Struck on the head by a plank falling from 12 feet? A leech will fix that!
Mr. Davis was engaged in the erection of some new screens near the tunnel; and; whilst walking along a plank, over balanced himself, and fell to the ground, a distance of about 12 feet. It also appears that the plank on which he had been walking followed him in the fall, and struck him on the head whilst on the ground, rendering him insensible. He was taken home, and leeches applied under professional direction.
Today’s post comes from Dan Rees St, Wallsend. From 1910 the tram line was extended out from this point to West Wallsend, but the extension was closed in November 1930. At the time this photo was taken (1940s) this was the tram terminus in Wallsend.
Today’s post comes from Hobart Rd New Lambton. At this point in the road there used to be an overhead railway bridge for the rail line to the Lambton Colliery.
What’s interesting about this old photo is there is the tram line has what’s known as a “gauntlet track”. The tram line was a dual track (inbound/outbound), but in order to get through the narrow gap under the rail bridge the two tracks, while not connecting, interleave with each other. To avoid collisions, tram drivers had to collect a wooden staff from a signalling box at the site and only proceed through the gauntlet section if they had possession of the staff.
Old tram photo from University of Newcastle Living Histories.
In the late 19th century, William Conn was the owner of one of the finest commercial establishments in Lambton. Conn was born in Durham (UK) in 1841 and emigrated to Australia with his parents in 1864, initially working at a mine in Hamilton before opening a store in Lambton.
This month’s photo by Ralph Snowball shows William standing by the front door of his large grocery and produce store on the north west corner of Elder and Morehead streets. At his side is one of his daughters, while upstairs on the balcony is his wife Sophia with their four other children.
While the ground floor was devoted to commerce, upstairs was the family residence and a large room capable of seating 200 people. This “Temperance Hall” was used in the campaign against the social ills of alcohol. Many other community gatherings, political meetings, church anniversary teas and public lectures were held in the hall.
The grand appearance of this building with its veranda’s and colonnades was no accident, for it was designed in 1885 by a young up and coming architect Frederick B Menkens, who would go on to design some of the city’s iconic buildings such as the Mechanics Institute in Hamilton and the Earp, Gillam & Co Bond Store in Newcastle East.
Unfortunately, the prosperity of William Conn captured in Snowball’s photo evaporated in the late 1890s with a series of bad financial investments. “In one undertaking, which was regarded as safe as a bank he lost upwards of £300.” In 1900 he was forced to sell off his business and depart the district. He had been an enduring contributor to civic life, serving 7 years as an alderman on Lambton Council, including two years as Mayor.
The article above was first published in the May 2020 edition of The Local.
The date of Snowball’s Photo
Ralph Snowball’s photos of Conn’s store in the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections (photo 1, photo 2) are undated. However an approximate date can be gleaned from the following information.
Conn’s “Temperance Hall” is mentioned in Trove in a very defined and narrow window of 1886 to 1892.
The start date of 1886 is consistent with the call for tenders for alterations and additions to the building in October 1885 and Conn asking Council for permission to store building materials on the footpath in Elder St in March 1886.
The signs on the front of the store do not look brand new – there is a bit of weathering, so I’d suggest that the photo is a few years after 1886.
Elder St originally had quite a deep stormwater gutter running along the north kerb of the street. This can clearly be seen in the photo’s of Conn’s store.
The evidence of the gutter and culvert construction indicate that the photos of Conn’s store must be before April 1888. Combined with the evidence of the weathering of the signs, I think the most likely date for the photo is either 1887 or early 1888.
We know that Conn’s eldest child Ella was born in 1876, and his youngest child Cyril was born in 1883. If the photo was taken in 1888, Ella would have been about 12 years, and Cyril about 5 years of age, and this is consistent with the children we see in the photo.
Later history of the site
By August 1900 the site was owned by E Bell and Snowball photographed the building on 16 November 1901.
The following year “Bell’s Hall” was the venue for a banquet to celebrate the return of Albert Henry McEwan from the Boer War.
By 1905, the site hosted E D’Este Boots and Shoes, and Snowball photographed the building on 8 September 1905.
Note that the hall upstairs has now been name the “Empire Hall”.
By December 1909 the assembly room was known as “Mr. Tiplady’s hall”, and references to Tiplady’s Hall continue in Trove up until November 1937.
Additional Biographical Details
On 3 November 1894, the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate published and article “Our Civic Fathers. The Mayor of Lambton” in which they profiled Alderman William Conn.
