Update to historical real estate maps index

I’ve just updated my visual index to historical real estate maps by adding maps from Creer and Berkeley, catalogued by the National Library of Australia. There were 130 items that were not in the University of Newcastle Flickr archive.

The two most interesting discoveries I made while adding the maps were

The A.H.P.P and C. Society

While researching Lambton history I came across a few references to the A.H.P.P. and C. Society holding annual shows, exhibiting produce, chickens, flowers etc. 

I had a good guess about what ” A.H.P.P. and C.” might stand for, but in the newspaper report of their first show in December 1889 I confirmed that it stands for “Agricultural, Horticultural, Poultry, Pigeon, and Canary” Society.

Annual Show reports

The first Commercial Hotel

My December article for The Local is out, this month on the Commercial Hotel/Snake Gully Hotel/Hotel Amos/Bar 121, on the south west corner of Elder and Grainger Streets Lambton. This soon to be demolished building was erected in 1888, but in researching the article I discovered there was an earlier and different Commercial Hotel in the period 1879-1882, on the north side of Elder St.

The references to it were fairly scant, and I had little hope of determining where it was located. But last weekend, thanks to an 1885 advertisement of sale of an oddly shaped land allotment, and the NSW Globe KML, I’m reasonably confident that the first Commercial Hotel was at 102-104 Elder St, where Raine & Horne Real Estate was formerly located, and Williams Artisan Bread & Espresso is currently located.

102 and 104 Elder St Lambton. Site of the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton.

Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre

On page 14 of the Weekender section of today’s Newcastle Herald, there is an article about the Lambton Park Tea Rooms (situated at the north west corner of Lambton Park) in which it is stated …

“Originally built in 1935 as a war widows refuge, the building became the Lambton Memorial Baby Health Clinic in the ’70s.”

I don’t know where this ‘information’ came from, but unfortunately it is wrong, wrong, and wrong.

  • It wasn’t built in 1935
  • It was never a war widows refuge
  • It was always a Baby Health Clinic, from the time it was constructed in 1947.

Aerial photography from 1944 shows the site of the former baby health centre to be empty.

Lambton Park, 1944

A quick search of Trove shows that baby health centre was …

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), Monday 1 September 1947, page 4
Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre, now the Lambton Park Tea Rooms. December 2018.
The bronze memorial plaques on the entrance gate pillars.
Memorial plaque on the front porch wall.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
27 Oct 1944"Lambton, committee of National Fitness has made preliminary plans for a baby health centre to be built by voluntary labour. A sub-committee last night decided to ask Greater Newcastle Council to have set apart portion of Lambton Park for the building."
3 May 1945"The sub-committee of Lambton National Fitness Committee handling arrangements for the building of a baby health centre adopted building plans submitted by Ald. T. Armstrong. It was decided to name the proposed centre the Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre."
18 Jan 1946"Ald. T. Armstrong, at Lambton National Fitness annual meeting last night exhibited plans tor the Lambton baby health centre, for which Greater Newcastle Council had decided to call tenders."
28 Feb 1946"Greater Newcastle Council last night adopted a recommendation from the Finance Committee for erection of a baby health centre at Lambton."
31 May 1946"Except for the brick ornamental fence, Greater Newcastle Council's proposal for a baby health centre at Lambton has been approved by the Minister for Labour and Industry (Mr. Hamilton Knight.)"
28 Mar 1947"The Baby Health Centre now being erected on Lambton Park, facing Elder-street, is almost completed."
"The centre will serve as a memorial to the men of Lambton and surrounding districts who served during the war."
1 Sep 1947"Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre, nearing completion in Lambton Park. It will be one of the most modern centres in New South Wales. The equipped building will cost about £3000. The Health Department is bearing half the cost. The remainder will be paid by Greater Newcastle, helped by a residents' contribution of £500."
27 Nov 1947
29 Nov 1947
"The Lord Mayor (Ald. Quinlan) will open Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre on Saturday, at 3 p.m."
"Three bronze tablets-two memorial tablets for the entrance gates, and a dedication tablet for the front of the building - were bought by the committee."

Commercial Hotel

The intersection of Elder and Grainger streets was at one time the hotel hub of Lambton, with three of its four corners hosting a licenced establishment. In 1865 John Stoker opened the Gold Miners’ Arms on the north east corner, and in 1868 Michael Doyle opened the Rose, Thistle & Shamrock Inn on the south east corner.

