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."
3 Aug 1931
1 Aug 1931
Official opening of the Waratah incinerator. [Report in Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate]
1 Aug 1931
1 Aug 1931
Official opening of the Waratah incinerator. [Report in The Newcastle Sun.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."

Waratah Council

Waratah Council was incorporated on 23rd February 1871. During its 67 years of existence, the council meetings were held in quite a few different locations.

The exact chronology and locations are sometimes hard to confirm, and I have had to make some educated guesses based on sometimes fleeting references in newspaper articles retrieved from Trove. The list below is therefore a tentative summary based on the available facts, and should not be regarded as a definitive.

April 1871 Stephens’ Long Room, High St.
May 1871 Mr Dawson’s Assembly Room, Green Gate Hotel, Station St.
1871 – 1873 Former Wade’s Hotel, Turton St.
1873 – 1882 Courthouse building, Georgetown Rd.
1882 – 1889 Stephens’ Long Room/School of Arts, High St.
1889 – 1897 New School of Arts building, Station St.
1898 – 1926 Former Northumberland Hall, Turton St.
1926 – 1938 Hanbury St, Mayfield.

Stephen’s Long Room, April 1871

The first election for alderman in Waratah Municipality took place on Saturday 8th April 1871. The following Thursday, 13th April 1871, there was a special meeting of council for the purpose of electing a Mayor for the ensuing year. The meeting was held in “Mr. Stephens long room, Hanbury”, a building which still exists today at 29 High St. At the meeting, Robert Turton was unanimously elected as Mayor.

The first ordinary meeting of the council was supposed to have happened at this same location on the following Monday, 17 April 1871, however a newspaper report a few days later somewhat cryptically reported …

“The whole of the aldermen composing the Waratah Municipal Council met on Monday evening in Mr. Stephens’ large room, but, in consequence of some clause in the Act, no business could be transacted of an official character ; so that, after an hours’ private conversation as to matters to be brought forward at a future period, and the appointment of next Friday night, at half-past seven, for the next meeting, they broke up.”

One can only wonder which of the clauses in the 1867 Municipalities Act invalidated the meeting that night. The council moved to other premises for their next meeting, but would return to Mr Stephen’s building a decade later. See the section below (1882-1888) for further details.

Mr Dawson’s Assembly Room

On Friday 21st April 1871, the council held their first official ordinary meeting, in “Mr. Dawson’s Assembly Room.” This room was located in the Green Gates Hotel (or Green Gate Inn) operated by Mr. Dawson, as seen in a newspaper report from 29th September 1866.

“On the evenings of Saturday and Monday last the Boston Minstrels gave an entertainment in Mr. Dawson’s Assembly Room, Green Gate Inn.”

In April 1905, an article on the death of Mr. James Marchant reported that …

“Upon his retirement he removed to Waratah, where he kept what was known by the old settlers as the Green Gate Hotel at the Junction of Turton-road and Station-street . Being successful in the business, he had the old building pulled down, and erected the building known as Marchant’s Family Hotel, which was subsequently re-built, and is now called the Town Hall Hotel.”

It is somewhat fitting that the modern day Town Hall Hotel is on the site of the very first ordinary meeting of the Waratah Municipal Council. A second council meeting was held in Dawson’s Assembly Room, on 2nd May 1871. The Ralph Snowball photo below, from the period 1884-1888 shows the site of Dawson’s Assembly Room. The building indicated is almost certainly not the Green Gate Hotel, but Marchant’s Family Hotel, that was rebuilt in 1884 on the same site.

Site of Dawson’s Assembly Room in the Green Gate Hotel, corner of Station and Turton Streets. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Former Wade’s Hotel

The third council meeting was held on 16th May 1871 in yet another location, with the paper reporting that

“On Tuesday, the members of the Waratah Municipal Council sat in their newly appointed chambers, (late Wade’s Hotel.) The room is nicely fitted up, and is furnished with every convenience without being too costly. The aldermen, however, did not appear over comfortable in their new arm chairs, for they (the chairs) appeared rather too low for the height of the table.”

A retrospective on Waratah in a 1940 newspaper article, in listing old hotels, reports that

“William Whiteman had the house known as Wade’s Inn in Turton street from where, in 1887, teams left for the gold diggings.”

