Then and Now Tram 5

Today’s post comes from Hobart Rd New Lambton. At this point in the road there used to be an overhead railway bridge for the rail line to the Lambton Colliery.

What’s interesting about this old photo is there is the tram line has what’s known as a “gauntlet track”. The tram line was a dual track (inbound/outbound), but in order to get through the narrow gap under the rail bridge the two tracks, while not connecting, interleave with each other. To avoid collisions, tram drivers had to collect a wooden staff from a signalling box at the site and only proceed through the gauntlet section if they had possession of the staff.

Old tram photo from University of Newcastle Living Histories.

No. 2 Fighter Sector, New Lambton Public School

When is a school not a school? When it’s a vital part of Australia’s wartime defence. When Japan entered World War 2 in December 1941 with the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Australia faced a real threat of aerial attack, and a radar defence system was urgently needed to monitor enemy aircraft movements. A radar commenced service at Shepherds Hill in Newcastle in January 1942, and with the establishment of many other radar stations including Ash Island in the Hunter River and Tomaree Head at Port Stephens, a central headquarters was needed to collate information and direct operations of allied aircraft interceptions.

Consequently, on 10 March 1942, the Minister for Education announced with deliberate vagueness that New Lambton Public School was required “to be used for other purposes” and that students would be distributed over Lambton, Adamstown, Hamilton, and Cardiff schools. The school became the site of RAAF No 2 Fighter Sector, the principal coordination and control unit for radar defence operations in the Williamtown and Newcastle area.

The RAAF occupied the three main school buildings, erected temporary buildings in the playground and converted the headmaster’s residence into the unit HQ. Twenty-four hour operations commenced on 29 March 1942 with 134 staff, including 69 from the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF). The school also became the training base for other radar sector units and at its peak in August 1943 had a total of 268 personnel.

In December 1944 the RAAF transferred operations from New Lambton to the radar station at Ash Island, and in January 1945 handed the school back to the Department of Education. The senior boys and girls returned to the school, but necessary restoration and repairs carried out during 1945 meant that the infants’ classes did not return until the following year. The resumption of all classes at the New Lambton site and remembrance of its important war time role was celebrated with a grand “Back-to-school” gala day on 27 April 1946.

Aerial photo from September 1944, showing a number of temporary buildings erected by the RAAF in the school playground.
Commemorative plaque installed in the foyer of the school office in 1995.
Because of the school’s unique association with the RAAF, the school was granted approval in May 1995 to use the RAAF ensign, on display here adjacent to the commemorative plaque.

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


Acknowledgements

Much of the information for this article I sourced from Peter Muller and John Hutchison’s 1991 book “RAAF Base Williamtown, The First 50 Years”, a copy of which is in Newcastle Library Local Studies section.

Additional Information

Payne’s Paddock School

From March 1942, all students from New Lambton school were distributed to other schools around the area, with transport being provided by the Department of Education. There was much complaint from parents about this arrangement, who campaigned for the erection of temporary school buildings. The slow pace of fulfilling this request led the Parents and Citizens’ association in September 1943 to threaten a boycott, stating …

The matter has come to a stage that if there is no [new] school there will be no New Lambton children attending other schools.

A temporary infants’ school was subsequently constructed in “Payne’s Paddock” on St James Rd, consisting of 8 classrooms built of wood, and a separate administrative block. The temporary school opened for students on 18 April 1944.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 April 1944
A 1944 aerial photograph of the temporary Payne’s Paddock school, overlaid into Google Earth.

The infants attended the Payne’s Paddock temporary school until April 1946, when the completion of restorations and repairs to the New Lambton school allowed them to resume classes there. The temporary school on St James Rd was closed, but became the site of the New Lambton South Public School, opened on 31 Januuary 1950 with an enrolment of 360 students.

WAAAF Hostel

To assist in the accommodation of Womens Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) personnel working at No 2 Fighter Sector, the YMCA opened a hostel, converting a shop and residence on the corner of Hobart and Rugby Roads.

