Thomas Bevan, Undertaker and more

Thomas Bevan was a man of many pursuits. Born in Camarthenshire in Wales, Bevan emigrated to Australia with an older brother and younger sister in 1884 when he was just 22 years of age. They settled in Lambton and soon afterwards their father, mother and nine other siblings, including 13 year old brother Jonah, joined them.

Thomas’ immigration document lists him as a “builder and wheelwright”, but by the following year in a legal document his occupational description had expanded to “furniture dealer, upholsterer, and undertaker.” In 1887 he married Jennet Davies in Lambton and two years later they purchased a block of land in Pearson Street, for the family home and undertaker’s business. 

However, with three undertakers in Lambton at that time, and a population of just three thousand, the task of tending to the dead was not sufficient to make a living. Bevan had to diversify, as the sign on his house attests. He was also a “cabinet maker, carpenter, joiner” and could be engaged to have “saws set and sharpened” and “glass cut to order”.

After living and working in Lambton for 25 years, Bevan made a complete change in occupation. In 1910 he sold his house and property, and moved to the Richmond River area near Casino to become a dairy farmer. He lived on a number of properties in the area and retired in 1927. He and Jennet celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in Lismore in 1937 and later moved to Sydney where Thomas died in 1941 and Jennet in 1953.

Although Thomas left Lambton in 1910, the Bevan name remained in Newcastle. His younger brother Jonah had become an undertaker in Stockton in a business that continues to this day. One difference to note though – because of the large increase in our city’s population, funeral providers today can have a singular focus that is in marked contrast to the multi-tasking of Thomas Bevan.

Thomas Bevan and family, Pearson St Lambton, 1890s. Photo by Ralph Snowball, Living Histories @ UON.
Jonah Bevan Funerals, Stockton, 2021.

The article above was first published in the April 2021 edition of The Local.


Additional Information

Thomas, William and Serviah Bevan travelled from Wales to Australia on the steamship Texas, in 1884 as assisted emigrants. The passenger list shows Thomas’ aged 22, occupation “builder and wheelwright”, and native place and county as “Carmarthen”.

Emigration list 1884, showing William and Thomas Bevan. Assisted Emigrant records, FamilySearch.org
Emigration list 1886, showing Jonah Bevan aged 13, with two older brothers. Assisted Emigrant records, FamilySearch.org

Newcastle Properties

Page 93 of the Federal Directory of Newcastle and District 1901, lists “T. Bevan” as an undertaker in Pearson St. Vol-Fol 796-107 shows that Thomas Bevan purchased the north half of Lot 6 Section K in July 1889.

Purchase by Thomas Bevan, Vol-Fol 796-107.

Lot 6 corresponds to current day address 41 Pearson St.

In the 1904 photographic panorama of Lambton, taken from the North Lambton hill, Bevan’s house and shed can be seen in Pearson St.

Thomas Bevan’s house and shed, seen in a 1904 photograph. Living Histories @ UON
41 Pearson St Lambton, March 2021.

In May 1910, the following advertisement appeared in Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate.

Property No 1 was the double storey house formerly owned by W T Dent, located at 18 Pearson St. Thomas and Jennet Bevan purchased the property in June 1908. (See Vol-Fol 262-127.) Although advertised for sale in 1910, the property was not sold until October 1919.

W T Dent’s house at 18 Pearson Street Lambton, in 1897. Thomas and Jennet Bevan purchased the house in June 1908. Living Histories @ UON

Property No 2 in the advertisement was the house and undertaker’s business at 41 Pearson St Lambton. The property sold to William James Hanlon, a blacksmith’s assistant, in July 1910.

Property No 3 was at 127 Michael Street Jesmond. Thomas Bevan purchased this property in October 1905. (See Vol-Fol 816-189.) Although advertised for sale in 1910, the property was not sold until October 1919.

Life in the Casino Area

On leaving Newcastle in May 1910, Thomas Bevan moved to the Casino area and lived and worked on a number of properties.

  • “Nunga” homestead, Fairy Hill, north-west of Casino.
  • “Carmarthen” property, McKees Hill, east of Casino
  • “Brynteg” property, Spring Grove, east of Casino

Bevan was a tenant of the “Nunga” property at Fairy Hill from 1910 until August 1914.

“Nunga” homestead, Fairy Hill, NSW. Google Maps. Imagery (c) 2021, CNES/Airbus, Maxar Technologies.

The exact location of Bevan’s property “Carmarthen” at McKees Hill is unknown. It would seem that he only rented this property as there is no record of a purchase, and the advertisement in April 1919 only mentions livestock and farm implements for sale, not the land or house.

In September 1919, Thomas Bevan purchased a property of about 280 acres at Spring Grove. (See Vol-Fol 2689-249) Presumably this purchase was funded by the sale of his Lambton and Jesmond properties in the same year.

Purchase of land by “Thomas Bevan of near Casino, Dairy Farmer.” Vol-Fol 2689-249.
Thomas Bevan’s property purchase in 1919 at Spring Grove.
Location of Thomas Bevan’s property “Brynweg”, to the east of the village of Spring Grove. SIX maps.

Bevan subsequently sold this property in July 1931.

Thomas and Jennet Bevan’s Golden wedding anniversary in Lismore. Western Mail, 23 Dec 1937.

Undertaker ratios

In the article I make the contrast between Thomas Bevan who had to diversify into a myriad of other activities beyond undertaking to make a living, compared to modern day undertakers who are focused solely on the funeral business. A rough comparison of the ratio of undertakers to population is revealing. The Federal Directory of Newcastle and District 1901, lists three undertakers in Lambton:

  • T Bevan, Pearson St
  • R Thomas, Dixon St
  • R and C Evans, Pearson St

With the population of Lambton shown as 3434 in the 1891 census, this equates to about one undertaker per 1000 people. Compare this with the modern day by looking at the area covered by the Newcastle federal electorate. The 2016 census shows a population of 152,948, and a Google search for funeral directors and undertakers in this area reveals eleven businesses. This equates to one undertaker per 14000 population, a fourteen-fold difference from the ratio that Thomas Bevan had to deal with in 1901.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
28 Aug 1885Indenture of assignment notification for "William Bevan, of Wallsend, in the Colony of New South Wales, furniture dealer, upholsterer, and undertaker, and Thomas Bevan, of the same place, furniture dealer, upholsterer, and undertaker, trading at Wallsend and Lambton, in the Colony aforesaid, under the style and firm of 'Bevan Brothers'."
29 Dec 1885Advertisement inserted by "THOMAS H. BEVAN, Undertaker, Elder-street, Lambton."
3 Jan 1887"H. BEVAN & SON, UNDERTAKERS, Elder and Kendall Streets, LAMBTON, BEG to announce to the inhabitants of Lambton and surrounding districts that they are now in a position to CONDUCT FUNERALS in the most respectable manner, and CHEAPER than any other place in the district. N.B.- Hearses and Mourning Coaches supplied on the shortest notice."
21 Jan 1887Funeral of Thomas Bevan's mother Catherine.
29 Oct 1887
27 Oct 1887
"Marriage. BEVAN-DAVIES.- October 27th, 1887, at the bride's father's house, Lambton, by the Rev. Richard Erwyd Davies, Thomas Bevan, contractor, Lambton, eldest son of Hopkin Bevan, contractor, Stockton, to Janet [sic], daughter of William Davies, merchant, Lambton."
7 Nov 1887First mention of "H. Bevan & Sons, Undertakers" in Stockton.
3 Jan 1891First mention of "Thomas Bevan, Undertaker" in Lambton, after some years being advertised as "H. Bevan and Sons".
5 May 1900
15 Apr 1900
Death of Thomas Bevan's father Hopkin, aged 66, at Stockton.
14 May 1910Thomas Bevan advertises the sale of three properties, two in Lambton and one in Jesmond.
26 May 1910
24 May 1910
"A social evening, promoted by the members of the Lambton Choral Society, was held in the Empire Hall on Tuesday night … to bid farewell to the conductor, Mr. Thomas Bevan."
26 May 1910"The members of the Lambton Congregation Church entertained Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bevan and family at a social on Monday evening in the schoolroom, on the eve of their departure from Lambton … Mr. and Mrs. Bevan and family leave Newcastle this morning by boat for their new home on the Richmond River."
1 Nov 1913
28 Oct 1913
Marriage of William Hopkin Bevan, "eldest son of Thomas Bevan, Fairy Hill, Casino (late of Lambton)."
19 Jun 1914"On Wednesday last at 'Nunga,' Fairy Hill, the residence, of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bevan, a quiet but pretty wedding was celebrated between Miss Catherine Bevan and Mr. W. H. Winslow Bassan."
17 Apr 1915In a court case over the dealing with noxious weeds on the "Nunga" property at Fairy Hill, "Thomas Bevan said he took possession in 1910 and remained a tenant till August, 1914."
28 Apr 1919On account of MR. THOS. BEVAN, 'CARMARTHEN,' McKEE'S HILL. VTIRTUE, NOBLE and CO., LTD., under instructions from Mr. Thomas Bevan, of McKee's Hill, will submit to public auction the whole of his Choice Little Dairy Herd, Plant, Horses, Pigs, Farm Implements, Galvanised Iron, Piping, Timber, etc."
27 Jan 1932After the death of Hopkin Bevan in 1900, the undertaking business at Stockton contined to trade for many years (up to at least 1932) as "H. Bevan & Sons."
23 Dec 1937
22 Nov 1937
Golden wedding anniversary celebration of Thomas and Jennet Bevan in Lismore.
13 Feb 1941Death of Thomas Bevan, aged 80, at Arncliffe.
11 Jan 1945
9 Jan 1945
Death of Jonah Bevan, aged 71, brother of Thomas.
26 Dec 1953
23 Dec 1953
Death of Jennet Bevan, aged 86, widow of Thomas.

