Foodie Full Circle

David grew up in Islington. It was in conversation with him about the history of the suburb that it struck me how we have come full circle about food. Actually it was this photo of David’s father and grandmother knee deep in the most amazing backyard vegetable garden that made me stop and think about some things David had previously mentioned.

David's grandmother in teh garden. Source: David Hugginson

David felt that his childhood wasn’t as difficult as some because they kept chickens and ducks that they could eat. David’s Mum would preserve eggs by coating them in Vaseline and then floating them in oil. The man from the Owens grocery store used to do home deliveries of things they couldn’t grow themselves – ‘first they would come to your door to take your order and then they would pack it at the shop and deliver it back to your house’. There were at least three general stores just a few blocks from David’s house and a bakery on the corner which used to deliver fresh bread to all the local suburbs. There was a noticeable absence of big trees in backyards and when I mentioned this to David he said that people only grew trees that could bear fruit and be productive.

Doesn’t this all sound like our current wish for local food, for connections with the growers of our food, our growing demands for healthy unprocessed and even organic food, and increasingly, our concern over food security and resilience? Back in David’s day they had no choice. We, on the other hand, are beginning to see the advantages of growing backyard veggies and teaching ourselves how to make the odd pickle or two – who knows how this might come in handy next time the power is out for a week and the shops can’t open.

David Hugginson interview with Bonnie McBain, 2014.


Growing up in Islington – conversation with David Hugginson

David lived in Hubbard Street, Islington, between 1940s and 1959  in a house with a tennis court located along the creek bank where the Storage Place is currently located. At the time there were three houses along Chinchen Street there. These houses were pulled down in 1958. In our conversation he told me what he remembered about living in Islington during that time.

David's house in 1947, Source: David Hugginson

David’s house in 1947, Source: David Hugginson

 

David's backyard before the tennis court was built. Source: David Hugginson

David’s backyard before the tennis court was built. Source: David Hugginson

David remembers that everyone knew everyone in the area when he was growing up. ‘They weren’t in your back pocket but you met them out the front and talked to them and it was a friendly atmosphere’.

Kids used to go around to the gasworks to collect bags of coke to put on household fires. David’s Dad used to work for the railways and used to whistle to the boys and throw down bits of coal for the household heating. As kids they also played and swam in the creek.

You could just climb through the two rails of the school fence to get into the school grounds. The school itself had a back area which was pretty rough with lots of weeds. One half of the playground was for girls and one half was for boys. ‘We didn’t care; we were playing cowboys and Indians’. There was one teacher for the whole of first to fourth classes, inclusively. David remembered the air raid shelter located in the school along Chinchen Street.

Back then the bowling club at Islington Park was commonly used for parties. David remembers being part of a float in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Newcastle (see the photos below).

Source: David Hugginson

Source: David Hugginson

Source: David Hugginson

What struck me about David’s recollections was the number of small shops strewn throughout the suburb. There were four butcher shops (one in Chinchen Street, one on the corner of May Street and Maitland Road, one on the corner of Dent Street and Maitland Road and one opposite the end of Beaumont Street).

Next to the school on the corner of Chinchen and Hubbard Streets was a corner store. A general store was also located in one of the terraces in Chinchen Street called Lindstroms (you can find out more about Lindstrom here).

Another general store was located on the corner of Clyde and Chinchen Streets, where the TAFE is currently located. On Clyde Street there was the Newcastle Laundry Service which washed the linen for the hospitals. Along the creek there was a big dam (where the TAFE now is) and this might have been where the laundry got its water from. There was a boy who drowned in the dam. Before the TAFE was constructed there were up to 100 houses right up to the overhead rail bridge that were all pulled down when construction began.

