Randwick Races

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This week, with so much talk about the upcoming horse racing season, and the many important races which are to take place, it seemed the ideal time to share one of the amazing photos of Randwick Racecourse in the Past Present Collection. The photo above, which was taken by an unknown photographer in circa 1936 shows

Today, the Melbourne Cup may be one of the most, if not the most famous race in Australia. Yet the Melbourne Cup is far from the only important race run in Australia, and the racecourse where it is held, Flemington Racecourse, is not the oldest. In fact, in the early years of the colony racing was a very popular pastime and several basic racecourses were established. Yet by the 1830s these oldest of racecourses had stopped operating for a variety of reasons, leaving Hyde Park the main centre of horse racing at the time. It was clear that a dedicated horse racetrack was needed though and in late 1832 a group of gentlemen petitioned Governor Bourke to set aside land near Botany Road. In 1833, after the land had been surveyed and found suitable, the petition was granted and the course, then known as ‘the sandy course’ was soon in operation. Yet by 1838, racing had stopped again.

This could have spelled the end for Randwick Racecourse, but in 1858 racing returned. The Australian Jockey Club, which was established in 1842, wanted a place to establish a permanent racecourse with good facilities and petitioned the Government to grant them the old Sandy Course. The grant was allowed, the facilities and track were improved and the first race, held in May 1860, was attended by a crowd of over 6000 spectators. With the extension of the tram service to the course in 1880 the future of the course was assured. By 1900 the tram was so popular that a dedicated loop station was built simply to service the racecourse, and at its peak the trams carried 117,480 passengers in a single day in 1834!

 

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Folly Point

Folly Point Middle Harbour Front.jpg

The image above is a glimpse into the history of an area of North Sydney which today looks very different. In fact, the view above is so changed today that many may not recognise the location of this shot! Once, Folly Point and the Cammeray area more generally were dominated by dairies and quarries, but today the area is vastly changed, a built up area of homes, gardens and tree lined streets. 

Cammeray is named after the Cammeraygal, the Aboriginal group who lived in the area. Though this name has a clear derivation, the name Folly Point is a little more mysterious. Such an evocative title – but what was the folly to which the name refers? Sadly nobody truly knows how the name came to be. There are two main theories though. Some suggest the area is named after Captain Charles McKinnon who was the commander of explosives hulks moored in the Seaforth area. The folly itself in this theory remains something of a mystery. The second theory suggests that a landowner in the area, by the name of Levy is responsible for the name. Apparently he built his house on Folly Point, but he mixed his mortar with the salty sea water and the house collapsed. The name folly refers to the fact that he then did the same thing again, with the same results.

However the area came to be named, it is an area which has played an important role in Sydneys Depression era history, not just in the Great Depression but also the previous 1890s Depression. During the earlier period of depression a shanty settlement grew up in the bushland at Folly Point. It was known as Tin Town and became home to many out of work Sydneysiders. It was also during this period that talented Australian poet Barcroft Boake tragically committed suicide at Folly Point, hanging himself with his stockwhip. Tin Town persisted after the depression ended and when depression again hit in the 1930s it was still a working settlement. Again, the unemployed moved into the rough tents and shacks.

Enjoying Sun, Surf And Sand

The Beach Newcastle NSW Front

This week, with Spring holidays just about to begin and many Australian’s heading away on holidays, it seemed a perfect time to share the amazing image above. Many Australian’s may be seeking out the last of the winter snows, but others will be taking advantage of the start of the warmer weather, heading for the beach and in search of sun, surf and sand. Although there are many locations along the coast perfect for searching out this iconic part of Australian summers, Newcastle not only has the famous triad, it is actually surrounded by it.

Newcastle, one of the major cities of NSW, is a seaside city abundant in sun, surf and sand. In fact, the city centre is surrounded by no less than 8 beaches! The image above appears to show Newcastle Beach itself, though the beach is not specifically identified. With such an abundance of sand and surf it is perhaps no surprise that Newcastle has an historic beach culture dating back well over a century. Even in the convict era, Commandant Morisset wanted to enjoy the sea, ordering the convicts to carve a sea bath (now known as The Bogey Hole) from solid rock!

In the 20th century, the iconic Newcastle Ocean Baths which even today are famous for their art deco pavilion, were built. Although they were not officially opened until the 1920s, records suggest these art deco baths were unofficially used as early as 1912. Yet despite the ocean baths available, many people wanted to enjoy the beach itself, and with so many to offer, Newcastle soon had a thriving beach culture focussed on the many spectacular beaches. As the image above shows though, swimming was not the only pastime enjoyed at the beach – many came to see and be seen and long dresses and full suits were a common sight.

The Iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge

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Sydney Harbour Bridge from Farm Cove – Botanic Gardens (Photographer Unknown)

The image above is an iconic view of Sydney, familiar not just to Sydneysiders and visitors to Sydney, but worldwide. Indeed, The Sydney Harbour Bridge is an icon of Sydney, representing the harbour city around the world and showcasing the beautiful harbour to millions of people. Yet the bridge is not just a stunning structure, it has an amazing history.

Although today many think of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as simply an icon of Sydney, at the time that the bridge opened in 1932 it was icon of a whole different sort – an engineering marvel in itself. Yet the history of the bridge dates back well over a century before and the original bridge envisaged was a very different structure. In the early days of the colony, the famous convict architect Francis Greenway spoke with Governor Macquarie, suggesting a bridge be built in roughly the same place where the Sydney Harbour Bridge stands today. Of course, Greenways lofty dream didn’t come to pass, but by 1901, when Federation of the Australian States and Territories occurred, the need for a bridge across the harbour was well recognised. The year before, in 1900, the government called for people to submit designs for just such a bridge but all the designs were unsatisfactory, so the plans were again put aside.

