The Everyday Observer: Joan Hatton

As our Snapshot Gallery exhibition, The Everyday Observer: Joan Hatton, draws to a close, we thought we’d share the images that formed part of this show.

The Everyday Observer: Joan Hatton was on exhibition from 25 July – 15 November 2020 at Hurstville Museum & Gallery.

Image: House with Joan Hatton and another lady on verandah, date
Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

Dulcie Joan Hatton (1926-2002) settled in Kogarah in 1946, where she lived for the rest of her life. Although she initially worked as an Accountant, she later obtained qualifications in science, medicine and began a Masters’ degree in history. Joan’s interest in, and passion for, local and community history was evident in her support for the establishment of the Centennial Bakery Museum at Hurstville, as a long-standing member of the Kogarah and Hurstville Historical Societies and as an author of nine booklets. Much of her personal collection of over 3,500 photographs was donated to the Council’s Local Studies collection, and the Hatton Room at the Clive James Library in Kogarah was named in her honour. In her everyday observations of the suburbs, buildings, streetscapes, and natural landscapes, Joan’s interests in all things historical were best revealed, forming a significant record of the history, character and development of the district.

Image: Judd’s Hurstville Brick Co., Mortdale brick pits, July 1973.
Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

The Hurstville Steam Brick Company was established in 1884. It became known as Judd’s Brickworks after its director, William George Judd (1847-1929), described as ‘one of the keenest, but straightest of businessmen’. Established near Oatley railway station, the brickworks area was subdivided in the 1890s, with the Mort’s Township Estate becoming Mortdale. During the 1920s the brickworks moved from steam to electric machinery production. It continued to operate until 1972, when it was demolished in order to build the St George Institute for Education. The large brick-making chimneys were well known around the district, but Hatton instead captured the remaining building on the vacant site and the passing of an era.

Image: Kogarah Railway Station timetable board, date unknown. Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

Kogarah Railway station opened in October 1884 with two side platforms. The opening of the station was intended to enhance development and leisure in the region, with the 1889 New South Wales Railway Tourist’s Guide noting that Kogarah, from a train, ‘displays numerous indications of rapid progress’. Despite this, trains at this station only ran hourly and staff consisted of three men until the early 1900s. Indicator or timetable boards informed travellers of the approaching train times and stops along the Illawarra line before electronic indicator technology was introduced. Railway staff manually adjusted the settings and information as trains arrived and departed.

Image: Water feature at Coxhead Gardens, Princes Highway and Carwar Avenue intersection, Carss Park NSW, July 1973. Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

The area known as Carss Bush was slow to develop and remained a rural farming and bushland community until the early 20th century. There was great concern about the development of this idyllic area with the first auction of land in 1924. Through resident action and the work of community activist, Harald Coxhead, 50 acres of public parkland was retained. Harald later became the park’s first resident Ranger, and his wife and only daughter Gwen moved to Carss Cottage, which was the Ranger’s residence.

Gwen Coxhead went on to be the longest living resident at the cottage and an active member of the Kogarah and Hurstville Historical Societies. The water feature and Coxhead Gardens were named in the family’s honour.

Image: Telephone Box, Montgomery Street Kogarah, NSW, date unknown. Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

The first public telephones opened in Sydney in 1893. Telephone boxes, which included a coin operated payphone, were first produced in the Sydney Postmaster General’s workshops. From the 1950s onwards, these red telephone boxes were commonly found in suburbs throughout Australia. Such boxes (or booths) had lighting, a door for privacy, and windows to let others know when it was in use. Often the telephone boxes included a directory of local telephone numbers and phone books.

By the early 1990s, there were more than 80,000 public phone boxes across Australia. Joan Hatton’s fascination with local features included a series of photographs from the early to mid-1970s of telephone boxes, recording them prior to their removal and the advent of mobile telephones.

Image: Granny MacMahon’s Port Jackson Figtree, Binder Reserve,
Hurstville NSW, September 1975.
Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

Granny MacMahon’s Fig tree in Binder Reserve was planted in 1890. The Port Jackson Fig, native to eastern Australia, matures into trees over 30 metres high. Dora and Patrick MacMahon became landholders in the Hurstville district in 1883. They constructed a large family home on their land known as ‘Moyarta’. It is reputed that Granny MacMahon conducted Sunday school services under the shade of this tree.

The MacMahon estate was gradually subdivided between the late 19th century and 1939, and ‘Moyarta’ eventually demolished to make way for the current Georges River Council Civic Centre. Hatton’s image captures the solitary, iconic tree, a reminder of past lives in the local landscape.

Image: Building rooftops in Hurstville Central Business District, Hurstville NSW, date unknown. Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

The land where Hurstville now exists was granted by the New South Wales government after European settlement to brothers John and Robert Townson in 1808. The area did not develop rapidly until the 1920s and then experienced a second wave of development in the 1960s. An increasing population and post-War migration expanded the suburbs of Sydney beyond the city.

