When the old Lambton colliery ceased operation, the pit paddock with its offices and buildings lay idle for a decade. Then 75 years ago, in 1947, a new enterprise began on the site with the opening of Leonora Glass Industries, founded by three highly skilled Czechoslovakian glass workers.
Joseph and Henry Vecera and Josef Tvrdik came to Australia from Europe in 1934 to teach glass making at a Sydney factory. They later moved to Newcastle to work in the Electric Lamp Manufacturers Australia factory at Hamilton North. In 1946 the three men and their families became Australian citizens, and the following year set out to create their own glass making business. They rented a portion of the Lambton colliery and set up furnaces in the former colliery workshop.
In August 1947 they registered their enterprise as “Leonora Glass Industries”, possibly inspired by the town of Lenora in the Czech Republic, just 30km from Josef Tvrdik’s birthplace, where a famous glassworks had operated since 1834. Manufacturing commenced the following month and by December 1948 the works employed 23 people including several young apprentices. At this time they were making 2000 lamp shades a week. In the following years they produced many items such as wine glasses, dishes, ash trays, and car headlight lenses.
While the bulk of Leonora’s output was utilitarian in nature, they also handcrafted fine glassware such as jugs, vases, and decorative ornaments. Museums across Australia hold examples of these works in their collections. In July 1957 glassmaking in Lambton came to an abrupt halt when a fire destroyed the Leonora works. The company quickly recovered, purchasing 14 acres of land on Douglas St Wallsend to set up a new factory. In 1960 the multinational firm Philips Industries took over the glassworks to focus on the manufacture of light fittings. Although business expanded in the 1960s, increasing pressure from low cost overseas competitors in the 1970s led to the eventual closure of the works in 1982
The article above was first published in the October 2022 edition of The Local.
I have no direct evidence for the naming of “Leonora Glass Industries”, and what follows is just a reasoned guess.
We know from the notification of intention to apply for naturalisation, that Josef Tvrdik was born in “Nova Hut” in Czechoslovakia. This is the village of Nové Hute in the Czech Republic today.
Just 17km away (28km by road) from Nove Hute is the village of Lenora. The tourism website for the Šumava region describes the origin of the town.
The village of Lenora was founded as a settlement around one of the last glass- works established in the Šumava mountains by Jan Meyer in 1834. Later on the glass-works were taken over by Meyer’s nephew Vilém Kralik. The village was named Eleonorenhain after the Princess Eleonora (1812-1873), the wife of the lord of the estates John Adolf of Schwarzenberg. Czech translation of the name is “Eleonora’s Paradise”. Later on the village adopted Czech version of the name, Lenora.
Notice of intention by Henry Vecera, Josef Vecera, and Josef Trvdik to apply for naturalisation.
Josef Tvrdik, born at Nova Hut, Czechoslovakia, resident over 11 yers. Josef Vecera, Born at Uhrovec, resident over 11 years, living in Adamstown. Henry Vecera, Born at Uhrovec, resident over 11 years, living in Pearson St Lambton.
"A GLASS factory, now operating in a disused building which once was part of the Old Lambton coalmine, aims to produce the finest glass and crystal ware. The company--Leonora Glass Industries Pty. Ltd.- comprises Messrs. Jospeh and Henry Vecera, Mr. Jospeh Tvrdik. Mr. David Marr (manager) and Mr. Alan Little (engineer). Messrs Vecera and Tvrdik are Czech-Australians, who came to Australia in 1934 to teach glass-making at a Sydney factory."
“The strange bulbous Dali-like shapes, coloured in streaky and marbled patterns, which yesterday made an appearance as part of the Christmas dressing of a Hunter-street store are not painted marrows or solid-seeming balloons ... they are made of glass. The result of a brain-wave on the part of the window dresser (Miss E. Ritchie), they were specially blown at the Leonora Glass Works at New Lambton.”
The development of the fine glass industry in Newcastle by two Newcastle engineers and three Czechoslovakian glassworkers in a factory at Lambton is giving Newcastle boys an opportunity
to learn the trade. The factory, which employs 23 after 12 months of operation, turns out 2000 lamp
shades a week and some 400 water sets. Production of fine glass-wine glasses and ground glass-is starting.
"It was planned with the Leonora glass factory at Lambton to make Newcastle a centre of the fine glass
industry in Australia, the Managing Director (Mr. D. Marr) told Newcastle Business Men's Club yesterday. The factory was still in its initial development. It had been operating for 18 months. In the factory there were three Czechs of world-wide experience in the manufacture of hollow blown ware, including the art of stemware. They came from generations of art craftsmen."
“The factory is now producing heat-resistant glass in large quantities. About 100,000 such articles have been produced for distribution throughout Australia, in the past 12 months. The Manager (Mr. David Marr) said he believed this was the first time pyrex-type glass had been made in Newcastle.”
"MILON and Joseph Vecera, twin sons of Mr. and Mrs. J. Vecera, of Croudace street, Lambton, celebrated
their 21st birthday, which was on New Year's Day,' with a party, on New Year's Eve. About 40 people attended the party. Milon and Joseph, who were born in Lausanne, Switzerland, came to Australia when they were four. They are both glass craftsmen at Leonora Glass Works, Lambton, and both play the piano,
violin and piano-accordion."
The factory is turning to a new type of glass manufacture for Newcastle. This is the manufacture of pressed glass. A glass moulding press has been installed to manufacture pressed glass dishes, car headlight lenses, ash trays and other goods. The machine is in trial production. When producing fully, it will turn out 1500 articles a day.”
During World War 2, New Lambton Public School was commandeered by the RAAF. But not just men served there, but also a large contingent from the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF).
Previously the role of women in the armed services was restricted to mainly nursing and kitchen work. With the outbreak of war in 1939 there were many discussions, but no decisions, about enlisting women. In February 1941 a severe shortage of signals personnel prompted the air force to form the WAAAF, with an enrolment of 250 women to be trained as wireless and teleprinter operators. This was intended as a temporary arrangement, but when Japan entered the war in December 1941 the role of air defence increased, as did the need for the WAAAF.
In March 1942, No. 2 Fighter Sector headquarters commenced at New Lambton with 134 personnel, including 69 WAAAF servicewomen performing roles in telecommunications and plotting aircraft movements.
To assist the WAAAF, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), aided by volunteers and donations from the public, opened a hostel in a shop and residence at the corner of Hobart and Rugby Roads. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate report of the opening ceremony on 5 May 1942 noted that “The hostel has sleeping accommodation for nine, an attractive bathroom, a lounge-room where the girls can entertain their friends or write letters home, a piano, sewing machine, and a cheery kitchen where they can cook a meal.” In the first four months, 351 WAAAFs were accommodated at nights.
In December 1942 the YWCA closed the hostel when they opened a larger facility in Hunter Street Newcastle. This proved unsatisfactory for the WAAAF in New Lambton, and on 24 July 1943 the Church Army re-opened the Hobart Road site. The hostel finally closed in September 1944, when the RAAF transferred their operations at the school to new headquarters on Ash Island. After the war, the WAAAF was disbanded, having had 27000 women serve in 72 different trades.
The article above was first published in the September 2022 edition of The Local.
The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported on the opening of the WAAAF Hostel at New Lambton on 5 May 1942.
“REAL SHEETS on the bed … and mattresses, too,” cried members of the W.A.A.A.F. excitedly when they inspected the service women’s hostel yesterday for the first time. “Can’t we have a bath now?” suggested another. The hostel was officially opened yesterday by the Mayor of Greater Newcastle (Ald. Young). Members of the W.A.A.A.F. formed a guard of honour. The Australian army nursing service was also represented. The hostel, which is at New Lambton, has many facilities that will be appreciated by service women. It has sleeping accommodation for nine, an attractive bathroom, a lounge-room where the girls can entertain their friends or write letters home, a piano, sewing machine, and a cheery kitchen where they can cook a meal. The hostel has been opened by the Y.W.C.A. to serve all women in uniform.
Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 6 May 1942
"Members of the public who are interested in the establishment of the leave hostel for uniformed women, which will be opened shortly at New Lambton, are invited by the Y.W.C.A. Board of Directors to attend a meeting in the Y.W.C.A. lounge next Tuesday ... It was decided at a meeting yesterday to appeal for gifts of linen, such as sheets, tea towels and tablecloths. Gifts of china would also be appreciated. Uniformed women will be able to sleep at the hostel, also to do laundry and ironing there. Baths, which have been a problem for the W.A.A.A.F. will be available."
"Property at the corner of Hobart and Rugby Roads, New Lambton (a shop and residence), has been selected
for the establishment of a leave hostel for the convenience of W.A.A.A.Fs and other service women. The scheme is in the hands of the Y.W.C.A. Board of Directors. There are hopes that the hostel will be officially opened on May 5."
"The hostel for servicewomen, controlled by the Y.W.C.A., will be opened at New Lambton at 3 o'clock this afternoon by the Mayor (Ald. Young). The building has been transformed into a cheery and comfortable centre where servicewomen can sleep, eat and do their laundry. A lounge room has been provided."
The Australian Comforts Fund last night decided to finance the establishment of an hostel for women of the Services. The hostel, which is estimated to cost £1500, will be on the upper floors of John's store.
A request to the A.C.F. to advance the £1500 was made by Mrs. Cockburn and Mrs. Penny on behalf of the Y.W.C.A.
Mrs. W Neve said that as hundreds of uniformed girls were expected to be sent to the district, a leave centre was urgently needed.
The Mayor (Ald. Young) said this was a wonderful opportunity for the A.C.F. to show its appreciation of the patriotic efforts of hundreds of women war workers in Newcastle.
Report on the first four months of operation of the hostel. "It was reported that some of the
service girls had particularly expressed their appreciation of the amenities provided by the hostel, and their anxiety that it should not he closed when the larger leave house in the city is opened. The committee decided that unless the hostel should prove definitely not to be needed every effort should be made to
continue it. Since the opening of the hostel, 351 W.A.A.A.F.S. had been accommodated for nights, and many more had used it for rest and recreation during the day."
"Three upper floors of the Hunter street building once occupied by John's Silk Store are being converted into a leave-house for women of the services. The room will be equipped with 50 beds, bathrooms with hot and cold water, a dance-floor and recreation rooms where the girls can entertain friends. A resident fully trained Y.W.C.A. matron will be in attendance to look after the girls' needs."
"With the tremendous increase in women's service, the Leave House, maintained jointly by the Y.W.C.A. and A.C.F,. was established over John's Building in Hunter-street. The whole place is delightfully furnished, and shows how much work went into it. Mrs. Douglas is in charge at the hostel."
"Referring yesterday to the closing of the hostel formerly conducted by the Y.W.C.A. at New Lambton, Captain J. S. Cowland, of the Church Army, said that the Church Army took the view, and for that it had official support, that a women's hostel at New Lambton was necessary. It was prepared to reopen the hostel without delay if arrangements could be made."
A PUBLIC MEETING will be held in ALL SAINTS' CHURCH HALL, CROMWELL-ROAD, NEW LAMBTON, on WEDNESDAY, JUNE 30th, at 2.30 p.m. All those interested in the establishment of a SERVICE WOMEN'S
HOSTEL in NEW LAMBTON are heartily invited to attend.
"THE CHURCH ARMY has opened a hostel for service women at 92 Hobart-road, New Lambton. It provides sleeping accommodation and light meals, following the custom of the parent society, which has several hostels in England."
"A successful meeting and screening of film strips on the progress of Soviet Russia was held in the New Lambton Parish Hall. Half the proceeds were given to the Church Army to assist in setting up a service women's hostel at New Lambton."
"Mrs. F. de Witt Batty, wife of the Bishop of Newcastle, will open the Church Army Service Women's Hostel,
at 92 Hobart-road, New Lambton, on July 24, at 3 p.m. This hostel will cater for service women during their recreation periods. At present the hostel has sleeping accommodation for 10 nightly, but it is hoped to enlarge the building as finances permit."
"An appeal for a radio set for the servicewomen's hostel at New Lambton has been made by the
Church Army Women's Auxiliary. The hostel was proving a 'home away from home' for women in
uniform. Girls were able to go in and out of the hostel at any time. Washing and ironing facilities were provided as well as free writing paper and a good library service."
"The small hostel in New Lambton for girls stationed at New Lambton R.A.A.F. centre would close at the end of the month. The school has been handed back to the Education Department. This hostel was originally run by the Y.W.C.A. Later. It was taken over by the Church Army."
In the climate change debate today, there is great concern about the global impact of large coal mines. But 100 years ago, the hot topic in Newcastle was the local impact of little mines. The Newcastle Sun reported in August 1922 …
“A good deal of activity is noticeable among the “baby” coal mines in the hills of Waratah and Lambton. They are generally one-man affairs, the work is hard and the methods crude.”
Some were tiny burrows in a hillside, others a shaft with a wooden tripod overhead to haul up coal in buckets. In the post war economic downturn unemployed men looked to scratch a living by selling coal to nearby householders, the tough nature of their enterprise reflected in the mine names … “Try Again Colliery”, “Lone Hand”, “Perseverance”.
While the “baby” mines were a boon to some, they were a grievance to many. The councils were concerned about undermining of streets and damage to pipes. Residents complained of water run-off and danger to their properties. An inspection by the Department of Mines in November 1922 attended by miners and residents turned ugly and “the parties became bitter in their denunciation of each other and indulged in heated personal remarks.”
Matters weren’t helped by the Department’s manifest disinterest in resolving the dispute. Their view was that the big coal companies who owned the mineral rights were entitled to sublease to the “baby” miners, and the Department could do nothing. Waratah Council then took legal action against one of the mine owners, and the court imposed a substantial fine. By 1924 newspaper reports on the mines had disappeared. Their closure was due to a combination of factors –poor quality coal, increasing suburban development, the threat of fines, but mainly because households were moving to the new technologies of gas, and coal-fired electricity. Ironically these energy sources that were the solution to the local “baby” mines in 1922, are now central to the global climate change problem in 2022.
The article above was first published in the August 2022 edition of The Local.
The locality sketch on the 1923 real estate poster shows 17 “baby” mines. Many of them are unknown apart from their name on this map.
Bayley’s Reward Colliery
The Bowler Colliery
Brown Hill Colliery
Clay Cross No. 2 Colliery
The Nest Colliery
Red Bank Colliery
Sea View Colliery
Talk o’ the Hill Colliery
Try Again Colliery
Other “baby” mines in the Lambton area recorded in other sources such as newspaper reports and Department of Mines annual reports include …
Lambton Heights No. 2
North Lambton Colliery
Braye Park Colliery
Rosehill No. 2
Lone Hand [End?] Colliery
West End Colliery
Tubber Robinson’s mine
“Lambton Heights No. 2 is the name of this colliery, which has a staff of four men, and an output of 15 tons a day. Its depth is 80 feet, and the coal is drawn to the surface by one pony-power. It is owned by Fitzpatrick Bros., who were too busy grubbing out wealth down below to face the camera.”
“This is Lone End Colliery, the smallest mine on the field. Its owner, managing director, and whole staff, Mr. T. Morgan, has just hauled a basket of coal to the surface. The shaft is 36ft. deep, and it boasts an output of 14 tons per week. Its owner claims that the coal is part of the famous Borehole seam.”
“Two small mines were commenced during the year; these were Lone Hand and Rosehill No.2 Collieries.”
The Lone Hand Colliery is mentioned again in the 1922 annual report, but is not mentioned in subsequent years. Note that Rose Hill (occasionally misspelled Roe’s Hill) was the name of the hill to the north of Lambton township, as shown on this 1908 real estate map.
Tubber Robinson’s mine
William Robinson (known as “Tubber”) had a “baby” mine in George Street near Notley Street, North Lambton. He also had mines at Wallsend in the proximity of the High School. William’s brother Jeremiah (Jerry) Robinson had a “baby” mine in Seventh Street, North Lambton.The photo below shows the George Street mine.
The photo below of William and his sons with a pit pony, was taken near Robinson’s house in Fifth Street North Lambton.
