The Sturey Mystery

Who was George Sturey? His name is one of 140 engraved on the Lambton Park WW1 memorial gates, and one of 29 shown as killed in action. This month marks 100 years since the planned opening ceremony of the gates in April 1919, a ceremony that never took place because the influenza pandemic at the time restricted public gatherings.

For the centenary of the gates, I set about compiling information on the soldiers listed on the pillars. By searching online resources from the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives, I managed to confirm the identity of most of the men, including all but one of those listed as killed. While newspapers were filled with reports of Lambton boys enlisting, departing and returning, there was but one scant reference to Sturey, in July 1918 where “Mrs Hincks of Pearson Street Lambton has received word that Private George Sturey has died of wounds.”

Searching the online records, I could find no trace of Sturey. In researching other soldiers I had found numerous errors with the gate inscriptions. Perhaps “Sturey” was a mis-spelling, or maybe an anglicised form of a German surname? Searching every possible name variant I could think of revealed nothing.

Eventually, after a page-by-page study of the embarkation rolls, in the records of the SS Port Napier, I located Salvatore Sturiali of Lambton, a surname that Australians would naturally shorten to Sturey. Confirmation came from the Red Cross “Wounded and Missing” files where a soldier reporting on Sturiali’s death recalled “We used to call him George”.

Sturiali died on 21 June 1918 on the Somme battlefield, when a German artillery shell hit the cookhouse he was serving in. His fellow soldiers described him as a “short, dark, curly headed chap” who “was very popular”.  An Italian born immigrant to Australia, killed on French soil, alongside the British in a war against Germany, Sturiali stands as an example of why the 1914-18 conflict was aptly named a World War.

The elusive name “Sturey G.” engraved on the Lambton Park Memorial Gates.
The 1916 enlistment form of Salvatore Sturiali, one of the documents that confirmed the identity of G Sturey.

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


His identity

There were three key documents that confirmed that the George Sturey on the Lambton Park Memorial Gates was Salvatore Sturiali.

Sturiali’s name in the embarkation roll of the SS Port Napier.
“We used to call him George”. The Red Cross Missing and Wounded files.
Enlistment form of Salvatore Sturiali, with postal address of “Pearson St, Lambton”

His life

The following points summarise what we know of Sturiali, as gleaned from his war service records.

  • Born 1892 in Riposto, on the island of Sicily, in Italy.
  • Had a brother in Italy
  • No relatives in Australia
  • His mother Angelina Sturiali resided in Riposto, Italy at the time of his enlistment.
  • Served as an apprentice for 12 months on the sailing ship “Australian”
  • Lived in Pearson Street, Lambton.
  • “Prior to enlisting he was employed by Messrs. J. C. Davies and Sons and W. Timmins, contractors.”
  • Occupation on enlistment form shown as “Bricklayers Labourer”
  • Physical characteristics
    • “a little short dark chap”
    • “he spoke broken English”
    • “dark curly hair”
    • “about 5ft 7in in height, dark, curly headed, clean shaved”
  • War service
    • Enlisted 11 Sep 1916, aged 22 years and 8 months.
    • Assigned to 7th reinforcements of the 46th Infantry Battalion.
    • Embarked from Australia on SS Port Napier, 7 Nov 1916.
    • Was in D Company of the 46th Battn.
    • “employed in the officers mess”
    • “was batman to several officers”
    • “He was an officers’ cook”
    • “He was an officer’s waiter”

His death

  • Wounded at Battalion Headquarters at Sailly-le-Sec, when a German artillery shell hit the cook house Sturiali was serving in at about 9am on 21 June 1918. The battalion headquarters was located in a gully north-west of Sailly-le-Sec, and was about a mile behind the front line.
  • Taken to the 12th Field Ambulance nearby.
  • Died of wounds a few hours later at the 47th Casualty Clearing Station near Corbie.
  • Buried at Crouy British Cemetery, outside the village of Crouy-sur-Somme.
A map from the 46th Battalion War Diary June 1916, showing the location of the battalion headquarters in a gully north-west of the village of Sailly-le-Sec.
A Google Earth view of the gully where the 46th battalion headquarters was located in June 1918.
Google Earth image of the Somme Valley, showing where Sturiali was injured (Sailly-le-Sec), died (Corbie) and buried (Crouy-sur-Somme) in June 1918.
The location (marked with a red star) in Crouy British Cemetery, Somme, France, where Pte Salvatore is buried.
Pte G Sturey, listed on the Lambton Post Office Honour Roll.

Sturey is also listed on the Honour Roll at the front of the former Lambton Post Office, although his stated age of 25 is probably incorrect. On his enlistment form in September 1916 Sturiali lists his age as 22 years and 8 months, which means he would have been 24 years of age at his death in June 1918.

