Monday, November 25, 2013

Treasured local Christmas cards

Local Treasures -   Treasured local Christmas cards             26 November 2013
Presenter: Jenny Marchant
Interviewees: Ann Hardy

Broadcast Notes: These early Christmas cards of the late nineteenth century were located in a beautifully decorated leather family photo album found in Newcastle. They are in a private collection. It is not known who the people are in photographs, however between the pages are some lovely Christmas cards of the nineteenth century.  Some of the cards are likely to have been produced in England, and either purchased here or sent by loved ones to family living in Australia. This one has a very English scene and unfortunately has no markings.

Sending Christmas cards began in the United Kingdom in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. He was a public servant and interested in encouraging the public to use the new postal services for their own use. Before 1840 the postal service was mostly for the rich, however after this time correspondence could be sent for a penny, or a half-penny if in an unsealed envelope. Cole engaged artist and friend John Horsley to design the first three panelled cards, and although these were not popular straight away cards did increasingly become more common in later decades. Cole would go on to be the founding director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Christmas cards became even more popular in 1860s when methods of printing improved. Professional illustrators were engaged to produce scenes giving them another source of income. This was a similar case for engravers who were also commissioned to design cards. By the early 1900s, sending Christmas cards had become fashionable in Europe and likely to have also been the case in Australia.
Christmas was a sentimental time for those living away from loved ones and friends, particularly in Australia. For many they longed for 'home', many people never returning to where they had once lived. They longed for scenes of home and cards often depicted flowers from English gardens or snow covered landscapes.  Many of the cards from loved ones were deeply treasured and kept in family albums near photographs of those who had sent them. When Christmas cards become popular in Australia in the 1880s there was a competition by John Sands to create cards showing local themes. The designs are very interesting and showcase the level of artistic talent in NSW at that time. This album at the Mitchell Library and can be seen at the following website
In 1915 Hallmark Cards were created John C. Hall and this company continues today. Christmas cards are highly collectable and there are greeting cards associations around the world. Designs shown on cards reflect the fashion and art scene of particular decades, are marked the social trends and culture of a particular time and place. In the 1910s and 1920s, homemade cards became popular.
In the 2010s the tradition of sending the traditional Christmas card has declined. New technologies and social media have changed the way we communicate and send our best wishes. Many now send e-cards, but the tradition of making a handmade card is not lost with many artist engaged in making these small scale artworks, something to be treasured because of the time and effort by its creator. 
Christmas cards found in this album do not show religious themes. This was often the case with early cards whereby they showed more fanciful scenes.

Source: “Raphael Tuck & Sons. London, Paris, New York. Publishers to Her Majesty the Queen” “Created in the Studios in England and printed at the Fine Art Works in Germany”


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Janette Grossmann’s ‘Tonbridge’ Desk

Local Treasures -  Janette Grossmann’s ‘Tonbridge’ Desk              22 October 2013
Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewees: Ann Hardy
Broadcast Notes Miss Janette Grossmann was the Headmistress at Maitland Girls High School for 24 years (1890 – 1913). In the collection at Grossman House is a beautiful timber portable writing desk, also known as a ‘Tonbridge desk’. Tonbridge is a town in Great Britain, famous for its creative woodworkers and particular style of wooden products, known as Tunbridge ware. Tunbridge ware were wooden items manufactured at Tunbridge Wells near Tonbridge. Many of the woodworkers lived at the town of Tonbridge, however set up businesses near Tunbridge Wells.  The wells were located at the riverfront, ideal for the woodworkers selling their wares. The style of wooden goods (Tunbridge ware) became very popular in the nineteenth century.  The market for Tunbridge Ware grew as navigation increased nationally and internationally.  Tunbridge Ware were mostly small items made from wood, often having inlaid wood and other decorative features. Originally items were of whitewood with printed designs showing local scenes, a sort of souvenir that visitors could purchase.  Another more common style was a design formed from gluing small sticks to form a mosaic, it is this style that typifies Tunbridge Ware. The pieces produced were an exquisite example of fine carpentry.
In 1890 before coming to Maitland her students from Waverley West Secondary School gave her the lovely gift, of a beautiful decorative desk.  It was probably purchased in Sydney by the girls’, however its creator and place of production is unknown. Unfortunately it does not have a makers mark. The inscription on the small plaque on the top of the desk says  
Miss Grossman was obviously very well liked and appreciated at her former school in Sydney where she had been only for a relatively short time. Previously to this she had graduated ‘with Honors’ from teaching college in New Zealand, working in Christchurch later at Sydney Girls’ High before her appointment as Principal at Maitland West Girls’ High in 1890. The portability of Miss Grossman’s desk would be ideal in her role as school Principle, taking stationary with her from place to place.   The desk is about 25cm x 50cm and has intricate wooden inlay on the lid and front of desk.  A centerpiece on the lid is a piece of shell. It has an intricate design of inlay. The desk is most likely made from English walnut.
Eventually in 1913 she was promoted to founding Headmistress of the new North Sydney Girls High School. 
The school community at Maitland must have really liked Miss Grossman because when she left in 1914 there was quite a fuss. The Maitland Weekly Mercury reported the following on Saturday the 21st February 1914.
The, pretty grounds of the Girls' High School looked especially attractive on Saturday night, illuminated as they were and bright with flags on the occasion of the farewell to Miss Grossmann late headmistress of the West 'Maitland Girls'…. Mrs. Lindsay then presented Miss Grossman with a very beautiful pendant of original design of tourmalines and pearls, and an autograph book with the names of the girls, and also to Mrs. Grossmann a handsome bag. Miss Grossmann, with much feeling, thanked the friends for their words and gifts to herself and mother. While she, disclaimed being the originator of the ‘Old Girls' Union, yet she had felt that this union had grown to be both a blessing to all who had taken part, and to many in the town, and she hoped that Miss Campbell would be able to lend her influence to strengthening the good work.  Miss Grossman regretted leaving dear old Maitland, and said she had spent very many happy years in her work here. Miss Ewing played 'For she's a jolly Good Fellow,' and all joined in the singing.
Later after her death in 1924 the girls’ school at Maitland was renamed Grossmann House in her honour in 1935. It is not known when the desk came into the collection of Grossman House, it likely went the Sydney with Miss Grossman after she left, and donated to the house sometime after her death.

