Friends of Callan Park: 25th Anniversary

Friends of Callan Park: 25th Anniversary

Written by Hall Greenland (President, Friends of Callan Park)

Yes, we have been in action for 25 years protecting Callan Park’s wonderful heritage parklands and buildings, campaigning to locate modern mental health services on the site and ensure community use and appreciation of this unique site. We have had a measure of success – thanks to your support and that of the wider community. 2023 marks a milestone we thought deserved a celebration. – Invitation from Friends of Callan Park.

The Friends of Callan Park commemorated its 25th anniversary on 4 December 2023 at Writing NSW at Callan Park. About a hundred people attended its AGM and the celebration that followed. The current MP for Balmain, Kobi Shetty, and the former MP, Jamie Parker, addressed the crowd.

A large group of people converse and share a glass of wine in the parklands during the afternoon dusk

Friends of Callan Park 25th anniversary celebration (Courtesy Friends of Callan Park)

Friends of Callan Park – a community-based, heritage-protection organisation – was formed in 1998 as a result of a successful campaign to stymie a plan by the NSW government to gift 2.5 hectares of parkland in front of the original 1880s asylum to a nursing home provider. Designed by James Barnet, Kirkbride is a suite of sandstone Italianate-style buildings covering 4.5 hectares. It was listed by the National Trust in 1976 and later on the State Heritage Register. The gift of public land would have meant the disappearance of the Pleasure Gardens, designed with some input by Charles Moore, and intruded upon view lines from the exceptionally significant Kirkbride complex.

A decade earlier the Save Callan Park group formed to fight the first master plan for Callan Park. In response to reducing inpatient numbers and hope for greater community mental health care, NSW Health planned the sale of part of Callan Park, consolidation of mental health services and relocation of the Conservatorium of Music. Some of those campaigners from 1989 are still members of Friends of Callan Park.

People marching and carrying signs that read 'Hands Off!' and 'Save Callan Park'

Rally for Callan Park, 1998 (Courtesy Friends of Callan Park)

Soon after the formation of the Friends, the state government announced its intentions to sell 20 per cent of the 61-hectare site for the construction of 1,200 apartments. In response, the Friends launched a public campaign that drew unprecedented public support across the metropolis. Urban environmental campaigners such as Jack Mundey and Tom Uren supported the battle, as did surrounding municipal councils. An independent opinion poll found 84 per cent of residents in the Inner West opposed the sell-off.

This campaign was crowned with success when the government withdrew its plan in October 2002 and announced the immediate introduction of the Callan Park (Special Provisions) Bill. The bill was extensively amended in the Upper House and signed into law on 23 December 2002. The Act bans the sale or privatisation of any of the land at Callan Park and restricts leases and commercial activities. The design of any new buildings on the site must fit with the footprint and envelope of buildings existing in 2002.

Two people stand at a microphone. Behind them is a large group of people with various protest signs, including one that reads 'Keep Strickland House - It was purchased for Public Parkland'

Protectors of Public Land Rally, 2003 (Courtesy Friends of Callan Park)

In 2007, the then NSW Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, and the University of Sydney signed a Memorandum of Understanding to hand over Callan Park to the university for development into a satellite campus and student housing. The MOU and the subsequent detailed master plan envisaged 16 new buildings on Callan Park and an increase in the onsite floor space from 84,000 to 130,000 square metres. The plan drew inevitable community opposition and after its public exhibition the Department of Planning concluded that it represented an over-development. The university then withdrew from the project.

In 2008 the Rozelle Psychiatric Hospital (the name given to the adjacent hospitals – Callan Park and Broughton Hall when they amalgamated in 1976) closed its doors and most of the patients transferred to the new mental health facility at Concord Hospital.

The Friends continue to campaign for the delivery of new models of mental health services at Callan Park, where there continues to be two residential drug and alcohol therapeutic facilities.

Callan Park has had a number of changes of management since 2008 and its ownership and administration is now divided between the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust (through Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust) and NSW Health. The new management structure, announced in 2019, was followed by the first commitment of significant funds for heritage protection and restoration and improvement of the parklands.

Having overcome numerous endeavours by successive governments to deliver master plans and written countless submissions, the Friends celebrated 25 years with a sense of achievement. Major challenges lay ahead for Callan Park: Kirkbride lies empty without a major tenant since 2020 when the Sydney College of the Arts departed and could fall prey to commercial pressures.

