The Megalomaniacal Mine Manager Myth

I’ve seen it written before (but I can’t recall where) and seen it again recently, an assertion that Thomas Croudace was a megalomaniacal mine manager who built his house (Lambton Lodge) at the top of the hill so that he could watch his workers go to and from the mine, monitoring their movements.

Apart from this being an unfair and very one-sided representation of Croudace’s character, it’s also a topographical absurdity. The Lambton colliery was in a valley (where Lewis Oval is today) that is not visible from the site of Lambton Lodge. Similarly Lambton township is in a valley, and a large proportion of the  town is not visible from the Lambton Lodge hill 1.6km away.

Google Earth Pro has a neat feature called viewshed analysis, that shades in green areas that are visible from a specified point.  Even from a height 10 metres above the ground at Lambton Lodge, both the township and colliery are hidden from view.

Areas visible from the site of Lambton Lodge.

Morgan’s Store

Lambton may have begun as a mining town, but it takes more than miners to make a town. Among the first of hundreds of people who came to Lambton after the mine opened in 1863, were Scottish immigrants Daniel and Ann Morgan. Daniel is reported to have built the fourth house in Lambton. Around 1866 he started a grocery and drapery business, leasing a building appropriately known as “The Pioneer Stores”.

In 1873 Morgan had his own premises erected in Grainger St. Within two years  he had a larger store and residence erected at 127 Elder St, to accommodate a growing business and the raising of three sons and seven daughters. The sign on the front advertised the store as a grocers and drapers, a common combination in those days. Often associated with drapery was millinery, and a close inspection of the right-hand window of Morgan’s store reveals a collection of ladies’ hats on display. This is a reminder that although only the “Sons” appeared in the store name, the daughters were an integral part of the family business.

Daniel Morgan suffered poor-health for his last 20 years, and died on 22 August 1896, aged 62. Two days later he was conveyed by train from Waratah station to Sandgate Cemetery for burial. The Lambton correspondent for the Newcastle Morning Herald reported that “The event cast quite a gloom over this town, as the deceased and his family held a high place in the esteem of all classes of the community.”

Following Daniel’s death, his wife Ann and his children continued to operate the store. Ann died in 1915 aged 76, and was buried at Sandgate with her husband. In 1918 the children sold the business, which continued to trade as “G Spruce and Sons”. The sale brought to end over 50 years of commercial contribution to Lambton by a pioneering family.

D Morgan and Sons Store, 127 Elder St Lambton, 1909. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Grave in Sandgate cemetery of Daniel and Ann Morgan, early residents of Lambton. Also on the headstone are inscriptions for an infant grandson Albert (1905), and daughter Margaret (1920).

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


Additional Information

Photo date

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections Flickr site has three photographs of Morgan’s store (photo 1, photo 2, photo 3), all obviously taken on the same day. While two of the photos are captioned with a year of 1909, the third is captioned as 1904. I can only assume this is a transcription error, someone mistaking a written digit 9 to be a 4.

Other photos

Morgan’s store can be seen in a 1904 panoramic photograph of Lambton, taken from the North Lambton hill looking south. Also in the photo, can be seen the Commercial Hotel (demolished 2019) at 121 Elder St. Note that there is a bit of an optical illusion here that makes it look like Morgan’s building is further back than Elder St, maybe on Kendall St.

However, Elder St is rising in elevation as you move west from the Commercial Hotel, which means that Morgan’s shop is several metres higher than the hotel. This lack of vertical alignment with the hotel, Morgan’s building being smaller than the hotel, and the compressed depth of field of the photo, makes it appear as though the building is further back on Kendall St.

Morgan’s Store. visible in 1904 Lambton Panorama photo. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Morgan’s store building visible in a 1944 aerial photograph.

Elder Street renumbering

In the article, I state the address of Morgan’s store as 127 Elder Street.  This is the modern address. When Morgan built the store around 1875 streets in Lambton were not numbered,  numbering only being introduced to Lambton in 1927. In Elder St the numbers commenced at 1 at the east end and increased travelling westwards, so that Morgan’s Store was 47 Elder St. In 1934 a bankruptcy notice for the subsequent proprietors of the store, G Spruce and Sons, states the address as 47 Elder St.

Some time later around 1948, in order to accommodate the houses built on Elder street extension to the east of Lambton park, Elder street was renumbered, adding 80 to existing numbers on the south side. Thus the site of Morgan’s store became 127 Elder Street.

