Adamstown Fire and Police Station

The building featured in this month’s article was constructed in 1922 as Adamstown’s upgraded fire station. Although 100 years old now, it was used as a fire station for less than a quarter of that time.

In 1891 Adamstown’s first fire station was erected at 67 Narara Rd near the public school. A simple wood and corrugated iron shed, with a tall lookout and bell tower alongside, it served the needs of the local firefighters for the next 30 years. But when NSW fire brigades began introducing motorised fire engines a larger station was needed.  Adamstown Council considered several alternate locations for a new station but found none better than the current site.

So, in 1922 the existing wooden building was picked up and moved to the adjacent block of land to allow for the erection of a larger brick fire station in its place. The new building was officially opened on 17 November 1922. In October 1925 Adamstown brigade received their first motorised fire engine, a Garford-Hale type 15 pumper, assembled at the Fire Brigade workshops in Sydney.

The station closed in July 1946, as part of the fire service’s transition to having fewer and bigger stations.  Within months of the closure the Education Department stated their intention to use the site to extend the playground of the nearby public school. The land was officially gazetted for education use in April 1950, but if it was ever used by the school is unclear. We do know that in 1951 Newcastle Council was leasing the building, to store crates of library books as they waited for the construction of the public library in Laman Street, Newcastle. In 1970 the use of the site changed yet again, when the land was reserved for police purposes. Adamstown Police Station operated there until the mid-1990s when the station closed, and the property sold off. The building is now a private residence, albeit one with a very unusual past.

Adamstown Fire Station and the Garford-Hale motor fire engine acquired in 1925. Photo courtesy of Museum of Fire.
Adamstown Police Station 1974. Newcastle Library, Hunter Photobank.

The article above was first published in the November 2022 edition of The Local.

Additional Information – Fire Station

Adamstown’s first Fire Station, opened 1891. Living Histories, University of Newcastle.
Location of Adamstown Fire Station, on Water Board Map circa 1901. Living Histories, University of Newcastle.

The Garford-Hale motor fire engine that Adamstown received in 1925 was a big advance on the horse drawn fire engine previously used. The features of the new engine are well described in the Glen Innes Examiner when that town received their new engine.

The new motor is a Garford-Hale, of 20 horsepower, with three speeds and reverse, electric light, and self starter. A large warning bell is fitted in a convenient position for the driver to operate. The pumps have a capacity of 300 gallons a minute and are fitted with a safety valve that blows off with 1501b. pressure, and which can be adjusted to increased pressure if necessary. One of the greatest advantages which the Garford-Hale has over other makes is the expeditious way in which the pumps can be brought into action. From the pump it is possible to get four hoses to work, two on either side. The pump is fitted so that it can be operated by the three speeds, in the same way as the motor itself is operated, according to the power required. It is not possible for the pumping operations to be hung up owing to clogging, as the gear can be thrown into reverse, and any obstruction removed. Accommodation is provided for eight men, and a scaling ladder is carried on either side. The hose box is situated at the back of the engine, and accommodates 1500 feet of hose, together with all the necessary tools.

Glen Innes Examiner, 8 September 1924

Further details of the Garford-Hale engine are described when the Windsor brigade received their unit.

The new motor fire engine is known as the Garford-Hale pump, and is capable of pumping 300 gallons of water per minute. It is similar to the one just installed at Richmond, and they were both assembled in the Fire Brigades’ workshop in Sydney. The engine can attain a speed of 35 miles an hour when travelling to a fire. The engine is 21 h.p. A.S.E rating, with self starter and electric flight- system. There is a large hose box capable of carrying 1500 feet of hose, and a first aid kit is carried, together with all other appurtenances. The whole thing complete cost approximately £900.

Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 7 August 1925

Just a few months before Adamstown fire station was closed, Captain Francis Elson Kimber at age 83 retired from the brigade after 45 years of voluntary service.

He joined the Adamstown Fire Brigade as a volunteer in June, 1901, and was elected as Captain engine keeper in 1906, a position he retained until January 1, 1944, when his son, Mr. William G. Kimber, was apppointed Captain and Fireman A. Ure as engine-keeper. Mr. Kimber still recalls the hard work the volunteers had to do when it was mostly necessary for them to run with the fire reel to the fires. He says that in the early days they attended a large number of house fires, but their greatest worry was the large number of bush fires. The first engine provided at Adamstown was a turbine motor that had to be drawn by horses and it was while, this engine was in use that they assisted at Cohen’s fire under District Officer Hillier. The turbine was replaced by a motor-driven engine on September 28, 1925, and Mr. Kimber secured a driving licence for the vehicle. He drove this engine to a fire at Jones’s bakery on December 18, 1944, when he was 81 years of age. Although he had been relieved as captain of the district, he continued to do the clerical work. He was on duty at the station when the alarm was given and as no drivers were available, he drove the engine. This was the last fire Mr. Kimber attended.

The Newcastle Sun, 30 May 1946

Newspaper articles – Fire Station

Article Date Event DateNotes
31 Jan 1891
29 Jan 1891
Adamstown Council meeting: "From Mr. W. Brown, secretary of the Fire Brigade, requesting the council to endeavour to secure a portion of the proposed reserve for the purpose of erecting a fire station."
28 Feb 1891
26 Feb 1891
Adamstown Council meeting: Alderman FAIRFULL moved, "That the Mayor and one of the firemen meet the district surveyor when convenient, and select a piece of land on the Commonage for a fire station."
29 Jun 1891"Tender of Mr. G. Turner, of Waratah, for £93 10s was accepted, for the erection of the new fire-station. It was resolved to allow the contractor six weeks to complete the building. The building will be 30ft by 18ft, and, when completed, will be somewhat similar to the Honeysuckle fire-station. It is to be erected on a piece of land near the public school, from where a good view of Newcastle, Lambton, and other parts of the district may be obtained."
29 Aug 1891Government Gazette - portion 2395 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve at Adamstown, reserved for fire brigade station.
3 Sep 1891"The new fire brigade station is almost completed, and the brigade committee are devising means to pay the cost. They have suficient in hand to meet the contractor, but to pay for the bell which is ordered, 266lb weight, and other necessary things, they have to appeal to the public."
5 Oct 1891
3 Oct 1891
Official opening of Adamstown's first fire station.
12 Oct 1891
11 Oct 1891
First fire attended by Adamstown fire brigade. " Too much credit cannot be given to Messrs. J. Bullerwell and W. Dixon, captain and lieutenant respectively, and all the members of the Adamstown Fire Brigade, for the prompt and efficient way in which they extinguished the fire."
23 Sep 1920Adamstown council is not in favour of the idea of closing small local fire stations and establishing a large central fire station. "Mr. Shepherd, municipal representative on the Fire Board, wrote that a new fire station is absolutely necessary before a motor engine can be placed in the town, as the under structure of the present building is not strong enough to hold a motor, and there is danger of fire if a motor is placed in a wooden building."
18 Nov 1920"Adamstown Council have been notified by the secretary of the Board of Fire Commissioners that the board will be pleased to receive suggestions from the council as to suitable sites for the proposed new fire station. The council decided that information be obtained in regard to a site opposite the local police station, and that it be forwarded to the board for consideration."
21 Apr 1921"Adamstown Council has been notified by the Board of Fire Commissioners that it has considered the site brought under notice in Brunker road, owned by Mrs. Smith. Up to the present none of the sites available is as suitable as that upon which the fire station at present stands."
3 Sep 1921"The Mayor stated that Adamstown was rapidly progressing, and that the need for a new station was urgent. The council had for some considerable time been agitating for one, and he hoped that the members of the board would favorably consider the request."
19 Jun 1922"The secretary of the Board of Fire Commissioners has informed Adamstown Council that the board has accepted the tender of Mr. William Southon, of Waratah, for the erection of the new fire station at Adamstown."
23 Jun 1922"A commencement will shortly be made with the erection of a new fire brigade station at Adamstown, on the site of the old building, which has done duty for a number of years, adjoining the council chambers. It will be a brick building, containing an engine-room, a recreation room, single men's quarters, and watch, bath, and store rooms. The contract has been let to Mr W. Southon, and the cost will be about £1300. The present structure will be removed to the Adamstown Council's adjoining land, and do service until the new building is completed, in three or four months' time."
20 Nov 1922
17 Nov 1922
"The new fire station erected in Narara road was officially opened on Friday night by Mr. F. Jackson, Chief Officer of the New South Wales Fire Brigades, in the presence of a large and representative gathering, over which the Mayor, Alderman J. Arthur, presided."
6 Mar 1924"The secretary of the Board of Fire Commissioners intimated to Adamstown Council that the board cannot give, a definite date when a motor fire engine will be installed at Adamstown. The board was doing all it could to supply motors, but the output was limited."
8 Sep 1924A good description of the Garford-Hale motor fire engine received by the Glen Innes brigade. Adamstown received the same model of fire engine the following year.
7 Aug 1925Further details of the Garford-Hale engine. (This one received by Windsor brigade.)
12 Oct 1925
10 Oct 1925
"The installation of a motor fire engine was celebrated at the Adamstown Fire Station on Saturday night."
12 Oct 1925
10 Oct 1925
"A social, to celebrate the installation of a new motor fire engine, took place in Adamstown Fire Station on Saturday night. The Mayor said Adamstown had been agitating for a motor fire engine for a considerable time, and they were glad their hopes had been realised."
30 May 1946Retirement of volunteer Francis Elson Kimber aged 83 years, after 45 years service with Adamstown fire brigade. He drove the fire engine to a fire in 1944, at age 81!
13 Jul 1946
12 Jul 1946
Closure of Adamstown and Lambton fire stations .
23 Jul 1946Protest against the closure of Adamstown and Lambton fire station: The board closed down the two fire stations on July 12. Mr. Smith claimed that fast and powerful fire engines and good roads had "annihilated" distance, making it no longer, necessary for each suburb to have its own fire-fighting service. Centrally placed stations could cover the area efficiently. Mr. A. Ure said this suggestion was ridiculous. "On the afternoon the stations were closed, there was a fire in Adamstown," he said. "It took Cook's Hill brigade 14 minutes to get there. The Adamstown brigade could have been there in four."
16 Sep 1946"The Greater Newcastle Council has made a reasonable proposal in requesting that the Adamstown and Lambton fire stations should be reopened until the new services are in operation. No doubt the reorganisation planned by the Board of Fire Commissioners is sound. It envisages bigger stations, additional and more highly-trained officers, and high-powered equipment at central points. But until these safeguards have been provided, it is premature to say that the day of the single-engine station has passed."
31 Oct 1946"To relieve congestion at Adamstown School, the Education Department intends to extend the playground to include the land now occupied by the disused Adamstown Fire Station."
2 Nov 1951"About 20,000 books, catalogued ready for issue to the public, are stored in the clock tower of the Newcastle City Hall. Because the clock tower is full, the books are now being taken in crates to the former Adamstown fire station, which Newcastle City Council holds on lease."

Additional Information – Police Station

Constable John Anderson was Adamstown’s first police officer. According to his remininscences at celebrations of Adamstown’s jubilee in 1936, he arrived in the town in August 1885. No permanent police station was built at that time, but a house was rented for Constable Anderson in Victoria St, and in 1886 the police authorities erected a temporary lock-up at the rear of the house.

Adamstown’s first police station, in Victoria St. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 March 1936.
Location of Adamstown’s first Police Station in Victoria Street. Water Board map, circa 1901. Living Histories, University of Newcastle.

As early as November 1886, two acres of land near the public school had been reserved for police purposes, and for the erection of a permanent police station. In the ensuing years portions of that land was set aside for the Post Office and the council chambers. In 1902, portion 2499 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve (65 Narara Rd) was reserved for the erection of a police station, and in 1910 the government awarded L Saunders the contract for the construction of a new police residence and lockup, for a sum of £1450. The building was completed and occupied in July 1911.

Curiously, the new building had no office space, Like the ‘temporary’ quarters in Victoria St used for the past 26 years, it was just a residence and a lockup.

