New Lambton Aldermen (1889-1938)

New Lambton Council was incorporated on 9th January 1889 and remained until March 1938 when 11 local municipal councils merged to form the City of Greater Newcastle Council. During the 49 years of its existence, New Lambton Council had 83 different aldermen, 27 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.

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.

Council elections

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:

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 1918, 1920, 1932, 1933, 1935, and 1936, where the aldermen and mayor remained unchanged.

Miscellaneous Observations

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.
    • The shortest term of an aldermen was that of John Leyshon who was elected unopposed on 6 Feb 1894, and resigned just 15 days later on 21 Feb 1894, because he was leaving the district. The second shortest term of office was that of G. Richards who served for two months in May/June 1917. After the resignation of four aldermen had left the council without a quorum, Alderman Richards volunteered to fill one of the vacancies, and allow council to continue to operate until the scheduled election on 30 June 1917.
  • 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.

Doctor John James Hill

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.

Hillsborough

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.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
23 Jan 1867
5 Dec 1866
Marriage of John James Hill M.D. to Jane King, at the residence of the Rev. Kerr Johnston, Sandridge Victoria.
6 May 1869Dr J.J. Hill gives evidence at an inquest at Lambton. This is the first mention in the newspaper of Dr Hill being in Lambton.
29 Aug 1872First mention of Hill Street in the newspaper.
12 Jul 1873Dr Hill offering land allotments for sale in North Lambton.
16 Aug 1873Dr. Hill and Mr. Stoker purchase three acres of land at Dark Creek (Jesmond) for the purpose of mining for coal.
23 Jul 1874Advertisement for tender to sink a shaft at the Australasian Coal Company. Apply to Dr. Hill, Lambton.
14 Sep 1874Prospectus of the Australasia Coal Company, in which Dr Hill is named as a provisional director.
15 Sep 1874Tender for sinking a shaft for the Australasia Coal Company. Specifications on display at Dr. Hill's surgery.
28 Oct 1874
27 Oct 1874
Operations have been commenced at the Australasia Coal Company works at Winding Creek.
"The first sod of the shaft was turned by Mrs. Dr. Hill, at 8 a.m., on last Tuesday."
3 Apr 1875The plan of a township at Winding Creek, known as Dr. Hill's Township is on display. The town is on 40 acres of land and is divided into quarter acre allotments.
21 Jul 1875First mention of the township of "Hillsborough" in the Winding Creek area.
2 Oct 1875Advertisement for allotments in the township of Hillsborough.
16 Feb 1876Dr Hill travelling to Melbourne for the shareholders' meeting of the Australasia Coal Company. He has been nominated as director.
6 Jun 1876Letter from Doctor Hill to the Melbourne shareholders of the Australasia Coal Company.
8 Jul 1876
7 Jul 1876
The adjourned meeting of the New South Wales shareholders of the Australasia Coal Company was held at Dr. Hill's residence, Lambton.
14 Jul 1876
12 Jul 1876
The adjourned meeting of the shareholders of the AUSTRALASIAN COAL COMPANY was held at Dr. Hill's residence, on Wednesday evening last.
17 Jul 1876 Mr W. A. Zeal in a letter to the newspaper attacks Dr Hill's statements at the recent shareholders' meeting, which he asserts were "a tissue of malicious falsehoods."
21 Jul 1876Dr Hill responds to Mr Zeal's attacking letter in the newspaper.
27 Oct 1877"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."
20 Dec 1882
19 Dec 1882
Death of Doctor John James Hill, after an illness of three weeks. The funeral will take place in the North Waratah cemetery.
20 Dec 1882
19 Dec 1882
DEATH.
HILL. — At his residence, Lambton, on the 19th inst., Dr. John James Hill, aged 38 years.
20 Dec 1882Funeral notice for Doctor John James Hill.
11 Feb 1886
3 Feb 1886
Dr Hills widow Jane, marries Frederic Mansfield Mills, at Burwood.

New Lambton Copper Smelter

Mike Scanlon in today’s Newcastle Herald has an article about the naming of Christo Road in Waratah. In the article he quotes from a letter from a reader, Greg Archbold, who says of John Penrose Christoe

“He arrived in Newcastle about 1869 to establish a smelting works at New Lambton where I believe (the old) Goninans is now located. “

This location is indeed correct, although the various suburbs and names mentioned in connection with the smelter makes things a little confusing.  The smelter was the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company, which operated until about 1917.

