Sunday, 30 July 2017

Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital

Out at Concord located in Sydney's inner west is the magnificent of the school Rivendell, the former Thomas Walker Memorial Hospital for Convalescents. It was recently open for inspection by the City of Canada Bay Heritage Society.


Main building of the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

The heritage society organise regular open days to continually raise public awareness of this heritage icon.

The Heritage Council of NSW states:
The Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital is situated in the Municipality of Concord on the Parramatta River bounded by Brays Bay and Yaralla Bay. It is a large complex on a large park-like riverside estate, with extensive and prominent landscape plantings, making it a landmark along the river.

Opened in 1893 patients were taken from Circular Quay to the Watergate at the front of the complex on the Parramatta River. The landing stage was a pontoon that went up and down with the tide. A bridge connected the pontoon to the Watergate.

Watergate at the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis) 


The convalescent hospital was constructed from a bequest of 100,000 pounds from the will of businessman and politician Thomas Walker who died in 1886. Walker was a philanthropist, member of the legislative council and director of the Bank of New South Wales.

The executors of Walker's will announced a design competition in 1888 for a convalescent hospital. Architect John Kirkpatrick won the design competition although criticized for being overly expensive.

In 1889 architectural commission was given to Sydney architects Sulman and Power. The building cost 150,000 pounds with additional funds coming from other family members and supporters.

Between 1943 and 1946 the hospital was managed by the Red Cross with control then passing to Perpetual Trustees.

The hospital complex

The main hospital building is Queen Anne Federation style  with a four-storey clock tower at the centre. There is classical ornamentation. On either side of the main building are two wings containing cloisters.

The hospital complex is based on a pavilion basis, with each pavilion to retain its functional integrity with the central block for administration and service blocks either side. There are 8 buildings in the complex.

Impressive entry vestibule in the main building at the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis) 


The main building is two storey with a three storey tower over the main entrance, an impressive vestibule, and an entertainment hall for 300 people. There is sandstone detail throughout inside and out.

The Sulman buildings have elaborately shaped exposed rafter ends, Marseilles pattern terracotta roof tiles and crafted brickwork.

Covered walkway from main building at the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis)


The History of Sydney website states:
The building’s symmetrical design originally divided it into male and female sides. It includes two enclosed courtyards, a concert hall and a recreation hall which is supposed to be highly decorated. It is of the first known buildings to make use of “cavity walls” for insulation and protection against Sydney’s hot climate.

Complex roof line showing Marseilles pattern terracotta roof tiles of main building Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

Significance of hospital complex

The NSW heritage inventory states:
The hospital is important because it reflects Florence Nightingale's influence on 19th century convalescent hospital design principles and their adoption into Australian architecture.

The Estate is a rare surviving late 19th century major institution of a private architect's design in Australia and is John Sulman's finest work in this country.

The grounds of the hospital are of national heritage signficance as an intact example of Victorian/Edwardian institutional gardens which have maintained an institution throughout their whole existence.

Some of the crowd in the reception entertainment hall at Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital Concord 2017 Open Day (I Willis)

Monday, 24 July 2017

Music at a Sydney House Concert Goes Hmmm....


Things That Make You Go Hmm...
a Sydney House Concert


The CHN blogger was out and about in Newtown recently and attended a house concert put on by the I Heart Songwriting Club.

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A group of musos performed in a lounge room tucked away in a corner with around 20 people ranging from children to oldies. Sitting on lounges, chairs and on the polished wooden floor with greenery displayed in the floor-to-ceiling windows behind them. 

What a knockout show in a small and intimate venue, as opposed to a noisy pub somewhere.
The music was delivered with soul and warmth.  It spoke to the heart on a Sunday afternoon in the intimate surroundings.

The intimate surroundings of the Newtown House Concert for the I Heart Songwriting Club in July 2017 with performer Mariamma, (Francesca de Valence)


The domestic space certainly beat  the hell out of the huge souless barns that pass as music venues in some places.  The interval was an opportunity to have nibbles, cheese and dip, meet the musos and make  new friends in a truly warm and welcoming environment.


House concerts are an emerging trend in music performance and hark back to the days of chamber music. A look back at how live acoustic music was performed in earlier times. When a grand house provided a library, a parlour, a ballroom for music in the raw uncut version. At a time when there was no amplification or recording. All music was live and of the moment.


Friends and fans of the I Heart Songwriting Club in lounge room of the host at the Newtown House Concert in July 2017. (Francesca de Valence)

Graham Strahle reviewed the house concert scene in Australia in 2016 for Music Australia and came to the conclusion that this performance space is growing in Australia. He maintains that this type of performance is flying under the radar and is growing popularity.