The WAAAF Hostel in New Lambton in 1944.
The WAAAF hostel building in 2020

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
10 Mar 1942"Pupils from New Lambton Public School are to be distributed over Lambton, Adamstown, Hamilton, and Cardiff schools because their building is to be used for other purposes. This was announced tonight by the Minister for Education (Mr. Clive Evatt). Mr. Evatt said the necessary transport for the children to be picked up from selected points, and taken to their schools, was being arranged."
24 Apr 1942"Property at the corner of Hobart and Rugby Roads, New Lambton (a shop and residence), has been selected for the establishment of a leave hostel for the convenience of 'W.A.A.A.Fs' and other service women."
27 Apr 1942New Lambton Parents and Citizens' Association campaigning for "more satisfactory arrangements for the 900 school children of New Lambton, who are now distributed among the Hamilton, Adamstown, and Lambton schools. The association last week agreed that a forceful claim should be made for the erection of portable classrooms at New Lambton to accommodate the transferred children."
5 Oct 1942"For several weeks, Mrs. W. E. Bramble and her daughter, Miss Mary Bramble, have entertained groups of W.A.A.A.F. and R.A.A.F. personnel at their home at Russell-road, New Lambton, on Sunday nights. The number of guests varies, but as many as 80 have attended for tea, and 115 for supper. Mrs. Bramble's chief worry is to secure sufficient tea and sugar to cope with the crowd."
25 Sep 1943New Lambton Parents and citizens' Association stated "that the proposal to keep New Lambton children away from school was not bluff. The matter has come to a stage that if there is no school there will be no New Lambton children attending other schools."
"The commonwealth Government had provided the funds for the erection of accommodation for an Infants' school at Payne's Estate. The Government Architect had completed plans and tenders for the work would be invited this week."
18 Apr 1944Popularly known as Payne's paddock school, New Lambton, these buildings in St. James-road will be "taken over" by the children this morning. Many of the children who will now go to this school have been travelling by bus to Hamilton school since New Lambton Public School was closed.
19 Apr 1944
18 Apr 1944
"Opening yesterday of the temporary school for New Lambton infants in Payne's Paddock, St. James-road. The school has an enrolment of 320 pupils."
19 Jan 1945"A letter Mr. R. Cameron, M.L.A., has received from the Minister for Education (Mr. Heffron) with reference to the department's repossession of New Lambton Public School from the R.A.A.F., indicates that action has been taken to enable two buildings to be re-occupied by classes after the vacation."
28 Feb 1945"The Minister for Education, Mr. Heffron, complained yesterday of the way in which the R.A.A.F. had left New Lambton Public School after they had occupied it … the R.A.A.F. had made structural alterations inside and outside the school. After months of negotiation, he had been unable to get the R.A.A.F. to remove the alterations. Because of this, the infants' part of the school was still unusable."
18 Apr 1945Demolition of RAAF huts proceeding. The old headmaster's residence to be demolished and the playground area enlarged. There are 222 boys at the school. Restoration of the girls' school yet to happen.
20 Feb 1946"The painting of the interior of the infants' department was near completion … the girls were now back in their own department."
6 Apr 1946"Plans are under way for a "Back-to-New Lambton" day, to mark the complete reunion of classes of New Lambton Public School at their old home. The Parents and Citizens' Association proposes to have a roll book completed withl the autographs of past and present pupils and to preserve it as an historical record of the school. "
29 Apr 1946
27 Apr 1946
"THE war role of New Lambton Public School was referred to by speakers at the 'Back-to-school' celebration on Saturday. Saturday's function ... marked the school's full reinstatement."
27 Apr 1946"Many former pupils returned today to participate in the Back to New Lambton School celebrations arranged by the P. and C. Association to mark the reopening of the school after military occupation."
"The boys and girls returned to the school in February of last year, the boys using their own department and the girls the infants' department, while the girls' school was being renovated. The girls returned to their school at tthe end of last year, but the infants remained at Payne's Paddock until this week, when the renovations to the infants' department were completed."
1 Feb 1950
31 Jan 1950
"The new primary school at New Lambton South (Payne's Paddock) ... was opened yesterday for the enrolment of pupils. The buildings, which are of brick, contain 16 class rooms, a special room for a school library, headmaster's and headmistress's offices, staff rooms, special sheds for luncheon for the children, bicycle racks and a separate brick tuck shop ... there was already an enrolment of 360 pupils."

