A milestone in the development of shared pedestrian and cycle paths was reached last night, with the placement of the new overhead bridge spanning Newcastle Road at Jesmond.
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.
Since I started working from home, one of the routines I’m trying to keep up is the bicycle commute to ‘work’. So each workday morning I’m still going for a bike ride a similar distance that I would normally do when riding to the office.
Bicycle commuting to a home office means I don’t have to take the same route each day. This morning I went via Jesmond to get this Then and Now photo of the intersection of Illoura St and Newcastle Rd. The old photo is from the Newcastle Uni Living Histories site, and is from the late 1940s.
The Scottish Australian Mining Company, owner of the Lambton colliery, was pivotal in the establishment of three of Newcastle’s finest recreation reserves – Lambton Park, Blackbutt Reserve, and Jesmond Park.
Although not officially dedicated until 1924, the Jesmond Park site had a long history of recreational use. From Lambton’s earliest days, this low-lying area at the northern extremity of the company’s mining lease, with Dark Creek running through it, was used for competitive pigeon shooting. It soon also became a popular picnic site, known as “Croudace’s Paddock” presumably because the permission of Thomas Croudace, the colliery manager, was needed to use the area.
Churches, schools, and community groups regularly held picnics there, sometimes with hundreds of attendees. The site was within easy walking distance from Lambton, North Lambton and Jesmond. It became even more accessible when the Newcastle to Wallsend tramway was constructed in 1887. Around this time, the idyllic bushland nature of the picnic site was altered somewhat with the establishment of Campion’s soap and tallow works adjacent to Dark Creek.
As early as 1908, Lambton Council and local residents began petitioning the Lands Department to have the area formally set aside as a public park. Their efforts were rewarded in 1923, when Frederick Croudace (son of Thomas) as manager of the colliery, gifted to the council the 22 acres of land that become Jesmond Park.
Even before the park was officially acquired, the Jesmond Cricket Club was asking permission to lay a wicket, and the park soon became a popular venue for other sports such as football and soccer. A tennis court was constructed in the north-east corner of the park in 1925, and a new Jesmond Park tram stop, in line with Steel St, was opened in 1926.
In 1938, control of Jesmond Park passed from Lambton Council to the newly formed Greater Newcastle Council, who maintain the park to this day.
The article above was first published in the September 2017 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.
- When the Newcastle to Wallsend tramway was first constructed, there was no tram stop at Croudace’s Paddock, however by request, trams would stop there on special occasions. By 1905 residents were petitioning to have a permanent stopping-place at the site. A new tram stopping place in line with Steel Street was opened in 1926.
- The area known as Croudace’s Paddock was larger than just the Jesmond park site, but encompassed much of the flat area adjacent to Dark Creek. A 1904 article describes the seven acre sanitary depot as being in Croudace’s Paddock. The sanitary depot was located where the Skyline drive-in theatre would later be constructed, and where Drysdale Drive and Rees Way is today.
- A November 1938 article on the park noted that the “portion of the park now used as a recreation area was once a cultivation paddock. On it fodder was grown for the mine horses. The land flattened out with the passing years; signs of plough furrows disappeared and a cricket oval was formed.”
- The Tennis Court opened in 1925 was situated in the north east corner of the park.
- Croudace’s Paddock was occasionally used for purposes other than recreation, such as first aid classes, or military encampments.
Campion’s Soap and Tallow Works
According to the Jesmond Public School 1887-1987 Centenary booklet, John Campion arrived in Australia from England c1880. Around 1887 Campion began refining tallow for miner’s lamps, in partnership with his brother-in-law Ben Cunnington. The photo below, from the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections, shows Campion & Cunnington’s Soap and Tallow Works in 1892.
The nature of soap manufacture meant that the works were susceptible to fire, and a number of incidents of destructive fires were recorded over the years.
A 1944 aerial photograph shows the soap works building sitting astride the remnants of Dark Creek, just to the north of the concrete storm water drain. Just to the east of the building is the dam that appears in the 1934 newspaper photograph.
