Lambton Courthouse

A great rivalry existed between the burgeoning colliery townships of the Newcastle area in the late 19th century. The prestige of a town was often expressed in the erection of grand public buildings such as town halls and post offices. When word got around in 1871 that Waratah was petitioning the State government for a courthouse, Lambton was quick to respond in a series of public meetings to lay claim as the rightful location. At one meeting

“Dr. Hill rose and said that he did not think there could be any doubt or difference of opinion as to Lambton being the true centre of the mining district, and therefore the proper and legitimate position for a Court-house.”

The Government surveyor William Verge agreed, and in 1873 measured out a site in Dickson Street. Tenders for construction were issued and on 19th February 1877 the foundation stone of the courthouse was laid.

However, before construction was even completed, the suitability of the building was called into question, and the plans were altered to enlarge the building. The new courthouse was formally opened on 7th January 1879, despite there being “many things yet required to make the premises complete.” The building continued to be problematic – an 1889 article reported on the “disgraceful state of the court-house” because of damp and white ants.

Over the years, the limitations of the courthouse resulted in less frequent court sittings “and as people cannot afford to wait so long to have their troubles dealt with, they prefer to go to Newcastle.” The Department of Justice vacated the courthouse in 1922, and handed it over to the Department of Education to use as woodwork and metalwork classrooms to ease congestion at Lambton Public School.

After 1930, the building was used for a variety of other purposes. With continued deterioration, it was eventually demolished in 1937, and the land was subdivided and sold for home sites a few years later.

Lambton Court House, NSW, 8 August 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Portion of an 1889 map showing the location of the courthouse between Dickson St and Young St (now Newcastle Rd).

The article above was first published in the May 2017 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.

Additional Information

The site of the Lambton Courthouse can be visualised by overlaying the 1889 map over a Google Earth image.

Demolition of the Courthouse in progress. From the Newcastle Morning Herald, 25th August 1937.

After the courthouse was demolished in 1937 the land was sold as home sites in 1941. This 1944 aerial photograph shows that 3 years later no homes had begun construction, and the rectangular outline of the former foundations of the courthouse can clearly be seen.

1944 aerial photograph of the site of the former courthouse. Newcastle Region Library.

Manual Training Classroom

In 1922 when the Department of Justice ceased using the courthouse, the building was converted for use as “manual training” classrooms, for the Lambton Public School. An idea of what “manual training” was, can be gleaned from a 1921 newspaper article, where it lists things such as

  • “the shaping of such materials as wood, hard and soft metals, cane, cardboard”
  • “handling of proper tools”
  • lessons in “the names, parts, uses, care and manufacture of tools”
  • “Drawing plays an important part of manual training. The pupil is taught to use the simple geometrical tools with neatness and accuracy in the creation of working drawings full size and to scale.”

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
14 Nov 1871
11 Nov 1871
Public meeting calling for the government to build a court house and police station at Lambton. This was in response to hearing that "action had already been taken to get a Court of Petty Sessions established at Waratah, and there scarcely could be two opinions as to Lambton being the most suitable, as the most centrally situated place for the purpose, as it would suit the convenience of the greatest number of people."
30 Dec 1871Waratah council receives a letter from the Attorney General's office requesting that land "be set apart and a sum of money placed upon the estimates for building, a court-house and police-station." In response to this news the article writer muses ..."so I suppose the matter is now settled and the Lambton people can only lament that their application was too late, perhaps, after all it is best so, for I do think courthouses should be built in the quietest places away from all the bustle and noise of business."
16 Sep 1873
12 Sep 1873
Another public meeting calling for a courthouse and police station to be built in Lambton, after two previous petitions to the government have been not only unheeeded, but unanswered. A proposed site has already been surveyed on land "this side of John Peacock's dwelling."
18 Sep 1873Letter from William T. Verge, Government surveyor, explaining that he has chosen and surveyed a site for the courthouse in Lambton, instead of Waratah … "Knowing well the requirements of the district I rather chose, as a site, a portion of the commonage adjoining the allotment I measured for the Lambton Municipal Chambers."
11 Apr 1874
9 Apr 1874
Another public meeting calling for the new district courthouse to be built at Lambton. A fair amount of rivalry is displayed in the meeting towards Waratah, who are also seeking a court-house in their town.
25 Apr 1874
20 Apr 1874
Public meeting to hear the report from the Lambton court house committee, and approve the deputation to be sent to Sydney with a petition.
24 Feb 1875
20 Feb 1875
"Mr. Lewis, Government Architect of Newcastle, visited Lambton, on Saturday last, to examine the site for the Courthouse, which it is the intention of the Government to build here. The site is on the Commonage, near Peacock's house."
18 Dec 1876Tenders for the construction of the Lambton Court House have been advertised.
20 Feb 1877
19 Feb 1877
Foundation stone of the Lambton Court House laid.
11 Jul 1877While still under construction, alterations to the plan of the Lambton Court House are made, to enlarge the court room.
26 Oct 1878"The erection of these court houses [Wallsend and Lambton] has been completed these four or five months past, and there they stand unoccupied for want of furniture … it shows a great amount of carelessness on the part of those, whose duty it is to attend to such matters, to see buildings erected at a considerable cost for the convenience of the public, rendered useless for the mere spending of a few additional pounds to furnish them."
9 Jan 1879
7 Jan 1879
"The new Court-house was formally opened on Tuesday … but there were no cases for trial." "Though the Court has been opened, there are many things yet required to make the premises complete."
21 Apr 1879"The Lambton Court house still remains in an unfinished state, and unfit for habitation or use. It is impossible to disguise the fact that there has been gross mismanagement, and wanton neglect, on the part of the Government officials, who have been entrusted with the supervision of the erection of this building."
28 Apr 1882"Alderman GRIERSON said he had heard it was the intention of the Government to erect Police Barracks on the reserve for Council Chambers, near the Courthouse, which he thought should be prevented."
22 May 1885"Important repairs are now being effected on [the court-house]. The whole of the ceiling in the court room has been taken down, and fresh laths and plaster are to he put up. The verandah has been taken down, and a new and more substantial one is to be erected. The walls are to be painted and plastered outside to make them impervious to storm water, and one room will be added to the lookup-keeper's quarters."
3 Jun 1886Site for Council Chambers in Dickson Street has been resumed for police barracks.
6 Aug 1886Foundations of new police station and barracks have been laid.
29 May 1889Sergeant Salter drew attention to "the disgraceful state of the court-house, several panes of glass being broken, and the walls quite damp owing to the recent rains. The lobby also is taken possession of by white ants."
22 Aug 1922"Lambton Courthouse has seen the end of its days of usefulness as far as the Justice department is concerned." "This court is perhaps the oldest in suburban Newcastle, and at one time boasted three sittings a week. Since then, however, they have fallen away to one a month, and as people can not afford to wait so long to have their troubles dealt with, they prefer to go to Newcastle."
20 Sep 1922Suggestion that the former courthouse be converted into a convalescent home.
16 Oct 1922Former Lambton Courthouse being fitted up for "manual training" classes. "That portion of the school building now occupied by the manual training will be divided into classrooms to relieve congestion in other departments."
12 Feb 1923Tender "for repairs and painting at the police station and courthouse at Lambton".
13 Apr 1928Courthouse building used for a land auction.
14 Mar 1930Manual training classes still being held at the Lambton courthouse building.
1 Aug 1930A manual training classroom to be erected soon at Lambton Public School.
22 Jan 1931
21 Jan 1931
Lambton courthouse building begins to be used for distribution of the dole.
13 Mar 1934
14 Mar 1934
"The Department of Labor and Industry will issue a supply of boots at old Lambton Court-house at 9 a.m. to-morrow. The supply Is available to emergency relief workers, 200 of whom are entitled to apply."
24 Aug 1937Demolition of Lambton courthouse building.
4 Dec 1940The site of the former courthouse to be subdivided by the Department of Lands into 18 or 20 home sites.
1 Sep 1941
30 Aug 1941
Sixteen of the eighteen home sites on the former Lambton courthouse site, sold at auction.