127 Elder St in September 2020.

The increase of 80 in the renumbering can be seen in the case of W Baker’s bakery shop. An advertisement in August 1946 states the address as 39 Elder St.

By March 1948, an advertisement shows the address for W Baker has changed to 119 Elder St.

A photo from Margaret Henry’s research paper on the bakery shows the bakery building on the south-east corner of Elder and Grainger Streets, which today is 119 Elder Street.

An advertisement from 1941 also shows the increase in 80 with the Commercial Hotel given as 41 Elder St, which later was 121 Elder St.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
9 Apr 1869First mention of Daniel Morgan in Trove, signatory on a petition against the proposed Mulibimbah Municiplaity.
4 Sep 1873"TO BE LET— THE PIONEER STORES, LAMBTON. THE above STORES, with Dwelling-house now occupied by Mr. Daniel Morgan."
25 Oct 1873"Two places of business are now in course of erection in Grainger-street— one by Mr. Daniel Morgan and the other by Mr. Shoesmith."
13 Mar 1875Notes from Lambton Council meeting regarding the kerbing and guttering of the south side of Elder St indicate that D Morgans store is now in Elder Street.
18 Mar 1876After building new premises in Elder street, Daniel Morgan makes a voluntary contribution of £1 to Lambton Council towards street improvements.
25 Aug 1896
22 Aug 1896
"Mr. Daniel Morgan, aged 62 years, an old and highly respected resident of this town, after an illness extending over a number of years, passed over to the great majority on Saturday last, at his esidence, Elder-street."
24 Aug 1896
24 Aug 1896
Funeral of Daniel Morgan, and burial in Sandgate cemetery.
7 Jan 1915
6 Jan 1915
Death of Ann Morgan (widow of Daniel), aged 76.
16 Feb 1918Morgan's business sold to “George Spruce and Sons.”
24 Jul 1920
18 Jul 1920
"The death has occurred at Lambton of Miss Margaret Morgan, from congestion of the lungs. She was born at Minmi 58 years ago, and since her infancy had lived in Lambton. She was the third daughter of the late D Morgan, and was employed in the business of Morgan and Sons as milliner up till within a few years."
Note that this article erroneously referes to Margaret Morgan as being the third David Morgan is an error. The tombstone inscription at Sandgate cemetery clearly shows that she was the daughter of Daniel Morgan. (The error probably arose because she had both an uncle and a brother named David, and it had been 24 years since her father Daniel had died in 1896.)
28 Feb 1934Bankruptcy notice for "G. Spruce and Sons, 47 Elder-street, Lambton".
Note that at some later time, Elder street was renumbered, adding 80 to existing numbers on the south side, so this address became 127 Elder St.

Adamstown Rifle Range

“Farcical.” That is how the Daily Telegraph described in February 1900 the situation where “the Government maintains four volunteer companies at Newcastle at considerable expense, and yet provides absolutely no opportunity for the members to learn the practical use of their principal weapon, the rifle.”

To rectify this deficiency, Newcastle District Commandant Lieutenant-Colonel Ranclaud proposed a new rifle range in a flat valley on the outskirts of Adamstown. It was surveyed in August 1900 and an 800-yard range constructed the following year. It was officially opened on 16 November 1901, with six targets situated at the southern end under the shelter of a large hill.

The range was also meant to be used by civilian gun clubs, but their access was extremely limited by the demands of military training. In 1903 the gun clubs agitated for greater availability, and the range was improved and expanded several times in the ensuing years.

As Adamstown grew and the range began to use newer and noisier rapid firing guns, the suitability of having a rifle range adjacent to residential areas was called in to question. There was also the issue of safety, with at least one incident of a ricocheting bullet striking a car on the road running along the ridge behind the range.

In 1938 a decision was made to relocate the rifle range to Stockton, but the move was put on hold with the outbreak of World War 2. After the war the push to relocate was renewed, and the last shot at the Adamstown range was fired on 21 March 1953.

There was much debate on how the rifle range land should then be used. Some thought it should be left as a ‘green belt’, others that it should be parks and sporting fields, while others wanted residential development. At one time the land was a proposed site for Newcastle University. In the end the Defence Department retained the site, and today it is Bullecourt Barracks, a multi user training depot.

Adamstown Rifle Range, early 1900s. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Bullecourt Barracks, Adamstown.