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|13 Jun 1871|
10 Jun 1871
|First mention of "Croudace's Paddock" in the newspaper. Inquest into the accidental shooting death of a young lad, Charles Blim, after a pigeon shooting match.|
|23 Sep 1871||"A grand pigeon shooting match is to come off between two old knights of the trigger, in Mr. Croudace's paddock, at Dark Creek, on Saturday (three weeks) between Blacket Richardson and John Ferguson, for £10 aside."|
|11 Nov 1871||Picnic in "Croudace's Paddock" of the Lambton Band of Hope, with 300 attendees.|
|20 Sep 1873||Remarks on the naming of Dark Creek … "Jesmond is the correct, and more suitable name of this locality. It derives its title of Dark Creek from the men and days of thirty years ago, when the place was remarkable for its thickly, woody, and consequently shaded appearance."|
|6 Jun 1879||Incident of cruelty by youths towards a "native bear" (koala) at "Croudace's Paddock.|
|19 Oct 1895||Advertisement for the Lambton Primitive Methodist Sunday School picnic in Croudace's Paddock, advising that "the Traffic Manager having been written to, the trams will probably stop at the paddock."|
|26 Oct 1897|
23 Oct 1897
|"The members of the Wallsend and Lambton Government ambulance classes assembled in Croudace's Paddock, Lambton, on Saturday, and were examined in squads by Drs. Nash and Stapleton as to their knowledge of the principles of rendering first aid to the injured."|
|5 May 1900||"The Newcastle, Lambton, and Wallsend companies of the 4th Infantry Regiment went into camp at Croudace's Paddock, Jesmond, last night, while it was raining heavily. It is intended to "take" Charlestown this morning."|
|3 Aug 1900|
1 Aug 1900
|A fire at Mr. J. Campion's tallow refinery.|
|23 Oct 1902|
22 Oct 1902
|"Croudace paddock is fast getting into favour as a holiday resort. There were no less than five parties of picnicers on the ground and the immediate vicinity yesterday."|
|1 Feb 1905||Residents petitioning for a tram stopping-place in Croudace's Paddock.|
|23 Apr 1908|
21 Apr 1908
|The Minister for Lands rejects Lambton Council's application to have Croudace's Paddock dedicated as a public park.|
|5 May 1909|
4 May 1909
|Jesmond Progress Committee asks Lambton Council "to approach the general manager of the S.A.M. Company, with a view of getting a grant of the land known as Croudace's paddock as a public park for Jesmond."|
|15 Jul 1910|
14 Jul 1910
|Fire in Campion's Soap Works, Jesmond.|
|23 May 1917||The tramways department asks Lambton Council to suggest a name for the stopping place near Croudace's paddock. The Council recommends the name "Charlton", however there is no evidence that this name was ever adopted.|
|23 May 1917||"The Council decided to suggest that the stopping place be named Carlton Place, and recommended that the stopping be shifted a few chains easterly."|
|1 Aug 1919||Lambton Council asks the Lands Department to resume Croudace's paddock, Jesmond, for a recreation reserve. Alderman Bell said that "for many years the area, by permission of the S.A.M. Company, had been largely availed of for picnic purposes, and as a ground for cricket and football. The situation was on ideal one, and with very little expense it could be converted into one of the best parks in the district."|
|5 Oct 1920||Alderman Hardy, Mayor of Lambton, raises with the Minister of Lands the question of resuming an area of land at Jesmond, known as Croudace's paddock, for a park. "The Minister assured the Mayor that this matter had not been overlooked. The papers had been referred to the district surveyor."|
|23 Mar 1921|
22 Mar 1921
|Frederick Croudace, meets with the district surveyor and a representative of the council to inspect the land known as Croudace's Paddock, for the proposed park at Jesmond.|
|25 Jul 1923||"The matter of the acquisition of an area approximating 22 acres of land at Jesmond had been brought to a successful conclusion by an interview with Mr. Robinson, general manager of the Scottish Australian Mining Company, who agreed to grant the land to the council for park purposes, the only obligation on the part of the council will be the survey transfer and fencing costs. The thanks of the council were due to Mr. Robinson and Mr. Croudace for the fairness and courtesy shown during the negotiations and to the company for its generous gift."|
