Bridge Street – The Early History

Bridge Street Front copy

The image above shows a street which today remains remarkably intact as an example of the 19th century architecture of Sydney, Bridge Street. Although the view has changed since this postcard was printed in the early 20th century, many Sydneysiders will no doubt recognise the area from the streetscape which remains.

Bridge Street was not always known by the name we recognise it by today, but was originally known as Bridgeway. The name relates to a bridge – the first to be built in the new colony. This bridge was built over the Tank Stream, the stream of fresh, clean water which attracted Governor Phillip to Sydney Cove in 1788 when Botany Bay was first rejected as a place for the new settlement. The bridge was a simple construction, made of timber and built by convict labour in 1788. Later, this first bridge was replaced by a stone bridge.

By the earliest years of the 19th century Bridge Street had become the place to live. The elite of the colony chose to establish properties which adjoined or were close to the grounds of Government House. Bridge Street itself was a public street stretching from George Street to Macquarie Place, where the public right of way ended at Government House. The elite were not the only occupants of the area though with the Government Convict Lumber Yard on the south west side of what was then still known as Bridgeway. In 1810 though Governor Macquarie awarded a contract to construct a general hospital in the area of the lumber yard and by 1833 the lumber yard had ben subdivided and was sold. Shops soon began to be opened along the street, particularly in the area of the old lumber yard. In 1845 the original Government House was demolished and Governor Gipps moved to the new Government House. This opened up Bridge Street which could now be extended to Macquarie Street.

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Captain Cooks Landing Place Obelisk

Landing Place Captain Cook Kurnell Botany BayNear Sydney Front

With Australia Day very nearly upon us, this image of Captain Cooks Landing Place, from a postcard dated to 1906, seems an appropriate choice. Many Sydney residents and visitors are familiar with the monument, and most know of the event it commemorates, but the history of the actual monument, and others at the site is much less well known.

Captain Cook arrived in Botany Bay in 1770, and his visit was the very start of the process which led to European settlement in Australia. Although we now know he was not the first European to sight our shores, his visit is an important moment in the history of Australia and has, as a result, been commemorated on the shores of Botany Bay where the landing occurred. The grand sandstone obelisk which features in this postcard was completed in 1870, the centenary year of Captain Cooks actual visit and commemorates that important event. Another plaque was affixed to the obelisk in 1970, and this was done in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, who was visiting Australia at the time. This plaque commemorates the passing of 200 years since Captain Cook and his crew visited the area. This monument has become an important part of our history, and many visit it to remember the ‘discovery’ which led to European settlement.

Captain Cook did not, of course, make the journey to the Great Southern Land alone (or even on purpose, though that is another story!) and there are several other monuments scattered around the area where the landing occurred. Other monuments celebrate Dr Solander, Joseph Banks and Forby Sutherland (the latter being the first British subject to die in Australia).

Surfing In Australia – Freshwater Beach

Freshwater Beach Near Manly Front copy

Recently, there has been lots of news about Freshwater Beach and the important centenary which was celebrated there on January 10th – the centenary of Duke Kahanamoku’s surfing demonstration. Yet there have been few photos which showed the beach at the time, and so The Past Present decided to share one from the collection.

Long before Europeans settled Australia Freshwater Beach was known by Aborigines who no doubt used the freshwater creek which flowed onto the beach, and after which the beach is named. Less than three months after Europeans arrived in Sydney Governor Arthur Phillip led an expedition around Manly and towards Freshwater but he is, perhaps, not the most famous man to grace the shores of the beach. This honour may well go to Duke Kahanamoku who popularized surfing in Australia. Surfing at Freshwater actually dates to before his visit with the Boomerang Camp, which was established at the beach in the early 1900s, being frequented by many locals and visitors who used the beach for Body Surfing. It was the people of this camp who established the Surf Life Saving Club at the beach in 1908 and it was also this camp where Duke Kahanamoku stayed.

‘The Duke’ was a Hawaiian of international renown and he arrived at Freshwater in the Summer of 1915. During his stay at the Boomerang Camp and Freshwater Beach he created a solid surfboard, crafted from local timbers and it was this which he used in his famous exhibition of surfboard riding. He paddled out on the board and returned to the beach standing tall and riding the wave. What’s more, he then selected a local lady from the crowd, Isabel Letham, who rode tandem with him on his board. She was the first Australian to ride on this type of surfboard in the Australian surf, but it was The Duke who popularised the sport.

 

 

Luna Park

Luna Park and North Sydney pool Front copy

This week, with Summer Holidays in swing, the Past Present examines the historic Sydney Luna Park, a favourite holiday destination for Sydneysiders and visitors alike for generations. This image is from either the late 1930s or 1940s and you might recognize some of the structures which are still there today!

During the building of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, the site where Luna Park stands today was taken up by large workshops where parts of the bridge were made and assembled. In 1932, with the bridge complete though, the workshops were demolished and in 1935, only three years later, Luna Park opened. The park was based on the successful fun park of the same name opened in 1903 on Coney Island, New York by Herman Phillips, though it was not the only or even the first park to trade on this original ‘Luna Park’. Melbourne’s Luna Park had opened in 1912 and there were Luna Parks in other countries too.

Luna Park Sydney originally traded using rides which had been relocated from Luna Park Glenelg, in Adelaide. Not only did it use rides from another park though, it used the knowledge gained through the previous parks to ensure immediate success. Throughout the 1930s and World War Two Luna Park continued to attract crowds and in the 1950s and 1960s various new rides were installed, many of which had been seen on trips overseas by David Atkins, who operated the park until 1957 and Ted Hopkins who ran the park until 1969. In the early 1970s the group responsible for the park attempted to redevelop the site without success and investment in the infrastructure and rides was very limited. Then, in 1979 disaster struck with a fatal fire on the Ghost Train resulting in the closure of the park. Over the following years the fun park opened and closed sporadically, but in 2004 Luna Park reopened for good, we hope!

Sun, Surf And Sand in Newcastle

The Beach Newcastle NSW Front copy

This week, with the Summer holidays in Australia well underway, many Australians will be going away, often 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.

Newcastles city centre is surrounded by no less than 8 beaches, and it is thought that this image shows Newcastle Beach itself. Newcastle, with its abundance of sand and surf also, perhaps unsurprisingly, has a history of beach culture dating back well over a century. Even in the convict era, an historic ocean bath, the Bogey Hole was carved from the rock to allow Commandant Morisset to enjoy the sea. In the 20th century, the famous Newcastle Ocean Baths with their stunning art deco pavilion, were built and records suggest the baths were unofficially used as early as 1912, a whole decade before they were officially opened. Yet many wanted to enjoy the beach itself, and a thriving beach culture grew up around 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.