Newtown 1892-1922: A Social Sketch




A feature of Newtown which one can hardly fail to notice is its extremely long shopping centre. Hundreds of shops line King Street Newtown starting in the north from Forbes St. and winding along the ridge past the Newtown Railway Station and all the way to St. Peters Station in the south with the tributary of Enmore Road leading off to the west with yet more shops. The development of this retail centre occurred mainly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. No wonder that by 1922 it could be described as ‘Cheap, Reliable Newtown. ‘ 1 In 1912 Newtown was ‘one of the busiest commercial centres outside the City of Sydney’ and it was felt to be ‘the leading business suburb of Sydney’. 2 Residents did not need to go outside the borough for their requirements because of the great variety of shops in Newtown. The manager of one of the largest shops in King Street agreed that the local people patronised their own businesses more than in many suburbs, saying, “That is true, and why not? We cater for Newtown residents, and they, from experience know that we can supply their wants as well as any houses in the city, and in many cases at a less cost. The result is that we have customers living in our own district and from other parts as well. “3 Indeed it was reported in 1922 that shoppers came from Parramatta, Liverpool and all points in between as well as from the surrounding suburbs. 4 King St. is mainly composed of continuous two and three storey facades in late Victorian style. As it follows the ridge its curves form coherent urban groups while the south-eastern suburbs and Botany Bay may be viewed from some of the side streets. 5

  • 1. S. D. Smith, Diamond Jubilee Souvenir of the Municipality of Newtown, Sydney Doming Smith (Suburban Dailies Ltd. ), Newtown, 1922, p. 48.
  • 2. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 122, 159.
  • 3. Ibid., p. 159
  • 4. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p. 48
  • 5. National Trust, Newtown/Erskineville, King St. Urban Conservation Area.


Though today there are some intrusions, the character of the street remains essentially as it appeared early this century. Even today the continuity of business names and in some cases the same type of shop on a given site is a remarkable testimony to the strength of this retail centre around the turn of the century.

Perhaps the easiest way to approach the businesses of the district is to point them out as they would have appeared to the average shopper in the early 1910s and 1920s strolling along the main roads of Newtown. We will start at the junction of King and Forbes Streets in the north and work our way down to St. Peters and then back from the Newtown Bridge along to the tram terminus at Enmore. Mrs. Annie Rumpf was the proprietor of the Mount Eagle Tin Plate and Galvanised Iron Works named after the estate on which they stood. She started business at 3 King St. in the 1880s later erecting shops at 2 to 10 King St. and the lane behind was named Rumpf Lane. She owned land here on both sides of King St.


Plate 9. Corner of King and Forbes Streets.

The Works were at 150 Wilson St. Both Mrs. Rumpf and her daughter were keen workers for the Liberal Party during elections.

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 146, 161.


On the corner of Queen St. stood the Palmer Buildings erected in 1886 and occupied by the Eastern Tea Company and Philip Gleeson, grocer and provision merchant. The latter sold Abels’ bread, a local product, Bushells’ tea, and gave ‘green coupons on everything’ which could be redeemed for goods in the city. Mr. Gleeson came from Blayney in the late 1890s, starting as manager and working his way to becoming proprietor. 1 Across the road was the White Horse Hotel, a name long known in Newtown though at different addresses. A little further down were James Castle and Sons, brass-founders, art metal workers and iron-workers, who were established in 1888.


Plate 10. Mount Eagle Tin Plate and Galvanised Iron Works.


The Trocadero Picture Palace, a very ornate building, 71-77 King St., catered for the residents in the north of the municipality and its fame also brought visitors from all parts of Sydney, though by 1922 it was replaced by Properts’ Motor Body Works.1

  • 1. Ibid., pp 160-1 and Palmer Buildings. Note: Throughout this chapter names, addresses and occupations have been checked in Sands’ Sydney Suburban and Country Commercial Directory for 1911.


On the northern corner of Elizabeth St. was the Prince of Wales Hotel. The breweries used to deliver the beer by horse drawn lorries with big Clydesdale horses with very ornate fittings on their harnesses and the lorries would be nicely painted. Nearby was Rydge’s lolly shop which made its own icecream.2 On the southern corner of Elizabeth St. stood the shop of William and Robert McGilchrist, grocers and wine merchants. William McGilchrist had studied the trade of tea blending in Scotland, came to Australia and then brought out the rest of the family.


Plate 11. W. and R. McGilchrist, 111 King St. L to R: William McGilchrist, David Bannerman, Robert McGilchrist, Alex Younger, John McGilchrist (1924).

He made his own brand of tea until it became too expensive. He had started business in the 1880s across the road in the Soudan Terrace before building the new shop in the 1890s.3 The family grocer used to make up orders and deliver them by horse and cart. Robert McGilchrist used to deliver to Fivedock, Stanmore, Enmore and as far afield as Ashfield. Some customers who at times became short of cash were allowed to run up a bill. The odd bad payer was soon weeded out.

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 161 and S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 63 and Castle’s building 32 King St. Note: Photos of many of the businesses mentioned will be found in the Appendix.
  • 2. William McGilchrist, letter cited and M. Hall, letter cited.
  • 3. Jean McGilchrist, interview, 16th March 1983.