It will be on show at Grossmann House 2-3 November 2013, 10am-3pm



Monday, October 14, 2013

Hunter Regional Committee of the National Trust AGM 2013

Sunday 24 November 2013 2013 at 11am
Our guest speaker is Barry Maitland, distinguished architect, urban designer and author.
Barry Maitland studied architecture at Cambridge University. He practised and taught in the UK before moving to Australia to become Professor of Architecture at the University of Newcastle. While at the University he made a considerable contribution to planning and heritage protection in the
City of Newcastle and was the author of landmark studies on planning and heritage that formed the basis of Development Control Plan 30, a nationally significant planning policy to guide and urban design for future development in Newcastle CBD.
He retired in 2000 to write crime fiction. He is the author of 12 widely acclaimed books and has an international reputation as a crime fiction writer. His popular series, which commenced with The Marx Sisters in 1994, are notable for their historical settings. His most recently published book was The Raven’s Edge (2013)
Lunch will be available for purchase
RSVP Ann Hardy or 0438509139

Newcastle’s Canoe Pool

Local Treasures 1233 ABC  -  Newcastle's Canoe Pool                                28 May 2013
Broadcast Notes : Ann Hardy
Announcer : Carol Duncan


Photograph : Bruce "Jimmy" Edward Thomas (1950), in the collection of Simone Sheridan.

Did the Canoe pool at Newcastle really exist, or is it an urban myth? Thanks to many locals who still remember it and the few photographs that exists, we can confidently say that it did exist.  Newcastle’s Canoe Pool was constructed during the Depression years in 1930s by the Newcastle Municipal Council and was located next to Newcastle's Ocean baths, in the circular wading pool. The pool was also known as the ‘Young Mariner's Pool’, or ‘Map of the World’ pool.  The special features included a large map of the world with continents made of concrete raised to the water line. The pool still exists but the map of the world is no longer there.
It is fortunate that a coloured photograph of the pool has survives. In 2007, Newcastle based creative director Simone Sheridan inherited her Great Grandfather's old slides and a very nice vintage camera collection. The photographer was Bruce Edward Thomas, fondly known as Jimmy. Jimmy was a dentist where he lived in Short Street in Mudgee. However he did spend a few years in the Hunter.
The photograph was taken in 1950 when Jimmy was stationed at Greta as a dentist in the Australian Army. He took photos as a hobby and according to his family he photographed everything. Simone advised "It's not easy to know where the photo came into his journeys, as I only discovered them in 2007 that is when I found it in his slides. Maybe it would have been lost, if I hadn't of been living here studying find art, to recognise it as Newcastle."
The original slides were kept in great condition on a steel box, which he locked in an old dentistry closet. For this reason the reproduction of the colours have remained strong as if the photograph was taken yesterday.  ‘Jimmy’ Thomas passed away in 1974 aged 62.
This colour photograph of the Canoe Pool is significant because it is the only colour image that had come to light of the pool. As shown the various colours of the continents and countries are easily identifiable.  The continents were painted various colours, and Commonwealth countries coloured a distinctive pink. Children for decades enjoyed the pool, pretending they were mariners navigating their way around the world and between the continents. This make believe water wonderland provided much enjoyment during a period a time when there was much hardship.
The following letter to the Argus sums up beautifully the fun one youngster had on his holiday to Newcastle. The following letter was written by the child’s father A. Thornton in 1945.
“A child at Newcastle (NSW) can swim right round the world in a matter of seconds. A splendid public swimming – pool has been laid out in the form of a map of the world, the countries being in concrete, while the oceans are filled with sea water. The pool is deep enough for children to swim in in safety, thus getting good fun and exercise and a lesson in geography at the same time.” (Argus).
Another user of the Canoe Pool was Hamilton South resident Warren Hardy who remembers going to the pool as a young boy in the 1940s.  He would catch the tram from Jesmond to the end of Scott Street opposite Newcastle Baths. "The water in the pool wasn't too deep, as a child you could safely wade around the map, or take a surfer plane to float around it. If you didn't have a floating device you could hire one from the beach pavilion."
The pool was a very creative design. Built in the 1930s the Canoe pool may have been a 'work for the dole' project to stimulate employment. The larger pool was likely built some years prior to the Canoe Pool’s construction, but who had the idea for this marvellous creation is a mystery. The creation of a map in a public pool was certainly unique and rare, no similar pools are known to have existed in Australia. 
Unfortunately, the pool was damaged after bad storms and heavy seas and gradually disintegrated.  It was sometimes covered by sand and it is thought to have been pulled out after the 1974 cyclone. However thanks to people like ‘Jimmy’ Thomas, whose delightful photograph may inspire others to think creatively in public infrastructure and community engagement projects.

