Adamstown Council

Adamstown Council was incorporated by a proclamation on 31st December 1885 published in the Government Gazette on 8th January 1886. A public banquet to celebrate the incorporation was held on Monday 25th January 1886, and the first election of aldermen took place on Saturday 6th March 1886.

The Mechanics’ Institute (March, April 1886)

The first meeting of the council took place in the Adamstown Mechanics’ Institute on Wednesday 10th March 1886, and Thomas William Weir was elected unopposed as Mayor for the ensuing year.

Adamstown Mechanics Institute. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Hunter Region Library.

The Mechanics’ Institute building was in Union St, Adamstown, which was the early name of the section of Brunker Rd south of Glebe Rd. A 1921 real estate map shows the location of the Mechanics’ Institute on the west side of Union St/Brunker Rd, just to the south of Victoria Street.

Location of Adamstown Mechanics’ Institute, from a 1921 real estate map. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The wooden Mechanics’ Institute building was removed in 1928, as part of the widening of Union Street, and a new brick building was erected on the same site that year. The Adamstown RSL took possession of the building in May 1942.

The 1928 Mechanics’ Institute building, photographed July 2017.

At the second meeting of the council on 19th March 1886, the Mayor raised the need for dedicated council chambers, due to the “the institute only being available for a month”, and the council decided that “advertisements for a council chamber should be inserted” into the newspapers. At a meeting on 26th March 1886, six tenders were receive, and “Mrs. Love’s tender was received for 8s per week”.

Royal Standard Hotel (April 1886)

April 1886 was a brief period when the Mechanics Institute hall was unavailable, and the new council chambers was not yet ready. The council therefore held its meetings that month in the Royal Standard Hotel. (Some of the reports refer to the meetings being in the Royal Oak Hotel, but I suspect that is an error, as I can find no other reference to a hotel of that name in Adamstown at that time.) The Royal Standard Hotel was on the corner of Victoria Street and William Street. (William Street was an earlier name of the section of Gosford St south of Glebe Road, as shown by an early subdivision drawing.) A building with a nameplate of “Royal Standard House” still stands on the south-east corner of Victoria and Gosford Street.

Site of the Royal Standard Hotel, corner of Victoria and Gosford streets, Adamstown. July 2017.

Victoria Street Council Chambers (1886 -1892)

From 13th May 1886 the council met in new chambers in Victoria Street. The Newcastle Herald reporting on the new building noted that it


is situated in Victoria street, near the Post-office, and directly opposite the police station. It is a weatherboard building, 30ft. by 13ft., lined and ceiled, and will, when painted and properly furnished, be a comfortable meeting room.

In March 1936, the Newcastle Morning Herald had a feature on the jubilee of Adamstown Council, that included photographs of the buildings in Victoria Street that served as the first council chambers and post office.

Adamstown’s first council chambers. Photographed in 1936.

Adamstown’s first Post Office. Photographed in 1936.

Amazingly, those two buildings are still there side by side in 2017.

The buildings that served as Adamstown’s first council chambers (left) and post office (right), in July 2017.

Narara Road Council Chambers

New council chambers were erected in 1892 in Narara Road, and officially opened on 22nd August 1892. A report on the opening ceremony described the building as follows:

The new council chambers are situated at the corner of Narara and Kyle streets, on nearly a quarter of an acre of land given to the municipality by the Government some time ago. The building is of brick and cement, the design being in the Renaissance style of architecture. It has a frontage of 38ft to Narara-street, and 35ft to Kyle street, the total cost being about £450, the actual contract price amounting to £448. The front to Narara-street is some 20ft in height, with semi-circular and semi-eleptical arches supported by strong piers, and surmounted with a nice entablature having circular balustrading. A verandah is built in the front, from which public meetings may be addressed. The interior of the building is divided into two parts by a hall 5ft wide. On one side are the rooms for the Mayor, the council clerk, and inspector, the other portion being devoted to the council chamber, which is 27ft by 18ft, and 12ft in height. The contractors for the building, who have not yet completed their work, are Messrs. King and Cleave, the architects being Messrs. Bennett and Yeomans, who are also going to build the Hamilton municipal chambers.

Adamstown Council Chambers on the opening day, 22 August 1892. Photo courtesy of Newcastle Region Library.


Adamstown Council Chambers. Newcastle City Council, Hunter Photobank.

Adamstown Council Chambers. Newcastle City Council, Hunter Photobank.


The location of the 1892 Adamstown Town Hall. February 2019.

The portion of a 1928 Craigie’s map of Newcastle shows the location of the council chambers behind the post office, on the corner of Kyle Road and Narara Road.

Location of Adamstown council chambers, corner of Kyle and Narara roads.


Adamstown Town Hall location, as shown on a 1912 map. NSW Land and Property Information, Historical Land Records Viewer.


Adamstown Council Chambers. Newcastle Morning Herald, 21 May 1938.