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.

NLPS Centenary Book Corrections

New Lambton Public School published a booklet in 1980 to celebrate their centenary. Although this book contains much useful information, it also contains a number of errors, which I document below. In doing so, I’m not intending to pass judgement on the authors of the booklet, who in 1980 did not have access to the many online resources available to me today. My intention here is simply to correct the record where I can.

The originally proposed site

The booklet quite correctly states that “The first site chosen was on ground owned by the New Lambton colliery.” This means that the site was south of Russell Rd, that road being the border between New Lambton and Lambton coal leases. The centenary booklet then states that the proposed site was “around the south-eastern section of St James Rd.” I have found no evidence to support that statement. Instead, we know that:

I can only guess that the authors of the centenary booklet incorrectly assumed that the eventual site for New Lambton South Public School (opened 1944) was the originally proposed site for the New Lambton school.

Other corrections

  • “New Lambton came into being in 1867”. The correct year is 1868.
  • The statement that the Lambton colliery railway “carried the coal to the wharves via ‘Betty Bun’s Crossing” is incorrect. Betty Bunn’s crossing was on the Waratah coal company’s railway.
  • The statement that the New Lambton colliery railway went “across New Lambton Park to join the line from Lambton pit” is incorrect. The line actually curved to the right before the Lambton line, and was a separate line all the way in to its junction with the great northern railway.
  • The statement that “New Lambton mine opened late in 1867” is somewhat misleading. In 1867 James and Alexander Brown opened up a new pit in their 280 acre “Dog and Rat” lease east of Lambton, and called it “The New Lambton Coal Pit”. The pit they sunk in the suburb of New Lambton wasn’t opened until 1868.
  • The photo of the 1888 New Lambton Colliery Strike is somewhat misleading in that it doesn’t identify that this strike took place at the New Lambton C pit, which is actually in Adamstown.
  • The booklet correctly states that “many smaller [coal mining] operations, often employing two or three men, were common around the turn of the century” and in the next sentence it lists some of the names of the pits. Two of the names mentioned were not small pits. Mosquito pit was part of Lambton colliery, and Dog and Rat pit was operated by the Brown’s mining company.
  • There is a photo captioned “The first steam tram to Lambton 1891”. The photo might be from 1891, but its not the first steam tram, as the tram line opened in 1887.
  • There is a photo captioned “1912 Aldermen New Lambton Council”. The list of names given does not correspond the alderman from that year. The list appears to match more closely with the alderman in 1914-1915. A number of the names are mis-spelled – “Gourd” should be “Goad”, “Jordon” should be “Jordan”

The map

The map in the booklet contains a number of errors, some minor, and some nonsensical.

  1. “Rasberry Gully” is mis-spelled – it should be “Raspberry Gully”.
  2. The rail line to Raspberry Gully is marked as the “Waratah” pit, whereas it should be “South Waratah” pit.
  3. “Betty Bun’s” crossing is mis-spelled. It should be “Betty Bunn’s” crossing.
  4. The location marked for “Betty Bunn’s Crossing” at the intersection of Griffiths and Turton Roads is incorrect. The actual location was further to the west, at the intersection of Acacia St and Griffiths Rd. This was the point where the road between Lambton and Waratah townships crossed the Waratah Coal Company’s railway.
  5. Carrington Parade is shown as a continuous street, instead of split into two disconnected sections.
  6. The New Lambton colliery railway is shown as joining on to the Lambton colliery railway near Womboin Road. Competition between the collieries meant that sharing of rail lines was inconceivable. The New Lambton railway actually traversed the area now occupied by the sporting fields and Hunter stadium, and went all the way in to a junction on the great northern rail line.
  7. The map maker has assumed that the present day “Railway Rd” matches the alignment of the original Lambton colliery railway. This has resulted in a railway course with an impossible right angle bend. The railway actually ran in a fairly straight line slightly to the north of Railway Rd.
Colliery railway lines as marked on a 1918 real estate poster. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

New Lambton Public School

Opening of the school in 1880

This year marks 140 years of New Lambton Public School. It’s an anniversary that would have been celebrated a decade ago, if not for government inaction, squabbling colliery owners, and construction delays.