Today Hurstville has become the central business district of the St George area, with a multitude of commercial and high-rise residential buildings. The rooftops in Hatton’s image present an unusual perspective and vantage point into Hurstville’s town centre. The photograph captures this period of expansion and growth, with the buildings casting a modernist, urban collage against the skyline.

Image: Peakhurst School of Arts, July 1979. Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

In 1908, the Peakhurst Progress Association resolved to build a School of Arts and public hall for use by the community, providing a local reading room and space for recreation and entertainment. The School of Arts movement began in England in the mid-19th century. Two types of schools developed in Australia; those established in the 19th century which emphasised ‘intellectual and educational goals for working people’, and those built in the early 20th century, more modest in their aims, providing a social focus in new suburbs .

Peakhurst School of Arts was designed by the architect and politician Varney Parkes (1859-1935), son of Sir Henry Parkes, and opened on Empire Day, May 1909. Regular Wednesday night social dances were held, and by 1928 there were calls for a library and a billiard room. For over a century, the Peakhurst School of Arts contributed to the social, recreational and educational lives of the community.

Image: Railway Pedestrian Subway, Railway Parade, between Belgrave Street and Derby Streets, Kogarah, 1973. Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

Kogarah Railway station opened in October 1884. As early as the 1920s, the Carlton and West Kogarah Progress Associations were urging the then Bexley Council to construct a pedestrian subway at Kogarah station, in conjunction with the electrification of the Sans Souci tramline. The Second World War further halted progress on the subway, but it was considered at this stage a proposal that would be mutually advantageous for residents on both sides of the railway line. It would be many decades before the need for this infrastructure was again raised. Officially opening on 18 December 1970, the pedestrian subway provided a much-needed link between Kogarah and West Kogarah for local residents. The subway similarly offered a more accessible alternative to the Kogarah Railway Station staircases for those wanting to cross the railway line. Hatton’s image of a mundane, yet useful concrete structure, blends the aesthetic with the ordinary and everyday.

Image: Hoover Service Centre, Forest Road and Carruthers intersection, Penshurst NSW, July 1983. Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

The Hoover Service Centre in Penshurst stood prominently for many years on the corner of Forest Road and Carruthers Street. Although it is unknown
when the Service Centre was established, the Hoover company began in Ohio, United States in 1908 , when W.H. Hoover and his son began selling vacuum cleaners from their family business after purchasing the rights to a new electric suction sweeper. Penshurst, named after the same town in Kent, England, was developed from the 1880s. When the first portion of the Penshurst Park Estate was offered for sale at this time, it was described as ‘beautifully sloping basaltic hills, timbered in a park-like manner, reminding one of the glorious avenues of beeches in the well-known Penshurst Park in England’. Hatton’s urban image, with its roads and power poles, is in stark contrast to this historic description, yet it too captured a building and service that no longer exists.

Image: Post Box, Princes Highway and Frances Street intersection,
Carlton NSW, date unknown.
Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

The organisation of a postal service in Colonial Australia began in 1809, with the appointment in Sydney of the first Postmaster of New South Wales. Postal services grew and stamps were introduced in the 1850s. From this time, street posting boxes, in various column and pillar designs, were soon being used for this daily public service. The many smaller red post boxes photographed by Joan Hatton revealed the significant contribution to the suburb, character and appearance these everyday items made to the areas in which they were located. The quirky roadside post boxes reflected the growth in demand for postal services. Greater urbanisation and suburban development also led to the need for more convenient places where stamped letters could be deposited, without having to visit a Post Office.

Image: Sans Souci creek, February 1978. Georges River Libraries Local Studies collection.

Located on the western shore of Botany Bay, Sans Souci was originally known as Seven Mile Beach. The suburb, however, took its name from a mansion built on Rocky Point Road by Thomas Holt, with the French term meaning ‘without care’ or ‘no worries’. The suburb was popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries for bathing, boating and fishing, made more accessible by the tramway that ran from Rockdale to Kogarah until 1959.

It is unknown which creek photographed by Joan Hatton in the 1970s was known as Sans Souci creek and where it may have flowed. Her image, however, was one of many she took that captured areas of natural beauty, sites and landscapes in the Georges River area. Today the Sans Souci catchment area has several parks and reserves, with the catchment dominated by three channels that flow south and discharge into Botany Bay; the Waradiel Creek, Bado-Berong Creek and Goomun Creek.

If you have enjoyed viewing these images, search through the Georges River Libraries catalogue where thousands of more photos have been digitised, preserving snapshots of our community through time.

3 thoughts on “The Everyday Observer: Joan Hatton

  1. Thank you for this photographic display by Joan Hatton whom I knew as a medical student at St George Hospital 1965/6 Dr Roslyn Ridgway .


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