Thomas Bevan, Undertaker and more

Thomas Bevan was a man of many pursuits. Born in Camarthenshire in Wales, Bevan emigrated to Australia with an older brother and younger sister in 1884 when he was just 22 years of age. They settled in Lambton and soon afterwards their father, mother and nine other siblings, including 13 year old brother Jonah, joined them.

Thomas’ immigration document lists him as a “builder and wheelwright”, but by the following year in a legal document his occupational description had expanded to “furniture dealer, upholsterer, and undertaker.” In 1887 he married Jennet Davies in Lambton and two years later they purchased a block of land in Pearson Street, for the family home and undertaker’s business. 

However, with three undertakers in Lambton at that time, and a population of just three thousand, the task of tending to the dead was not sufficient to make a living. Bevan had to diversify, as the sign on his house attests. He was also a “cabinet maker, carpenter, joiner” and could be engaged to have “saws set and sharpened” and “glass cut to order”.

After living and working in Lambton for 25 years, Bevan made a complete change in occupation. In 1910 he sold his house and property, and moved to the Richmond River area near Casino to become a dairy farmer. He lived on a number of properties in the area and retired in 1927. He and Jennet celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in Lismore in 1937 and later moved to Sydney where Thomas died in 1941 and Jennet in 1953.

Although Thomas left Lambton in 1910, the Bevan name remained in Newcastle. His younger brother Jonah had become an undertaker in Stockton in a business that continues to this day. One difference to note though – because of the large increase in our city’s population, funeral providers today can have a singular focus that is in marked contrast to the multi-tasking of Thomas Bevan.

Thomas Bevan and family, Pearson St Lambton, 1890s. Photo by Ralph Snowball, Living Histories @ UON.
Jonah Bevan Funerals, Stockton, 2021.

The article above was first published in the April 2021 edition of The Local.


Additional Information

Thomas, William and Serviah Bevan travelled from Wales to Australia on the steamship Texas, in 1884 as assisted emigrants. The passenger list shows Thomas’ aged 22, occupation “builder and wheelwright”, and native place and county as “Carmarthen”.

Emigration list 1884, showing William and Thomas Bevan. Assisted Emigrant records, FamilySearch.org
Emigration list 1886, showing Jonah Bevan aged 13, with two older brothers. Assisted Emigrant records, FamilySearch.org

Newcastle Properties

Page 93 of the Federal Directory of Newcastle and District 1901, lists “T. Bevan” as an undertaker in Pearson St. Vol-Fol 796-107 shows that Thomas Bevan purchased the north half of Lot 6 Section K in July 1889.

Purchase by Thomas Bevan, Vol-Fol 796-107.

Lot 6 corresponds to current day address 41 Pearson St.

In the 1904 photographic panorama of Lambton, taken from the North Lambton hill, Bevan’s house and shed can be seen in Pearson St.

Thomas Bevan’s house and shed, seen in a 1904 photograph. Living Histories @ UON
41 Pearson St Lambton, March 2021.

In May 1910, the following advertisement appeared in Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate.

Property No 1 was the double storey house formerly owned by W T Dent, located at 18 Pearson St. Thomas and Jennet Bevan purchased the property in June 1908. (See Vol-Fol 262-127.) Although advertised for sale in 1910, the property was not sold until October 1919.

W T Dent’s house at 18 Pearson Street Lambton, in 1897. Thomas and Jennet Bevan purchased the house in June 1908. Living Histories @ UON

Property No 2 in the advertisement was the house and undertaker’s business at 41 Pearson St Lambton. The property sold to William James Hanlon, a blacksmith’s assistant, in July 1910.

Property No 3 was at 127 Michael Street Jesmond. Thomas Bevan purchased this property in October 1905. (See Vol-Fol 816-189.) Although advertised for sale in 1910, the property was not sold until October 1919.

Life in the Casino Area

On leaving Newcastle in May 1910, Thomas Bevan moved to the Casino area and lived and worked on a number of properties.

  • “Nunga” homestead, Fairy Hill, north-west of Casino.
  • “Carmarthen” property, McKees Hill, east of Casino
  • “Brynteg” property, Spring Grove, east of Casino

Bevan was a tenant of the “Nunga” property at Fairy Hill from 1910 until August 1914.

“Nunga” homestead, Fairy Hill, NSW. Google Maps. Imagery (c) 2021, CNES/Airbus, Maxar Technologies.

The exact location of Bevan’s property “Carmarthen” at McKees Hill is unknown. It would seem that he only rented this property as there is no record of a purchase, and the advertisement in April 1919 only mentions livestock and farm implements for sale, not the land or house.

In September 1919, Thomas Bevan purchased a property of about 280 acres at Spring Grove. (See Vol-Fol 2689-249) Presumably this purchase was funded by the sale of his Lambton and Jesmond properties in the same year.