North Lambton Colliery
The North Lambton Colliery, whose photo appeared in the published article, was somewhat different to the other “baby” mines. In contrast to most of the “baby” mines that employed only one or two men and were very short-lived in operation, the North Lambton colliery operated for 20 years (1905 to 1924), and at its peak employed 28 men in 1918. The mine, despite its larger size, used the same primitive techniques as the “baby” mines, sinking a shallow shaft, erecting a wooden tripod, and hauling coal up the shaft in buckets.
North Lambton Colliery.-On 26th September, Mr. J. Jeffries notified, in terms of section 30 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, that he had opened a new mine on land leased from the Scottish Australian Mining Co., the name of which would be North Lambton.
The location of the colliery being close to the water reservoir on Newcastle Road Lambton, can be ascertained from a report to the Newcastle Water and Sewerage Board in February 1906 …
The proprietor of the North Lambton Colliery gave notice that the workings of his colliery are now approaching within 40 yards of the Lambton reservoir fence, and stated his intention of removing coal to that boundary in terms of a lease held by him from the Scottish Australian Mining Company, Limited.
The engineer of the Water and Sewerage Board reports that it is understood Mr. Long, manager of the North Lambton colliery, intends sinking a shaft near the eastern fence of the Lambton reservoir property. The proposed mining work will probably not affect the reservoir or the pump-house, but might affect the 12-inch scourpipe from the reservoir and some trees.
… tribute mine working the outcrop pillar coal left by the Lambton colliery. The coal from North Lambton, employing sixteen persons, is carried to the Lambton screens, and there put into waggons and sent for shipment.
The Sydney Mail of 8 August 1923 in publishing their photo of the mine, noted that …
This small mine is situated at North Lambton. It has an output of 30 tons per day, and gives employment to 10 men. It has been working for 20 years, and is owned by Mr. W. Long, who is shown seated on his cart, loaded with coal. The winding gear is worked by a horse hauling on the cable.
First mention of the term "baby coal mines" in the newspaper.
"The streets of Newcastle are not paved with gold, but underneath them all is something nearly as precious. Coal seams are everywhere, and it is only a matter of digging and coal can be found. Where less fortunate peoples have to pay £5 and £6 a ton for coal, many people in the suburbs of Newcastle just dig in their back yards, and from the baby coal mine there take enough to supply their own needs."
"So that the people who operate "baby" coal mines in the hills of Waratah, and endanger the safety of houses in the vicinity, might have a stop put to their mining, the council asked the Minister for Mines to grant no more permits for the taking of coal from these lands. The official reply received last night was vague and indefinite ..."
"Trying to put a stop to the private mining that goes on at Lambton, and endangers the safety of water and gas mains, apart from damaging the roads, the Mayor last week asked the Minister for Mines not to grant permits for this mining. The latter replied that most of the mineral leases were held by a mining company which seemed to have a perfect right to lease certain areas to private people for the purpose of exploiting the remaining coal seams."
"Several Inspectors from the Department of Mines will visit Waratah next week, and in company with the Mayor and aldermen, will visit the sites of the "baby" coal-mines in the hills, which have been complained of by residents who are fearful of damage to their properties."
"Expert opinion on the question of the damage likely to result to streets and dwellings on Roe's Hill, Waratah, through the opening up of "baby" coal mines, will be given by Chief Inspector Atkinson, of the Department of Mines, who will visit the shafts complained of to-morrow afternoon."
"Many householders came out to emphasise the general grievance when Chief-Inspector Atkinson and Inspector Tennant, representing the Mines Department, made an inspection of the "baby" coal mines on Lambton and Waratah hills yesterday afternoon ... At times the parties became bitter in their denunciation of each other— that is, the property owners and the coal hewers … The Mines Department had to consider the resources of the country, said Inspector Atkinson, and to see they were not wasted ... The inspector intimated that the department could not offer much assistance."
Waratah council given legal opinon on the "baby" coal mines that "showed that the council had power to stop such mining under public roads. The owner adjoining any land being undermined had a natural and legal right to prevent his land being endangered, but there was no cause for action for damage until the land was disturbed."
"Another chapter in the history of baby coal mines was unfolded last night when Waratah Council served a notice upon William Metcalfe to fill in shafts sunk in Sixth and Seventh streets, Rosehill. A prosecution is to
follow if the order is not obeyed."
"William Metcalfe, who is working a 'baby' coal mine at Waratah, was proceeded against by the Waratah
Council for allowing a shaft to remain in a street of the municipality… A fine of £8 was imposed, together
with 8s 6d court costs and 42s professional costs."
"North Lambton, more familiarly known as Lambton Heights, merges into the Jesmond district. There are a number of 'baby' coal mines in the district, and the landscape is dotted with wooden tripods, over small shafts, used to lower and raise the miner-proprietors, and the coal they win from their little collieries."
[This is the last mention of the 'baby' coal mines in the newspaper, until a couple of references to 'baby' coal mines at Wallsend in 1931.]
"Owing to the flooding of several small 'baby' coal mines at Wallsend, the already large number of unemployed has been added to. These mines employ between 25 and 30 men."
[Last reference to 'baby' mines in Trove.]
This month marks 125 years since New Lambton Fire Station was opened in 1897. The formation of a fire brigade, nearly thirty years after the suburb was established, was prompted in part by suburban rivalry. When Lambton fire brigade asked New Lambton council in 1896 to install a hydrant for their use, the council politely declined, deciding instead to form their own brigade.
The brigade was first called out in October 1897, to assist at a chimney fire in Adamstown. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate praised their response noting that “in connection with the alarm the newly inaugurated New Lambton Fire Brigade did a smart run. Ten minutes after the alarm was given at Adamstown station the New Lambton firemen had their fire extinguishing appliances upon the scene.” Thankfully the early days of the brigade were mostly uneventful. In 1898 the fire bell rang on only eight occasions, five of those a false alarm. A telephone service was connected to the station in 1912, and in 1925 the brigade received its first motorised fire engine. In 1934 a new brick fire station was erected in place of the original wooden building. This building still stands today but ceased to be an operating station when the new fire station in Young Road Lambton opened in 2016.
The article above was first published in the July 2022 edition of The Local.
The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser on 31 July 1897 published two Ralph Snowball photographs of the opening of New Lambton fire station earlier that month. The second of these photographs was taken from the bell tower, looking over the crowd gathered on Alma Rd. The vacant block behind the crowd (where the solitary figure is standing) is where the General Roberts Hotel is now. The hilly peak on the horizon at the left is Braye Park, Waratah.
On 13 October 1898, in connection with the procession for the Eight Hour Day public holiday …
The New Lambton Volunteer Fire Brigade secured the prize for the best decorated fire reel, there being no other competitors.
George Anderson was one of the longest serving members of the New Lambton Fire Brigade. In 1953 the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported that ….
George Anderson, of New Lambton, better known as “The Captain,” will complete 50 years in the service of the New South Wales Fire Brigade on Monday. Three times Mr. Anderson tendered his resignation to the Board of Fire Commissioners, but each time the board refused to accept it. Mr. Anderson, who is 75, was elected a member of New Lambton Fire Brigade at a meeting on October 12, 1903.
“On Saturday evening last the chimney of Mr. Jarvis' [New Lambton] house was discovered by the children of Constable Robinson to be on fire. The youngsters promptly got into the house, and with a few buckets of water extinguished the flames, and prevented the whole building from being destroyed.”
At New Lambton Council meeting “Alderman DAGWELL said he favoured an application being made to the Water and Sewerage Board for a standpipe that would be their own, and the establishment of a fire brigade in the municipality. Alderman COOMER moved, "That the Lambton Brigade be informed that the council could not accept the offer, as they contemplated organising a brigade of their own."
"The situation of the [fire station] site is fronting the Lambton main road, close the old New Lambton line crossing, and with a small tower erected at the shed will command a good view of the surrounding district.
Building operations will be proceeded with almost immediately, and an order has been given to Gilbert Bros., of Newcastle, for the building of a first-class reel."
"The contractor (Mr. H. Burg) has now completed the shed and handed it over to the brigade. The site chosen for the station is a most suitable one, having a frontage to Alma-road, and at the junction of the Lambton main road. The shed is large and roomy, being 18ft wide by 35ft long. A room is partitioned off for meetings at the rear of the shed. The front is of rusticated boards, and the main entrance has two large sliding doors. The lookout and bell tower are reached by stairs from the outside of the shed, a good view being obtained from the lookout landing, the height of such being 26ft."
