Beresford Lane

Streets, however humble or short – even the laneways – have stories to tell. Beresford Lane, in Newcastle’s west end, is an afterthought, barely a footnote, in the City’s past.

Now just an alley lined with roller doors and wheelie bins, a century ago it was an active residential and mixed business precinct where honest workers and locals of questionable character shared good times, suffered or committed crimes, bore accidents and dispensed aid, and, above it all, enacted their citizenry in the character of a small developing city. Two houses (in 2019) survive those early days: No. 19 Beresford Street and No. 4 (of perhaps, because it’s facing) Beresford Lane, next to a commercial property numbered ‘2’ that fronts Bellevue Street. At the western end near Stewart Avenue a commercial building is numbered ’14.’

No. 4 at distant right. But is it 4 Beresford Lane or 4 Bellevue Street. The postman knows.

Five years ago The Lane got a deserved makeover. The West End Advisory Group formed in 2012 by Newcastle Now works with Newcastle City Council to improve ailing sections of the central business district. Newcastle Now supplied paint and Beresford Lane was reborn. Local sculptor and artist Mr Aylward, with Ms Stronarch and helpers, created an underwater panorama or ‘‘fishscape’’ at the rear of scuba company SSI ORCA. The work spread down the lane, as the slides below show.

Lacking a verifiable history of Beresford Lane (please assist if you can), I chose to “decoupage” snippets of news. It runs through dry council minutes, crimes, and ambulance-chasing, to weave the character of life and times, and suggests the nature of Beresford Lane as a place of residence and business. Its narrow seediness did not occlude the good souls who lived alongside trite infamy of neighbours. Many, by misstep or mischance, were enshrined in the local newspapers to create the chronicle that follows. The Herald’s Newcastle Scene of 4 March, 1948, embodies that era’s charm and humour to launch our potted history.

Most people do not know where Beresford Lane is. It is an important thoroughfare behind Hunter-street, serving many motor houses in the block from Hannell-street to the Co-op. Store. Dotted along it are ‘no parking’ signs. The motor men there think this is a mistake and that the signs should read ‘No Swimming,’ because what were once potholes become in the rain a chain of sizable ponds.”
A currency note

I should mention, for Gen X, Y, and Zs, that miscreants were fined in pre-decimal currency, of which a “£” is a pound, one of which a century ago is today worth over $100, inflation adjusted. The ‘s’ that often accompanies the £n is a shilling, 20 of which comprise £1. Quaint.

Fold from the old days

The saddest trails left for us are messages we can identify with and someday must deal with: funeral notices. Though for people we never knew, their poignancy is compelling. On 7 August, 1905, friends of Mrs James Wilson attended the funeral of her husband. The procession went from the residence of Mrs Elizabeth Dawber, Beresford Lane, Wickham, to the Presbyterian Cemetery at Sandgate. Soldiers and Friends of the Salvation Army were invited to attend the funeral of the late Sister Mrs Elizabeth Goodwin on 29 July, 1925, at her late residence, No. 3 Beresford-lane, Wickham. They assembled in front of the residence at 1.30 p.m. and marched to Salvation Army Citadel, Hunter-street West, for service. Bandsmen, were remined bring instruments by Ensign Terracini, Commanding Officer. Sister Elizabeth was interned at the Salvation Army portion of Sandgate Cemetery. 

The Relatives and Friends of the late Agnes Johnson (relict of the late Silas James Johnson of 5 Beresford Lane, Wickham, are advised that her remains were privately interred in the Baptist Cemetery, Sandgate. on Thursday, January 10, 1952. Adjourned until 4 July, 1906,were the cases of Sarah Ann Chun Som and George Chun Som, for having left his wife without sufficient means of support, and that of Frederick Hawley, as agent for Richard Ward, to recover possession of premises at Beresford Lane, Wickham. 

Riotousness nowadays infers comedy, and a good time being had by all. But on 18 January, 1913, one John Francis O’Callaghan was charged with riotous behaviour at Beresford Lane, Wickham. Dear John did not answer to his name when called by the court officer, so the case was heard ex parte. The defendant, who had engaged in a fight and made things sultry for a while, was fined £1, with 6s costs, with the alternative of seven days’ imprisonment. There was another dimension to the preceding affray. 

Mary O’Callaghan was charged with using insulting words at Beresford-street, Wickham on the same day – almost certainly at the same time! The defendant said she pleaded guilty, but the language was “uttered under great provocation” m’lad. Two of her sons were fighting, and she got excited. A fine of £1, with 6s costs, in default seven days’ imprisonment, was imposed. Imposing times indeed. Years later, on 7 October, 1922, at the Sheriff’s Office’s Summons Division, our sad friend Mary Callaghan was proceeded against on a charge that, being the occupier of a house in Beresford-lane, Wickham, she suffered a female named Alice Callaghan, whom she knew to be a woman of immoral character, to be in the house for an immoral purpose. Mr. J. D. Reid (Messrs. Reid and Reid) appeared for the defendant, who pleaded not guilty. After evidence, the defendant was convicted, and fined £5 with 7s costs, in default a month’s imprisonment.

