Dog and Rat

The origin of the name may be uncertain and the precise location unknown, but the “Dog and Rat” pit was once a celebrated colliery of the East Lambton area. In 1862 James and Alexander Brown obtained a 280 acre mining lease south of Waratah, and in 1866 opened the unremarkably named A Pit and B Pit. By 1871 however, the southern pit was known as the “Old Dog and Rat”.

There have been several explanations offered for the name, that it is rhyming slang for “Griffiths’ Flat” or because miners took their dogs underground to hunt rats. The likely explanation is that it derives from the sport of rat coursing. The earliest report on the origin of the name notes that “although the area was a dense bush, with swampy ground on either side, quite a number of men could obtain a day’s sport with their dogs hunting the rats.” The name of the pit also attached to the road leading to it. What is now Young Rd was previously known as Dog and Rat Rd.

The pit ceased operation in 1884, although there were a few later attempts to extract remnant coal. It is last mentioned in the Department of Mines annual report of 1893, where “David Hughes gave notice that he had ceased all work at the Old Dog and Rat, and filled up all shafts.” The colliery was gone, but the name hung around. In 1925 the East Lambton Progress Association wrote to the Council requesting that the name “Dog and Rat” be discouraged. The Mayor responded that as it was not an official name, there was nothing to be altered.

Where was the pit? Three pieces of information give us a clue. An 1871 report indicates that it was within the Lambton Municipality, which places it north of Womboin Rd. An 1874 report states that it was south of Young Rd. Finally, the western boundary of the Brown’s lease means it was located somewhere in the triangular area below.

The Dog and Rat pit was located somewhere in this triangular area of East Lambton. Google Earth.

Ralph Snowball’s studio at 19 Clarence Rd, New Lambton. The colliery headframe barely visible on the horizon is probably the Dog and Rat pit. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.


The article above was first published in the May 2018 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.

Location of the pit

Three pieces of information constrain the location of the “Old Dog and Rat” pit to within a triangular area of East Lambton.

1. Womboin Road

A public meeting was held in Lambton on 14 July 1871

“for the purpose of bringing forward from amongst them the most fit and proper persons to be nominated as candidates for the office of aldermen in their newly-appointed municipality.”

The electoral status of one of the participants in the meeting was questioned when …

“Mr. Hindmarsh objected to Mr. Hardy asking any questions, he not being an elector. Mr. Hardy said that he resided within the proclaimed boundary, viz , at the Old Dog and Rat Pit, of the Messrs. Brown, inside of the Lambton railway. The Chairman ruled that he (Mr. Hardy) was an elector.”

A map from a 1906 real estate poster shows that the municipal boundary ran along the Lambton colliery railway adjacent to present day Womboin Rd. Also the phrase “inside of the Lambton railway” suggests that the Dog and Rat pit was to the north of the curved section of rail line.

Portion of 1906 real estate poster, showing boundary of Lambton Municipal Council. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

2. Young Road

In the 1870s when there was a push to get a main road built from Newcastle to Wallsend, there was much dispute about the route that it should take. There were two competing proposals – a southern route that passed through New Lambton (Lambton Rd) and a more direct northern route that follows the line of Young Rd.  On 6 May 1874 Thomas Croudace, an advocate for the southern route, wrote a letter to the editor comparing and contrasting the two proposals. Compare his description of the northern road with the annotated map below.

“The route upon leaving Hamilton1 proceeds north-westerly over the BroadMeadow Swamp2, across the New Lambton3 and Lambton railways4, between the old Dog and Rat Pit5, and New Lambton Smelting Works6, to the ridge whereon old Peacock lives7, and thence to the dividing line of Lambton and Grovestown townships.”

Thomas Croudace’s description of the proposed northern route of the main road.

The “New Lambton Smelting Works” was located in present day Broadmeadow, so therefore the Dog and Rat Pit must have been to the south of Young Rd.

3. Brown’s mineral lease

An 1873 map of Waratah Coal Company leases, shows the 280 acre lease of J and A Brown.

Waratah Coal Company blocks, 1873. National Library of Australia. MAP F 82.

