The Clyde St rail crossing between Hamilton North and Islington was closed all last weekend. I was hoping that was for the purpose of fixing the horrendously bumpy road surface across the tracks, which was a real pain to cycle over.
My wish came true.
New road surface at the Clyde St rail crossing, Hamilton North.
Click the preview image above to view the full table in a PDF document.
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.
New Lambton Council Chambers and Town Clerks house, Lambton Road. Photograph by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.
Elections in the New Lambton 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 1889 without a ward system, but prior to the 1890 election, in response to a petition from the electors, the municipality was divided into three wards, 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 New Lambton were caused by resignation, death, or a shortage of nominees at a scheduled election.
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.
In a December 1915 referendum, electors voted to abolish the ward system in New Lambton. Over the years the ward system had produced much dispute and accusations about some aldermen favouring expenditure of money in one ward over another.
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:
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 1918, 1920, 1932, 1933, 1935, and 1936, where the aldermen and mayor remained unchanged.
In the period 1889 to 1938:
27 different people served as Mayor.
The longest serving Mayor was George Errington, who served a total of 7 years as Mayor during the period 1895 to 1914, on five separate occasions.
The following Mayors have streets in New Lambton named after them – Errington, Dunkley, Croudace, Longworth. Alderman Mackie also has a street named in his honour. (Although there is a Marshall St in New Lambton Heights, it was named after James Gordon Marshall, a long time resident of that street, not the James Marshall who was Mayor of New Lambton who lived all his life in Clarence Road New Lambton.)
In comparison with Lambton, New Lambton liked to share the Mayoral honours around. New Lambton council operated for 18 years less than Lambton council, but only had one fewer than Lambton’s 28 Mayors.
Approximately 83 different people served as aldermen.
The exact number is hard to be sure of. I have had to make some educated guesses as to whether aldermen with the same, similar, or variant names at different periods are the same person, or a different person.
There are multiple variations of the spelling for Alderman Dunkley/Dunkeley/Dunckley/Dunckrley over a period 1894-1901. I have assumed it is the same person.
There are two periods of office for William Coomer (1895-1896 and 1908-1913). The obituary of William Coomer in December 1931 states that he “served as an alderman for about four years”, which is suggestive that the 1895-1896 term was held by a different William Coomer. However the article also states that he had been a resident of New Lambton for 45 years, and being aged 74 years at his death in 1931, means that he was in the area and aged 38 years in 1895. So it is quite possible that he did serve the earlier term. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I have assumed it is the same person.
The longest serving alderman was George Errington who served a total of 26 years and 2 months in the period 1891 to 1920, on four separate occasions.
This page is titled “New Lambton 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 New Lambton Council.
Three people died while serving in office, George Fenwick in 1895, Richard Lay in 1903, and George K. Morison in 1927.
There were 24 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, or because other personal matters did not allow them to attend to council business. The biggest combined resignations occurred in 1917, when three aldermen (Milligan, Edden, Lock) having served their three years objected to having their term of office extended by five months by the State Government because of changes to the electoral provisions for voter franchise. A subsequent resignation by Alderman Jordan left the New Council inoperative for a month as there were insufficient aldermen to form a quorum at council meetings.
In my last two articles, I have mentioned the short-lived Australasia Coal Company (1874-1879), and how their colliery railway was repurposed to build the storm water drain in Broadmeadow, and Bridges Rd in New Lambton. Lambton had an even greater connection with this company, through Doctor John James Hill.
Dr Hill was Lambton’s first resident doctor. He came to the district in 1868 and soon after constructed a residence and surgery in Elder St. At various times he was the appointed medical officer for Lambton, New Lambton and Waratah collieries, and he was an honorary surgeon at the Newcastle Hospital.
But it was not just medical matters that occupied the doctor’s time, he was also a real estate developer, and coal mining investor. In 1874 he was one of the instigators of the Australasian Coal Company, whose mining lease was in the Winding Creek area near Cardiff. He was a major shareholder and served as a founding director of the company. He also privately purchased 40 acres of land adjacent to the mine, to develop as a township with 340 residential allotments.
This side investment brought Dr Hill into conflict with the other company directors, and as the colliery spiralled into bankruptcy, a bitter war of words was ranged against Dr Hill, culminating in a policy in October 1877 “that the Australasia Company will not employ any man who is residing at Hillsborough (Dr. Hill’s township.)”
Dr Hill was actively involved in many aspects of the local community. He served as an alderman on Lambton council for six years, and was three times elected Mayor. While still serving as Mayor in late 1882, after an illness that had confined him to his house for three weeks, Dr. Hill died on 19 December 1882 aged just 39. His name is perpetuated in the suburb of Hillsborough.
An advertisement in the Miners’ Advocate and Northumberland Recorder, 2nd October 1875, spruiking the benefits of Doctor Hill’s township.