Photograph : Bruce "Jimmy" Edward Thomas (1950), in the collection of Simone Sheridan.

Sources:  Thornton, A. (Letter to Editor) ‘I’m Telling the World’. Saturday 7 July 1945. Argus.

Special thanks to Simone Sheridan for sharing her Great Grandfather’s collection.

Postcards in the collection of Keith Parsons

Thursday, September 12, 2013

‘Quarries’ - Newcastle’s Cultural Landscape

Broadcast NotesABC1233 'Local Treasures'  Newcastle Quarries          
27 August 2013

Presenter: Carol Duncan
Interviewees: Ann Hardy

Quarries are part of Newcastle's cultural landscape and are subtle and often forgotten reminders of human occupation of the area. They exist only because something has been taken away, and not built, we often forget how much the landform has changed. Cultural landscapes are just as important as the built environment and other heritage items, symbolising the many layers of human occupation. Cultural landscapes and their stories are important parts of the Australian heritage discourse, and Newcastle has some exceptional examples as shown of Nobbys Headland and Macquarie Pier.

Nobbys northern pier- Cultural Collections- University of Newcastle

 Where were the quarries that formed Newcastle’s modern landscape. Quarries were workplaces of convicts, free settlers during the 1800s. The earliest sites were Colliers Point (Fort Scratchley) and Nobbys Island.  As well as Colliers Point being the site of the earliest coal mines in Australia, the headland was also a quarry, with rock taken away to construct Macquarie Pier.  Similarly Nobbys Headland was also a quarry, its outer edges gradually chiselled away to help build the southern breakwater. Early artworks show workers picking away at the earth. like sculptors creating a new work of art.
People often recognise the old rail lines out to Nobbys on their walks along the pier. These were used to transport rock to build to northern and southern breakwaters. Later the railway bringing stone from the Waratah quarries to the pier.
Another site that was quarried quite early was the Newcastle Government Domain (James Fletcher Hospital).  Work began there in the 1830s when convict labour was used to prepare for the construction military buildings.  A chain gang quarried the site levelling the ground to allow for the erection of rectangular military barracks and a parade ground. The quarried rock wall is visible today and is located at the southern side below Ordnance Street. The landform is now uninterrupted and almost the entire length of the quarried southern boundary and because previously much of the focus has been on built heritage and fabric, landscape features like the quarried rock wall at the Newcastle Domain have received little attention or acknowledgement until recently when the entire precinct was listed on the State Heritage Register.
A quarry at Waratah was in operation from 1857, believed to have been started by Mr Wright. However the larger quarries at Waratah were Government owned and established in the mid 1860s. One of the Government quarried was known as Whitman's Quarry located somewhere near the town 'Commonage'. The Waratah quarries were the most significant in the Newcastle area providing rock to build the southern breakwater at Nobbys, and later in the early 20th Century the Northern breakwater. The stone was brought in by rail and was also used in the extensive works to strengthen the harbour walls.

“Greatly increase the get of stone at this quarry, in order to lay down a stone Dyke from Scott's Point on the North Shore upwards to Limeburner's Bay, in order to stop the immense sand that for some years has been washed down into the harbour” (The Newcastle Chronicle, 21 October 1871)

Many injuries and deaths occurred at quarries, not only from those working at these dangerous sites, but from local children playing in the area. The Waratah Quarry Accident Fund was established in the 1870s to support those affected by death and injury at a quarry. 


Monday, July 29, 2013

No point cutting out city's historic heart

Opinion Piece - Newcastle Herald  27th July By Ann Hardy 2013
I agree with Lord Mayor McCloy that more affordable housing is needed, especially given the prospect of an expanded university campus in the near future. Councillor McCloy’s vision is that the current city skyline be replaced with new modern towers. He suggests that height restrictions be lifted, and for the impact to the historic skyline including the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral, be disregarded as old fashioned thinking. Given the bulk of the land holdings to the north of the Cathedral are owned by GPT and Urban Growth, Councillor McCloy must be envisaging a mix of residential and retail towers, maybe a bulky goods shopping centre, to be the new city skyline.