When overlaid into Google Earth, this establishes the western boundary of possible locations for the Dog and Rat Pit.

J and A Brown’s 280 acre lease.

The Snowball photo

The undated Ralph Snowball photo is of his house and studio at 19 Clarence Rd New Lambton, looking towards the north east. On the horizon, a colliery head frame (1) can be seen between two identifiable features – the Waratah Benevolent Asylum (2) on the left, and the chimney of the New Lambton Copper Smelting Works (3) on the right.

Replicating those angles as lines in Google Earth, we see that the middle line passes directly over the triangular area in East Lambton where we know the Dog and Rat pit was located. So although we can’t know with 100% certainty, it is highly probable that the colliery head frame in the photo is that of the old Dog and Rat pit.

Annual Mining Reports

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Resources and Geoscience section, has an online archive of historical mining documents in their Digital Imagin Geological System (DIGS) . A number of the annual reports in the archive include references to the Dog and Rat pit.

Year Notes
1879 Dog’s Rat.-Two miners getting house coal on their own account on the New Lambton Estate. No cause of complaint.
1882 Dog and Rat, Waratah Commonage.  August 11.-Messrs. D. Hughes, B. Tonks, and J. Ruttley, of Waratah, gave notice of having sunk a shaft to mine for coal on what is known as the Dog and Rat Estate, leased by Messrs. J. & A. Brown, Waratah Commonage.
1883 Page 129. Dog and Rat pit – 3 men above ground, 19 underground. Tonnage included with New Lambton and New Duckenfield.
1884 Page 127. Dog and Rat pit – 3 men above ground, 10 underground. Tonnage included with New Lambton and New Duckenfield.

Page 140. Dog and Rat. -There are about ten men employed in this mine. The ventilation is good throughout and the requirements of the Act complied with in every other respect.

1885 New Lambton, Dog and Rat, New Duckenfield mines listed together – 178 men employed.
1886 New Lambton and New Duckenfield mines listed together – Dog and Rat has disappeared from the list.
1890 Page 189. On March 29th, Mr. Ruttley notified that he had sunk a shaft at the old Dog and Rat Colliery, and intended to drive in the coal.

Page 189. On September 19th, William Metcalfe and H. L. Price notified that they had commenced mining operations on a portion of the New Lambton estate, near to the Dog and Rat. The pit is known by the name of the Enterprise.

1892 Page 95. Dog and Rat Colliery (North Lambton).-This mine has been commenced during the six months.  There are 4 men, &c., employed, and the Act complied with.
1893 Page 87. Old Dog and Rat Colliery. David Hughes notified, on 17th April, his intention of opening out a portion of the Old Dog and Rat Colliery, on the east side of Lambton line.