Looking towards the junction of Hubbard and Watson Street. Source: David Hugginson

Looking towards the junction of Hubbard and Watson Street. Source: David Hugginson

On the corner of Maitland Road and Hubbard Street (including the full block where the Caltex service station is now) was Lotts Bakery which used to home deliver bread to Islington and Tighes Hill. At Christmas time David remembers his Mum taking down the Christmas ham so that they could wrap it and cook it. At the intersection of Fern and Hubbard Streets there used to be a Paint Factory.

Where the current Islington CBD currently is, was also a thriving commercial district. There was the Owens grocery shop across from the Theatre. They used to do home deliveries – first they would come to your door to take your order and then they would pack it and deliver it to your front door. The antique shop located on the corner of Mary Street and Maitland Road was a café which sold milkshakes.

The intersection of Beaumont Street and Maitland Road was called Coachy corner. There was a paper shop down further called Turnbull’s. The paper boys used to get on the buses along Maitland Road and sell newspapers to commuters. David was even a lolly boy at the Theatre for 6 months. Back then you still had to be able to calculate change in pounds, shillings and pence.

A book and barber shop were located near the post office. The post office was on Maitland Road next to the pub and the police station (where Awabakal Office is now) and a lady’s of the night residence.

Islington spare parts belonged to the Church of England and they had a hall there. After it was sold it was used to trade second hand tyres until a fire occurred in which the owner died. On the corner of Bevan Street and Maitland Road there used to be a furniture factory which did french polishing and BP service station.

 

 

 

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Hotels of Islington – Past and Present

There have been a number of pubs historically located in the Islington area. Islington Hotel was apparently removed from Hillsborough and re-erected at Islington although we are unsure of the dates. This pub was later renamed the Parkview Hotel,1 the license for which was granted in 19302.

Source: provided courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

Source: provided courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

The Criterion Hotel, located at 139 Maitland Road began trading in 18902. In her reflections on Islington when she was growing up in the depression, Elaine Richards noted that ‘Billy Jacobs lived on the corner. He used to drink at the Criterion on Maitland Road along with just about everyone else from Iso. You’d see them weaving their way home after the six o’clock swill, some of them with blood streaming down their faces from the many brawls that erupted at closing time’. 3 The original style replicated a ‘french renaissance era’ design with iron posts, an ornate iron balcony and ornate brick parapets (photo below). This style was replaced in the later 1930s with more modern bright tiled walls, cantilevered awning and a simple tiled roof2. After a number of name changes this hotel is now called the Gateway.

Source: Snowball Collection, image no. 001216 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Source: Snowball Collection, image no. 001216 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

In 1890 the Watt’s Family Hotel (photo below) was also located at 130 Maitland Road1 (possibly where the ISP is now located).

Source: Ralph Snowball, University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

Source: Ralph Snowball, University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

The Hamilton Station Hotel began trading in 1892 on the corner of Fern and Beaumont Street (below is a photo from 1892). Its original style was similar to that of the Criterion Hotel (see above) but it too was rebuilt by 1940 with tiled walls up to a cantilevered awning just as it still stands today.2

Source: Snowball Collection image no. 000783 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Source: Snowball Collection image no. 000783 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

The Changing Station Hotel on the corner of Fern and Coal Streets was licenced between 1890 and 1930 with John Cook as foundation licensee. In the photo below,on the left of the hotel, is a building from the former Hamilton loco depot, an important employer in the region. A gas works was built behind the hotel to the right. The hotel had been demolished by 1992.

Source: ANU Archives via Ed Tonks Lost Newcastle

Source: ANU Archives via Ed Tonks Lost Newcastle

The Wickham Park Hotel has also had a long history in Islington where it was build in 1889 on land that was originally owned by Henry Dangar (the Surveyor of Newcastle) when Islington was still known as Georgeville2. The hotel was also remodelled so that the ornate balconies were replaced by a cantilevered awning as it still can be seen at 61 Maitland Road today (below is a photo from 1934).