The prices at the “Cash and Carries” were generally lower but no credit was given (No cash – No carry)1. Another grocer, Finnigan, had a big knife hanging up in his shop with a notice saying, ‘This is the knife with which we cut our prices!2 Next to the McGilchrist shop was J. C. Everingham the dentist. He started business there circa 1897. He had seven surgeries with competent assistants and up to date equipment from America and elsewhere.3 His opposition, Larba-Lestier, was at 133 King St. a branch with the main shop at 214 Enmore Road. The latter was known to some as a butcher when it came to pulling teeth.4 He advertised painless extractions for one shilling. One of the local dentists used to get drunk so his wife often did the extractions.6

  • 1. W. McGilchrist, letter cited.
  • 2. M. Hall, letter cited.
  • 3. W. Chubb, op. cit., p. 142
  • 4. F. N. Smith, conversation, 14th August 1983.
  • 5. W. Chubb, op. cit., p. 164
  • 6. M. Hall, letter cited.


On the corner of Missenden Rd. stands the Marlborough Hotel, previously known as the Daniel Lambert after an Englishman of obese proportions. The latter’s picture was outside the hotel. The proprietor of the Marlborough was Leonard Chessher who was for some years the proprietor of the International Hotel at the corner of King and Camden streets until he became one of the first hotels to close under the first local option vote.


Plate 12. Interior of Marlborough Hotel, 1912

Though he had nearly trebled the business before that, in the end he lost nearly £ 3000. He received a public farewell at St. George’s Hall and was presented with a diamond mounted engraved watch pendant while Mrs. Chessher was given a handsome gold diamond brooch. The Newtown Brass Band gave its services for free. When he left the International he promptly opened the Marlborough in September 1909.


Leonard Chessher was known for his public spirit for on two occasions he treated the residents of Newtown. As there was a coal strike in 1909 causing distress to the poorer classes Mr. Chessher provided a three-course Christmas dinner to over 1000 of Newtown’s resident poor in St. George’s Hall. The tables were laid with snow white table cloths, serviettes and flowers.


Plate 15. Part of a local option ballot paper found in Council Minutes.

So no one would miss out due to the crowd he provided a large amount of silver coins so they could buy their Christmas dinner elsewhere. On 22nd December 1910 he invited 2000 of Newtown’s children to a happy day on Erskineville Oval. The gathering marched from the Marlborough behind the combined public schools Drum and Fife Band to the Oval. Over 4000 children turned up accompanied by about 5000


parents and friends as happy onlookers. Each child received a bag of lollies and a toy and spent the afternoon playing all sorts of games. Photos of all these events occupied a conspicuous position in the bar of the Marlborough.1 Here consideration may be given to the Local Option referenda. The first Local Option vote was taken in 1900 and the ratepayers of Newtown’s four wards decided in the proportion of three to one ‘against the granting of new or removal of existing licenses’.2 Again in 1906 the Local Option vote was taken with the same decision being reached.3 There were another three local opinion polls between 1907 and 1913. Though the number of hotels in Sydney had fallen from 834 in 1892 to about 800 in 1914 closing time remained 11 p. m. Temperance groups advocated 6 o’clock closing while the breweries tended to seek moderation with 9 o’clock closing. It was not until 10th June 1916 that another referendum was taken on the early closing of hotels.4 The Council gave permission for signs in favour of early closing to be displayed on hoardings facing the railway line but denied the request of the Marrickville Liberty League to exhibit their calico signs on the Botany View and United Australia hotels which presumably favoured late closing.5 During these patriotic times when closing a pub early was felt to help Australia win the war the overwhelming and deciding vote was for six o’clock.6

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 147-8, 163
  • 2. Ibid., p 33 and NMC Minutes 10th Feb., 1900 p. 233
  • 3. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 35
  • 4. Max Kelly, Faces Of The Street, William Street Sydney 1916, Doak Press, Paddington 1982, pp 63-68
  • 5. NMC Minutes 18th Apr. 1916 p 319, 16th May 1916, p 324
  • 6. M. Kelly, Faces, p 73


At 164 King St., near Watkin St., W. N. Bull had his head office which controlled many suburban branches. He was an undertaker and embalmer who had taken over the business of James Weeks in 1902. “Modern Methods” were designed to ‘relieve the client of all Worry and Bother’. An innovation for the suburbs was his private mortuary ‘for the convenience of clients who for various reasons prefer that the last sad obsequies should take place away from their home. ‘ W. N. Bull’s personal supervision ensured every funeral was conducted ‘with reverence and dignity. ‘ Mr. Bull had been president of the Newtown District Cricket Club, vice-president of the Newtown Rugby Football Club and he represented the State three times in lawn bowls.1 Plate 14. Newtown’s Rugby Hotel, 1912.

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 144, 172 and S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 7, 98


One of the many surviving hotels is the Newtown Hotel on the corner of Watkin St. which has been known as the Club Hotel and The Rugby Hotel. In 1912 it was known as East’s Rugby Hotel and it did not lack patronage ‘either from the want of attention to customers or the quality of liquors provided’1 Frank Miller’s Tasma photographic studios occupied one of the hotel building’s shops as did Jack Dunn the tobacconist and C. S. Ross the tailor whose work was all done on the premises. Adjacent was Thomas and Company’s book and music shop, established 1889, where one could buy Edison, Columbia and His Master’s Voice records and banjos, accordion’s and mouth organs. A few doors down was the office of the Newtown Chronicle the suburbs’ first weekly paper appearing in June 1889.2 William Chubb on several occasions when visiting Tasma Studios was forced to seek shelter in Jack Dunn’s, the Newtown Chronicle office or even the hotel to avoid a share of confetti as a wedding group emerged after photos had been taken.3 By 1922 the Newtown Chronicle had some competition in The Newtown Daily which began publication in January 1920 across the road on the corner of O’Connell St. An earlier rival, The Independent, had begun publication in 1889 but ceased operations in 1911.4 On the other corner was Ferry and Co., Ltd., the “Dependable Tailors”, who had given way by 1922 to W. J. Ellis’ Bootery, established in 1898 on the northern corner of O’Connell St. W. J. Ellis guaranteed that only solid leather was used, not cardboard or compo, and he specialised in repairs.5 Nat Lewis, the Lace King, started business in Newtown in 1901, having arrived from London in 1887. He became an alderman in 1908 and was an advocate of

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., p. 165
  • 2. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 39, 43, 90
  • 3. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 165
  • 4. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 90
  • 5. Ibid., p 9


Plate 15. Nat Lewis and Larba-Lestier, 1912

lighting the municipality with electricity. The building he occupied was erected in 1896 by Henry Cohen who ran the livery stables in Missenden Road. 1

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 46 [This building was erected by another Henry Cohen.]