The new building is constructed on the same lines as Hunter-street West, Newcastle, police station, with the exception that it has no official quarters in the front of the building. There are two large cells for the accommodation of prisoners, and the residential quarters of the constable in charge are up-to-date.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 July 1911.
1944 aerial photograph showing location of police and fire station buildings in Adamstown.

In 1970, the former fire station (67 Narara Rd) adjacent to the police residence and lockup was dedicated for police purposes. I assume that both 65 and 67 Narara Rd were being used by for police purposes at that time, that the acquisition of the neighbouring 67 Narara Rd was an extension of facilities rather than a relocation.

1960s street directory showing the Police Station located in Narara Rd Adamstown.
Adamstown Police Station, circa 1983-1992. Photo courtesy of Col Manual and Paul Zuljan.
Adamstown Police Station circa 1996. From Newcastle City Council Wide Heritage Study 1996.

I have not found exact dates for when 65 and 67 Narara Rd ceased to be used by the police, however the Land values and property sales map indicates that the Deposited Plan for these sites (which is required for the land to be sold into private hands) was created in 1996. Presumably the police station was closed around that time.

DP823771 created in 1996.

Newspaper articles – Police Station

Article Date Event DateNotes
24 Jan 1885"Sir, Allow me a space in your valuable columns to comment on the injustice done to Adamstown by the authorities not complying with a petition sent some time ago, with reference to having a policeman stationed in this township. There is not a township in the district in so much need of police protection as Adamstown, for it is not safe for respectable people, especially females, to go out of their own houses, and it is quite dangerous for children to be away from their homes."
15 May 1886Adamston council "met in their new council chambers on Thursday evening. The building is situated in Victoria street, near the Post-office, and directly opposite the police station."
20 Jul 1886"There is a piece of land on the commonage, near the Public school, resumed by the Government for a police station, but nothing has yet been done by the townspeople towards having the police station secured."
1 Nov 1886"The police authorities have decided to erect a temporary lock-up at the rear of our local constable's residence. In whatever spirit the residents will hail it, there is one thing certain, that Constable Anderson will receive it with joy. There are two acres of land reserved for a police station near the Public School."
15 Nov 1886"The municipal council have resolved to apply for half an acre of land on the commonage, near the Public School, for the purpose of erecting a council chamber and post and telegraph office. The land referred to is a portion of the two acres reserved by the Government for police barracks, and is a capital site, having a full view of the city. I fail to comprehend why they are applying for this land for council chambers and post and telegraphic office, and making no mention of the police barracks-a building for which the land was solely reserved."
22 Nov 1902Government Gazette: Portion 2499 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve (65 Narara Rd) reserved from sale for police purposes.
10 Mar 1910"Some months back the Adamstown Council was notified that the sum of £1450 had been placed on the estimates for the erection of a new police station in Adamstown. It is now learned that plans are being prepared for the same."
16 Aug 1910Tender of L Saunders received for erection of Adamstown police station.
14 Mar 1911"It is six months ago since a start was made with the erection of the Adamstown police station, on a site adjacent to the first station. The work has been progressing slowly ever since, and by the present rate of progress Constable Robertson will be able to remove to his new quarters some time approaching Christmas."
18 Jul 1911"For 26 years the Government paid rent for premises in Victoria-street for a police station. A new building has now been erected, and on Thursday last Constable Robertson received notice to move to the new premises, which he at once did. The new building is constructed on the same lines as Hunter-street West, Newcastle, police station, with the exception that it has no official quarters in the front of the building. There are two large cells for the accommodation of prisoners, and the residential quarters of the constable in charge are up-to-date. The station is situated in Narara-road, adjoining the fire brigade station and council chambers."
20 Mar 1936Reminiscences from Adamstown's jubilee celebrations … "Mr. J. Anderson, now of Sydney, who was the first policeman in Adamstown, said it would be 51 years next August since he arrived there. He found it then much different from what it was to-day. The police station which he had first entered when he arrived was still standing. The municipality was incorporated about six months after his arrival."
4 Dec 1970Government Gazette: Portion 2395 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve (67 Narara Rd) reserved for police purposes.

Leonora Glass Industries

When the old Lambton colliery ceased operation, the pit paddock with its offices and buildings lay idle for a decade. Then 75 years ago, in 1947, a new enterprise began on the site with the opening of Leonora Glass Industries, founded by David Marr and three highly skilled Czechoslovakian glass workers.

Joseph and Henry Vecera and Josef Tvrdik came to Australia from Europe in 1934 to teach glass making at a Sydney factory. They later moved to Newcastle to work in the Electric Lamp Manufacturers Australia factory at Hamilton North. In 1946 the three men and their families became Australian citizens. The following year, along with David Marr (manager) and Alan Little (engineer), they set out to create their own glass making business, renting a portion of the Lambton colliery and setting up furnaces in the former colliery workshop.

In August 1947 they registered their enterprise as “Leonora Glass Industries”, possibly inspired by the town of Lenora in the Czech Republic, just 30km from Josef Tvrdik’s birthplace, where a famous glassworks had operated since 1834. Manufacturing commenced the following month and by December 1948 the works employed 23 people including several young apprentices. At this time they were making 2000 lamp shades a week. In the following years they produced many items such as wine glasses, dishes, ash trays, and car headlight lenses.

While the bulk of Leonora’s output was utilitarian in nature, they also handcrafted fine glassware such as jugs, vases, and decorative ornaments. Museums across Australia hold examples of these works in their collections. In July 1957 glassmaking in Lambton came to an abrupt halt when a fire destroyed the Leonora works. The company quickly recovered, purchasing 14 acres of land on Douglas St Wallsend to set up a new factory. In 1960 the multinational firm Philips Industries took over the glassworks to focus on the manufacture of light fittings. Although business expanded in the 1960s, increasing pressure from low cost overseas competitors in the 1970s led to the eventual closure of the works in 1982

Henry Vecera making a wine glass at Leonora Glassworks in Lambton. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate, 7 October 1947.
Hand blown glass jug from the Leonora Glass Works, 1955. Image courtesy of Newcastle Museum.

The article above was first published in the October 2022 edition of The Local.

Additional photos

Gordon Maybury, of Wallsend, and Sid Bennet, of Cardiff (rear), grind lamp shades at the Leonora Glassworks. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 3 Dec 1948.
Mr. Ernest Sandgren cutting glass at Lambton fine glass factory. Mr. Ernest Sandgren, Newcastle’s only cutter of fine crystal, was Australia’s weightlifting champion for seven years. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 11 Dec 1948.
Milon and Joseph Vecera, 19 year-old twins blowing glass at a Lambton glass factory. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 8 Mar 1950.
Mr. Henry Vecera finishes off a piece of hand made glassware. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 8 Mar 1950.
Three Newcastle youths, from left, Des Williams, George Kildey and Ron Jones, training at a Lambton glass factory yesterday to be glass-makers.
Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 26 May 1953.
The 15 acres of land in Wallsend, purchased by Leonora Glass Industries in October 1957, to build a new glassworks after the Lambton glassworks was destroyed by fire. Vol-Fol 7697-17.
The area of the 1957 purchase of land, shown in Google Earth.
A 1966 aerial photograph, showing the glassworks in Douglas St Wallsend. NSW Historical Imagery.
Leonora Glass, Wallsend. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Official inspection of a prototype at the Philips factory, Wallsend, 1980. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.

Personal details

The following personal details of the three Czechoslovakian founders of Leonora Glass were extracted from National Archives of Australia records searches.

Name Henry Vecera Josef Vecera Josef Tvrdik
Birth 15 Aug 1901, Uhrovec, Slovakia 19 Mar 1899, Uhrovec, Slovakia 12 Jan 1904, Nova Hut, Czechia
Arrival in Australia 11 Nov 1934 9 Nov 1934  
Naturalised 30 Aug 1946 9 Dec 1946 3 Dec 1946
Family Wife, Julia; daughter, Henrietta Julia, born 1928 Wife, Cecile; twin sons, Milon Edward and Joseph Henry, born 1931 Wife, Coralie Violet Mary

Company information

A search of the ASIC Registers shows that Leonora Glass Industries Pty Ltd was registered as a company on 11 August 1947.

Origin of the Name Leonora

I have no direct evidence for the naming of “Leonora Glass Industries”, and what follows is just a reasoned guess.

We know from the notification of intention to apply for naturalisation, that Josef Tvrdik was born in “Nova Hut” in Czechoslovakia. This is the village of Nové Hute in the Czech Republic today.

The villages of Nove Hute and Lenora in Czechia, are 17km apart (26km by road). OpenStreetMap

Just 17km away (28km by road) from Nove Hute is the village of Lenora. The tourism website for the Šumava region describes the origin of the town.

The village of Lenora was founded as a settlement around one of the last glass- works established in the Šumava mountains by Jan Meyer in 1834. Later on the glass-works were taken over by Meyer’s nephew Vilém Kralik. The village was named Eleonorenhain after the Princess Eleonora (1812-1873), the wife of the lord of the estates John Adolf of Schwarzenberg. Czech translation of the name is “Eleonora’s Paradise”. Later on the village adopted Czech version of the name, Lenora.

Sumavanet tourism website
The Lenora Glassworks in the Czech Republic closed in 1996.

Note that while there is Leonora Parade in Waratah West, it appears to have no connection to the Leonora glassworks. The street was formerly a section of Platt Street, and was renamed to Leonora Parade in 1968.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
6 Apr 1946Notice of intention by Henry Vecera, Josef Vecera, and Josef Trvdik to apply for naturalisation. Josef Tvrdik, born at Nova Hut, Czechoslovakia, resident over 11 yers. Josef Vecera, Born at Uhrovec, resident over 11 years, living in Adamstown. Henry Vecera, Born at Uhrovec, resident over 11 years, living in Pearson St Lambton.
7 Oct 1947"A GLASS factory, now operating in a disused building which once was part of the Old Lambton coalmine, aims to produce the finest glass and crystal ware. The company--Leonora Glass Industries Pty. Ltd.- comprises Messrs. Jospeh and Henry Vecera, Mr. Jospeh Tvrdik. Mr. David Marr (manager) and Mr. Alan Little (engineer). Messrs Vecera and Tvrdik are Czech-Australians, who came to Australia in 1934 to teach glass-making at a Sydney factory."
23 Nov 1948“The strange bulbous Dali-like shapes, coloured in streaky and marbled patterns, which yesterday made an appearance as part of the Christmas dressing of a Hunter-street store are not painted marrows or solid-seeming balloons ... they are made of glass. The result of a brain-wave on the part of the window dresser (Miss E. Ritchie), they were specially blown at the Leonora Glass Works at New Lambton.”
3 Dec 1948The development of the fine glass industry in Newcastle by two Newcastle engineers and three Czechoslovakian glassworkers in a factory at Lambton is giving Newcastle boys an opportunity to learn the trade. The factory, which employs 23 after 12 months of operation, turns out 2000 lamp shades a week and some 400 water sets. Production of fine glass-wine glasses and ground glass-is starting.
11 Dec 1948Photo of twins Joseph and Milon Vecera, on the steps of the old Lambton Colliery office, near to where they work in the Leonora Glassworks.
11 Dec 1948Story on Ernest Sandgren, immigrant from Sweden, and Australian weight-lifting champion for 7 years, working as a cutter of fine crystal at Leonora Glassworks.
3 Feb 1949"It was planned with the Leonora glass factory at Lambton to make Newcastle a centre of the fine glass industry in Australia, the Managing Director (Mr. D. Marr) told Newcastle Business Men's Club yesterday. The factory was still in its initial development. It had been operating for 18 months. In the factory there were three Czechs of world-wide experience in the manufacture of hollow blown ware, including the art of stemware. They came from generations of art craftsmen."
8 Mar 1950“The factory is now producing heat-resistant glass in large quantities. About 100,000 such articles have been produced for distribution throughout Australia, in the past 12 months. The Manager (Mr. David Marr) said he believed this was the first time pyrex-type glass had been made in Newcastle.”
4 Jan 1952"MILON and Joseph Vecera, twin sons of Mr. and Mrs. J. Vecera, of Croudace street, Lambton, celebrated their 21st birthday, which was on New Year's Day,' with a party, on New Year's Eve. About 40 people attended the party. Milon and Joseph, who were born in Lausanne, Switzerland, came to Australia when they were four. They are both glass craftsmen at Leonora Glass Works, Lambton, and both play the piano, violin and piano-accordion."
26 May 1953The factory is turning to a new type of glass manufacture for Newcastle. This is the manufacture of pressed glass. A glass moulding press has been installed to manufacture pressed glass dishes, car headlight lenses, ash trays and other goods. The machine is in trial production. When producing fully, it will turn out 1500 articles a day.”

