Sydney Technical College

Technical college
This week, with so many HSC students thinking seriously about their future after school, it seemed the perfect opportunity to examine the history of one of Sydney’s more historic educational institutions – Sydney Technical College.
Sydney Technical College, which is today one of the seven campuses of TAFE NSW Sydney Institute has a remarkable history, and indeed was central to the establishment of the TAFE system. The college was established in 1878, as an addition to the Sydney Mechanics School Of Arts, but it wasn’t long before the colonial government of NSW took over. At this stage, the College operated from several buildings around Sydney, but in 1891 they moved into their new, purpose built premises in Ultimo. The early courses offered aimed to teach the working classes about the scientific basis of the various trades, but as time went by, there were additional courses, including those aimed at the middle and upper classes. Many of these courses focused on literature, philosophy and art. Eventually, the Sydney Technical College was the largest educational institution in the whole of NSW, and indeed it was from this college that UTS, the University of New South Wales and the National Art School emerged.
Today, of course, TAFE institutions offer an extremely wide range of subject areas, and what was once the Sydney Technical College is just one institution of a huge network.

The Changing Fortunes Of Balmain


White Horse Point and Drummoyne from Balmain

Today, when we think of suburbs such as Balmain, chances are we think of a beautiful place, with a reasonably affluent community. Yet Balmain, just like so many other suburbs of Sydney, has had a rather chequered history.
The suburb known as Balmain began to develop in the 1830s, and by the 1850s a true suburb had been established. Balmain residents relied on the waterway, and steamers, ferries and other boats not only as a means of transport, but also as a form of work, and ship yards were plentiful along the foreshore. More people moved into the suburb, often workers in the shipyards, and the increasing population brought about much progress, with schools, a hospital, Churches, shops and even a hospital being built to service the growing community. Clubs were also established, focussing on rowing, swimming, bowling and cricket, while institutes like the Balmain School of Arts were also built. In fact, by 1880, Balmain was viewed as the leading social suburb.
Balmain’s fortunes were set to change rather drastically. By the late 1880s Balmain was extremely overcrowded and the suburb itself was also organised very poorly, with factories and houses standing side by side. People began to move out, and trade closed down, until by the early 20th century Balmain was occupied by a much poorer class of people. In fact, by 1933 nearly 40 percent of the people living in Balmain were unemployed, which was at the time double the NSW average. This all changed again in the 1970s, when new owners moved into the suburb, gentrifying the old homes and recreating the reputation of Balmain in general. By 1990, Balmain was back to being one of the most desirable suburbs in Sydney.

Crowded Coogee And Beach Culture

This week, with the warm weather upon us, it seemed the perfect time for The Past Present to turn its attentions to Sydney’s spectacular beaches. Sydney is well supplied with beaches, from the famous and crowded, to the hidden places with nobody about. Today, Sydneysiders and visitors alike love to spend a hot day at the beach, yet this is certainly not a new phenomenon. As the photo above, showing a crowded Coogee in the early morning demonstrates.
Most of the population of not only NSW, but of the whole of Australia, live close to the coastline of our vast island home. Thus it is perhaps no surprise that the beach is a huge part of our culture, and a centre of leisure activities. Before European colonisation, and for many thousands of years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made use of the amazing resource which the beach, and the coastal waters provided.
Early European colonists saw the beach as a similar resource, and many of the early Europeans made a living collecting pears, farming oysters, fishing, sealing and whaling. For these early European colonists, the beach was not a place of leisure, and indeed in 1838 there were even laws which banned daytime bathing on beaches. By the late 19th century, the beach was a place which people picnicked and promenaded, yet still, swimming and surfing, which is today synonymous with beach culture, was a no no. It was not until 1902 that Randwick Council legalised all day bathing at all coastal beaches in their area. A year later, Manly Council also legalised day time bathing, and two years after that, in 1905, Waverley Council followed suit. In 1907 the first volunteer lifesaving clubs were established, and the future of the beach, and its central role in Australian culture was assured.

The Carrington Hospital in Camden

Carrington Dispensary

Today, when we think of hospital, we tend to think of modern organisations, which have been established in the not too distant past. If asked to think of an historic hospital, most might think of the Sydney Hospital and Sydney Eye Hospital, yet there are others with similarly amazing and indeed important history. The Carrington Hospital at Camden, whose dispensary is pictured in the circa 1920 postcard above, is just one example.