A newspaper article in 1866 reported on the Waratah Foot Races, which were held …

“… to open the new running ground …. on the open space between the railway station and Wade’s Hotel”

If the running grounds were where the current sporting fields are, then that would suggest that Wade’s Hotel was somewhere on Turton St between Station and High Streets. Ralph Snowball’s photo of Waratah (1884-1888) contains a large double storey building in this location that could possibly be the former Wade’s Hotel.

Possible location of Wade’s Hotel. Portion of photo by Ralph Snowball or Waratah (1884-1888). University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Courthouse Building

In the following year, the council began debating the need for new council chambers, noting in their meeting of 11th March 1872 that

that the premises at present rented for Council Chambers are, in many respects, very unsuitable for the requirements of the municipality,

and

that it is highly desirable that new Municipal Council Chambers be erected on the ground granted by the Government for that purpose

In the debate Alderman Harper commented that the room currently rented as a council chamber “was simply a closet.”

In August 1872 the plan and specifications for new council chambers was approved by council, and tenders were called for the construction. A month later, tenders were received and evaluated, and the following separate tenders accepted:

G. Gane, stonework completed, £199 ; A. Bung, carpenter’s work, £129 ; Thos. J. Turton, plumbing, painting, and glazing, £31 10s. ; plastering and colouring walls, £16 10s. Total, £376.

The Government Gazette of 18th March 1873 “contained a notice of the grant of one acre of land at Hanbury, Waratah, for Council Chambers”, a date which appears in a map from a 1906 real estate sale poster as seen below.

1906 real estate sale map, showing the site of the first purpose built council chambers for Waratah, dedicated 16 March 1873. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

After many delays in construction, and demands for the contractors to finish their work, the Waratah councillors held their first meeting in the new building on Monday 16th June 1873. It was a rather muted affair though …

The Municipal Council of Waratah held their first meeting in the new council chambers, on Monday night last. The interior presented a most cold and dismal aspect, being insufficiently lighted and furnished, with one table, a few chairs, and a couple of deal forms. From the entire absence of anything approaching a celebration of the event, and the depressing appearance of the inside, the impression conveyed to the observer was that the worthy municipal councillors were thoroughly ashamed of the building, themselves, and the occasion.

In 1873, the NSW Department of Justice had decided to build a district courthouse in Lambton in preference to Waratah, so for court sittings in Waratah they rented out rooms in the new Council Chambers. Within a few years though, the Justice Department were desirous of having a dedicated courthouse building in Waratah, and the council were willing to sell their chambers for £600. The “Waratah Council Chambers Resumption Bill” was passed in parliament on 9th July 1879, and the purchase was completed in September 1879.

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

Waratah Courthouse building in Georgetown Rd, April 2017.

With the building now officially a courthouse, the role of landlord and tenant were reversed, as the council now rented a room in the courthouse to use as council chambers and clerk’s office. By November 1880 the Justice Department had given notice to the council to quit the building, however the Minister for Justice, Sir George Innes, gave reassurance that

“he would do justice to the Council who would not be disturbed within a reasonable time, until other chambers could be found.”

It seems that there was a mismatch of expectations as to what a “resaonable time” was, and the council was still using the courthouse for its meetings 18 months later, and there is a hint of tetchiness in a letter from the Minister for Justice to the council on 6th May 1882, stating that

“representations had been made that the alterations to the Court House were nearly completed, and that great inconvenience arose from the council occupying it; also, that it would be necessary when the alterations were finished for the building to be handed over to the Police Magistrate for the administration of justice.”

This kicked the council into action, and they formed a committee to seek new premises. On Monday 6th June 1882, the council moved back to the premises where their very first meeting had been held 11 years earlier, Stephen’s Rooms in High Street.

Stephen’s Long Room, 1882 – 188?

Variously referred to as “Mr Stephen’s large room”, “Mr Stephen’s long room”, “Stephen’s Assembly Rooms”, or sometimes just “Stephens Rooms”, this was a small double-storey stone building in High St. It was used for various public meetings, and candidates for political office would sometimes make speeches from the second floor balcony. The stone building was constructed by Mr. Henry Stephens, whose occupation was listed as “quarryman” in his nomination for election as alderman in 3rd February 1872. (His nomination was subsequently declared to be informal.)

