The image above is an evocative glimpse into the past of a place which today most Sydneysiders associate with bustling activity and crowds – Darlinghurst. Yet Darlinghurst, which sits between Woolloomooloo, Kings Cross and Surry Hills, was once a place bustling with a very different type of activity. 

Before European colonisation, Darlinghurst was part of the traditional lands of the Gadigal people and even after colonisation, these people continued to extensively use the land right through to the 1840s. Although Darlinghurst was very close to the early settlement areas of Sydney, it was actually not settled until comparatively late. Darlinghurst was a place of shallow soils and rocky sandstone outcrops which made it less attractive to early European settlers as a home, but it was not entirely ignored. The rocky outcrops were extensively quarried for sandstone to use in construction of many of the early Sydney buildings. The early quarriers were convict gangs, while in the second half of the 19th century prisoners from Darlinghurst Gaol (now the National Art School) were put to work. Quarrying wasn’t the only activity to take place in Darlinghurst though, with the first water mill in the colony built there in 1811 and the four windmills featured so extensively in early paintings of Sydney appeared soon after. 

Darlinghurst may have begun its European life with the lower eschalons of Sydney society, but in the 1820s the area began to be transformed. Governor Darling named the area in the late 1820s (quite probably after his wife, Eliza Darling) and between 1828 and 1831 he made 17 grants of land in the newly named area. These were all made to wealthy colonists and there was a stipulation that all houses had to be worth 1000 pounds or more, and had to be set in landscaped gardens. Governor Darling even had to approve the design before construction could begin! As a result, Darlinghurst not only became associated with the wealthy, but also had a landscape of fine houses and gardens overlooking the town which Governor Darling imagined as an example to the more ‘debased populace of Sydney Town’. By the mid 1880s though, many smaller terrace houses had been added to Darlinghurst and eventually Darlinghurst was transformed from a strictly wealthy suburb to a suburb which contained areas which many considered to be slums. There was a wide mix of classes and indeed reputations, with the respectable residents living alongside criminals and gangs. It wasn’t until the 1920s that Darlinghurst really began to become a more sinister place though, with gangs and criminal elements beginning to become prominent. Today, Darlinghurst has returned much more to its early 20th century reputation though, with a mix of wealthy, often family residences alongside the many pubs and brothels. 

Gosford Holidays

Untitled-1 copy

The image above is a beautiful glimpse into the history of a place which was once, and continues to be a popular holiday destination for many Sydneysiders. Yet the Gosford of today looks remarkably different to the Gosford captured in this snapshot!

Before European colonisation of Australia, the Gosford area was home to the Guringai and Darkinjung Aboriginal peoples, but it was not long after Europeans arrived in Sydney that the Central Coast was being explored. In 1788 and 1789 Governor Phillip himself explored the area around Gosford and it did not take long before timber getters and lime burners had begun to appear. The difficulty of accessing the area though meant that true settlement didn’t begin until 1823 and even in 1850 the road between Brisbane Water and the Pittwater area was just a rudimentary track.

In the 1880s though, with the completion of the railway link between Sydney and Newcastle, Gosford began to grow. Tourists began to see the Central Coast as an ideal holiday and leisure destination and soon began to flock to the surrounding area. In 1889, when the Hawkesbury Railway Bridge was opened, traveling to Gosford became easier and quicker, and the tourist industry continued to grow and thrive. By the early 20th century, and well into the 1960s, many Sydneysiders will recall heading up the coast for their annual holidays, enjoying sun, surf and sand on the beautiful Central Coast.

From Market To Theatre – Belmore Markets

Belmore Markets Sydney Front

The image above shows an area which most Sydneysiders are familiar with, yet the building it showcases is one which many may not recognise or indeed have heard of. The building which it became, the Capitol Theatre, may well be more familiar.

In 1829, the valley below Brickfield Hill was set aside for cattle and corn markets. Soon enough, the area became known as ‘Haymarket’. The area attracted farmers, who paused their bullock carts and rested before making the trek up Brickfield Hill to the produce markets and by the 1860s it became clear that a fruit and vegetable market in the immediate area would be of benefit. Belmore Markets was built in 1869 on the site of the old cattle market and soon enough the Chinese were also moving into the area, creating businesses including hotels which catered to the Chinese Market Gardeners who sold their produce to the Belmore Markets. Paddy’s Market was soon constructed adjacent to the Belmore Markets and around these buildings grew up not only China Town, but also public houses and places for entertainment. Indeed, on Saturday nights people flocked to Haymarket for cheap shopping, sideshows and street theatre. In 1892 a grand new Belmore Markets building, designed by George McRae, was constructed. The building featured terracotta tiling with designs of fruit and plants – even the Choko vine! The market was badly sited though, with limited access to transport for the produce and it would not be long before new markets were built closer to Darling Harbour itself. The grand building was demolished, but then reconstructed as a taller building, but with the same design (including the terracotta tiles).
Between 1916 and 1927 the building was leased as a Hoppodrome to the Wirth Brothers Circus. In 1927, after the circus departed John Eberson was commissioned to create a new interior for the building in the then popular atmospheric style. From the late 1920s, the building became the Capitol Picture Theatre, operating right through until the end of the 1960s. By this time of course the building was run down and somewhat isolated. The Chinese had moved closer to Darling Harbour and many of the local stores surrounding the building, including Anthony Horderns, had closed. This wasn’t the end for the Belmore Markets/Capitol Theatre building though. After many years of disuse and decline, the building was set to be demolished, but a 1981 Heritage Council Conservation order prevented the demolition of what was actually Australia’s last atmospheric theatre! City Council decided to restore the Capitol Theatre, including its visible interior. The theatre reopened in 1995.

