Lambton/Mayfield Tramway

The first tramline in the city, running from Newcastle to Wallsend opened in 1887. Only two other lines opened in the next decade, but tramway fervour increased when Edward William O’Sullivan became NSW Minister for Public Works in 1899. O’Sullivan was a passionate supporter of public transport. He was the visionary in the construction of the ornate Central Railway Station in Sydney, and instigated many other rail and tram projects in NSW.

In Newcastle by 1901, Merewether, Adamstown and Mayfield had been added to the tram network, and many other suburbs clamoured to be the next tram destination. Lambton residents wanted a tram between their town and Mayfield. However the Mayor of Waratah, N. B. Creer, was highly critical, declaring that the proposed route

“comprises a variety of pitfalls and the land might subside at any time”

and that the income from passengers

“would not pay for grease for the rolling stock”

Creer’s preference was for Waratah to be connected by a line from Hamilton via Georgetown. The Minister agreed, and O’Sullivan promised that construction would start by 1903. However, drought and a downturn in the London money markets dried up funds, and government spending was reined in. O’Sullivan lost office in 1904 and the Waratah via Georgetown tramline was put on hold. The line eventually opened in 1915, the final extension of the tram network constructed in Newcastle.

In 1918, the Lambton to Mayfield route was again advocated, to provide transport for workers in the western parts of the city to the newly opened steelworks. But it was never to be. In the 1920s the rise of motorised bus services led to a decline in tram patronage, and from 1930 tramlines in Newcastle began to close. The last tram service in Newcastle ran on 11 June 1950 on the Waratah line.

In 2019, light rail services return to the city, and the opening of the Newcastle to Wickham line raises the same question asked in 1901, “Where to next?”


The article above was first published in the January 2019 edition of The Local.

Mayfield-Lambton Tramway Proposals 1901. Map by Ken McCarthy, Trolley Wire magazine October 1982. Courtesy of Sydney Tramway Museum Archives.
A tram sits at the intersection of Howe and Morehead Streets, Lambton, where the
proposed route to Mayfield branched off. Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Additional Information

Timeline of tram operations in Newcastle, 1887-1950

Date Tram line Event
19 Jul 1887 Wallsend/Plattsurg Opened
19 Apr 1894 Tighes Hill Opened
19 Apr 1894 Glebe (originally called Merewether line) Opened
13 Aug 1900 Adamstown Opened
11 Jan 1901 Mayfield (extension of Tighes Hill line to Hanbury St) Extended
21 Sep 1903 Merewether (beach) Opened
27 Apr 1907 Racecourse Opened
19 Sep 1910 West Wallsend Opened
11 Jul 1911 Wallsend (Newcastle to Lambton portion) Duplicated
15 Jan 1912 Speers Point Opened
23 Sep 1912 Carrington Opened
July 1914 Maryville (Port Waratah) Opened
20 Jan 1915 Waratah Opened
15 Dec 1923 Mayfield Electrified
27 Jul 1924 Merewether Electrified
2 Nov 1924 Glebe Electrified
2 Feb 1925 Adamstown Electrified
6 Apr 1925 Waratah Electrified
Nov 1925 Racecourse (possibly 11/11/1925?) Electrified
27 Dec 1925 Wallsend Electrified
15 Aug 1926 Carrington Electrified
11 Oct 1926 Port Waratah Electrified
1 Nov 1930 Speers Point Closed
1 Nov 1930 West Wallsend Closed
19 Nov 1938 Carrington Closed
19 Nov 1938 Port Waratah Closed
26 Sep 1948 Mayfield Closed
6 Nov 1949 Wallsend Closed
25 Feb 1950 Glebe Closed
25 Feb 1950 Merewether Closed
16 Apr 1950 Adamstown Closed
Apr 1950 Racecourse Closed
11 Jun 1950 Waratah Closed

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
1 Sep 1900"The land on the suggested Lambton to Waratah route comprises a variety of pitfalls, and where falls have not taken place the land might subside at any time, a great deal of the country being undermined and the coal extracted from near the surface. "
"The Mayor of Waratah contends that a tramway between Waratah and Lambton would not pay for grease for the rolling stock, and suggests that this project might be dropped so as not to prejudice the construction of the Georgetown route, to which the Minister and the Commissioners are said to be favourable."
4 Sep 1900"The construction of a tramline between Waratah and Lambton is not advocated solely with a view of benefiting the residents living in the vicinity of the route, but also for the convenience of the travelling public of the whole district, more especially the people of the large centres of Wallsend and Plattsburg, who are at present unable to reach Hanbury, Tighe's Hill, Mayfield, or the Hunter River by tram unless they proceed via Wickham, which is both a costly and tedious journey, in order to reach those centres of population."
15 Nov 1900
13 Nov 1900
Conference between Lambton Citizens’ Committee and Waratah Council to discuss the competing routes. Lambton argued that the tram was “necessary as a means of conveyance for youths employed at the Soap Works, a number of workmen who travelled at week-ends and holidays to the river to fish.”
14 Jun 1901
13 Jun 1901
Mr G Fischer, the Engineer for Tramway construction, inspects a number of proposed tram routes. There is detailed description of the Lambton/Mayfield route that was subsequently illustrated in the map in Trolley Wire magazine in 1982.
The praises of William O'Sullivan are sung … “Very little doubt exists that a line will be made if Mr. O'Sullivan remains in power. His vigorous policy has already done much good for the district, and his present tramway proposals are held to be an evidence of his sincerity to make Newcastle up-to-date as the capital city of the great northern part of this State.”
15 Mar 1902"New South Wales is shortly to go on to the [London Money] market, but is holding back because of the unsettled condition of the market owing to South African affairs."
19 Mar 1902The Minister for Works writes to Waratah Council stating that the Waratah Broadmeadow tramway extension could be commenced at the end of June next. (June 1903)
20 May 1903"A deputation … interviewed the Minister for Works, Mr. O'Sullivan, to-day, and urged for the early redemption of his promise to construct the extension of the tram from Broadmeadow to Waratah."
The Minister said "he had given promises in good faith, but a man was sometimes the victim of his environment, and so was the State. Since the promises were given they had fallen upon bad times. The drought, the bad money market in London, and other troubles, and the Government had decided to reef-sail in the matter of expenditure."
8 Aug 1905"The residents of Waratah … are waiting patiently for the construction of the branch line from Broadmeadow Junction. The line was surveyed some years ago, and pegs mark the proposed route. "
"When Mr. O'Sullivan was Minister for Works he was taken over the route. He decided then that it was the proper way to take the line, and promised that it should be constructed. However, he went out of office, and the matter has been hung up since. "
19 Jun 1918Lambton Council meeting: "Correspondence was received from J. Estell, intimating that he would assist thecombined councils in urging the Government to construct a tram line from Lambton, via Waratah and Mayfield, to the steel works."
10 Mar 1920Call to convene a conference "for the purpose of taking concerted action towards procuring the construction of a tramway to the Steel Works either from Lambton or New Lambton."
10 Apr 1920"The necessity for constructing a line of tramways to give direct access from the western suburbs to the Steel Works at Port Waratah was affirmed by a conference of municipal representatives held at the Lambton Council Chambers last night."
24 May 1920“The proposal for the construction of a tramline from Lambton to the steel works was mentioned by the Mayor ... Mr. Phillips (District Superintendent of Tramways), in reply, said that he could see very little hope of any new lines being constructed in the Newcastle district until electrification was brought about.”
21 Oct 1930
1 Nov 1930
Speers Point and West Wallsend tram services cease. They had been operating at a loss of £16,229 per annum.
12 Jun 1950
11 Jun 1950
Last tram service in Newcastle, on the Waratah line.

