A Picnic Homecoming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Additional Information

Photo date

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

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

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

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

Electric light pole on Howe St.

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

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

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

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

Child waving flag.
NSW State flag.

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

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

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

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

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

The Waratah Company Rail LINE Passenger Service

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

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

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

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

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

Newspaper articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burning Style – Waratah incinerator

The building in this month’s photo, standing starkly before the bare hills of Waratah, is not an elegant home or stylish church. It is a garbage incinerator designed by Walter Burley Griffin, more famously known as the architect of Canberra. After finishing his work on Canberra, Griffin set up an architectural practice with Eric Milton Nichols. In 1929, they began a long running collaboration with the Reverberatory Incinerator and Engineering Company to design stylish buildings to house incinerators, the new fashion in garbage disposal.

Previously, getting rid of rubbish had been a very ad hoc affair. In Newcastle suburbs people would bury or burn it in their backyard, throw it in colliery pitfalls, or dump it in swampy low-lying areas to reclaim land for parks. These dumps were extremely dissatisfactory, being breeding grounds for flies, mosquitos and rats. With a lack of regional consensus on what should be done, in 1930 Waratah Council commissioned an incinerator to be built at the upper end of High St. At the official opening on 1 Aug 1931 the manufacturer boldly enthused that “Everything was totally destroyed without odour and without fumes of any description.”

But the promise of making garbage magically disappear without a puff of smoke proved to be wildly optimistic. Complaints began almost immediately, and escalated as the plant got older and more rubbish was burned. Towards the end of its few years of operations the Waratah incinerator was described as “belching forth clouds of greasy smoke, the stench of which is practically unbearable.” The incinerator ceased regular operation in June 1940, and was then only occasionally fired up as a backup to other city facilities. Around 1943 it closed permanently and became a target of vandals. In 1950 Newcastle Council ordered the building to be demolished and the rubble to be used for extending the sea wall at North Stockton.

Waratah’s incinerator is gone, but a handful of Burley Griffin’s incinerator buildings remain standing in the eastern states, now serving as theatres, cafes, and art galleries.

Waratah Incinerator 1931. National Library of Australia, Eric Milton Nicholls collection.
Trees now stand where rubbish once burned.

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


Additional Information

Official Opening

The Official Opening of the Waratah incinerator took place on 1 August 1931, and reported in the paper on 3 August 1931. The glowing praises of the incinerator by various people look rather naive in retrospect, knowing that the plant only operated for a dozen years.

A dream of Waratah aldermen of the destruction of garbage by fire has been brought to fruition by the formal opening on Saturday of the reverberatory furnace garbage incinerator. Set on a high hill, overlooking the suburb, the building is of artistic design, and with the plant cost approximately £5000. It can dispose of a cubic yard of garbage at a cost of 1/1.09d, reducing wet slimy mush to a clean clinker in a few moments.

Ald W H Tripet, Mayor of Waratah described former garbage disposal practices …

They could not deny the fact that in the past the garbage had served a very useful purpose in the filling of swamp and low-lying lands, which in their original state, were next to, if not quite, useless and which to-day comprised very fine park lands and playing areas.

Mr. N. Leonard Kanevsky, Managing Director of the Reverberatory Incinerator and Engineering Company Proprietary, Ltd, described the operation of the furnace …

Unseen by those present the superheated refuse was presently consumed in the heat of an intense fire, and in a short time, the evil smelling stuff which had dropped into the shute was drawn away in a heap of clean clinker. Everything was totally destroyed without odor and without fumes of any description.

Mr. W. B. Griffin, the Architect, declared …

that the time would come when beauty and utility in service would be combined.

Mr. A. G. Goninan …

… congratulated Ald. Griffiths as the man who prepared the way for the incinerator, and the Mayor and aldermen of Waratah on its materialisation. When Mr. Kanevsky first approached him regarding the work on the incinerator, he made investigations, and found that the machine was a good one. The whole of the metal was produced in the district, and provided work for local men. He could see nothing wrong with the incinerator – nothing, as a fact, could go wrong with it.

