Balmain Town Hall dome

In this 1909 aerial image by Kerry Studios we can see the dome that was situated on top of Balmain Town Hall – a handsome complement to its dome-topped neighbour the Balmain Court House.

Built in 1888 and designed by architect E. H. Buchannan the Balmain Town Hall  is classified as a ‘Victorian Free Classical’ style building.

The dome was supported on an arcaded storey,  capped by a lantern and was designed to emphasise the stair tower. The design of one dome as opposed to two was a break away from the symmetrical precepts which denoted Victorian Classical Style buildings. What resulted was an asymmetrrical building in the Classical style, freely interpreted.

The dome, lantern and arcaded storey were removed during World War II  leaving a gap in the skyline of Darling Street’s civic precinct.  More on Kerry & Co studios can be found at,1420,Charles_Kerry_Photography_Studio_1885-1917

Air raid shelters, Balmain

Sunlight Oil and Soapworks (later Unilever) Balmain, c1928

Betty Sparnon grew up in Balmain and writes “we often played in the old air raid shelter near Unilever and I recently met another child of Balmain who remembers an air raid shelter under a factory opposite the Dry Dock Hotel. How can we find out more about these shelters?”

We searched our collection but haven’t uncovered anything that would assist Betty. If you have any information on air raid shelters around Balmain, contact us at and we will pass this information on to Betty.

Balmain To Glebe

Pictorial History Balmain to Glebe covers the suburbs of Annandale, Balmain, Birchgrove, Leichhardt, Lilyfield and Rozelle. Glebe, although no longer part of the Leichhardt municipality, is included for geographical and historical reasons. Each area has its own story of settlement, growth and development from Aboriginal occupancy to the changing face of suburbs in the 21st century. In that time span colonial estates and humble workers’ cottages gave way to subdivision as suburbs developed away from Sydney. Annandale, the Johnston family’s vast estate, was later planned as a model suburb. Balmain began with a rich maritime history and the creation of the famous Mort’s Dock. Birchgrove, another colonial estate, witnessed an engineering marvel with the building of the underwater tunnel from Long Nose Point (Yurulbin) to Greenwich. Threatened demolition and unsympathetic development brought about the creation of the Balmain Association (1965), the Annandale Association (1969) and the Glebe Society (1969) by concerned citizens who wished to save the intrinsic character of these areas.
Written by Joan Lawrence and Catherine Warne.

Leichhardt Union Football Club 1924

This photograph was donated to our collection today !!! We are keen to know anything about the Leichhardt Union Football Club.

Similar photographs dated 1927 of the Rozelle Depot Football club have also been found. According to one lovely lady all the footballers in the Rozelle Depot photographs were tram conductors from the Rozelle Depot. The conductors got Wednesday afternoons off  to dedicate time to play in competitions against other depot teams.

Dictionary of Sydney goes live!

Dictionary of Sydney has gone live! The site is a must-visit for anyone researching Sydney. A simple browse of the entries gives an indication of the rich mass of information you’ll find in the Dictionary. Search for artefacts, buildings, events, natural features, organisations, people, places or structures. At present, the content amounts to more than 600,000 words. Anyone researching the history of Sydney will find the Dictionary an invaluable tool. This significant project has an exciting future. Log on at:


Sydney's Italian fruit shops: a history

Where was your local Italian Fruit Shop?

Italian community agency Co.As.It. in collaboration with the Australian Centre for Public History at UTS have worked closely over a number of years with the families of Italian fruiterers, ‘the gatekeepers’ of the stories and images, to record the important legacy of Sydney’s Italian fruit shops. This collaboration has resulted in the following outcomes:-

– Over 40 oral history interviews
– A collection of over 150 photographs  
– A collection of items of memorabilia

A photographic exhibition  Sydney’s Italian Fruit Shops – Our Collective Memories will be launched at NSW Parliament House, Sydney in June 2010 and then move to Leichhardt for the period July – Sept 2010.