Strahle reports that some artists prefer house concerts over other types of venues with a range of organising abilities. Performers relish the networking possibilities. This is very community based and a new interpretation of an old idea.

Some who provide performance spaces in their homes have dedicated rooms while providing supper or even meals for patrons and fans. These type of performances seem quite informal and not on regular circuits.

House concerts have proved popular in North America and Europe. Fran Snyder, writes that house concerts in the US, bring performers closer to the fans and
sometimes they even help artists rediscover what they enjoy most about playing music – the intimate connection with an audience.
Snyder makes the point that it allows performances in
'markets where you don’t have a significant fanbase'. 

This mode of delivery is not for all and there are disadvantages. The performer is exposed and there is no hiding behind a loop-track or a huge drum kit. It may not be for the faint hearted.
ABC News reports that attendances are falling at regional music festivals and that this type of performance is replacing them. Allowing fans to cheaply access high quality live music.
House concerts, according to Megan King, in the northern rivers area of  NSW are held in old houses with metal house ceilings that provide an ideal acoustic venue.
The house concert is another form of the 'pop-up' economy - a part of the gig-economy.The advent of social media makes the job of creating a network of friends and fans reasonably easy. In the old days it was only word of mouth. Private email groups and the like provide the vehicle for cheap and easy promotion. 
WH Chong writes that house concerts are
intimate, convivial gatherings in a domestic space.
Wikipedia has an interesting history of house concerts maintaining that their origins are based around the performance of folk, blues and country music. Where live performances were traditionally informal and small affairs at low cost. There are even influences going back to the medieval period with small intimate performances of unamplified music. You could argue that live performance goes back to the ancients and were a form of house concert, especially those based around religious festivals and the like.

The performers from the I Heart Songwriting Club at the Newtown House Concert in July 2017 (Francesca de Valence) 

"Things That Make You Go Hmm"
The CHN blogger concurs with all the conclusions of other writers after experiencing this type of performance for the first time.
After a hugely successful Brisbane show, I Heart Songwriting Club is touring "Things That Make You Go Hmm" and held  house concert in Sydney. The theme of the Sydney house concert was:
These incredible women share stories and songs on:
The dangerous powers of seduction
The sudden absence of love
The elusive nature of time
and… of course, being a stalker …. “Things That Make You Go Hmm..."
All the artists that who performed for the Heart Songwriting Club were singer-songwriters who were storytellers in their own right and told a story through their music. The performers were:
Francesca de Valence,
Helen Perris,
Colleen O'Connell
Mariamma,
Issabird

House concerts are a form of performance that seems likely to a strong future if current trends are any guide.

Learn more

Graham Strahle, Under the radar: Australia’s house concert scene (Music Australia)

Saturday, 8 July 2017

A cold night out with the family at Menangle Park

A cold night at Menangle Park has not stopped families coming out in big numbers for the night markets for a great night of entertainment and tucker.

The retail section of the night markets at Menangle Park had a range of goods for patrons to purchase in the cold brisk evening. Everyone was rugged up  against the light breeze that sprang up. (I Willis)

There are a range of food stalls from BBQ, Asian, Middle Eastern, along with a selection of dessert stalls for the customers to choose from.

The market also had a small range of retail stalls and a slide for the children.

A DJ played music over the PA to keep the atmosphere moving along.

Patrons enjoy some great tucker at the night markets at Menangle Park to the rocking music from the DJ. There was a range of food stalls ranging across BBQ to Asian and Middle Eastern and others. Lucky ones grabbed a chair and table early and did not have to nurse their plate on the knees. (I Willis)

Spread around the grounds were chairs and tables which were quickly filled up ere spread around the ground with some heaters to keep the chill away for those lucky enough to sit beside one.


Friday, 7 July 2017

Newcastle modernism - Civic Railway Station

The now closed Civic Railway Station is just one example Newcastle modernism.

The now deserted ghostly platforms of Civic Railway Station on the Newcastle branch line built in 1937 to serve the thriving river port of Newcastle. Build in a Interwar functionalist style and station is largely intact and still retains much of its integrity from the 1930s. (I Willis)


Modernism is a form architecture which emerged in the first half of the 20th century and became dominant after World War II. It was based upon new technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel and reinforced concrete; and upon a rejection of the traditional neoclassical architecture and Beaux-Arts styles that were popular in the 19th century. (Wikipedia)

According to the New South Wales Heritage Inventory Civic Railway Station is:

The station building is the first Interwar Functionalist railway building in NSW to employ domestic architectural features, demonstrating the NSW Railways experimentation with new styles during the Interwar period. The footbridge is unique as the only known example of this structure constructed on brickpiers. The signal box is unique as the smallest elevated box constructed on the NSW rail system.