Purchase of land by “Thomas Bevan of near Casino, Dairy Farmer.” Vol-Fol 2689-249.
Thomas Bevan’s property purchase in 1919 at Spring Grove.
Location of Thomas Bevan’s property “Brynweg”, to the east of the village of Spring Grove. SIX maps.

Bevan subsequently sold this property in July 1931.

Thomas and Jennet Bevan’s Golden wedding anniversary in Lismore. Western Mail, 23 Dec 1937.

Undertaker ratios

In the article I make the contrast between Thomas Bevan who had to diversify into a myriad of other activities beyond undertaking to make a living, compared to modern day undertakers who are focused solely on the funeral business. A rough comparison of the ratio of undertakers to population is revealing. The Federal Directory of Newcastle and District 1901, lists three undertakers in Lambton:

  • T Bevan, Pearson St
  • R Thomas, Dixon St
  • R and C Evans, Pearson St

With the population of Lambton shown as 3434 in the 1891 census, this equates to about one undertaker per 1000 people. Compare this with the modern day by looking at the area covered by the Newcastle federal electorate. The 2016 census shows a population of 152,948, and a Google search for funeral directors and undertakers in this area reveals eleven businesses. This equates to one undertaker per 14000 population, a fourteen-fold difference from the ratio that Thomas Bevan had to deal with in 1901.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
28 Aug 1885Indenture of assignment notification for "William Bevan, of Wallsend, in the Colony of New South Wales, furniture dealer, upholsterer, and undertaker, and Thomas Bevan, of the same place, furniture dealer, upholsterer, and undertaker, trading at Wallsend and Lambton, in the Colony aforesaid, under the style and firm of 'Bevan Brothers'."
29 Dec 1885Advertisement inserted by "THOMAS H. BEVAN, Undertaker, Elder-street, Lambton."
3 Jan 1887"H. BEVAN & SON, UNDERTAKERS, Elder and Kendall Streets, LAMBTON, BEG to announce to the inhabitants of Lambton and surrounding districts that they are now in a position to CONDUCT FUNERALS in the most respectable manner, and CHEAPER than any other place in the district. N.B.- Hearses and Mourning Coaches supplied on the shortest notice."
21 Jan 1887Funeral of Thomas Bevan's mother Catherine.
29 Oct 1887
27 Oct 1887
"Marriage. BEVAN-DAVIES.- October 27th, 1887, at the bride's father's house, Lambton, by the Rev. Richard Erwyd Davies, Thomas Bevan, contractor, Lambton, eldest son of Hopkin Bevan, contractor, Stockton, to Janet [sic], daughter of William Davies, merchant, Lambton."
7 Nov 1887First mention of "H. Bevan & Sons, Undertakers" in Stockton.
3 Jan 1891First mention of "Thomas Bevan, Undertaker" in Lambton, after some years being advertised as "H. Bevan and Sons".
5 May 1900
15 Apr 1900
Death of Thomas Bevan's father Hopkin, aged 66, at Stockton.
14 May 1910Thomas Bevan advertises the sale of three properties, two in Lambton and one in Jesmond.
26 May 1910
24 May 1910
"A social evening, promoted by the members of the Lambton Choral Society, was held in the Empire Hall on Tuesday night … to bid farewell to the conductor, Mr. Thomas Bevan."
26 May 1910"The members of the Lambton Congregation Church entertained Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bevan and family at a social on Monday evening in the schoolroom, on the eve of their departure from Lambton … Mr. and Mrs. Bevan and family leave Newcastle this morning by boat for their new home on the Richmond River."
1 Nov 1913
28 Oct 1913
Marriage of William Hopkin Bevan, "eldest son of Thomas Bevan, Fairy Hill, Casino (late of Lambton)."
19 Jun 1914"On Wednesday last at 'Nunga,' Fairy Hill, the residence, of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bevan, a quiet but pretty wedding was celebrated between Miss Catherine Bevan and Mr. W. H. Winslow Bassan."
17 Apr 1915In a court case over the dealing with noxious weeds on the "Nunga" property at Fairy Hill, "Thomas Bevan said he took possession in 1910 and remained a tenant till August, 1914."
28 Apr 1919On account of MR. THOS. BEVAN, 'CARMARTHEN,' McKEE'S HILL. VTIRTUE, NOBLE and CO., LTD., under instructions from Mr. Thomas Bevan, of McKee's Hill, will submit to public auction the whole of his Choice Little Dairy Herd, Plant, Horses, Pigs, Farm Implements, Galvanised Iron, Piping, Timber, etc."
27 Jan 1932After the death of Hopkin Bevan in 1900, the undertaking business at Stockton contined to trade for many years (up to at least 1932) as "H. Bevan & Sons."
23 Dec 1937
22 Nov 1937
Golden wedding anniversary celebration of Thomas and Jennet Bevan in Lismore.
13 Feb 1941Death of Thomas Bevan, aged 80, at Arncliffe.
11 Jan 1945
9 Jan 1945
Death of Jonah Bevan, aged 71, brother of Thomas.
26 Dec 1953
23 Dec 1953
Death of Jennet Bevan, aged 86, widow of Thomas.

Gittins and Eastham Store

Broadmeadow Co-Operative Society

The 19th century saw the birth of a new mode of grocery retailing – the Cooperative Society movement. Begun in the UK and brought to Australia by immigrants, the core idea was for consumers to own, control and benefit from their local store. Membership was open to all through the purchase of shares, controlled through democratically elected officers and regular meetings, and profits returned to members as dividends.

In April 1887 the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society formed with 17 initial members, and rented a four-room house in Lambton Rd to operate a store. At the second quarterly meeting in November 1887, the society reported the business to be “in a flourishing and prosperous condition.” In 1889 the society purchased their own premises (the small wooden building in Snowball’s photo) in Brunker Road adjacent to the Premier Hotel. Membership had increased to over 170, and a bakery department was soon added.

However, in the 1890s a prolonged economic depression put the society under financial strain. With many miners out of work, trade fell dramatically. The working capital of the society slowly eroded with over-optimistic dividend payments in the face of declining profits, and members withdrawing from the cooperative. By April 1897 the financial position was untenable, and the society closed. Only the largest cooperative societies, with many members and multiple stores, survived the downturn.

In May 1897 the Broadmeadow store was taken over by Robert Gittins and George Eastham, who soon erected a large brick building adjacent to the original building. Gittins and Eastham had emigrated from the UK to Australia around 1887, and after a brief stint working as pit mates at the Bullock Island colliery, opened grocery stores in Wickham and Carrington. They traded at Broadmeadow for 10 years until selling to Thomas Hughes, who then ran the store for the next quarter century.

Independent, locally owned stores such as this were the norm until the 1960s, when the big supermarket chains rapidly rose to a dominance in grocery retailing they maintain to this day.

Gittins and Eastham Store, Broadmeadow, September 1897. Photo by Ralph Snowball, Living Histories @ UON,
The store was located at 3 Brunker Rd Broadmeadow, where the Premier Hotel carpark is today.

The article above was first published in the March 2021 edition of The Local.


Additional Information

The Broadmeadow Co-operative Society

The Broadmeadow Co-operative Society got off to a good start. After six months of operation, at their second quarterly meeting pm 31 October 1887, the secretary Mr W Roe presented a report and balance-sheet …

… which showed the society to be in a flourishing and prosperous condition, both with regard to members and financially. The shareholders number 69; paid-up shares, 104; unpaid-up shares, 22. The weekly takings at the store average over £50 per week. There is also a large number of non-members who purchase their goods at the store. The balance-sheet also showed that a large sum had been spent during the quarter in procuring a horse and cart and other necessaries required in the business; but despite this expense the society was enabled to declare a dividend of ten per cent. The report and balance-sheet were unanimously adopted, and the shareholders were very jubilant over the progressiveness of the society.

Location of Broadmeadow Co-operative Society Store. 10 Lambton Rd (April 1887 to April 1889) and 3 Brunker Rd (May 1889 to April 1897).

At the district Co-operative Conference held at Burwood on Saturday 13 July 1889, Mr R Gray, manager of the Pioneer Society at Burwood delivered a speech on “The rise and progress of cooperation in this district.” In the speech Mr Gray described the essence of the Co-operative movement as being …

“… that the profits of an undertaking do not go into the pocket of an employer, be that employer an individual, or several individuals united in partnership; but that they should be shared by the largest possible number of those who engage in the undertaking, either as consumers or workers. In our distributive co-operative societies the net profits on sales, after paying working expenses, interest on capital etc, go to the consumer.”

Mr Gray gave detailed statistics on each of the district societies, including the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society, which …

“… started business on April 17th, 1887, with 17 members, and a share capital of £14, and a loan of £50, making in all £94. They have paid away in dividends to members on their purchases alone, since they commenced, £1037 6s. Their share capital at the end of this quarter is £685 11s 10d, and the number of members on their books is 173. These facts speak for themselves. Then there is the fact of their having purchased the premises which they now occupy, their fixed stock account amounting to £200.”

The premises purchased by the society was on the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve (Commonage). The location can therefore be identified from the Land Court Sittings in July 1890, when people of the Commonage were finally able to apply for legal title to the land they were residing on. From the sitting of the court on 28 July 1890

“Portion 2102; applicants, the Broadmeadow Cooperative Society, Limited. The district surveyor reported that the land was valued at £103 4s, and he submitted that the applicants should prove ownership of the improvements. James Raine stated that he was president of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society, Limited, and he appeared in support of an application made by John A. Davidson, the then secretary of the society, for portion 2102. The society owned the improvements on the portion, which consisted of a shop and outbuildings. The land had been purchased from Charles Heath, who had been in occupation prior to 1888, and the purchase was completed on the 25th May of that year. Witness claimed that the society had a perfect right under the Act to make application for the portion, as they had been in continued occupation since purchasing. Heath had not, to witness’s knowledge, made application for the land. After a short discussion, the board stated that they would adjourn the further consideration of the appraisement until they were dealing with other portions in the same vicinity. In the meantime, they would recommend that the application be accepted.”