Page 88. On 8th August David Hughes gave notice that he had ceased all work at the Old Dog and Rat, and filled up all shafts.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
18 Jul 1871
15 Jul 1871
In a public meeting to call for the nomination of candidates for the newly proclaimed Lambton Municipality, the location of the Dog and Rat pit is clearly identified as being inside the Lambton municipal boundaries.
"Mr. Hindmarsh objected to Mr. Hardy asking any questions, he not being an elector. Mr. Hardy said that he resided within the proclaimed boundary, viz , at the Old Dog and Rat Pit, of the Messrs. Brown, inside of the Lambton railway."
6 May 1874Thomas Croudace, in a letter to the newspaper advocating the southern (New Lambton) route for the main road, describes the proposed northern route as follows - "the route upon leaving Hamilton proceeds north-westerly over the BroadMeadow Swamp, across the New Lambton and Lambton railways, between the old Dog and Rat Pit, and New Lambton Smelting Works, to the ridge whereon old Peacock lives.
18 Sep 1875
14 Sep 1875
A report of an accident and injury to John McCormack on the New Lambton Railway "near the Old Dog and Rat Tunnel".
2 Jul 1881Advertisement for rat coursing to be held at Bunn's Northumberland Hotel, Lambton.
14 Apr 1885First mention of 'Dog and Rat Rd'.
"The late rains have not improved the condition of our roads. The one known as the Dog and Rat-road is much in need of repair. There is a large amount of traffic upon it, and the council would greatly benefit owners of vehicles by expending a few pounds in repairs."
7 Dec 1889In an article on the collieries of the Newcastle district, while describing the New Lambton Pit it is noted that "the Brothers Brown obtained from the Government a mineral lease of some 300 acres in a block, which lies to the north of the present estate. It was there that the famous A, or "Dog and Rat," pit was sunk."
(The exact lease area was 280 acres.)
15 Aug 1891First mention of Young Rd, Lambton, in the newspapers.
2 Jul 1892
1 Jul 1892
At a municipal conference, the road between Hamilton and Broadmeadow is referred to as "what is now known as Young-road, but was formerly known as the 'Dog and Rat road' ".
13 Jul 1899
12 Jul 1899
Last mention of Dog and Rat road in the newspapers, where Mr. E. Bowling presented a petition to Hamilton Council "signed by about 100 people in the district, urging upon the Government to resume and form the old Dog and Rat pit road."
21 Aug 1914Last contemporaneous mention of 'Dog and Rat' in the newspaper, in a letter to the editor about the proposed gas lighting of Lambton streets.
24 Jun 1925
23 Jun 1925
Lambton Council meeting. "Correspondence was received from the president, East Lambton Progress Association, stating that the members of the association desired the use of such names as "Dog and Rat" and "Griffith's Flat" be discouraged. They wished to have that portion of the municipality east of Karoola, Lloyd, and Waratah roads designated East Lambton, and recognised by the postal and other authorities. The Mayor stated that neither of these names appeared in the council's plans, consequently the council had nothing to alter."
24 Jun 1925"WHAT'S IN A NAME ?
Lambton 'Dog and Rat'
Many years ago when rat-coursing was popular in this district, the 'sport' was extensively carried on in what is now known to some as East Lambton. The place became designated as 'the dog and rat,' and is still so referred to by many."
25 Jun 1925"Old residents claim that the title 'Dog and Rat' originated from an old coal mine, which was situated alongside the old New Lambton railway line, which, at that time ran through what is now the New Lambton Park, and outside the boundary of the municipality of Lambton. The mine, both underground and on top, was infested with rats, and although the area was a dense bush, with swampy ground on either side, quite a number of men could obtain a day's sport with their dogs hunting the rats."
14 Sep 1938"Many years ago, Mrs. Pritchard said, rats were taken to Lambton in crates and liberated on the flat. Greyhound dogs owned by the miners chased and caught the rodents. Hundreds of men gathered from every part of the then known mining district because "ratting" was considered an exciting sport and was sometimes held twice a week. It was not known where the rats came from; but the locality where the sport was conducted was known for many years as 'Dog and Rat'."
8 Aug 1945" 'Dog and Rat' was the first pit in which Mr Gibbs worked. The odd name came from the miners' practice of taking their fox terrier to work to hunt the rats in the mine. The part of East Lambton in which the mine was situated still gets the sobriquet."
6 Mar 1953"One learned opinion why this place got the Dog and Rat title is that it was known as Griffiths Flat and the boys who played there shortened it to The Flat and then turned it into rhyming slang. This view is overborne by the opinion of many old residents that it was a place where there were coursing meetings, the 'hares' being rats."

Lambton Aldermen

Eighty years ago in March 1938, eleven suburban councils merged to form the City of Greater Newcastle council.  Lambton Council was incorporated on 26 June 1871, and a ballot to elect nine aldermen was held on 7 August 1871.  The first Council meeting was held the following day in the original Mechanics’ Institute building in Howe St, and Uriah Broom elected as the first Mayor.

Over the years Lambton Council had 99 different aldermen, and they were all men. For most of the life of the Council this was by law. Women were only allowed to nominate with the passing of the Local Government Act of 1919, but even then, no women ever stood for election in Lambton.

The Council’s biggest crisis was the failure of the electric light scheme. Switched on in 1890, by the end of the decade it had sent the Council bankrupt. As no one wanted to serve on a financially crippled body, by 1899 the Council effectively ceased, with insufficient aldermen to form a quorum at meetings. In the elections scheduled for February 1902, not a single person nominated. Due to a quirk in the rules of local government, the last man left sitting in the Mayoral chair, Matthew Thornton, retained his position, and for the next two years was the Mayor of a council with no aldermen, not even himself!