In the wake of World War One though a real quest for a bridge spanning the harbour began. In 1923 Dr J.J.C Bradfield oversaw tenders for either an arch or cantilever bridge. Eventually, Bradfield would go on to oversee the entire design and building process of the now iconic bridge. The tender itself was won by a company from England, Dorman Long and Co. Ltd. They submitted a design by Sir Ralph Freeman for an arch bridge, and construction on the bridge began in 1924. Hundreds of families were displaced during the construction as entire streets of homes and businesses were resumed and demolished, without compensation, to make way for the now iconic bridge.

Oxford Street – Part 2

Oxford Street Sydney Front

The image above is a wonderful glimpse into the history of a street which so many of us, Sydneysiders and visitors alike, are familiar with – Oxford Street. Today known as a cultural hub and for its restaurants and shopping, Oxford Street has a fascinating history. As we discovered last week, it was in fact Australia’s oldest highway!

As so often happens, as time wore on, and more people began to move about Sydney, Oxford Street became too narrow to service the traffic which used it. In 1907, the first stage of widening the important roadway was completed. This first stage was aimed at improving the intersection of Bourke, Flinders and Oxford Streets, and resulted in the creation of Taylor Square, so named in 1908. Between 1910 and 1914 Oxford Streets northern end, between Liverpool and Bourke Streets, was also widened.

In the 1920s, Oxford Street was again a prosperous and well patronised high street. Then, the Great Depression Hit and the once famous and prosperous street began its slide into disrepute. People no longer wanted to live in terraced houses, and so the character of the street changed as the affluent population moved into the suburbs where they were able to do so, and poorer people moved into the old houses. In the 1950s, the street became a haven for migrants and in the 1960s more professionals began to move back into the area.

It was also in the 1960s that a gay presence truly began to emerge in the area, and Oxford Streets culture began to change. In 1978 the first Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade was held, and although it was followed by confrontations with police, cemented Oxford Streets central role in Sydney Gay and Lesbian Culture.

Oxford Street – Part 1

Oxford Street Sydney Horse and Cart Front

The image above is a stunning glimpse into the history of one of Sydney’s more famous streets – Oxford Street. Today, known for shopping, restaurants and a vibrant culture, Oxford Street has a long history, and one which is far different to the Oxford Street which we know so well today.

Many Sydneysiders and visitors alike are familiar with Oxford Street, yet few realise that the famous roadway is actually probably the oldest highway in Australia! Indeed, Oxford Street was once part of the South Head Road, which connected the settlement of Sydney with the vital signal station at South Head. Indeed, Oxford Street was the main route between the growing settlement of Sydney and the coast.

As such an important roadway, it is perhaps no surprise that by the 1870s Oxford Street was one of the most successful and lucrative commercial areas of Sydney. In fact, by the end of the 1880s, Oxford Street was recognised as one of the most prominent ‘High Streets’ in the settlement.

Come back next week to discover how Oxford Street changed and evolved in the 20th century to become the vibrant hub we see today.

Tragedy At Man O War Stairs

 

Man o'War Stairs Sydney Harbour NSW Front

The image above is a beautiful glimpse of an area of Sydney Harbour which many are, often unwittingly, familiar with. To be found under the gleaming white ‘sails’ of the iconic Sydney Opera House, Man O’War Stairs are a feature of the foreshore which many recognise, but may not know the name of. Today, they are a popular place to watch the harbour, but they have seen their share of tragedy.

In 1927, on November 3, one of the the greatest maritime disasters to ever occur on Sydney Harbour took place when the Royal Mail Steamer Tahiti collided with the passenger ferry Greycliffe. Although the collision occurred off Bradleys Head (now Taronga Zoo), it was Man O’ War Steps which served as temporary hospital and morgue. The afternoon of the collision was beautiful, clear and sunny. There was no storm, no wind, no swell. Visibility was good. What went so very wrong?

Tahiti was a passenger steamer, bound for New Zealand and ultimately San Francisco. She was departing Sydney on November 3, being piloted by Captain Thomas Carson and under the command of Captain Basil Aldwell who had been Captain of the ship since 1922. Both were aware of other boats on the harbour, particularly the ferries Greycliffe and Woollahra and they assumed both ferries were equally aware of them. This was not the case and Greycliffe actually charted a course which would cause it to collide with Tahiti. Although Carson tried to avoid disaster, the Tahiti was going too fast to be able to swing away from the ferry. Tahiti sounded its horn, but Greycliffe seemed to be unaware that it was even in danger. Indeed, the sounding of Tahiti’s horn startled Greycliffe’s Captain, William Barnes. Although he spun the wheel hard to try to lessen the impact it was too late. Greycliffe was hit.

40 people of all ages and from all classes died in the tragedy and were laid out in the makeshift morgue at Man O’ War Stairs. Six school children died, as well as the Science Master from Sydney Boys High School. Also amongst the dead were three doctors (including N.S.W Chief Quarantine Officer), three Navy personnel, seven tradesmen from Garden Island Dockyard, six ‘tourists’ from N.S.W and Victoria, Australia’s first woman pilot, six times Mayor of Leichhardt, an architect, a retired Master Mariner, three retired gentlemen and seven housewives.