New Lambton began with a colliery in 1868, and within a year the newspaper reported that

“a good Public School will soon be required, there being now scores of children in the township.” (The Newcastle Chronicle, 16 Sep 1869)

Although the need was great, the government took no action until August 1875, when a deputation from New Lambton delivered a petition to the Minister for Education in Sydney, and a school was approved.

The New Lambton Colliery initially promised land for the school near Evescourt Rd and Victoria St, but nothing happened while the co-owners of the colliery, Alexander Brown and George Dibbs, engaged in a bitter dispute over control of the mine. After two years of fruitless waiting, the school committee asked for the present site north of Russell Rd, as it belonged to Lambton Colliery whose general manager Robert Morehead was known to be a generous supporter of public education.

A contract for construction was awarded to Edward Constable and the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone took place on 30 November 1878. With an expected construction time of ten months the stone was optimistically engraved with the year 1879. But delays due to contractor disputes and a scarcity of bricks meant that as 1879 drew to a close, the Newcastle Morning Herald reported, with a dose of dry humour:

“There is now no prospect of the Public School being ready for opening at Christmas. Many of the children in whose interest this school was first advocated, are now married, and have large families.”

Finally, on 2 March 1880, classes commenced for 270 children. The following Saturday over 400 people gathered for the opening ceremony, where it was remarked that

“the lack of this institution for years past has been so apparent as to make it appear strange that its erection was not an accomplished fact far earlier.”

Students assembled in front of New Lambton Public School, 13 February 1900. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
The school in 2020. The original brick building was demolished in 1954, after suffering damage from mine subsidence.
The original foundation stone was laid in 1878, with the (misplaced) expectation that the school would open the following year. The stone was incorporated into the foundations of the new classrooms built after the original building was demolished in 1954.

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


The originally proposed site

One of the sources I used in researching this article was the booklet produced by the school on the occasion of their centenary in 1980. 

Although there was much helpful information in the booklet, there were a number of errors, in particular when describing the originally proposed site for the school.

The booklet quite correctly states that “The first site chosen was on ground owned by the New Lambton colliery.” This means that the site was south of Russell Rd, that road being the border between New Lambton and Lambton coal leases. The centenary booklet then states that the proposed site was “around the south-eastern section of St James Rd.” I have found no evidence to support that statement. Instead, we know that:

I can only guess that the authors of the centenary booklet incorrectly assumed that the eventual site for New Lambton South Public School (opened 1944) was the originally proposed site for the New Lambton school.

I have put together a separate page of other corrections of material contained in the centenary booklet.

