Not Quite So Wonderful – Wonderland City Tamarama

Tamarama Beach (Wonderland City) Front
Tamarama Beach, which is beautifully captured in the image above, is a picturesque Sydney beach. Although only small, it has plenty of sand for picnicking, but it is also one of Sydney’s most dangerous patrolled beaches.
Despite the dangers of the beach, swimming has long been a popular pastime at Tamarama. In fact, beach access, or the lack thereof, is one of the reasons why Wonderland City, the famous amusement park which once stood in the area is long gone. When William Anderson leased the land where Wonderland City was to be built, the beach was not included. According to his lease, a 12 foot public access path to the beach was excluded from his land yet that did not stop him building an 8 foot fence across the access. He claimed people were evading paying the entry fee to Wonderland City by entering from the beach, but blocking this access was an unpopular move. Some swimmers who wished to use the beach were well known local businessmen of the time and they were incensed at having their beach fenced. A battle soon ensued between Anderson and the swimmers. They would cut the wire of his fence, Anderson would repair it and call the police and the police would issue the swimmers a warning. The next weekend this would all happen again.
Eventually the swimmers took a deputation to NSW Parliament and in March 1907 an order was issued to resume the 12 foot strip of land, providing free access to the beach. The conflict may have been over, but the bad publicity which it had provided was extremely damaging for the amusement park. Combined with concerns over safety standards and the treatment of Anderson’s animals, the public view of Wonderland City began to sour and visitor numbers dropped. Anderson attempted to bring back the visitors with increasingly famous acts and public exhibitions, but when the amusement park closed in 1910 it was said that he had lost up to 15000 pounds.

A Wonderland In Sydney – Tamarama Wonderland City

Tamarama Bay Wonderland City Front

The image above showcases an amusement park in Sydney which, whilst long gone, exerted a great influence over the future of Sydney’s outdoor amusement parks. The park in question was Wonderland City at Tamarama.

Before Wonderland City, there was another pleasure ground at Tamarama – The Royal Aquarium and Pleasure Grounds. Opening in 1887 the Royal Aquarium (also known as the Bondi Aquarium, despite it not being at Bondi) was an open air amusement park with not only an aquarium but also amusements such as merry-go-rounds, a shooting gallery and roller-coaster. There was also a large dance hall which hosted acts from the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney, among others. The Aquarium and dance hall burned down in 1891 but soon ‘rose from the ashes’, continuing to service the people of Sydney.

In 1906, after several changes of ownership, the Royal Aquarium and Pleasure Grounds was sold to a well known theatre man, William Anderson and was transformed into Wonderland City. He leased not only the original land occupied by the Aquarium (minus the beach area), but also land in Tamarama Gully – his amusement park was to occupy 20 acres! At first, the amusement park was a great success, employing 160 people, hosting famous acts from Anderson’s national touring circuit and attracting 2000 people each weekend in summer. There were rides, an artificial lake, Japanese tearoom, Alpine Slide, music hall style theatre, and the first open air ice skating rink in Australia. One of the major attractions was the Airem Scarem which was an airship suspended between the cliffs which carried visitors between the cliffs, and at high tide, out over the water.

Wonderland City was the precursor to Luna Park and set the standard for amusement parks and outdoor entertainment in Sydney, yet it was short lived, closing in 1911, less than 10 years after it opened. Come back next week to find out more.


Newtown Bridge Sydney The Junction of Sydneys Busy Western Suburbs Front

The image today, showing Newtown Bridge, is an evocative and beautiful glimpse into the history of one of Sydneys popular suburbs. Once dominated by large country estates, Newtown today is one of Sydney’s more trendy localities.

Newton was proclaimed a municipality in December 1862, but it is likely that the name ‘Newtown’ was used long before this, as far back as the 1830s. The main street of the town, King Street, although officially named in 1877 was also probably in use much earlier. In fact King Street actually follows a rough bullock track which in turn was probably dictated by an earlier, pre-European Aboriginal route. A toll was put into place on King Street at the corner connecting with Forbes Street and the money raised by this was ostensibly used in road improvement. Of course, Sydneysiders soon found an alternative, toll free, route and it is said this is the reason for the name Liberty Street.

Long before the town was officially named a municipality, Newtown was an important centre. The first railway line in Sydney, built in 1855, terminated at Newtown, at first stopping at a flour mill on Station Street but moving in 1892 to the location it remains in today. Trams ran to the various suburbs in south west Sydney and in time Newtown Bridge (so called for a creek which once provided drinking water to settlers) became a transport hub. Soon after the area also became the civic and cultural centre of the suburb.

Hotel Australia And The Tale Of A Pig Carcass

Sydney From Hotel Australia pork carcass on train front

The image above is a striking view over Sydney from the Hotel Australia, once one of Sydney’s most exclusive and finest hotels. The view is stunning, highlighting the landscape of Sydney as it was, a very different view to Sydney today where skyscrapers dominate the skyline.

The view from the Hotel Australia was not the only grand aspect of this exclusive venue. Arguably, the Hotel Australia was the finest and most elegant hotel ever built in Sydney. Opened in 1891 the hotel was extended in 1920, becoming a stunning example of Art Deco design. The entrance foyer was resplendent with black Carrara marble, silver etched black glass and mirrors. There were also several bars, the Bevery dining room which provided a more intimate dining experience and a grand banqueting room.

The Hotel Australia and the extraordinary view are not the only interesting aspects of this postcard though. This postcard actually  preceded a pig carcass, sent by train to the processor. We assume the sender wished for the pig be returned more along the lines of ham and bacon than as a dead pig! The sender also requests that the receiver acknowledges receipt of said dead pig.

Sydney From Hotel Australia pork carcass on train back

What’s In A Name – Cremore Point and the Mysterious Hungary Bay

Hungary Bay From Cremorne, Sydney NSW  Front copy

The image depicted above is a beautiful glimpse into the history of Sydney Harbour and Cremorne more specifically, but it is also something of a mystery. Cremorne is a well known locality in Sydney, yet the name Hungary Bay is far more mysterious, having almost disappeared from history leaving behind just a selection of postcards.

Place names are remarkably changeable, and Cremorne too has more than just one lurking in its history. Before European settlement Cremorne was known by Aboriginal names, variously recorded as  Wulworra-Jeung and Goram-Bulla-Gong. After European settlement of course a new name was applied, but it wasn’t Cremorne. The First Fleet named the area now known as Cremorne Point Careening Point, due to the fact that the Sirius was careened in a nearby cove. Later the point became known as Robertson’s Point, so named because the land was granted to a James Robertson, a Scottish watchmaker who was appointed curator of Government clocks and astronomical instruments.

Robertson sold his land to James Milson in 1853 who soon leased 22 acres to Jacob Clark and Charles Woolcott who planned to establish a pleasure garden. The gardens, named Cremorne Gardens after a similar garden in London, were duly opened and featured all sorts of amusements, including a carousel and rifle shooting gallery as well as walks and gardens. The gardens were not wildly successful and closed after only six years but the name ‘Cremorne’ stuck.

So what of Hungary Bay itself? There is little to hint at the existence of this bay apart from a range of postcards, but if the spelling is altered just a little it is revealed that Shell Cove just around from Cremorne Point itself was known as Hungry Point. It was an area where oyster shells were burned for lime, but with so many oysters available no doubt the bay was also used to satiate the hunger of many an early settler! Was this the mysterious Hungary Bay?