South arm of Kembla breakwater with car of stone of siding and shack at right
This week, The Past Present is heading South, to Port Kembla. There are very few photos in the collection by an unknown photographer (taken circa 1936) which focus on this important industrial hub, but this photo showing the breakwater is a wonderful glimpse into the past.
Port Kembla was originally known as Red Point and the land around the area was first granted to David Allen in 1817. At this time the land was used for farming, and the estate was actually called Illawarra Farm, but by 1883 the focus of the area had changed. Coal had been discovered at Mt Kembla, and a port was established at Red Point to allow the coal to be shipped. A tramway was constructed from the mine itself to the jetty in the port to allow efficient transport of the coal between the mountain mine and the sea port. It was probably the association with the Mt Kembla mine which caused the name of the area to change to Port Kembla, and the earliest reference to this name was in 1892.
As time went by, Port Kembla became a more industrial hub and in the late 1890s the Mount Lyall Company built a coke works at Port Kembla itself. Soon it was proposed that an artificial harbour be built for the port and the Port Kembla Harbour Act was passed in December 1898, allowing two breakwaters to be constructed. These would provide protection for the ships using the port, but building the breakwaters would be a monumental effort – for every foot of breakwater 100 tons of rock was required.
This week, with Autumn underway and the swimming season slowly coming to an end in Australia, it seemed like the perfect time to examine one of Sydney’s popular swimming spots and pleasure grounds, Clifton Gardens. The postcard above shows Clifton Garden Baths, a popular swimming spot not only today but in years gone by.
The swimming enclosure pictured in this postcard was very different to the one which remains at Clifton Gardens today. Although both were ‘ocean baths’ which permitted safe swimming in the harbour (though the shark proof net is apparently not particularly shark proof today), the original was unique in its design. Sometimes referred to as the ‘amphitheatre bath’, the huge circular swimming enclosure could apparently accommodate up to 3000 spectators on the decks! The enclosure was circular, surrounded by a two storey walkway which connected at either end with the dressing sheds (also apparently two storey). The baths were used for mixed bathing, both during the day and at night.
This week, the Past Present wanted to investigate one of Sydney’s famous pleasure grounds. Sydney has a variety of beautiful beaches, lovely parks and even a few fun parks, but once these attractions were combined in places like Clifton Gardens. The postcard above shows Clifton Gardens in circa 1910, including one of the old fashioned rides which were enjoyed by visitors.
The history of Clifton Gardens as a place to holiday begins in 1871 when a hotel called the Clifton Arms was built by D. Butters. In 1879 this hotel was leased by David Thompson who purchased the hotel a year later in 1880 and later built the Marine Hotel which operated until the 1960s. It was in 1906 though that Clifton Gardens really became a tourist hub when Sydney Ferries Ltd purchased the Thompson estate, including a skating rink, wharf, dance pavilion, and the three story hotel. They soon added to these attractions, building a grand circular swimming enclosure, a boatshed and even a tramway from the wharf to the hotel. Clifton Gardens as it was then known was a perfect place for not only family and private tourists and visitors, but also for union and company picnics and was frequented by the employees of various butchers, banks and even The Water Board.
Come back next week to find out more about the history of Clifton Gardens famous Baths.
This week, The Past Present decided to look a little at one of Sydneys iconic buildings, the Queen Victoria Building, generally known as the QVB, but originally known as the Queen Victoria Markets as the postcard above shows. This beautiful building has a long and important history in Sydney, and perhaps one which many do not fully realise as they wander or drive past the ornate building.
The QVB was built between 1893 and 1898 as a market building, designed and constructed to replace an existing produce market. In the 1890s Sydney was suffering from an economic depression and many people were without work. The building is very elaborate with beautiful stonework, glass roof areas, large copper domes, stunning stained glass windows, ornate wrought iron balustrades, patterned floor tiles and even statues. The Government used the construction of the building as an opportunity to employ not only out of work craftsmen who worked in these fields, but also general labourers and builders, providing work for huge numbers of people.
Following its completion, the QVB had many occupants over time, including a concert hall, commercial stores, a library and even municipal offices. From the 1950s the building was threatened with demolition, with a parking lot planned as its replacement. In 1982 the building was saved with the council agreeing to lease the building for 99 years to Malaysian company, Ipoh Garden Berhad. The company restored the beautiful building and today it is a popular and exclusive shopping centre.