Celebrating Peace In Sydney

Peace Jubilations 1918 Moore Street Front
This week, with Remembrance Day nearly upon us, The Past Present is taking the opportunity to share the joyous scene in the image above.
When peace was declared on the 11th of November, 1918, Sydney residents were jubilant and enormous public celebrations began to occur. The news came through early in the morning, but spread quickly and soon Sydney was a mass of excitement. Sirens associated with the harbour sounded in a cacophony rarely heard, trains blew their whistles, trams rang their bells and cars sounded their horns in a joyous (if probably rather dissonant) celebration of peace. The streets quickly filled with cheering crowds and soon enough patriotic bunting was hung and flags began to appear, being waved frantically from amid the excited throng.
Moore Street was just one street which filled with people celebrating the long awaited peace and the photo above captures the excited throng which flocked to the celebrations. If you look closely though, you may notice that women outnumber the men taking part in the celebrations, reflecting the fact that many of Australia’s menfolk were still abroad, serving in foreign theatres of war, or had already lost their lives to the conflict.

Not Quite So Wonderful – Wonderland City Tamarama

Tamarama Beach (Wonderland City) Front
Tamarama Beach, which is beautifully captured in the image above, is a picturesque Sydney beach. Although only small, it has plenty of sand for picnicking, but it is also one of Sydney’s most dangerous patrolled beaches.
Despite the dangers of the beach, swimming has long been a popular pastime at Tamarama. In fact, beach access, or the lack thereof, is one of the reasons why Wonderland City, the famous amusement park which once stood in the area is long gone. When William Anderson leased the land where Wonderland City was to be built, the beach was not included. According to his lease, a 12 foot public access path to the beach was excluded from his land yet that did not stop him building an 8 foot fence across the access. He claimed people were evading paying the entry fee to Wonderland City by entering from the beach, but blocking this access was an unpopular move. Some swimmers who wished to use the beach were well known local businessmen of the time and they were incensed at having their beach fenced. A battle soon ensued between Anderson and the swimmers. They would cut the wire of his fence, Anderson would repair it and call the police and the police would issue the swimmers a warning. The next weekend this would all happen again.
Eventually the swimmers took a deputation to NSW Parliament and in March 1907 an order was issued to resume the 12 foot strip of land, providing free access to the beach. The conflict may have been over, but the bad publicity which it had provided was extremely damaging for the amusement park. Combined with concerns over safety standards and the treatment of Anderson’s animals, the public view of Wonderland City began to sour and visitor numbers dropped. Anderson attempted to bring back the visitors with increasingly famous acts and public exhibitions, but when the amusement park closed in 1910 it was said that he had lost up to 15000 pounds.

A Wonderland In Sydney – Tamarama Wonderland City

Tamarama Bay Wonderland City Front

The image above showcases an amusement park in Sydney which, whilst long gone, exerted a great influence over the future of Sydney’s outdoor amusement parks. The park in question was Wonderland City at Tamarama.

Before Wonderland City, there was another pleasure ground at Tamarama – The Royal Aquarium and Pleasure Grounds. Opening in 1887 the Royal Aquarium (also known as the Bondi Aquarium, despite it not being at Bondi) was an open air amusement park with not only an aquarium but also amusements such as merry-go-rounds, a shooting gallery and roller-coaster. There was also a large dance hall which hosted acts from the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney, among others. The Aquarium and dance hall burned down in 1891 but soon ‘rose from the ashes’, continuing to service the people of Sydney.

In 1906, after several changes of ownership, the Royal Aquarium and Pleasure Grounds was sold to a well known theatre man, William Anderson and was transformed into Wonderland City. He leased not only the original land occupied by the Aquarium (minus the beach area), but also land in Tamarama Gully – his amusement park was to occupy 20 acres! At first, the amusement park was a great success, employing 160 people, hosting famous acts from Anderson’s national touring circuit and attracting 2000 people each weekend in summer. There were rides, an artificial lake, Japanese tearoom, Alpine Slide, music hall style theatre, and the first open air ice skating rink in Australia. One of the major attractions was the Airem Scarem which was an airship suspended between the cliffs which carried visitors between the cliffs, and at high tide, out over the water.

Wonderland City was the precursor to Luna Park and set the standard for amusement parks and outdoor entertainment in Sydney, yet it was short lived, closing in 1911, less than 10 years after it opened. Come back next week to find out more.


Newtown Bridge Sydney The Junction of Sydneys Busy Western Suburbs Front

The image today, showing Newtown Bridge, is an evocative and beautiful glimpse into the history of one of Sydneys popular suburbs. Once dominated by large country estates, Newtown today is one of Sydney’s more trendy localities.

Newton was proclaimed a municipality in December 1862, but it is likely that the name ‘Newtown’ was used long before this, as far back as the 1830s. The main street of the town, King Street, although officially named in 1877 was also probably in use much earlier. In fact King Street actually follows a rough bullock track which in turn was probably dictated by an earlier, pre-European Aboriginal route. A toll was put into place on King Street at the corner connecting with Forbes Street and the money raised by this was ostensibly used in road improvement. Of course, Sydneysiders soon found an alternative, toll free, route and it is said this is the reason for the name Liberty Street.

Long before the town was officially named a municipality, Newtown was an important centre. The first railway line in Sydney, built in 1855, terminated at Newtown, at first stopping at a flour mill on Station Street but moving in 1892 to the location it remains in today. Trams ran to the various suburbs in south west Sydney and in time Newtown Bridge (so called for a creek which once provided drinking water to settlers) became a transport hub. Soon after the area also became the civic and cultural centre of the suburb.

What’s In A Name – Cremore Point and the Mysterious Hungary Bay

Hungary Bay From Cremorne, Sydney NSW  Front copy

The image depicted above is a beautiful glimpse into the history of Sydney Harbour and Cremorne more specifically, but it is also something of a mystery. Cremorne is a well known locality in Sydney, yet the name Hungary Bay is far more mysterious, having almost disappeared from history leaving behind just a selection of postcards.

Place names are remarkably changeable, and Cremorne too has more than just one lurking in its history. Before European settlement Cremorne was known by Aboriginal names, variously recorded as  Wulworra-Jeung and Goram-Bulla-Gong. After European settlement of course a new name was applied, but it wasn’t Cremorne. The First Fleet named the area now known as Cremorne Point Careening Point, due to the fact that the Sirius was careened in a nearby cove. Later the point became known as Robertson’s Point, so named because the land was granted to a James Robertson, a Scottish watchmaker who was appointed curator of Government clocks and astronomical instruments.

Robertson sold his land to James Milson in 1853 who soon leased 22 acres to Jacob Clark and Charles Woolcott who planned to establish a pleasure garden. The gardens, named Cremorne Gardens after a similar garden in London, were duly opened and featured all sorts of amusements, including a carousel and rifle shooting gallery as well as walks and gardens. The gardens were not wildly successful and closed after only six years but the name ‘Cremorne’ stuck.

So what of Hungary Bay itself? There is little to hint at the existence of this bay apart from a range of postcards, but if the spelling is altered just a little it is revealed that Shell Cove just around from Cremorne Point itself was known as Hungry Point. It was an area where oyster shells were burned for lime, but with so many oysters available no doubt the bay was also used to satiate the hunger of many an early settler! Was this the mysterious Hungary Bay?

Race Day on Sydney Harbour

Dingy Race at Sydney Front copy
This week, with the weather being rather dreary in Sydney, the Past Present decided to cheer things up with a lively shot of Sydney Harbour. The image above, from a postcard dating to circa 1910, shows one of Sydneysiders favoured pastimes, getting out and about on the water. What’s more, it shows the competitive side of the sport, with people gathered to partake in or watch a race.
Recreational sailing in Sydney was very much a product of the nature of Sydney itself. Sydney was a seaport and early colonists settled along and around the coastline. Where in England sailing and racing of boats was very much an activity enjoyed by the upper classes, in Sydney it was almost an extension of many peoples daily work. In the early history of racing on Sydney Harbour captains of visiting ships would organise races between their crews using the smaller ships which were carried on their decks. In fact some ships even carried a specific, modified racing boat! Soon enough these races were becoming a public event. These regattas were even seen as an appropriate celebration of holidays. Of course they were also accompanied by plenty of drinking and gambling. As early as 1828 an annual ‘Anniversary Regatta’ was organised to celebrate the foundation day of the colony.
Many races in the later 19th century and into the 20th century featured the ‘great Sydney type’ boat as it was known – an open boat with as much sail as could possibly be crammed into the space allowed. These boats developed from the working boats of Sydney Harbour – skiffs, fishing boats, ships boats and the like. They had no keel to stop them capsizing so they also required large crews who acted as a live ballast to stabilise the boat. Such boats were relatively inexpensive, making them popular with the working classes and in the working class suburbs such as Balmain and Pyrmont. The racing of these open boats was also very popular as a spectator sport as these races offered an element of spectacle missing from yacht races. Mishaps such as capsizing were not uncommon. By the 1930s open boat racing, like that shown in the image above, had become an incredibly popular Sydney pastime with thousands of spectators following the weekly race, some from aboard special steamers which were hired by the various open boat clubs. The crews of these boats were often professional crews and many played rugby in the winter months when sailing was less popular.

What’s In A Name – Parsley Bay

Parsley Bay Sydney 2 Front

This week The Past Present is focussing on another of Sydney Harbours beautiful inlets and bays. Sydney Harbour is a spectacular waterway with various hidden gems along its shores. Many of these have a long history and one such area is Parsley Bay.

Parsley Bay is a narrow inlet of Sydney Harbour, located in the suburb of Vaucluse. The Birrabirragal group of Aborigines once called the area, which is rich in rock overhands and caves, home but with the arrival of Europeans Vaucluse and the Parsley Bay area was quickly settled. The first land grant, to a Mr Thomas Laycock, occurred in 1792 and this Grant is also the first reference to the name Parsley Bay. Nobody is entirely certain where the name ‘Parsley Bay’ originated from, though there are two popular theories. The first suggests that the name refers to a hermit named Parsley who once lived in one of the local caves, while the other theory suggests the name is reference to an edible plant which once grew wild around the area. It is even thought this plant may have been used by the first settlers to treat scurvy.

Parsley Bay has a remarkably rich history, far more than is elucidated here and will doubtless by the subject of future posts. It stayed in private ownership for many years, belonging to the Wentworth family of Vaucluse Estate, but there is evidence that despite this it was a popular place for picnics and outings. Parsley Bay officially became a public recreation reserve in 1907.

Pitt Street, All Dressed Up For The Prince Of Wales

Pitt Street Prince Of Wales Celebration Front copy

With the Queen’s Birthday Weekend upon us, The Past Present is focusing on royalty. Australia has been the focus of over 50 Royal visits over the years, most recently of course by Prince William and his family. Although today many Australians increasingly support the idea of a republic, throughout Australia’s European history many other Australians have been enthusiastic supporters and followers of the British Monarchy and happy members of the British Empire. Here we focus on the visit of Edward, The Prince Of Wales to Australia in 1920.

Edward arrived in Australia on April 2nd, 1920, beginning his journey in Victoria. He was representing his father, King George V and had a specific role to play during his visit – he was here to thank Australians for their part in World War One. Australians embraced the Royal Visit with great enthusiasm and enormous crowds greeted the Prince wherever he went. In fact the overwhelming enthusiasm of the crowds, combined with his busy agenda while here, meant that he had to take a week long break from official duties before reaching NSW!

The Prince was very popular with Australians who appreciated his modesty and humour. After being involved in a rail accident (where he was unhurt), he even made light of the situation, thanking officials for arranging a ‘harmless little railway accident’. Edward’s nature and the affection of Australians for the prince won him the nickname ‘digger Prince’, a high compliment from Australians indeed!

Clifton Gardens Baths

Baths at Clifton Gardens Front

This week, with Autumn underway and the swimming season slowly coming to an end in Australia, it seemed like the perfect time to examine one of Sydney’s popular swimming spots and pleasure grounds, Clifton Gardens. The postcard above shows Clifton Garden Baths, a popular swimming spot not only today but in years gone by.

The swimming enclosure pictured in this postcard was very different to the one which remains at Clifton Gardens today. Although both were ‘ocean baths’ which permitted safe swimming in the harbour (though the shark proof net is apparently not particularly shark proof today), the original was unique in its design. Sometimes referred to as the ‘amphitheatre bath’, the huge circular swimming enclosure could apparently accommodate up to 3000 spectators on the decks! The enclosure was circular, surrounded by a two storey walkway which connected at either end with the dressing sheds (also apparently two storey). The baths were used for mixed bathing, both during the day and at night.

To find out more about Clifton Gardens, visit last weeks post.

Clifton Gardens

Fairground rides in photo

This week, the Past Present wanted to investigate one of Sydney’s famous pleasure grounds. Sydney has a variety of beautiful beaches, lovely parks and even a few fun parks, but once these attractions were combined in places like Clifton Gardens. The postcard above shows Clifton Gardens in circa 1910, including one of the old fashioned rides which were enjoyed by visitors.

The history of Clifton Gardens as a place to holiday begins in 1871 when a hotel called the Clifton Arms was built by D. Butters. In 1879 this hotel was leased by David Thompson who purchased the hotel a year later in 1880 and later built the Marine Hotel which operated until the 1960s. It was in 1906 though that Clifton Gardens really became a tourist hub when Sydney Ferries Ltd purchased the Thompson estate, including a skating rink, wharf, dance pavilion, and the three story hotel. They soon added to these attractions, building a grand circular swimming enclosure, a boatshed and even a tramway from the wharf to the hotel. Clifton Gardens as it was then known was a perfect place for not only family and private tourists and visitors, but also for union and company picnics and was frequented by the employees of various butchers, banks and even The Water Board.

Come back next week to find out more about the history of Clifton Gardens famous Baths.