Blog Archives

Great works at Mortlake


Local Studies recently received a wonderful donation of photographs of the AGL (Australian Gas Light Company) works at Mortlake from GML Heritage. It includes a series of AGL images taken prior to the redevelopment of the site as well as some interesting early images of the gasworks.

AGL purchased 32 hectares of land at Mortlake in 1884 and commenced gas production two years later. The gasworks dominated the Mortlake landscape for over a hundred years until its closure in 1990 when the site was redeveloped for medium-density housing and today is known as Breakfast Point.

The photograph, above, is from about 1900 and shows AGL’s first Retort House (on the left) which was at the heart of the gas manufacturing operations. At this time the gas was made using coal which was transported to Mortlake from Newcastle by colliers, known as ‘sixty milers’ (the distance between the two locations). On the right can be seen the Blacksmith’s shop which has survived and been restored to become the Breakfast Point Sales Office.

The collection donated by GML Heritage will be digitised and added to ‘Canada Bay Connections’.

A Canadian connection

Marceau House (Small)

In 1837-1838 revolts in Lower Canada (Quebec) by Patriotes over grievances against British rule were severely crushed. Some rebels were executed and others sentenced to transportation. In 1840 the ship Buffalo transported 91 English speaking rebels to Port Arthur in Tasmania while 58 French speaking Canadians were sent to Longbottom Stockade, a convict depot near the present site of Concord Oval.

The good behaviour of the French Canadians led to free pardons being granted between November 1843 and February 1844. All except Joseph Marceau opted to return to their homeland. Marceau was a widower at the time of his transportation. In 1844 he married Mary Barrett and settled at Dapto where he lived until his death in 1883, aged 77 years.

Recently, Pierre Marcoux in Canada kindly sent a photograph of Joseph Marceau’s home in Saint-Cyprien-de-Napierville, Quebec (above) to Canada Bay Connections. Pierre also donated images of The Patriots Monument, Côte-des-Neiges Cemetery, Montreal, Quebec which includes the name of Joseph Marceau. In Concord, Marceau Drive is named after him.

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the Canadian Exiles in Australia.

A tree of memories


A recent addition to the landscape of Concord Library is a ‘tree’ in the cafe area. The leaves of the tree are made up of historical images of the Canada Bay area taken from the library’s digital collection, Canada Bay Connections.

The tree has been created by the Embroiderers’ Guild NSW, which is based at Concord West, and joins other decorative trees made by the guild at the library.

This is, of course, not the first time that the library’s photographic collection has been used creatively as part of a new artwork. Joanne Saad used images from the collection as part of her ‘I remember’ mural in Fred Kelly Place, while David Capra used elements taken from historical documents in the Local Studies collection to create his work ‘Gold Dust and Gemstones’ in the windows at Five Dock Library.

Trace your family history


City of Canada Bay Library Service provides access to two important databases for people wishing to trace their family history, Ancestry and Find My Past.

To coincide with Family History Month, Heather Garnsey of the Society of Australian Genealogists will be giving an informative talk to help family history researchers. The talk is aimed at current users of Ancestry and Find My Past who would like to enhance their search skills and use these databases to greater effect.

The talk will be held at Concord Library on Tuesday, 27 August 2013.

The photograph shows John and Amanda Jane Smith with their children at Mortlake. Behind their home looms one of the AGL (Australian Gas Light Company) Gas Storage Tanks. John Smith was an engineer, born in Kent, who came to Australia to install a new stoking machine at AGL. After serving 15 years with AGL he operated the Petersham Hotel for a period before returning to AGL where he worked until his death in 1927.

Amis de France


At 23:41 hours on 10 April 1944, Lancaster ND586 of 460 Squadron RAAF took off from RAF Binbrook to bomb the railway junction and marshalling yards at Aulnoye, France. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take-off and it did not return to base. It had been shot down over Vieux-Mesnil (Nord), killing all seven of the crew. The pilot, Flight Officer Arthur Harold Probert RAAF, a resident of Drummoyne, was at the age of 25 the oldest member of the crew.

Bernard Feutry, a resident of Vieux-Mesnil, has extensively researched the loss of the Lancaster ND586 which he has made available through a website. He has also supported the building of a memorial to honour these ‘amis de France’ which will be unveiled at Vieux-Mesnil on 28 April 2013.