Increased building heights are already part of the Newcastle planning framework. Heights have been increased further or reaffirmed in the draft Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy – up to 90 metres in Newcastle West. So why spoil the historic heart of the city by removing views to our iconic and architecturally significant Cathedral, by replacing it with blocks of concrete and glass – when there are alternative locations for multi high rise towers? Imagine what our city will look like if increased building heights north of the Cathedral are to occur. Vistas to and from the Cathedral will be impacted, views to the Cathedral from Nobbys, Fort Scratchley, Stockton and the harbour would effectively be destroyed. The outcome would be a diminished city centre, not a vibrant one, with one of our city’s major visual assets gone. It will mean that when you stand at the foreshore, you’ll no longer catch a glimpse of the Obelisk, buildings in The Hill, or the Cathedral - all important lines of sight that remind us why Newcastle is unique and interesting.

It would not have the same impact for those cruising into the harbour if the Cathedral was not able to be experienced in full view. This is our jewel in the crown. Increased building heights would seriously impact the city's historic character and setting.

Other cities don't target their historic hearts for increased development, especially when other solutions are available – in fact truly vibrant cities are those where there is a complex interplay of new and old – not just new replacing old as Councillor McCloy is suggesting. Planning in Newcastle must be carefully considered to respect its character and certainly the planning framework has for many years produced a variety of new buildings - all of which have maintained the views of the Cathedral.

In Newcastle the visual landscape of our city is equally important as the rich mix of heritage buildings in the city centre. The eastern precinct respects the topography of the Hill area and has a San Fransican feel – this has long been recognised as key to our City’s competitive advantage over other regional coastal cities like Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour – sorry coastal cousins, but Newcastle towers above with its visual beauty.

The city's historic landscape is worth retaining, not only for cultural and social reasons but for economic reasons. It is what makes Newcastle special. People come here to experience its attractive and special character. Why jeopardise this when there are other solutions. Heights of up to 90metres have been proposed for City West – this is the logical area for increased building heights. Perhaps GPT and Urban Growth could turn their attention to City West rather than seeking to up-scale their land holdings in front of the Cathedral.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Grossmann & Brough Houses Haunted Houses Tour 7pm - 6th July 2013

The Grossmann & Brough Haunted Houses Tour is now into its third year.

As well as exploring the 1870 Houses by candlelight, gaslight and oil lamps, the 2011 participants heard about the findings of the Melbourne Psychic who was searching for “Maitland’s Most Haunted House”

Last year the tragic story of James Mudie’s convicts was told (James Mudie was the first white owner of the “town block” where Grossmann & Brough now stand)

While these stories and much more will be told again this year, an extra paranormal “search” will be undertaken.

Come on the Haunted House Tour 2013

Limited spaces available. Phone 49 337758 to secure your place.

Tickets $25 with wine on arrival and supper at the tours conclusion.

Allan Todd from Grossmann House

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Watt Street - An Illuminating History

The opening night of City Evolutions in Newcastle was a wonderful experience. People were out walking together with friends and family, appreciating the open space and enjoying the crisp winter solstice evening.   The place was alive with thousands of people wandering up and down the street; it had a very different feel to it, something I hadn’t experienced there before.  As I walked up Watt Street certain images triggered all sorts of stories I had read about the streets history.  A chain of visions during the night reminded me how rich and diverse history of Newcastle’s first street was.  The first thing to kindle my imagination was a friend pointing to the night sky and saying “Lycett’s moon is on its way”, there it was, right on cue during the official ceremony, the moon ready to appear, as if Lycett was lifting the curtain on opening night.
Lycett's Moon

Former David Maddison building
The strong community presence gave a different feel to Watt Street. People walking and talking together at the City Evolutions event made me think about how many others in the past had spent time in the street, what other events had taken place there. Convicts, Commandants and Government dignitaries have walked this street, and many parades and demonstrations have taken place there. We have simply forgotten what has transpired in Watt Street and the City Evolutions event is a great opportunity to tell some of these stories.

During the nineteenth century Watt Street was a popular place for marches and processions. In 1861 the volunteer Artillery and Rifle Corps participated in the annual Anniversary Day regatta held on Newcastle harbour. Assembling on the parade ground at the top of Watt Street then firing a salute from one of the guns before marching down the hill to the regatta. There was a strong public presence to watch the grand display. The old parade ground at the former military barracks (James Fletcher Hospital) was used for numerous public events and rallies. The Miners Union in 1874 organised a meeting and ‘grand procession and demonstration’.

“Two thousand miners, headed by four bands of music, marched through the town to the hill, where a concourse of people, to the number of about five thousand, assembled.”

Other demonstrations were associated with health and wellbeing of inhabitants. In 1895 there was a ‘Hospital Demonstration’ to raise funds for the hospital and Benevolent Society. The procession was a mile in length and the meeting urged all to join a ‘friendly society and provide against sickness and distress’.

The old Council Chambers a reminded of the long association the street has had with official authority and the first seat of government.

Seeing the Hunter Blood Bank so vibrant with its life-size mascot (drop of blood) having fun with the youngsters reminded me of the health history of the street. The Royal Newcastle Hospital used to be just around the corner, and the lengthy association Watt Street has had with mental health care is remarkable.  The former David Maddison building also reflecting the significant history of health, Maddison was an innovator of mental health care and helped implement radical and new approaches to medical education in NSW. He was Dean of Medicine at University of Newcastle.  The building is the perfect canvas to show historical images.

On the opening night, out of the corner of my eye I could see what looked like ghosts dressed in night dresses, about ten of them lined up ready to march down the hill. The scene reminded me of the story of the riotous girls in the 1860s who were marched from the Industrial Girls School at the top of Watt Street to the Lock Up in Hunter Street. Over many years the girls had maintained a steady series of disturbances and were described as a ‘little volcano slumbered’.  Many riots took place and one evening girls armed with iron bedsteads broke through dormitory doors and got away over fences, thirteen of them were re-captured and marched in groups of four to the lockup.  The story of the girls adds to the list those who have marched along Watt Street.
However the people dressed up for opening night were not what I thought, instead they were zombies, adding different dimension, bringing a street back to life!
The City Evolutions is wonderful for the city. It is not only a creative and artistic event, but a cultural heritage event that has been inspired by history. The event brings to life a street full of business, commerce and history, something that also occured one hundred years ago.

“The city was gaily illuminated tonight, practically all the business-houses presenting displays of coloured electric lights” (1911)


"The City Illuminated- a Huge Bonfire." The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 23 June 1911, 14.
"Volunteer Movement", Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 29 January 1861."Miner's Procession to Asylum Grounds and Demonstration There." Sydney Morning Herald, 23 March 1874.
"Hospital Demonstration." The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 September 1895.

Photographs by Ann Hardy

Photograph of ‘Lycett’s moon’ by Gionni di Gravio.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dalwood House 'another National Trust property'

View from Dalwood House

By Ann Hardy- Board Member National Trust of Australia (NSW)

The Northern National Trust (NSW) Volunteers workshop was held this week at Wyndham Estate in the Hunter Valley, NSW.  This was the first of several workshops for volunteers this year and what a wonderful event it was thanks to the Trust staff and volunteers. It was an inspirational few days spent with some wonderful people sharing ideas and stories about the Trust's properties.

Historic Dalwood House is a National Trust property and was the perfect backdrop to discuss exciting new ways to tell stories of Trust properties and their wider context.  Dalwood House is a reminder of the diversity and rich cultural heritage of the Hunter Valley, an historic house surrounded by beautiful vineyards, historic agricultural landscape and Aboriginal heritage.

Front view of Dalwood House

Side entrance to Dalwood House

Dalwood estate is located on the banks of the Hunter River. The house has exceptional architecture and is a rare surviving example of one of the earliest Greek revival buildings in New South Wales.

Greek classical revival style

The Wyndham's were assigned with convicts to assist in building and establishing crops at Dalwood. This was the first place that Shiraz grapes were planted in Australia. Wines from Dalwood estate were sold in Britain, India and the USA and received awards internationally. During our walk Don mentioned that Aboriginal workers were also present on the estate during the 1840s and 50s, working alongside assigned male and female convicts.

Vines at Dalwood

Family Graveyard

To the Volunteers Dinner
Gionni di Gravio was our guest speaker at the Trust dinner, he talked about how today many organisations like the National Trust are 'making do' with the resources available, however the advantage of living in the 21st century is the digital age is enabling information to be disseminated more timely and cost effectively, particularly through the use of blogs and social media. The digital age is providing a new face and first contact point for the community, the internet is a very powerful tool giving increased exposure and a new presence in a new space to organisations. Thus often a new audience.

Don Seton-Wilkinson
At the workshops many topics were covered, including how to work with local media, managing events and promoting the properties.  It was very impressive to hear what many of the houses are doing in relation to events and open days, particularly Dundullimal Homestead at Dubbo and Saumarez Homestead, Armidale.

One of the most important things I got out of the day is the idea of looking beyond the properties, at the broader environment, the landscape, and others in our community to share new stories.

There are different ways to interpret the properties in their wider context, just as Dalwood's old sun-dial reaches to the sun to be understood, we can also reach out, bringing back new stories to better understand 'home'!

Dalwood's Sun-dial


 Many thanks to Wyndham Estate and Don Seton-Wilkinson

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy 2012 (NURS) Submission

The Hunter Regional Committee of the National Trust of Australia (NSW) welcomes urban renewal of the City of Newcastle and opportunities that see it revitalised. We understand that there is a need for a strategy that sustains population growth. The renewal strategy states upfront the State Government’s decision to cut rail services between Newcastle and Wickham, however, this is somewhat confusing because many of the ‘guiding principles’ mentioned actually support the retention of rail transport infrastructure. There is no rationale given in the strategy for cutting the rail, nor is a transport study provided to explain how the decision was made (using proper planning and transport principles). For this reason we do not believe that this strategy is holistic in its approach, and requires further reviewing after an Environmental Impact Statement is undertaken.
The Hunter Regional Committee of the National Trust of Australia (NSW) would like to comment on the above draft strategy:

Closure of the CBD rail line between Wickham and Newcastle.