"New Lambton Fire Brigade. The formal opening of the newly erected engine-shed and the christening of the reel in connection with this brigade took place on Saturday afternoon before a large audience."
“In connection with the alarm the newly inaugurated New Lambton Fire Brigade did a smart run. Ten minutes after the alarm was given at Adamstown station the New Lambton firemen, under Captain Brogden, had their fire extinguishing appliances upon the scene. Though their services fortunately were not required, Captain Brogden and his men are to be commended for their remarkable promptitude in turning out when the alarm was given.”
"Extensive improvements have just been completed at the fire brigade station. The land has been enclosed by a strong and substantial fence, and a neat and uniform picket fence has been erected at the front part of the building. The belfry has been strengthened, and the shed has been painted both inside and out, which gives a bright and tidy appearance to the building."
“On Monday evening an alarm of fire was raised by the sounding of the fire bell. The alarm caused some excitement, and a crowd quickly gathered. The members of the brigade turned out with their usual promptness but, luckily, their services were not required. The cause of the scare was the burning of some inflammable material in the yard of the Sportsman's Arms Hotel.”
“Considerable excitement was caused about noon yesterday by the ringing of a fire alarm. A crowd quickly gathered, and no time was lost in getting the reel to the scene of the fire which was located at Lyshon's property in Lambton-road.”
“Shortly before nine o'clock yesterday morning a fire occurred in an old unoccupied building at the corner of Regent street and Portland Place. The building, which was owned by Marshall's Brewery Co. was formerly known as the Sportsman's Arms Hotel ... The fire was first observed by the inmates of the Duke of Wellington Hotel, on the opposite side of the road, smoke being seen to issue from the roof. The alarm was immediately given and in a very short space of time the local firemen, with their reel and appliances, were on the scene.”
“The bell now in use was about worn out and as it was purchased second-hand, it had done about 25 years' service having been at one time the property of the Newcastle City Brigade. It was damaged to the extent that it was almost impossible to be heard even by the firemen who lived in close proximity to the shed.”
"The ceremony in connection with the trial ring of the new alarm bell recently purchased by the New Lambton Fire Brigade took place at the fire station on Saturday afternoon, there being a large attendance of the public."
"Active steps are being taken for linking-up all the Newcastle district fire brigade stations with telephones and establishing street fire alarms. There are sixteen fire stations, in Newcastle and district, and each of these is to be connected with a telephone exchange at the headquarters, Newcastle West. So far, Newcastle West, City, Hamilton, Wickham, and Waratah are connected.”
“In Newcastle, a complete system of telephone communication to link all the suburban stations with headquarters was designed considerably over twelve months ago. The circuit linking up the suburban stations and headquarters is practically complete, but the gaps render the work done not nearly as effective as it should be. For instance, there is no direct line to Hamilton. To get in touch with a station beyond Hamilton, headquarters has first to ring up Newcastle exchange and then ring up Hamilton exchange, and thence through Hamilton station to the station required.”
"The news of the end of the war was received in New Lambton with demonstrations of joyfulness. The bell at the fire station was continuously rung until the early hours of yesterday morning. At the first clanging of the bell the people thronged to the fire station. The National Anthem was sung."
A four roomed cottage in Orchardtown, owned by Mrs J Robinson burns down. “The firemen were somewhat delayed in consequence of the person engaged to provide a horse to draw the reel being away from home with the horse, and the reel had to be hand-drawn, which in this case was a serious handicap, as the fire was over a mile away from the fire station.”
“The Fire Commissioners have installed 65 street fire alarms, and placed all fire stations in communication with local telephone lines, enabling the stations to be immediately notified of an outbreak of fire.”
“Where motor lorries are available contracts are arranged for transit of the men and appliances to fires, and horse transit at Boolaroo and Lambton has been replaced by motor lorries, also at New Lambton.”
“Building application granted by New Lambton Council for "a new fire station and dwelling, to be erected in Alma-street, at a cost of £1460. The new building, which will be of brick, will have a roof of asbestos slates. Provision has been made for two bedrooms, a living-room, kitchen, recreation-room, watch-house, store-room, engine-room, and a laundry.”
"A new fire station, costing in the vicinity of £1600, was officially opened at New Lambton, on Saturday. At the same time, a new Dennis motor was installed, and long service medals were presented. Constructed of brick, with a roomy engine apartment, and living quarters, the station fills a long-felt want at New Lambton."
Many of the early mines in Newcastle delved downwards to reach their coal via a vertical shaft, with an iconic poppet head structure overhead to haul men and materials up and down. In contrast, other mines were much simpler affairs, tunnelling sideways into a hill to reach a coal seam. Such was the Ebbw Vale Colliery, photographed by Ralph Snowball 125 years ago on 12 June 1897. Named after the mining district in Wales, this tunnel was located south of Adamstown, in the valley between present day Northcott Drive and Brunker Road.
From 1884 the New Lambton Land and Coal Company had been operating their “C” pit in that location, working a seam of coal below the valley via a 243 feet deep shaft. About 1886 the company opened new workings by driving a tunnel into the valley side. This sister mine, leased out under the tribute system, was initially known as “New Lambton Tunnel” but was renamed “Ebbw Vale” in 1889. It was a small enterprise. When Snowball photographed the tunnel entrance in 1897 there were just 24 employees, including two under the age of 16. The miners extracted coal by manual labour, loading it into skips to be pulled up the incline of the tunnel by a winch cable.
After New Lambton “C” pit closed in 1903, the adjacent Ebbw Vale mine expanded, the workforce reaching a maximum of 211 employees in 1908. With more men came more accidents, and in 1911 the mine acquired a hand wheeled ambulance on which a stretcher could be placed.
Although a number of accidents had caused serious injuries to miners over the years, it wasn’t until 1921 that the first fatality occurred, when a fall of stone from the roof crushed William Adamthwaite. Two more fatalities occurred before the mine ceased operation in 1931.
In 1945 the rail tracks from the mine down to Adamstown station were removed, and in the 1960s the area was subdivided. Streets and houses now hide all trace of the former Ebbw Vale colliery.
The article above was first published in the June 2022 edition of The Local.
The University of Newcastle Living Histories site has a photograph by Ralph Snowball of a tunnel of the Ebbw Vale colliery. At the time of writing the photograph is titled as “Ebbw Vale Colliery, New Lambton”, This is somewhat misleading as it suggests the mine was in New Lambton when in fact it was geographically located in Adamstown Heights.
The attribution to New Lambton is derived from Ralph Snowball’s listing on negative box 140, where he has recorded the photograph as “Ebbw Vale Tunnell New Lambton”. Note also that the next two entries are for “New Lambton Colliery”.
In 1897 the New Lambton Coal Company was operating their “C” Pit in Adamstown Heights. The Ebbw Vale colliery was adjacent to this pit, but the connection to it was more than just one of physical proximity.
The New Lambton “C” pit was commenced in 1884 with the opening of a 243 feet deep shaft to work the Borehole seam of coal. By 1886 the company had also opened a tunnel in the adjacent hill.
“The tunnel is near the New Lambton C. Pit, and the coal from both places goes over the same screens. The proprietors of the tunnel have leased the property of the New Lambton company …”
This tunnel is described in an 1889 newspaper report …
Close to the shaft and going into the hill at the outcrop is a tunnel, by which the top or Burwood seam is worked. This tunnel is driven in a south-western direction for a distance of some twenty chains [400 metres], the seam being 8ft 10in in thickness, including a band of indurated clay 16in thick. It is worked on the pillar and bord system for about 5ft of its height, and is good steam coal. Owing to the dip of the seam which is 1 in 30 to the south ; the tunnel goes in at a good inclination, the empty skips finding their way to the end by gravitation, the full ones being hauled to the receiving floor, also used for the coal from the shaft by a wire rope con trolled by a 16-horse power engine.
This new working seam was initially known simply as the “New Lambton Tunnel”, and was worked under the tribute system, where the owners of the mine (New Lambton Coal Company) leased it out to a third party to extract the coal. In 1889 the tunnel was being leased to Charles Pemberton and John Williams. Tribute mines by their nature were small and cost-cutting, which tended to lead to industrial disputes. Most of the newspaper reports on the New Lambton Tunnel in the years 1886 to 1889 relate to disputes between miners and management.
