H.M. This house belonged to a family named Winn, they owned a business in town. They lived in style, Mayfield was very fashionable once. Only well to do people lived here and when the industries came, and the workers as well, these people moved out. They sold their properties and moved out.
It has a slate roof and no one in Newcastle can fix it if it breaks. The lady that owns the place had to pay someone from Sydney to come up and repair it properly. As far as I know nobody lives here. She also owns the property next door to the “WINONA”.The old sandstone blocks and bricks were collected from a house in Dora Street, what we call the new part of Mayfield (down Highfield Street). My neighbour and I were both born in Mayfield and we both call this the new part, and we call the people who live here the “new” people.
G.D.G What is the “old” part?
H.M. The old part wasn’t built up. It had big old houses in big grounds from anything from two to 10 acres, huge areas.
G.D.G So this was some huge country retreat?
H.M. Yes. A coal mine operated on the Hill in Newcastle, and for people who could afford it, they moved out here to get away from the coal dust, because the skips would come down the hill and tip into the ships. When the north-easter blew, the dust would come back up the hill.
This was a doctor’s house here, and he had a motor car that was quite unusual for anyone to have a car. [Looking towards 120 Hanbury Street
Image of Winn House Courtesy of Hunter Photobank
[No.21 Highfield Street] That’s another Winn house. Now owned by a photographer. Mrs Winn would come into my mother’s shop, and when she walked in she would clap her hands for service. That is what the rich folk would do to let the servants know they required assistance. The area was characterised by big properties. When the industries opened up, in the 1920s, Lysaghts brought the English workers out to operate a certain part of the works.
Scholey House courtesy of Hunter Photobank
[Scholey's House] The girl of Scholey was named May. When he sold the sub-division they named it after his daughter, “Mayfield”. They were considered as the “royal” family. This is now the Essington Lewis Hostel, the original land extending to Hanbury Street. We were viewing it from the back. The BHP bought it. They had an army of servants, maids…a friend of my father’s was a gardener here (refers to photograph that shows a gardener in his waistcoat with his sleeves down and wearing a watch). Mrs Scholey would clap her hands and the gardener would pick the flowers pointed out by the madam.
Scholey’s Hot House courtesy of Hunter Photobank
[Pitt Street] Old Lietenant Pitt’s house with tiles on the floor that came from Pompeii, and a friend of mine’s grandfather named Lintott bought it, he had all the property behind the house. He was a milkman and had carts in this area. There was also a well as this was known to have a sandstone ridge running through which produced good wells. There were a lot of wells in Mayfield. Lintott is an old Mayfield name, he was a farmer on Ash Island and he came and bought the house after Pitt died. A lot of soldiers who had fought in the Napoleonic Wars had been given land grants. There were a number in Mayfield. Others came from India, as England would have been too cold after India.
[Burgmann House] A destroyed house, belonged to the Church of England. Owned by yet another bunch of “hand-clappers”. The cladding on the side ruined the house, it has no character now.
[The Lodge (Bella Vista)] This is where the Queen stayed on her 1954 visit. The place was built for David Baker, a chairman for the BHP and an American who was knighted anyway. A very wealthy man.
Crebert Street Crebert was a vigneron, the vineyards being down where the Apprentice Training Centre is down at the end of Ingalls Street, right down to George Street. When I was young my grandmother lived in Ingall Street and all the backs of the houses had the same vines on trellis going down. The area where Pommy Town was used to be a vineyard, as was the Monastery Hill.
G.D.G You were saying that there were grave sites around here, but the graveyard was destroyed.
H.M. It happened during the 50s, people were not history conscious then.
[We walk to the area around the car park of St.Andrews Church, Church Street.]
G.D.G I’m trying to get a mental picture of where everything was.
H.M. Well, when I was very young, all the big houses had horses, as deliveries from grocery shops were done by horse and cart. People only started to buy cars in the 1930s, that is why they had so many paddocks for the horses.
Folly Cemetery Stone Church courtesy of Hunter Photobank
The cemetery, with a lovely stone church, was knocked down for a car park. People were not proud of their country, England was the place looked up to, not Australia. Australians called England “home” or the “old country”.
[We walk to the monument at the end of the car park] The monument says “interred to 1905? but this is false as they were interred to 1935. The cemetery went right through, full of graves, rows and rows of Lintotts, Ranclauds…Mrs Pugh was the last person buried here in 1935 because there was a fight with the minister because the undertaker had knocked the fence down with the hearse. We children saw it happen.