The first Commercial Hotel

My December article for The Local is out, this month on the Commercial Hotel/Snake Gully Hotel/Hotel Amos/Bar 121, on the south west corner of Elder and Grainger Streets Lambton. This soon to be demolished building was erected in 1888, but in researching the article I discovered there was an earlier and different Commercial Hotel in the period 1879-1882, on the north side of Elder St.

The references to it were fairly scant, and I had little hope of determining where it was located. But last weekend, thanks to an 1885 advertisement of sale of an oddly shaped land allotment, and the NSW Globe KML, I’m reasonably confident that the first Commercial Hotel was at 102-104 Elder St, where Raine & Horne Real Estate was formerly located, and Williams Artisan Bread & Espresso is currently located.

102 and 104 Elder St Lambton. Site of the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton.

Commercial Hotel

The intersection of Elder and Grainger streets was at one time the hotel hub of Lambton, with three of its four corners hosting a licenced establishment. In 1865 John Stoker opened the Gold Miners’ Arms on the north east corner, and in 1868 Michael Doyle opened the Rose, Thistle & Shamrock Inn on the south east corner.

In 1888 the Commercial Hotel opened on the south west corner in a newly erected building. The name was familiar to locals as there had been a previous but unrelated hotel of the same name on the northern side of Elder St for a brief period around 1880. The new Commercial Hotel building was commissioned by Mr G Buckley, designed by local architects Bennett and Yeomans, and constructed by Mr J Frogley. The newspaper at the time reported that

“The building is of brick, containing fifteen rooms, with large cellar 20 x 16, bathroom and water tank, wardrobe, large yard, stables and out-offices. The main building contains a large hall, used by the Masonic Order, 36 x 18, with ante-room attached; billiard-room, 26 x 26, high and lofty, fitted with fire-place, large-sized table, and eleven ventilators, making it cosy in winter and cool in the summer.”

The first publican was Mr W Brown, followed by John Sample in 1889. Another notable publican was George Smith, who held the license of the Commercial Hotel from 1901 to 1912, before becoming publican of the Northumberland Hotel at the other end of Elder St from 1913 to 1920.

After 84 years of trading as the Commercial Hotel, in 1972 it was renamed the Snake Gully Hotel. In 1979 it became the Hotel Amos, then reverted to Snake Gully Hotel in 1982. In 2002 it was renamed Bar 121, and then renamed to Snake Gully Hotel again in 2016.  The hotel closed in August 2018 bringing to an end over 150 years of continuous hotel operations at the Elder/Grainger St intersection.


The article above was first published in the December 2018 edition of The Local.

John Sample’s Commercial Hotel 1893. Photograph by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
The Snake Gully Hotel in July 2018

The First “Commercial Hotel” in Lambton

Several books, including one I collaborated on (Lambton, A nineteenth century mining town, 2nd edition) state that the Commercial Hotel on the south west corner of Elder/Grainger Streets dates from 1880. This is incorrect. While researching this article I discovered that the Commercial Hotel of 1880 was a different hotel, somewhere on the north side of Elder St. The Commercial Hotel that opened in 1888 on the southern side of Elder St was described at the time as a newly erected hotel.

Mr R Ward operated the first Commercial Hotel until 1882, when he advertised the sale of the property.

Note that the location is described as being …

“erected upon a quarter of an acre of land, fronting Elder-street, and running through to De-Vitre-street, thus having two frontages to the principal streets.”

In August 1882 the Newcastle Morning Herald reported that …

“Messrs. W. Lightfoot and Son have removed to Lambton, and commenced business in the premises in Elder-street, lately known as the Commercial Hotel, as grocers, drapers, ironmongers, dealers in colonial produce, etc.”

A few years later, in January 1885, the property was again advertised for sale, split into two allotments.

The first allotment is described as having a frontage to Elder St of 33 feet. Note however that the second allotment has a frontage to Elder St of 18 feet but a frontage to De Vitre St of 35 feet. The difference in frontages can only occur if the block is either wedge shaped, or has an irregular shape. Loading up lot boundaries from the NSW Globe KML (from NSW Governement Spatial Services) into Google Earth shows that there are no wedge shaped blocks on the north side of Elder St, but there is an irregular set of lots where

  • the total area is 0.25 acres (matching the area described in the 1882 sale)
  • the western lot has a frontage to Elder St of 33 feet, and the eastern lot a frontage of 18 feet (matching the details of the 1885 sale)

There are no other lots that match the details of the 1882 and 1885 sale advertisements, so I am reasonably confident that this is where the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton was situated. The site is at address 102-104 Elder St, where Raine & Horne Real Estate was formerly located, and Williams Artisan Bread & Espresso is currently located.

102 and 104 Elder St Lambton. Site of the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton.

Additional Information

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections has another Ralph Snowball photograph of the Commercial Hotel, captioned “George Smith’s Commercial Hotel, Lambton NSW, 11 August 1891”. The date cannot be right as George Smith did not become licensee of the Commercial Hotel until late 1900 or early 1901.

George Smith’s Commercial Hotel, Lambton NSW. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Licensees (to 1921)

Licensees after 1921 (incomplete list)

Name changes

The Australian National University archives has a photograph of a card from Tooth and Company Limited that shows two of the hotel’s name changes in the 1970’s.