Now in its 26th year of community activism, the Friends continue to advocate by presenting heritage tours, historic exhibitions and publications highlighting the history of this remarkable cultural landscape – from landmark Indigenous associations, to landed estate, to asylum, to psychiatric hospital, to valued community asset and iconic historic parkland.

Also joining the celebrations of a quarter century of community activism, advocacy and achievement for the preservation of this remarkable public land were Judy Mundey, former mayors of Leichhardt, representatives from the Australian Garden History Society, the National Trust, and the Balmain Association.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

Public Lecture: The Miracle of D-Day, 6 June 1944: 80th Anniversary

Public Lecture: The Miracle of D-Day, 6 June 1944: 80th Anniversary

A free public lecture presented by Noel Phelan at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park

Join the Military History Society of NSW for a free public lecture at the Anzac Memorial at Hyde Park to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

This year, we commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944. Operation Overlord was the greatest amphibious assault in history, a crucial turning point in World War II, and a miracle of planning, logistics, coordination and supply.

In this detailed lecture, Noel Phelan will cover decisions by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin; strategies by both Eisenhower and Rommel; the complex and detailed planning; the myriad of German defences; the deception and confusion of the Germans involving Patton; the clever design of military equipment, the construction of an artificial harbour; the scuttling of 70 ships to form a breakwater; the towing and sinking of 210 Phoenix caissons to form a breakwater; the aerial support of 1,000 heavy bombers and fighters; the naval support of 28 battleships and 56 destroyers; and the industrial might of America to build 1,700 Liberty ships and masses of other military equipment.

When: Saturday, 3 August 2024 at 10.30 am.
Where: The Auditorium, Anzac Memorial Hyde Park.
Admission: Free, but a donation is appreciated.
For information: pr*******@mi****************.au

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

The Letters of Charles Harpur and His Circle

The Letters of Charles Harpur and His Circle

A presentation by the authors of a new collection of letters from Australian poet Charles Harpur


The Moruya and District Historical Society are hosting a presentation by the authors of a new Sydney University Press publication on the letters of poet Charles Harpur (1813–1868), who had a close association with the Eurobodalla region.

The Letters of Charles Harpur and His Circle, selected and edited by Paul Eggert and Chris Vening, is the first collection in print of the letters of Australian colonial poet Charles Harpur and his circle – including the poet Henry Kendall and future premier of NSW, Henry Parkes.

In his later years, Harpur lived on his farm ‘Euroma’ on the Tuross River while serving as a gold commissioner on the Nerrigundah goldfield. His widow, Mary Harpur, outlived him by thirty years and continued to farm at Euroma while fighting to publish his poems.

When: Saturday, 20 July at 2 pm.
Where: Moruya Golf Course.
Admission: Free, but a donation is appreciated.
RSVP: mo**********@gm***.com.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

The Home Curator Workshop

The Home Curator Workshop

Presented by Gay Hendriksen (Rowan Tree Heritage and Cultural Services)

Do you have special objects you want to preserve into the future? Whether you are a family historian, private collector or have special objects you want to know how to care for, there is something in this workshop for you. Learn about organising, preserving and sharing to a professional standard so that you can ensure your shoebox of papers or photos or a house or shed filled with your favourite objects will survive. Bring along small objects, photos and documents (or images if they are too large or fragile) for professional advice and clues to help you discover the best ways to identify and care for them.

When: Wednesday, 31 July at 9 am to 12.30 pm.
Where: CMS Conference Centre, 8 Violet St, Katoomba NSW.
Admission: $25. Book online.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

The 2024 June Roughley Memorial Lecture

The 2024 June Roughley Memorial Lecture

Professor Grace Karskens to present the 2024 June Roughley Memorial Lecture

A photograph of Professor Grace Karskens

Join the Dural and District Historical Society for the 2024 June Roughley Memorial Lecture in August.

Professor Grace Karskens’ highly acclaimed book, People of the River: Lost Worlds of Early Australia, is a history of both the Aboriginal people and the settlers on Dyarubbin, the Hawkesbury/Nepean River, from deep time to the nineteenth century.

Grace will also speak about her collaborative work with the Dharug and Darkinjung people of the Real Secret River: a Dyarubbin project.

