The Edden political dynasty

I was recently asked by a reader about Alfred Edden and Alfred Edden junior, their service in local councils, and if there was any connection to Arthur Edden Oval sports field in New Lambton. Here’s what I found …

There were three generations of Edden’s in the political sphere in NSW, with father, son and grandson each being elected to a different council in the Newcastle area.

Alfred Edden (1850 – 1930)

Alfred Edden was born in Tamworth, Staffordshire, England on 24 December 1850. He emigrated to Australia about 1879 and settled in Adamstown by 1884. After Adamstown was incorporated as municipality on 31 December 1885, Edden was elected on 11 Feb 1886 as an alderman to the first council. He was re-elected to another term as alderman on 11 Feb 1888. He was elected as Mayor of Adamstown on two occasions, in 1889 and 1891.

In 1891 he was elected to the NSW parliament in the electorate of Northumberland, and consequently resigned as an alderman of Adamstown Council. In 1894 he contested the NSW electorate of Kahibah and won, remaining as the member of that electorate until 18 February 1920. Alfred Edden died on 27 January 1930, and was buried in Sandgate cemetery on 29 January 1930.

Alfred Edden junior (1882 – 1954)

Alfred Edden junior the eldest son of Alfred Edden senior, was born in 1882.

He was became an alderman on New Lambton council in 1908 when he was one of the three nominees for the three vacant positions in Third Ward. He was re-elected in 1911 and 1914, serving until 1916. After a break of a decade he had a second period as alderman in the New Lambton council in the years 1927-1934. He was elected as Mayor of New Lambton on two occasions, in 1911 and 1930.

He died in November 1954 and was buried in Sandgate Cemetery on 30 November 1954.

Arthur Ernest Edden (1903? – 1971)

Arthur Ernest Edden was the son of Alfred Edden junior, and was born sometime around 1902-03, based on him being 12 years old in 1915, and 68 years old when he died in 1971. Although his first name was “Arthur”, he was also known as “Alf”.

In November 1950 he nominated as a candidate in the Mid-West ward of Newcastle Council and was elected as an alderman in December 1950.

In September 1953 he attempted to follow his grandfather’s achievements, and put himself forward in the contest for ALP pre-selection for the NSW seat of Kahibah. He lost the pre-selection to Joshua Arthur.

In December 1953 he was re-elected to Newcastle Council. I have not been able to confirm the years of his remaining service as an councillor, but he was elected again in 1958.

By 1967 Arthur Ernest Edden was on the board of the Hunter District Water Board, and served there for a few years.

He died on 31 January 1971 and was buried in Sandgate Cemetery on 2 February 1971. In May 1972 a sports field in the Newcastle District Park was renamed “Arthur Edden Oval” in his honour.

NSW Government Gazette, 26 May 1972, naming “Arthur Edden Oval”

Note: at the time of writing this post, both the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the NSW Parliament entry for Alfred Edden (1850-1930) have his date of death incorrectly recorded as 27 July 1930. The correct date is 27 January 1930.

A Picnic Homecoming

This month’s photograph, taken at the border between Lambton and New Lambton looking along Howe Street invites the question “Why is a large group of well-dressed adults and children walking along the tram track towards Lambton?” The answer turns out to be related to transport, but not to trams.

When Lambton Colliery began in 1863 a railway was built to haul coal to the harbour. Roads into Newcastle were in a very poor state and a trip to town was a major undertaking. An appealing alternative was to travel by train.  For a few years the colliery allowed passengers in the guards’ van of their coal trains at a cost of 6 shillings per trip. Tiring of this arrangement, they doubled the price in 1866, then ceased the service in 1867.

Residents agitated for the return of a passenger train service, and in 1874 the Waratah Coal Company gave permission for the Government to run a passenger train to Lambton on the railway to their new coal workings. This train operated on Saturdays and public holidays only, with pick-up and set-down at Betty Bunn’s crossing, located at the bottom end of Acacia Avenue where it meets Griffiths Road. The service ceased in 1887 when the tramline through Lambton began operation.

Afterwards the Lambton Colliery railway was occasionally used to convey passengers to special events. One example was the Lambton Public School annual picnic day on Wednesday 25 February 1903. At 9am a train of seven cars left Lambton colliery with 500 children and 400 adults on board and headed for Toronto. On arrival there were refreshments, sports competitions, musical entertainments, and Ralph Snowball was on hand to take group photographs.

At day’s end the picnickers returned by train to Lambton and disembarked near the bridge over the tram line. In the fading light of a summer’s evening as they headed for their homes, Snowball took a final photograph, capturing one of the last occasions a passenger train arrived at Lambton.

Heading home after Lambton Public School Picnic in 1903. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Hobart Rd and Howe St in 2020.