WAAAF Hostel, New Lambton

During World War 2, New Lambton Public School was commandeered by the RAAF. But not just men served there, but also a large contingent from the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF).

Previously the role of women in the armed services was restricted to mainly nursing and kitchen work. With the outbreak of war in 1939 there were many discussions, but no decisions, about enlisting women. In February 1941 a severe shortage of signals personnel prompted the air force to form the WAAAF, with an enrolment of 250 women to be trained as wireless and teleprinter operators. This was intended as a temporary arrangement, but when Japan entered the war in December 1941 the role of air defence increased, as did the need for the WAAAF.

In March 1942, No. 2 Fighter Sector headquarters commenced at New Lambton with 134 personnel, including 69 WAAAF servicewomen performing roles in telecommunications and plotting aircraft movements.

To assist the WAAAF, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), aided by volunteers and donations from the public, opened a hostel in a shop and residence at the corner of Hobart and Rugby Roads.  The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate report of the opening ceremony on 5 May 1942 noted that “The hostel has sleeping accommodation for nine, an attractive bathroom, a lounge-room where the girls can entertain their friends or write letters home, a piano, sewing machine, and a cheery kitchen where they can cook a meal.” In the first four months, 351 WAAAFs were accommodated at nights.

In December 1942 the YWCA closed the hostel when they opened a larger facility in Hunter Street Newcastle. This proved unsatisfactory for the WAAAF in New Lambton, and on 24 July 1943 the Church Army re-opened the Hobart Road site. The hostel finally closed in September 1944, when the RAAF transferred their operations at the school to new headquarters on Ash Island. After the war, the WAAAF was disbanded, having had 27000 women serve in 72 different trades.

Servicewomen at the official opening of the WAAAF hostel in New Lambton, 5 May 1942. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate.
The former WAAAF hostel building in 2022.

The article above was first published in the September 2022 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported on the opening of the WAAAF Hostel at New Lambton on 5 May 1942.

“REAL SHEETS on the bed … and mattresses, too,” cried members of the W.A.A.A.F. excitedly when they inspected the service women’s hostel yesterday for the first time. “Can’t we have a bath now?” suggested another. The hostel was officially opened yesterday by the Mayor of Greater Newcastle (Ald. Young). Members of the W.A.A.A.F. formed a guard of honour. The Australian army nursing service was also represented. The hostel, which is at New Lambton, has many facilities that will be appreciated by service women. It has sleeping accommodation for nine, an attractive bathroom, a lounge-room where the girls can entertain their friends or write letters home, a piano, sewing machine, and a cheery kitchen where they can cook a meal. The hostel has been opened by the Y.W.C.A. to serve all women in uniform.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 6 May 1942
Aerial photograph, New Lambton, 3 September 1944.

The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported on 24 September 1942 that

Three upper floors of the Hunter street building once occupied by John’s Silk Store are being converted into a leave-house for women of the services. The room will be equipped with 50 beds, bathrooms with hot and cold water, a dance-floor and recreation rooms where the girls can entertain friends. A resident fully trained Y.W.C.A. matron will be in attendance to look after the girls’ needs.

The opening of the City hostel in December 1942, led to the closure of the New Lambton W.A.A.A.F. Hostel, the YWCA explaining that …

New Lambton hostel was closed because, with the opening of the leave house in the city, it was felt that the needs of service women in the district would be adequately met.

Newcastle Morning herald and Miners’ Advocate, 20 January 1943.

The John’s Silk store building still exists today at 200 Hunter Street, Newcastle.

John’s Silk store building at 200 Hunter St, Newcastle. 21 April 2023.
The name “SILKHOUSE” above the entrance door.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
22 Apr 1942"Members of the public who are interested in the establishment of the leave hostel for uniformed women, which will be opened shortly at New Lambton, are invited by the Y.W.C.A. Board of Directors to attend a meeting in the Y.W.C.A. lounge next Tuesday ... It was decided at a meeting yesterday to appeal for gifts of linen, such as sheets, tea towels and tablecloths. Gifts of china would also be appreciated. Uniformed women will be able to sleep at the hostel, also to do laundry and ironing there. Baths, which have been a problem for the W.A.A.A.F. will be available."
24 Apr 1942"Property at the corner of Hobart and Rugby Roads, New Lambton (a shop and residence), has been selected for the establishment of a leave hostel for the convenience of W.A.A.A.Fs and other service women. The scheme is in the hands of the Y.W.C.A. Board of Directors. There are hopes that the hostel will be officially opened on May 5."
5 May 1942"The hostel for servicewomen, controlled by the Y.W.C.A., will be opened at New Lambton at 3 o'clock this afternoon by the Mayor (Ald. Young). The building has been transformed into a cheery and comfortable centre where servicewomen can sleep, eat and do their laundry. A lounge room has been provided."
6 May 1942
5 May 1942
Report of the opening of the servicewomen's hostel at New Lambton.
25 Aug 1942The Australian Comforts Fund last night decided to finance the establishment of an hostel for women of the Services. The hostel, which is estimated to cost £1500, will be on the upper floors of John's store. A request to the A.C.F. to advance the £1500 was made by Mrs. Cockburn and Mrs. Penny on behalf of the Y.W.C.A. Mrs. W Neve said that as hundreds of uniformed girls were expected to be sent to the district, a leave centre was urgently needed. The Mayor (Ald. Young) said this was a wonderful opportunity for the A.C.F. to show its appreciation of the patriotic efforts of hundreds of women war workers in Newcastle.
11 Sep 1942Report on the first four months of operation of the hostel. "It was reported that some of the service girls had particularly expressed their appreciation of the amenities provided by the hostel, and their anxiety that it should not he closed when the larger leave house in the city is opened. The committee decided that unless the hostel should prove definitely not to be needed every effort should be made to continue it. Since the opening of the hostel, 351 W.A.A.A.F.S. had been accommodated for nights, and many more had used it for rest and recreation during the day."
24 Sep 1942"Three upper floors of the Hunter street building once occupied by John's Silk Store are being converted into a leave-house for women of the services. The room will be equipped with 50 beds, bathrooms with hot and cold water, a dance-floor and recreation rooms where the girls can entertain friends. A resident fully trained Y.W.C.A. matron will be in attendance to look after the girls' needs."
4 Dec 1942Mrs Dunkley, Newcastle's new Mayoress, opens the Hunter Street servicewomen's hostel.
30 Dec 1942"With the tremendous increase in women's service, the Leave House, maintained jointly by the Y.W.C.A. and A.C.F,. was established over John's Building in Hunter-street. The whole place is delightfully furnished, and shows how much work went into it. Mrs. Douglas is in charge at the hostel."
20 Jan 1943"New Lambton hostel was closed because, with the opening of the leave house in the city, it was felt that the needs of service women in the district would be adequately met."
23 Jan 1943"Referring yesterday to the closing of the hostel formerly conducted by the Y.W.C.A. at New Lambton, Captain J. S. Cowland, of the Church Army, said that the Church Army took the view, and for that it had official support, that a women's hostel at New Lambton was necessary. It was prepared to reopen the hostel without delay if arrangements could be made."
22 Jun 1943A PUBLIC MEETING will be held in ALL SAINTS' CHURCH HALL, CROMWELL-ROAD, NEW LAMBTON, on WEDNESDAY, JUNE 30th, at 2.30 p.m. All those interested in the establishment of a SERVICE WOMEN'S HOSTEL in NEW LAMBTON are heartily invited to attend.
25 Jun 1943"THE CHURCH ARMY has opened a hostel for service women at 92 Hobart-road, New Lambton. It provides sleeping accommodation and light meals, following the custom of the parent society, which has several hostels in England."
13 Jul 1943"A successful meeting and screening of film strips on the progress of Soviet Russia was held in the New Lambton Parish Hall. Half the proceeds were given to the Church Army to assist in setting up a service women's hostel at New Lambton."
15 Jul 1943
24 Jul 1943
"Mrs. F. de Witt Batty, wife of the Bishop of Newcastle, will open the Church Army Service Women's Hostel, at 92 Hobart-road, New Lambton, on July 24, at 3 p.m. This hostel will cater for service women during their recreation periods. At present the hostel has sleeping accommodation for 10 nightly, but it is hoped to enlarge the building as finances permit."
27 Jul 1943
24 Jul 1943
The Church Army servicewomen's hostel in Hobart-road, New Lambton, was officially opened by Mrs. F. De Witt Batty."
9 Dec 1943"An appeal for a radio set for the servicewomen's hostel at New Lambton has been made by the Church Army Women's Auxiliary. The hostel was proving a 'home away from home' for women in uniform. Girls were able to go in and out of the hostel at any time. Washing and ironing facilities were provided as well as free writing paper and a good library service."
20 Sep 1944"The small hostel in New Lambton for girls stationed at New Lambton R.A.A.F. centre would close at the end of the month. The school has been handed back to the Education Department. This hostel was originally run by the Y.W.C.A. Later. It was taken over by the Church Army."

The “Baby” Coal Mines of Lambton-Waratah

In the climate change debate today, there is great concern about the global impact of large coal mines. But 100 years ago, the hot topic in Newcastle was the local impact of little mines. The Newcastle Sun reported in August 1922

“A good deal of activity is noticeable among the “baby” coal mines in the hills of Waratah and Lambton. They are generally one-man affairs, the work is hard and the methods crude.”

Some were tiny burrows in a hillside, others a shaft with a wooden tripod overhead to haul up coal in buckets. In the post war economic downturn unemployed men looked to scratch a living by selling coal to nearby householders, the tough nature of their enterprise reflected in the mine names … “Try Again Colliery”, “Lone Hand”, “Perseverance”.

While the “baby” mines were a boon to some, they were a grievance to many. The councils were concerned about undermining of streets and damage to pipes. Residents complained of water run-off and danger to their properties. An inspection by the Department of Mines in November 1922 attended by miners and residents turned ugly and “the parties became bitter in their denunciation of each other and indulged in heated personal remarks.”

Matters weren’t helped by the Department’s manifest disinterest in resolving the dispute. Their view was that the big coal companies who owned the mineral rights were entitled to sublease to the “baby” miners, and the Department could do nothing. Waratah Council then took legal action against one of the mine owners, and the court imposed a substantial fine. By 1924 newspaper reports on the mines had disappeared. Their closure was due to a combination of factors –poor quality coal, increasing suburban development, the threat of fines, but mainly because households were moving to the new technologies of gas, and coal-fired electricity. Ironically these energy sources that were the solution to the local “baby” mines in 1922, are now central to the global climate change problem in 2022.

The North Lambton Colliery was one of the bigger “baby” mines. It was located near the underground water reservoir on Newcastle Road and ceased operation in 1924. Photo from Sydney Mail, 8 August 1923.
A map from a 1923 real estate poster shows 15 “baby” coal mines in just a two square kilometre area of Lambton and Waratah. University of Newcastle, Special Collections.

The article above was first published in the August 2022 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

The locality sketch on the 1923 real estate poster shows 17 “baby” mines. Many of them are unknown apart from their name on this map.

