Stumbling over Westlake

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.

Nestled between the two ridges of Stirling Park, where they would never intrude on the sight lines of the great and the good are scant ruins of the old suburb and “sewer camp” of Westlake.

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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(More pictures below)




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48 Responses to Stumbling over Westlake
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p1 p1 3:00 pm 12 May 10

Anyone who is interested to read this thread, might be interested in the recent addition to the National Library of Australia website of digitised copies of many of Australia’s newspapers, up to sometime in the 1950’s.

Health care just isn’t what it used to be.

Ann Gugler Ann Gugler 8:43 am 06 Aug 09

Thankyou Skidbladnir for the map overlay! Excellent – the lake when ‘built’ did not follow exactly the old lines drawn for the proposed area of Lotus Bay in the early maps. Your overlay has confirmed what is on the ground marking the site of Howie’s Hostel ‘Camp’ used for his single men -on the old maps it is shown below 13 of Howie’s cottages on either side of the old road that crosses the hill opposite Lotus Bay and near to Lotus Bay. There has been some earth fill (where people park and within the park) – The Burns Club was founded in the recreation room of the Hostel Camp(named after Hostel No 1 – later Hotel Canberra – Howie’s men built it)in 1924. Many of Howie’s men were Scots – and there are rowan (sp?) trees in Stirling Park planted by the Scots?.

I have one general map that shows Howie’s Settlement and the Westlake Cottages in The Gap and a map just showing cottages and hostel buildings not in relation to anything else. There were originally 25 Howie’s Cottages (2 & 3 Bedroom) and 18 timber huts for the single men – hostel camp. By 1926 only 13 cottages remained and 18 huts Hostel. This map was drawn when the FCC (Federal Capital Commission) – dept – considered connecting Howie’s to the main intercepting sewer – didn’t happen – still continued to use the pan system.

Ann

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 9:10 am 05 Aug 09

Bigger version of the 1940s map, with Google maps overlay.
http://imgur.com/Pq0Cp.jpg

Shows the Westlake Settlement, the Acton Swimming Hole & Tourist Park, The golf House site where Katie Bender’s memorial now sits, and where most of the river used to go.
(Yes some bits don’t line up perfectly, I blame the fact the map was hand-drawn)

Ann Gugler Ann Gugler 3:56 pm 04 Aug 09

On my web page is a story by Frank Dunshea who lived at Acton. There is a mud map of Acton area that shows the Acton Swimming Hole – in the area that was used as the Tourist ‘park’. Frank is in his eighties now and his story is a good one with clear memories of Acton in the early days. Ann

p1 p1 3:05 pm 04 Aug 09
p1 p1 2:38 pm 04 Aug 09

I have had a bit of a play around laying the maps over google earth. Haven’t had the time to really do much though. The sewer line is approx here.

dvaey dvaey 9:59 am 04 Aug 09

While researching a few interesting links last night, I stumbled across this page..

http://www.engineer.org.au/introduction.html

It talks about old Canberran history, ranging from roads, lakes, bridges, water/power, etc and includes a lot of interesting photos and diagrams, some of which look similar to those that have been pasted here. Be warned, itll take you a while to read the site completely, but I found the content on there is incredibly interesting.

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 9:36 am 04 Aug 09

Thanks Old Canberran, I am trying to clean upa join between the two 1933 maps, but making an accurate overlay of then & now is a matter fo a load of mosaic work.

But to get a good sized reference I may have to visit the National Library and make me some copies (those tourist scans are interesting, but the finer detail is lost at that resolution).
Those 1933 ones are three times older than I am, and just look wierd.

There are a whole set of 1920s Federal Capital Advisory Committee maps up on the NLA website showing what the original intended plans were, but sadly they don’t resemble anything like what was eventually inflicted on us.

(Like “The Parade” and “The Causeway” boulevards that never existed, Eastbourne or Lakebourne Avenues, the circular Lake Basins, and the suburban centre “Blandfordia”…)

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 9:36 am 04 Aug 09

Thanks Old Canberran, I am trying to clean upa join between the two 1933 maps, but making an accurate overlay of then & now is a matter fo a load of mosaic work.

But to get a good sized reference I may have to visit the National Library and make me some copies (those tourist scans are interesting, but the finer detail is lost at that resolution).
Those 1933 ones are three times older than I am, and just look wierd.

There are a whole set of 1920s Federal Capital Advisory Committee maps up on the NLA website showing what the original intended plans were, but sadly they don’t resemble anything like what was eventually inflicted on us.

