Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Even before the Commonwealth was born, a Royal Commission was established in November 1899 to report on 45 proposed sites for a new Federal Capital. The newly appointed Commissioner, Alexander Oliver (1832-1904)(bio here) handled the New South Wales government inspired commission. Oliver undertook to complete reports on several sites.

After the Federation of the Australian States (info here) in 1900 the question on where the capital was to be located was addressed when an agreement was made, and provision included in the new Australian Constitution (info here). The site for the new capital city of Australia was to be within New South Wales but not closer than 100 miles (161 km) from Sydney.

Graffitti on a wall outside the Burns Club in Kambah ACT (circa 2009)

Though a site had not been confirmed, opposition to the proposed locations prompted a strong reaction from the populace in Victoria. This reaction saw a political movement arise in Maffra Victoria (near Sale). The organisers of the movement saw the astonishing (for the time) expenditure of  "millions" of pounds to establish a new city as "lavish for the back-blocks". The movement demanded in no uncertain terms the new Commonwealth of Australia to allow the Capital to be established (surprisingly I think) in Sydney and not "somewhere in the bush".

The Maffra Shire Council of the day supported this feeling and created a movement that was spreading to other shire councils in Victoria to support constitutional change to this end. The following newspaper article is from New South Wales.

The Sydney Morning Herald - 13 August 1903
National Library of Australia (here)

For the record, the present day "site" of Canberra was selected for the location of the Australian National Capital in 1908, 170 miles (280 kilometers) south-west of Sydney, and 410 miles (660 kilometers) north-east of Melbourne.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010


This clipping from The Canberra Times dated 4 June 1954 describes the conditions under which the first survey teams mapping the newly formed Australian Federal Territory had to operate, in the very early 1900's.
The newspaper article quotes Mr. Arthur Percival (1879-1964)(bio here) former Commonwealth Surveyor-General whilst addressing the Canberra and District Historical Society.

Below is a video showing a 100 year old original border marker.

By Spinningreel - 'Stakeout of Canberra' (2 Minutes 19 seconds)


In 1934 Canberra, the Australian Federal Capital, and outlying areas of the Australian Capital Territory experienced floods that damaged infrastructure such as the wooden Tuggeranong Creek Bridge going to Cooma. The bridge sustained irreparable damage and as a result required replacement. The bridge was relocated a short distance and required a deviation in the road.

The Argus - 31 October 1934
Clipping NLA Trove (here)

The Sydney Morning Herald - 31 October 1934
clipping NLA (here)

The same flood washed away the suspension bridge at the Canberra Golf Links and the low level bridge at Lennnox Crossing on the Molonglo River was damaged. The repair bill for the capital was recorded to be over 8,000 pounds. The creek today cascades through the rocks and appears to be calm and gentle belying it's terrible potential as evidenced by the reports of destruction and the steep banks of the creek upstream of the bridge.

The new bridge is now a relic of the road to the Monaro (post here) and remains today a nondescript 'urban fringe' feature of suburban Theodore in the Australian Capital Territory. There is nothing special about this little bridge, it being a fairly standard concrete and steel beam structure spanning about 12 meters. The bridge today however remains impervious to floods and marks the point where the Tuggeranong Creek becomes Tuggeranong's storm water system. The creek only travels a short distance before the bridge from what appears to be a small catchment and a 'lakelike' spring a few kilometers away.

The Tuggeranong creek was/remains an important site for the local aborigines for it's supply of water and it's proximity to an excellent example of Aboriginal 'axe grinding grooves' (post here) located approximately 100 meters away. The process of grinding stones (also supplied from the creek) into sharp tools required water which was pooled in a groove next to the 'working' groove.

A weathered embankment of stones (19th century first bridge?) is 20 meters up the creek and from observing nearby rock formations the feature does not appear to be natural. The embankment appears to be 'constructed' as a course wall by stacking field stone, although it is now heavily weathered and undercut by the creeks flow during times of flood.

Today's bridge on current Monaro Highway in background.

The Tuggeranong Creek flows from the bridge in a snaking concrete channel into Isabella Pond to settle before filling Lake Tuggeranong and then merging with the Murrumbidgee River. Sadly the creek had become a dumping ground for building rubbish, old tyres and drink containers.

