Luna Park

Luna Park and North Sydney pool Front copy

This week, with Summer Holidays in swing, the Past Present examines the historic Sydney Luna Park, a favourite holiday destination for Sydneysiders and visitors alike for generations. This image is from either the late 1930s or 1940s and you might recognize some of the structures which are still there today!

During the building of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, the site where Luna Park stands today was taken up by large workshops where parts of the bridge were made and assembled. In 1932, with the bridge complete though, the workshops were demolished and in 1935, only three years later, Luna Park opened. The park was based on the successful fun park of the same name opened in 1903 on Coney Island, New York by Herman Phillips, though it was not the only or even the first park to trade on this original ‘Luna Park’. Melbourne’s Luna Park had opened in 1912 and there were Luna Parks in other countries too.

Luna Park Sydney originally traded using rides which had been relocated from Luna Park Glenelg, in Adelaide. Not only did it use rides from another park though, it used the knowledge gained through the previous parks to ensure immediate success. Throughout the 1930s and World War Two Luna Park continued to attract crowds and in the 1950s and 1960s various new rides were installed, many of which had been seen on trips overseas by David Atkins, who operated the park until 1957 and Ted Hopkins who ran the park until 1969. In the early 1970s the group responsible for the park attempted to redevelop the site without success and investment in the infrastructure and rides was very limited. Then, in 1979 disaster struck with a fatal fire on the Ghost Train resulting in the closure of the park. Over the following years the fun park opened and closed sporadically, but in 2004 Luna Park reopened for good, we hope!

An Icon of Sydney – Sydney Harbour Bridge

Harbour Bridge Sydney NSW (Luna Park)Front copy

For so much of the year Sydney-siders take the beautiful bridge captured in the image above as a normal part of Sydney life and skyline and spare it little thought. As New Year approaches though, many turn their attention to achieving the best possible view of the icon as it becomes the centre of Sydney’s New Year festivities.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge which is today such an icon of the Harbour City was, at the time of its opening in 1932, an engineering masterpiece at a whole new level. Yet the history of the bridge dates back over a century before to when convict architect Francis Greenway suggested building a bridge, in roughly the same location, to Governor Macquarie. Of course, this didn’t come to pass, but by Federation in 1901 the need for such a bridge was well recognised and in 1900 submissions for a bridge design were even called for, but they were all unsatisfactory and plans were yet again put aside.

It was after World War 1 when the real quest for a bridge began. Tenders, overseen by Dr J.J.C Bradfield, for either an arch or cantilever bridge were called for in 1923. Bradfield would ultimately oversee the entire design and building process. It was Dorman Long and Co. Ltd, a company from England, which won the tender, for their arch bridge designed by Sir Ralph Freeman. Construction began in 1924, displacing hundreds of families whose homes were resumed and demolished, without compensation, to make way for the bridge.

Come back next week to learn more about the history of Sydney’s iconic bridge.

Christmas At The Beach – Balmoral Beach

Balmoral Beach Sydney A Merry ChristmasFront copy
The above postcard is a festive glimpse into the history of Sydney’s beautiful Balmoral Beach in the inner harbour. This area has long been popular for picnicking and bathing, and with so many Australians enjoying the beach this Christmas season, it is likely to see many more!
Balmoral may have been a popular destination for Sydneysiders for well over a century, but for many years it was not the easiest beach to access. It was not until 1922 when a tram line was established to the beach that Sydney residents and visitors alike could make full and easy use of the beach. Today you can see the former tram waiting shed opposite Hunter Park, a relic of the era of trams. In 1958 buses replaced the trams, but people continued to flock to the beach.
The tram line and the explosion in visitors which it brought to the area allowed a great deal of progress along the beach. In 1923 Joels Boatshed was established near Balmoral Baths and in 1924 the Promenade was completed. The Promenade was an important part of the Balmoral Beautification Scheme and allowed visitors to walk above the beach on a paved path should they wish to avoid the sand. The southern section of the promenade was finished in 1927 and the Great Depression public works schemes provided funding for the bridge to Rocky Point. The bridge, along with the Rotunda and the Bathers Pavilion which were also funded by public works schemes were to be completed by 1930 and are still there today!

Bathing At Balmoral

Balmoral Beach Sydney 1 Front copy

Despite the rain, we have had a lot of warm weather recently in Sydney and in the heat Sydneysiders head for the many beaches around the city. Bathing has long been a popular pastime in Sydney and Balmoral, which is pictured in the postcard above, has long been a popular destination for Sydney bathers.

Balmoral in the inner harbour has been part of Sydney’s European history since just a few days after the First Fleet arrived in Sydney, and in 1860 a pleasure ground (Balmoral Gardens) was even constructed in the area, but it was not until 1878 that the beach itself was created as a public reserve. Balmoral, with its surf-less beaches (Edwards and Balmoral Beaches are separated by Rocky Point), rolling sand dunes and natural beauty attracted crowds of Sydney residents for picnics and of course bathing but for many years the beaches were difficult to access limiting the success of the area. In the 1880s and into the 1900s access was by ferry to Mosman Bay and thence by foot but in 1905 daily excursion steamers left from Circular Quay for the Spit, stopping at Balmoral along the way.

