15th June 2016 marks 110 years since the death of the man justly known as the father of Lambton.
Thomas Croudace was born in 1838 into a coal mining family in Chincliffe in the county of Durham, England. At the age of just 23 he was sent to Australia to be the manager of a new coal mine of the Scottish Australian Mining Company. To this colliery Croudace gave the name “Lambton”, in honour of John George Lambton the Earl of Durham, who had personal and business connections with the Croudace family back in England. The “Lambton” name went on to be used by several collieries, townships, and suburbs.
Croudace’s skill as a mining manager was unparalleled, guiding the Lambton colliery with commercial success over 44 years. He introduced innovative mining technologies, and was committed to keeping a close rein on the costs of production, often with a very hands-on approach. In 1867 when miners accidentally dropped a bucket down a shaft they were digging, it was reported …
“Notwithstanding that there was some twelve feet of water in the shaft, Mr. Croudace coolly descended, and by letting himself down (through the water) to the bottom, he succeeded in recovering the bucket. This act is regarded here as a very daring one.”
Croudace’s commitment to the local community was also unstinting. He served many years as an alderman on both Lambton and New Lambton councils (sometimes on both at the same time!) and was elected as Mayor on numerous occasions. He was a generous man, both personally to those in need, and in his capacity as mine manager gifting land and resources to the community for churches, parks, and other public benefits.
Thomas Croudace retired from active work in 1904 due to ill health, and died in his residence in New Lambton Heights on 15th June 1906. He was buried in Sandgate cemetery, attended by a large crowd of mourners.
The article above was first published in the June 2016 edition of the Lambton Local.
Thomas Croudace, as a mine manager, represented the interests of commerce and industry. Although he would often be in dispute and disagreement with the miners and the unions, it seems they often had a respect his character. Matthew Charlton, a miner and later on a union leader and Labor party parliamentarian, on the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1936 reminisced on the actions of Thomas Croudace during a miners’ strike in the 18th century.
About 7 o’clock the manager of the colliery, the late Mr. Thomas Croudace, mounted on a fine horse, came down the hill on the other side. There was a rush across the railway to meet him. To the surprise of everyone he continued straight towards them. At last he halted and was at once surrounded by a threatening body. He kept his horse circling in a ring, tendering sound advice at the same time, until from a menacing attitude the crowd became subdued and reasonable. One could not help admiring the courage he displayed.
Thomas Croudace was instrumental in the founding of Lambton Park, and there is an inscription to him on the memorial gates on Morehead St that reads
MAYOR 1884 – 5
FOUNDER OF THIS PARK
(There is a minor error here, as Croudace was actually Mayor 1883 -1885, and again in 1893.)
Elections in the Lambton and New Lambton municipal councils were governed by the the NSW Municipalities Act of 1867. Each council had 9 aldermen, who served terms of three years. Elections were held in February each year, with ratepayers electing three aldermen each year. At the first council meeting after the election, the current aldermen elected a mayor for an ensuing one year term.
Thomas Croudace served as an alderman and Mayor on both Lambton and New Lambton Councils at various times.
|Positon||Duration of service|
|Lambton alderman||7 years, 2 months|
|Lambton Mayor||4 years, 1 month|
|New Lambton alderman||5 years, 2 months|
|New Lambton Mayor||3 years, 1 month|
The diagram below shows the periods that Mr Croudace served on the councils, including the years 1891-93 when he was on both councils simultaneously. The changes in shading show the terms of office. i.e. each change of shading indicates a re-election.