Source: Gonian Collection, image no. 000487, provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Source: Gonian Collection, image no. 000487, provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Sources:

  1. University of Newcastle Cultural Collections, url: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uon/3270597249
  2. Tonks, E. (2015). No bar to time – the hotels of the Newcastle local government area.
  3. Elaine Richards ‘Images of Islington’ Newcastle Herald, July 17, 1982

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Throsby Creek – a history

The meandering watercourses of Throsby and Styx Creeks were originally mangrove lined, forming the beginning of the estuary leading into Newcastle Harbour. The clearing of the alluvial flats for cultivation resulted in erosion and siltation of the watercourses. These impacts were then exacerbated in the 1870s by the establishment of polluting industries along the banks. A slaughterhouse, a brewery and various other industries were established adjacent to Throsby Creek. Eventually, as a result, the creek became a ‘degraded, evil smelling drain’. 1

Despite its pollution in the early 1900s the creek was a prominent social and recreational area. Elaine Richards remembers during the depression that ‘Throsby Creek was a great place for boys wagging school to go swimming in the raw. Even at low tide they’d find a hole deep enough for a swim, the mud knee-deep and an abundance of old tin cans and cats that had ended up in a watery grave…The girls would walk primly past on their way to school, pretending not to see, except for one or two who would sneak a look’. 2

Source: provided courtesy of the University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

Source: provided courtesy of the University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

By 1910 the creek branched and re-joined itself where the TAFE oval and the dog park are to be found now (see the map, above). Major modifications to the creek were carried out during the 1930s depression. The banks of the creek below Maitland Road were cemented and the creek was converted into a storm water drain. During this time sharks often attacked horses and dogs swimming in the creek. In 1960 fishing in Throsby Creek was banned because of pollution. Despite this the Throsby Creek Regatta often held boat races in the water. 3

Source: provided courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

Source: provided courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

In 1979 Islington residents formed an action group called the Islington Residents Association. It was originally formed to oppose a petrol pipeline being built right through the middle of the residential suburb. This campaign failed but its 250 members subsequently began lobbying council to beautify Islington Park and improve Throsby Creek. 3

In 1989 the levels of heavy metals were still high and fishing continued to be banned. The Throsby Creek Regatta was re-established in 1990 as a public awareness campaign of the continuing poor water quality in Throsby Creek and again became an annual event. Rather than having the boat races in the creek, a dry land boat race was held call ‘Hardly on Throsby’. There were also carnival clowns, games, kite flying, gumboot throwing and environmental displays. 3

In 1989, after much lobbying from residents a Total Catchment Management Study was produced. This was the first such strategy in NSW and it provided a revolutionary turning point towards an integrated approach to future management of catchments all over NSW. Throsby Landcare was formed in 1990 as a sub-committee of the local residents group. It was one of the first urban Landcare groups in Australia. 9,13,14 Mangroves started to be planted along Throsby Creek from 1992.2,3,4

By 1993 the water quality in Throsby Creek had improved and it was announced that the annual ‘regatta will be getting wet for the first time’. The years of dedication and hard work were slowly starting to improve the condition of the creek. 3

Today the community continues to contribute time and hard work towards ensuring improvements in the quality of the water in Throsby Creek. Clean up Australia Day in Islington Park has removed large amounts of rubbish from the park and the creek and students at Islington Public School hold a number of ‘Binless’ days were no rubbish is allowed in lunchboxes.

Sources:

  1. Newcastle City Council (2000). Islington Park Strategic Plan and Plans of Management – Heritage Places Strategic Plan Part I.
  2. Elaine Richards ‘Images of Islington’ Newcastle Herald, July 17, 1982
  3. Green Conscience – the ongoing struggle for a clean, green Newcastle – a history (2002). Wesley Uniting Employment Newcastle West.
  4. Ron Cummings, ‘Days Gone By on Throsby Creek’ in Turning the Tide – the Throsby Creek campaign produced by Throsby Land Care and the Tighes Hill, Islington and Maryville Residents Action Group.