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


Additional Information

Photo date

In the article published in The Local, I stated without qualification that the Snowball photo was taken on 25 February 1903 on the occasion of the Lambton Public School Picnic. It is important to note that the photo has no direct attribution to this date and event, but this conclusion is based on indirect evidence. Behind this story was an interesting case of how to locate and date a photograph.

When the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections first uploaded Snowball’s photo to their Flickr site, somehow it was mistakenly captioned “View from a train, Singleton”. In 2013 both John Shoebridge and Robert Watson identified that the scene was Lambton, and not Singleton. Robert in particular confirmed the location as being Lambton by comparing a number of houses on the top of the hill with another old photo of Lambton.

Houses near Dent St on mis-captioned photo.
Houses near Dent St, Lambton.

In determining the date of the photo, back in 2014 Robert noted that there was an electric light pole, which meant the photo was taken in or after 1890, when Lambton first installed electric lighting.

Electric light pole on Howe St.

The tram line in the photo is only a single track, and as the duplication of this portion of the tram route was only opened in July 1911, this indicates that the photo is in the time range 1890 to 1911. Using this information, and noting a similarity with another photo of a dressed up crowd in Lambton Park, I made a guess back in 2014 that the photo might have been on the occasion of the celebrations to inaugurate the electric light scheme in September 1890. Not an unreasonable guess, but as it turns out, wrong.

The next step in unravelling the mystery came six years later, when Robert revisited the photo and made two key observations.

  1. The people in the photo are almost all women and children, with very few men.
  2. A couple of the children are waving flags.

I did a careful count of the people in the photo and found that adult women outnumbered the adult men, three to one. This would indicate that the event being captured took place on a weekday, when the majority of men would be at work. The large number of children would then suggest that this is a school event. This is supported by looking at one of the flags being held aloft, which appears to be the NSW State flag, suggesting that the event was connected with the Lambton Public School.

Child waving flag.
NSW State flag.

Prompted by Robert’s observations I then made a third key observation – that the crowd in the photo is not random or dispersing. With one lone exception there are no people in the side streets. Everyone is heading in the same direction. This would indicate that the people are moving as a group, having come from a particular point and heading towards a particular destination. This would be consistent with the idea that the group has just disembarked from a train on the colliery railway and are heading home to Lambton.

Given that the crowd is well dressed I made a guess that the event was connected with a picnic, and along with the three key observations already noted, I searched in Trove in the known date range for the keywords “Lambton train school picnic”, which immediately revealed a very likely candidate for the occasion – the Lambton Public School picnic on 25 February 1903.

One final and compelling confirmation of this dating, came from Newcastle Library’s Hunter Photo Bank collection. Knowing that the collection had quite a number of Ralph Snowball picnic photos, I searched the collection and found a photo that Ralph had taken at the school picnic at Toronto on that day. It is quite probable that Snowball travelled with the school group in the chartered train, and took a photograph of the disembarked passengers from the train carriage up on the embankment before the rail line traversed the bridges over Hobart Rd and Howe St.

Group photo from Lambton Public School picnic at Toronto, 25 February 1903. Ralph Snowball, Hunter Photo Bank.

There is one other documented occasion, on 23 November 1900, when Lambton Public School travelled by train to a picnic at Toronto. It may be that Snowball’s photo was from this earlier picnic, but given the Hunter Photo Bank picnic photo, I think it much more likely that it is of the February 1903 picnic.

The Waratah Company Rail LINE Passenger Service

Passenger train services to and from Lambton on the Waratah Coal Company’s railway commenced on Monday 25 April 1874, with a special train on the Queen’s birthday public holiday.  Regular weekly Saturday evening services then commenced the following Saturday 30 May 1874. By March 1875, falling patronage meant that services were reduced to alternate Saturdays. The last passenger train on the line ran on Saturday 19 August 1887.

Passenger pick-up and set-down was at a location known as “Betty Bunn’s Crossing”, which was the point where the road between Lambton and Waratah crossed the coal company’s railway.

1906 map showing the Waratah and Lambton coal company railways, annotated with passenger service embarkation locations. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

I have never seen an old map with Betty Bunn’s Crossing marked on it, but all the evidence of many newspaper articles points to it being the crossing of the Waratah coal rail line with the Lambton to Waratah road. Another reasonably clear indication of the location is the death notice for Thomas George Griffith who died “at Betty Bunn’s Crossing” in 1918.  The 1906 map shows his property adjacent to the crossing.