To accompany the exhibition Co.As.It. is creating an On-line Fruit Shop Register to facilitate the input of a wide range of Italian fruit shop data, photographs and memories. The on-line information will include:- Name of the original fruit shop, name of proprietors, street address, suburb, postcode and years of operation. There will also be a space for photos and a section to record reminiscences.

More info. on this exciting project can be found at:

Busted Walking Tour

1st stop: Balmain Library

1st stop: Balmain Library

The Busted Walking tour was a sunny Sunday in Balmain and a wonderful group of 18 local history enthusiasts and heritage consultants gathered at Balmain Library for morning tea and a sneak preview of the Busted Exhibition, which showcases 8 mug shot images, courtesy of the Justice and Police Museum, a street landscape of Beattie street and a 1958 shot of the Balmain courthouse registry room.

A short film “Balmain Boys Do crime” flavours the exhibition with some old time Balmain characters, Larrikins at heart, they share stories of SP bookmakers, local pubs and a few scandalous crime stories from decades ago.

The walk took us to the historical  Balmain courthouse, then the confectionary shop run by the notourious cross dressing convicted murderer Eugene Falleni and wife Annie Birckett. Next stop was further down Darling street for a guided tour by Kath Hamey and June Lumsman of  the Balmain Watchhouse which once operated as a an overnight lock-up. The Balmain Association, showcased police uniforms, historical photographs, stories and newspaper clippings of gripping local crime from yesteryear.

Stop 3: Balmain Watchhouse

The Exhibition is open from September 5th – October 31st at Balmain Library.

History Week 2009

Scandals, Crime and Corruption


Exhibition: BUSTED! A snaphot of crime in Balmain

Dates:September 5 – October 31

Cost: Free

Where: Balmain Library,

Balmain Town Hall building

370 Darling Street, Balmain


Family history BALMAIN Workshop:- you’ve done the research, now what?

Join genealogist Terri Kempe as she discusses techniques and strategies to use when writing up family histories and memoirs.

Date: Tuesday September 8

Time: 6.30pm

Cost: Free

Where: Balmain Library

Balmain Town Hall building

370 Darling Street, Balmain


BALMAIN Author talk: RAZOR by Larry Writer

book_razor_writer_web Date: Tuesday September 15

Time: 6.30pm

Cost: Free

Where: Balmain Library,

Balmain Town Hall building

370 Darling Street, Balmain


History Council History Week 2009

Oral history seminar: family and photographs

Leichhardt, 1950

Leichhardt, 1950

Saturday 25 July 2009

10.30 AM to 4.45 PM

Metcalfe Auditorium Macquarie Street wing, State Library of NSW

Cost: $48, $42 (Friends) $38 (Oral History Association of Australia members) includes lunch. Morning or afternoon sessions $18 each ($30 with lunch)

George Imashev, formerly of the Australian War Memorial will present a family history: Recorded memories of my family — from Bohemia to Batemans Bay. Sue McClean and Frances Rush, both members of the OHAA, will combine to examine selected photographs as inspiration and background for history and oral history. Sue McClean will address Remembering Burdekin House — a mystery, and Frances Rush will offer A Bea on my bonnet — memories of Bea Miles.

In the afternoon, Rosemary Block, the State Library’s Curator of Oral History, will conduct a practical seminar on oral history practice and technique.

BOOKINGS: 9273 1770 or

The Abbey, Johnston Street, Annandale

The Abbey, 1880s

The Abbey, 1880s

The entire contents of the Johnston Street, Annandale landmark home The Abbey, being the lifetime collection of Dr Geoffrey Davis, an eminent Sydney physician and music lover. is to be auctioned.

Furnishings include dumbwaiters, revolving bookcases and many cedar chests, extensive display cabinets and bookcases, washstands, desks, chesterfields, early coffer, Georgian gateleg table, boxes and compendiums of all shapes and sizes.

Viewing is Friday 22nd May with the auction happening on both Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th May. The Auctioneers have offered an opportunity for the Annandale Historical Society to ask those attending on the 3 days to donate a gold coin as a means of raising funds for its work.

See the Lawson’s Auctioneers site at

More info. on The Abbey can be found at: