A Very Different Martin Place

martin place
This week, with so many Sydney residents and visitors making the trip to Martin Place for the recent ANZAC Day commemorations at the Cenotaph (built in 1927), The Past Present is sharing a very different view of this famous street. Today, Martin Place is a pedestrian plaza, but once it was a busy street in the heart of Sydney’s central business district.
In 1863, with the proposal to build the GPO, there came proposals to create a grand street on the northern frontage, where at that time a tiny lane way ran. Nothing was done about creating this street though until fire destroyed many of the buildings on the northern side of the lane in 1890. A new, much grander street was opened in 1892, though it did not run between George and Macquarie Streets then, but just between Pitt and Castlereagh. In 1921 Moore Street was widened and renamed Martin Place, extending the road substantially, but it was not until 1935 that Martin Place reached the full length of the street we see today.
Martin Place was, for many years, marketed as the financial and insurance centre and the hub of the city. Older buildings were demolished and the sites auctioned to create new, grand buildings, many of which accommodated major banks and insurance companies. The street was busy, bustling with people but also with traffic. As this image shows, cars were certainly not in short supply in Martin Place! This continued to be the case until the late 1960s, when proposals to make the stretch between Pitt and George Streets a pedestrian plaza, closed to traffic. The plaza was opened in 1971 and was such a success with the public that permission to extend the plaza was granted. The final section of the pedestrian precinct was officially opened in 1979.

ANZAC Parade and the ANZAC Obelisk

ANZAC Parade
This week, with ANZAC Day and the Centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign nearly upon us, it seemed appropriate to look at one of many cards in The Past Present collection relating to war and the ANZACs.  There were many to choose from, but this image of ANZAC Parade in Sydney was chosen because so many people are familiar with the street, yet may not know it’s history.
ANZAC Parade is a major road in South East Sydney which was originally known as Randwick Road. The road was an important part of the road network to Randwick and was also how people entered Moore Park in the 1860s, but it was then just a sandy track. Although always an important road, the stately and formal Parade we know today was built during the ‘Great War’ as it was then known, World War One. In fact, ANZAC Parade, and the ANZAC Obelisk which is pictured in the postcard above was one of the first memorials built to the ANZACs, being officially opened in March 1917, well over a year before peace was declared.
Many may wonder why this road, seemingly no more important than any other, was chosen as the memorial. The route was very significant though, being the parade route which was taken by the 1st Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) when they left their camp at Kensington Racecouse to embark for overseas service. The road was constructed to feature a beautifully maintained flower bed in the centre strip, though this has long since been replaced by grass. The Obelisk, one of the earliest memorials to the Australian soldiers who left to serve overseas, predating both the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park and the Cenotaph in Martin Place, has sadly been moved from its original, prominent position. Once, the Obelisk marked the beginning of ANZAC Parade and was part of ANZAC commemorations, often pictured covered with flowers and wreaths, but it is now less prominent and partially obscured by fencing. It was moved 300 metres south in order to allow for construction of the exit portal from the Eastern Distributor onto ANZAC Parade itself.

Crossing The Spit

The Spit Ferry Middle Harbour (Fry's Chocolate)Front copy

The image above is an evocative glimpse into era before the Spit Bridge was built. Today, most Sydneysiders and many visitors to the beautiful harbour city are familiar with The Spit Bridge. It is hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t there.

As this image shows though, there was a time when crossing The Spit was not as simple as driving along a bridge. The Spit (which was actually originally known as The Sand Spit) was settled by European colonists as early as the 1840s. In 1849 Peter Ellery took up land opposite The Spit (purchasing the land formally in 1855). Travellers often asked him to take them across the water, and in the early 1850s he decided to start a more formal, paid ferry service adjacent to where The Spit Bridge is today. Originally, the ferry was simply a row boat, but in 1862, with the building of the road to The Spit and the increased traffic the road brought, a better system was needed. Ellery soon replaced the rowboat with a hand operated punt. In 1871 the Government took over the service, operating a public ferry service and in 1888 a steam punt appeared. The steam punt operated right up until the first bridge was built in 1924.

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!

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.


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.

The Distinguished Royal New South Wales Lancers

New South Wales Lancers Front
Last week, as many readers will be aware, the Lancers Parade was held in Parramatta to commemorate 125 years of the Royal New South Wales Lancers. What many do not know is about the important history of this military group in Australia’s and indeed world history.
The Royal New South Wales Lancers were formed in 1885, though they were then known as the New South Wales Cavalry Reserves. They were renamed the New South Wales Lancers in 1894, but the ‘Royal’ in their title was not added until 1935. Today they are known as the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers. Since the late 1800s their barracks have been located in Parramatta and their nickname is the Parramatta Lancers. The Barracks themselves predate the formation of the Lancers and have a fascinating history in their own right.
The Lancers have a distinguished history of active service, dating back to the Boer War. In 1899 a squadron of the Lancers who had been training in England were the first Colonial troops to actually arrive in South Africa. During the 1st World War, the Lancers were a militia unit and as a result they did not serve abroad, though they did receive a number of battle honours. However, many pre-war members of the Lancers did join up for service, joining the Australian Imperial Force. Many of them served in the famous Light Horse Regiments which fought in Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine. In fact the Light Horse Regiments included a substantial number of Lancer trained men. Subsequently the Royal New South Wales Lancers were actually designated the successors of the 1st Light Horse Regiment and later still, in 1956, the 1st was linked with the 15th, making them also the successors of the 15th Light Horse Regiment. During the 2nd World War the Lancers were incorporated into the 2nd AIF as an armoured regiment and served in New Guinea and Borneo. In fact, the regiment made the heaviest Australian tank attack of the war.
Since the 2nd World War, the Lancers have continued to serve, with full time units seeing service in Bougainville, Malaysia, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. They currently hold 21 military honours, making them one of the most decorated units in the Australian Army.

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.