  • Changed from “Commercial Hotel” to “Snake Gully”, 8/6/1972
  • Changed from “Snake Gully” to “Hotel Amos”, 1/11/1979

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
24 Jun 1868Advertisement for Michael Doyle's "Rose, Thistle, & Shamrock Inn" at Lambton.
21 Aug 1879"Mr. Henry Laurance, the oculist optician ... will be at the Commercial Hotel, Lambton, on Thursday next."
19 Nov 1880"Richard Ward applied for the transfer of his license of the Marquis of Lorne Hotel, Dixon street, to a house in Elder-street." The request was refused by the bench. Was the house in Elder St the Commercial Hotel which R Ward occupied in 1882?
6 Apr 1882Advertisement for the sale of Mr R Ward's Commercial Hotel. It is described as being on a quarter acre block between Elder and De-Vitre street in Lambton.
8 Aug 1882"Messrs. W. Lightfoot and Son have removed to Lambton, and commenced business in the premises in Elder-street, lately known as the Commercial Hotel, as grocers, drapers, ironmongers, dealers in colonial produce, etc."
17 Jan 1885FOR SALE - "That splendid BUSINESS PREMISES situate in the best part of Elder-street, Lambton, and occupied at present by W. Lightfoot and Sons as a Drapery establishment, consisting of two good shops, with a seven-roomed dwelling, kitchen, out buildings, and two underground tanks. The land has a frontage to Elder-street of 33 feet, by a depth running back to De Vitre street."
2 Nov 1888"The new hotel built to the order of Mr. G. Buckley, situate at the junction of Elder and Grainger streets, is now complete." "Mr. Brown has spared no pains in tastefully furnishing every room, so that the Commercial Hotel, with its genial host and sanitary surroundings, can be safely recommended as ranking amongst the first-class hotels of the district."
7 Nov 1888
5 Nov 1888
Mr. W. Brown, the host of the new Commercial Hotel, celebrated the opening of the house by inviting a few friends to partake of a neat "spread" on Monday night.
11 Jul 1889At the Waratah Licensing Court, the licence of the Commercial Hotel was transferred to John Sample, despite objections of the police.
18 Jan 1921At the license renewal hearing, the Commercial Hotel is described as "a fairly new brick building of two storeys" with "nine bedrooms, six of which were available to the public." The licensee at the time was Stephen Thomas Shipley, and the owner was Anne Jane Buckley.

Lambton Park Memorial Gates

We sometimes think of war memorials as edifices erected after a conflict, to honour the fallen. The Lambton Park Memorial Gates indicate a wider purpose, as evidenced in the name of the group who erected the gates – the Send-off and Welcome Home Committee.

The Great War had been fought for little over a year, when Henry Burg and Thomas Pease called a public meeting in September 1915, to form a committee to provide a “send-off to our boys for the front” and to welcome home wounded and invalided soldiers. The group resolved to present each enlisting soldier with an inscribed wallet on his departure, and a gold medal on his return.

At a farewell function in January 1917, Mayor Edward Charlton announced plans to “erect gates, as a Roll of Honour at the park.” With an estimated cost of £250, fundraising efforts ramped up. Dances, concerts, euchre parties, and sports days were held, mostly organised by the ladies on the committee, led by Mary Ott and Vera Darling. Plans for the gates progressed when Newcastle architect Eric G Yeomans agreed to be the honorary architect.

On 19 October 1918, a large crowd gathered in Lambton Park for the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone. Mr J Estell MP addressed the crowd, then placed into a bottle a parchment with the names of 39 members of the committee, “together with a copy of the Newcastle Morning Herald from August 1914, containing the proclamation of the war, and a number of old coins.” The bottle was sealed and placed into the cement foundation, over which the stone was laid. The Mayor then presented Mr Estell with an engraved gilt trowel.

The war ended just three weeks later. The gate pillars could now be engraved with a closing year, alongside the names of 140 soldiers from the district. Thanks to the efforts of the Lambton citizens, one hundred years on, we will remember them.

Lambton Park Memorial Gates, Morehead St.

The ceremonial gilt trowel presented to J Estell at the laying of the foundation stone of the park gates. Photo courtesy of Estell family.

Items presented to soldiers

Wallet

Inscribed wallet presented to Henry Smith in April 1916

Wallet and pocket book of Henry Smith. Presented by Mayor Ed Charlton.

Medal

Medal presented to Private Frederick England from the citizens of Lambton. Photo courtesy of Noble Numismatics.

Names on the gates

There are 140 names inscribed on the four gate pillars. Soldiers who died in service are marked with an asterisk.  By using the resources of the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia I have been able to identify almost all the men and create a spreadsheet with relevant information on each soldier, including links to Honour Rolls, embarkation rolls, and service records.


In the process of compiling the spreadsheet I discovered a surprising number of errors in the gate inscriptions. There are over 30 errors such as

  • Mis-spelled surnames
  • Initials incorrect, or in the wrong order
  • Incorrect enlistment year
  • Incorrect rank
  • There are five men who were killed in action, who do not have their names marked with an asterisk
    • Daniel Edward Docwra
    • David Douglas
    • Charles Henry Nichols
    • Albert Richard Warring
    • Thomas William Wilson

The table below lists the 140 names on the gates. The first column shows the name exactly as it is inscribed on the gate pillars, and the second column shows the full correct name where it is known from their service records.


