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 ann-hardy@hotmail.com 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