We note that this decision was made without consultation or a period of public exhibition for comment. We further note that there has been no professional report on the transport economic and planning implications of the decision. The only reason given for the decision by Planning Minister Hazzard was to achieve “certainty”. The strategy is predicated on the assumption that urban renewal can only take place if the rail line is removed. However, neither the strategy or the Minister offers evidence to justify this claim.

The Trust supports the retention of the rail line to Newcastle Station on heritage grounds. Consequently we are opposed to both its closure and the manner in which the decision was made.

• The line has been part of the CBD planning grid since 1858, almost from the beginnings of railways in Australia. The line marks the beginning of the Great Northern Railway, which has been accorded the status of a “National Engineering Landmark” for its engineering heritage significance by the Institution of Engineers, Australia.

• Two of the three stations along the corridor, Civic (1937) and Newcastle (1858, the existing buildings date from 1874) are classified by the National Trust. They are both working stations. Newcastle is one of the state’s grand Victorian era stations. Its significance does not lie just with its Scott St main building but the other infrastructure as well (e.g., its 4 platforms, 1890s platform shelter, permanent way and the former retort building. It would be difficult to adaptively recycle the building without losing the fabric (e.g., platforms) that supports its raison d’ĂȘtre.

• There is nothing in the NURS report to indicate the fate of either Civic or Newcastle Station if the line is closed. The rail line is unzoned and there are no proposed development standards for height or FSR nor any proposal for future use.

• There are alternatives to closure. The main argument traditionally used to justify closure is to improve connectivity between CBD and foreshore, including Honeysuckle. This can be achieved with the construction of new, at-grade crossings for pedestrians and/or vehicles. Obvious possibilities for this exist at the former Market St crossing site and at Worth Place where infrastructure already exists. It would also be possible to improve the corridor’s aesthetics by landscaping and the use of new, more streamlined rail infrastructure (e.g., stanchions such as those on the Eastern suburbs, Sydney line).
• The Trust would support light rail as an alternative or a combination of heavy and light rail. However, all studies on this option to date have concluded that it is not economically feasible, given population density implications. Further the State Government has not indicated whether it would support light rail in the foreseeable future.

The NURS document:

Maximum height and FSR:
• While there have been some reductions in building height and FSR, the overwhelming majority of changes to LEP development standards have been to increase heights and FSRs. These appear to have been made in the interest of maximising development potential rather than sound urban design principles. In particular, we do not support the proposed maximum height increases in Newcomen and Bolton Streets to 25 metres (from 10 metres) and FSRs from I.5 to 3.0. It is particularly important to retain the historic, human- scale character of this, the oldest and most historic precinct in the CBD. There are also a considerable number of State heritage significant items in the area. The items and their setting/curtilage must be protected. The proposed maximum height increases would also block views to Christ Church Cathedral from the east, e.g., Fort Scratchley, Nobbys and Newcastle Beach. The tallest building in the area, Cohen’s warehouse, should be regarded as an aberration rather than as a benchmark on which to base future maximum building heights.

• There are other examples of changes that would have a negative impact in terms of good urban design. For instance, Newcastle University is interested in purchasing land on the Hunter/Auckland Street corner. The LEP height limit is 30 metres, which is designed to reduce the impact of future development on the adjacent University House (former Nesca House, 1937, State Heritage Register (SHR) listed) and nearby Newcastle City Hall and the Civic Theatre building (1929, and recently listed on the SHR). According to media reports, the University want to construct a building of 45 metres height (50% above the limit). The NURS proposed new height is 45 metres, which accords with the university’s scheme. There can be no urban design justification for this increase in height limit-quite the reverse. A similar example is the vacant former Legacy House site in Bolton Street. The changes appear to be related to developers’ claims about commercial viability rather than sound urban design principles.

• There is no proposal for the future use of Newcastle Railway Station or Newcastle Courthouse (the 1890 and 1960s buildings) if they become vacant. The Court Building is listed on the SHR and its interior was designed for courtrooms with highly significant heritage fittings and furniture. A new non-justice related use would trivialise the heritage significance of the building. Similarly, Newcastle Station was purpose-designed as a railway station complex.

• The proposed height increases to the former David Jones building and car park sites cannot be justified and appear to be designed to maximise development potential for the owners. They would have a severe negative impact on the human scale character of the Mall area. No reason is given to justify this or other height and FSR increases.
• It would appear that sites have been handpicked on behalf of developers for their development potential and development standards altered to accommodate maximising that potential. The role of the Hunter Development Corporation, a public sector property developer, now part of the NSW Planning Department is, given its clear conflict interest, of particular concern.

