans, consequently the council had nothing to alter."
24 Jun 1925"WHAT'S IN A NAME ?
Lambton 'Dog and Rat'
Many years ago when rat-coursing was popular in this district, the 'sport' was extensively carried on in what is now known to some as East Lambton. The place became designated as 'the dog and rat,' and is still so referred to by many."
25 Jun 1925"Old residents claim that the title 'Dog and Rat' originated from an old coal mine, which was situated alongside the old New Lambton railway line, which, at that time ran through what is now the New Lambton Park, and outside the boundary of the municipality of Lambton. The mine, both underground and on top, was infested with rats, and although the area was a dense bush, with swampy ground on either side, quite a number of men could obtain a day's sport with their dogs hunting the rats."
14 Sep 1938"Many years ago, Mrs. Pritchard said, rats were taken to Lambton in crates and liberated on the flat. Greyhound dogs owned by the miners chased and caught the rodents. Hundreds of men gathered from every part of the then known mining district because "ratting" was considered an exciting sport and was sometimes held twice a week. It was not known where the rats came from; but the locality where the sport was conducted was known for many years as 'Dog and Rat'."
8 Aug 1945" 'Dog and Rat' was the first pit in which Mr Gibbs worked. The odd name came from the miners' practice of taking their fox terrier to work to hunt the rats in the mine. The part of East Lambton in which the mine was situated still gets the sobriquet."
6 Mar 1953"One learned opinion why this place got the Dog and Rat title is that it was known as Griffiths Flat and the boys who played there shortened it to The Flat and then turned it into rhyming slang. This view is overborne by the opinion of many old residents that it was a place where there were coursing meetings, the 'hares' being rats."

Ralph Snowball’s House and Studio

Where was Ralph Snowball’s house and studio in New Lambton?

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections site has a number of photographs captioned as Ralph Snowball’s house or studio in Clarence Rd, New Lambton.

Ralph Snowball’s studio, New Lambton, NSW, 11 April 1902

Ralph Snowball Studio, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, [n.d.]

Ralph Snowball Studio, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, [n.d.]

Ralph Snowball’s house, Clarence Street, New Lambton, NSW, 11 April 1902

Chinese Market Gardener at Ralph Snowball’s residence, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, September 1886

The first thing to note is that these are all of the same building. Compare the fence and the verandah in these two photos.

The NSW Land Registry Services has a historical map that shows a property owned by R.G. Snowball on the corner of Clarence Rd and Baker St (lot 1165), and for a number of years I thought that the photographs above were of that location


Recently I realised that couldn’t be right, in particular because in one of the photos of the back of the house (on the elevated side of the block) there is clearly another house to the right. So the Snowball house in this photograph cannot have been on a corner.

Also in the Cultural Collections archive is a photo taken from near the top of Collaroy Rd, looking northwards towards Lambton colliery and township.

Lambton Colliery and township, Lambton, NSW, 15 October 1900

I was able to locate Snowball’s house in this photograph, and notice that the right wall of the Mechanics’ Institute in Lambton, the top of the Lambton Park rotunda, and the chimney of Snowball’s house were in alignment. I was then able to replicate that alignment in Google Earth by drawing a straight line using the Mechanics’ Institute and rotunda as guide points.

Using this alignment in Google Earth, I then inspected the path of that line on a 1944 aerial photograph looking for a matching building – one with an expansive front yard with steps going up to the front of the house, and with the back of the house very close to the street. There was a very good match at 19 Clarence Rd.

A closer inspection of the map with the property owners names shows on lot 1149, although the name is slightly worn away, “Ralph Snowball”.

Finally, when I overlaid this map into Google Earth along with the line I had drawn earlier using the Mechanics Institute and Rotunda as a guide, the line goes straight through lot 1149!

Google Earth shows that lot 1149 (19 Clarence Rd) now has two modern buildings on the block.

Locating this block of land also explains why the Federal Directory of Newcastle and District for 1901 has a listing for “Photographer. Snowball, Ralph, Gwydir Rd”.

