Herbert’s Theatre De Luxe, Broadmeadow

William Herbert was a pioneer of the cinema scene in Newcastle. Born in the United States, he moved to Newcastle in 1907 and began showing the new ‘moving pictures’ at various locations in Newcastle. In October 1910 Herbert announced plans to screen films in the open air at the Hamilton Rugby League ground on the north side of Belford St. The first night was a disaster. “Owing to the boisterous nature of the weather the moving pictures could not be held as the screen was blown down in the afternoon.”

Despite the initial setback, Herbert persevered and regularly screened movies at the ground until 1912 when he opened a permanent theatre at the Nineways Broadmeadow. Seating 2000 people, the grandiosely named “No. 1 Picture Palace” was a basic structure with asphalt floor and canvas roof.

During 1923 and 1924, Herbert ingeniously managed the complete reconstruction of the building “without temporarily shutting down the theatre or seriously inconveniencing his patrons.” Corrugated iron walls were removed gradually and replaced with brick, steel girders installed, and the canvas roof replaced over a three-week period. “There were times when parts of the theatre had two coverings, but at every screening the audience was protected from the weather.”

A photograph of the new “Herbert’s Theatre De Luxe” can be dated by close inspection of the poster on the right-hand side. It advertises Gladys Walton in the silent film “The Girl Who Ran Wild” that screened in September 1923. Herbert sold the theatre in 1933 and in 1941 the new owners announced plans for its demolition and erection of a new building. At a cost of £40,000 and a seating capacity of 1600, the new “Century Theatre” opened in April 1942 and had its final screening in September 1973. The building lay derelict for a while and was then variously used as a truck repair workshop, gaming arcade, and finally as a church. Badly damaged in the 1989 earthquake the Century Theatre was demolished soon afterwards.

Herbert’s Theatre De Luxe, Broadmeadow, September 1923. Newcastle University, Living Histories.
Nineways, Broadmeadow in 2023.

The article above was first published in the November 2023 edition of The Local.


Two useful sources of information for this article were Mike Scanlon’s 2019 newspaper article on Will Herbert, and the 1993 book “Front Stalls or Back? The History and Heritage of the Newcastle Theatres” by K J Cork and L R Tod.

Additional Information

Will Herbert – Early life and Career

According to a 1918 biographical article, Will Herbert was born in the town of Manchester, New Hampshire in the USA. Confusingly, an obituary in 1947 states that he “was born in New Hampshire, England, and was taken to America at the age of three” while another obituary states that he “was born in Lancashire”.

The kind of person he was is perhaps best illustrated in that he was an actual example of the cliche of running away from home to join the circus …

Mr. Herbert seems to have had a penchant for travelling, for at 16 – without his parents’ consent – he attached himself to Forepaw’s Circus, which at the time was second only in size and importance to the great Barnum and Bailey’s Circus.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 5 April 1918.

After touring with the circus for a couple of seasons, Herbert started a bakery business in Boston, bought into a French cafe in New York, went to San Francisco and became chief steward on a steam ship trading with the eastern Pacific. He then served as a commissariat officer on the troopship Naomi in the war between the United States and Spain, and then subsequently on a trans-Atlantic liner the General Grant, sent to the Philippines to quell an uprising.

It was while in the Philippines that Mr. Herbert conceived the idea of taking up motion pictures.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 5 April 1918

In 1905, Will Herbert was part of a syndicate that secured the rights to film and screen the Lightweight Championship boxing match between Jimmy Britt and Oscar “Battling’ Nelson, held at San Francisco on 9 September 1905.

Britt-Nelson boxing match in San Francisco, 9 September 1905. Library of Congress.

Soon afterwards, Herbert headed to Australia to exhibit the film of the fight.

Mr. Herbert, of the syndicate which secured the moving pictures of the Britt-Nelson fight in America for the world’s light-weight championship, arrived from America by the Sierra for the purpose of exhibiting the pictures throughout Australasia. He will open the Queen’s-hall, Pitt-street, on Monday next for a season, and a holiday matinee will also be given. Popular prices will be charged. Over 18,000 people witnessed this contest, which was very exciting; and the film representing it is over a mile in length.

The Daily Telegraph, 11 November 1905

Over the next two years Herbert toured all parts of Australia and New Zealand, showing the film in rented halls and theatres. He made at least two visits to Newcastle, in November 1905 and again in February 1906.

Mr. Herbert said that on his first visit to Newcastle he had noticed the possibilities for the establishment of permanent pictures.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 5 April 1918

Herbert appears to have settled permanently in Newcastle sometime in late 1907 or early 1908. By February 1908 he is mentioned as the manager of “Kings American Picturescope”, screening films at the Victoria Theatre in Perkins Street. He then rented the “Central Hall” in May 1908 for a period of 18 weeks, and also screened films at the Newcastle Sports Ground.

Hamilton Rugby League Ground

Will Herbert first screened moving pictures in the Broadmeadow area in the open air at the Hamilton Rugby League Football Ground. The first scheduled show on 22 October 1910 was cancelled due to inclement weather, however within a few weeks the paper reported …

The fine picture entertainment given by Mr. Will Herbert at the Rugby League Ground, Hamilton, is apparently growing rapidly in popularity, judging from the increasingly large audiences. Last night the new programme was witnessed by a very large attendance.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 10 November 1910.
Excerpt of an 1884 map of Newcastle, showing the location of the Hamilton Rugby League Ground between Tudor and Belford Streets. Newcastle University, Living Histories.
A Google Earth image showing the approximate location of the Hamilton Rugby League Football Ground. The location of Herbert’s Theatre De Luxe is outlined in red.

Will Herbert continued to regularly screen pictures at the ground until the final screening on Saturday 4 May 1912. The land occupied by the Rugby League Ground was later subdivided into 41 lots by the A. A. Company and sold in April 1918.

No. 1 Picture Palace

In August 1912, Will Herbert announced in a public advertisement his intention to open an “up-to-date Picture Palace” in Broadmeadow, capable of seating 2000 persons.

Herbert’s “No. 1 Picture Palace” at Broadmeadow opened on Saturday 2 November 1912, screening “Sweet Nell of Old Drury” starring Miss Nellie Stewart. A report on the opening noted that …

The attendance numbered just on 2000, and many were unable to gain admission. Extra seats were brought in, but these were not sufficient to accommodate those anxious to get in. The structure is a very commodious one, and commands an excellent position at the junction of the tram lines. The building measures 187ft by 85ft, and is admirably adapted for picture entertainment. The exterior was brilliantly illuminated for the opening performance. Three large stars and a Maltese cross formed of different coloured electric lights gave the outside a most picturesque appearance. The vestibule is attractively laid out, and the whole of the floor space of the building will shortly be asphalted. Patent spring back chairs are to be used for the higher-priced seats. The chairs already in use are very comfortable, and in every other respect patrons are well catered for.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 4 November 1912

By May 1913 further improvements to the theatre had been completed.

Herbert’s Picture Palace at Broadmeadow has now been completely roofed in with waterproof canvas, which will render it cosy and warm for the winter months.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 6 May 1913

Herbert’s Theatre De Luxe

Originally the photograph of Herbert’s Theatre De Luxe was loaded into the Living Histories site with no attributed date. Noting from the article of June 1924 that the construction/renovation of the theatre was “spread over fourteen months”, and also noting from the photo that the tramline to Adamstown up Brunker Road is not yet electrified (which was completed in January 1925), indicates that the photo was taken sometime in 1923 or 1924.

 Getting a more exact date on the photo relies on identifying the movie being exhibited at the time of the photo, by carefully examining the poster on the right hand side of the entrance.

Taking a snip of the photo and enhancing the contrast, you can just make out the name “Gladys Walton” and the name of the film as “The Girl Who Ran Wild”. Additionally, a faint outline of a seated girl can be made out that matches the profile of the movie poster below.

Searching newspaper advertisements in 1923 and 1924 reveals that the film was screening at Herbert’s Broadmeadow Theatre in the week beginning Monday 17 September 1923.

