Shifty streets

In my historical researches lately I’ve been noticing how fluid the the street names were, with some streets having multiple spellings (Dickson/Dixon) and some street names morphing over time. Robert How, an investor in the Scottish Australian Mining Company had a street named after him, but the street name somehow acquired a trailing “e” to become “Howe Street”.

The mystery of the extra “e” was solved when I noticed that “Wye Street” was originally called “Wyee Street”. It seems that shifty “e” just wandered in from the neighbouring street and took up residence! If not for the peripatetic positioning of that vagrant vowel the street sign would look like this …

Tharwa Road Lambton

For quite some time as I researched Lambton history, I’ve come across references to “Tharwa Road”, which no longer exists in Lambton. I wondered whether it was a mis-spelling or variant of “Tathra Road”. Recently while perusing old maps I discovered that a 1906 real estate poster map shows that “Tharwa Road” used to be the section of Wallarah Road north of Womboin Road.

Tharwa Road, Lambton. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

It made sense that the road had two names, for they began as two completely separate roads divided by the Lambton colliery railway. Each road was also in a different council area – Tharwa Road in the Lambton municipality, Wallarah Road in the New Lambton municipality.

As early as 1926, residents of East Lambton were agitating to have the roads connected to make a thoroughfare to New Lambton. The joining of the roads appears to have happened around 1941, with The Newcastle Sun reporting on 11 Feb 1941

It was decided to ask the Newcastle Council to attend to … the renumbering of Wallarah Road, which has now been extended to include Tharwa Road.

History in our streets

Chilcott St, Lambton

There’s often a story lurking behind street names. While many of our streets owe their existence to the rise of mines, some have their origin in the demise of mines. The Scottish Australian Mining Company opened Lambton colliery in 1863. Adjacent to the pit they established a small township bounded by Young, Morehead, Croudace and Howe Streets, these being named after managers and directors of the company.

For the next 50 years the company made their fortune underground, but when the coal seam was depleted, they looked instead to make money above ground, in real estate. They began in August 1914 with a modest subdivision of 24 blocks on the south side of Howe St. On 17 January 1920, one hundred years ago this month, the company auctioned a bigger subdivision with 61 building sites. As was the custom at the time the sale was publicised using large coloured poster prints.

The subdivision included two newly constructed streets. Turner St was named after Frederick William Turner, the London based secretary of the Scottish Australian Mining Company. Chilcott St was named after Henry Frederick Chilcott, the Sydney based General Manager.

Chilcott was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1844 and was brought by his family to Australia when he was three. At age 14 he joined the Scottish Australian Mining Company in a junior capacity, and was progressively promoted, eventually becoming General Manager in 1892. Chilcott was also a long-time member of the Colonial Volunteer Forces, a forerunner of today’s Army Reserve, enlisting in 1860 and rising to the rank of Captain by the time of his retirement in 1894.

In a strange coincidence, Henry Chilcott died on 21 January 1920, just four days after the auction of land in the street named in his honour. He was aged 76, still holding the position of General Manager in the company that he had served for an impressive 62 years.

Poster advertising the Scottish Australian Mining Company’s subdivision of land in January 1920. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Captain Chilcott on his retirement from the Colonial Volunteer Force in 1894. The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 21 April 1894.

The article above was first published in the January 2020 edition of The Local.


My thanks this month go to Greg Manning, whose research into Chilcott St alerted me to Henry Chilcott’s birthplace being in Ceylon, and led me to the photograph of Chilcott in his military uniform.

Additional Information

EmPloyment Start

There is some slight ambiguity as to the exact year that Chilcott joined the Scottish Australian Company. An article from 1894 states that Chilcott “was born on January 5, 1844” and that “he has been connected [to the company] since he was 15 years of age. This implies that Chilcott joined the company in 1859. However the article reporting his death in 1920 states that he joined the company in 1858, implying that he was aged 14 at the time.

Lambton Streets

The streets in the the early Lambton township were mainly named after managers and directors of the Scottish Australian Mining and Investment Companies, owners of the Lambton colliery.

Street Notes
Young St Named after Matthew Young or Adolphus William Young MP, or possible both. Matthew Young along with Robert Morehead was an early manager of the Scottish Australian Mining Company in Sydney. The mineral leases of the Lambton colliery were original held by “Morehead and Young”, and then subsequently taken over by the S.A.M. Co soon after the company’s registration. Adolphus William Young was a director of the Scottish Australian Investment Company in England.
Croudace St Named after Thomas Croudace (b. 1838, d. 15 Jun 1906), manager of Lambton Colliery and subsequently General Manager of the Scottish Australian Mining Company in Australia.
Grainger St Named after Charles Garston Grainger, director and secretary in London of the Scottish Australian Investment and Scottish Australian Mining Companies. Resigned 1885.
Morehead St Named after Robert Archibald Alison Morehead (b. 1812? d. 9 Jan 1885), General Manager of the Scottish Australian Mining Company in Australia.
Dickson St Probably named after William Henry Dickson, one of the proprietors of the Scottish Australian Investment Company.
De Vitre St Named after James Denis De Vitre, director of the Scottish Australian Mining Company. Retired February 1872.
Elder St Named after Alexander Lang Elder (d. 5 Sep 1885), director of the Scottish Australian Investment and Scottish Australian Mining Companies. Although Elder died in September 1885, he continued to be listed as a director of the company in Australian newspapers until 13 Mar 1886. An updated list of directors appeared on 20 Mar 1886.
Kendall St Named after Charles Holland Kendall, a director of the Scottish Australian Investment Company.
Pearson St Named after Sir Edwin Pearson (d. 1883), director of the Scottish Australian Investment Company.
Howe St Probably named after Robert How, who was named in 1864 as a director of the Cadiangallong copper mine near Orange. This mine was worked by the Scottish Australian Mining Company, and given the overlap of directors between the two companies.  it is quite likely that How was also a director or investor in the Scottish Australian Mining Company. The Government Gazette of 14 Oct 1873, shows “How-street” in the list of Lambton streets. As early as April 1872, the spelling appears with a trailing “e”.
Chilcott St Named after Henry Frederick Chilcott (b. 5 Jan 1844, d. 21 Jan 1920), General Manager in Australia of the Scottish Australian Investment and Scottish Australian Mining Companies.
Turner St Named after Frederick William Turner (d. September 1928) director of the Scottish Australian Investment Company, and secretary of the company in London.

Howe Street

The Lambton Primary School centenary booklet in 1965 stated that Howe St was “named either in honour of the Earl of Howe (prominent Englishman of the day) or John Howe a well known explorer and pastoralist in the Hunter Valley.” I’m a little suspicious of the accuracy of this statement given that I can find no corroborating evidence, and that the centenary booklet has a number of other errors regarding the origin of street names. e.g. the naming of Hill St. Given that all the other street names are of men associated with the mining company, I think it much more likely that it was named after Robert How, one of the directors of the Cadiangallong copper mine .

Croudace Street

One curious anomaly in the early Lambton street names is that at one time there were two Croudace Streets. As well as the north-south road we know today, for some period of time the section of road along the south side of Lambton Park (now Howe St) was called Croudace St. See for example the map on a real estate poster from 1906. (For information on the section of LLoyd Rd running across Lambton Park, see my January 2016 article.)

Real estate poster from 1906, showing Croudace St on the south side of Lambton Park. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

At first I thought this was an error by the map maker, but I found many other maps of the era also had the street labelled as Croudace St. I then found a proclamation in the Government Gazette of 22 Nov 1878 that names the road between Church St and Lambton Coal Company’s railway as being Croudace St – so the map makers were correct in their labels.

In the period 1916 to 1935 the road south of Lambton Park gets referred to as “Howe Street East” and afterwards simply as “Howe Street”.

So why was there two Croudace Streets? It seems that in the 1860s and 1870s street names were still in a bit of flux. When you look at the Government Gazette proclamation of roads there are many names that don’t match what we have today.