The 1903 Department of Mines annual report notes that “Mr. L. H Lewington, legal manager, New Lambton Land and Coal Co. (Limited), gave notice of the appointment of Mr. Alexander McLeish as under-manager of Ebbw Vale Colliery.
A newspaper report from 29 December 1905 refers to “Ebbw Vale pit, on the New Lambton Estate”
A newspaper report from 1 July 1907 refers to “Ebbw Vale, formerly known as New Lambton”
A newspaper report from 1921 gives a brief description of the workings of the colliery at that time …
The Ebbw Vale colliery at Adamstown, about four miles from Newcastle, is owned by the New Lambton Coal Company, Ltd., and managed by Messrs. Dalgety and Company. The holding is 1017 acres, 640 acres free hold, 90 acres leased from private owners, and 287 acres held under mining act tenures.
It is a tunnel mine and is working the Victoria Tunnel seam, with a section of 5ft. 7in. about 4in. of which is stone and inferior coal. It is a good third-rate coal containing about 9 per cent of ash.
During 1920, 198 persons were employed, the output being 105,094 tons, put out in 246½ working days. The working is bord and pillar, the bords and pillars being eight and six yards wide respectively. Large areas of pillars have been worked, and at present, more than half the output is coming therefrom. Two small furnaces are ventilating the mine with about 50,000 cubic feet of air per minute. No gas has been met with and naked lights are used. The principal items of plant are: — 3 hauling engines, 3 boilers at 40lb. pressure. 1 rope driven pump, 175 railway waggons.
Associated with this mine is the New Lambton colliery close by. It has two shafts about 250 feet deep to the Borehole seam, but no work has been done therein for more than 20 years. Steps are now being taken, however, to sample test one of the seams lying between the Victoria tunnel and Borehole, probably the so called dirty seam, with the view of working the cleaner part of it.
By extracting data from the Department of Mines annual reports, we can graph the number of employees, injuries and fatalities during the lifetime of the Ebbw Vale colliery. Note the rapid growth in employees from 1903, following the closure of the adjacent New Lambton “C” pit.
Location of the Ebbw Vale tunnel
A BHP Coal Geology map shows that Ebbw Vale colliery was to the south of Adamstown, adjacent to the New Lambton C Pit. It was to the east of the Redhead railway (now the Fernleigh Track), which I have highlighted in red below. The black and white dashed line to the east of the colliery is Brunker Rd.
Overlaying the map into Google Earth, shows the approximate location of the Ebbw Vale tunnels in Adamstown Heights.
Looking from north to south we can see that the two tunnels were in either side of the valley where Claremont Avenue Reserve is now.
Brian Robert Andrews in his book “Coal, Railways and Mines, Vol 1” has a diagram on page 421 that indicates that the Ebbw Vale tunnel in the 1887 era was located on the western side of the valley, and that the rail track exiting from the tunnel ran down a slope towards the buildings and infrastructure of the New Lambton “C” pit. Given that the photo of the Ebbw Vale tunnel is looking down from a height, it is highly likely that Snowball photographed it from the top of the New Lambton “C” pit shaft poppet head.
Advertisement for the sinking of a shaft, probably the New Lambton "C" pit at Adamstown.
"To Sinkers and Others. TENDERS will be received until SATURDAY the 30th inst., from parties willing to sink a SHAFT on the New Lambton Colliery Estates. Specifcatitons and particulars may be seen by applying to the undersigned. JAMES THOMAS, New Lambton Colliery Office, New Lambton."
"The [New Lambton] tunnel is near the New Lambton C. Pit, and the coal from both places goes over the same screens. The proprietors of the tunnel have leased the property of the New Lambton company ..."
"THE NEW LAMBTON PIT AND TUNNEL. YESTERDAY morning an interview took place at the office of Mr. Alexander Brown, J.P., between that gentleman, with Messrs. Charles Pemberton and John Williams, lessees of the New Lambton tunnel, now working on tribute, and Mr. R. Goundry, with Mr. Ridings, N. Lambton, on the subject of cavilling. Mr. Thomas, the manager of the N. Lambton Colliery, was also present."
A description of the Ebbw Vale tunnel in 1889 … "Close to the shaft and going into the hill at the outcrop is a tunnel, by which the top or Burwood seam is worked. This tunnel is driven in a south-western direction for a
distance of some twenty chains ..."
First recorded injury at Ebbw Vale colliery. "On Monday afternoon a miner named James
Hall met with an accident in New Lambton Tunnel by which his left thigh was broken. Hall was engaged filling a skip, when a piece of top stone fell." Note that this report refers to the mine as the "New Lambton Tunnel" - the Department of Mines annual report for 1893 makes it clear that this was the Ebbw Vale colliery.
"On Wednesday evening the employees of the New Lambton and Ebbw Vale Collieries met in the long room of Thomas' Hotel for the purpose of making a presentation to Mr. James Thomas, colliery manager, who is
about to take a trip to Europe for the benefit of his health."
"On Saturday evening, at the Commercial Hotel, the officials and employees of the Ebbw Vale Colliery (New Lambton Tunnel) met for the purpose of making a presentation to Mr. Wm. Humphreys, underground manager, who is leaving the company's employ."
Death of Mr. Francis T. Filby. "Fourteen weeks ago the deceased, while working in the Ebbw Vale pit, on the New Lambton Estate, met with an accident, from the effects of which he ultimately succumbed."
"In consequence of the inflow of water into portion of the workings of the New Lambton, or Ebbw Vale Colliery, at Adamstown, yesterday, work had to be suspended. The water gained access to the colliery through an old disused tunnel, which had been sealed off."
Second fatal accident at Ebbw Vale colliery. Joseph Lewis suffers spinal injuries from a fall of stone and coal on 31 March 1924, and subsequently dies of his injurues in Newcastle Hospital on 6 April 1924.
Death of David Waugh while working at Ebbw Vale colliery. "The coroner returned a verdict of death
from fatty degeneration of the heat, in all probability accelerated by a strain received while at work." [As the death was due to illness and not an accident, it was not recorded as a workplace fatality in the official statistics.]
Third and final fatal accident at Ebbw Vale colliery. John William Liptrot was injured at the mine on 18 June 1921, when a collision with a runaway skip caused a file in his pocket to sever his knee. He survived this initial accident, but died in hospital of blood poisoning some 7 weeks later.
"Approximately 150 men will be affected by the closing down of New Lambton Colliery. The decision was notified to the officers of the Miners' Federation by the secretary of the New Lambton Lodge to-day.
The miners' northern president (Mr. T. Hoare) said this evening that the pit had not worked for three months, but that the definite announcement of the closure would remove hopes of renewed employment from the minds of the New Lambton men."
"TENDERS are invited for the Purchase, for removal, of all Track Material contained in our private railway line extending, from near Adamstown Station to the site of the late Ebbw Vale Colliery. Full particulars from the office of the company, 31 Watt-street, Newcastle. NEW LAMBTON LAND & COAL CO. PTY. LTD."
Dairy farms, market gardens, orchards and vineyards are scattered throughout the Hunter Valley today. But at one time, all these agricultural activities were also taking place in New Lambton, on farms such as that run by the Robinson family.
John Robinson was born 1846 in the north of England. His father was a coal miner, and at age 16 John was working as a pony driver at a colliery. He married in 1872 and emigrated to Australia in 1879 with his wife Dorothy and their children. After arriving in New Lambton the Robinsons lived in Alma Rd adjacent to the fire station, with John probably working in the local collieries.
The New Lambton Coal Company, after extracting the payable coal from their lease, looked to profit from selling and leasing their land above ground. In October 1892 the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported that “a large extent of splendidly-sheltered and good land in New Lambton has lately been surveyed and laid out in five-acre allotments for fruit orchards or market gardens.” The twenty allotments, to the south of Queens Rd, were offered for lease on a 21 year term with an option to purchase.
