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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