  1. Bayley’s Reward Colliery
  2. The Bowler Colliery
  3. Brown Hill Colliery
  4. Carclew Colliery
  5. Clay Cross No. 2 Colliery
  6. Federal Colliery
  7. Hanbury Colliery
  8. Meadow Colliery
  9. The Nest Colliery
  10. Perseverance Colliery
  11. Red Bank Colliery
  12. Sea View Colliery
  13. Silverdale Colliery
  14. Talk o’ the Hill Colliery
  15. Try Again Colliery
  16. Winn Colliery
  17. Wright’s Colliery

Other “baby” mines in the Lambton area recorded in other sources such as newspaper reports and Department of Mines annual reports include …

  1. Lambton Heights No. 2
  2. North Lambton Colliery
  3. Braye Park Colliery
  4. Rosehill No. 2
  5. Lone Hand [End?] Colliery
  6. West End Colliery
  7. Tubber Robinson’s mine
The Sun, 12 Nov 1922.

“Lambton Heights No. 2 is the name of this colliery, which has a staff of four men, and an output of 15 tons a day. Its depth is 80 feet, and the coal is drawn to the surface by one pony-power. It is owned by Fitzpatrick Bros., who were too busy grubbing out wealth down below to face the camera.”

The Sun, 12 Nov 1922
The Sun, 12 Nov 1922.

“This is Lone End Colliery, the smallest mine on the field. Its owner, managing director, and whole staff, Mr. T. Morgan, has just hauled a basket of coal to the surface. The shaft is 36ft. deep, and it boasts an output of 14 tons per week. Its owner claims that the coal is part of the famous Borehole seam.”

The Sun, 12 Nov 1922

Although “The Sun” has named this mine as “Lone End Colliery”, I suspect that may be an erroneous reference to the “Lone Hand Colliery”. In the annual report of the Department of Mines for the year 1921, Inspector Bissett states that …

“Two small mines were commenced during the year; these were Lone Hand and Rosehill No.2 Collieries.”

The Lone Hand Colliery is mentioned again in the 1922 annual report, but is not mentioned in subsequent years. Note that Rose Hill (occasionally misspelled Roe’s Hill) was the name of the hill to the north of Lambton township, as shown on this 1908 real estate map.

1908 real estate poster showing “Rose Hill” to the north of Lambton. University of Newcastle, Special Collections.

Tubber Robinson’s mine

William Robinson (known as “Tubber”) had a “baby” mine in George Street near Notley Street, North Lambton. He also had mines at Wallsend in the proximity of the High School. William’s brother Jeremiah (Jerry) Robinson had a “baby” mine in Seventh Street, North Lambton.The photo below shows the George Street mine.

Harry (Alf) Cox with his future father-in-law, William (Tubber) Robinson, circa 1930s. Photo courtesy of Ron Robinson.

The photo below of William and his sons with a pit pony, was taken near Robinson’s house in Fifth Street North Lambton.

William (Tubber) Robinson and his sons, Clarence (Joe) Robinson and William Jr (Bill) Robinson, circa 1930s. Photo courtesy of Ron Robinson.

North Lambton Colliery

The North Lambton Colliery, whose photo appeared in the published article, was somewhat different to the other “baby” mines. In contrast to most of the “baby” mines that employed only one or two men and were very short-lived in operation, the North Lambton colliery operated for 20 years (1905 to 1924), and at its peak employed 28 men in 1918. The mine, despite its larger size, used the same primitive techniques as the “baby” mines, sinking a shallow shaft, erecting a wooden tripod, and hauling coal up the shaft in buckets.

The Department of Mines annual report for the year 1905 notes that

North Lambton Colliery.-On 26th September, Mr. J. Jeffries notified, in terms of section 30 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, that he had opened a new mine on land leased from the Scottish Australian Mining Co., the name of which would be North Lambton.

The location of the colliery being close to the water reservoir on Newcastle Road Lambton, can be ascertained from a report to the Newcastle Water and Sewerage Board in February 1906 …

The proprietor of the North Lambton Colliery gave notice that the workings of his colliery are now approaching within 40 yards of the Lambton reservoir fence, and stated his intention of removing coal to that boundary in terms of a lease held by him from the Scottish Australian Mining Company, Limited.

Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 1906.

Similarly, in 1918 …

The engineer of the Water and Sewerage Board reports that it is understood Mr. Long, manager of the North Lambton colliery, intends sinking a shaft near the eastern fence of the Lambton reservoir property. The proposed mining work will probably not affect the reservoir or the pump-house, but might affect the 12-inch scourpipe from the reservoir and some trees.

The Newcastle Sun, 9 September 1918.

The Newcastle Sun of 30 September 1922 noted that the colliery was a …

… tribute mine working the outcrop pillar coal left by the Lambton colliery. The coal from North Lambton, employing sixteen persons, is carried to the Lambton screens, and there put into waggons and sent for shipment.

The Sydney Mail of 8 August 1923 in publishing their photo of the mine, noted that …

This small mine is situated at North Lambton. It has an output of 30 tons per day, and gives employment to 10 men. It has been working for 20 years, and is owned by Mr. W. Long, who is shown seated on his cart, loaded with coal. The winding gear is worked by a horse hauling on the cable.

The North Lambton mine notified the Department of Mines of discontinuance of operations in 1924.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
4 Mar 1921First mention of the term "baby coal mines" in the newspaper.
"The streets of Newcastle are not paved with gold, but underneath them all is something nearly as precious. Coal seams are everywhere, and it is only a matter of digging and coal can be found. Where less fortunate peoples have to pay £5 and £6 a ton for coal, many people in the suburbs of Newcastle just dig in their back yards, and from the baby coal mine there take enough to supply their own needs."
16 Aug 1922Article on the "miniature mines" of Waratah and Lambton.
20 Sep 1922"So that the people who operate "baby" coal mines in the hills of Waratah, and endanger the safety of houses in the vicinity, might have a stop put to their mining, the council asked the Minister for Mines to grant no more permits for the taking of coal from these lands. The official reply received last night was vague and indefinite ..."
25 Sep 1922"Trying to put a stop to the private mining that goes on at Lambton, and endangers the safety of water and gas mains, apart from damaging the roads, the Mayor last week asked the Minister for Mines not to grant permits for this mining. The latter replied that most of the mineral leases were held by a mining company which seemed to have a perfect right to lease certain areas to private people for the purpose of exploiting the remaining coal seams."
30 Sep 1922Description of various collieries in the northern coal field, including a brief mention of the small North Lambton colliery.
18 Oct 1922"Several Inspectors from the Department of Mines will visit Waratah next week, and in company with the Mayor and aldermen, will visit the sites of the "baby" coal-mines in the hills, which have been complained of by residents who are fearful of damage to their properties."
30 Oct 1922"Expert opinion on the question of the damage likely to result to streets and dwellings on Roe's Hill, Waratah, through the opening up of "baby" coal mines, will be given by Chief Inspector Atkinson, of the Department of Mines, who will visit the shafts complained of to-morrow afternoon."
1 Nov 1922
31 Oct 1922
"Many householders came out to emphasise the general grievance when Chief-Inspector Atkinson and Inspector Tennant, representing the Mines Department, made an inspection of the "baby" coal mines on Lambton and Waratah hills yesterday afternoon ... At times the parties became bitter in their denunciation of each other— that is, the property owners and the coal hewers … The Mines Department had to consider the resources of the country, said Inspector Atkinson, and to see they were not wasted ... The inspector intimated that the department could not offer much assistance."
12 Nov 1922A long report on the "baby coal mines" in the hills of Waratah and Lambton, including a couple of thumbnail photos.
15 Nov 1922Waratah council given legal opinon on the "baby" coal mines that "showed that the council had power to stop such mining under public roads. The owner adjoining any land being undermined had a natural and legal right to prevent his land being endangered, but there was no cause for action for damage until the land was disturbed."
29 Nov 1922"Another chapter in the history of baby coal mines was unfolded last night when Waratah Council served a notice upon William Metcalfe to fill in shafts sunk in Sixth and Seventh streets, Rosehill. A prosecution is to follow if the order is not obeyed."
22 Dec 1922William Metcalfe prosecuted by Waratah Council "for having made a hole in a public road without authority… Metcalfe was fined £5, with £4 8s 5d costs, in default one month's gaol."
24 Jan 1923"William Metcalfe, who is working a 'baby' coal mine at Waratah, was proceeded against by the Waratah Council for allowing a shaft to remain in a street of the municipality… A fine of £8 was imposed, together with 8s 6d court costs and 42s professional costs."
25 Sep 1923"North Lambton, more familiarly known as Lambton Heights, merges into the Jesmond district. There are a number of 'baby' coal mines in the district, and the landscape is dotted with wooden tripods, over small shafts, used to lower and raise the miner-proprietors, and the coal they win from their little collieries." [This is the last mention of the 'baby' coal mines in the newspaper, until a couple of references to 'baby' coal mines at Wallsend in 1931.]
23 Feb 1931"After working for six months getting everything in readiness, the largest of the 'baby' mines at Wallsend has begun producing coal."
15 Jul 1931"Owing to the flooding of several small 'baby' coal mines at Wallsend, the already large number of unemployed has been added to. These mines employ between 25 and 30 men."
[Last reference to 'baby' mines in Trove.]

New Lambton Fire Station

This month marks 125 years since New Lambton Fire Station was opened in 1897. The formation of a fire brigade, nearly thirty years after the suburb was established, was prompted in part by suburban rivalry. When Lambton fire brigade asked New Lambton council in 1896 to install a hydrant for their use, the council politely declined, deciding instead to form their own brigade.

They applied to the state government and received a grant of £100 and a block of land on Alma Rd to build a station, which was opened on 17 July 1897. Constructed by Henry Burg, the station consisted of a shed 18 feet by 35 feet with two large sliding doors at the front and a meeting room at the rear. Perched on top was a bell tower with a lookout platform 26 feet above ground. In the pre-telephone area, ringing the bell would summon volunteer firefighters to the station, to then take their horse drawn hose reel carriage to the location of the fire.

The brigade was first called out in October 1897, to assist at a chimney fire in Adamstown. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate praised their response noting that “in connection with the alarm the newly inaugurated New Lambton Fire Brigade did a smart run. Ten minutes after the alarm was given at Adamstown station the New Lambton firemen had their fire extinguishing appliances upon the scene.” Thankfully the early days of the brigade were mostly uneventful. In 1898 the fire bell rang on only eight occasions, five of those a false alarm. A telephone service was connected to the station in 1912, and in 1925 the brigade received its first motorised fire engine. In 1934 a new brick fire station was erected in place of the original wooden building. This building still stands today but ceased to be an operating station when the new fire station in Young Road Lambton opened in 2016.

Opening of New Lambton Fire Station in Alma Road, 17 July 1897. Photo by Ralph Snowball.
New Lambton fire station building in 2022.

The article above was first published in the July 2022 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

Portion 1321 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve was set aside for the New Lambton Fire Station site in March 1897.

The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser on 31 July 1897 published two Ralph Snowball photographs of the opening of New Lambton fire station earlier that month. The second of these photographs was taken from the bell tower, looking over the crowd gathered on Alma Rd. The vacant block behind the crowd (where the solitary figure is standing) is where the General Roberts Hotel is now. The hilly peak on the horizon at the left is Braye Park, Waratah.

Opening of New Lambton Fire Station in Alma Road, 17 July 1897.

On 13 October 1898, in connection with the procession for the Eight Hour Day public holiday …

The New Lambton Volunteer Fire Brigade secured the prize for the best decorated fire reel, there being no other competitors.

Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October 1898
New Lambton Fire Brigade, with their reel decorated for the Eight Hour Day procession, 13 October 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.

George Anderson

George Anderson was one of the longest serving members of the New Lambton Fire Brigade. In 1953 the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported that ….

