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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Foundation of Church: Frazer Memorial Presbyterian Church

The Hon John Frazer MLC, merchant and owner of the Silva Plana estate Springwood, donated three and a half acres of land in 1880 for the establishment of a church.  On his death - in 1884 - it was found that he bequeathed five hundred pounds in his will for the 'provision of a church.'  However his trustees were reluctant to grant the bequest because they considered the number of Presbyterians in the district did not warrant the outlay. 

Rev James McKee was responsible for the release of the bequest which was reported at a Presbytery meeting in June 1895. The architects are thought to have been Slayter & Cosh.  In 1895 a tender was accepted from Mr Neil Livingstone, and local shopkeeper William Rayner agreed to donate sandstone for the construction.  Rev  John Walker of Woollahra preached the first services in the new building on 8th December 1895, while Miss Edward Deane directed the choir and Mr Rayner lent his American organ for the occassion.

Today the church is an important and much valued part of the streetscape of Springwood and a heritage item on Blue Mountains City Council's Heritage List.  

Ref: John Maddock, The Frazer Memorial Presbyterian Church, Springwood Historical Society Inc. 1995. (Still available - contact Springwood Historical Society Inc.)


Foundation of Church: St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church

In 1892 a small wooden Catholic church was blessed and dedicated in Springwood. It was located opposite the railway subway on the western end of the village on land presently known as 'Rest Park.'  In 1921 it was moved to a site adjacent to St Thomas Aquinas Church where it served as a school building. 

St Thomas's Church in original location
Archbishop Kelly laid the foundation stone for the new church on 11.5.1919 and blessed and opened the church on 19.10.1919. The church, located on Hawkesbury Road, does not function as such and now is part of the Aquinas Court aged units facility.  A new church was built in the grounds of St Columba's where the site is shared by St Columba's high school and St Thomas Aquinas public school .

Second church during construction stage
* St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was an Italian Dominican Priest, philosopher and theologian who was born in Sicily. 
* Rest Park was gazetted for Public Recreation Purposes June 1923.

Pamela Smith

Monday, March 21, 2011


The Superb Lyrebird has had a long association with Springwood, a fact recognised by the artist Norman Lindsay in 1964 when he incorporated one into his design for a town crest. Over a hundred years earlier the French naturalist RenĂ© Primevère Lesson, travelling across the Mountains in 1824, was fortunate to discover a ‘twitcher’ among the soldiers stationed at the military depot at Springwood who “had seen them very often, but always in the evening or the morning, and in the most secluded spots in the neighbourhood”.
But perhaps the town’s most publicised association with lyrebirds occurred in the early 1930s when news spread that local bushman and naturalist Jack Coyle and his wife Ethel had successfully reared a pair of fledglings (Joe and Zoe) at their home in Raymond Road and were planning to breed from them. Though technically illegal, their project drew immense interest from ornithologists and naturalists (including Alec H. Chisholm) who descended on Springwood in numbers and, following a visit with the local member in June 1934, the NSW Chief Secretary gave the Government’s official sanction.  The lyrebird, he said, was of “great scientific interest” and he wanted “to do all in his power to preserve [it] from destruction”.

Naturalist Alec H. Chisholm

Joe and Zoe’s first attempt at producing offspring ended disappointingly when Zoe destroyed her egg after only twelve days. However, while several further attempts also failed, in 1936 she successfully incubated an egg for the full term. Lessons were learned from the earlier failures and every effort was made to give the birds the privacy they required and prevent predators from robbing the nest. The result was Pat, greeted by the Sydney Morning Herald with an article headed “Lyrebirds Start Hatching Family” and announcing the birth as “believed to be the first lyrebird ever to be incubated in captivity”.
Among the many important visitors to make their way to Springwood in the coming months for an audience with the town’s lyrebird celebrities were the NSW Governor’s wife, Lady Edith Murray Anderson, and Mrs. Edith Stevens, the wife of Premier Bertram Stevens. They were both accompanied by their daughters and all were “greatly taken” with the birds, Lady Edith declaring Joe “the loveliest bird she had seen in this country”.  Mr. and Mrs. Coyle became accomplished hosts, entertaining the dignitaries with anecdotes and stories and presenting them with special photographs, especially of baby Pat.