A total of 28 aldermen held the position of Mayor, and a number of streets in Lambton are named in their honour, including Johnson, Charlton, Dent, Croudace, Notley and Noble. Of particular note is J T Johnson, who was elected Mayor on eight occasions in his 24 years on Lambton Council. He was the final Mayor of Lambton, but his municipal honours did not end there. For J T Johnson was elected to the inaugural City of Greater Newcastle council in 1938. He remained as a representative of the Lambton area until 1950, clocking up a remarkable total of 37 years of aldermanic service.

Photo from Newcastle Morning Herald, 20 Feb 1943. The original caption reads “Two of the oldest pupils, Mr. M. Charlton and Ald. J. T. Johnson, inspect Lambton School. Now called “the barn,” the school’s condition has caused concern to the pupils’ parents.” (Ald Johnson is on the right.)

The final meeting of Lambton Council was held in the council chambers (corner of Lambton Park) on 29 March 1938.


The article above was first published in the March 2018 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.

Additional information

Much of the information in this article was sourced from material I have previously published on this website. See my articles on

Street names

In the article I mention six streets named after Mayors of Lambton. I have no documentary proof that they were named after the Mayor’s, but I believe it is a reasonable conclusion. I have omitted Hill St from the list as I have doubts that it was named after Dr J. J. Hill. In any case, Hill St was known by that name as early as 1872, while Dr Hill first became Mayor in 1877.

J T Johnson

Aldermen of the the Greater Newcastle Council after their first meeting on 28 Mar 1938. J T Johnson, the former Mayor of Lambton is on the extreme right in the back row. The Newcastle Sun, 18 Mar 1938.

J T Johnson, standing for re-election to Greater Newcastle Council in 1941.

In a newspaper article on 28 Nov 1941 reporting on candidates standing for re-election to Greater Newcastle Council, it is stated of Alderman J. T. Johnson that “he was for 28 years with Lambton Council and was Mayor 10 terms.” This is slightly erroneous. He was an alderman of Lambton Council for 25 years during the period 1911 to 1938, with a break of 3 years in 1920-22. He was elected Mayor on 8 occasions. Whether the rounding up to 10 was due to the candidate or the newspaper is unknown. Three years later in the election of 1944, Alderman Johnson’s municipal service to Lambton has been inflated even further, with a report stating that he had “30 years as an alderman of the council.” The correct figure is 25 years.

J T Johnson. Newcastle Morning Herald, 23 Feb 1950.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
16 Feb 1938"The Johnsons have had an almost unbroken association with Lambton Council for almost 60 years, Mr. H. Johnson was Town Clerk from 1879 to 1905, and a grandson, the present Mayor (Ald. T. Johnson), has been an alderman since 1909. Before that he was municipal auditor there."
18 Mar 1938
18 Mar 1938
Photographs from the first sitting of the newly elected 21 aldermen of the Greater Newcastle City Council
30 Mar 1938
29 Mar 1938
Final meeting of Lambton Council.
20 Feb 1943Two of Lambton's former aldermen, visit Lambton Public School. "Two of the oldest pupils, Mr. M. Charlton and Ald. J. T. Johnson, inspect Lambton School. Now called "the barn," the school's condition has caused concern to the pupils' parents."
17 Mar 1948Greater Newcastle Council rejects a move to rename nine district parks, including the proposed renaming of "Jesmond Park to Johnson Park, after Ald. J. T. Johnson for his long service in local government, first with Lambton Council and then with Greater Newcastle Council since its inception."
23 Feb 1950Ink caricature of Alderman J T Johnson.
9 May 1951"Messrs. H. Scott-Daisley and J. T. Johnson. former aldermen of Newcastle City Council, have been presented with the Local Government Association long-service certificate."

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."

Lambton Reservoir

Every day thousands of people drive along Newcastle Road, paying little or no attention to an historic water reservoir nestling under the Lambton hilltop. This year being the 125th anniversary of Hunter Water, it is timely to reveal some of its hidden details.