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|29 Jul 1871||Nomination of candidates for the first Lambton council election. Thomas Croudace at the top of the list.|
|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.|
|6 Feb 1879|
4 Feb 1879
|Thomas Croudace runs for Lambton Council but is unsuccessful, coming in at 5th place.|
|13 Feb 1882||Thomas Croudace elected as an alderman on Lambton Council.|
|14 Feb 1882|
13 Feb 1882
|Having just been elected as an alderman on Lambton Council, Thomas Croudace is nominated for the position of Mayor, but Alderman J. Hill wins the position.|
|28 Dec 1882||After the death of Dr. J.J. Hill the sitting Mayor of Lambton, Thomas Croudace is elected as Mayor in his place. [Note that while this newspaper article correctly states that it was the manager of the Lambton Colliery that was elected, the article incorrectly names Mr. Neilson, who was the manager of the Wallsend Colliery.]|
|14 Feb 1883|
12 Feb 1883
|Alderman Croudace re-elected as Mayor of Lambton for another year.|
|13 Feb 1884|
11 Feb 1884
|Alderman Croudace re-elected as Mayor of Lambton for another year, in spite of his expressed misgivings on the poor state of his health.|
|9 Feb 1885|
7 Feb 1885
|Thomas Croudace re-elected as an alderman on Lambton Council for another term.|
|20 Mar 1885||A letter to the Mayor of Newcastle shows that Thomas Croudace was re-elected Mayor of Lambton the previous month.|
|12 Feb 1886|
9 Feb 1886
|Thomas Croudace's term as Mayor of Lambton ends when Thomas Grierson elected as the new Mayor.|
|6 May 1886|
4 May 1886
|This council meeting seems to be the only meeting that Thomas Croudace attended since he ceased to be mayor of Lambton in February. His non-attendance eventually led to his position being declared vacant in August 1886|
|20 Aug 1886||Mr. Croudace's position on Lambton Council declared vacant, as he has not attended meetings for three months.|
|4 Sep 1886|
3 Sep 1886
|A public meeting for nominating candidates to fill the position on council left vacant by Thomas Croudace's absence.|
|9 Sep 1886|
7 Sep 1886
|Joseph Palmer elected as alderman in place of Thomas Croudace.|
|27 Feb 1889||Thomas Croudace nominates as a candidate for the first New Lambton Council election.|
|9 Mar 1889|
7 Mar 1889
|Thomas Croudace elected as the first Mayor of New Lambton.|
|12 Feb 1890|
11 Feb 1890
|Thomas Croudace re-elected as Mayor of New Lambton for another year, even though he is currently absent in New Zealand.|
|5 Mar 1890|
4 Mar 1890
|Alderman J.W. Oldham elected as mayor of New Lambton, replacing Thomas Croudace who was unable to accept his election as mayor the previous month due to his being absent in New Zealand.|
|9 Feb 1891|
7 Feb 1891
|Thomas Croudace elected as alderman to Lambton Council.|
|8 Feb 1892|
6 Feb 1892
|In New Lambton, Thomas Croudace re-elected as an alderman for another three year term, and re-elected as Mayor for another year. [Alderman Thomas had been acting Mayor during the absence of Thomas Croudace.]|
|11 Feb 1892||Thomas Croudace nominated as Mayor for Lambton, but he immediately seconds a nomination for Joseph Palmer to be Mayor. Croudace was already Mayor of New Lambton and presumably didn't want to be Mayor of two councils simultaneously.|
|15 Feb 1893|
14 Feb 1893
|Thomas Croudace elected Mayor of Lambton, replacing Joseph Palmer.|
|12 Feb 1894||Retired from Lambton Council as mayor and alderman.|
|18 Apr 1894||Thomas Croudace retires from New Lambton council, with 11 months of his three year term remaining.|
Timeline of events
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|19 May 1863|
14 May 1863
|Blasting accident at Lambton Colliery. Thomas Croudace and Mr. M'Avery suffering eye injuries.|
|18 Jun 1868||Mr Croudace descends a shaft to retrieve a dropped bucket, which impresses his workers.|
|29 Mar 1876||"A collection was made at the Lambton Colliery office on Friday last, in aid of an old and respected resident of this district, William Thompson, who has been unable to work for more than two years, through illness. … I am informed that Mr. Croudace, the manager of Lambton Colliery, gave the sum of £5, which speaks volumes in thatgentleman's favour."|
|2 Apr 1898||A profile in the newspaper of Thomas Croudace, including a summary of his involvement after the Dudley Pit disaster the previous month.|
|16 Jun 1904|
15 Jun 1904
|Death of Thomas Croudace, aged 68.|
|18 Jun 1906|
16 Jun 1906
|The funeral for Thomas Croudace at his late residence on Lambton Heights, followed by interment at Sandgate cemetery.|
|28 Jun 1906||An obituary for Thomas Croudace in "The Worker". This being a socialist newspaper, one wouldn't expect too much sympathy on the death of a mine manager, but the final paragraph is interesting.
"Tyrannical and grinding was the general manager of the Scottish Australian Mining Co., and the bitterness of industrial conflict burns long, but I — I see only the ruins of the Dudley pit top, after the explosion on that gloomy Monday morning of March, 1898, the broken ropes beating a dirge of disaster on the ruined iron work, and Croudace, the Man, who stood with stern-set, resolute face, calmly calling for volunteers to form a rescue party. And so I like to leave him."