Plate 16. Marcus Clark’s Newtown Store, 1912. Plate 17. The Cash Stores, 218-222 King Street, later became the Hub Theatre, 1912.


Marcus Clark and Company Ltd. had been started in 1883 when the founder began as a draper in King St. Newtown opposite the Methodist Church. Outgrowing the premises he moved into the skating rink across the road. When he moved again to Brown St. that building became the Cash Stores Limited under the directorship of Marcus Clark and his son. The Brown St. premises were the place where Marcus Clark’s became universal distributors selling drapery, furniture, ironmongery, crockery and more. By 1912 there was a warehouse at Central Square, Sydney, controlling twelve large shops and employing a thousand people.1 The company had prepared early for the suburban retailing trend which became prominent after the Second World War.2 Unfortunately the stone fronted store in Brown St. later burnt down. The factory in Buckland Lane on the corner of Brown St. still remains.

Kussmann the tailor at 203 King St. was founded by D. Kussmann and continued as a prosperous business under his nephew, Sydney Adams. His suits were said to be known throughout Australia. A loyal Newtown firm with a good reputation it boasted that ‘Kussmann fit and style cannot be surpassed in the leading city establishments.’3 At the corner of Hordern St. stood the Shakespeare Hotel and between there and Church St. was the shop of Frank Hickey, the Tony Hatter and mercer, one of the oldest businesses in Newtown which was run by his widow.4 On the corner of Church St. since 1884 was Malcolm Hughson’s china and glass warehouse where glass and china were let out on hire.5 On the corner of Whately St. the Government Savings Bank was erected in 1912 on the site

  • 1. Ibid., p 167
  • 2. H. Wolfers, ‘The big stores between the wars’ in J. Roe, ed., Twentieth Century Sydney, Studies in urban and social history, Hale and Iremonger, 1980, p 32.
  • 3. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 71, 104
  • 4. Ibid., pp 66, 108
  • 5. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 180


formerly occupied by the Newtown District Ambulance Transport Brigade which moved to O’Connell St. The Newtown branch had been opened on 19th April 1909 and was doing the second largest business of the suburban branches.1

Plate 18. Government Savings Bank Newtown branch, 1912

Between Whately St. and the Methodist Church stood an impressive block housing the New York Teeth Institute, Singer Sewing Machine Company, Dreaper’s Ironmongery, Pattinson and Co., chemists, Lloyd’s tea merchants and Guille’s furniture warehouse. Guille’s manager was Warren Ball who was honoured in the 1930s with a street being named after him.2 Next door was the Bank of New South Wales which was built in a solid style signifying strength and security to the bank’s customers. Adjacent to the Church was the Methodist School Hall which by 1922 was replaced by a brick block housing Bray’s music shop where player pianos, rolls and talking machines could be bought for twenty per cent less than city prices.3 Edwin Quartly, oil and colour merchant, had an ironmongery emporium at 246-48 King St. which he founded in 1880.

  • 1. Ibid., p 173
  • 2. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 110
  • 3. Ibid., p 45


Plate 19. 254-266 King St., built in 1898

He had many trots around the globe before his death in 1922 leaving his three sons to carry on the business which still exists today.1 On the Erskineville Rd. corner was yet another hatter and mercer, T. Hobson, who stocked hats, shirts, ties, umbrellas and gloves. He established the business in 1884, being the first hat manufacturer in Newtown.2 The father at 249 was I. Levy, tailor, who advertised that all his goods were ‘well shrunk’, and his son by 1922 was a jeweller just two doors down at 245.3 One of the large firms in Newtown since 1895 was Sweet Bros. Ltd. which was managed by Mr. Benjamin. It was a drapery store where you could

  • 1. Ibid., pp 78, 103
  • 2. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 170-1
  • 3. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 59, 102


buy a dozen yards of material for three shillings which was enough to make dresses for three to four children. A whole roll of ribbon (20-30 yards) cost 1/11. Good lace cost 6d. for a dozen yards.1 Furniture, shoes and haberdashery could be bought here. Plate 20. Bank of N. S. W., 268 King St., erected 1885. The store was still there until the early 1930’s when it burnt down finishing the company and leaving Grace at Broadway as the nearest large store.2 Sweet Bros. was known for its ‘firsts’ in advertising. They were the first to spread a

Plate 21. Newtown Post Office, opening day, 1892.