After vacating the courthouse building, the Waratah Council used Stephen’s Room for their council chamber from 5th June 1882. A month later, the paper reported that

The School of Arts will, in future, be conducted in Stephen’s rooms, High-street. The committee decided upon the removal as the abovenamed rooms are more commodious than those previously occupied.

For the next 7 years, the council and the School of Arts appears to have been conducted from this same building. The ownership of the building throughout this whole period is uncertain, but at the end of this period of co-tenure in January 1889, when the new School of Arts building in Station Street is about to be opened, it is clear that the Council is renting its chambers from the School of Arts committee. The committee wrote to the council

“intimating that they cannot guarantee Council’s occupation of the present room rented by them, as Council chambers, and suggesting that a large room in the new building be used for that purpose.”

The photograph of Stephen’s Rooms below (from University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections) shows a sign mounted on the upper balcony that reads:

Waratah
Municipal Council Chambers
Office Days
Tuesdays & Thursdays
(illegible)

First Waratah Council Chambers, in High Street.

Waratah Council Chambers, in High Street. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Stephens Rooms in High St, April 2017, now a private residence.

Stephens’ Rooms also appears in a Ralph Snowball photograph of Waratah from the period 1884-1888.

Stephens’ Room, High Street, Waratah. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

School of Arts building,  March 1889 – 1897

Land for new School of Arts buildings was granted by the Government in November 1887, having a frontage of 58ft to Station St, and 220ft to Market St.

Portion of 1926 real estate map, showing location of School of Arts on Station St. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Reporting on the laying of the foundation stone by Sir Henry Parkes on 15th December 1888, the new hall was described as an

“… auditorium 35ft x 60ft, and 16ft in height, with a stage 21ft x 16ft, and dressing rooms on either side 7ft x 16ft each. …  The building is of very elaborate design, having frontages to Market and Station streets, and will contain eleven rooms (besides the hall and apartments referred to)
and balconettes on each side.

The laying of the foundation stone was a ceremonial affair, and not the start of construction, as much of the new building had already been completed, and in the following month the opening of the new School of Arts was celebrated by a concert in the hall on 24th January 1889.

Six weeks later on 4th March 1889 the council meeting …

“… was held on Monday evening for the first time in the new Council Chambers in connection with the School of Arts’ Buildings.”

School of Arts Hall, Station St, Waratah, July 2010. Photo by OZinOH (Flickr).

The council continued meeting in the school of arts until 1897 when it was reported that …

“The business of the Waratah council has hitherto been conducted in a portion of the local school of arts, but it has now been decided that the municipality shall have a Town Hall, and for that purpose a building has been secured.”

Northumberland Hall, 1898 – 1926

At a special meeting of the Waratah Council in October 1897, a proposal was put forward …

“… to acquire the present bank buildings in Turton-road, better known as the Northumberland Hall, and convert them into council chambers and offices, making provision on the upper storey for friendly societies and Masonic lodges.”

Northumberland Hall was built in late 1878 and formally opened on 9th January 1879. It was built by the Northumberland Building Society, with the ground floor to be used as offices, and the upper floor as a large hall to be rented out for public meetings. In a strange intertwining of connections, at the time the Society embarked on the building of Northumberland Hall, their office was in a rented room of the Council chambers in Georgetown Rd, premises they were about to lose as the council sold their chambers to the Government for use as a courthouse.

Waratah Town Hall (1897-1926), Turton St. Formerly Northumberland Hall. Newcastle Region Library.

In December 1897 the council purchased the building from the bank and did some renovations, for a total cost of £350. On the day the council took possession of their new town hall, 8th February 1898, the paper reported …

The opinion is general that the council have taken a wise step in acquiring this building. The ground floor consists of a fine suite of offices, providing ample accommodation for the public, the Mayor, and offices. Upstairs is the large hall, providing ample accommodation for council and lodge meetings, with ante-rooms and a spacious balcony. The ventilation is perfect throughout, and the renovation improvements and repairs reflect credit on the architects, Messrs. Sanders and Son, and the contractor, Mr. Thomas Bates, of Hamilton.

On the same day, in the evening, the council met for the first time in the new building, for the purpose of electing the Mayor for the ensuing year. Alderman N. B. Creer was elected unopposed, replacing Alderman H.C. Langwill who had served as Mayor in the preceding year, and whose name appears in the inscription on top of the new Town Hall.