Event Details:

When: Saturday, 10 August at 2 pm.
Where: Galston Uniting Church, 11 School Road, Galston NSW.
Entrance: Free with a gold coin for afternoon tea. Homemade marmalade and jams on sale. A pleasant afternoon in a rural setting. All welcome!
Enquiries: Michael Bell, (02) 9653-1365 or 0466-341-729.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

Sydney’s Condemnation and Demolition Books

Sydney’s Condemnation and Demolition Books

Sydney’s Condemnation and Demolition Books: A talk by Laila Ellmoos, City Historian

A sepia photograph of a cottage in Francis Street, Darlinghurst. A woman and two children stand by the verandah.

Cottage in Francis Street, Darlinghurst, c.1909 (City of Sydney Archives).

In this talk for the City of Sydney Historical Association, City Historian Laila Ellmoos will talk about the history of the City of Sydney’s Condemnation and Demolition Books, a key photographic collection held in the City Archives comprising almost 5,000 photographs and associated glass plate negatives.

The City Building Surveyor’s department used photographs to document the city’s profound transformation in the first two decades of the 20th century. These photographs inadvertently captured the largely working-class neighbourhoods and people being displaced by commercial and government redevelopment.

The Demolition Books collection formed the basis of an exhibition at Customs House called Developing Sydney: Capturing Change 1900–1920. The exhibition, which was on display for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, is available as a virtual exhibition and as a story map. The City Archives is working to digitise the collection and make it available for researchers and casual browsers.

When: Saturday, 11 May 2024 at 2 pm.
Where: Henry Carmichael Theatre, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, 280 Pitt St.
Admission: Members $5. Visitors $10.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

Lydham Hall Historic House and Museum Reopens

Lydham Hall Historic House and Museum Reopens

St. George Historical Society’s Historic House and Museum reopens to the public

A photograph of Lydham Hall with people dressed in Victorian period clothing.

One of the oldest homes in the St George area has reopened to the public. The NSW State Heritage-listed Lydham Hall is a sandstone villa built in the Victorian era. The home contains a unique collection of heritage items.

After a stroll through the museum, relax on the verandah with freshly baked scones and a pot of Twinings tea in vintage cups and saucers while the kids play old-fashioned games on the lawn.

The museum is open on the first Sunday of the month from 10 am to 4 pm. Lydham Hall is also open for group tours and venue hire.

When: Sunday, 2 June 2024, from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.
Where: Lydham Hall, 18 Lydham Ave, Rockdale NSW.
Admission: Members and Children under 10 Free. Adults $8. Concession/Seniors $5.

More information:

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

PDHS Australian Heritage Festival Program

PDHS Australian Heritage Festival Program

Parramatta and District Historical Society Australian Heritage Festival Program

The Parramatta and District Historical Society are staging talks and tours as part of the National Trust’s Australian Heritage Festival and in celebration of the Hambledon Cottage bicentenary.

Parramatta – The Inland Port Walk

A sculpture of two nawi/canoes beside the Parramatta River.Hear stories of Parramatta’s connections with Sydney through industry, travel and leisure. Explore the old Queens Wharf and the location of the Commissariat Store, Barracks and grain store. Join Judith Dunn OAM for this walking tour and learn about this fascinating aspect of Parramatta.

When: Thursday, 18 April AND Friday, 19 April 2024 at 10.30 am.

Where: Hambledon Cottage, Gregory Pl, Parramatta.

Cost: $15 (children $5). Bring a hat, water, and walking shoes.

History of Parramatta Historical Society

altParramatta and District Historical Society is 111 years old this year. It is the second oldest historical society in NSW. Like any group, it has had its ups and downs but has emerged as a vibrant heritage organisation. Come along and hear from Ken Smith OAM about this fascinating journey and learn about the various influential people who have made the Society what it is today.

When: Thursday, 18 April 2024 at 1.00 pm.

Where: Hambledon Cottage, Gregory Pl, Parramatta.

Cost: $5.

History of Hambledon Cottage

The Hambledon Cottage Museum's Bicentenary logo features a drawing of the cottage with the words 'Celebrating 200 Years'.We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Hambledon Cottage. Built for John Macarthur in 1824 to provide accommodation for his family and friends. Come along and hear about the evolution of this beautiful Colonial Georgian cottage and the people who have occupied and lived in it over this period. Learn about the many influential and prominent people who called it home.

