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Can you date this photograph? (George St, Sydney)

Moments in Time……

Because the response to the photograph of the “Hero of Waterloo” was so fantastic we are staying in the city of Sydney with what appears to be a very early photograph of George Street. It almost looks like a scene we would expect to see in a John Wayne western movie.  This one may not be as tricky as it looks as there are lots of building and signs to give you clues………

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.

  • James Morris says:

    See my flickr annotations. This was taken from approximately 255 George St looking south.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm
  • Melissa says:

    A later photo from almost the same spot can be found on the Powerhouse Museum’s flickr page (

    September 20, 2010 at 10:00 pm
  • Melissa says:

    A bit hard to tell from the angle of the photo, but it doesn’t look like the GPO clock tower has been built (which was built in 1887). Also, the telegraph pole suggests 1880+.

    Therefore, my starting point is 1880-1887. Also, I added a couple of comments on the flickr page – the time on the small clock at the GPO looks like 3.10pm.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:20 pm
  • enno says:

    The GPO is on the left with the funny clock hanging sideways off the top. So the photo must have been taken quite a long way down from the town hall, somewhere near Margaret Street.
    The Town Hall tower seems to be complete but there are no tram tracks which must narrow it down quite a lot.
    The clearance sale posters on the right have an address on them.
    I can find an Edward Newton furniture merchant but no J Newton.

    September 21, 2010 at 7:51 am
  • enno says:

    J. Newton of 255 George Street ( opposite Bridge Street ) has an ad in the Herald of 8 June 1880

    September 21, 2010 at 8:00 am
  • enno says:

    By 1894, 255 George Street was Peate and Harcourt, liquor merchants

    September 21, 2010 at 8:03 am
  • Rhonda Campbell says:

    You were very close Melissa with the time….I had a look at the large master image and zoomed in….it’s 2.10. Not quite as much traffic as there would be at 2.10 these days :)

    September 21, 2010 at 8:16 am
  • enno says:

    Peate and Harcourt were originally at 258 George-street and then later at 252 and they first seem to be mentioned at 255 George Street around August 1885. I would guess that they moved into the new building at 255 when it was rebuilt. Which would suggest the photo is around 1884.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:21 am
  • enno says:

    Sydney Morning Herald: Saturday 27 June 1885

    ” On and after 1st July, the business of our establishment will bo can led on In our new and more commodious premises, 255, George-street, opposite to those now occupied by us,


    So you would have to work backwards from there, however long it took to erect the new building, to Mr J. Newton’s clearance sale.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:24 am
  • enno says:

    Newtons clearance sale, 11 February 1884


    MONDAYÍ 11th FEBRUARY, at ll o.m.


    undor instructions from

    , Mr. J. NEWTON

    (consequent on the re-building of the premise«), –

    nt Nos. 253 and 255, GEORGE-STREET, near Bridge-street,

    the BALANCE of his


    of evcrv description suitable for


    BEDROOMS, KITCHENS, &c, &p. .

    To Furniture Warehousemen, Shippers, Upholsterers, Ladies and

    Gentlemen Furnishing, Connoisseurs, Country Buyers,, &o. ^

    “HARRIS nnd ACKMAN have received Instructionl. from.Mr, J. NEWTON to arrange the above BALANCE ol FURNITURE STOCK, on MONDAY NEXT, at ll o’clock, at Nus. 253 and 255, GEORGE-STREET, neur Bridge-street.

    FULL PARTICULARS in subsequent issues.

    September 21, 2010 at 8:31 am
  • enno says:

    By 25 February 1884, the building was apparently demolished. Not sure if “on the Ground” has any special meaning in auctioneer-speak. You would think that anything valuable like cedar stairs would be stripped out of the building before they knock down the walls.

    ” MONDAY, February 25, at 2.30.


    Upon the GROUND, 253 and 255, George-street, near Bridge street, comprising

    Flooring and Lining Boards, Battens. Rafters, Joists, Stone

    Copings and Sills, Corrugated Iron, Slates, Box Frames, Cedar Stairs, Plate Glass, Shutter &c &c

    JAMES BOND is instructed to sell by auction, upon the Ground, at half-past 2, MONDAY, 25th instant”

    September 21, 2010 at 9:11 am
  • enno says:

    Newton apparently first advertised his clearance sale on 22 December 1883. So the photo could have been taken in that year.

    I would assert that this photo was taken between 22 December 1883 and 25 February 1884.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:18 am
  • enno says:

    What is almost as interesting, is what you don’t see.

    “Sydney City Council has approved a D.A. for the redevelopment of 255 George-street”

    Nothing like that in the paper anywhere.

    September 21, 2010 at 9:28 am
  • Melissa says:

    Thanks Rhonda for providing the time detail.

    Well done Enno with finding the articles on the sale being held by Mr Newton.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:50 am
  • Anthea Brown says:

    @James Morris Good start, it puts us in the right spot in George Street.

    @Melissa Thanks for the PHM photo link. You are always very accurate with your initial ‘guesstimates’.

    @enno Good spot re the lack of tram tracks! You have done quite a bit of research this morning which has helped to narrow the date to mid-1880s. Thank you.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:23 am
  • enno says:

    @Anthea, I think I have done better than narrow the date down to mid-1880’s. I think I have identified a definite 2-month window. This photo must have been taken shortly before 255 George-street ( on the right of the photo ) was demolished.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm
  • Anthea Brown says:

    My apologies, @enno, I started writing my previous comment first thing this morning and was called away. I then published it without checking if further comments had come through.

    To summarise, you have a date range of 22 December 1883 to 25 February 1884.

    September 21, 2010 at 2:24 pm
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    Well done enno! I got a slightly wider date range using a different method. See comments and notes over at the Flickr photo.

    September 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm
  • Neville says:

    Julie mentioned the following: …..
    With Walter Long, Draper of 618 George St in 1858-1859 at the same time Biddell Brothers confectioners were at 495 George St across the road. See it says 500 which would be correct as the numbers would be 495-500 george St ….. Unfortuneatly, It IS NOT 500 that is shown, because according to GOOGLE EARTH, Number 500 is opposite The QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING, the location of “The Galeries” — 500 George St, Sydney (between Park Street and The HILTON HOTEL). This photo is between Bathurst Street and Liverpool Street.

    November 18, 2010 at 8:41 am
  • enno says:

    Neville, the building numbers on each side of George Street are not aligned closely at all, because at the north end of the street there are buildings only on one side.

    495 would be an odd number and on the west side of the street. 500 is an even number and on the east side of the street.

    This photo is nowhere near Bathurst or Liverpool Street. It is near Bridge Street.

    December 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm
  • John Ruffels says:

    Can anyone suggest why the pasted “Furniture Sale” poster on Newton’s shop on the immediate right of the photo, has the address ” 22 & 24 Sussex Street” written on the bottom?

    February 8, 2011 at 11:13 am