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.
The image above is a striking view over Sydney from the Hotel Australia, once one of Sydney’s most exclusive and finest hotels. The view is stunning, highlighting the landscape of Sydney as it was, a very different view to Sydney today where skyscrapers dominate the skyline.
The view from the Hotel Australia was not the only grand aspect of this exclusive venue. Arguably, the Hotel Australia was the finest and most elegant hotel ever built in Sydney. Opened in 1891 the hotel was extended in 1920, becoming a stunning example of Art Deco design. The entrance foyer was resplendent with black Carrara marble, silver etched black glass and mirrors. There were also several bars, the Bevery dining room which provided a more intimate dining experience and a grand banqueting room.
The Hotel Australia and the extraordinary view are not the only interesting aspects of this postcard though. This postcard actually preceded a pig carcass, sent by train to the processor. We assume the sender wished for the pig be returned more along the lines of ham and bacon than as a dead pig! The sender also requests that the receiver acknowledges receipt of said dead pig.
The image above provides an enchanting look at inner city living during the hard years of the 1930s. Girls play in the street in front of their homes, some of the terraces which are such a part of Glebe.
Originally, as the name suggests, Glebe was land belonging to the Church of England, but in 1828 the land was auctioned off and soon after Glebe became a place of elegant homes and pleasure grounds. By the mid 19th century though, there was a clear class distinction in Glebe with the well to do living in the elevated areas while the lower classes lived in the lower and less desirable area, closer to Blackwattle Creek. Glebe became known as something of a mix of classes, made up of middle class, lower middle class and working class neighbourhoods. Not only was Glebe increasingly an area with a variety of distinct class groups though, it was an area of rapid population growth. In fact by 1901, 19200 people lived in the 3737 houses in the area, many of these houses being the terraces which are so characteristic of Glebe.
In the years following 1841 terraces began to appear in Glebe and by the 1870s they had actually become the dominant form of housing. Terraces were perfect for the rapidly increasing population, providing self contained, private houses and of course being economical with building materials and space. Yet although terraces were almost the standard building in the area, there was nothing standard about their design. The terraces in Glebe were built to reflect the period in which they were constructed, and by 1915 a mosaic of different styles could be found, ranging from colonial to Georgian, Victorian Gothic to Regency. Increasingly, these terraces were the homes of the lower classes, especially following the outbreak of the Bubonic Plague. The middle classes increasingly sought the space and sanitary conditions of the suburbs further from the city centre and Glebes distinct classes became far more difficult to separate. Today of course, Glebe is once again a trendy place to live with a mix of people, cultures and backgrounds making up the community.
There are several photos of Glebe in the collection, so keep an eye out for more posts about this historic area of Sydney.
Sydney has an amazing skyline, which has over the course of the centuries evolved and changed. Over time, buildings have been built and demolished, houses have come and gone and the skyline has evolved to reflect the increasingly tall and modern city. This photo, taken by an unknown photographer in 1936 shows a Sydney skyline which is not only lower than the one we see today, but which includes many buildings and terraces which have now disappeared.
The photo also shows some of the signs which once adorned so many of our buildings, the most dominant of which is that of Washington H. Soul Pattinson Manufacturing Chemists. Although many may recognise the name Soul Pattinson as a popular and well known chemist, the name Washington H. Soul Pattinson may be a little less familiar, yet it is one of Australia’s most successful and historic family run companies.
Caleb Soul arrived in Australia in 1863. He was an Englishman who had experience working in the drug industry not only in his homeland of England, but also in America. He soon realised the potential for a retail chemist which could import drugs and patent medicines from England and America. He opened a pharmacy in Pitt Street in 1872 advertising his products as sold at the same cost they would be found in London and New York. The business, which operated out of a single room, was a great success but he wasn’t trading under his own name. He felt that his sons name, Washington, sounded more honest, so he sold his products under the name Washington H. Soul. Within a year larger premises were needed and the pharmacy moved, though it remained in Pitt Street. In 1886 their current building was destroyed by fire but a replacement, called the Phoenix Building, was built in the same location and this building not only still stands today, but continues to trade as a Soul Pattinson Chemist. By 1890 the pharmacy was operating six stores in Sydney and by 1940 Lewy Pattinson was able to fund the donation of the first aeroplane in the Royal Flying Doctor Service based at Broken Hill.
