Shipping Cattle at Darling Island
Sydney Harbour is full of Islands. Among the most famous are Clarke Island, Garden Island and Fort Denison, yet there are many other islands which many who visit might wonder about the names of. This postcard, from circa 1910, shows Darling Island, which today is not an island at all!
Once Darling Island (now the area of land between Pymont Bay and Jones Bay) was a tiny, rocky island, but reclamation projects in the 1800s soon joined it to the mainland. In 1851 the Australasian Steam Navigation Company used the area as a shipyard, but in 1899 the New South Wales Government purchased the area for use as railway yards and wharves. As this postcard shows, all sorts of goods from wool to livestock passed through the wharves. Today the railway, industrial activity, cranes and noises of the busy working wharves are a distant memory.
The Zoological Gardens, Sydney
The image above is a fascinating picture, showing one of the earliest phases of Taronga Zoo. The image is taken from a postcard which was probably produced in the decade up to 1910. It shows a zoo which is very different to the one many of us are familiar with today.
This postcard does depict what was to eventually become Taronga Zoo, but at this point, the zoo was not located on its current site, nor was it called Taronga Zoo. The Zoological Society was established in 1879 and in 1883 they gained permission from the Sydney Council to establish a public zoo at Moore Park. The Zoological Gardens opened at a place known as Billy Goat Swamp in 1884.
The gardens were laid out by Charles Moore, the director of Sydney Botanical Gardens at the time, and included various animal enclosures, including a bear pit and elephant house. The postcard image shows the elephant house. In 1916, with the original site having been declared too small for the zoo, Moore Park Zoological Gardens closed and on October 7th, Taronga Zoo was officially opened on its current site.
Chinese Gardens in depression among sand hills on north shore of Botany Bay
This image, another from the amazing archive of images taken by an unknown photographer circa 1936, documents a Sydney institution. The area around Botany Bay and La Perouse was in use as market gardens and small scale farms over 150 years ago. In fact, land around the La Perouse area was cleared as far back as 1788 by Count de La Perouse to grow vegetables for his return journey to France. The earliest known name for the area is ‘The Frenchman’s Gardens’.
The market gardens at La Perouse, areas of which are still operating on land adjacent to Botany Cemetery, were established as far back as 1830. Although originally run mainly by Europeans, after the 1850s gold rush, many Chinese families took up areas of the market gardens to grow and sell vegetables. By the 20th century, these market gardens were mainly run by Chinese families. The Chinese grew not only the ‘common’ vegetables of the time, supplying Sydney markets, but also many of the more unusual Asian greens.
This image, of gardens on the North Shore of Botany Bay not only shows the expanse of land used for growing vegetables, but also the dunes which were once so prominent in Botany. Many of these dunes have long since disappeared due to sand mining.
Rows of chimneys etc in Glebe
This image, one of many documenting Sydney in 1936 which were taken by an unknown photographer, is an extraordinary piece of photographic work. The image is dominated by the repetitive houses, chimneys and backyards, each almost identical to the one before. In the alley behind a couple of dogs can be seen, while a woman is captured chatting with her neighbour, who is almost hidden from view, other than her arm and part of her dress. It is a scene which would have been repeated throughout Sydney, and in other built up areas of Australia.
The photo also captures a piece of Australian heritage which is fast disappearing. The image, showing the rear of terrace houses in Glebe, captures not only the row of chimneys which the photographer notes, but also the row of outhouses, or as Australians tend to refer to them, dunnys.
A dunny is an outdoor toilet, situated at the rear of the property. In the 19th and well into the 20th century Australian toilets were situated outside, away from the house. They were often a can or pit, and were probably very smelly, which may account for their relative distance from the house! The lane behind the houses, where the women are talking, would have been a ‘dunny lane’, built to allow the nightsoil collecter or dunnyman to collect the used can, remove and replace it. As the 20th century progressed and indoor plumbing became the norm, many of these old outhouses were demolished. In fact, so many have disappeared that those that remain have sometimes had heritage orders imposed to prevent these important parts of our architectural and cultural heritage disappearing entirely.
Flower Sellers in Martin Place, Sydney
This image of Martin Place in the early 1900s is a fabulous glimpse into the past, and a link with the present. Martin Place has always been a hive of bustling activity, full of people going about their daily work. This activity has made it a popular place for people selling goods like flowers, as the postcard shows. Flower sellers were plying their trade in Martin Place (then known as Moore Street) in the 19th century, often setting up their stalls near the stairs of the General Post Office. In the 20th century, this trade in flowers continued to thrive and flower sellers can still be seen selling their colourful blooms today.