An advertisement in The Newcastle Chronicle, 15th September 1874, showing that Doctor Hill’s surgery was used for mining matters as well as medical.
The article above was first published in the March 2017 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.
Portrait of Doctor John James Hill, from Scott McEwan family tree on ancestry.com.au. Used with permission.
The map below from the Historical Land Records Viewer shows the suburb of Hillsborough in portion 44, labeled with the name of “J. J. Hill” and with an area of “40 ac. ex rd.” (40 acres excluding roads.)
The suburb of Hillsborough marked on old map.
Hillsborough. Google Maps.
Catherine Bradley, a great grand daughter of J.J. Hill provided me with information about various street names in Hillsborough:
Royton St is named after the town where Doctor Hill grew up in Lancashire UK. His father was Rev Richard Percy Hill, the Vicar of St Paul’s Anglican Church.
Percy Street is named after his father (see middle name above).
King St is named after Doctor Hill’s wife’s maiden name, Jane King.
Higham Road is after Doctor Hill’s mother’s maiden name – she was Martha Higham.
The naming of Hill Street
In the originally published article I stated that Dr Hill’s name was possibly perpetuated in the name of Hill Street in North Lambton. With subsequent research I now believe that the present day Hill St wasn’t named after Dr Hill – but there was another Hill St in North Lambton that was named after him in 1873, for it was in a subdivision of land owned by Dr Hill. I have written a separate blog article on this other Hill St.
Regarding the present day Hill St, the earliest written source I have found for its naming is page 17 of the Lambton Public School centenary booklet in 1965. This is 92 years after the first mention of Hill Street (in 1872) that I have found in Trove. Dr Hill only arrived in Lambton in 1868, so it would be highly unusual that he would have a street named in his honour after just four years in the community.
An explanation (probably wrong) of the naming of Hill St, from page 17 of the Lambton Public School centenary booklet in 1965.
"I hear a rumour that the Australasia Company will not employ any man who is residing at Hillsborough (Dr. Hill's township.) The company have land in their township for sale, but whether that is the cause, or vindictiveness against Dr. Hill, I cannot tell."
1906 map showing Christo Road as “Christie Road”. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.
Real estate advertising that doesn’t align with reality is nothing new. The 1906 poster above shows the promise of neatly laid out roads and residential blocks in the Waratah West region near Christo, Creer and Morpeth roads. However a 1944 aerial photograph of the area I recently obtained from Newcastle Library, shows that 38 years later, there was only Christo Rd and a tiny smattering of houses in the area.
Christo Road Waratah West in September 1944. Newcastle Region Library, Local Studies.
Smelter smoke stack as seen from Newcastle Obelisk, 1906. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
This is confirmed by drawing a line in Google Earth from the obelisk to the peak of the North Lambton hill (seen in the upper left corner of the photo portion above) and noting that the smelter stack is slightly to the right.
Construction of the English and Australian copper smelting works at Broadmeadow has been in progress for three months, and smelting "will be commenced in about two months." (This was a wildly optimistic estimate, as smelting eventually commenced in June 1872, more than two years later.)
The manager is "Mr. Christoe, a gentleman of great experience in copper-smelting."
The weather has significantly delayed the opening of the smelter.
"For upwards of two months there was such an accumulation of water at the establishment as to defy the possibility of the works being proceeded with, and thus the company were unexpectedly debarred from carrying out their design in the contemplated time as regards the inauguration of the process of smelting."
250 tons of copper ore have arrived in Newcastle Harbour destined for the New Lambton Copper-smelting Works so "now there is a reasonable hope that this fine and valuable property created here
at a great expense, will very shortly become utilised."
"There appears to be an anomaly existing between our copper- smelting establishments, which time only can set at rest ; for while at this establishment five furnaces are idle for want of ore, at the Hunter River Works, five furnaces are idle here from the want of men acquainted with smelting operations to work them."
Smelting of ore has ceased.
"The business of the company during the past year had to be conducted under conditions of great risk and anxiety, which finally forced the board reluctantly to instruct the manager in Australia to cease making purchases of ore, to smelt out all copper available, and to close the smelting works, a process that has been
"The long connection of the English and Australian Copper Company, Limited, with the Newcastle district has been finally severed through its having recently sold the land that was the site of the works, known
as the Waratah works."
When we think of the major contributors to health in our area, the hospital precinct at the top of the hill comes easily to mind. But another important and overlooked contributor lies at the bottom of the hill, in the storm water channels that snake through Lambton and New Lambton. Before they existed the flat expanse of Broadmeadow was a major hindrance in draining rainfall to the sea. An inquiry in 1893 noted that …
“On account of the defective drainage the water lay on the ground for days and weeks and even months in wet weather. It lay about the houses and became a nuisance not only in the way of locomotion, but was also productive of bad health and disease.”