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A History of Commerce in Islington

In the late 1800s when Islington first began, a slaughterhouse, four abattoirs and a brewery were established adjacent to Throsby Creek. The site where the TAFE now stands was leased by Samuel Procter who operated a small coal mine and a vineyard on his land. 1 In 1872, Captain Jewell also had a wool washing and fell mongering plant on Styx Creek with his home fronting Maitland Road – the same site where Islington Public School was later established.

Proctors Store. Source: Snowball Collection, image no. 001314 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Proctors Store. Source: Snowball Collection, image no. 001314 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

During this time, goods came mostly from Maitland or Sydney to supply businesses such as the one in the photo above. Without the railway station at Hamilton, goods from Maitland bypassed Islington along the Great Northern rail line to Newcastle. Supplies then needed to be brought back 3 miles by dray over a heavy sandy road.

The slaughter houses located on Maitland road, in return, supplied Newcastle with meat by transporting their supplies in carts back over the ‘almost impassable road’.2 By 1889 the combined impact of industries in this area near the creek was so bad that the Chief Medical Officer reported the businesses ‘dirtier and more offensive than any place of the kind that I have yet visited….I believe that no person who has seen these places would be willing to eat meat butchered there’. Goods from Sydney arrived by steamer in Newcastle. Letters took two to three days to arrive from Newcastle and it was this that instigated lobbying for a railway station at the boundary of Hamilton and Islington.

In 1910 there was a brickworks and pasture where the TAFE now stands. Later in 1914, a Tighes Hill resident remembers this land as ‘mostly scrub’ with a tannery run by a German firm which was closed down when World War I began. After WWI the area was a storage area for coal (Mr Dick Sargant). The beginning of the construction of the Technical College (later to be the University of Newcastle and now the TAFE) began in the late 1930s. 3

There were a number of bakeries located in Islington. Lott’s Bakery was established by Stephen Lott in 1877 (together with Mr Hubbard until he died in 1886) at 240 Maitland Road. The bakery had two wood fired ovens and delivered to local suburbs. The business was passed down the sons (Stephen, Frederick and Frank) and then grandson (Stephen) until 1950 when it was sold to E.T. Williams. Farrar’s Bakery was located on 111 Ferns Street/10 Watson Street and commenced trading in 1886 by Tomkins John Farrar. Carts were used to deliver the bread to all over the region (see the photo below in 1891 of TJ Farrar’s bakers cart).

Source: Snowball Collection, image no. 003481 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Source: Snowball Collection, image no. 003481 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Tokens for Farrar’s and Lott’s bakeries saying ‘good for one loaf’ were made from aluminium between 1930 and 1960. Similar tokens were also circulated for J. Beacham – Diggers Bakery4 with ‘Islington’ marked on the back. Given that this bakery was located in nearby Hamilton, it is presumed that Diggers bread was also delivered in Islington.

There were also many corner stores located throughout the suburb. The Whittle family opened a grocery shop which delivered goods all over the region from a two storey building in 22 Chinchen Street in 1911. The shop burnt down in the 1930s and a single storey shop was rebuilt. This was eventually sold in 1957 and was redeveloped in 1959.

The Owen’s family also had a long commercial history in Islington with the purchase of their first shop in 1918 which sold groceries and hardware as well as having a drapery and millinery trade. In the 1950s the Owens family decided to transition many of their stores to a new type of shopping experience called a supermarket which they called Savemores – stock turnover increased along with the decrease in product prices. Reducing profit margins required the business to expand further to other stores throughout the Hunter. The Islington store became a bulk store supplying goods to hospitals, clubs and restaurants. Eventually after a name change to Shoey’s the chain was sold to Coles and operated as the Bi Lo Stores5.

