A long road

My article for the December 2021 issue of The Local is out now, this month on Marshall St and the inner city bypass. The article is titled “A very long road story” for three reasons.

  1. Marshall St (on early maps at least) is a very long straight road, stretching 5 km from Jesmond to Kotara.
  2. This story took a long time to come to fruition. I’ve had plans to write various versions of this story for over five years, before I completed it this year.
  3. With the construction of the final section of the inner city bypass to commence in 2022, as I researched the history of this project I was quite surprised to find how long ago the bypass was first announced – in 1945! When construction is completed in 2025 it will have been 80 years in progress, making it a very long road story indeed.
A 1936 map showing Boundary Rd (Marshall St) stretching from Jesmond to Garden Suburb.

Stockton Bridge

It was 50 years ago today, on 1 November 1971, that Stockton Bridge was officially opened. To mark the occasion, on the weekend I walked over the bridge and took a time lapse video as I traversed it from west to east.

The idea of a bridge from Newcastle to Stockton had been discussed for a long time prior to its construction. In a newspaper article from 10 May 1921, the writer compares Stockton with Manly in Sydney, pointing out the many similarities, and how with a bit of investment in infrastructure Stockton could become a popular tourist destination.

Stockton is almost cheek by jowl with Newcastle, and could be brought closer. Who knows but that some day, in the not too distant future, Newcastle will have its North Shore bridge, to connect the city with its premier pleasure resort at Stockton.

The Newcastle Sun, 10 May 1921.

At that time, access between Stockton and Newcastle was via a vehicular ferry, as shown in the circa 1930s map below.

Stockton vehicular ferry route on a circa 1930s map. National Library of Australia.

In April 1931, Stockton municipal council in debating the cost of running the vehicular and passenger ferries, suggested that a bridge might possibly be built across Newcastle Harbour from near Fort Scratchley, with the cost of construction to be recouped by tolls over a 20 to 30 year period.

The feasibility, advisability, type of bridge, projected cost, and the preferred route of a Stockton bridge generated many varied and strong opinions.

Surely it would be obvious, even to a child, that the bridge suggested would be of the lifting or swinging type, thus doing away with the unnecessary height. The assertion that the bridge would cost £200,000 is ridiculous, and I still contend that a suitable bridge could be constructed for the trifling sum of £750.

Letter to the editor, Newcastle Sun, 27 July 1932.

Serious consideration of a bridge to Stockton revived in the 1950s when the state government began reclamation of the Hunter River delta islands, to be used for industrial purposes. This reclamation opened up the possibility of a bridge that crossed the river north of Stockton via the reclaimed islands, rather than the more problematic alternative of building a bridge across a busy Newcastle Harbour.

A bridge should be built from Walsh Island to North Stockton in conjunction with the Newcastle harbor reclamation scheme, Mr. L. B. Saddington declared in the Legislative Council yesterday. The bridge would span the north arm of the harbor and connect by road with another planned for the south arm near the B.H.P. Consideration had been given over some years to connecting Stockton with Newcastle proper by bridge or tunnel. Owing to the topography this would be most costly … But one from Walsh Island to North Stockton could be done much more speedily and for less cost.

The Newcastle Sun, 17 September 1953.
A circa 1960s map, prior to the construction of Stockton bridge. I have overlaid in green the eventual route of the road and bridge.

Construction of the bridge commenced in 1968, with the erection of the pillars for the approach spans. The Department of Main Roads in 1971 made a very interesting 17 minute documentary on the construction of the bridge, which is available on YouTube.

At the top of Stockton Bridge, 29 October 2021.
The plaque from the official opening of the bridge on 1 November 1971 is located at the peak of the pedestrian walkway in the centre of the bridge.

The other Hill street

In my article on Doctor John James Hill in March 2017, I wrote that while Hill St in North Lambton was possibly named after Doctor Hill, given the timing of the road naming (first mentioned in 1872) I was sceptical that was the case. However I have since found there was another Hill Street in North Lambton, that almost certainly was named after John James Hill, because it was in a subdivision of land owned by Doctor Hill. This Hill St had its name changed to Percy St in 1920.

Alderman Lightfoot … moved that the necessary procedure be taken to have the name of Hill-street, North Lambton, changed to Percy-street. It was most confusing to have two streets in the municipality bearing the same name.

Lambton Council Meeting, 18 May 1920.
Official change of name of Hill St to Percy St in Government Gazette, September 1920.


As I was searching through various land titles in the Historical Lands Records Viewer, I found Vol-Fol 1122-48 from 1894, that showed blocks of land between Hill St and William St in North Lambton. This was curious because today, Hill St in North Lambton is nowhere near William St in Jesmond?

The mysterious Hill and William streets on Vol-Fol 1122-48 from 1894.

The solution to the mystery is that the Hill St in this map is actually Percy St today, and the William St in the map is the east end of Michael St today.

In 1867, Daniel Jones purchased 50 acres of land between Jesmond and Lambton which he named “North Lambton” (not to be confused with the modern suburb of North Lambton).

In July 1871 Jones sold a large portion (about 16 acres) of the North Lambton subdivision to Doctor John James Hill, who then began reselling individual blocks of land.

Vol-Fol 123-202.

Notice that in this map that “Frederick St” is below section E, and “William St” is below section C. Today this is Michael Street, and whereas the map from Vol-Fol 123-202 shows William St joining on to George St, this part of the street does not exist today and probably never did. This is a good reminder of the care needed to interpret old maps, particularly in land titles and deposited plans. A street marked in an old map can either be an indication of a street that has been built, or a street that is planned to be built. You have to use other evidence to decide which.

Map from Vol-Fol 123-202 overlaid into Google Earth.
Historical parish map showing the one street with three differently named sections – Michael St, Frederick St, and William St.

In 1873 Doctor Hill lodged Deposited Plan 96, which was a re-subdivision of the land he had bought in Sections C and E of North Lambton.

96 | Hill, J.J. | County of Northumberland | North Lambton, Lambton, Newcastle, re-subdivision of part of Sections C & E on Deposited Plan 40.

Deposited Plan 96 in the Plan Lodgement Book.

There is no map I can find of the DP96 subdivision, but presumably the purpose was to subdivide into a greater number of smaller blocks in order to maximise profit. In the new subdivision, Doctor Hill added an extra street running east-west through the middle of Section C and named it Hill St.

Hill, William, and Arthur Streets on Vol-Fol 512-82 from 1880.

This “Hill St” was then renamed to Percy St in September 1920 to avoid confusion with the original Hill St above High St in Lambton. As if to graphically and ironically underline the need to reduce the confusion caused by having two Hill Streets, in one of the historical parish maps someone has added an annotation renaming the wrong Hill St! Oops.

The wrong Hill!

But wait – there’s more …

The extra other Hill Street

In Hill’s subdivision of Section E in North Lambton, a narrow east-west lane was also added above Hill St. It seems that when Hill St became Percy St in 1920, that this laneway running behind the houses on the north side of Percy St came to be known as Hill St, and is marked as such on some maps.

Another “Hill St” – between Percy St and Fifth St. University of Newcastle, Special Collections.

This lane was a private road in the subdivision until Newcastle Council passed a resolution in 1991 to dedicate it as a public road, and noting that it was “also previously known as Hill Street.”

Dedication of Wall Lane (also known as Hill St) as a public road. NSW Government Gazette, 22 May 1992.

The name “Wall Lane” was in honour of the Wall family who ran the shop on the south-east corner of Arthur and Percy Streets for many years.

Vol-Fol 690-71. Purchase of land in August 1941 by George and Julia Wall of land on the corner of Hill (now Percy) and Arthur Streets.