Subsequently on 4 September 1890, the Land Court formally accepted the application of …

“Broadmeadow Co-operative Society, Limited, lot 2102, £163 4s”

The Co-operative’s store is just visible on the right hand side of Snowballs 1892 photograph of the Premier Hotel surrounded by floodwaters.

Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, NSW, 18 March 1892. Ralph Snowball, Living Histories @ UON
Broadmeadow Cooperative Store, 1892.

The rise of the Supermarkets

The Australian food history timeline website indicates that Farr’s of Newcastle may have been the first Australian supermarket. In 1957 the Chermside Drive-in Shopping Centre opened in Brisbane, including a supermarket that was soon afterwards bought by Woolworths. Coles then opened their first Australian supermarket in North Balwyn in Victoria in 1960.

By the early 1970s the big supermarket chains (Woolworths, Coles, Supa Value, Foodland, Franklins, FAL) had 50% share of the grocery retail market, and by 2020, the two major chains (Woolworths/Coles) had a 67% market share.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
4 Apr 1887
4 Apr 1887
"A public meeting will be held at the junction of Adamstown and Broadmeadow Roads on MONDAY, 4th inst., at 7 p.m. All in favour of establishing a Co-operative Society are requested to attend."
6 Apr 1887"The meeting advertised to be held on the Commonage for the establishment of a co-operative society was, on account of the wet weather, adjourned to Mr. Raine's residence, where a very successful meeting was held. About 21 persons enrolled themselves as members, and gave the newly-formed society the name of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society. "
9 Apr 1887
8 Apr 1887
Meeting of the newly-formed Broadmeadow Co-operative Society … "A letter was read from a Mrs. Dickford, offering a four-roomed house, with outhouse and stable, facing the Lambton-road … it was agreed to take the building from Wednesday next, which would allow ample time to commence business by next pay."
2 Nov 1887
31 Oct 1887
Second quarterly meeting of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society reported "the society to be in a flourishing and prosperous condition."
12 Nov 1887William Roe, secretary of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society authorised to sell postage stamps.
8 May 1889
4 May 1889
Broadmeadow Co-operative Society annual meeting. The co-operative now had 174 members and was in a good financial position, attributed to the fact that "the society has now premises of its own, which is a great saving in rent."
17 Jul 1889An essay on "The rise and progress of cooperation in this district" read by Mr. R. Gray, manager of the Pioneer Society, Burwood, at the Co-operative Conference. It has some good insights into the history and goals of the Co-operative movement, as well as detailed statistics on the current state of the Co-operative movement in Newcastle.
29 Jul 1890Commonage Allotments land court sitting, where the application by the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society for portion 2102 was considered. The application was adjourned, but with an intimation that it would be approved.
6 Sep 1890
4 Sep 1890
Sitting of the Land Court formally accepts the application of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society for lot 2102.
14 Jan 1892At the quarterly general meeting … "The report showed the number of members on the books to be 217" and "special attention was drawn to the bakery department, which is now in full working order."
28 Oct 1893Tensions at the Quarterly meeting of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society regarding: withdrawal of members, lack of support from members, paying of dividends, bakery accounts.
31 Jan 1896
29 Jan 1896
Correspondence to Hamilton Council: "From Mr. A. Sharp, manager of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Store, complaining of the bad state of the road in front of the store, and asking council to effect the necessary repairs. It was resolved that the request be complied with."
20 Apr 1897"A special meeting of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society will be held this evening for the purpose of considering the financial position of the society."
6 May 1897"The Assigned Estate Broadmeadow Co-operative Society. WE have This Day DISPOSED of the BOOK DEBTS of this Estate to Messrs. Gettins (sic) and Eastham, Grocers, Broadmeadow, whose receipt will be a sufficient discharge."
9 Aug 1897"Messrs. Gittens and Eastham, who have secured the property and business of the now defunct Broadmeadow Co-operative Society, have made good progress since they opened a branch store at Broadmeadow. The experience of the firm has been such that they have near completion a large brick building that is to be used for a store. The building adjoins the old store on the Brunker-road frontage, and is a splendid site from a business standpoint. Mr John Francis is managing the business on behalf of the firm."
25 Oct 1897"By the opening of the large branch store by Messrs Gittans (sic) and Eastham on the site of the old Co-operative Store the thoroughfare has been given a brighter aspect and the surroundings more enticing."
5 Nov 1907"PUBLIC NOTICE, TOM HUGHES WISHES to announce to the General Public of Broadmeadow and Surrounding Districts that he has Purchased the Business lately carried on by GITTENS & EASTHAM, at Broadmeadow."
29 Apr 1919
29 Apr 1919
"Mr. Robert Gittins, of Hannell-street, Wickham, the principal partner in the firm of Messrs. Gittins and Eastham, died at an early hour this morning at Waratah Hospital. Mr. Gittins was 65 years of age, and a well known and highly respected resident of Wickham for upwards of 30 years. His son is Alderman Reece Gittins, of the Wickham Council."
29 Apr 1919"PUBLIC NOTICES. GITTINS & EASTHAM. THE BUSINESS PREMISES of the above Firm at Wickham, Carrington, and Steel-street, Newcastle will be CLOSED ALL DAY TO-MORROW (WEDNESDAY), on account of the death of Mr. Robert Gittins"
30 Apr 1919Obituary of Robert Gittins.
5 Oct 1931Obituary of George Eastham.
23 Jan 1937Obituary of Thomas Hughes.