Movie poster for Gladys Walton in the 1922 silent film “The Girl Who Ran Wild”.
Advertisement for screening of “The Girl Who Ran Wild” at Herbert’s Theatre, Broadmeadow. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 17 September 1923.

According to Cork and Tod’s book “Front Stalls or Back?”, Herbert divested control of his theatres to Newcastle Theatres Pty Ltd in 1933. Herbert retired in 1935 and visited the United States. A year later in January 1936 the directors of the Newcastle Theatres induced Herbert to take on the supervision of their theatres, including the De Luxe at Broadmeadow, Roxy at Hamilton, and Regent at Islington.

William Herbert retired again in 1941, and died on 11 November 1947 in Hamilton, at the age of 80.

Century Theatre

A start will be made on Monday on the new modern theatre at Broadmeadow. With equipment and furnishings the expenditure will exceed £30,000. The contract is the biggest announced in northern New South Wales this year. The building will occupy a splendid central site, with frontages to Chatham road and the Pacific Highway. To enable operations to proceed, it will be necessary to demolish the present theatre and other buildings erected by Mr. W. Herbert, founder of Herbert’s Theatres, 25 years ago.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 19 April 1941

The new Century Theatre opened on Friday 17 April 1942 with a screening of the Technicolor film “Aloma of the South Seas” starring Dorothy Lamour.

The Century Theatre, erected on the site of Herbert’s theatre in Broadmeadow, opened in April 1942. Photo from Cinema Treasures.
Alterations to to roads at Nineways, Broadmeadow, with the Century Theatre in the background. 27 April 1953. Photo by Len Webber. Newcastle Library, Hunter Photobank. Accession Number 515 000075
The Century Theatre, Broadmeadow, in the process of demolition after damage from the 1989 earthquake. Photo by Ron Morrison. Newcastle Library, Hunter Photobank. Accession Number 004 001134
The severely damaged Century Theatre, Broadmeadow, being demolished. Photo by Ron Morrison. Newcastle Library, Hunter Photobank. Accession Number 004 001135

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
11 Nov 1905"Mr. Herbert, of the syndicate which secured the moving pictures of the Britt-Nelson fight in America for the world's light-weight championship, arrived from America by the Sierra for the purpose of exhibiting the pictures throughout Australasia."
27 Nov 1905
25 Nov 1905
"At the King's Hall on Saturday evening, Mr. Will Herbert introduced to Newcastle the celebrated motion pictures of the Britt-Nelson contest for the lightweight boxing championship of the world."
23 Feb 1906"Under the direction of Mr. W. Herbert" … return showing in Newcastle of the Britt-Nelson fight.
20 Feb 1908Will Herbert, manager of King’s American Picturescope Company.
4 Jul 1908Mr Herbert mentioned as the manager of Kings Picturescope Palace, in Newcomen Street, Newcastle.
11 Jul 1908"The attendances at the Picturescope Palace, Newcomen-street, during the week, have been well up to the average, and Mr. Herbert, the manager, expresses himself well satisfied with the support that has so far been accorded his efforts to establish a permanent picture show in Newcastle."
22 Oct 1910"Mr. Will Herbert, formerly of the Picturescope Palace, Newcastle, announces that the first of a series of a continentals will be given under his direction at the Rugby League Ground, Hamilton, this evening."
24 Oct 1910
22 Oct 1910
"Owing to the boisterous nature of the weather on Saturday, the continental and moving pictures, promoted by Mr. Will Herbert, on the League Football Ground, at Hamilton, could not be held. The screen was blown down in the afternoon, and at night there was no attendance of the public."
10 Nov 1910"The fine picture entertainment given by Mr. Will Herbert at the Rugby League Ground, Hamilton, is apparently growing rapidly in popularity, judging from the increasingly large audiences."
4 May 1912Herbert's final screening at the Rugby League Ground at Hamilton.
2 Nov 1912"Mr. W. W. Herbert announces that he will open his No. 1 Picture Palace at Broadmeadow this evening."
6 May 1913Herbert's Picture Palace at Broadmeadow has now been completely roofed in with waterproof canvas, which will render it cosy and warm for the winter months.
5 Apr 1918Detailed biographical article on Will Herbert.
15 Sep 1923"The Girl Who Ran Wild, the Universal attraction starring Gladys Walton, which will be screened at the Lyric and Herbert's Theatres, Broadmeadow and Islington, on Monday next, is the latest and most appealing screen version of Bret Hart's story M'liss."
19 Sep 1923At the Lyric and Herbert's Pictures to-day there will be shown for the last time the Paramount special entitled "The Rustle of Silk," with Betty Compson in the lead. Gladys Walton is also seen in "The Girl who Ran Wild."
11 Jun 1924Long article detailing "the conversion of Herbert's Broadmeadow Theatre from an unprepossesssing building to one of the most modern picture exhibition houses in Australia."
4 Jan 1936"At the request of the Directors of Newcastle Theatres Ltd., Mr. William Herbert has resumed the supervision of the circuit embracing the De Luxe (Broadmeadow), Roxy (Hamilton), and Regent (Islington), Theatres."
19 Apr 1941"A start will be made on Monday on the new modern theatre at Broadmeadow. With equipment and furnishings the expenditure will exceed £30,000. To enable operations to proceed, it will be necessary to demolish the present theatre and other buildings erected by Mr. W. Herbert, founder of Herbert's Theatres, 25 years ago. "
16 Apr 1942
17 Apr 1942
"Another fine addition to the architectural grandeur of the Newcastle district is the new Century Theatre at Broadmeadow. Erected at a cost of over £40,000, and with a seating accommodation of over 1600, the theatre will-be opened officially on Friday night, at 7.45 o'clock"
18 Apr 1942
17 Apr 1942
Opening of the Century Theatre, Broadmeadow.
11 Nov 1947Death of Will Herbert, aged 80 years and 11 months. (Newcastle Sun)
11 Nov 1947Death of Will Herbert (Newcastle Morning Herald, but some of the details contradict the Newcastle Sun obituary.)

Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow

In March 1891, Thomas Williams purchased land near Broadmeadow station, and submitted an application for a a conditional publican’s licence “for premises proposed to be erected at the intersection of the Adamstown and Newcastle-Wallsend roads to be known by the sign of the Jersey Hotel.” Williams engaged James Henderson, the eminent architect of the ornate Victoria Theatre in Perkins Street Newcastle, to design a three storey, 15-room brick hotel.

With the building completed in early 1892 and after a change of mind on the name, Williams applied for the publican’s license he needed for his Premier Hotel to commence trading. On Thursday 17 March 1892 the Licensing Bench approved his application, but instead of downing drinks in celebration, Williams found his hotel in the drink due to inundation.  That very night the heavens opened and Newcastle was drenched with torrential rain, with flooding reported at Wallsend, Waratah, Lambton, and New Lambton.  At Broadmeadow “the flat between Adamstown and New Lambton and down to Lambton-road was one sheet of water on Friday morning.” Ralph Snowball photographed the newly licensed hotel, an island of refuge in an expanse of water.

The deluge had tragic consequences when “an elderly man named Edward Atkinson fell into a waterhole while looking for cows in a paddock near Adamstown and was drowned.” Once again, citizens called on the government to get on with its long-promised drainage scheme for the area.  The main stormwater drain through the Broadmeadow flats was completed in 1895, but the area around the Premier Hotel continued to be impacted by flooding until the completion of the Adamstown branch of the drain in 1899. In 1939 the hotel was rebuilt as an attractive two storey structure in the art deco style. Having survived a natural disaster in 1892, the hotel suffered damage in the 1989 earthquake and was repaired as a smaller, simpler building. Plans for a $34 million redevelopment of the site are now before Newcastle Council, for a nine-storey apartment building with ground floor pub.

Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, NSW, 18 March 1892. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
The Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, 2023.

The article above was first published in the October 2023 edition of The Local.


Ed Tonk’s book “No Bar to Time, The current Hotels of the Newcastle Local Government Area” was a useful source for some of the details in this article.