Lancaster bombers played a significant role in the Allied campaign during World War II at an enormous personal cost with a fifty percent death rate amongst airmen. This remarkable wartime service is recounted in a recently released book, Lancaster men: the Aussie heroes of Bomber Command by Peter Rees.

The photograph, courtesy of Bernard, shows the original marker where the Lancaster crashed.

A special book of remembrance

One of Local Studies’ treasures is the Drummoyne War Service Record which records the names of service men and women of the First World War. The calligraphy and title page illustrations are by Drummoyne resident and ‘lithographic artist’ Henry John Allcock Baron while the morocco binding is by Wal Taylor, a noted craftsman bookbinder of the 1920s.

The title page of the Drummoyne War Service Record includes an illustration of the sinking of the German cruiser SMS Emden by HMAS Sydney, the first victory of the Royal Australian Navy. A recent addition to Canada Bay Connections is a letter from Cecil Rhoades to Charles McIlwaine written from the HMAS Sydney on 22 April 1917. The letter thanks the recipient for the Christmas parcel which had only just arrived and expresses how much the men enjoyed the cake. The three page letter does not mention anything about the ‘Syd’ (as Cecil calls the ship) or the war, as he writes ‘we get plenty of news … but have to keep it’.

The Drummoyne War Service Record can be viewed on flickr.

Rhodes Fire Station

Recently, Greg McIlwaine lent photographs and documents from his family collection to be copied and added to Canada Bay Connections.

In 1914 Charles McIlwaine, who had been a fireman at Darlinghurst, bought land at Rhodes as the site for his family home. He founded the Rhodes Volunteer Fire Brigade which at first operated with a hand drawn fire hose. Charles’ son Vic later served as Captain of the Rhodes Fire Station while the position is currently held by his grandson, Captain Greg McIlwaine.

The photograph shows Rhodes firemen about 1930 on a no. 87 Willys-Knight fire engine. Captain Charles McIlwaine is seated in front alongside the driver. Local firm Rider & Bell Pty Ltd, of Cavell Street, Rhodes began manufacturing brass helmets for the NSW Fire Brigade in about 1942, after British helmets became unavailable.

McIlwaine Park at Rhodes is named after Charles McIlwaine commemorating his and his family’s remarkable service to the community across three generations.

Historic home at the heart of Domremy

At the centre of Domremy College is the fine mansion built for Arthur William Sutton (1839-1913) and his wife Emily Mary Sutton in 1878.

Sutton was the first Mayor of Five Dock. The house was originally called Delapré and was probably named after Delapré Abbey, the Convent of St Mary De La Pré near Northampton, UK. Delapré is believed to have been designed by architect Benjamin Backhouse. The Sutton family moved out of Delapré in 1896 and subsequent owners included Dr C. S. Gibbons, W. G. Crockett and Patrick James Cashman.

In 1910 it was sold to the Sacred Heart Presentation Order of the Roman Catholic Church who renamed it the ‘Domremy Presentation Convent’ after Domrémy, France, the birthplace of Joan of Arc.

What are your memories of Domremy College?

The world’s largest filling station

All Cars Service Station at the corner Parramatta Road and Great North Road, Five Dock claimed to be ‘The World’s Largest Filling Station’. An advertisement in The Story of Drummoyne (1940) explained, ‘In the older world there are Filling Stations that cover a larger area than ‘All Cars’, but they have not the number of pumps nor such a large and convenient service area. If you call at this station you will be satisfied that it is the world’s largest, and for service and civility -the world’s best.’

Local Studies holds a copy of the architect W. L. Knispel’s block plan for the ‘Proposed Service Station at Five Dock for W. Smythe Esq’.

The site was originally occupied by the Arlington Hotel which was built about 1850. All Cars has now disappeared but the site’s association with motoring continues through the Audi dealership and Five Dock Smash Repairs (which appears to be part of the original All Cars Service Station building).

Rothwell and Cullen’s Four Ways

Rothwell and Cullen’s Four Ways Gas Service Station, located on the corner of Parramatta and Concord Roads, Concord, was the latest in modern service station design when it was built in 1939.

In the years following World War II, the business under the direction of Ed Cullen, transformed into a car dealership.

While the site has undergone many changes since this photograph was taken, it has had a continuous association with the motor trade for over seventy years.