Death notice for Thomas George Griffith, of Betty Bunn’s Crossing, Lambton. 16 May 1918
Property location of T. G. Griffith, Lambton
Notice in Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate, 19 Aug 1887, advising of discontinuance of passenger train services to Waratah Tunnels near Lambton.
Railway Timetables printed on 19 Aug 1887 and 20 Aug 1887, showing the dropping of the fortnightly Waratah Tunnels service.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
12 Dec 1862
9 Dec 1862
Passing of "Morehead and Young Railway Act" to enable the construction of the Lambton Colliery railway.
25 Aug 1863By August 1863 the Lambton colliery railway was almost completed : "… the Waratah and Lambton Collieries, whose branch lines are already formed, only requiring some further slight addition being made to their permanent ways."
6 Oct 1866"A meeting of miners was held at Pit Town, for the purpose of expressing the disapprobation of themselves and the inhabitants of Lambton and Pit Town generally, at the recent raising of the passenger's fares on the Lambton railway from 6d. to 11d. The meeting resolved that a deputation of four wait upon Mr. Croudace, the colliery manager, and ask him to represent to the Government the following requests, namely: 1. That the fares be lowered to 6d ; 2. That return tickets be issued on the railway ; 3. That a carriage in lieu of the present break van be substituted for passengers."
3 Sep 1867"Within the past few days a memorial has been taken round the city, to which the names of a large number of the inhabitants have been attached, for presentation to the Minister for Works, with reference to having a regular passenger train to run between this city and the various coal mines, on a Saturday, for the convenience of the people residing in those localities who are desirous of visiting Newcastle."
13 Nov 1869Call for a passenger train on the Lambton railway … "Why not, in order to give the enterprise a fair chance, have a thorough special train for Saturday afternoons, to leave Old Lambton (which would suit the requirements of the neighbourhood of Dark Creek and New Lambton, too) say, at, from four to half-past four o'clock."

The letter writer also notes the bad state of the roads … "Lambtonians have to wend their way betimes up to their knees in mud through a nasty road, extending over a distance of from two to five miles, to reach the Government six o'clock train at Waratah, which is by no means a pleasant undertaking, particularly after a hard day's work, and which few, from mere choice, care about tackling, I can tell you. "
9 Dec 1871
5 Sep 1871
Public meeting “to establish a goods and passenger traffic on the Lambton Colliery railway.”
16 Mar 1872In regard to "a petition from the inhabitants of Lambton, praying that a goods and passenger train may be run to Newcastle" the Commissoner of Railways writes that "by a special arrangement with Messrs. Morehead and Young, a passenger train used to run to Lambton, but in January, '67, they asked to be relieved ; this was consented to, and the traffic then ceased. I cannot, therefore, reintroduce the practice without, the consent of Messrs. Morehead and Young."
19 Aug 1873
16 Aug 1873
It appears that there are occasional passenger services on the Lambton line on pay Saturday's … "This being pay-night, the principal street in the city was more thronged than we have seen it for a considerable time past. The various trains from Wallsend and Lambton brought in a large number of passengers, and these added much to fill our main street."
7 Feb 1874"Here is the case of the people living at Lambton and New Lambton ; and so far as railway communication is concerned, they are completely isolated, although when the pits are at work they have from four to five trains per day running to each of the collieries; but being private ones, and the proprietors refusing to allow passenger traffic on them."
21 Feb 1874
28 Feb 1874
A one-off experiment of a passenger service to be tried. "The committee appointed to agitate for a train to run between Newcastle and Lambton have at last succeeded, after great exertions and through strenuous efforts … A special passenger train will run from Newcastle to Old Lambton Crossing on Saturday night, the 28th February, 1874. The train will leave Lambton for Newcastle on or about 5 o'clock p.m., and returning from Newcastle to Lambton on or about 11 p.m. The fares will be 9d. for the return ticket and sixpence for the single fare."
6 Mar 1874
28 Feb 1874
"A Saturday night train commenced to run from Lambton to Newcastle on the 28th ultimo, and over 500 return tickets were taken, besides single ones; the brass band accompanied the excursionists, amounting in number to about 900. "
7 Mar 1874
28 Feb 1874
"Saturday last was a new era in Lambtonian history. The passenger train, as announced, arrived here about 4 p.m. with fourteen carriages and the van, and long before the appointed time for starting almost every available seat was occupied. We have heard that there were more than 500 tickets sold. If this train is to be permanent, as we hope it will, there will have to be some other arrangement for giving out the tickets, for it will never do for people to have to climb up into the guard's van, as was the case on Saturday."