Gittins and Eastham Store

Broadmeadow Co-Operative Society

The 19th century saw the birth of a new mode of grocery retailing – the Cooperative Society movement. Begun in the UK and brought to Australia by immigrants, the core idea was for consumers to own, control and benefit from their local store. Membership was open to all through the purchase of shares, controlled through democratically elected officers and regular meetings, and profits returned to members as dividends.

In April 1887 the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society formed with 17 initial members, and rented a four-room house in Lambton Rd to operate a store. At the second quarterly meeting in November 1887, the society reported the business to be “in a flourishing and prosperous condition.” In 1889 the society purchased their own premises (the small wooden building in Snowball’s photo) in Brunker Road adjacent to the Premier Hotel. Membership had increased to over 170, and a bakery department was soon added.

However, in the 1890s a prolonged economic depression put the society under financial strain. With many miners out of work, trade fell dramatically. The working capital of the society slowly eroded with over-optimistic dividend payments in the face of declining profits, and members withdrawing from the cooperative. By April 1897 the financial position was untenable, and the society closed. Only the largest cooperative societies, with many members and multiple stores, survived the downturn.

In May 1897 the Broadmeadow store was taken over by Robert Gittins and George Eastham, who soon erected a large brick building adjacent to the original building. Gittins and Eastham had emigrated from the UK to Australia around 1887, and after a brief stint working as pit mates at the Bullock Island colliery, opened grocery stores in Wickham and Carrington. They traded at Broadmeadow for 10 years until selling to Thomas Hughes, who then ran the store for the next quarter century.

Independent, locally owned stores such as this were the norm until the 1960s, when the big supermarket chains rapidly rose to a dominance in grocery retailing they maintain to this day.

Gittins and Eastham Store, Broadmeadow, September 1897. Photo by Ralph Snowball, Living Histories @ UON,
The store was located at 3 Brunker Rd Broadmeadow, where the Premier Hotel carpark is today.

The article above was first published in the March 2021 edition of The Local.


Additional Information

The Broadmeadow Co-operative Society

The Broadmeadow Co-operative Society got off to a good start. After six months of operation, at their second quarterly meeting pm 31 October 1887, the secretary Mr W Roe presented a report and balance-sheet …

… which showed the society to be in a flourishing and prosperous condition, both with regard to members and financially. The shareholders number 69; paid-up shares, 104; unpaid-up shares, 22. The weekly takings at the store average over £50 per week. There is also a large number of non-members who purchase their goods at the store. The balance-sheet also showed that a large sum had been spent during the quarter in procuring a horse and cart and other necessaries required in the business; but despite this expense the society was enabled to declare a dividend of ten per cent. The report and balance-sheet were unanimously adopted, and the shareholders were very jubilant over the progressiveness of the society.

Location of Broadmeadow Co-operative Society Store. 10 Lambton Rd (April 1887 to April 1889) and 3 Brunker Rd (May 1889 to April 1897).

At the district Co-operative Conference held at Burwood on Saturday 13 July 1889, Mr R Gray, manager of the Pioneer Society at Burwood delivered a speech on “The rise and progress of cooperation in this district.” In the speech Mr Gray described the essence of the Co-operative movement as being …

“… that the profits of an undertaking do not go into the pocket of an employer, be that employer an individual, or several individuals united in partnership; but that they should be shared by the largest possible number of those who engage in the undertaking, either as consumers or workers. In our distributive co-operative societies the net profits on sales, after paying working expenses, interest on capital etc, go to the consumer.”

Mr Gray gave detailed statistics on each of the district societies, including the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society, which …

“… started business on April 17th, 1887, with 17 members, and a share capital of £14, and a loan of £50, making in all £94. They have paid away in dividends to members on their purchases alone, since they commenced, £1037 6s. Their share capital at the end of this quarter is £685 11s 10d, and the number of members on their books is 173. These facts speak for themselves. Then there is the fact of their having purchased the premises which they now occupy, their fixed stock account amounting to £200.”

The premises purchased by the society was on the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve (Commonage). The location can therefore be identified from the Land Court Sittings in July 1890, when people of the Commonage were finally able to apply for legal title to the land they were residing on. From the sitting of the court on 28 July 1890

“Portion 2102; applicants, the Broadmeadow Cooperative Society, Limited. The district surveyor reported that the land was valued at £103 4s, and he submitted that the applicants should prove ownership of the improvements. James Raine stated that he was president of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society, Limited, and he appeared in support of an application made by John A. Davidson, the then secretary of the society, for portion 2102. The society owned the improvements on the portion, which consisted of a shop and outbuildings. The land had been purchased from Charles Heath, who had been in occupation prior to 1888, and the purchase was completed on the 25th May of that year. Witness claimed that the society had a perfect right under the Act to make application for the portion, as they had been in continued occupation since purchasing. Heath had not, to witness’s knowledge, made application for the land. After a short discussion, the board stated that they would adjourn the further consideration of the appraisement until they were dealing with other portions in the same vicinity. In the meantime, they would recommend that the application be accepted.”

Subsequently on 4 September 1890, the Land Court formally accepted the application of …

“Broadmeadow Co-operative Society, Limited, lot 2102, £163 4s”

The Co-operative’s store is just visible on the right hand side of Snowballs 1892 photograph of the Premier Hotel surrounded by floodwaters.

Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, NSW, 18 March 1892. Ralph Snowball, Living Histories @ UON
Broadmeadow Cooperative Store, 1892.

The rise of the Supermarkets

The Australian food history timeline website indicates that Farr’s of Newcastle may have been the first Australian supermarket. In 1957 the Chermside Drive-in Shopping Centre opened in Brisbane, including a supermarket that was soon afterwards bought by Woolworths. Coles then opened their first Australian supermarket in North Balwyn in Victoria in 1960.