Source: provided courtesy of Silvia and Greg Ray

Source: provided courtesy of Silvia and Greg Ray

Islington is also well known for Herbert’s Theatre which originally opened to a packed audience in 1911 on the corner of Beaumont and Maitland Road. In the early days it didn’t have a roof! The owner of the theatre, Mr Hewitt, rebuilt the theatre in 1928 in its present Tuscan style and it had a large electric sign, displaying the rising sun formation, which was mounted on the parapet above the entrance (see photo above). The theatre closed in 1964.6 The rising sun symbol on the present day bollards around Islington (see photo below) are presumably inspired from the electric sign on the Regents Theatre in the 1930s.

bollard

Price’s Newsagency operated in Islington in 1903 (see photo below).

Source: Snowball Collection, Image no. 001657 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Source: Snowball Collection,
Image no. 001657 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Dick Brothers Engineering firm was located on Fern Street (between May and Redman Streets) (see the photo below from 1908) and operated from the building for many years. It was also the work place for Paul Brothers Drycleaning and till recently, Clean Valley Waste Bins7.

Source: Snowball Collection image no. 001763 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Source: Snowball Collection image no. 001763 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Sources:

  1. Newcastle City Council (2000). Islington Park Strategic Plan and Plans of Management – Heritage Places Strategic Plan Part I.
  2. Newcastle Museum
  3. Dulcie Hartley, ‘Throsby Creek – a brief history’ in Turning the Tide – the Throsby Creek campaign’ produced by Throsby Land Care and the Tighes Hill, Islington and Maryville Residents Action Group
  4. Power House Museum Collection (http://from.ph/304112)
  5. Daniel, L. (1992). Once there was a corner store, Bridge Prinetery Pty. Ltd, Rosebery.
  6. Cork, K. (1993). Front Stalls or back? : the history and heritage of the Newcastle Theatres, Australian Theatre Historical Society, Seven Hills, NSW.
  7. Green Conscience – the ongoing struggle for a clean, green Newcastle – a history (2002). Wesley Uniting Employment Newcastle West.

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A history of Transport in Islington

In the early days there were no engines for the coal trains so horses had to drag the coal wagons1. There was no railway station at Hamilton and, even when coal trains replaced horses, the only trains that stopped near Hamilton were coal trains.

The bus fare from King Street in Newcastle to Islington was 9d during the day and 18d between 10pm and 5am in 1880. Buses ran daily five times. In 1894 the first steam trams commenced running from Newcastle to Tighes Hill (going through Islington). 2,3

In 1866 public meetings and lobbying took place in support of a railway station on the border of Islington and Hamilton. The platform on the Great Northern Line at Hamilton was near completion on land donated by E. C. Mereweather in 1872. There was a rough track cut through the scrub for residents in Hamilton but nothing for those coming from the Islington side. The only convenience for the travelling public was a platform with a small structure erected on it and a pigeon-hole through which tickets were bought. Very often passengers had to wait until the train arrived at Waratah before they were supplied with tickets1.

Source: provided courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

Source: provided courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

With more lobbying by Alderman James Curley and residents, a proper station with a large platform, waiting rooms, booking office, refreshment rooms, officer’s rooms, a high-level bridge and a footbridge were promised in plans and in writing in 1890 (see the photo above showing the station in 1900). The station was completed by the early 1900s. The Hamilton Junction Signal Box built by McKenzie and Roberts it’s one of the oldest surviving mechanical signal boxes in Australia.1 In the photo below we can see Hawkins Carrier carrying railway lines up Maitland Road in 1900.

Source: Ralph Snowball, University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

Source: Ralph Snowball, University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

The trams to Mayfield which travelled along Maitland Road through Islington were electrified in 19232,3. The photo below was taken opposite the Wickham Park Hotel in Maitland Road in 1923.