In 1888 the Commercial Hotel opened on the south west corner in a newly erected building. The name was familiar to locals as there had been a previous but unrelated hotel of the same name on the northern side of Elder St for a brief period around 1880. The new Commercial Hotel building was commissioned by Mr G Buckley, designed by local architects Bennett and Yeomans, and constructed by Mr J Frogley. The newspaper at the time reported that

“The building is of brick, containing fifteen rooms, with large cellar 20 x 16, bathroom and water tank, wardrobe, large yard, stables and out-offices. The main building contains a large hall, used by the Masonic Order, 36 x 18, with ante-room attached; billiard-room, 26 x 26, high and lofty, fitted with fire-place, large-sized table, and eleven ventilators, making it cosy in winter and cool in the summer.”

The first publican was Mr W Brown, followed by John Sample in 1889. Another notable publican was George Smith, who held the license of the Commercial Hotel from 1901 to 1912, before becoming publican of the Northumberland Hotel at the other end of Elder St from 1913 to 1920.

After 84 years of trading as the Commercial Hotel, in 1972 it was renamed the Snake Gully Hotel. In 1979 it became the Hotel Amos, then reverted to Snake Gully Hotel in 1982. In 2002 it was renamed Bar 121, and then renamed to Snake Gully Hotel again in 2016.  The hotel closed in August 2018 bringing to an end over 150 years of continuous hotel operations at the Elder/Grainger St intersection.


The article above was first published in the December 2018 edition of The Local.

John Sample’s Commercial Hotel 1893. Photograph by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
The Snake Gully Hotel in July 2018
June 2019. The old Commercial Hotel has been demolished, awaiting construction of apartments.

The First “Commercial Hotel” in Lambton

Several books, including one I collaborated on (Lambton, A nineteenth century mining town, 2nd edition) state that the Commercial Hotel on the south west corner of Elder/Grainger Streets dates from 1880. This is incorrect. While researching this article I discovered that the Commercial Hotel of 1880 was a different hotel, somewhere on the north side of Elder St. The Commercial Hotel that opened in 1888 on the southern side of Elder St was described at the time as a newly erected hotel.

Mr R Ward operated the first Commercial Hotel until 1882, when he advertised the sale of the property.

Note that the location is described as being …

“erected upon a quarter of an acre of land, fronting Elder-street, and running through to De-Vitre-street, thus having two frontages to the principal streets.”

In August 1882 the Newcastle Morning Herald reported that …

“Messrs. W. Lightfoot and Son have removed to Lambton, and commenced business in the premises in Elder-street, lately known as the Commercial Hotel, as grocers, drapers, ironmongers, dealers in colonial produce, etc.”

A few years later, in January 1885, the property was again advertised for sale, split into two allotments.

The first allotment is described as having a frontage to Elder St of 33 feet. Note however that the second allotment has a frontage to Elder St of 18 feet but a frontage to De Vitre St of 35 feet. The difference in frontages can only occur if the block is either wedge shaped, or has an irregular shape. Loading up lot boundaries from the NSW Globe KML (from NSW Governement Spatial Services) into Google Earth shows that there are no wedge shaped blocks on the north side of Elder St, but there is an irregular set of lots where

  • the total area is 0.25 acres (matching the area described in the 1882 sale)
  • the western lot has a frontage to Elder St of 33 feet, and the eastern lot a frontage of 18 feet (matching the details of the 1885 sale)

There are no other lots that match the details of the 1882 and 1885 sale advertisements, so I am reasonably confident that this is where the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton was situated. The site is at address 102-104 Elder St, where Raine & Horne Real Estate was formerly located, and Williams Artisan Bread & Espresso is currently located.

102 and 104 Elder St Lambton. Site of the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton.

Additional Information

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections has another Ralph Snowball photograph of the Commercial Hotel, captioned “George Smith’s Commercial Hotel, Lambton NSW, 11 August 1891”. The date cannot be right as George Smith did not become licensee of the Commercial Hotel until late 1900 or early 1901.