Additional Information

Tenders submitted for construction of New Lambton Public School, showing successful tenderer E. Constable, for a price of £3275 and a construction time of 10 months. From the New Lambton Public School centenary booklet.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
16 Sep 1869“A good Public School will soon be required, there being now scores of children in the township; the Public School at Lambton is too far distant for tender children to attend.”
11 Nov 1869“We understand that it is in contemplation to make an application to the Council of Education for the establishment of a public school, at New Lambton, where such an institution is very much required”
20 Jun 1874“Great efforts are being made here to obtain the benefit of a public school.”
22 May 1875“the movement in relation to the opening of a Public School in New Lambton is making progress”
5 Jun 1875"There are 172 children under four years of age, and 427 between the age of four and thirteen years. These children have to walk a considerable distance to the Lambton Public school, and the road (particularly in wet weather) is very bad. Mr. Alexander Brown, one of the proprietors of the colliery, has consented to dedicate a piece of his land to the school board."
31 Jul 1875A deputation to Sydney "for the purpose of presenting to the Council of Education the petition recently signed by the inhabitants of this neighbourhood, praying that a Public School may be established at New Lambton."
10 Aug 1875"The deputation to Sydney have returned. They have been successful in their endeavours to obtain a Public School for New Lambton. It is presumed that nearly three hundred children will attend the school when opened."
1 Oct 1875Governement Gazette: application received for new public school at New Lambton.
23 Oct 1875
15 Oct 1875
Letter from the Council of Education to New Lambton Public School: committee: "1. The Council has finally resolved to establish the School as a Public School. 2. The Council has further agreed to accept the land offered by the New Lambton Coal Company."
8 Dec 1875"There is only one obstacle in the way of commencement with the building at once and that is the delay of Mr. A. Brown in handing over the land promised for the purpose. It is now seven or eight weeks since he promised to come up and hand over the land but has not done so yet."
11 Dec 1875"Mr. Alexander Brown came up on Wednesday, and, in company with Messrs. Sharp and Rippon, examined the most likely pieces of land, and at last picked upon a splendid site on the side of the hill near to the Wesleyan Church."
8 Apr 1876"Nothing further has as yet been done concerning our public school … There are upwards of 300 children in New Lambton able to attend school, the majority of which have to travel to the Lambton public school, which is about two miles distant from some of their homes."
13 May 1876"The delay in handing over the site is the only obstacle to a public school being built in New Lambton. The land was promised some months ago by Mr. A. Brown, jun., but has not yet been handed over, owing probably to the unfortunate disagreement between the Messrs. Brown and Dibbs."
28 Jul 1876"A deputation had visited the Messrs. Brown's recently, but had received no satisfaction, and the promise had evidently been withdrawn." Mr G. Holland of the school committee subsequently "met Mr. A. Brown, sen., in the street at Newcastle recently, and asked him if he would receive a deputation on the school question. Mr Brown informed him then that at present nothing could be done in this matter. The New Lambton people might therefore rest assured that they would not got any land from the Brown's estate. It was therefore their duty to try some other means of procuring a school site."
7 Aug 1876A letter of stinging rebuke regarding inaction on the school: "We are, therefore, in a fix, and must, at least so far as can be seen at present, submit to bring up our children in ignorance … it is rather too bad that a few individuals should be allowed to monopolise hundreds of acres while the public can not procure a few feet whereon a a school can be erected … When next our Legislative wiseacres indulge in their educational clap-trap, it would be well if they would say, 'Educate the children of the colony, but lift not the veil of ignorance from New Lambton.' "
16 Jul 1877"There can be no doubt that the the proprietors of the New Lambton Colliery are in a great measure to blame for this unfortunate state of things, for they have never by word or deed seconded the efforts of the people; but in the choice of a suitable site have thrown every possible obstacle in the way. These gentlemen would do well to take a pattern in this matter from some other colliery proprietors and officials in this district who have evinced a regard for the educational requirements of their workmen's children."
28 Aug 1877
17 Jul 1877
A petition is presented to Minister for Education requesting change of site for the school. “The site proposed is on the Commonage, at the boundary of the Lambton and New Lambton Company's estates, where it is thought that a barrier of coal has been left in.”
31 Jul 1877In the dispute between colliery owners Brown and Dibbs preventing the granting of land for a school, it appears that Brown is the culprit … "I am informed that the Messrs. Dibbs are doing all in their power to further the movement ; but Mr. A. Brown is inexorable, and will not grant anything which will be a benefit to the people."
29 Jan 1878The grant of land for the school, may be held up "until the matter of the Newcastle Common, of which the land in question forms part, has been settled."
16 Mar 1878
11 Mar 1878
"The Minister for Lands has now approved of the appropriation for Public School purposes of the two acres of land at New Lambton, applied for by the Council on 11th October last. Steps will now be taken for the erection of the school building as early as possible."
16 Apr 1878"Failing to obtain a site at New Lambton from private individuals, the Council [of Education] made application to the Government on the 18th October last, for portion of land for the purpose. An intimation that this site has been granted, was received at this office on 20th March instant, and the usual steps have been taken for the erection of a public school with the least possible delay."
10 May 1878"The Commonage land promised for a school site is a portion of the Lambton Company's lease ... it is well known that there is not a better friend of education in the colony than Mr. Morehead, who will, no doubt, forfeit all claim to the land in question as soon as application is made to him, and the object for which it is required made known."
10 May 1878Advertisement: "TENDERS are invited for the Erection and Completion of a PUBLIC SCHOOL, at NEW LAMBTON."
5 Jul 1878Contract for erection of New Lambton Public School has been awarded to Mr. E Constable.
9 Sep 1878"It would appear that the fates are against a public school ever being erected at New Lambton. After years of agitation, tenders were accepted several weeks ago for the erection of a school, but the contractor evidently thinks that some time in the next century will be soon enough to complete his work, as beyond a few stones being carted on to the ground, there is no sign of a start being made."
2 Dec 1878
30 Nov 1878
Ceremonial laying of the foundation stone.
26 Feb 1879Work on the New Lambton Public School "has been stopped, owing to some dispute between the contractor and a contractor, and to a scarcity of bricks."
2 Jun 1879"The new public school building has so far progressed as to be ready for the shingles. The building seems to be of a very substantial nature, and will, when finished, be an ornament to the place, as well as a blessing in an educational point. The children, no doubt, wish it was completed, as those who at present attend school have to tramp up to their knees in sludge to the Lambton school."
25 Dec 1879"There is now no prospect of the New Public School being ready for opening at Christmas. Many of the children in whose interest this school was first advocated, are now married, and have large families."
8 Mar 1880
6 Mar 1880
Official opening of the school on Saturday 6 March 1880. (First day for students was Tuesday 2 March 1880.)