But wait – there’s even more …

The additional extra other Hill Street

Some 500 metres away from Percy Street, opposite Jesmond Park, there is a short stretch of road today that is also named Hill Street, and also named after Doctor Hill.

Hill Street, Jesmond

This Hill Street appears in records as early as 1878, where at the Lambton Council meeting on 26 November 1878 a letter was received …

“… from the Trustees Lambton Building Society dedicating Hill & Abel Streets Jesmond to the Council.”

Dedication of Hill and Abel Streets. Lambton Council minutes of meeting on 26 November 1878.
Hill and Abel Streets in Jesmond. National Library of Australia.

These two streets were located on Lot 5 Section B of DP92 (Vol-Fol 163-244). This land was mortgaged to the Lambton and Building Investment Society in 1876. In November 1878 when the two streets were dedicated to Lambton Council, Doctor John James Hill was Chairman and Trustee of the Society, and Thomas Abel was Secretary.

Lot 5 of DP92 on Robert St Jesmond, mortgaged to Lambton Building and Investment Society in September 1876. Vol-Fol 163-244.

While Hill Street in Jesmond is still there in 2021, Abel Street officially ceased to exist in July 1962 when “in accordance with the provisions of the Public Roads Act, relating to Unnecessary Roads in Our State of New South Wales”, the road was closed and sold to the owners of the adjoining properties. (See Vol-Fol 8389-31) Its space is now occupied by the Anglican Church on the west, and number 4 Hill St on the east.

Hill Street, Jesmond, in 2021. The location of the no-longer existing Abel St is marked in green. SIX Maps.

The many monikers of Michael

Earlier in this article I mentioned that what is Michael St today, originally was three differently named sections – Michael, Frederick, William. But that was just in the stretch of road that lay in Lambton municipality – the section of road in the Wallsend municipality had yet another name – Robroy St.

Robroy St (now Michael St) shown on Vol-Fol 4928-170 in 1938,

A newspaper article from 1945 titled “Postman’s Headache at Jesmond”, notes that

The street in question, before the advent of Greater Newcastle was Frederick-street from the North Lambton area to Steel-street, Jesmond, Michael-street outwards to the old Lambton-Wallsend boundary, and Rob Roy-street thence to Blue Gum road in the Jesmond area. It is stated that, although it is now all Michael-street, officially, the three names still persist with the uninitiated, and piecemeal house numbering adds to the confusion.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 5 December 1945.

Worlds apart

My October 2021 article for The Local is out, this month on William Thomas Dent.

Often my research for these articles leads me in unexpected directions, and this month was no exception taking me to the short lived Hartley Vale colliery of James and Alexander Brown in the Broadmeadow area, and all the way to the other side of the world to the coalfields of Durham where William’s father Mark Dent was a key figure in the great miners’ strikes of 1844 .

One of the things that struck me about the story of the Dent family is how much things can change in the space of one generation. Because of his involvement in the miners strikes, Mark Dent found it hard to get work, was subject to poverty and was “driven from his native land” to seek a living in Australia. William arrived in Australia after his father, lived and worked in a coal mining community, grew wealthy as the head of major financial institution, was an alderman for 17 years, many of them working co-operatively alongside Thomas Croudace the Lambton colliery manager.

The unexpected find from this month’s research is that Dent St North Lambton is probably named in honour of Mark Dent the famed mining unionist who died in Lambton in 1882, rather than William Thomas Dent who was only a relatively junior alderman at the time Dent St was named.

Hartley Vale Colliery, Newcastle

The naming of coal mines is often ambiguous and confusing, especially when a locality name is used for a mine in a completely different region. Such is the case with the short lived Hartley Vale Colliery in Newcastle in the 19th century.

Today when we hear “Hartley Vale” we think of the Hartley Vale on the western side of the Blue Mountains, near Lithgow. A form of coal called kerosene shale was found in this location in 1865, and by 1874 the NSW Kerosene Shale and Oil Company had a substantial mining operation there. But 150km away in Newcastle there was another “Hartley Vale” colliery, with no connection to the Blue Mountains.

