Tudor St, Then and Now

While browsing the University of Newcastle’s collection of Ralph Snowball photos, I came across a picture of construction work, with the inscription of “Hamilton Park – 13.10.1911”. It wasn’t immediately clear from the photo what work was being done, but after some searching of Trove I established that it was the construction of sewer mains in the streets of Hamilton. A newspaper article from 3rd August 1911 reports

“Out at Hamilton West the main sewer is being put down at a depth of 16ft. The ground there is a sort of bluish clay, and although it has to be cut out like so much putty, it does not present anything like the same trouble that the sand at the eastern end of the municipality does. Here, as in Denison street, centrifugal pumps, electrically driven, deal with the water, and the current is supplied from the city council’s power-house.

There are 130 men at work in Hamilton East and 61 in Hamilton West. About half of these were coal-miners, and they are doing very well at the new class of work.”

Construction of sewer main, Tudor St Hamilton, 13th October 1911. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Tudor St Hamilton. January 2018.

The approximate location of the 1911 photo can be established by taking note of the distinctive façade of the building at 5 Belford St Hamilton. From this it would appear that the photo is taken in Tudor St, somewhere between Blackall St and Samdon St, looking towards the east.

The 1911 photo is inscribed with “Hamilton Park”, which was the name of a new subdivision of building allotments to the west of Hamilton Park, now Gregson Park.

Hamilton Park Estate sale poster. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Railway Street, Merewether

A relative of mine lives in Railway Street, Merewether, and that got me digging in to the origin of the name.

Presumably it was so named  because of a colliery railway running along or near the street. A 1920s map shows the tram line running along Railway Street, and a colliery railway running along a different route further to the south.

1920s map showing both the Glebe tramway and Glebe Hill Colliery railway. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

So why is it called Railway St when it was a tramway running along the street? Some further digging revealed that the tramway to Glebe was opened on 19th April 1894. Originally called the Merewether line, it was later renamed to the Glebe line to avoid confusion when the Merewether Beach tram line was opened in October 1903. The name “Railway street” pre-dates the tram line, with the name being used as early as 1886. So what is the railway that it refers to?

A. P. Pulver in 1976 compiled a plan showing early coal company railways, which shows that in this area there were two rail lines going to the Glebe Pit – the solid line following the path of Railway Street, and the dashed line further to the south.

Both these rail routes are still visible in a 1954 aerial photograph.These rail lines went to a number of collieries, including the Glebe Pit pictured below.

A Pit Colliery, Newcastle, NSW, 24 February 1899. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

So why were there two rail lines going to the same location? Two newspaper reports from 1881 throw some light on the matter. From 3 Aug 1881

“The railway from Newcastle to the Glebe pit is now nearly completed with the big rails which the company are having laid down in order that the Government engine can haul from the pit, instead of the company’s engine taking the coal from the pit to the siding in town.”

And a month later on 10 Sep 1881

“We have had the pleasure of witnessing the Government locomotive coming direct from Newcastle to the Glebe pit to take away our coals. In connection with the past history of the coal trade in this locality much might be written, for in primitive times we remember when the black diamonds were conveyed to Newcastle by bullock teams. Then we so far advanced as to get a line of wooden rails laid down, along which the coal was taken in waggons drawn by horses. Then came the iron rails and “the puffer,” who for many years screamed and tugged in the performance of her duty as if the coal trade of the port was alone depending upon her efforts. Next came the splendid locomotive, the property of the N.C.M. Co.; and now fine steel rails, a good track, Government engine, break van, &c.”

The best sense I can make of this is that the original railway route with wooden rails and horse drawn wagons (and later upgraded to iron rails) was along the path of Railway Street. Then in 1881 a new railway with “fine steel rails” was constructed on a different route further to the south. With the original railway no longer needed its path became Railway Street, and was subsequently used also used for the tramway in 1894.

Waratah gasworks

As reported in the Newcastle Herald last week, Newcastle Council has completed an environmental investigation into the site of the former Waratah gasworks, with the report to be released soon. I was asked by a reader of this blog about the gasworks. Here is the little I know …

From searching Trove I know that the gasworks were commissioned by Waratah council, officially opened on 1st August 1889, and supplied gas to the township for the next 30 years. In October 1918, faced with a looming large bill for repairs to keep the plant operating, the council looked to sell the gasworks. However due to legal complications that required an act of Parliament to facilitate the sale, it was four years until the Mayor reported that negotiations to sell to the Newcastle Gas and Coke Company were completed in April 1922. The new owners took over operation of the gas works commencing from 1st May 1922.

Note that the sale was for the works only, with the land remaining as crown land. Payment for the sale was by instalments of £1000 a year, plus 5 per cent interest. A 1925 report on Waratah’s finances noted that “A further instalment of £1000, plus interest was received during May in connection with the sale of the gasworks, leaving a balance of £8000 owing to the council.”