  • 14 Oct 1873 – mentions a “Reservoir-street”, which refers either to the present day Grainger St or present day Croudace St.
  • 22 Nov 1878 – mentions a West Street and a Crozier St that do not exist today.
  • 27 Aug 1880 – mentions “Swamp-street”

The naming of the road to the south side of Lambton Park as Croudace St was probably done by some bureaucrat based in Sydney, unaware of the Lambton locality, and unaware that there was already another street known by the locals as Croudace St.

Map showing both Croudace Streets, with Howe St in between.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
15 Jan 1885
1 Jan 1885
On the retirement of R A A Morehead as General Manager of the Scottish Australian Investment Company, Mr. Archibald Shannon the sub-manager becomes General Manager, and "Mr. Henry F. Chilcott, the accountant, who has been twenty-six years in the service of the company, will succeed to the post to be vacated by Mr. Shannon."
17 Jan 1885
9 Jan 1885
Death of R A A Morehead, manager of the Scottish Australian Investment Company.
30 Jul 1892Archibald Shannon, General Manager of Scottish Australian Investment Company and Scottish Australian Mining Company, returns to England. Thomas Croudace becomes General Manager of the Scottish Australian Mining Company, and although not stated in this article, Henry Chilcott becomes General Manger of the Scottish Australian Investment Company. (See article reporting his death in 1920, that states that Chilcott became General Manager in 1892.)
21 Apr 1894Captain Chilcott retires from the Colonial Volunteer Forces.
4 Aug 1894Details of The Scottish Australian Investment Company, listing Henry Frederick Chilcott as "Manager in Australia" and Frederick William Turner as "Secretary to the Company in London."
28 Dec 1895
16 Dec 1895
The "long and meritorious" decoration bestowed on H F Chilcott of the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the Colonial Volunteer Forces, recognising 26 years of service.
14 Jul 1919Last mention in Trove of H F Chilcott, General Manager of Scottish Australian Mining, prior to his death.
16 Jan 1920
17 Jan 1920
"Messrs. Creer and Berkeley will offer at auction to-morrow afternoon 61 elevated building sites at Lambton. These sites form a portion of the Scottish-Australian Mining Company's estate, and are within two minutes of the tram. With bold frontages they face Chilcott, Turner, Croudace and Grainger streets."
23 Jan 1920
21 Jan 1920
"Mr. Henry Frederick Chilcott, general manager of the Scottish-Australian Investment Company, Ltd., and the Scottish-Australian Mining Company, Ltd. died at his residence, Forest Road, Arnclilffe, on Wednesday. He joined the Investment Company in 1858 in a junior capacity, and in 1892 succeeded to the management upon the death* of the late Mr. Archibald Shannon. In 1904 he succceeded the late Mr. Thomas Croudace in the management of the mining company."
* It was actually on Shannon's return to England, not his death, that Chilcott became general manager. Shannnon died in Torquay in 1898.
22 Jan 1920Funeral of H F Chilcott.
6 Sep 1928"The death is announced of Mr. Frederick William Turner, a director of the Scottish Australian Investment Company, at the age of 96 years."

Clash of Armies

Lambton Salvation Army

Sometimes these articles I write take an unexpected turn. This month, what began as a simple story about a church hall in Lambton led me to a little-known period of rioting in the streets fuelled by anti-religious sentiment.

The Salvation Army was founded in London by William Booth in 1865, to preach the Gospel to the poor and underprivileged, and offer aid to the destitute. The Army grew rapidly and arrived in Australia in 1881. On 9 September 1883 they “opened fire” in Lambton with a parade through the streets, followed by meetings in the Music Hall in Dickson St.

While attracting many followers, not everyone was favourably disposed. With their military designations, uniforms and noisy parading through the streets, some considered the Salvation Army to be a “burlesque of religion” and that “its vulgarities are intolerable to people of refinement.”

A semi-organised opposition arose, with a group called the Skeleton Army, also known as the White Ribbon Army. They principally expressed their displeasure by joining the Salvationists’ parades, forming their own musical bands and singing parodies of hymns. The combined noise “made the air hideous”, and confrontations in various suburbs boiled over into push and shove and brawling. In a major encounter between the Salvation and Skeleton ‘armies’ on 21 October 1883, the paper reported that over 2000 people gathered in Hunter St in a scene of “riot, obscenity, jostling, and a pandemonium of discord.”

Throughout 1884 there continued to be disturbances in the streets, however with vigilant policing, and some of its leaders briefly imprisoned for riotous behaviour, the activities of the Skeleton Army gradually waned. In contrast, the Salvation Army ranks grew. In Lambton, after considering purchasing the Music Hall, in 1886 they erected their own barracks in Grainger St.

While no longer in Lambton, 136 years later the Salvation Army remains in Newcastle, well regarded for its service to the needy. Thankfully the Skeleton Army and its discord is now a forgotten footnote in history.

Salvation Army Barracks, Grainger St Lambton. February 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball, University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.
The Salvation Army Community Centre, Cleary St, Hamilton. November 2019.

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

Additional Information

Newcastle Library Hunter Photobank has a photo captioned “Group outside Salvation Army Barracks at Lambton”. This is almost certainly an error. The photo is not of the Grainger St hall, nor can it be the Music Hall they met in during 1883-1886. The Music Hall was on the south side of Dickson St, and so the ground behind that hall would be sloping down towards the Lambton-Kerai Creek. Note that in this photo there is a building in the background at a higher elevation.

Salvation Army Barracks – unknown location.

The photo is probably of a Salvation Army hall in some other suburb, but which one? I suspected that it might have been Wallsend, but I can rule that out as I found that in Wallsend, the Salvation Army Barracks was in the low part of Nelson St, adjacent to the storm water channel. It was so close to the storm water channel they had to have a bridge to cross from the street to the front door!