(Like “The Parade” and “The Causeway” boulevards that never existed, Eastbourne or Lakebourne Avenues, the circular Lake Basins, and the suburban centre “Blandfordia”…)

old canberran old canberran 9:25 am 04 Aug 09

I forgot to say that the 1949 map was again provided by Ann.

Danman Danman 7:37 pm 03 Aug 09

Rumour has it that the swimming area that Ann mentioned at old Kingston Power station was so popular because it utilised an outfall from the power station that provided warm water that was used for cooling the power station – Kind of like a heated pool.

old canberran old canberran 5:47 pm 03 Aug 09

Here’s a better map Skid.
http://vk2ce.com/1949map.jpg

Ann Gugler Ann Gugler 5:08 pm 03 Aug 09

Yes I do remember the snow – I used to walk from home across the track to the Hotel Canberra to catch the bus to school (Canberra High) – part of that track is below the modern walking track that links Forster Crescent with Alexandrina drive – it is part of an old road marked on the 1913 strip maps. On this map are a number of survey markers including ‘The Gap’ which is on Stirling Ridge not far from the Canberra Mosque. We did attach a sign. I remember one year of heavy snow touching the gums to make the snow fall.

I also recall the big floods. The first in the twenties in Canberra’s history for which I wasn’t around was 1922 – that knocked out the railway line across the Causeway (from Causeway) and it was left swinging for may years. The rail line used to continue to Civic and I remember part of it near the War Memorial – it went in front of the memorial and behind St John’s with the platform at Civic being near the old Rogers Block not far from the present bus interchange.

Because I had to cross the two Commonwealth Bridges on my way to school used to pray for the floods to put them out of action – but it never happened – the waters lapped the bridges but never over them – oh well –

Incidentally the sites of 51 of the Westlake houses are in Stirling Park – 22-27 in a line that roughly follows Empire circuit down from the Mosque – turned – 28 – the four old pines near the corner of Empire & Forster marked the backyard of 28 – 29 is where our plaque is and the old road up to Bell’s corner (sign) 39 – and across the hill towards the Southern Cross Yacht Club area below the hill 40-47 and then back down Beadman’s hill from 42 area -48 to 52. The last ten cottages are in a line parallel to 29-39 above Ronnie’s tree. (Ronnie O’Rourke – nickname ‘Cocky’ was the cockatoo for the SP Bookie Lofty Harrington who lived in the cottage behind the tree – 55. Ronnie used to sit up this tree to keep an eye out for the police). This was the area of the two lines of tents of No 3 Sewer Camp. We also had a tennis court opposite 39-40 and a children’s playground in the area of the grounds of the Mexican Embassy. The sites of 1-20 in embassy areas – following Empire Circuit – 1-5 – turned across and then up the hill roughly in the area of Darwin Avenue to the American Embassy.

Our houses were two bedroom – unlined timber – exterior 24ft X 24 ft and stood on concrete piers. Out the back was a combined laundry bathroom and lavatory. The bath was tin and water for the bath was heated in the wood fired copper and carried across by bucket. In the 1950s we got an enamelled bath and chip heater.The lavatories were connected initially to septic tanks one of which still sits in Stirling Park right where they intend to put the ‘undeveloped road’ (Block 4, Section 128) to connect Empire Circuit to Forster Crescent. If built it would also take out our tree planted by the then oldest men, plaque, George Sykes’ gum (in his yard – but probably over 200 years of age.

The cottages were all gone by the end of 1965 and as tenants left from the mid 1950s (some relet to New Australians) they were sold off and moved to new sites – some are in Queanbeyan and others at the coast. George Sykes was the last to leave and the flats he built in his backyard to rent out to newcomers were pulled down. The floors of the flats are still in situ in the park – behind out plaque – the pines nearby aree George’s hedge and he was the first taxi owner driver in Canberra – next door was Ernie Corey – the most highly decorated chap in WW1.
Ann

old canberran old canberran 4:31 pm 03 Aug 09

Skidbladnir said :

Old Canberra, do you have a permalink to that 1933 map?
I would be interested to see what used to be where, and do a Google overlay of it for reference purposes.
(Like the ‘swimming pool’ at the riverbend would now be the deepest point of the lake, off the shore from the Museum?)