Waratah incinerator opening ceremony. 1 Aug 1931. National Library of Australia, Eric Milton Nicholls collection.
The same location in May 2020.

Other photos

Waratah Council’s incinerator building, with the motor and horse-drawn lorries. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 3 August 1935.
The Waratah incinerator appears in the bottom left corner of this 1944 aerial photograph. The incinerator was no longer in use at this time.

parry St incinerator, Newcastle

After Waratah Council opened their incinerator in 1931, Newcastle Council decided to also build an incinerator also. Their incinerator was much larger, designed to initially handle 40 cubic yards of garbage in an 8 hour shift, but with space to install a second unit to double the processing capacity. Built at a cost of £20,000 at the corner of Parry St and Ravenshaw St opposite the sports grounds, the incinerator was opened in August 1938.

The Newcastle incinerator building wasn’t designed by Walter Burley Griffin, but by F. A. Scorer, Chief Architect, Greater Newcastle City Council. In spite of its industrial purpose, the building was awarded the John Sulman architectural medal for 1938. (Greg and Silvia Ray’s Photo Time Tunnel website has a photograph of the building in 1938.)

Newcastle’s experiment with garbage incineration lasted less than Waratah’s efforts. After just 9 years of service, by 1947 the furnaces of the Parry St incinerator had failed. Estimates were prepared for the repair of the plant, but council decided “the efforts would be a waste of thousands of pounds” and therefore the incinerator “must be scrapped.” In April 1947 council called for tenders for the demolition of the plant but nothing progressed, and the building sat vacant for a number of years. In 1950 the council leased the building to “Mr. W. A. Miller, proprietor of a motor-body building and repairing business, who had been looking for new premises since fire gutted part of his earlier establishment.”

A 1944 aerial photograph showing the Newcastle Council incinerator on the corner of Parry and Ravenshaw Streets.
A close up of the incinerator, showing the horseshoe shaped ramp from street level up to the dump point.
An undated aerial photograph of the Newcastle incinerator. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
The chimney stack of the former Newcastle incinerator appears in the background of this 1957 sporting photo. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

I have not yet identified when the Parry St incinerator building was demolished, but an aerial photograph shows that it was still standing in 1975.

