Archives Outside

For people who love, use and manage archives

Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

Can you date this Photograph? [Customs House, Circular Quay]

A moment in time…….

Hopefully this is Customs House at Circular Quay…….

This should be easy for all our regular ‘history detectives’…..there are lots of clues…trams, clothing, overhead wires etc etc. Other than the addition of modern transport and a few more people I don’t think it looks that different to how it does today.

As this is the last “Can you Date” for 2010 we would like to thank everyone who had contributed to the series. We wish you all the best for the festive season!

Larger version on Flickr

We have many other undated photographs in Photo Investigator and on our Flickr account. If you know the dates or any other interesting facts about these images please let us know.

  • Anthea Brown says:

    Hi Rhonda

    A huge heartfelt thank you for bringing this fab series to Archives Outside! It has been great to participate in the fun and watch history unfold with all the knowledge and stories our readers share here.


    November 29, 2010 at 9:29 am
  • Robert Mills says:

    Rhonda I think we can all agree that this is Customs House Sydney !!!

    Well …. It looks like a summer time photo around lunchtime on a weekday and the electric tram (An F class ?) car number 230 (an early electric tram) has paused thoughtfully at the RHS of the image. So we are talking early 20th C most likely. Pre WW1 certainly.

    There is no passenger waiting shelter in Young St (as yet) but the span poles suggest the line has already been built there. Keenans book The City Lines would indicate when this shelter appears.

    The two figures standing at the LHS of the image may be waiting for an outbound tram.

    An inspectors hut is present in front of the customs building just near the horse drawn vehicles. There is a sign attached to the side of the hut. Is it an advert for tourist tramway services ? If so then the date is perhaps c1906 onwards. Can’t quite make the detail out.

    It was a nice day for a stroll at the Quay.

    What do others think ?

    November 29, 2010 at 9:36 am
  • David says:

    That’s an F class tram with the original open end. F class number 230 was built in 1902 and the entire F class were converted to the L class, with the ends enclosed in glass, in 1906. Customs House had the top floods (above the clock) completed in 1903. That would date the photo between 1903 and 1906.

    November 29, 2010 at 9:44 am
  • David says:

    Sorry, “top floors (above the clock)”.

    November 29, 2010 at 9:56 am
  • Rhonda says:

    The sign attached to the little hut says “Forest Lodge Races, Every Monday”….that might help with the date.

    November 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm
  • pellethepoet says:

    “FOREST LODGE RACES, EVERY MONDAY” – Thanks Rhonda, it certainly has …

    [See comment on Flickr – too many links to be accepted here]

    1903 it is!

    November 29, 2010 at 11:05 pm
  • David says:

    The area around Circular Quay got electric street lights in October 1904. This further narrows the date.

    November 30, 2010 at 11:44 am
  • Rhonda Campbell says:

    Hi Everyone, well it been an amazing year of discovery…in the historical sense. Along the way we have been informed about the construction history of various buildings, the evolution of the telegraph pole and tram travel in Sydney, as well as more personal facts such as timeline of business ownership in George St in the early 1900’s…and last but not least the early story of horseracing at what now is the Harold Park Harness Racing Ground. Base on that history I think we can say the Customs House image is c.1903.

    As a side note sadly after 120 years the last harness race meeting will be held at Harold Park on Friday 17 December 2010. Another chapter closes in Sydney’s rich history

    December 7, 2010 at 10:43 am