Links to information on Salvatore Sturiali

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
20 Jul 1918
21 Jun 1918
"Mrs. Hincks, of Pearson-street, Lambton, has received word that Private George Sturey has died of wounds. Prior to enlisting he was employed by Messrs. J. C. Davies and Sons and W. Timmins, contractors."
14 Apr 1919
12 Apr 1919
"There was a fairly large gathering on Saturday afternoon to witness the unveiling of the roll of honour gates. At the time fixed for the opening, Alderman Hardy said it was regretted that in consequence of the influenza restrictions the proposed opening ceremony would have to be dispensed with."

Adamstown Council Chambers

In 1869 Thomas Adam purchased 54 acres of Crown land south of Glebe Rd, subdivided it, and began selling lots to the public. Adamstown was born. In the next 15 years the population grew to about 1000, and the residents began petitioning for a local council to be formed. Their principal concern was the poor state of roads in the town. A counter petition was led by the mining companies, principally objecting to the rates they would have to pay.

The arguments for local government won the day, and on 31 December 1885 the NSW Governor officially proclaimed the “Municipal District of Adamstown”. The election of nine aldermen took place on 6 March 1886. For the next few weeks, the Council met in local halls and hotels while they quickly arranged the erection of a small weatherboard building in Victoria St to use as Council Chambers.

Six years later, in April 1892, they commissioned larger and grander chambers. Designed by architects Bennett and Yeomans in the Renaissance style, the building was erected on the corner of Narara and Kyle Roads. With construction not fully completed, 500 people gathered for the official opening on 22 August 1892. The Postmaster-general John Kidd declared the chambers open, and the fire brigade then “christened the building with a copious stream of water.”

The building was used for the next 46 years until Adamstown Council ceased to exist with the formation of the City of Greater Newcastle Council in March 1938. It was subsequently leased to the Returned Soldier’s League in 1941. From 1947, the building was used for a number of purposes, including at one stage as emergency housing for a homeless family. As the building aged, it gradually fell into disuse and disrepair.

Curiously, while the grand council chambers in Narara road was demolished over 50 years ago, and the site is now used by Hunter Health, the initial modest building in Victoria St survived, and is now used for a medical practice.


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

The building in Victoria St used as Adamstown Council chambers 1886-1892.
Opening of the Adamstown Council Chambers in Narara Road, 1892. Photo courtesy of Newcastle Region Library.

Additional Information

For further information on Adamstown Council and other suburban municipal councils can be found from my Newcastle Municipal Councils page.

The Well Travelled Brick

The Jesmond bushland may be a nature reserve, but it also contains a fair amount of rubbish from 200 years of European settlement. However, the garbage of one generation can become the historical artefacts for a later generation.

A few years ago, amongst the discarded soft drink bottles and cans of this age, I found half a brick bearing a partial inscription “EJ & J PE… LTD STOU…” With a bit of guesswork as to what the missing letters might be, an internet search revealed that it was from the EJ & J Pearson Firebrick Works in Stourbridge, in the Worcestershire district of England.

Firebricks are a specialised kind of brick that can withstand high temperatures, and are used in the inner linings of furnaces or kilns. Although they were being made in Australia in the 19th century, they were considered inferior to those from the ‘mother country’. Stourbridge in England was the celebrated hub of firebrick manufacturing. The Sydney Morning Herald reported in 1879 that “the Stourbridge fire bricks are known all over the world for their durability; indeed the clay used for this purpose cannot be surpassed.”

The “EJ & J Pearson” company was one of many brick makers in Stourbridge, and was founded in 1860 by Edward Jewkes Pearson and John Pearson. By 1903 the company operated three sites and were producing approximately three-quarters of a million firebricks per week, to be used in England and around the world.

The brick that lies in the Jesmond bushland would probably have been used in a furnace, perhaps to provide air ventilation for the Lambton Colliery, or possibly to heat a boiler that powered a steam engine. It is impossible now to know its exact purpose, or what year it arrived on our shores. But this well-travelled brick is a reminder that Newcastle with its port and industries has been from the beginning, and remains to this day, a globally connected city.


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

A firebrick from the EJ & J Pearson Company lies in the Jesmond bushland.
The Delph works, one of the three EJ & J Pearson brick making sites in Stourbridge UK. Photo courtesy of www.stourbridge.com

More photos of the Stourbridge brickworks can be see on the www.stourbridge.com website.