Additional Information

Details from Land title Vol-Fol 1021-71, showing purchase of portion 2101 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve by Thomas Williams on 11 March 1891.

Pages 227-229 of “Early Architects of the Hunter Region” by Les Reedman shows three drawings by James Henderson of “New brick hotel, Newcastle Pasturage Reserve, near Broadmeadow Station, 1891”. The inscription on the top of the facade shows the originally proposed name of “Jersey Hotel”.

Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, 18 March 1892 – looking westwards along Denison St. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Denison St Hamilton, August 2023. (The present day Premier Hotel is hidden behind the building with the blue awnings at the end of the street.)
Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, 13 September 1902. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Newcastle Library, Hunter Photobank, Accession Number 001 001055.
Nineways, Broadmeadow, with Premier Hotel in the background, September 1923. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, 1959. Newcastle Library, Hunter Photobank. Accession Number 460 000055.
The Nineways, Broadmeadow, NSW, Australia [c.1960’s]. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.

2023 Development Application

In a curious coincidence, just a week after I had completed writing this article for “The Local”, news emerged that the owners of the Premier Hotel have submitted a Development Application (DA2023/00886) to Newcastle Council for a $34 million development to demolish the existing structure and erect an nine-story building with hotel on the lower floors, and 48 apartment units on the upper floors.

Proposed re-development of the Premier Hotel at the intersection of Brunker Road and Chatham Street. Image from the architectural plans for DA2023/00886.

Update 20 Feb 2024: The Hunter Central Coast Regional Planning Panel has rejected the proposed development, stating that “The proposed development does not respond to its current context and is out of scale with surrounding development.”

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
20 Mar 1891"I, THOMAS WILLIAMS, of Carrington, Landholder, do hereby give notice that I desire to obtain, and will, at the next Quarterly Licensing Court, to be holden at Newcastle on the ninth day of April next, apply for a Certificate, authorising the issue of a Conditional Publican's License, for pre mises proposed to be erected at the Junction of the Adamstown-road with the Newcastle- Wallsend-road, to be known by the sign of "Jersey Hotel," and to contain fifteen rooms, exclusive of those required for the use of the family."
10 Apr 1891Licensing court … "Thos. Williams applied for a conditional publican's license for premises proposed to be erected at the intersection of the Adamstown and Newcastle-Wallsend roads to be known by the sign of the Jersey Hotel." Despite objections from the police "the Bench said the plans showed that the house would be a good one; and, as there was nothing against the character of Mr. Williams, the application was granted."
6 Jun 1891James Henderson, architect, tenders invited for “the Erection and Completion of extensive BRICK HOTEL PREMISES at Adamstown, near Broadmeadow Railway Station, for Mr. Williams.” Tenders close 20 June.
29 Jan 1892"The Premier Hotel, the property of Mr. T. Williams, situated at the intersection of Adamstown. Lambton, and Waratah roads, is near completion.” [This is the first mention of “Premier Hotel” in the newspapers.]
18 Mar 1892
17 Mar 1892
"Thomas Williams was granted a license for premises situated at the junction of the Adamstown and Wallsend roads."
18 Mar 1892
17 Mar 1892
At "he Licensing Bench yesterday … an application for a license for new premises situated at the junction of the Adamstown and Wallsend roads was also granted."
19 Mar 1892
17 Mar 1892
"Waratah. The heavy rain which fell during Thursday night again caused a considerable overflow in the streets, and particularly in the vicinity of the station."
19 Mar 1892
17 Mar 1892
"New Lambton. THE HEAVY RAIN. The heavy rain, which fell during Thursday night, flooded the properties on the Lambton Road, adjoining the tramline. The large drains overflowed, and across both the road and the tramline was one sheet of water. Some of the residents had to leave their houses to take care of themselves, and seek shelter in the tramwaiting shed at the Raspberry Gully line crossing."
19 Mar 1892
17 Mar 1892
"Plattsburg. STORM WATERS. The exceptional downpour of rain early on Friday morning very soon flooded all the low-lying land, and the result was that the residents of Nelson-street, from John-street to the bridge, were again flooded. On this occasion the water rose some 9in higher than the former floods."
19 Mar 1892
17 Mar 1892
"Lambton. During Thursday night the heavy rains caused a good deal of damage to the streets of the municipality by washing gravel and other road material away. Pearson and Howe streets were flooded, but fortunately not high enough to enter the houses. A thorough system of drainage at the lower end of the district from New Lambton downwards, through Hamilton, is necessary to prevent these periodical floods, as the water then would have an opportunity of free access to the main channels to the sea. But at present it is a source of trouble and expense to the whole of these municipalities, and the sooner the proposed scheme of the Hamilton, New Lambton, and other councils is carried out the better for everybody concerned."
19 Mar 1892
18 Mar 1892
"It was reported yesterday morning that an elderly resident named Edward Atkinson was missing, and supposed to be drowned in Yates' paddock, between Adamstown and New Lambton … which proved to be correct, for after some time the body was brought to the surface, at about 10.30 am. The deceased was 72 years of age."
19 Mar 1892
18 Mar 1892
"An elderly man named Edward Atkinson fell into a waterhole while looking for cows in a paddock near Adamstown yesterday morning and was drowned."
21 Mar 1892"In common with other parts of the district the rain has done a deal of damage to the roads in the municipality. The low lands have suffered considerably. The flat between Adamstown and New Lambton and down to Lambton-road was one sheet of water on Friday morning. Numerous dwellings were flooded. People who have lived on the Lambton-road for 17 years say that they never knew the water to be so high as it was on Friday. The proposed high drain will be a blessing to the district, and till it is completed the low lands between Adamstown, New Lambton, and Broadmeadow will continue to be under water in wet weather."
10 Aug 1895"One of the finest pieces of work done in this district is the much-spoken-of Commonage drain. The other day we visited the work and were greatly surprised at the proportions of the huge drain. In fact it is— or will be in rainy seasons — a regular canal. It begins half way between New Lambton and Hamilton, and runs in a fairly straight line towards a creek flowing into the Hunter. The drain will easily carry off the storm waters from the large area of country comprising the Commonage."
25 Jan 1898
24 Jan 1898
"BROADMEADOW. Last night at 9 o'clock the flood waters were over Brunker-road, and people from Adamstown who wished to got to the tram were forced to wade through a foot deep of water on the road. A large number of dwellings in the locality, including the Premier Hotel, were surrounded by water."
30 Nov 1898"The construction of the Adamstown branch of the Commonage drainage work has been delayed while the culvert under the Government railway was in course of construction. With the exception of a small portion near the railway culvert, the drain is completed to near the Adamstown-New Lambton road."
29 Apr 1899"The Adamstown branch of the Commonage drain has stopped within a few chains of the Adamstown-New Lambton road near the railway station. The cause of the drain stopping at that point is in consequence of it being found necessary to carry it through private property, and as the authorities have not come to terms with the Waratah Company and other property holders work is suspended and the municipality suffers."
26 Aug 1899Report on how the flooding in the Broadmead area was not as bad as former times “which is directly due to the Adamstown branch of the Commonage drainage works being opened cross the Lambton-road, and the Adamstown water thus being given straight course to the main drain.”
28 Sep 1900
27 Sep 1900
"Mr. M. S. Love, Acting S.M., yesterday granted Thomas Williams permission to transfer his license of the Premier Hotel, Broadmeadow, to Henry Joseph Denney."
5 Nov 1938"The Premier Hotel at Broadmeadow, is to be demolished. On the site will be erected a modern hotel, in two storeys, the cost of which will be £20,000. The architect is Mr. C. Ruwald, of Sydney."
5 Oct 1939"To-morrow an official opening ceremony will be held at noon at the Premier Hotel at Broadmeadow to mark the completion of a most attractive and modernly designed addition to the hotels of the district. The new building has a frontage to two main roads and a striking architectural treatment coupled with most up-to-date interior facilities and furnishings provide an outstanding example of a modern trend in hotel design"

Lambton Ker-rai, Then and Now

Today I stumbled across this photo of the Lambton Ker-rai Creek that runs through Lambton Park. The photo is from the naming ceremony that took place back in 2003.