New Lambton Aldermen

Eighty years ago in 1938, eleven suburban councils merged to form the City of Greater Newcastle council.  New Lambton Council was incorporated on 9 January 1889, and a ballot to elect nine aldermen was held on 2 March 1889.  The first Council meeting was held five days later in Sneddon’s Hall, and Thomas Croudace, the mine manager of the Lambton Colliery, was elected as the first Mayor. Croudace had previously served as alderman and Mayor of Lambton Council. His municipal enthusiasm seemed to know no bounds, for in 1891 and 1892 Croudace was simultaneously an alderman on both Lambton and New Lambton councils, as well as Mayor of New Lambton.

Unlike Lambton’s troubled debt laden history, New Lambton Council was conservative with its spending, but was not completely untouched by financial controversy. In 1916 there was quite a stir when the Town Clerk, William Danne, was discovered to have fraudulently altered council cheques to his own name. He was arrested, tried and sentenced to four months prison.

Over the years New Lambton Council had 83 different aldermen, ten of whom served a decade or more. At the other extreme is John Leyshon, who in 1894 resigned from office just 15 days after being elected.

A total of 27 aldermen held the position of Mayor, and a number of streets in New Lambton are named in their honour, including Croudace, Dunkley, Errington and Longworth. Of particular note is George Errington, who was elected Mayor on seven occasions in his 26 years on New Lambton Council.  Errington was born in Durham, England, in 1863, and arrived in New Lambton in 1880 to work as a miner. He was first elected to council in 1891 and finished his last term in 1920. George Errington died in 1934 at his daughter’s Mayfield residence Iberia, named after the steamship that had brought George to Australia 54 years earlier.

Alderman George Errington. Truth newspaper (Sydney), 4 Jun 1911.

The New Lambton Council Chambers were destroyed by fire in April 1931. Photo by Ralph Snowball, University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.


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

Additional information

Much of the information in this article was sourced from material I have previously published on this website. See my articles on

George Errington

The “Truth” newspaper of Sydney published a short biographical article on George Errington on 4 June 1911.

Alderman Errington was born in Durham, England, in the year 1863, and came to New South Wales in the s.s. Iberia, the vessel that later on took the N.S.W. contingent to the Soudan. He went to the Illawarra district, thence to the Newcastle district, and took up his residence in New Lambton, where he has resided ever since, with the exception of a few months in Queensland. He was Miners’ Delegate for some years, also vice-president of Eight Hour Committee, and presided at the opening of the Trades Hall in Newcastle. He has been in the Council 20 years, and has been Mayor six times. He was appointed Justice of the Peace ten years ago. He is one of the municipal representatives on the Water and Sewerage Board, and occupies the position of vice-president this year. He is also a trustee of the district park. He ran as the selected Labor candidate for Wickham a few years ago, and was defeated by a small majority.

Birth place:Durham, England
Death date:24 May 1934
Death place:Mayfield
Burial site:Sandgate
Burial Long,Lat :151.707931,-32.870902 (KML File for Google Earth)
Burial date:25 May 1934
George Errington served as an alderman of New Lambton Council for 26 years.

George Errington served as an alderman of New Lambton Council for 26 years.

Headstone of George Errington.

Headstone of George Errington.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
4 Jun 1911Short biographical article on George Errington, Mayor of New Lambton.
1 Mar 1916William Charles Danne, town clerk of New Lambton, charged with cheque fraud committed on February 15th.
4 Mar 1916
1 Mar 1916
Special meeting of New Lambton council to discuss the recent fraudulent of action of the town clerk, William Charles Danne. The aldermen unanimiously carry a motion to dismiss the town clerk.
9 Mar 1916
8 Mar 1916
William Charles Danne, former town clerk of New Lambton pleads guilty to two charges of cheque fraud, and is sentenced to four months imprisonment.
31 May 1934
24 May 1934
Death of George Errington, longest serving Mayor of New Lambton.
22 Sep 2016William Charles Danne convicted of another cheque fraud and sentenced to two years hard labour.

Lambton Aldermen

Eighty years ago in March 1938, eleven suburban councils merged to form the City of Greater Newcastle council.  Lambton Council was incorporated on 26 June 1871, and a ballot to elect nine aldermen was held on 7 August 1871.  The first Council meeting was held the following day in the original Mechanics’ Institute building in Howe St, and Uriah Broom elected as the first Mayor.

Over the years Lambton Council had 99 different aldermen, and they were all men. For most of the life of the Council this was by law. Women were only allowed to nominate with the passing of the Local Government Act of 1919, but even then, no women ever stood for election in Lambton.