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


Additional Information

The increasing use of rapid fire weapons such as the Bren gun, and complaints about the noise was one of the driving factors in moving the Adamstown rifle range to a new site in Stockton.

Bren Gun Practice. Newcastle Morning Herald, Monday 4 December 1950.
Adamstown Rifle Range shown on 1911 map. National Library of Australia.
A real estate advertising poster from 1915, somewhat conveniently forgets to mention that the land for sale is adjacent to a rifle range. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Area of Adamstown Rifle Range marked on 1920s map. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
“Rifle Street” first appears as a street name in the newspaper on 23 June 1920, in an advertisement for the auction of a block of land.
Another land sale in 1925 conveniently omits any reference to the adjacent rifle range. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
A 1944 aerial photograph of Adamstown rifle range.
Adamstown rifle range, 12 April 1909. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
17 Feb 1900"There is a good deal that is farcical in the fact that the Government maintains four volunteer companies at Newcastle at considerable expense, and yet provides absolutely no opportunity for the members to learn the practical use of their principal weapon, the rifle. Since last June, the military rifle clubs of the city have been absolutely without target accommodation of their own. Through the courtesy of the civilian rifle men they have at odd times been able to shoot on the short range on Shepherd's-hill, and that is all."
14 Mar 1900"For some considerable time past Lieut. Colonel Ranclaud has been working to secure a new rifle range for the use of the local military forces. A site on the Merewether Estate is now under consideration, and yesterday an officer of the Engineer Corps arrived in the city, for the purpose of inspecting and reporting on the proposed range."
6 Aug 1900"The new rifle range for the Newcastle district, selected by Lieutenant-Colonel Ranclaud, has just been surveyed and laid out by Mr. A. F. Hall, and it is probable that the range may be available for target practice within three months from now. Tenders will at once be called for clearing the ground, which is situated near Adamstown, on the Burwood estate, and within easy access of the tram. Provision will be made for firing at a dis tance of 900 yards, and the shooting will take place from a point near where the Roman Catholic Church was blown down."
28 Sep 1901"The new rifle range at the rear of the Catholic Church will be completed early next week. The work is of a substantial character, and has been carried out by the Government contractor, Mr. Robert Com ley. Six targets can be displayed at the one time, four being on pivots and two for long range will be run out on trolleys. The targets are of canvas and are situated at the southern end of the range under the shelter of a large hill. The mounds at the different distances up to 800 yards have already been made, and the contractor is waiting for iron plates to complete the work."
18 Nov 1901
16 Nov 1901
Official opening of Adamstown Rifle Range.
12 Mar 1902"At the opening rifle competition, Colonel Ranclaud erected temporary telephone communication, which was found of great service, especially when a shot was challenged. The instruments were removed after the competition, and now, if any communication is needed with the marker, shooting is suspended, and someone has to walk up the range to the targets."
15 Jul 1903Construction of new targets … "Under existing conditions, and in consequence of the unreasonable time allowed some military companies to complete their musketry, the range is practically closed to club shooting for the first six months in the year. During the last military year one company occupied the range for no less than 28 Saturdays."
20 Apr 1904"Since the opening of Adamstown rifle range much dissatisfaction has existed amongst members of rifle clubs, those of Adamstown Club in particular, on account of the range being occupied the greater part of the Saturdays in the year by the Scottish and Irish Rifles going through musketry shooting."
26 Sep 1907"improvements to the Adamstown rifle range is pushing on … the work in progress provides for the erection of seven target carriages … provision is made for the erection of a large shed, in which to keep the targets. "
28 Feb 1910"The much-needed additions to the rifle range officer's residence are being carried out, and a storeroom is also being constructed. These improvements are greatly needed, and also is the extension of the rifle range."
27 Jun 1910"The improvements to Adamstown rifle range were completed on Saturday. It is the first work done by the Commonwealth Government on the range, and consists of the construction of three new target mantlets."
4 Oct 1910"Adamstown rifle range is one of the best in the State. It is well sheltered from heavy winds, and shooting can be done up to 1000 yards. Recently a sum of £244 was spent in erecting new targets, and in general improvements, and later a further sum of £27."
14 Apr 1913"… the range at present is inadequate for the requirements of the district … the rifle clubs ... were debarred their weekly practice in consequence of the range being monopolised by the staff officers putting the different units of cadets through a course of musketry."