The Lambton Ker-rai Creek naming ceremony, Lambton Park 2003. Page 128 of the City of Newcastle Stormwater Management Plan, 2004.

Twenty years on, the growth of trees and vegetation along the creek has made a stark and improved change to the scene.

Lambton Ker-rai Creek, September 2023.

Cycling Century Run

Some things change, some things stay the same. When we look at Ralph Snowball’s photograph of Morehead St Lambton from 125 years ago, the most striking difference is a complete absence of cars. Occupying the street instead is something very familiar to us, people enjoying an outdoor activity on a public holiday. The photo, from the morning of 13 October 1898, shows a group of cyclists at Lambton about to set off on the next leg of a “cycling century run”, a 100-mile ride to Stroud and back.

The event was held as part of the Eight-Hour Day celebrations, the forerunner of our Labour Day public holiday. The ride was a test of endurance rather than speed. There were no trophies for the fastest, but a badge for everyone who finished within the allotted time. The ride was intended for fun, but within limits. At a planning meeting for the ride the committee noted that “any exhibition of larrikinism will lead to disqualification.”

The ride was divided into several legs, with predefined stops where participants would have a paper ticket punched by an official. At 6:30am, 46 cyclists set off from Newcastle Post Office, with the first leg detouring through Adamstown to Lambton to make the total distance up to 100 miles. With the next leg to Raymond Terrace the cyclists enjoyed a short break as they crossed the Hunter River on the Hexham punt. The group reached Stroud at 12.26pm and after an appetising snack commenced the return journey at 1.09pm.  Despite darkness falling, and the necessity of walking their bikes up the Sandgate hill due to road repairs, 38 participants arrived back at Newcastle Post Office by 7:30pm, having completed the 100 miles in under 13 hours. Special mention must be made of the three women who completed the course, not only keeping up with the men, but doing so while wearing highly impractical ankle length skirts!

Participants in the Cycling Century, Morehead St Lambton, 13 October 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Newcastle Library. Newcastle Library, Hunter Photobank, Accession Number 163 003938.
The same view in Morehead St in 2023.

The article above was first published in the September 2023 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

The full text of the newspaper report on the cycling century run is reproduced below.

The Cycling Century Run. This event came off yesterday, and proved a thorough success. The route was to Stroud and back, a deviation being made in the morning through Hamilton and Lambton and across to Waratah to make up a deficiency in the mileage. The start, was made very nearly sharp to time, 6.30, though there were several laggards, who came on late. Forty-six started, including four ladies, with the intention of trying to get right though, and there were two others who went as far as the Twelve Mile only. Mr. J. D. Smith set the pace to Hexham Punt, 14 miles, which was reached at 7.57, three minutes late, some delay occurring at Lambton, where the second puncturing of tickets was made, because the secretary had hung behind with the puncturing instrument to puncture the tickets of the idle starters. The punt was left at 8.10. From this point Mr. W. T. Gibb, jun., set the pace. The Terrace, six miles, was reached at 8.40, about 6 min being made up, loss 1 min, and after 15min spell, another start was made for McNiven’s, Derlang, or the Twelve Mile, Mr. Gibb still pacing. The Twelve Mile was reached at 10.3, time table time exactly. Here a most excellent breakfast was provided. Sharp to time. 10.33, another start was made, Mr. H. A. Graham setting the pace to Stroud, F. Woods’ hotel (21 miles). On this section the pacemaker being as a matter of fact paced pace was broken, and despite an unprogrammed halt of 10 minutes being called halfway, the arrival at Stroud was made at 12.26, 13 minutes ahead of schedule time. A most appetising snack was here provided, a rest being taken of 30 minutes for those who ran to time, the scorchers, and among them the pacer and his hustlers, and those who allowed themselves to be bustled with him, getting 43 minutes. Nevertheless there was some complaining. Mr. Flood provided a very appetising snack. Sharp at 1.9-the schedule time-the return, journey was commenced, Mr. Brett setting the pace back to Witt’s Half-way House at Limeburner’s Creek for dinner, the bustled pacemaker on his last century closing up the rear. Witt’s was reached (16 miles) at 2.50, five minutes behind schedule time a five-minute spell (uncatalogued) being taken half-way. The three nasty hills, up and down, up and down in sharp succession, going into and coming out of Stroud, proved very trying. Mr. Witt provided a very excellent dinner. Leaving Witts’ to time, 3.45, the run to Raymond Terrace (16 miles) was made with Mr. Krempin setting the pace, inside schedule time, the arrival being made at 5.15 instead of 5.21. Leaving here at 5.36, after 21 minutes’ spell, Hexham punt was made, in schedule time, and the departure thence, with plenty in hand for completing the journey in schedule time, despite the darkness and the necessity for walking the Sandgate Hill, now under repair. From Hexham punt to Waratah Mr. D. Gordon set the pace, and thence home, Mr. H. Warr. Thirty-eight tickets were handed in at the Newcastle Post-office, which was reached at 7.28, two minutes inside schedule time, the distance proving fully the 100 miles, cyclometers saying 101 to 102. It is reasonably believed that one name may have to be added to the list, that of a rider who had to inflate his tyres every three quarters of a mile or so, and who is believed, to have arrived home at about 10 minutes to 8, and to have been unable to find the secretary to hand in his ticket, though that functionary was standing at the Criterion Hotel corner till 7.45 on the lookout for stragglers. It was a very pleasant day, and although the heat was pretty severe, and the dust rather bad in places, it must necessarily be called a pleasant ride of its kind, no wind of any moment interfering either way; and regarding these century runs it has always to be remembered that there are scores of young athletic men about to whom they are by no means a severe trial. All the same, they are a very fair average test of one’s capabilities of enduring physical fatigue; and, for instance, those able to perform such a feat are fit, without, much preliminary hardening, for active military service in emergency. Skill, however, is of course no small item in the programme. The names of those who handed in their tickets at the post office are given hereunder: – Ladies: Mesdames Snow (North Sydney Bicycle Club), Greenwood, and Harry. Men: Messrs. W. T. Gibb, jun., T. Snow (North Sydney Bicycle Club), – Patey, T. S. Everett, F. Hughes, F. W. Krempin, H. Warr, Albert Hopkins, E. Barnes, George Proctor, A. W. Judd, W. J Greenwood, Percy Taylor, – Hawthorne, Walter Taylor, D. Meldrum, J. H. Parker, – Garrett, D. Gordon, C. Sanders (pumping for an obscure puncture every five miles), T. Lee, D. Murray, W. Brett, J. Quinn, E. Bruderlin, R. Gordon, H. A. Graham, J. T. Smith, James Blanch, W. Welford, A. Quinn, D. Powell, W. H. Bartrop (Singleton), D. J. Young, and J. D. Smith.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 14 October 1988.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
3 Sep 1898"Matters in connection with the proposed century run on Eight Hour Day are in active progress, and in the hands of a reliable committee. Newcastle to Singleton and return will probably be the chosen route, in consequence of the immediate proximity of the road to the railway line, which would give exhausted wheelers a chance to take the services of the train if so desired."
10 Sep 1898
9 Sep 1898
A meeting of the committee organising the cycling century run. Decision to ride to Stroud and back. "Any riders passing the pace-makers will be disqualified, and any exhibition of larrikinism will also lead to disqualification. Those successfully completing the journey will receive a badge."
7 Oct 1898
5 Oct 1898
A meeting of the committee organising the cycling century run.
14 Oct 1898
13 Oct 1898
A report on the cycling century run, a 100 mile ride from Newcastle Post Office to Stroud and return.
14 Oct 1898
13 Oct 1898
Report on the Eight Hours Day procession.

History in 3D

Thanks to Ralph Snowball’s extensive archive of glass plate negatives, we have thousands of clear views into our city’s past. But Snowball also dabbled in one of the photographic crazes of the 19th century, stereoscopy.