A 1975 aerial photograph shows the Parry St incinerator building still standing. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
15 Nov 1922"Pitfalls at the back of residences in Howe-street, Lambton, are used as a repository for rubbish. One resident who objects to the disgusting smell of rotting vegetable matter lying in these holes, describes it an "a perfect breeding place for files and mosquitoes."
28 May 1925"There are more than 1000 houses in Lambton, and yet the municipality is without a garbage system. The council will not introduce one, and residents appear quite content to carry on under primitive methods. An inquiry as to how the people get on was met with the reply that the fowls eat it.Lambton people or a good many of them, bury it, either in their yards or on some handy vacant ground, others burn it. Some people, hotelkeepers and storekeepers, send it away to one of the many pitfalls, which abound in Lambton. Many Lambton residents declare that the council should institute a garbage system."
19 Apr 1930"The City Council's health Inspector (Mr. O'Keefe)... considers it an absolute necessity for the public health. Incineration seemed to be the only hygienic way to dispose of garbage without creating undue nuisance, and menacing the public health.”
29 Apr 1930"I have no doubt that some form of garbage incineration will be adopted in the district sooner or later," said the Government Medical Officer (Dr. Wallace) to-day. "The sooner the better, for it is the only way to get rid of flies and rats."
5 Nov 1930
4 Nov 1930
"Disgusted with the apathy of other councils in the Newcastle district towards the establishment of garbage destructors, Waratah Council definitely decided last night lo erect its own plant at a cost of £5000."
13 May 1931"Waratah Council will be the first in the Newcastle district to be provided with a modern incinerator. Building operations are progressing rapidly. The steel work, which has been manufactured by Messrs. A. Goninan and Company, of Broadmeadow, has already been assembled on the site, and the fire brickwork is being laid by expert hands."
4 Jul 1931"Work on the furnace construction of Waratah Council's garbage incinerator is practically completed ... the flue stack has been taken up to its full height of 50 feet. It is anticipated that the plant will be ready to incinerate the municipal ity's garbage by the end of the month."
1 Aug 1931"One furnace unit is provided, with room in the building, however, for a duplicate unit."
1 Aug 1931
1 Aug 1931
Official opening of the Waratah incinerator. [Report in The Newcastle Sun.]
3 Aug 1931
1 Aug 1931
Official opening of the Waratah incinerator. [Report in Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate]
20 Dec 1933"Waratah Council last night decided to install a telephone at its incinerator at a cost of £5 2s 6d a year."
2 May 1934Residents complain of odours coming from the Waratah incinerator.
8 Oct 1934Repairs needed to incinerator … "cracks in the reverberating arch and chips out of crown of furnace, and other matters needing attention."
11 Oct 1937"Owing to the increase in population in Waratah Municipality during the past few years, the council's incinerator has been unable to cope with the stream of garbage, and a second unit has to be built."
11 Aug 1938"Newcastle's £20,000 incinerator will be put into use next week. "
13 Aug 1938"The new city incinerator, built at a cost of approximately £20,000, should be in full operation within a fortnight. The furnace is burning this week for the first time, with a small coke fire, which in being increased gradually each day to dry out the fireclay cementing the special firebricks which line the in ternal walls of the burning unit and the 117-feet chimney stack. Eventually the burning unit will be brought to a temperature of 1700 degrees, at which it operates."
24 Jan 1940The Newcastle Incinerator Building, Parry Street, Newcastle. AWARDED THE SIR JOHN SULMAN MEDAL FOR 1938.
5 Jun 1941"Now that the Waratah incinerator had been closed temporarily, and all garbage was burnt at Parry-street, essential repairs could be carried out at Waratah incinerator so that it would be ready for full service in the event of the service at Parry-street failing at any time. An amount of £233 was voted for repairs. The City Engineer was instructed to make an estimate of the cost of erecting a new chimney stack."
17 Nov 1941"Waratah incinerator has for weeks belched forth clouds of greasy smoke, the stench of which is practically unbearable. On recent days, the incinerator has been unable to cope with the quantity of garbage, and heaps of refuse were piled in front of the plant, exposed to hordes of flies. At the rear, the rat-infested dump is an ideal place for an outbreak of an epidemic."
19 Dec 1941"… at the rubbish dump at Waratah incinerator there are rats as large and as fast as hares, and that people in the vicinity could not sleep because of odours when certain winds were blowing … residents thought that garbage of any kind could be burnt at the incinerator, with the result that around it was an increasing dump of oil drums, kerosene tins, discarded tyres and other rubbish, which provided excellent harbourage for rats."
9 Oct 1943"lt is time Greater Newcastle Council did something to eliminate obnoxious fumes from the city incinerator. It is constantly giving out volumes of smoke, which at times is unbearable … the Waratah incinerator is not in use, and all the garbage is brought to the city to be burnt. "
19 Oct 1943"People living in the Cook's Hill area are complaining about offensive odors and an excessive amount of smoke emanating from Greater Newcastle Council's incinerator. The wisdom of Greater Newcastle Council's closing down the incinerator at Waratah about four years ago and concentrating the disposal of garbage at the one plant in the city was doubted by another resident today."
6 Jan 1944"A complaint of an obnoxious smell from the council's incinerator at Waratah was before the Health Committee … the incinerator had been out of commission for the past 12 months, and during that period no refuse of any description had been deposited there."
16 Mar 1944"The disused Waratah incinerator was becoming the playground of children and the rendezvous of undesirables. Children are shying stones at the incinerator. Vandals are active."
5 Apr 1944"The salvage drive was blamed by Ald. Colman last night for the smoke nuisance at Newcastle incinerator. Asked if he considered it advisable to reopen Waratah incinerator, the Chairman (Ald. Dunkley) said a second incinerator would naturally add to overhead costs. He expressed the view that the council's' policy of burning all its garbage was wrong. The burial of garbage enabled low lying areas to be filled in and parks to be erected at a reasonable cost."
23 Aug 1944Waratah and Parry St incinerators subject to vandalism.
6 Apr 1945"The Greater Newcastle Council has decided to make an 'experiment" in the disposal of garbage by burial … it has sanctioned a change in procedure, which will involve burning about half the rubbish and burying the remainder … the Waratah incinerator has been closed since 1940, and the destructor at Newcastle has been worked two shifts."
21 May 1946"The Greater Newcastle Council Garbage Committee decided last night to recommend to the council that it negotiate for sites for the burial of garbage at Wallsend, Lambton, and Adamstown ... the Waratah incinerator was shut down in June, 1940, on the advice of the then mechanical engineer."
18 Mar 1947"FURNACE COLLAPSES: INCINERATOR OUT. WHEN bricks and ironwork in the furnace collapsed, the Parry-street incinerator went out of action yesterday and was abandoned."
2 Apr 1947"At last night's council committee meeting a motion by the Mayor favoring calling of tenders for demolition of the chimney stacks at the Newcastle and Waratah incinerators, removal of the incinerator units and sale of the bricks for building purposes was approved in spite of some opposition."
9 Apr 1947Tenders invited for for the purchase and removal of the following Incinerator Units: (a) Two chimney stacks. (b) Four "Giant" type upright patented reverberatory furnace units from the Parry Street and Waratah incinerators.
9 Mar 1949The Works committee of Newcastle Council "decided to call tenders for the demolition of the incinerator building at Waratah … the building was in a dangerous condition."
3 Feb 1950"A new job will be found for the old incinerator building at Waratah … the building would be demolished and the bricks and concrete used for extending the sea wall in the North Stockton erosion area. The incinerator had been standing for about 20 years. It had outlived its usefulness and any timber or fittings of value had already been removed."
4 Feb 1950Lengthy article by Ian Healy on the history of the Parry St incinerator, and its re-incarnation as W. A. Miller's motor repair shop.
20 Sep 1950"A disused incinerator stack at Waratah was dangerous. Six months ago the council had arranged for a contractor to demolish the stack, but nothing had been done."

