Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Campbelltown Fire Station

The original Fire Station next door to the Town Hall is well known to Campbelltown residents. Designed by architect Alfred J. Payten, and erected in 1891, it was manned by volunteer firemen with a manual hose reel.

The Fire Brigade to the left of the Town Hall 1892 (Local Studies Collection)

....and in 2000 (Stan Brabender Collection)
It was not long after this that the Council decided to take over the Fire Station for further office space, and it became necessary to find a new location for the Fire Brigade. A site in Queen Street, on the northern side of Reeve's Emporium, was found. The weatherboard building already on the site was moved to the front alignment of the street. The brigade moved to this building in 1907, and the property purchased in 1908 by the Fire Board. More equipment was provided, including a horse drawn manual pump fire engine.

The Fire Station in Queen Street next door to Reeve's Emporium
(Photo - Alex Goodsell)
The Fire Station would remain at this location for 54 years. A site in Railway Street had been dedicated for a new Fire Station but this was exchanged for a site at the new Civic Centre precinct in Broughton Street. This new station was officially opened in 1962.

The Fire Station in Broughton Street 1962. The Administration
Building not yet constructed. (CI News)
....and again - the trees  have grown and the Administration Building
now complete. (Photo - Norman Campbell)
Fourteen years later, in 1976, the Fire Station would move once again. This time, it was to a location further up Broughton Street. Campbelltown Fire Station remains at this location to this day.

The Fire Station at it's second Broughton Street location 2001
(Stan Brabender Collection)

Written by Claire Lynch
"How it all began : the start of the Campbelltown Fire Brigade - the first 100 years" by Norman G. Campbell
Journal of the NSW Fire Service - Fire News Winter 1976
Campbelltown Ingleburn News 13.2.1962

Monday, 5 February 2018

Mawson Park

(Grahame Sandry Collection)
The site of Mawson Park is as old as Campbelltown itself. It was here that Governor Macquarie named Campbelltown after his wife Elizabeth’s maiden name Campbell. A plan drawn up by surveyor Robert Hoddle in 1831 showed the area bounded by Cordeaux, Howe Browne and High Streets as a market reserve. High Street later became Queen Street.
In its early days the area was the scene of many brutal punishments handed down to convicts. Five criminals, including bushranger Richard McCann, were hanged on gallows erected on the reserve in February 1830. Near the gallows were the stocks. It was here that an old woman spent four hours in the stocks in the rain for using obscene language. The stocks and gallows were opposite the court house in Queen Street.
The reserve was surrounded by three inns: Forbes Hotel, the King’s Arms (later the Sportsman’s Arms) and the Hope Inn. The latter also faced the court house and was next to the stocks. The first licensee recorded was Isaac Rudd in 1841. The Hope Inn was no doubt named because of its proximity to the court house where life and death decisions were handed out. The large inn burnt down in 1854. We can only guess at what it would’ve looked like as no photos exist.
The Reserve for Public Recreation was approved 23rd March, 1874, and dedicated 4th February, 1876. It would appear that a possible roadway parallel to Browne Street opposite the court house was in existence at some time and divided the Recreation Reserve from the buildings facing Queen and Browne Streets. This was absorbed into the Recreation Reserve by 1874. Howe Street once extended to Cordeaux Street but by 1970 it was merged into the park.

