Waterloo and Alexandria - A description and anecdotal account of their rise and progress
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THE SUBURBS OF SYDNEY
No VIII – WATERLOO AND ALEXANDRIA
A description and anecdotal account of their rise and progress.
[Written for the ECHO]
With the exception, perhaps of the stretch of country which will be included in the municipal district of North Sydney next month, there is no part of the suburbs yet reviewed which presented such a pleasant sight to the early settlers as that included in the boroughs of Waterloo and Alexandria. The history of these boroughs is so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them, and therefore they are described herein.
Running from the southern end of “Monitor”, Hall's Surry Hills grant in Redfern was a spring of beautiful clear and limpid water. There was sufficient to form a fair-sized stream, which would round the base of Mount Lachlan (otherwise Hungry Hill, known as Mount Carmel), and it meandered on to Botany Bay, in some places opening out into small lakes, round which were rich alluvial flats with AN ALMOST TROPICAL GROWTH of vegetation. Between and around these cases were huge mounds of washed sand, of which the largest was Hungry Hill, on account of it's dry hungry appearance, and the sand showing clearly through the scanty growth of stunted ferns, which alone of all the plants, could find sufficient nourishment to give them a foothold. The contrast between these barren hills and the huge gum trees the dense undergrowth in the valleys was remarkably picturesque, and it is possible that the barrenness of the hills gave a fresher appearance to the vegetation in the valleys.
It may be taken as certain that Captain Phillip did not waste much time in searching for fresh water around the shores of Botany Bay. It is true that he landed on the southern side of the bay, but it would not have taken very long to row across to the northern shores, and had he done so he would have found this BEAUTIFUL STREAM OF WATER which afterwards named after Captain Shea, and further to the east, which supplied water for the city until the Nepean water scheme was finished. The water was there in plenty, the reason why settlement was not made on the shores of Botany Bay, as proposed, was because he considered the by itself shallow and unsafe. The wisdom of his decision will be recognized by all those who are acquainted with Botany Bay and Port Jackson.
Shea's creek and the chain of lakelets were for many years A FAVORITE GROUNDS FOR SPORTSMAN. Teal, ducks and other game abounded in the district. In 1822, however 30 acres were granted to K King for the purpose of growing wheat for the colony. This grant known as King's Clear Estate, joined the southern end of James Chisholm's 57 acres. Shortly afterwards a grant of 185 acres was made to I J Campbell, near the head of Shea's Creek, joining “Monitor” Hall's grant taking in Mount Lachlan. In May 1823, a further grant of the land between these two grants, comprising 1400 acres, stretching away to the south was made to William Hutchinson. Campbell's and Hutchinson's grants were purchased by Messrs. Cooper and Levey, and afterwards passed into what was is known as the Cooper Estate. This particular portion was known as THE WATERLOO ESTATE, and was devised by the late Mr Daniel Cooper. It is now reported to be the most valuable of the Cooper Estates.
From very early times industries of various kinds have been carried out here. Messrs Hall and Alderson's wool washing and currying works were near the northern boundary of the Mount Lachlan Estate, while their bot factory and leather works were in Hall's Surry Hills grant. Further down were the old Waterloo flour mills, belonging to Messrs Cooper and Levi, leased by Thomas Hayes, and afterwards owned by Messrs. Hinchcliffe and Johnston. At a junction with a branch stream which ran from the Lachlan stream was the wool washing establishment of Mr. Geddes, afterwards for some time under Mr Charles York, and subsequently owned by Messrs Geddes and Sons. A large slaughterhouse and yards superintended by Mr Jaggers were stationed by the side of one of the larger lakes, and another wool washing establishment near the Waterloo dam was subsequently sold to Mr Geddes, and is now owned by the Australian Wool Mill Company. Further along the stream is where Mr. John Haigh had hiss “wool wash”.
These works were in what is known as the borough of Waterloo, while on the western side of Botany-road, now the borough of Alexandria, were Messrs Bell and Lyndon's wool washing and bone crushing works, and Mr O. B. Ebsworth's woolscouring works (afterwards sold to Mr Robinson, who will be remembered as having taken an active interest in the charities of Sydney and suburbs). Here there were magnificent works for drying wool by hot air in case of heavy rains. The chambers into which the wool was put was heated by means of steam pipes. The wool was placed into revolving cylinders, which separated the water in an astonishingly short time. Later on the New South Wales Shale and Oil Company had extensive works on the banks of the stream. With these and a number of brick yards in Waterloo and Alexandria, it is little wonder that there was MORE ACTIVITY IN THE DISTRICT in early times than in most other settlements around Sydney. The extensive and rich alluvial flats were admirably adapted for cultivation, and on these numerous market gardens were established. The character of the district has been (illegible). It is still an important industry centre, and the traffic on the various main roads is very heavy.
