Plying A Trade In Martin Place

Flower Sellers Martin Place Sydney Front

With Christmas just around the corner, and many people purchasing flowers as a hostess gift for the many people hosting Christmas parties, it seemed the perfect time to share this image of the iconic Martin Place flower sellers. The image, from a postcard dating to the first 10 years of the 20th century, is an evocative glimpse into a business which has long been linked to Martin Place (then Moore Street), and continues to thrive in the area today.

Martin Place has long been a bustling hive of activity, full of people going about their daily work. This bustling activity made it a perfect place for flower sellers to ply their trade, attracting passersby and many impulse sales. Yet most flower sellers did not start off in Martin Place at all, being forced off other, busier streets to make room for ever increasing traffic. Martin Place was the ideal place for flower sellers to congregate though, setting themselves up near the steps of the General Post Office and pouncing on people hurrying to mail their letters.

The earliest Martin Place flower sellers began to set up stalls in the 19th century, but it was during the 20th century that Sydney’s most iconic flower seller plied her trade. Rosie Shaw had once had high hopes of a career in opera, coming to Sydney from London in 1927 to seek fame and fortune in the land Dame Nellie Melba had called home. Rosie’s dreams never came to pass, but she grew to the status of a Sydney icon none the less. In 1931 she first set up shop on Martin Place, plying her customers not just with flowers, but with snatches of opera and tall tales of her history of a ballerina and singer. Rosie soon became very popular and increasingly influential, using her iconic status to act as one of the earliest defenders of gay men in Sydney. She sold flowers for 40 years, finally packing up her stall in 1971.

The Airport, Rose Bay

Air Port Rose Bay Front

The image above, from a postcard dated circa 1930, captures a snapshot of a chapter in Sydney’s history which many are unaware of. Although today Rose Bay continues to be home to sea-planes, which are particularly popular for scenic flights, Rose Bay airport once had a much larger role to play in Sydney’s transport history.

Today, we think of Mascot and the Sydney airport as the home of international travel in Sydney, yet once, there was another airport at the heart of the industry. International travel by plane was, in the 1920s, almost unheard of. Yet there was a new type of plane – the flying boat – which was going to become a pioneer for international air travel. In the 1930s an airport was established at Rose Bay, at that stage on a temporary basis, to cater for these flying boats. 

The Qantas Empire Airways and Imperial Airways used the Rose Bay airport – Sydney’s first international airport – as the terminus for their London to Sydney service. Of course, the planes could not make a continuous journey, and made many stops along the way, but the journey on a flying boat was luxurious and comfortable. 

It was believed that in the wake of World War Two there would be a boom in international air travel. Yet while this prediction was correct, advances in the abilities of land based air craft meant that the flying boats became less popular. Plans to build further facilities at Rose Bay were put on hold as the flying boat services were gradually decreased. The last Qantas flight from Rose Bay took place in 1955, and the final commercial flight from the Rose Bay airport, an Ansett flight, took off in 1974. 

Lest We Forget The Salvos

Salvos

With Remembrance Day nearly upon us, and marking 100 years since the end of the First World War, The Past Present is turning its attention to the amazing work done during the war. Of course, many millions of soldiers have served in war, and many lost their lives. Yet there were others who made brave contributions at the front, without ever entering into battle. The Salvation Army, was one of these groups. 

During the First World War the Salvation Army played a vital role, not just in keeping the home fires burning, but in supporting the morale of troops on the front line. The Salvation Army groups of many allied countries sent representatives to war ravaged countries, including France, where they set up canteens, rest facilities and hostels. Often these facilities were not far from the front line, and the Salvationists were themselves in great danger, but they served as friends, confidants and comforters to many troops despite the dangers. 

One of the most famous roles of the Salvation Army, particularly of the ladies who served in war torn countries, was serving doughnuts, as the image above shows. The first Salvation Army doughnut was, according to legend, served by Helen Purviance, a Salvation Army ensign from America. Cooking over a wood fired stove, and frying just seven doughnuts at a time, in the first day Purviance and her girls served 150 doughnuts to troops who patiently waited in line, standing in the mud and being pelted by rain. The next day they cooked double this number and later, when properly equipped, Salvation Army canteens would serve up to 9000 doughnuts a day to eager troops.

Shipping At Millers Point

Millers Point and Balmain Sydney NSW FrontThe image above is a stunning glimpse into the history of a place which, for many Sydneysiders and visitors alike, is very familiar – Millers Point. Yet the image above is stunningly different to the Millers Point we are familiar with today. Today, Millers Point is an historic area of Sydney with many cultural attractions and cafes, yet once it was at the heart of Sydney’s working harbour, bustling with a different type of activity entirely.