Skidbladnir, I have uploaded a 1930 circa map of Canberra compliments of Ann. It’s in 2 parts but it may not be large enough for you:-
http://vk2ce.com/scan0001.jpg
http://vk2ce.com/scan0002.jpg

peterh peterh 2:59 pm 03 Aug 09

ann, did it ever snow at westlake? I have seen pictures of acton in the 50’s which show deep drifts of snow, in fact one year a snowplough was brought down from the snowies to clear the road, it was so deep.

did you experience snow at all?

old canberran old canberran 2:53 pm 03 Aug 09

Skidbladnir said :

Old Canberra, do you have a permalink to that 1933 map?
I would be interested to see what used to be where, and do a Google overlay of it for reference purposes.
(Like the ‘swimming pool’ at the riverbend would now be the deepest point of the lake, off the shore from the Museum?)

I only have a copy of the actual map which I obtained from the National Library. The handwritten reference on the bottom is G8984.C3G45 1933 copy 9. It covers Ainslie in the North to Canberra Grammar in the South and is the size of a normal tourist map. Quite large B5 I think is the size.
The bits I have shown on here I have scanned.

Danman Danman 2:51 pm 03 Aug 09

The swimming at Molonglo adjacent to the now glasworks (Then powerstation) was very popular because it utilised the outfall of the cooling water for the power station as a source of warm swimming water. Imagesearch on the national archives webpage has a few pictures of this. Would hyperlink but I have already done my share of those today 😛

Ann, awesome stories, would love to have a yarn one day – I am a real sucker for local history – both natural and manmade.

Ann Gugler Ann Gugler 2:33 pm 03 Aug 09

Sorry – should be clearer – the Acton Pool was of course, in the river – down near Lennox Crossing which was the bridge at the end of the road that continued down from the hospital. Ann

Ann Gugler Ann Gugler 2:31 pm 03 Aug 09

I have copies of many of the early maps – the Acton Swimming Hole was on the river near Lennox Crossing – the easiest way to describe it today is a continuation of the road down from the 1940s Canberra Community Hospital on to Commonwealth Avenue. This pool was according to some stories – bottomless – or rather no one found the bottom – it was probably part of the cave systems that run under that part of Canberra. There are caves under Civic Centre and an underground stream there with Aboriginal paintings (shown to Terry Horan – deceased – by his father). During the construction of the newer of the two National Libaries (early one in Kings Avenue) a have been told that during one pour of concrete they filled part of one of the underground caves –

The other main early pool before the opening of “The Swimming Pool’ – now the Manuka Pool – in the early thirties – was near the Power House. At both sites there were changing areas and swimming meets along with diving exhibtions etc. The Westlake Swimming Hole was off the pontoon bridge that connected the two sides of the Royal Canberra Golf Links – the Links were behind the Hotel Canberra on the south side of the river and on the north side below the Acton Cottages.

The Acton Swimming Hole I am not sure of – Frank Dunshea’s story on my web tells of their place and the Westridge Swimming Hole was near Corkhill’s Weir – near the site of the Water Police place which was build near Corkhill’s Dairy (two storey house built in the 1990s) by a chap named Young for Fred Campbell.

Incidentally to change the subject slightly if you want to see an example of a building by Contactor John Howie’s (of Westlake) men’s – The Ainslie Hall began its life as the Masonic Lodge at Acton then moved to Russell Hill (near modern Campbell Shops) where it became a school for the Russell Hill children (orig 120 humpies – 1926-1950s)and in 130/31 financial year after the closing of the school moved to its present site. It has had a few additions but not many.

Another early buidling is the Scout Hall in Hovea St O’Connor – it was one of the Engineers’ Mess buildings opposite the Power House (c1921 or a little later) – moved in 1926 to near the railway station to become the Friendly Society Hall and in the 60s or a little later to its present site and purpose
Ann

chewy14 chewy14 1:58 pm 03 Aug 09

He was the photographer Peterh.

peterh peterh 1:43 pm 03 Aug 09

Danman said :

Holy Crap… p1, have you overlayed that blueprint in your google maps map ?

Looks like it would be a good find… I know that there is a heritage listed stack near the RSPCA on the southern side of Cotter Rd – this is from the original sewer system circa 1970’s – behind the RSPCA there is actually old settling beds and closer down to the molonglo there is actually a concrete “pool’ that I assume was used for the sewage farm as well.

This is a picture from NLA of some workers descending into a tunnel in Weston – so you would assume they are pretty deep..

Old beds and concrete structure can be seen here

Keeping in mind technology was primitive back in the day of Westlake…. they deserve a lot of respect for making what we take for granted

notice the name of the guy decending into the tunnel?

is he related to zed?

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