The Council’s biggest crisis was the failure of the electric light scheme. Switched on in 1890, by the end of the decade it had sent the Council bankrupt. As no one wanted to serve on a financially crippled body, by 1899 the Council effectively ceased, with insufficient aldermen to form a quorum at meetings. In the elections scheduled for February 1902, not a single person nominated. Due to a quirk in the rules of local government, the last man left sitting in the Mayoral chair, Matthew Thornton, retained his position, and for the next two years was the Mayor of a council with no aldermen, not even himself!

A total of 28 aldermen held the position of Mayor, and a number of streets in Lambton are named in their honour, including Johnson, Charlton, Dent, Croudace, Notley and Noble. Of particular note is J T Johnson, who was elected Mayor on eight occasions in his 24 years on Lambton Council. He was the final Mayor of Lambton, but his municipal honours did not end there. For J T Johnson was elected to the inaugural City of Greater Newcastle council in 1938. He remained as a representative of the Lambton area until 1950, clocking up a remarkable total of 37 years of aldermanic service.

Photo from Newcastle Morning Herald, 20 Feb 1943. The original caption reads “Two of the oldest pupils, Mr. M. Charlton and Ald. J. T. Johnson, inspect Lambton School. Now called “the barn,” the school’s condition has caused concern to the pupils’ parents.” (Ald Johnson is on the right.)

The final meeting of Lambton Council was held in the council chambers (corner of Lambton Park) on 29 March 1938.


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

Additional information

Much of the information in this article was sourced from material I have previously published on this website. See my articles on

Street names

In the article I mention six streets named after Mayors of Lambton. I have no documentary proof that they were named after the Mayor’s, but I believe it is a reasonable conclusion. I have omitted Hill St from the list as I have doubts that it was named after Dr J. J. Hill. In any case, Hill St was known by that name as early as 1872, while Dr Hill first became Mayor in 1877.

J T Johnson

Aldermen of the the Greater Newcastle Council after their first meeting on 28 Mar 1938. J T Johnson, the former Mayor of Lambton is on the extreme right in the back row. The Newcastle Sun, 18 Mar 1938.

J T Johnson, standing for re-election to Greater Newcastle Council in 1941.

In a newspaper article on 28 Nov 1941 reporting on candidates standing for re-election to Greater Newcastle Council, it is stated of Alderman J. T. Johnson that “he was for 28 years with Lambton Council and was Mayor 10 terms.” This is slightly erroneous. He was an alderman of Lambton Council for 25 years during the period 1911 to 1938, with a break of 3 years in 1920-22. He was elected Mayor on 8 occasions. Whether the rounding up to 10 was due to the candidate or the newspaper is unknown. Three years later in the election of 1944, Alderman Johnson’s municipal service to Lambton has been inflated even further, with a report stating that he had “30 years as an alderman of the council.” The correct figure is 25 years.

J T Johnson. Newcastle Morning Herald, 23 Feb 1950.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
16 Feb 1938"The Johnsons have had an almost unbroken association with Lambton Council for almost 60 years, Mr. H. Johnson was Town Clerk from 1879 to 1905, and a grandson, the present Mayor (Ald. T. Johnson), has been an alderman since 1909. Before that he was municipal auditor there."
18 Mar 1938
18 Mar 1938
Photographs from the first sitting of the newly elected 21 aldermen of the Greater Newcastle City Council
30 Mar 1938
29 Mar 1938
Final meeting of Lambton Council.
20 Feb 1943Two of Lambton's former aldermen, visit Lambton Public School. "Two of the oldest pupils, Mr. M. Charlton and Ald. J. T. Johnson, inspect Lambton School. Now called "the barn," the school's condition has caused concern to the pupils' parents."
17 Mar 1948Greater Newcastle Council rejects a move to rename nine district parks, including the proposed renaming of "Jesmond Park to Johnson Park, after Ald. J. T. Johnson for his long service in local government, first with Lambton Council and then with Greater Newcastle Council since its inception."
23 Feb 1950Ink caricature of Alderman J T Johnson.
9 May 1951"Messrs. H. Scott-Daisley and J. T. Johnson. former aldermen of Newcastle City Council, have been presented with the Local Government Association long-service certificate."