"This train is a fine thing for the business people in Newcastle, but quite the reverse for our town's business folk, who are considerably down in the mouth about so much ready money going out of their hands … the next step ought to be to agitate for a goods train to be run here."
14 Mar 1874
12 Mar 1874
Newcastle Chronicle's report of a public meeting to discuss getting a passenger train service to Lambton. An allegation is made that business people agitated against aregular train service as it would hurt their trade.
Mr W Goodhew “observed that the Lambton line was a good and convenient one no doubt, but when they were allowed the use of it on one night, and deprived of it the next what dependence could be placed on it. He moved that application be made to the directors of the Waratah Coal Company for permission to run the train on their line of railway to the new tunnel, to Betty Bunn's crossing.”
14 Mar 1874
12 Mar 1874
The Newcastle Morning Herald's report of the public meeting regarding a passenger train service to Lambton. The report notes that "Mr. Croudace, the Manager, has granted permission for a passenger train to be run from here to Newcastle on the demonstration day and also for a Saturday night's train for four Saturdays ; and if it proves payable, the train will run regularly." Despite this promising sign, a regular train service on the Lambton line never eventuated.
18 Mar 1874"Great disappointment was felt at the non-arrival of the passenger train last Saturday evening. There were about 200 or 300 passengers waiting, who had to return to their homes annoyed. The blame is attributed to Mr. Croudace, for, I believe if he would consent to the train's running, the Government would; and, the advantage the inhabitants would derive would be very great."
31 Mar 1874"The subcommittee appointed to conduct the application to the Waratah Coal Company, for a passenger train to be laid on, have received a reply from the directors, expressing their willingness to grant the request … The sub-committee accordingly waited upon Mr. Higgs, the traffic manager, to gain the required Government permission, and that gentleman has informed them that there were some arrangements pending respecting a train to be laid on by the Lambton Company, which had not yet been decided upon."
4 Apr 1874"A meeting of parties interested in the Lambton train movement was held at the Lambton crossing, Mr. T. Hardy in the chair, when it was determined to send a deputation to the Minister for Works, to impress upon him the necessity of running a passenger train to this town at once."
23 May 1874"I have been instructed to inform you that the directors of the Waratah Coal Company have no objection to the Government running, for the convenience of the inhabitants of the district, on Saturday nights and holidays passenger trains on the Waratah Coal Company's private line of railway, from the junction with Great Northern Railway to the Company's new tunnel, at the same rate as it is done on the Wallsend Coal Company's line, provided arrangements are made so as not to interfere with the Waratah Company's coal traffic, and that the Government construct at its own cost all sidings, platforms, landing places, &c., which may be required for passenger traffic."

The following Monday, being a public holiday for Queen Victoria's birthday, "arrangements were made for the train to leave Bunn's crossing on Monday, 25th May at half-past 10 o'clock a.m."
27 May 1874
25 May 1874
First passenger train on the Waratah Company railway.
"The Railway Auditors laid on a train from Bunn's Crossing, on the Waratah Company's line, on Queen's Birthday, which was moderately patronised."

In the same week that passenger trains start running to Lambton on the Waratah Company line, promises are being made to run passenger trains on the Lambton colliery line … "The following arrangement was made, between Mr. Croudace, on behalf of the Lambton Company, and the Minister, viz., that [Government] trains should be run ... that the Company give their line free and keep it clear of their own traffic ... The Government to take all other responsibility … this arrangement to come in force immediately after the holidays."
In spite of this arrangement being made, nothing came of it.
30 May 1874"Although the Minister for Works promised that a passenger train should be run to this town on the first Saturday after the holidays, no communication whatever has been received by the Traffic Manager on the subject. The arrangement made between the Minister for Works and Mr. Croudace was that four trains should be run, commencing on the first Saturday after Queen's Birthday."
2 Jun 1874
30 May 1874
"On Saturday, the first evening train for passengers ran from the Waratah Co.'s Tunnels to Newcastle, for the accommodation of a large population in that neighbourhood. The number of passengers by whom it was availed of, amply testified the necessity for the convenience. We take it for granted that the train will be continued, as otherwise the people of Grovestown and Lambton would have to give up all idea of getting into Newcastle during the winter evenings, either by way of the Broad Meadow or Waratah, the former being a sheet of water, and the latter a perfect slough of mud."
18 Jun 1874"Nothing further has transpired here with reference to the granting of a passenger train [on the Lambton line], and many are now of opinion that it will not be allowed, as the one from the Waratah Tunnels is so central."
4 Aug 1874
1 Aug 1874
Fatal accident on the Waratah Company railway, when the Saturday evening passenger train strikes Andrew Tunney, who while drunk was riding his horse along the railway.
11 Aug 1874After the death of Andrew Tunney on the railway line, the passenger service to Lambton is halted. A conspiracy theory arises that storekeepers on the inquest jury had a vested interest in stopping the passenger service in order to keep business in the town.
17 Mar 1875"I believe that it is also intended to make another effort towards getting a passenger train on the Lambton line, and with some chance of success. Mr. Croudace has been heard to express his willingness to allow it, and no doubt the Government will have seen by this time the fallacy of running the train to the Waratah New Tunnels. As a proof that they have seen their mistake the train is now only run on alternate Saturdays, and then with very few passengers, the majority of the people preferring to walk to Waratah station or down the line to Hamilton rather than go to the new tunnels, which is very little nearer."
22 Sep 1875
18 Sep 1875
A public meeting to petition the Governemnt "asking them to construct a branch line of railway from the Great Northern, through Lambton, and thence to Wallsend."
"It was one of the anomalies of the coal-mining district of Newcastle that a line of railway came into the centre of each township, and yet the residents could not travel on these lines at all, or they did so as a favour, granted by the coal companies, which they could withdraw at any time."

The movement pushing for this railway never gained momentum. Instead, in the next decade the push was for a tram line rather than a train line to Wallsend.
28 Apr 1876The possibility of running a special passenger train on Lambton line to take patrons to see a performance of “Little Nell” at the Victoria Theatre is discussed. "I am sure that Mr. Croudace would allow a train to run on his railway for this purpose. He has obliged Mr. Bennett in this way before and would do so again."
4 Jan 1877
1 Jan 1877
A rather tongue-in-cheek one sentence report of a minor incident on the Waratah Tunnels line … "The gates on the Waratah Railway were closed when the Passenger train was coming up from Newcastle on New Year's night, but the engine opened them without a key."
27 Feb 1877"The alteration in time of the Pay-Saturdays' passenger train to the Waratah Company's Tunnel, from 2 o'clock p.m. to 11 o'clock a m., does not meet with the approbation of the public. The housewives especially are dissatisfied with the alteration, as 11 o'clock is too soon for them to leave home, having their domestic duties to attend to."
6 Apr 1880
3 Apr 1880
"On Saturday evening Gordon's 'bus was capsized near Bunn's crossing, when coming from the 10 o'clock train. "
29 Jun 1883"At the last Municipal Council meeting Alderman Thornton very properly drew attention to the want of accommodation, in the shape of a platform, at the Waratah Company's tunnel, for the use of passengers travelling from there to Newcastle on pay Saturdays."
2 May 1885Grievance from a Lambton miner's wife regarding the general uncleanliness of the Waratah tunnel train.
19 Aug 1887
13 Aug 1887
Last passenger train on the Waratah Tunnels railway. An advertisement on the following Friday announces the discontinuance of the service.
23 Nov 1900
21 Nov 1900
Lambton Public School picnic to Toronto. "About 9 a.m. upwards of 600 children, all nicely dressed in holiday attire, with their flags and banners, presented themselves at the school grounds, and formed a spectacle well worth witnessing. A procession was then formed, and the little ones marched along Elder-street and through the park to the Lambton Colliery railway, where, thanks to the kindness of Mr. T. Croudace in granting the use of the line, a train of seven cars awaited them."
5 Feb 1903Planning meeting for the Lambton Public School picnic. "It was decided to hold the picnic at Toronto, entraining the children at the Lambton Colliery railway, as in the previous year, if Mr. Croudace and Mr. Kitching will permit the train to run on the colliery line."
(The reference to a picnic train "in the previous year" is a little puzzling, as I can find no record of that event. It may be that it is a time-inaccurate reference to the picnic in November 1900, two years previously.)
21 Feb 1903"The annual picnic of the Lambton Public School will be held on Wednesday, the 25th instant. The train will leave Lambton Colliery at 9 a.m., calling at all stations on the way to Toronto. There has been an energetic committee at work for some months, preparing for the event, and it is hoped that the parents will show their appreciation of the good work done by attending in large numbers on that day."
27 Feb 1903
25 Feb 1903
"The annual picnic of the local Public School, took place at Toronto on Wednesday, and was largely attended by the parents and the general public. A train of seven cars left the Lambton Colliery railway at 9 a.m., containing about 500 children and 400 adults … The return journey was made in time to allow the little ones to get home before dark."

The Megalomaniacal Mine Manager Myth

I’ve seen it written before (but I can’t recall where) and seen it again recently, an assertion that Thomas Croudace was a megalomaniacal mine manager who built his house (Lambton Lodge) at the top of the hill so that he could watch his workers go to and from the mine, monitoring their movements.

Apart from this being an unfair and very one-sided representation of Croudace’s character, it’s also a topographical absurdity. The Lambton colliery was in a valley (where Lewis Oval is today) that is not visible from the site of Lambton Lodge. Similarly Lambton township is in a valley, and a large proportion of the  town is not visible from the Lambton Lodge hill 1.6km away.

Google Earth Pro has a neat feature called viewshed analysis, that shades in green areas that are visible from a specified point.  Even from a height 10 metres above the ground at Lambton Lodge, both the township and colliery are hidden from view.

Areas visible from the site of Lambton Lodge.

Ralph Snowball

With a modern smart phone in our hands we can easily and at negligible cost snap high-resolution pictures and instantly send them around the world. It’s a vast difference from the rigours and expense of photography in the late 19th century when Newcastle’s celebrated early photographer Ralph Snowball worked.

This month marks 95 years since Snowball’s death in August 1925. He was born in 1848 in Leadgate, Durham (UK), where he worked as a miner before coming to Australia and settling in New Lambton around 1879 to work at the Lambton colliery. An accident meant he could no longer continue in mining, and he took up photography in 1885. He established a studio at his home in Clarence Rd, where his work included portraits and visiting cards. He also travelled extensively in a horse drawn wagonette, carting his bulky equipment to capture landscapes, buildings, and public events, sometimes selling his work for publication in newspapers.