Salvation Army Barracks, Nelson Street, Wallsend. 9 April 1906. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Another possibility for the location of the Hunter Photobank photo is Tighes Hill, as a number of Trove articles indicate that the Salvation Army had a big presence and barracks in that suburb.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
25 Mar 1882Report of persecution of the Salvation Army in England. The report is generally favourable to the Salvation Army movement, but describes the views of its detractors thus:
"It may be said for instance, that the entire conception, with its military designations and uniforms, is only a burlesque of religion ; that its vulgarities are intolerable to people of the slightest pretension to refinement, not to say decency ; and that its parade and noise and loud profession encourage a brazen-faced hypocrisy that tend to bring it into contempt."
11 Sep 1883
9 Sep 1883
"The Salvation Army 'opened fire' on Sunday last. They commenced with knee drill in the Music Hall at 7 a.m. At 10.30 they paraded the streets singing hymns and exhorting the people to seek repentance. After the parade, a meeting was held; singing and prayer, and the 'soldiers' giving testimony as to the improvement in their spiritual condition since joining the Army, being the order of the day. Crowded meetings were also held in the Music Hall in the afternoon and evening."
18 Sep 1883
9 Sep 1883
Opposition to the Salvation Army opening in Lambton. "There was a mob of about a dozen young ruffians, on a vacant piece of ground adjoining the premises of the Sergeant of Police, who were amusing themselves by insulting any old individual whom they thought they had got in their power, and banging stones for a long time against a neighbouring house."
3 Oct 1883Complaint that the Salvation Army is merely poaching members from other established churches … "We believe that it is also a fact that their 'converts' with few exceptions, have been previous church-goers."
22 Oct 1883
21 Oct 1883
Evening News, Sydney: "Disgraceful proceedings were witnessed last night in connection with the Salvation Army. The opposition army, known as the White Ribbons, or the Skeletons, extemporised a band, and joined the procession. In Hunter-street nearly 2,000 persons assembled, and a regular pandemonium ensued."
22 Oct 1883
21 Oct 1883
Newcastle Morning Herald: "For some time a counter 'army' to the 'Salvationists'—the 'Skeleton,' 'White Ribbon,' or otherwise, according as the phrase is adopted—have marched in opposition to the detachments of General Booth. Yesterday morning, again, a mass meeting was held at Cook's Hill, where over 2000 persons assembled … The climax was reached about 7 p.m., whilst the Salvation 'Armyists' were making their customary march down Hunter-street, near the police court, towards the Victoria Theatre. Their musicians(?), as usual, poured forth incessant brain-distracting, bedlam-filling, blasts of discord, which were supplemented at the intersection of Bolton and Hunter-streets by the bandsmen and the leather-lunged Skeletonian oppositionists. The effect out-heroded Herod by way of riot, obscenity, general breach of common decency, and Sabbath decorum. Nearly 2000 persons speedily assembled, and the march-past beggared description. Roars, horse-laughter, blasphemy, insulting of females, jostling, obscenity and a pandemonium of discord ensued down to Perkin-street corner."
2 Nov 1883"Mr. W. T. Dent, of Waratah, while driving into Newcastle one night last week, was met by the Skeleton Army. His horse, frightened by the hideous noises, rough music, and ragged banners, shied and bolted. With much difficulty the runaway was stopped. It is expected that some serious accident will result from these processions in the crowded streets in the evening."
14 Nov 1883
13 Nov 1883
"Lambton. The Salvation Army have added a big drum to their band of musical instruments. On Tuesday evening the army in their march were preceded by about thirty lads, singing, parodies on the hymn. This with the cornets, drum, and the army singing the hymns combined, just about made the air hideous."
19 Nov 1883
14 Nov 1883
"On Wednesday evening, an omnibus and the Salvation Army collided in Grainger-street. A little boy named Flarvin was knocked down by the 'bus horses, but beyond a good shaking and some bruises escaped serious injury. One thing is certain, Grainger-street, which is only thirty feet wide, including footpaths, is too narrow for public processions of any kind."
1 Dec 1883
30 Nov 1883
"Lambton. The White Ribbon corps have formed a branch here for the purpose of obstructing the Salvation Army. There was great excitement on Friday evening, and hundreds of people crowded the streets. The police promptly placed themselves between the two armies, and prevented anything in the shape of ruffianism occurring. Had it not been for this, breaches of the peace would no doubt have taken place."
11 Dec 1883"Lambton. I am pleased to see the Skeleton Army is becoming a thing of the past, thanks to some of our police force. I am sure the inhabitants of Lambton are under a debt of gratitude to our sergeant and his staff for the prompt manner in which they have virtually annihilated this White Ribbon nuisance."
31 Dec 1884
28 Jan 1884
In an end of year retrospective, it was noted that in January 1884 ... "Great rioting took place on Bullock Island [Carrington] between the Salvation Army and the White Ribbon Army, the latter being the aggressors. The White Ribbonites consisted of a gang of roughs who made it their business to obstruct and annoy the Salvation Army, ostensibly with the intention of putting them down as a nuisance... The leaders of the larrikins were tried for disturbing a congregation, and although they escaped punishment through a legal technicality, the White Ribbon Army gradually died out."
24 Mar 1884"The Salvation Army still continue to march round every evening, and draw large crowds of people to the Music Hall. The Army proper now numbers about one hundred rank and file. The erection of barracks is talked of."
25 Jun 1884"The Salvation Army treated us to a serenade at half-past six on Sunday morning, and with their bad music, and still worse, bad singing, disturbed the peace of all who like to take an extra nap on the Sabbath morn. This is really carrying the infliction too far."
18 Jul 1884Mr Melville (MLA) described "how the leaders of the 'Skeleton' Army in Newcastle had one by one been brought under the influences of the [Salvation] Army, and how one in particular of that Army confessed to having been paid by publicans in Newcastle to molest the [Salvation] Army."
26 Sep 1884
23 Sep 1884
"On Tuesday evening the Salvation Army and some of the opposing forces came into collision and had a passage at arms, which resulted in the free distribution of black eyes and kindred favours on either side. The case will be brought before the police court."
25 Oct 1884Advertisement in which Joseph Young and Joseph Halliday "acknowledge that WE DID WRONG by DISTURBING the Salvation Army on Sunday, the 19th, at Lambton." Presumably this public apology was in order to avoid prosecution over the incident.
26 Mar 1885The owners of the Music Hall in Lambton dismiss a runour that they have sold it to the Salvation Arrmy.
27 Sep 1886"TENDERS are invited for the ERECTION and COMPLETION of a Salvation Army BARRACKS, Lambton."
6 Sep 1894Tenth anniversary services of Lambton Salvation Army.

James Gray, Undertaker

James Gray of Adamstown, was a leading businessman, citizen, and alderman who died on 30 May 1916 while holidaying in Blackheath, just a few days before his 73rd birthday.

Gray arrived in Australia from the north of England around 1878, and lived in Brunker Rd Hamilton West (now Broadmeadow) working as an undertaker. In 1885 he moved to Adamstown, and while continuing as an undertaker he also worked as a carpenter, ran a hardware and furniture shop and accumulated a substantial property portfolio.

Gray was one of the early proponents for the establishment of Adamstown Council in 1885. His desire to serve as an alderman was a model of perseverance, with multiple unsuccessful attempts to be elected. Conceding defeat on the fourth occasion in 1894 he was undaunted, stating that he “would again make an effort to get in to the council.” The following year he finally gained a place when elected to fill a casual vacancy. He went on to serve as an alderman for 15 years and was elected Mayor on three occasions.

Ralph Snowball’s photograph of 8 December 1910 shows James Gray in front of his business premises in Glebe Rd. Dressed in black, standing with his hand on the wheel of his Beeston Humber motor car, Gray is at work as an undertaker for the funeral of Jane Gilpin. Her son Edward is presumably the man standing at the front of the car.

This is one of Snowball’s finest carefully composed photographs, and in the dead centre is a very curious detail. In the glass windshield beside the reflection of Edward Gilpin, there is a slightly blurred image of a woman in a hat. But there is no woman standing next to Gilpin. Is this a ghostly apparition? Is it an accidental double exposure?  Or are we witnessing a clever piece of photographic artistry performed by Snowball, paying homage to Edward Gilpin’s beloved mother?

James Gray, undertaker, 8 December 1910. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
The mysterious reflection of a woman in the car windshield.

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

Location of the photo

Although I am not 100% certain of the location of James Gray’s premises in Snowball’s photograph, my best guess is that it was on the south-east corner of Glebe Road and Teralba Road.