Post 1938

After the formation of the City of Greater Newcastle council in 1938, the old Adamstown council chambers was leased to the Returned Soldiers’ League in 1941, and in 1947 the former council chambers was being rented to the Newcastle Ex-Servicemens and Citizens’ Band.

In November 1947, the building was used as emergency housing for the Sorby family, who had been recently evicted from their home, and were living in a tent in Merewether. In 1949 the Nix family moved into the stables behind the council chambers. and remained there for six years before being evicted in March 1954.

Adamstown Council Chambers. Newcastle Morning Herald, 19th November 1947.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
19 Jun 1869
16 Jun 1869
Thomas Adam purchases 54 acres of Crown land in Parish of Newcastle.
23 Sep 1869"Adam's Town. — This is the name that is to be given to a new township which is about to be established between the Borehole and New Lambton, near Mr. Christian's, where Mr. Thomas Adam, of Blane-street, has recently purchased between fifty and sixty acres of Crown Land. This land is to be subdivided into a large number of small allotments, and sold at most reasonable terms so as to induce a population to settle upon it. Many of the allotments have been already disposed of, and in the course of a short time hence, we may expect to see a number of huts erected in the locality. The soil is said to be pretty good there."
9 Nov 1869Land for sale in Adamstown. First reference in the newspapers to the town name as one word, rather than "Adams' Town".
25 Aug 1884Hearing at Waratah Police Court "respecting the proposed incorporation of Adamstown, petitions for and against the same having been presented to his Excellency the Governor."
8 Jan 1886
31 Dec 1885
Proclamation of the Governor of the incorporation of "The Municipal District of Adamstown."
26 Jan 1886
25 Jan 1886
A banquet to celebrate the incorporation of Adamstown as a municipality.
8 Mar 1886
6 Mar 1886
First election of aldermen for Adamstown Council.
11 Mar 1886
10 Mar 1886
First meeting of Adamstown Council. Alderman Weir unanimously elected Mayor for the ensuing year. The Mechanics' Institute had granted free use of the building for council business for a month.
20 Mar 1886
19 Mar 1886
Adamstown Council meeting: "The MAYOR then brought forward the question of a council chamber, the institute only being available for a month. Moved by Alderman ATKINSON, and seconded by Alderman EDDEN - "That tenders be called for a suitable room, not less than 12 feet by 24 feet."
10 Apr 1886
9 Apr 1886
A meeting of the Adamstown council held at the Royal Standard Hotel.
14 May 1886
13 May 1886
First meeting of Adamstown Council in their new building in Victoria Street.
15 May 1886Newcastle Herald describes the newly erected weatherboard council chambers.
30 Oct 1886
28 Oct 1886
Motion passed by Adamstown Council to request from the Government the allocation of half an acre of land " for the purpose of erecting council chambers and post and telegraph offices when required."
15 Nov 1886"The municipal council have resolved to apply for half an acre of land on the commonage, near the Public School, for the purpose of erecting a council chamber and post and telegraph office."
3 Aug 1891
30 Jul 1891
At a meeting of Adamstown Council, correspondence received "from the Lands Department, forwarding the dedication of portion 2396, on Commonage, as a site for council chambers."
23 Apr 1892
21 Apr 1892
The Mayor moved "That steps be taken for the erection of council chambers and offices on the ground given for that purpose by the Government." A committee was appointed to draw up an estimate of cost of the proposed new chambers.
7 May 1892
5 May 1892
Adamstown Council meeting: "Messrs. Bennett and Yeomans submitted the plans for the new council chambers, and after some slight alterations, the plans were adopted."
23 Aug 1892
22 Aug 1892
Opening of new Council Chambers by the Postmaster-General.
23 Aug 1892
22 Aug 1892
Description of the new Council Chambers, and the opening ceremony.
18 Mar 1936ADAMSTOWN JUBILEE. Fifty Years of Local Government.
23 Jan 1941"Adamstown Returned Soldiers' League has been notified that it has been granted the use of the old council chambers as a clubroom."
22 Oct 1947"APPROVAL was given for the hiring of the former Adamstown Council Chambers to Newcastle Ex-Service mens and Citizens' Band on a weekly tenancy of 5/, the band to keep the premises clean and pay cost of electricity."
19 Nov 1947"The Lord Mayor (Ald. H. D. Quinlan) took swift action this morning to provide a home for the Sorby family, who were recently evicted and have since been living in a tent. Before noon the family were moving into the old Adamstown Council Chambers"
20 Apr 1949"A family living in stables behind the old Adamstown Council Chambers will be ordered to leave unless they install proper lavatory accommodation."
9 Mar 1954"The family, Mr. R. J. Nix and his wife and four young children, were evicted yesterday from a shed at the rear of Adamstown Council Chambers, which they had occupied for the past six years."

Unanswered questions

  • When was the Narara Road council chambers building demolished?