Gravestones of the Folly Cemetery courtesy of Picman Database State Library
[She points to where a row of Creberts' graves once were. The Creberts remain there buried, without the headstones] Five graves of Creberts. He came out in 1854, and grew vines. His son was named Joseph. As we were superstitious children, we would run up and down the graves as a dare. I remember thinking, as a child, that ‘Creberts wouldn’t hurt me, the church behind me would protect me’. Some of the boys would run to the end of the fence. The headstones were taken out to Blackbutt and used as retaining wall, pieces can still be seen today with inscriptions. The coffins, however, lie under the ground here. The area to the east was sold to the Housing Commission. Right in the middle of this road but up against the edge, but separate, was the grave of a girl of seventeen. She was a Sunday school teacher, her parents would still come to visit the grave and they would request that the children walk around her grave so that they were still in touch. So we used to play around her grave, as she was a Sunday school teacher. The cemetery was full of blady grass, totally neglectedand over grown. It was knocked down, and Council trucks came and took the headstones to Blackbutt where they were then broken up. The people around here could take what they wanted, and had gravestones in their yards, as paths. All our pioneers are still there.
Gravestones courtesy of Picman State Library
Peter Crebert came in the 1800s. He was born in Weisbarden Germany, and he and his wife came out here, and as he made enough money to send for his parents and some of his brothers and his father, who was born around 1790. He is also buried here. I went off the church after that, this was a Pioneer’s cemetery, it was dreadful. They smashed the cemetery up in early 1952-53, people just didn’t care. Most of the old houses were torn down as well, to build small homes to get people to work in the industries.
G.D.G There would have been anger at the ‘upper class’ world?
H.M. Nobody cared, you were lucky enough to get food on the table. It was a big thing to say you had shoes in the Great Depression, our family got through without being too well off. If you had an eighteen year old son, you would have to send him to Singleton to show they were looking for work. It was a cruel trick, but that was how you got the dole.
C.K.D.G. My father came from Cardiff.
St Andrews Church Mayfield courtesy of Picman Database State Library
H.M. Cardiff was a rural area, Cardiff was way out in the country. Kotara was rural. We had our picnics down at Folly Park, down near the river until I was about ten. [Pointing to the ground of the carpark] The cemetery would have come to the end of the parking lines. They use to have fetes here, it was a social church, as everyone was so poor. It was a church and cemetery. Boys and girls attended Church, but the War took the boys away, so it was a part of young people’s social life. When the war came the world changed. Across the road (Church Street) was a small house that used to be a private school, run by the Stuarts (or Stewarts).
G.D.G So, in the beginning, we have big mansions, with lots of hand clapping <grin>?
H.M. There were business people, the Winns, Ingall the draper, who built the house on the corner of Ingall Street. The house next to me belongs to C.A.Brown, the C.A. Brown Village at Edgeworth is named after him. People who could afford it moved to Mayfield. When the industries came, the workers came, they all left, partly because of pollution, partly because of snobbishness. The Bella Vista was built for David Baker, a V.I.P. at the B.H.P.
G.D.G What was it all down here? [looking towards the Mayfield CBD].
H.M. Swamp. Where the Commonwealth Bank is now, on the corner, was a blacksmiths shop. As water drained down the hill, the clay was slippery and we would slide on it saying we were going skating.
G.D.G How big was the swamp?
H.M. Around Baker Street was white clay and further down was a lot of swamp. [We walk to No.3 Regent Street, the site of a little cottage] John Turner believes it could have been a gate keeper’s or worker’s cottage for the Scholey’s, as this was part of their land. Scholey was a butcher and would bring all the cattle down and graze them on the paddocks. He also sold the cattle for the army supply overseas.
[No.10 Victoria Street] The brick house, on the corner of Victoria and Dover Streets called “Corio”, was owned by Mr Roe, who possessed a lot of property in Mayfield. He was a business man who would collect rents from all the properties he owned. Roe Street is named after him. Some fences had scroll work with pure iron which was carted off to BHP to produce weapons.
[We walk past another vine covered house in Victoria Street, noting the cracked mortar].
These hills move, from here, right up to Mayfield West, the creeping caused by the clay base. There was a pottery works on the river bank, down on Platts Channel. When you go to Stockton, you go to the railway bridge, before you get to the first bridge over the Hunter River (i.e. Tourle Street Bridge), what they call the south arm of the Hunter River, there was once another channel this side of it. I’ve got an old calendar at home with a picture of it. It was as wide as the River with a little island known as the Spit. With beautiful clear green water and a pebbly beach. It was all filled in from 1938 onwards with slag with the war effort. BHP was in full production dumping slag. You can’t tell where anything was because the contours are different. There were great big ironbark trees growing all along the hills that led down to the Platt’s Channel. I don’t always think progress is a good thing.