|22 Aug 1923|
21 Aug 1923
|"A. Barrie, on behalf of Jesmond Cricket Club, asked Lambton council last night for permission to lay a wicket on Jesmond park. The Mayor said that the application was premature, as the council did not yet have control of the park. It was resolved to refer the matter to the Scottish Australian Mining Com pany."|
|20 Feb 1924|
19 Feb 1924
|"The S.A.M. Company had dedicated to the municipality Croudace's paddock as a public park. Efforts were made to obtain a grant from the Government to improve the area, but so far without any good result."|
|30 Apr 1924|
29 Apr 1924
|Various mentions of Jesmond Park at Lambton Council meeting, including that a site for a tennis court had been decided on.|
|14 Sep 1925|
12 Sep 1925
|Opening of tennis court in north east corner of Jesmond Park.|
|17 Feb 1926|
16 Feb 1926
|Lambton Council to ask the tramways department to have the "tram stopping place at Jesmond Park extended in a line with Steel-street."|
|9 Jun 1926|
8 Jun 1926
|"A petition was received from the residents of Jesmond, bearing 42 signatures, asking that the Jesmond loop be retained as a tram stopping place in addition to the new stop at Steel-street."|
|22 May 1934||Photograph of Jesmond Park, 1934.|
|25 Nov 1938||"Within a four-penny-tram ride of the city is Jesmond Park - a natural playground which has been saved for posterity by a council now extinct. Practically unknown by many people, the park provides ample facilities for sporting activities amid the quiet surroundings of the silent bush."|
|17 Mar 1948||A motion is defeated in Newcastle Council that would have seen Jesmond Park renamed to Johnson Park, in honour of Alderman J.T. Johnson, who served on Lambton Council for many years.|
The Great Depression of the 1930s saw the rise of many shanty towns across Australia, where unemployed men and their families eked out a makeshift existence. Lambton had such a camp at the boundary with Wallsend near Jesmond Park. Called “Hollywood”, a sarcastic reference to its far from glamorous state, it was also known by the unflattering name of “Doggyville”.
Up to 40 families lived there in huts of varying quality. For example, a family of six lived in the home pictured above. The Newcastle Sun reported in 1941
“They had moved into their home of two rooms, of bags and galvanised iron, when the eldest boy, now nine years old, was a tiny baby.”
A combination of idleness and poverty meant that there was an unsavoury side to the settlement. A regular at the illegal two-up ring in the bush nearby was former boxing champion turned loan shark, John “Slack” Maher, who in July 1951 was shot dead and his body thrown down a disused mine shaft. His brother Michael was soon arrested and tried for the murder, but acquitted by the jury in the face of conflicting and uncertain evidence from witnesses.
Despite these dark moments, many children were raised in “Hollywood” and considered their upbringing as normal, and have fond memories of the fun they had there. The camp persisted long after the Great Depression had ended and was variously tolerated, ignored, or despised. Eventually concern over the living conditions, and the arrival of new social housing alternatives resulted in the eviction of residents in 1958 and demolition of the settlement in 1959.
A few rusted and broken fragments of dwellings remain in the bush today, but when the final stage of the Inner City Bypass is constructed (starting in 2017) the site of “Hollywood” will be erased. It will remain only in a few photographs, newspaper stories, and the memories of those who once named “Hollywood” as their home.
The article above was first published in the March 2016 edition of the Lambton Local.
The shiny side of “Hollywood”
Although “Hollywood” was born out of poverty, and undoubtedly had dark and miserable aspects to it, I mention in the article that some who grew up there have fond memories of it. This observation comes from a 2008 article in the Newcastle Herald on Hollywood, where it is said of Norm Surman (who lived in Hollywood up to the age of 15):
“And of the many places Norm has lived in his eventful 68 years, the one he remembers with the greatest happiness is Hollywood.”