Drain Plane – District Park Aerodrome

Over the years, I have seen some strange things in the concrete stormwater drains that traverse our suburbs, but nothing compared to what the residents of Broadmeadow witnessed 75 years ago.

At that time, the area now occupied by Hunter Stadium and the Harness Racing Club was an aerodrome. The government had reserved the land for aviation purposes in 1923, but it was little used until the formation of the Newcastle Aero Club in 1928. In 1939, with the outbreak of world, the club’s aircraft were used by the R.A.A.F for training purposes, while a new military airfield was being constructed at Williamtown.

On 10 August 1944 Broadmeadow received an unscheduled military visitor, as the newspaper reported the following day …

Forced down in a storm, a D.C. 47 Army transport plane, with 25 men on board, skidded 200 yards on a wet runway, hurtled through a fence and then crashed into a stormwater channel at Broadmeadow aerodrome. The pilot (broken nose) and radio operator (head injuries) were the only people hurt, although all the others sustained a severe shaking.
In addition to the crew of four, the transport carried 21 members of United States bombing crews coming to Sydney on furlough. North of Newcastle the transport ran into the storm, and the pilot decided to attempt a landing at Broadmeadow. When he put down he was unable to control the plane on the wet runway. As it neared the channel, the plane slewed and it went in, nose first.

The accident was the seventh in two years involving the storm water channel, and this highlighted the unsuitability of the site as an airfield. After the war, commercial aviation commenced at Williamtown in 1947, and in 1961, the Aero Club moved to Rutherford. District Park reverted to its original purpose of public recreation, and the roar of aeroplane engines was replaced by the roar of sports fans.

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

Sightseers crowd around the Douglas 47 aircraft crashed in the stormwater drain at Broadmeadow in August 1944. From the archives of the Royal Newcastle Aero Cub.
The same location, August 2019

Additional information

I have previously written two blog posts on this air accident.

Although the area on the Broadmeadow flats wasn’t officially reserved for aviation purposes until 1923, pilots were using the ground well before that time. In April 1914 the Newcastle Morning Herald reported on the aviation display of Frenchman Monsieur Guillaux …

M. Guillaux’s aeroplane arrived at Broadmeadow yesterday, and is now safely housed in the pavilion on the Show Ground, ready for to-morrow’s performance. A great many people are under the impression that a full view of this world-renowned airman’s feats will be visible from the outside, but it is announced that all the daring somersaults, upsidedown turning, looping the loop, gliding, posing, as the great eagle in mid air, will be done within the enclosure, and not high enough for outsiders to see. Monsieur Guillaux is determined to give a greater and more daring exhibition than has been his lot to perform, and more so in honour of the fact that Newcastle is the first city In Australia that he is giving a public performance in.

An area for aviation in District Park was officially gazetted on 25 May 1923. A map of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve retrieved the Historical Lands Record Viewer, shows that the aerodrome area was officially gazetted or notified on 25 May 1923.

A map of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve retrieved the Historical Lands Record Viewer, shows that the aerodrome area to the north of the storm water drain.

A map from a land sale poster in 1923 shows an area of the Broadmeadow flat marked as “Public Recreation & Aviation Grounds”. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Although it was officially reserved for aviation in 1923, the ground seems to have been little developed and little used until October 1928 when the local councils began to discuss definite proposals for the development of an aerodrome. In October 1928 the Newcastle Aero Club was formed. Initially they used an aerodrome constructed on Walsh Island in 1929, and the club spent “thousands of pounds” constructing facilities at Walsh Island. However in October 1933, the club obtained a 14 year lease of the District Park aerodrome in Broadmeadow, and the Walsh Island aerodrome appears to have fallen into disuse.

Just weeks after the outbreak of World War 2, the Minister for Civil Aviation announced on 13 Sep 1939 that Williamtown had been decided as the site for a new military aerodrome, and that construction “would begin next week or the following week, and would be carried out as rapidly as possible.”

While the Williamtown airport was being constructed, the R.A.A.F. used the Newcastle Aero Clubs planes at the Broadmeadow aerodrome for training. The R.A.A.F. air base at Williamtown commenced operations on 15 February 1941.

