Fancy a trip back in time to Wallsend? A new heritage walk in the suburb will take you there. Crystal Phillips, of Heritage Now, paints a picture of what life was like back then.
It's 1895. After a cool drink at the Colliery Inn, a favourite watering hole for many miners, you cross the level rail crossing at Nelson Street in the township of Wallsend and head into the township of Plattsburg.
As you walk down the street, you hear a band playing from the rotunda. You look towards the balcony of the Lemongrove Hotel as the music fades and a councillor delivers an address to hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who are gathering in the park below.
The Rotunda Park was a focal point of community activity where political candidates gave speeches, music was played and demonstrations were held. On the agenda were issues like a new community building, better workers' rights for coal miners and support for federation of the colonies.
Learn of the rivalry of Wallsend and Plattsburg, the influence of Welsh coal miners in the town's early development and culture and how the town had too many pubs. You'll also learn about significant people who helped shape the town.
The history of Wallsend is closely tied with the presence of coal seams. Before the town became known as Wallsend, the area was known as Nikkinba to the Awabakal people, meaning place of coal.
This natural resource is what drew settlers to the area in the 19th and 20th centuries. The first supervisor of the Newcastle Wallsend Coal Company, Alexander Brown, named the town Wallsend in 1858, after his hometown at the end of Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland County, England.
Soon after the mine opened, work began on a railway line, which would join with the existing line at Waratah to transport coal to the harbour.
This railway ran along Cowper Street and divided the area into two distinct locations.
The south side became Wallsend and the north side developed into the town of Plattsburg.
Nelson Street provided the link between the two with a level crossing. Over time, Wallsend became known as the more affluent side of town, while Plattsburg maintained its working-class roots. However, the two councils amalgamated in 1915.
The Wallsend band rotunda was completed in 1888. It was said to be the best rotunda in the colony. It was a focal point of entertainment, where local bands would play.
It was not uncommon for people to hear orchestral instruments resonating down the street.
It was also an important meeting place. A notable historic meeting took place at the rotunda in 1895, when Wallsend and Plattsburg's mayors and miners met to advance the cause of the eight-hour movement, which led to the standard eight-hour work day.
Tyrell Street, where the rotunda is located, is named after a renowned local musician, Dr Edward Tyrell, who was integral to the establishment of the Wallsend orchestra. His compositions gained national and international critical acclaim.
The new walk, which Heritage Now created and City of Newcastle funded with business rates, goes for 2.6 kilometres. It's on the City of Newcastle app and at heritagenow.com.au/wallsendwalk, with flyers available from businesses along the route.
An art exhibition titled "Glimpses through windows in the time of COVID 19" depicts these strange times of pandemic.
Artist Helen Tolhurst, Maitland's citizen of the year, created her artworks - made from fibre - in the weeks prior to the second lockdown.
"When the second lockdown started, they took on new meaning. To start with I wanted to capture the feel of being locked in. As time went on, I wanted to capture some of the intimacy of the stories of people inside their homes, some of the love and warmth and comfort of family and home," she said.
The exhibition opening was initially postponed, as Helen was in hospital in Sydney recovering from deep brain stimulation surgery to treat Parkinson's disease.
Money raised from sales at the exhibition will be donated to the Maitland Parkinson's Support Group. The exhibition runs until Tuesday at the Reader's Cafe and Larder in East Maitland.
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