George Smith’s Commercial Hotel, Lambton NSW. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Licensees (to 1921)

Licensees after 1921 (incomplete list)

Name changes

The Australian National University archives has a photograph of a card from Tooth and Company Limited that shows two of the hotel’s name changes in the 1970’s.

  • Changed from “Commercial Hotel” to “Snake Gully”, 8/6/1972
  • Changed from “Snake Gully” to “Hotel Amos”, 1/11/1979

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
24 Jun 1868Advertisement for Michael Doyle's "Rose, Thistle, & Shamrock Inn" at Lambton.
21 Aug 1879"Mr. Henry Laurance, the oculist optician ... will be at the Commercial Hotel, Lambton, on Thursday next."
19 Nov 1880"Richard Ward applied for the transfer of his license of the Marquis of Lorne Hotel, Dixon street, to a house in Elder-street." The request was refused by the bench. Was the house in Elder St the Commercial Hotel which R Ward occupied in 1882?
6 Apr 1882Advertisement for the sale of Mr R Ward's Commercial Hotel. It is described as being on a quarter acre block between Elder and De-Vitre street in Lambton.
8 Aug 1882"Messrs. W. Lightfoot and Son have removed to Lambton, and commenced business in the premises in Elder-street, lately known as the Commercial Hotel, as grocers, drapers, ironmongers, dealers in colonial produce, etc."
17 Jan 1885FOR SALE - "That splendid BUSINESS PREMISES situate in the best part of Elder-street, Lambton, and occupied at present by W. Lightfoot and Sons as a Drapery establishment, consisting of two good shops, with a seven-roomed dwelling, kitchen, out buildings, and two underground tanks. The land has a frontage to Elder-street of 33 feet, by a depth running back to De Vitre street."
2 Nov 1888"The new hotel built to the order of Mr. G. Buckley, situate at the junction of Elder and Grainger streets, is now complete." "Mr. Brown has spared no pains in tastefully furnishing every room, so that the Commercial Hotel, with its genial host and sanitary surroundings, can be safely recommended as ranking amongst the first-class hotels of the district."
7 Nov 1888
5 Nov 1888
Mr. W. Brown, the host of the new Commercial Hotel, celebrated the opening of the house by inviting a few friends to partake of a neat "spread" on Monday night.
11 Jul 1889At the Waratah Licensing Court, the licence of the Commercial Hotel was transferred to John Sample, despite objections of the police.
22 Sep 1897"FOR SALE, the License, Stock-in-trade, Goodwill, and Furniture of the Commercial Hotel, Elder-street, Lambton. Apply on premises, Mrs. A. J. Buckley."
5 Apr 1898"Mrs. Ann Jane Buckley, of the Commercial Hotel, Lambton, applied for a transfer of her hotel license to Thomas Liddle, of Newcastle."
18 Jan 1921At the license renewal hearing, the Commercial Hotel is described as "a fairly new brick building of two storeys" with "nine bedrooms, six of which were available to the public." The licensee at the time was Stephen Thomas Shipley, and the owner was Anne Jane Buckley.

Lambton Park Memorial Gates

We sometimes think of war memorials as edifices erected after a conflict, to honour the fallen. The Lambton Park Memorial Gates indicate a wider purpose, as evidenced in the name of the group who erected the gates – the Send-off and Welcome Home Committee.

The Great War had been fought for little over a year, when Henry Burg and Thomas Pease called a public meeting in September 1915, to form a committee to provide a “send-off to our boys for the front” and to welcome home wounded and invalided soldiers. The group resolved to present each enlisting soldier with an inscribed wallet on his departure, and a gold medal on his return.

At a farewell function in January 1917, Mayor Edward Charlton announced plans to “erect gates, as a Roll of Honour at the park.” With an estimated cost of £250, fundraising efforts ramped up. Dances, concerts, euchre parties, and sports days were held, mostly organised by the ladies on the committee, led by Mary Ott and Vera Darling. Plans for the gates progressed when Newcastle architect Eric G Yeomans agreed to be the honorary architect.

On 19 October 1918, a large crowd gathered in Lambton Park for the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone. Mr J Estell MP addressed the crowd, then placed into a bottle a parchment with the names of 39 members of the committee, “together with a copy of the Newcastle Morning Herald from August 1914, containing the proclamation of the war, and a number of old coins.” The bottle was sealed and placed into the cement foundation, over which the stone was laid. The Mayor then presented Mr Estell with an engraved gilt trowel.