Inscribed Name Full Name
Adamson D. * Pte Adamson, Randolph
Allinson W * Pte Allison, William Lowrie
Allsop V.J. Cpl * Allsop, Vincent James
Amour E.J. Spr Amour, Ernest Joseph
Amour J.V. Amour, John Vaughan
Atkinson A.G. Pte ?
Atkinson P.G. Pte Atkinson, Pearson Granger
Avery B. Avery, Bertie
Baird J.B. Baird, John Percy
Banfield G.H * Pte Banfield, George Henry
Barrie A. * Pte Barrie, Arthur
Barrie W.P. * Pte Barrie, William Picken
Bartholomew L.C. Bartholomew, Lewis Charles
Blinkhorne C. Blinkhorne, Cecil James
Boulden R. * Pte Boulden, Richard Nelson
Bowman R. ?
Box F Box, Frederick Samuel
Broadhead L. Sergt Broadhead, Leslie
Bunn G. Bunn, George Alfred
Bunn J. Bunn, John William
Burrowes G. Burrows, Robert Gilbert
Butler A. Cpl Butler, Arthur
Cameron J.C. Cameron, Joseph Charles
Chadwick J. Chadwick, John George
Charlton A.J. Sergt * Charlton, Alfred John
Charlton P. Major Charlton, Percy
Cox R. Cox, Robert Wilton
Crooks T. Crooks, Thomas Ray
Curtis J. Curtis, John
Curtis S. Curtis, Stanley
Davies C. Davies, Cecil Frank
Davies G. Davies, George
Davies G. Pte Davies, George Stanley
Docwra D.E. Sgt. Major Docwra, Daniel Edward A
Doonan F.M. * Pte Doonan, Francis Michael
Douglas D. Douglas, David
Easton J.W. Cpl ?
Easton W.J. Spr Easton, William James
Elliott F. Engr Elliott, Fred
England F. England, Frederick
Evans G.A. Evans, Arthur George
Farell K.A Farrell, Kenneth Archibald
Fellowes G.H. Fellows, George Hunter
Fitzpatrick A Fitzpatrick, Andrew
Gibbs C. * Pte Gibbs, Charles Alfred
Gilbert P. Pte Gilbert, Percy
Grant H. Grant, Henry Mitchell
Gray F. * Pte Gray, Leslie
Gray M. Gray, Maurice Dale
Hancock A. Hancock, Arthur
Hardley W. Sergt Hardley, Wilfred
Heath E. Heath, Ernest Edwin
Hemmings T. Hemmings, Tom Rupert
Hepple W.E. * Pte Hepple, William Edward
Hetherington W. Hetherington, William
Houghton G. 1917 ?
James C. Capt James, Charles
James T. James, Thomas
Jansen H. Pte Jansen, Henry
Jarvis P. Jarvis, Percy
Johnson G. Sergt Johnson, Cecil Sylvester
Johnson L. ?
Johnson T.W. Johnson, Thomas William
Jones D.J. * Pte Jones, David James
Jones F. ?
Jones H.T. Pte Jones, Alexander Thomas Hilton
Jones L.S. Dvr Jones, Leslie Stephen
Kennedy T. Dvr Kennedy, Thomas
Kennedy W.T. Dvr Kennedy, William Thomas
Kentish A. * Pte Kentish, Alfred
Kentish A.Pte * Kentish, Arthur
Kentish J. Kentish, James Edward
Last P.B. Dvr Last, Phillip Blaxell Clement
Law W. * Pte Law, William Raymond
Leece A. Leece, Alexander
Lewis A. Lewis, Azariah
Lewis C.H. Lewis, Claude Henry
Lewis G. Lewis, George
Liddle J. * Pte Liddle, John
Lilly R.E. Lilly, Robert Edward
May C.J. May, Cecil James
McDonald F. * Pte MacDonald, Frederick
McLauchlan C. ?
Melville J. Melville, John
Metcalfe J. Metcalfe, John George
Metcalfe J.G. * Pte Metcalfe, Joseph Charles Usher
Mills F.M Mills, Frederick Michael
Mitchell A.B. * Pte Mitchell, Alfred Bruce
Mitchell J.A. Mitchell, James Alexander
Mitchell J.H. * Mitchell, John Henry
Mitchell T.J. * Pte Mitchell, Thomas James
Monagle W. Lcr Monegal, William
Mulholland C. Mulholland, Edward
Myhill L. Myhill, Charles Arthur
Nichols C. Lieut Nichols, Charles Henry
Oldham H. Oldham, Herbert
Oldham W.H. Lieut * Oldham, Walter Herbert
Orrell S. Orrell, Stephen
Ott H. Sergt Ott, Henry
Parkinson J.J Parkinson, John James
Pease H. * Pte Pease, Harry
Pease T Pease, Thomas
Polak E.S. Sap Polak, Edmund Solomon
Polak L.E. Engr Polak, Emmanuel Louis
Pritchard H. * Pte Pritchard, Herbert Ernest
Purcell J. Sig Purcell, James
Reid J.R. * Pte Reid, James Reginald
Rendle A. Rendle, Albert William
Richardson T. * Pte Richardson, Thomas
Richmond E. Richmond, Ernest Alfred
Ridley W Ridley, William
Roese C. Roese, Clarence
Shakespeare J. Shakespeare, Joseph Henry
Sheedy T. Spr Sheedy, Thomas Francis
Smith G. Smith, George
Smith H. Smith, Henry
Smith H.E.R. Smith, Henry Edward Randolph
Smith H.S. Dvr Smith, Herschel Stanley
Smith J.W. Capt Smith, John William
Stokes E.A. Pte Stokes, Edwin Arthur
Stokes W.R. Pte Stokes, William Robert
Sturey G. * Pte Sturiali, Salvatore
Sutherland W. Sutherland, William Inglis
Swift E.L. Swift, Ernest Charles
Swift O. Swift, Oliver James
Tait P. Tait, Peter
Taylor W.H. * Sergt Taylor, William Henry
Thornton C. Thornton, Herbert Claude
Thornton H.G. Cpl 1915 Thornton, Herbert George
Treharne P. Treharne, Sydney
Warren A.B. Pte Warring, Albert Richard
Warren G.B Dvr Warren, Goldie
Wheeler J. Wheeler, Joseph
White J. ?
Williams C. ?
Wilson T. Wilson, Thomas William
Woolett C. Woollett, Charles Thomas
Worley W.R. Worley, William Robert
Young J.H Young, John Herbert
Young R.G. Young, Robert Goddard

Additional Information

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
21 Jun 1913
17 Jun 1913
Death of Henry Burg's German born father. "The death occurred on Tuesday of Mr. Andrew Burg, senior, who passed away at the residence of his son, Mr. Andrew Burg, junior, of Bolwarra. The deceased, who was 80 years of age, was a native of Nassaeu, Germany, but an old resident of the State. … He was a builder and contractor of some repute and ability, being closely connected with the carrying out of many colliery and other buildings at Lambton for the Croudace family."
6 Aug 1914
4 Aug 1914
England's declaration of war. It is possibly this article that is referred to in the placing of the time capsule at the laying of the foundation stone of the park memorial gates.
22 Sep 1915
21 Sep 1915
"A meeting of the residents convened by the Mayor in response to a largely signed requisition to devise means of giving a suitable send-off to the young men who had enlisted and a reception home to returned soldiers proved a failure in the matter of attendance. The meeting was called for 7.30 last night, and at, eight o'clock there were only five present, and only two of those who had signed the requisition."
29 Sep 1915Advertisement: "The RESIDENTS OF LAMBTON are respectfully invited to attend PUBLIC MEETING, to be held In Council Chambers THlS (WEDNESDAY) EVENING, at 7.30. Business:-.Send-off to our Boys for the Front, and the Returned Wounded and Invalided Soldiers, ROLL UP. HENRY BURG, THOMAS PEASE."
1 Oct 1915
29 Sep 1915
The second meeting called to form a send-off and welcome committee is a success. A committee is formed and plans made for a fundraising concert in the Coronation Hall.
9 Oct 1915
13 Oct 1915
"LAMBTON Send-off Committee.-A General Meeting of above will be held in Council Chambers on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 7.30. Business very important. R. D. PURCELL, Sec."
30 Nov 1915
28 Oct 1915
A meeting in the Coronation Hall "of citizens to assist the recruiting movement, and as a send-off to those who had already enlisted. The Mayor, Alderman L. E. Polak, presided, and the attendance numbered about 400, including 13 recruits." The Mayor "made a presentation of wallets suitably inscribed." [? There are two Johnsons mentioned in the list, but their initials don't match the Johnsons inscribed on the park gates?]
19 Feb 1916
18 Feb 1916
"Private Cecil May, of Jesmond, who enlisted in the fourth reinforcement of the 30th Battalion, and was granted his final leave during the week, was made a presentation of a pocket wallet, suitably inscribed, by the Mayor (Alderman Polak) at the council chambers yesterday."
3 Mar 1916"A meeting of the Send-off and Welcome Home Committee … the object of the meeting was to accord a public reception to Private Bert Avery, who was wounded at Gallipoli, and who is expected home in a few days."
9 Mar 1916
7 Mar 1916
At a meeting of the Lambton Citizens' Volunteer Send-off and Reception Committee "it was decided that departing soldiers should receive a pocket wallet, and on their return a gold medal, with a suitable inscription."
20 Nov 1925
17 Nov 1925
Death of Henry Burg, aged 70. He was born in Raymond Terrace.