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Another couple of theories on the origin of the Australian Capital's name. The first one from Mr Slater in 1931 basically attests to the word 'Canberra' being Gaelic and gives an explanation as to why it is so and the second from Mr Percival theorises that Canberra was named after a small tree that grew in the area, a small tree with red berries that apparently resembled a cranberry...

The Sydney Morning Herald - 26 August 1931
Clipping NLA Trove (here)

The Canberra Times - 4 June 1954
Clipping NLA Trove (here)

Newspaper clippings (I) has several more theories (here)

Monday, June 28, 2010


When one thinks of the game of croquet, images of  ladies at 19th century garden parties, or perhaps the game played by Alice against the nasty Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll's 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' come to mind. Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory has a long association with croquet with the Canberra Croquet club house and greens nestled at the foot of Australia's Parliament House.

A form of the game was originally observed being played by peasants in France and was dated to proliferate from Ireland to England circa 1850 with Spratt's rules of croquet (bio here) published in England in 1851. In the beginning croquet was most popular among women. It enabled them them to play a game outdoors in the company of men. As such early games of croquet were carefully chaperoned.

The game of croquet is played on a level 'court' roughly the same size as two tennis courts. Croquet is actually more akin to billiards. By using a 'mallet' a player by uses one ball to hit another in a specific direction. The object of the game is to make the struck ball pass through a hoop that may only be 5mm wider than the ball. The hoops are passed in order until a 'peg' is struck in the middle of the court. For a comprehensive description on how to play croquet go (here).

By 1881 the game was adopted in America when the Newport Croquet Club was formed on Rhode Island. The Americans then introduced a version of 9-wicket croquet at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis for the first (and only) time. The sport at the St. Louis Olympics was called Roque (c roque t)(info here).

Men's Rouqe Competition at the St. Louis Olympics
Image Wikipedia (here)

In 1925 the Hostel No. 1 (which became the Hotel Canberra and then today's Hyatt Hotel) opened with a bowling green and a croquet lawn for its guests. The Canberra Croquet Club was established on the 8th March 1928 with 41 members who were given permission to play on the lawn at the hotel.

The Canberra Times - 23 October 1929
National Library of Australia (here)

There being no clubhouse at the time the members used a room at the hostel as a change room and rent was paid courtesy of the Federal Capital Commission. New members were taught by experienced members from other clubs and a prize of one guinea was once awarded in a tournament that only those who learned to play at the Hotel Canberra could compete in.

The clubhouse was opened in 1933 and men were finally allowed to become members in 1976 and initially four men joined the club. In December 1994 the clubhouse and grounds were listed on the Heritage Places Register.

  • The club's website is (here)
  • An article on the history of croquet is (here)

Some images of the clubhouse and a map are below.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010


A little background before the video...

Construction of the Cotter dam (info here) occurred bettween 1912 and 1915 to provide a reservior for the new Australian Federal Capital of Australia, Canberra. The reserviors catchment is predominantly in the Namadgi National Park (info here) which supports 3 dams in a 'chain of ponds' the Corin, Bendora and Cotter.

Image ACTEW library (here)

The ACT's water storage capacity is to increase by constructing a new 76m high dam wall downstream of the existing Cotter Dam, this will cover the existing 26m dam wall. Increased storage - current 4.7GL new capacity 78GL. The expansion process started in 2004

The organising authority, the Australian Capital Territory Electricity & Water (ACTEW) corporation (website here) have a video explaining their efforts to record the history and heritage of the cotter dam and it's Indigenous and European archeology. Several local Aboriginal organisations have ongoing consultation with the ACTEW.
  • Buru Ngunawal Aboriginal Corporation
  • Consultative Body Aboriginal Corporation
  • Little Gudgenby River Tribal Council
  • Ngarigu Currawong Clan
European heritage sites include the dam itself, a 1915 tunnel and a 1920 suspension bridge. There is some nice footage of both Aboriginal and European artifacts. I have an article about the Cotter River and Dam and the Cotter River area's history (here).

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The village of Ginninderra in today's Australian Capital Territory was established in 1826 privately to support the people who worked on 'Ginninderra Station' initially, and later for the surrounding stations and workers. By 1850 it had developed into a thriving, prosperous settlement. The village developed into a community of timber slab residences, outbuildings, post office, public school, Catholic Church, a blacksmith's workshop (post here) and a police station. As the remote community developed it became the centre for the district’s social and sporting activity.