The war ended just three weeks later. The gate pillars could now be engraved with a closing year, alongside the names of 140 soldiers from the district. Thanks to the efforts of the Lambton citizens, one hundred years on, we will remember them.

Lambton Park Memorial Gates, Morehead St.

The ceremonial gilt trowel presented to J Estell at the laying of the foundation stone of the park gates. Photo courtesy of Estell family.

Items presented to soldiers

Wallet

Inscribed wallet presented to Henry Smith in April 1916

Wallet and pocket book of Henry Smith. Presented by Mayor Ed Charlton.

Medal

Medal presented to Private Frederick England from the citizens of Lambton. Photo courtesy of Noble Numismatics.

Names on the gates

There are 140 names inscribed on the four gate pillars. Soldiers who died in service are marked with an asterisk.  By using the resources of the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia I have been able to identify almost all the men and create a spreadsheet with relevant information on each soldier, including links to Honour Rolls, embarkation rolls, and service records.


In the process of compiling the spreadsheet I discovered a surprising number of errors in the gate inscriptions. There are over 30 errors such as

  • Mis-spelled surnames
  • Initials incorrect, or in the wrong order
  • Incorrect enlistment year
  • Incorrect rank
  • There are five men who were killed in action, who do not have their names marked with an asterisk
    • Daniel Edward Docwra
    • David Douglas
    • Charles Henry Nichols
    • Albert Richard Warring
    • Thomas William Wilson

The table below lists the 140 names on the gates. The first column shows the name exactly as it is inscribed on the gate pillars, and the second column shows the full correct name where it is known from their service records.


