Captain Cook Memorial Hyde Park

Captain Cooks Memorial Hyde Park Front

With Australia Day upon us, and many people either celebrating or commiserating the colonisation of Australia by Europeans, it seemed the ideal time to share the image above. Captain Cook, who is commemorated by the statue shown above, was one of those responsible for the British claiming Australia and for the eventual colonisation. Yet he was far from the first to discover Australia, as the statue claims.

In 1770, Captain James Cook, accompanied by his crew and Dr Solander and Joseph Banks, sailed into Botany Bay on board his ship, The Endeavour. For many years, this visit was lauded as the ‘discovery of Australia’, and indeed the statue in the image above does just this, and has recently become somewhat controversial as a result. Yet, although Captain Cooks visit was the first step towards European colonisation, he did not discover Australia.

The discovery of Australia is actually a long and somewhat convoluted story. Of course, the Aboriginal People of Australia should be credited with the discovery, as they inhabited this land long before any subsequent discoveries took place. Yet Captain Cook was not even the first European to discover Australia! There are some who suggest that as early as the 1500s, the Portuguese had sighted, and perhaps even set foot on Australian soil. They point to early maps which hint at Australia as evidence. Whether this is true or not, by the early 1600s the Dutch had certainly located Australia.

The Dutch East India Company was formed in 1602 and was soon doing extensive trade with islands which are now part of Indonesia. In 1606, William Janszoon, on board his ship the Duyfken, made charts of the western coast of Australia, and also made landfall and interacted with Aboriginal people. The same year, a Spanish expedition led by Pedro Fernandez de Quiros explored the area and his deputy Luis Vaez de Torres traversed the Torres Strait and sighted the northern part of Australia. Many more sightings of Australia, and particularly the western coast, were made in the 1600s and into the 1700s. In 1642, Abel Tasman sighted what he named Van Diemens Land, but which we know as Tasmania. In 1644 he returned and charted much of the northern coast of Australia, naming the area New Holland. Then, in 1688, William Dampier, who was searching for the Tryall, a ship which had been wrecked nearly 70 years earlier, became the first Englishman to set foot on the continent of Australia. He careened his ship in the area of King Sound on the west coast.

In the 1700s, more voyages still were made to Australia, and more of the map of the Great Southern Land was filled in. Indeed, by the time Captain Cook arrived in 1770, much of Australia had been charted, and featured on maps! Captain Cook did not discover the Great Southern Land, but did find an area heretofore unexplored and unknown. However, Captain Cook should be remembered for his efforts, for although the claims that he discovered Australia may be false, his voyages (there were more than one) to the Pacific were very significant. He was the first to chart the coastline of Eastern Australia, and did indeed ‘discover’ New South Wales, enabling future European colonisation. He also charted the Great Barrier Reef, ‘discovered’ New Zealand and made more accurate charts of the Pacific than any who had come before him.


Sydney Ferries

Sydney Ferries Limited Athol Gardens Front

The image above provides not just one, but several fascinating glimpses into the history of an area of Sydney which was long known to locals and visitors alike as a pleasure ground. Today, Athol Bay continues to be a popular place for picnicking, walking and even getting married, but once there was far more to the area.

European use of the area now known as Athol Bay began in 1831 when Robert Mllard and Richard Linley were given permission to use four acres of waterfront land as a shipyard. Although they were officially issued a deed to the land eight years later, they actually never built any boats! In 1837 though, the Ferrier family were also given a grant in the area, and it is this family and their home which gave the area its name. The family soon built a stone house, which they named Athol, as well as constructing a wharf and establishing an orchard and gardens. The Ferrier family owned the area until 1904, but after 1853, they let it out to various tenants.

During this time, the area around Athol Bay became a popular pleasure garden, with Athol Gardens Hotel being built by 1863. The hotel, and later dance hall, provided amenities and entertainment for the many picnickers who visited the area. Sydney Ferries purchased the popular Athol Gardens in 1906, and two years later a new dance hall was opened. Then, in 1912, an area on Athol Bay was dedicated for use as Zoological Gardens, and in 1916, Taronga Zoo opened. Soon after, Sydney Ferries opened a new wharf at Athol Bay, for use by visitors to the Zoo and Athol Gardens alike. By the mid 1900s, the popularity of pleasure grounds was waning, and fewer people were visiting the Athol Gardens themselves. However, even today, the area remains a popular place for picnicking, walking and taking in the spectacular harbour views.

Circular Quay Shipping And Ferries

The ferry boats and shipping circular quay sydney front.jpg

The image above is a remarkable view of a place which most Sydneysiders and visitors alike will be very familiar with – Circular Quay. The Circular Quay of today is a popular place with tourists, yet before it took on its current role, the area was a hive of a different type of activity entirely. Indeed, although ferry services have long departed from and arrived at Circular Quay, the area was once also a busy working harbour.

When the European colonists arrived in Australia in 1788, they found a natural harbour, and landed at Sydney Cove itself, a large area of which came to be known as Semi-Circular Quay and then simply Circular Quay. The Quay itself was constructed between 1837 and 1844 by creating an artificial shoreline at the southern end of Sydney Cove itself. Wharves were quickly constructed and, reflecting the status of Circular Quay as the centre of commerce and shipping, in 1844 Customs House was built. At first, the wharves were mainly clustered at the southern end of Circular Quay, but by the 1860s, Circular Quay was dominated by the infrastructure of trade and shipping – wharves and warehouses.

By the 1870s though, commercial shipping was moving away from Circular Quay. The ships were becoming to big and Darling Harbour, with its added advantage of a railway line was more attractive as a commercial harbour. As the commercial shipping moved out though, passenger services began to take over the wharves at Circular Quay. In 1879 the first ferry wharf was constructed and by the 1890s ferry services were beginning to dominate the harbour. By 1900, Circular Quay, which now also had a tram station, was the centre of the ferry service. Today, these ferry services continue to be a focal point of Circular Quay.

