Barrack Street

barrack-street-sydney-nsw-front

This week, The Past Present is turning its attention to the laneways, byways, roads and streets which make up Sydney. Sydney has an extraordinary range of streets, lanes and roads, many of which have a fascinating history. The image above, from a postcard dated circa 1905,shows one such street – Barrack Street.

Although other early colonial barracks in Sydney, like the Hyde Park barracks, are perhaps more famous, the earliest colonial military barracks complex was known as Wynyard Barracks. They were built on the eastern, southern and western sides of what is today Wynyard Park. The park itself was left as an open square in the centre of the barrack complex and became known as Barracks Square, or sometimes the Parade Ground.  These barracks played a role in one of the more famous events of early colonial history. In 1808 an event later known as The Rum Rebellion occurred. During this event the New South Wales Corps arrested Governor Bligh. The corp was stationed at the Wynyard Barracks, and it was from here that they marched on the governor.

In 1848 though, new barracks, known as the Victoria Barracks, opened in Paddington. Wynyard Barracks were closed and the land surrounding the old Barracks Square was subdivided. Yet an echo of these earliest barracks remains – Barrack Street itself.

Getting Around Tariffs In Snails Bay

980_0001

Freighter unloading Canadian logs and lumber in Snails Bay. log raft and tug at left of freighter. Get around tariff against lumber

This week, there have been a number of news reports around possible changes to trade agreements between various countries. With so much interest in trade, it seemed the ideal time to share this fascinating glimpse into the history of trade in Sydney, and in Australia more generally.

The image above, showing Snails Bay in Birchgrove, provides an amazing glimpse into the history of Australian tariff policy. The image, which shows a freighter unloading Canadian lumber offshore in order to avoid the tariff on Canadian lumber,  particularly highlights the lengths that some importers were willing to go to in order to avoid paying the import tariffs on various products, in this case, Canadian wood.

In the 1930s tariffs on goods imported to Australia were substantially increased in order to protect Australian industry and employment. This was the time of the Great Depression, and the tariffs were an attempt to not only protect Australian industries and workers, but also to deal with various problems associated with international payments. Many of these tariffs remained unchanged until the 1970s, and the tariffs on imported wood still appear to be debated today.

Keeping Cool At Balmoral Beach

balmoral-beach-sydney-1-front

This week, with the days being so hot and humid, many Sydneysiders will be looking to the seaside for a welcome break from being too hot! Whether swimming, or hoping for a slightly cooler seaside breeze, the beach has been a popular destination for Australian’s hoping to beat the heat for decades. As the postcard above shows though, visiting the beach today is certainly a different experience to what was the norm in the early 20th century.

Since the earliest days of European colonisation, and doubtless before, the sea has been a popular way to cool down on a hot Australian summers day. Balmoral Beach, featured in the image above, has been one popular destination for Sydney residents. Yet where today the beach might be teeming with skimpy bathers, in the past moral codes and social views of propriety meant that visiting the beach was a very different pastime. As the image above shows, people went to the beach fully dressed in suits or long dresses, even at the extremities of the day when it might be expected that such social mores would be relaxed. Even children had to be appropriately ‘turned out’ for a visit to the seaside!

 

Brooklyn

brooklyn-hawkesbury-river-front

This week, with so many Sydneysiders hearing about or spending rather a lot of time in the general vicinity of Brooklyn, due to the major crash on the M1, it seemed the perfect time to share this beautiful image. Brooklyn is a beautiful little town on the Hawkesbury River, but though it might be a small town, it has a big history!

Brooklyn is a small town north of Sydney and is often considered to be the most northern town in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area. For much of its history, Brooklyn was actually known as Peats Ferry, but then in 1884 a survey was made for the subdivision of the area and the name and suburb of Brooklyn was officially registered. Yet Brooklyn probably wouldn’t exist as a town if it weren’t for the development of the Northern Railway. Transport has indeed had a long and central role in the history of Brooklyn.

In 1887 a single track section of the railway was extended beyond Hornsby to the Hawkesbury River. From there, passengers would be ferried across the water to continue their journey north. It wasn’t long before it was recognised that a bridge across the water, to create a continuous railway journey, was needed. In fact, before the railway even opened, in 1886 the contract for building the bridge was awarded to the Union Bridge Company from New York. The bridge, which was known as the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge was the final link in the railway, and also an engineering masterpiece of its time.

Even when the bridge was completed the station at Brooklyn, known as the Hawkesbury River Railway Station, was a vital place in the train network. The climb from Brooklyn up the hill to Cowan is quite steep, and before diesel and electric trains, steam trains could not make the climb alone. Instead, the trains would stop at Brooklyn, which was a ‘staging post’, and have what was known as a ‘push up’ engine attached to the end of the train. This engine would then provide the extra push needed for the trains to make it up the steep incline!

Vaucluse Bay – An Informal Pleasure Resort

926 copy.jpg

Vaucluse Bay. Section less fully developed than most other bays. Native brush and trees shown. used by some visitors as less formal resort area.