  • 1. P. Cole interview cited.
  • 2. J. Thorman, interview by telephone, 1st June 1983.


feature advertisement over a full page of the city papers, and the first in the Southern Hemisphere to have a whole page printed in red ink in the Daily Telegraph on March 30, 1906 which cost over £1000 though this was paid for by increased custom. The firm was known world over through its art catalogues making Newtown equally famous.1 Snelling’s, of 267-269 King St. sold not only stationery but toys, fancy goods and dolls. Here was ‘Santa Claus’ Headquarters for Newtown and Surrounding Districts.’2 In 1911 there were no less than three confectioners in a row next to the shop of Morris Joseph, pawnbroker and jeweller. ‘Morry’ was the first man called upon for anything philanthropic and he was involved in everything going on in Newtown.3 One Newtown building which has changed little since it was opened in 1892 is the Post Office on the corner of Erskineville Road. The foundation stone was laid on 18th August 1892 by John Kidd, Postmaster General. Not until 1896 were steps taken to obtain a public clock for the Post Office tower. In 1912 there was a staff of 70, increased to 90 ten years later, dealing with post, telegraph and telephone work and paying out old-age pensions (about 1000 in 1912). Over a quarter of a million was paid out each year.4 Next door was Brennan, draper, clothier and ironmonger. The site previously belonged to C. G. Hatte who moved across the road.5 The name Brennan’s is still known in Newtown.

The Cricketer’s Arms Hotel was one of the early hotels in Newtown. It was first kept by Mr. Eggleton who was succeeded by William Meekes who had kept the toll bar. The building at 285 King St. was originally called the Bricklayer’s Arms and was altered to become the Cricketer’s Arms.

  • 1. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 82
  • 2. Ibid., pp 106, 110
  • 3. Ibid., pp 27, 103
  • 4. Ibid., p 28, W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 32, 134-5 and foundation stone.
  • 5. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 175


Plate 22. Sweet Bros. Ltd., 259-261 King St.


It remained a hotel until 1982.1 Adjacent to the hotel was “Horton’s” which stood on the site of an earlier hotel, the Cottage of Content. In 1912 this boot shop was run by Frank Bamfield, an alderman, who was the first to install electric light. By 1922 the proprietors were Wolf’s Boots Ltd., who had started in Newtown in 1908, also having a branch in the city.2

Plate 23. Cricketer’s Arms Hotel

Hatte’s Arcade was one of Newtown’s landmarks. In 1911 it housed the Arcade Picture Hall, the premises of the Suburban Independent newspaper and a watchmaker and billiard room. There was later a penny arcade there with amusements costing only one penny.3 In October 1911 Luther Everingham, dentist, set up in the Arcade in opposition to J. C. Everingham who had been his junior partner. He had started his practice in Marrickville in the late 1890s. His advertisement pointed out that there was ‘no connection with any other Dentist of the same name!’4 At each side of the arcade

  • 1. Ibid., pp 120, 181 and Registrar General’s Certificate of Title Vol. 11864 fol. 137. (Land Titles Office).
  • 2. Ibid., pp 45, 175 and S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 73, 103.
  • 3. F. N. Smith, op. cit., p 7
  • 4. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 143, 176


Mrs. G. G. Hatte ran her millinery, clothing and mercery departments. The millinery department was taken over by Mrs. E. Simmons by 1922, 1 Mr. Hatte was well liked and generous for he had paid for the erection of a lovely public drinking fountain in 1897 on the Newtown Bridge which unfortunately was later demolished to make way for increased traffic. Mr. Hatte was also known for walking his goat up the street, prompting a rival mercer to display the sign, “Hatte’s trousers down! Come and see his goat!”


Plate 24. Frank Bamfield’s Boots.

At 305-9 King St. stands the building erected in 1896 occupied by John Hunter and Son Ltd., boot importers, and Sergeants’ Ltd., pastrycooks, where one could purchase anything ‘from a grilled steak to a meat pie or cake, with a refreshing cup of tea, at any hour of the day.’ Frank Flanagan, ‘Newtown’s Boot King’, started his business in 1905 after

  • 1. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 104
  • 2. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 127, P. Cole interview cited and M. Hall letter cited.
  • 3. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 179


managing John Hunter’s for fifteen years. His neighbours, Green Bros., John and Frank, grocers, tea merchants and importers continued the business set up by their father which included four branches outside Newtown. They also dealt with postal orders.1 On the corner of Eliza St. stood another public house, the Oxford Hotel, which was formerly Plate 25. Oxford Hotel, Green Bros, (lion atop), and Frank Flanagan’s. Note the horse and cart.

known as the Railway Hotel. Between Eliza and Australia Streets stood the Commercial Banking Company Ltd., and the Bank of Australasia. The former occupied its present site from 1886 while the latter was erected in May 1875. Mr. R. J. Donaldson, manager of the Bank of Australasia commanded the senior cadets and held a commission in the Light Horse. 2 On the corner of Australia Street stood the Town Hall which was enlarged in 1922. Below the additions was added a new public lavatory ‘which is one of the best in the world.’3

  • 1. Ibid., pp 148, 178-9
  • 2. Ibid., pp 120, 139, 179
  • 3. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 12


Plate 26. Tom Cousins, W. H. Pritchard, F. Goldsmith, Croad’s Bank, Hotel and Danglade’s Oyster Stall. Near the corner of Wilson Street stood Tom Cousins’ ironmongery store. He had come to Sydney from Jamberoo in 1880 and served his time with Mr. Harrison, ironmonger, at the corner of King St. and Enmore Rd. before starting his own business. He claimed to be ‘the largest job buyer in New South Wales’. In 1912 he was erecting a residence at Marrickville but by 1922 he had moved to


Plate 27. Town Hall. The dark brick additions were made in 1935.