We lived in the middle of the swamp, this hill would drain into it every time it rained. Our backyard would fill up with water. We lived in No.3 Baker Street, where the Shoey’s carpark was located, on the western side of the car park. The reason for the flooding now is that the drains are not maintained.
[Walking past the Arnott place] There were three Arnotts in Mayfield. There was a beautiful fountain out the front of a lovely garden. Then it became the Church of England Girls Home. It’s now a hospital for elderly people.
Scholey House Courtesy of University of Newcastle Archives
[Out the front of Scholey's House (Lewis House)] Most of the front is okay, stained glass, the beautiful cedar staircase is still inside. Those are the steps where Mrs Scholey would summon the servants. At the top of the house was the image of a four-leafed clover. The ornate timber work had gone, the windows are okay, there is a tacked on awning.
The high level bridge before you come upon the Sacred Heart Church in Hamilton, to the left, is where the tide would come in. A boy was drowned in a sink hole near the bowling green. Throsby Creek had a swimming club, sharks would come into Throsby Creek, a boy had been taken by a shark about 80 years ago. Throsby Creek starts up in Cardiff somewhere and makes its way down here.
G.D.G Do you have any recollections concerning the Aboriginal people in this area.
H.M. On Sunday afternoons dad would take us for a walk to Waratah Reservoir Hill, down below was a camp of Aboriginals. The camp was on the western side of Braye Park. It was all bush to Kurri, the quarry was there (she points) where they took stone to the Nobby’s breakwater. The Aboriginal camp was moved to Purfleet, it wasn’t their land! Newcastle Council made them go. One old lady would not go.
On one occasion, my father came out of a hotel and saw an Aboriginal sitting on the back of a truck. Two other men came out, one a Mayfield businessman, the other I don’t know, and said to the Aboriginal “If its good enough for us to walk, its good enough for you, you black bastard”. They threw him off the truck. My father helped the man, he (my father) was beaten up. The police said it served him right because he “went against your colour”. He could not even take out a summons. My mother would take the shirt, and embarrass the man in public, saying “This is the man who did this to my husband, and he can’t work now”. The businessman’s wife came out and gave her some money to go away, causing lack of business. You never saw Aboriginals on the street or shopping. The first one I spoke to was a boy at Newcastle Beach about 1935.
G.D.G So they lived on the fringes of white settlement.
H.M. There was nothing past the Mater Hospital. The railway went through were the University is now, you could not see Sandgate Road, it was a road for farmers.
H.M. Lysaghts gave that piece of land to the families of Mayfield for a soccer field. They brought out 120 families from England to work in their plant, the people in Mayfield didn’t like it as they believed that they should be provided with work. At the galvanising iron works, Australians didn’t have the skills. The company built each of these families a house and the locals called it Pommy Town. The English/Australians did not get on, the pommies were good soccer players, and formed their own community. They were good people.
[We continue walking along Crebert Street, we come across the little Italian guy's house, I nickname him "Moses" because of his great beard. I once heard a story at the BHP that he was once hit in the head with a brick at Steelmaking. They sent him home on compo, but he thought he had been sacked and never returned.]
H.M. Langwell, an old door placed in the window frame. This fellow grew funny things in his garden, a very odd gentleman, he wanders around Mayfield.
[House called Moresby]
Carriage shed and kept horses. In 1933 they bought a car, but they couldn’t drive it properly and kept hitting the rails.
[House with the strange polar bear/griffin things]
H.M. People had those cement animals on the steps all over Mayfield. This place was owned by Dean, Mrs Dean, of Dean’s Pottery, died 20 years ago. The pottery works made bricks and pots and would come down to the end of Barton Street where there was a wharf. A little steamer would be loaded with pottery. The works on the riverbank made bricks and pots and sent loads to Sydney. The boat was a twin to the one that went to Nelson Bay. I think it was called the “Coweambah”, and had a funnel in the middle of the boat. Once there was a big storm in the 1930s, and the whole consignment of pots were smashed, so, they bought the whole cargo back to the pottery, all broken up.
Transcription of interview with Helen Marshall conducted in the winter of 1995. Originally transcribed in 1998, with corrections and additions in March 2000. Images are courtesy of Hunter Photobank and Picman Database State Library.
Copyright 2000 Helen Marshall and Gionni Di Gravio
Support our digitisation programs by donating to the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund
Please make an appointment to visit us.