Photograph of Waratah copper smelter by Ralph Snowball, 1906. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The location of the smelter is now in the modern suburb of Broadmeadow, but at the time the smelter was built, Broadmeadow wasn’t a suburb or town – it was a swamp. So the smelter was variously described as being “within a mile of New Lambton” or “near Waratah”, those being the closest townships.  The association of the smelter with New Lambton was reinforced by the fact that the land the smelter was built on was the leasehold property of Messrs. J. and A. Brown, who owned the New Lambton colliery, and who had an exclusive agreement to supply coal to the smelter. For this reason the works were often referred to as “The New Lambton Copper Smelting Works”.

Corporal Barrett’s 1910 map of Newcastle shows the location of the smelter, and also shows that Christo Road was originally called Newtown Road. (Newtown was the original name for Hamilton North.)

1910 Barrett map overlaid on Google Earth, showing the location of the copper smelter near Waratah.

A 1906 real estate poster shows Christo Road mis-spelled as both “Christie Road” and “Christie St”.

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.

Christo Road Waratah West, 2016.

Update, November 2018

Chris Weeks suggested that the smelter smoke stack can be seen in a 1906 photo from the obelisk.

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.

 

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
6 Nov 1869"The English and Australian Copper Company, who carry on extensive smelting works in South Australia, are about to establish similar works within a mile of New Lambton.
12 Feb 1870Construction 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."
15 Sep 1870The 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."

The manager of the smelter is Mr. Christoe.
15 Jul 1871Advertisement for a General Manager for the New Lambton Smelting works.
9 Sep 1871250 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."
6 Feb 1872Mr Christoe supervising operations at the Burwood Copper Smelter, Glenrock lagoon.
18 May 1872Copper ore has been received, but smelting has not yet begun.
18 Jun 1872Lighting the first fires in two of the coppersmelting furnaces of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company's works near Waratah.
19 Oct 1872"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."
2 Oct 1917Smelting 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 carried through."
6 Nov 1919"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."
8 May 1920"The chimney stack of the old copper works, which was felled some time ago, gave about 150,000 bricks."

Corlette St and the Newcastle Cricket Ground

Mike Scanlon had an interesting article in yesterday’s Newcastle Herald about the appearance of the famous English cricketer W.G. Grace at a cricket match in Newcastle 125 years ago, on Friday 5th February 1892. The Newcastle Morning Herald had a report of the match on the following day.

“The match between 12 members of Lord Sheffield’s team of cricketers and 20 members of clubs in the Newcastle district was commenced on the Newcastle Cricket Ground yesterday.”

The only surviving remnant of the Newcastle Cricket Club is the odd little reserve in the middle of Corlette St in Cooks Hill.

Corlette St, Cooks Hill. Google Maps.

Corlette St, Cooks Hill. Google Earth.

Corlette St originally only extended as far south as Parry St. T. S. Parrott’s 1893 map shows an unlabelled rectangle in the area between Parry and Tooke Streets.

Corlette St, Cooks Hill. 1893.

Corporal Barrett’s 1910 map shows the area marked as a “Football Ground”.

Corlette St, Cooks Hill. 1910. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

By 1917 the sporting ground had gone, and the area had been subdivided by the A.A. Company and was being sold off at an auction on 1st December 1917.

Corlette St, Cooks Hill. 1917. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

Confirmation that this is the site of the W.G. Cricket match comes in a short newspaper piece spruiking the auction.

“The sites are portion of the A.A. Company’s Cook’s Hill Estate, which embraces the old Newcastle Cricket Ground area.”

Drain Plane Again

A couple of years ago I posted an article and some photos of a Douglas C47 transport aircraft that ended up in the storm water drain beside the Broadmeadow aerodrome during World War 2.

Last year I was examining an old black and white aerial photograph of the Broadmeadow area, and spotted something interesting …

… could that be the crashed C47 in the drain?

The aerial photograph has an information panel along the bottom, and in the  white shape next to “RUN 5” there is some very faint writing.