Probable location of James Gray’s business.
The corner of Glebe and Teralba Roads, Adamstown. September 2019.
Old street directory of Adamstown showing the location of Crown St and Thomas St.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
30 Mar 1880First mention of James Gray as an undertaker. His address is given as “Commonage, Hamilton”.
26 Jan 1884James Gray is one of the 153 petitioners calling for the establishment of Adamstown Council.
21 Oct 1884For Sale: A four-roomed house and shop. Commonage, Hamilton.
5 Dec 1884Last advertisment for JAMES GRAY, Undertaker, with the address given as "Commonage, Hamilton."
26 Jan 1885First advertisement for JAMES GRAY, Undertaker, with the address given as "Adamstown".
13 Feb 1888
11 Feb 1888
James Gray's first unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Adamstown Council.
10 Feb 1890
8 Feb 1890
James Gray's second unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Adamstown Council.
5 Jul 1890James Gray leading a movement to have Adamstown Council divided into wards.
5 Jan 1891James Gray is instrumental in submitting a petition to the government to have the Municipality of Adamstown divided into 3 wards. Interestingly the name before Gray’s in the petition is “Jane Gilpin”, the woman whose funeral he would organise as undertaker nearly 20 years later, and be the subject of Ralph Snowball's photograph.
30 May 1891At an appeals court, the property of James Gray described as a "carpenter's shop and residence, Glebe-road."
24 Oct 1891Further evidence of James Gray's subsantial property holdings - an advertisement to let a butcher's shop in Crown-street. (Crown St was the short section of Teralba Rd to the south of Glebe Rd.)
14 May 1892In municipal appeal court, James Gray's property portfolio is described as consisting of "six four-roomed cottages assessed at an annual value of £16 5s each."
13 Feb 1893
11 Feb 1893
James Gray's third unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Adamstown Council. In giving thanks to those who voted for him, Gray stated that "it was improbable that he would again offer his services to the ratepayers." That was a short-lived sentiment, as he stood as a candidate again the following year.
30 Dec 1893At an inquest concerning a fire in one of James Gray's rental cottages, his occupation is stated as "undertaker and carpenter". Gray "had an overdraft at the A.J.S. Bank for £150 … for seven or eight years, and had built five houses."
12 Feb 1894
10 Feb 1894
James Gray's fourth unsuccessful attempt to be elected to Adamstown Council. "Mr. GRAY said he had contested for a seat in the council and been defeated four times. He had a large interest in the municipality, and would again make an effort to get in to the council."
21 Jan 1895
19 Jan 1895
Mrs Gray, the wife of James Gray, accidentally kills her niece, Eleanor Turner, aged 13.
22 Jan 1895
21 Jan 1895
The inquest into the death of Eleanor Turner hears that she died from injuries inflicted by a knife thrown in anger at her by Mrs Anne Gray, after a dispute with her niece. The jury hands down a decision of manslaughter and Mrs Gray was released on bail to await trial.
21 Feb 1895
20 Feb 1895
Anne Gray sentenced to six months in Maitland Gaol for the manslaughter of Eleanor Turner.
15 Jun 1895"Mrs. Anne Gray, the woman who, on February 21 last, was sentenced to six months in Maitland Gaol for the manslaughter of Eleanor Turner, has been released by order of the Department of Justice. She arrived at her home in Adamstown on Thursday, having served four months of her sentence."
29 Sep 1908
28 Sep 1908
Death of James Gray's first wife.
13 Apr 1910James Gray advertises his Beeston-Humber motor car for sale for £450.
8 Dec 1910"Relatives and friends of Mr. EDWARD GILPIN are invited to attend the Funeral of his beloved Mother, JANE GILPIN. To move from her late residence, Thomas-street, Adamstown, THIS AFTERNOON, at a quarter to 3 o'clock, for Methodist Cemetery, Sandgate, JAMES GRAY, Undertaker."
(Thomas St is now the northern end of Date St in Adamstown.)
14 Jan 1915David Lloyd acquires Gray’s undertaking business.
21 Apr 1915First mention of James Gray's second wife.
2 Jun 1916
30 May 1916
Death of James Gray.
1 Jun 1916Funeral of James Gray.

Lawson Crichton

Lawson Crichton was born in Coatbridge near Glasgow in Scotland in 1854. He ended his days in Lambton in 1906, as one of the town’s most prominent citizens.

Crichton arrived in Australia in 1875 and soon gained a position as assistant at the Hamilton Co?operative Store. In 1879 he married Agnes Logan Cherry, daughter of Robert Cherry of the Hamilton Hotel. In 1882 Crichton was appointed manager of the Lambton Co-operative store, situated on the north east corner of Pearson and Grainger Streets. In 1889 he resigned after purchasing a bakery business, but returned in 1896 as manager of the Hamilton and Lambton Co?operative Society.

Ralph Snowball’s September 1898 photograph shows Lawson and Agnes Crichton with several of their five children, and various employees in front of the Lambton store. For an interesting contrast in how some things change while other things stay the same, a close look at the signs on the store is instructive. One advertises “Cadburys Chocolate”, still widely enjoyed today, while another promotes “Bile Beans for Biliousness”, a product thankfully lost in history!

Lawson Crichton was active in many local institutions including the fire brigade, cricket club, football club, and several friendly societies and lodges. From 1899 to 1902 he was also a key member of the Lambton Citizens’ Committee. These were years when Lambton Council ceased to operate having been bankrupted by the failed electric lighting scheme. The Citizens’ Committee under the leadership of Crichton became the de facto local government, looking after sanitation, drainage and street repairs until the Council was reinstated in 1903.

Lawson Crichton died at his residence in Pearson St on 2 July 1906, aged just 52 years. The following day a funeral procession left his home and wound through the streets of Lambton. The impressively large attendance from the many groups he was associated a fitting testament to the high regard he was held in the community.

Lambton Co-operative Store, with Lawson Crichton (manager) and family. September 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Lawson Crichton. Photo from “The Story of Lambton”, Newcastle Family History Society.

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

Bile Beans for Biliousness

In Ralph Snowball’s 1898 photo, just to the right hand side of the main door is a sign that proclaims “Bile Beans for Biliousness Sold Here”.

Bile Beans were a completely fraudulent product created by Charles Edward Fulford and Ernest Albert Gilbert, and first sold in Australia in 1897. The product was a relatively harmless concoction of plant and vegetable matter, but was heavily marketed with pseudo-scientific attestations as a cure for all kinds of maladies.

Bile Beans marketing brochure c.1905. Archives New Zealand

A court in Edinburgh on 20 July 1906, ruling on a complaint from the manufacturers of Bile Beans about another company using the name, makes it pretty clear that Bile Beans were an elaborate scam. The British Medical Journal of 28 July 1906, reporting on the court’s judgement noted that the Bile Beans …

… were said to be made of Australian vegetable substances discovered by a Charles Forde. The place of the discovery, the mode of it, and the instrument of it were all deliberate inventions, without any foundation in fact.

The truth was that the complainers [the Bile Bean Manufacturing Company] had formed a scheme to palm off onto the public a medicine obtained from America, and they created a demand by flooding the country with advertisements, placards, pamphlets, and imaginary pictures. The complainers desired protection for the name “Bile Beans,” but being themselves engaged in perpetrating a fraud upon the public, they were not entitled to any such protection.

Despite the clearly articulated fraudulent nature of the product, it continued to be marketed aggressively and sold throughout the world, with its supposed benefits morphing over time. At various times Bile Beans were claimed to cure an astonishing number of ailments, including …

  • Biliousness
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation
  • Dyspepsia
  • Headache
  • Piles
  • Female Weakness
  • Pale faced girls
  • Irregularities
  • Bad Breath
  • Pimples
  • Blotches
  • Dizziness
  • Liver and Kidney Troubles
  • Heart Palpitation
  • Pain in Back and Side
  • Lack of Physical Tone
  • Heartburn
  • Tired Feeling
  • Debility
  • Anaemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bad blood
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Rheumatism
  • Flatulence
  • Influenza

By the 1930s the product was being marketed as a weight loss pill for women, with advertisements proclaiming that …

“Slenderness can be yours without dieting or fatiguing exercise if you just take Bile Beans. Just a couple nightly and you’ll slim while you sleep.”

Advertisement, Launceston Examiner, 21 Oct 1938.

Thankfully the marketing of ineffective dietary supplements using pseudo-scientific claims of efficacy, targeting women with insecurities about their body image, could never happen in our modern age.

Lambton Citizens’ Committee

The following is a brief timeline of Lawson Crichton’s involvement in the Lambton Citizens’ Committee.

  • 3 Mar 1900 – appointed to the committee
  • 2 Jun 1900 – appointed as chairman of the committee
  • 21 Sep 1901 – retired as chairman, but stays on committee
  • 5 Apr 1902 – last mention in the newspaper as being on the committee

Community involvement

In the article I mention that Lawson Crichton was active in many local institutions. A search of Trove shows that he was very busy indeed, being involved in the following activities

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
5 Jun 1879
3 Jun 1879
Marriage of Lawson Crichton to Agnes Logan Cherry.
3 Jul 1906
2 Jul 1906
Death of Lawson Crichton.
3 Jul 1906Funeral notices for Lawson Crichton.
3 Jul 1906"HAMILTON & LAMBTON CO-OP. SOCIETY. LAMBTON & HAMILTON STORES CLOSED TO-DAY on account of the death of the General Manager, Mr. Lawson Crichton."
4 Jul 1906
3 Jul 1906
Lawson Crichton's funeral.