A view of the park from the tower of St Peter's Anglican Church

Cricket and tennis were played on “The Green” and a sporting pavilion was erected. There are some interesting and amusing stories regarding cricket matches over the years. Appin Public School played a cricket match against Campbelltown Public School on "The Green". A white-painted two-rail fence surrounded "The Green" in those days and the grass was long and unkempt. One kid hit the ball and scored half a dozen runs while the other kids searched for the ball in the long grass. It’s hard to believe today. Another story concerned John Hurley, the son of Campbelltown Pioneer of the same name John Hurley, who hit a massive shot into the window of St Peter’s Church! Similarly, local Jack Nash was recorded as smashing a ball from the park so far it reached the train line and landed on a train bound for Sydney!
Besides the Hope Inn, a number of buildings once stood in the reserve. A house called “Myee” was located at the corner of Browne and Queen Street and they were adjacent to three terrace houses which had there frontage to Queen Street. One of these was lived in by the town’s first lamp lighter named Bamford.
"The Green" was named Jubilee Park in 1935, to mark the occasion of the king’s Silver Jubilee. Toilets and watering facilities were installed. In January 1938 the park was officially named Mawson Park in honour of Dr William Mawson, a highly regarded doctor for 28 years in the town and brother to explorer Douglas Mawson. A pergola, shelter shed and entrance were erected at this time with two plaques on the pergola commemorating the event. Another doctor was honoured in 1944 with the establishment of the Dr Jones Memorial Baby Health Centre within the park.
The park was even the scene of a shooting in 1941. A young woman aged 19 named Pearl Medcalf received two bullet wounds after an altercation with a man in one of the shelter kiosks. The first shot blew the top off her finger and the other penetrated her left leg and lodged in her right thigh. She struggled across the park to the police station to report the incident. She was formerly a Rixon from Campbelltown. The man was later arrested.
Numerous pageants have been held in Mawson Park over the years. A carnival in aid of the Coronation Gift Fund was organized in 1954. Another fund-raising event in the 1950s was the ladies’ woodchop! In 1956, the annual Fisher’s Ghost Festival and Miss Spirit contest raised funds to build an ambulance station and a music shelter in Mawson Park. The music shelter was dedicated to the memory of those who served in World War 11. It was replaced in 1991 by a War Memorial.
Fisher's Ghost Festival celebrations in the park (Sloper Collection)
A number of commemorative plaques have been erected in the park. A bird bath and watering place for animals was erected in memory of Patrick (Paddy) Hunt for a lifetime spent caring for the town’s strayed animals. He died in 1978.
In 1977 locals objected vehemently to a proposed change of shape to Mawson Park. This would've been brought about by the extension of Railway Street through to Cordeaux Street. The proposal meant that 940 square metres would've been lost with a sweeping curve connecting both streets. People power won the day and the park remained unaltered. 

As far as the botanical beauty of the place is concerned, the park has come a long way since 1926. In that year a report described "The Green" as "a bird's nest full of swallows, an eyesore to the town and a disgrace to the Municipality". This resulted in a program of tree planting, including many evergreens. Most trees planted in the park were associated with commemorative events. Today the park is a haven from the hustle and bustle of the city with its trees, manicured lawns and beautiful flower beds.

Camden News, 27 February 1941
FOWLER, Verlie
Mawson Park, Campbelltown,  A Heritage Park
McBarron, E.J. (Ed)
Mawson Park, Campbelltown NSW: Notes on History and Trees

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Valuable Old Photos Come Home

Above is one of many previously unseen images of Campbelltown. This view is looking towards the court house and Railway Street. Note the ferris wheel in Mawson Park.

Campbelltown Library has purchased around 250 amazing photographs of Campbelltown dating back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s. In 2013 Fairfax Media sent the two million photograph archive of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper to a company in Little Rock, Arkansas to be digitized. The scanning company was disbanded prior to completing the scanning, and the work was eventually managed by a court receiver. Part of the deal Fairfax made was to trade the vintage prints for the scanning services. From the turmoil in the scanning company, the archive eventually became bank owned by a regional Arkansas bank with no interest in holding these photographs. After much discussion and negotiation, Duncan Miller Gallery in Santa Monica, CA bought the entire collection of vintage photos, with the goal and purpose of repatriating many of these historical documents back to Australia.

The photographs are an extremely valuable and interesting addition to our photo collection. They cover everything from street scenes to people and buildings, with many filling a gap in the records. There’s even a whole folder on the exhumation of graves from the Presbyterian Cemetery in the 1980s! An exhibition of this valuable collection is planned in the near future.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Not quite Hollywood...

Much excitement ensued amongst Campbelltown locals in October 1955, when a film unit from Australian Tradition Film Company arrived to film in Queen Street. The Wheelwright Arms, (a historic inn turned private home) became the "Woolpack Hotel" for the purposes of the film. Throughout the day residents and passing motorists stopped to watch the filming process.

Movie still from "Joe Wilson's Mates" (

The Wheelwright Arms 1960 (Photo: Alex Goodsell)

"Joe Wilson's Mates", part of a film trilogy called "Three in One" was based on a Henry Lawson short story named "The Union Buries It's Dead". Directed by Cecil Holmes, the film tells the story of a young man who dies along in a small town. With no friends or family, and only a Union Card for identification, the local Union members combine to give him a decent send off.
Cecil Holmes was a passionate and determined man who started making significant Australian films in an era in which finance for local features was drying up. Despite a positive reception overseas, "Three in One" was denied general release, probably due to its Socialist overtones. "Joe Wilson's Mates" was however shown individually as a support film.