The Grange, New Lambton

I noticed in the paper this weekend that the property known as “The Grange”, in Queens Rd New Lambton, is up for sale. This house and surrounding area was originally owned by William Thomas Dent, who was Secretary of the Northumberland Permanent Building Investment Land and Loan Society for 43 years. 

“The Grange”, New Lambton

The building and land was sold by Dent in October 1921, purchased by the Newcastle Hospital Board for £4387. They planned to convert the property into a convalescent home.

“The Grange” in New Lambton in 1921, purchased for use as a convalescent home.

The planned conversion of “The Grange” to a convalescent home never happened, as the following year the hospital board purchased Lambton Lodge (the former home of Thomas Croudace, manager of Lambton Colliery) and developed it as the convalescent home instead. With “The Grange” property now surplus to requirements, the hospital board subdivided the land, and in June 1930 offered for sale 25 blocks of land around the original house.

The Grange Subdivision 1923.

W T Dent moved to a house in Curzon St New Lambton, where he died in 1942.

W T Dent properties in Curzon/Curson St New Lambton.

The other William Thomas Dents

The William Thomas Dent (1870-1942) who owned The Grange is not to be confused with his father, also called William Thomas Dent (1844-1901) who was secretary of the building society before his son, during the years 1877 to 1899. William Thomas Dent senior was the fifth Mayor of the Lambton Municipality and was instrumental in the erection of the Lambton Park Rotunda, and has his name in the ornamental ironwork above the entrance.

“W T Dent Mayor” on the Lambton Park rotunda.

Additionally note that the William Thomas Dent (1870-1942) who owned “The Grange” also had a son called William Thomas Dent (1901-1930) who predeceased his father, aged just 29.

[Note that the birth year I have stated for the three W T Dent’s above are approximate only, based on their age reported at their death.]

Adamstown Aldermen (1886-1938)

Adamstown Council was incorporated on 31 December 1885 and remained until March 1938 when 11 local municipal councils merged to form the City of Greater Newcastle Council. During its 52 years of its existence, Adamstown Council had 84 different aldermen, 32 of whom served as mayor.

The file linked to below contains a summary of all the aldermen that served on New Lambton Municipal Council in the years 1889 to 1938.

Entries in the table that are underlined are hyperlinks to a relevant newspaper article in Trove. To make sense of the information in the summary document, it is helpful to understand how council elections were organised, and how I have used different text and background colours to represent changes in the council membership.

Adamstown Council Chambers on the opening day, 22 August 1892. Photo courtesy of Newcastle Region Library.

Council elections

Elections in the Adamstown Municipal Council were initially governed by the NSW Municipalities Act of 1867. The council had 9 aldermen, who served terms of three years.

Initially the municipality was incorporated in 1886 without a ward system, but prior to the 1891 election, the municipality was divided into three wards (North/South/East), with three aldermen to represent each ward. Each February the term of three aldermen expired (one from each ward), and nominations were called to fill the expiring positions, so that over a three year cycle the terms of all nine of the aldermen expired. If only one nomination was received for a particular ward, that nominee was automatically elected to the council without the need for a ballot. If there was more than one nomination in a ward the returning officer would set a date within the next seven days at which a ballot would be held, where the ratepayers of the council area would vote for aldermen.