Manly though still running his business in Newtown.1 One of the smallest shops in Newtown at 318 1/2 King St. belonged to W. H. Pritchard, watchmaker and jeweller, who was mayor in 1922. He was the ‘Jeweller with a reputation for Honest Values.’ His Carnival price in 1922 for a solid 9 ct. gold expanding watch wristlet was £4.2 The larger Goldsmith’s boot shop was reputed to be filled with customers day after day because of the excellent value given.3 One hotel aptly named was Croad’s Bank Hotel as no less than three banks surrounded the Bridge. Nestling near the hotel was Danglade’s Newtown Oyster Stall which was established in 1900. Oysters, lobsters, prawns and New Zealand blue cod were sold here. A bottle of two dozen oyster cost only two shillings.4 Past Newtown Station and the tram depot King St. stretched south to St. Peters. Near the Newtown Superior Public School was one of Newtown’s institutions, the Markets. In 1906 new buildings were erected but the markets had been on this site for many years before. Crowds filled the building especially on Friday and Saturday nights when the shops remained open. The markets rivalled Paddy’s Markets, as described by Louis Stone in his Jonah,

On Saturdays the great market, silent and deserted for six nights in the week, was a debauch of sound and colour and smell. Strange, pungent odours assailed the nostrils; the ear was surprised with the sharp, broken cries of dealers, the cackle of poultry, and the murmur of innumerable voices; the stalls, splashed with colour, astonished the eye like a picture, immensely powerful, immensely crude.5

  • 1. Ibid., p 105 and W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 44, 156, 183
  • 2. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 34
  • 3. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 182
  • 4. Ibid., Mrs. Brown, interview cited.
  • 5. Louis Stone, Jonah, Angus and Robertson, 1981, p 69. (1st published by Methuen, London, 1911).


At the Newtown Markets one could buy ‘anything from smelly cheese, live fowls, guinea pigs, ducks, eggs (not always fresh-but-cheap), second-hand clothes,’ vegetables and meat to a meal of green peas and saveloys lit by gas light.1 Such a meal was enjoyed by larrikins at Paddy’s, each customer receiving ‘a plate containing a squashy mess of peas and a luscious saveloy’, a sight which ‘made their mouths water.’2 Ferns and flowers cost sixpence and aprons, oven mits and peg bags made from hessian could also be bought.3 For the children there were King Pippin story books in green covers and cheap sheet music.4 Lovely Bulgarian rock, white with nuts in it, cost a penny and was a real treat.5 A big bag of lollies cost threepence and long licorice straps were only one penny.6 On the other side of the school stands St. George’s Hall, a magnificent late Victorian Italianate hall completed in 1887. It was designed by David Ross and built by James Fallick, an alderman of the nearby St. Peters Council. It was the largest hall in Sydney until the Town Hall was completed in 1888. In 1903 it was internally redecorated by J. Ross-Anderson including an ‘azure tinted dome, polished floor, smaller ballroom, smoking room with card tables [and a] supper room to accommodate 400.’7 The front of the building contained shops and offices and the rear housed the hall and several smaller meeting rooms.8 The shop on the corner was E. A. Turtle and Co. Ltd., estate agents, who are

  • 1. W. D. McGilchrist and M. Hall, letters cited.
  • 2. L. Stone, op. cit., p 74
  • 3. J. Thorman, interview cited.
  • 4. W. Beard, conversation 28th May 1983
  • 5. F. N. Smith, op. cit., p 6
  • 6. J. Bateson, interview cited
  • 7. Cited in SSRAG ‘St. George’s Hall, 1887’ letter, April 1983
  • 8. National Trust, Newtown. St. George’s Hall Urban Conservation Area


Plate 28. Newtown Markets, 1912

still represented in Newtown. The firm, established in 1907, specialised in ‘Rent Collecting, Homes and Investments, Estates Managed, Loans Negotiated, Insurances Effected and Auction Sales Arranged.’ There was a branch store at Mosman.1 Adjacent to the Hall was the Congregational Church and School house.2 Among the shops opposite the Markets and Hall were a cake shop, two furnishers, a florist and a boot shop. The cake shop was run by the Misses Curry who sold custard puffs made with real egg custard, little apple pies and meat pies which all cost a penny.3 The boot importer was G. C. Swinbourne who had a branch in St. Peters. Hilton Browne & Co. were seedsmen and plant merchants since 1862 and they also made wreaths and bouquets which could be delivered all over the State. The business was continued by two sons of the founder.4 J. Mansfield and Sons would furnish ‘anything from a humble cottage to a mansion.’ Second hand furniture was available at 18 Enmore Rd.5 Hugh Macready Ltd, established

  • 1. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 107
  • 2. Now Greek Orthodox
  • 3. J. Bateson interview cited
  • 4. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 184-5
  • 5. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 51, 98


Plate 29. St. George’s Hall in 1912. Note E. A. Turtle’s windows.

in 1874, would furnish three rooms for £35. A large stock of bedsteads, British linoleums, carpet runners, mats and rugs was kept for inspection. In 1912 Hugh Macready was the youngest alderman on the Newtown Council.

  • 1. Ibid., pp 108, 110 and W. Chubb, op. cit., p 189


Down past the Sandringham Hotel S. W. and C. Pattison, a business celebrating its jubilee in 1912 had one of their grocery shops.


Plate 30. A View in King Street South opposite the Markets.

Country orders were packed and delivered to rail or boat free.1 Just past the Congregational Church R. R. Richardson, printer and cardboard box manufacturer, established 1900, had his store. He later erected a shop at 22 Enmore Rd. where the name is still in use. Past Whitehorse St. was William Lawler’s Newtown Stadium Picture Show just before his asphalt and carrying business. The theatre could seat 3000 people and on opening night there were 2000 in the audience. The programme was changed twice weekly and the theatre had the exclusive rights for Newtown from J. D. Williams Co. for films from Bison, Crystal, Champion and the Great American Biograph “A. B. “. The musical accompaniment was by McGann’s Famous Orchestra. The tar paving business employed 25 horses and 13 men while seven men worked at the picture show. William Lawler contracted for tar paving in Newtown for 17 years before he became an alderman and also worked for the St. Peters, Mascot, Alexandria and Darlington councils. By 1912 he had the largest tar paving business in the district. One cost saving

  • 1. W. Chubb, ibid., pp 188-9


measure he successfully advocated was for men to be employed sweeping the wood blocks instead of boys thus ensuring a better job was done. Mr. and Mrs. Lawler had eleven children, seven sons and four daughters, who helped with the family businesses.

