Sadly bungled street names

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newspaper articles

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

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."

On track

While in town today I spotted the Newcastle Light Rail for the first time, as it conducted driver training.

The crew were obviously very happy with the the tram and the training, giving a big thumbs up as the carriage went past.

Later in the morning I spotted some tram related stupidity for the first time, as I witnessed a pedestrian who thought it was a good idea to run across the road in front of an approaching tram.

I hope the new light rail gets patronised more than the current bus network. For much of my trip home I was the only passenger, until suddenly the number of passengers doubled!