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Stumbling over Westlake

By johnboy - 3 August 2009 48

[First filed: July 31, 2009 @ 10:49]

When looking at old photographs of Canberra I’ll confess to wondering in the past “Where did the workers live?”

Yesterday I stumbled over the answer.

While not previously known to me it’s not as if Westlake has been forgotten.

Stateline did a feature on it back in 2004. The Canberra History Group has a page. Also the Wikipedia entry on Yarralumla has quite a bit about it.

Apparently 700 of the unwanted working class lived there in 1925, one fifth of the population of the Territory at the time.

If you head off from the Canberra Yacht Club over the ridge towards Yarralumla you’ll soon find yourself amongst concrete markers memorialising the buildings and some plaques.

So now we know.


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48 Responses to
Stumbling over Westlake
Olwen 11:54 am 02 Aug 09

yeah… why unwanted JohnBoy? And why SEWER camp?

From my understanding there was lots of work around at this time when they were building the new Capital of Australia. I think ‘workers’ were very much wanted and actually made up the majority of the population here (if the Westlake ones alone made up one fifth). The politicians and government departments were still primarily based in Sydney and Melbs so there were not so many of them around yet.

My mother grew up in Westlake until they moved to Acton when the lake (which I think they all knew was coming) was being dug up. There are books about these people – they still gather to share stories – we visit those memorials around the lake and remember the community that once lived there and their invaluable contribution to the building of this city. A lot were immigrants and their kids and grandkids now own stacks of the prime real estate in this town.

Nothing wrong with being working class, my friends.

GardeningGirl 9:36 pm 01 Aug 09

churl said :

Dont trust that Google Map to find Lennox Gardens!

Yeah, I was wondering about that . . .

old canberran 2:18 pm 01 Aug 09

I have uploaded a section of a 1933 map which shows exactly where the Westlake cottages were:
http://lighthouses.net.au/ScanImage001.jpg
Just about where the US embassy now is. You can also make out the Acton cottages near the hall and tennis courts.

Kramer 9:53 am 01 Aug 09

I recommend going into the reserve from the entrance behind the mosque at Yarralumla (actually to the right side, looking from the front). Then walk, or ride mountain bike, along ridge then follow the trails down the ridge line, heading East thought the old Westlake area. You’ll see the above mentioned remnants of concrete and brick scattered about the place.

pepmeup 8:35 am 01 Aug 09

it’s nice to find history in canberra, i’m going to check it out, thanks for the info

old canberran 9:28 pm 31 Jul 09

Quote:”Apparently 700 of the unwanted working class lived there in 1925, one fifth of the population of the Territory at the time.”

JB Where did the word “unwanted” come from as a matter of interest. There were several workers camps spread around Canberra from the early days up until the late 50’s, but I don’t believe any of them housed unwanted people.
For example there was Eastlake, Westlake, Acton cottages, the Causeway, Hillside and Capital Hill Hostels and the Narrabundah prefabs all of which were low cost accommodation some single and some married quarters.

Gorman House, Acton Guest House, Beauchamps House, Reid and Mulwala hostels for for single public servants who had moved here for work. I may have missed one or two.

Ryan 7:25 pm 31 Jul 09

There’s actually a Westlake sign on the corner of Empire Circuit and Forster Crescent too.

It’s visible on streetview, just. If you look into the corner where Empire Circuit continues for a few metres before the striped black/white sign, you can see it just to the left of the power pole.

Die Lefty Scum 4:21 pm 31 Jul 09

$hit like this is kool.

aussielyn 1:21 pm 31 Jul 09

The buildings would have been recycled, this was post WW2, or sent to the Fyshwick tips. There was a dire housing shortage and the lake was coming.

I know old demountables from Eastlake were used for sports fields.

The Narrabundah Pre-Fabs originally were plywood built for tradesmen in about 1947. The plywood was treated in the same process as the Mosquito Planes. The fibro was added later!

See part of letter to the Canberra Times 1 Feb 1954 below.

“ Sir.-The correspondence which has appeared in recent weeks
on the Canberra lakes scheme is interesting and timely, but the
little stir it has aroused surely indicates a public indifference as
substantial as the apparent lack of official concern. The lakes
scheme has been drastically reduced since the war,
First by elimination of Eastlake and secondly by reduction of Westlake.
There does not seem to have been much reaction to this. Abandonment
of the scheme together, which is not inconceivable would on present evidence
be met with little regret. This would be a tragic development and the way to prevent
it ever happening is also the way to get something on account by a real public interest in the
question. The lakes scheme is an integral feature of Canberra’s development without a water
vista the whole purpose of the division between the two parts of the city is altogether lost, and
no subsequent development of the section as parkland, or as a built-up area would be as good…”

John Boyd
Acton

astrojax 12:33 pm 31 Jul 09

i believe gorman house was also originally worker accommodation…

churl 12:18 pm 31 Jul 09

Dont trust that Google Map to find Lennox Gardens!

Clown Killer 11:21 am 31 Jul 09

You can spend hours exploring the hill side there with dogs and kids – there’s all sorts of things to find. It also looks like it would b fun tootling around on those trails on a mountain bike as well.

Peewee Slasher 11:09 am 31 Jul 09

Anne Gugler is considered to be the authorative historian on Westlake, having lived there herself. There is a lot of information about Westlake, Blandfordia, Cotter, Internment camps, all in our history.

LlamaFrog 11:08 am 31 Jul 09

And why couldn’t we keep this policy?

Thumper 10:52 am 31 Jul 09

The old part of Narrabundah also has fibro and wood cottages from that era.

Interesting stuff, i might head out there this weekend to have a look around.

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