Hutton Printing & Paper Co

Elder Street Lambton in the 19th century contained many businesses you would expect in a mining town, including butchers, bakers and undertakers. One business you might not expect is a printery.

Printing began in Lambton in 1887 when George Buckley borrowed money from his brother John to set up the Paragon Printing Works in a small building behind the Commercial Hotel in Grainger St. George was a colourful character, but not always astute. In 1894 he became bankrupt after a bad investment in a failed copper mine in Queensland, as well as losing considerable money gambling on horses.

Ownership of the business passed back to John Buckley, who also became licensee of the Commercial Hotel in 1895. George continued working as an employee until his sudden death in September 1896 while under investigation for fraud in his role of secretary of a local lodge. Just a few weeks before George’s death, John Buckley sold the business to James Moodie Hutton, the foreman of the printing works for many years.

A February 1897 photo showcases the business in new spacious premises on the north-west corner of Grainger and Elder Streets opposite the Commercial Hotel. The front wall spruiks “steam printing” – their modern press was speedily powered by a steam engine, not operated by hand. The side wall promoted “account books of every description kept in stock and made to order”. The accounting we do today in computer software, back then had to be laboriously handwritten on large pages printed with rows and columns, the original spreadsheets.

Hutton’s business prospered, and in 1901 he opened new premises in Hunter St, Newcastle West. The Hutton name continued to be associated with printing for much of the 20th century, with Harold Moodie Hutton operating a printery in Regent Street New Lambton for many years.

Today our streets still contain butchers, bakers and undertakers, and with the advent of computer technology, also shops to sell us equipment and supplies for printing in our homes.

George Buckley’s Paragon Printing Works, behind the Commercial Hotel in 1893. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Hutton’s Printing and Paper Company, Elder St, Lambton, NSW, February 1897. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Hutton’s printing company was on the north west corner of Elder and Grainger Streets. June 2019.
Today the site of Hutton’s printery is occupied by undertakers, and home printing solutions are sold two doors down Elder St.

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

Additional information

A page from a wages account book on display at Richmond Vale Railway museum. This is an example of the kind of custom print job that Hutton’s Company would have done.

George Buckley

Although its difficult to get a handle on all the details, its reasonably clear that George Buckley’s financial management navigated murky waters.

One example is his investment in the failed Texas Copper Mining and Smelting Company in Queensland. In 1892 George and his co-investors sought to evade their liabilities by dissolving the indebted company, and the very next week formed a new debt free company with the same directors to work the same mine. The Bank of New South Wales sued over the matter, and the court found in their favour.

Another example is before becoming bankrupt, George apparently sold his business to James Moodie Hutton in September 1893. This sales appears to be a sham transaction designed to avoid his debts. The sale was concluded after being advertised just once. Despite the ‘sale’ the business continued to operate under George’s name, with George supposedly an employee. In an 1895 court hearing John William Buckley “agreed to hand over the printing and stationery business (to the receiver) as it stood, without any admission as to the bona-fides of the bill of sale.” (George’s brother John appears to be not much better in financial integrity, having to be taken to court for unpaid debts in 1896. )

The most damning indication of George’s financial irregularities comes from the report of his death on 3 September 1896.

For upwards of 20 years held the position of district secretary of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows – a position he held at the time of his death. For some time past, however, the officers of the lodge noticed that the secretary was conducting his business in rather a loose manner, and about six weeks ago it was decided that his accounts should be professionally audited. This audit has been going on for the past six weeks, two professional accountants from Sydney having been engaged in the work the whole time. On Saturday last Buckley was approached by these gentlemen and asked to produce certain documents, to wit, the receipts from the relatives of those who were supposed to have received funeral donations, and the certificates of burials in connection with the same. Buckley explained that he did not have any of these documents in his possession, as it was customary as soon as the quarterly audits were completed to destroy the papers, the district lodge not having any more use of them. This reply astonished the accountants, and they renewed their efforts to sift the matter of the funeral donations to the very bottom. The result of their inspection of the secretary’s accounts was, it is understood, that irregularities running into four figures were discovered. It is also understood, from official statements made, that Buckley within the past two years had drawn from the lodge funds funeral donations, amounting to £30 each, for men who had never been connected with any lodge. The accountants reported their discovery to the head of the lodge, and a special meeting of the different lodges had been convened for Saturday evening next, at which the Grand Lodge officers from Sydney intended to be present for the purpose, of hearing what Buckley had to say regarding his accounts, he having been specially summoned to attend. It is understood that the audit has not yet been completed, and the leading officials are afraid that unpleasant discoveries will be made before, the work of the auditors is completed.

Despite his obvious failings, in a case of either not being aware of the facts, or not wishing to speak ill of the dead, the report still manages to describe George as “one who was esteemed and respected by everybody who had the pleasure of his acquaintance”!

Hutton Printing

Although the sale of the printing business to James Moodie Hutton in September 1893 appears to have been a sham, the sale in July 1896 was genuine. Within a few months after George Buckley’s death, Hutton had the building housing his printing press freshly painted with his name and advertising his wares. In December 1896 he was advertising Christmas cards, and in March 1897 looking to hire more employees.

The front wall of Hutton’s premises in February 1897, advertising “Steam Printing”.

At some stage James Hutton’s wife Emily (sometimes spelled Emilie) opened a “Stationery and Fancy Goods” shop further down Elder St. Its not clear why this business was opened under her name rather than her husband’s name.

James Hutton’s wife Emilie operated a Stationery and Fancy Goods shop in Elder St Lambton. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Newcastle Region Library.

I have no definite evidence as to when Hutton’s printing press ceased in Lambton. My guess is that it was 1901. The first mention I can find of his new premises in Hunter St Newcastle is from May 1901, just one month after he advertised the sale of a “Vertical Tangye Engine and Boiler” from his Lambton establishment in April 1901. Presumably this was the engine and boiler that powered his “steam printing”, and that the sale was due to moving his business from Lambton to Hunter St Newcastle.

Premises of James Hutton, Stationer and Printer, 1903. Newcastle Region Library.

Although I haven’t found any definitive corroboration, I assume that Harold Moodie Hutton who was a printer in Regent St New Lambton, was the son of James Moodie Hutton.