Part of the Hunter River District Water Supply Scheme, that piped water from Maitland, the 400,000 gallon reservoir was completed in August 1885. At that time, the Newcastle Morning Herald reported:

“The reservoir is 65 feet in diameter, and depth at circumference 20 feet. This excavation has been made in solid rock. A massive brick wall, running from 5½ bricks thick at foundation to 3 bricks thick at the surface has been erected, about 200,000 bricks having been used in its construction. The floor of the reservoir is of concrete and cement. Then there are two arches and a central dome. These arches are supported by several cast iron girders. The girders rest on massive stone blocks, and are placed in the form of two circles in the reservoir, in order to meet the arch work and dome at top. The second arch and centre dome being of Portland cement and coke was first spread on temporary wooden frames and allowed a reasonable time to set; this it has done admirably, and has since borne the weight of horses and drays on top of it. An embankment of rubble stone and earth has been made over the whole of the work. Several inches of approved soil has been placed over this, and the whole has been sown with grass seed, so that in a few months we may expect the reservoir to present the appearance of a huge grassy mound, and those unacquainted with it will hardly credit that it hides such a wonderful amount of skilled work from sight.”

The Merewether reservoir on Glebe Hill (65 Macquarie St), nearing completion in 1886, was the same size and design as Lambton reservoir. Photo by Ralph Snowball, University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Although taken out of service many decades ago, the Lambton reservoir remains hidden under the grassy mound. The adjacent pumping station is still in use.


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

Additional information

The Ralph Snowball photo on the University Cultural Collections site was originally mis-labelled as being New Lambton Reservoir, 1917.  Working with Robert Watson, we were able to establish that the photo was actually of Merewether reservoir on Glebe Hill in 1886.

Design of Lambton Reservoir, 1885.

A March 1887 article describing the Hunter River District Water Supply shows that the Glebe Hill reservoir was almost identical to the size to the Lambton reservoir.
The reservoir at Lambton is built on the hill above the Public school, a distance of twelve and a half miles from. Buttai. It will hold 402,600 gallons. At fifteen and a third miles from Buttai a 15-inch branch pipe, a mile and a quarter in length, is connected with a reservoir having a capacity of 403,000 gallons, to supply Hamilton, Adamstown, the Glebe, and other towns along the line.

Reservoir Hotel

Three years after the reservoir was constructed, Mr J Cox had a two storey, sixteen room hotel erected on the opposite side of the road. The first landlord, Mr J Dent at the suggestion of Mr Cox, named it “Dent’s Reservoir Hotel”. The building still survives today and is now a private residence.

The former “Reservoir Hotel”, Newcastle Road, Lambton.

The former “Reservoir Hotel” on the corner of Newcastle Road and George Street, North Lambton. November 2017.

Newspaper articles

For reasons of limited space in the original printed version of my article in the Lambton and New Lambton Local, I had to condense the quotation from the Newcastle Morning Herald report from 20 August 1885. The full text of the original newspaper report is as follows:

