New Lambton Colliery

“In the depths of the bush, about half a mile to the south of the rising and flourishing township of Lambton, there was celebrated, on Thursday last, an event of no ordinary interest and importance.”

Thus began a Newcastle Chronicle report on the ‘turning of the first sod’ of the New Lambton colliery on 25 June 1868.

James and Alexander Brown were mining coal from the ‘Old Dog and Rat’ pit in East Lambton when they had a lucky break in 1868. On learning that the owners of Lambton colliery had failed to make payments on a mining lease, the Browns quickly stepped in and bought the mineral rights for 265 acres in the area we now know as New Lambton.

They immediately investigated the potential of their acquisition by commencing a trial shaft in April 1868. In June, at a depth of 100 feet, a good payable seam of coal was found and the Browns committed to developing a colliery at a cost of £10,000.

To inaugurate their new venture the Browns invited their employees and local dignitaries to a ceremony at the site on 25 June 1868. Two barrels of ale which had previously been conveyed to the ground, were at once tapped, speeches made, and the assembled company called upon to drink “Success to the New Lambton Colliery”.

Success came quickly, a new working shaft 16 feet in diameter was sunk, an engine house erected and a railway constructed to convey coal to the port. The colliery attracted miners and their families, and a town began to grow. Just a year later New Lambton was described as “going ahead, and buildings of all descriptions are multiplying fast.”

By 1884 the payable coal was exhausted, and the Brown’s moved on to establish other mines. The pit closed, but the town endured. The Chronicle was correct in asserting that the event celebrated 150 years ago was of no ordinary importance, for it marked the birth of New Lambton.

Major T S Parrott’s 1893 map of Newcastle showing the railway and a shaft of the New Lambton colliery. National Library of Australia.

 

Google Earth, showing the New Lambton Colliery mining lease, railway line, and a shaft located near present day Oxford St.


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

Additional Information

In working out the history of the New Lambton colliery I have used the following sources:

  1. Contemporary newspaper articles retrieved from Trove.
  2. “The Coal Mines of Newcastle NSW”, George H Kingswell, 1890.
  3. Map of Waratah Coal Company blocks, 1873. National Library of Australia.
  4. T S Parrott’s Map of the country around Newcastle, 1893. National Library of Australia.
  5. Plan of the Hartley Vale Railway, 1867. State Library of NSW.
  6. The Hartley Vale Railway Colliery act of 23 Dec 1867
  7. “Coal, Railways and Mines, Vol 1”, Brian Robert Andrews, 2004. (Although much of Andrew’s information is taken from the above sources.)

Trying to work out the history of the New Lambton Colliery, and the mines of J and A Brown in Newcastle is a tricky matter for a variety of reasons.

  • The newspaper articles are sparse and often very cursory, and can sometimes contain errors.
  • The term “pit” is ambiguous – it could mean
    • a specific shaft
    • a collection of mine buildings at a particular location
    • a mining lease
    • a mining company
  • Suburb names in a mine name can be misleading and bear no relation to geography. The classic example of this is the “East Lambton Colliery”, which was located in New Lambton, and operated by the Waratah Coal Company!

Bearing in mind these difficulties, here’s my summary of the Brown’s  mining leases and the history of New Lambton colliery.

Colour Notes
White Development of this 310 acre lease commenced in 1861. It was initially known as Brown’s Pit, and later as the Hartley Vale Colliery. The colliery was ready for production at the end of 1864, but was a commercial failure.
Blue This 280 acre lease was obtained by J&A Brown in 1862. Two pits  (marked as A and B pit on the 1867 Hartley Vale railway map) were commenced to the north of the Lambton colliery railway in 1866. The B Pit later became known as the “Old Dog and Rat Pit.” This pit was connected to the New Lambton/Hartley Vale railway via a tunnel underneath the Lambton railway.

In 1867 the “New Lambton Coal Pit” was opened on this lease, to the south of the Lambton colliery railway, with a short curved branch line off the New Lambton railway. This pit later became known as New Lambton A Pit when the new ‘B’ workings were opened up in the 265 acre lease in 1868. (See below.) Some time around 1883 the New Lambton A Pit was renamed New Duckenfield Colliery.

Green This 265 acre lease obtained by Stephen Foyle (on behalf of the Browns) in late 1867 when Morehead and Young failed to pay rent on lease. A trial pit was finished in June 1868 and a celebration held to inaugurate the “New Lambton Second Coal Working”, the first New Lambton coal working being the 280 acre lease in East Lambton. A working pit was commenced soon after. Somewhat confusingly, this New Lambton second coal working also became known as “the B or New Lambton Pit” (Kingswell)

Kingswell gives two contradictory dates as to when this pit ceased. On page 46 he states that the “B or New Lambton Pit” was “worked until the beginning of 1888”, and in the very next paragraph state that in 1884 “the old B Pit (was) finally abandoned.” (Although possibly this second reference is to the Old Dog and Rat pit in East Lambton?)

Orange/Red This 640 acre area consisting of two 320 acre leases was obtained by J&A Brown and Stephen Foyle in March 1867. The December 1867 Hartley Vale Railway act shows that the Brown’s intended to build a railway to this lease, but it was not completed at this time. After the New Lambton second workings began to wind down in 1884, the New Lambton ‘C’ Pit was commenced in this area in 1884, and the railway finally completed in March 1884.

The mining leases of J and A Brown.

The mining leases of J and A Brown in Newcastle, overlaid onto 1873 map.

1944 aerial photograph that shows the remnants of the New Lambton railway traversing the park.

Path of rail line to New Lambton B pit marked in red, and the short branch line to the New Lambton A pit marked in yellow.

Kingswell’s 1225 acres

On page 45 of “The Coal Mines of Newcastle NSW”, Kingswell states that the New Lambton Estate consists of 1225 acres.

In the year 1867 Messrs. J. and A. Brown commenced to work coal from the New Lambton Estate, which at present is the freehold property of Messrs. George R. Dibbbs, and Alexander Brown, M’s. P. It consists of 1225 acres, and is bounded on the north and east by the Commonage, on the south by the Waratah Coal Company’s land, while the estate of the Scottish Australian Mining Company forms the western boundary. Prior to opening a mine the firm obtained a mineral lease of some 280 acres from the Government, and on this block, which lies to the north of the present estate, the now celebrated Dog and Rat, or A Pit, was sunk.

Where was this 1225 acres? It is difficult to be certain, but given that in the next sentence he refers to the 280 lease as being “prior” and to the north of the “present estate”, then it is reasonably clear that the 280 acre lease (blue) is not included in the 1225 acres.

Thus adding the 310 acres (white), 265 acres (green) and the 640 acres (orange/red), comes to a total 1215 acres, which is very close to the figure of 1225 acres that Kingswell state. The discrepancy of 10 acres could be accounted for in two ways. It is possibly simply an adding up error, or possibly because the 265 acre lease on the maps is marked as “ex rds”, and that these excluded roads account for the missing 10 acres.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
3 Dec 1867First mention of New Lambton colliery in the newspapers. The article is reporting on the opening of a section of the Hartley Vale Railway, that leads to a new pit a pit "about half a mile ... from the Lambton Colliery, and which has been denominated by the Messrs. Brown 'The New Lambton Coal Pit.' "
If the distance of half mile is correct then this is almost certainly referring to a pit in the 280 acre lease in East Lambton. The article goes on to state that "The line further leads to a pit on the other side of the South [sic] Australian Company's Railway, underneath which a tunnel has been made." This is possibly referring to a connection to the Dog and Rat Pit which was to the north of the Lambton colliery railway.
4 Jan 1868James and Alexander Brown obtain the mineral lease for what would become the New Lambton mine, after Messrs. Morehead and Young of the Scottish Australian Mining Company indavertently fail to keep up payments on the mineral lease.
27 Jun 1868
25 Jun 1868
'Turning the first sod' of the New Lambton Colliery.
30 Jun 1868"The tunnel now in operation [the 280 acre east Lambton lease] will I believe give remunerative employment to about sixty miners, and I have no doubt, a profitable return to the proprietors for capital invested therein, until the new pit [265 acre lease in New Lambton] is in full working order."
4 Jul 1868"The new railway works at the New Lambton Colliery are being pushed forward as fast as practicably, and are I believe progressing satisfactorily."
4 Jul 1868Advertising for tenders for the sinking of the new working pit, and for earthworks in the extension of the New Lambton railway.
18 Jul 1868"The new line of railway at the new Lambton colliery is making considerable headway but the sinking of the new working pit has been considerably delayed in consequence, I believe, of the difficulties experienced in getting a boiler across a swamp separating the new pit from the end of the present railway."
5 Sep 1868"The extension of the New Lambton railway, is, I believe, progressing satisfactorily, and will, it is expected, in a short time, be so far advanced towards completion as to enable the proprietors to convey direct, any materials that may be required at their new pit, which is now down about seventy feet. It is expected that the coal in this shaft will be found at a depth of about 120 feet."
31 Oct 1868The Brown's New Lambton colliery "line of railway will be shortly completed."
29 Jul 1869"New Lambton is still going a-head, and buildings of all descriptions are multiplying fast. I am glad to see that those enterprising and really spirited men, the Messrs. J. and A. Brown, have commenced making a new line of railway to another new pit."
3 Mar 1877"Plans and specifications have been prepared for a bridge to cross the New Lambton Railway, and tenders will be called for the erection at once."
This was for a bridge on Lambton Rd (where Royal Place is now) to go over the New Lambton railway.
25 Aug 1883"The proprietors of the New Lambton Colliery are sinking a new shaft on their estate some mile and a-half from the present pit." This was the New Lambton C pit, which was located in the present day suburb of Adamstown.
22 Mar 1884"The railway to the new pit [C Pit] on the New Lambton Company's estate has been completed throughout in a very workmanlike manner by the contractor, Mr. Chas. Turner, and a large staff of workmen. The line is about two and a-quarter miles in length from its junction with New Lambton railway to the pit mouth."
1 Aug 1890New Lambton council prepares "specifications for the work of pulling down the New Lambton Railway Bridge, on the main road, and filling up the road."
6 Aug 1890Tenders called for "filling in roadway over New Lambton railway at main road bridge."