Supporting the city’s heritage” (4.3.6)
This part of the study document begins with positive statements such as:

*Newcastle has a wealth of heritage buildings ranging from large former commercial buildings to intimately scaled terrace houses.

*Newcastle’s heritage makes a significant contribution to the character of the city centre and reveals the city’s history and culture.

*Many of these (buildings) are concentrated in the east end which has a large stock of relatively intact late 19C and early 20c buildings.

*The retention and revitalisation of the heritage buildings is (sic) essential to place making and urban renewal in all cities, especially in Newcastle.

*There are opportunities to retain and adaptively reuse these heritage buildings so they can continue to contribute to the unique character of the city, while regaining commercial and economic relevance.

It goes on to detail six case studies of recycling opportunities for highly significant heritage buildings. While these studies are well worth considering, the emphasis appears to be on commercial opportunities, while not necessarily giving the best outcome in heritage terms. For instance, Newcastle Ocean Baths is a public pool with free public access and associated amenities (e.g., dressing sheds). While the concept of a cafe/restaurant at the northern end (former women’s dressing shed) has merit and has been considered by the owner (Newcastle City Council), a boutique hotel would essentially privatise part of the complex.

The Victoria Theatre proposal in particular has merit, and is only a design idea. However, it would need a Conservation management plan to identify important heritage fabric for retention. The owner must urgently be made to honour his obligations to maintain this SHR building before it is further vandalised, subject to arson attack or becomes economically unfeasible to conserve. Its condition is a disgrace.

Cohen’s warehouse is already the subject of a redevelopment proposal. The proposed additional height may compromise the heritage characteristics (low scale development) in the neighbouring areas that the study acknowledges as important. It should also be acknowledged that the northern wall as well as the Bolton St facade mentioned in the study should be retained.

Similarly, the proposed height of the School of Arts conversion would also conflict with the heritage urban character of the Mall area. This building has a considerable amount of interior heritage fabric.

Council’s Newcastle East Heritage Conservation Area (acknowledge in the study as having a large stock of low height heritage buildings) was zoned for medium density in the 2008 and 2012 LEPs. The NURS retains this inappropriate development standard. This is a very sensitive, historically low- rise area and should not be redeveloped for medium rise development. We recommend reverting to the pre-2008 (LEP 2003?) heights.

There are no maps identifying LEP listed heritage items or heritage conservation areas in the Strategy document. This is unsatisfactory.

There is no mention of the existence of Council’s CBD and Newcastle East Heritage Conservation Areas HCAs) in the Strategy.

There is no recognition of the important characteristics of the HCAs that should be considered in any future development. These include the need to retain and adaptively recycle listed heritage items as well as items on non-statutory lists, contributory buildings, maintenance of streetscapes and settings. Additionally there appears to be no understanding of the need to design development standards and urban design guidelines (Maximum heights and FSRs, setbacks, appropriate materials, etc) to protect the highly significant heritage urban character and guide future development within the HCAs.

In particular the low, human scale character of the eastern precinct (“City East”), east of Auckland Street, which respects the topography of the Hill area and with Christ Church cathedral at its apex, must be protected.

NURS fig D (increased FSR) needs to be more carefully considered in respect of the number of heritage items in the NURS area. Again this particularly applies to the historic Newcastle East HCA.

NURS Fig. E (zoning) for medium and high density needs to be more carefully considered, and on a block by block basis.

Devonshire Street Controls (5.3.5):
We support the Strategy’s call for controls for built form that retains its pedestrian scale and relates the podium height to the predominant street wall height established by “heritage buildings” and buildings that contribute to the character of the precinct. A previous development approval (c 2002) allowed for a significant narrowing of what is arguably Newcastle’s best example of a Melbourne CBD- style lane. It’s also ironic that Council has approved the demolition of the heritage buildings on the site. At least some of these buildings should be retained.

We also support the controls for Cottage Creek and (what remains of) Birdwood Park (5.3.6, 5.3.7). We request that the fig trees (some are recently plantings while others are very mature (19C?) specimens) be retained.

The Store site and surrounds (5.3.8): We support the protection of the Newcastle Cooperative Store complex of heritage buildings. We call for the adaptive reuse of these buildings rather than a facadism approach.

Wickham Village (5.3.10) we call for the protection of the heritage character of this historic village. We believe that a heritage study be made for the area.

Views, vistas and landmarks (5.4): The view corridors from Christ Church Cathedral are shown as two direct views to the cathedral southward. It ignores the 180 degrees view arc from the Cathedral northwards as shown the DCP (City East).

Street frontage Heights (5.6). We support the LEP existing controls. The simplified heights are designed to “give certainty for redevelopment” at the expense of sound urban design principles.

Special Areas: Hunter Street Mall (5.3.2)

Objective 1 states “strengthen the sense of place and urban character”. Proposed height controls are at odds with this.
Objective 2 states “build on heritage character". Again the proposed height controls are in opposition to this objective.