R.A.A.F. Training planes at the Broadmeadow aerodrome, Newcastle Morning Herald, 28 June 1940.

During the war, the Broadmeadow aerodrome continued to be used and a number of accidents occurred during this time.

Photograph of the crashed Douglas C47 transport plane, from the Newcastle Morning Herald, 12 September 1944. New Lambton can be seen in the background.

One humorous side note to the August 1994 crash of the C47 Douglas plane, is that a life size painting of a nude girl on the plane attracted thousands of sightseers. Candice Campbell posting on her Flickr account wrote …

While looking in the store room [of the Royal Newcastle Aero Club] I found a poster with these images and a little bit of amusing info. Apparently on the nose, she had a naked pin up girl painted. After she crashed, the police came along and painted pants on the girl because they thought the public would be offended. I had a look at the image I found of the nose art after the police “attacked” it and it looks pretty funny. You have this beautiful woman, with these horrid pants on…

Towards the end of the war there were discussions whether the aerodrome at Broadmeadow should be expanded or a new aerodrome constructed at Sandgate. Neither of these eventuated, instead in 1947 the military airport at Williamtown opened to civilian traffic for charter flights. Scheduled commercial flights at Williamtown commenced on 20 February 1948.

In 1961 the Royal Newcastle Aero Club was given notice by the Department of Civil Aviation to cease operations at the field at Broadmeadow, and the club moved to Rutherford near Maitland.

In 1969 a sports ground and grandstand was constructed on the Broadmeadow aerodrome site. What is now McDonald Jones Stadium (or Hunter Stadium) was originally known as the International Sports Centre, and was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 10 April 1970.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
24 Apr 1914"M. Guillaux's aeroplane arrived at Broadmeadow yesterday, and is now safely housed in the pavilion on the Show Ground, ready for to-morrow's performance."
23 Feb 1921"One of the pilots of the Orva Aviation Company will to-day and each day this week make flights from a ground opposite the Showground at Broadmeadow."
7 Feb 1922"The corner of District Park, where the Wallsend and Waratah tram lines junction, has been decided on as a suitable site for the aerodrome for Newcastle." (Note that this describes the south eastern corner of District Park, however the eventual site chosen was the north western corner.)
19 Apr 1922"Negotiations have been continued for the establishment of an aerodrome at Newcastle. The Department of Defence, Melbourne, has requested the trustees of the District Park at Broadmeadow to grant a lease of the park at the earliest possible date."
25 May 1923Gazetting of 52 acres of District Park "for public recreation and aviation purposes."
6 Jun 1925Airways Ltd advertising flights "from the Govt aerodrome, District Park, Broadmeadow."
2 Oct 1928"To discuss definite proposals for making part of District Park suitable for an aeroplane landing ground, a conference of district councils and the park's trustees is to be called by the Acting Mayor of Newcastle."
12 Oct 1928
11 Oct 1928
Inaugural meeting of the Newcastle Aero Club, held in the Newcastle Council chambers.
30 Jan 1929
29 Jan 1929
Charles Kingsford Smith, in his Southern Cross airplane, lands at the District Park aerodrome, on his visit to Newcastle to inspect potential aerodrome sites for his airline.
10 Aug 1929Construction of an aerodrome on Walsh Island is progressing. Newcastle Aero club asking permission to use the aerordrome.
25 Oct 1933Fifty two acres of District Park leased to the Newcastle Aero Club for a period of 14 years.
15 Sep 1939Military aerodrome to be sited at Williamtown, with construction work to start immediately.
28 Jun 1940"TRAINING PLANES for the R.A.A.F. Newcastle Aero Club's training planes shown assembled at the Newcastle Aerodrome. The 13 planes were photographed in front of the hangar."
11 Aug 1944
10 Aug 1944
Crash of a Douglas C47 transport plane at Broadmeadow, reported in the Newcastle Morning Herald.
11 Aug 1944
10 Aug 1944
Crash of a Douglas C47 transport plane at Broadmeadow, reported in the "News" of Adelaide.
11 Aug 1944
10 Aug 1944
"The crashing yesterday at District Park aerodrome of an American Army Douglas transport plane has given impetus to the agitation to have the aerodrome improved. In the last two years, seven planes have crashed, either on the aerodrome or through unsuccessful attempts to land there - five of them within the last nine months."
22 Aug 1944"A life-size study in color of a nude girl painted on a crashed plane at Broadmeadow aerodrome is attracting thousands of sightseers every day."
23 Apr 1945Discussion on whether the aerodrome at Broadmeadow should be enlarged, or a new aerodrome constructed at Sandgate.

New Lambton Copper Smelter

Mike Scanlon in today’s Newcastle Herald has an article about the naming of Christo Road in Waratah. In the article he quotes from a letter from a reader, Greg Archbold, who says of John Penrose Christoe

“He arrived in Newcastle about 1869 to establish a smelting works at New Lambton where I believe (the old) Goninans is now located. “

This location is indeed correct, although the various suburbs and names mentioned in connection with the smelter makes things a little confusing.  The smelter was the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company, which operated until about 1917.