It is unclear exactly when the gas works ceased operating, however in August 1928 Waratah council were inviting tenders for the demolition of buildings, and requesting the Minister for Lands to transfer freehold title of the land to the council. In November 1928 the council “decided to ask the Department of Lands to subdivide the site of the old gasworks at Waratah before it is disposed of”, and in December 1929 “Ellis Street” was chosen as the name for the new road in the subdivision.

I first learned about the gasworks a few years ago while studying Corporal Barrett’s 1910 map of Newcastle. In the triangular intersection of Georgetown and Turton Roads can be seen the circular gas tank and holder, which were described in the report of the opening ceremony.

“The gas holder is 60ft diameter 18ft deep, with an actual holding capacity of 51,000 ft. The tank is 64ft diameter, and its holder is so constructed and the tank so built that an addition of a second light or telescope can be made at any time, thus doubling its size at a very small expense.”

Location of the Waratah gasworks shown on Barrett’s 1910 map of Newcastle. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Just above the gasworks, is a red block labelled “F.S.” – this is the fire station on High Street that was opened in 1893. In 1898 Ralph Snowball photographed this station from High St, looking towards the south, so the building behind the fire station may be related to the gasworks, although I’m not sure about this.

Waratah fire station in High Street, 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The gas works site is also shown on a 1906 real estate poster.

Site of the Waratah gas works shown on a 1906 real estate poster. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Welsh Congregational Church

In Minmi in 1864, after a period of torrential rain, a fissure opened beside Back Creek. The contents of the creek poured in, and the colliery below flooded. All the miners managed to escape, but the pit was closed for months afterwards.

Forced to look elsewhere for employment, a group of Welsh miners moved from Minmi to work the newly opened colliery in Lambton. The men belonged to the Welsh Congregational Church, under the leadership of Rev Evan Lewis. They soon erected a simple wood slab church on De Vitre St. The uncertainty of mining meant that most buildings in Lambton at that time were of a similar primitive and temporary character.

In 1868 however, the Welsh miners expressed a confidence in Lambton below, to match their assurance in God above. They decided that a new building, worthy of its great purpose, should be built of stone. They were granted permission to use a quarry on Newcastle Rd nearby, and the men bound themselves “one to another” in an oath, that they would erect a new building in Dickson St, by their own hands, free of charge.

At the 50th anniversary celebrations in 1918 it was remembered that “Some of the men quarried the stone, others wheeled it to the site, and many, after their shift ended at the pit for the day, put in several hours in building the edifice. One of the workers was Mr. J. Parry, who, though then a coalminer, had originally been a stonemason.”

Above the front porch, an engraving in Welsh reads “Bethel capel annibynol adeiladwyd, A.D. 1868” which translates to “Bethel Independent Chapel, built A.D. 1868” The building ceased to be used as a place of worship in 1977, when the Congregationalists merged with the Uniting Church.

Next year will be the 150th anniversary of the stone building, which stands today as an enduring legacy of the faith of those Welsh miners, even in troubled times past.

An undated photo by Ralph Snowball of the Welsh Congregational Church in Dickson St, Lambton. Newcastle Region Library, image 001 004276.

The church building at 43A Dickson St in 2017, now used as a hair and beauty studio.


The article above was first published in the December 2017 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.

Additional information

Acknowledgements

An important source of information for this article was pages 84-85 of “The Story of Lambton”, published by the Newcastle Family Historical Society. In particular, it has details of the binding oath that the men of the church made regarding the construction of the stone church. A handwritten account by Deacon Richard Thomas details the genesis of the oath, as the men considered the future while maintaining the property of the earlier wooden building.

“One day about seven of us were fencing this ground, it was a warm day and we were taking a spell in the shade of the building. One of the party said ‘to see whether we are in earnest or not let us prove it. I am prepared to give five pounds towards it and one pound each for my three sons.’ At once each of the party promised five pounds. That same day Mr David Williams said he knew of a quarry, not more than a hundred yards away, where there were plenty of stones, if we could get permission to open it. That was in Young Road (now a section of Newcastle Road) between Grainger and Hill Streets on the Waratah Coal Company’s ground. A deputation interviewed the Manager, asking permission to open the quarry. Permission was freely granted, and it was decided to have a stone structure. We decided that in order to save expense we would bind ourselves one to another and that we would quarry the stones and bring them to the place free of charge. We worked hard and remained true to each other, without a hitch. I need not mention that it was a big contract for about seven or eight men.”

Clarifications

When dealing with the history of churches in Lambton, it is important not to confuse churches with similar names. For instance the Welsh Baptist Church was different to the Welsh Congregational Church, even though the the minister of the Welsh Congregationalist Church, the Rev Evan Lewis often also preached at the Welsh Baptist Church. Also the Welsh Congregationalists were different to the English Congregationalists, although they later merged in 1904.