On the King's Clear grant Mr J King raised excellent crops of wheat for several years, and afterwards sold 14 acres to the late Mr. Robert Henderson, and known as Camellia Grove. Ten acres are known as Greenfield's Estate, while the other six acres, known as Rowley's Estate, are now subdivided between Messrs Richardson and Monks, who own three acres each. THIS PORTION OF ALEXANDRIA is the only freehold in the district outside the Cooper Estate. At Carmelia Grove is a spring named Sir Thomas Brisbane's Spring, in consequence of the legend that the popular Governor once drank from it. But alas! the construction of the railway works and of numerous buildings in the neighborhood has rendered it unfit for use. Of Mr Henderson's nursery and gardens only about five acres remain, the rest having been cut into streets and building lots, so bricks and mortar have replaced the groves of camellias and other flowering and ornamental plants. The Cooper estate is generally let out on building leases. One of the first to enter a lease was William Powell who took up a small block for 21 years. This was subsequently altered for 99 years tenancy.
HIS FIRST RESIDENCE was built of packing cases, and roofed with the tin-linings from these cases. He worked at his trade, and after a short time sublet some of his land. As his business affairs prospered he took up more land, and sublet it; and at his death he left a valuable estate to his heirs. Charles Cains, Henry Bryant, Charles Wilkes, William Setchell, George Rolfe, William Moop, and others, also rented larger or smaller pieces of land, and constructed cottages, which they let to the workmen about. In this way the district has been pushed ahead by those who were trying to benefit themselves. Many of the first huts were of bark or slabs, and some few of them may still be found standing. As a rule, they are now used as sheds, workshops or stables, while better buildings have taken their place as residences. On of the first to be build on Hungry Hill was Mr Robert Brown, and his neighbours freely expressed the opinion that he was either a fool or out of his mind to go up there among the sand. Now there are a neat row of cottages and a few two storied houses on the sandhill, with a well formed street and asphalted footwalks.
THE FIRST HOTEL was the Waterloo Retreat, built by Thomas Roston on the Alexandria side of Botany-road. This place was bought by Mrs M'Elhinney, who took out a 99 years lease of the grounds, and built a number of cottages. Other hotels are the Sportsman's Arms (said to have been built by Mr Peter Welsh) and the Cauliflower (built by Mr. George Rolfe, who is still in possession, and therefore claims to be the oldest publican in Waterloo). Charley Keen's Clifton Hotel followed, as an hotel built by Mr. Bunting (formerly of the Beehive Redfern) at the corner of Cooper and Ralgan streets. The remains of the Keep Within the Compass hotel, another old house, are still to be seen in Pitt-street, Waterloo. On the Alexandria side one of the oldest houses is the Bugle Horn, formerly kept by Mr. James Marland, but now known as the Lord Raglan. The Salutation Inn (once a well known hostelery on the Botany-road) has gone under, and several others in various parts have had their names changed, and have therefore lost something of their historical value, although they may, perhaps, have profited in some other way. There are now 19 hotels in Waterloo, the largest being the Zetland (a fine three-storied structure, erected some four years ago, and now kept by Mr Divers). In Alexandria there are 13 hotels.
THE FIRST RELIGIOUS SERVICES in the district were held in a tent in Waterloo by the Wesleyans. The first church was built about1855 or 1856. About eight years ago a new and handsome church was built fronting Raglan-street, and the old church which was behind was turned into a Sunday school. The first minister was the Rev. Mr. Pigeon. St. Silas's Church of England, on the Botany-road, was built about1858. This was a school-church, but it has made way for a row of houses, and the new St. Silas's – a building worthy of the neighborhood – has taken its place. The late Rev. T. Smith of St.Barnabas's, Parramatta-street, took a great interest in the founding of this church, and the first minister was the Rev. Mr. Vaughan, then quite a young man. In 1859 the foundation stone of the chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was laid by the Roman Catholics on the top of Hungry Hill or Mount Lachlan. Since then a convent and presbytery have been erected, and the school is largely attended. This church has always been one of the principal HOME MISSION STATIONS of the Roman Catholic denomination. The site has been greatly improved by means of asphalt paths and man made roads, but the huge sandhill is not yet conquered, and all around the back it is as bare and hungry looking as ever. About the year 1865 Mr R Brdwn and others opened Baptist services in Mr Meares's shop on the Botany-road, and afterwards moved to the Forester's Hall, where the Rev. Mr Bradley preached. They were not strong enough as a body, it appears, and therefore amalgamated with the Congregationalists, and opened a chapel in 1866. At the present time there are in Waterloo the following churches: One Anglican, one Roman Catholic, one Weslean, one Congregational, and one Primitive Methodist; and in Alexandria there are one Roman Catholic church, one Weslean, and One Primitive Methodist.
