Mullet Creek Railway

Mullet Creek Hawkesbury Front

This week, The Past Present turns its attention to one of the important areas in Sydney’s transport history. Many Sydneysiders head north during their holidays, or even just for a day out and about. On reaching the Hawkesbury River, they cross the bridge, either by car or by train, little thinking of how different this trip must have been before the bridges were built! The photo above shows Mullet Creek, and important are in the train journey, both before and after the Railway Bridge over the Hawkesbury River was installed.

The Hawkesbury River is a beautiful waterway which today is a popular place for people to visit and even holiday. Yet once, this beautiful waterway was also a major barrier to travel. It was also a lucrative opportunity for George Peat, who in 1840 established Peats Ferry, a service which allowed people to cross the river by boat, between Kangaroo Point and Mooney Mooney Point. Peat even built a hotel at Peats Bight to allow people to break their trip!

Then, in 1887, a single line railway track was opened between Hornsby and the Hawkesbury River at Brooklyn. People could now travel and move goods by rail, but still, the river was a barrier. Passengers and goods who were travelling north had to be unloaded at the River Wharf Platform at the eastern end of Long Island. From there, they would board the double decker paddle steamer, The General Gordon. At first, they would then have a three hour trip, as the steamer transferred the passengers and goods along the waterways, out to Broken Bay, up the Brisbane Water and to Gosford, where everybody could reboard the train. Then, Woy Woy Tunnel was opened in early 1888, and the journey by steamer shortened – travellers just had to cross the river and travel the lower branches of Mullet Creek, until they reached Mullet Creek Station (about 400 metres from todays Wondabyne Railway Station). The image above shows a section of the railway along Mullet Creek, a section of the journey which even today is viewed as particularly beautiful!

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The Corso, Manly

The Corso Manly 1 Front

This week, with the weather warming up, just a little, many Sydneysiders may be beginning to think longingly of warm days at the beach. Sydney has many beautiful beaches, but one of the most famous is Manly. The postcard above, which dates from circa 1906 shows just one of the features of Manly which has been popular with visitors for over a century – The Corso.

In the mid 1800s, Manly was home to Henry Gilbert Smith, a very successful businessman in Sydney. He lived at Firelight, which was built on a huge area near what is today Ocean Beach. While he was living there, he saw the possibility of creating at Manly a seaside resort, which he envisaged calling Ellensville, after his first wife. He built the facilities needed to create such a resort, including cottages, hotels, gardens, baths and, of course, The Corso itself.

The Corso, which may have followed the path of an earlier Aboriginal trackway, was planned in 1854-1855 by Smith himself. The first time it was formally recorded was in 1855, in official plans for the resort. The Corso of the time was very different to what we see today though – a boardwalk across the sand spit between the harbour pier and Ocean Beach. It was named after the Via del Corso in Rome, and was the focal point of Smiths new resort. One of the features of The Corso was a central avenue of trees, the earliest of which were Morton Bay Figs planted by Smith in the 1860s. The Manly council added the now famous Norfolk Pines in the late 1870s.

A Majestic Hotel – The Hydro Majestic

Lounge Bar Hydro Majestic Medlow Bath Front
This week, with the weather cold having turned cold and July well and truly upon us, it seemed the perfect time to turn attention to a popular, Winter, holiday destination for Sydneysiders. Although many choose to go to the Snowy Mountains, others head to the Blue Mountains to enjoy the Yulefest activities which have become so popular. One of the more iconic homes of Yulefest is the beautiful Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath, which is pictured in the beautiful postcard image above.
The Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath is an iconic Australian hotel, known for its beautiful art deco style. The history of the hotel dates back to 1901 when Mark Foy sold some of his shares in Mark Foy’s Department Stores. He wanted to use the funds to create what would be Australia’s first health retreat. In 1903, construction on the hotel began with a beautiful and thoroughly modern hotel being created. It even had a steam generator to produce electricity for the hotel and local town – which meant Medlow Bath had electricity before Sydney! The hotel was not just to be a modern luxury resort though, it was a health resort, and Mr Foy hired Dr George Baur to design various treatments and diets for the visitors. Baur had previously worked at health retreats in Switzerland.
In 1904, during a massive snow storm, the Hydro Majestic officially opened. A group of special guests travelled by train to Penrith and from there in a fleet of Mr Foy’s motor cars. They were entertained in the grand Casino Ballroom (with the beautiful dome), strolled along the picture gallery, visited a magnificent collection of art drain from around the world and ate in the Grand Dining Room, looking out over the amazing valley vista. Although the art gallery and amazing collection of artworks were destroyed by fire in 1922, many of the beautiful features of the hotel can still be enjoyed today, though the dining room looks a little different to what we see in the image above!

