This week, with what would once have been Commonwealth and Empire Day nearly upon us, The Past Present decided it was a perfect opportunity to examine one of the buildings in Sydney once firmly associated with Colonial industry – the building of the Colonial Sugar Company. The building featured in the image above once stood in O’Connell Street, but was demolished in 1962.
The Colonial Sugar Company, also known as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (or CSR as we know it today) has its roots back in 1855, when the company was founded by Sir Edward Knox. Knox had come to Australia in 1840 and tried his hands at a number of different industries before purchasing a sugar refinery and distillery in 1843. He leased this to the Australasian Sugar Company but, when that company failed in 1854, he decided to found a new company, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. CSR began its life in Canterbury at a refinery originally owned by the Australasian Sugar Company, but moved many of its operations to Chippendale within just a few years as there was a better labour source. Water supplies to the refinery were a matter of considerable consternation though, both for the sugar refinery itself and for locals living in the area and in 1875 the company began to build a new refinery at Pyrmont, where industry thrived and there were less residents to complain about water and pollution. Eventually, CSR became so successful that not only did they own an enormous area in Pyrmont, but they had set up refineries in other Australian colonies, and also in New Zealand and Fiji.
This week, The Past Present is back in Sydney, investigating an image which is not only beautiful, but also very intriguing. Picnicking has long been a very popular pastime for Sydneysiders and there were many picnic grounds which sprung up around Sydney. The image above captures a glimpse of the picnic grounds at the Parramatta River, as the caption states, but the exact location is something of a mystery.
Parramatta itself is the site of Australia’s second oldest European settlement. Settlement began in early November 1788 when it became clear that more fertile land would need to be found to support the fledgeling colony. Soon farming was established in the area, and by the 1850s various other industrial processes had also moved in. In fact, by the 1850s it was actually Parramatta, not Sydney itself which was the main metropolis of NSW! This had a significant impact on the river itself, and pollution became a problem, but the natural beauty of the river continued to attract people none-the-less. Picnicking was popular, and various picnic areas like the one shown in the image above began to be established along the shores of the river. Some even included areas for swimming, such as Little Coogee (which was located in what is now Parramatta Park).
This week, The Past Present decided it was time to again investigate an historic location outside of the Sydney area. Australia is full of historic towns and even isolated places and buildings have their story to tell. Lithgow, which many Sydneysiders are familiar with, is one of these fascinating historic places, and looks at once similar and yet markedly different to the view captured in the postcard above.
Lithgow, which is named in honour of Governor Brisbane’s private secretary, was named in 1827 by by Hamilton Hume, just three years after the first Europeans arrived and settled the valley. Yet settlement in the valley was slow, and by 1860 only four more settlers had arrived. In 1869 though, the Western Railway Line (using the famous Zig Zag Railway) was built to Lithgow and the area quickly grew. With a combination of coal fields and easy transport by rail, various industrial workings soon began to appear, and the already established woollen mills prospered. In 1875 a Blast Furnace was built and by 1900 steel, the first to be smelted in Australia, was being produced. A meat refrigeration plant was also established in 1875 and soon there were breweries, brickworks, copper smelters and even pipe and pottery workings established in the valley. In the early 1900s a small arms factory was also added to the vibrant working town.
Today, most of these industrial workings have long since closed, becoming historic sites rather than booming businesses. Yet the postcard above captures Lithgow in its industrial heyday, including the plumes of smoke from the smelting works which would once have been such a part of the skyline.
The image above is a glimpse into the past of Sydney, and at a building which today looks vastly different to the one which once stood proudly at the heart of Sydney’s commercial district. The Royal Exchange may still have a building, and even stand in the same position, yet nothing remains of the original sandstone building – today we see a modern construction like so many others of Sydney’s buildings.
The Royal Exchange building, as seen in the image above, was officially opened in 1853. It stood on the corners of Gresham, Pitt and Bridge streets (where the new Royal Exchange Building still stands today) and was just one of the buildings which demarked this areas as the financial heart of Sydney in the 19th century. The Royal Exchange was an important building, acting as Sydney’s first stock and wool exchanges.
The Royal Exchange was also the first building in Australia to set up a ‘Telephone Bureau’, installing Australia’s first switchboard in 1881. Subscribers to the service had to pay for everything from the poles, to maintenance, but the system was a success and just a year later there were 30 telephone lines linked to the switchboard. However, not long after this sign of success, and less than five years after the switchboard was installed, an electrical short circuit burned out the original switchboard during a thunderstorm. The Royal Exchange decided against installing a new switchboard, handing the business over to the General Post Office instead. None the less, the Royal Exchange remains Sydney’s and indeed Australia’s first real telephone bureau!
This week, with so many Sydney residents and visitors making the trip to Martin Place for the recent ANZAC Day commemorations at the Cenotaph (built in 1927), The Past Present is sharing a very different view of this famous street. Today, Martin Place is a pedestrian plaza, but once it was a busy street in the heart of Sydney’s central business district.
In 1863, with the proposal to build the GPO, there came proposals to create a grand street on the northern frontage, where at that time a tiny lane way ran. Nothing was done about creating this street though until fire destroyed many of the buildings on the northern side of the lane in 1890. A new, much grander street was opened in 1892, though it did not run between George and Macquarie Streets then, but just between Pitt and Castlereagh. In 1921 Moore Street was widened and renamed Martin Place, extending the road substantially, but it was not until 1935 that Martin Place reached the full length of the street we see today.
Martin Place was, for many years, marketed as the financial and insurance centre and the hub of the city. Older buildings were demolished and the sites auctioned to create new, grand buildings, many of which accommodated major banks and insurance companies. The street was busy, bustling with people but also with traffic. As this image shows, cars were certainly not in short supply in Martin Place! This continued to be the case until the late 1960s, when proposals to make the stretch between Pitt and George Streets a pedestrian plaza, closed to traffic. The plaza was opened in 1971 and was such a success with the public that permission to extend the plaza was granted. The final section of the pedestrian precinct was officially opened in 1979.