At 458-468 King St. South, Abel and Co. Ltd. had their cake, pastry and bread factories.


Plate 31. R. R. Richardson, 22 Enmore Rd.

This was a huge concern where almost 50 tons of flour was used weekly. Shops in every suburb displayed the words, “It’s good, its Abel’s”. Care and cleanliness were of the utmost importance here. Down at 508 was another baker, Roland Dibble. Fresh bread came out of the ovens to be loaded onto the horse drawn carts. The bread was so hot it couldn’t be held for too long. The business lasted until 1955 when it was bought out by Tip Top Bakeries. 3 On the corner of Angel St. was the workshop of J. H. Davies, monumental mason. There were only two in Newtown in 1911. The other was T. Andrews and Sons in Australia St. Across the road and a little past the Camdenville hotel was S. R. Johnson’s grocery shop.

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 47, 190-1
  • 2. Ibid., p 192
  • 3. Sun-Herald, May 22, 1983, p. 15 ‘The loneliness of an old smoothie’ (Article on retirement of James Dibble, ABC newsreader.)


Plate 32. J. H. Davies’ Marble Works, 538 King St. south, Newtown, 1892.


“Bob Johnson, our grocer” as he was known to his customers was noted as being ‘the Cheapest Cash Grocer South of the Bridge’. The Johnson family had been at 533 King St. for 33 years by 1922. The family was friendly with Rayment Bros., grocers, of the corner of Wells St.1 In between Robert Rumsey, established 1904, had the biggest ironmongery business south of the Bridge. He imported crockery, glassware, pocket and table cutlery including Sheffield I. X. L. Cutlery, and he sold Berger Paints. According to his advertisement in 1922 he had ‘the Finest Selection of Dainty and High-Class China outside the City of Sydney itself.’2 Plate 33. R. Rumsey, 559-561 King St. 1922

Another big business in King St. was that of T. Hodkinson and Co., Engineers and Iron founders, established 1884, on the corner of Bray St. Erskineville. This firm supplied mining plants to Broken Hill, Cobar and Mount Morgan and brick making machines to all parts of New South Wales and held contracts for castings with the Government Railway and Tramway Department. The frontage to King St. was over 200 feet which would easily sell in 1912 for £20 per foot whereas when the works were first set up it would have cost only £5 per foot. Another first for Newtown was the first brick making machine for turning out two bricks at a time made by T. Hodkinson.3

  • 1. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 31, 105.
  • 2. Ibid., pp 79, 112
  • 3. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 193


Having reached St. Peters Station we will now return to the Newtown Bridge to begin our look at the other shopping centre of Newtown, Enmore Road. At the junction of King St. and Enmore Rd. once stood Harrison’s ironmongery store which became a branch of the City Bank of Sydney in August 1892.1 Between two estate agents, W. Gledhill and Ekin and Co., stood the Oddfellows’ Hall. In 1911 the Loyal St. John’s Lodge was the third largest in the world and twice the size of any other lodge in Australasia. It was founded in 1844 at the Union Inn, King Street, Newtown and by 1912 there were over 1, 800 members among whom were alderman of Newtown and adjoining councils.2 At 16 Enmore Rd., Ekin and Co. were among the first to have a telephone installed. Their number was ‘8 Newtown.’3 At 25 Enmore Rd., T. J. Andrews had his undertaking business established in 1895. There were seven branches by 1922 plus the head office at Newtown.3 “T. J. ” was a keen cricketer with the Newtown District, Newtown Congregational and Enmore Tabernacle cricket club, a member of various lodges and was president of the Master Undertakers’ Association for five years. He was a grandson of John Roote Andrews, the monumental mason responsible for 90 per cent of the stones in Camperdown Cemetery. Two brothers, Ernest and George Andrews, had undertaking firms in Australia St. Ernest Andrews built hearses and mourning coaches for his own and other firms. He also contracted for the Government Telephone Department. In 1922 George Andrews, established 1895, advertised his Motor Funeral Service which was replacing horse drawn funerals and giving privacy to the bereaved who no longer had to travel by funeral train.4 Outside his offices George Andrews had a clock on which was written,

  • 1. Ibid., pp 139, 185
  • 2. Ibid., pp 62-4
  • 3. Ibid., p 187
  • 4. Ibid., pp 127, 146-7 and S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 21, 87, 112


‘Time Flies – Measure It and Treasure It.’1 Plate 34. Ernest and Thomas James Andrews, 1912.

The Newtown and Enmore Starr-Bowkett Building Societies Ltd. had an office at 11 Enmore Rd. but later built on the corner of Station St. A child made the first draw of a marble for the No. 1 society in favour of Alderman Theo. Macready who was so delighted he bought into the second society for the girl.


Plate 34. Ernest and Thomas James Andrews, 1912

When the No. 2 society draw took place it was this girl’s marble which was drawn. In 1922 the No. 8 society membership was practically full.2 On the other corner J. J. Simon had two specialities: pharmacy and optometry (‘in ordinary language, Eyesight Testing.’). He also had two shops, the other being at 377 King St.3 The Newtown United Friendly Societies’ Dispensary was established in 1887. It began in Hordern St. moving in 1889 to Enmore Rd. near Station St.