When: Friday, 19 April 2024 at 1.00 pm.

Where: Hambledon Cottage, Gregory Pl, Parramatta.

Cost: $5.

RSVP: To reserve your spot for these talks and tours, email pa************@tp*.au.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

Hambledon Cottage: Celebrating 200 Years

Hambledon Cottage: Celebrating 200 Years

A History Milestone Is Being Celebrated!

Hambledon Cottage will be celebrating its Bicentenary on 13th April. This is a significant milestone for this remarkable Parramatta landmark, once owned by pioneers John Macarthur and Elizabeth Macarthur, founders of the fine wool industry in Australia.

Parramatta and District Historical Society, custodians of this extraordinary colonial heritage site, will present a week of community activities, including a Bicentennial Day celebration, house tours, a new exhibition, heritage talks and walks, and children’s colonial games, to coincide with the NSW school holidays!

The week opens with a day of heritage activities, food stalls, house tours, an exhibition and music to suit all tastes, drawing on local community talent including the highly praised Granville Boys’ High School Pipe Band! Sit awhile and absorb the timelessness and elegance of this 19th Century Cottage (1824) and its parkland setting – sit and gaze upon the ancient oaks and cork tree planted over 200 years ago (c1817). Join us as we commemorate this special Parramatta district landmark – a NSW State Heritage Register listed site!

The official opening of the Hambledon Cottage Bicentenary is at 2 pm. Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of NSW, will be the Guest of Honour.

What: The event program opens at 10 am on Saturday, 13th April 2024. Formal Ceremony at 2 pm. The event program closes on Friday, 19th April 2024.
Where: The corner of Hassall Street and Gregory Place, Parramatta. Public Transport: Buses 909 and 920 leave from Parramatta Railway Station.

For further information:
Email: pa************@tp*.au
Bookings are Essential for heritage walks, talks and children’s activities. Limited parking is available on site. Parking is available at St Ioannis Greek Orthodox Church, Parramatta.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

Vacy to Gresford – People and Places

Vacy to Gresford – People and Places

Paterson Historical Society to launch new book: Vacy to Gresford – People and Places

The cover of 'Vacy to Gresford' by the Paterson Historical Society features a picture of a valley and portraits of a man and woman.

The Paterson Historical Society’s new book, Vacy to Gresford – People and Places, will be launched on Sunday, 17 March 2024, by Mr Dave Layzell MP, Member for Upper Hunter.

The book was written by Society member and long-time historian Dr Brian Walsh. It covers the people and places along the Paterson and Allyn Rivers between Vacy and Gresford. The book reveals how a whole new European society emerged along the two rivers from the 1820s, albeit at the expense of the dispossession of Aboriginal people.

The immigrants lured by grants of riverside land were remarkably diverse in age, wealth, nationality and life experience. Welshman Charles Boydell was only 18 years old when he was granted ‘Camyr Allyn’. In contrast, Jamaican plantation owner and slave master Francis Blower Gibbes had fought in the Battle of Trafalgar two decades before he was granted ‘Norwood’. Constantine Crichton, who purchased ‘Wallah’ near Gresford, was born in St Petersburg, Russia, where his father was personal physician to the Tsar. Irish shepherd boy Edward Kealy was granted a mere 200 acres that he named ‘Summer Hill’.

The book also provides information on the convicts, emancipists, free immigrants and colonial-born who worked on the estates or leased parts of them as tenant farmers. This includes the wave of German immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s.

Vacy to Gresford shows how the subdivision of many of the large estates from the late 1800s replaced a mosaic of tenanted farms with a patchwork of small, privately owned farms, many of which became dairy farms. The book also explains the formation of the villages of Vacy, Gresford and East Gresford.

The book’s publication was supported by Create NSW’s Cultural Grants Program, a devolved funding program administered by the Royal Australian Historical Society on behalf of the NSW Government.

When: Sunday, 17 March 2024 at 2 pm.
Where: School of Arts Hall at Vacy NSW 2421.


Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

Closure of Griffith Genealogical and Historical Society

Closure of Griffith Genealogical and Historical Society

Written by Christine Gavin (President, Griffith Genealogical and Historical Society)

There was an end of an era when the Griffith Genealogical and Historical Society closed its doors at the end of December 2023 after 42 years. Over time, it became more and more difficult to get members to run the Society due to the ages and medical issues of the active members, and our membership was dwindling.