Inscribed Name Full Name
Adamson D. * Pte Adamson, Randolph
Allinson W * Pte Allison, William Lowrie
Allsop V.J. Cpl * Allsop, Vincent James
Amour E.J. Spr Amour, Ernest Joseph
Amour J.V. Amour, John Vaughan
Atkinson A.G. Pte ?
Atkinson P.G. Pte Atkinson, Pearson Granger
Avery B. Avery, Bertie
Baird J.B. Baird, John Percy
Banfield G.H * Pte Banfield, George Henry
Barrie A. * Pte Barrie, Arthur
Barrie W.P. * Pte Barrie, William Picken
Bartholomew L.C. Bartholomew, Lewis Charles
Blinkhorne C. Blinkhorne, Cecil James
Boulden R. * Pte Boulden, Richard Nelson
Bowman R. ?
Box F Box, Frederick Samuel
Broadhead L. Sergt Broadhead, Leslie
Bunn G. Bunn, George Alfred
Bunn J. Bunn, John William
Burrowes G. Burrows, Robert Gilbert
Butler A. Cpl Butler, Arthur
Cameron J.C. Cameron, Joseph Charles
Chadwick J. Chadwick, John George
Charlton A.J. Sergt * Charlton, Alfred John
Charlton P. Major Charlton, Percy
Cox R. Cox, Robert Wilton
Crooks T. Crooks, Thomas Ray
Curtis J. Curtis, John
Curtis S. Curtis, Stanley
Davies C. Davies, Cecil Frank
Davies G. Davies, George
Davies G. Pte Davies, George Stanley
Docwra D.E. Sgt. Major Docwra, Daniel Edward A
Doonan F.M. * Pte Doonan, Francis Michael
Douglas D. Douglas, David
Easton J.W. Cpl ?
Easton W.J. Spr Easton, William James
Elliott F. Engr Elliott, Fred
England F. England, Frederick
Evans G.A. Evans, Arthur George
Farell K.A Farrell, Kenneth Archibald
Fellowes G.H. Fellows, George Hunter
Fitzpatrick A Fitzpatrick, Andrew
Gibbs C. * Pte Gibbs, Charles Alfred
Gilbert P. Pte Gilbert, Percy
Grant H. Grant, Henry Mitchell
Gray F. * Pte Gray, Leslie
Gray M. Gray, Maurice Dale
Hancock A. Hancock, Arthur
Hardley W. Sergt Hardley, Wilfred
Heath E. Heath, Ernest Edwin
Hemmings T. Hemmings, Tom Rupert
Hepple W.E. * Pte Hepple, William Edward
Hetherington W. Hetherington, William
Houghton G. 1917 ?
James C. Capt James, Charles
James T. James, Thomas
Jansen H. Pte Jansen, Henry
Jarvis P. Jarvis, Percy
Johnson G. Sergt Johnson, Cecil Sylvester
Johnson L. ?
Johnson T.W. Johnson, Thomas William
Jones D.J. * Pte Jones, David James
Jones F. ?
Jones H.T. Pte Jones, Alexander Thomas Hilton
Jones L.S. Dvr Jones, Leslie Stephen
Kennedy T. Dvr Kennedy, Thomas
Kennedy W.T. Dvr Kennedy, William Thomas
Kentish A. * Pte Kentish, Alfred
Kentish A.Pte * Kentish, Arthur
Kentish J. Kentish, James Edward
Last P.B. Dvr Last, Phillip Blaxell Clement
Law W. * Pte Law, William Raymond
Leece A. Leece, Alexander
Lewis A. Lewis, Azariah
Lewis C.H. Lewis, Claude Henry
Lewis G. Lewis, George
Liddle J. * Pte Liddle, John
Lilly R.E. Lilly, Robert Edward
May C.J. May, Cecil James
McDonald F. * Pte MacDonald, Frederick
McLauchlan C. ?
Melville J. Melville, John
Metcalfe J. Metcalfe, John George
Metcalfe J.G. * Pte Metcalfe, Joseph Charles Usher
Mills F.M Mills, Frederick Michael
Mitchell A.B. * Pte Mitchell, Alfred Bruce
Mitchell J.A. Mitchell, James Alexander
Mitchell J.H. * Mitchell, John Henry
Mitchell T.J. * Pte Mitchell, Thomas James
Monagle W. Lcr Monegal, William
Mulholland C. Mulholland, Edward
Myhill L. Myhill, Charles Arthur
Nichols C. Lieut Nichols, Charles Henry
Oldham H. Oldham, Herbert
Oldham W.H. Lieut * Oldham, Walter Herbert
Orrell S. Orrell, Stephen
Ott H. Sergt Ott, Henry
Parkinson J.J Parkinson, John James
Pease H. * Pte Pease, Harry
Pease T Pease, Thomas
Polak E.S. Sap Polak, Edmund Solomon
Polak L.E. Engr Polak, Emmanuel Louis
Pritchard H. * Pte Pritchard, Herbert Ernest
Purcell J. Sig Purcell, James
Reid J.R. * Pte Reid, James Reginald
Rendle A. Rendle, Albert William
Richardson T. * Pte Richardson, Thomas
Richmond E. Richmond, Ernest Alfred
Ridley W Ridley, William
Roese C. Roese, Clarence
Shakespeare J. Shakespeare, Joseph Henry
Sheedy T. Spr Sheedy, Thomas Francis
Smith G. Smith, George
Smith H. Smith, Henry
Smith H.E.R. Smith, Henry Edward Randolph
Smith H.S. Dvr Smith, Herschel Stanley
Smith J.W. Capt Smith, John William
Stokes E.A. Pte Stokes, Edwin Arthur
Stokes W.R. Pte Stokes, William Robert
Sturey G. * Pte Sturiali, Salvatore
Sutherland W. Sutherland, William Inglis
Swift E.L. Swift, Ernest Charles
Swift O. Swift, Oliver James
Tait P. Tait, Peter
Taylor W.H. * Sergt Taylor, William Henry
Thornton C. Thornton, Herbert Claude
Thornton H.G. Cpl 1915 Thornton, Herbert George
Treharne P. Treharne, Sydney
Warren A.B. Pte Warring, Albert Richard
Warren G.B Dvr Warren, Goldie
Wheeler J. Wheeler, Joseph
White J. ?
Williams C. ?
Wilson T. Wilson, Thomas William
Woolett C. Woollett, Charles Thomas
Worley W.R. Worley, William Robert
Young J.H Young, John Herbert
Young R.G. Young, Robert Goddard

