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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.

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.

View Larger Map

(More pictures below)

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Stumbling over Westlake
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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 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.


Skidbladnir 9:10 am 05 Aug 09

Bigger version of the 1940s map, with Google maps overlay.

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 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 3:05 pm 04 Aug 09
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 9:59 am 04 Aug 09

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

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.

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