Objective 6 states (inter alia) “protect heritage buildings”. The Hunter St Mall indicative Plan (fig.5.12) shows only 5 “buildings likely to stay”. This assessment is incompetent in terms of heritage assessment and is contrary to the statements in the NURS’s part 4.3.6 (“Supporting the city’s heritage”). It ignores many buildings listed in Newcastle LEP 2012 heritage schedule, the National Trust Register. It also omits heritage buildings identified for adaptive recycling in the original GPT development proposal. It also flies in the face of objectives 1, 2 and 6 above. Incredibly it excludes the landmark heritage buildings that comprise David Jones Department store.

We refer you to the heritage information document prepared by Newcastle City Council, “Newcastle by design, architectural Icons/Hunter Street Mall, a self guided walking tour” (2006). It indentifies 20 heritage buildings within the Hunter St Mall and another 13 in Hunter St, between Newcomen and Watt Sts.

They are described by Council as “architectural gems” that “enrich understanding of the social and commercial development of Newcastle”. It further describes them as “a rich collection of commercial and institutional buildings, many designed by notable local architects. The quality and diversity of architectural styles found here are testimony to the historic importance of the main (i.e., Hunter) Street and its ongoing place in our local identity”. This is Council’s assessment of these buildings. The Trust concurs with this assessment. Most of them are ignored in the strategy.

The strategy’s response to this was to identify a mere 5 buildings (including 2 only in Hunter St and a Telephone Exchange unlikely to be redeveloped) that are “likely to stay”. This is a manifestly incompetent assessment of the Mall’s built heritage. In the Trust’s view The Mall is one of the most important built heritage precincts in the region. The potential laneway” (4) in fig.5.12 (p 163) is not supported as it would involve the demolition of part of the heritage- significant 1890s warehouse building facing Perkins Street that adjoins the 1913 Scott’s (David Jones) building. There are existing laneways (Laing, Morgan, Keightley & Thorn streets) that have considerable potential for pedestrian or shared pathway use.

Fig. 5.18 (Crown St indicative plan) similarly leaves out heritage buildings on the west side of Crown and Hunter streets.

Fig. 5.30 (Emporium and Devonshire Street indicative plan and fig 5.31 (Cottage Creek indicative plan) also omit a number of identified heritage items.

The strategy promotes a facadism approach to adaptive recycling of most heritage buildings. Facadism is a largely discredited method and in most situations produces an unsatisfactory outcome.

The term is used to describe the retention of the facade of a building, usually the street elevation. The remainder of the building is demolished and a building of contemporary design is constructed behind the preserved facade. It is regarded by heritage experts as being not best practice for the adaptive reuse of a heritage building or a building that contributes to a heritage conservation area. This does not necessarily mean that the entire building must be retained but rather that at least a significant part of the original fabric besides the facade(s) be conserved to allow the original structure to be interpreted. The only exceptions that are acceptable are when the interior has been destroyed by alterations and renovations so as not to leave any interpretive detail of the interior of the original internal spaces. Or rare cases where the facade’s heritage significance far outweighs the importance of the building behind.
The NURS should include a section on discouraging facadism, given the widely held perception, particularly in the property development industry, that heritage significance is only external and linked to age.

The James Fletcher Hospital (JFH) and Newcastle Court sites (Church, Newcomen, Ordnance and Watt Streets).

JFH is an extremely important heritage site dating back to the beginnings of European settlement in Newcastle. It contains a wealth of highly significant buildings and places associated with its period as the Government Domain (early 19C) and later as a military barracks and mental hospital. Its historic, architectural, social and aesthetic importance is very high. It is listed on the SHR and a draft proposal for having it listed on the National Heritage List has been submitted to the Commonwealth Government. It is unzoned and there are no FSR and height limits. The Trust believes the best way to protect the site, its setting and buildings would be to have it continue in public or community use.

There is no reference to the site in the NURS. It is well known that there are pressures from the property industry to redevelop within the site and there have been proposals in the media for commercial and residential development.

The Strategy should have included a firm statement about the site’s future. However, there is none.

The Newcastle court site is similarly under pressure to be redeveloped, particularly because it is due to be closed when the court transfers to the Civic area. Again the Strategy is silent about the site and its future. Both the court complex and the adjacent JFH sites have very high heritage significance and their futures remain uncertain.

The NURS makes many supportive statements about valuing heritage but is very disappointing because it has very few positive heritage initiatives to back up the statements. These include identification of buildings for protection and built form controls that respect heritage and good urban design. It’s clearly a strategy that aims at maximising development potential at the expense of the CBD’s historic urban character. It assumes that removing the historic rail corridor must occur for the urban renewal to be successful without producing evidence to validate this supposition. Ironically none of the Study’s initiatives are funded except for $60M infrastructure funding to contribute to the very conservative estimate of $120M needed to truncate the rail line at Wickham. There is also no firm plan for the future of the rail corridor. The Strategy is also silent about the future of the Court site and JFH site. In heritage conservation terms the strategy is very unsatisfactory.

Hunter Regional Committee of the National Trust

Photograph by: Ann Hardy 2010