With the holidays drawing to a close, many Sydneysiders look to spend Australia Day and the final weekend of the school holidays closer to home. Sydney has a varied range of beautiful parks and wonderful beaches, many of which have a long history as ‘pleasure resorts’, both formal and informal. The evocative image above, taken by an unknown photographer in circa 1936, shows Vaucluse Bay, a ‘less formal resort area’, according to the photographers description.

According to the description by the unknown photographer, Vaucluse Bay is a ‘section less developed than other bays’, one of the reasons why it apparently became a popular, informal resort for many Sydneysiders. Yet the reason why Vaucluse Bay is so undeveloped in comparison to other bays is in itself a fascinating glimpse into history, for Vaucluse Bay was once part of the grounds of Vaucluse House.

Vaucluse House began life as a more simple stone cottage built in 1805 by an eccentric Irish knight, Sir Henry Browne Hayes. It was he who named the property Vaucluse after a village bear Avignon in Southern France. In 1827 though, the cottage and property were purchased by the famous explorer William Wentworth. Soon, he began the process of improving the property, first building a range of outbuildings, including a rather grand Gothic revival style stable, which still stands today. He also began to extend on the cottage, adding bedrooms, a dining room and drawing room. By the 1830s, he had even completed a boathouse on the bay itself. The Wentworths were also committed to creating beautiful grounds for the increasingly grandiose (though never quite completed) house. Wentworth died in 1872, and was interred in a mausoleum built on the Vaucluse estate.

The house, and Vaucluse Bay itself, continued to be private land until 1911 when extensive public pressure caused the state government to resume over 20 acres of harbour front land. By 1912, the Vaucluse Park Trust was granting public access to the bottom level of the house and in 1915 regular visiting hours were established. Soon, Vaucluse Bay and the grand house it once belonged to were a popular, if relatively undeveloped, tourist resort for Sydneysiders. In 1980 the entire property was acquired by the Historic Houses Trust.

Photographer Of Mystery – Photographs Of History

942-36 Sydney

Wool train along side R.R. Power Station on Hay St. Australian Mercantile L. and F. Co. Ltd. Wool storage beyond power plant.

A new year is well and truly underway, and with it, comes all sorts of resolutions. Mine – to digitise over 1200 negatives before the year is out! The above and below images are just two of the early images to be shared by the blog – two of hundreds of beautiful images taken by an unknown photographer. The photos all date from circa 1936, and provide a powerful and unseen glimpse into Australia’s history.

Some of the images in the collection highlight home life, examining types of houses, and their captions even making mention of whether the homes were of the ‘better class’, ‘old style’, ‘modern apartments’ or ‘homes of the poor’. Other photos, like the one above, turn the photographers lens on the working past of Australia – industry, transport, agriculture, and the buildings which once hid a bustle of activity, from wool scouring to generating power.

954-36 Sydney copy

Terraces of old houses in the Glebe. Girls playing. Campbell St.

The saddest aspect of this – the photographer of these amazing images, so beautifully framed, intricately catalogue, described and carefully preserved, is completely unknown. The only glimpse we have of him (so far) comes from a negative – the one above, where his shadow appears. In the printed photo which accompanies the negative (and nearly every negative has one), it was edited out, but I love the original, complete with the ghost of the photographer.

As I begin the digitising process though, another clue surfaces. I notice a handwritten note on the back of one or two images – ‘fig . . .’

I wonder – has anybody seen these images in some publication? If you ever recognise one of the photos on the blog (and I will be posting many, many more over the coming months) from some publication or other, or even a public collection – please contact me. I would love to put a name to this mysterious photographer.

 

Clifton Gardens Part 2

clifton-gardens-sydney-nsw-front

This week, with the holidays here and the weather being warm and humid, many Sydneysiders will be heading for the beach. Even more popular will be those beaches with other attractions – playgrounds, cafes, fairs and so on. Once, one of the most popular beaches of all, and one which had it all so to speak, was Clifton Gardens.

As we discovered last week, Clifton Gardens had, since the 1870s, provided entertainments like music and dancing. Yet swimming was not an allowable attraction, despite the beautiful beach and surrounding area on which the pleasure ground was situated. The first swimming allowed at Clifton Gardens was in the late 1880s, but would have been vastly different to what we are used to today! Thompson, the proprietor of the hotel and pleasure grounds, imported an English bathing machine in 1888. The machine could be taken into the water, and then lowered a shark proof enclosure into the water. The swimmer themselves would not be easily visible at any time, in line with the then decency laws. In the same year, Thompson also opened a skating rink at the pleasure ground, providing yet more attractions and again increasing the popularity of the area.

In 1900, Thompson died and the entire estate, including the hotel, pleasure grounds and all of the attractions, were purchased by Sydney Ferries in 1906. By this time, decency laws were relaxing, and the ferries built a large, circular swimming enclosure, noted at the time to be the finest in the state. Swimming at Clifton Gardens had truly arrived, and although the enclosure is long gone, remains a popular diversion for visitors to the area.