Carrington Hospital was a very important part of Australia’s medical history. The hospital was known as The Carrington Centenary Hospital For Convalescents and was the first major medical facility built for convalescents in the entirety of the NSW colony. The hospital, provided care for patients rehabilitating from illness or injury, and although only officially opened in 1890, was built in commemoration of the centenary of the colony, which fell in 1888.

The hospital was named after the Governor who was serving the colony during these celebrations, Lord Carrington, yet its very existence was owed to a different man entirely. To celebrate the centenary, a Mr William Henry Palings, who owned a successful music store (Palings Music Store) gifted his farm, known as Grasmere, along with 10,000 pounds to the people of NSW. The land was used to build the hospital and funding came not just from Palings himself, but from the Public and New South Wales Government, who equalled the 10,000 pounds which had already been donated. Carrington Hospital was designed by H. C. Kent and built by P. Graham and at the time was a state of the art hospital, and indeed contributed greatly to improved techniques of hospital ventilation. Today the hospital remains in use as a nursing home.

Flowers Of The Allies And First World War Postcards

Flowers of the allies
This week, with Remembrance Day having just passed us by, it seemed the perfect time to share the postcard above. This is a fascinating card, bringing together ‘The Allies’ in a floral tribute. Of course, not all allies are represented (New Zealand is missing just for a start!), but the card itself represents one of a vast number of patriotic postcards produced during the war.
Postcards were ‘invented’ in the late 1860s in Austria, though at this time they were not illustrated. They were simply cards made to reduce the time and cost of letter writing. By the time of the First World War though, they had not only evolved to be what we recognise as postcards today, they were wildly popular. During the First World War, the sending of postcards reached it’s absolute peak, with thousands using the cards to send hasty messages to loved ones. Many were sent home from The Front, while those left at home had an endless choice of Patriotic Cards to send to their loved ones serving abroad.
Of course, cards were not purchased just to be sent to loved ones, but also as additions to postcard collections, which were also very popular during this period. Postcards helped to commemorate events, with many postcards showing bombings on the home front, or the aftermath of a battle, and also to boost morale, with many beautifully illustrated patriotic cards, such as the one above, being produced. At home, they were available everywhere from chemists to cinemas, while on the Front, war cards were available in YMCA canteens, at rest huts and even in military training camps.

The Coast Hospital At Little Bay

Little Bay HospitalHospitals have long been a feature of Sydney’s history, with the first ‘hospital’, constructed of tents, operational in 1788. Yet when we think of Sydney’s hospital history, we tend to think of a few, main hospitals, Sydney Hospital being the one which most often jumps to mind. Sydney has many medical facilities though, some of which still exist in their original locations, and some of which have been lost to history. The Little Bay Hospital pictured above is one such facility.

In the 1880s, there became an increased demand for hospital care, and also an increasing need to specialise medicine. Little Bay Hospital (usually known as The Coast Hospital or Prince Henry) was one just one specialised hospital built in this decade. Little Bay, located in Southeast Sydney and well away from the established communities and suburbs was the perfect location for this new hospital which catered specifically for infectious diseases. The hospital first opened in 1881 as a tent hospital and was a direct response to the smallpox epidemic which was then sweeping Sydney. A horse ambulance was established to carry patients to the isolated hospital, and disbanded in early 1882, after the epidemic was over. The Coast Hospital was not disbanded though, being converted to a briefly to a convalescent hospital before being again transformed in 1888 into a ‘fever hospital’. From this time the Coast Hospital treated infectious ‘fever’ diseases such as diphtheria, tuberculosis and scarlet fever. In 1900 and again in 1921 patients with Bubonic Plague were treated at Little Bay and in 1919, when the famous influenza pandemic sweeping the world reached Sydney, patients suffering from the deadly disease were also sent to the isolated hospital. In 1934, in honour of the Duke of Gloucester, the name of the hospital was officially changed and from this point the hospital was known as Prince Henry. The hospital at Little Bay was finally closed in 2001, with services being transferred to the Randwick Campus.

Sydney Airport At Mascot

MascottThis week, The Past Present is sharing a photo of a place which residents and visitors to Sydney alike are often familiar with – Sydney Airport at Mascot. Yet as this postcard image reveals, this is not Sydney Airport as we know it today!
Sydney Airport is actually very significant, being one of the oldest continually operating airports not just in Australia, but in the world! The first plane to leave the airport at Mascot, piloted by J.J. Hammond, took fight in April 1911 and eight years later, just after the end of World War One, the site was selected by Nigel B. Love as an aircraft manufacturing facility. In 1920 the Mascot Aerodrome was officially named and opened, but soon after that the federal government acquired the site, transforming it into a national airport.
At this early time, the airport was nothing like the large passenger terminal buildings filled with shops, restaurants and amenities which we see today. In fact, it wasn’t until after World War Two that a true passenger terminal building was constructed!