In 1887 Snowball set up a studio in Hunter St Newcastle, near Market St, where he was well placed to document the bustling harbour city and sell his services to visiting sailors.  In 1888 he referred to the rigours of his trade, writing “My work keeps me from home from 8am to 7pm, and sometimes later.” This must have been a huge strain on his wife Mary, at home raising eight children.

Snowball was an active participant in civic affairs, and was appointed the first town clerk of New Lambton in 1889. He also served in a number of churches and friendly societies. He retired from photography around 1912, and died in Wallsend Hospital on 4 August 1925, aged 76.

Snowball’s glass plate negatives then remained in the cellar of his Clarence Rd home, forgotten for over 60 years until rediscovered in 1988.  The bulk of his collection is now held by Newcastle Library and the University of Newcastle, providing us today with a priceless legacy of thousands of detailed pictures of our past.

Snowball with his horse and wagonette. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
A portrait photo of Ralph Snowball, advertising his “Market Studio” in Hunter St Newcastle. Living Histories @ UON.

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


Additional Information

Birth and Death

Name:Ralph Snowball
Birth date:19 Nov 1848
Birth place:Leadgate, Durham (UK)
Death date:4 Aug 1925
Death place:Wallsend
Burial site:Sandgate Cemetery
Burial Long,Lat :151.70677,-32.87043 (KML File for Google Earth)
Burial date:6 Aug 1925
Grave site of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Grave site of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Headstone of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Headstone of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Market Studio

In 1887 Ralph Snowball set up a photographic studio in the Newcastle Borough Market Building in Hunter St Newcastle. The foundation was laid in 1870, and the building opened in December 1871. The building was located at 121 Hunter St. It was demolished in September 1915, and a picture theatre erected in its place.

Ralph Snowball’s photographic studio on the upper floor of the Newcastle Borough Market building, 21 January 1891. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
1886 map showing location of Newcastle Borough Market Building. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Many years later, the “Market Square” building was erected on the site.

Construction of Market Square. Photo by Peter Sansom. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

It is unclear how long Ralph Snowball had his Market Studio in Hunter St, but it would seem that he vacated prior to 1901. In the 1901 Federal Directory of Newcastle and District, Snowball is not listed among the photographers of Newcastle, but is instead listed in the New Lambton section, as being on Gwydir Rd. (Note that Snowball’s property that contained his home and studio, stretched between Gwydir Rd and Clarence Rd, with the house facing Gwydir Rd and the studio backing on to Clarence Rd.)

The location of the Newcastle Borough Markets building in August 2020.

Clarence Rd Studio

Ralph Snowball’s studio, New Lambton, NSW, 11 April 1902
Ralph Snowball Studio, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, [n.d.]

Box listings

Some idea of the time period that Snowball worked as a photographer can be gleaned from the handwritten labels he affixed to the front of his boxes of glass plate negatives. Many of these have been scanned and are available on the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections site.

Snowball glass plate negative box listing – Box 2 from October 1885. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

I have compiled an index  of Snowball photograph box listings, ordered by box number and year. Note that there are two series of numberings. The first series begins in 1885 (box 2 in Oct 1885) and goes to box 349 in 1905. In 1906 Snowball began numbering boxes from 1 again, with box 7 in February 1906. The numbering of this second series is somewhat strange and not necessarily in date order. After 1906 the highest numbered box label I could find was box 139 in January 1910, but the latest date is box 55 in September 1912.

The earliest Snowball photo I can find in the University of Newcastle collection is of Thomas Croudace’s house, listed on the cover of box 2.

The home of Thomas Croudace in New Lambton Heights, October 1885. One of the earliest Ralph Snowball photos. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Links to Other Sites

