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Idyllic Rhodes

In the early 1900s Rhodes was still largely rural.

Uhrs Point at Rhodes takes its name from George Richard Uhr (1822-1864) who built his home there, overlooking the Parramatta River. Uhr held the position of Deputy Sheriff and later Sheriff of NSW. He was, like his brother William Cornelius, also an amateur composer. Records indicate he composed The Australian Rifle Corps March for pianoforte which is now apparently lost. The property was later owned by Charles Davis who built his home, ‘Llewellyn House’ there in 1886.

In 1912 the land was subdivided for housing. It was advertised as being twenty minutes from the city and famous throughout Australia as the starting point of all the great boat races.

Llewellyn House at Uhrs Point is just visible in the background of the photograph, above, taken from the opposite shore at Riverside Estate, Ryde in about 1910.

The original photograph is held by Ryde District Historical Society.

Chiswick Splash


Chiswick Baths and adjoining Chambers Park were developed largely through the efforts of the local community.

The Chiswick Progress Association suggested a pool and public reserve at Blackwall Point Road in 1944. At that time the population of Chiswick was ‘scarcely 220’.

It was not until 1956 however that the Chiswick Baths were finally opened. The pool was maintained through community volunteers with financial and material support from Drummoyne Council (and later the City of Canada Bay). The original wire netting used to section the pool off from the Parramatta River was purchased from the nearby Lysaght factory.

Sixty years on the tidal pool remains a popular spot with locals.

On Sunday, 20 November 2016 from 10am to 1pm there will be a range of activities to celebrate 60 years of fun and enjoyment.

A different view

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Concord Library is currently featuring the work of artist Lilian Lai.

Included in the exhibition is a beautiful landscape featuring Gladesville Bridge.

Lilian comments on the painting, ‘The Gladesville Bridge is often forgotten with Sydney having the famous ‘coat hanger’. Many of us would never know that it is one of only four projects in Australia to receive the International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, the world’s highest engineering award. For me, its sleek lines lends itself well into Sydney’s quite remarkable harbour landscape. I have painted this landscape in my contemporary xieyi (literally ‘writing intention’) style on Chinese rice paper mounted on canvas. I hope it conveys the economic beauty of this outstanding bridge in the midst of the harbour which is so much of Sydney.’

Lilian, who came from Malaysia to Sydney in 1988, is an active member of the Australian Chinese Painting Society and has exhibited widely, winning several awards for her work.

The paintings are on display at Concord Library until 28 February, then at Five Dock Library until 20 March 2016. Lilian’s workshop for children at Five Dock Library can be seen on flickr.

Champion of the World


In 1875 Edward Trickett won the sculling World Championship on the River Thames, England to become Australia’s first world champion in any sport. Between 1876 and 1907 seven of the world champions were from New South Wales: Trickett, Bill Beach, Peter Kemp, Henry Searle, Jim Stanbury, John McLean and George Towns. Several championship races were held on the Parramatta River.

In July 1905 the then World Champion George Towns was challenged by Jim Stanbury for a prize of £500. The race started at Homebush Bay and finished at Abbotsford, a distance of about 5,100 metres. Stanbury won the race in a time of 19 minutes 50 seconds to became World Champion. It was estimated that up to 150,000 spectators crowded the shoreline and watched from ferries and boats. Crowds were enormous at Cabarita and Abbotsford. Stanbury’s victory was short-lived with Towns reclaiming the title the following year.

Local Studies recently received a donation of a booklet, Harbour and river pleasure resorts, published by Sydney Ferries Limited (1908) which includes a photograph of ‘Towns and Stanbury on the Parramatta River’, probably showing the race near the start in Homebush Bay.

See also the earlier blog post Rowing on the Parramatta River.

The 72 steps

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Cut into solid rock, the Chiswick Steps originally led to a wharf which was serviced by ferries plying the Parramatta River. There was a ferry service to Chiswick from 1905 until 1928 when it was superseded with the introduction of a bus service.

In 1914 when the Tulley family moved to Blackwall Point Road there were only about twelve houses at Chiswick. The Tulley’s operated a general store at Chiswick from 1928 until 1987. The Tulley Brothers, Jim and Bill, recalled having furniture delivered by the ferry and the difficulties experienced in getting it to their home via the 72 Chiswick steps.

The wharf was damaged by fire in the 1940s and finally removed in 1958. Of the original 72 steps, only 62 remain today. The aerial photograph of the Chiswick Steps was taken in about 1980.