Photograph of Waratah copper smelter by Ralph Snowball, 1906. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The location of the smelter is now in the modern suburb of Broadmeadow, but at the time the smelter was built, Broadmeadow wasn’t a suburb or town – it was a swamp. So the smelter was variously described as being “within a mile of New Lambton” or “near Waratah”, those being the closest townships.  The association of the smelter with New Lambton was reinforced by the fact that the land the smelter was built on was the leasehold property of Messrs. J. and A. Brown, who owned the New Lambton colliery, and who had an exclusive agreement to supply coal to the smelter. For this reason the works were often referred to as “The New Lambton Copper Smelting Works”.

Corporal Barrett’s 1910 map of Newcastle shows the location of the smelter, and also shows that Christo Road was originally called Newtown Road. (Newtown was the original name for Hamilton North.)

1910 Barrett map overlaid on Google Earth, showing the location of the copper smelter near Waratah.

A 1906 real estate poster shows Christo Road mis-spelled as both “Christie Road” and “Christie St”.

1906 map showing Christo Road as “Christie Road”. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Real estate advertising that doesn’t align with reality is nothing new. The 1906 poster above shows the promise of neatly laid out roads and residential blocks in the Waratah West region near Christo, Creer and Morpeth roads.  However a 1944 aerial photograph of the area I recently obtained from Newcastle Library, shows that 38 years later, there was only Christo Rd and a tiny smattering of houses in the area.

Christo Road Waratah West in September 1944. Newcastle Region Library, Local Studies.

Christo Road Waratah West, 2016.

Update, November 2018

Chris Weeks suggested that the smelter smoke stack can be seen in a 1906 photo from the obelisk.

Smelter smoke stack as seen from Newcastle Obelisk, 1906. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

This is confirmed by drawing a line in Google Earth from the obelisk to the peak of the North Lambton hill (seen in the upper left corner of the photo portion above) and noting that the smelter stack is slightly to the right.

 

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
6 Nov 1869"The English and Australian Copper Company, who carry on extensive smelting works in South Australia, are about to establish similar works within a mile of New Lambton.
12 Feb 1870Construction of the English and Australian copper smelting works at Broadmeadow has been in progress for three months, and smelting "will be commenced in about two months." (This was a wildly optimistic estimate, as smelting eventually commenced in June 1872, more than two years later.)
The manager is "Mr. Christoe, a gentleman of great experience in copper-smelting."
15 Sep 1870The weather has significantly delayed the opening of the smelter.
"For upwards of two months there was such an accumulation of water at the establishment as to defy the possibility of the works being proceeded with, and thus the company were unexpectedly debarred from carrying out their design in the contemplated time as regards the inauguration of the process of smelting."

The manager of the smelter is Mr. Christoe.
15 Jul 1871Advertisement for a General Manager for the New Lambton Smelting works.
9 Sep 1871250 tons of copper ore have arrived in Newcastle Harbour destined for the New Lambton Copper-smelting Works so "now there is a reasonable hope that this fine and valuable property created here at a great expense, will very shortly become utilised."
6 Feb 1872Mr Christoe supervising operations at the Burwood Copper Smelter, Glenrock lagoon.
18 May 1872Copper ore has been received, but smelting has not yet begun.
18 Jun 1872Lighting the first fires in two of the coppersmelting furnaces of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company's works near Waratah.
19 Oct 1872"There appears to be an anomaly existing between our copper- smelting establishments, which time only can set at rest ; for while at this establishment five furnaces are idle for want of ore, at the Hunter River Works, five furnaces are idle here from the want of men acquainted with smelting operations to work them."
2 Oct 1917Smelting of ore has ceased.
"The business of the company during the past year had to be conducted under conditions of great risk and anxiety, which finally forced the board reluctantly to instruct the manager in Australia to cease making purchases of ore, to smelt out all copper available, and to close the smelting works, a process that has been carried through."
6 Nov 1919"The long connection of the English and Australian Copper Company, Limited, with the Newcastle district has been finally severed through its having recently sold the land that was the site of the works, known as the Waratah works."
8 May 1920"The chimney stack of the old copper works, which was felled some time ago, gave about 150,000 bricks."

Drain Plane Again

A couple of years ago I posted an article and some photos of a Douglas C47 transport aircraft that ended up in the storm water drain beside the Broadmeadow aerodrome during World War 2.

Last year I was examining an old black and white aerial photograph of the Broadmeadow area, and spotted something interesting …

… could that be the crashed C47 in the drain?

The aerial photograph has an information panel along the bottom, and in the  white shape next to “RUN 5” there is some very faint writing.

The writing is too faint to decipher with any certainty in this “RUN 5”  photograph, but in a similar photograph from “RUN 7” the date of the photograph is clearly 3rd September 1944.