Waratah Town Hall, with inscription on front – “H.C. Langwill, Mayor, 1897”. Newcastle Region Library.

Northumberland Hall appears in a Ralph Snowball photograph of Waratah from the period 1884-1888.

Northumberland Hall, Turton St, Waratah. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The site of the second Waratah council chambers in Turton Rd, adjacent to the Town Hall Hotel.

The site of the Waratah council chambers in Turton Rd, close to the Town Hall Hotel.

1910 map showing the location of the second Waratah Town Hall.

1910 map showing the location of the second Waratah Town Hall.

The map above shows the Town Hall on Turton Rd, and the Station Master’s residence  on Station St, which is also marked on the following 1926 real estate map.

1926 real estate map of Waratah, showing Station Master's residence.

1926 real estate map of Waratah, showing Station Master’s residence. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Hanbury St, 1926 – 1938

The last Waratah town hall was built on Hanbury St Mayfield, near the intersection with Macquarie St. (It was just to the south of where Mayfield Diggers Club is now). The foundation stone was laid on 20th February 1926, and the official opening was held on Saturday 26th June 1926.

Third Waratah Council Chambers/Town Hall. Hanbury Street, Mayfield. Newcastle City Council, Hunter Photobank.

Final Waratah Council Chambers/Town Hall. Hanbury Street, Mayfield. Newcastle City Council, Hunter Photobank.

Waratah Council Chambers. Newcastle Morning Herald, 21 May 1938.

I’m not sure of when this town hall building was demolished, but it appears to be some time after 1975, as an aerial photograph from 1975 shows a building on the site that matches the size of the town hall, and is clearly not the modern Diggers club.

Waratah/Mayfield, 1975. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Waratah/Mayfield, 1975. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Waratah/Mayfield 2016. Google Earth.

Waratah/Mayfield 2016. Google Earth.

42 Hanbury St Mayfield – the site of the former Waratah Town Hall.

The Town Hall that never was

In addition to all the places where the council did meet, there remains the story of the town hall that never was.

On 23rd July 1891 the council received notification that the Secretary of Lands had approved the council’s request for three portions of land (2411, 2412,  2413) on Turton Rd for a Town Hall, and portion 2410 for a fire brigade station. The dedication of land was officially gazetted on 15th September 1891 along with an adjoining triangular block of land for the Waratah Gas Works, as shown in the map below.

1906 real estate sale map showing portions 2411, 2412, and 2413 on Turton Rd dedicated as a site for a Town Hall, 15th September 1891. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

A fire station was soon built, and officially opened on 14th October 1893, but the town hall site remained unused, as the the council continued to meet in the new School of Arts building in Station St. Eventually, in 1935 a new fire station was built on the corner of Turton and High streets, on the proposed Town Hall site. The new fire station was officially opened on 16th March 1935.

Corner of High Street and Turton Road Waratah, April 2017. The site of the Town Hall that never was.