The drain explain

DryBack in 2014 a change of residence meant that my bicycle commute to work changed to a route that took me alongside long stretches of the concrete drains that spider across the low lying Newcastle suburbs. For 85% of my commute to work I am within 200 metres of one of the concrete drains, or Throsby Creek.

In a recent conversation with a friend when I mentioned this, they responded with some expression of sympathy and sadness that I had to endure such an ugly travelling companion. As I reflected on this Dsc04477areaction I realised that although the drains are not exactly the most aesthetic feature of our city, there are a number of positives.Firstly, cycling alongside the drains offers relative serenity, in comparison to busy roads. Secondly, the drains often attract a variety of bird life – ducks, ibises, some other kinds of birds, the black and white ones, the fast darting ones, as well as those little fluttery ones. (As much as I like birds, you might correctly guess I’m no ornithologist!)

In thinking about the concrete drains I’ve also been pondering their principal purpose – to drain away water. In the downpours of January 2016 I saw this fully in action, and recorded this video of the drain in Broadmeadow near the rescue helicopter base.

It got me thinking. How much water was being carried away each second? Stepping through the frames on the video I was able to see that it took 2.94 seconds for the flow to pass from one concrete seam in the drain to the next. A visit to the drain a few weeks later (when it was dry) to take some measurements revealed the following.

Distance between cracks: 9.1m
Average width of drain: 13.4m
Average depth of drain: 1.6m
Cross sectional area: 21.44m2
Water velocity: 3.1 m/s
Flow volume (cubic metres per sec): 66.4 m3/s

That’s 66 thousand litres per second. Impressive. Or to put it another way, since a standard size Olympic swimming pool contains 2.5 million litres, the waterway at this point is capable of draining an Olympic sized swimming pool every 38 seconds.

Drain dimensions

Broadmeadow drain measurements.

[ Note that all these measurements and calculations are ‘back of the envelope’, ‘ballpark figures’ for the purpose of gaining a broad sense of the capabilities of the drain, and not a precise hydrological survey. ]

I’ve also been pondering the economic benefit of these drains. Prior to their construction from 1895 onwards, the lowlands of Newcastle were regularly turned into a useless boggy swampland. A 1892 description of Broadmeadow states that:

“When there are heavy rains the water comes down in such a way as to flood the streets and property, the water being sometimes 12 and 18 inches deep on the streets.”

Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, 1892. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Premier Hotel in Broadmeadow surrounded by flood waters in 1892. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

The 1897 Ralph Snowball photograph below looking from Glebe Rd Merewether across to Hamilton graphically illustrates the large plain of unused and unusable land, and with the roads suffering significant water erosion.

The Newcastle lowlands. 1897. Photo taken from intersection of Beaumont St and Glebe Rd looking north towards Hamilton. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

The Newcastle lowlands, 1897. Photo taken from intersection of Beaumont St and Glebe Rd looking north towards Hamilton. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Even as construction was progressing the economic benefit of drainage was clear to see, with an 1897 newspaper report on the extension of the system into Adamstown noting that:

“Its construction will prove a great boon to those residing on the lowlands, and should increase the value of property materially.”

Drain construction workers at Broadmeadow, NSW, 6 April 1900

Drain construction workers at Broadmeadow, NSW, 6 April 1900. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

The question then is what is the area of the “lowlands” that are emptied by the drainage system? Browsing the altitude data in Google Earth, and observing the landscape around town, 15 metres above sea level seems to be the inflection point where a gradual rise in elevation across the plains changes to a steeper inclinaton of the surrounding hills and ridges. Using Google Earth I marked with yellow lines the concrete drains, and mapped out in blue the area of the drainage basin that is 15m or less above sea level. This area totalled approximately 1850 hectares. [ KML file viewable in Google Earth ]

[ Note, as before, this mapping is a rough approximation for the purpose of gaining a broad sense of the capabilities of the drainage system, and not a precise hydrological survey. ]

Newcastle concrete drain system. Area shaded blue is 15m or less above sea level.

Newcastle concrete drain system. Area shaded blue is 15m or less above sea level.

As an aside, when I first viewed the map of the drains against the shaded lowlands, it immediately struck me that there is a large area centred on Hamilton that has no open concrete drains, and my recollection is that in the June 2007 Pasha Bulker storm, Hamilton was one of the main areas of flooding. Coincidence or not? I don’t know, as I keep reminding you, I’m not a hydrologist.

Nor am I an economist. With that final disclaimer out of the way I can now ask, how much is all that land worth? What is the monetary value of the land made productive by the open concrete drain system? As an example of land values, the NSW Valuer General shows that in 2015 a 424 m2 area of land in Hamilton North had a value of $327,000. This equates to $771 per square meter, or $7.7 million per hectare.  If we assume that only 75% of the 1850 hectares is usable (allowing for roads, creeks, etc) then the total land value of the lowlands shaded in the map above is … 10.7 billion dollars!

So the next time you pass one of those ‘ugly’ concrete drains … give a bit of respect.

For more drain related musings, check out Mark Maclean’s Hamilton North blog.