Oh look, a shiny book

Oh look, a shiny book. And my name is on the cover.

Julie Keating has continued her series of books focussing on Newcastle suburbs in the 19th and early 20th century. For the latest book on New Lambton, Julie invited me to contribute some of my blog articles on various aspects of New Lambton history.

The book is $25 and can be purchased from New Lambton Post Office, MacLeans bookshop in Beaumont Street Hamilton, and the the Marketown Newsagency in Newcastle West.

Ralph Snowball’s House and Studio

Where was Ralph Snowball’s house and studio in New Lambton?

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections site has a number of photographs captioned as Ralph Snowball’s house or studio in Clarence Rd, New Lambton.

Ralph Snowball’s studio, New Lambton, NSW, 11 April 1902

Ralph Snowball Studio, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, [n.d.]

Ralph Snowball Studio, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, [n.d.]

Ralph Snowball’s house, Clarence Street, New Lambton, NSW, 11 April 1902

Chinese Market Gardener at Ralph Snowball’s residence, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, September 1886

The first thing to note is that these are all of the same building. Compare the fence and the verandah in these two photos.

The NSW Land Registry Services has a historical map that shows a property owned by R.G. Snowball on the corner of Clarence Rd and Baker St (lot 1165), and for a number of years I thought that the photographs above were of that location


Recently I realised that couldn’t be right, in particular because in one of the photos of the back of the house (on the elevated side of the block) there is clearly another house to the right. So the Snowball house in this photograph cannot have been on a corner.

Also in the Cultural Collections archive is a photo taken from near the top of Collaroy Rd, looking northwards towards Lambton colliery and township.

Lambton Colliery and township, Lambton, NSW, 15 October 1900

I was able to locate Snowball’s house in this photograph, and notice that the right wall of the Mechanics’ Institute in Lambton, the top of the Lambton Park rotunda, and the chimney of Snowball’s house were in alignment. I was then able to replicate that alignment in Google Earth by drawing a straight line using the Mechanics’ Institute and rotunda as guide points.

Using this alignment in Google Earth, I then inspected the path of that line on a 1944 aerial photograph looking for a matching building – one with an expansive front yard with steps going up to the front of the house, and with the back of the house very close to the street. There was a very good match at 19 Clarence Rd.

A closer inspection of the map with the property owners names shows on lot 1149, although the name is slightly worn away, “Ralph Snowball”.