This is just three weeks after the 10th August 1944 crash of the aircraft, and confirms that it is indeed the C47 plane we can see in the aerial photograph.

Photograph of the crashed Douglas C47 transport plane, from the Newcastle Morning Herald, 12/8/1944. New Lambton can be seen in the background.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
11 Aug 1944
10 Aug 1944
A D.C. 47 Army transport plane, with 25 men on board, skidded 200 yards on a wet runway, hurtled through a fence and then crashed into a stormwater channel at Broadmeadow aerodrome.
12 Aug 1944
10 Aug 1944
Photo. The Douglas C47 transport plane in the stormwater channel at District Park aerodrome, Broadmeadow, where it landed in bad weather on Thursday.

Copper Smelter, Waratah

The Hunter Living Histories site has just published an article on Robert Perrott, including some sketches he did of various places around Newcastle in the late 1800s. Of particular interest is a sketch of the copper smelting works near Waratah.

Copper smelting near Waratah, at Newcastle. (Sketch by Robert Perrott, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW)

This was the works of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company, which commenced operation in 1872. The Maitland Mercury reported on 18 June 1872

On Tuesday last a very interesting ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Waratah in the presence of the local manager of the establishment and a few gentlemen from Newcastle, namely, that of lighting the first fires in two of the copper smelting furnaces of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company’s works near Waratah.

The smelter operated for about 47 years, and the land was sold off in 1918 and 1919, as reported by the Maitland Mercury on 6 Nov 1919.

A 1910 map by A. Barrett shows that the smelter was situated in modern day Broadmeadow, where UGL Limited (formerly Goninans) is now located.

1910 Barrett map overlaid on Google Earth, showing the location of the copper smelter near Waratah.

The smelter had two large brick smokestacks, that were highly visible points in the landscape, and often appeared in the background of photographs of the time.

View from New Lambton towards Broadmeadow, with copper smelting stacks in the background. circa 1887. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Stormwater drain construction at Hamilton North., April 1900, looking towards New Lambton. The Waratah copper smelter stack is visible in the background. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

View of Waratah copper smelter from Glebe Rd Hamilton South in 1897. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

An interesting aspect of the Perrott sketch of the smelter, is how some details are quite accurate, but other details not so accurate, probably for aesthetic reasons. When we compare the sketch with a 1906 Ralph Snowball photograph of Waratah taken from somewhere near the present day Mater hospital, we see that Perrott has reproduced the smelter building and stacks reasonably accurately. However in the sketch the smelter appears to be at the base of a hill, but the smelter was actually located on the flat plain of Broadmeadow, and that hill is Merewether Heights some 4km in the distance.

Sketch of Waratah copper smelter by Robert Perrott.

Photograph of Waratah copper smelter by Ralph Snowball, 1906. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
6 Nov 1869"The English and Australian Copper Company, who carry on extensive smelting works in South Australia, are about to establish similar works within a mile of New Lambton.
12 Feb 1870Construction of the English and Australian copper smelting works at Broadmeadow has been in progress for three months, and smelting "will be commenced in about two months." (This was a wildly optimistic estimate, as smelting eventually commenced in June 1872, more than two years later.)
The manager is "Mr. Christoe, a gentleman of great experience in copper-smelting."
15 Sep 1870The weather has significantly delayed the opening of the smelter.
"For upwards of two months there was such an accumulation of water at the establishment as to defy the possibility of the works being proceeded with, and thus the company were unexpectedly debarred from carrying out their design in the contemplated time as regards the inauguration of the process of smelting."

The manager of the smelter is Mr. Christoe.
15 Jul 1871Advertisement for a General Manager for the New Lambton Smelting works.
9 Sep 1871250 tons of copper ore have arrived in Newcastle Harbour destined for the New Lambton Copper-smelting Works so "now there is a reasonable hope that this fine and valuable property created here at a great expense, will very shortly become utilised."
6 Feb 1872Mr Christoe supervising operations at the Burwood Copper Smelter, Glenrock lagoon.
18 May 1872Copper ore has been received, but smelting has not yet begun.
18 Jun 1872Lighting the first fires in two of the coppersmelting furnaces of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company's works near Waratah.
19 Oct 1872"There appears to be an anomaly existing between our copper- smelting establishments, which time only can set at rest ; for while at this establishment five furnaces are idle for want of ore, at the Hunter River Works, five furnaces are idle here from the want of men acquainted with smelting operations to work them."
2 Oct 1917Smelting of ore has ceased.
"The business of the company during the past year had to be conducted under conditions of great risk and anxiety, which finally forced the board reluctantly to instruct the manager in Australia to cease making purchases of ore, to smelt out all copper available, and to close the smelting works, a process that has been carried through."
6 Nov 1919"The long connection of the English and Australian Copper Company, Limited, with the Newcastle district has been finally severed through its having recently sold the land that was the site of the works, known as the Waratah works."
8 May 1920"The chimney stack of the old copper works, which was felled some time ago, gave about 150,000 bricks."