It was the passing of daylight bathing legislation in 1903 which really encouraged the popularity of the area though and soon a number of bathing facilities and clubs were being established. In 1899 Balmoral Baths had been constructed and they were leased to Robert Shearer (hence they became known as Shearer’s Baths) and 1914 Balmoral Beach Club was founded by a group of Mosman residents who called themselves the Smugglers. They used two old tram carriages as changing rooms and purchased land for a timber club house. They had grand plans to provide first aid, protection and even purchase a patrol boat, though many of these were never realised and essentially the club was a recreational swimming and social organisation.

To find out more about the history of Balmoral, come back next week.

Johnstone’s Bay

Johnstone's Bay From Balmain Front copy

The image above is a busy view of Sydney in its maritime heyday, a time when wharves in Sydney Harbour bustled with activity. This particular view, from circa 1910, shows Johnstone’s Bay from Balmain, both areas which were involved in maritime industries.

Today, Johnstone’s Bay is best remembered and indeed identified by the bridge which spans it – the ANZAC Bridge. Yet this was not the first bridge in the area. In 1860 the first pile was driven into the harbour to build the first, wooden bridge, over Johnstone’s Bay. In 1903 it was replaced by the Glebe Island Bridge. These early bridges were built in order to make it possible for the abattoirs which were an unpleasant part of Central Sydney to be moved onto Glebe Island where they were less of a problem. Yet building a bridge over this important waterway was something which could have negatively impacted maritime industry and so both bridges had to incorporate swing spans.

Why were these swing spans so necessary? Johnstone Bay is bracketed between two important historic wharf areas in Sydney, Pyrmont and Balmain and it is no surprise perhaps that the bay itself was also used for shipping. In fact in its more recent history the bay was used as the shipping container terminal! In addition, Johnstone Bay feeds into Rozelle Bay and Blackwattle Bay, both also areas which have historically played important roles in Sydney’s maritime heritage. Even today, boats come and go under the ANZAC Bridge, in part bringing back seafood to feed the seafood trade at the Sydney Fish Markets in Blackwattle Bay.

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.

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?

Place Of Folly? Folly Point

Folly Point North Sydney Front

The image above is a glimpse into the history of an area of North Sydney which today looks very different. Folly Point and Cammeray more generally were once an area given to dairy farming and quarrying, but today Cammeray is a built up area full of homes, manicured gardens and handsome tree lined streets. 

Cammeray is named after the Cammeraygal, the Aboriginal group who lived in the area. Though this name has a clear derivation, the name Folly Point is a little more mysterious. Such an evocative title – but what was the folly to which the name refers? Sadly nobody truly knows how the name came to be. There are two main theories though. Some suggest the area is named after Captain Charles McKinnon who was the commander of explosives hulks moored in the Seaforth area. The folly itself in this theory remains something of a mystery. The second theory suggests that a landowner in the area, by the name of Levy is responsible for the name. Apparently he built his house on Folly Point, but he mixed his mortar with the salty sea water and the house collapsed. The name folly refers to the fact that he then did the same thing again, with the same results.

However the area came to be named, it is an area which has played an important role in Sydneys Depression era history, not just in the Great Depression but also the previous 1890s Depression. During the earlier period of depression a shanty settlement grew up in the bushland at Folly Point. It was known as Tin Town and became home to many out of work Sydneysiders. It was also during this period that talented Australian poet Barcroft Boake tragically committed suicide at Folly Point, hanging himself with his stockwhip. Tin Town persisted after the depression ended and when depression again hit in the 1930s it was still a working settlement. Again, the unemployed moved into the rough tents and shacks.

Tragic Night Off Dunbar Rock

Dunbar Rock South Head Sydney The Gap Front
This week, with the weather being wild and woolly, the Past Present is focussing on one of the most spectacular areas of Sydney in which to watch waves, but also one which is associated with shipwrecks. Although many know this view as ‘The Gap’ as you can see from this postcard, the area has also been known as Dunbar Rock and is associated with the shipwreck of the Dunbar.
The Dunbar was completed in 1854 and arrived in Sydney in 1856. It was built at the Sunderland Shipyard in England and was, at the time, said to be the largest ship they had ever built. The grand ship was to have a short but dramatic life.
Just a year after the Dunbar first arrived in Sydney, on the night of the 20th of August 1857, the Dunbar arrived off Sydney Heads. It had on this occasion been at sea for 81 days and was in the charge of Captain James Green. He had already made eight voyages to Sydney, including that of the Dunbar in 1856. That night though the weather was treacherous with heavy rain obscuring the view of the coast.
Nobody is entirely certain why the Dunbar was wrecked off the Gap, though there are two main theories. One is that Captain Green believed he had overshot the entrance to the harbour and tried to turn around while the other suggests that those on watch, with their vision obscured by the weather, mistook The Gap as the harbour entrance. Whatever the case, the impact of the Dunbar against the rocks shattered the ship and it began to break up very quickly. The lifeboats were destroyed in the pounding seas and the bodies of the hapless passengers and sailors were thrown against the cliffs. Just one of the 122 people on board survived, James Johnson, a crew member who survived by climbing the cliff to a relatively safe ledge. The wreck, along with the loss of the Catherine Adamson just nine weeks later, was the catalyst for the construction of another lighthouse which marked the true entrance to the harbour – the Hornby Light on the tip of South Head.

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.