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Can you date this photograph? [unidentified coastal residential landscape]

UPDATE: This photo has been identified as Newcastle looking towards Flagstaff Hill and Newcastle Beach


We came across this image in Photo Investigator recently, titled View of an unidentified coastal residential landscape – a Signal Station can been seen in the far distance.

We can’t tell if this one will be a challenge or if it’s too easy for you! Do you think you can help us to identify where this photo was taken?

Larger version on Flickr

View of an unidentified coastal residential landscape - a Signal Station can been seen in the far distance (Digital ID: 4481_a026_000986)

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.

  • Iain Stuart says:

    First thought – Newcastle

    June 6, 2011 at 1:35 pm
  • Robert Mills says:

    Yes I agree – Newcastle. As there is substantial built form present and the hill to the LHS looks remarkably like Fort Scratchley. No sign of the steam tram depot at the headland near Newcastle Beach … so image predates arrival of steam system… ie its pre 1887.

    June 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm
  • marg morters says:

    I also think its Newcastle

    June 6, 2011 at 5:19 pm
  • enno says:

    I don’t see how it can be anywhere other than Newcastle. It doesn’t fit with Bondi, and where else would have so many buildings of that style ?

    June 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    Newcastle for sure (foreshore?). But when? And where was the photographer standing?

    June 7, 2011 at 8:59 am
  • Anthea Brown says:

    Ah! We couldn’t tell if this one would be too hard or too easy.

    The building at the top of the RHS was identified as the Royal Newcastle Hospital over on the Flickr version – is that the one now dwarfed by a huge apartment block?

    @beachcomberaustralia nice pun :P

    June 7, 2011 at 11:16 am
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    [@AB sorry about that!]

    Pre-1885 due to only about half of Hospital completed. May be from ‘old’ Cathedral. See Flickr comments.

    June 7, 2011 at 6:22 pm
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    Perhaps this photo is early enough to be the Colonial Architects Office record of the building of Fort Scratchley in c.1882 ?

    June 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm
  • Debbie says:


    I originally thought the photo was taken from the cathedral area too but I
    changed my mind… it is a tad too West (and South depending on where the
    old cathedral was situated on the CofE land) for me… and I don’t think it
    fits with what was happening to the church building. It isn’t the
    Pro-Cathedral either (which they began using instead) which is on Church
    Street (Google Streetview):
    digitised book – Newcastle Cathedral – History in Pictures 100 years

    and opening day
    The Sydney Morning Herald 13 Dec 1884 pg 9

    Half way up the left edge of our photo is part of a building which, looking
    at Google Streetview, I believe to be the building which still exists on the
    NE corner of King & Bolton Streets. The right hand side of the building on
    King looks like it has been altered a little. At one stage in the name of
    Mary Eckford (see map below).

    So if Bolton Street runs through the buildings at that point, I think the
    photo was taken from the back of a building with frontage to Newcomen
    Street. The 2 lots (77&79) set out for the Wesleyan School & Minister’s
    residence on the old maps I looked at seem to be around the right area (two
    lots up from the corner, then the 2 larger lots for the school etc). What
    sort of buildings were on this piece of land at the time the photo was
    You can look at the parish maps on the lands website or this one on Flickr
    might be easier to see the lots I am talking about:

    Another photo probably taken one more lot East from where our photo was
    taken (some of the same rooves can be seen):

    I think I’ll be looking for some Newcomen Street or Wesleyan info/photos now
    to see if I’m right or dead wrong. So far I haven’t found anything that is
    of use.

    June 7, 2011 at 9:45 pm
  • Debbie says:

    Anthea will be posting my 1st message but additionally:

    beachcomberaustralia has noted Waratah Terrace on Scott Street & a warehouse being built (over on Flickr). Here is what looks like the preceeding advertisement –

    12 Valuable Building Sites
    ‘…opposite Waratah Terrace’
    ‘…most admirably situated for warehouses…’
    The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, 11 October 1884, pg 7

    June 8, 2011 at 2:56 pm
  • Linda Smee says:

    I thought Coogee?

