From coughing to coffins: digging into council archives

To celebrate History Week 2018, Inner West Council hosted a fascinating presentation by well-known local historian Chrys Meader, about the worldwide pandemic of the pneumonic influenza in 1919 and how the local community dealt with the crisis.

The pneumonic influenza was one of the worst catastrophes of the 20th century. Widely known as the “Spanish flu” in 1919 its deadly reach eventually crept through the doors of Sydney homes.

This engaging presentation brought to life the social impact of the pandemic on the community. Travel outside of Sydney was restricted, church services were cancelled and theatres were closed.

The wearing of masks in public was compulsory. The Council responded by setting up inhalation chambers and the community was actively involved in managing the outbreak.

Attendees were shown rarely seen original correspondence and records from the former Marrickville Council archives, photographs, newspaper clippings and contemporary accounts of people who lived through the deadly, terrifying days of the pandemic.

Marrickville Council Infectious Diseases Register [photo courtesy Dr Peter Hobbins]

Marrickville Council Infectious Diseases Register [photo courtesy Dr Peter Hobbins]

Dr Peter Hobbins, a medical historian at the University of Sydney, said “it was really impressive to see how such a diverse range of records were brought to life, telling us not only about the disease, but how it affected the entire Inner West community a century ago”.

The effects of the Pneumonic plague in the Marrickville area.

Balmain Association Spring Garden Walks 2018

THIS SATURDAY 10.00am to 4.00pm

 This Saturday seven private gardens in Balmain East and Birchgrove will be open for inspection.

This is your opportunity to see behind the garden fence and enjoy a variety of beautiful private gardens – a large waterfront garden, a treasure of orchids and ferns, a secret garden with South American varieties of plants, a large formal garden, a large shady palm garden and a small terrace garden complete with bees.
Each garden is entirely different and provides a wealth of ideas to take back to your own.

The gardens will be open from 10.00am to 4.00pm with last entry at 3.00pm.

For more information please contact Di Garder

Tickets available at the Watch House 179 Darling St Balmain
and at Wyoming, 25 Wharf Rd Birchgrove
on the day
9:30am to 2:00pm

$15 for adults and children free. Please pay by cash

Balmain Watch House, 179 Darling St Balmain

History Talk: Callan Park Hospital for the Insane

To celebrate the 140th anniversary of the founding of the Callan Park Lunatic Asylum, Sarah Luke has published Callan Park, Hospital for the Insane (Australian Scholarly Publishing).

Sarah’s book explores the early history of the old Callan Park Lunatic Asylum, using Victorian-era medical files to explore the lives of its patients and staff. Discover the workings of the madhouse ­– from the tiny mansion originally used to house Sydney’s insane – to the magnum opus asylum that was the Kirkbride Complex.

Sarah will present a lecture at Leichhardt Library on Tuesday November 6th 6pm for 6:30pm start exploring the lives of the first patients of Callan Park.

Book here

Louisa Lawson’s Old Stone House

Louisa Lawson’s Old Stone House

Recently, I’ve focused on the big corporations like General Motors-Holden who set up along Carrington Road Marrickville, but what about individuals in the area? Louisa Lawson was one important local: a publisher, journalist, inventor, women’s activist and also Henry Lawson’s mother. She lived in this cottage from around 1893 to 1919 near the frequently flooded eastern end of Renwick Street and Richardsons Cresent. The cottage was close to the Gumbramorra Creek (now a stormwater canal lined during the Depression).

Louisa Lawson set up her printing press here and according to a 1931 article by George R Reeve (a history writer who lived in nearby Newtown), published two of her own books of verse and one of Henry’s from the cottage. The cottage was originally a lodge on Thomas Holt’s estate, The Warren. It was described as small, but Louisa Lawson was eager to greet visitors and entertain with stories of publishing The Dawn. Her eldest son, Henry Lawson also knew her cottage well enough to describe it while he was in Darlinghurst gaol in 1909. He needed bail and hoped Louisa would help:

The case seems desperate but do all you possibly can. I’d soon go hopelessly out of my mind here. Do anything to raise the money and I’ll take care this business will never happen again. You might even go to my mother. She has plenty. Her address is Mrs. Lawson, ‘Old Stone House’ Tempe (near Railway Station) . . . Her property is near the railway gates. She’d tell you of some friends anyway. It is real gaol this time, you know, and the loneliness is terrible . . . Yours in Trouble, Henry Lawson (Henry Lawson Letters, 1890–1922, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1970, p 175).

In addition to women’s right to vote, Louisa Lawson was active in addressing the working conditions of women and girls in factories. I wonder what she would have thought of her own cottage being demolished to make way for the area’s factories sometime after 1943?

Thanks Sue Castrique, another local writer and historian, for providing much of the above research into Louisa Lawson’s life in Marrickville.

 

History Week 2018: Broughton Hall: Brought to life

Image:Henry King, courtesy Mark Turnbull and Keep Family Collection

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History Week 2018: Broughton Hall: Brought to life
When:

Saturday, 1, September, 2018
What time:

10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Where:

Broughton Hall
Church Street
Lilyfield NSW
More about this event:

Outdoor exhibition

A self-guided, outdoor historic exhibition that explores the cycles of life at this colonial mansion and its gardens. Discover how it became a military hospital in WW1 and its subsequent regeneration as the first voluntary psychiatric hospital.

Today Broughton Hall is a place of contemporary therapeutic care.

Enter at Church Street, Lilyfield, between Wharf Road and Glover Street

 

TypeCast – Typographic exhibition by Avril Makula

If you love the character of type fonts throughout the Inner West this exhibition is not to be missed.
Augustt 22 – September 2 at the Chrissie Cotter Gallery.

Our History – Your Say -Survey

We would love to have your input for some important decisions to be made about the future of our Community History and Archive services.

We invite you to have your say about location options for the History Collections and our future strategy to guide planning  for our services over the next ten years.

Click Here  August 1 -29

 
 

P H Bussell 1895, 127 Trafalgar Street, Annandale

Rega Products: Let us spray!

Rega Products: Let us spray! While memories of the Depression lingered, factories on Marrickville’s Carrington Road roared back to life. “The activity visible on all sides of this plant of General Motors – Holden is one the finest proof of the definite return of prosperity to the country as a whole,” according to The Land on 1 May 1936.

So what was this activity? We’ve already introduced AH Peters and Duly & Hansford, but Rega Products’ new factory was also going up on the other side of Carrington Road.

Designed by modernist architect Aaron M Bolot, the factory was praised for its design and connection to consumers. It was said that people would feel “good and reliable products must come forth from efficient and beautiful buildings.” I’m sure this remains true for the factory’s current occupants, New Directions.

So what did Rega Products make? It provided “men on the land with sprayers for the cattle and their fruit trees, for the manufacture they provide spray pistons for duco-ing or painting their goods; for the house-wife sprays for suppressing moths and vermin; and for the motorists the pumps for their cars” according to the Building (24 July 1937). One of these clients was General Motors-Holden, ordering a massive 30,000 pumps from Rega Products!

Pumping and spraying chemicals was soon to be even more important but we’ll cover that another time. And that so-catchy “let us spray” tag line? It came from a 1932 ad for Rega Products merchandise.

General Motors-Holden Assembly Plant Restarts 1934

General Motors-Holden Assembly Plant Restarts 1934

The General Motors Australia assembly plant on Carrington Road Marrickville shut during the Great Depression. One of its main suppliers was also struggling. That company was Holden Body Builders in South Australia.

But General Motors spotted an opportunity to secure its future in Australia. Acting quickly for fear rival Ford might act first, General Motors snatched up Holden for £1.1 million. At about $100 million in today’s terms, this seems pretty cheap now!

General Motors-Holden’s Limited (GM-H) started on 1 March 1931. GM-H made a further loss of £341,914 in 1931-32, but according to a 1935 GM-H report money from wool sales in 1933-34 improved spending, including on cars which were now a necessity in Australia. This brought the Marrickville assembly plant on Carrington Road back to life. It opened again on 3 April 1934, marked by a visit by Lieutenant Colonel Bruner, the NSW Minister for Transport.

This 1936 photo of the Marrickville plant shows cars of the 1930s to be more streamlined and enclosed. The signage says “General Motors Holden’s Limited” with the distinctive GMH on the pediment above. And a row of newly planted Canary Island Date Palms lines the road. If you’re out for a drive along Carrington Road today, come and see how they’ve grown!

 

The Great Depression in Marrickville

Boots, shoes etc, the world-famed Marrickville tweeds, porcelain baths, basins, sinks… famous Marrickville blankets, rugs, clothes, motor bodies wonderfully constructed bodies of superfine grace, beautifully streamlined…furniture, hardwood, toys, machinery! Some marvelous machinery – made in Marrickville. That is the point sought to be driven home by the Marrickville manufacturers “Made in Marrickville” (Australian Made, Labor Daily, April 1930, p 7)

1930 began with a hope. Could the depression be avoided through the manufacturing excellence, showcased at Marrickville Town Hall?

But it was not long before factories slowed due to low sales. General Motors on Carrington Road Marrickville shut in 1931 as Australian car sales declined to just 5 per cent of the previous year. Unemployment in Marrickville reached 29 per cent. Other areas were worse-off (nearby Newtown reached an unemployment rate of  43 per cent).

The NSW Government scrambled to create Relief Schemes to provide work for the unemployed by fixing roads and drainage. A particular focus was to “improve” low lying land in Marrickville, Tempe, Wolli Creek and other parts of Sydney by filling and draining swamps (SMH, 28 July 1930). This included work on the Sydenham pit and drainage of the former Gumbramorra Swamp to the Cooks River.

Relief work was low paid and hard. Those who complained about the conditions were threatened with being cut out of food rations and further work. It is no surprise that strikes and industrial disputes became common. And Marrickville Town Hall once again became an important meeting place, this time for the Unemployed Workers’ Movement, Women’s Vanguard as well as hosting fundraising events to help the unemployed.Next time we’ll find out how General Motors survived the Great Depression.

You might also like to read about Made in Marrickville now.