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

Lady Macquarie's Chair Front

This week, with New Year just around the corner, it seemed the perfect time to share this image taken in the vicinity of a prime location for watching fire works. Yet although Mrs Macquarie’s Chair is well known as a tourist destination, many people little spare a thought for the history of this iconic location.

Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, which is also sometimes known as Lady Macquarie’s Chair, is the site of one of the best vantage points of the harbour. In fact, it is renowned as one of the best views in Sydney. The extraordinary view down the harbour is indeed the reason behind the historic background to the area. In 1810, convict labour was used to carve a solid rock outcrop into a chair for, as the name suggests, Lady Elizabeth Macquarie.

Elizabeth Macquarie was the wife of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the governor of the colony between 1810 and 1821. According to local folklore Lady Macquarie enjoyed watching the busy harbour and the ships coming and going. Reputably, her favourite vantage site was what became known as Lady Macquarie’s Chair, and the chair itself was carved to provide her a more comfortable place to watch the goings on of the busy harbour.

Christmas Hold To The Light Postcards

This week, with Christmas just around the corner, it seemed the perfect time to share these two amazing Christmas postcards. Throughout the year, The Past Present has showcased a wide range of postcard images, all of which have been pictorial cards showcasing iconic Australian places and scenes, often of Sydney and surrounds. Yet postcards come in wide range of themes, and they were produced with an amazing range of different techniques.

The postcards above and below are known as ‘hold to the light’ cards. When held flat on the table, they show a day time scene, but when held up to the light, the scene magically changes to show illuminated windows and a frosty nighttime scene. First appearing in approximately 1898 in Berlin, hold to the light postcards seem to have been produced first by the Wolf Hagelberg company. In fact, sometimes they are even known as Hagelberg Design Cards.

The Hagelberg cards were mainly produced using a die cut technique, which is what the cards above use to create the amazing effect. The basic design would be printed using chromolitho or collotype processes, just like everyday postcards which we all know so well. Then, a specially created forme, which had the areas which needed to be die cut marked on it, would be laid over the card and the areas which were to be illuminated would be punched out using the forme as a template.  Another, address side, would be printed separately and between the two pieces another sheet of paper would be placed. Often this sheet was yellow. When the three layers were glued together, the card was complete, and could be held to the light to create the amazing Day to Night effect.

Merry Christmas from The Past Present!


Queen Victoria Markets

Queen Victoria Market (QVB) Sydney Front

This week, with Christmas fast approaching and many people visiting various shopping centres and more exclusive stores in search of that perfect gift, it seemed the perfect opportunity to share this amazing image of the Queen Victoria Markets. The Queen Victoria Markets, which are more commonly known as the QVB, are one of Sydney’s more exclusive shopping precincts, and also one of Sydney’s most iconic buildings. Yet this amazing building was almost lost!

Before the QVB which we see today, there was an older produce market on the site, but in the 1890s, Sydney was suffering from an economic depression. Many people were without work, and the Government was looking for a project to employ out of work craftsmen and labourers alike. The elaborate new market design provided the perfect opportunity. With its beautiful stonework, glass roof areas, large copper domes, stunning stained glass windows, ornate wrought iron balustrades, patterned floor tiles and even statues, there was work for huge numbers of people, both skilled and unskilled.

The completed building was not always a shopping precinct though. Over the ensuing decades it saw many different occupants, including commercial stores, but also a library, concert hall and once, it was even used a municipal offices! By the 1950s though, the building was in need of restoration, and the government planned to replace the grand old building with a carpark! In 1982 though, after much public debate and campaigning,  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.

Picnic Grounds on the Parramatta River

Picnic Grounds Paramatta River Front

With the weather heating up and the holidays almost upon us, it is the perfect season for a waterfront picnic with family and friends, and indeed over the coming weeks many such picnics will be planned. The image above, from a postcard dated about 1910, is an idyllic if a little mysterious view of what was clearly once a popular picnic venue on the Parramatta River. With its muted colouring, and blue water and sandy beach, it seems the perfect venue for a family picnic, yet the exact location of the photo is unknown.

Picnicking has long been a popular way to while away a few hours, enjoying beautiful scenery and a tasty al fresco meal. In fact, the first known picnic’s took place all the way back in the Medieval times! Yet early picnics were vastly different to the picnics many of us enjoy today. Many early picnics were an evolution of elaborate and remarkably formal outdoor feasts and celebrations, and they were closely associated with hunting gatherings. Far from spreading a rug on the ground and enjoying a simple meal, they often took place at formally set tables and included sumptuous foods, many of which were served hot!

Then, in the 17th and 18th century the picnic began to evolve. Instead of being a formal meal, they began to be something a little like the American idea of a ‘pot luck’, with all of the participants bringing a dish to share. In fact, that was what the word picnic actually meant! By the 1860s though the meaning had changed again, with the word picnic meaning to eat outdoors. It was this late 19th century era when picnics also began to become popular, not just for wealthy people, but for all classes. Even the seminal cookbook, Mrs Beeton’s, provided ideas on how to host a picnic, and what sorts of food would be needed.

Of course, if picnicking was becoming a popular pastime, places to enjoy such picnics were also becoming necessary. Although many Australian’s were happy to enjoy an informal picnic at the beach or in the bush, others preferred established picnic grounds, like the one pictured above. These picnic areas often included other basic amenities, like toilets, tables and running water, which made them popular destinations.

The question is – where is the picnic ground featured in the postcard above actually located, and does it still exist?