Port Kembla Breakwater

South arm of Kembla breakwater with car of stone of siding and shack at right

South arm of Kembla breakwater with car of stone of siding and shack at right

This week, The Past Present is heading South, to Port Kembla. There are very few photos in the collection by an unknown photographer (taken circa 1936) which focus on this important industrial hub, but this photo showing the breakwater is a wonderful glimpse into the past.

Port Kembla was originally known as Red Point and the land around the area was first granted to David Allen in 1817. At this time the land was used for farming, and the estate was actually called Illawarra Farm, but by 1883 the focus of the area had changed. Coal had been discovered at Mt Kembla, and a port was established at Red Point to allow the coal to be shipped. A tramway was constructed from the mine itself to the jetty in the port to allow efficient transport of the coal between the mountain mine and the sea port. It was probably the association with the Mt Kembla mine which caused the name of the area to change to Port Kembla, and the earliest reference to this name was in 1892.

As time went by, Port Kembla became a more industrial hub and in the late 1890s the Mount Lyall Company built a coke works at Port Kembla itself. Soon it was proposed that an artificial harbour be built for the port and the Port Kembla Harbour Act was passed in December 1898, allowing two breakwaters to be constructed. These would provide protection for the ships using the port, but building the breakwaters would be a monumental effort – for every foot of breakwater 100 tons of rock was required.

Nestles and Abbotsford House

Nestles Plant on harbour front on Fig Tree Bay (Abbotsford) West End

Nestles Plant on harbour front
on Fig Tree Bay (Abbotsford) West End

This week, The Past Present again decided to investigate a snapshot of Sydney’s Industrial History. Many of the black and white photos in the collection, all from circa 1936 and by an unknown photographer, show industrial sites in Sydney and other cities along the Australian East Coast. Today we are focussing on the image above, showing the old Nestles Factory at Abbotsford on the Parramatta River.

If you look closely, in the centre of the photo there is an ornate old house amongst the factory buildings. This is Abbotsford House which was built between 1877 and 1878 for Dr Arthur Renwick and it is this house from which the suburb of Abbotsford takes its name. The property eventually passed to Albert Edward Grace, one of the founders of Grace Bros, who sold the property to Nestles in 1917.

The property was not just a house though. It included orchards, sporting fields, a boatshed and a large pavilion which had been built by the Grace family. This pavilion was the original site of Nestles production at the site while Abbotsford House served as an administrative office. A purpose built factory was constructed around the house between 1918 and 1920. Being located on the Parramatta River, the factory could easily be supplied with their raw materials, including coal. These products were delivered by boat to the factory jetty, and from there were transferred to a specially built narrow gauge tramway and then to the various storerooms and boilers.

Although the factory was most famous as the home of Nestles, producing their famous milk products and chocolate, it also served other, more surprising, roles in Australian history. In 1927 the grounds and riverfront were used to shoot scenes for the Australian film For The Term Of His Natural Life and later, in World War II the factory turned to packing supply rations for soldiers serving on the Kokoda Track. The factory closed in 1991 with the factory buildings being demolished and replaced by housing, while Abbotsford House survived the destruction, being preserved and restored. Today it is again a private residence.

Newcastle Depression Camp

Group of transient shacks on vacant land between abbatoirs and River in Waratah. (Man being barbered in open)

Group of transient shacks on vacant land between abbatoirs and River in Waratah. (Man being barbered in open)

The extraordinary photo above, dating from circa 1936, is one of many in the Past Present collection focussing on Newcastle in NSW. It provides a glimpse not only into the history of Newcastle, but the history of Australia during the Great Depression, showing one of the depression settlements which sprung up not only in Newcastle, but in other cities, including Sydney.

During the Great Depression, many Australians lost their only sources of income and were forced from their homes. Many took to the road looking for work, while others moved into camps like the one pictured. Whole families took up residence in these camps, often arriving only with the possessions they could carry, and starting from scratch. They would choose an empty area and erect a rough shack, using whatever materials they could access, including wood, corrugated iron and even hessian sacks.

In Newcastle, many sought jobs at the various factories, but work was hard to come by. Unemployment in Newcastle was high, estimated at 30% of the working population, and many moved into the shanty towns which sprung up at Nobby’s Beach, Stockton, Carrington, Adamstown, Lambton, Waratah and Hexham. Life in the camps was hard, but there is evidence in this photo which also shows the normality of life – a man is being shaved and children play between the shacks.

Chinese Produce Seller

R. W. Moody tanners, curriers and welting manufacturings on Cranbrook Street showing close contact between residences and wool industries in Botany. Vegetable peddlers and cart typical of Sydney and suburbs

R. W. Moody tanners, curriers and welting manufacturings on Cranbrook Street showing close contact between residences and wool industries in Botany.
Vegetable peddlers and cart typical of Sydney and suburbs

This week, in honour of Chinese New Year, The Past Present is focussing on this beautiful photo from an unknown photographer, taken in 1936. Although the focus of the photographers interest was the tannery belonging to R. W. Moody, today The Past Present is focussing on the Chinese vegetable peddler in the foreground.  Once, up to a third of the Chinese community in Sydney was occupied in growing fruit and vegetables, while others provided accomodation and services to these market gardeners.

The first known Chinese settler in Sydney was Mak Sai Ying who arrived in 1818 and settled in Parramatta, eventually opening a public house called the Golden Lion. Following the end to convict transportation people were brought from China to work as indentured labourers for rural estates and by 1852 over 1500 Chinese had arrived. Of course, then came the gold rush and Chinese people arrived in large numbers to try their luck, though many returned to China later. As mining became less profitable for the Chinese many who remained in Australia turned their attention to the growing and selling of fruit and vegetables. Market gardening became a common occupation for the Chinese, especially as many of the Chinese in Australia had rural backgrounds.

There were more people involved in the market garden trade than just the growers though. The market gardens supported a whole variety of industries, from the gardeners who worked the fields to the people who owned the hostels where gardeners would stay when they brought their produce to the city. Although market gardeners and fruit and vegetable sellers are now seen as almost synonymous, market gardening was extremely labour intensive and although the growers may transport their produce to the sellers, they rarely sold it themselves. Often the fruit and vegetables were either sold by associated hawkers who travelled from house to house, or by green grocers and even large city markets, including Sydney’s Belmore Markets.

Lysaght Wire Works, Parramatta River

Lysaght Wire Works on harbor front  On Fig Tree Bay (Abbotsford) east end.

Lysaght Wire Works on harbor front
On Fig Tree Bay (Abbotsford) east end.

This week, with the year just about to get under way in earnest, and children and parents returning to school and work, The Past Present decided to take a glimpse into what working Sydney looked like in 1936. The photo above, from a 1936 photo by an unknown photographer shows the Lysaght Bros Wire Mill on the Parramatta River.

Lysaght Bros and Co established the Sydney Wire Mill in 1884 on the Parramatta River. The rural, farming community of Australia created a huge demand for fencing, particularly for rabbit proof wire netting, and brothers Arthur and St John Lysaght, sons of the Bristol iron manufacturer and exporter John Lysaght, were soon producing not only these fencing materials, but other products.

With their own wharves, Lysaght Bros and Co imported the wire feed from Germany, unloading the steamships in Sydney and then using barges to carry the materials up the Parramatta River to the factory. Wire making looms, at first powered by steam and then by electricity, transformed the raw feed into a variety of wire products.

When BHP Steelworks opened in Newcastle in 1915 the mills changed to using Australian produced steel rods in their wire making and by 1925 the mills used a massive 35,000 tonnes of steel a year. During the 1930s, a time of depression and work shortages, the Lysaght Wire Mills provided jobs for over 1000 people.

Messing About In Boats On Sydney Harbour

Cliffs along north side of Gordon's Bay

Cliffs along north side of Gordon’s Bay

This week, with the Summer holidays well underway and the weather heating up, it seemed the perfect time for The Past Present to share this beautiful photograph. It is from the collection of photographs of an unknown photographer and was taken circa 1936, but it a crisp, clear glimpse into what has long been a popular pastime – boating on Sydney Harbour.

Recreational sailing, and boating in general, was in large part a by-product of Sydney’s role as a working harbour. In fact, in the 19th century some of the earliest races were organised by the captains and crews of visiting ships. They would race the smaller skiffs which large boats carried against crews from other visiting ships, and in time some of the ships even carried a specific racing boat! Over time, regattas became popular as public events with onlookers lining the shore or crowding the harbour with small vessels to watch the races. From 1837 onwards there was even an annual regatta to celebrate the anniversary of the colony’s founding.

As time went by, people began to recognise the potential of hiring out boats and boat sheds with boats for hire began to appear around the harbour, and indeed on other popular waterways. Today, boating on Sydney Harbour remains very popular with boats able to be hired from a number of locations.

Seven Miles From Sydney And A Thousand Miles From Care – Manly

Manly 991-36

Looking south at Manly toward Cabbage Tree Bay from main business Street. Norfolk Island Pines

The image above, from circa 1936 and by an unknown photographer, shows a view many Past Present readers may be familiar with – a view at Manly. Summer in Australia brings people out in droves to enjoy the sun and surf and Manly has long been a popular destination for Sydneysiders. The image particularly highlights a feature of Manly which has become almost iconic – the Norfolk Island Pines.

During the late 19th century and into the 20th century Manly was not only one of Australias premier seaside resorts, it was one of the most popular and so it was little wonder that attention quickly turned to beautifying the seaside. According to an article published in The Sydney Morning Herald in 1935 (http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17177997) the first efforts to beautify Manly with trees began in 1877 when a committee, comprising the then mayor and some of the Aldermen was created specifically to oversee the process. They sought advice from Mr Moore of the Sydney Botanic Gardens and on his recommendation planted Norfolk Island Pines, Moreton Bay Figs and Monteray Pines. These trees were not planted on the foreshore though, but in The Corso area. Two of The Corso trees, two Norfolk Pines did stand on the beach front though and these were the earliest to be plated on the foreshore.

According to the same article, Mr R. M. Pitt and Mr Charles Hayes were mainly responsible for planting the trees along the foreshore, but local legend suggests it was another man, Henry Gilbert Smith who was responsible. Whatever the case, hundreds of the trees flourished in Manly, especially along the foreshore until the 1960s  when nearly half of the trees were damaged or even killed by airborne pollution. New pines were planted along the foreshore to replace the older trees which were lost. More recently, in October 2013 another three trees were lost and replaced. As a sign of the significance of the trees, a crowd gathered to watch the trees being removed. Council workers began to cut the trunks into pieces and gave them to bystanders who received a slice of Manly history!

Randwick Race Course

Randwick Races - Betting in Front Of Grandstand

Randwick Races – Betting in Front Of Grandstand

In a week when horseracing becomes a national interest, many of our Sydney readers may have visited this historic racecourse. Randwick Racecourse traces its history back to 1832, as we discovered in a previous post, but this week it is the 20th century history of the racecourse which interests us.

As the 20th century progressed, greater crowds of spectators, and of course the bookmakers who are so much a part of racing in Australia, attended the race track. With greater crowds and the funds they bought to the track, Randwick was able to expand and upgrade, with new stands and buildings constructed, many of them in the first half of the 20th century. Robertson and Marks, an architectural firm responsible for many of Sydney’s famous 20th century buildings, were behind the design and construction of many of the buildings, ensuring consistency in style and appearance.

As is the case today though, Randwick Racecourse was not just used as a horse racing track, playing host to various other groups and events. During both World War One and World War Two the racecourse was used as a camp for embarking soldiers, with temporary buildings and tents  appearing around the site. Charles Kingsford Smith landed his plane, The Southern Cross, at Randwick racecourse in 1928 following his transpacific flight and the area has also been used for concerts, social events and even as the venue for three Papal Masses.

Randwick Racecourse

Randwick Race Finish

Randwick Race Finish

This week, with the Melbourne Cup rapidly approaching, The Past Present decided it was time to share one of our shots of Randwick Racecourse in Sydney. This photo, taken by an unknown photographer in circa 1936 shows the finish line of a horse race at Randwick, and the spectators gathered together to cheer the horses on.

Although the Melbourne Cup is probably the most famous horse race in Australia, it is certainly not the only horse race, nor is Flemington race course the oldest. Racing had been a popular pastime in early years of the colony and several racecourses had been constructed around Sydney, but by the 1830s they had all ceased operation for various reasons. Hyde Park had therefore remained the main centre of horse racing in Australia, but a dedicated racecourse was needed. In late 1832 a group of gentlemen petitioned Governor Bourke to set aside land near Botany Road, and in 1833, with the land having been surveyed and found suitable, the petition was granted. Racing began at the course, then known as ‘the Sandy Course’ due to the sandy nature of the soil, in Autumn 1833 but by 1838 racing at the course had ceased.

This could have spelled the end for Randwick Racecourse, but in 1858 racing returned. The Australian Jockey Club, which was established in 1842, wanted a place to establish a permanent racecourse with good facilities and petitioned the Government to grant them the old Sandy Course. The grant was allowed, the facilities and track were improved and the first race, held in May 1860, was attended by a crowd of over 6000 spectators. With the extension of the tram service to the course in 1880 the future of the course was assured. By 1900 the tram was so popular that a dedicated loop station was built simply to service the racecourse, and at its peak the trams carried 117,480 passengers in a single day in 1834!

Come back next week to find out more about the history of Randwick Racecourse and for another amazing shot from the collection!

Cattle Grazing At Folly Point

Small dairy near Folly Point on west side of Willoughby Bay in North Sydney showing vacant character and steep slopes leading to bay and homes on top surface

Small dairy near Folly Point on west side of Willoughby Bay in North Sydney showing vacant character and steep slopes leading to bay and homes on top surface

The image above, from the collection of an unknown photographer, and dating to circa 1936, is a fascinating view on a much more rural Sydney than we are familiar with today. This photo shows Folly Point in Cammeray, but as you can see, the area was once agricultural.

According to the description accompanying the photo, this image shows a small dairy at Folly Point. Not far from North Sydney, which was well established as a town and commercial centre by the 1880s, Folly Point and Cammeray were slower to develop due to the steep topography and distance to easy transport. In fact, Folly Point remained a rural, agricultural area, in the heart of the growing city. It was an area of vegetable farms and particularly of dairies, with dairy cattle reported grazing in the area as late as the 1950s! Today it is one of Sydney’s more exclusive residential suburbs.