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.

One thought on “Adamstown Fire and Police Station

  1. About 1990, a man with mental problems, actually ‘broke into’ the Adamstown police station and proceeded to trash the premises. This followed his smashing a local pharmacy display window to get himself arrested and, when police appeared slow in arriving, moved to the police station for more action.

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