Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Oral History: Harvey Hatfield "A Story of Early Marrickville"

The following is an oral history that came from the City of Canterbury Library website. It originally appeared in the Canterbury District Historical Society Journal (S1 No6) from April 1967.


by Mr. Harvey Hatfield

Seymour's Corner once the haunt of "blackguards."

As a lad of twelve I commenced work at Shrublands, Marrickville Road, It was then the home of Mrs. Smith, of Goodlet and Smith, earthenware pipe manufacturers. Before starting work, I was brought up at Canterbury. There, I used to go, with about a dozen other schoolboys, on the 7.30 a.m. train from Canterbury to Marrickville every Tuesday and Friday to buy meat to last several days. We could buy half a sheep for 2/6, stewing steak at 2 ½ d. 1b., and rump steak at 4 ½ d. 1b. Marrickville in those days was the main shopping centre as far as Belmore. The trams only ran as far as Marrickville and only as far as Cook Road in slack times.

Image Source: Marrickville Library Images
I saw the construction of the extension of the line to Dulwich Hill, and the opening ceremony for the extension was celebrated with a banquet in the grounds of Shrublands. When the first three shops were built in Marrickville Road, Dulwich Hill, they were occupied by a fruiterer, grocer and draper. The fruiterer was the late Mr. Tea Cave, whose family still carry on the same business. A prominent resident of Dulwich Hill was the late Marcus Clark. He had a property which extended from Macarthur Parade along Marrickville Road to Durham Street and to Beach Road at the rear. It was a familiar sight to see him mounted on his black charger riding to business every day. I can remember the police station in a private cottage in Petersham Road. Inspector Stanwick was the officer in charge. St. Clement's Church services were then held in what is now the school hall at the rear. A small hotel standing on the corner of Marrickville and IIIawarra Roads was known a "The Empress of India" and was owned by Mr. Thompson.

Carmichael's "Success" Stoves had their first factory in a small tin shed where Coles’ Shoe Store now stands and from that point on, it was open paddocks to Victoria Road. There was nothing on the opposite side of the road from Frampton Avenue-to the corner of Marrickville Road and Victoria Road. The name "Blackguards’ Corner", came into use because of the larrikinisms at that point- of a group known as the Flat Rats.

From Victoria Road to Sydenham Station was known as Tramvale, and whenever rain fell heavily for three or four days the road was deeply flooded and residents had to be rescued by the police in boats. People travelling by tram could not get off at Sydenham Road, but had to continue to Seymour's Corner.

I have seen most of the large factories built in the [strict, including Australian Woollen Mills, Globe Mills, Lears, General Motors, Malleable Castings, Fowlers Pottery and Shelleys Soft Drinks. Marrickville Margarine factory as established by Mr. C. Abel, who was proprietor of a large wholesale pastry factory in Newtown. At certain times C the year he had great difficulty in obtaining butter for his business, so he began the manufacture of margarine as substitute.

Image Source: Marrickville Library Services
Marrickville was then a district of brick pits and numerous bakeries and dairies. Now one has to be content with block runs and no choice of milkmen. Every butcher employed a boy who rode a pony, with a basket of meat on is arm.' He would call with the meat for breakfast at 7 a.m., collect the order for dinner and deliver it before lunchtime. The greengrocer called with his cart three times week, collected orders and delivered the goods to the doorstep. The baker called every day. The "rabbit-oh" called three times a week and as many as half a dozen hawkers of fruit and vegetable every day.
What a different story today! Poor old grandmas have to trudge around the shops with perhaps two baskets and young mothers have to do their shopping and keep an eye on their children at the same time. Is this what you call progress? I don’t think so.

There was once a large hotel on the banks of Cook’s .River at Undercliffe. People used to go in bus loads to enjoy picnicking on the river. There were two boat-sheds at Tempe, one at Undercliffe, one at Wardell Road and one at the dam at Canterbury.

It was a pretty sight. There were oak trees and plenty of other timber right down to the river and plenty of sites for picnic lunches. I remember my father telling that a building on the bank on the Canterbury side of the river at Undercliffe was the old toll house. Vehicles were charged one penny to cross the bridge. The only other crossing was at Canterbury Road, Canterbury, three miles away.

Another picnic site was at the foot of Garnet Street, Hurlstone Park. It was known as Starkey's, named after Mr. Starkey, who owned Gladstone Hall, which extended from Ewart Street to the banks of the river. Another old hotel stood where the ambulance station is now. It was known as Donohues, and near it was a hundred yards cinder track. Quoits were also played there every Saturday afternoon. In 1905, I drove the first resident doctor, Doctor Curtis Hodgson, to start a practice in Dulwich Hill.
Two of the oldest shops carried on by the same families are Robert Harris’ (jewellers) and Broadley’s shoe store (Mr. Stan Reynolds). I was well aquainted with Mr. Jack Purdy, who was reported to be the first white child to be born m Marrickville. The property now occupied by the militia in Addison Road was known as Purdy's Estate.