In 1862 the brothers James and Alexander Brown were operating a colliery at Minmi, west of Newcastle. In late 1862 they issued a prospectus for a new company, called the Melbourne and Newcastle Minmi Colliery Company, and by February 1863 had sold their mine to the newly floated company. Around the time they were divesting themselves of the Minmi colliery, the Browns acquired the coal lease on a 310 acre block of land in the Broadmeadow area adjacent to Hamilton. This new venture they named “The Hartley Vale Colliery” (sometimes spelled “Hartly Vale”) and commenced to develop it, including plans to build a rail line from the pit to the Great Northern Railway

THE HARTLY VALE COLLIERY. This new colliery which has been in the course of development for several months, having bared a good seam of coal and began to open it out, is now also about beginning the formation of a railway to connect the works with the Great Northern Line, to come in somewhere about the spot where the Waratah and Lambton junction is formed. This line has been surveyed and cleared, and in the course of a few days it is anticipated that the formation will be commenced.”

The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 13 August 1863.

By June 1864 the Browns had reportedly spent £12,000 developing the mine which was nearing completion.

The works at the Hartley Vale Colliery have proceeded so far as to be ready for coming into market, with the exception of the completion of a small portion of the branch line intended to form a junction with the Lambton. In consequence of a dispute between the two companies, the progress of this line has been retarded.

The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 25 October 1864.

The completion of the rail line from the Hartley Vale mine was prevented because of a dispute with a competitor, the Lambton colliery. To remedy this impasse the Browns petitioned the government to to pass an Act of Parliament to give them the right to construct their railway. The Bill was brought before the Parliament in October 1866, but ongoing disputes and opposition from competing interests meant that the bill was not passed until December 1867.

Plan of the Hartley Vale Railway, 4 October 1867. State Library of New South Wales.

Having finally obtained the legal right to build their railway, it was of no consequence, for by this stage, after spending £18,000 the mine had already proved to be unprofitable.

No sooner was the Minmi Company floated (1863) than the Browns took up land at Hartley Vale, sunk their shaft, erected their winding gear, and other appliances ; but found the seam run out so shallow as to be unprofitable to work, so that was dismantled and abandoned, with a loss of £18,000.

Report on the death of Alexander Brown, Australian Town and Country Journal, 7 July 1877.

About the same time that the Hartley Vale Colliery railway Bill was passed in December 1867, the Browns acquired a new coal mining lease in the adjacent area of New Lambton, and within a few months were pushing ahead with the development of the New Lambton Colliery, including a branch rail line that was to use materials from the failed Hartley Vale venture.

The greater portion of the [New Lambton] line will be constructed with the material used in the formation of the old line to the Hartley Vale colliery, which turned out such a lamentable failure, and through which the Messrs. Brown lost such an enormous sum of money.

The Newcastle Chronicle, 27 June 1868.

The location of the failed Hartley Vale colliery can be identified by the Hartley Vale Colliery Railway Bill and accompanying map. The Bill describes the railway as passing through …

“… fifty-four and three hundred and ten acres leased to the said James Brown and Alexander Brown and known as the Hartley Vale Colliery.”

NSW Government Gazette, 27 December 1867.

The 54 acre block was the area eventually sold to Thomas Adam in 1869 to form Adamstown. The 310 acre block stretches from Adamstown to Broadmeadow, with the approximate location of C and D pits as shown in the Google Earth overlay below.