The Civic Railway Station and surrounding buildings were built in 1935 in the Interwar Functionalist style using dichromatic and polychromatic brickwork as a simple decorative effect.

The new Civic Railway Station in 1935 built in Interwar Functionalist style. The new station was located on the site of  the previous Honeysuckle station which was built to access the river port of Newcastle and the growing agricultural centre of Maitland. (SARNSW)


The railway station is located between Wickham and Newcastle railway stations.
 
Originally the station was part of the railway line built between ‘East Maitland’  railway station and ‘Newcastle’. The line was originally built in 1857-1858 as a link between the government town of East Maitland and the river port at Newcastle.

The Newcastle station was re-named Honeysuckle and Honeysuckle Point near the river port and has a number of locations. The large goods yards east of ‘Newcastle’ railway station was constructed in 1858.

The site of Civic Railway Station is significant as it was the former 1857 site of the Newcastle (Honeysuckle) terminus of the Great Northern Railway Line.

The now deserted Civic Railway Station and footbridge. The retail concession has a lonely ghostly feeling in contrast to the dreams and hopes for the new railway station in 1935 . The only visitors now are those folk who walk across the platforms to access the Newcastle Museum precinct. (I Willis)


Electrification of the Gosford-Newcastle line occurred in 1984, after the Sydney-Gosford section in 1960.

Civic Railway Station was closed in 2014 by the Baird Liberal Government when the line between Hamilton and Newcastle was finally closed after much community dissent.

Significance

The Civic Railway Station site is historically significant as the location of the Newcastle terminus station on the Great Northern Railway line (1857), one of the first railway lines in Australia. The station building represents the first attempt to adapt domestic architectural styles for railway purposes. The station buildings and footbridge, are good examples of Inter-War Railway Domestic style in regional New South Wales.


The seating and signage at the now deserted platform of the closed Civic Railway Station on the Newcastle branch line. Originally the line was built in the 1850s to serve the thriving farming area of Maitland and the new river port of Newcastle. The station is still largely intact and retains much of its 1930s integrity. (I Willis)



Civic Railway Station is largely intact and retains much of its original integrity from 1935, along with the signal box, platform shelter, footbridge and forecourt. 

Train to nowhere – Newcastle’s ghost railway

Walking around an unused railway station in Newcastle is unreal experience.

Empty platforms. No passengers. No railway tracks. No passengers. Yet all the buildings and signage are intact.

The ghost platforms and rail right of way at Civic Railway Station on the Newcastle branch line which was closed by the Baird Liberal Government in 2014. (I Willis)


Just like the day the train stopped.

The ghosts of the railway past. A railway station with no trains. A railway station with no passengers.

So what gives?

The CHS blogger walked around Civic Railway Station in inner Newcastle this recently.

The situation seems beyond belief. 

Across the road the University of Newcastle is about to open a new faculty building yet the old rail link between the two university campuses is now defunct.

NeW Space is a $95 million landmark education precinct under development by the University of Newcastle in the heart of Newcastle's CBD. Lyons Architecture teamed with local firm, EJE Architecture, to create the iconic NeW Space. The building has been designed to maximise the commanding views to surrounding landmarks with views through to Stockton, across the harbour and up to The Hill. The building is just metres from the ghost railway station at Civic. (I Willis)


What is going on you might ask?

Well. The Newcastle branch line was closed in 2014 by the NSW Baird Liberal Government.
The line between Newcastle and Maitland was originally opened in 1857 with goods and passengers services. Steam haulage was removed in 1971 and the line electrified in 1984.

The first hint of the closure of the Newcastle branch line occurred in 1972 when the line was proposed to stop at Civic.  The rail line between Hamilton and Newcastle was closed in 2014. There was unsuccessful court action by the Save Our Rail group.

The track and associated overhead wiring and stanchions were removed in early 2016.

The ghost like Civic railway station on the former Newcastle branch line now deserted except for the pigeons. The nightime image provide an eerie reminder that there was significant community opposition to the closure of the branch line. The decision highlights a history of Sydney-based decisions that have been made against community wishers over the decades. (I Willis)

The Baird Government's decisions were strongly criticised by some community groups, the Labor opposition and the Greens, who say removing a direct rail link into the heart of Newcastle is a retrograde step.

