Council mergers

With all the current talk of council mergers, it is worth remembering that Newcastle has been through it all before, back in 1938. Newcastle Borough Council was first created in 1859, but it only encompassed a tiny area east of Auckland St in the city. All the outlying townships such as Lambton and New Lambton remained under the care, or more often neglect, of the state parliament in Sydney. An editorial in the Newcastle Chronicle in 1871 expressed the frustration of locals:

“They have learned by bitter experience that parliament, which should have handled the revenue of the colony for the general good, has, by its corruption, come to look upon a grant for this or that purpose as a special favour only to be conferred on special consideration … No matter how badly this road might want mending, that river require bridging, or the country, generally, require opening up, nothing was done.”

This led to a concerted push by residents to have their townships incorporated as municipal councils with the power to levy rates, and thus look after their own interests. In 1871 councils were formed in Waratah, Wickham, Lambton and Hamilton. The 1871 editorial noted:

“The immediate neighbourhood of Newcastle promises to become a series of close-fitting municipal blocks, like the pieces in a geographical puzzle.”

This proved to be, as in the following years another seven councils were formed, finishing with New Lambton and Stockton in 1889. Interestingly the same editorial that enthused about the formation of councils also presaged their demise, noting the need for a “confederation” of councils, so as to achieve

“greater general improvements, and less difficulties and quarrels between the neighbouring municipalities, than for each to remain, as now, an isolated self-seeking body.”

This prediction also proved to be, when in March 1938 eleven local councils merged to form the City of Greater Newcastle, leaving behind various council chambers that were then used for community purposes.

Lambton council chambers
Lambton council chambers and Councillors in 1895. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Lambton branch library
The Lambton council chambers on the corner of Morehead and Elder Streets became the Lambton branch library in February 1950, and continues to be used for this purpose to the present day.
New Lambton Council Chambers
The New Lambton council chambers in Lambton Rd was erected in 1890, and was destroyed by fire in 1931. The house on the right which had been occupied by the Town Clerk was then used as the council chambers until the closure of the council in 1938, after which it was leased and then purchased by the New Lambton RSL club. Photo by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
The former location of New Lambton Council Chambers, in March 2016, with construction of townhouses in progress.
The former location of New Lambton Council Chambers, in March 2016, with construction of townhouses in progress.

The article above was first published in the April 2016 edition of the Lambton Local.

Further information

  • The mathematically astute might notice that in the article I mention Newcastle Borough Council and then the creation of 11 district councils, making a total of 12, but in the final paragraph there is a merger of only 11 councils. The difference of 1 council is because Plattsburg Council had already merged into Wallsend Council in 1915.
  • The movement for a combined Greater Newcastle council started quite soon after the establishment of the various district councils. As early as 1899 discussions were being had regarding amalgamations, although it took another 39 years for this to come to fruition.
  • I have put together a separate page to document the various council chambers and town halls constructed and used by the local municipal councils.
  • I have put together a separate page/document of all the people who served as aldermen and mayors of Lambton Council (1871-1938).

New Lambton Town Hall

The New Lambton Town Hall and Council chambers was located around 293-295 Lambton Road, as shown by the old map below.

Location of New Lambton Town Hall
Location of New Lambton Town Hall. Map viewed in Historical Land Records Viewer, NSW government.

After the council chambers burned down in 1931, the adjacent house of the Town Clerk was then used for council business.

In 1947, the Lambton/New Lambton R.S.L. purchased the site and operated their club at this address.

NL Council


Article Date Event DateNotes
7 Jun 1859Newcastle Borough Council incorporated
25 Jul 1868Even before the first suburban council was incorporated, there was a mood for amalgamations, as evidenced in this meeting proposing that Lambton, New Lambton and Pit Town (Hamilton) comprise one council. One speaker at the meeting took the sentiment even further, saying
“It was a thousand pities the whole district,(exclusive of Wallsend) could not have been formed into one united municipal district.”
I’m not sure what he had against Wallsend?
23 Jan 1871Waratah Council incorporated.
27 Feb 1871Wickham Council incorporated.
26 Jun 1871Lambton Council incorporated. (Government Gazette)
18 Jul 1871
15 Jul 1871
Public meeting held in Mr. Stoker's long room, to nominate people for election to the first Lambton Council.
3 Aug 1871
2 Aug 1871
Nominees for the first election of alderman in Lambton address a public meeting. Thomas Croudace appears to have withdrawn as a candidate by this date.
8 Aug 1871
7 Aug 1871
First election of aldermen for Lambton Council, held in the Mechanics' Institute building on Howe St.
29 Aug 1871
25 Aug 1871
Lambton Council's third meeting, now in "the new Council chambers, Dixon-street, Lambton."
26 Aug 1871Editorial in the Newcastle Chronicle about the rapid formation of municipal councils in the Newcastle area.
11 Dec 1871Hamilton Council incorporated.
27 Feb 1874Wallsend Council incorporated.
27 Dec 1876Plattsburg Council incorporated.
20 Aug 1885 Merewether Council incorporated.
8 Jan 1886Adamstown Council incorporated.
30 Mar 1887Carrington Council incorporated.
19 Jan 1889
9 Jan 1889
New Lambton Council incorporated.
14 Oct 1889Stockton Council incorporated.
1 Aug 1891
29 Jul 1891
Opening ceremony for the recently constructed New Lambton council chambers on Lambton Road.
26 Sep 1899Discussions about amalgamating councils.
4 Apr 1911Further amalgamation discussions.
21 Oct 1915
19 Oct 1915
Last meeting of Wallsend Council prior to merger with Plattsburg Council.
20 Oct 1915Plattsburg Council merges into Wallsend Council.
16 Apr 1931
15 Apr 1931
New Lambton Council chambers on Lambton Road burned down.
9 Dec 1937
8 Dec 1937
City of Greater Newcastle bill passed in Legislative Assem
18 Mar 1938
18 Mar 1938
First meeting of Greater Newcastle Council.
2 Apr 1938
2 Apr 1938
The "appointed day" on which the City of Greater Newcastle council commences operation
21 Nov 1940Proposals for various community and charitable organisations to use former council buildings.
19 Dec 1947 Lambton/New Lambton R.S.L. to purchase the site of the New Lambton council chambers.


2 thoughts on “Council mergers

  1. I would like to know if anyone knows the names of any of the men from the Lambton council photograph. (1895) Thankyou

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