Additional Information

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
21 Jun 1913
17 Jun 1913
Death of Henry Burg's German born father. "The death occurred on Tuesday of Mr. Andrew Burg, senior, who passed away at the residence of his son, Mr. Andrew Burg, junior, of Bolwarra. The deceased, who was 80 years of age, was a native of Nassaeu, Germany, but an old resident of the State. … He was a builder and contractor of some repute and ability, being closely connected with the carrying out of many colliery and other buildings at Lambton for the Croudace family."
6 Aug 1914
4 Aug 1914
England's declaration of war. It is possibly this article that is referred to in the placing of the time capsule at the laying of the foundation stone of the park memorial gates.
22 Sep 1915
21 Sep 1915
"A meeting of the residents convened by the Mayor in response to a largely signed requisition to devise means of giving a suitable send-off to the young men who had enlisted and a reception home to returned soldiers proved a failure in the matter of attendance. The meeting was called for 7.30 last night, and at, eight o'clock there were only five present, and only two of those who had signed the requisition."
29 Sep 1915Advertisement: "The RESIDENTS OF LAMBTON are respectfully invited to attend PUBLIC MEETING, to be held In Council Chambers THlS (WEDNESDAY) EVENING, at 7.30. Business:-.Send-off to our Boys for the Front, and the Returned Wounded and Invalided Soldiers, ROLL UP. HENRY BURG, THOMAS PEASE."
1 Oct 1915
29 Sep 1915
The second meeting called to form a send-off and welcome committee is a success. A committee is formed and plans made for a fundraising concert in the Coronation Hall.
9 Oct 1915
13 Oct 1915
"LAMBTON Send-off Committee.-A General Meeting of above will be held in Council Chambers on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 7.30. Business very important. R. D. PURCELL, Sec."
30 Nov 1915
28 Oct 1915
A meeting in the Coronation Hall "of citizens to assist the recruiting movement, and as a send-off to those who had already enlisted. The Mayor, Alderman L. E. Polak, presided, and the attendance numbered about 400, including 13 recruits." The Mayor "made a presentation of wallets suitably inscribed." [? There are two Johnsons mentioned in the list, but their initials don't match the Johnsons inscribed on the park gates?]
19 Feb 1916
18 Feb 1916
"Private Cecil May, of Jesmond, who enlisted in the fourth reinforcement of the 30th Battalion, and was granted his final leave during the week, was made a presentation of a pocket wallet, suitably inscribed, by the Mayor (Alderman Polak) at the council chambers yesterday."
3 Mar 1916"A meeting of the Send-off and Welcome Home Committee … the object of the meeting was to accord a public reception to Private Bert Avery, who was wounded at Gallipoli, and who is expected home in a few days."
9 Mar 1916
7 Mar 1916
At a meeting of the Lambton Citizens' Volunteer Send-off and Reception Committee "it was decided that departing soldiers should receive a pocket wallet, and on their return a gold medal, with a suitable inscription."
20 Nov 1925
17 Nov 1925
Death of Henry Burg, aged 70. He was born in Raymond Terrace.

Homecoming

My latest article for The Local has been published, this month on the the homecoming to Lambton in 1902 of Lieutenant Albert McEwan from the Boer War.

At first glance this Ralph Snowball photograph appears to be a plain snapshot of Elder Street in Lambton, and the University Flickr site has the photo simply captioned as “E. Bell, Bootmaker”. But a little digging into the background of this photograph revealed an intriguing family history of immigration, tragedy and war, that spanned three continents and several decades.

14 April 1902 – A decorated Elder St in readiness for the torchlight parade to honour Lieutenant McEwan later that evening. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Albert Henry McEwan

It was reported as “the largest demonstration that had ever been held at Lambton” with the crowd numbered “upwards of 2000.” The occasion was the return to Lambton of Lieutenant Albert Henry McEwan from the South African Boer War.

Albert was born in Lambton around 1877 where his father John worked as a miner. In the 1890s a downturn in the coal trade induced many to leave the area and seek work elsewhere. In October 1895, John along with his eldest son Albert, still a teenager, headed to the booming gold fields of South Africa. Both father and son quickly found employment in the “Simmer and Jack” mine at Johannesburg.

Within a year John was tragically killed in a mining accident. Albert stayed on and rose to a responsible position in the mine. When war broke out in 1899 between the British and the Boers, he joined the Imperial Light Horse and was soon engaged in a number of battles. Describing these in letters home to Lambton, he wrote with patriotic bravado but also noted “the appalling sights of a battlefield are simply terrible”. In 1901 Albert was shot in the leg. He was treated in South Africa, before being taken to Netley hospital in England where his leg was amputated.