New Lambton C Pit Protest

The peaceful residential streets of Adamstown today, give no hint of the industrial conflict that nearly boiled over into violence 130 years ago.

In 1888 miners were paid a set price per ton of coal they extracted. Where a coal seam contained thick bands of stony impurities, the miners were effectively paid less, as the same amount of physical labour would win less coal.  The miners of the Newcastle district pressed for the rate to be increased when there was more than 6 inches of impurities. The colliery owners rejected this claim and on 25 August a general strike began. Mining ceased, but the owners wanted to make some money by loading and exporting coal that had previously been brought to the surface. For this work they began using non-union labourers, so called “black-legs”. Opposition to this practice came to a head at New Lambton C Pit, located in Adamstown near present day Clinton Ave.

On Tuesday 18 September, the company sent six men to load coal, accompanied by a force of 30 police officers. Word spread quickly, and over a thousand miners and supporters flocked to the pit to harass the workers and persuade them to desist. Tensions increased and threatened to break out into uncontrolled rioting. Deft handling by police inspector Lynch defused the situation and the day ended with just a single minor injury.

In response, the NSW Governor issued a proclamation that those “interrupting persons in the honest pursuit of their lawful occupation” would be rigorously prosecuted. Military reinforcements were sent from Sydney, and when another attempt to load coal took place two days later, the four “black-legs” who showed up were accompanied by a combined force of 173 police and soldiers who kept the indignant miners at a safe distance.

The show of force had the desired effect and the industrial dispute simmered into stalemate. The strike lasted another two months before agreement was reached, and the miners returned to work on 24 November.

New Lambton C Pit, Thursday 20 September 1888.
Photo by Ralph Snowball, University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The railway to New Lambton C Pit ran adjacent to Bailey St Adamstown.


The article above was first published in the September 2018 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

The Nordenfeldt Gun

The story of the New Lambton C Pit protest has many interesting aspects to it, which for reasons of space I had to omit from the published story above. One example is the involvement of the military and the deployment of a Nordenfeldt gun.

Late on the Tuesday afternoon as the pit disturbance intensified, Sub-inspector Lynch was concerned that he would be unable to safely remove the black-leg workmen from the site using the 30 policemen he had with him. The Daily Telegraph reported that …

“Sub-inspector Lynch accordingly decided to telephone to Newcastle for assistance and he sent the following message to Inspector Brennan —We are surrounded by a thousand men and cannot get the working men off the ground.”

When Brennan received the message …

“… he immediately communicated with the police magistrate, Mr. Mair and Colonel Spalding. A special train was ordered and as soon as possible 25 of the Permanent Artillery with a Nordenfeldt gun, and under Colonel Spalding and Lieutenant Morris, were taken in the train, as well as 27 constables.

By the time the train was under way to the pit the disturbance had ended …

“… and the train to the scene of action passed the one coming from East [sic] Lambton with the coal and the police and laborers.”

On the Thursday when work recommenced at the pit with four black-leg workers, a large contingent of military personnel were again taken out to the pit. The Newcastle Morning Herald reported that …

“The force included eighty-six artillerymen, in command of whom was Colonel Spalding, C.M.G., Lieut.-Colonel Airey, and Lieutenants Morris and Le Mesurier. Lieutenant Morris, who had with him a detachment of the locally-stationed gunners, had charge of a Nordenfeldt gun. This piece of artillery was carried in a goods truck in front of the engine, and the officer and men in charge of it accompanied the weapon.”

Unsurprisingly there was a great deal of concern that a military weapon had been deployed into the middle of an industrial dispute. The Newcastle Morning Herald in an editorial on 20 September 1888 titled “No Nordenfeldt guns wanted” described the gun as …

” … a deadly weapon, which, when in full operation, keeps up a continuous stream of bullets in whatever direction it may be pointed. We understand that this morning a strong reinforcement of the military comes up from Sydney, that the soldiers are to accompany another “small coal” expedition, and that they are to bring up another Nordenfeldt gun with them. We sincerely hope that if they go, they will leave these interesting pieces of death-dealing machinery behind. The democracy of Northumberland is as yet not far enough advanced to regard with equanimity the prospect of being the first in Australia to be experimented on by these interesting specimens of mechanism.”

The Nordenfeldt battery in position at the New Lambton mine. (From a Photograph by Mr. A. Symmons, Newcastle). Illustrated Australian News 13 October 1888, page 177

Nordenfeldt gun at United States Army Ordnance Museum, Aberdeen Proving Grounds MD USA. By en:User:Jetwave Dave [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Governor’s Proclamation

After the disturbance at the New Lambton C Pit on 18 October 1888, the next day the following proclamation was issued and published in the Government Gazette by His Excellency the Right Honorable Charles Robert, Baron Carrington, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Colony of New South Wales …

 “Whereas certain persons have, by combining and acting together, endeavoured to intimidate and oppressively interfere with certain of Her Majesty’s subjects in lawful pursuit of their occupations as workmen in certain of the coal mines in the county of Northumberland and other parts of the colony; and whereas there is every reason to believe that many of the persons, either guilty themselves of such acts of intimidation and unlawful interference, or countenancing the same by various acts of disorderly conduct, have not duly considered the criminal character of their proceedings or the penalties attaching to their illegal acts, while much concern is felt on account of the recent disturbance to a great industry in the county of Northumberland and elsewhere,and the consequent injury and distress which must inevitably fall upon many families and large classes of unoffending persons: it is nevertheless hereby notified that all persons offending as hereinbefore mentioned, or interrupting other persons in the honest pursuit of their lawful occupations by acts of intimidation or violence, or by disorderly conduct of any kind, will be rigorously prosecuted as the law directs.

“And all persons are hereby warned to desist from such unlawful practices, and all subjects of Her Majesty are called upon to render assistance in protecting any persons from outrage or molestation, and in maintain ing law and order.

“And it is further notified that if any attempt is made to interfere with the lawful pursuits of Her Majesty’s peaceful subjects, the most stringent measures will be adopted to maintain law and to afford complete security to all persons engaged in their lawful callings. “By His Excellency’s command, “HENRY PARKES.”

Impurities in the coal seam

The Evening News on 5 September 1888 ran an article explaining the background to the coal miners’ strike, and included a number of diagrams of coal seams around the district that showed bands of impurities within the seam. These impurities had various names such as ‘jerry’, ‘morgan’, and ‘myrtle’.

Borehole Coal Seam

Dating the photos

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections site has three Ralph Snowball photos of the disturbance at New Lambton C Pit, each dated only as September 1888.