A very large and handsome Public school was erected in Waterloo about nine years ago, and there is now another school, where the kindergarten system is to be followed in Alexandria. This last school will be opened shortly. There are two Roman Catholic , and (illegible) private schools in the (illegible).
In August 1869 THE WHOLE DISTRICT WAS INCORPORATED as the Borough of Redfern, when its population was estimated at 6500. On the 26th October, however a petition was signed by 250 residents of the Waterloo and Mount Lachlan Estates was gazetted, preying that the district might be separated, as the inhabitants were seriously injured as being joined to Redfern. The population of this ward, comprising the whole of what is now the Waterloo and Alexandria boroughs, was set down as 1500. This petition was granted, and the proclamation of the separate incorporation of Waterloo as gazetted on May 16, 1860. The first election took place on June 29, when Mr Thomas Hayes acted as returning officer. Councillors Edward John Hawkeley (chairman), John Geddes, Edward Byrnes, Thomas Roston, William Bryant, John Cates, George Kittson, and Jules Felix Charet were declared elected. The newly elected councillors adjourned to Mr. William Brown's residence, Botany-road, and made their declarations before Mr John Lucas, J.P. On November 13 the minutes of the meeting wound up thus:-- “At this stage it was announced that the residence of Councillor Charet was on fire, and the chairman at once adjourned the council.” No doubt: but the question arises, Did the council wait to be adjourned? The population of the borough at the date of incorporation was estimated at 1500, and the number of houses at 450. The net revenue was about ₤800.
THE FIRST MEETING OF THE COUNCIL were held in a cottage in the Botany-road; but on devision of the borough by the separation of Alexandria, the meeting place was moved across the street, so as to be within the borough of Waterloo. The second meeting pace was what had been a dancing saloon, next to the Cauliflower Hotel. The fine Town Hall in Elizabeth-street was erected in 1881, when Mr. P Hogan, J.P. was Mayor. At the present time the number of houses is 1831, and the population 7956. The value of ratable property for the current year is ₤313,569, and the general and lighting rates amount to ₤4087 17s 6d. The council for the current year consists of Alderman I. P. Williams (Mayor), George Anderson, John Navin, Weeks White, James W. Spicer, George H Greenwod, J. P. Howes, M. F. Smith, and Thomas Lamond. The first council clerk was Mr. Thomas M. Slattery, and the present one is Mr. James Campbell. One of the first actions of the Waterloo Council was to agitate for the removal of the toll-bar on the Botany-road from near Redfern-street Redfern, to near the Public School on the Botany-road, whence it was entirely removed a few years ago, and the road thrown open for free.
The borough contains 780 acres and about 25 miles of streets. Waterloo is the only suburban borough which has a system of WOOD-BLOCKED ROADS, constructed without Government aid. When the trams were run along Botany-road, much of the heavy traffic, such as brick-carting, &c,. was directed to Botany-street, and the council made and metalled the street at great expense. Soon afterwards heavy rain set in, and a flood tore up the lower portion of the street, cutting big gullies in the sand across the roadway, and washing away the metal and large blocks used as ballast. The roadway was undermined, and the stone carried away on to the adjoining lands. The council gathered the precious metal as best it could, and formed an remetalled the road again, but again it was washed away by a flood. The late Mr Endicott, who was the borough engineer proposed a cheap system of wood-blocking as likely to stand better than stone , and the council (with Mr. G Anderson who was then Mayor), decided to adopt it. The road was made thus :-- Sound logs of box, blue gum or ironbark, were obtained and cut into 8 inch lengths. These blocks were then split into billets, like ordinary firewood. The road was levelled, and the billets of wood placed side by side as closely as possible. The interstices were filed with dry sand, which was poured and swept into a level with the blocks, and then boiling tar was poured aver all. The tar caused the sand between the blocks to sink down a little, so that another filling of sand and another pouring in of tar were required. The wood-blocked road cost only 5s per square yard, and has SERVED THE PURPOSE ADMIRABLY. The portion of Botany-street, which was laid down about three years ago, is as good as when new, although the traffic from the brick yards and other factories is very heavy. Ralgan, Cooper, and other streets and lanes have been made in the same way, and nearly all the street crossings in the populated part of the borough are of wood, and are in much better order and cost less to repair than those where stone is used. In connection with a system of drainage was inaugurated, and the surface water is all conveyed away in underground sewers.