George Anderson, of New Lambton, better known as “The Captain,” will complete 50 years in the service of the New South Wales Fire Brigade on Monday. Three times Mr. Anderson tendered his resignation to the Board of Fire Commissioners, but each time the board refused to accept it. Mr. Anderson, who is 75, was elected a member of New Lambton Fire Brigade at a meeting on October 12, 1903.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 10 October 1953
The Newcastle Sun, 19 October 1953.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
28 Jan 1880
27 Jan 1880
“On Tuesday the house of Mr: William Capewell, New Lambton, was burnt with nearly everything in it.”
13 May 1884
10 May 1884
“On Saturday evening last the chimney of Mr. Jarvis' [New Lambton] house was discovered by the children of Constable Robinson to be on fire. The youngsters promptly got into the house, and with a few buckets of water extinguished the flames, and prevented the whole building from being destroyed.”
20 Jan 1893
18 Jan 1893
“A fire occurred at the residence of Mr. John Davies, Russell-street, New Lambton, on Wednesday evening, but was fortunately extinguished before any great amount of damage was done.”
6 Aug 1896
5 Aug 1896
At New Lambton Council meeting “Alderman DAGWELL said he favoured an application being made to the Water and Sewerage Board for a standpipe that would be their own, and the establishment of a fire brigade in the municipality. Alderman COOMER moved, "That the Lambton Brigade be informed that the council could not accept the offer, as they contemplated organising a brigade of their own."
12 Aug 1896“Mr. Edden has also presented to the Chief Secretary a letter from the New Lambton Council requesting a grant to assist in establishing a local fire brigade at that place.”
20 Nov 1896“The sum of £100 has been allotted to the New Lambton Fire Brigade.”
1 Dec 1896
30 Nov 1896
"A public meeting of the residents was held on Monday evening for the purpose of forming a fire brigade in the town. There were about 50 persons present."
13 Mar 1897Portion 1321 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve is set aside for the New Lambton Fire Brigade.
26 Mar 1897"The situation of the [fire station] site is fronting the Lambton main road, close the old New Lambton line crossing, and with a small tower erected at the shed will command a good view of the surrounding district. Building operations will be proceeded with almost immediately, and an order has been given to Gilbert Bros., of Newcastle, for the building of a first-class reel."
29 Jun 1897"The contractor (Mr. H. Burg) has now completed the shed and handed it over to the brigade. The site chosen for the station is a most suitable one, having a frontage to Alma-road, and at the junction of the Lambton main road. The shed is large and roomy, being 18ft wide by 35ft long. A room is partitioned off for meetings at the rear of the shed. The front is of rusticated boards, and the main entrance has two large sliding doors. The lookout and bell tower are reached by stairs from the outside of the shed, a good view being obtained from the lookout landing, the height of such being 26ft."
19 Jul 1897
17 Jul 1897
"New Lambton Fire Brigade. The formal opening of the newly erected engine-shed and the christening of the reel in connection with this brigade took place on Saturday afternoon before a large audience."
31 Jul 1897
17 Jul 1897
Opening of New Lambton Fire Station. Report includes two photographs by Ralph Snowball.
11 Oct 1897
10 Oct 1897
“In connection with the alarm the newly inaugurated New Lambton Fire Brigade did a smart run. Ten minutes after the alarm was given at Adamstown station the New Lambton firemen, under Captain Brogden, had their fire extinguishing appliances upon the scene. Though their services fortunately were not required, Captain Brogden and his men are to be commended for their remarkable promptitude in turning out when the alarm was given.”
8 Jul 1898
6 Jul 1898
Fire alarm at New Lambton … "In very quick time the local brigade, under Captain Brogden, turned out with their reel, but, luckily, their services were not required."
10 Oct 1898
9 Oct 1898
New Lambton brigade competes at the fire brigades competion held in Lambton Park, where "the spectators numbered about 1500, including a fair number of ladies and children."
14 Oct 1898
13 Oct 1898
“The New Lambton Volunteer Fire Brigade secured the prize for the best decorated fire reel, there being no other competitors.”
14 Jan 1899
13 Jan 1899
Annual meeting of New Lambton fire brigade. In the previous year there was one fire, two chimney firess, and five false alarms.
17 Apr 1899"Extensive improvements have just been completed at the fire brigade station. The land has been enclosed by a strong and substantial fence, and a neat and uniform picket fence has been erected at the front part of the building. The belfry has been strengthened, and the shed has been painted both inside and out, which gives a bright and tidy appearance to the building."
10 May 1899
8 May 1899
“On Monday evening an alarm of fire was raised by the sounding of the fire bell. The alarm caused some excitement, and a crowd quickly gathered. The members of the brigade turned out with their usual promptness but, luckily, their services were not required. The cause of the scare was the burning of some inflammable material in the yard of the Sportsman's Arms Hotel.”
11 Jan 1900
8 Jan 1900
Third annual meeting of New Lambton fire brigade – nine fire alarms in the [ast year, only one fire attended, in Newcastle.
15 Feb 1902“Considerable excitement was caused about noon yesterday by the ringing of a fire alarm. A crowd quickly gathered, and no time was lost in getting the reel to the scene of the fire which was located at Lyshon's property in Lambton-road.”
14 May 1902“The fire brigade station has been enlarged by the addition of a bath and storerooms, which are a great convenience.”
5 Jun 1905
4 Jun 1905
“Shortly before nine o'clock yesterday morning a fire occurred in an old unoccupied building at the corner of Regent street and Portland Place. The building, which was owned by Marshall's Brewery Co. was formerly known as the Sportsman's Arms Hotel ... The fire was first observed by the inmates of the Duke of Wellington Hotel, on the opposite side of the road, smoke being seen to issue from the roof. The alarm was immediately given and in a very short space of time the local firemen, with their reel and appliances, were on the scene.”
23 Jan 1908
21 Jan 1908
Annual meeting of the New Lambton Fire Brigade. "The secretary recommended the erection of a new belfry and a new, bell, the present bell being almost worn out."
25 Mar 1908“The bell now in use was about worn out and as it was purchased second-hand, it had done about 25 years' service having been at one time the property of the Newcastle City Brigade. It was damaged to the extent that it was almost impossible to be heard even by the firemen who lived in close proximity to the shed.”
22 Jun 1908
20 Jun 1908
"The ceremony in connection with the trial ring of the new alarm bell recently purchased by the New Lambton Fire Brigade took place at the fire station on Saturday afternoon, there being a large attendance of the public."
23 Aug 1911"Active steps are being taken for linking-up all the Newcastle district fire brigade stations with telephones and establishing street fire alarms. There are sixteen fire stations, in Newcastle and district, and each of these is to be connected with a telephone exchange at the headquarters, Newcastle West. So far, Newcastle West, City, Hamilton, Wickham, and Waratah are connected.”
5 Jun 1912“In Newcastle, a complete system of telephone communication to link all the suburban stations with headquarters was designed considerably over twelve months ago. The circuit linking up the suburban stations and headquarters is practically complete, but the gaps render the work done not nearly as effective as it should be. For instance, there is no direct line to Hamilton. To get in touch with a station beyond Hamilton, headquarters has first to ring up Newcastle exchange and then ring up Hamilton exchange, and thence through Hamilton station to the station required.”
13 Nov 1918
11 Nov 1918
"The news of the end of the war was received in New Lambton with demonstrations of joyfulness. The bell at the fire station was continuously rung until the early hours of yesterday morning. At the first clanging of the bell the people thronged to the fire station. The National Anthem was sung."
9 Aug 1920A four roomed cottage in Orchardtown, owned by Mrs J Robinson burns down. “The firemen were somewhat delayed in consequence of the person engaged to provide a horse to draw the reel being away from home with the horse, and the reel had to be hand-drawn, which in this case was a serious handicap, as the fire was over a mile away from the fire station.”
1 Jan 1925“The Fire Commissioners have installed 65 street fire alarms, and placed all fire stations in communication with local telephone lines, enabling the stations to be immediately notified of an outbreak of fire.” “Where motor lorries are available contracts are arranged for transit of the men and appliances to fires, and horse transit at Boolaroo and Lambton has been replaced by motor lorries, also at New Lambton.”
14 Sep 1925
12 Sep 1925
"The installation of the new motor hose carriage in the New Lambton fire station, on Saturday evening, took place in the presence of a large gathering."
17 Mar 1934“Building application granted by New Lambton Council for "a new fire station and dwelling, to be erected in Alma-street, at a cost of £1460. The new building, which will be of brick, will have a roof of asbestos slates. Provision has been made for two bedrooms, a living-room, kitchen, recreation-room, watch-house, store-room, engine-room, and a laundry.”
22 Oct 1934
20 Oct 1934
"A new fire station, costing in the vicinity of £1600, was officially opened at New Lambton, on Saturday. At the same time, a new Dennis motor was installed, and long service medals were presented. Constructed of brick, with a roomy engine apartment, and living quarters, the station fills a long-felt want at New Lambton."
10 Oct 1953Captain George Anderson completes 50 years of service with New Lambton Fire Brigade. This report has quite a few memories from George on the operation of the brigade in the period 1903 to 1953.

Ebbw Vale Colliery

Many of the early mines in Newcastle delved downwards to reach their coal via a vertical shaft, with an iconic poppet head structure overhead to haul men and materials up and down. In contrast, other mines were much simpler affairs, tunnelling sideways into a hill to reach a coal seam. Such was the Ebbw Vale Colliery, photographed by Ralph Snowball 125 years ago on 12 June 1897. Named after the mining district in Wales, this tunnel was located south of Adamstown, in the valley between present day Northcott Drive and Brunker Road.

From 1884 the New Lambton Land and Coal Company had been operating their “C” pit in that location, working a seam of coal below the valley via a 243 feet deep shaft. About 1886 the company opened new workings by driving a tunnel into the valley side. This sister mine, leased out under the tribute system, was initially known as “New Lambton Tunnel” but was renamed “Ebbw Vale” in 1889. It was a small enterprise. When Snowball photographed the tunnel entrance in 1897 there were just 24 employees, including two under the age of 16. The miners extracted coal by manual labour, loading it into skips to be pulled up the incline of the tunnel by a winch cable.

After New Lambton “C” pit closed in 1903, the adjacent Ebbw Vale mine expanded, the workforce reaching a maximum of 211 employees in 1908. With more men came more accidents, and in 1911 the mine acquired a hand wheeled ambulance on which a stretcher could be placed.

Although a number of accidents had caused serious injuries to miners over the years, it wasn’t until 1921 that the first fatality occurred, when a fall of stone from the roof crushed William Adamthwaite. Two more fatalities occurred before the mine ceased operation in 1931.

In 1945 the rail tracks from the mine down to Adamstown station were removed, and in the 1960s the area was subdivided. Streets and houses now hide all trace of the former Ebbw Vale colliery.

Ebbw Vale Colliery, Adamstown, 12 June 1897. Photo by Ralph Snowball.
University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
The hillside at Adamstown Heights, in the vicinity of Westwood Ave, where the Ebbw Vale tunnel was located.

The article above was first published in the June 2022 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

The University of Newcastle Living Histories site has a photograph by Ralph Snowball of a tunnel of the Ebbw Vale colliery. At the time of writing the photograph is titled as “Ebbw Vale Colliery, New Lambton”, This is somewhat misleading as it suggests the mine was in New Lambton when in fact it was geographically located in Adamstown Heights.

The attribution to New Lambton is derived from Ralph Snowball’s listing on negative box 140, where he has recorded the photograph as “Ebbw Vale Tunnell New Lambton”. Note also that the next two entries are for “New Lambton Colliery”.

Ralph Snowball’s list for negative box 140. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.

In 1897 the New Lambton Coal Company was operating their “C” Pit in Adamstown Heights. The Ebbw Vale colliery was adjacent to this pit, but the connection to it was more than just one of physical proximity.

The New Lambton “C” pit was commenced in 1884 with the opening of a 243 feet deep shaft to work the Borehole seam of coal. By 1886 the company had also opened a tunnel in the adjacent hill.

“The tunnel is near the New Lambton C. Pit, and the coal from both places goes over the same screens. The proprietors of the tunnel have leased the property of the New Lambton company …”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 1 October 1888.