    June 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm
  • Debbie says:

    Re the hospital

    ‘The new hospital stands about the centre of a large allotment of land in Pacific Street. The front of the building will face the street and the town and the back will look on to the Pacific Ocean… There will be a neat verandah on the ground floor and a shady balcony on the upper floor which will afford a magnificent healthy promenade for the patients.’ (Newcastle Chronicle 7 April 1866) – this is from the following page:

    The following map joins the East side of the map in my previous post explaining the perspective from which the photo was taken. You can clearly see the hospital marked out on Pacific Street. Follow King Street back to the first map, & also on the photo, & it leads to the building I mentioned which still stands.

    June 9, 2011 at 10:49 am
  • Ian Wright says:

    The building foreground with the sign “F.Ash- Importer” would be Frederick Ash who commenced business in Newcastle in 1855. He moved to rented premises on the cnr of King & Brown Streets in 1860. He was noted in the 1872 Grevilles directory as being in King Street. I doubt if it is in Brown Street, which is very steep & in the picture there is no hill where the present parking station is.The hospital was built in 1866 & had another wing added to it in 1888. Fort Scratchly was completed in 1882 but there was a military installation there prior.

    June 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    @ Ian Wright – I beg to differ with your dates for Fort Scratchley and the Hospital – see comments over on Flickr.

    I have a strong suspicion that the photo is part of a panorama, due to the odd composition and awkward foreground roofs. Possibly contemporary with and also by John Rae, due to the construction of the warehouse. See this wonderful story and compare with photo on p.5 –

    Wouldn’t that be a find?!

    June 9, 2011 at 7:52 pm
  • jenny says:

    The Hannell wing of the Newcastle Hospital was built in 1884.

    Both the Rae sketch panorama of 1849 and this image were taken from the first floor balcony of Claremont House in Newcomen Street, looking east. Is it still part of the Newcastle Club? In the Rae 1849 sketch the shadow of the balcony can be seen on the extreme right hand side of the sketch. The Rae photographic panorama however was taken from either the Obelisk or from Jesmond House looking north.

    Newcastle Region Library has an original of the photo cited by Debbie Another :
    which was also published in John Turner’s Photos of Old Newcastle (1979) page 24. The Library also has the adjoining photograph to the right as these images do form a panorama. I am not certain if this State Records image is also part of the panorama but will check to see if the others are held.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    @jenny – great information. There is no Gaol in this image so it cannot be part of that panorama. Does anyone know exactly when it was demolished?

    Claremont House and the Cathedral behind for those (like me) who do not have local knowledge – Google Street view –,+Australia&ll=-32.929003,151.781466&spn=0,0.021136&z=16&layer=c&cbll=-32.929101,151.781422&panoid=1x7peQlVy8bbXSgqRYZsCg&cbp=12,314.56,,0,-12.15

    June 11, 2011 at 9:07 am
  • Iain Stuart says:

    Great work – I love these discussions. As a former Victorian I am gald I recognised it as Newcastle.


    June 11, 2011 at 10:54 am
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    Old Newcastle Gaol demolished in February 1876 – , which should help date the separate photos. This is post 1876; Debbie’s linked one is pre 1876 – unless – it looks like it is the process of demolition …

    Trying to find out when the Waratah Terrace was built, but coming up against brick walls !! [sorry again AB ! ]

    June 11, 2011 at 4:03 pm
  • Jenny says:

    How about 1881-1882 for Waratah Terrace. According to a thesis on Newcastle architecture by J.L. Guy, ‘A History of Newcastle Architecture from 1850 to 1901’, unpublished thesis, Newcastle College, University of Sydney, 1962, tenders were called in the Newcastle Morning Herald 6 October 1881 for a terrace of 9 houses in Scott Street for the Northumberland Permanent Building and Investment Society, architect J Cropley.