15 Aug 1914"The work of extending the rifle range is proceeding satisfactorily. When the work in hand is completed there will be 37 targets available on the range."
8 May 1915Real Estate poster advertising sale of housing lots along Union St, conveniently omitting any mention of the land being adjacent to a rifle range!
23 Jun 1920First mention of "Rifle Street" in Trove, in an advertisement for the auction of a block of land.
28 Apr 1924"An improperly locked rifle, which backfired, resulted in two men being injured at Adamstown range on Saturday."
24 Jul 1933"On Saturday afternoon a bullet from one of the high velocity rifles ricocheted over the crest of the hill and, passing, through the door of a motor car, which was parked on the track, lodged in the upholstery on the other side."
21 Dec 1938"A site for a new rifle range at North Stockton will be recommended to the Defence Department by the Greater Newcastle Council. The council wants the Adamstown range abandoned because of its proximity to the route of the proposed scenic highway, and because it is in an expanding residential area."
1 Jun 1939Newcastle Council urges that the Defence Department remove Adamstown rifle range.
25 Jul 1939"The Minister for Defence (Mr. G. A. Street), who is to visit Newcastle to morrow, will make a personal investigation of the Adamstown rifle range Tourist Highway problem. The question to be determined is whether the Tourist Highway can be made safe from bullets fired on the range, or whether it will be necessary to move the range to another part of the district. A site at Stockton has been suggested as an alternative."
5 Aug 1947Letter to the editor … "The Adamstown rifle range is not only a menace to the public travelling between the Lake area and Newcastle, but we of Hillcrest must contend with gates which are locked whenever the club is shooting, and those who are fortunate enough to own cars cannot travel to and from their homes as they please. The gates were erected during the war years, and we were told they were not permanent, but they are still there."
14 Aug 1947Letter to the editor from W. R. Rowcliff … "At one time it was my duty to lock the gates on the Scenic Highway when shooting was being carried out on the Adamstown rifle range, so I know only too well the inconvenience caused to the travelling public as well as the residents of Hillcrest. I am wholeheartedly behind O. C. Newton and E. Chapman that it is high time this menace to the community was removed to some other locality."
21 Aug 1947"… if Adamstown Rifle Range site was transformed to parks, sports areas, building land and, above all, an ideal spot to house a new school, it would be more important and a far greater asset to Newcastle than a rifle range wanted by a minority"
13 Feb 1948"The Lord Mayor (Ald. Quinlan) has asked the Minister for Education (Mr. Heffron) that the rifle range at Adamstown, which is to be closed, be used as a site for a Newcastle University."
6 Aug 1948"… the Adamstown Rifle Range site, now proposed for a university … is low lying but there is a big area as far as the scenic drive that rises rather sharply and provides one of the few ready-made green belts in this district. It would be a pity to put the axe into it."
29 Nov 1950"The rifle range at Adamstown is to be transferred to Stockton, under the Department of Works and Housing programme."
8 Dec 1950IN THE "Newcastle Morning Herald on Monday an interesting picture showed two gunners with a Bren gun in action at Adamstown Rifle Range. Saturday's big shoot held no pleasure for residents of Brunker-road, particarly for people living in the closely built area opposite the Rifle Range. The terrific noise from these quick firing guns was kept up all day The concussion was so great that it rattled windows of nearby houses. It was a nerve-racking experience Surely the authorities concerned realise that it is not fair that residents concerned should be compelled to endure this noise. "
6 Feb 1953"ADAMSTOWN rifle range would close on March 23, the Brigade Major of 14 Infantry Brigade (Major J. A. Sellars) said yesterday. All targets would be transferred to the new range at Stockton, which would be the only one in the Newcastle area."
19 Mar 1953
21 Mar 1953
"At Adamstown Civilian rifle clubs will shoot for the last time at Adamstown rifle range on Saturday. The area has been taken over by the Army. Civilian rifle clubs will transfer to North Stockton, which will be used for the first time on Saturday week."
23 Mar 1953
21 Mar 1953
"An 80-year-old rifleman, Mr. Jason Price, was one of the first marksmen to compete at Adamstown rifle range when it opened about 53 years ago. He was the last civilian to fire on the range when it was closed on Saturday."
14 Jun 1961"A proposal by the Interior Department to sub-divide Newcastle's old Adamstown rifle range into 340 home sites has touched off a row in the north. Northumberland County Council opposes the subdivision. It wants to keep the land in the green belt. According to the Council's planning consultant, the proposal would rob Newcastle of "breathing space." The range includes picturesque timber country which should be preserved, the consultant urged."

