Keeping Local History research in context- A Local Balmain detective story.

This story began about 1 month ago.

A gentleman named Mr. Taylor came to the information desk and informed me that he had an old photograph of the Balmain Town hall.


My ears pricked up and I questioned him further. “ Yep My Grandfather was in the trade Union and I have this old photo of him upstairs”

Really I said. “We are always looking for more photos any chance you can bring it in?” Sure I’ll bring it in on Thursday. He Said.

True to his word he came in the door on the Thursday and delivered the photo.

Wow. What a great photo I thought, and it had a Date 30-10-1916.

Unbeknownst to many, this is exactly the way we get our invaluable material at the local history section. A chance meeting with a patron and an irreplaceable piece of history appears.


As I spoke to Mr. Taylor he pointed out that his grandfather was the one close to the front. Nicholas Taylor

So I had a name, I had a date. When I turned the photo over I saw an address! I asked Mr. Taylor and he said that was where his mother lived.


So began the research.

What was I trying to find out? I wanted to find the location of the photo. I wanted to find an event. But most importantly I wanted to find a historical context to tell this story.

The trump card was I had an identity of a person and some clues: Mr. Nicholas Taylor, and address, and something about the trade union.

Something didn’t add up the photo looked similar but very different to Balmain Town Hall.

I turned to the trusty Sands directory to find a Nicholas Taylor in Balmain.

No match for the address. I had a clue which was Trade union.

I found multiple Nicholas Alexander Taylor’s but only one which was listed as a Labourer.

1910-1911 90 Dick Street Balmain

1913 Clay Street Balmain

Carter’s lane (Wisbeach Lane) 1915-1925

Then the electoral roll

1930 Labourer 173 Beattie Street

1931 Labourer 178 Beattie Street

And Then Finally 1937 Labourer 11 Bruce street Rozelle.

Still present at that Location in 1943.

I had a match I had my man. This told the story of Balmain boy. a Labourer who moved around but never left Balmain.


NAA: A2863, 1916/27

But what about the date? First of all I looked back in time and found that date was a Monday. Hmm strange day to be having a party, must be a significant date.

I started searching digitised newspapers


The first plebiscite, conscription vote was set for Saturday October 28th 1916. Conscription was narrowly defeated 51%  to 49% for.

The trade Union was against conscription.

Written by Ben Carter

Do you remember The Greek Club at 406 Darling Street, Balmain?

When we think of Leichhardt and Balmain the Italians seem to jump to mind immedietaly for their rich contribution to the local area through fruit shops, cafes and we shift our focus slightly and look down the lense of local history at the Greeks in Balmain.  Unilever was once a large employer of migrant labour particularly Greek, many fish and chip shops, milk bars and hamburger shops along Darling Street between 1960s -1980s were operated by Greek, Macedonian Greek, Greek Cypriot or Egyption Greek origin.

Three was a Greek Club operating in the terrace hous eat 408 Darling Street. Painted Green and with a sign “GREEK CLUB” was nailed in individual reflective red lettering over the door. The Club began in the 1950s and operated for about 10years, there were also two other Greek Clubs ner the Rozelle Juction. Such clubs were male-only bastions. In the late 1950s and 1960s, an after hours Greek Language schoolwas conducted in the former Presbyterian Church hall by Mrs Pavlou.

Greek and Cypriot immigrants were rarely educated and many arrived with only the clothes on their back and a change of clothes in their suitcase. Whilst some were able to purchse their own businesses, the lot for many was exploitative menial work. Most Greek workers took in lodgers. Greek immigrants were huge purchasers of merchandiser sold at street stall and jumble sale fund raisers that local churches ran in the mid-1960s.

If you have any memories or pictures to share of the Greek club or Greeks in Rozelle and Balmain we would love to hear from you.

History Week 2013….Picture This…… Rozelle Brides

ROZELLE BRIDES – Exhibition at Balmain Library September 1 -30

State Library of NSW has recently digitised a small portion of the Sidney Riley Photographic Studios collection of glass plate negatives. As part of History Week 2013- Picture this we present Rozelle Brides a small collection of Inter – war Wedding and couple photographs taken at 687 Darling Street Rozelle between 1939 -1945.

sidney Riley Studio Sunday Times 8july1923pg7

1928 Add for Sidney Riley Studio.

Some local residents recall having their childhood photographs taken there they recall big wedding groups going up to the studios after weddings at the local churches and family members who made wedding veils featured in the photographs.  If you have any memories of the Sidney Riley Studios we would love to record your story to add to our collection.

Please share your stories in the comments box below this post.

Wedding Photos taken at Sidney Riley Studios, Rozelle 1939- 1945

Wedding Photos taken at Sidney Riley Studios, Rozelle 1939- 1945
Image courtesy of the State Library of NSW

For a complete list of the full Sidney Riley Studio Collection Click Here



Many people often ask about the The origin of the name for ROZELLE

Back in the 1890s when Balmain West was a quickly growing suburb, the local Post Office was Rosellabird2often confused with Balmain Post Office. When the Post Master general decided to build a new post office at the corner of Darling Street and Weston Road (now Victoria Road) he was adamant that the name must be changed to end the confusion.

Some residents did not take kindly to the idea and protested strongly. Some wanted it to be called Garry Owen but many wanted the name left as Balmain West. RozellePO

By 1907, however the post office AND the suburb were known as Rozelle – shopkeepers, local people and newspapers all used the name Rozelle. The name of the school was changed from Darling Road Superior Public School to Rozelle Superior Public School.

No one knows for certain where the name Rozelle comes from. The area no doubt, took its name from Rozelle Bay (sometimes called Rozella Bay on old maps) which had been used since the 1840s. Whether the Bay was named after the Rosella parrot or the Rosella plant, an hibiscus, has not yet been determined.

Either the bird or the flower is a colourful derivation for the name of the suburb ROZELLE.



G5 75

Original Subdivision Plans now available online!

Exciting News !!!!!








Go to…….Library Catalogue

Just  select “Anywhere” and type in “Subdivision Plans” or “Sale Plans”

You can now search our library Webopac  for Subdivision Plans just type in “Subdivision plans” or your street name and look to the right hand column for Subdivision plans.