As recently as 2015, the name of H. M. Hutton was visible on premises in Regent St New Lambton. Google Street View historical images.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
22 Aug 1887James Moodie Hutton was no stranger to banckrupty. His company of "Hamilton and Hutton Printers", a partnership with Alfred George Hamilton, was decared insolvent in 1887.
8 Mar 1889
5 Mar 1889
At a Lambton Council meeting, "the tender of Mr. G. Buckley for printing was accepted". This is the first mention in the newspaper of George Buckley operating as a printer in Lambton.
9 Feb 1891George Buckley unsuccessfully stands for election to Lambton Council.
24 Feb 1891George Buckley divorces his wife.
18 May 1891Advertisement - "WANTED, a BOY, to learn the printing business; one used to the trade preferred. GEO. BUCKLEY, Paragon Printing Works, Lambton."
19 Sep 1893Auction on the premises in Grainger St - "HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE & EFFECTS, Stock-in-Trade of a Printer, including Printing Machines, &c."
11 Jan 1894Auction sale of Commercial Hotel and "W.B. Building, used as a Printing Office; also, W.B. Building, used as a dwellinghouse, erected upon land having a frontage of 57ft to Grainger-street, and a depth of 50ft, now in the occupation of Mr. Geo. Buckley."
5 Apr 1894Court case - Bank of New South Wales v directors/guarantors (including George Buckley) of the Texas Copper Mining and Smelting Company.
12 Oct 1894"The Bankruptcy of a Printer. A Special Examination." Reporting from the court regarding the bankruptcy of George Buckley's printing company.
28 Feb 1895At a Lambton Council meeting, a tender for printing was accepted from "G. Buckley and Co."
30 Jul 1895Bankruptcy court ..."Mr. Lamb informed the Court that his client, John William Buckley, had agreed to hand over the printing and stationery business as it stood, without any admission as to the bona-fides of the bill of sale. "
26 Sep 1895Supreme Court of NSW, Bankruptcy notice to creditors - "GEORGE BUCKLEY, of Lambton (No. 8499), a second account and first plan of distribution showing payment of a dividend of 4s 11 15-16d in the £ on proved concurrent debt."
29 Oct 1895"TRANSFER Of the Commercial Hotel, Lambton, from Joseph W Oldham to John W Buckley."
4 Sep 1896
3 Sep 1896
George Buckley dies in the Commercial Hotel after shooting himself with a revolver. Its highly probable that the shooting was intentional and related to an investigation into George's handling of finances in his role of secretary of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows. He was due to appear before a special meeting of the Lodge the following Saturday.
5 Sep 1896
4 Sep 1896
Inquest into the death of George Buckley.
21 Oct 1896Lambton Petty Debts Court. "T. S. Jones summoned John W. Buckley and Jane Rutley for the sum of £7, being 2 per cent. Commission for the selling of their printing business in July last."
5 Dec 1896Advertisement: "CHRISTMAS Presents.-- Christmas and Birthday Cards, splendid assortment. Hutton Printing and Paper Co., Lambton."
23 Mar 1897Advertisement: "WANTED, LAD, accustomed to Book-binding and Paper-ruling. Hutton Printing and Paper Co., Lambton"
10 Apr 1897Jane Buckley (widow of George) is now the licensee of the Commercial Hotel.
26 Dec 1898
24 Dec 1898
Death of Clarissa, infant daughter of James and Emily Hutton.
11 Apr 1901"FOR Sale, cheap, 3 h.p. Vertical Tangye Engine and Boiler, good order, Hutton Printing Coy, Lambton."
18 May 1901Job vacancy for "2 Smart Boys" at Hutton Printing Company, 102 Hunter Street West. (Note that Hunter Street has been re-numbered since this time.)
6 Feb 1907For Sale: "A LARGE Corner Allotment of Land, Regent-st. and Portland-place, New Lambton. Splendid business site. Apply J. M. HUTTON, Printer, Newcastle, or Lambton."
9 Mar 1916"James L. Hutton, manager for Mrs. E. Hutton, printer, of Lambton"
31 Oct 1922Advertisement: "WANT, smart Girl, one used to trade preferred. H. Hutton, Printer, New Lambton."
24 Feb 1923
8 Feb 1923
Marriage of Emilie (Topsy), second daughter of James M Hutton of Newcastle.
2 Jul 1925
1 Jul 1925
At a New Lambton council meeting, a letter received from "J. Hutton, printer, Regent-street, complaining of not having a fair share of the printing needed by the council." "The clerk stated that the writer was, and had been, receiving a fair deal for the last four years, and quoted figures to prove that such was the case."
24 Aug 1939 For the Children's Hospital appea', "Mr. H. M. Hutton, printer, of New Lambton, has agreed to do all printing required in the campaign, free of charge."
27 Jan 1945"Harold Moodie Hutton, 54, printer, was charged with having, at New Lambton on Thursday, published a document purporting to contain a list of horses nominated for the Australia Day Handicap, Anniversary Handicap and Phillip Handicap, to be run at Randwick racecourse, such list not having been approved by the Australian Jockey Club.
23 Jan 1951"Printers outside the city area said they were losing up to four hours a day because of power failures. Mr. H. M. Hutton, printer, of New Lambton, said he lost up to three hours a day when blackouts allowed the metal in the pots of his linotypes to grow cold."

The Commonage

This month marks 130 years since one of the most important events in the economic development of Newcastle, when an act of parliament released a large tract of land from a longstanding legal limbo. The Newcastle Pasturage Reserve, also known as the Commonage, consisted of 1600 acres stretching from Waratah to Adamstown. Summarising its history in 1889, the Sydney Morning Herald noted that

“The Newcastle Pasturage Reserve was marked out in 1850 for the purpose of affording a run for stock which were then being shipped to New Zealand. The immediate purpose of it passed away, but the reserve remained. On it were valuable coal seams, and after the passing of the Land Act of 1861 the land inside its boundaries was mostly leased for mining purposes. The opening of the mines drew a large number of miners to the district, many of them without much money, and they began to put up rough shelter for themselves on the reserve, close to their work. There was nobody to forbid them, or to levy any rent. The quality of the houses put up was very inferior, because as they knew they had no title the men naturally did not care to spend too much.”

In 1871 the 300 residents of the Commonage lobbied the government to obtain legal title. For the next eighteen years, governments alternately promised and procrastinated, until finally in June 1889 the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve Act was passed. This gave the residents (now numbering 5000) the right to purchase the land they lived on, and allowed the remaining land to be sold or reserved for public use. Sittings of the Land Court in 1890 set purchase prices, and although residents grumbled they were too high, most took the opportunity to become landowners instead of squatters.

The legal certainty of land title granted by the Act was an essential step that enabled the development of housing, commerce, industry and recreational facilities in the heart of Newcastle, worth billions of dollars today.

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

The area of the Commonage includes parts of ten different modern suburbs. Google Earth.
A legacy of the 1889 Newcastle Pasturage Reserve Act is the many sporting fields and parks in the heart of the suburbs.

Additional information

In the published article I quoted a small section of a Sydney Morning Herald article from 10 June 1889 which contained a good summary of the history of the Commonage. Here’s the article in full.

The Newcastle Pasturage Reserve was marked out in 1850 for the purpose of affording a run for stock which were then being shipped to New Zealand. The immediate purpose of it passed away, but the reserve remained. On it and cIose around it were valuable coal seams, and after the passing of the Land Act of 1861 the land inside its boundaries was mostly leased for mining purpose, and the land adjoining was conditionally purchased, The opening of the mines draw a large number of miners to the district, many of them without much money to start afresh in the world, and they began to put up rough shelter for themselves on the reserve, as a cheaper arrangement than going into lodgings, or buying an allotment and building. And, indeed, there seems to have been no superabundant supply of township land convenient for their purpose, even if they had been able to buy and build. The common was the most convenient spot for their purpose, and was close to their work. There was nobody to forbid them, or to levy any rent, and one trespass encouraged another. At the same time, the quality of the houses put up was very inferior, because as they knew they had no title the men naturally did not care to spend too much. The houses and rooms are stated to be very small, and many of them overcrowded, but the tenements seem to have been on separate allotments, and being thus detached have fortunately good ventilation.

When the trespassers had come to number three hundred, they felt themselves strong enough to approach the Minister and ask for a favourable consideration of their position. This was as far back as 1871, and Mr. John Bowie Wilson, who was then in charge of the Department, is said to have given the deputation a favourable answer. There is, however, no official record of the promise, and nothing was done. This was the beginning of a long series of deputations, and a series of promises, all of which were destined to be broken, for during eighteen years Minister after Minister has intended to deal with the matter, but has had to leave office before being able to do so. The bill that is now before Parliament is the first that has actually been prepared, the other departmental action having been only to survey the ground. These surveys, however, have been valuable preparatory work, because it appears from them that, with the exception of a few cases in which houses will have to be shifted off the main roads, it will be possible to give every existing occupier about a quarter of an acre, and the balance of the land may be reserved or sold as may be most expedient.