Carrington Boat Harbour

In today’s Newcastle Herald, Mike Scanlon has a fascinating article about the various boat harbours that were part of Newcastle port over the years. He mentions five boat harobours, of which only the Pilot’s boat harbour still exists.

  1. Stockton
  2. Pilot’s boat harbour
  3. Watt St
  4. Market St
  5. Perkins St

There was also another boat harbour on the eastern shore of Carrington. Overlaying a portion of an 1890 Port of Newcastle map into Google Earth we can see that it was approximately in line with Cowper St.

Carrington Boat Harbour
Approximate location of Carrington Boat Harbour. The building on the left side of the photo is the Carrington Pump House.

Carrington was originally called Bullock Island, and on 22 August 1878 a correspondent to the Sydney Morning Herald wrote …

“Amongst the many local wants that were brought under the notice of the Hon. the Minister for Works upon his late visit to Newcastle, perhaps none are more legitimately entitled to consideration than that brought forward by a deputation from Bullock Island, with reference to the construction of a suitable boat harbour along some portion of the dyke. The construction of a boat harbour in the neighbourhood of the present hydraulic engine house, connected with the waters of the harbour, would not only prove an immense boon to the inhabitants and the shipping community generally, but would materially enhance the appearance of a portion of the harbour which the Government has lately been at great pains, to convert to practical uses. The position is certainly a favourable one for such a work to be carried out, there being no natural obstacles in the way, but, on the other hand, every facility for its construction. The dyke abuts on the deep waters of the harbour, to which an opening could, with ordinary labour, be made, whilst an abundance of the stone ballast brought here by ships is always available on the spot to be used in connection with the work.”

The request was received favourably, and the following year the Government Estimates and Appropriation Act for 1879 contained a line item for “Construction of Boat Harbour, Bullock Island, £2000.”

On 22 October 1880, the Newcastle Morning Herald reported …

“His Grace the Duke of Manchester, as prearranged, yesterday morning honoured Newcastle with a visit … steaming up along the wharves, and thence up the channel along Bullock Island Dyke, a view of the city and shipping was obtained ; a landing being finally made at the newly-formed boat harbour opposite the hydraulic cranes.”

A 1924 newspaper report notes that the boat harbour was resumed by the Railway Commissioners in 1908.

In Barrett’s 1910 map, the Carrington Boat Harbour is gone, replaced by rail lines to the various wharf cranes.

Ralph Snowball

With a modern smart phone in our hands we can easily and at negligible cost snap high-resolution pictures and instantly send them around the world. It’s a vast difference from the rigours and expense of photography in the late 19th century when Newcastle’s celebrated early photographer Ralph Snowball worked.

This month marks 95 years since Snowball’s death in August 1925. He was born in 1848 in Leadgate, Durham (UK), where he worked as a miner before coming to Australia and settling in New Lambton around 1879 to work at the Lambton colliery. An accident meant he could no longer continue in mining, and he took up photography in 1885. He established a studio at his home in Clarence Rd, where his work included portraits and visiting cards. He also travelled extensively in a horse drawn wagonette, carting his bulky equipment to capture landscapes, buildings, and public events, sometimes selling his work for publication in newspapers.

In 1887 Snowball set up a studio in Hunter St Newcastle, near Market St, where he was well placed to document the bustling harbour city and sell his services to visiting sailors.  In 1888 he referred to the rigours of his trade, writing “My work keeps me from home from 8am to 7pm, and sometimes later.” This must have been a huge strain on his wife Mary, at home raising eight children.

Snowball was an active participant in civic affairs, and was appointed the first town clerk of New Lambton in 1889. He also served in a number of churches and friendly societies. He retired from photography around 1912, and died in Wallsend Hospital on 4 August 1925, aged 76.

Snowball’s glass plate negatives then remained in the cellar of his Clarence Rd home, forgotten for over 60 years until rediscovered in 1988.  The bulk of his collection is now held by Newcastle Library and the University of Newcastle, providing us today with a priceless legacy of thousands of detailed pictures of our past.

Snowball with his horse and wagonette. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
A portrait photo of Ralph Snowball, advertising his “Market Studio” in Hunter St Newcastle. Living Histories @ UON.