    Even though the real estate ads mentioned on flickr by beachcomberaustralia for 50 Scott Street say circa 1892, there cannot be too many rows of 9 terraces in Scott Street.

    Also Debbie found the Maitland Mercury real estate ad dated October 1884 for land opposite Waratah Terrace, so it must be there by then and not circa 1892.

    No luck with the warehouse. I thought it may have been the Imperial Hotel (later the Pacific Hotel) on the south east corner of Scott and Telford Streets but it had windows that faced north and west. The building under construction has no windows on the western side that I can see, so it must have faced east or north. And it was probably demolished for the extension to Pacific Park.

    June 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm
  • Debbie says:

    The 2 buildings behind Waratah Terrace are in the area of Alfred Street. I reckon the one on the left could still be standing at maybe 40 Alfred Street or one of the others as you move east on this street. Roof structure on satellite image the same & still has the balcony.

    Across the road (on Google Streetview) is the still standing Coach House at 41-43 Alfred Street – also noted on a heritage list. The coach house is not in our photo, sooo… when was the coach house built?

    Just another wall up for challenge :) We could build a city with all these walls :P

    June 11, 2011 at 5:53 pm
  • Debbie says:

    Frederick Ash building

    Fred Ash has a notice of removal ad in Sydney Morning Herald 25 Jun 1885 (to Brown Street)

    All references I have come across, in the years previous to early 1880s, state plain old “King Street”. I think this must be the building in the photo.

    The Brown Street address was 7 Brown Street & obviously on the corner. See picture of building in 1896 advertisement at Newcastle Cultural Collections:
    (search terms Frederick Ash Advertisement)

    I had been looking into the Fred Ash details since the photo was posted but what I found didn’t make sense to me according to Frederick Ash history noted in Newcastle Civic History post 1920 document (on Newcastle Council website). This said he had been in Brown Street since 1860s (like Ian said). But maybe he was working from the building in the photo while the new premises was being readied? Or it was just storage?

    Even if the building in the photo is the one he moved from in 1885, a sign can be left on an old building for some time. So I guess it doesn’t help.

    June 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm
  • Debbie says:

    In a Newcastle Herald 14 Nov 2002 pg 47 article by Mike Scanlon, he states:
    ‘By October 1885, three-storey terraces were even being built in Parnell Place.’
    (Fairfax News Store website)

    The sale of the land…
    ‘…valuable block of land, fronting Scott-street, Zara-street, Parnell Place, and Stevenson Place…’
    The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, 12 Oct 1882

    There are no sign of the 3 storey terraces in the photo… so pre Oct 1885 ?

    So the photo date is looking like somewhere between Oct 1884 & Oct 1885. The earlier the better – allowing for the building of the new wing on the hospital before the 28 Oct 1885 UON photo beachcomberaustralia referred to on Flickr.

    June 11, 2011 at 9:40 pm
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    Sorry Debbie, I am not getting your logic for “between Oct 1884 & Oct 1885”. The corner stone for the Hospital Hannell Wing was laid 25/9/1884 (see Flickr comment), so this photo must be before that date.

    Thanks to Trove I found an advert for the sale in “Scott-street” of a “terrace of nine commodious and convenient houses, adjacent to the Customs House.” Probably the same terrace as was put to tender a year earlier, mentioned by Jenny above. But is Waratah Terrace adjacent to the Customs House, or two blocks away? See MM&HRGA 19/10/1882 p.1 –

    So we have a date range of 1882 [?] – 1884 so far, imho.

    I think the ‘warehouse’ may hold more clues – as I mentioned before, it is in the same state of being built as in the John Rae Photo Panorama, and most of the buildings nearby correspond. Btw, @Jenny I know it is a warehouse from a 1885 photo referred to early in the discussion on Flickr – 3 storey, no west windows, gabled roof –

    June 12, 2011 at 1:07 am
  • Debbie says:

    @beachcomberaustralia – thanks, you’re right! I misread my notes. I’ve done a little timeline (always helps :p) & now I agree with you!