The promises of successive Ministers since Mr. J. B. Wilson first gave encouragement to the trespassers in 1871 seem to have acted like a charm. Every time a deputation went up to the Minister and came back again with an assurance that a bill would be introduced to give some sort of a title, the process of occupation proceeded merrily ; so that while in Mr. Wilson’s time there were only three hundred trespassers to be dealt with, there are now more than a thousand, while the whole population, including women and children, is nearly five thousand. If Mr. Wilson, when giving the first promise, had at the same time sent up a bailiff to see that there was no more trespassing, and had begun to levy a fair rental on the then occupiers of the said ground, the mischief would have been arrested at its then magnitude ; but the first Minister to do anything more than promise was Mr. GARRETT. He issued three writs of intrusion for the sake of asserting the Crown title, and he appointed a bailiff, and so for the last two or three years there has been no increase in the number of trespassers. The Select Committee having to deal with things, not as they ought to have been, but with things as they are, has considered the best course to pursue. At different times there have been different proposals. One Minister thought of giving trespassers annual leases; another proposed to sell the land by auction, securing to the occupier the value of his improvements ; and another to sell the land at an estimated value, and this last is Mr. Brunker’s plan. The committee report that they have considered all three schemes, and have finally decided to support that proposed in the bill. The eviction of so large a number of people is out of the question, especially in the light of so many Ministerial promises that they should be secured in their holdings. To lease the land would not give an adequate stimulus to improvement in the style of tenement, and that seems to have been very much wanted ; and at the whole of the common is not wanted for a reserve, there is no objection to selling, provided the Crown gets a fair price. The conclusion arrived at, therefore, seems to be the best under the circumstances. The trespassers, of course, have not a scrap of legal title ; and, as some of them have been there for more than twenty years without paying any rent, they have had the full value of their improvements. Still, there they are, and they have been encouraged to go there by the neglect of the Government, and to stay there by the promises of the Government, and under the circumstances a compromise must be arrived at. The value of the land will have to be determined by the local land board, but the evidence goes to show that the land is now worth from a hundred to five hundred pounds an acre, so that the Crown will, at any rate, get a revenue from the sale, and will, in fact, get more than if the land had been sold prior to its occupation. The people, by settling on the land and making a township of it, have given a value to the land which it did not previously possess. After all the claimants have been satisfied, there will still be a good deal available for auction, and an adequate amount left for public reserves.

Because there was some doubt as to whether the commonage area had been formally gazetted back in 1850 when it was first set aside by the government, the area was formally reproclaimed in the Crown Lands Alienation Act, published in the Government Gazette of 24 December 1861.

1888 map showing the area of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve with green borders. Note the date of 24 December 1861, being the date of the Crown Lands Alienation Act.

Some 60 years after the creation of the Pasturage Reserve, a short Newcastle Morning Herald article on 16 November 1910 indicated that the genesis of the reserve was in 1849.

The large area of ground known as the Pasturage Reserve, stretching from a point to the south-east of New Lambton well up into the Waratah municipality, was set apart about 60 years ago, for the purpose of enabling the residents of Newcastle to depasture cows thereon. The first reference to the matter of making the reserve is contained in a letter from Horace Charlton, local surveyor, to the bench of magistrates, at Newcastle, on 21st December 1849: – “Gentlemen – Having received instructions from the Surveyor-General, by his letter dated February 8th, 1849, No. 49/61, to consult the magistrates and other well-informed inhabitants of Newcastle as to the propriety of making a reserve for depasturing the townspeople’s milch cows, I forward herewith a map of all the lands in the vicinity of that city, and shall feel obliged by receiving your opinion as to which of the lands still vacant beyond Throsby’s Creek will be most suitable for such a purpose.

The Land Court

In July to September of 1890 the government held 41 days of sittings of the Land Court, to adjudicate on applications from Commonage residents to purchase their allotments. The court either allowed or disallowed applicants to purchase based on the nature of the improvements they had made on the land. Occasionally there were multiple applicants for the same portion of land, and the court had to decide which (if any) applicant would be successful. For successful applicants, the court then set a purchase price, based on evidence provided by valuers, and occasionally calling witnesses to testify.

The outcome of the land court sittings were published in the newspaper each day. They provide an interesting snapshot of the residents of the Commonage in 1890, with incidental details of the nature of various businesses and enterprises conducted in the area at the time. I have compiled a list of all the names of people who were applicants in the land court hearings. The list is available in Excel Online or as a PDF.

The Historical Land Records Viewer has a two part map that shows the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve with the lot numbers as mentioned in the land court hearings. An excerpt of the map is shown below.

Note that this map is a seventh edition dated 18 August 1976, with later additions up to January 1978. Although this is nearly 90 years after the Commonage allotments were mapped out, I have provided a link to this map rather than an older one because the lot numbers are the same as in 1890 and are easier to read in this ‘modern’ rendering of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve map.

Click on the images below to view the full map details.

Newcastle Pasturage Reserve Map – Sheet 1
Newcastle Pasturage Reserve Map – Sheet 2
Day Date Occurred Date reported
1 7/7/1890 8/7/1890
2 8/7/1890 9/7/1890
3 9/7/1890 10/7/1890
4 11/7/1890 12/7/1890
5 18/7/1890 19/7/1890
6 19/7/1890 21/7/1890
7 21/7/1890 22/7/1890
8 22/7/1890 23/7/1890
9 23/7/1890 24/7/1890
10 24/7/1890 25/7/1890
11 28/7/1890 29/7/1890
12 29/7/1890 30/7/1890
13 30/7/1890 31/7/1890
14 31/7/1890 1/8/1890
15 4/8/1890 5/8/1890
16 5/8/1890 6/8/1890
17 6/8/1890 7/8/1890
18 7/8/1890 8/8/1890
19 8/8/1890 9/8/1890
20 11/8/1890 12/8/1890
21 12/8/1890 13/8/1890
22 13/8/1890 14/8/1890
23 14/8/1890 15/8/1890
24 15/8/1890 16/8/1890
25 18/8/1890 19/8/1890
26 19/8/1890 20/8/1890
27 20/8/1890 21/8/1890
28 21/8/1890 22/8/1890
29 22/8/1890 23/8/1890
30 25/8/1890 26/8/1890
31 26/8/1890 27/8/1890
32 27/8/1890 28/8/1890
33 28/8/1890 29/8/1890
34 29/8/1890 30/8/1890
35 1/9/1890 3/9/1890
36 2/9/1890 Day 36/37 reported together
37 3/9/1890 5/9/1890
38 4/9/1890 Day 38/39 reported together
39 5/9/1890 6/9/1890
40 8/9/1890 9/9/1890
41 9/9/1890 10/10/1890

Post 1890

Most people residing on the commonage prior to the passing of the Pasturage Reserve Act in 1889 took up the option of purchasing. Although the expectation was that this was a good investment and that land values would increase, depressed economic times meant that many people had trouble paying for their land in the time allotted. A report in September 1895 described the problem.

The occupiers were allowed to purchase their holdings by auction, the price being made payable by instalments. Since that time another short Act has been passed for the purpose of facilitating the purchases and promoting the objects of the original Act. But since the passing of the second Act a very serious change has come over the coal-mining industry in this quarter. Wages have gone down, work has become lamentably slack, the outside municipalities are generally staggering under burdens of debt, and serious shrinkages of values have taken place almost everywhere. Many of the people have had within the last two years hard work to keep soul and body together, without at all thinking as to how the instalments on their holdings are to be paid to the Government.

The Government in 1895 thus passed an amendment to the Pasturage Reserve Act to provide purchasers with more lenient repayment terms. As the newspaper report noted …

People are now beginning to discover that large tracts of land are next to useless without inhabitants, and that it is good policy to make the conditions of settlement so easy that the poorest person, if desirous of earning an honest livelihood, can fulfil them.

Land values remained depressed in the Commonage area for many years. Charles Baker of Waratah, writing to the newspaper in June 1906 complained that …

The land was never at any time worth the Government prices put upon. it. The effect of that mistake was that almost every resident became victims to departmental overvaluation. To-day probably 700 to 800 of these original residents have become dispossessed of their holdings from various causes, but chiefly owing to the price charged being beyond their means.