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


Additional Information

Birth and Death

Name:Ralph Snowball
Birth date:19 Nov 1848
Birth place:Leadgate, Durham (UK)
Death date:4 Aug 1925
Death place:Wallsend
Burial site:Sandgate Cemetery
Burial Long,Lat :151.70677,-32.87043 (KML File for Google Earth)
Burial date:6 Aug 1925
Grave site of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Grave site of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Headstone of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Headstone of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Market Studio

In 1887 Ralph Snowball set up a photographic studio in the Newcastle Borough Market Building in Hunter St Newcastle. The foundation was laid in 1870, and the building opened in December 1871. The building was located at 121 Hunter St. It was demolished in September 1915, and a picture theatre erected in its place.

Ralph Snowball’s photographic studio on the upper floor of the Newcastle Borough Market building, 21 January 1891. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
1886 map showing location of Newcastle Borough Market Building. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Many years later, the “Market Square” building was erected on the site.

Construction of Market Square. Photo by Peter Sansom. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

It is unclear how long Ralph Snowball had his Market Studio in Hunter St, but it would seem that he vacated prior to 1901. In the 1901 Federal Directory of Newcastle and District, Snowball is not listed among the photographers of Newcastle, but is instead listed in the New Lambton section, as being on Gwydir Rd. (Note that Snowball’s property that contained his home and studio, stretched between Gwydir Rd and Clarence Rd, with the house facing Gwydir Rd and the studio backing on to Clarence Rd.)

The location of the Newcastle Borough Markets building in August 2020.

Clarence Rd Studio

Ralph Snowball’s studio, New Lambton, NSW, 11 April 1902
Ralph Snowball Studio, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, [n.d.]

Box listings

Some idea of the time period that Snowball worked as a photographer can be gleaned from the handwritten labels he affixed to the front of his boxes of glass plate negatives. Many of these have been scanned and are available on the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections site.

Snowball glass plate negative box listing – Box 2 from October 1885. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

I have compiled an index  of Snowball photograph box listings, ordered by box number and year. Note that there are two series of numberings. The first series begins in 1885 (box 2 in Oct 1885) and goes to box 349 in 1905. In 1906 Snowball began numbering boxes from 1 again, with box 7 in February 1906. The numbering of this second series is somewhat strange and not necessarily in date order. After 1906 the highest numbered box label I could find was box 139 in January 1910, but the latest date is box 55 in September 1912.

The earliest Snowball photo I can find in the University of Newcastle collection is of Thomas Croudace’s house, listed on the cover of box 2.

The home of Thomas Croudace in New Lambton Heights, October 1885. One of the earliest Ralph Snowball photos. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Links to Other Sites

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
21 Apr 1885First mention of Ralph Snowball in the newspaper, in a letter he writes to the editor regarding political matters. In the letter Ralph states that he has been a miner in the employment of Thomas Croudace at Lambton colliery for five years.
9 Dec 1885
5 Dec 1885
A report of the battalion parade of the Newcastle, Wallsend, and Lambton Volunteers in the Recreation Reserve states that "Mr. Snowball was there with his photo-apparatus ... [to photograph] a grouping of the whole. However, the matter fell through, as Mr. Snowball considered the light very unfavourable-thick clustering of clouds and no sun to take a picture with proper effect."
4 Dec 1886
19 Nov 1886
A Ralph Snowball photograph appears in a story about a pitfall at Wallsend that wrecked the Exchange Hotel.
23 Feb 1888In a letter to the editor complaining of the actions of surveyors executing their work on the Commonage, Snowball writes … "My work keeps me from home from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and sometimes later."
20 Aug 1889
28 Mar 1889
"BOROUGH OF NEW LAMBTON NOTICE is hereby given that Mr. Ralph Snowball was, on the 28th March, 1889, appointed Council Clerk of the above Municipality, THOMAS CROUDACE, Mayor."
21 Mar 1892WE, the Undersigned Photographers of Newcastle, have agreed to charge the following prices on and after March 21st, 1892:-1 Dozen Cabinets, plain, 16s, Half Dozen, plain, 12s 6d: 1 Doz Cab. Enam. 21s, Half Doz. Enam. 15s; 1 Doz. C.D.V.S., plain,8s; 1 Doz. C.D.V.S., Enam., 10s 6d. (Signed) C. Drinkwater, H. B. Solomon, G. C. Woolston, Eddie J. B. Hutchison, Harry Charleston, and Ralph Snowball."
C.D.V.S - abbreviation for "Carte de visite"
6 Aug 1925
4 Aug 1925
Death of Ralph Snowball, age 76.
6 May 1942
22 Apr 1942
Mary Snowball, widow of Ralph, dies, aged 90.