Our perception of a three-dimensional world comes from having two eyes, each seeing the same scene from a slightly different point. Our brain combines the images to give us sense of how close or far away objects are. Stereoscopic photography mimics this by using a camera with two horizontally separated lenses, that capture two images of a scene. Prints can then be mounted on a stereoscopic viewer, a goggle like apparatus that uses lens to combine the two images to give us the impression of a three-dimensional view.

Newcastle University’s Living Histories collection contains eight stereoscopic images by Snowball, including views of New Lambton, Newcastle harbour and the beach. The negatives have varying degrees of damage, with the best-preserved example being of a Chinese market garden vendor at the foot of the steps of Snowball’s home in Clarence Road, New Lambton.

Not many people have an antique stereoscopic viewer lying around the house, but YouTube, that modern purveyor of DIY solutions has an alternative. A video (https://youtu.be/jIh8zetHB9E) demonstrates how to create your own viewer using a few tools, cheap plastic reading glasses from a bargain store, and a small threaded bolt.

I achieved best viewing results when photos were printed with each image 7cm wide. I placed the images on a well-lit horizontal surface with a gap of a few centimetres between them. With the connecting bolt of the glasses against my nose, and at a viewing distance of about 40cm, I used my left eye to focus on the left-hand image and slowly moved the right image inwards until the two images merged. It can take a while to master the technique, but when you do, the effect is both startling and enchanting to suddenly see history in 3D.

Chinese market garden vendor at Ralph Snowball’s residence, Clarence Road New Lambton, September 1886. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
The DIY 3D glasses viewer, with examples of Snowball’s stereoscopic images.

The article above was first published in the August 2023 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

The Living Histories site at the University of Newcastle contains eight stereoscopic photographs by Ralph Snowball.

Greg Ray, on his Photo Time Tunnel website, has written several excellent blog articles on stereoscopic photography:

Waratah Council Chambers

Sometimes it seems that half the buildings in this city are being demolished to make way for something new. So it’s nice to occasionally note a significant anniversary in the life of an historic building.

After the Waratah Coal Company opened a mine in 1863, the population grew rapidly as miners and their families settled nearby. The residents petitioned the government, and the Municipality of Waratah was formed in 1871 to advance the town’s interests.

The new council first met in several rented premises, but soon decided to acquire a building of their own. In September 1872 they awarded contracts amounting to £376 for the construction of council chambers on a one-acre site beside the public school on Georgetown Road. They held their first meeting in the new chambers on 16 June 1873, but it was an inauspicious start. The Newcastle Chronicle reported ….

“The interior presented a most cold and dismal aspect, being insufficiently lighted and furnished, with one table and a few chairs. From the entire absence of anything approaching a celebration of the event, and the depressing appearance of the inside, the impression conveyed was that the councillors were thoroughly ashamed of the building, themselves, and the occasion.”

Undeterred by this gloomy assessment, the Councillors were intent on making Waratah a pre-eminent administrative centre. They invited the Government to use the chambers to hold a fortnightly Court of Petty Sessions. When neighbouring Lambton lobbied for a Courthouse in their town, Waratah responded by offering to sell their chambers to the government for Court use.  The building sale was completed in 1879, but it was not until 1882 that council vacated, and Waratah finally had a dedicated Courthouse. The Court operated in the building until August 1922. It was then used as a classroom to accommodate growth of the adjacent public school.  Despite its “dismal” start 150 years ago, the building is still in use today, part of the Dynamic Learning campus of Saint Philip’s Christian College.

School students in front of the Waratah Courthouse building. Undated. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
The former council chambers and courthouse on 16 June 2023, 150 years since it was first used.

The article above was first published in the July 2023 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

The Miners’ Advocate of 9 May 1873 described the Waratah council chambers building as it neared completion.

In a few days this handsome little building will be completed, and ready for public use. It stands on the breast of the hill, whereon the public school is situated, close to, and parallel with, that edifice. The architectural design is Gothic, in harmony with the school. The Council Hall is a fine apartment 30 feet deep, by 18 feet in width, and 16 feet from floor to ceiling. It is admirably lighted by three fine oblong windows on each side, and two in front and rear. The face of the building comprises a lofty arcade 19 feet long by 7 feet wide, supported by two pillars forming three arched entrances. The arcade is flanked at each end by a convenient room 14 feet by 10, for committee or retiring rooms. A stone tablet built into the front records the year of the erection and the name of the Mayor of the Municipality. We are not aware that any public demonstration will attend the opening of the chambers.

The Waratah Councillors first used their new chambers on Monday 16 June 1873. The Newcastle Chronicle’s report was unflattering, but with a hint that things may get better …

The Municipal Council of Waratah held their first meeting in the new council chambers, on Monday night last. The interior presented a most cold and dismal aspect, being insufficiently lighted and furnished, with one table, a few chairs, and a couple of deal forms. From the entire absence of anything approaching a celebration of the event, and the depressing appearance of the inside, the impression conveyed to the observer was that the worthy municipal councillors were thoroughly ashamed of the building, themselves, and the occasion. No doubt the chamber will, in due time, be properly lighted with chandeliers, and the walls relieved by a few maps, &c. The arrangements would be improved by appropriating the upper part of the hall to the aldermen, and the portion next the door to the public.


The block of land occupied by the Waratah Council chambers and court house appear in a number of maps, which show the evolution of the site’s use.

Map from a 1906 Real Estate poster, showing the location of the Waratah Municipal Chambers. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.

A 1906 real estate poster map shows the 1 acre site marked as “Municipal Chambers, dedicated 18th March 1873”. In 1906 the site was being used for a courthouse. The discrepancy can be accounted for in two possible ways. Being a real estate poster, perhaps they just used an old map without caring too much about how up to date it was? A more likely explanation is that although the building had been sold by Waratah Council in 1879, from a land titles perspective, the land was still gazetted as the Municipal Chambers site.

Grant of land for Waratah Municipal Council Chambers. Vol-Fol 420-166.
Barrett’s 1910 map showing the Waratah Court House. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.

Barrett’s 1910 map of Newcastle is a little bit tricky to decipher, but I believe it has marked “Court Ho” for the court house, and “P.S.” for the police station, as shown in the coloured shading below.

The police station being adjacent to the Court House at this period is attested in this report of needed renovations in1907 …

Attention is again directed to the condition of the Waratah courthouse building. The roof wants renewing with galvanised iron, and the whole building is in need of repair. The fence around the land, and that of the police station adjoining, is also in need of attention.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 8 August 1907.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
26 Sep 1863"I understand that it is the intention of the directors of the Waratah Coal Company to open their line of railway at the latter part of next week with a view to the company immediately commencing operations in the supply of coal."
24 Oct 1863"But I think that, if Waratah is to be supplied with water, have its streets formed and lighted, the best way would be by an Act of Incorporation, so as to make those who have most property here pay accordingly."
12 Feb 1868
10 Feb 1868
Ceremonial laying of the foundation stone for the new public school at Waratah.
10 Dec 1868Petition for the establishment of the Municipality of Waratah.
24 Feb 1871Municipality of Waratah established.
24 Feb 1872
19 Feb 1872
Waratah Council meeting: vote for borrowings for permanent works, including council chambers.
16 Mar 1872
11 Mar 1872
Waratah Council meeting, report on Council Chambers. "Your committee consider that the premises at present rented for Council Chambers are, in many respects, very unsuitable for the requirements of the municipality, but recommend that they be rented at the expiration of the present arrangement for a further period of three months. 2. Your committee further recommend that it is highly desirable that new Municipal Council Chambers be erected on the ground granted by the Government for that purpose, the probable cost of which, after several enquiries made, will not exceed £300. 3. Your committee also recommend that the Mayor be requested to obtain plans and specifications for the erection of Council Chambers, such erection to be of brick, with stone foundations. Large room to be 20 x30; clerks office, 10 x 10; Mayor's office, 10 x 10, with ante-room 10 x 10, with shingle roof ; in making plans and specification the probable cost as above to be respected."
31 Aug 1872
26 Aug 1872
Waratah Council meeting. Plan and specification for erecting Council chambers accepted, and tenders called for the work.
28 Sep 1872
23 Sep 1872
Waratah Council meeting. Contracts awarded for erection of Council chambers to - G. Gane, stonework completed, £199 ; A. Bung [Burgh], carpenter's work, £129 ; Thos. J. Turton, plumbing, painting, and glazing, £31 10s. ; plastering and colouring walls, £16 10s. Total, £376.
5 Dec 1872
2 Dec 1872
Waratah Council meeting. Alteration to the specificaton of the council chambers, for under floor ventilation.
15 Feb 1873
13 Feb 1873
Waratah Council meeting. Motion carried that the inscription to be placed on a tablet to be built into the wall, over the entrance to the new Council Chambers, should be as follows : — "Waratah Council Chambers, erected A.D., 1873.— Robert Turton, Mayor."
13 Mar 1873
10 Mar 1873
Waratah Council meeting. "Letters from G. Gane and A. Burgh, asking for an extension of time to complete their contract for building the Council Chambers. Five weeks were granted."