By the early 1970s the big supermarket chains (Woolworths, Coles, Supa Value, Foodland, Franklins, FAL) had 50% share of the grocery retail market, and by 2020, the two major chains (Woolworths/Coles) had a 67% market share.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
4 Apr 1887
4 Apr 1887
"A public meeting will be held at the junction of Adamstown and Broadmeadow Roads on MONDAY, 4th inst., at 7 p.m. All in favour of establishing a Co-operative Society are requested to attend."
6 Apr 1887"The meeting advertised to be held on the Commonage for the establishment of a co-operative society was, on account of the wet weather, adjourned to Mr. Raine's residence, where a very successful meeting was held. About 21 persons enrolled themselves as members, and gave the newly-formed society the name of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society. "
9 Apr 1887
8 Apr 1887
Meeting of the newly-formed Broadmeadow Co-operative Society … "A letter was read from a Mrs. Dickford, offering a four-roomed house, with outhouse and stable, facing the Lambton-road … it was agreed to take the building from Wednesday next, which would allow ample time to commence business by next pay."
2 Nov 1887
31 Oct 1887
Second quarterly meeting of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society reported "the society to be in a flourishing and prosperous condition."
12 Nov 1887William Roe, secretary of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society authorised to sell postage stamps.
8 May 1889
4 May 1889
Broadmeadow Co-operative Society annual meeting. The co-operative now had 174 members and was in a good financial position, attributed to the fact that "the society has now premises of its own, which is a great saving in rent."
17 Jul 1889An essay on "The rise and progress of cooperation in this district" read by Mr. R. Gray, manager of the Pioneer Society, Burwood, at the Co-operative Conference. It has some good insights into the history and goals of the Co-operative movement, as well as detailed statistics on the current state of the Co-operative movement in Newcastle.
29 Jul 1890Commonage Allotments land court sitting, where the application by the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society for portion 2102 was considered. The application was adjourned, but with an intimation that it would be approved.
6 Sep 1890
4 Sep 1890
Sitting of the Land Court formally accepts the application of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society for lot 2102.
14 Jan 1892At the quarterly general meeting … "The report showed the number of members on the books to be 217" and "special attention was drawn to the bakery department, which is now in full working order."
28 Oct 1893Tensions at the Quarterly meeting of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society regarding: withdrawal of members, lack of support from members, paying of dividends, bakery accounts.
31 Jan 1896
29 Jan 1896
Correspondence to Hamilton Council: "From Mr. A. Sharp, manager of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Store, complaining of the bad state of the road in front of the store, and asking council to effect the necessary repairs. It was resolved that the request be complied with."
20 Apr 1897"A special meeting of the Broadmeadow Co-operative Society will be held this evening for the purpose of considering the financial position of the society."
6 May 1897"The Assigned Estate Broadmeadow Co-operative Society. WE have This Day DISPOSED of the BOOK DEBTS of this Estate to Messrs. Gettins (sic) and Eastham, Grocers, Broadmeadow, whose receipt will be a sufficient discharge."
9 Aug 1897"Messrs. Gittens and Eastham, who have secured the property and business of the now defunct Broadmeadow Co-operative Society, have made good progress since they opened a branch store at Broadmeadow. The experience of the firm has been such that they have near completion a large brick building that is to be used for a store. The building adjoins the old store on the Brunker-road frontage, and is a splendid site from a business standpoint. Mr John Francis is managing the business on behalf of the firm."
25 Oct 1897"By the opening of the large branch store by Messrs Gittans (sic) and Eastham on the site of the old Co-operative Store the thoroughfare has been given a brighter aspect and the surroundings more enticing."
5 Nov 1907"PUBLIC NOTICE, TOM HUGHES WISHES to announce to the General Public of Broadmeadow and Surrounding Districts that he has Purchased the Business lately carried on by GITTENS & EASTHAM, at Broadmeadow."
29 Apr 1919
29 Apr 1919
"Mr. Robert Gittins, of Hannell-street, Wickham, the principal partner in the firm of Messrs. Gittins and Eastham, died at an early hour this morning at Waratah Hospital. Mr. Gittins was 65 years of age, and a well known and highly respected resident of Wickham for upwards of 30 years. His son is Alderman Reece Gittins, of the Wickham Council."
29 Apr 1919"PUBLIC NOTICES. GITTINS & EASTHAM. THE BUSINESS PREMISES of the above Firm at Wickham, Carrington, and Steel-street, Newcastle will be CLOSED ALL DAY TO-MORROW (WEDNESDAY), on account of the death of Mr. Robert Gittins"
30 Apr 1919Obituary of Robert Gittins.
5 Oct 1931Obituary of George Eastham.
23 Jan 1937Obituary of Thomas Hughes.

East Lambton Colliery

Often historical photographs feature a successful person, event or building. But sometimes an old photograph is a snapshot of failure. Such is the case with the East Lambton Colliery. Somewhat confusingly this colliery was not located in East Lambton, but in New Lambton (near present day Novocastrian Park), on land owned by the Waratah Coal Company.

The mine was worked under the tribute system, where a large mining company having extracted all the easily won coal, would lease their mine to a smaller third party. The lease holder would then attempt to make a profit from the remaining coal by cutting costs, usually by reducing miners’ wages. Depending on where your political sympathies lay, this was viewed as either a good or evil arrangement.

Because of the constant need to cut costs, collieries run under the tribute system tended to face constant troubles. East Lambton was no exception. In its short life between 1888 and 1894 there were disputes about unpaid wages, court cases over subcontractors, and arguments about leases and ownership.

The mine also laboured under physical difficulties, with issues of flooding and having to dig shafts through harder than expected rock. All this led to a rather shambolic and perilous workplace. A close inspection of Ralph Snowball’s photo shows an untidy scene of rubbish, machinery and materials strewn all over the place. There was a fatality in 1891 when a large metal pipe fell down a shaft and struck a miner.

The colliery proved to be unprofitable and closed in January 1895, and the land in the area remained vacant and undeveloped for the next 50 years. Following World War 2, new housing subdivisions quickly and completely covered all trace of the former troubled colliery.

The legacy of the troubled East Lambton pit can perhaps best be summed up in the final words of the Newcastle Herald and Miners’ Advocate report on its abandonment …

“The closing of the colliery will not be felt.”

East Lambton Colliery in 1892. Photo by Ralph Snowball. NSW State Archives and Records.
Suburban serenity now covers the site of the troubled East Lambton Colliery. © 2020 Google. Image Landsat / Copernicus Image © 2021 Maxar Technologies

The article above was first published in the February 2021 edition of The Local.


Additional Information

The Tribute System

The tribute system of working mines and the attitude of the miners’ union to it, is nicely summarised in this 1887 article from The Daily Telegraph …

At a special meeting of miners’ delegates held to-day, at which 14 lodges were represented, it was decided to hold an aggregate meeting of the miners of this district at Waratah on the 16th inst,. to take into consideration the tribute system and other grievances existing in this district. This is owing to the unsatisfactory reply given by Mr Binney, secretary of the Associated Coalowners, to the request of the officers of the Miners’ Union for a conference with the masters’ executive. The tribute system, which the miners consider is a growing evil in the district, consists in the colliery proprietors letting out portions of their estate to persons other than themselves, who endeavor to cut down the price paid for hewing coal at the associated collieries. The miners consider the system detrimental to their interest, and look upon the masters as in directly, if not directly, responsible for reducing the wages.

The Daily Telegraph, 8 July 1887.

Colliery Location

The location of the East Lambton Colliery was difficult to pin down, as I have not found any map that unambiguously identifies the site. I have been able to ascertain the location by drawing conclusions from a number of separate pieces of information, in particular, information on land sales and ownership. The key clues are:

  1. The mine was located in the New Lambton Municipality. (See notice about council rates being in arrears in November 1893.)
  2. In September 1893 the mine was on land owned by the Waratah Coal Company.
  3. In May 1896 the Caledonian Coal Company unsuccessfully appealed the municipal rates for “enclosed land, site of the old East Lambton Colliery”, indicating they were the current owners.
  4. The pit was sunk “for the purpose of working a block of coal left by the New Lambton Company.

In the Historical Lands Records Viewer, Vol-Fol 947-59A shows an area of 357 acres in New Lambton area, owned by the Waratah Coal Company in 1889.

Overlaying this area (yellow) and the outline of New Lambton Municipality (cyan) into Google Earth, shows us the intersection of the two areas where the East Lambton Colliery must be located.

The image below shows intersecting area in green. To the west, outlined in white are the mining leases of the New Lambton Coal Company.

From Vol-Fol 947-59A, following the chain of title leads to Vol-Fol 1096-70 and 1485-171, which shows a sale in July 1896 of

  • a roughly triangular piece of land, on the border between Waratah Coal Company mining lease and New Lambton Coal Company mining lease
  • plus the railway easement for the Raspberry Gully line
  • plus a thin railway easement to the triangular block of land
From Vol-Fol 1096-70
Vol-Fol 1485-171

The shape of the triangular block plus the railway easement can still be seen 48 years later in a 1944 aerial photograph.

Close up of triangular area of land. There is round feature in the middle which might be the sunken depression of the former shaft.
Purchase of land in 1896 by Caledonian Coal Co, overlaid into Google Earth.

The location of the triangular area of land resolves what at first appears to be contradiction in the newspaper reports – that the mine was on Waratah Coal Company land, but extracting New Lambton Company coal. Being on the border, the surface operations and shaft were on Waratah Coal Company land, but would give access to New Lambton Company coal by tunnelling westwards. This also explains the reference on 27 July 1889 that flooding of the workings “may find its way into the Lambton Company’s workings”, because the Lambton Company workings were to the west of the New Lambton Company workings.

This site also matches the 1892 photograph, in which we can see the wooded hill (now Blackbutt Reserve) of the Sottish Australian Mining Company’s Lambton mineral lease in the background, and a rail line in the foreground.

There is one slight anomaly in the data placing the East Lambton Colliery in this location – the Caledonian Company’s appeal against Municipal rates was in May 1896, but the transfer of land to them is dated July 1896. My guess is that the rates were in arrears, and that the Caledonian Company had to pay the rates owing before the land purchase was allowed to proceed.

The rapid suburban development in post World War 2 years in the area of the former East Lambton Colliery, is starkly seen when comparing a 1944 aerial photograph (left) with a 1954 aerial photograph (right).