A newspaper report the following month in July 1906 stated that …

As regards land values, they have certainly depreciated from 15 to 25 per cent during the last ten years. This is due to three causes – depression in the mining industry, the cessation of Lambton, Waratah, Burwood, and other large collieries, which are worked out, and no longer give employment, and the opening and development of the Maitland coalfields, which have attracted large number of miners and business people from these suburbs.

Despite this temporary setback, the land eventually appreciated in value. In April 1921 it was reported that …

The unsold allotments in the Newcastle pasturage reserve, which a few years ago was regarded as little value, are being taken up, and in some instances the purchase has exceeded the upset [reserve] prices. Inquiries are being made almost daily from applicants desirous of purchasing land in the locality.

Current Value of the Commonage Area

In the published article I stated that the passing of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve Act in 1889 “enabled the development of housing, commerce, industry and recreational facilities in the heart of Newcastle, worth billions of dollars today.”

I have no qualifications in geo-econometric modelling, so exactly how many billions of dollars the Commonage area is now worth, is difficult to say. However one piece of hard data that can help answer this question is the land value of residential property. The Valuer General of NSW has made available land values via the NSW Globe KML from Spatial Services.

Looking at a small section of residential housing in the middle of the Commonage area adjacent to Turton Rd New Lambton, there are 88 properties over 11 acres valued at a total of 39.5 million dollars. This averages out to 3.6 million dollars per acre.

The Commonage covered approximately 1600 acres, and about half that area is now used for residential purposes. In residential areas, the streets comprise about 15%, so the area of land of the actual residences will be about 680 acres. Therefore the total land value of residences will be approximately 680 x 3.6 million, which is 2.4 billion dollars.

About half of the 1600 acres of the Commonage is now used for residential purposes (shaded blue).

Note that this estimate of 2.4 billion dollars is just the land value of residences, and doesn’t include the value of buildings, or of industrial land and facilities, public reserves, streets or other infrastructure. Including all these probably puts the value of the Commonage area today into the tens of billions of dollars.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
4 Nov 1857Brief mention of the Commonage Reserve in connection with discussions on the proposed Newcastle Municipality.
25 Oct 1860“Mr. ROBERTSON said that no portion of the surface land referred to had been leased to any one, but permission had been given some years ago to Messrs. Morehead and Young to work the coal on the land before the reserve was made, and that permission had afterwards been transferred to the A. A. Co. It was clear that the Municipal Council of Newcastle could have no claim to the coal. The land was given to them for grazing purposes, and was still at their disposal for commonage."
24 Dec 1861Proclamation in the Government Gazette of "The Crown Lands Alienation Act, 1961". As there was uncertainty about whether the Newcastle Commonage had been formally proclaimed back in 1850, this Act reproclaimed the commonage area as being excluded from conditional sale.
1 Jun 1865Public meeting on the issue of reserves, at which it is bemoaned that Newcastle Council had not been granted title to the surface of the commonage area, whilst under the surface the state government had leased out the mining rights to coal companies at a measly rate of £2 per acre.
2 Sep 1871Public meeting of the Commonage residents, held at Griffiths Flat.
21 Sep 1871
20 Sep 1871
Public meeting of the Commonage residents, held at Griffiths Flat, reporting on the deputation sent to the Minister for Lands.
20 Nov 1873The name 'Newcastle Pasturage Reserve' first appears in the newspapers, in an article about the nuisance of goats roaming the streets … "We see no reason why these useful animals should be denied the right of pasturage on the public reserves. The 2000 acres usually designated Newcastle Pasturage Reserve, was intended by the Government for this very purpose."
29 Sep 1874“Urged by deputation after deputation, the Government consented to survey and value the Commonage, and put it up for sale by auction. Accordingly Surveyor Evans surveyed the Common into allotments, and made a valuation thereof. The persons resident thereon were much elated by this proceeding, and thought that they would be able to purchase the land on which they dwelt, but their joy was not of long duration, as since the survey and valuation nothing towards a final disposal of the allotments has been done.”
22 Sep 1875“The influx of strangers into this part of the district is creating a great demand for houses, which are not to be obtained at any price. Several very substantial houses are at present being built on the Commonage. It is fortunate for poor people that they have the Commonage to build upon, as the high price of land in the township takes it completely out of their reach.”
26 Mar 1885Waratah Council meeting discusses the Commage … “Alderman CHAPMAN said the Mayor was in error with reference to the trustees been appointed for the Commonage. It was only proclaimed in a Government Gazette as the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve. The MAYOR said he had been informed by a very good authority on the history of Newcastle. Alderman TURTON said that the late Mr. James Hannell, when member for Newcastle, was asked to nominate trustees. He did so, but they were never officially appointed.”
1 Aug 1885"Last Saturday the Minister for Lands visited Newcastle with the view of making himself acquainted with the circumstances attending the settlement of a large number of people on the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve, better known as the Common. This reserve is situated about four miles distant from the city, in the vicinity of Adamstown Hamilton, Waratah, and Old and New Lambton. It comprises an area of 2000 acres, and is settled on by 800 families, representing an estimated population of 4000 souls."
15 Dec 1888Mr Brunker introduces a bill to the Legislative Assembly to deal with the Commonage question. "Petitions were forwarded and deputations waited upon Ministers year after year, but with little success ... One Minister after another shrunk from solving this problem, and it appears to have remained for Mr. BRUNKER to make a final effort to do so."
23 Apr 1889"It is about time that the residents on the Commonage began to take an earnest and intelligent interest in the question of the legalisation of their unauthorised occupation of portions of the public estate."
24 Apr 1889A meeting of the Commonage residents held in Lambton Park, where "it was decided to appoint Mr. Melville to represent the interests of the commoners before the select committee of the Legislative Council."
27 Apr 1889A history of the Commonage as presented by the residents of the common in the lead up to the passing of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve Bill later that year.
10 Jun 1889A report on the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve Bill contains a good summary of the history of the commonage.
22 Jun 1889
21 Jun 1889
"PARLIAMENT. FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 1889. LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY. The Speaker announced the assent of the Governor to the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve Bill."
24 Jun 1889
22 Jun 1889
Meeting of the Commonage residents near the New Lambton bridge. "Mr. MELVILLE said he had felt that, seeing the Commonage bill had been passed, it was now his duty to come up and explain the position of the residents."
18 Jul 1889“The history of the Commonage, as told by Mr. GEORGE LEWIS to the Select Committee on the bill, shows that prior to 1861 the land was shown on the maps as a reserve for the purpose of depasturing cattle prior to their shipment for New Zealand and elsewhere. The boundaries were clearly defined and charted, and have never been questioned. It is yet a moot point whether the land was formally dedicated by the Government as a reserve.”
3 Nov 1894"The Minister for Lands was urged, the other day, by a deputation to have a reappraisement of the holdings on the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve, or to grant a reduction or rebate of 25 per cent, of the appraised value, or to waive the claim for for interest on the deferred payments."
28 Feb 1895"A MEETING of Commonage residents was held at the Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, on Friday evening, to receive the report of the deputation which waited on the Minister for Lands, asking for a proportionate reduction in the appraised values of their respective holdings."
21 Sep 1895A bill introduced to Parliament to amend the Pasturage Reserve Act to provide more lenient repayment terms.
10 Jul 1906"from recent estimates by the police and local council clerks, the settled population on the pasturage reserve is between 7000 and 8000 ... the total area of the reserve is about 1600 acres; it was subdivided into about 2500 portions of which number only 585 remain vacant... As regards land values, they have certainly depreciated from 15 to 25 per cent during the last ten years."
16 Nov 1910"The first reference to the matter of making the reserve is contained in a letter from Horace Charlton, local surveyor, to the bench of magistrates, at Newcastle, on 21st December 1849."
18 Apr 1921"The unsold allotments in the Newcastle pasturage reserve, which a few years ago was regarded as little value, are being taken up, and in some instances the purchase has exceeded the upset [reserve] prices. Inquiries are being made almost daily from applicants desirous of purchasing land in the locality"