Premier Mike Baird has confirmed that much of the land used for the current rail corridor would be open for development. (SMH, 15 October 2015)

The NSW  Berejiklian state government is constructing the Newcastle Light Rail to replace the former branch rail link. It is part of the Newcastle Revitalisation program. The 2.7 light rail track is running from Newcastle interchange at Wickham to Pacific Park near Newcastle Beach. The route will use about one kilometre of the old rail corridor and then run along Hunter and Scott Street. The former routes of Newcastle trams before they were removed in the 1960s.


There will be 5 stops on the new light rail line: Honeysuckle, Civic, Crown Street, Market Street and Pacific Park. The line is planned to be running in early 2019.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Colonial Art Exhibition at Campbelltown Arts Centre


A new exhibition of colonial artworks from the permanent collection of the Campbelltown Arts Centre and Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society was launched recently at the gallery.

Ruth Banfield guest curated the exhibition They Came By Boat at the Campbelltown Arts Centre. Ruth was one of the original members of the Friend of Campbelltown Arts Centre. She has also helped the Arts Centre bring together other exhibitions works.
The exhibition called They Came By Boat was guest curated by Ruth Banfield and runs from 30 June to 15 October 2017.

The highlighted colonial artists are:  Gracius Broinowski; Joseph Lycett; Arthur Willmore; Joseph Backler; Thomas Kirkby; John Scarr; and Samuel Bradshaw.

The enthusiastic audience at the recent launch of exhibition of colonial artworks They Came By Boat keenly listened to guest curator Ruth Banfield give an account of drawing the works together and her role in puting the exhibition together.

The art works highlight the Macarthur area, particularly the Cowpastures, in its role as both a government reserve and a regional identity.

The exhibition theme and promotional material states
During a period where art was a tool to both elevate status and possibly gain freedom for those punished under the Convict regime, They Came by Boat draws focus to early settler families who journeyed over oceans, arriving to Australia and eventually settling in what is now known as Macarthur; the houses they built and the landscape they inhabited.
Of particular interest are lithographs of wildlife by Polish artist Gracius Broinowski who settled in the Wedderburn area in the late 1880s.

There are etchings by Joseph Lycett, a convict transported for forgery, completed in the 1820s including Raby, The Property of Alexander Riley, Esq, New South Wales (1825) and View Upon the Nepean River at the Cow Pastures, New South Wales (1824).

IMAGE: JOSEPH LYCETT, VIEW UPON THE NEPEAN RIVER AT THE COWPASTURES, NEW SOUTH WALES, 1824-1825
One of the engravings in the exhibition of colonial artworks The Came By Boat which gives on idealised interpretation of the Cowpastures landscape and the Nepean River. 

There are stunning colonial portraits of the Scarr and Edrop families by artist Joseph Backler who was transported to New South Wales convicted of forgery. There are the Reddalls, who were relations of the first paster of Campbelltown's St Peters Church of England, Thomas Reddall, by artist Thomas Kirkby.

Colonial artworks such as these  provide a valuable documentary role for historical research at a time when they were the only recorded images of a locality, particularly the Cowpastures, in a settler society. 

The landscape images of the Cowpastures provide one way of viewing the countryside managed by the Dharawal people for thousands of years. Usually there were two ways that the Cowpastures landscape was viewed by colonials: the countryside and its visible features and the aesthetic appeal of neat rows of paddocks and fences; the other by artists like Lycett as an idealised aesthetic pictorial representation. Grace Karskins has given an account of how the early colonists in New South Wales viewed the new colony in the her book The Colony.

The exhibition is complemented by an informative catalogue which gives historical extracts for three of the engravings for the Cowpastures area. With ample illustrations the catalogue is  a valuable historical document in its own right.

While these colonial artworks were aimed at the metropolitan centre in England and provided an 'idealised view of Australia' they are valuable record of our region.

The cover of the catalogue of the exhibition of colonial artworks They Came By Boat at the Campbelltown Arts Centre.


These artworks highlight the valuable historical role played by the Campbelltown Arts Centre in telling the story of the local area.

This exhibition is a must for anyone interested in the colonial history of Macarthur region, the Cowpastures or the wider Cumberland Plain.


See:
Campbelltown Arts Centre and the exhibition The Came By Boat.

Read more about the aesthetics of the Cowpastures landscape and representations of how it reflected an English landscape.

For another interpretation of the Cowpastures landscape see:
Ian Willis, On the edge, settler colonialism on the Cumberland Plain