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
4 Jul 1888"WANTED, a BLACKSMITH, used to colliery work. Apply to WILLIAMS & GRIFFITHS, East Lambton Colliery."
28 Aug 1888East Lambton Colliery is being worked under tribute to the New Lambton proprietors by Mr. M. Yates and party "who are also contractors for supplying the G. N. Railway with coal for the mail and passenger trains."
27 Jul 1889"Messrs. Griffiths and Williams, lessees of the East Lambton Colliery, have been for some time past engaged in pumping the water from a shaft adjacent to their mine, and had it nearly cleared out, but the heavy rains have entirely flooded it again, which is a serious loss to the firm. A pitfall also was caused near the main road, which has allowed the water to flow more freely into the old workings of Mr. Yates' colliery, and it is the opinion of a well-known miner that this water may find its way into the Lambton Company's workings."
3 Sep 1889"TENDERS will be received up to September 7th, for REMOVAL OF TWO (2) COAL SCREENS and REERECTING. Plans and particulars apply T. G. GRIFFITHS, Colliery Manager, East Lambton Coal Company, New Lambton."
30 Oct 1889"John Prout sued Isaac Robinson for the sum of £7 10s as wages for labour done. Defendant admitted the debt, but alleged his inability to pay until he received payment for certain work done in sinking a shaft at East Lambton Colliery."
9 Dec 1889
6 Dec 1889
Court cases involving the East Lambton Colliery - unpaid wages, wrongful dismissal.
20 Jan 1890Mining rules for East Lambton Colliery published in Government Gazette.
15 Feb 1890"For some considerable time past Mr. T. G. Griffiths has been engaged driving in the East Lambton colliery towards the old workings of the Waratah Company, in order to tap the large accumulation of water therein, and a few days ago most successfully succeeded in his undertaking. The result will be that a large quantity of coal will soon be obtainable from both Waratah and New Lambton collieries."
3 Jan 1891
2 Jan 1891
Fatality in the old Blakey Shaft, being reopened as an airshaft for the East Lambton Colliery.
5 Jan 1891Inquest into the fatality at the Blakey shaft.
1 Feb 1892"A dispute has occurred at the East Lambton Mine between the manager and miners in regard to the remuneration for work."
6 Feb 1892East Lambton Colliery now under tribute to D. Fairfull, J. McReth, W. Bunn, and B. Austin, from Mr Griffith.
30 Mar 1892East Lambton Colliery was always teetering on the brink of bankruptcy … "ON FRIDAY, the first day of April, 1892, at noon, unless the warrant of fieri facias herein be previously satisfied, the Sheriff will cause to be sold by public auction at the East Lambton Colliery, The PLANT, &c., of a Colliery, comprising Coal Waggons, Pumps, Pit Horses, &c., &c."
2 Apr 1892
1 Apr 1892
"The East Lambton Colliery was sold by auction, by command of the Supreme Court, yesterday, for the sum of £400, Mr. Johnstone, of South Wallsend, being the purchaser."
9 Apr 1892"The trouble at East Lambton Colliery is not yet settled. Mr. Griffith, despite the sale of the colliery to Mr. Johnston, claims ownership. While the parties are fighting for their right to the colliery the miners are idle and unable to get the hard-earned money due to them."
13 Sep 1892"THE East Lambton Colliery started yesterday. About 20 men were employed"
7 Aug 1893"East Lambton pit was sunk about five years ago for the purpose of working a block of coal left by the New Lambton Company. Almost since the day a start was made to put down the shaft there has been a continuance of disputes and no end of trouble, and the present is not the first time the workmen have had to wait for their money."
15 Aug 1893"The miners of the East Lambton pit have not received the pay due to them on the 4th instant, and have instructed a solicitor to take legal steps for its recovery." The Miner's Association, being opposed to the tribute system, were not very sympathetic towards the unpaid miners, viewing them as strike breakers.
29 Aug 1893The bankruptcy Sequestration Order made in 1892 against proprietors of East Lambton Colliery (Griffiths, Huntley, Trickett, Russell, Campbell) was annulled, "the costs, charges, and expenses of Lancelot Threlkeld Lloyd" having been paid.
26 Sep 1893"Operations at the East Lambton Colliery are once more suspended …"

The Waratah Company having leased the mine to John Johnston of Cardiff colliery, who then sub-let the mine to others, and then a disagreement arose with the Waratah Company, who then locked the workers out.

"Matters at the colliery have been from a public standpoint in a greatly complicated state for a considerable time, and it is a most difficult question to solve as to who has the right to the colliery."
6 Oct 1893
4 Oct 1893
At a New Lambton Council meeting attention was called "to the dangerous state of the enclosure of the old Blakey shaft. Children made a practice of going inside and throwing stones down the shaft." The council decided to "write to the lessees of East Lambton Colliery, asking them to protect the shaft."
17 Nov 1893
15 Nov 1893
At New Lambton Council meeting a letter was received "from Messrs. Sparke and Millard, in regard to recovery of the East Lambton Colliery rates."
9 Apr 1894"THE Goods and Chattels of the above Defendant, Thomas S. Huntley, at the East Lambton Colliery, will be sold by public auction on MONDAY"
25 Jan 1895"EAST LAMBTON COLLIERY. This colliery has been abandoned. The pumps and rails are removed from the pit. The machinery is being taken to pieces and removed to South Waratah Colliery. During the past year only a few men were employed, and the last few weeks only three or four men were engaged. The seam worked in the pit was very hard, which, aided by other difficulties, did not allow of it being remunerative. The colliery was let to different tribute parties. The closing of the colliery will not be felt."
14 May 1896At the New Lambton Municipal Appeals Court, rates were confirmed for "Caledonian Coal Company, enclosed land, site of the old East Lambton Colliery, annual value £10."

Reservoir Hotel

How many hotels does a mining township need? In the boom years of the 19th century the answer was ‘lots’. But after World War 1 the answer was ‘less’, for these were the years of the Licenses Reduction Board. The Reservoir Hotel on Newcastle Road at Lambton was one of the casualties of the board’s deliberations 100 years ago.

In 1864 Robert Cairns opened the “Lambton Arms” in Pearson St, the first of many hotels in the town. As the population grew, so did the number of hotels, reaching a peak of 16 in 1881. In 1888, John Cox commissioned a new hotel on the main road opposite the town’s recently installed water reservoir. The two-storey weatherboard building, designed by architects Bennett and Yeomans, contained sixteen rooms and a cellar, and opened for business in July 1888 with Jacob Dent as the first licensee.

Fourteen publicans ran the hotel in the following 33 years, until the Licenses Reduction Board brought an end. The board was born out of the Prohibition movement, but not in the way you might expect. In the face of growing activism from groups wanting to ban all alcohol, a citizen’s association was formed in 1919 to “oppose the extreme and ruinous legislation proposed by prohibitionists”, and to instead promote a policy of “moderation and temperance”.

In December 1919 the NSW parliament passed a bill that instituted the Licenses Reduction Board. Their purpose was to reduce the number of licensed premises to a maximum based on population, by closing hotels with a history of liquor act convictions, or those in poor physical condition. Compensation was to be paid to owners and licensees.

During 1920 the board inspected 152 hotels in the Newcastle area, and on 28 January 1921 announced its decision that 23 licenses were to be revoked, including the Reservoir Hotel at Lambton. In August 1921 John Baptist Beisler, the final publican of the hotel, closed the bar for the last time.  The building has been a private residence since that day.

Reservoir Hotel building, Lambton (Undated, photographer unknown.)
Reservoir Hotel building in 2020.

The article above was first published in the January 2021 edition of The Local.


Additional Information

the Hotel

A report in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate on 31 May 1888 provides details of the newly opened Reservoir Hotel …

The completion of the new hotel built to the order of Mr. J. Cox, of the Yacht Club Hotel, Newcastle, by Mr. George Froome, of Wallsend, Messrs. Bennett and Yeomans being the architects, was marked by Mr. Cox inviting some of his Newcastle and district friends to inspect the building, and after wards do the usual honours in favour of Mr. Jacob Dent, of Lambton, who will be the lessee on opening. The hotel is splendidly situated, near the reservoir on the Lambton Wallsend-road, commanding a splendid view of at least three fourths of the district. It is a weather-board building, containing sixteen rooms and commodious cellar, out-houses, stable, &c., being built on an entirely improved plan, which reflects great credit on the architects and builder. All the rooms are well ventilated and lighted, a splendid balcony runs around half of the building with a frontage to George-street and the main road; in fact all that can be desired, in the way of an hotel in the strictest sense of the word is to be found in the building.

Advertisement for Dent’s Reservoir Hotel. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 29 August 1888.

There were a total of 14 licensees of the Reservoir Hotel in its 33 year history.