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
21 Apr 1885First mention of Ralph Snowball in the newspaper, in a letter he writes to the editor regarding political matters. In the letter Ralph states that he has been a miner in the employment of Thomas Croudace at Lambton colliery for five years.
9 Dec 1885
5 Dec 1885
A report of the battalion parade of the Newcastle, Wallsend, and Lambton Volunteers in the Recreation Reserve states that "Mr. Snowball was there with his photo-apparatus ... [to photograph] a grouping of the whole. However, the matter fell through, as Mr. Snowball considered the light very unfavourable-thick clustering of clouds and no sun to take a picture with proper effect."
4 Dec 1886
19 Nov 1886
A Ralph Snowball photograph appears in a story about a pitfall at Wallsend that wrecked the Exchange Hotel.
23 Feb 1888In a letter to the editor complaining of the actions of surveyors executing their work on the Commonage, Snowball writes … "My work keeps me from home from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and sometimes later."
20 Aug 1889
28 Mar 1889
"BOROUGH OF NEW LAMBTON NOTICE is hereby given that Mr. Ralph Snowball was, on the 28th March, 1889, appointed Council Clerk of the above Municipality, THOMAS CROUDACE, Mayor."
21 Mar 1892WE, the Undersigned Photographers of Newcastle, have agreed to charge the following prices on and after March 21st, 1892:-1 Dozen Cabinets, plain, 16s, Half Dozen, plain, 12s 6d: 1 Doz Cab. Enam. 21s, Half Doz. Enam. 15s; 1 Doz. C.D.V.S., plain,8s; 1 Doz. C.D.V.S., Enam., 10s 6d. (Signed) C. Drinkwater, H. B. Solomon, G. C. Woolston, Eddie J. B. Hutchison, Harry Charleston, and Ralph Snowball."
C.D.V.S - abbreviation for "Carte de visite"
6 Aug 1925
4 Aug 1925
Death of Ralph Snowball, age 76.
6 May 1942
22 Apr 1942
Mary Snowball, widow of Ralph, dies, aged 90.

New Lambton Post Office

The nature of our postal and communication services has changed radically over the years, but our dependence on them remains undiminished. While the delivery of handwritten letters from family and friends has been largely replaced by online messaging, the delivery to our door of goods we order online is ever increasing.

In June 1869 when New Lambton was but a year old, the residents recognised the importance of communication services, and petitioned the government for a post office for their growing town. Their request was denied, but every year another request was patiently forwarded to Sydney, until finally in 1872 a licence was granted to Mrs Hutchinson to conduct Post Office business from her general store in Regent St, opposite the public school. This arrangement continued until August 1880 when the post office facility closed, and was replaced by a letter receiver installed on the street.

Calls for the return of a post office continued over the next decade. In 1892, on land purchased from the New Lambton Coal Company on the corner of Regent and Victoria Streets, a small weatherboard building was erected to serve as New Lambton’s first dedicated Post Office. Mr G H Rowthorn was appointed as postmaster. With the new building came new technology, the introduction of a telegraph service.

New Lambton grew and by the mid-1930s it was clear that the old wooden post office was inadequate to meet the needs of the population and ever-changing technology. In 1938 the Postmaster-General’s Department erected a two-storey brick building adjacent to the old building, to house the post office on the ground floor and an automatic telephone exchange on the upper floor. The old weatherboard post office was demolished soon after.

That original building may have been gone for 80 years, but other buildings on the same block of land now house broadband and mobile communications infrastructure that keep us connected, and today power our online messaging and shopping.

New Lambton Post and Telegraph Office, erected in 1892. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
New Lambton Post Office today. The white car is parked in front of where the 1892 post office was located.

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


Additional Information

1892 Building

On 26 July 1892, the Postmaster-General, Mr John Kidd, visited Newcastle and toured various suburbs and post office facilities, including the New Lambton post office that was very near to completion. The newspaper report of Kidd’s visit gives a good description of the new building.

This is a commodious and handsome weatherboard building, of 30ft by 62ft outside dimensions. It is roofed with galvanised iron, and has a front and back verandah 7ft by 30ft dimensions. The building is situated at the corner of Victoria and Regent streets, on an allotment of land 90ft by 134ft. A room 22ft by 16ft, with a lobby 6ft by 16ft, is set apart for the post-office, and there are four nicely-fitted rooms – two of 12ft by 14ft, and two of 12ft by 12ft dimensions – for the residential use of the postmaster, Mr. Bates, of Hamilton, is the contractor, and the contract price was £382, with £40 for extras.  The post office will be a great boon to the residents of New Lambton, as hitherto there has been none nearer than Lambton, from whence letters, &c., have been delivered daily by a postman. Mr. G. H. Rowthorn, assistant postmaster at Lambton, has been appointed postmaster.

1890s Water Board map overlaid in Google Earth shows the location of the 1892 post office building.