Finally, when I overlaid this map into Google Earth along with the line I had drawn earlier using the Mechanics Institute and Rotunda as a guide, the line goes straight through lot 1149!

Google Earth shows that lot 1149 (19 Clarence Rd) now has two modern buildings on the block.

Locating this block of land also explains why the Federal Directory of Newcastle and District for 1901 has a listing for “Photographer. Snowball, Ralph, Gwydir Rd”.

New Lambton Aldermen

Eighty years ago in 1938, eleven suburban councils merged to form the City of Greater Newcastle council.  New Lambton Council was incorporated on 9 January 1889, and a ballot to elect nine aldermen was held on 2 March 1889.  The first Council meeting was held five days later in Sneddon’s Hall, and Thomas Croudace, the mine manager of the Lambton Colliery, was elected as the first Mayor. Croudace had previously served as alderman and Mayor of Lambton Council. His municipal enthusiasm seemed to know no bounds, for in 1891 and 1892 Croudace was simultaneously an alderman on both Lambton and New Lambton councils, as well as Mayor of New Lambton.

Unlike Lambton’s troubled debt laden history, New Lambton Council was conservative with its spending, but was not completely untouched by financial controversy. In 1916 there was quite a stir when the Town Clerk, William Danne, was discovered to have fraudulently altered council cheques to his own name. He was arrested, tried and sentenced to four months prison.

Over the years New Lambton Council had 83 different aldermen, ten of whom served a decade or more. At the other extreme is John Leyshon, who in 1894 resigned from office just 15 days after being elected.

A total of 27 aldermen held the position of Mayor, and a number of streets in New Lambton are named in their honour, including Croudace, Dunkley, Errington and Longworth. Of particular note is George Errington, who was elected Mayor on seven occasions in his 26 years on New Lambton Council.  Errington was born in Durham, England, in 1863, and arrived in New Lambton in 1880 to work as a miner. He was first elected to council in 1891 and finished his last term in 1920. George Errington died in 1934 at his daughter’s Mayfield residence Iberia, named after the steamship that had brought George to Australia 54 years earlier.

Alderman George Errington. Truth newspaper (Sydney), 4 Jun 1911.

The New Lambton Council Chambers were destroyed by fire in April 1931. Photo by Ralph Snowball, University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.


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

Additional information

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

George Errington

The “Truth” newspaper of Sydney published a short biographical article on George Errington on 4 June 1911.

Alderman Errington was born in Durham, England, in the year 1863, and came to New South Wales in the s.s. Iberia, the vessel that later on took the N.S.W. contingent to the Soudan. He went to the Illawarra district, thence to the Newcastle district, and took up his residence in New Lambton, where he has resided ever since, with the exception of a few months in Queensland. He was Miners’ Delegate for some years, also vice-president of Eight Hour Committee, and presided at the opening of the Trades Hall in Newcastle. He has been in the Council 20 years, and has been Mayor six times. He was appointed Justice of the Peace ten years ago. He is one of the municipal representatives on the Water and Sewerage Board, and occupies the position of vice-president this year. He is also a trustee of the district park. He ran as the selected Labor candidate for Wickham a few years ago, and was defeated by a small majority.

Birth place:Durham, England
Death date:24 May 1934
Death place:Mayfield
Burial site:Sandgate
Burial Long,Lat :151.707931,-32.870902 (KML File for Google Earth)
Burial date:25 May 1934
George Errington served as an alderman of New Lambton Council for 26 years.

George Errington served as an alderman of New Lambton Council for 26 years.

Headstone of George Errington.

Headstone of George Errington.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
4 Jun 1911Short biographical article on George Errington, Mayor of New Lambton.
1 Mar 1916William Charles Danne, town clerk of New Lambton, charged with cheque fraud committed on February 15th.
4 Mar 1916
1 Mar 1916
Special meeting of New Lambton council to discuss the recent fraudulent of action of the town clerk, William Charles Danne. The aldermen unanimiously carry a motion to dismiss the town clerk.
9 Mar 1916
8 Mar 1916
William Charles Danne, former town clerk of New Lambton pleads guilty to two charges of cheque fraud, and is sentenced to four months imprisonment.
31 May 1934
24 May 1934
Death of George Errington, longest serving Mayor of New Lambton.
22 Sep 2016William Charles Danne convicted of another cheque fraud and sentenced to two years hard labour.