Date of Opening

One aspect of the story of the stone Congregational church in Lambton that is slightly frustrating, is pinning down the date of opening. “The Story of Lambton” p. 84 states that “the chapel was completed and opened for worship in June 1868.” However I cannot find any evidence for this date. I have found three newspaper articles in Trove that give a bit of a timeline …

  • 24 Jun 1868 – After noting that the Primitive Methodist are enlarging their building, the report notes that “the Congregationalists are about to make a similar movement, as their chapel is found to be not sufficiently commodious for the hearers.”
  • 12 Nov 1868 – “The erection of the Primitive Methodist and Welsh Chapels are being proceeded with, and the work has already made considerable progress.”
  • 25 Feb 1869 – “The new Welsh Church is on the eve of being completed, and will be opened for public worship ere long.”

Whereas most churches in that era, on the completion of their building held a formal opening service that was well reported in the newspaper, the Welsh Congregationalists don’t appear to have had a formal opening of their small but impressive stone building.

One thought I had in trying to pin down an opening date, was to look in Trove for reports of anniversary services in subsequent years. There were many such reports, but it turns out that the Welsh Congregationalists managed to hold anniversary services variously in the months of June, July, August, September, October, and November. To make matters even more confusing, an eighth anniversary was celebrated in 1877 implying an opening year of 1869, but a 76th anniversary was celebrated in 1944 implying an opening year of 1868.

The best sense I can make of all this is that the church construction took place mostly in 1868 (hence the stone inscription on the front of the church), but that it only began to be used in 1869, and that there was no formal or official opening ceremony.

The quarry

The stone for the church in Dickson St was obtained from a nearby quarry on Young St, now Newcastle Rd. We know that the power station for the electric light scheme instituted in 1890 was built in a disused quarry. There is no definite proof, but it seems highly likely that this was the quarry used for the church. A 1904 panorama of the Lambton taken from the top of Noble St shows the both the quarry and the church in close proximity.

A portion of a 1904 photograph that shows both the Bethel Chapel in Dickson St, and the quarry on Newcastle Rd where the stone was probably quarried from.

Rev Evan Lewis

The grave site in Sandgate Cemetery of Rev Evan Lewis, who started, and then led the Welsh Congregational Church in Lambton for 38 years, until his death in 1902.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
8 Jun 1864
3 Jun 1864
Inundation of the workings of the Melbourne and Newcastle Minmi Colliery Company, after a period of torrential rain.
"No cloud is, however, without a silver lining, and in this case there is a pleasing relief to the dark side of the picture, in the employment afforded by the other coal associations to the men left without work by the Minmi inundation." … "We may say that, beyond a change of residence, but little inconvenience will result to the men so suddenly deprived of their former scene of labour."
11 Jun 1864Further details on the flooding of the Minmi colliery: "It appears that it was not the bed of the creek which yielded, but a fissure was created six yards distant from it. This gap is now being filled up, and a breastwork composed of logs and clay has been built up in front, to guard against a similar occurrence."
27 Aug 1864“It will be twelve weeks on Friday next since the mine was filled with water by the creek breaking in during a heavy rain storm, and what was previously a flourishing busy community, has, by this long period of inactivity, been brought to a very low state in its prosperity ; for with the exception of a few men who remained to assist in clearing the water out of the pit, the great bulk of the colliers found employment at the neighbouring collieries, and in many instances removed their wives and families.”
24 Jun 1868After noting that the Primitive Methodist are enlarging their building, the report notes that "the Congregationalists are about to make a similar movement, as their chapel is found to be not sufficiently commodious for the hearers."
26 Sep 1877
23 Sep 1877
Eighth anniversary celebrations of the Lambton Welsh Congregational Church.
21 Aug 1944
17 Aug 1944
The 76th anniversary celebrations of the Lambton Congregationalists, held in their "spacious hall, recently renovated."

Hamilton North gasworks remediation

The Hamilton North gasworks site in 1944.

Each weekday, on my cycle commute to work , I pass the old gasworks site in Hamilton North. Jemena, the current owners of the land are in the process of remediating the site to deal with the nasty chemicals left behind from years of turning coal into town gas. So when I saw that Jemena were holding a community consultation session about the project in my local bowling club, I thought I’d summon up my ‘inner MacLean’ and pop in to see what’s happening.

As an engaged citizen interacting with a corporate behemoth, I felt a vague obligation to be angry, disputatious and reactionary. But as they explained that the Stage 2 remediation consists of a ‘cap and contain’ scheme of building a 9 metre deep wall near the western boundary to stop groundwater passing through the site into Styx Creek, along with a water impervious cover to stop rainwater infiltration, my main reaction was “That sounds like a good idea.”

The currently planned schedule (subject to jumping through all the right bureaucratic hoops in a timely fashion) is for the Stage 2 remediation construction to start in late 2018 and to be completed in early 2020. And I’ll get to watch (and smell) it each day as I cycle past.

Jemena community consultation session, 15th November 2017. Lambton Bowling Club.

Although the community consultation session was about the remediation of the site, and not what might be done with the site afterwards, I still put forward my dream of a cycleway along the creek one day.

A cycleway here, pretty please?