Jack Coyle left of photo

Sadly, while Zoe, Joe and Pat brought Springwood into the popular and scientific limelight for a time, the story ends in tragedy. Pat was later killed in an accident, Joe died of stress in the aftermath of a bushfire and Zoe pined away within a few months of her mate of fifteen years. Fortunately Springwood retains a strong lyrebird presence and you are still likely to see and hear them in the gullies around the town, in their natural habitat.
John Low
* Previously published in Hut News the newsletter of the Blue Mountains Historical Society Inc. Wentworth Falls

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Early Residents: Mark & Ruth Thew

The 1868-70 electoral roll listed Mark living at Faulconbridge.  He was born at Port Stephens in 1828, and in 1857 married Ruth Slapp in a double ceremony with brother Thomas who married Mary Ann Slapp.

Ruth, Mary Ann and parents arrived in Australia in 1841 aboard the Canton.  Mr. Slapp was a gardener by trade but is reputed to have owned the Springwood Inn c1865.  However, recent evidence confirms that Robert Slapp had a 3 year lease on the Springwood Inn owned by Thomas Boland c1863.  Boland was in the process of selling the property but was unsuccessful. The family moved to a property at Rylestone in 1877.

Mark and Ruth moved to Lambing Flats to witness the riots that occurred there in 1861.  Twin boys, John Thomas and Robert Mark, were born in Springwood in 1865.  Kerry Thew, who operated a chemist shop at Faulconbridge for several years, is the grandson of John Thomas Thew.  Mark and Ruth settled in Blackheath c1895.

* This article was taken from The Making Of A Mountain Community: a Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District

Early Residents: John Thomas Ellison

John Thomas Ellison war born at Parramatta 15th July 1841.  His grandfather, also John, was transported to Australia in 1791 on the Albermarle and became the publican of the 'Bird In Hand' (1817) and the 'Jolly Sailor' in Parramatta. His son Thomas continued in the trade and owned the 'Native Lass' on Lapstone Hill and the 'Toll Bar' Inn at Linden. He married Elizabeth Huff in 1840 at St John's Church Parramatta and John Thomas was their first child.

John lived with his parents at Toll Bar Inn was demolished for railway purposes in 1863, they moved to the 'Arms of Australia' in Emu (present day Emu Plains) and the 'Union Inn' Penrith. He married Hannah Lees, daughter of Cornelius and Henrietta Lees of Springwood in 1871. They had ten children: Beckie, Albert, Thomas, Lizzie, Ivy, Leslie, Lilly, Cecil, Sarah and Hannah, Henrietta.

After marriage John purchased land and established an orchard on Hawkesbury Road Springwood, which is the site of the present day Springwood Golf Club.  It is believed that a pear tree still growing near the professionals' shop was planted in the time of Ellison.

John & Hannah Ellison

The farmhouse was situated approximately where the present clubhouse now stands and was reputed to have been constructed of stone salvaged from the Toll Bar Inn Linden. He established a sizeable orchard, growing oranges and summer fruits. When the nearby Lawson estate was advertised for sale in 1890 it was said to be close to desirable properties including Mr. J.T. Ellison's famous orangery and stone fruit orchard.

* This article is part of a larger article taken from The Making of a Mountain Community: a Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Early Residents: Coyle family, three generations

Thomas and Bridget were the first generation of Coyle's to live in the Springwood district.  It is believed they had four children namely John (James?), Mary Amee born c1862, Louisa and Jane born c1866.  Thomas is listed on the 1868-70 electoral roll, however, it seems that he may have died between then and the 1891 census because only Bridget was listed.  In 1876, son John  was responsible for supporting the establishment of a primary school in Springwood and listed the names of his younger siblings.  John was probably working to support the family.

Mary Coyle is thought to have married Patrick Cummins, the licensee of the Royal Hotel, in 1884.  John married Theresa Helen/Helena Lawrence in 1886.  She was the daughter of Samuel and Ann Lawrence who lived on Hawkesbury Road.  Louisa Coyle married Theresa's brother Frederick the following year. 

John, a quarryman, and Theresa had three children; Thomas born c1887, John born c1888 and Mary born c1892.  Tragedy struck in 1893, when John passed away after a sudden and very short illness.  He was buried in McCarthy's Cemetery Cranebrook.  

The Nepean Times attested to his integrity, suggesting he had been hardworking, and in every respect a good citizen.  The family, including his widowed mother, were left in straightened circumstances so residents of the district arranged a fund raising benefit.  The event was held on the premises of Mr Stace the local blacksmith.