    One I haven’t mentioned is 5 Telford Street which was a warehouse apparently dated from 1884 according to Terraces for Tourists. Later became Newcastle Business College building. It is not in the photo.

    Look (& zoom right in) at this fantastic copy of Alf Scott Broad’s 1889 lithograph of Newcastle in Illustrated Sydney News, 27 Jun 1889, pg 37.
    The man had patience! It is helping me to place buildings more easily. I love it – it’s like Where’s Wally!

    June 13, 2011 at 8:41 am
  • WALLY says:

    @Debbie – What a wonderful find – I’m trying to spot my rellies …

    June 13, 2011 at 7:19 pm
  • Jenny says:

    The warehouse is shown on the left side of this image of the Imperial/Pacific Hotel at the Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle, as the Gibbs Bright and Company warehouse

    Sorry, still no date.

    June 14, 2011 at 3:46 pm
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    E U R E K A !

    The presence of the Newcastle Sailors Home (see note LH side of Flickr photo), even though a tiny part, means that this photo is late 1882 at the EARLIEST. The building’s Foundation Stone was laid on 17/3/1882: completed on 18/12/1882 and handed over to the Committee on 24/2/1883. See full history here – .

    More importantly, the Sailors Home also shows up on the John Rae photographic Panorama, proving that it is also late 1882 at the EARLIEST (as previously thought). See links on Flickr for a hi-res version.

    John Rae exhibited his Panoramas at the Calcutta International Exhibition in 1883-4. Dovetails !

    Incidentally I think the Rae photo panorama was taken from the tower of Jesmond House (NW corner of Barker and Ordnance Streets).

    June 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm
  • Anthea Brown says:

    Watching the unfolding of this Moment in Time has been amazing and we are impressed! Everyone deserves chocolates but I think you’d all agree that @beachcomberaustralia would get first pick (puns aside…although we really did get a laugh out of it). Honourable mentions to @Jenny and @Debbie (and ahem @Wally) here and the Hunter Valley Rootsweb list and @lmdhs over on Flickr.

    It started as an “unidentified and undated coastal residential landscape” and was discovered to be a view over Newcastle looking towards Flagstaff Hill and Newcastle Beach and narrowed down to late 1882-1884. A fantastic group effort!

    June 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    @Anthea Brown – [munching on the NuTtY choccies] Thanks all – that was fun. I now know more about Newcastle East in the early 1880s than is proper.

    Still trying to prove the photo is part of a John Rae panorama; the evidence so far is good, but circumstantial. If anybody knows anything useful please add it.

    June 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm
  • Jenny says:

    Yes beachcomber you are correct, it is part of a panorama. But as it is part of Series 4481 (Government Printing Office) it should be a photographer employed by the Government. I think I have found another part of the panorama but not the link between the image above and the new one.

    Caption: View of house rooftops
    Digital ID: 4481_a026_000604.jpg
    Date: n.d.
    ( )

    This is looking fron Newcomen Street towards what became known as Fletcher Park where the statue of James Fletcher now stands. On the south west corner of Church and Watt streets can be seen two cottages with outbuildings, one with arches on the back verandah. Behind them further up the hill after the gardens is a double storey building. In the foreground is the roof of a large building with a small bell tower (public school ?) which I think is on the north-west corner of Church and Bolton Streets. All these buildings can be seen in the Rae 1880s panorama and on the eye sketch found by Debbie.

    Perhaps if we ask Anthea nicely she’ll put this new one on flickr so it is clearer.

    June 17, 2011 at 11:57 am
  • beachcomberaustralia says:

    @Jenny – Great find! That is just so BRILLIANT! Well done.

    Looking through Series 4481 is like the proverbial needle and haystack, but always rewarding. There are so many treasures there, often completely misnamed. I always get totally distracted. Only about half the series is on Photo Investigator so far. Who knows what else is waiting to be discovered after 130 years!

    John Rae WAS employed by the NSW Government, as chairman of the Board for Public Tenders (Works) at the time of this photo, and there is a precedent in finding his photos in Series 4481 – see comments here – .

    June 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm
  • Debbie says:

    @Wally – me too. I know they were there but don’t think they had a red beanie in the wardrobe ;)
    How dare they not use street numbers on documents – didn’t they know I’d be trying to trace them over a hundred years later!

    @beachcomberaustralia – Congrats! I’m sure you or someone else will come up with the John Rae proof at some stage.

    @Jenny – oooh! Good photo find. I’m trying not to get distracted from what I supposed to be doing.

    @Anthea Brown – Thanks so much for drawing attention to this photo. I feel like I know so much more about the streets some of my ancestors lived in at the time of this photo… and in my journey I found a great copy of Alf Scott Broad’s 1889 lithograph!!! You don’t know how many times I looked at the small photo at Newcastle City Council’s collection & prayed for someone to put a large digital copy online. I’m still trying to get over it :o) UNBELIEVABLE!

    June 19, 2011 at 2:05 am
  • Anthea Brown says:

    Thanks @Debbie, it was definitely a most enjoyable Moment in Time!

    I’ve just uploaded the larger version of the possible panorama image Jenny found – “View of rooftops” – in the latest Flickr batch here:

    June 24, 2011 at 9:43 am
  • Ann Hardy says:

    Congrats to everyone who has contributed thus far, it definately is of Newcastle and likely to have been taken from Newcomen Street sometime in the eary 1880s. When this image is considered alongside another image (see links below) they are a sequence, meaning that these may be 2 parts of a 4 part panorama. It may also mean that it was done by John Rae because we know that he tried to replicate his 1849 watercolour (from the same aspect in Newcomen st), however Rae’s photographic panarama (from near Obelisk) found in 2005 at the Mitchell Library is believed to be the one exhibited at the Calcutta Exhibition- however this does not mean there was not another done-however perhaps there was another one from Newcomen st that Rae took to compare with his watercolour. I bet there are 2 more parts to the panorama.
    There is a group at the Uni of Nctle who have put a blog together and have been researching the govhouse/barracks/asylum site, see blog site
    Thanks for bringing the image to our attention

    June 26, 2011 at 9:41 pm
  • Geoff Rowell says:

    This picture appears to show a Long Wire Signal Station – which would date the picture closer to 1900.
    Location – unsure but could be Shepherd’s Hill near Newcastle.
    Radio Trials were being run (see Marconi Archive) in 1906 between Victoria and Tasmania

    August 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm
  • Graeme Steinbeck says:

    These two photos were more than likely created during late 1883.

    Here is the twist in the story!

    The building in Newcomen street where the camera was positioned for the photographs still exists. It is not Claremont House.

    Yes I agree that the two photos were created on the same day but they are not part of a “panoramic” photo.

    Before mentioning the connection to the “other” John Rae panoramic photo from 1883, yes 1883, (not circa 1880 as labeled) I would raise another point.

    There are two photos which I have dated to 1875 that were created within a few metres of the two 1883 photos.

    I did a bit of computer work on the 1875 photos and found a panoramic picture could be created.

    So just to review my comments: two pictures created in 1875 and two pictures created in 1883 within 5 metres of each camera location.

    The earlier 1849 Rae painting was done about 100 metres to the left of the 1875 and 1883 photos, so the view was probably obstructed between 1849 and 1875. I will debate the claim about Claremont house as the location.

    Moving on to the circa 1880′, as it currently labeled, panoramic photograph. Again I will state that this photo may have been created in 1883.

    Yes, this photo was taken from Jesmond House but there is another panoramic photo taken from the same location during, I beleive, 1892. It is almost an exact comparison to 1883 as to the alignment of the buildings seen in the photo.

    Something to think about as it is not possible to show my research through this medium.

    August 8, 2014 at 1:57 pm