Albert returned to Australia and arrived back in Lambton in the afternoon of 14 April 1902. At 7pm a torchlight procession marched down a gaily-decorated Elder St to Bell’s Hall at the corner Morehead St. “At every corner the returned soldier was greeted with loud cheers.” He made an appearance on the balcony and addressed the crowd in the street below, before being entertained at a banquet in his honour.

Ralph Snowball’s photograph from this day is not only a snapshot of the streetscape of Lambton in 1902, but also an indication of the colonial fervour for the British Empire that would propel many more Lambton boys to the fields of the Great War in Europe 12 years later.

14 April 1902 – A decorated Elder St in readiness for the torchlight parade to honour Lieutenant McEwan later that evening. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.


The article above was first published in the August 2018 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

Mine work in South Africa

In the newspaper article on 14 February 1902 reporting his wounding, it is noted that Albert McEwan was …

“a native of Lambton, and the eldest son of the late John McEwan, and went to South Africa about six years ago. When war was declared he held a responsible position as first amalgamator for one of the largest mines in the Rand.”

A 1918 US Government publication describes the the job of an amalgamator …

The amalgamator at gold mines prepares amalgamation plates to receive the gold-bearing pulp from stamps. He regulates the flow of water and ore, and at regular intervals collects the mercury-gold amalgam from the mortar, sluices, and plates.

Military service

The National Archives( London, England), has scanned the nominal rolls for the Imperial Light Horse Brigade, which contains an entry for Albert Henry McEwan.

The entry shows …

  • Regimental No: 319
  • Name: McEwan, Albert Henry
  • Regiment: 1st
  • Rank: Cpl (Corporal)
  • Place attested, date: PMB (Pietermaritzbug), 25/09/1899
  • Discharged: Supernumerary awarded pension

His enlistment date of 25 September 1899 was some two weeks before the Boer Republics declared war on 11 October 1899.

A search for “A McEwan” on the Anglo Boer War website shows that the South African Field Force Casualty Roll recorded Corporal McEwan as “Severely wounded. Naauwpoort, 5 January 1901″

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
30 Oct 1895
28 Oct 1895
"On Monday night a large crowd of residents gathered at the tram stopping place to witness the departure of Messrs. Jos. W. Oldham and John McEwan and son for Johannesberg, South Africa."
"Other well known residents … also leave their homes this week for Western Australia, slackness of work resulting in this step."
3 Dec 1896
19 Oct 1896
"A communication was received yesterday from Mr. Joseph Oldham, of Simmer and Jack (South Africa), conveying the sad news that his friend and brother-in-law, Mr. John McEwan, had died on the 19th of October from the effects of an accident in one of the mines. It appears that the deceased was with two other men, engaged in timbering a shaft, and that in endeavouring to cross the shaft he slipped from a plank they had for a stage, and fell a distance of 60ft."
13 Dec 1899"Trooper Albert McEwan, of the Imperial Light Horse, now in active service at the front in Natal" writes to his mother at Lambton.
" … you see I can call myself a thorough soldier, having fought against the Dutch in two battles — Elands Laage and Umgaani."
"The appalling sights of a battle field are simply terrible. You read about such affairs in books, but seeing such sights is fearful."
28 May 1900Letter from Trooper Albert H. McEwan, of the Imperial Light Horse to his brother William in Lambton.
14 Feb 1901
5 Jan 1901
"Mrs. McEwan, of Lambton, has received word from Major Rodgers, the officer commanding the Imperial Light Horse depot, Johannesburg, that her son, Sergeant A. H. McEwan, had been dangerously wounded at Fredrickstand, in a severe engagement with a Boer commando under De La Rey."
15 Feb 1902
14 Apr 1902
Celebrations marking the return of Lietenant Albert McEwan to Lambton after serving in the Boer War.
15 Apr 1902
14 Apr 1902
The Daily Telegraph in Sydney reported that "Lieutenant A. H. McEwan returned to his home at Lambton yesterday, after an absence of many years, and was accorded an enthusiastic, reception both at Newcastle and in his native suburb."
5 Apr 1941
22 Mar 1941
Death of Albert Henry McEwan in Adelaide, aged 64.