This tunnel is described in an 1889 newspaper report …

Close to the shaft and going into the hill at the outcrop is a tunnel, by which the top or Burwood seam is worked. This tunnel is driven in a south-western direction for a distance of some twenty chains [400 metres], the seam being 8ft 10in in thickness, including a band of indurated clay 16in thick. It is worked on the pillar and bord system for about 5ft of its height, and is good steam coal. Owing to the dip of the seam which is 1 in 30 to the south ; the tunnel goes in at a good inclination, the empty skips finding their way to the end by gravitation, the full ones being hauled to the receiving floor, also used for the coal from the shaft by a wire rope con trolled by a 16-horse power engine.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 8 November 1889.

This new working seam was initially known simply as the “New Lambton Tunnel”, and was worked under the tribute system, where the owners of the mine (New Lambton Coal Company) leased it out to a third party to extract the coal. In 1889 the tunnel was being leased to Charles Pemberton and John Williams. Tribute mines by their nature were small and cost-cutting, which tended to lead to industrial disputes. Most of the newspaper reports on the New Lambton Tunnel in the years 1886 to 1889 relate to disputes between miners and management.

In 1889 the workings became known as Ebbw Vale colliery, although it was often subsequently still referred to as the New Lambton Tunnel. The Department of Mines annual report for the year 1889 lists it as “Ebbw Vale (late New Lambton C)”. In subsequent annual reports “New Lambton C” and “Ebbw Vale” are listed as separate entities, but they both had the same owner, the New Lambton Coal Company.

  • The 1903 Department of Mines annual report notes that “Mr. L. H Lewington, legal manager, New Lambton Land and Coal Co. (Limited), gave notice of the appointment of Mr. Alexander McLeish as under-manager of Ebbw Vale Colliery.
  • A newspaper report from 29 December 1905 refers to “Ebbw Vale pit, on the New Lambton Estate”
  • A newspaper report from 1 July 1907 refers to “Ebbw Vale, formerly known as New Lambton”

A newspaper report from 1921 gives a brief description of the workings of the colliery at that time …

The Ebbw Vale colliery at Adamstown, about four miles from Newcastle, is owned by the New Lambton Coal Company, Ltd., and managed by Messrs. Dalgety and Company. The holding is 1017 acres, 640 acres free hold, 90 acres leased from private owners, and 287 acres held under mining act tenures.

It is a tunnel mine and is working the Victoria Tunnel seam, with a section of 5ft. 7in. about 4in. of which is stone and inferior coal. It is a good third-rate coal containing about 9 per cent of ash.

During 1920, 198 persons were employed, the output being 105,094 tons, put out in 246½ working days. The working is bord and pillar, the bords and pillars being eight and six yards wide respectively. Large areas of pillars have been worked, and at present, more than half the output is coming therefrom. Two small furnaces are ventilating the mine with about 50,000 cubic feet of air per minute. No gas has been met with and naked lights are used. The principal items of plant are: — 3 hauling engines, 3 boilers at 40lb. pressure. 1 rope driven pump, 175 railway waggons.

Associated with this mine is the New Lambton colliery close by. It has two shafts about 250 feet deep to the Borehole seam, but no work has been done therein for more than 20 years. Steps are now being taken, however, to sample test one of the seams lying between the Victoria tunnel and Borehole, probably the so called dirty seam, with the view of working the cleaner part of it.

The Newcastle SUn, 15 November 1921

By extracting data from the Department of Mines annual reports, we can graph the number of employees, injuries and fatalities during the lifetime of the Ebbw Vale colliery. Note the rapid growth in employees from 1903, following the closure of the adjacent New Lambton “C” pit.

Location of the Ebbw Vale tunnel

A BHP Coal Geology map shows that Ebbw Vale colliery was to the south of Adamstown, adjacent to the New Lambton C Pit. It was to the east of the Redhead railway (now the Fernleigh Track), which I have highlighted in red below. The black and white dashed line to the east of the colliery is Brunker Rd.

BHP Coal Geology map. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.

A 1953 map from the NSW Government DIGS site shows two annotations for “Ebbw Vale Tunnel”.

Overlaying the map into Google Earth, shows the approximate location of the Ebbw Vale tunnels in Adamstown Heights.

Looking from north to south we can see that the two tunnels were in either side of the valley where Claremont Avenue Reserve is now.

Brian Robert Andrews in his book “Coal, Railways and Mines, Vol 1” has a diagram on page 421 that indicates that the Ebbw Vale tunnel in the 1887 era was located on the western side of the valley, and that the rail track exiting from the tunnel ran down a slope towards the buildings and infrastructure of the New Lambton “C” pit. Given that the photo of the Ebbw Vale tunnel is looking down from a height, it is highly likely that Snowball photographed it from the top of the New Lambton “C” pit shaft poppet head.

New Lambton “C” pit, September 1888. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
29 Jun 1883Advertisement for the sinking of a shaft, probably the New Lambton "C" pit at Adamstown. "To Sinkers and Others. TENDERS will be received until SATURDAY the 30th inst., from parties willing to sink a SHAFT on the New Lambton Colliery Estates. Specifcatitons and particulars may be seen by applying to the undersigned. JAMES THOMAS, New Lambton Colliery Office, New Lambton."
29 Sep 1886"THE NEW LAMBTON DISPUTE. The latest phase of this dispute was placed before the delegates last week, and has reference to the management letting what is known as 'the tunnel' on tribute."
1 Oct 1888"The [New Lambton] tunnel is near the New Lambton C. Pit, and the coal from both places goes over the same screens. The proprietors of the tunnel have leased the property of the New Lambton company ..."
20 Nov 1888"THE NEW LAMBTON PIT AND TUNNEL. YESTERDAY morning an interview took place at the office of Mr. Alexander Brown, J.P., between that gentleman, with Messrs. Charles Pemberton and John Williams, lessees of the New Lambton tunnel, now working on tribute, and Mr. R. Goundry, with Mr. Ridings, N. Lambton, on the subject of cavilling. Mr. Thomas, the manager of the N. Lambton Colliery, was also present."
8 Nov 1889A description of the Ebbw Vale tunnel in 1889 … "Close to the shaft and going into the hill at the outcrop is a tunnel, by which the top or Burwood seam is worked. This tunnel is driven in a south-western direction for a distance of some twenty chains ..."
24 Jun 1890In a report on work in the various pits, "New Lambton" and "Ebbw Vale" are listed as separate pits.
8 Nov 1893
6 Nov 1893
First recorded injury at Ebbw Vale colliery. "On Monday afternoon a miner named James Hall met with an accident in New Lambton Tunnel by which his left thigh was broken. Hall was engaged filling a skip, when a piece of top stone fell." Note that this report refers to the mine as the "New Lambton Tunnel" - the Department of Mines annual report for 1893 makes it clear that this was the Ebbw Vale colliery.
22 Apr 1898
20 Apr 1898
"On Wednesday evening the employees of the New Lambton and Ebbw Vale Collieries met in the long room of Thomas' Hotel for the purpose of making a presentation to Mr. James Thomas, colliery manager, who is about to take a trip to Europe for the benefit of his health."
12 Jan 1903"On Saturday evening, at the Commercial Hotel, the officials and employees of the Ebbw Vale Colliery (New Lambton Tunnel) met for the purpose of making a presentation to Mr. Wm. Humphreys, underground manager, who is leaving the company's employ."
29 Dec 1905
27 Dec 1905
Death of Mr. Francis T. Filby. "Fourteen weeks ago the deceased, while working in the Ebbw Vale pit, on the New Lambton Estate, met with an accident, from the effects of which he ultimately succumbed."
1 Jul 1907"Ebbw Vale, formerly known as New Lambton, miners, will resume work today, after being idle exactly half a year."
5 Jul 1921
23 Jun 1921
First fatal accident at Ebbw Vale colliery. William Adamthwaite was killed instantly having been struck by a fall of stone from the roof.
15 Nov 1921Brief description of the Ebbw Vale Colliery.
24 Jan 1924"In consequence of the inflow of water into portion of the workings of the New Lambton, or Ebbw Vale Colliery, at Adamstown, yesterday, work had to be suspended. The water gained access to the colliery through an old disused tunnel, which had been sealed off."
15 Apr 1924
31 Mar 1924
Second fatal accident at Ebbw Vale colliery. Joseph Lewis suffers spinal injuries from a fall of stone and coal on 31 March 1924, and subsequently dies of his injurues in Newcastle Hospital on 6 April 1924.
2 Oct 1926
20 Sep 1926
Death of David Waugh while working at Ebbw Vale colliery. "The coroner returned a verdict of death from fatty degeneration of the heat, in all probability accelerated by a strain received while at work." [As the death was due to illness and not an accident, it was not recorded as a workplace fatality in the official statistics.]
29 Aug 1927
18 Jun 1927
Third and final fatal accident at Ebbw Vale colliery. John William Liptrot was injured at the mine on 18 June 1921, when a collision with a runaway skip caused a file in his pocket to sever his knee. He survived this initial accident, but died in hospital of blood poisoning some 7 weeks later.
12 Feb 1931"Approximately 150 men will be affected by the closing down of New Lambton Colliery. The decision was notified to the officers of the Miners' Federation by the secretary of the New Lambton Lodge to-day. The miners' northern president (Mr. T. Hoare) said this evening that the pit had not worked for three months, but that the definite announcement of the closure would remove hopes of renewed employment from the minds of the New Lambton men."
10 Mar 1945"TENDERS are invited for the Purchase, for removal, of all Track Material contained in our private railway line extending, from near Adamstown Station to the site of the late Ebbw Vale Colliery. Full particulars from the office of the company, 31 Watt-street, Newcastle. NEW LAMBTON LAND & COAL CO. PTY. LTD."

Robinson’s Farm, Orchardtown

Dairy farms, market gardens, orchards and vineyards are scattered throughout the Hunter Valley today. But at one time, all these agricultural activities were also taking place in New Lambton, on farms such as that run by the Robinson family.

John Robinson was born 1846 in the north of England. His father was a coal miner, and at age 16 John was working as a pony driver at a colliery. He married in 1872 and emigrated to Australia in 1879 with his wife Dorothy and their children. After arriving in New Lambton the Robinsons lived in Alma Rd adjacent to the fire station, with John probably working in the local collieries.

The New Lambton Coal  Company, after extracting the payable coal from their lease, looked to profit from selling and leasing their land above ground. In October 1892 the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported that “a large extent of splendidly-sheltered and good land in New Lambton has lately been surveyed and laid out in five-acre allotments for fruit orchards or market gardens.” The twenty allotments, to the south of Queens Rd, were offered for lease on a 21 year term with an option to purchase.

John Robinson took this opportunity for a change in occupation. He obtained a lease on four of the allotments on the hillside to the west of Orchardtown Road, and pursued a number of farming endeavours such as dairy cows, bee keeping, vegetable gardens, an orchard, and even a small vineyard. In 1913, when the original 21 years leases expired, the Orchardtown allotments began to be sold off. From 1919 housing subdivisions commenced, and then accelerated particularly in the 1940s. By 1951 all of the original twenty allotments had been replaced with houses, shops, parks and sporting fields. Today there is but one remnant of Orchardtown’s agricultural past, that being the name of the main road that traverses the former farmland.

John and Dorothy Robinson on their Orchardtown farm, with their son Barwise, and daughters Margaret and Frances. November 1896. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
The name of Orchardtown Rd is the only remnant of the agricultural heritage of this area of New Lambton.

The article above was first published in the May 2022 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

Robinson Family

There is some uncertainty about the birthplace of John Robinson. His obituary from 1920 states that he “was born at Seaton (England) in 1846.” Seaton is a village in county Durham on the east coast of England. In contradiction to this location, the 1851 census of England shows John, aged 5, as having been born at Workington in county Cumberland, a village on the west coast of England. In 1851 John is living at Maryport UK, with his widower father Barwise, older sisters Frances and Elizabeth and older brother Barwise. His father’s occupation is listed as “Coal Miner”

1851 England Census

In 1861 England Census shows John Robinson aged 16, living at Hetton-le-Hole in county Durham, with his widower father Barwise, older sister Elizabeth and older brother Barwise. His father’s occupation is listed as “Coal Miner”, and John is listed as “Pony Driver at a colliery.”