Location of C and D pits of the Hartley Vale colliery.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
4 Jul 1863A passing remark in a parliamentary discussion about Reserves, indicates that the the Browns had acquired a mining leases in Newcastle by July 1863. "The Government, however, had leased portions of it [Newcastle Pasturage Reserve] to the Australian Agricultural Company, James & Alexander Brown, and the Waratah Coal Company."
13 Aug 1863"The Hartly Vale Colliery.-This new colliery which has been in the course of development for several months, having bared a good seam of coal and began to open it out, is now also about beginning the formation of a railway to connect the works with the Great Northern Line, to come in somewhere about the spot where the Waratah and Lambton junction is formed."
25 Aug 1863"The Co-operative, Wallsend, the Hartley Vale, and the Australian Agricultural and Coal Company, are contemplating running onto" the Great Northern Line.
8 Jun 1864"I may mention that a rumour gains ground here that some desire is evinced by the Messrs. Brown to connect the projects of the Co-operative Company and the Hartley Vale Colliery. On the Company's property it is said that £10 000 have been expended, and £12,000 on the Vale." [There is no evidence that this rumoured joint venture proceeded.]
18 Jun 1864"A report was in circulation a short time ago, that Messrs. J. A. Brown had some intention of working the seam of coal which exists on a property of theirs, called Hartley Vale, adjoining the Co-operative Company's pits."
25 Oct 1864"The works at the Hartley Vale Colliery have proceeded so far as to be ready far coming into market, with the exception of the completion of a small portion of the branch line intended to form a junction with the Lambton. In consequence of a dispute between the two companies, the progress of this line has been retarded, which, however, is now in a fair way of being completed in a few weeks."
22 Apr 1865"Towns have sprung up and forests have been cleared with surprising rapidity. A dozen years ago no one know of the Glebe, of Wallsend, Minmi, Lambton, or Hartley Vale … But notwithstanding all the improvements in the town, and all the facilities for trade, one cannot help feeling that there is a sort of lassitude about the movements of people-a sort of 'hanging on' appearance … Lambton and Waratah doing only about quarter-time, and Wallsend, which is, perhaps, best off, not doing more than half its capabilities. Minmi, Tomago, Hartley Vale, and the Lake Macquarie pits doing nothing."
20 Aug 1867"Mr COWPER presented a petition from certain persons of Waratah against the passing of the Hartley Vale Colliery Bill."
20 Aug 1867Notice by James and Alexander Brown and Stephen Foyle to petition parliament to enable then to construct the Hartley Vale railway.
3 Dec 1867
28 Nov 1867
Partial opening of the Hartley Vale Railway. The descripton of the piece of line just opened suggests that it was the branch line from the Hartley Vale line that went eastwards to the Dog and Rat pit, and in 1868 to the New Lambton colliery.
27 Dec 1867
23 Dec 1867
Passing of the Hartley Vale Colliery Railway Bill in NSW parliament.
27 Jun 1868"The greater portion of the [New Lambton Colliery] line will be constructed with the material used in the formation of the old line to the Hartly Vale colliery, which turned out such a lamentable failure, and through which the Messrs. Brown lost such an enormous sum of money."
17 Nov 1875"NEW LAMBTON. The old Hartley Vale pit, which has been standing open for several years without any protection, is now being covered over by the employees of the Messrs. Brown."
7 Jul 1877In a report on Alexander Brown's death … "No sooner was the Minmi Company floated than the Browns took up land at Hartley Vale, sunk their shaft, erected their winding gear, and other appliances ; but found the seam run out so shallow as to be unprofitable to work, so that was dismantled and abandoned, with a loss of £18,000."

Vaxed to the max

I just got my second AstraZenaca Covid-19 vaccination. Like last time I went to the Raymond Terrace Respiratory Clinic, who once again were super efficient and organised. In my post on the first vaccination I noted that “within 5 minutes of arrival I was in the examination room having the vaccination in the arm.” This time round I decided to justify that observation with stopwatch measurement. From the time I left my car in the parking lot to sitting down in the chair to be vaccinated was 5 minutes 51 seconds! With confirmed Covid cases in Newcastle this week after an absence of a year, that is beautiful timing.