  1. Jacob Dent (1888 to 1892)
  2. William Rutherford (1893 to 1897)
  3. John Cox (1898 to 1900)
  4. Ellen Jane Cox, widow of John Cox (1900 to June 1902)
  5. William Newell (June 1902 to June 1903)
  6. Thomas Weaver (June 1903 to May 1904)
  7. Joseph Brindley (May 1904 to 1905)
  8. William H North (1906 to 1910)
  9. Thomas Owens (1911 to 1912)
  10. B D Holloway (1913)
  11. Thomas Mordue (1913 to March 1917)
  12. John McKenzie (March 1917 to 1918)
  13. Mary Etta Graham (1919 to 1920)
  14. John Baptist Beisler (1921)

It is important to remember when researching old hotels, that the licensee of the hotel is not necessarily the same as the person who owns the land and hotel building. Regarding the ownership of the Reservoir Hotel, Volume-Folio 806-208 in the Historical Land Records Viewer shows that John Cox purchased the land in August 1886, being Lots 1 and 28 of Section B

Vol-Fol 784-8
Lots 1 and 28 of Section B.

Volume-Folio 806-208 shows that the property was then leased to “John Thomas Toohey and James Matthew Toohey of Sydney, Brewers”, in February 1893.

Vol-Fol 806-208. Lease to Toohey brothers in 1993.

John Cox owned the land until his death in 1900, and then his widow, Ellen Jane Cox sold the land to “Castlemaine Brewery and Wood Brothers and Company, Newcastle” in June 1902. They retained ownership of the property for the remainder of the working life of the hotel.

Vol-Fol 806-208. Sale to Castlemaine Brewery

John Baptist Beisler, the final licensee of the Reservoir Hotel, held the license for less than a year. In 1930 Beisler obtained the license of the Marquis of Lorne Hotel in Morehead St, and he and his wife and his family held the licence of that hotel for an impressive 46 years, until the family sold the business in 1976.

The Licenses Reduction Board

In Sydney in March 1919, a the Citizens’ Rights and Liquor Reform Association was formed, to advocate a middle ground between ‘prohibition’ and ‘business as usual’ in the alcohol trade. The report in The Sun newspaper on 20 March 1919 explained the association’s objectives, one of which was the establishment of a Licenses Reduction Board..

A number of Sydney citizens believe that liquor reform is one of the most vital problems before the people of Australia at this time. There have hitherto been only two alternatives — continuance of the liquor traffic and its palpable abuses or absolute prohibition. These men also believe that the real solution lies in neither of these extremes. They prefer the means of moderation and temperance … the new organisation will “oppose the extreme and ruinous legislation proposed by prohibitionists, aided and abetted by the money and the professional, agitators of the American Anti-Saloon League, who, by an impertinence and arrogance unparalleled in Australian history, have injected themselves and their theories into an arena hitherto regarded as inviolably domestic.” On the other hand, the association will use all its power to bring about real temperance reform.

Some of its objectives are: — The elimination of unnecessary and undesirable hotels through a Licenses Reduction Board; cancellation of the licenses of unscrupulous licensees and their permanent disqualification; making all hotels actually and in fact places of public accommodation and reputable social entertainment; and reduction of alcoholic strength of liquors.

There was much debate throughout 1919 in the papers and in Parliament about how the Liquor Act should be reformed. Finally, in the early hours of Wednesday morning 18 December 1919, the Parliament passed the final stage of the “Liquor (Amendment) Act 1919”.

The Act covered include a number of reforms, including …

  • Establishment of a Licenses Reduction Board
  • No new liquor or publican’s licenses to be granted
  • Reduce the number of publican’s licenses over a period of three years
    • by a number not exceeding one fourth
    • to a maximum number based on a formula involving the size of the electorate.
  • The board to hold hearings to assess which licensed premises might be closed.
  • Premises to consider for delicensing to include those where
    • there have been convictions for selling alcohol to minors, selling to intoxicated persons, gaming or prostitution offences
    • “the business in the premises is so badly conducted as to be a serious inconvenience to persons requiring accommodation, or a nuisance to the neighbours, or insufficiently provided with proper sanitary conveniences”
  • Assess the amount of compensation to be paid to owners and licenses

In Newcastle, “the board carefully inspected each of the 152 licensed premises in the electorate” and in January 1921 announced their decision that the following 23 hotels were to have their license removed.

  1. Selbourne Hotel, Newcastle
  2. Royal Crown Hotel, Adamstown
  3. Strand Hotel, Newcastle
  4. Railway Hotel, West Newcastle
  5. Federal Hotel, Stockton
  6. Carrington Hotel, Wallsend-Plattsburg
  7. Grapes Inn Hotel, Wallsend-Plattsburg
  8. Imperial Hotel, Wallsend-Plattsburg
  9. Northumberland Hotel, Wallsend-Plattsburg
  10. Miners’ Arms Hotel, Young Wallsend (Edgeworth)
  11. Bonnie Doon Hotel, Minmi
  12. All Nations’ Hotel, Newcastle
  13. Masonic Hotel, Newcastle
  14. Newcastle Hotel, Newcastle
  15. Australian Hotel, Newcastle
  16. Mafeking Hotel, Newcastle
  17. Miners’ Arms Hotel, Newcastle
  18. Clyde Hotel, Carrington
  19. Central Hotel, Lambton
  20. Reservoir Hotel, Lambton
  21. Royal Hotel, Wallsend
  22. Railway Hotel, Minmi
  23. Tattersalls Hotel, West Wallsend

The licenses weren’t revoked immediately, but simply not renewed at the expiration of the current annual license. The board also determined compensation to be paid, and announced their decision in May 1921. For the Reservoir Hotel in Lambton, compensation was decided to be “£1450 to owner, £190 licensee; total, £1640.”

Other Lambton hotels

In the article I wrote that the number of hotels in Lambton reached a peak of 16 in 1881. The graphic below charts the evolution of hotels in Lambton from 1864 to the present. In compiling the list I am including hotels that were in the Lambton Municipality, so that includes hotels that were in Dark Creek, that is the area of Jesmond east of the inner city bypass.

Click on the image below to get a larger view, or see my comprehensive list of the hotels in Lambton.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
21 Dec 1887Application by Jacob Dent for a "Conditional Publican's License for premises proposed to be erected at the intersection of George and Young streets, Lambton, to be known by the sign of Dent's Reservoir Hotel."
31 May 1888
30 May 1888
Opening of "Dent's Reservoir Hotel", on the corner of George and Young streets, opposite the reservoir.
5 Jul 1888Confirmation of the conditional license for Jacob Dent's Reservoir Hotel, Lanbton Heights.
29 Aug 1888Advertisement for the newly opened "Dent's Reservoir Hotel".
20 Mar 1919Formation of the Citizens' Rights and Liquor Reform Association, to advocate a middle ground between 'prohibition' and 'business as usual' in the alcohol trade.
18 Dec 1919
17 Dec 1919
In the early hours of Wednesday morning the final stage of the Liquor Amendment Act was adopted.
18 Jan 1921
17 Jan 1921
At the Licenses Reduction Board hearing for the Reservoir Hotel ... "Inspector Cook produced certificates of two convictions, one in May, 1919, and the other in October, 1919. Sergeant Harrison said the hotel was an old weatherboard building in a fair state of repair. Four bedrooms were available to the public. The conduct was good. Travellers did not use it a great deal, but it served a population of about 1000."
29 Jan 1921
28 Jan 1921
The Licenses Reduction Board delivers its report at the Newcastle Courthouse, announcing that 23 hotels in the Newcastle Electorate should be deprived of their licenses, including the Reservoir Hotel and Central Hotel in Lambton.
28 May 1921Compensation awarded to 23 hotels closed by the Licenses Reduction Board in Newcastle electorate, including £1640 to the Reservoir Hotel owner and licensee.
24 Aug 1921The Reservoir Hotel closes as a licensed premise.

Adamstown Post Office

Often in this column, the pairing of “then” and “now” photographs highlights what has disappeared or changed over the years. This month, one of the most striking things is the similarity. Ralph Snowball’s photograph shows guests assembled for the official opening of Adamstown’s new Post Office by the Postmaster-General Mr J Cook on 21 December 1895. Apart from a missing awning, 125 years later the exterior of the building is remarkably unchanged.

One difference can be seen in the roads. In 1895 Kyle Rd was a primitive dirt track, and the front of the post office was level with the street. In 1900 Brunker Rd was lowered when the Adamstown tramway was built, and the building gained steps and a ramp.