In February, 1868, a petition, signed by 257 ratepayers and residents in the Western ward, prayed that that ward might be separated from Waterloo, and erected into an independent borough to be called Alexandria. The population was estimated to be 1700, and the ward was said to be larger than the Northern ands Eastern wards combined. As there does not appear to have been any active opposition, the petition was granted, and the separate incorporation of THE BOROUGH OF ALEXANDRIA was gazetted on the 27th August 1868. Mr. Charles St Julian acted as returning officer, and the following gentlemen were elected as alderman:-- R. J. Hawksley (Mayor), James (Illegible), John Oates, James Blackley, Henry (Illegible), Robert Bretnail, Charles B. Henderson, Samuel Sparkes, and J. J. Farr. The area of the borough is about 1,000 acres, and there are 24 miles of streets, of which 12 ½ miles have been formed and metalled. The revenue for the first year was about ₤550. At the present time the value of rateable property in the borough is (illegible) and the net revenue is ₤8850. The amount borrowed on debentures is ₤13,000. The population is 6752 so the total population of the two boroughs is 14,608, and the united revenue amounts to ₤7938, as compared with a population of 1500 and a revenue of about ₤1400 in 1869.
THE ALEXANDRIA TOWN HALL was built in 1880, Mr Charles B Henderson being Mayor. The council at the present time is composed as follows: -- West Ward, Alderman John Turner (mayor), Charles Moon, and Charles Jesson; East Ward, Alderman John Hartlen, William H. Swain, and James Ralph; South Ward, Alderman Cornelius Hannan, William Marr, and William Edwards; Beaconsfield Ward, Alderman J R Dacey, William Allan, and Frederick Malyneux. The first council clerk was Mr. Donald Beatson and the present on is Mr. Michael J. Madden. There are three parks in the boroughs. The Waterloo Park of 7 acres 2 rods 16 perches (vested in Waterloo council) is on Mt Lachlan, and runs from the Mount Carmel Convent to the flat. The Alexandria Park is in Buckland-street, Alexandria, and consists of 10 acres,vested in the Alexandria Council. The Macdonaldtown and Alexandria Park, of 22 acres 3 rods 8 perches is half in Macdonaldtown and half in Alexandria, and is vested in Charles Jesson, J.P., Cornelius Hannan, Thomas Evans, George Watson, and John Turner, on behalf of the borough of Alexandria, and five residents of Macdonaldtown, as trustees.
THE PRINCIPAL INDUSTRIES in Alexandria are four boot factories, two tanneries, three fellmongeries, three bone mills, two tallow refineries, one smelting works, one vinegar works, Mr. Turner's foundry, three cabinet factories, one wheelwright's the nursery garden, two large bakeries, 15 diaries, 30 market gardens, machine brickworks (turning out over 1,500,00 bricks daily), besides several smaller brickyards and about 200 shops and business places. In Waterloo the principal industries are Messrs. Geddes and Co.'s, George Anderson and Co.'s, the Australian Wool-washing company's and other wool-scouring works; Allt's and Cornwell's breweries, Forsyth's ropeworks, Smith and Macdonald's chemical works, Ramshard's soap and oil works, several brickyards, Jagger's large joinery works, a number of market gardens, and about 200 shops and business places.
Not far from the Waterloo Park is THE FINE RANGE OF TRAINING STABLES erected by Sir Hercules Robinson, who was an ardent lover of racing as a sport. At this place tan tracks for training, and a track formed by the scraps from the curriers' and leather-dressers' shops have been made. The grounds, stables &c., are now the property of Mr. Thomas Lamond, popularly known as “Tom Lamond, ” and several promising colts and fillies are now being handled. Mr. Joseph Cook also has a very complete training stables and tracks in Waterloo, so that the district is not entirely given over to manufacturing and production, but contributes to its share to amusement.
A siding has been constructed from THE RAILWAY LINE AT EVELEIGH to Garden-street, Alexandria, so that road metal and goods of all kinds can be delivered into the heart of the borough. It is also worthy of note that the proposed ship canal from Botany Bay, part of which has already been constructed, has been surveyed through the borough, the last pegs being visible at Buckland-street, close to the boundary of the park.