The majority of our assets and resources have been donated to the Griffith City Library. Many photographs went to the Griffith Pioneer Park Museum, and anything to do with the Wars was donated to the Griffith War Memorial Museum. Those resources that the library did not want (usually because they already had them) have gone to the Leeton Family and Local History Society.

Over the years, the members enjoyed fellowship, support in their research, social gatherings including celebration luncheons and dinners, running stalls at various functions around the district, visits to historical places in the district and attending seminars held by other societies.

In addition to the usual resources that family history groups have, the Society commenced transcribing local cemeteries and those of outlying districts. A CD was put out for sale that included details of each grave in the cemetery, a photograph of the headstone, details of where the grave was situated, and information such as obituaries or articles that may have appeared in local newspapers. Currently, there are over 79,500 entries in the database.

The Griffith Collection was established, where many old photographs of the area and its inhabitants were borrowed, copied, and later scanned and converted to digital format and stored. At present, there are 39,150 photographs of plaques/headstones and 11,150 historical images.

The Griffith and District Pioneers Book was collated and published. Local people were asked to submit their family history of the pioneers in the district. There were so many stories that there ended up being three editions – before the War, after the War and those who migrated to the district.

Two Pictorial books were published – Early Griffith and District: A Pictorial History and Centenary of the Griffith District 1916 to 2016. (These books are held in the RAHS Library).

The black cover of 'Centenary of the Griffith District 1916 to 2016' features a photograph of a sculpture park.

The Society scanned all the historical Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission Land Record Cards plus some maps. There were 6,381 scanned images with each image comprising 1–6 record cards. The information was transferred to a USB for local research. The cards were then sent to the NSW Archives Office in Sydney, along with a USB with the records on it.

Members were often called on to speak to various organisations about the Society, and with the advent of technology, these talks turned to PowerPoint presentations.

A presentation titled ‘Griffith in the Olden Days’ was made this year to a local primary school. Among the photographs was a photo of a family swimming in an irrigation channel and a photograph of the phone on the wall. We explained that there were no swimming pools and people had to cool off in the channels and they often had leeches in them. The most popular questions after the presentation were ‘How did you get the leeches off when you were swimming in the channel?’ and ‘How did you contact your friends if no one had a mobile phone?’

Although the Society has now closed, people can still use the resources at the Griffith City Library. A roster of ex-members who will be on duty will be drawn up. There will also be a list of those who are willing to be called in when someone arrives at the library and needs some assistance.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.

Invitation to anniversary at Camp Cove, 21 January 2024

Invitation to anniversary at Camp Cove, 21 January 2024

The Woollahra History and Heritage Society invite you to the anniversary of the first landing

A black and white photograph showing a group of people standing on a hill above the beach at Camp Cove. They are holding parasols and are well dressed.

Camp Cove celebrations, c.1930 (RAHS Glass Slide Collection).

The Woollahra History and Heritage Society (WHHS) invites you to the anniversary of the first landing of Captain Arthur Phillip RN on 21st January 1788 in Sydney Harbour at Camp Cove after rowing from Botany Bay.

This event is on Sunday, 21st January 2024 at 6.00 pm, at Governor Phillip’s Memorial Monument*, top end Pacific Street, Laings Point, Camp Cove, Watsons Bay.

Join us, bring friends, a rug (or chair), a drink and a snack.

WHHS is honoured to have Margaret Cameron-Ash, noted historian of Woollahra and author of the recent work Beating France to Botany Bay, to give a short talk to mark the occasion. Please RSVP with the number of people. We look forward to you joining us.

RSVP: Peter E. King – pk***@qs*.au.

Practical aspects to note:

  • Parking may be difficult in the area, so perhaps carpool, or
  • Bus 324 goes from Edgecliff to Watsons Bay via Vaucluse, or
  • Ferries run from Rose Bay to and from Watsons Bay every half hour until 9.00 pm.

There is no charge for the event but donations to the Society are welcome. June Poland’s booklet on Governor Phillip will also be distributed.

*The tablet on the memorial was presented by Mrs Ethel Foster, a founding member of the Royal Australian Historical Society, and unveiled on 26 January 1927.

Don't miss a post. Subscribe below to receive a round-up of the week's content.