This was Adamstown’s third post office. The first opened in April 1877 and was operated by John and Ann Syme from their residence in Victoria St. In May 1889 William Lee took charge of postal affairs in Adamstown, and a decision was made to relocate to a more central location in Union St (Brunker Rd). Commenting on the impending move, the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate noted that “the postal authorities have decided wisely … the present office is inconvenient and most unsuitable.”

The second post office opened at the end of 1889, but its usefulness was short lived. Within a year Adamstown Council was complaining that it was only “a four-roomed dwelling-house” and was “far short of the requirements of the place at the present time.”

In 1894 the government approved the budget for a new dedicated post office, and the following year accepted the construction tender of Southon brothers for £1200.  The building had a large office and lobby and seven other rooms to accommodate post and telegraph work. Constructed from Waratah stone the building has endured. It serves the same purpose today as when it opened, for while the world has changed much, our human desire for connection and communication remains undiminished.

Opening of new post office at Adamstown, 1895. Snowball Collection. Courtesy of Newcastle Region Library. Accession Number 001 000196.
Adamstown Post Office in 2020.

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


Additional Information

Adamstown’s FIrst Post Office

The first post office in Adamstown was located at 74 Victoria St, at the residence of John and Ann Syme, and was opened on 16 April 1877.

Adamstown’s first post office, photographed in 1936 on the occasion of the jubilee of Adamstown Council. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 Mar 1936.
Ann Syme, first postmistress of Adamstown, photographed in 1936. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 Mar 1936.
The Victoria St building that housed Adamstown’s first post office, photographed in December 2020.

Note that the funeral notice for Ann Syme indicates that she lived at 64 Victoria Street, however it appears that a renumbering of streets occurred in Adamstown at some stage, and what was 64 Victoria St later became 74 Victoria St. In 1931, Adamstown Council were considering street renumbering but decided against it at that time.

Claiming that it would prove too costly an undertaking, Adamstown Council refused last night to renumber the houses in the municipality. The town clerk (Mr. W. Brown), pointed out that in a majority of the streets the numbering was incorrect on account of many allotments being subdivided since the first numbers were issued.

The Newcastle Sun, 10 September 1931

The renumbering must have taken place at a later time, as in the modern numbering scheme there is no 64 Victoria St.

The location of John and Ann Symes house is confirmed in the old land title certificates. Lot 5 of Section 13 in Victoria St (houses 68-74 in the modern numbering scheme) was purchased by Jenkin Williams in 1877.

Purchase of land in Victoria St Adamstown by Jenkin Williams in 1877. Historical Lands Records Viewer, Vol-Fol 307-223.

Lot 5 was subsequently subdivided, with the western portion (houses 72-74 in the modern numbering scheme) sold to John Syme in 1881.

Purchase of land in Victoria St Adamstown by John Syme in 1881. Historical Lands Records Viewer, Vol-Fol 556-203.
Purchase of land in Victoria St Adamstown by John Syme in 1881. Historical Lands Records Viewer, Vol-Fol 556-203.

Adamstown’s Second Post Office

Adamstown’s second post office opened at the end of 1889 in a newly constructed wooden building on block of land in Union St (now Brunker Rd).

The new building erected by Mr. Joseph Davenport in Union-street for a post and telegraph office is completed, and the postal business of Adamstown will in future be transacted there. According to the notices posted at the office, the office will open at 9 a.m., and the postal department close at 6.30 p.m., while the telegraph department is allowed to remain open till 8 p.m.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 30 December 1889.
Adamstown Post Office in Union St (now Brunker Rd), 1890-1895.

The Torrens Purchasers Index of 1888-1890 shows that Joseph Davenport purchased a 1 rood (quarter acre) block of land in Union St. Unfortunately the Volume-Folio reference of 102-41 against this entry is erroneous and points to a different land purchase.

John Henderson, a reader of this blog, provided invaluable assistance and identified that the correct reference is 202-41, where we learn that Joseph Davenport purchased Lot 9 of Section 13 on Union St in September 1889.

Lot 9 of Section 13. Vol-Fol 202-41, p1.
Transfer of land to Joseph Davenport, Vol-Fol 202-41, p2,

From Deposited Plan 60 we see that Lot 9 of Section 13 was on the eastern side of Union St (Brunker Rd) just south of the Glebe Rd intersection.

Location of Lot 9 Section 13 in Adamstown. Deposited Plan 60 at Historical Lands Record Viewer.

This location is 257-259 Brunker Rd, where the supermarket and news agency are located today.

Lot 9 of Section 13 in December 2020.

Adamstown’s Third Post Office

In 1936, in the lead up to the celebration of Adamstown’s jubilee (50 years since the municipality was incorporated) a faded photograph of the post office opening was found in the Adamstown Council chambers. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate of 15 February 1936 observed that …

the building in the photograph is very little dissimilar from the building that serves the public in Adamstown today

… the very same observation I wrote in my article 84 years later, before I had found this 1936 newspaper report!

The report also gives us some valuable information on the names of people appearing in the photo.

Additional interest is given to the photograph by the group of prominent men of Adamstown assembled in front of the building. Conspicuous in this group is the Postmaster-General of the time (Mr. J. Cook), who officially opened the new office in December, 1895. Others include Mr. Alfred Edden, M.L.A., who retired from the mayoralty to become first representative in the Legislative Assembly of Kahibah and, subsequently, Minister for Mines. Mr. W. Brown, who was town clerk of Adamstown for 45 years, is there, and so is Mr. J. Curley, who was the miners’ General Secretary in Newcastle for many years. Also recognised in the photograph are Mr. John Blakemore, once an alderman and one of the first residents of Adamstown; Ald. W. Cowan, J. Gray, M. Lydon. J. Thwaites, J. Robinson, T. Hetherington (who was a member of the first Adamstown Council, and Mayor in 1888, and was a victim of the Dudley colliery disaster in 1898), and Messrs. J. C. Cosgrave (Schoolmaster) and A. Shaw (afterwards an alderman).

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
20 Feb 1877
17 Feb 1877
At a public meeting, a speaker stated that "a post-office was badly wanted, and, after being duly discussed, it was proposed and carried that the committee take such steps as the case may require towards getting the same."
5 Jun 1877
16 Apr 1877
Government Gazette: "A Post Office was established on the 16th ultimo [16 April 1877] at Adamstown, near Hamilton."
3 May 1889"A "bungle" has taken place with regard to the local post-office. Since the establishment of a post-office in Adamstown it has been conducted by Mr. John Syme and family till last Wednesday, when Mr. William Lee took charge of the postal affairs of the township. It is understood that the post office will be at Mr. Lee's residence, pending a more central place being arranged for."
26 Nov 1889"A building is being erected on Mr. J. Davenport's land in Union-street for the Post and Telegraph Office. In causing the office to be removed to Union-street the postal authorities have decided wisely, and in the interests of the people. The present office is inconvenient and most unsuitable."
16 Dec 1889"The new post and telegraph office is now nearing completion, and within the next fortnight the postal business will be transacted in the new office."
30 Dec 1889"The new building erected by Mr. Joseph Devenport in Union-street for a post and telegraph office is completed, and the postal business of Adamstown will in future be transacted there."
25 Oct 1890"At the council meeting on Thursday night the Mayor called attention to the pressing necessity there is for better accommodation at the local post and telegraph office. The building in which the postal, telegraph, and savings bank business is done is a four-roomed dwelling-house, and though it is far in advance of the building formerly used, it is far short of the requirements of the place at the present time."
12 Feb 1891"… the Government Architect has submitted a sketch plan for a new post and telegraph office at Adamstown, and the Postmaster-General having approved of the same, the papers have been returned to the Works Department for action."
23 Mar 1892"Messrs. Melville and Edden to-day interviewed the Minister for Works and handed to him a strongly-worded protest against the erection of a wooden building at Adamstown for a post and telegraph office, and urging him to decline receiving tenders for this work, as it was promised when the money was voted that the building should be of brick."
8 Jul 1892"Alderman ADAMS, Mayor of Adamstown, introduced by Mr. Edden, interviewed the Postmaster-General with reference to the new post-office at Adamstown. After some conversation, Mr. KIDD promised that the original plans would be carried out immediately."
14 Sep 1894"… the Works Department had been asked to make provision on the estimates for 1895 for funds for the purpose of erecting a post and telegraph office at Adamstown."
15 Dec 1894In budget estimates … "a considerable amount is set apart for the erection of and additions to post offices at Adamstown, Minmi, and other places in the vicinity."
1 Feb 1895"… tenders will shortly be invited for the erection of the post-office."
27 Mar 1895Tenders for erection of Adamstown Post Office called for, closing date 10 April 1895.
30 Apr 1895"The tender of Southon Brothers has been accepted for the erection of a post and telegraph office at Adamstown, the price being £1143."
23 Dec 1895
21 Dec 1895
"THE new post and telegraph office at Adamstown was formally opened to the public on Saturday afternoon by Mr. J. Cook, Postmaster-General, in the presence of a large number of people."
11 Jan 1900"Mr. Shaw, an engineer in connection with the tram extension, placed before the council plans showing that Brunker-road will be cut down 2ft 3in in front of the post-office and about 12in fronting St. Stephen's Church."
15 Feb 1936"… discovery among some old lumber at the Adamstown Council Chambers this week of a faded photograph taken on the occasion of the official opening of the present Adamstown Post Office". The article contains names of some of the men in the photograph.
18 Mar 1938Obituary of Ann Syme, aged 83, the first postmistress of Adamstown. Buried in Sandagate Cemetery 24 February 1938.