More on the Coyle Family

John and Theresa’s children were Thomas, born in Springwood in 1887; Mary A. (Molly), born in 1892, and John S. (Jack) born in Springwood in 1888.  Molly (later Mrs Frazer) became a dressmaker in Springwood before marrying and moving to Melbourne.  Jack was educated in Springwood and became an experienced bushman. He married Ethel Quinn in a quiet ceremony in 1921, and they lived at 17 Raymond Road, Springwood. Ethel was the only daughter of Mr and Mrs Quinn of Melbourne.
Jack was a crack shot, and he and his brother went on shooting expeditions. Akin to his mother, Jack was a lover of bush birds, flowers and animals, and many received this nature lover’s daily attention. Perhaps due to the influence of his mother, Jack developed a talent for breeding lyrebirds in captivity, and held the distinction of being the first to ever do so. He held a license to breed the birds and they became a source of local pride and admiration. He was a member of the football club in 1900, and in 1911 was voted the ‘handsomest man’ in a fundraiser to aid the Catholic Church.

It is believed that Jack was the subject of a painting produced by well-known artist Wynne Davies. The painting, which hung in the Springwood School of Arts building for many years, was a bush scene, and depicted Jack talking to two small boys. Anecdotal information says that the painting was put in the Royal Hotel when the School of Arts was demolished. Licensees have since come and gone, and recent investigations have failed to locate the painting’s whereabouts.

A 1924 edition of the Nepean Times carried a story headed ‘Woman’s Tears—a Springwood House’, and went on to relate a case that had gone before the court whereby Ethel Coyle had pleaded guilty to the charge of using the house known as The Pines for the purpose of gaming. She stated, when interviewed, that her husband was caretaker for Mr Stewart Dawson at his country residence and the bookmaking was a sideline of hers. Ethel was fined £40 and an amount of £9 was retained from £18 seized by Sergeant Gimbert. Ethel was made to give surety that she would ‘cut this business right out’.

Anecdotal information says that John and Ethel supplied Norman and Rose Lindsay with enough sandstone to finish off their home in Chapman Parade, Faulconbridge. Lindsay is thought to have given them several paintings in return for the favour. However, Ethel burnt all but one because she objected to the nudes.  Jack and Ethel were champion ‘old time waltzer’s’ of the mountains and held the title for 25 years.

Jack worked for Stewart Dawson for approximately 15 years.  Like his father and grandfather before him, Jack died at the very young age of 50. His obituary appeared in the Nepean Times dated 8.6.1939, and it would seem that Jack’s death was the result of an accident sustained while working at St. Columba’s College. He is buried beside his mother Theresa, wife Ethel (died 1972) and brother Thomas (died 1951) in the Catholic section of Springwood Cemetery.

Pamela Smith

From The Making of a Mountain Community: a Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More on World War Two: Stanley Craddock Judge

Stanley Craddock Judge: Service Number N190755, was born at Redfern 5th August, 1906 to David and Mary Judge. He noted his father as next of kin when he enlisted at Springwood.

More on World War Two: Charles Gordon, Roy andRupert Colless

Charles Gordon Colless: Service Number N347666, was born in Springwood 25th January 1904 to Vivian (Viv) Rupert and Ada Celia (nee Dent) Colless. The Colless family built four weatherboard shops in Springwood c1905 that were located opposite the present-day post office.  Viv operated a mixed business selling fruit and vegetables, confectionary, ice-cream and drinks; they also served teas. He is reputed to have had the first soda fountain in the Blue Mountains. 

Charles followed his father into trade and his service record shows that he was a fishmonger/butcher. Charles had several siblings; namely Vera, Robert, Roy, Margery, Oliver, Rupert, William, Martin, Mabel and Mary. He married Margaret Anne Maddox in Katoomba in 1938, and they were the parents Tom Colless who is a current resident of Leura.

His service record shows that Charles was a part-time member of the Volunteer Defence Corps from 1942 until 1945. 

Brothers Roy Lucas Colless (Service No. 2601) and Rupert George Colless (Service No. N347597) also served in World War Two. Roy served with the Royal Australian Navy.

* The service record of Charles Gordon Colless has been digitalised by the National Archives and can be downloaded from their website.

* The Making of a Mountain Community: a Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District has a larger article about the Colless family.

More on World War Two: Norman Kenneth Mann

Norman Kenneth Mann: Service Number NX206044, was born in Springwood 16th November 1925.  His place of enlistment was Paddington.  It is possible  he was related to James and Flora Mann who resided for a short time in Springwood and  later Mount Wilson. According to electoral rolls, Norman was residing in Kiama in 1949 and Lawson (Blue Mountains) in 1954. 