"The Mayor's minutes stated that, owing to the blunders of the late surveyor in making the plan and specification for the Council Chambers, no ceiling joists had been provided for ; and as it would take eighteen 21 ft. long, 8 by 2, the contractor had offered to provide and place them for £4 10s. Extra."
18 Mar 1873Gazettal of one acre of land at Waratah for Municipal Chambers.
24 Apr 1873
21 Apr 1873
Waratah Council meeting. Motion carried "That the contractor be informed that if the Council Chambers be not finished and fit for use on the 1st of May, he will be required to pay the rent of the present room."
13 May 1873Description of the nearly completed Waratah Council Chambers.
21 Jun 1873
16 Jun 1873
Waratah council use their newly built chambers for the first time.
16 Aug 1873"A memorial to the Colonial Secretary is in course of signature, praying for a court of petty sessions, and offering the Council Chambers to the Government for that purpose, without any charge."
11 Sep 1873"I am directed by the Colonial Secretary to inform you that the offer of the Municipal Council, of Waratah afford the use of their Council Chambers as a temporary court-house; has been accepted, and that the Police Magistrate at Newcastle has been instructed to attend at that place once a fortnight for the purpose of holding Courts of Petty Sessions."
27 Sep 1873
13 Sep 1873
"The Court of Petty Sessions was formally opened here, on last Friday week, but no business has yet been transacted. We have been supplied with magistrates and a chamber where in justice may be administered, but all the addenda necessary to the proper working of the court are wanting, from a clerk for issuing summonses, &c, to the most minor requisite. To what quarter this delay is attributable is one of those mysteries known only to the knights of the red tape."
27 Sep 1873
22 Sep 1873
Waratah Council meeting. "Letter from the Colonial Secretary, announcing that the offer of the use of the Council Chambers for the purpose of holding a court of petty sessions had been accepted, and that the Police Magistrate would attend from Newcastle every fortnight."
17 Nov 1876"Mr. Lewis, Government Architect for this district, inspected the Waratah Council Chambers on Wednesday for the purpose of reporting on its suitability for the purpose of a court-house. If his report should be favourable, the Government will very likely purchase the Chambers."
11 Jan 1877"Some time ago an advertisement appeared in the local papers inviting tenders for the erection of a court-house and lock-up at Lambton. This did not suit the plans of the Waratah aldermen, who are desirous of selling their Council Chambers to the Government as a District Court House."
12 Mar 1877"There is not likely to be anything more done with reference to inducing the Government to purchase the Council Chambers for the purposes of a court-house. At the last Council meeting Alderman Kerr tried to elicit the opinion of the Council as to what further steps should be taken, but all were dumb, being evidently at their wits' end."
15 Jul 1879Waratah Council Chambers Resumption Bill 1879
26 May 1882
22 May 1882
Waratah Council meeting. "Letter from the Minister for Justice, dated May 6, stating that representations had been made that the alterations to the Court House were nearly completed, and that great inconvenience arose from the council occupying it; also, that it would be necessary when the alterations were finished for the building to be handed over to the Police Magistrate for the administration of justice. The MAYOR said he understood from the letter that they must pack up and leave. Alderman Cox moved-- "That the Mayor, Aldermen Whiteman and Turton form a committee to find suitable place for Council Chambers, temporarily."
21 Jul 1882"The recent improvements to this building have added greatly to its comfort and appearance. The interior and exterior have been painted, the furniture is of the best kind, the magistrates and clerk's rooms have also been renovated; and, altogether, the building will now compare favourably with any in the district."
8 Aug 1907"Attention is again directed to the condition of the Waratah courthouse building. The roof wants renewing with galvanised iron, and the whole building is in need of repair. The fence around the land, and that of the police station adjoining, is also in need of attention."
24 Sep 1908"Improvement of a substantial character are being made to the Waratah Courthouse. The shingle roof is being replaced with galvanised iron, and the interior is to be renovated, as well as the magistrate's and clerk's rooms."
22 Aug 1922"Lambton Courthouse has seen the end of its days of usefulness as far as the Justice department is concerned. Waratah court is to be similarly treated, and from the end of August no more cases will be heard there."
12 Sep 1922"Waratah Court has met a similar fate [closure] , but its future use is as yet undecided."
10 Feb 1923"The new wing which is being added to the public School at Waratah is nearing completion … The new building will provide additional accommodation for 160 pupils, apart from that provided by the use of the old courthouse, as classrooms."
5 Nov 1926Gazettal of portion 2693 (site of Waratah Court House) as addition to the public school.
6 Mar 1942National Emergency Service (NES) - "The new divisional headquarters in the old Court House in the grounds of the Waratah boys' school were used for the first time last night, when senior post wardens met there."
4 Dec 1948"Reopening of the Georgetown road Courthouse at Waratah will be sought. Mr. J. A. Youngberry said the Courthouse was used 30 years ago when the population was smaller."

Sadly bungled street names

We tend to think of street names as unchanging. But curiously in New Lambton, there was a time when the streets in half the town got renamed.

After the coal mine opened in 1868, the streets of New Lambton went un-named for the next 20 years. In the south, land was owned by the colliery, more interested in digging coal than developing a town. In the north was the Commonage, government land reserved for cattle pasturage, but on which many miners settled anyway.

Three factors then contributed to a rapid change in the streets. Firstly, with the passing of legislation in 1889, occupants of the Commonage began buying the land they lived on. Secondly, as coal production declined, mine owner Alexander Brown transitioned to selling land for residential development. Thirdly, New Lambton Council formed in 1889, and with the power to levy rates on landowners began to make and improve the streets.

South of Russell Road, the streets appear to have been named by Brown’s “New Lambton Land & Coal Company.” North of Russell Road, streets were named by the new council, mostly after aldermen and employees. But in 1891 the council was dismayed to learn that the Lands Department in Sydney had drawn up a new plan with new street names. The council objected to the expense and inconvenience of having to update their records. At an 1892 council meeting, the clerk reported “having met with the Under-Secretary for Lands, on the subject of the alteration of names of Commonage streets, when it was found that the matter had been sadly bungled by the department, and could not be remedied now, and that the council must adopt the names as they appeared on the departmental plans.” Probably the only maps marked with the 1889-1892 street names were destroyed when the New Lambton council chambers burned down in 1931. However, reports from early council meetings contain enough information to match them to the department’s ‘bungled’ street names we know today.

The short-lived street names of 1889-1892 on a 1938 aerial photograph of New Lambton. Living Histories, Newcastle University.
The current street names of New Lambton.

The article above was first published in the June 2023 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

I have not seen any maps that show the 1889-1892 street names, and as mentioned in the article it is probable that all such maps were destroyed when New Lambton Council Chambers burned to the ground on 16 April 1931. Identifying which streets had which names is a matter of trawling through all mentions of the street name in contemporary newspaper reports in Trove.