New Lambton Post Office

The nature of our postal and communication services has changed radically over the years, but our dependence on them remains undiminished. While the delivery of handwritten letters from family and friends has been largely replaced by online messaging, the delivery to our door of goods we order online is ever increasing.

In June 1869 when New Lambton was but a year old, the residents recognised the importance of communication services, and petitioned the government for a post office for their growing town. Their request was denied, but every year another request was patiently forwarded to Sydney, until finally in 1872 a licence was granted to Mrs Hutchinson to conduct Post Office business from her general store in Regent St, opposite the public school. This arrangement continued until August 1880 when the post office facility closed, and was replaced by a letter receiver installed on the street.

Calls for the return of a post office continued over the next decade. In 1892, on land purchased from the New Lambton Coal Company on the corner of Regent and Victoria Streets, a small weatherboard building was erected to serve as New Lambton’s first dedicated Post Office. Mr G H Rowthorn was appointed as postmaster. With the new building came new technology, the introduction of a telegraph service.

New Lambton grew and by the mid-1930s it was clear that the old wooden post office was inadequate to meet the needs of the population and ever-changing technology. In 1938 the Postmaster-General’s Department erected a two-storey brick building adjacent to the old building, to house the post office on the ground floor and an automatic telephone exchange on the upper floor. The old weatherboard post office was demolished soon after.

That original building may have been gone for 80 years, but other buildings on the same block of land now house broadband and mobile communications infrastructure that keep us connected, and today power our online messaging and shopping.

New Lambton Post and Telegraph Office, erected in 1892. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
New Lambton Post Office today. The white car is parked in front of where the 1892 post office was located.

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


Additional Information

1892 Building

On 26 July 1892, the Postmaster-General, Mr John Kidd, visited Newcastle and toured various suburbs and post office facilities, including the New Lambton post office that was very near to completion. The newspaper report of Kidd’s visit gives a good description of the new building.

This is a commodious and handsome weatherboard building, of 30ft by 62ft outside dimensions. It is roofed with galvanised iron, and has a front and back verandah 7ft by 30ft dimensions. The building is situated at the corner of Victoria and Regent streets, on an allotment of land 90ft by 134ft. A room 22ft by 16ft, with a lobby 6ft by 16ft, is set apart for the post-office, and there are four nicely-fitted rooms – two of 12ft by 14ft, and two of 12ft by 12ft dimensions – for the residential use of the postmaster, Mr. Bates, of Hamilton, is the contractor, and the contract price was £382, with £40 for extras.  The post office will be a great boon to the residents of New Lambton, as hitherto there has been none nearer than Lambton, from whence letters, &c., have been delivered daily by a postman. Mr. G. H. Rowthorn, assistant postmaster at Lambton, has been appointed postmaster.

1890s Water Board map overlaid in Google Earth shows the location of the 1892 post office building.