Movie poster
Written by Claire Lynch

Campbelltown Ingleburn News October 4th 1955
Museum Macarthur Facebook page - Brendan Leenders

Friday, 19 January 2018

A Cycling Tragedy

One warm spring day in 1961 two local boys were doubling on a bicycle coming down Bradbury Avenue. They turned into Lindesay Street and made their way towards Allman Street. The boys were chasing leaflets that were dropped over the town from an aeroplane. The leaflet drop was part of a promotion by the Campbelltown Chamber of Commerce to encourage people from the town to shop in Campbelltown before thinking about going outside the town to shop. The leaflets were numbered and shops were giving gifts to customers if their number matched those within the store.

On approaching Allman Street the boys, Douglas Perryman and William Dowser, became distracted by the leaflet drop and didn't notice a car coming into the intersection. This was when Lindesay and Allman Streets were unsealed and before a stop sign had been erected at the intersection. Both boys suffered severe head injuries. Douglas died instantly and William a few hours later.

This week I interviewed ninety six year old Elsie Evans at her home in Lindesay Street. Elsie lives in the same house that she was living in on the day of the accident. She heard the accident and ran out to give help to the boys. Elsie was a trained nurse and sat in the back of the ambulance with the boys on its way to hospital at Camden. She told me "Hank (the ambulance driver) told me you could get in the back. These days look at all the equipment they've got but back then we had nothing". The boys' families were found and taken directly to Camden unaware of the condition of either boy.

The tragedy not only forced Council to erect a stop sign at the intersection but it also changed the attitudes of parents towards their children owning and riding bicycles. Sadly the 'Spring Shopping Fiesta', as the day was known, will always be remembered for one of the town's most devastating tragedies.

This is the exact site of the accident photographed in 2006 by Stan Brabender

Elsie at her home in Lindesay Street in 2018. She was first on the scene in 1961.


Crowley, Julie
'Living on the St Elmo Estates: the story of one man's trust"
In Grist Mills
Vol. 30, No.1, March 2017

Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, September 26, 1961 p3

Elsie Evans Oral History Interview 17.1.2018

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Prisoner Photographs

NSW State Archives has recently digitised its collection of gaol photograph description books.  The documents cover from 1870-1930, and include more than 47,000 photographs of prisoners.  In most cases these will be the only photos of a person.  A bonus is that as well as searching by name, you can search the index by place of birth.  A search for prison inmates born in Campbelltown brings up around twenty-nine men and six women.  They include Carmel Willis Gee, the son of a prominent and well-respected local identity named William Gee. William Gee served with Campbelltown Council as an alderman as was active in the Congregational Church. His son Carmel Willis Gee was born in Campbelltown in 1882. In 1910 he was gaoled for nine months for two counts of larceny. He also served a concurrent charge of misappropriation of funds by an accounting officer. Carmel died in Campbelltown in 1915. There are also wonderful gaol photographs of Bridget Mahoney. Bridget used Alice Northcote, Alice McPherson and Mary Smith as some of her many aliases. She was gaoled over a plethora of charges in her life time including stealing, indecent language, indecent behavior and riotous behavior- just to name a few!

The link to the site is

There is also an exhibition called Captured: Portraits of Crime 1870-1930 that can be viewed at the Western Sydney Records Centre at Kingswood. It runs until April 28 this year.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Looking Back at Minto

The library recently received donations of photographs taken mostly in the Minto area. Thank you to Gary Monkley for his generous donation! I thought I would show you three of the more interesting shots.

Below is a photograph taken in 1972 of Minto Public School Sport's Day at Coronation Park. This is the park where today's netball and soccer complex is located. Does anyone out there know what direction the photographer is facing? In the background is a road. Would this be Ben Lomond Road?

This photo below is of Minto Road taken in 1967. The paper shop on the far right still exists but everything else has completely changed, including traffic in the street! The railway station is out of the photo to the left. The house next to the shop is now the site of the car park of the popular Chan's Tea House.

This last one is of Ben Lomond Road between Pembroke and Eagleview Roads. Can you believe that! It was taken on January 25, 1948. The car is a T-Model Ford owned by Aubrey Stenhouse.