John Robinson took this opportunity for a change in occupation. He obtained a lease on four of the allotments on the hillside to the west of Orchardtown Road, and pursued a number of farming endeavours such as dairy cows, bee keeping, vegetable gardens, an orchard, and even a small vineyard. In 1913, when the original 21 years leases expired, the Orchardtown allotments began to be sold off. From 1919 housing subdivisions commenced, and then accelerated particularly in the 1940s. By 1951 all of the original twenty allotments had been replaced with houses, shops, parks and sporting fields. Today there is but one remnant of Orchardtown’s agricultural past, that being the name of the main road that traverses the former farmland.
The article above was first published in the May 2022 edition of The Local.
There is some uncertainty about the birthplace of John Robinson. His obituary from 1920 states that he “was born at Seaton (England) in 1846.” Seaton is a village in county Durham on the east coast of England. In contradiction to this location, the 1851 census of England shows John, aged 5, as having been born at Workington in county Cumberland, a village on the west coast of England. In 1851 John is living at Maryport UK, with his widower father Barwise, older sisters Frances and Elizabeth and older brother Barwise. His father’s occupation is listed as “Coal Miner”
In 1861 England Census shows John Robinson aged 16, living at Hetton-le-Hole in county Durham, with his widower father Barwise, older sister Elizabeth and older brother Barwise. His father’s occupation is listed as “Coal Miner”, and John is listed as “Pony Driver at a colliery.”
I’m not sure how to resolve the discrepancy in birth places for John Robinson. It is possible that the John Robinson mentioned in these census records is not the same John Robinson who lived in New Lambton. However, the 1851 and 1861 census entries show the Robinson family lived in various places on both the east and west coast. The 1861 census location is Hetton-le-Hole, which is just 5km from Seaton, so it is possible that John Robinson’s 1920 obituary confuses a childhood residence with his place of birth.
John Robinson married Dorothy Maughan on 31 December 1872, in East Rainton in county Durham. East Rainton is less than 2km from Hetton-le-Hole. The Robinson’s had three children (Barwise, Mary Ann, Elizabeth) before moving to Australia in 1879. The list of immigrants for the ship “Blair Athol” that arrived in Sydney on 4 March 1879 shows the Robinson family as follows …
John, age 28, labourer [The listed age of 28 is probably an error – other sources indicate that John was born in 1846, which would make him 32 or 33 on his arrival in Australia.]
Dorothy, age 26
Barwise, age 5
Mary A(nn), age 3
Elizabeth, age 1, died during voyage
John Robinson’s obituary in 1920 states that he lived in Alma Road New Lambton for 41 years, which indicates that they moved to New Lambton very soon after arriving in Australia in 1879.
Of John’s occupation when he arrived in New Lambton, we have no definite evidence, and we can only presume that he worked in coal mining as he had done back in England. In August 1883 the newspaper reported an accident in Lambton Mine causing injury to two miners, John Robinson and Robert Young. The article contains no information to definitively identify this person as the John Robinson of New Lambton, but it is a reasonable conclusion to draw.
At New Lambton, John and Dorothy had several more children born to them.
William died at age 12 in October 1899 due to a “tumor on the brain.”
John Robinson’s main residence for the 41 years he lived in New Lambton, was on Alma Rd. Up until 1890 this was part of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve (Commonage), and so Robinson did not have freehold title on this land. In August 1890 a sitting of the Commonage allotments Land Board granted Robinson’s application for lot 1320. It is somewhat confusing that the land title record (Vol-Fol 1363-20) for the grant of lot 1320 to John Robinson is dated 11 years later on 2 May 1901. I suspect that this is just due to a delay in the paperwork – that while the purchase took place around 1890, the registration of land title wasn’t submitted to the Lands Department until many years later.
My initial research into John Robinson of New Lambton proved to be quite confusing, as there were references to John Robinson both in Orchardtown and in Alma Rd. As these locations are one kilometre apart, I initially thought that these were two different people with the same. However as progressed I kept finding that the details (wife, children, occupation) associated with the “Orchardtown” John Robinson kept matching the “Alma Rd” John Robinson. The seeming discrepancy of the two distinct locations can be explained by noting that John Robinson only ever leased the land at Orchardtown, he never purchased it. While there are some newspaper references to Robinson’s residence in Orchardtown, being on leased land it would probably have been only a small secondary house to enable living on the farm land, and that the Alma Rd land was the Robinson’s primary residence, noting that they purchased the Alma Rd land in 1890.
John Robinson died on 4 July 1920, aged 74 years, and was buried in Sandgate cemetery. His wife Dorothy died 6 November 1947, aged 94 years, and was buried beside her husband at Sandgate.
On 25 October 1892, the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported …
“There are a good many people in this district who are going, or intending to go, into fruit farming, and an impetus will be given to the business by the throwing open of a large extent of splendidly-sheltered and good land in New Lambton, which has lately been surveyed and laid out in five-acre allotments for fruit orchards or market gardens.”
Four years after the land was first leased, the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate described the progress of Orchardtown in an article on 29 January 1896.
“Orchardtown is situated on the New Lambton Company’s estate, adjacent to the New Lambton township. The inhabitants are working men, who within the last four years have taken up blocks of land of from three to five acres. The land is leased to them by the company at a nominal fee, subject to certain conditions. The land is cleared more or less, and under cultivation, but there is still a great quantity of timber, and much labour will need to be applied before the plough can be used advantageously. The object of the settlers is to make a living on the ground. The crops, so far, have yielded fairly, and the people appear satisfied that when they have the whole of their land in working order they will be able to supply the local market with vegetables of European growth, that are somewhat scarce at present. A road a chain wide runs through the land, the blocks (20 in number) being on the east and west of it. The road is in its natural state, and therefore does not afford the facilities demanded.”
A report from 22 March 1902 on the possible resumption by the government of portions of Orchardtown states that …
“This land is at present held by tenants of the New Lambton Company, on a twenty-one years’ lease, with a purchasing covenant.”
The first mention of John Robinson in connection with farming leaseholds at New Lambton, is at the Municipal Appeal Court in May 1893 …
“John Robinson, leased land, New Lambton Estate, annual value £3 3s, rate 2s 10d; confirmed.”
In August 1894, the Hunter River Vine Diseases Board cancelled the fees of a number of vine growers, including John Robinson of New Lambton, as those growers were “occupying less than half an acre.” In September 1894, New Lambton Council granted John Robinson application to be registered as a milk vendor.
At the Municipal Appeal Court in May 1896 “it was announced that the New Lambton Company and the council had arranged for a reduced assessment on their properties” including “21½ acres let to John Robinson.” This gives a clue to the probable location of Robinson’s lease. Snowball’s photo clearly shows the farm being on a hillside, which means that it must have been on the west side of Orchardtown Road. In the background of the photo behind the fence the land is still uncleared because this area was the Scottish Australian Mining Company lease. The 21½ acres leased by Robinson indicate that he leased four of the 20 allotments, each approximately 5 acres in size. If he leased four adjacent blocks, the most likely area of his farm was blocks 12 to 15 as shown below.
In the Deposited Plan 3365 where the blocks are surveyed, lots 12-15 have a total area of only 20.9 acres, which seems to contradict the appeals court figure of 21.5 acres. Note however that the Deposited Plan surveyed blocks do not include the area of Orchardtown Road. If we extend blocks 12-15 to the centreline of Orchardtown Rd, the area comes to exactly 21.5 acres. I suspect that the blocks were originally leased out before the road through the middle of the allotments was officially dedicated, and this accounts for the apparent discrepancy in areas.
After the initial 21 year leases expired, the land was available for purchase. The first sale was Lot 11 in 1913 to John Oliver. The final blocks were sold in 1942 to William Henry Hudson the Younger, who purchased lots 9 and 10.
Some remnants of agriculture in Orchardtown persisted into the 1940s with a dairy still operating there in 1943. However the post World War 2 years saw a rapid expansion of housing in the area, and by 1951 a story on the history of Orchardtown noted that …
To-day the orchards and most of the farms-like the market garden at Jean-street-have given way to modern suburban houses.
“Realising the growth of the place the inhabitants have determined to make an effort to have a representative in the New Lambton Council. Mr. C. H. Dagwell was unanimously nominated to go forward in the interests of the new township. Mr. Dagwell thanked the meeting for nominating him, and promised if he was successful in getting a seat in the council to have an eye to the interests of the New Lambton squatters.”