1861 England Census – Barwise Robinson (widower), Elizabeth Robinson (daughter)
1861 England Census – Barwise Robinson (son), John Robinson (son)

I’m not sure how to resolve the discrepancy in birth places for John Robinson. It is possible that the John Robinson mentioned in these census records is not the same John Robinson who lived in New Lambton. However, the 1851 and 1861 census entries show the Robinson family lived in various places on both the east and west coast. The 1861 census location is Hetton-le-Hole, which is just 5km from Seaton, so it is possible that John Robinson’s 1920 obituary confuses a childhood residence with his place of birth.

John Robinson married Dorothy Maughan on 31 December 1872, in East Rainton in county Durham. East Rainton is less than 2km from Hetton-le-Hole. The Robinson’s had three children (Barwise, Mary Ann, Elizabeth) before moving to Australia in 1879. The list of immigrants for the ship “Blair Athol” that arrived in Sydney on 4 March 1879 shows the Robinson family as follows …

  • John, age 28, labourer [The listed age of 28 is probably an error – other sources indicate that John was born in 1846, which would make him 32 or 33 on his arrival in Australia.]
  • Dorothy, age 26
  • Barwise, age 5
  • Mary A(nn), age 3
  • Elizabeth, age 1, died during voyage

John Robinson’s obituary in 1920 states that he lived in Alma Road New Lambton for 41 years, which indicates that they moved to New Lambton very soon after arriving in Australia in 1879.

Of John’s occupation when he arrived in New Lambton, we have no definite evidence, and we can only presume that he worked in coal mining as he had done back in England. In August 1883 the newspaper reported an accident in Lambton Mine causing injury to two miners, John Robinson and Robert Young. The article contains no information to definitively identify this person as the John Robinson of New Lambton, but it is a reasonable conclusion to draw.

At New Lambton, John and Dorothy had several more children born to them.

As with many families in that era, the Robinsons suffered the premature death of several of their children.

  • Elizabeth died at age 1 during their voyage to Australia in 1879.
  • George died at age 4 in December 1888, when he drowned in an unfenced waterhole on the New Lambton Coal Company’s estate.
  • John died in 1891, just two weeks after he was born.
  • William died at age 12 in October 1899 due to a “tumor on the brain.”

John Robinson’s main residence for the 41 years he lived in New Lambton, was on Alma Rd. Up until 1890 this was part of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve (Commonage), and so Robinson did not have freehold title on this land. In August 1890 a sitting of the Commonage allotments Land Board granted Robinson’s application for lot 1320. It is somewhat confusing that the land title record (Vol-Fol 1363-20) for the grant of lot 1320 to John Robinson is dated 11 years later on 2 May 1901. I suspect that this is just due to a delay in the paperwork – that while the purchase took place around 1890, the registration of land title wasn’t submitted to the Lands Department until many years later.

Application for Lot 1320 of the Commonage was granted to John Robinson in 1890. The adjacent Lot 1321 is New Lambton fire station. Historical Land Records Viewer.

My initial research into John Robinson of New Lambton proved to be quite confusing, as there were references to John Robinson both in Orchardtown and in Alma Rd. As these locations are one kilometre apart, I initially thought that these were two different people with the same. However as progressed I kept finding that the details (wife, children, occupation) associated with the “Orchardtown” John Robinson kept matching the “Alma Rd” John Robinson. The seeming discrepancy of the two distinct locations can be explained by noting that John Robinson only ever leased the land at Orchardtown, he never purchased it. While there are some newspaper references to Robinson’s residence in Orchardtown, being on leased land it would probably have been only a small secondary house to enable living on the farm land, and that the Alma Rd land was the Robinson’s primary residence, noting that they purchased the Alma Rd land in 1890.

John Robinson died on 4 July 1920, aged 74 years, and was buried in Sandgate cemetery. His wife Dorothy died 6 November 1947, aged 94 years, and was buried beside her husband at Sandgate.

Grave of John and Dorothy Robinson, at Sandgate Cemetery


On 25 October 1892, the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reported …

“There are a good many people in this district who are going, or intending to go, into fruit farming, and an impetus will be given to the business by the throwing open of a large extent of splendidly-sheltered and good land in New Lambton, which has lately been surveyed and laid out in five-acre allotments for fruit orchards or market gardens.”

Four years after the land was first leased, the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate described the progress of Orchardtown in an article on 29 January 1896.

“Orchardtown is situated on the New Lambton Company’s estate, adjacent to the New Lambton township. The inhabitants are working men, who within the last four years have taken up blocks of land of from three to five acres. The land is leased to them by the company at a nominal fee, subject to certain conditions. The land is cleared more or less, and under cultivation, but there is still a great quantity of timber, and much labour will need to be applied before the plough can be used advantageously. The object of the settlers is to make a living on the ground. The crops, so far, have yielded fairly, and the people appear satisfied that when they have the whole of their land in working order they will be able to supply the local market with vegetables of European growth, that are somewhat scarce at present. A road a chain wide runs through the land, the blocks (20 in number) being on the east and west of it. The road is in its natural state, and therefore does not afford the facilities demanded.”

The 20 blocks of leased land leased in “Orchardtown”.

A report from 22 March 1902 on the possible resumption by the government of portions of Orchardtown states that …

“This land is at present held by tenants of the New Lambton Company, on a twenty-one years’ lease, with a purchasing covenant.”

Robinson’s Farm

The first mention of John Robinson in connection with farming leaseholds at New Lambton, is at the Municipal Appeal Court in May 1893

“John Robinson, leased land, New Lambton Estate, annual value £3 3s, rate 2s 10d; confirmed.”

In August 1894, the Hunter River Vine Diseases Board cancelled the fees of a number of vine growers, including John Robinson of New Lambton, as those growers were “occupying less than half an acre.” In September 1894, New Lambton Council granted John Robinson application to be registered as a milk vendor.

At the Municipal Appeal Court in May 1896 “it was announced that the New Lambton Company and the council had arranged for a reduced assessment on their properties” including “21½ acres let to John Robinson.” This gives a clue to the probable location of Robinson’s lease. Snowball’s photo clearly shows the farm being on a hillside, which means that it must have been on the west side of Orchardtown Road. In the background of the photo behind the fence the land is still uncleared because this area was the Scottish Australian Mining Company lease. The 21½ acres leased by Robinson indicate that he leased four of the 20 allotments, each approximately 5 acres in size. If he leased four adjacent blocks, the most likely area of his farm was blocks 12 to 15 as shown below.

In the Deposited Plan 3365 where the blocks are surveyed, lots 12-15 have a total area of only 20.9 acres, which seems to contradict the appeals court figure of 21.5 acres. Note however that the Deposited Plan surveyed blocks do not include the area of Orchardtown Road. If we extend blocks 12-15 to the centreline of Orchardtown Rd, the area comes to exactly 21.5 acres. I suspect that the blocks were originally leased out before the road through the middle of the allotments was officially dedicated, and this accounts for the apparent discrepancy in areas.

Probable location of allotments leased by John Robinson.

A sitting of the New Lambton Municipal appeals court indicates that by 1908 John Robinson was only leasing 3 acres at Orchardtown.

After the initial 21 year leases expired, the land was available for purchase. The first sale was Lot 11 in 1913 to John Oliver. The final blocks were sold in 1942 to William Henry Hudson the Younger, who purchased lots 9 and 10.

Some remnants of agriculture in Orchardtown persisted into the 1940s with a dairy still operating there in 1943. However the post World War 2 years saw a rapid expansion of housing in the area, and by 1951 a story on the history of Orchardtown noted that …

To-day the orchards and most of the farms-like the market garden at Jean-street-have given way to modern suburban houses.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 10 February 1951

Comparing aerial photographs from 1944 and 1954 shows how much suburban development took place in Orchardtown in just 10 years.

Aerial photographs of Orchardtown in 1944 and 1954 show rapid suburban expansion. NSW Historical Imagery

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
25 Aug 1883
24 Aug 1883
Accident and injury to two miners, John Robinson and Robert Young, at Lambton mine.
5 Dec 1888
4 Dec 1888
John and Dorothy Robinson's 4 year old son George drowns in a waterhole at New Lambton.
6 Dec 1888
5 Dec 1888
Inquest into the drowning death of George Robinson.
21 Aug 1890Commonage Allotments Land Board grants application for lot 1320 (on Alma Rd New Lambton) to John Robinson for £56 18s.
18 Aug 1894Hunter River Vine Diseases Board. John Robinson of New Lambton has less than half an acre of vines.
21 Sep 1894
19 Sep 1894
New Lambton council meeting … application from John Robinson to be registered as a milk vendor is approved.
8 Feb 1895
6 Feb 1895
First mention of "Orchardtown" in a newspaper article … in a New Lambton Council meeting, in reference to the state of the roads, and have the roads dedicated to the council.
22 Feb 1895
20 Feb 1895
At a New Lambton Council meeting … "The matter of making a road to Orchard Town was held over pending the deputation of residents reporting the result of their interview with Mr. Alexander Brown."
29 Jan 1896“Realising the growth of the place the inhabitants have determined to make an effort to have a representative in the New Lambton Council. Mr. C. H. Dagwell was unanimously nominated to go forward in the interests of the new township. Mr. Dagwell thanked the meeting for nominating him, and promised if he was successful in getting a seat in the council to have an eye to the interests of the New Lambton squatters.”
5 Feb 1896
4 Feb 1896
Charles Dagwell from Orchardtown is elected unopposed to New Lambton Council, to represent the interests of Orchardtown.
20 May 1896New Lambton Municipal Appeals Court … John Robinson is leasing 21½ acres at Orchardtown.
6 Aug 1896
5 Aug 1896
New Lambton Council meeting: Mr. J. Robinson applied to have his milk vendor's license cancelled.
22 Feb 1897
18 Feb 1897
"On Thursday night about 100 friends proceeded to the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, Orchard Town, and tendered to them a surprise in commemoration of their silver wedding."
8 May 1897New Lambton Municipal Appeals Court … John Robinson is leasing 21½ acres at Orchardtown for an annual rental of £5.
26 May 1898
25 May 1898
“Mr. John Robertson [Robinson], of Orchardtown, applied for the levels of Alma road, as he intended to build a house.”
1 Jul 1898"WANTED to Buy, Sulky PONY, 13½ hands, or 14¼ ; must be cheap and staunch. Apply Saturday, Mr. Barwise Robinson, Orchardtown, New Lambton."
25 Sep 1899
20 Sep 1899
Wedding of Barwise Robinson, eldest son of Mr. John Robinson, of Orchardtown, New Lambton, to Adeline Patterson. "After the ceremony the party left the church amid showers of rice and best wishes, and drove to Robinson's Farm, in the Orchard Blocks (residence of the bridegroom's parents), where a large circle of friends sat down to a sumptuous breakfast."
31 Oct 1899
29 Oct 1899
Death of William (age 12), son of Mr.and Mrs. John Robinson, of Orchard Town, from tumor on the brain.
31 Dec 1900
26 Dec 1899
Marriage of John Robinson's daughter Frances Jane to Thomas Ashman.
7 Dec 1901
4 Dec 1901
"On Wednesday a quiet though pretty wedding was solemnised at the residence of Mr. John Robinson, the contracting parties being Maggie, the youngest daughter of John Robinson and William, fifth son of Robert Atkinson, both of Orchard Town."
22 Mar 1902"A proposal was made to the Minister for Lands yesterday that he should resume certain areas at Orchardtown. This land is at present held by tenants of the New Lambton Company, on a twenty-one years' lease, with a purchasing covenant."
28 Jul 1904
27 Jul 1904
New Lambton Council meeting, correspondence. "From the manager, New Lambton Coal Company, stating, in reply to a request made by the council that, they were prepared to dedicate to the council the Orchard Town-road from Queen's-road to Mr. J. Robinson's lease."
3 Jul 1908New Lambton Municipal appeals court … "The appellants were residents of Orchardtown, who occupy land under lease from the New Lambton Company." J. Robinson appears to be leasing only 3 acres at this time.
23 Jun 1910
22 Jun 1910
"The wet weather had made the sanitary road almost impassable, and Mr. Robinson had allowed the council the use of his paddock for a month as a temporary depot, at a rental of £1. The manager of the New Lambton Company had consented to the Council taking any material they required from the old pumping shaft for repairing the Orchardtown-road."
7 Jul 1920
5 Jul 1920
"The funeral of the late Mr. John Robinson, of Alma-road, took place on Monday afternoon ... The interment took place in the general cemetery, Sandgate. The deceased, who had been suffering for a lengthy period, died early on Sunday morning. He was 74 years old, and was born at Seaton (England) in 1846. He was married in the year 1872 at East Renton, West Durham, and came to New Lambton 41 years ago, living in Alma-road during that period. He was highly respected. He leaves a widow and three daughters, one son, 20 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren."
9 Aug 1920
7 Aug 1920
"At midnight on Saturday a four-roomed cottage at Orchardtown, owned by Mrs. J. Robinson, of Alma-road, was burned to the ground. The occupiers, Mr. Bratz and family, were away from home at the time. The premises were not insured, and had been lately renovated by Mr. Robinson, who died a month ago, leaving the property to his widow."
24 Dec 1920The probate notice for the will of John Robinson of New Lambton shows his occupation as "fruiterer and gardener."
18 Nov 1931"Mrs. Dorothy Robinson was given a party at the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. W. Atkinson, Portland-place, New Lambton, in celebration of her 80th birthday. For more than half a century Mrs. Robinson has been a resident of New Lambton, having arrived from England in 1879. The Robinsons were among the earliest settlers of Orchard town, where they had an orchard and bee farm."
11 Aug 1943"C. Maclean, Orchardtown-road, New Lambton, said he conducted his business without outside labour. It required three carts and four horses, one a spare."
10 Feb 1951Ian Healy's article on the history of Orchardtown, and its rapid suburbanisation after World War 2.