Trove only stores newspapers for the Newcastle Herald up to 1954. The Newcastle Library however has an online index of headlines from the the Newcastle Herald for the years 1944 to 1984. The headlines listed below give some sense of the the progress and eventual closure of Hollywood over the years 1956 to 1960.
|28/11/1956||Action stayed on ‘Hollywood’|
|29/1/1957||Inspection plan on Hollywood|
|6/2/1957||Action aim on Hollywood|
|13/2/1957||Enquiry wanted on Hollywood children|
|13/3/1957||‘Eye on’ settlement sought – Hollywood Estate|
|12/6/1957||Hollywood offer referred|
|5/4/1958||No Hollywood evictions by Department|
|16/4/1958||Poser on Hollywood occupancy|
|4/8/1958||Notices to quit for Hollywood|
|5/12/1958||Clearing of Hollywood|
|11/12/1958||Eviction action at Hollywood|
|22/7/1959||Demolition move at Hollywood|
|11/12/1959||New action sought on Hollywood|
|18/1/1960||Prosecutions on Hollywood|
|17/2/1960||Closures sought – (Hollywood – Jesmond)|
In which suburb was “Hollywood” located?
Many of the newspaper articles refer to “Hollywood” as being in or near Jesmond. The site is adjacent to the conjunction of Wallsend, Jesmond, and Lambton, but is actually wholly contained within the Lambton suburban boundary. The image below shows the modern suburb boundaries in purple, and the site of “Hollywood” shaded in yellow.
The map portion below has the area of Lambton Municipal Council as it was in the 1920s shaded in a dark pink colour, and shows that even then the area where Hollywood would develop was in the suburb of Lambton.On the map below (obtained from the NSW Historical Lands Record Viewer) someone has marked in pencil on the Lambton/Wallsend boundary “Hollywood Illegal Occupancies Road”.
In the article I say that “up to 40 families” lived in “Hollywood”. But this is just an educated guess. The only numbers that I have seen recorded are in a newspaper article from 19 April 1945 that states that there were “27 dwellings in the area”, and a report from 7 December 1949 where an alderman said that “between 70 and 80 families lived in the area.”
In the 1944 aerial photograph I can count about 25 dwellings and this corroborates the count reported in 1945. (It is somewhat difficult to distinguish whether some of the smaller structures are separate family dwellings, or just an additional shed or outhouse.)
I am somewhat skeptical of the 1949 report of 70 to 80 families. If true, this implies that the number of dwellings more than doubled in the space of just four years, and this in a time when the depression was long gone, and the post world war recovery was in swing. I suspect that it was more likely to be 70 to 80 people, rather than families.
It seems probable that the population of “Hollywood” in the pre-war, depression era would have been greater than the 27 dwellings of 1945, and given the size of the area that seems to have been used I have made a guess of “up to 40 families” – but it’s only a guess.
The murder of John “Slack” Maher
Dan Proudman and Stephen Ryan wrote an excellent article on the murder, that appeared in the Newcastle Herald on 17 October 2014, so I won’t add anything here except to ask: Where was the shaft that “Slack” Maher’s body was thrown down?
We know from the newspaper reports at the time that:
- it was three-quarters of a mile from Hollywood
- it was a “disused mine vent”
- the shaft was 30 feet deep
- the shaft was near “a lagoon 20 yards away“.
The distance of “three-quarters of a mile” is probably by foot, rather than as the crow flies, so allowing for some meandering of the track I estimate that the direct distance to the shaft would probably be closer to half a mile. The image below from Google Earth shows radius rings at three-quarters of a mile, and at half a mile.
The only map I have seen that has a ventilation shaft marked in this area, is one that has a “furnace shaft” of the Lambton Colliery, furnaces of course being the principal method of mine ventilation in the era before electric fans. This shaft is quite close to a waterway, where trapped water could be described as a ‘lagoon’.