Source: Geoff Horne

Source: Geoff Horne

Sources:

  1. Murray, P (2006). From Borehole to Hamilton Jubilee – 1848 – 1932
  2. Tighes Hill School 100 year anniversary
  3. Personal communication Geoff Horne

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Islington Park History

Lobbying to establish public open space in the new suburb of Islington led to the dedication of Islington Park in late 1878. Originally the official park area was very small, consisting only of a narrow sliver of land adjacent to Maitland Road surrounded by steep slopes that dropped precipitously down to the flat, muddy, flood-prone, alluvial plain of Throsby Creek  which had to be navigated before crossing over the footbridge to Tighes Hill (see the 1910 map below).1

Source: provided courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

Source: provided courtesy of University of Newcastle Cultural Collection

The original landscape design of the park was by T.W. Hogue, the Clerk of Wickham Council, of which Islington was a part at the time. The planting of trees, including extensive Moreton Bay figs, was carried out by J. T. Croft just after the park was officially established. The photo below was taken in 1906, 27 years after the fig tree avenue was planted in Islington Park. Entrance gates were located opposite Bevan Street, flanked by a pair of cannons, one reputedly from the First Fleet, both of which have subsequently been lost.2

Source: Snowball Collection image no. 003642 provided courtesy of Newcastle Regional Library

Source: Snowball Collection image no. 003642 provided courtesy of Newcastle Regional Library

A bowling green was first established in Islington Park on the low ground currently occupied by the oval, flanked to the east and west by swampy ground which was subject to flooding at high tide. Alfred Sharp proposed a revised design for the park, which may have contributed to the realignment of Throsby Creek in the 1880s.

Source: Snowball Collection image no. 003642 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Source: Snowball Collection image no. 003642 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

By 1906 the topography of the park had changed little. The photo above shows the fenced-off park on the steep embankment with two cows grazing on the alluvial common below. Apart from recreational use, Islington Park became a focus for public meetings and debate, especially for radical and trade union speakers. Thousands of Sunday afternoon speeches have been made to large crowds with banners, parasols and top hats. ‘No brawls ensued, but the speakers of those days were noted for the very forceful manner in which they endeavoured to belittle or defeat the opposition. Over ripe fruit-tomatoes were favourites – and old eggs were most effective missiles’.

During this time the park was also the meeting place for the West Wallsend branch of the Australian Socialist League and later the Socialist Labour Party. In 1931 the park was the site of the first International Woman’s Day rally in Newcastle (second in Australia) which was organised by the Unemployed Workers Movement with around 200 people attending. 3,4

During the 1930s depression, re-chanelisation work on the creek bank provided much needed labour for workers in the area. The banks of the creek below Maitland Road were cemented and the creek was converted into a storm water drain. A Tighes Hill resident remembers Islington Park as ‘mostly scrub’ before the First World War. In the two photos below we can see that by the end of World War II the park was well cleared.5

Source: Newcastle Herald image no. 010393 provided courtesy of the Newcastle Region Library

Source: Newcastle Herald image no. 010393 provided courtesy of the Newcastle Region Library

 

Source: Newcastle Herald image no. 001304 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Source: Newcastle Herald image no. 001304 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

The bowling club in Islington Park was then moved to higher ground with much public controversy over the removal of some of the fig trees on Maitland Road, which by then had become the major landscape feature that they remain today (see photo below).2

Ron Morrison Collection image no. 001003 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

Ron Morrison Collection image no. 001003 provided courtesy of Newcastle Region Library

The playground at Islington Park remained very basic until recent redevelopment of the park. Collaboration between Newcastle City Council and the community re-imagined the park and it is now a highly popular recreational area for families from all over Newcastle.

IMAG0662

Sources:

  1. Dulcie Hartley, ‘Throsby Creek – a brief history’ in Turning the Tide – the Throsby Creek campaign’ produced by Throsby Land Care and the Tighes Hill, Islington and Maryville Residents Action Group
  2. Newcastle City Council (2000). Islington Park Strategic Plan and Plans of Management – Heritage Places Strategic Plan Part I.
  3. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, Friday 1 January 1937
  4. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate,   Saturday 15 June 1918
  5. Tighes Hill School 100 year anniversary

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