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."

Morgan’s Store

Lambton may have begun as a mining town, but it takes more than miners to make a town. Among the first of hundreds of people who came to Lambton after the mine opened in 1863, were Scottish immigrants Daniel and Ann Morgan. Daniel is reported to have built the fourth house in Lambton. Around 1866 he started a grocery and drapery business, leasing a building appropriately known as “The Pioneer Stores”.

In 1873 Morgan had his own premises erected in Grainger St. Within two years  he had a larger store and residence erected at 127 Elder St, to accommodate a growing business and the raising of three sons and seven daughters. The sign on the front advertised the store as a grocers and drapers, a common combination in those days. Often associated with drapery was millinery, and a close inspection of the right-hand window of Morgan’s store reveals a collection of ladies’ hats on display. This is a reminder that although only the “Sons” appeared in the store name, the daughters were an integral part of the family business.

Daniel Morgan suffered poor-health for his last 20 years, and died on 22 August 1896, aged 62. Two days later he was conveyed by train from Waratah station to Sandgate Cemetery for burial. The Lambton correspondent for the Newcastle Morning Herald reported that “The event cast quite a gloom over this town, as the deceased and his family held a high place in the esteem of all classes of the community.”

Following Daniel’s death, his wife Ann and his children continued to operate the store. Ann died in 1915 aged 76, and was buried at Sandgate with her husband. In 1918 the children sold the business, which continued to trade as “G Spruce and Sons”. The sale brought to end over 50 years of commercial contribution to Lambton by a pioneering family.

D Morgan and Sons Store, 127 Elder St Lambton, 1909. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Grave in Sandgate cemetery of Daniel and Ann Morgan, early residents of Lambton. Also on the headstone are inscriptions for an infant grandson Albert (1905), and daughter Margaret (1920).

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


Additional Information

Photo date

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections Flickr site has three photographs of Morgan’s store (photo 1, photo 2, photo 3), all obviously taken on the same day. While two of the photos are captioned with a year of 1909, the third is captioned as 1904. I can only assume this is a transcription error, someone mistaking a written digit 9 to be a 4.

Other photos

Morgan’s store can be seen in a 1904 panoramic photograph of Lambton, taken from the North Lambton hill looking south. Also in the photo, can be seen the Commercial Hotel (demolished 2019) at 121 Elder St. Note that there is a bit of an optical illusion here that makes it look like Morgan’s building is further back than Elder St, maybe on Kendall St.

However, Elder St is rising in elevation as you move west from the Commercial Hotel, which means that Morgan’s shop is several metres higher than the hotel. This lack of vertical alignment with the hotel, Morgan’s building being smaller than the hotel, and the compressed depth of field of the photo, makes it appear as though the building is further back on Kendall St.

Morgan’s Store. visible in 1904 Lambton Panorama photo. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Morgan’s store building visible in a 1944 aerial photograph.

Elder Street renumbering

In the article, I state the address of Morgan’s store as 127 Elder Street.  This is the modern address. When Morgan built the store around 1875 streets in Lambton were not numbered,  numbering only being introduced to Lambton in 1927. In Elder St the numbers commenced at 1 at the east end and increased travelling westwards, so that Morgan’s Store was 47 Elder St. In 1934 a bankruptcy notice for the subsequent proprietors of the store, G Spruce and Sons, states the address as 47 Elder St.

Some time later around 1948, in order to accommodate the houses built on Elder street extension to the east of Lambton park, Elder street was renumbered, adding 80 to existing numbers on the south side. Thus the site of Morgan’s store became 127 Elder Street.

127 Elder St in September 2020.

The increase of 80 in the renumbering can be seen in the case of W Baker’s bakery shop. An advertisement in August 1946 states the address as 39 Elder St.

By March 1948, an advertisement shows the address for W Baker has changed to 119 Elder St.

A photo from Margaret Henry’s research paper on the bakery shows the bakery building on the south-east corner of Elder and Grainger Streets, which today is 119 Elder Street.

An advertisement from 1941 also shows the increase in 80 with the Commercial Hotel given as 41 Elder St, which later was 121 Elder St.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
9 Apr 1869First mention of Daniel Morgan in Trove, signatory on a petition against the proposed Mulibimbah Municiplaity.
4 Sep 1873"TO BE LET— THE PIONEER STORES, LAMBTON. THE above STORES, with Dwelling-house now occupied by Mr. Daniel Morgan."
25 Oct 1873"Two places of business are now in course of erection in Grainger-street— one by Mr. Daniel Morgan and the other by Mr. Shoesmith."
13 Mar 1875Notes from Lambton Council meeting regarding the kerbing and guttering of the south side of Elder St indicate that D Morgans store is now in Elder Street.
18 Mar 1876After building new premises in Elder street, Daniel Morgan makes a voluntary contribution of £1 to Lambton Council towards street improvements.
25 Aug 1896
22 Aug 1896
"Mr. Daniel Morgan, aged 62 years, an old and highly respected resident of this town, after an illness extending over a number of years, passed over to the great majority on Saturday last, at his esidence, Elder-street."
24 Aug 1896
24 Aug 1896
Funeral of Daniel Morgan, and burial in Sandgate cemetery.
7 Jan 1915
6 Jan 1915
Death of Ann Morgan (widow of Daniel), aged 76.
16 Feb 1918Morgan's business sold to “George Spruce and Sons.”
24 Jul 1920
18 Jul 1920
"The death has occurred at Lambton of Miss Margaret Morgan, from congestion of the lungs. She was born at Minmi 58 years ago, and since her infancy had lived in Lambton. She was the third daughter of the late D Morgan, and was employed in the business of Morgan and Sons as milliner up till within a few years."
Note that this article erroneously referes to Margaret Morgan as being the third David Morgan is an error. The tombstone inscription at Sandgate cemetery clearly shows that she was the daughter of Daniel Morgan. (The error probably arose because she had both an uncle and a brother named David, and it had been 24 years since her father Daniel had died in 1896.)
28 Feb 1934Bankruptcy notice for "G. Spruce and Sons, 47 Elder-street, Lambton".
Note that at some later time, Elder street was renumbered, adding 80 to existing numbers on the south side, so this address became 127 Elder St.

Adamstown Rifle Range

“Farcical.” That is how the Daily Telegraph described in February 1900 the situation where “the Government maintains four volunteer companies at Newcastle at considerable expense, and yet provides absolutely no opportunity for the members to learn the practical use of their principal weapon, the rifle.”

To rectify this deficiency, Newcastle District Commandant Lieutenant-Colonel Ranclaud proposed a new rifle range in a flat valley on the outskirts of Adamstown. It was surveyed in August 1900 and an 800-yard range constructed the following year. It was officially opened on 16 November 1901, with six targets situated at the southern end under the shelter of a large hill.

The range was also meant to be used by civilian gun clubs, but their access was extremely limited by the demands of military training. In 1903 the gun clubs agitated for greater availability, and the range was improved and expanded several times in the ensuing years.

As Adamstown grew and the range began to use newer and noisier rapid firing guns, the suitability of having a rifle range adjacent to residential areas was called in to question. There was also the issue of safety, with at least one incident of a ricocheting bullet striking a car on the road running along the ridge behind the range.

In 1938 a decision was made to relocate the rifle range to Stockton, but the move was put on hold with the outbreak of World War 2. After the war the push to relocate was renewed, and the last shot at the Adamstown range was fired on 21 March 1953.

There was much debate on how the rifle range land should then be used. Some thought it should be left as a ‘green belt’, others that it should be parks and sporting fields, while others wanted residential development. At one time the land was a proposed site for Newcastle University. In the end the Defence Department retained the site, and today it is Bullecourt Barracks, a multi user training depot.

Adamstown Rifle Range, early 1900s. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Bullecourt Barracks, Adamstown.

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


Additional Information

The increasing use of rapid fire weapons such as the Bren gun, and complaints about the noise was one of the driving factors in moving the Adamstown rifle range to a new site in Stockton.