Celebrating 200 Years – Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens – Part 4

Botanical Gardens Sydney 6 Front

Sydneysiders are fortunate people, with a beautiful city, a spectacular harbour and a wonderful Botanic Garden providing a massive area of green space, right in the city itself. This year, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney are turning 200, and The Past Present have been taking a fascinating look at the long history of the iconic gardens. This week, The Past Present shares the final (at least for now) in our series on Sydney’s beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens.

After the death of Charles Moore, Joseph H. Maider took over the role of director of the Botanic Gardens, a role he performed for the next 28 years. During his tenure, many new features were added to the gardens, including the Governor Phillip fountain, the Herbarium and even an insectarium, which was constructed so that the Government Entomologist, Froggatt, could study the life of plant pests! The Herbarium, which today remains one of Australias biggest and most important collections of pressed plant specimens, narrowly missed being destroyed by fire in 1903. Following Maidens retirement in 1924, several different men served as director, with Robert Henry Anderson, the first Australian-born director taking on the role in 1945. He acted as director of the gardens for 19 years and it was during his tenure that the epithet ‘Royal’ was granted to the gardens. The use of Royal was recommended in 1958 by the trustees, who argued that the gardens had a long history, including one associated with the first visit of a reigning monarch to Australia. The epithet was granted in 1959 and it was from this time on that the Sydney Botanic Gardens were known, as they are today, as the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Celebrating 200 Years – Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens – Part 3

Botanical Gardens Sydney 5 Front

Over the last two weeks, The Past Present has been focussing on the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, one of Sydney’s best known and most iconic green spaces. As we have discovered, the gardens are 200 years old this year, making them one of the oldest Botanic Gardens in the Southern Hemisphere – older even than the famous Kew Gardens in England. During this time many people have been associated with the gardens, but one of the most well known was Charles Moore. 

Charles Moore was born in Scotland in 1820  and grew up to become a very promising botanist. In the mid 1840s the Sydney Botanic Gardens was in need of a new director and his excellent reputation led to two of Moore’s professors, Lindley and Henslow, recommending him as the new director of the Botanic Gardens in Sydney. Sadly, there was some confusion and two men were appointed to the post, Charles Moore and John Bidwell. Bidwell stepped aside and in 1848 Moore arrived in Sydney and took up his posting. On arrival, Moore found a botanic garden which was badly neglected. He soon set about restoring the gardens, creating a combined scientific institution and recreational reserve – just as the Botanic Gardens continue to be today. 

During his tenure, Moore improved and expanded on the gardens and their function. He became an avid collector of plants and seeds, corresponding with other collectors and also mounting his own expeditions, including one in1850 to the New Hebrides, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia. He established new facilities and gardens including a medicinal plant garden, a herbarium, a library and a lecture room where he lectured until 1882. In addition to his career at the Botanic Gardens, Moore served as commissioner for the Paris, Philadelphia and Melbourne Exhibitions, was a member of the Hyde Park Improvement Committee, a trustee of various parks around Sydney, and was even one of the founding trustees of the Royal National Park. He was also instrumental in planning Centennial Park in 1887 and provided the landscaping for the famous Garden Palace which hosted the Sydney International Exhibition. In 1896 Moore was succeeded as director of the Botanic Gardens by J. H. Maiden who was himself a great admirer of Moore. Moore died soon after.