Musgrave Street Wharf

Musgrave Street Wharf Mosmans Bay Front

Sydney Harbour is, as many say, the jewel of Sydney. It is a beautiful harbour, which today is easily crossed and navigated, but this was not always the case. Before the Harbour Bridge, and indeed before any bridge at all, ferries were needed to cross the beautiful expanse of water. Today, ferries continue to ply the harbour, with many ferry wharves having a surprisingly long history. Musgrave Street Wharf is just one of these.

Musgrave Street Wharf has a surprising history, which many may not expect. Today, the wharf serves South Mosman, but over time, some extremely important and famous Australians have used this seemingly typical wharf. In the late 19th century, an artists camp was established on the eastern short of Little Sirius Cove in Mosman. The camp, known as Curlew Camp, was used by several extremely important Australian artists, including Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts. Julian Ashton also occasionally visited, though he was not a permanent resident. Not only were the artists associated with the camp famous, some of their most famous paintings were painted while they were resident at the camp. After the artists had moved on, the camp continued to be popular, though now more with those interested in sailing and sport. During this time, another famous Australian, Frederick Lane who was a gold medal winning Olympic swimmer, became proprietor of the camp. The question is, how did those using the camp access the city, where several of the residents worked or sold their works. This is where Musgrave Street Wharf comes in – the camp was but a short walk from the ferry wharf, and this is how the residents came and went.


Mortlake Parramatta River Front

Sydney is made up of many fascinating suburbs and areas, many of which are such a normal part of Sydneysiders lives, that they spare little thought for the history of these areas, let alone for the names they go by. Today most are simply residential suburbs, home to countless families. Mortlake is just one such area.

The earliest Europeans to live in what is now known as the Mortlake area were John Miller, John Robertson and Benjamin Butcher, each of whom was given a land grant in 1795, not long after Europeans colonised Australia. The land, which was first recorded as Bottle Point, was then transferred to John Ward and his heir Alexander MacDonald. In fact, Mortlake has had many names. By 1837 we know people had begun to refer to the area as Mortlake Point, but intriguingly, in the later part of the 19th century, the area was usually referred to as Bachelors or Green Point. The name Mortlake was reapplied, and finally stuck, in the 20th century.

For much of its history, Mortlake was a hive of industrial activity, particularly dominated by the Australian Gas Light Company who by 1884 were producing gas in Mortlake and providing work for the growing community. The suburb, with its river frontage, was ideal for the industrial process, with the river transporting the coal which was needed for the production of the gas, to the factory. The coal was heated then the gases which were produced were removed, cooled, cleaned and purified, ready for market. Then, in 1971, the process of producing gas from coal was discontinued and natural gas from the interior of Australia was piped to Mortlake instead. Now, all the factory needed to do was add an odour to the gas (for safety reasons) and distribute it to customers. In 1990 the gasworks finally closed.

A Dam By Any Other Name – Burrinjuck Dam

Scene on Barren Jack Weir Front

This week, with the holidays underway and many Sydneysiders heading to the country to enjoy the best Spring has to offer, it seemed the perfect time to look at one of the magnificent feats of engineering which are to be found in our many stunning national parks. Burrinjuck Dam, or Barren Jack Weir as it was once known, and as it is described on the postcard above, is just one of these.

Burrinjuck Dam is on the Murrumbidgee River about 60 kilometres from Yass and today is marketed as a popular area for bushwalking, camping and water sports. Yet in 1906, when the construction of the Dam began, the scheme was created for an extremely different audience, and even today, the water is vital for reasons other than tourism. The dam was the first in NSW to be built specifically to provide water for irrigation and provided water to the government sponsored Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme. The scheme allowed the Murrumbidgee Valley to develop as a thriving agricultural centre, producing everything from fruit to rice. At the time when the dam was built, it was the fourth largest dam in the entire world. In 1911 the name Barren Jack, which the dam was originally known as, was changed to Burrinjuck, an Aboriginal word used for the area. Due to interruptions caused to construction by World War 1, the dam was not completed until 1928, but even before completion, there had been two major floods which proved the viability of the scheme.

Today, between Burrinjuck and Blowering Dams (the latter of which is near Tumut), the Murrumbidge is able to provide for the irrigation needs of the Murrumbidgee Valley and the area is responsible for providing NSW with up to 90% of our potatoes, 80% of our carrots, 50% of our rice and 25% of our other fruits and vegetables.