Overlaying this map onto Google Earth shows that the “furnace shaft” is just over half a mile (direct) from Hollywood, which again matches the data.
Checking this location in the 1944 aerial photo indeed shows a shaft at this position!
Google Earth tells me that the altitude at this point is 48m. The coal seam that the Lambton Colliery worked outcropped at the surface at an altitude of about 30m, so the ventilation shaft would have been originally 18m deep, which is 60 feet. In 1951 the colliery had been closed for 15 years, so it is possible that erosion had filled in half the shaft, making it only 30 feet deep. Indeed the crater-like appearance of the shaft in the 1944 photo suggests that a significant amount of cave in of material had already occurred.
So was this the shaft that the body of “Slack” Maher was thrown down? I don’t know, and there’s no way of knowing for certain. All I know is that this shaft is consistent with the evidence I have seen.
While wandering through the bush in August 2016,near the shaft location identified above, and looking for something completely unrelated, I came across the remains of another mining shaft that I previously had no knowledge of.
This shaft is actually a much better candidate than the “furnace shaft” identified in the previous section. The furnace shaft is about 60 metres from the creek, which didn’t quite tally with the description that the shaft was near “a lagoon 20 yards away“. This new shaft I discovered was quite near a flat area of the creek which could be described as a lagoon. Also being lower down near the creek, tallies better with the reported depth of the shaft. I captured the GPS co-ordinates of the shaft, and when I got home loaded them into Google Earth. Much to my surprise I found that the location matched up almost exactly with an X on the old map that I previously had paid no attention to!
I suspect that this shaft was a downcast (inlet) ventilation shaft, whereas the the furnace shaft which is about 100 metres distant was the upcast (outlet) ventilation. So was this the shaft that the body of “Slack” Maher was thrown down? I don’t know, but it’s a good candidate.
Anecdotes of “Hollywood”
- Recollections of Hollywood by a local, on the Australian Metal Detecting and Relic Hunting web site.
- Danny Williams e-mailed me a recollection from his father about “Hollywood”.
“My old Dad (who was a doctor) used to make calls there to visit patients. On one visit he was apparently beaten up by a drunk – after this he always took a “minder” with him to Hollywood. ”
- Robert Watson, in an e-mail said:
“Even in the 1960s, kids in my class would relate tales that if you went into the bush there, the guys playing two–up would catch up and hang you up by your thumbs! Obviously a tale spun by their parents to keep them out of the bush!”
- There was a couple of posts of “Hollywood” on the “Lost Newcastle” Facebook page in February 2015. Here’s a few comments from there:
- “We lived across the road from Jesmond park in Charlton street. As a child I enjoyed many hours of fun walking around Hollywood and going up to the two up ring. We would watch the cars and taxi”s drive up to the old road that ran up the side of the old skyline to drop the men of for their game of two-up on Friday Nights. Next morning we would go up and try and find any pennies .Those were the days.“ – Margaret Russell
- “You could see the tin houses from the tram. My mother said people that were homeless during the depression went there to live but it was there many years after that. It was there all of the war years and after.” – Dorothy Scammell
- “My father helped pull several of the old houses down there . I remember quite well as I assisted as a young boy and remember standing on my first rusty nail. Boy did that hurt.” – Greg Wakeman
- “I remember “Hollywood” and its makeshift housing very well…..used to pass it on my way to work during the 50’s. Both it and Platt’s Estate at Waratah were the only places that were considered to be socially inferior to my hometown of Minmi. I later went to Newcastle University with a person whose childhood had been spent in “Hollywood”……..Not bad for a pair of scrubbers from the other side of the tracks.” – Shirley Hetherington
- Rankin Park to Jesmond – Newcastle Inner City Bypass
- List of newspaper articles on Trove
- “One down at two-up” article in Newcastle Herald
Some of the comments below were originally posted to the “Paddy Lewis” article. I have moved them here, as this page is now a more relevant context for the comments.