  • Some streets can be matched by reference to buildings or infrastructure. e.g. Church St, Tramway Rd
  • Some streets are clearly identified when named by the council e.g. “That the street commencing at the road near the Primitive Methodist Church, bearing north west to the street following the Lambton Company’s fence be called Dean street.” NMH 16 August 1889
  • Some streets can only be identified by a process of logical reasoning. e.g. the council resolution from 15 July 1891 “that Capewell-street be formed, from Gray street to Baker-street” tells us how these streets intersect. With enough references like this, the map can eventually be reconstructed.

A summary of the references to the old street names can be viewed in this spreadsheet. Cells with a yellow background show the first time a street name is referenced. The spreadsheet shows that the transition from the 1889-1892 names to the current names mostly happened in a three month period from July 1892 to October 1892. This lines up with the August 1892 report of the edict from the Under-Secretary of Land that the council must adopt the new names.

Of the 13 old street names annotated in the map accompanying this article, the probable inspiration for the name can be reasonably guessed for most of them.

StreetProbable source of name
Bourke StThomas Bourke, valuer for New Lambton Council, 1890
Camp St?
Capewell StWilliam Capewell, New Lambton alderman 1890-1892.
Church StThe Primitive Methodist Church and Lay Methodist Church were located on opposite sides of this street.
Croudace StThomas Croudace, New Lambton alderman 1889-1894.
Dean StJohn Dean, New Lambton alderman 1889-1891.
Dent StWilliam Dent, auditor for New Lambton Council.
Gibson StSamuel Gibson, New Lambton alderman 1889.
Gray StMichael Gray, New Lambton alderman 1889-1890.
Johnson StWilliam Johnson, New Lambton alderman 1889-1892.
Oldham StJoseph William Oldham, New Lambton alderman 1889-1890, works foreman 1891-1893.
Railway StAdjacent to New Lambton colliery railway.
Tramway RdNewcastle to Wallsend tramway ran along this road.

To add to the confusion of street names in New Lambton, the Historical Records Land Viewer site has a parish map from 1884 with a yet another set of names for the streets north of Russell Rd. The street names listed on this map are

  • Railway St
  • Lewis St
  • Cable (?) St
  • Crozier St
  • Parnell St
  • Parkes St
  • Owen St?
  • Bridge St
  • Thomas St
  • Cross St
  • Hannell St
  • Stockton St
  • Stevens St
  • Brown St
An 1884 Parish map from the Historical Records Land Viewer site shows a different set of names for New Lambton’s streets north of Russell Rd.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
18 Jul 1891"The Government had altered the names of the streets upon the new plan, and he recommended that they be asked to reconsider the question, as it would necessitate the council's books and plans all being altered."

Corner Commerce

Many readers will have memories of the iconic corner shop, selling groceries and daily necessities in the midst of suburban housing.  But it was not only the mixed businesses that set up on the prominent and prized corner blocks.

In 1892 the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate in a feature article on the “rapidly-rising mining suburb of New Lambton” noted “a hairdressing saloon is kept by Mr. T. Griffiths.” In 1903 Ralph Snowball photographed Thomas Griffiths’ hairdresser and tobacconist shop, situated on the corner of Lambton Road and Rugby Road. The subsequent history of the business is somewhat difficult to determine, there being at least four different Thomas Griffiths in early New Lambton, two of whom lived on Lambton Road. Aerial photographs from the NSW Historical Imagery website show that the shop building was demolished sometime between 1966 and 1974.

The other end of Lambton Road, at the intersection with Railway Street, was another location of corner commerce. William Oldham originally intended to open a hotel there, and in 1876 he applied three times for a publican’s license, without success. Advertisements indicate that by 1878 he was running a butcher shop there, and when William died in 1889 his son Joseph took over.

However, it seems Joseph Oldham was more interested in civic service than continuing the family business. When New Lambton Municipality formed in 1889, Joseph was one of the nine aldermen first elected to the Council. In March 1890 he was elected as New Lambton’s second mayor.

After being narrowly defeated in the 1891 election, Oldham advertised the sale of his butcher shop building and equipment and took on the role of Works Foreman for the council. Griffiths and Oldham are but two examples of the many suburban businesses that have come and gone over the years. When the big corporate shopping centres arrived in Newcastle (Jesmond in 1964, Kotara in 1965) the competitive pressure forced the closure of many corner shops, and few remain today.

Thomas Griffiths’ residence and shop, corner of Rugby Road and Lambton Lane, 12 February 1903. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
While suburban corner shops have mostly disappeared, town shopping precincts such as Regent Street in New Lambton have survived, despite the dominance of the corporate shopping centres.

The article above was first published in the May 2023 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

Thomas Griffiths, hairdresser

Identifying the location of Thomas Griffiths hairdressing salon photographed by Snowball in 1903, was a tricky process, due to scant information, and there being more than one person named Thomas Griffiths in New Lambton at the time.

Personal notices in the newspaper on 5 February 1885 and 7 February 1885 show that Thomas and Mary Griffiths had a house “opposite the public school”, and that Mary, not Thomas, was the owner of the house. This area was part of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve, also known as the Commonage. After the government had passed legislation to allow residents of the Commonage to purchase the land they were living on, an application by Mary Griffiths to to purchase portion 1306 for £78 16s was accepted by the Land Board on 14 August 1890. On 13 September1892 there is a brief mention in a newspaper article on the progress of New Lambton that “a hairdressing saloon is kept by Mr. T. Griffiths.”

Mary’s purchase of land portion 1306 was later registered on 20 June 1901 in Vol-Fol 1365-3, with the purchaser shown as “Mary Griffiths, a married woman of New Lambton.”

Purchase of Portion 1306 by Mary Griffiths.

In October 1901, portion 1306 was subdivided into two halves, with the western half (on the corner with Lambton Lane) sold to “Thomas Griffiths of New Lambton, Hairdresser” in Vol-Fol 1377-2.

Vol-Fol 1377-2

The northern half was retained by Mary Griffiths, however the land title Vol-Fol 1377-14 on 16 October 1901 now lists her as “Mary Griffiths of New Lambton, Widow“. This suggests that her husband Thomas had died sometime prior to October 1901, and that she had a son. also named Thomas, who was the hairdresser.

Vol-Fol 1377-14

The Federal Directory of Newcastle and Districts in 1901, lists Thomas Griffiths as a barber in Lambton Road.

Ralph Snowball took a second photograph of Thomas Griffith’s residence and shop, from a different angle. 12 February 1903. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
A 1906 Snowball photograph shows Thomas Griffiths shop and house in Rugby Rd, with the shop now having an awning extending over the footpath. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
An aerial photograph from 1944 shows T Griffiths shop and house on the corner of Rugby Rd and Lambton Lane. NSW Historical Imagery.

I have not been able to determine how long Thomas Griffiths operated as a hairdresser at the Rugby Road site. Griffiths retained ownership of the land until 1955, when it was sold to “Glen Maloney of New Lambton, hairdresser.”

Transfer of land from Thomas Griffiths to Glen Maloney. Vol-Fol 1377-2

Although there’s no indication of where exactly in New Lambton the following photo of Glen Maloney was taken, as I hated having my hair cut as a kid I couldn’t resist including this photo.

Glen Maloney, barber in New Lambton. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 20 May 1950.
NSW Historical Aerial Imagery shows that the hairdressing shop building on the corner was gone by 1974,

Thomas Griffiths, Miner

Also living on Lambton Road, was another Thomas Griffiths, who was a miner. On 14 August 1890, Griffiths’ application for portion 1300 on the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve was accepted, and the purchase later registered on land title Vol-Fol 2141-172., when the land ownership was transferred to his wife Mary after his death on 7 March 1910.

Mr. Thomas Griffiths, an old and respected resident of New Lambton, died very suddenly yesterday … He followed the occupation of a miner, and worked in the old Borehole mine in its early stages and afterwards at the Lambton Colliery when first opening out. He continued at this mine until it temporarily suspended operations, some few years ago, after which he retired from active work.