1939 Building

New Lambton Post Office. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 17 June 1939.
A 1944 aerial photograph shows the new brick post office on the corner, adjacent to the outline of the foundations of the demolished 1892 wooden post office.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
22 Jun 1869"The inhabitants of New Lambton have just memorialized the Hon. the Postmaster-General for the establishment of a Post-office at that township. New Lambton now contains a population of upwards of three hundred, and it is expected that in less than seven or eight months hence, it will increase to double that number."
6 Jul 1869"A numerously signed petition had been sent to the Postmaster-General, praying for the establishment of a post-office at New Lambton, on the ground of its being now a considerable centre of an increasing population, and of its being upwards of two miles from the nearest post office, Lambton ... if the present position of the Lambton post-office is not sufficiently central, the proper course would be to remove it to a site that is more so."
13 Jan 1870"the inhabitants of New Lambton suffer considerable inconvenience from the want of a post-office at that township, and expresses a hope that a second petition, which is about to be presented to the Postmaster-General, praying that a post-office may be established in the village, will be taken into favourable consideration"
9 Feb 1871"another application will shortly be made to the Postmaster-General for the establishment of a post-office at New Lambton"
23 Jul 1872Yet another petition for a post office at New Lambton.
13 Sep 1872
10 Sep 1872
Government Gazette - Post Office to be established at New Lambton.
6 Mar 1876"Mrs. Hutchinson, who keeps the Post-office Stores …"
26 Jun 1880"It is rumoured that the Post Office at this place is to be closed, and that a letter receiver is to be substituted, a responsible letter carrier is also to be appointed."
7 Jul 1880"The New Lambton post office is to close with the present month, and a letter receiver is to be erected under Mr. Sneddon's verandah … Mr. Thomas Sneddon has been appointed licensed vendor of postage stamps, and Albert Bedford has been appointed letter deliverer and telegraph probationer in the Lambton office."
28 Sep 1880"The licensed stamp vendor here has resigned his position, owing to the miserable per centage allowed by the Government for their sale. He considers 2½ per cent. insufficient to pay for serving the stamps. People have now to obtain their supply from the Lambton post office."
9 Sep 1882"I have heard frequent complaints about the postal arrangements here, and the people generally, I am sure, consider it desirable that they should have a post office of their own. For some time past, owing to the paltry commission allowed by the Government for selling stamps, no one in the town can be found to undertake their sale, consequently the people have had to walk to Lambton, or depend upon the obliging disposition of the letter-carriers to bring them a few stamps."
13 Mar 1885Sale of Mrs Hutchinsons general store "opposite the Public School at New Lambton."
14 Apr 1890"A deputation ... waited upon the Hon. D. O'Connor, Postmaster-General, this morning to urge upon him the necessity of the Government taking steps to provide a post and telegraph office and letter delivery at New Lambton."
1 Sep 1891Government Gazette: "TENDERS will be received ... from persons willing to sell to this Department a piece of land in a main street of New Lambton, with a frontage of about 50 feet, suitable as a site for a Post and Telegraph Office."
6 Nov 1891New Lambton Council asked for a different site for the Post Office, on land owned by D Williams Junr. There is an allegation that “undue influence had been brought to bear in favour of the [New Lambton Coal] company’s offer”
1 Jan 1892
30 Dec 1891
New Lambton Council receives a letter "From the secretary of the Postal Department, intimating that the New Lambton Coal Company's land as a site for the post office had been purchased and definitely decided upon."
5 Apr 1892"TENDERS FOR ERECTION OF POST AND TELEGRAPH OFFICE, NEW LAMBTON (on allotments 6 and 7, section C, at the corner of Regent and Victoria Streets)"
27 Jul 1892
26 Jul 1892
Inspection by Postmaster General (Mr John Kidd) in New Lambton of "the new post-office, which is just being completed."
1 Sep 1892
1 Sep 1892
"The new post and telegraph office, situate in Regent-street, has been completed by the contractor and formally handed over to the department. The office will be opened today for business transactions, which will undoubtedly prove a lasting convenience to the residents. Mr. G. H. Rowthorn, recently of Lambton Post office, is the resident postmaster."
21 Jul 1926"Minor improvements are being effected to the post and telegraph office, consisting of a new front verandah and steps, new flooring to the general office, and betterment of the drainage of the premises ... telephone communication comes mainly through the Waratah exchange … The number of subscribers however, is growing to such an extent and it is considered that conditions will shortly, warrant the establishment of a local exchange."
8 Nov 1934"New Lambton Council received another courteous refusal, from the Postmaster-General's Department last night to its repeated request for a new post office."
13 Jul 1937"Speaking in the House of Representatives, Mr. R. James (Hunter) said that on many occasions he had urged the Postmaster-General's Department to provide a new post-office building at New Lambton. This town, he said, had a population of about 8000, but the residents were still compelled to conduct their postal business in an old weatherboard pre-Federation office, which was a disgrace to the department."
24 Mar 1938"The Postmaster-General's Department advised the council last night that it had approved the erection of a two storey building to house the post-office and an automatic telephone exchange, and that the preparation of drawings and specifications was proceeding with the object of inviting tenders for the work as soon as circumstances permitted."
29 Aug 1938Tenders called "for the erection of a new post office and telephone exchange at New Lambton. The building, which will be of brick, will be two storeys high and of modern design. Situated at the corner of Regent and Victoria-streets, adjacent to the existing weatherboard post office and residence ... It is the intention of the department to demolish the old post office building."
28 Mar 1939"Construction of the new post-office at New Lambton is almost complete. It is expected that the post-office will be open for business in about a month. It is near the old post-office building at the corner of Victoria and Regent Streets."