From the newspaper reports we know that Tuesday 18 September 1888 and Thursday 20 September 1888 were the two days when large crowds gathered at the pit to protest the use of non-union labourers, so it is highly probable that the photos are from one or both of those days. After a careful reading of the newspaper accounts of the events of both days, I am reasonably certain that all three photographs are from Thursday 20 September 1888.

In all the accounts there is only one mention of a photographer, where the Newcastle Morning Herald on 21 September reporting on the previous day’s events noted that …

“The monotony of the task of watching the four men at work was somewhat relieved by the entree of a photographer on to the scene for the purpose of taking a series of pictures for a metropolitan illustrated paper. Groups were formed, and the pictures successfully taken.”

In the following photograph, one of the men in the scene is Inspector Martin Brennan. On the Tuesday, Inspector Brennan only arrived at the mine site after 6pm, which in September is after sunset, so this photo must be from Thursday.

Officials at New Lambton C Pit, Adamstown, NSW, 20 September 1888. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The following photograph shows a line of white helmeted artillery soldiers guarding the mine. On the Tuesday, military support only arrived after 6pm, and once again this suggests this photo is from the Thursday. The picture also aligns well with the report for Thursday that indicates that “the crowd was kept behind the police at the principal entrance, and thus no interference with the blacklegs was allowed or attempted.”

New Lambton C Pit disturbance, Adamstown, NSW, 20 September 1888. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

The following photograph shows a group of miners and family surrounding the workshop at the mine. While this could possibly be from Tuesday, I think its more likely to be Thursday. Firstly note that the crowd is quite orderly, and arranged for a posed photograph. Secondly, there is no evidence of any police officials, or black-leg workmen. This doesn’t correspond well with the events of Tuesday where there the tension and conflict continues all through the day until the workmen and the police leave the site by train at about 6pm, when it would have been quite dark.

In contrast, on the Thursday the black-leg workmen, and the police and soldiers left at about 4:30pm and afterwards it was noted that

“A few privileged stragglers were permitted to enter the sacred precincts of the closely-guarded arena, but everything, with a slight exception, passed off quietly.”
It seems more likely that the posed photograph below was taken late on the Thursday after the workmen and officials had departed. Although it may seem strange to describe the several hundred people in the photo as a “few” stragglers, it is understandable given that the same report earlier stated that the number of protesters that day “must have been considerably over 6000.”

New Lambton C Pit disturbance, Adamstown, NSW, 20 September 1888. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

A map in the National Library of Australia shows the layout of the New Lambton C Pit, and I have marked on the map below the approximate locations where I believe Snowball’s photographs were taken from.

The Australasian (Melbourne) newspaper, on 6 October 1888, printed a number of drawings of the New Lambton C Pit disturbance, seemingly based on Snowball’s photographs.

THE MOB SURROUNDING THE SHOP CONTAINING THE “WORKMEN.”
The Australasian, 6 Oct 1888, p. 13.

Miners watching the “Workmen” at New Lambton. The Australasian, 6 Oct 1888, p. 12.

Militia standing, The New Lambton Pit. The Australasian, 6 Oct 1888, p. 12.

Inspector Martin Brennan

Martin Brennan was born at Kilkenny, Ireland in 1848, and at age 40 was the Inspector of Police in Newcastle at the time of miners’ strike in 1888. The Evening News of 4 October 1888 ran a story on Martin Brennan with some biographical details, and praising his qualities …

At Newcastle he has more than sustained his previous reputation as a firm, discreet, and zealous public officer. The manner in which he has discharged his duties at the present critical juncture has won for him the highest praise, both from the miners and the general public.

The article also contained a line drawing of Inspector Brennan, and from this we may reasonably guess that he appears in one of Snowball’s photographs.

Inspector Martin Brennan.

The Braidwood Times website has a studio photograph of Martin Brennan.

Inspector Martin Brennan.

Although his face looks more round in the Ralph Snowball photo, I think the roundness is exaggerated by the low resolution and the cap. When you snip the cap from the pit photo and place it on the studio photo, the resemblance is reasonably clear.

In an article from 17 September 1904 on his promotion to Superintendent, First Class, it is noted that  Brennan …

“… was promoted to Newcastle in 1886, as Inspector where he remained for about seven years. His duties there during the great coal and maritime strikes of 1888 were onerous and responsible ; nevertheless, he, with Sub-Inspector Lynch’s assistance, discharged them in such a manner as to merit the approbation of mine-owners and miners, as well as the public generally.”

Martin Brennan retired from the police force in January 1907 after 48 years of service, at the time a record exceeded only by his brother Patrick. Martin Brennan died in St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney on 8 August 1912, aged 73.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
25 Aug 1888"For some weeks past the general strike of coal-miners which has impended over this district has been the main topic of public interest … The strike is now an accomplished fact, the men employed in some pits of the district having taken out their mining gear yesterday, while the remainder will follow the same course on Monday."
30 Aug 1888Manifesto of the Amalgamated Miners' Association, in which they state that their chief grievance is "the attempt of the proprietors to compel the men to work and throw back rubbish from among the coal for nothing, or, in other words, to do additional work without increase of pay."
5 Sep 1888An explanation of the coalminers' dispute about impurities in the coal seam, including diagrams of coal seams from Fernadale, South Waratah and Borehole collieries.
19 Sep 1888
18 Sep 1888
Lengthy report on the disturbance at New Lambton C Pit where 6 "black legs" (strike breakers) were loading small coal, an up to a thousand miner's and their families arrived at the mine to protest.
19 Sep 1888
18 Sep 1888
Sydney Morning Herald's report of the riot at New Lambton C Pit.
19 Sep 1888
18 Sep 1888
The Daily Telegraph's report of the disturbance at New Lambton C Pit
19 Sep 1888Editorial opinion on the disturbance at New Lambton C Pit the previous day.
20 Sep 1888
19 Sep 1888
Three men arrested and charged "that they did, at the New Lambton pit, near Adamstown, together with divers other evil-disposed persons unknown, assemble to disturb the public peace, and did then and there make a great riot and disturbance, to the terror and alarm of Her Majesty's subjects there being."
20 Sep 1888
19 Sep 1888
Protest moves on to South Waratah pit, where over 1000 people gather.
20 Sep 1888"It is given as authoritative that another attempt to complete the loading of small coal at the New Lambton "C " pit will be resumed this morning. Matters in this vicinity bear a very serious aspect."
20 Sep 1888Editor's plea to miners and management to resolve the dispute peacably. "We are glad to know that strenuous efforts are being made by several gentlemen to formulate an agreement which will be acceptable to both Associated Proprietors and Associated Miners; and it is high time that the difficult task should be worked at, night and day, until the breaches between capital and labour in the district shall have been closed."
20 Sep 1888"Intelligence was received in Newcastle last night that 100 members of the Permanent Force had left Sydney by steamer for Newcastle last night. Colonel Spalding, C.M.G., will take command of the whole of the forces in the district."
21 Sep 1888
20 Sep 1888
Filling of small coal at New Lambton C pit by four 'black legs' workmen, protected by a a total force of 173 artillerymen and policemen, along with a Nordenfeldt battery gun.
20 Sep 1888Proclamation by the Governor of New South Wales, Charles Robert, calling for law and order to be maintained in the coal miners' dispute.
"It is hereby notified that all persons offending as hereinbefore mentioned, or interrupting other persons in the honest pursuit of their lawful occupations by acts of intimidation or violence, or by disorderly conduct of any kind, will be rigorously prosecuted as the law directs."
20 Sep 1888A call from the Newcastle Morning Herald for the government to refrain from bringing the Nordenfeldt guns into the miners' dispute. The gun is described as "a deadly weapon, which, when in full operation, keeps up a continuous stream of bullets in whatever direction it may be pointed."
22 Sep 1888All quiet at New Lambton C pit on Friday. There is an interesting suggestion that Thursday's action was intended as a show of force by the police authorites.
"It is stated that no more 'blacklegs' will be brought to New Lambton, and that they would not have been brought back on Thursday had it not been that the police authorities wanted satisfaction."
4 Oct 1888A biographical article on Inspector Martin Brennan, was the chief of the local police in Newcastle at the time of the New Lambton C Pit disturbance.
24 Nov 1888Resumption of work after the strike … "To-day all the collieries in the district, with the exception of South Waratah and New Lambton, were at work."
24 Nov 1888The coal strike "has been finally settled by the vote of the miners throughout the district, who by a large majority decided in favour of resuming work immediately as proposed by the Delegate Board."
11 Aug 1912
8 Aug 1912
Death of Inspector Martin Brennan.
8 Aug 1912
8 Aug 1912
Death of Inspector Martin Brennan.

Homecoming

My latest article for The Local has been published, this month on the the homecoming to Lambton in 1902 of Lieutenant Albert McEwan from the Boer War.

At first glance this Ralph Snowball photograph appears to be a plain snapshot of Elder Street in Lambton, and the University Flickr site has the photo simply captioned as “E. Bell, Bootmaker”. But a little digging into the background of this photograph revealed an intriguing family history of immigration, tragedy and war, that spanned three continents and several decades.

14 April 1902 – A decorated Elder St in readiness for the torchlight parade to honour Lieutenant McEwan later that evening. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Albert Henry McEwan

It was reported as “the largest demonstration that had ever been held at Lambton” with the crowd numbered “upwards of 2000.” The occasion was the return to Lambton of Lieutenant Albert Henry McEwan from the South African Boer War.

Albert was born in Lambton around 1877 where his father John worked as a miner. In the 1890s a downturn in the coal trade induced many to leave the area and seek work elsewhere. In October 1895, John along with his eldest son Albert, still a teenager, headed to the booming gold fields of South Africa. Both father and son quickly found employment in the “Simmer and Jack” mine at Johannesburg.

Within a year John was tragically killed in a mining accident. Albert stayed on and rose to a responsible position in the mine. When war broke out in 1899 between the British and the Boers, he joined the Imperial Light Horse and was soon engaged in a number of battles. Describing these in letters home to Lambton, he wrote with patriotic bravado but also noted “the appalling sights of a battlefield are simply terrible”. In 1901 Albert was shot in the leg. He was treated in South Africa, before being taken to Netley hospital in England where his leg was amputated.

Albert returned to Australia and arrived back in Lambton in the afternoon of 14 April 1902. At 7pm a torchlight procession marched down a gaily-decorated Elder St to Bell’s Hall at the corner Morehead St. “At every corner the returned soldier was greeted with loud cheers.” He made an appearance on the balcony and addressed the crowd in the street below, before being entertained at a banquet in his honour.

Ralph Snowball’s photograph from this day is not only a snapshot of the streetscape of Lambton in 1902, but also an indication of the colonial fervour for the British Empire that would propel many more Lambton boys to the fields of the Great War in Europe 12 years later.

14 April 1902 – A decorated Elder St in readiness for the torchlight parade to honour Lieutenant McEwan later that evening. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.


The article above was first published in the August 2018 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

Mine work in South Africa

In the newspaper article on 14 February 1902 reporting his wounding, it is noted that Albert McEwan was …

“a native of Lambton, and the eldest son of the late John McEwan, and went to South Africa about six years ago. When war was declared he held a responsible position as first amalgamator for one of the largest mines in the Rand.”

A 1918 US Government publication describes the the job of an amalgamator …

The amalgamator at gold mines prepares amalgamation plates to receive the gold-bearing pulp from stamps. He regulates the flow of water and ore, and at regular intervals collects the mercury-gold amalgam from the mortar, sluices, and plates.

Military service

The National Archives( London, England), has scanned the nominal rolls for the Imperial Light Horse Brigade, which contains an entry for Albert Henry McEwan.

The entry shows …

  • Regimental No: 319
  • Name: McEwan, Albert Henry
  • Regiment: 1st
  • Rank: Cpl (Corporal)
  • Place attested, date: PMB (Pietermaritzbug), 25/09/1899
  • Discharged: Supernumerary awarded pension

His enlistment date of 25 September 1899 was some two weeks before the Boer Republics declared war on 11 October 1899.

A search for “A McEwan” on the Anglo Boer War website shows that the South African Field Force Casualty Roll recorded Corporal McEwan as “Severely wounded. Naauwpoort, 5 January 1901″

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
30 Oct 1895
28 Oct 1895
"On Monday night a large crowd of residents gathered at the tram stopping place to witness the departure of Messrs. Jos. W. Oldham and John McEwan and son for Johannesberg, South Africa."
"Other well known residents … also leave their homes this week for Western Australia, slackness of work resulting in this step."
3 Dec 1896
19 Oct 1896
"A communication was received yesterday from Mr. Joseph Oldham, of Simmer and Jack (South Africa), conveying the sad news that his friend and brother-in-law, Mr. John McEwan, had died on the 19th of October from the effects of an accident in one of the mines. It appears that the deceased was with two other men, engaged in timbering a shaft, and that in endeavouring to cross the shaft he slipped from a plank they had for a stage, and fell a distance of 60ft."
13 Dec 1899"Trooper Albert McEwan, of the Imperial Light Horse, now in active service at the front in Natal" writes to his mother at Lambton.
" … you see I can call myself a thorough soldier, having fought against the Dutch in two battles — Elands Laage and Umgaani."
"The appalling sights of a battle field are simply terrible. You read about such affairs in books, but seeing such sights is fearful."
28 May 1900Letter from Trooper Albert H. McEwan, of the Imperial Light Horse to his brother William in Lambton.
14 Feb 1901
5 Jan 1901
"Mrs. McEwan, of Lambton, has received word from Major Rodgers, the officer commanding the Imperial Light Horse depot, Johannesburg, that her son, Sergeant A. H. McEwan, had been dangerously wounded at Fredrickstand, in a severe engagement with a Boer commando under De La Rey."
15 Feb 1902
14 Apr 1902
Celebrations marking the return of Lietenant Albert McEwan to Lambton after serving in the Boer War.
15 Apr 1902
14 Apr 1902
The Daily Telegraph in Sydney reported that "Lieutenant A. H. McEwan returned to his home at Lambton yesterday, after an absence of many years, and was accorded an enthusiastic, reception both at Newcastle and in his native suburb."
5 Apr 1941
22 Mar 1941
Death of Albert Henry McEwan in Adelaide, aged 64.

Rankin Park Hospital

The peaceful lawns that surround Rankin Park hospital now are a stark contrast to the tumultuous time of war in which it was built.

In 1923 the Newcastle Hospital Board purchased “Lambton Lodge”, the former residence of Thomas Croudace, to use as a convalescent home. At the official opening in 1926, Archie Rankin, chair of the board, announced that a further 60 acres of land had been purchased with a view to expansion. The plans remained but a dream until the nightmare of a second war came to the world. The government intended to build a hospital on the site to cater for evacuees in the event of an emergency. On 5 December 1941 during a visit to Newcastle, the Minister for National Emergency Services said that the hospital was “still in the planning stage.”

Two days later Japan bombed Pearl Harbour and entered the war. There was now an urgent need for an inland emergency hospital, out of range of Japanese battleship guns. The government quickly allocated £20,000 to erect a temporary structure. However, with an eye to a post-war future, Rankin pressed for a permanent brick structure, promising that he could have a 100 bed hospital ready in just ten weeks.

“The government agreed. The Newcastle hospital authorities wasted no time. They gave the architects 36 hours to complete plans, and told them a start would be made on the foundations without plans if they were not ready.”

Newcastle Morning Herald, 14 Jun 1943

The brickwork commenced on 6 February 1942 less than two months after the Pearl Harbour attack, and true to the ambitious promise the building was erected in just ten weeks. Patients were being tended at the hospital by May 1942 although conditions were initially very primitive.

In 1943 it was announced that the facility would be used as a chest hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis. Now part of Hunter New England Health, the Rankin Park Centre provides rehabilitation services for patients recovering from injuries and stroke.

Rankin Park Unit of the Royal Newcastle Hospital, c1950. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Rankin Park Centre of Hunter New England Health, 2018.


The article above was first published in the July 2018 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

Some of the details for this article were obtained from “The Anataomy of an Artwork” (2002) by Cath Chegwidden, which is subtitled as “A fascinating history of the Rankin Park Aged Care and Rehabilitation Unit uncovered by the creation of artworks for its refurbishment.”

In particular, the information that patients were being tended in the hospital by May 1942 comes from page 8 of this book where the author states that

“my father Walter Chegwidden (now 85) told me that he had been a patient in Rankin Park when the miniature submarines entered Newcastle Harbour in May 1942.”

The Japanese submarine attack on Newcastle actually occurred on 8 June 1942, so either Walter Chegwidden was in the Rankin Park hospital in the month leading up to the submarine attack, or possibly it was June 1942 he was in the hospital and not May 1942. In any case the newspaper article from 1 May 1942 makes it clear that the hospital “could now, if an emergency arose, take between 100 and 150 cases.”

A picture of the new nurses’s home and a side view of the hospital was published in the Newcastle Morning Herald on 17 November 1945.  Comparing the photo of the hospital in the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections, in particular the car parked out the front, raises the intriguing possibility that the two photos were taken at the same time.

A side view of the Rankin Park hospital, November 1945.

Rankin Park Nurses’ Home, November 1945.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
19 Oct 1922"The [Newcastle Hospital] board decided to complete the purchase of 'The Lodge' at New Lambton Heights for the purposes of a convalescent home from the Scottish-Australian Mining Company.
21 Dec 1922Renovations of the former home of Thomas Croudace are being considered by the Scottish Australian Mining Company, and it is noted that 'The Lodge' will not pass into the possession of the hospital for an other two years."
26 Apr 1926
24 Apr 1926
Official opening of the convalescent home, in the former residence of Thomas Croudace. "In addition to the original 24 acres, the board had secured sixty acres with a view to providing room for further institutions which at present were in dreamland. The convalescent home was the realisation of the first of their dreams."
16 Oct 1941"The Government Architect (Mr. Cobden Parkes) announced to-day that a new hospital would probably be built at New Lambton Heights near the Convalescent Home. This hospital is intended to be an emergency hospital to serve the needs of Newcastle district should the hospitals in the target area have to be evacuated during an emergency."
5 Dec 1941"The proposed Newcastle district emergency hospital at New Lambton Heights is 'still in the planning stage,' said the Minister for N.E.S. (Mr Heffron) today."
7 Jan 1942"Newcastle Hospital Board has laid a definite proposal before the Government for an emergency hospital at New Lambton Heights." The hospital would "deal with casualties which might occur in a raid." "A hospital of brick construction— which would cost only about 10 per cent, more than a wooden structure — is advocated by some. Such a hospital could be turned to good use after the war. Conversion of it to a T.B. clinic has been suggested."
23 Jan 1942"Claims for the establishment of an emergency hospital at Newcastle will be placed before the Minister for Health (Mr. Kelly) in Sydney to-day."
This article contains details of how the various hospitals would be used in the event of an emergency … "In anticipation of a state of emergency being declared, hospitals in the district have been instructed to admit only acute cases."
"It is considered that civil casualties could first be treated at [Newcastle] hospital and then transferred to the emergency hospital. Newcastle Hospital would be essentially a clearing station."
7 Feb 1942£20,000 allocation for start on New Lambton Hospital. "Workmen have already started on the job. They have prepared foundations and yesterday began placing bricks. The hospital will accommodate 200 patients. Mr. Rankin has given an assurance that 100 beds will be available within 10 weeks and 200 beds in another four weeks."
18 Feb 1942"The emergency hospital which is being built at New Lambton Heights has been designed for use as a T.B. hospital after the war."
12 Mar 1942"Bricks for the emergency hospital at New Lambton cannot be supplied before March 16 … available bricks had had to be diverted to protection work at Newcastle."
1 May 1942"The emergency hospital at New Lambton Heights, it was stated, was progressing particularly well and could now, if an emergency arose, take between 100 and 150 cases."
1 Mar 1943The emergency hospital nearing completion will be used as a chest hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis.
14 Jun 1943Chest hospital not expected to be open for several months - delay in the delivery of material and equipment has held up the completion of the hospital. This article contains details about Archie Rankin's involvement in the very tight construction timeframe.
17 Nov 1945Photos of the new nurses' quarters at the New Lambton Chest Hospital, and a side view of the hospital.
24 Mar 1947"Representatives of the Newcastle Hospital Board, the Red Cross Society and the Hospitals Commission met in Sydney today to discuss the opening of the New Lambton Chest Hospital. The Red Cross Society has offered to provide sufficient staff to run the hospital."