Additional Information

For simplicity, in the published story I referred to a single brick that I had found in the Jesmond bushland. I actually found two EJ & J Pearson firebricks, the second one located about 15 metres away from the first

Another firebrick from the EJ & J Pearson Company, found in the Jesmond bushland.

The regard for Stourbridge fire bricks is exhibited in a newspaper report on 31 December 1884, on the silver mine at Sunny Corner (between Bathurst and Lithgow), where it is stated that …

“Just now the larger furnace is idle, the brick lining having been burned out. This was of colonial fire bricks, but did not prove suitable, and only the best Stourbridge bricks will be used in future.”

An import list from January 1878, showing that 5000 Stourbridge firebricks were landed at Port Pirie SA.

The Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History has a number of pages relevant to the EJ & J Pearson firebricks

The history of the EJ & J Pearson company is a long and convoluted one of mergers, take-overs, name changes and de-mergers. After a merger in 1957 they became “Price-Pearson (Refactories)”, and then merged with “J. and J. Dyson” in 1968. The present day company “Dyson Technical Ceramics” can trace its history back to the original EJ & J Pearson company.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
9 Jan 1878Import list of the ship Flensborg, showing that 5000 fire bricks from Stourbridge were landed at Port Pirie in South Australia.
20 Sep 1879"The Stourbridge fire bricks are known all over the world for their durability; indeed the clay used for this purpose cannot be surpassed."
31 Dec 1884Stourbridge firebricks are held in high regard … "Just now the larger furnace is idle, the brick lining having been burned out. This was of colonial fire bricks, but did not prove suitable, and only the best Stourbridge bricks will be used in future."

Teralba Railway Deviation

While looking at Google Earth this weekend I noticed that it was somewhat odd the way the Sydney-Newcastle train line has a big eastward loop just south of Teralba.

Why didn’t the train line just continue north-south in a relatively straight line? Consulting Parrott’s 1893 map revealed that’s exactly what the line used to do. Here’s the map overlaid onto Google Earth, with the present day path of the rail line shown in red.

So why the change, and when did it happen?

A search of Trove revealed that construction of the deviation was commenced around 1901. It was one of a number of re-alignments and deviations between Adamstown and Morisset designed to reduce the grade (steepness) of the track, and thus improve the efficiency of haulage. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reporting on the program of rail deviations on 2 July 1901 stated that …

The grade will be 1 in 80 as against 1 in 40 and 1 in 50 on the present line. It is estimated that this deviation of the line, though a costly matter, involving as it does the expenditure of some thing between £70,000 and £80,000, will enable one engine to do work which it now takes two to do, and thus the expenditure is believed to be justifiable.

Construction of the Teralba deviation was halted in October 1901 because of a legal dispute. The deviation passed over the workings of the Pacific Co-operative Steam Coal Company, and the Railway Commissioner’s had offered £2,000 in compensation for the resumed land. The coal company thought this too little, and put in a counter claim for £25,000 compensation. Construction of the deviation recommenced in early 1902 while the legal arguments about compensation continued. In June 1902 it was reported that “the Teralba section is being pushed forward rapidly, giving employment to from 300 to 400 men”. The construction was reported as completed in April 1903.

However the argument over compensation was not completed. At an arbitration hearing in January 1903 the Railway Commissioners were ordered to pay £18,460 in compensation. The Railway Commissioners thought the award too high, and immediately asked “to have the amount of compensation settled by a jury, under the provisions of the Public Works Act of 1900.” On the other hand the Pacific Co-operative Coal Company thought the award too small, and immediately upped the ante by suing the Railway Commissioners for “£60,000 damages for the deprivation of mining rights.”

After a lengthy court case in March 1903, the jury awarded the coal company £17,609 in damages. On 11 June 1903 the coal company signed a “judgement for the amount of the verdict, with interests and costs.” But two months later in August 1903 the matter was back in the courts, where a ruling was made that the coal company “were not entitled to recover such costs.” To make matters even more complicated (as if they weren’t complicated enough), the Pacific Co-operative Steam Coal Company didn’t own the land they were mining. They leased it from the Perpetual Trustee Company for an annual fee based on the amount of coal extracted. The Perpetual Trustee Company thought that their payments would be reduced due to the resumption of land by the railway, and therefore they launched separate legal action against the Railway Commissioners for payment of compensation.

Convoluted legal proceedings continued for years, going all the way to the Privy Council in London in September 1904, other proceedings to the High Court of Australia in September 1905, and continuing in other courts until at least May 1906. With the massive amount of time spent in the courts and associated legal fees, I suspect the 3km Teralba deviation became the most expense piece of railway construction in NSW at the time.