Old style medicine

Struck on the head by a plank falling from 12 feet? A leech will fix that!

Mr. Davis was engaged in the erection of some new screens near the tunnel; and; whilst walking along a plank, over balanced himself, and fell to the ground, a distance of about 12 feet. It also appears that the plank on which he had been walking followed him in the fall, and struck him on the head whilst on the ground, rendering him insensible. He was taken home, and leeches applied under professional direction.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 15 June 1878

Platts Hill

While researching the history of trams in Newcastle, I came across a newspaper article from 1900 that mentioned “Platt’s Hill” in Waratah.

A movement was recently made by Lambton people to have a connection with Waratah by way of Platt’s Hill.

I wasn’t familiar with this name and initially wondered whether it referred to the Braye Park hill. But a quick check of my index of historical real estate posters revealed a poster from 1915 that showed Platt’s Hill is where the Mater hospital is located today.

Real estate poster from 1915, showing land for sale on Platt’s Hill. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
1915 Real estate map overlaid into Google Earth

Waratah gasworks

As reported in the Newcastle Herald last week, Newcastle Council has completed an environmental investigation into the site of the former Waratah gasworks, with the report to be released soon. I was asked by a reader of this blog about the gasworks. Here is the little I know …

From searching Trove I know that the gasworks were commissioned by Waratah council, officially opened on 1st August 1889, and supplied gas to the township for the next 30 years. In October 1918, faced with a looming large bill for repairs to keep the plant operating, the council looked to sell the gasworks. However due to legal complications that required an act of Parliament to facilitate the sale, it was four years until the Mayor reported that negotiations to sell to the Newcastle Gas and Coke Company were completed in April 1922. The new owners took over operation of the gas works commencing from 1st May 1922.