Bren Gun Practice. Newcastle Morning Herald, Monday 4 December 1950.
Adamstown Rifle Range shown on 1911 map. National Library of Australia.
A real estate advertising poster from 1915, somewhat conveniently forgets to mention that the land for sale is adjacent to a rifle range. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
Area of Adamstown Rifle Range marked on 1920s map. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
“Rifle Street” first appears as a street name in the newspaper on 23 June 1920, in an advertisement for the auction of a block of land.
Another land sale in 1925 conveniently omits any reference to the adjacent rifle range. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
A 1944 aerial photograph of Adamstown rifle range.
Adamstown rifle range, 12 April 1909. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
17 Feb 1900"There is a good deal that is farcical in the fact that the Government maintains four volunteer companies at Newcastle at considerable expense, and yet provides absolutely no opportunity for the members to learn the practical use of their principal weapon, the rifle. Since last June, the military rifle clubs of the city have been absolutely without target accommodation of their own. Through the courtesy of the civilian rifle men they have at odd times been able to shoot on the short range on Shepherd's-hill, and that is all."
14 Mar 1900"For some considerable time past Lieut. Colonel Ranclaud has been working to secure a new rifle range for the use of the local military forces. A site on the Merewether Estate is now under consideration, and yesterday an officer of the Engineer Corps arrived in the city, for the purpose of inspecting and reporting on the proposed range."
6 Aug 1900"The new rifle range for the Newcastle district, selected by Lieutenant-Colonel Ranclaud, has just been surveyed and laid out by Mr. A. F. Hall, and it is probable that the range may be available for target practice within three months from now. Tenders will at once be called for clearing the ground, which is situated near Adamstown, on the Burwood estate, and within easy access of the tram. Provision will be made for firing at a dis tance of 900 yards, and the shooting will take place from a point near where the Roman Catholic Church was blown down."
28 Sep 1901"The new rifle range at the rear of the Catholic Church will be completed early next week. The work is of a substantial character, and has been carried out by the Government contractor, Mr. Robert Com ley. Six targets can be displayed at the one time, four being on pivots and two for long range will be run out on trolleys. The targets are of canvas and are situated at the southern end of the range under the shelter of a large hill. The mounds at the different distances up to 800 yards have already been made, and the contractor is waiting for iron plates to complete the work."
18 Nov 1901
16 Nov 1901
Official opening of Adamstown Rifle Range.
12 Mar 1902"At the opening rifle competition, Colonel Ranclaud erected temporary telephone communication, which was found of great service, especially when a shot was challenged. The instruments were removed after the competition, and now, if any communication is needed with the marker, shooting is suspended, and someone has to walk up the range to the targets."
15 Jul 1903Construction of new targets … "Under existing conditions, and in consequence of the unreasonable time allowed some military companies to complete their musketry, the range is practically closed to club shooting for the first six months in the year. During the last military year one company occupied the range for no less than 28 Saturdays."
20 Apr 1904"Since the opening of Adamstown rifle range much dissatisfaction has existed amongst members of rifle clubs, those of Adamstown Club in particular, on account of the range being occupied the greater part of the Saturdays in the year by the Scottish and Irish Rifles going through musketry shooting."
26 Sep 1907"improvements to the Adamstown rifle range is pushing on … the work in progress provides for the erection of seven target carriages … provision is made for the erection of a large shed, in which to keep the targets. "
28 Feb 1910"The much-needed additions to the rifle range officer's residence are being carried out, and a storeroom is also being constructed. These improvements are greatly needed, and also is the extension of the rifle range."
27 Jun 1910"The improvements to Adamstown rifle range were completed on Saturday. It is the first work done by the Commonwealth Government on the range, and consists of the construction of three new target mantlets."
4 Oct 1910"Adamstown rifle range is one of the best in the State. It is well sheltered from heavy winds, and shooting can be done up to 1000 yards. Recently a sum of £244 was spent in erecting new targets, and in general improvements, and later a further sum of £27."
14 Apr 1913"… the range at present is inadequate for the requirements of the district … the rifle clubs ... were debarred their weekly practice in consequence of the range being monopolised by the staff officers putting the different units of cadets through a course of musketry."
15 Aug 1914"The work of extending the rifle range is proceeding satisfactorily. When the work in hand is completed there will be 37 targets available on the range."
8 May 1915Real Estate poster advertising sale of housing lots along Union St, conveniently omitting any mention of the land being adjacent to a rifle range!
23 Jun 1920First mention of "Rifle Street" in Trove, in an advertisement for the auction of a block of land.
28 Apr 1924"An improperly locked rifle, which backfired, resulted in two men being injured at Adamstown range on Saturday."
24 Jul 1933"On Saturday afternoon a bullet from one of the high velocity rifles ricocheted over the crest of the hill and, passing, through the door of a motor car, which was parked on the track, lodged in the upholstery on the other side."
21 Dec 1938"A site for a new rifle range at North Stockton will be recommended to the Defence Department by the Greater Newcastle Council. The council wants the Adamstown range abandoned because of its proximity to the route of the proposed scenic highway, and because it is in an expanding residential area."
1 Jun 1939Newcastle Council urges that the Defence Department remove Adamstown rifle range.
25 Jul 1939"The Minister for Defence (Mr. G. A. Street), who is to visit Newcastle to morrow, will make a personal investigation of the Adamstown rifle range Tourist Highway problem. The question to be determined is whether the Tourist Highway can be made safe from bullets fired on the range, or whether it will be necessary to move the range to another part of the district. A site at Stockton has been suggested as an alternative."
5 Aug 1947Letter to the editor … "The Adamstown rifle range is not only a menace to the public travelling between the Lake area and Newcastle, but we of Hillcrest must contend with gates which are locked whenever the club is shooting, and those who are fortunate enough to own cars cannot travel to and from their homes as they please. The gates were erected during the war years, and we were told they were not permanent, but they are still there."
14 Aug 1947Letter to the editor from W. R. Rowcliff … "At one time it was my duty to lock the gates on the Scenic Highway when shooting was being carried out on the Adamstown rifle range, so I know only too well the inconvenience caused to the travelling public as well as the residents of Hillcrest. I am wholeheartedly behind O. C. Newton and E. Chapman that it is high time this menace to the community was removed to some other locality."
21 Aug 1947"… if Adamstown Rifle Range site was transformed to parks, sports areas, building land and, above all, an ideal spot to house a new school, it would be more important and a far greater asset to Newcastle than a rifle range wanted by a minority"
13 Feb 1948"The Lord Mayor (Ald. Quinlan) has asked the Minister for Education (Mr. Heffron) that the rifle range at Adamstown, which is to be closed, be used as a site for a Newcastle University."
6 Aug 1948"… the Adamstown Rifle Range site, now proposed for a university … is low lying but there is a big area as far as the scenic drive that rises rather sharply and provides one of the few ready-made green belts in this district. It would be a pity to put the axe into it."
29 Nov 1950"The rifle range at Adamstown is to be transferred to Stockton, under the Department of Works and Housing programme."
8 Dec 1950IN THE "Newcastle Morning Herald on Monday an interesting picture showed two gunners with a Bren gun in action at Adamstown Rifle Range. Saturday's big shoot held no pleasure for residents of Brunker-road, particarly for people living in the closely built area opposite the Rifle Range. The terrific noise from these quick firing guns was kept up all day The concussion was so great that it rattled windows of nearby houses. It was a nerve-racking experience Surely the authorities concerned realise that it is not fair that residents concerned should be compelled to endure this noise. "
6 Feb 1953"ADAMSTOWN rifle range would close on March 23, the Brigade Major of 14 Infantry Brigade (Major J. A. Sellars) said yesterday. All targets would be transferred to the new range at Stockton, which would be the only one in the Newcastle area."
19 Mar 1953
21 Mar 1953
"At Adamstown Civilian rifle clubs will shoot for the last time at Adamstown rifle range on Saturday. The area has been taken over by the Army. Civilian rifle clubs will transfer to North Stockton, which will be used for the first time on Saturday week."
23 Mar 1953
21 Mar 1953
"An 80-year-old rifleman, Mr. Jason Price, was one of the first marksmen to compete at Adamstown rifle range when it opened about 53 years ago. He was the last civilian to fire on the range when it was closed on Saturday."
14 Jun 1961"A proposal by the Interior Department to sub-divide Newcastle's old Adamstown rifle range into 340 home sites has touched off a row in the north. Northumberland County Council opposes the subdivision. It wants to keep the land in the green belt. According to the Council's planning consultant, the proposal would rob Newcastle of "breathing space." The range includes picturesque timber country which should be preserved, the consultant urged."