Wedding of Barwise Robinson, eldest son of Mr. John Robinson, of Orchardtown, New Lambton, to Adeline Patterson. "After the ceremony the party left the church amid showers of rice and best wishes, and drove to Robinson's Farm, in the Orchard Blocks (residence of the bridegroom's parents), where a large circle of friends sat down to a sumptuous breakfast."
"On Wednesday a quiet though pretty wedding was solemnised at the residence of Mr. John Robinson, the contracting parties being Maggie, the youngest daughter of John Robinson and William, fifth son of Robert Atkinson, both of Orchard Town."
"A proposal was made to the Minister for Lands yesterday that he should resume certain areas at Orchardtown. This land is at present held by tenants of the New Lambton Company, on a twenty-one years' lease, with a purchasing covenant."
New Lambton Council meeting, correspondence. "From the manager, New Lambton Coal Company, stating, in reply to a request made by the council that, they were prepared to dedicate to the council the
Orchard Town-road from Queen's-road to Mr. J. Robinson's lease."
New Lambton Municipal appeals court … "The appellants were residents of Orchardtown, who occupy land under lease from the New Lambton Company." J. Robinson appears to be leasing only 3 acres at this time.
"The wet weather had made the sanitary road almost impassable, and Mr. Robinson had allowed the council the use of his paddock for a month as a temporary depot, at a rental of £1. The manager of the New Lambton Company had consented to the Council taking any material they required from the old pumping shaft for repairing the Orchardtown-road."
"The funeral of the late Mr. John Robinson, of Alma-road, took place on Monday afternoon ... The interment took place in the general cemetery, Sandgate. The deceased, who had been suffering for a
lengthy period, died early on Sunday morning. He was 74 years old, and was born at Seaton (England) in 1846. He was married in the year 1872 at East Renton, West Durham, and came to New Lambton 41 years ago, living in Alma-road during that period. He was highly respected. He leaves a widow and three daughters,
one son, 20 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren."
"At midnight on Saturday a four-roomed cottage at Orchardtown, owned by Mrs. J. Robinson, of Alma-road, was burned to the ground. The occupiers, Mr. Bratz and family, were away from home at the time. The premises were not insured, and had been lately renovated by Mr. Robinson, who died a month ago, leaving the property to his widow."
"Mrs. Dorothy Robinson was given a party at the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. W. Atkinson, Portland-place, New Lambton, in celebration of her 80th birthday. For more than half a century Mrs. Robinson has been a resident of New Lambton, having arrived from England in 1879. The Robinsons were among the earliest settlers of Orchard town, where they had an orchard and bee farm."
There are a number of quintessential activities to do in Newcastle – walk Nobby’s breakwall, swim in the Bogey Hole, picnic at Blackbutt Reserve. But one of the most enduring of Novocastrian pastimes has to be complaining about the Adamstown rail crossing. “The delay to the traffic on the Adamstown and New Lambton road is most annoying.” This quote from the Newcastle Herald, is not from the recent past, but from August 1898!
The Newcastle to Gosford rail line opened in 1887, with passengers bound for Sydney needing to travel 14 miles on a steamer from Gosford to the south bank of the Hawkesbury River to continue their rail journey. Initially Adamstown had only a platform and a paltry office described as “large enough only for a dog kennel”. After vigorous campaigning by Adamstown residents, new station buildings were erected in 1891 including ladies and gentlemen’s waiting rooms, and a ticket and parcels office.
The gates and signals were manually operated, and while improving safety, they did not ease traffic congestion. In 1939 the manually operated swing gates were replaced with power operated boom gates, but complaints about traffic delays were ever recurring, as were suggested solutions. A reporter for the Newcastle Herald stated: “Probably, the day is not far distant when an overhead bridge will have to be erected.” Sadly, this nugget of wishful thinking was written 112 years ago in 1910. It seems the chances of this idea being realised now, are as forlorn as back then.
The article above was first published in the April 2022 edition of The Local.
One little sidetrack in researching this article was finding the location of the Adamstown stationmaster’s house. In January 1901 the newspaper reported …
During the past eleven and a half years Mr. W. Hall has been the officer in charge of the Adamstown railway station. Mr. Hall recently made application for a change, and his request has been acceded to. In about a week’s time he will take his departure from Adamstown and take charge of Guildford station, on the Southern line.
This would imply that W Hall had been appointed stationmaster around July 1888. Given that this is only a year after the rail line opened, and that Adamstown station began as only a platform beside the tracks, it is probable that W Hall was the first stationmaster appointed at Adamstown.
A newspaper article from 1898, reporting on a dispute as to whether the stationmaster’s house was liable for council rates, noted that …
The building is situated in Victoria-street on the Waratah Company’s subdivision, and is about 100 yards from the railway.
Records from Historical Land Records Viewer, show in Vol-Fol 1066-135 that the Railway Commissioners of NSW purchased lots 1 and 2 of Sec H of DP2347 in August 1893.
Note that the map showing the location of the lots, only has streets labelled with numbers as per the in the DP2347 subdivision map. 2nd Street on this map was an extension of Victoria St and became known by that name, but 6th St persists to this day. A 1944 aerial photograph shows that the stationmaster’s house was situated at 151 Victoria St. The Railway Commissioners sold the house and property into private hands in May 1956.
Detailed description of the Hawkesury River to Newcastle rail line, to be opened soon. "Adamstown station is reached at 97 miles 75chains, where there is only a platform 264ft x 15." Interestingly, it appears that Broadmeadow station was originally called Lambton station.
"The Government road from Union-street to the railway platform is drawing towards completion …a siding is necessary at the platform, so that trucks containing goods for Adamstown can be shunted where carts can be taken conveniently to receive the goods."
"The Railway Commissioners have prepared a new time-table for the Northern line, which will come into operation next month, when the Hawkbesbury bridge is open for passenger traffic. The journey to and from Sydney will be very much shortened ... doing the whole journey in 3 hours 20 minutes, saving no less than 2 hours 22 minutes."
"It will be a consolation to those who are opposed to the removal of the railway station, to know that such is not to be carried into effect; and the station buildings are to be erected forthwith on the present site. The
contractor is prepared to proceed with the work immediately, so the people can rest content that they will before long have the accommodation they have so long agitated for."
"Adamstown. The erection of the station buildings are progressing slowly. With the exception of the goods-shed, they are all that is required for the present. The goods-shed is very small, and not nearly so large as was promised."
"After a deal of writing on behalf of the council the railway authorities have commenced the work of interlocking the points and gates at the railway station: By the installation of the interlocking system the safety of the traffic will be improved considerably. Indeed, the system in vogue is dangerous in the extreme and daily accidents of a serious character have been narrowly averted."
"A new interlocking apparatus was opened at the Adamstown railway station yesterday. Since the opening of the double track to Teralba, the department have gradually introduced the interlocking system at the various stations. Adamstown is now an important junction, as the Redhead and New Lambton lines branch off the Government railways near the station. The new apparatus consists of a bunch of 29 levers, which work the various semaphores, the points, and the gates which guard the different crossings."
"With respect to vehicular traffic, on the Adamstown-New Lambton road there is a grievance, and one that is not likely to be remedied till a man is placed at that important junction to attend to the signals and crossing-gates, which work is ample for one person. The delay to the traffic on the Adamstown New Lambton road is frequently most annoying, and the testimonials the station officials are daily made the recipients of are anything but gratifying."
"There are great complaints at times of the great delay caused to traffic at the Adamstown railway crossing. The delay to the traffic on the Adamstown and New Lambton road is most annoying, and the verbal testimonials presented to the railway officials are anything but complimentary."
"During the past eleven and a half years Mr. W. Hall has been the officer in charge of the Adamstown railway station. In about a week's time he will take his departure from Adamstown and take charge of Guildford station, on the Southern line. He leaves Adamstown with the good wishes of all."
"When the Railway Commissioners visit Newcastle on June 23, strong argument will be put forward for the
electrification of the railway from Sydney to Newcastle. It is stated by those urging the installation of
the new system that the cost would not be very great."
"Extensive alterations are contemplated at Adamstown railway station. The improvements will include enlarged platforms, boom gates to replace the existing swing ones, a new signal box and an overhead
bridge to connect the two platforms."