1939 Building

New Lambton Post Office. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 17 June 1939.
A 1944 aerial photograph shows the new brick post office on the corner, adjacent to the outline of the foundations of the demolished 1892 wooden post office.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
22 Jun 1869"The inhabitants of New Lambton have just memorialized the Hon. the Postmaster-General for the establishment of a Post-office at that township. New Lambton now contains a population of upwards of three hundred, and it is expected that in less than seven or eight months hence, it will increase to double that number."
6 Jul 1869"A numerously signed petition had been sent to the Postmaster-General, praying for the establishment of a post-office at New Lambton, on the ground of its being now a considerable centre of an increasing population, and of its being upwards of two miles from the nearest post office, Lambton ... if the present position of the Lambton post-office is not sufficiently central, the proper course would be to remove it to a site that is more so."
13 Jan 1870"the inhabitants of New Lambton suffer considerable inconvenience from the want of a post-office at that township, and expresses a hope that a second petition, which is about to be presented to the Postmaster-General, praying that a post-office may be established in the village, will be taken into favourable consideration"
9 Feb 1871"another application will shortly be made to the Postmaster-General for the establishment of a post-office at New Lambton"
23 Jul 1872Yet another petition for a post office at New Lambton.
13 Sep 1872
10 Sep 1872
Government Gazette - Post Office to be established at New Lambton.
6 Mar 1876"Mrs. Hutchinson, who keeps the Post-office Stores …"
26 Jun 1880"It is rumoured that the Post Office at this place is to be closed, and that a letter receiver is to be substituted, a responsible letter carrier is also to be appointed."
7 Jul 1880"The New Lambton post office is to close with the present month, and a letter receiver is to be erected under Mr. Sneddon's verandah … Mr. Thomas Sneddon has been appointed licensed vendor of postage stamps, and Albert Bedford has been appointed letter deliverer and telegraph probationer in the Lambton office."
28 Sep 1880"The licensed stamp vendor here has resigned his position, owing to the miserable per centage allowed by the Government for their sale. He considers 2½ per cent. insufficient to pay for serving the stamps. People have now to obtain their supply from the Lambton post office."
9 Sep 1882"I have heard frequent complaints about the postal arrangements here, and the people generally, I am sure, consider it desirable that they should have a post office of their own. For some time past, owing to the paltry commission allowed by the Government for selling stamps, no one in the town can be found to undertake their sale, consequently the people have had to walk to Lambton, or depend upon the obliging disposition of the letter-carriers to bring them a few stamps."
13 Mar 1885Sale of Mrs Hutchinsons general store "opposite the Public School at New Lambton."
14 Apr 1890"A deputation ... waited upon the Hon. D. O'Connor, Postmaster-General, this morning to urge upon him the necessity of the Government taking steps to provide a post and telegraph office and letter delivery at New Lambton."
1 Sep 1891Government Gazette: "TENDERS will be received ... from persons willing to sell to this Department a piece of land in a main street of New Lambton, with a frontage of about 50 feet, suitable as a site for a Post and Telegraph Office."
6 Nov 1891New Lambton Council asked for a different site for the Post Office, on land owned by D Williams Junr. There is an allegation that “undue influence had been brought to bear in favour of the [New Lambton Coal] company’s offer”
1 Jan 1892
30 Dec 1891
New Lambton Council receives a letter "From the secretary of the Postal Department, intimating that the New Lambton Coal Company's land as a site for the post office had been purchased and definitely decided upon."
5 Apr 1892"TENDERS FOR ERECTION OF POST AND TELEGRAPH OFFICE, NEW LAMBTON (on allotments 6 and 7, section C, at the corner of Regent and Victoria Streets)"
27 Jul 1892
26 Jul 1892
Inspection by Postmaster General (Mr John Kidd) in New Lambton of "the new post-office, which is just being completed."
1 Sep 1892
1 Sep 1892
"The new post and telegraph office, situate in Regent-street, has been completed by the contractor and formally handed over to the department. The office will be opened today for business transactions, which will undoubtedly prove a lasting convenience to the residents. Mr. G. H. Rowthorn, recently of Lambton Post office, is the resident postmaster."
21 Jul 1926"Minor improvements are being effected to the post and telegraph office, consisting of a new front verandah and steps, new flooring to the general office, and betterment of the drainage of the premises ... telephone communication comes mainly through the Waratah exchange … The number of subscribers however, is growing to such an extent and it is considered that conditions will shortly, warrant the establishment of a local exchange."
8 Nov 1934"New Lambton Council received another courteous refusal, from the Postmaster-General's Department last night to its repeated request for a new post office."
13 Jul 1937"Speaking in the House of Representatives, Mr. R. James (Hunter) said that on many occasions he had urged the Postmaster-General's Department to provide a new post-office building at New Lambton. This town, he said, had a population of about 8000, but the residents were still compelled to conduct their postal business in an old weatherboard pre-Federation office, which was a disgrace to the department."
24 Mar 1938"The Postmaster-General's Department advised the council last night that it had approved the erection of a two storey building to house the post-office and an automatic telephone exchange, and that the preparation of drawings and specifications was proceeding with the object of inviting tenders for the work as soon as circumstances permitted."
29 Aug 1938Tenders called "for the erection of a new post office and telephone exchange at New Lambton. The building, which will be of brick, will be two storeys high and of modern design. Situated at the corner of Regent and Victoria-streets, adjacent to the existing weatherboard post office and residence ... It is the intention of the department to demolish the old post office building."
28 Mar 1939"Construction of the new post-office at New Lambton is almost complete. It is expected that the post-office will be open for business in about a month. It is near the old post-office building at the corner of Victoria and Regent Streets."

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. "
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."
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."
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."