  • 1. J. Bateson, interview cited.
  • 2. S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 94
  • 3. Ibid., p 65


Plate 35. N. U. F. S. ‘Dispensary, erected 1902. extended 1912.

In 1902 a brick building was erected on the corner of Reiby St. the foundation stone of which was laid by Sir H. H. Rawson Governor of N. S. W. Delegates from 53 lodges represented 7020 members on the board in 1912. The building was enlarged in 1912 to contain the dispensary, dispenser’s residence, large hall, four lodge rooms and various offices. Lodge members paid 6d. each per month in return for prescriptions which averaged at 75, 500 per year.1 Szarka Bros. ‘ Enmore Theatre opened in 1912 in a large brick building housing 1000 Bickford Patent Opera Chairs and 2, 000 Tip-up Chairs.2 The roof could be pulled back to make it an open air theatre.3 This theatre was designed by James Campbell, architect, of Enmore. In 1912 music was provided by Mood and Spinks’ Concert Orchestra. William Szarka, an alderman, went on a six month tour of America, the United Kingdom and France in 1916 on behalf of the Australian Film Corporation Ltd. reporting

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 71-2 and foundation stone.
  • 2. Ibid., p 199 and S. D. Smith, op. cit., p 112.
  • 3. F. N. Smith, conversation cited. [This recollection probably refers to the Trocadero Theatre at 71-77 King Street rather than the Enmore Theatre.]


Plate 36. Szarka Bros.’ Enmore Theatre, 1922.


on picture show construction and decoration.1 By 1920 a second theatre had replaced the first. Though still standing it has been altered almost beyond recognition. George Szarka saw this theatre’s completion before he died trying to save a woman’s life opposite the Newtown Post Office.2

Plate 37. McDonnell’s shop, 1910 Plate 38. J. J. Downey, corner of London St., 1922.



Opposite the Enmore Theatre Leonard McDonnell had a picture framing business. The shop stood alone in 1910 but by 1922 it was flanked by the buildings which still remain.3 The Queen’s Hotel and Queen’s Building, which was occupied by a costumiere and a pawnbroker in 1911, were built in 1905 by Martin Danaher although a Queen’s Hotel had stood on this site since at least 1885.4 On the “Quality Corner” of London St. Jack Downey, cash grocer and wine merchant, had his store.

  • 1. N. M. C. Minutes, 26th June 1916, p 559
  • 2. Ibid., p 112
  • 5. Ibid., p 57
  • 4. Parapet of building and M. Ryan ‘Historic Walk: 19th Century Newtown’, pamphlet for Heritage Week 1985 tour organised by the Newtown History Project.


His advertisement noted, ‘WOMEN find out things. Any Married Man will tell you that. And they have found out where the Best Quality in High-class Wines and Groceries is to be obtained, and that is from… J. J. Downey.’ He had the leading if not the biggest grocery business in Enmore, a suburb he felt to be just as important as Newtown.1 One of the newer grocery stores in 1922 was that of Sampson and Hanney who were both returned soldiers. They offered smart service at 170 Enmore Rd.2 At 182 Enmore Rd. Planters and Importers’ Tea Co. had carried on business since 1897 or so. There were branches in every important suburb selling teas, coffees and cocoas. The proprietor, C. J. O’Brien, gave out his own coupons which could be redeemed for fine art china, aluminium ware, glassware and enamel ware. Over four figures worth were annually given away. On the corner of Metropolitan Rd. Lionel Roseby, house and land agent, manager of estates and valuer, had been in business for over 15 years by 1922. One of his specialities, reflecting on house ownership in Newtown, was rent collecting.3 Enmore surprisingly had not one but two Enmore Hotels. One was at 164 Edgeware Rd. and the other is still on the corner of Enmore Rd. and Cambridge St. This one was James Fay’s Enmore Hotel which delivered wines, spirits and beers to local homes and the proprietor was ‘always ready to give sound advice to those who, through the exuberance of spirits, indulge “a little over the odds.”‘ Near the hotel Percy Spencer had mercery and drapery businesses where “Quality is the Best Test of Cheapness.” He was established in 1889 and was looked upon as one of the “Fathers” of Newtown.4 Opposite the hotel another mercer, L. G. Hadley, had a liking for catchy phrases. His was ‘the right shop to shop right’.

  • 1. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 3, 110
  • 2. Ibid., pp 104, 108
  • 3. Ibid., pp 47, 69, 98, 106 and W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 196-7
  • 4. S. D. Smith, op. cit., inside cover, pp 61, 106


He advertised that ‘Many a hat looks seedy in the sunlight, but you’ll often meet a man whose hat shows its neatness and style. You can’t miss him. He’s one of our customers.’ Both mercers offered the convenience of lay-by in 1922.1 Plate 39. Enmore Post Office, erected 1895

At the tram terminus stood the Enmore Post Office, erected in 1895. Before the State Government Savings Bank agency was given a separate building Enmore was one of the largest post office agencies in the State. Two public telephones connected with the Newtown exchange were provided by 1912.2 Opposite the post office on the corner of Edgeware Rd. was the E. S. & A. Bank which opened in Enmore in 1900 having previously opened in King St. Newtown, in 1885. Under the management of W. L. Carpenter this became one of the biggest branches of the bank by 1912.3

  • 1. Ibid., pp 61, 86, 106
  • 2. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 135
  • 3. Ibid., p 139. (E. S. and A. = English, Scottish and Australian)


A few other Newtown businesses deserve mention. Among these are yet more bakers. At 42 Stanmore Rd. Enmore, F. W. Johnson carried on the business established by his father. His ‘modern bread factory’ ensured bread was made under the most hygienic conditions. Instead of the baker mixing the dough with his hands and arms the flour was tipped into a hopper, carried into a sifting machine where it was sifted and aerated, then on to be mixed simply by pulling a lever. Next it was conveyed to a ‘dough divider’ then to a moulder and into the ovens heated by steam pipes so gases from the furnace did not interfere with the bread.1 Plate 40. Henry Henninges’ bakery in 1912. Note the wheat sheaf.