Newcastle Morning herald and Miners’ Advocate, 8 March 1910.
Portion 1300 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve. Historical Lands Records Viewer.

A miner’s cottage stood upon this block of land for many years until it was destroyed by fire on 30 March 2023.

Miner’s cottage at 305 Lambton Road. Google StreetView.
305 Lambton Road, 1 April 2023.

Thomas George Griffiths, mine manager

Yet another Thomas Griffiths associated with New Lambton, was Thomas George Griffiths, who managed various small collieries in the area.

Oldham’s Butcher Shop

The first mention of William Oldham as a butcher in New Lambton is on 14 September 1878, in a public notice advising that Oldham was taking sole control of the butchering business formerly conducted in partnership with Michael Fenwick. The exact location of the business is not stated in the notice, nor in subsequent advertisements.

Advertisement for W Oldham, butcher, New Lambton. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 1 December 1880.

The first time the location of Oldham’s butcher shop is revealed, is in an advertisement on 5 June 1886 where the premises are described as being “near New Lambton Bridge.” An 1887 article on tramway stops makes it clear that the bridge referred to was the Lambton Colliery bridge.

If the traffic manager would appoint a stopping place on the New Lambton side of the railway bridge near Mr. Oldham’s butcher’s shop, he would confer a boon on the large number of people living around.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 12 November 1887.
A 1906 real estate map shows the Oldham property near the Lambton colliery railway bridge over the tramway. University of Newcastle, Special Collections.

On 19 August 1890, the application by Joseph W. Oldham to purchase portion 1890 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve was granted by the Land Board, and the ownership subsequently registered on land title Vol-Fol 1061-30.

Portion 1290 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve purchased by Joseph W Oldham in 1890.
Advertisement for sale of Oldham’s butcher shop. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 28 February 1891.

Joseph Oldham died on 15 January 1929, with his obituary outlining a very varied career …

Born at Lambton in 1861, Mr. Oldham had a varied career. At one period he was a master butcher at New Lambton, but sold out, and was appointed works foreman of New Lambton Council. In addition, he was an alderman and was the second Mayor to occupy the chair of New Lambton Council. He occupied the position of works foreman for five years, and then became the licensee of the Commercial Hotel. The South African diamond mines next claimed Mr. Oldham’s attention, and he was away from Australia for nearly two years. Returning, he was engaged at the West Wallsend and Lambton collieries as a miner and check inspector. Mr. Oldham next accepted the position of town clerk of Lambton. He remained there seven years, and 18 years ago was appointed town clerk at Stockton. He occupied this position for 11 years, and resigned to again enter into business on his own account. Real estate claimed his attention, and he also assisted his sons with their butchery business.Mr. Oldham is survived by his wife, four sons (Messrs. Joseph, Leslie, Eric and Hiram Oldham), and six daughters (Mesdames J. Collinson, J. Webster, E. M. Hughes, H. Hutton, C. L. Sutton and Miss Jean Oldham). One son was killed at the war.

The Newcastle Sun, 16 January 1929.

Shopping Centres

The first modern shopping centre to open in Australia, was a Chermside in the suburbs of Brisbane, in May 1957. In Newcastle the first shopping centre was opened by Woolworths at Jesmond in 1964. Named the Jesmond Regional Shopping Centre, the 12 acre site on Bluegum Road Jesmond had 25 shops including a Big W store.

Jesmond Regional Shopping Centre. Woolworths advertisement in The Canberra Times, 9 November 1965.
Aerial photograph of Jesmond Regional Shopping Centre in 1966. NSW Historical Imagery.

In October 1965 Woolworths opened “Kotara Fair” shopping centre on a 17 acre site, with a supermarket, Big W, and 27 smaller shops for lease.

Aerial photograph of Kotara Fair Shopping Centre in 1966. NSW Historical Imagery.

Newspaper articles

Thomas Griffiths

Article Date Event DateNotes
5 Feb 1885"NOTICE TO BUTCHERS, STOREKEEPERS, AND OTHERS. I WILL not be responsible for any debts contracted by my wife Mary Griffiths, on and after this date. THOMAS GRIFFITHS, Opposite Public School, New Lambton."
7 Feb 1885"CAUTION. THE public are hereby cautioned not to PURCHASE the HOUSE opposite the Public School, New Lambton, which was advertised for sale by Thomas Griffiths, as the house belongs to me. MARY GRIFFITHS."
13 Feb 1892"A hairdressing saloon is kept by Mr. T. Griffiths. "
28 Jan 1893"Thomas Griffiths, hairdresser, New Lambton", defendant in a case of alleged assault.
17 Jul 1900"LOST, a Silver-plated Lamp Socket bebetween Young-rd. extension and Broadmeadow. Reward on leaving the same with Thomas Griffiths, Hairdresser, New Lambton."
12 Jul 1901"A meeting of the friends Mrs. Parson, of Lambton-road, whose husband died a few weeks ago leaving her and 11 children in destitute circumstances, was held at Mr. Thos. Griffiths' hairdresser, last night."
8 Mar 1910
7 Mar 1910
Death of Thomas Griffiths, miner, of Lambton Road, New Lambton.
2 Apr 1965Woolworths report on operations in 1964 ..."During the year , 63 new stores were opened in Australia, many of which were relocation of existing stores.. The most notable development was the establishment of the 25-unit Jesmond Regional Shopping Centre."
14 Jul 1965"Woolworths Ltd would open a £2 million shopping centre at Kotara, Newcastle, in October, Mr Theo Kelly, chairman and managing director of the company, said today. It would be known as Kotara Fair and would be the firm's second drive-in shopping centre in the Newcastle district. "The Kotara Fair will provide one-stop shopping for a wide circle of suburbs, being readily accessible from all parts of Newcastle," Mr Kelly said. The shopping block covers 17 acres and has 170,000 square feet of trading space, comprising an air-conditioned 67,000 sq ft "Big W" department store, a 28,000 sq ft Woolworths supermarket and 27 smaller shops, available for leasing."

Oldham’s Butcher Shop

Article Date Event DateNotes
5 Jul 1876"PUBLIC-HOUSES. Mr. Oldham has also made some alterations to his house, and intends trying the Bench again."
12 Jul 1876"William Oldham applied, for the third time, for a license for a house situated on the Commonage Reserve, near the Lambton Colliery." Application withdrawn after objections made.
16 Aug 1876"Mr. W. Oldham, who three times applied for a publican's license, and each time was refused, chiefly through the opposition of Mr. Croudace, has now, I understand, applied for a colonial wine license. Mr. Croudace, determined not to be beaten, has commenced to erect a fence round Oldham's house, so that if he gets the wine no one shall go near to drink it. They seem determined to fight it out."
14 Sep 1878William Oldham takes sole control of the butchering business that Michael Fenwick was formerly a partner in.
1 Dec 1880Advertisement for W Oldham, butcher, New Lambton.
5 Jun 1886"EDWARDS & TIGHE have received instructions from Mr. Oldham, to sell by auction, at his premises, near New Lambton Bridge …50 pigs, 2 double seated buggies …"
12 Nov 1887"If the traffic manager would appoint a stopping place on the New Lambton side of the railway bridge near Mr. Oldham's butcher's shop, he would confer a boon on the large number of people living around."
4 Jun 1889
12 Apr 1889
Death of William Oldham, of New Lambton.
28 Feb 1891"CLEARING-OUT SALE. Butchers' Plant, shop to be removed, &c., at New Lambton. To Butchers, Dealers, and Others. GEO. T. EDWARDS has been instructed by Mr. Oldham to sell by auction at his shop, near the bridge, Lambton … the W.B. Building now used as shop, … Sausage Machine and Filler; Scales and Weights, Shop Bars and Hooks."
21 Mar 1891"FOR SALE, privately, four Saddle and Harness HORSES, Sausage Machine, and Filler. J. W. OLDHAM, New Lambton."
16 Jan 1929
15 Jan 1929
Death of Joseph Oldham.