The position of Mayor was not voted on by ratepayers, but rather on the first council meeting after the election, the nine aldermen (including the three newly elected/returned aldermen) would vote for who they wanted to be Mayor. In contrast to the position of aldermen who were elected to a term of three years, the position of Mayor had a term of only one year.

In the event of any casual vacancies, nominations for the vacancy would be called for, and an election called if there were more nominees than vacancies. Casual vacancies in Adamstown were caused by resignation, death, or in the case of the 1920 election, there being a shortage of nominees.

On 26/2/1906, the Municipalities Act (1897) was replaced by the Local Government Act (1906). The system of electing 3 aldermen each year was changed to elect 9 aldermen every 3 years. The election of a Mayor was still held each February, with the Mayoral term running from the first day of March to the last day of February. At a council meeting on 12 March 1919, the aldermen voted to abolish the ward system in Adamstown.

Although there are numerous pieces of legislation relevant to local government in the period 1871 to 1938, the main acts relevant to the content on this page are:

Colour coding

In the documents I have used different colours to indicate the means by which people entered and exited council positions:

  • The foreground text color indicates how a person entered a council position:
    • Blue indicates the person was elected unopposed.
    • Green indicates the person was a successful candidate in an election.
    • Black indicates a continuation in office.
  • The background colour of a table cell indicates how a person exited a council position:
    • Yellow indicates a resignation.
    • Light pink indicates expiration of a term, and the person did not seek re-election.
    • Darker pink indicates expiration of a term, and the person was defeated when seeking re-election to another term.
    • Light gray indicates that the person died while serving their term of office.
  • For entries prior to 1906, where three aldermen retired each year, the names of the retiring aldermen are shown in italics.

Each new row in the table represents a change in the makeup of the council, with the exception of the council/mayoral elections of February 1919, December 1920, December 1921 and December 1935 where the aldermen and mayor remained unchanged.

Miscellaneous Observations

In the period 1886 to 1938:

  • 32 different people served as Mayor.
    • The longest serving Mayor was Theophilus Robin, who served a total of 5 years as Mayor during the period 1908 to 1917, on three separate occasions.
    • Edden St is named after Alfred Edden, who served as Mayor in 1889 and 1891.
    • In comparison with Lambton, Adamstown liked to share the Mayoral honours around. Adamstown council operated for 15 years less than Lambton council, but had four more than Lambton’s 28 Mayors.
  • 84 different people served as aldermen.
    • Often there are variant spellings for the same aldermen. In the spreadsheet I have used a consistent spelling of names, based on the variant that seems to be used the most, and on a separate worksheet listed the variant spellings. The most curious case is that of Matthew Loyden/Lydon, who prior to 12 February 1900 is consistently spelled “Loyden” and after 12 February 1900 is consistently spelled “Lydon”.  And on that exact date he is spelled “Loyden” in the Newcastle Morning Herald, and “Lydon” in the Daily Telegraph!
    • The longest serving alderman was Matthew Lydon who served a total of 22 years and 6 months in the period 1888 to 1917, on two separate occasions.
    • The shortest term of an aldermen was that of R Keogh who filled a casual vacancy for 8 months in 1925.
  • This page is titled “Adamstown Aldermen“, for they were all men. For most of the life of the council, this was by law, for while both men and women were entitled to vote, the Municipalities Act of 1867 and the Local Government Act of 1906 was explicit in restricting council service to men. e.g. section 69 of the 1906 act says:
    “Any male person whose name is on the roll of electors for an area shall, if not disqualified, be eligible to be elected and to act as alderman or councillor of the area.”
    By the time of the Local Government Act of 1919, this gender exclusion for office was no longer in place, however in the remaining 20 years no women were nominated for or elected to Adamstown Council.
  • Four people died while serving in office, James Gray in 1916, Thomas Rutherford and Matthew Lydon in 1917, and Allan Randolph Cameron in 1936.
  • There were 22 occasions when an alderman or mayor resigned their position. In most cases the reason was that the person had left the district, or because of ill health.

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."