On the corner of Wilson and Watkin Streets the Newtown Bread Factory was run by Henry Henninges. He had started business at the corner of Albemarle and Regent Streets in 1891. He too had the latest machinery. His flour stores held up to 600 tons of flour and nearly 10, 000 loaves could be baked in a single night by 1922. This was an increase on the 1912 capacity when 400 tons of flour could be stored and 5, 000 loaves could be

  • 1. Ibid., p 197 and S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 15, 105


baked in a single night using two ovens capable of holding 400 loaves. The stables and carts were at the rear of the building and were kept as clean as the factory. By the 1930s this had become Robel’s Bakery. The lane behind the factory still bears Henninges’ name.1 William Dibble, an alderman, established his bakery in 1898, on the corner of Denison and Albemarle Streets. The existing building on the corner of Australia and Lennox Streets was erected in 1909 and extended in 1922. William Dibble received first prizes at the Royal Agricultural Show in 1906 and 1910 with a second prize in 1905. “Dibble’s Bread” was a household word in 1922.2 On Missenden Road, corner of Campbell St. Charles Vass and Sons, pastrycooks, bakers and confectioners, had their “Model Bread Factory” which was built in 1914 although the business was established in 1882. So sure were they of their hygienic bread and pastry that they invited inspection of their factory day or night. Again they had the most modern machine mixing and baking appliances. Their carts called and delivered to all suburbs.3 Nearby in Missenden Road were the livery stables of Henry Cohen. It was reputed to be the largest business of its kind in the Commonwealth as well as being the oldest for it was established in the early 1870s. The premises extended from Missenden Rd. back and across the other side of Susan Street where there were more yards and buildings. If a sulky turnout was wanted for hire, exchange or to buy H. Cohen’s horse vehicle and letting-out bazaar was the place.4 According to family legend Henry Cohen’s wealth was based on ‘bricks and mortar’. This seems to be

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 45, 174 and S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 40, 98 and J. Thorman, interview cited.
  • 2. W. Chubb, op. cit., pp 149, 186 and S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 85, 103.
  • 3. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 108, 111 (Note: Regent St. was renamed Probert St.)
  • 4. S. D. Smith, op. cit., pp 100-1, 108 and NMC Minutes 1st April 1919


Plate 41. Henry Cohen’s Livery Stables at 167 Missenden Road, Newtown. Harry Cohen, son of Henry, stands in the entrance behind the sulky. He used to live with his wife in the adjoining terrace house.1 confirmed by references in council minutes to property in Susan St. The building at 183-193 King St. bears the name Henry Cohen and the date 1896. [This building was erected by a different Henry Cohen.]2 Day, Son and Harris, boot manufacturers, were established in 1872 in Regent Street, Redfern, moving to Edward St. ten years later.

  • 1. F. N. Smith identified her cousin, Harry Cohen. Her aunt, Ellen Osgood, married Henry Cohen.
  • 2. F. N. Smith, op. cit., p 7 and NMC Minutes 15th Dec. 1914, pp 190, 204 and 6th April 1915, p 221 and 1st Apr. 1919, p 599


They made ‘Austral’ brand footwear. In 1902, having again outgrown their premises, a large factory was built on the corner of Federation Rd. and Northwood St., Newtown. It was then that Thomas Day, the founder, took into partnership his son, Henry T. Day, and his son-in-law, Benjamin J. Harris. A fourth partner was Mr. H. Tyler who was a representative of the firm for many years. Between 175 and 200 people were employed making over 4000 pairs of boots and shoes weekly. The firm had representatives for both country, and city and suburban trade. An advantage of the Newtown factory was its proximity to Camperdown cemetery ‘so that the factory is exceptionally well situated for light and air.’1 At the St. Peters end of Newtown were the brickworks. Originally owned by Mr. Goodsell and from 1848 by his nephew Frederick Goodsell they had become the property of Mr. S. Speare by 1891. Frederick Goodsell’s son, Henry Wesley Goodsell, had the distinction of making the first shale plastic brick by hand in the State in 1871. Previously Plate 42. Day, Son and Harris, boot factory, near the cemetery.

  • 1. W. Chubb, op. cit., p 195.


shale was considered unsuitable for commercial brick making. The introduction of machinery replaced the handmade process and the first such machine made brick in the State was produced at the Newtown Brick Works.l This survey of commercial Newtown reveals the suburb’s vitality, variety and competitiveness. Not only was the surrounding population catered for but shoppers would come from the newer suburbs, such as Ashfield, and a number of stores even made provision for country customers. There were only a few large stores, Marcus Clark’s, Brennan’s, and Sweet Bros. ‘, the rest of the shops chiefly being small family concerns though together they formed a substantial retail centre. Newtown was a place of opportunity attracting people as employees, customers and profit makers. Here it was possible for the little man to work his way up from being an assistant and a manager to having his own store. Cases like this include Tom Cousins and Frank Bamfield. Many businesses begun in the 1890s and early 1900s in Newtown were to last well into the twentieth century, though others later struck hard times.

  • 1. Ibid., pp 124, 200

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