More on World War Two: Norman Joseph Rafferty

Norman Joseph Rafferty: Service number NX52435, was born in Springwood 18th April 1919.  His parents were John and Lillian Florence (nee Hamer) and his siblings were Arthur John, Henry & Loma.  The family lived in the cottage La Loma.  According to information in Springwood Historian's biographical dictionary, The Making of a Mountain  Community, Norman died in Burma in 1942.  He was a prisoner of war. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More on World War Two: Michael Joseph Cantwell

Michael Joseph Cantwell: Service Number N346786, was born at Leura in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales 8.10.1898.  He enlisted at Springwood giving Gertrude Cantwell as his next of kin.

More on World War Two: Lindsay Burns Blackwood

Lindsay Burns Blackwood: Service Number NX54837, was born Springwood 8.1.1919 and enlisted for World War Two at Paddington.  His next of kin was Harry Blackwood.

More on World War Two: Norman Hewitt Banfield

Norman Hewitt Banfield: Service number N347673, was born 16.9.1906 at Dudley New South Wales.  He enlisted for World War Two at Springwood. His next of kin was Amy Banfield.

More on World War Two: Harold James Anderson

Harold James Anderson: Service number N388497, was born in Springwood 15.6.1885 but enlisted for World War Two at Paddington.  His next of kin was Irene Anderson. 

More on World War Two: Patrick Lancelot Allen

Patrick Lancelot Allen: Service Number NX48669, was born in Springwood but enlisted for World War Two at Paddington.  His next of kin was Ella Allen.

More on World War Two: Ernest Henry Bishop

Ernest Henry Bishop: Service Number N471815, was born in Shrewsbury England 25.3.1904.  His place of enlistment was Springwood.  John Bishop was given as his next of kin.  It is unclear if they were related to S.W. Bishop who took over the license of the 'Oriental Hotel' in 1908.

More on World War Two: Brothers in Arms - Edwin Harold Bennett, Percy Bennett, Ronald Alan Bennett

Edwin Harold Bennett: Service Number N346385, was born at Eskinville New South Wales 4.1.1904.  His parents were Edwin & Phoebe Bennett and Phoebe was named his next of kin.  The Bennett family resided in the cottage 'Barangah' situated on the corner of Paterson and Hawkesbury Roads.  Edwin (Ted) is thought to have been a one time Deputy Registrar General.  

Percy Steven Bennett: Service Number N347355, was born 2.6.1908 at Hurlstone New South Wales.  Percy lived in the cottage 'Weona' located in Paterson Road, Springwood.  He was the local ice man before the introduction of modern refrigerators.  He married Elsie Jean McPhee in 1937. 

Ronald Alan Bennett: Service Number N190753, was born at Springwood in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales 15.3.1914 to Edwin and Phoebe Bennett.  His next of kin was also mother Phoebe. Ronald (Ron) was a milkman in the area.   

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Springwood School of Arts - a short history

In the early years of the 20th century Mechanic’s Institutes or a School of Arts building was a common feature in most villages in the Blue Mountains.   However, as a “movement” their history is much older.  The first was established in Scotland in 1821, with the aim of improving the intellect of its members through the “diffusion of useful knowledge,” and to nurture “literature, science and art.”[i]  It was not too long before these “civilising institutes” appeared in the new Colony and with a land grant - courtesy of Governor Richard Bourke - the Sydney Mechanic’s School of Arts opened its doors in 1833.  It still exists to this day, and their a web site indicates the institute has moved along with new technology being available on Facebook and Twitter. 
Springwood was not so fortunate because even though a committee formed in 1901, fund raising activities and the promise of a block of land by James Hunter Lawson (owner of Braemar & the Oriental Hotel) came to nought.[ii]  In fact one of the members of that early committee is thought to have absconded with the funds.
The Springwood School of Arts finally opened its doors in 1913, with Mr. Brinsley Hall MP officiating. A commemorative booklet published for the event stated the committee overcame “great difficulties” and “discouragement” to bring about the end result.[iii]  The graceful Federation style building was well-ventilated and lit with Benzoli Air Gas lights.  As well as a well stocked library, the building contained reading and committee rooms, and a “fine billiard room” - lined in Australian timber -  containing two excellent billiard tables.[iv] 