Alderman William Conn, the present Mayor of the municipality of Lambton, is a native of the County of Durham, in England. He is now 53 years of age, and came to the colony with his parents in 1864. Shortly after his arrival he settled in this district, and has resided here ever since. In 1873 Alderman Conn was married, and he now has a family of five children.
(Note that the article is in error in stating that he was first elected to Hamilton Council – it was Lambton Council he was elected to in 1878.)
"I notice that our enterprising townsman Mr. W. Conn has been making considerable additions to his business premises in Elder-street. The front of the shop has been altered and made more attraction. A new wing has been added fronting Morehead-street, and also a spacious colonnade and balcony over the footpath in this street. The store has been greatly enlarged by these improvements, and Mr. Conn's customers have now the advantage of being able to enter the promises from either of the abovenamed streets."
"TENDERS are hereby invited for the erection and completion of ALTERATIONS AND ADDITIONS (Shopfronts, Colonades, etc.) to business premises for William Conn, Esq., Lambton.
FREDK. B. MENKENS, Architect."
William Conn elected chairman of the Lambton Business Men's Association. One of the activities of the association was to maintain a list of customers who were racking up too much credit amongst the retailers, and thus only accept cash transactions from them.
William Conn resigns as an alderman from Lambton Council. There is a bit of acriminony in the council meeting when Alderman Burg and Middlemas opposed a vote of thanks to Alderman Conn, with Burg stating that "the arrears had accumulated so much during Alderman Conn's terms as Mayor he thought it would have been better for the municipality if Alderman Conn had never entered the council."
Advertisement for sale "In the Assigned Estate of W. Conn, Lambton. Freehold Property, Lambton, And Small Stock of Groceries, &c., Spring Van, Horse, Harness, and Sulky, 2 Sets of Avery Scales, Counter Scales, and Sundries. Those centrally situated Business Premises, situate on the corner of Elder and Morehead streets, comprising Four Shops on the ground floor, large Public Hall and Commodious Residence on the first floor, the whole being surrounded by an imposing Colonnade 12ft wide."
Advertisement for sale of Conn's properties near Warath railway station. "IN THE ESTATE OF W. CONN.
By Order of the Trustees. WARATAH. 2 allotments fronting Hanbury and York streets, containing 40 perches."
Farewell presentation to William Conn. "… although now under a gloom caused by losses, he was not yet despondent … There had been a time during his residence at Lambton when he could say he had full and plenty; it was not so now, unfortunately."
Advertisement: "Mortgagees' Sale. On Wednesday, April 4th. FREEHOLDS, LAMBTON.
ELDER & MOREHEAD ST., known as Conn's Property, comprising Four Shops on the ground floor, Public Hall and Residence on the first floor, together with outbuildings."
"On the occasion of his leaving Wallsend to take up residence in Sydney, Mr. William Conn was entertained by the parishioners of St. Luke's Church of England at a valedictory social gathering in the parish hall on Wednesday evening."
"Mr. William Conn, who died on Thursday, lived in Lambton for many years prior to removing to Wallsend. He conducted a business in Elder-street, and also a produce store near the railway station, Waratah. He took an active part in all public matters, and was for a number of years an alderman of the council, in which he filled the Mayoral chair for the years 1894, and 1895. He was also a devoted member of the Lambton Church of England, and was the representative at the Synod on many occasions."
"The death occurred yesterday of Mr. William Conn. Deceased, who was eighty years of age, had been
resident of the Lambton and Wallsend districts for many years, and had been a prominent lay member of the Newcastle Anglican Synod, where he regularly took a firm stand regarding the liquor question."
"The late Mr. William Conn was a highly-esteemed resident of Wallsend for about 20 years. Deceased was a zealous member of Saint Luke's Church... He first served as a lay representative to synod when living in Lambton... and as such had completed 30 years' office. He was prominent in many deliberations at synod, and fearlessly gave expression to his convictions... He had also performed splendid service as a lay reader, and was a strong advocate of the temperance cause."
In the article I wrote about “George Sturey”, one of the names on the gate pillars, and identified his actual name to be Salvatore Sturiali. He ws an Italian born immigrant to Lambton, who enlisted in 1916 and was killed by German artillery fire in France on 21 June 1918.
On Anzac Day this year, there was no public ceremony at the gates, but I was pleased to be able to place a wreath there today in memory of “George”.
This morning I snapped this photo near the Jesmond Grove aged care home. The Wallsend tram line used to curve through what is now a grass lawn. What’s interesting about this location is there’s a parchmark to be found.
A parchmark is where under the right climatic circumstances, the drying out of vegetation can reveal structures under the surface when viewed in an aerial photograph. So the October 2014 image from Google Earth shows a clear curved line of the former tram line.