Note that the sale was for the works only, with the land remaining as crown land. Payment for the sale was by instalments of £1000 a year, plus 5 per cent interest. A 1925 report on Waratah’s finances noted that “A further instalment of £1000, plus interest was received during May in connection with the sale of the gasworks, leaving a balance of £8000 owing to the council.”

It is unclear exactly when the gas works ceased operating, however in August 1928 Waratah council were inviting tenders for the demolition of buildings, and requesting the Minister for Lands to transfer freehold title of the land to the council. In November 1928 the council “decided to ask the Department of Lands to subdivide the site of the old gasworks at Waratah before it is disposed of”, and in December 1929 “Ellis Street” was chosen as the name for the new road in the subdivision.

I first learned about the gasworks a few years ago while studying Corporal Barrett’s 1910 map of Newcastle. In the triangular intersection of Georgetown and Turton Roads can be seen the circular gas tank and holder, which were described in the report of the opening ceremony.

“The gas holder is 60ft diameter 18ft deep, with an actual holding capacity of 51,000 ft. The tank is 64ft diameter, and its holder is so constructed and the tank so built that an addition of a second light or telescope can be made at any time, thus doubling its size at a very small expense.”

Location of the Waratah gasworks shown on Barrett’s 1910 map of Newcastle. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Just above the gasworks, is a red block labelled “F.S.” – this is the fire station on High Street that was opened in 1893. In 1898 Ralph Snowball photographed this station from High St, looking towards the south, so the building behind the fire station may be related to the gasworks, although I’m not sure about this.

Waratah fire station in High Street, 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The gas works site is also shown on a 1906 real estate poster.

Site of the Waratah gas works shown on a 1906 real estate poster. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

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.

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."

Copper Smelter, Waratah

The Hunter Living Histories site has just published an article on Robert Perrott, including some sketches he did of various places around Newcastle in the late 1800s. Of particular interest is a sketch of the copper smelting works near Waratah.

Copper smelting near Waratah, at Newcastle. (Sketch by Robert Perrott, Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW)

This was the works of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company, which commenced operation in 1872. The Maitland Mercury reported on 18 June 1872

On Tuesday last a very interesting ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Waratah in the presence of the local manager of the establishment and a few gentlemen from Newcastle, namely, that of lighting the first fires in two of the copper smelting furnaces of the English and Australian Copper Smelting Company’s works near Waratah.

The smelter operated for about 47 years, and the land was sold off in 1918 and 1919, as reported by the Maitland Mercury on 6 Nov 1919.

A 1910 map by A. Barrett shows that the smelter was situated in modern day 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.

The smelter had two large brick smokestacks, that were highly visible points in the landscape, and often appeared in the background of photographs of the time.

View from New Lambton towards Broadmeadow, with copper smelting stacks in the background. circa 1887. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Stormwater drain construction at Hamilton North., April 1900, looking towards New Lambton. The Waratah copper smelter stack is visible in the background. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

View of Waratah copper smelter from Glebe Rd Hamilton South in 1897. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

An interesting aspect of the Perrott sketch of the smelter, is how some details are quite accurate, but other details not so accurate, probably for aesthetic reasons. When we compare the sketch with a 1906 Ralph Snowball photograph of Waratah taken from somewhere near the present day Mater hospital, we see that Perrott has reproduced the smelter building and stacks reasonably accurately. However in the sketch the smelter appears to be at the base of a hill, but the smelter was actually located on the flat plain of Broadmeadow, and that hill is Merewether Heights some 4km in the distance.

Sketch of Waratah copper smelter by Robert Perrott.

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

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."