Bondi Beach pleasure park, at Tamarama c1890. By C G Coulter. From the collection of the State Library of New South Wales, A4302001/V1A/Bond/1, Mitchell Library
Lisa joined Jack Crane on 2SER breakfast this morning to explore Sydney’s first outdoor amusement park, Wonderland City at Tamaramma.
Originally known as the Royal Aquarium and Pleasure Grounds (or, misleadingly, the Bondi Aquarium), the park had swings, merry-go-rounds, a shooting gallery, water boats, punch and judy shows and a dance hall, as well as an aquarium and roller-coaster.
The acquarium housed seals, a lone penguin, turtles, stingrays, and a couple of sharks but the biggest attraction was the Switchback Railway. A wooden rollercoaster ride, the Switchback ran high above the beach around the cliffs and drew huge crowds.
Despite the thrills and pleasures of the park, the popularity of the Royal Aquarium and Pleasure Grounds waxed and waned during the 19th century until an entrepreneur took over the park in 1906. Renamed Wonderland City, the new park captured the imagination of early modern Sydney. It had all of the same amuseuments, including the roller-coaster and aquarium, but for the first time in Australia, it also had an open-air ice skating rink – right on the beach!
Wonderland City, Tamarama c1900. From the collection of the State Library of New South Wales, a3237007/PXA 584/75, Mitchell Library.
To top off these wonders, the park aslo had the Airem Scarem – an airship that tracked on a cable from cliff to cliff, and swept over the sea at high tide – an artificial lake, an alpine slide, a music hall for variety shows and two new stars, Alice the elephant and daredevil, Jack Lewis. To the horror of the weekend crowds, Lewis would rollerskate down a ramp, through a hoop of fire and land in a tank of sharks. Miraculously, the daredevil always survived unharmed!
In its heyday, about 2000 people came every summer weekend to Tammarama to enjoy Wonderland City. The park employed over 160 people and there were 70 turnstiles.
Wonderland burned bright, but was short-lived. The park closed in 1911.
Tune in again next week as Lisa brings another Dictionary story to the airwaves on 2SER breakfast at 8:20am.
Pic courtesy Blue Mountains City Library, Local Studies Collection PF 2152-30 via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
GiveNow Week, 1-8 December 2013
GiveNow Week is here and The Dictionary of Sydney is gearing up for a great week of giving as we prepare for Australia’s biggest annual celebration of community spirit.
From the 1st to the 8th December is GiveNow Week and we are hoping for as much support as possible to publish more stories about Sydney’s history.
This year’s theme is Pass the Hat – the age old Aussie tradition of everyone chipping in for a good cause. And we’re asking YOU to Pass the Hat for us.
We’re encouraging everyone to kick the kringle, forget the pointless presents and pass the hat to collect money for a good cause.
Whether it’s your tennis club, your family Christmas gathering or to replace the office kris kringle, there’s an opportunity for you to collect a bit of spare change for the Dictionary of Sydney.
Activities are being coordinated by the Our Community Foundation, which runs the GiveNow.com.au giving service, providing access to commission-free online donations for community groups. This means that any online donation you make is free of any administration charges or fees meaning the maximum amount of money gets to the right place – us!
Give Now Week 1-8 December 2013
GiveNow Week is designed to focus attention on the many ways that individuals, families and businesses can make a difference to the community in the lead-up to Christmas and beyond. At the Dictionary of Sydney we believe that a good place to start giving this season is to us. Jump online at www.givenow.com.au/dictionaryofsydney and see how you can help us!
This morning on 2SER breakfast
Isaac Nathan, Australia's first composer, 1820. Contributed by National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an2292675
, Lisa and Tim looked into more of Sydney’s musical history with the story of Isaac Nathan
, Australia’s first composer.
An intriguing character, in England Nathan associated with the poet Lord Byron, setting some of his poems to music, and was reportedly a royal spy. Emigrating to Australia for financial reasons in April 1841, Nathan quickly became the city’s leading singing instructor and is remembered as a founder of Sydney’s musical culture.
Nathan directed music at St Mary’s Cathedral, St James’ church and the first Jewish Synagogue in York St. He composed operas, the most famous of which was his Spanish romance, Don John of Austria. His many compositions contributed not only to the city’s, but to the colony’s national musical culture.
He wrote patriotic vocal odes such as Australia the Wide and Free (to verses by WA Duncan), to celebrate the inaugural Sydney City Council in 1842 (‘Composed and respectfully inscribed to The Right Worshipful John Hosking, Mayor of Sydney’), and the musical entertainment Currency Lasses, for the 58th anniversary of the founding of Sydney in 1846.
Unusually for his time, Nathan was interested in Aboriginal life and set to music poems by Mrs EH Dunlop such as ‘The Aboriginal Mother’. He was the first person to publish transcriptions of local Aboriginal music – something that is now considered extremely significant.
Sadly, Nathan was tragically killed by a tram in 1864 – one of the earliest recorded tram deaths in Sydney. He is buried in St Stephen’s cemetery, Newtown.
Don’t forget to tune in again next week to hear more of Sydney’s unique stories from the Dictionary with Dr Lisa Murray.
John York’s shop at 52 George Street West, Chippendale c1906
A new issue of the Sydney Journal, the Dictionary of Sydney’s peer-reviewed scholarly publication, has just been released – it’s a special issue edited by Matthew Bailey and Paul Ashton based on papers from the conference From the Ground Up: People and Places in Sydney’s Past which was held at the State Library of NSW August 23-24 2012, and it’s packed with fascinating stories about Sydney’s past.
Last week on 2SER Breakfast with Tim Higgins, Lisa Murray talked about Andrew Evans‘ paper on John York, who in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, manufactured and sold brass musical instruments in Chippendale, in a factory located just near the current location of the 2SER studios.
Now John York’s story is familiar in many ways. A skilled English immigrant who brought his family to a developing capital city and became a manufacturer and small business owner. But his skill of brass instrument making and repairing was special. He was just one of a handful of brass instrument makers known to have operated in Sydney in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Brass bands were incredibly popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. York’s business reveals much about the local Sydney brass band communities and Sydney music making. York donated cash prizes to band competitions and he supported groups such as the Parramatta Model Band. Read all about it in Andrew Evans’ article in the Sydney Journal.
John York’s business was threatened by cheaper mass produced imports from overseas and the larger musical emporiums like Palings and Nicholsons, but his enduring reputation for consistent, high quality workmanship and superior, personalised service sustained loyalty from York’s customers well into the middle of the twentieth century when the business continued under the management of his wife and sons. Even today, there are brass players in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra who recall their teachers or brass band colleagues telling them to take their instruments to “Yorkie’s” for an expert repair or service.
No brass instruments made by York appear to have survived, although the search continues,
especially within the few remaining regional band communities, but the chances of finding one are poor.
This disappearance of Australia’s early musical heritage, largely through indifference and ignorance is a great loss.
As a special bonus, there’s a Youtube video by the author here with more pictures.