Timeline of events

Article Date Event DateNotes
13 Apr 1871
8 Apr 1871
First election of aldermen for Waratah Municipal Council.
15 Apr 1871
13 Apr 1871
First council meeting and election of Mayor in “Mr. Stephens long room, Hanbury”.
20 Apr 1871
17 Apr 1871
“The whole of the aldermen composing the Waratah Municipal Council met on Monday evening in Mr. Stephens' large room, but, in consequence of some clause in the Act, no business could be transacted of an official character”.
25 Apr 1871
21 Apr 1871
First ordinary council meeting, in “Mr. Dawson’s Assembly Rooms”.
4 May 1871
2 May 1871
Second ordinary council meeting, in “Mr. Dawson’s Assembly Rooms”.
18 May 1871
16 May 1871
Third ordinary meeting of Waratah Council held "in their newly appointed chambers, (late Wade's Hotel.)"
16 Mar 1872
11 Mar 1872
Waratah council debating the need for new council chambers.
31 Aug 1872
26 Aug 1872
Plan and specifications for new council chambers adopted by council, and ready to be put out for tender.
28 Sep 1872
23 Sep 1872
Tenders received for construction of Waratah council chambers, and preferred tender decided on.
15 Feb 1873
13 Feb 1873
Motion in Waratah Council "That the inscription to be placed on a tablet to be built into the wall, over the entrance to the new Council Chambers, should be as follows : — 'Waratah Council Chambers, erected A.D., 1873.— Robert Turton, Mayor.'"
13 Mar 1873
10 Mar 1873
Contractors G. Gane and A. Burgh ask for an extension of time to complete the council chambers – five weeks is granted.
27 Mar 1873
18 Mar 1873
Gazetting of one acre of land at Hanbury, for Waratah council chambers.
24 Apr 1873
21 Apr 1873
"In reference to the completion of the Council Chambers ... that the contractor be informed that if the Council Chambers be not finished and fit for use on the 1st of May, he will be required to pay the rent of the present room."
21 Jun 1873
16 Jun 1873
First meeting in new chambers in Georgetown Rd.
3 Aug 1878Northumberland Building Society to build a hall in Turton St. Society’s office is currently in Council Chambers building, Georgetown Rd.
11 Jan 1879
9 Jan 1879
A banquet held in celebration of the opening of the new offices and hall of the Northumberland Permanent Building Society.
10 Jul 1879
9 Jul 1879
Passing of the "Waratah Council Chambers Resumption Bill", so that the council chambers could become the courthouse.
8 Nov 1880
5 Nov 1880
A deputation to the Minister for Justice in connection with the council chambers being purchased for a courthouse.
6 Nov 1888
5 Nov 1880
"Waratah Municipal Council had received notice to quit the room used by the Council Clerk in the Courthouse." "Sir George Innes said he would do justice to the Council who would not be disturbed within a reasonable time, until other chambers could be found."
26 May 1882
22 May 1882
Waratah Council still meeting in the courthouse building. A committee formed to find new location.
9 Jun 1882
5 Jun 1882
The council has vacated the Courthouse, and meets at their new chambers, Stephens' Rooms, High-street.
21 Jul 1882"The School of Arts will, in future, be conducted in Stephen's rooms, High-street." This is at the same time that Council commences using this building also.
7 Feb 1885Waratah Council Chambers noted as being in High Street.
17 Mar 1887Waratah Council Chambers noted as being in High Street.
1 Nov 1888Waratah Council Chambers noted as being in High Street.
17 Dec 1888
15 Dec 1888
Ceremonial laying of foundation stone of the new School of Arts building in Station St. (Construction already well underway.)
9 Jan 1889A letter from the Waratah School of Arts Committee, intimating that they cannot guarantee Council's occupation of the present room rented by them, as Council chambers, and suggesting that a large room in the new building be used for that purpose.
26 Jan 1889
24 Jan 1889
Opening of new Waratah School of Arts building in Station St.
6 Mar 1889
4 Mar 1889
Waratah Council meeting for the first time in the new council chambers in connection with the School of Arts building.
31 Jul 1891Secretary for Lands approves dedication of land portions 2411, 2412, 2413 on Turton Rd as a site for a town hall, and portion 2410 for a fire brigade station.
16 Oct 1893
14 Oct 1893
Opening of fire station on High St, adjacent to site of proposed Waratah Town Hall.
13 Oct 1897
11 Oct 1897
Proposal for Waratah Council to acquire Northumberland Hall in Turton St and convert into Council Chambers.
3 Dec 1897"The business of the Waratah Council has hitherto been conducted in a portion of the local school of arts, but it has now been decided that the municipality shall have a Town Hall."
8 Feb 1898Waratah Council takes possession of new town hall – ground floor is offices, upstairs is a large hall.
9 Feb 1898
8 Feb 1898
First council meeting in the new Waratah Town Hall in Turton St.
22 Feb 1926
20 Feb 1926
"The foundation stone of the building in Hanbury-street, Mayfield; which is to be the new town hall for the Municipality of Waratah, was laid on Saturday afternoon."
28 Jun 1926
26 Feb 1926
Official opening of the new Waratah Council Town Hall, in Hanbury St, Mayfield.
18 Mar 1935
16 Mar 1935
Official opening of new fire station on corner of High St and Turton Rd, the site originally dedicated for the Waratah Town Hall.

Questions yet to be answered

  • Where in Turton St was Wade’s Inn? When was it demolished?
  • When was the Town Hall in Turton St demolished?
  • When was the Waratah town hall in Hanbury St demolished?