Riverside Park, Cooks River
Image Source: Marrickville Library Services

A large area of land facing Agar Street to Newington Road was worked as a market garden by Chinese, and another area from the railway bridge in Livingston Road to Warren Road, was also a market garden owned and worked by a Mr. Moncur, after whom Moncur Street was named. Letters were mostly delivered on horseback, but Charlie Davison, Jim Gleeson, George Russell, Bill Stuanton and Len Attwell did the local shops on foot. Mr. R. G. Brereton, who built two shops in Marrickville in 1885 and opened a chemist shop, was known throughout the whole district for his advice and care of the poor and sick. He had a bigger practice than any medical man of that day.
I remember well the turning of the first sod of the railway line from Sydenham to Belmore. On that occasion they roasted a whole bullock, and had a greasy pig chase and a greasy pole at the top of which was a rooster in a bag as a prize.
(C.D.H.S.J. S.1 No.6.)

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Clever Theft from Seymours Store 1933

On July 18, 1933 the Sydney Morning Herald (page 9) reported:

The most remarkably planned robbery in New South Wales for many years was completed at Marrickville during the week-end, when the big department store of H. T. Seymour, Ltd., at the corner of Victoria and Marrickville roads, was entered by way of an underground tunnel and tobacco worth £400 was stolen.

The work was that of a gang of expert thieves. To enter the store the thieves tunnelled upwards for 10 feet from a storm water channel which runs under the store, and picked through the concrete flooring, eight inches thick, of the company's tobacco storeroom. The gang took their loot under ground to the stormwater channel, and then carried it for three-quarters of a mile to the channel mouth, where they loaded it into a car. The thieves' tunnelling operations must have occupied weeks, but in the store above there was no indication that they were at work.

Seymour's Corner at the corner of Marrickville & Victoria Roads was
flanked by a Department Store on the Eastern side and a timber yard opposite.
There had been many robberies in the district and the management of H. T. Seymour, Ltd., had been taking special precautions against theft. All doors had been fitted with burglar alarms and a special watch had been kept outside the store.

The theft, first discovered by a female employee, was reported to Mr. J. Gabel, managing director, who was amazed to find the 18 inch by 12 inch hole in the concrete floor formed the mouth of a tunnel that ran downwards irregularly.

Mr. Gabel and Detective-sergeant Hayes and Detective Sharp, of Marrickville traced the stormwater channel to its nearest entrance, on a vacant allotment about 150 yards away from the store. Groping their way along the channel, in which a few inches of water was running and which was about five feet in height, they reached a spot in the wall from which the bricks had been removed.

Two miners' picks, a shovel, a big hammer, and an old pair of trousers were lying below the hole. The thickness of the brickwork which had been removed was l8 inches, and a Water Board employee estimated that the making of the hole would have provided a day's work for his men.

Pieces of string still further along the channel attracted the attention of the police. It proved to be portion of the string used to tie the stolen packages of tobacco. Following the narrowing channel they eventually emerged at an embankment of the Sydenham-Bankstown railway line close to Myrtle street.

Manufacturers Exhibition (Marrickville Town Hall?)
Seymour display can be seen on lower right.
The police considered the tunnel made by the thieves to be worthy of  a mining engineer. The gang, after making the hole in the brickwork of the wall of the storm-water channel, excavated a large hole with a diameter of about 4ft 6in, the floor of which was level with the bottom of the hole in the brick work. They had then made a narrow opening in the top of this hole, large enough to admit a man. Their next step was to make a second large hole above this opening and about the size of the first hole. Their excavations had then taken them to the floor of the building.
This tunnelling is thought to have taken weeks, because most of the earth from the excavation had been washed away in the channel by the previous week's rains. Working at night, the thieves are thought to have made a practice of entering the storm-water channel at the mouth nearest to the store.

The completion of the hole in the concrete flooring must have taken place either on Saturday or Sunday night as none of the company's employees was in the tobacco storeroom between Saturday morning and Monday morning.

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Case of Casey the Chimpanzee (Guest Post)

The following post has been written by Maggie Bester, a student completing her Masters degree at Sydney University. Maggie has alligned herself to the society for the remainder of the year. This is the first of a number of interesting posts she will contribute. 