"Ald. Williams said that an overhead bridge should be constructed for pedestrians and vehicular traffic. With an overhead bridge for vehicular traffic delays at the gates would be obviated."
"I would desire to direct attention to the delay and inconvenience caused at the Adamstown gates. As one who would very much like to see an overhead bridge at this intersection, not only for business traffic but the public traffic also. There have been times when I have waited with traffic streamed along behind me for
close on 20 minutes."
"A new railway signal box and power operated boom gates were opened yesterday at St. James-road, Adamstown, by the Railway Department. The old hand operated gates have been replaced by an electrically operated device."
This month’s photo was taken 125 years ago in March 1897. So much has changed that it’s hard to recognise the location today. The photo was taken from the brewery buildings in Hamilton East (now part of Hamilton TAFE) looking towards Bar Beach. In the foreground is a Rugby Union ground, and behind it to the right is Newcastle’s original racecourse, before the Broadmeadow racecourse opened in 1907.
In the background, below Shepherds Hill there is a line of coal wagons at the “Sea Pit” of the A. A. Company, and in the foreground the railway to their “D Pit” in Hamilton. All the land in this photo belonged to the company, part of 2000 acres granted by the Government in 1830. When finished with coal the company turned to real estate and subdivided the land in 1913. Stewart Ave now runs through the former rugby ground.
Although the scene has changed, the subject remains.
Ralph Snowball photographed a bicycle carnival, a two-day event of races on a banked velodrome track built around the rugby field. The 1890s was a decade of huge popularity for cycling, with the Newcastle Morning Herald having a weekly column “Hums of the Wheel” reporting on the sport. The first column in March 1892 noted that “since the advent of the safety bicycle, cycling has received an impetus which has placed it on a par with any other sport in the world.” Unlike the earlier ‘penny farthings’ where the rider perched precariously above a large wheel, safety bicycles had equal sized wheels, propelled by pedals and a chain, with the rider seated low to the ground. By end of 1890s interest in cycling had waned significantly, and at a charity event hoping to draw a crowd of thousands, just 60 turned up. The downturn however was only temporary, and cycling has ever been on an upward trend. Its popularity now so great that an astonishing 1.7 million bicycles were imported into Australia last financial year.
The article above was first published in the March 2022 edition of The Local.
Prior to 1876, the standard or “ordinary” bicycle had two different sized wheels, with the rider seated high above the larger wheel at the front, propelling it with direct pedal action.
In 1876, J H Lawson of Brighton UK, invented the “safety bicycle”.
The special feature of this machine is that the rider sits over the smaller wheel and as the big driving-wheel at his back; the feet are thus always within easy reach of the ground, and the danger of falling is reduced to a minimum.
Within a short period of time the design of the safety bicycle had evolved to having two equal sized wheels, with the rear wheel driven by a pedals and a chain. In 1879, the cycle manufacturer George Singer started making safety bicycles under license from J H Lawson. Initial uptake was slow and …
“… it was not until 1885 that the safety bicycle was fairly established in public favour.”
The Bicycle Carnival in March 1897 was held over two days, Thursday 25 March and Saturday 27 March. It would appear that Ralph Snowball has made a minor error in annotating his negative with the date 28 March 1897.
The bicycle carnival was a huge event. The Newcastle Morning Herald reported on the following Monday 29 March 1897 that “there must have been nearly 6000 persons present, comprising visitors from all parts of the country, and especially from the metropolis.” Special tram services were arranged to get patrons to and from the event, and proceedings were attended by representatives from eight different newspapers.
One more thing to ponder about Snowball’s photograph – if the subject is a bicycle carnival, where are the bicycles? With the glass plate negative cameras that Snowball worked with, the exposure time meant that any cyclists on the track would be but a blur. One cyclist can just be made out at the left of the photo.
Location of the Bicycle Carnival
A brief mention of the bicycle carnival in the newspaper on 29 March 1897 reports that it was held on the Rugby Football Ground.
The Rugby Football ground can also be seen in a 1906 Ralph Snowball photograph, which is part of a 4 panel panorama taken from the Obelisk hill. The brewery building from which Snowball almost certainly took the photograph is at the right of the ground, with the A. A. Company coal rail line running between.
Australian Agricultural Company land and the “Garden Suburb”
In 1913 the A. A. Company announced a grand plan to develop their land into an attractive “model suburb”.
A MODEL SUBURB. A.A. COMPANY’S INTENTIONS. The first attempt at a practical application of the principles of modern town planning in the vicinity of Newcastle is about to be made by the Australian Agricultural Company, the scheme being yet another indication of the company’s enterprise in the direction of advancing the interests of the city and district. The proposal is to set apart a portion, of the company’s estate, consisting of about 250 acres, and lying west and south-west of Melville [now Union St] and Parry streets, for the purposes of a model suburb, and the requisite plans for the undertaking have already been completed. The design has been worked out by Messrs. John Sulman and John F. Hennessy, of Sydney, and every endeavour has been made to embody in it all the features which experience in other parts of the world has shown to be most desirable … Fine wide streets, planted with trees in such a way as to be ornamental in fact as well as in name, are naturally looked for in a model residential area, and they will not be looked for in vain in the A.A. Company’s so-far-unnamed suburb.
The following year, in May 1914, the company advertised the first subdivision in their new suburb, promoting it as the “Garden Suburb”.
The name “Garden Suburb” was a marketing phrase and not the official name of the suburb, although it did make its way onto the plaques on the commemorative columns at Learmonth Park.
One interesting feature of the original 1913 design of the suburb that never eventuated, was an ornamental garden and recreation area in the middle of Stewart Ave.
About half-way along Stewart avenue a large oblong-shaped space is to be utilised for enclosed grass plots, and in the centre of it a band-stand will be placed. There probably will be two of these turfed squares, and at each end of these will be a semi-circular plot, one having an ornamental fountain within it, and the other a piece of statuary.
Article with some details about the invention of the safety bicycle by Mr Lawson ... "The great advantage of these safety bicycles is that you can mount by throwing your leg over—as over a pony—and start instantly ; you can then go as slowly and steadily as you like, even in the most crowded thoroughfares, where high bicyclists must dismount."
First "Hums of the Wheel" column in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate. "Since the advent of the safety bicycle, cycling has received an impetus which has placed it on a par with any other sport in the world. The introduction of the cushion, pneumatic, and other tyres of the kind to the safety has completely outstride the old-fashioned ordinary, and it is to be relegated to a back seat. Although the ordinary bicycle has been tried with the pneumatic tyres, it has not proved anything near so fast as its dwarfed brother."
Interview with the H J Lawson, the inventor of the safety bicycle.
"In 1879 Mr. Singer, the well-known maker, sent for me and offered to manufacture my cycle for the market, paying me a royalty of £2 on each machine. Somehow the innovation did not meet with popularity at this time, and it was not until 1885 that the safety bicycle was fairly established in public favor. By this time, though, I had relinquished my patents, so that I have never reaped any pecuniary profit from my invention."
Final "Hums of the Wheel" column in the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate.
"The result of last Saturday's carnival should be sufficient to deter the cycling
clubs from running another for some time to come. The sport is as flat as it can possibly be, and the public require something more novel to attract them. It was thought that the cause would have been in itself sufficient to draw a gate of at least a couple of thousand, but the total of sixty reflected anything but credit upon the sport-loving public of Newcastle. The Benevolent So ciety will not benefit to the extent of a copper, but on the contrary the Federal Bicycle Club will have to make good the loss over the meeting. The cycling authorities must therefore abide by the will of the public, and unless some extra attractiveness is introduced the less meetings held the better for the clubs' coffers. The racing
was fairly good, but there was a sameness about the whole affair that became monotonous."
"Saturday last witnessed the final day's racing on the Newcastle Jockey Club's course at Hamilton, as the
club's next fixture will be decided on the new course at Broadmeadow in April. In bidding adieu to the old site the president and several members of the committee grew reminiscent, and compared the condition of the course at the present time with what it was when taken over by the club. Then it was a mere waste of marsh and brushwood, but during the club's possession it had been drained and wonderfully improved, so that its subsequent conversion into a golf links for the local club became a comparatively easy matter."