Today though, Washington H. Soul Pattinson is more than simply the chemist chain we all know so well. Washington H. Soul Pattinson is a highly diversified investment house with holdings not just in pharmacy, but in areas including building materials, natural resources, media and telecommunications and even fund management!
This week, the Past Present is focussing on a form of employment – a service industry in fact – which was once common in Sydney, but which has all but died out. Once shoe shiners were a common sight in Sydney, as shown in the postcard above of Park Street. The postcard is dated to circa 1915 and shows a row of shoe shiners ready for custom. The area of Park Street shown is uncertain, but is probably in the vicinity of Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building.
Shoe shining has a surprising history, with shoe polish not really available as a purchasable product until after 1906. Before this, shoe polish was often homemade, using tallow, lanolin or beeswax as a base, and often adding lampblack to provide a colour to the shine. People very rarely shone their own shoes though and gradually a business arose around providing a service to people who wanted a high sheen to their shoes. By the mid 19th century shoe shine boys (not always children, but often adult men) were operating in city streets, particularly around areas of high pedestrian movement (such as stations and public buildings). Using a basic form of shoe polish, a brush and polishing cloth, these boys would set up on the street and provide a shine to the shoes of those passing by, in return for a small fee. In the postcard you can also see many of the shoe shine boxes which were favoured by shoe shiners as they provided the customer a place to rest his foot while the shine was taking place, but also provided storage for the polish and other products needed to produce it.
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!
Millers Point is a fascinating area of Sydney with a rich history. It is also an area which many Sydney-siders are quite familiar with and the photo above is not only evocative of the rich history of the area, but shows how similar certain views remain today. Yet Millers Point has also undergone some of the most drastic changes of any area in Sydney.
The 1890s were a time of hardship and turmoil for the people living and working in and around Millers Point. With strikes, depression and the collapse of the wool trade, things looked bleak. The wharves were increasingly insanitary as were the houses. The outbreak of bubonic plague in January 1900 was a heavy blow and became the catalyst for major changes. The area was quarantined, houses underwent compulsory disinfection and anybody suspected of coming into contact with the dreaded disease was sent to the Quarantine Station at North Head under cover of darkness.
In the wake of the plague, and the public fear which accompanied the dreaded disease, the government had all the excuse it needed to resume the area, including the wharves, and begin an extensive redevelopment. The first priority of the newly created Sydney Harbour Trust was to rebuild the wharves, but they also resumed hundreds of properties and by the 1920s whole streets had disappeared, new cliffs had been constructed and many, many houses had been rebuilt. High Street, the largest grouping of these residential buildings, was even constructed during this period in the wake of quarrying along Hickson Road. These were Sydney’s first public housing, but they were not allocated according to need, but instead given by the Trust to maintain their own workforce.
Come back next week for the final installment of The Past Presents series on Millers Point.
Sometimes photos of an area show a glimpse into a past long gone, and the photo above, taken by an unknown photographer, circa 1936, is one such image. Although it is a view which remains remarkably similar today, Walsh Bay and Millers Point is a very different place now to the working maritime area which is glimpsed through this image.
Before the 1830s, Millers Point was isolated and reasonably deserted, with few people settling in the area. Three windmills, operated by John Leighton (known as Jack The Miller, which inspired the name of the area itself) and a military hospital were built in the area, but only six or so houses were to be found in Millers Point in the 1820s. However, by the 1820s Sydney Cove itself was becoming crowded and Dawes Point was already being adapted to the maritime industry. The deep waters of Millers Point, adjacent to Dawes Point, became the focus of a thriving, if malodorous, whaling and sealing industry and by the 1840s workers cottages and even the occasional fine house belonging to wharf owners were beginning to appear.
It was in the 1850s that Millers Point became a hub for maritime activity. Almost all workers in the area during this time were connected with the wharves or the local infrastructure which supported them (including hotels, boarding houses and pubs). By 1861 there were even six large warehouses built on the waterfront.
The Millers Point of this era though would have looked very different even to that pictured in the photo above. Come back next week when the Past Present will share another beautiful photograph of the area, and the story of how and why the area underwent such dramatic changes.