The Waterloo and Alexandria councils have provided a capital free library at each of the town halls, and these are open on certain days and two or three evenings each week. The assortment of books is judicious, and there are many valuable volumes in each of the collections. Unfortunately the value of the libraries is limited rule enforced by the Government, which does not allow the books to be lent out. The Redfern municipal library was established in 1867, just after this law was promulgated. The council however, ignored the law, and drew up bylaws for the government of the library, in which lending the books, and charging a fee of 2s 6d per year to any ratepayer were provided for. These by-laws were forwarded in the usual course too the Colonial Secretary's Department, and was duly signed and gazetted. Some time afterwards it was found that the bylaws were in direct opposition to the rule that the books purchased with the Government subsidy were not to be lent out, but it was too late to interfere, especially as the aldermen of Redfern were not inclined to amend their bylaws. The Redfern library has therefore done an immense amount of good which those of Waterloo and Alexandria are prevented from doing because of this INJUDICIOUS INTERFERENCE on the part of the Government in a purely municipal matter. The books are purchased with money supplied by the Government for this purpose, but the municipal council is responsible for the books and has to replace them when necessary. Both the Waterloo and Alexandria councils have voted money for the purchase of books, and these are sometimes lent out to aldermen and other favored persons, and may be supposed to exercise a humanizing influence which is denied to the Government-purchased works – the largest and most important part of the libraries. These works have been on the shelves for some seven or eight years, and the brand new appearance of these books is proof that they are not doing the work they should do, and that the Government regulation which prevents them from being lent out is absurd as it is mischievous. The sooner this arbitrary and uncalled for interference in purely local matters is swept away the better, and the more so as it is so utterly inconsistent with the action of Government which keeps up a heavy expenditure a free lending library in Sydney.
As might be expected THE FACE OF THE COUNTRY has been completely changed since the first white man, whoever hew might have been, crossed it in search of game, for there can be no doubt that much of the exploring, especially in the sandhill districts, was accomplished by sportsmen. The extensive sheets of fresh water, the luxuriance of the vegetation in the bottoms, and along the edges of the lakes and creeks, and perhaps even the huge mounds of loose sand in which it was so easy to make a nest, and which was always dry, and, is compared with clay lands, warm all tended to attract not only birds and animals of all kinds, but even the blackfellows, for whom this region was a sort of paradise. The water fowl of every sort indigenous to Australia which once frequented this region have flown; the kangaroos, wallabies, bandicoots, have disappeared; and even the opossums and native cats only exist now in some few isolated spots, mostly in that portion of Randwick which still consists of Crown lands, and they are never seen in Waterloo or Alexandria.
The last member of THE LOCAL TRIBE OF ABORIGINES, known as Johnny Malone, died some time ago. The huge gum trees have been replaced by tall factory chimneys, and large tracts of flowering shrubs, the banksias, cabbage tree palms, and other vegetation, have been covered with Chinamen's gardens, brickyards, and other signs of civilization. There are people living who recollect when the Cleveland paddocks, where the railway station and the Exhibition building now stand, were a favorite place for the blacks. Then their “corroborees” kept the few residents in Redfern wake till far into the night. By degrees the camps were driven back to Waterloo and Alexandria, until the blacks, THE ORIGINAL LORDS OF THE SOIL, have all gone to that bourne whence neither individuals nor races return.
There are blacks' camps to be found along the Pacific Coast and round Botany Bay, wherever sheltering shrubs are to be found; but the blacks do not belong to the local tribe. They travel towards Sydney from various parts of the coast, even as far as the Tweed River, but the majority come from the Illawarra and South Coast districts, where a remnant of the native races may be found. “Hulloa mate, where you come from?” inquired a Sydney man of a blackfellow in Alexandria the other day. “Oh, along a Illawarra” was the reply. “How did you get here : walk” was the next question. “Walk!” replied the darky, with such a tone of scorn as scarcely be conveyed in writing, “Baal mine walk, Guvmen keep it railway, Whaffor I walk?” “Whaffor,” indeed! And so the poor darkey , like the Members of Parliament, is privileged to ride free on our railways. It is little enough, considering we have robbed him of his land, and by degree his life. The sylvan beauties of the place have gone forever; but in their stead have grown a thriving and industrial population, living in well built comfortable cottages, with wide streets, well made roads and footpaths, and all the advantages of civilization.
[ Note this history of Waterloo and Alexandria has been compiled from the recollections of Messrs. Gerard Phillips, John Turner, James Schimel, Charles Jesson, J. P., Robert Henderson, Robert Brown, Stephen J Foskett, Kelson Vaughan, James Henderson, James Campbell (council clerk of Waterloo) Michell J. Madden (council clerk of Alexandria), and others. ]
The above article was published in the Sydney Echo – June 1890. As published, this article was presented as one large paragraph. Paragraph breaks have been added to improve readability. The text has been transcribed from microfilm held at the Michell Library Sydney.
Copyright of this article has expired, since it was published without any author's byline, more than 75 years ago.