Reservoir Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Additional Information

the Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vol-Fol 806-208. Sale to Castlemaine Brewery

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

The Licenses Reduction Board

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

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

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

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

The Act covered include a number of reforms, including …

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

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

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

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

Other Lambton hotels

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

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

Newspaper articles

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

Adamstown Post Office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Additional Information

Adamstown’s FIrst Post Office

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

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

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

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

The Newcastle Sun, 10 September 1931

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

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

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

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

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

Adamstown’s Second Post Office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lot 9 of Section 13 in December 2020.

Adamstown’s Third Post Office

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

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

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

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

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

Newspaper articles

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

A Picnic Homecoming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Additional Information

Photo date

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

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

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

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

Electric light pole on Howe St.

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

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

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

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

Child waving flag.
NSW State flag.

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

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

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

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

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

The Waratah Company Rail LINE Passenger Service

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

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

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

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

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

Newspaper articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morgan’s Store

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

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

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

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

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

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


Additional Information

Photo date

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

Other photos

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

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

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

Elder Street renumbering

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

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

127 Elder St in September 2020.

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

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

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

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

Newspaper articles

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

Adamstown Rifle Range

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Additional Information

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

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

Newspaper articles

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

Ralph Snowball

With a modern smart phone in our hands we can easily and at negligible cost snap high-resolution pictures and instantly send them around the world. It’s a vast difference from the rigours and expense of photography in the late 19th century when Newcastle’s celebrated early photographer Ralph Snowball worked.

This month marks 95 years since Snowball’s death in August 1925. He was born in 1848 in Leadgate, Durham (UK), where he worked as a miner before coming to Australia and settling in New Lambton around 1879 to work at the Lambton colliery. An accident meant he could no longer continue in mining, and he took up photography in 1885. He established a studio at his home in Clarence Rd, where his work included portraits and visiting cards. He also travelled extensively in a horse drawn wagonette, carting his bulky equipment to capture landscapes, buildings, and public events, sometimes selling his work for publication in newspapers.

In 1887 Snowball set up a studio in Hunter St Newcastle, near Market St, where he was well placed to document the bustling harbour city and sell his services to visiting sailors.  In 1888 he referred to the rigours of his trade, writing “My work keeps me from home from 8am to 7pm, and sometimes later.” This must have been a huge strain on his wife Mary, at home raising eight children.

Snowball was an active participant in civic affairs, and was appointed the first town clerk of New Lambton in 1889. He also served in a number of churches and friendly societies. He retired from photography around 1912, and died in Wallsend Hospital on 4 August 1925, aged 76.

Snowball’s glass plate negatives then remained in the cellar of his Clarence Rd home, forgotten for over 60 years until rediscovered in 1988.  The bulk of his collection is now held by Newcastle Library and the University of Newcastle, providing us today with a priceless legacy of thousands of detailed pictures of our past.

Snowball with his horse and wagonette. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
A portrait photo of Ralph Snowball, advertising his “Market Studio” in Hunter St Newcastle. Living Histories @ UON.

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


Additional Information

Birth and Death

Name:Ralph Snowball
Birth date:19 Nov 1848
Birth place:Leadgate, Durham (UK)
Death date:4 Aug 1925
Death place:Wallsend
Burial site:Sandgate Cemetery
Burial Long,Lat :151.70677,-32.87043 (KML File for Google Earth)
Burial date:6 Aug 1925
Grave site of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Grave site of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Headstone of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Headstone of Ralph and Mary Snowball

Market Studio

In 1887 Ralph Snowball set up a photographic studio in the Newcastle Borough Market Building in Hunter St Newcastle. The foundation was laid in 1870, and the building opened in December 1871. The building was located at 121 Hunter St. It was demolished in September 1915, and a picture theatre erected in its place.

Ralph Snowball’s photographic studio on the upper floor of the Newcastle Borough Market building, 21 January 1891. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
1886 map showing location of Newcastle Borough Market Building. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Many years later, the “Market Square” building was erected on the site.