Adamstown Railway Station and Crossing

There are a number of quintessential activities to do in Newcastle – walk Nobby’s breakwall, swim in the Bogey Hole, picnic at Blackbutt Reserve. But one of the most enduring of Novocastrian pastimes has to be complaining about the Adamstown rail crossing. “The delay to the traffic on the Adamstown and New Lambton road is most annoying.” This quote from the Newcastle Herald, is not from the recent past, but from August 1898!

The Newcastle to Gosford rail line opened in 1887, with passengers bound for Sydney needing to travel 14 miles on a steamer from Gosford to the south bank of the Hawkesbury River to continue their rail journey. Initially Adamstown had only a platform and a paltry office described as “large enough only for a dog kennel”. After vigorous campaigning by Adamstown residents, new station buildings were erected in 1891 including ladies and gentlemen’s waiting rooms, and a ticket and parcels office.

By 1891 the rail line at Adamstown had become exceedingly busy. The tracks had been duplicated from Hamilton to Teralba, and just south of the station was the junction of two private branch lines, to the New Lambton C Pit and Redhead Colliery. A number of near accidents at the level crossing north of the station led to the introduction in 1892 of a signal interlocking system, which ensured that trains could not pass until the gates were closed.

The gates and signals were manually operated, and while improving safety, they did not ease traffic congestion. In 1939 the manually operated swing gates were replaced with power operated boom gates, but complaints about traffic delays were ever recurring, as were suggested solutions. A reporter for the Newcastle Herald stated: “Probably, the day is not far distant when an overhead bridge will have to be erected.” Sadly, this nugget of wishful thinking was written 112 years ago in 1910. It seems the chances of this idea being realised now, are as forlorn as back then.

Adamstown Railway Station 1898. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Adamstown Railway Station 2022.

The article above was first published in the April 2022 edition of The Local.

Additional Information

A useful reference source when preparing this article was “Adamstown Station. Something of a Chronology” by Ed Tonks, and available on the Australian Railway History Society of NSW website.

First official train crossing the first Hawkesbury River rail bridge at its opening on 1 May1889. Image from the ARHS Collection courtesy of University of Newcastle, Living Histories..
Advertisement for the official opening of the Hawkesbury River rail bridge. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 1 May1889.
Portion of a Hunter Water Map from 1909, showing thorough details of Adamstown railway crossing and station. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Advertising poster from 1908, for freehold suburban land near Adamstown Station. Newcastle Library.
Adamstown Rail Crossing, July 1977. Newcastle Library, Hunter Photobank.

Adamstown stationmaster’s house

One little sidetrack in researching this article was finding the location of the Adamstown stationmaster’s house. In January 1901 the newspaper reported …

During the past eleven and a half years Mr. W. Hall has been the officer in charge of the Adamstown railway station. Mr. Hall recently made application for a change, and his request has been acceded to. In about a week’s time he will take his departure from Adamstown and take charge of Guildford station, on the Southern line.

Newcastle Morning Herald and miners Advocate, 2 January 1901.

This would imply that W Hall had been appointed stationmaster around July 1888. Given that this is only a year after the rail line opened, and that Adamstown station began as only a platform beside the tracks, it is probable that W Hall was the first stationmaster appointed at Adamstown.

A newspaper article from 1898, reporting on a dispute as to whether the stationmaster’s house was liable for council rates, noted that …

The building is situated in Victoria-street on the Waratah Company’s subdivision, and is about 100 yards from the railway.

Newcastle Morning Herald and miners Advocate, 28 AUgust 1898.

Records from Historical Land Records Viewer, show in Vol-Fol 1066-135 that the Railway Commissioners of NSW purchased lots 1 and 2 of Sec H of DP2347 in August 1893.

Note that the map showing the location of the lots, only has streets labelled with numbers as per the in the DP2347 subdivision map. 2nd Street on this map was an extension of Victoria St and became known by that name, but 6th St persists to this day. A 1944 aerial photograph shows that the stationmaster’s house was situated at 151 Victoria St. The Railway Commissioners sold the house and property into private hands in May 1956.

Adamstown Stationmaster’s House, 1944 aerial photograph.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
10 Jul 1886
9 Jul 1886
"A meeting of the inhabitants of Adamstown was held last evening for the purpose of petitioning Government for a railway station at Adamstown."
8 Apr 1887
7 Apr 1887
Opening of the Hornsby to Hawkesbury River (Brooklyn) rail line.
13 Aug 1887Detailed description of the Hawkesury River to Newcastle rail line, to be opened soon. "Adamstown station is reached at 97 miles 75chains, where there is only a platform 264ft x 15." Interestingly, it appears that Broadmeadow station was originally called Lambton station.
16 Aug 1887
15 Aug 1887
Official opening of the Newcastle to Gosford railway.
18 Nov 1887"The Government road from Union-street to the railway platform is drawing towards completion …a siding is necessary at the platform, so that trucks containing goods for Adamstown can be shunted where carts can be taken conveniently to receive the goods."
16 Mar 1888
15 Mar 1888
At Adamstown Council meeting, a motion is passed regarding "the great need of a station at Adamstown platform on the Homebush and Waratah Railway" and "to ask for a funeral train."
13 Apr 1888
12 Apr 1888
Council's request for a funeral train for Adamstown has been refused. A petition to be raised.
2 Jul 1888"The traffic manager this morning granted the request made to him to run a funeral train from Adamstown on Sundays whenever required."
24 Apr 1889"The Railway Commissioners have prepared a new time-table for the Northern line, which will come into operation next month, when the Hawkbesbury bridge is open for passenger traffic. The journey to and from Sydney will be very much shortened ... doing the whole journey in 3 hours 20 minutes, saving no less than 2 hours 22 minutes."
2 May 1889
1 May 1889
Opening of Hawkesbury River rail bridge.
25 Jun 1889"About two hundred men from the unemployed in Sydney arrived yesterday to commence the earthworks required for the duplication of the railway line between Adamstown and Teralba."
3 Sep 1889"The Redhead Company are now constructing a branch railway line from Adamstown to their Burwood Extended mine."
8 Nov 1889"The firm [New Lambton Coal Company] have a branch line, one mile in length, connecting the colliery [C Pit] with the Sydney-Newcastle railway at Adamstown."
30 Jun 1890"The stationmaster's office is a place large enough only for a pigeon ducket or a dog kennel, and in such a place the whole of the work of the station has to be performed."
3 Jan 1891Tender accepted from J R Rodgers for erection of station buildings at Adamstown
12 Jan 1891
10 Jan 1891
There is a suggestion that Adamstown station is to be moved from its present location to closer to Broadmeadow. A public meeting is held to discuss the issue, with opinions sharply divided.
20 Jan 1891"It will be a consolation to those who are opposed to the removal of the railway station, to know that such is not to be carried into effect; and the station buildings are to be erected forthwith on the present site. The contractor is prepared to proceed with the work immediately, so the people can rest content that they will before long have the accommodation they have so long agitated for."
22 Apr 1891"Adamstown. The erection of the station buildings are progressing slowly. With the exception of the goods-shed, they are all that is required for the present. The goods-shed is very small, and not nearly so large as was promised."
19 Oct 1892"After a deal of writing on behalf of the council the railway authorities have commenced the work of interlocking the points and gates at the railway station: By the installation of the interlocking system the safety of the traffic will be improved considerably. Indeed, the system in vogue is dangerous in the extreme and daily accidents of a serious character have been narrowly averted."
19 Nov 1892
18 Nov 1892
"A new interlocking apparatus was opened at the Adamstown railway station yesterday. Since the opening of the double track to Teralba, the department have gradually introduced the interlocking system at the various stations. Adamstown is now an important junction, as the Redhead and New Lambton lines branch off the Government railways near the station. The new apparatus consists of a bunch of 29 levers, which work the various semaphores, the points, and the gates which guard the different crossings."
27 Jul 1897"With respect to vehicular traffic, on the Adamstown-New Lambton road there is a grievance, and one that is not likely to be remedied till a man is placed at that important junction to attend to the signals and crossing-gates, which work is ample for one person. The delay to the traffic on the Adamstown New Lambton road is frequently most annoying, and the testimonials the station officials are daily made the recipients of are anything but gratifying."
28 Aug 1897"At the railway station the gates are kept closed as much as possible to prevent any of the unlimited stray horses getting on the railway."
6 Aug 1898"There are great complaints at times of the great delay caused to traffic at the Adamstown railway crossing. The delay to the traffic on the Adamstown and New Lambton road is most annoying, and the verbal testimonials presented to the railway officials are anything but complimentary."
2 Jan 1901"During the past eleven and a half years Mr. W. Hall has been the officer in charge of the Adamstown railway station. In about a week's time he will take his departure from Adamstown and take charge of Guildford station, on the Southern line. He leaves Adamstown with the good wishes of all."
4 Oct 1910"A lot of shunting is done at the station, and trouble is caused by the delay to road traffic through this cause. Probably, the day is not far distant when an overhead bridge will have to be erected."
5 Jun 1929"When the Railway Commissioners visit Newcastle on June 23, strong argument will be put forward for the electrification of the railway from Sydney to Newcastle. It is stated by those urging the installation of the new system that the cost would not be very great."
3 Sep 1937"Extensive alterations are contemplated at Adamstown railway station. The improvements will include enlarged platforms, boom gates to replace the existing swing ones, a new signal box and an overhead bridge to connect the two platforms."
"Ald. Williams said that an overhead bridge should be constructed for pedestrians and vehicular traffic. With an overhead bridge for vehicular traffic delays at the gates would be obviated."
1 Mar 1938"I would desire to direct attention to the delay and inconvenience caused at the Adamstown gates. As one who would very much like to see an overhead bridge at this intersection, not only for business traffic but the public traffic also. There have been times when I have waited with traffic streamed along behind me for close on 20 minutes."
8 May 1939
7 May 1939
"A new railway signal box and power operated boom gates were opened yesterday at St. James-road, Adamstown, by the Railway Department. The old hand operated gates have been replaced by an electrically operated device."