THE LAMBTON RESERVOIR. (FROM OUR OWN, CORRESPONDENT.) The reservoir at Lambton in connection with the Hunter River District Water Supply Scheme is now completed, and ready for its intended purpose. The reservoir is situated on a piece of land purchased from the Lambton Company, close to the main road on the hill, commonly called Hartley’s Hill. The work has been in progress during the past eight or nine months. Several hands have been employed at it, and a fair amount of money circulated through the district as a consequence. To describe fully the work under the different headings in the contract would occupy columns of space, but the following details will give some idea of its magnitude :-The reservoir is 65 feet in diameter, and depth at circumference 20 feet. This excavation has been made in solid rock, and out of distance of all underground coal works. A massive brick wall, running from 5½ bricks thick at foundation to 3 bricks thick at the surface has been erected, about 200,000 bricks having been used in its construction. This wall is well packed, with stone concrete all round, and cemented in a workmanlike manner on the face. The floor of the reservoir is of concrete and cement. Then there are two arches and a central dome ; the first arch is of substantial brickwork, the second and central dome being of Portland cement and coke. These arches are supported by several cast iron girders, each of which has been submitted to, and is capable of sustaining, a test weight of 28 cwt. The girders rest on massive stone blocks, and are placed in the form of two circles in the reservoir, in order to meet the arch work and dome at top. There are also pipes connecting with the mains under the roadway to fill the reservoir, outflow pipes for the supply of the town, and waste pipe to carry off surplus water. In the second arch there is a cast iron ventilator, and in the centre of the dome there is another heavy piece of cast iron machinery, the top of which is moveable, and leaves an aperture generally termed a manhole, immediately below which is an iron ladder several feet in width. This is securely fixed, and will serve as a means to inspect the interior of the reservoir from time to time. I may mention that all the interior ironwork has received a painting that will prevent rusting. The most difficult work was that of the arches, but this the contractor appears to have surmounted with success and credit. The first arch being of brick, and 7ft. 6in. in the span, is merely a continuation of the main wall of the reservoir to the first set of iron girders. It is a substantial piece of work, and is well backed up with concrete and rubble stone. The second arch and centre dome being of Portland cement and coke, a great deal of care had to be exercised in the mixing, in order to secure a proper state of firmness in the setting. This mixture, which is some twelve inches in thickness, was first spread on temporary wooden frames and allowed a reason able time to set; this it has done admirably, and has since borne the weight of horses and drays on top of it. An embankment of rubble stone and earth has been made over the whole of the work. Several inches of approved soil has been placed over this, and the whole has been sown with grass seed, so that in a few months we may expect the reservoir to present the appearance of a huge grassy mound, and those unacquainted with it will hardly credit that it hides such a wonderful amount of skilled work from sight. The block of land is fenced with a substantial sawn timber and paling fence, 9ft 6in in height, and painted white. The trees have been fallen within the enclosure, and if the Government would only now have the stumps grubbed out, it would give the land a much improved appearance. I understand that a caretaker’s house is to be erected, and doubtless the stumping will be done then, if not before. The contractor for the work is Mr. J. G. Gatty, and that gentleman has shown a spirit of energy and determination throughout to make it a credit to his workmen, himself, and the Government, and now that the contract is approved and passed by the officials, is a satisfactory proof that he has succeeded. Mr. Davis, the Government Inspector, has been present during the progress of the work, and to him all material has been submitted before used, therefore between the contractor and the inspector, each doing their best, the Government can rely upon having a work that is well done.

Article Date Event DateNotes
14 Jan 1873"When the town of Lambton was sold ten years ago, a block of land was reserved as a water site, but, when Grainger-street was extended, this reserve had necessarily to be appropriated. It is suggested that another piece of land should be devoted to the purpose instead of the one appropriated. A spacious reservoir on any of the heights surrounding the town would furnish abundance of water either in case of fire or to supply the inhabitants during the hot and parching summer months."
16 Feb 1875As part of the formation of a Fire Brigade, the supply of water is considered. "A reservoir on the heights overlooking the town westward could be excavated without any very great expense or difficulty, and thus an ample supply of water would be always at command, not only in case of fire, but in the event of any lengthened drought."
12 Aug 1880"Rain is wanted badIy, as water is very scarce. Crowds of people flock around the colliery locomotives daily, both here and at New Lambton, to beg buckets of water from the drivers, who supply the want as far as possible."
19 May 1882Due to scarcity of water, Lambton residents have to carry water from the Waratah Colliery reservoir, and the council is arranging to have water sent up in tanks along the Lambton colliery railway.
19 Mar 1885Excavation of the reservoir has been completed, and bricklaying is in progress.
25 May 1885"Work at the reservoir is still being pushed ahead vigorously. The iron girders are all erected, and the arch brickwork commenced."
20 Aug 1885Report on the construction of the Lambton reservoir on Hartley's Hill, as it nears completion.
15 Dec 1885The water has reached Lambton and the reservoir is almost filled.
22 Dec 1885Leakages from pipes, causes water from the Lambton reservoir to gush through the streets, much to the delight of the youth of the town who "soon found it out, and, to use their own words, went in for a real good plodge in the water."
31 May 1888
30 May 1888
Opening of "Dent's Reservoir Hotel", on the corner of George and Young streets, opposite the reservoir.