An unusual incident on the night of the 6th of December 1915 caused quite a disturbance among the residents of Marrickville. Mrs. Emily Russell, a local to the area, died during the pursuit of an escaped performing chimpanzee named “Casey”. The event was detailed with great zest in a New Zealand local newspaper several days later (sandwiched between a notice from the postmaster and an advertisement for the display of exotic wares):

(Fig. 1. “Local and General News”, Wairarapa Times, December 22, 1914, 4.)

Casey belonged to a Mr. Thomas Fox, and before this incident was widely advertised in Australian papers as a spectacle to which visitors, for a price of 6p, could purportedly come to see with their own eyes Darwin’s “missing link”.
(Fig. 2. “Amusements”, The Sydney Morning Herald, March 31 1911, 2.)

Darwin’s theories, and the question of situating man’s place within the evolutionary process was one of much fascination across the world in the early twentieth century, as exemplified by this extract from the South Bend News-Times, of Indiana, in 1922. Within this article, ‘Animal Student’ Ryley Cooper is interviewed on his efforts to scientifically liberate the “man in the beast” and thus create a “low type of humanity” – an objective achieved, he asserted, by rearing in civilization several generations of chimpanzees.
The chimpanzee featured in this article appears to be the one and the same “Casey” of Mr. Fox from Marrickville. (Fox and his wife had moved to the States by this point in time.)[1]

 (Fig. 3. “He’d Make a Man of a Monkey – and in our Generations”, South Bend News-Times April 30, 1922, 39.)

Following Mrs. Emily Russell’s death, her husband sought damages against Mr. Fox under the Compensation to Relatives Act of 1897.[2] He was awarded damages of £450 by the jury, who heard the case in September of 1915:

(Fig. 4. “An Escaped Chimpanzee”, The Farmer and Settler, October 1, 1915, 4.)

[1] See Liz Clark’s blog post on Casey’s life for further detail: Liz Clark, “Almost Human – The Sins of the Simians Part 1”, Mad Bush Farm,
[2] “Compensation to Relatives Act, 1897”, New South Wales Consolidated Acts,

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Heritage Under Threat: Dynamo Service Station, St Peters

The 1930s Dynamo Service Station, Princes Highway, St Peters is earmarked for demolition as part of the WestConnex construction. It has been in the same family for over 50 years.

This is a heritage listed building and important part of the motor history of Australia. There are very few examples of this style of Spanish Mission garage still existing in Australia and this one will be destroyed soon.

Please visit our stall at the Marrickville Festival to find out more and to sign our petition. Alternatively, please contact the society for a copy of the petition or download it from our Facebook Group

Monday, 10 November 2014

RAAF Memorial Dulwich Hill

Image Source: Australian War Memorial
I had saved the above picture from the Australian War Memorial page a while ago but forgot about it until Marrickville Council posted the same picture via their Facebook page today.

The photo captures the memorial plaque and floral tributes in the backyard of the family home of RAAF Flight Sergeant Jack Wormald, No. 466 Squadron, c. 1944–1947. (38 Terrace Road, Dulwich Hill.)  Inscribed on the plaque were the words ‘A tribute to the memory of our beloved son Flight Sergeant Jack Dudley Wormald RAAF and his crew lost over Berlin Feb 15th 1944, aged 21 years. God gave thy brave soul wings. My Son. My Son’. The dog had belonged to Jack Wormald. 

Jack Wormald and the crew of Halifax HX293 went missing on 15 February 1944 on an operation to Berlin, but they actually crashed and died in Holland, where the remains of all seven of them were buried by Dutch people in the Protestant Churchyard at Grootegast (Opende). Before the Commonwealth War Graves Commission erected their standard headstones over the graves, the inhabitants of Grootegast build a memorial to the crew, and in 1951 it was visited by the Australian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr Alfred Sterling. At a ceremony the Ambassador laid a wreath of red tulips on the graves, as did the Burgomaster of Grootegast. It is clear that the parents of Jack Wormald were in touch with the people of Grootegast, because affixed to the memorial to this day is a small plaque in the shape of Australia, on which are these words: ‘Mr and Mrs Wormald, 32 Terrace Road, Dulwich Hill, Sydney, wish to thank the people of Opende for the loving care of this monument erected to the memory of our beloved son Jack (pilot) and his crew’.

 [Wormald, Jack Dudley, Flight Sergeant, Casualty, Halifax 293, item 166/44/104, A705, National Archives of Australia: information about the burials at Opende, online at, a website dedicated to men and women who died or were buried in the Netherlands during World War II; AWM P05870.001] 

Jack Dudley Wormald (Centre Front) and his flight crew.

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