Until the 1830s, Millers Point was a reasonably deserted part of the new colony, with very few people settling in the area, despite it being close to the centre of the settlement. In the 1820s there was a military hospital and three windmills in the area (hence Millers point – named after Jack the Miller) but only half a dozen houses in the entire area. By the 1830s though, the deep water of Millers Point and its close situation to Dawes Point, were attracting more people to the area. Soon, a thriving if smelly industry focussing on whaling and sealing began to be established. By the 1840s, there were more workers cottages scattered through Millers Point and even the occasional wharf owners grand home was built.

It was in the 1850s that the maritime trade in the area really began to take off though, and by the 1860s there were even several large warehouses built on the waterfront. Yet the wharves were crowded and unsanitary, especially after the depression of the 1890s, and they made a perfect home for rats. In 1900 the bubonic plague came to Millers Point and in the wake of the disease, the area was resumed by the government and a major redevelopment began. The first, and most important part of the redevelopment was the building of new wharves and the associated docks and warehouses which were associated with a thriving maritime industry.

Trams On The Harbour Bridge

The Harbour Bridge Showing Tram Road And Rail Tracks Front
The image above is a stunning glimpse of the history of one of Sydney’s most iconic landmarks. Today, the harbour bridge bustles with cars, trains, pedestrians and bikes, yet once, trams were a vital part of the thrum of activity. In fact trams were once at the heart of Sydney’s transport! With construction underway on new tram tracks in Sydney, and now Parramatta, it seemed the perfect time to explore the history of trams in Sydney.
Sydney once had an enormous network of trams, which we now hear more often described as ‘light rail’. In fact, the Sydney tram system was, at its height, the largest network of trams in Australia and one of the biggest in the whole world! Sydneys first trams were horse drawn, being a vital transport link between Sydney Railway station and Circular Quay. Yet this first track closed after a public campaign in 1866, because the track itself stood above the road and caused accidents.
By 1879 though, trams were back and seemingly here to stay. A steam tram system was growing up in Sydney and it rapidly expanded, covering first much of the city and then extending to closer suburbs around Sydney. Electrification of the lines began in 1898 and most lines were fully electric by 1910. At their height, the tram lines travelled to places as varied as Watsons Bay, Manly, Balmoral, Chatswood, The Spit and, as the postcard shows, across the Harbour Bridge.
The system began a gradual decline in the 1930s and the last of the original Sydney tram services ceased in 1961, with the last route to close being that to La Perouse.

Boating On Burrinjuck Dam

Scene on Barren Jack Weir Front

The image above is a beautiful scene which at first glimpse simply captures a pleasant day out and about on the water, yet the setting for this relaxing day is one of the many magnificent feats of engineering which are to be found in our 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 a dam on the Murrumbidgee River, and is about 60 kilometres from Yass. Today, the dam is marketed as a popular area for bushwalking, camping and water sports, a tourist attraction in itself, yet in 1906, when construction of the Dam began, the scheme was created for an extremely different audience. The dam was the first in NSW to be built specifically to provide water for irrigation of farms, 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 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 a huge proportion of our fruit, vegetables and rice.

When Central Was New

New Railway Station Sydney NSW From Elizabeth Street (Central) Front

The image above, of the ‘New Railway Station’ is an amazing snapshot into the very beginnings of a station which so many Sydneysiders and visitors alike are familiar with – Central Station. Today, Central Station is such a vital link in the Sydney train system that we little think of how it began, or what came before.

Central Station is today the busiest station in NSW and the major terminus station for many services. Yet the foundation stone for the station was not laid until 1902, and the station itself did not open until 1906. Before this, there was another terminus station, in an entirely different place – Redfern. The Redfern Station, known as Sydney Station, opened in 1855 as what could best be described as a tin shed. In 1874 a new, more permanent station built of brick and stone was opened, on the same site. As Sydney grew though, a bigger station was needed to service the growing train network.

The plans for the new station, on the north side of Devonshire Street, were approved by Parliament in December 1900, but construction could not begin until the area was resumed. This included moving the remains and headstones from the Devonshire Street Cemetery, which cost over £27,000. Construction on the station itself began in 1902, with the foundation stone for the iconic Clock Tower being laid a year later. In 1906 a gold key was turned in the booking office by Premier Carruthers, and this officially opened the station, with the first train service, the Western Mail train, running through the station at 5:50am. In 1914 platforms 16 to 19 were added, and construction continued throughout the First World War. In 1921 the Clocktower began operation at 10:22am on March 3rd, and the two additional floors of offices were opened.