School of Arts & Coo-ee March
When barely twelve months old the building provided overnight accommodation and comfort for men who took part in the Co-ee March.  Later, the institute became the scene of World War One commemorations when captured enemy machine guns and the Honor Roll were placed in their keeping.  A newspaper article in 1919 suggested the Springwood Schools of Arts was “indispensable” and a fine institution “for our young men” because no signs of gambling or objectionable behaviour were tolerated within the “cosy comfort” of its walls.  Indeed, mothers and wives were being asked to encourage their sons and husbands to join. 
Research indicates however that despite these overtures to the general community the institution did not realise its primary objectives until the 1940s.  Until then it functioned more like an elite men’s club catering to the upper-class demographics of the area at that time. But, by the 1940s all that had changed.  In 1943 the Australian Labour Party held meetings there and Red Cross ladies conducted fund raising activities from the veranda of the building.  During the 1940’s Horace Lindrum, Australia’s first professional snooker and billiards player was a regular visitor.   Lindrum (who would go on to win the World Snooker Title in 1952) was featured in a competition to aid the Australian Comforts Fund in 1944.  They raised £56.
 In 1946 an essay competition held by the institution was judged by one-time resident, Supreme Court Judge and patron of the Arts, Rae Else Mitchell.  Else Mitchell Park Springwood is named in his honour.
Over the ensuing years the building was used by a range of organisations like the local historical society, Boy Scouts & Guides, dance and musical groups, The Old Age Pensioners Association, Citizens Recruitment League, Red Cross and Children’s Library Group conducted by caricaturist, cartoonist and artist George Finey.  During its lifetime it provided a venue for community celebrations and entertainments, as well as charitable and wartime efforts. 
In the years following World War Two the institution, which had never been strongly supported, faced competition from new technology like the advent of television.  Nevertheless, the building was used right up until its demolition in 1969.  The Foundation Stone now graces the School of Arts Town Square.
* The photograph below suggests the use of a commercial premises in Springwood for the School of Arts prior to 1913. The location is thought to have been in one of the shops on the Western side of the Frazer Memorial Church.

Pamela Smith

[i] The Dictionary of Sydney,
[ii] Nepean Times, 31.8.1901.
[iii] Booklet in the ownership of the late Ern Lesslie.
[iv] Nepean Times, 10.5.1913.
Springwood images courtesy of Springwood Library and local studies collection

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Buckland Hospital & Park

The Sydney Morning Herald announced in June 1934 that Harold Montague Buckland (youngest son of Sir Thomas and wife Mary Doris nee Kirkpatrick) and D. McPhee Smith, architects, were preparing plans for the erection of Buckland Hospital at Springwood.[1]  The building of a hospital had largely been made possible by a generous gift of £100,000 from philanthropist, businessman, gold-miner, and pastoralist Sir Thomas Buckland.[2]  The first trustees of the facility were Buckland (president), Bishop Kirby, Dr C.A. Hogg, Messrs R.W. Gillespie, D.W. Roxborough and A.J. Taylor and the secretary was Mr. H. Cowper.[3]
In January 1936, the same newspaper announced that Premier Mr Bertram Stevens would officiate at the opening of the hospital on the following Saturday.[4]  It is significant, because of its present-day use, to note that originally it was intended to function as a ‘convalescent mental home for women.’  Today, although its convalescent facilities have been retained, the property is also a retirement home to both men and women. The hospital,  situated on 130 acres of land (previously known as Euchora and owned by James Norton) was constructed by Kell & Rigby.
The Sydney Morning Herald went on to reveal that connection of hospital, and indeed the villages in the lower mountains to a permanent water supply - by the State Government -  had been a condition imposed by Buckland on his endowment.  It is also noteworthy that the name ‘Lyndhurst,’ the most recent addition of retirement units in the grounds of Buckland, was named for Sir Thomas Buckland’s Hunters Hill home.[5] 
The photograph below illustrates the festive atmosphere in Springwood on the day that Sir Bertram Stevens turned the permanent water supply on.  The ceremony was held in parkland purchased by the council from the Silva Plana estate of the then deceased John Frazer.  The park was named in Buckland's honour, but only after a great deal of controversy, and today the, albeit reduced, is the site of the Springwood War Memorial and Baxter Memorial Gates.  

Official ceremony in Buckland Park to mark
 turning on water supply

[1] Sydney Morning Herald, 26.6.1934, p. 3.
[2] R.F. Holder, ‘Buckland, Sir Thomas (1848-1947),’ Australian Dictionary of Biography, online edition,
[3] Sydney Morning Herald, 26.6.1934.
[4] Sydney Morning Herald, 21.1.1936.
[5] R.F. Holder.