The ill effects of stagnant water included respiratory infections, fungal infections, fevers, and mosquito borne diseases.
Work on the New Lambton branch was halted for several years however, because of a dispute with the Waratah Coal Company whose land the channel traversed. The work was resumed in 1901 and completed soon after. A few extensions in ensuing years resulted in the drainage system that has served us for over a hundred years.
Today, the storm water channel running across Broadmeadow carries away the rainfall from 1700 hectares across eleven suburbs. At full flow it can drain the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool every 30 seconds. So the next time you think one of those ‘ugly’ open concrete drains, give a bit of respect, and a perhaps drink a toast to the health of the community.
Construction in 1901 of the storm water drain in New Lambton, near present day Mackie Ave. On the horizon, the rightmost hill is where the hospitals would one day be built. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.
Construction of the John Hunter Hospital in New Lambton Heights begins in 1987. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
The aerial photograph above showing the early stages of construction of the John Hunter Hospital is from the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections. The photograph is undated, but is probably from 1987 as that is when construction by the McCloy Group began.
The article above was first published in the February 2017 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.
The storm water drain near Mackie Ave, New Lambton, January 2017.
Construction in the hospital precinct, New Lambton Heights, January 2017.
The storm water channel at Broadmeadow in full flow as it passes under Griffiths Road, 5th January 2016.
Thanks to local G.P. Doctor Catherine Hollier for medical advice on this story.
In the article I state that “the storm water channel running across Broadmeadow carries away the rainfall from 1700 hectares across eleven suburbs.” To calculate this I used Google Earth Pro and marked out in purple the area that drains into the storm water channel at Hamilton North where Griffiths Road passes over it. (KML download for Google Earth.)
This view from Google Earth shows how the surrounding hills form a half basin with Broadmeadow at the centre. Open storm water channels are marked in yellow, covered storm water channels are marked in red.
1700 hectare catchment area of the Broadmeadow storm water channel.
By using NSW Globe spatial data for Google Earth, I overlaid the suburb boundaries to see that rainfall from the following eleven suburbs drain through Broadmeadow:
New Lambton Heights
Rainfall from eleven suburbs drains into the Broadmeadow storm water channel.
The 1900 drain photo
The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections site has two very similar Ralph Snowball photographs captioned “Drain construction workers at Broadmeadow, NSW, 6 April 1900” (photo 1, photo 2). Given that the paper reported in February 1899 that “the last pick has been driven in the Pasturage Reserve drainage scheme” (apart from the New Lambton branch), it raises the question as to whether the location and date on these photos is correct.
Drain construction workers, 6 April 1900. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Regarding the location of the photo we can see that the water in the drain is flowing left to right, and with the hills in the background it is clear that the photograph is taken from the eastern side of the drain, looking towards the west. An important clue is the large smoke stack behind the pile of dirt – this is almost certainly the stack of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company, located in Broadmeadow, where UGL Limited (formerly Goninans) is now located.
1910 Barrett map overlaid on Google Earth, showing the location of the copper smelter near Waratah.
Along the hill in the background we can see what I believe to be Russell Road, New Lambton.
Russell Rd, New Lambton.
Towards the top of Russell Road there is a house with a dark line in front of it.
I believe that this is Hunter P Brett’s residence with a dark fence in front of it, as shown below in a 1908 photograph. This house still exists today, at 168 Russell Road.
Hunter P Brett’s residence, Russell Road, New Lambton, NSW 1908. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
With two points in the background of the 1900 drain photo established, the range of possible locations for the photo are narrowed down to the yellow shaded area below, that is between Broadmeadow Rd and where the drain passes under the railway at Islington.
Possible location of 1900 drain photo marked with yellow shading.
Its difficult to be certain, but the angles in the photo suggest that it was probably taken from Hamilton North, somewhere near the old gasworks site.
Corroborating this location is a newspaper report on 30 April 1900 “concerning the death of a middle-aged man named Michael Powell, who, in the forenoon was accidentally killed by a fall of earth at the storm-water drain at Newtown, near Hamilton.” Newtown was the original name of Hamilton North.
It is somewhat sobering to realise that it is quite possible that Michael Powell is one of the men in the 6th April 1900 photograph, just weeks before he was killed in a workplace accident at that site.
Having established with reasonable certainty that the photo location is Hamilton North, the question remains as to what work was being done on the storm water drain there, as work was supposedly finished a year earlier. Possibly the drain at that point needed to be widened, deepened, or strengthened to handle the increased flows resulting from the addition of the New Lambton, Adamstown and Hamilton branches of the drainage system.