Lambton/Mayfield Tramway

The first tramline in the city, running from Newcastle to Wallsend opened in 1887. Only two other lines opened in the next decade, but tramway fervour increased when Edward William O’Sullivan became NSW Minister for Public Works in 1899. O’Sullivan was a passionate supporter of public transport. He was the visionary in the construction of the ornate Central Railway Station in Sydney, and instigated many other rail and tram projects in NSW.

In Newcastle by 1901, Merewether, Adamstown and Mayfield had been added to the tram network, and many other suburbs clamoured to be the next tram destination. Lambton residents wanted a tram between their town and Mayfield. However the Mayor of Waratah, N. B. Creer, was highly critical, declaring that the proposed route

“comprises a variety of pitfalls and the land might subside at any time”

and that the income from passengers

“would not pay for grease for the rolling stock”

Creer’s preference was for Waratah to be connected by a line from Hamilton via Georgetown. The Minister agreed, and O’Sullivan promised that construction would start by 1903. However, drought and a downturn in the London money markets dried up funds, and government spending was reined in. O’Sullivan lost office in 1904 and the Waratah via Georgetown tramline was put on hold. The line eventually opened in 1915, the final extension of the tram network constructed in Newcastle.

In 1918, the Lambton to Mayfield route was again advocated, to provide transport for workers in the western parts of the city to the newly opened steelworks. But it was never to be. In the 1920s the rise of motorised bus services led to a decline in tram patronage, and from 1930 tramlines in Newcastle began to close. The last tram service in Newcastle ran on 11 June 1950 on the Waratah line.

In 2019, light rail services return to the city, and the opening of the Newcastle to Wickham line raises the same question asked in 1901, “Where to next?”


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

Mayfield-Lambton Tramway Proposals 1901. Map by Ken McCarthy, Trolley Wire magazine October 1982. Courtesy of Sydney Tramway Museum Archives.
A tram sits at the intersection of Howe and Morehead Streets, Lambton, where the
proposed route to Mayfield branched off. Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Additional Information

Timeline of tram operations in Newcastle, 1887-2019

Date Tram line Event
19 Jul 1887 Wallsend/Plattsurg Opened
19 Apr 1894 Tighes Hill Opened
19 Apr 1894 Glebe (originally called Merewether line) Opened
13 Aug 1900 Adamstown Opened
11 Jan 1901 Mayfield (extension of Tighes Hill line to Hanbury St) Extended
21 Sep 1903 Merewether (beach) Opened
27 Apr 1907 Racecourse Opened
19 Sep 1910 West Wallsend Opened
11 Jul 1911 Wallsend (Newcastle to Lambton portion) Duplicated
15 Jan 1912 Speers Point Opened
23 Sep 1912 Carrington Opened
July 1914 Maryville (Port Waratah) Opened
20 Jan 1915 Waratah Opened
15 Dec 1923 Mayfield Electrified
27 Jul 1924 Merewether Electrified
2 Nov 1924 Glebe Electrified
2 Feb 1925 Adamstown Electrified
6 Apr 1925 Waratah Electrified
Nov 1925 Racecourse (possibly 11/11/1925?) Electrified
27 Dec 1925 Wallsend Electrified
15 Aug 1926 Carrington Electrified
11 Oct 1926 Port Waratah Electrified
1 Nov 1930 Speers Point Closed
1 Nov 1930 West Wallsend Closed
19 Nov 1938 Carrington Closed
19 Nov 1938 Port Waratah Closed
26 Sep 1948 Mayfield Closed
6 Nov 1949 Wallsend Closed
25 Feb 1950 Glebe Closed
25 Feb 1950 Merewether Closed
16 Apr 1950 Adamstown Closed
Apr 1950 Racecourse Closed
11 Jun 1950 Waratah Closed
17 Feb 2018 Newcastle Beach to Newcastle Interchange (Wickham) Opened
Passengers on the Newcastle Light Rail on the community open day, 17 Feb 2019