Construction of Market Square. Photo by Peter Sansom. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

It is unclear how long Ralph Snowball had his Market Studio in Hunter St, but it would seem that he vacated prior to 1901. In the 1901 Federal Directory of Newcastle and District, Snowball is not listed among the photographers of Newcastle, but is instead listed in the New Lambton section, as being on Gwydir Rd. (Note that Snowball’s property that contained his home and studio, stretched between Gwydir Rd and Clarence Rd, with the house facing Gwydir Rd and the studio backing on to Clarence Rd.)

The location of the Newcastle Borough Markets building in August 2020.

Clarence Rd Studio

Ralph Snowball’s studio, New Lambton, NSW, 11 April 1902
Ralph Snowball Studio, Clarence Road, New Lambton, NSW, [n.d.]

Box listings

Some idea of the time period that Snowball worked as a photographer can be gleaned from the handwritten labels he affixed to the front of his boxes of glass plate negatives. Many of these have been scanned and are available on the University of Newcastle Cultural Collections site.

Snowball glass plate negative box listing – Box 2 from October 1885. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

I have compiled an index  of Snowball photograph box listings, ordered by box number and year. Note that there are two series of numberings. The first series begins in 1885 (box 2 in Oct 1885) and goes to box 349 in 1905. In 1906 Snowball began numbering boxes from 1 again, with box 7 in February 1906. The numbering of this second series is somewhat strange and not necessarily in date order. After 1906 the highest numbered box label I could find was box 139 in January 1910, but the latest date is box 55 in September 1912.

The earliest Snowball photo I can find in the University of Newcastle collection is of Thomas Croudace’s house, listed on the cover of box 2.

The home of Thomas Croudace in New Lambton Heights, October 1885. One of the earliest Ralph Snowball photos. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Links to Other Sites

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
21 Apr 1885First mention of Ralph Snowball in the newspaper, in a letter he writes to the editor regarding political matters. In the letter Ralph states that he has been a miner in the employment of Thomas Croudace at Lambton colliery for five years.
9 Dec 1885
5 Dec 1885
A report of the battalion parade of the Newcastle, Wallsend, and Lambton Volunteers in the Recreation Reserve states that "Mr. Snowball was there with his photo-apparatus ... [to photograph] a grouping of the whole. However, the matter fell through, as Mr. Snowball considered the light very unfavourable-thick clustering of clouds and no sun to take a picture with proper effect."
4 Dec 1886
19 Nov 1886
A Ralph Snowball photograph appears in a story about a pitfall at Wallsend that wrecked the Exchange Hotel.
23 Feb 1888In a letter to the editor complaining of the actions of surveyors executing their work on the Commonage, Snowball writes … "My work keeps me from home from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and sometimes later."
20 Aug 1889
28 Mar 1889
"BOROUGH OF NEW LAMBTON NOTICE is hereby given that Mr. Ralph Snowball was, on the 28th March, 1889, appointed Council Clerk of the above Municipality, THOMAS CROUDACE, Mayor."
21 Mar 1892WE, the Undersigned Photographers of Newcastle, have agreed to charge the following prices on and after March 21st, 1892:-1 Dozen Cabinets, plain, 16s, Half Dozen, plain, 12s 6d: 1 Doz Cab. Enam. 21s, Half Doz. Enam. 15s; 1 Doz. C.D.V.S., plain,8s; 1 Doz. C.D.V.S., Enam., 10s 6d. (Signed) C. Drinkwater, H. B. Solomon, G. C. Woolston, Eddie J. B. Hutchison, Harry Charleston, and Ralph Snowball."
C.D.V.S - abbreviation for "Carte de visite"
6 Aug 1925
4 Aug 1925
Death of Ralph Snowball, age 76.
6 May 1942
22 Apr 1942
Mary Snowball, widow of Ralph, dies, aged 90.

New Lambton Post Office

The nature of our postal and communication services has changed radically over the years, but our dependence on them remains undiminished. While the delivery of handwritten letters from family and friends has been largely replaced by online messaging, the delivery to our door of goods we order online is ever increasing.

In June 1869 when New Lambton was but a year old, the residents recognised the importance of communication services, and petitioned the government for a post office for their growing town. Their request was denied, but every year another request was patiently forwarded to Sydney, until finally in 1872 a licence was granted to Mrs Hutchinson to conduct Post Office business from her general store in Regent St, opposite the public school. This arrangement continued until August 1880 when the post office facility closed, and was replaced by a letter receiver installed on the street.

Calls for the return of a post office continued over the next decade. In 1892, on land purchased from the New Lambton Coal Company on the corner of Regent and Victoria Streets, a small weatherboard building was erected to serve as New Lambton’s first dedicated Post Office. Mr G H Rowthorn was appointed as postmaster. With the new building came new technology, the introduction of a telegraph service.

New Lambton grew and by the mid-1930s it was clear that the old wooden post office was inadequate to meet the needs of the population and ever-changing technology. In 1938 the Postmaster-General’s Department erected a two-storey brick building adjacent to the old building, to house the post office on the ground floor and an automatic telephone exchange on the upper floor. The old weatherboard post office was demolished soon after.

That original building may have been gone for 80 years, but other buildings on the same block of land now house broadband and mobile communications infrastructure that keep us connected, and today power our online messaging and shopping.

New Lambton Post and Telegraph Office, erected in 1892. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
New Lambton Post Office today. The white car is parked in front of where the 1892 post office was located.

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


Additional Information

1892 Building

On 26 July 1892, the Postmaster-General, Mr John Kidd, visited Newcastle and toured various suburbs and post office facilities, including the New Lambton post office that was very near to completion. The newspaper report of Kidd’s visit gives a good description of the new building.

This is a commodious and handsome weatherboard building, of 30ft by 62ft outside dimensions. It is roofed with galvanised iron, and has a front and back verandah 7ft by 30ft dimensions. The building is situated at the corner of Victoria and Regent streets, on an allotment of land 90ft by 134ft. A room 22ft by 16ft, with a lobby 6ft by 16ft, is set apart for the post-office, and there are four nicely-fitted rooms – two of 12ft by 14ft, and two of 12ft by 12ft dimensions – for the residential use of the postmaster, Mr. Bates, of Hamilton, is the contractor, and the contract price was £382, with £40 for extras.  The post office will be a great boon to the residents of New Lambton, as hitherto there has been none nearer than Lambton, from whence letters, &c., have been delivered daily by a postman. Mr. G. H. Rowthorn, assistant postmaster at Lambton, has been appointed postmaster.

1890s Water Board map overlaid in Google Earth shows the location of the 1892 post office building.

1939 Building

New Lambton Post Office. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 17 June 1939.
A 1944 aerial photograph shows the new brick post office on the corner, adjacent to the outline of the foundations of the demolished 1892 wooden post office.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
22 Jun 1869"The inhabitants of New Lambton have just memorialized the Hon. the Postmaster-General for the establishment of a Post-office at that township. New Lambton now contains a population of upwards of three hundred, and it is expected that in less than seven or eight months hence, it will increase to double that number."
6 Jul 1869"A numerously signed petition had been sent to the Postmaster-General, praying for the establishment of a post-office at New Lambton, on the ground of its being now a considerable centre of an increasing population, and of its being upwards of two miles from the nearest post office, Lambton ... if the present position of the Lambton post-office is not sufficiently central, the proper course would be to remove it to a site that is more so."
13 Jan 1870"the inhabitants of New Lambton suffer considerable inconvenience from the want of a post-office at that township, and expresses a hope that a second petition, which is about to be presented to the Postmaster-General, praying that a post-office may be established in the village, will be taken into favourable consideration"
9 Feb 1871"another application will shortly be made to the Postmaster-General for the establishment of a post-office at New Lambton"
23 Jul 1872Yet another petition for a post office at New Lambton.
13 Sep 1872
10 Sep 1872
Government Gazette - Post Office to be established at New Lambton.
6 Mar 1876"Mrs. Hutchinson, who keeps the Post-office Stores …"
26 Jun 1880"It is rumoured that the Post Office at this place is to be closed, and that a letter receiver is to be substituted, a responsible letter carrier is also to be appointed."
7 Jul 1880"The New Lambton post office is to close with the present month, and a letter receiver is to be erected under Mr. Sneddon's verandah … Mr. Thomas Sneddon has been appointed licensed vendor of postage stamps, and Albert Bedford has been appointed letter deliverer and telegraph probationer in the Lambton office."
28 Sep 1880"The licensed stamp vendor here has resigned his position, owing to the miserable per centage allowed by the Government for their sale. He considers 2½ per cent. insufficient to pay for serving the stamps. People have now to obtain their supply from the Lambton post office."
9 Sep 1882"I have heard frequent complaints about the postal arrangements here, and the people generally, I am sure, consider it desirable that they should have a post office of their own. For some time past, owing to the paltry commission allowed by the Government for selling stamps, no one in the town can be found to undertake their sale, consequently the people have had to walk to Lambton, or depend upon the obliging disposition of the letter-carriers to bring them a few stamps."
13 Mar 1885Sale of Mrs Hutchinsons general store "opposite the Public School at New Lambton."
14 Apr 1890"A deputation ... waited upon the Hon. D. O'Connor, Postmaster-General, this morning to urge upon him the necessity of the Government taking steps to provide a post and telegraph office and letter delivery at New Lambton."
1 Sep 1891Government Gazette: "TENDERS will be received ... from persons willing to sell to this Department a piece of land in a main street of New Lambton, with a frontage of about 50 feet, suitable as a site for a Post and Telegraph Office."
6 Nov 1891New Lambton Council asked for a different site for the Post Office, on land owned by D Williams Junr. There is an allegation that “undue influence had been brought to bear in favour of the [New Lambton Coal] company’s offer”
1 Jan 1892
30 Dec 1891
New Lambton Council receives a letter "From the secretary of the Postal Department, intimating that the New Lambton Coal Company's land as a site for the post office had been purchased and definitely decided upon."
5 Apr 1892"TENDERS FOR ERECTION OF POST AND TELEGRAPH OFFICE, NEW LAMBTON (on allotments 6 and 7, section C, at the corner of Regent and Victoria Streets)"
27 Jul 1892
26 Jul 1892
Inspection by Postmaster General (Mr John Kidd) in New Lambton of "the new post-office, which is just being completed."
1 Sep 1892
1 Sep 1892
"The new post and telegraph office, situate in Regent-street, has been completed by the contractor and formally handed over to the department. The office will be opened today for business transactions, which will undoubtedly prove a lasting convenience to the residents. Mr. G. H. Rowthorn, recently of Lambton Post office, is the resident postmaster."
21 Jul 1926"Minor improvements are being effected to the post and telegraph office, consisting of a new front verandah and steps, new flooring to the general office, and betterment of the drainage of the premises ... telephone communication comes mainly through the Waratah exchange … The number of subscribers however, is growing to such an extent and it is considered that conditions will shortly, warrant the establishment of a local exchange."
8 Nov 1934"New Lambton Council received another courteous refusal, from the Postmaster-General's Department last night to its repeated request for a new post office."
13 Jul 1937"Speaking in the House of Representatives, Mr. R. James (Hunter) said that on many occasions he had urged the Postmaster-General's Department to provide a new post-office building at New Lambton. This town, he said, had a population of about 8000, but the residents were still compelled to conduct their postal business in an old weatherboard pre-Federation office, which was a disgrace to the department."
24 Mar 1938"The Postmaster-General's Department advised the council last night that it had approved the erection of a two storey building to house the post-office and an automatic telephone exchange, and that the preparation of drawings and specifications was proceeding with the object of inviting tenders for the work as soon as circumstances permitted."
29 Aug 1938Tenders called "for the erection of a new post office and telephone exchange at New Lambton. The building, which will be of brick, will be two storeys high and of modern design. Situated at the corner of Regent and Victoria-streets, adjacent to the existing weatherboard post office and residence ... It is the intention of the department to demolish the old post office building."
28 Mar 1939"Construction of the new post-office at New Lambton is almost complete. It is expected that the post-office will be open for business in about a month. It is near the old post-office building at the corner of Victoria and Regent Streets."