In 1882 the police station was opened and manned by the New South Wales police. The police station had a station residence built in 1905 which provided accommodation for the constabulary up until the 1940's? when policing was administered primarily from the Hall village and later from Canberra.

On the 23rd July 1902 after reports of suspicious characters who may have been involved in the murder of Constable Guilfoyle, a policeman in Redfern Sydney, Constable Maddern of the Ginninderra police station rounded up a posse' of five men and went to investigate these men who were now camped nearby. Unfortunately for an innocent Mr. Thomas Heaps, death was delivered from a shotgun.

The inquest into the death was reported as follows:

The Sydney Morning Herald - 28 July 1902
Article National Library of Australia (here)

Ginninderra's situation changed dramatically when the government established the formally designed village of Hall 2 miles (3 km) away. As the new village developed most of the functions of Ginninderra were replaced by the village of Hall and the Ginninderra village fell into disrepair and was virtually abandoned. Today the village has been revived as an arts and crafts centre complete with cake and coffee shops and a weekend marketplace.

Ginninderra police station entry to the ACT heritage register is (here).
Some photos (from a distance) of the 1905 police residence.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010


Europeans first settled the Mulligan's Flat area of today's Australian Capital Territory in the early 1820's. The old coach road to Bungendore (post here) passes through the flat and the area supported a small rural community. The Mulligan's Flat public school was built to educate the local resident's school aged children in 1886, by volunteer labour (most likely the parents). The small wooden 'slab' school house measured only 5' X 10'6" x 7' (1.5m X 3m X 2m), the walls were whitewashed, and the roof was made out of bark stripped from nearby trees.

Slab cutters with tools of the trade

The little school operated for the next 17 years until it's deterioration warranted the erection of a more suitable structure in 1913. The 'old slab school' however remained in use as a lunch shelter. The new school was square 6m X 6M (20' X 20'), had a brick hearth and chimney, a corrugated iron roof, a water tank and an outhouse.

Shows a man at the wheel of an early model car parked 
outside Mulligans Flat Public School.  Image NLA (here)

A fence was erected in 1919 and in 1920, to mark Arbour Day (info here) a double row of young pine trees from the new Yarralumla Nursery were planted by the students on the northern and western edges of the school house.

The Canberra Times - 25 November 1926
Clipping NLA (here)

The school was closed in 1931 because of falling attendance and the building was dismantled and removed in 1933. Today only the two rows of now mature pine trees, a few exotic plants and a sad pile of concrete rubble, the remainders of the school's steps, endure as a reminder of the Mulligan's Flat School's existence and history.

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Friday, June 25, 2010


The name of Australia's capital city 'Canberra' was decided upon after the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901. Following the decision to establish a Federal Capital a name had to be decided upon. The name 'Canberry' was recorded as early as 1825 on Joshua John Moore's (1790-1864)(bio here) correspondences with the government regarding his property "Canberry Station" on the Limestone Plains, Murray Shire, Argyle County, New South Wales.

Moore definitely named the station, however he was a vacant landowner who never lived on what was then only an outstation formed by an overseer and a few convict stockmen living in bark huts. If Moore's name was of Aboriginal origin, it would have been his overseer and assigned convicts who had the initial contact with the natives and later passed on the Aboriginal name for the area to Moore.

Baroness Gertrude Mary Denman (1884–1954)(bio here), the Australian Governor General's wife, named the new Federal Capital City of Australia "Canberra" on the 12th of March 1913 (post here). The resplendent ceremony conducted on Kurrajong Hill (Capital Hill) officially named the new city after the local Aboriginal name for the Limestone Plains "Canberry" meaning "meeting place" and hence, the subsequently named sheep station of Joshua John Moore.

 Public acceptance of the official explanation was varied however:

The Sydney Morning Herald - 26 April 1913
NLA Trove (here)

The Argus - 23 June 1920
NLA Trove (here)

The Sydney Morning Herald - 26 February 1934

The Argus - 6 August 1937
NLA Trove (here)

The Canberra Times - 17 January 1939
NLA Trove (here)

The Sydney Morning Herald - 27 November 1942
NLA Trove (here)

The Canberra Times 9 May 1945
NLA Trove (here)

History lost through lack of funding

  The following ABC article laments the possible loss of many historical audio visual records that are waiting for digitising into modern fo...