The lost chambers of Waratah

My next article for the Lambton and New Lambton Local (coming in May) is on the Lambton Courthouse, erected 1879, and demolished in 1937. In researching the article I discovered that in neighbouring Waratah, where they had missed out on a having the courthouse constructed, that court sessions were being held in the Council chambers.

I was aware of three different council chambers/town halls in Waratah, and wondered which one was used for court sittings. It was none of the ones I knew of, and the more I looked the more places I found where Waratah Council had met. Read all the details on my Waratah Municipal Council page.

In a nice coincidence, as I finished writing that page this evening, I realised that it is 146 years to the day since the first ordinary meeting of the Waratah Municipal Council on 21st April 1871.

Waratah Courthouse, originally the Waratah Municipal Council Chambers. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

History under our feet

The growth of our city means that former collieries are eventually obliterated by urban development, and it becomes difficult to find any trace of their former existence. Sometimes however, evidence of the old mines can be found, quite literally, under our feet.

Last year I was walking over Lewis Oval in New Lambton at dusk, when I noticed a slight dip in the level of the ground. I wondered, could this possibly be due to subsidence related to the former Lambton colliery?

A September 1944 aerial photograph held by Newcastle Library shows that the mine was located at this site. The mine closed in 1936 and much of the surface infrastructure was removed by 1944. The large double storey building in the centre of the photograph housed the colliery’s machinery workshop on the lower floor, and a sawmilling plant on the upper floor. The building got a new lease of life in 1947 when Leonora Glass Industries began operations there.

The railway also continued to be used after the mine’s closure, as noted in a 1942 newspaper article,

“Coal was being hauled by motor-trucks from Cardiff for loading onto the coal waggons near the site of the old colliery screens.”

Carting of coal from the site ceased in 1963, the area was developed for housing, and Lewis Oval constructed over the filled in railway cutting. Sixty years on, a slight subsidence of the railway in-fill causes water to collect in the depression. In the right conditions, the grass grows slightly greener, and in some of the modern Google Earth photos, the position of the old railway can still be discerned in a green horizontal line just north of the cricket pitch.

So if you ever find yourself defending the boundary at Lewis Oval, and you notice the outfield seems a little bumpy, you might just be experiencing an enduring impression of our coal mining history.

The Lambton Colliery site in September 1944. Newcastle Region Library.

The Lambton colliery site in 2016. The path of the former rail line can be faintly seen running across Lewis Oval. Google Earth.

The article above was first published in the April 2017 edition of the Lambton & New Lambton Local.

Additional Photos

In this 2006 Google Earth photo, there is a quite distinct darker green line running across Lewis Oval. Google Earth.

Subsidence of Lewis Oval along the line of the former rail excavation revealed after torrential rain, February 2020.

The line of the former railway excavation is revealed again after heavy rain in February 2022.

Lambton Colliery. 1913-1920. The Story of Lambton. From the collection of Dorothy Jones.

The photo above can be dated by the chimney stacks in the distance. The stack of the brickworks at Waratah which was constructed in 1913 is visible, and we can also see the stack of the copper smelter at Broadmeadow, which was demolished by 1920.

Lambton colliery site, 1951. From the collection of Albert Bates

Lambton Colliery site 1959. The large double storey building where the Leonora Glass Works operated is now gone, destroyed by fire in 1957. The Story of Lambton, p. 19. Photo from Stuart Thompson

Additional information

  • My blog post from February 2016 when I first discovered subsidences in Lewis Oval, marking the path of the former rail line.
  • If you have Google Earth installed, you can view the 1944 aerial photograph as an overlay by opening this Lambton Colliery (1944 aerial).kmz file.
  • A description of the large double storey building at the Lambton colliery in 1890 can be found on page 15 of “The Coal Mines of Newcastle” by George H. Kingswell. This book has been scanned by the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections.

The Coal Mines Of Newcastle, p.15

You can download a PDF version of this book.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
12 Aug 1942"Coal was being hauled by motor-trucks from Cardiff for loading onto the coal waggons near the site of the old colliery screens."
7 Oct 1947Leonora Glass Industries commences operations in a disused building of the Old Lambton coalmine.

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 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.

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
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.”