The writing is too faint to decipher with any certainty in this “RUN 5”  photograph, but in a similar photograph from “RUN 7” the date of the photograph is clearly 3rd September 1944.

This is just three weeks after the 10th August 1944 crash of the aircraft, and confirms that it is indeed the C47 plane we can see in the aerial photograph.

Photograph of the crashed Douglas C47 transport plane, from the Newcastle Morning Herald, 12/8/1944. New Lambton can be seen in the background.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
11 Aug 1944
10 Aug 1944
A D.C. 47 Army transport plane, with 25 men on board, skidded 200 yards on a wet runway, hurtled through a fence and then crashed into a stormwater channel at Broadmeadow aerodrome.
12 Aug 1944
10 Aug 1944
Photo. The Douglas C47 transport plane in the stormwater channel at District Park aerodrome, Broadmeadow, where it landed in bad weather on Thursday.

Drains

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.

Because the problem spanned the multiple small local councils of the time, the state government in 1894 surveyed a network of drains across the inner suburbs. With an estimated cost of £39,500 work began in May 1895 with the long straight channel through Broadmeadow, following the path of the defunct Australasia Coal Company railway. Construction of the drainage channel up to Lambton progressed steadily and was completed by 1899.

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.

Additional photos

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.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to local G.P. Doctor Catherine Hollier for medical advice on this story.

Thanks also to Mark MacLean for providing lots of drain related material in his Hamilton North blog, although he now blogs from Lightning Ridge.

Catchment area

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:

  • North Lambton
  • Lambton
  • New Lambton
  • New Lambton Heights
  • Kotara
  • Kotara South
  • Charlestown
  • Adamstown Heights
  • Adamstown
  • Broadmeadow
  • Waratah

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.

Links

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
19 Feb 1878"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."
5 Feb 1890Mr 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."
19 Mar 1892"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."
24 Mar 1893New 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.
23 Jun 1893A deputation from Hamilton, Adamstown, New Lambton councils, to the Minister of Lands to urge the governement to construct a drain on the Commonage.
24 Aug 1893Public meeting complaining about the government in Sydney not spending the money required to fix the drainage on the Commonage in Newcastle.
28 Aug 1893Call 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."
7 Feb 1894A survey of the drainage scheme is underway.
27 Apr 1894Hamilton 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."
30 Jun 1894The 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."
15 Dec 1894£12,000 set aside in estimates for commonage drainage.
"The work will prevent much misery, discomfort, and ill-health."
21 Dec 1894Allocation of £12,000 for drainage works passed in the State assembly.
20 May 1895Call 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."
24 May 1895
23 May 1895
Work commences on the drainage scheme. "The drainage works at Broadmeadow presented an animated appearance yesterday, upwards of 100 men being at work and quite double that number looking on."
28 May 1895Drainage 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."
5 Dec 1895"The work of completing the lining of the drain on the Lambton Park does not form part of the Pasturage Reserve drainage scheme, and that no funds were available for that purpose."
16 Dec 1895"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."
29 Dec 1896"The work was initiated by a beneficent Government, more for the purpose of relieving distress [of unemployment]"
18 Jan 1897Drain is being extended up to Lambton Park. A tributary channel from Gregson Park Hamilton will soon be commenced. Tighes Hill footbridge nearly completed.
23 Jan 1897"At the beginning of the week 120 men were put on at the Lambton extension, which is to cover a distance of a quarter of a mile."
Estimated Expenditure on the drainage scheme is £39,500.
23 Jan 1897"The Pasturage Reserve drainage scheme is now affording employment to about 200 men."
10 Jul 1897Work 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."
24 Jul 1897A dispute between the Government and the Waratah Coal Company "has resulted in the suspension of operations on the New Lambton branch of the main channel of the Pasturage Reserve drainage scheme."
3 Dec 1897Regarding the five month suspension of work on the New Lambton Channel, the Waratah Coal Company is not being co-operative, and the Government is forced to compulsorily resume the land.
18 Feb 1899"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."
30 Apr 1900
28 Apr 1900
Michael Powell accidentally killed by a fall of earth at the storm-water drain workings at Newtown (Hamilton North).
9 Jun 1900Prospects 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."
23 Mar 1901After nearly three years' stoppage, the work on the New Lambton section of the storm-water channel has re-commenced.
31 Aug 1910The 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.