Tony Steinbeck helpfully pointed out to me that the tall structure on the far bank appears to be a pile driving tower, used to drive foundations into the ground.
Pile driving tower
The obvious candidate in the Hamilton North area that would require foundations alongside the drain is the Chatham Road bridge. So the photo from 1900 is possibly showing construction of an earlier bridge across the drain. The current bridge has no plaque indicating a date of construction, just an an empty spot with sawn off bolts where the plaque would have been placed. However the Chatham Rd bridge is of similar construction to the Broadmeadow Rd bridge which was opened in 1957.
Chatham Rd bridge over the storm water drain in Hamilton North. July 2018.
Creatures in the drain
The storm-water channel is not only good for humans – all sorts of creatures can be found there.
Egret in the drain at Hamilton North.
Egrets in the drain at Hamilton North on a misty winter’s morning.
Bird in the drain
Tortoise found near storm water drain in Hamilton North.
A mechanical creature of the drain.
Other drain things
Probably the strangest thing I’ve spotted in the drain is my own letterbox. In October 2019 our letterbox mysteriously disappeared one night. The next day, cycling home from work through New Lambton Park, near Ford Oval I glanced down and spotted my letterbox – dumped in the drain over one kilometre from my home. It was broken into multiple pieces, but I managed to retrieve, repair, and reinstall it.
"The recent rains have proved the drainage of Lambton to be very defective … there is nothing so injurious to the public health as bad drainage, to say nothing of the damage done to property by flood water."
Mr Griffiths, in nominating for New Lambton council promises that he would work to "prevent fevers and the like by strict attention to the drainage, and he would advocate co-operation with other Councils for
a general system of drainage."
"A thorough system of drainage at the lower end of the district from New Lambton downwards, through Hamilton, is necessary to prevent these periodical floods, as the water then would have an opportunity of
free access to the main channels to the sea."
New Lambton Council - A decision about making another watercourse through the New Lambton railway embankment, is held over pending the result of the deliberations on the proposed combined councils' drainage scheme along the Australasian railway.
Call for the government to keep its promise to drain the Commonage. The lack of drainage meant that "in very wet weather the low-lying portions present the appearance of miniature lakes, in which the small houses of the residents appear like islands."
Hamilton council receive a letter from the Public Works Department regarding "the drainage scheme on the Commonage, stating that the survey had been completed, but that fully three months must elapse before the plans and estimate could be prepared."
The survey of the drainage scheme has been completed. "It is proposed to make the main trunk 50ft wide and 8ft deep, and to extend it from the Great Northern railway line past the Raspberry Gully line, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile."
Call for workers on the drainage scheme.
"GANGERS are requested to meet the undersigned at intersection of Broadmeadow and old Australasia line at 3 o'clock THIS (Monday) AFTERNOON,for the purpose of cavilling for sections of work to be done. H. D. WALSH, District Engineer."
Drainage works progressing. "The section now open extends from behind Kidd's boot factory, at Islington, or to be more explicit, from Styx Creek, six chains below the Newtown Bridge, along the old Australasian Company's railway to the Broadmeadow Lambton road, at the New Lambton railway. The distance is just on two miles, and when completed the drain will be as straight as a gun barrel over its first section."
"By the aid of two powerful steam pumps running day and night, the drainage from Lambton,
Adamstown, Mayfield, Waratah, and the surrounding suburbs, has been pumped out of the channel. This allows a larger number of men to be employed than formerly, and at present about 200 men, with horses and drays, are working perfectly dry at a level of 7ft below high water mark at Nobbys."
Work on the New Lambton section of the drainage channel has been suspended and 230 men thrown out of work. "The Government failed to resume the land before cutting the drain, believing that property-owners would only be too glad to have their land improved in value by means of the drainage. The Waratah
Company, however, take the view that the soil excavated in their estate should not be scattered over the grass, but should be taken away. The Government at present refuse to do this."
"The Lambton branch, costing £3600, is now nearing completion, less than 20 men being now employed upon it."
"The last pick has been driven in the Pasturage Reserve drainage scheme, which was commenced some three years ago. There remains the New Lambton branch of the main channel to be completed, but, in
view of the opposition of the Waratah Coal Company, this extension seems to have been abandoned."
Prospects that work on the New Lambton branch of the storm water channel might recommence soon. A new survey for the branch channel has been made, so that instead of "the channel being constructed in a direct line it will take a sweep and miss the private property."
The importance of the drainage works is again emphasised for "on it depends to a great extent the health of the people of that locality. Typhoid fever made its appearance in that neighbourhood recently, and the cause could only be attributed to the want of drainage, for the majority of dwellings are damp."
The government is trying to pass off control (and the mainentance cost) of the stormwater channel to either the Hunter District Water and Sewerage Board, and/or the local councils. Neither are very happy with being saddled with the cost.