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
1 Sep 1900"The land on the suggested Lambton to Waratah route comprises a variety of pitfalls, and where falls have not taken place the land might subside at any time, a great deal of the country being undermined and the coal extracted from near the surface. "
"The Mayor of Waratah contends that a tramway between Waratah and Lambton would not pay for grease for the rolling stock, and suggests that this project might be dropped so as not to prejudice the construction of the Georgetown route, to which the Minister and the Commissioners are said to be favourable."
4 Sep 1900"The construction of a tramline between Waratah and Lambton is not advocated solely with a view of benefiting the residents living in the vicinity of the route, but also for the convenience of the travelling public of the whole district, more especially the people of the large centres of Wallsend and Plattsburg, who are at present unable to reach Hanbury, Tighe's Hill, Mayfield, or the Hunter River by tram unless they proceed via Wickham, which is both a costly and tedious journey, in order to reach those centres of population."
15 Nov 1900
13 Nov 1900
Conference between Lambton Citizens’ Committee and Waratah Council to discuss the competing routes. Lambton argued that the tram was “necessary as a means of conveyance for youths employed at the Soap Works, a number of workmen who travelled at week-ends and holidays to the river to fish.”
14 Jun 1901
13 Jun 1901
Mr G Fischer, the Engineer for Tramway construction, inspects a number of proposed tram routes. There is detailed description of the Lambton/Mayfield route that was subsequently illustrated in the map in Trolley Wire magazine in 1982.
The praises of William O'Sullivan are sung … “Very little doubt exists that a line will be made if Mr. O'Sullivan remains in power. His vigorous policy has already done much good for the district, and his present tramway proposals are held to be an evidence of his sincerity to make Newcastle up-to-date as the capital city of the great northern part of this State.”
15 Mar 1902"New South Wales is shortly to go on to the [London Money] market, but is holding back because of the unsettled condition of the market owing to South African affairs."
19 Mar 1902The Minister for Works writes to Waratah Council stating that the Waratah Broadmeadow tramway extension could be commenced at the end of June next. (June 1903)
20 May 1903"A deputation … interviewed the Minister for Works, Mr. O'Sullivan, to-day, and urged for the early redemption of his promise to construct the extension of the tram from Broadmeadow to Waratah."
The Minister said "he had given promises in good faith, but a man was sometimes the victim of his environment, and so was the State. Since the promises were given they had fallen upon bad times. The drought, the bad money market in London, and other troubles, and the Government had decided to reef-sail in the matter of expenditure."
8 Aug 1905"The residents of Waratah … are waiting patiently for the construction of the branch line from Broadmeadow Junction. The line was surveyed some years ago, and pegs mark the proposed route. "
"When Mr. O'Sullivan was Minister for Works he was taken over the route. He decided then that it was the proper way to take the line, and promised that it should be constructed. However, he went out of office, and the matter has been hung up since. "
19 Jun 1918Lambton Council meeting: "Correspondence was received from J. Estell, intimating that he would assist thecombined councils in urging the Government to construct a tram line from Lambton, via Waratah and Mayfield, to the steel works."
10 Mar 1920Call to convene a conference "for the purpose of taking concerted action towards procuring the construction of a tramway to the Steel Works either from Lambton or New Lambton."
10 Apr 1920"The necessity for constructing a line of tramways to give direct access from the western suburbs to the Steel Works at Port Waratah was affirmed by a conference of municipal representatives held at the Lambton Council Chambers last night."
24 May 1920“The proposal for the construction of a tramline from Lambton to the steel works was mentioned by the Mayor ... Mr. Phillips (District Superintendent of Tramways), in reply, said that he could see very little hope of any new lines being constructed in the Newcastle district until electrification was brought about.”
21 Oct 1930
1 Nov 1930
Speers Point and West Wallsend tram services cease. They had been operating at a loss of £16,229 per annum.
12 Jun 1950
11 Jun 1950
Last tram service in Newcastle, on the Waratah line.

Update to historical real estate maps index

I’ve just updated my visual index to historical real estate maps by adding maps from Creer and Berkeley, catalogued by the National Library of Australia. There were 130 items that were not in the University of Newcastle Flickr archive.

The two most interesting discoveries I made while adding the maps were

The A.H.P.P and C. Society

While researching Lambton history I came across a few references to the A.H.P.P. and C. Society holding annual shows, exhibiting produce, chickens, flowers etc. 

I had a good guess about what ” A.H.P.P. and C.” might stand for, but in the newspaper report of their first show in December 1889 I confirmed that it stands for “Agricultural, Horticultural, Poultry, Pigeon, and Canary” Society.

Annual Show reports

The first Commercial Hotel

My December article for The Local is out, this month on the Commercial Hotel/Snake Gully Hotel/Hotel Amos/Bar 121, on the south west corner of Elder and Grainger Streets Lambton. This soon to be demolished building was erected in 1888, but in researching the article I discovered there was an earlier and different Commercial Hotel in the period 1879-1882, on the north side of Elder St.

The references to it were fairly scant, and I had little hope of determining where it was located. But last weekend, thanks to an 1885 advertisement of sale of an oddly shaped land allotment, and the NSW Globe KML, I’m reasonably confident that the first Commercial Hotel was at 102-104 Elder St, where Raine & Horne Real Estate was formerly located, and Williams Artisan Bread & Espresso is currently located.

102 and 104 Elder St Lambton. Site of the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton.