Oxford Street – Part 2

Oxford Street Sydney Front

The image above is a wonderful glimpse into the history of a street which so many of us, Sydneysiders and visitors alike, are familiar with – Oxford Street. Today known as a cultural hub and for its restaurants and shopping, Oxford Street has a fascinating history. As we discovered last week, it was in fact Australia’s oldest highway!

As so often happens, as time wore on, and more people began to move about Sydney, Oxford Street became too narrow to service the traffic which used it. In 1907, the first stage of widening the important roadway was completed. This first stage was aimed at improving the intersection of Bourke, Flinders and Oxford Streets, and resulted in the creation of Taylor Square, so named in 1908. Between 1910 and 1914 Oxford Streets northern end, between Liverpool and Bourke Streets, was also widened.

In the 1920s, Oxford Street was again a prosperous and well patronised high street. Then, the Great Depression Hit and the once famous and prosperous street began its slide into disrepute. People no longer wanted to live in terraced houses, and so the character of the street changed as the affluent population moved into the suburbs where they were able to do so, and poorer people moved into the old houses. In the 1950s, the street became a haven for migrants and in the 1960s more professionals began to move back into the area.

It was also in the 1960s that a gay presence truly began to emerge in the area, and Oxford Streets culture began to change. In 1978 the first Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade was held, and although it was followed by confrontations with police, cemented Oxford Streets central role in Sydney Gay and Lesbian Culture.

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Palm Beach

Palm Beach From Pacific Road NSW Front

The image above is a stunning, panoramic view of one of Sydney’s most famous and exclusive beaches. Visited by Sydneysiders and visitors alike (and the home of Home and Away, which brings more tourists still) Palm Beach has long been a popular destination for people wanting to enjoy the sand, sun and sea.

Palm Beach, which is today one of the most exclusive and expensive areas in Pittwater, was actually named for the abundance of Cabbage Tree Palms which were once to be found in the area. The traditional and original owners, The Guringai people, used the fronds from this abundant resource to create fishing lines and also to patch leaks which had developed in their boats.

When Europeans colonised Australia, the cabbage tree palms found a new use, being woven into hats to keep the beating sun at bay. In fact, Cabbage Tree Hats are, in many ways, the first distinctly Australian fashion, and the making of the hats is probably Australias first cottage industry. Cabbage Tree Hats developed because the early colonists and convicts had no idea that Australia was going to be so hot, or the sun so fierce. They soon realised that the fibre from the Cabbage Tree Palm could be woven, just as the Guringai people did to make fishing lines. The hats usually had a high domed down and wide brim, perfect for the sunny Australian climate. The Cabbage Tree Hats became such a symbol of the convict era in Australia that gangs of young men were known as Cabbage Tree Mobs, after the hat they wore. Apparently, they enjoyed crushing the hats of men who they thought were ‘full of themselves’. 

 

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!

 

Mudgee

Approach To Mudgee From The North Front

The image above is a beautiful glimpse of the history of one of NSW most historic small towns, and one which is a popular destination for Sydneysiders looking for a weekend escape. Yet today, the attraction of Mudgee today – wine, food and beautiful scenery – is far different to those which once brought thousands of people to the beautiful area.

The first European to visit the Mudgee area, and indeed the forst to cross the Cudgegong River, was James Blackman, who came to The area in 1821. It is known that some time before 1837, he had built a slab building on the site which became the Mudgee township. The town itself was declared in 1838, after other colonists had moved into the area. Indeed, almost as soon as Blackman had found a passable route, others followed, with William Lawson and the Cox family quickly establishing their own properties in the area. Before this, the traditional owners or the land were the Wiradjuri People, but after the European colonists arrived, they were systematically removed from their lands or killed.

Yet in these early days of European settlement in the Mudgee area, Mudgee remained a small settlement. That soon changed though, when an enormous gold nugget was discovered in nearby Hargraves in 1851. Soon, Mudgee had become the epicentre of the many local gold fields, with enormous through traffic to Gulgong, Hill End and other gold fields. Within just 10 years the population had swelled from just 200 in 1851 to over 1500 in 1861. In 1860, Mudgee was declared as a municipality, which makes it the second oldest towm west of the Blue Mountains.

Luckily for Mudgee, and unlike other gold field towns, Mudgee had never been dependent purely on gold the area around Mudgee was noted for excellent wool production, agriculture and even for its wine making (the first vineyards were established in 1858 by Adam Roth). When the gold fields began to be abandoned, it was these industries which kept Mudgee alive and sustained the thriving town.

Pyrmont Bridge

Pyrmont Bridge Open Sydney Front

The image above is a stunning view of an famous part of Sydney’s history. Pyrmont Bridge is well known to Sydneysiders and visitors alike, being at the heart of Darling Harbour and its famous tourist district. Yet the view above is also a view which many will never have seen – the amazing bridge open, and viewed from the water.

Pyrmont Bridge is an amazing structure, and today has the honour of being one of the worlds oldest electrically operated swing bridges, having been built in 1902. Yet the bridge we see today is not the original bridge at all. Pyrmont Bridge has, since the mid 1800s, provided a vital transport link between the city itself and the growing western suburbs. Yet the bridge spanned Darling Harbour, which was then an important working harbour, with many wharves and warehouses. Tall ships needed to be able to enter the harbour and so the bridge needed to be designed in such a way that it opened to allow these ships to access the wharves. A wooden swing bridge was the answer and the first Pyrmont Bridge opened in 1857.

Then, in the late 1800s, it was decided a new bridge was needed. In 1891 a competition was held to design the new bridge, but the winning entry would never be built. It was a design for a bridge built entirely of metal and deemed to be far to expensive to actually construct. Instead, the design by Robert Hickson, the Commissioner and Engineer in Chief of the Department for Public Works, was chosen. His bridge was built mainly of timber, with just a the central swing span being metal. Construction on the new bridge began in 1899 and the beautiful swing bridge we see today was opened in 1902.

As the 1900s wore on, the type of ship bringing goods and visitors to Sydney changed, and the larger container ships no longer used the Cockle Bay end of Darling Harbour. By 1981 the Pyrmont Bridge was no longer in use, falling into disrepair and in danger of being demolished. Thanks to a public campaign though, the bridge was saved and restored as part of the redevelopment of Darling Harbour. The bridge, and Darling Harbour itself were reopened in 1988.

South Head And The Hornby Lighthouse

South Head Sydney with lighthouse front

The image above is a stunning glimpse across the water and towards South Head and its cheerfully painted lighthouse, a place which holds an important place in the history of Sydney, and the colony of NSW. Yet for many Sydneysiders, the lighthouse is simply a picturesque attraction.

The Hornby Lighthouse at South Head was constructed in 1858, but the story of the lighthouse itself begins a year earlier. In 1857, two ship wrecks caused a tragic loss of life for people travelling to Sydney Harbour. The first wreck, that of the Dunbar, occurred in August just off South Head and resulted in the loss of over 100 lives. Then, just two months later, the Catherine Adamson was lost, this time off North Head, resulting in the loss of twenty one lives. The public recognised that the entrance to Sydney Harbour, although seemingly a good, broad entrance, was a dangerous one. Ships could easily miss it, or mistake other rock formations as the entrance, resulting in terrible loss of life. Thus the public quickly began to agitate for a lighthouse which would denote the actual entrance to the harbour, eliminating a great deal of the danger involved in sailing to Sydney.

The Hornby Lighthouse is quite a small lighthouse, built on the extreme point of Inner South Head. It was constructed in 1858 and opened by Sir William Denison, the then Governor of NSW and named after the family of his wife, the Hornby Family. The light was usually known by the alternative name though, the Lower Light, which was used to distinguish it from the Macquarie Lighthouse, which was not far away along South Head Road. The Hornby lighthouse, which has long been recognised by its cheerful red and white painted exterior was designed by the Colonel architect, Alexander Dawson, and is actually built of beautifully dressed, curved sandstone blocks. The light itself stands 9 metres above the ground level.