Local club made a big splash


In the early 1950s the Cabarita Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Club had a big impact on Australian women’s swimming.

The club was founded by Lesley Thicknesse who had been a diver at the Empire (now Commonwealth) Games in London in 1934. Her three daughters Janet, Val and Pam along with Lorraine and Thelma Crapp were among the first members of the club. Based at Cabarita Baths (now Cabarita Swimming Centre), six members of the club were part of the Australian team at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

In view of the regimens of today’s elite swimmers, it’s interesting to reflect on training 1950s style. Winter calisthenics classes were held on the backyard lawn of the Thicknesse family home. Participants were reminded to ‘bring a rug or small blanket’. However, training was under the guidance of Frank Guthrie, one of the great coaches of the period, who helped Lorraine Crapp achieve enormous success in the pool.

The photograph shows Pat Huntingford and Lorraine Crapp participating in a Cabarita Ladies’ Amateur Swimming Club calisthenics class in 1955.

City of Canada Bay is hosting a family fun day at Bayview Park, Concord on Saturday, 21 March 2015, 12noon – 4pm as part of the Parramatta River Catchment Group – Our Living River initiative, to make the Parramatta swimmable again. Come along, it’s free!

Gladesville Bridge


Gladesville Bridge was officially opened fifty years ago on 2 October 1964 by Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent.

It was designed by G Maunsell & Partners of London with the designs being approved by famous bridge engineer Eugène Freyssinet. At the time of its completion it was, at 305 metres, the longest single-span masonry or concrete bridge in the world. Its design features and innovative construction methods set new standards for bridge design and construction.

Gladesville Bridge marked the transition from steel bridge technology, as represented by the Sydney Harbour Bridge, to that of concrete and confirmed the arrival of pre-stressed concrete as a major bridge-building material in Australia. It was the first major concrete arch bridge in the world that was built using precast segments and was one of the first bridges designed with the aid of a computer.

In 1965, Gladesville Bridge was awarded a Civic Design Award by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and in 2014, Engineers Australia recognised the bridge with an Engineering Heritage International Marker.

Local Studies holds a copy of the menu for the official dinner marking the opening of the bridge together with several photographs showing its construction. These can be viewed on flickr.

Open day at Rivendell


The City of Canada Bay Heritage Society will be hosting an open day at Rivendell this month to allow people the chance to visit this magnificent historical building.

For over 120 years the building has provided support to those in need of medical care, first as the Thomas Walker Covalescent Hospital, named in honour of Thomas Walker who bequeathed funds to establish it, and since 1979 as a special facility which focuses on the psychological health of young people and their families.

The photograph shows the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital soon after opening in 1893. The elaborate ‘Dutch Tower’ watergate has recently been fully restored.

The open day will be held on 27 July 2014 from 9.30am to 3pm, for details contact the City of Canada Bay Heritage Society.

Historical postcards released


Four historical postcards have been released by City of Canada Bay Library Service which show aspects of recreation and work along the Parramatta River.

The earliest image, above, shows the women and men, mixed pairs skiff race near Drummoyne in 1906. Other images show the Lysaght Bros. Co. wharf at Abbotsford Bay, the opening of the Concord-Cabarita Coronation Baths and Rhodes Punt.

The postcards promote the library’s digital image collection, ‘Canada Bay Connections’ and City of Canada Bay Museum. They are available free of charge from Concord Library, Five Dock Library and City of Canada Bay Museum.

Rowing on the Parramatta River


Professional sculling was a popular spectator sport of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, drawing enormous crowds to watch races.

Edward Trickett became Australia’s first sports champion when, in 1876, he defeated the English champion, Joseph Sattler on the Thames River.

Enthusiasm for sculling led to the formation of several rowing clubs along the river, chief of which was the Sydney Rowing Club. Although formed near Circular Quay in 1870, the Sydney Rowing Club purchased land at Abbotsford and later moved its headquarters to the Parramatta River site.

One of the most important annual events was the Greater Public Schools Head of the River regatta which was held between Ryde Bridge and Cabarita Ferry Wharf from 1893 until 1935, when the event was transferred to the Nepean River. Trams ran almost non-stop from the Enfield depot taking huge crowds to Cabarita Point to watch the finish of the race. Supporters chartered ferries and launches, decorated them with their team’s colours and made the spectacular trip along the river to the finishing point.