Crossing The Spit

The Spit Ferry Middle Harbour (Fry's Chocolate)Front copy

The image above is an evocative glimpse into era before the Spit Bridge was built. Today, most Sydneysiders and many visitors to the beautiful harbour city are familiar with The Spit Bridge. It is hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t there.

As this image shows though, there was a time when crossing The Spit was not as simple as driving along a bridge. The Spit (which was actually originally known as The Sand Spit) was settled by European colonists as early as the 1840s. In 1849 Peter Ellery took up land opposite The Spit (purchasing the land formally in 1855). Travellers often asked him to take them across the water, and in the early 1850s he decided to start a more formal, paid ferry service adjacent to where The Spit Bridge is today. Originally, the ferry was simply a row boat, but in 1862, with the building of the road to The Spit and the increased traffic the road brought, a better system was needed. Ellery soon replaced the rowboat with a hand operated punt. In 1871 the Government took over the service, operating a public ferry service and in 1888 a steam punt appeared. The steam punt operated right up until the first bridge was built in 1924.

York Street – The Home Of Australian Circus!

York Street Front copy

The image above, showing York Street in the very early 20th century, is a beautiful glimpse into Sydney’s past. Many Sydney siders will be familiar with York Street as it is one of the major streets in the Sydney CBD, though of course the view is very different today. What many may not know is that York Street is, in many ways, the historic home of circus in Australia!

When the First Fleet arrived in Australia, entertainment was certainly not something they were concerned with and for many years there was little in the way of theatre. In the 1830s regular theatre performances began to take place, but they were held with some difficulty and although there were occasionally circus type acts, they were certainly not the norm. In Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) Radford’s Royal Circus was opened in 1847, but after two years Radford was insolvent. However, two of his equestrians, Golding Ashton and John Jones kept the theatre style alive.

Ashton (whose name you might recognise) worked in Melbourne for a short time, but then he and a small group of equestrians headed for Sydney. John Jones arrived in about 1850, bringing with him Edward La Rosiere, a tightrope walker and they opened to great success at the City Theatre (near the present day State Theatre). Later the same year though, Jones and La Rosiere moved into their own arena, an roofless arena in the yard of John Malcom’s Adelphi Hotel in York Street. The circus was known as the Royal Australian Equestrian Circus and was in many ways the first permanent circus troupe in Australia. Malcolm soon recognised the potential of the circus though and it was renamed Malcoms Royal Australian Circus. The Arena, which was many times altered over the ensuing years, was declared unsafe and demolished in 1882, but by then the circus had arrived and its future in Australia was assured.

North Sydney, But Not As We Know It

panorama of the city and harbour of Sydney NSWfrom North Sydney front copy

The image above is a stunning view of a place most Sydney residents are familiar with, North Sydney. Yet the area today bears little resemblance to this image which dates from circa 1905.

Today, North Sydney is a business area and many of the buildings are tall and feature modern construction styles and materials, like glass and metal. Yet in this image, North Sydney was simply a residential area, just another suburb of Sydney. It was an area where people lived, occupying houses and terraces, and using services including the St Leonards Post Office (1854) and St Leonards School (1874).  North Sydney itself was formally incorporated as a municipality in 1890 and within 20 years both the post office and school had changed names to North Sydney.

It was not until the 1970s that North Sydney began to be transformed into a commercial centre. Between 1971 and 1972 a whopping 27 skyscrapers were built, and the number has only grown since. Today, North Sydney is reputed to have one of the largest numbers of office buildings not just in Sydney, but in the entirety of NSW.

Parsley Bay and the Quest For Public Foreshore Reserves

Parsley Bay Sydney Front copy

The image above is a lively and evocative glimpse into the history of a Sydney reserve which has been a popular recreational reserve for Sydney residents for well over a century, Parsley Bay.

What we now know as Parsley Bay is the traditional lands of the Birrabirragal group but it wasn’t long after European colonisation that the land around Parsley Bay was securely in the hands of European settlers. In 1792 Thomas Laycock, the Deputy Commissioner General, was given a grant of eighty acres of land at the head of Parsley Bay. This is the first known use of the name Parsley Bay. The land passed through several owners and was expanded over the following years before being purchased by the Wentworth family in 1827. Parsley Bay then became just one small part of the Wentworth family’s Vaucluse Estate.

Though the land was in private hands, that did not stop Sydney siders from accessing and using Parsley Bay and even before the area became a public reserve, there is evidence that the area was used by the public for picnics and camping. In 1905 though, William Notting and his Harbour Foreshores Vigilance Committee lobbied the Government to provide public access to various locations around the harbour waterfront. Parsley Bay was one of these locations and in 1906 was resumed by the Government in order to create a public reserve. It was the first area of land to be secured by the Harbour Foreshore Vigilance Committee and went on to become an ever more popular area for picnicking, camping and making merry.

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.

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).

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.