Thanks for nothing, Mum

William Plain, 20, labourer, appeared on remand on 19 January, 1924, charged with stealing a sheet valued at 10 shillings, the property of the Wallsend Mining District Hospital. This was quite some quality sheet. Ten shillings in 1924 approximates $75 today, inflation-adjusted. Plain clothes Constable Sweenev gave evidence that, in company with Detective Ryan, he saw the defendant in Hunter-street West, Newcastle, on January 16. 

He showed defendant the sheet and told him it had been handed to witness by defendant’s mother, that it was taken from a tin box in an upstairs room at 77 Beresford-lane, Wickham, and that she had informed him that defendant brought it home wrapped round a serge suit. Defendant said he bundled it up with his other clothes in mistake. Matron Lowrey, of the Wallsend Mining District Hospital, said the defendant had been employed as a wardsman at the hospital, and left on Wednesday last. Sheets similar to the one produced were issued to the wardsmen. 

In answer to the defendant, witness stated that after the police had been to the hospital defendant rang her up and said he had a sheet which he took in mistake, and would return. Defendant gave evidence that he discovered the sheet among his clothes after arriving home, and said to his mother, "Put this aside until I take it back to the hospital." He forgot all about the sheet until Detective Ryan and Plain clothes Constable Sweeney came to see him. The yarn didn’t wash, and the defendant was fined £3, in default 21 days’ imprisonment.

More miscellany

A few years on – and we shall never know the cause or the outcome of this altercation of 7 February, 1934 – in the tenancy matter between E. N. Allen, agent for W.J. Cornish, and Daniel Mason Beresford Lane, Wickham, the hearing was adjourned until April 3. Unregistered dogs were quite popular, because on 20 Jan, 1937, eleven men were each fined for having one. The minimum penalty of 10s, with 8s costs, or two days’ imprisonment, was imposed at Newcastle Summons Court. In the long list of miscreants, one George Bailey, of Beresford Lane, Wickham, earns our admiration in this modest history of our famously fashionable locale. James Smith, 51, of Thorn Street, Hamilton, a former member for Hamilton electorate in the State Parliament, fell 30 feet from a scaffold in Beresford Lane, Newcastle West, this morning, 29 July, 1937. He was admitted to Newcastle Hospital in a serious condition with skull and spine injuries. 

Mr. Smith, a bricklayer employed on motor showroom extensions, was standing on the scaffolding arranging his tools when a plank gave way, leaving a narrow opening through which he slipped. He fell on his back on to some loose bricks near the entrance from the laneway. His workmates rushed to his assistance and found him lying with his legs doubled over his head. Newcastle Ambulance rendered first aid and took him to the hospital. Mr. Smith served one term in Parliament, but he stood down when redistribution of electorates in the Newcastle constituencies were reduced from five to four. Cementing the precinct as one of Our Town’s finest, on Wednesday, 2 January, 1946 – in presumed festivities at both the ending of war hostilities and welcoming of the new year (though in each case slightly delayed, or prolonged… whichever) – Senior Plodstable Griffith told Newcastle Police Court that Frederick E. Jarvis, 52, labourer, was one of a number of men drinking methylated spirits and using indecent language in Beresford Lane, Wickham. He shocked the court when it was revealed that there were 17 empties and one partly full. Court was cleared and ambulances summoned to deal with the panicked and shocked gallery gentiles. 

One would dearly like to have explained why on 9 October, 1948, an application by Roy Ronald Brock, of Beresford Lane, Wickham, under National Security regulations, for possession of premises at the rear of Hunter-street, Newcastle, owned by Jacob Soloman, of Tamworth, was refused. Mr. H. L. O’Neill appeared for Soloman. A block of four brick houses, with frontages to Hunter-street, Florence street, and Beresford Lane, Newcastle West, was submitted at auction yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, 25 September, 1935, by Messrs. W. Shedden and Son, auctioneers. After bidding the properties were withdrawn for private negotiation.

In the time of motoring

Just after 5pm Saturday, 11 January, 1930, at Belmont, two Postal Department linesmen riding a motorcycle sidecar collided with a cow. Precipitated violently from their tri-wheeled vehicular appliance, the hapless chaps suffered various injuries, most seriously to their pride. Francis Christopherson aged 31, of 89 Laman Street, Cooks Hill, was driving while his brother, Joseph Christophersom aged 50, living at 6 Beresford Lane, Wickham, resided at that moment, however, within the sidecar. Francis suffered a lacerated wound of the forehead, abrasions about the body and head, and a fracture of the left collar bone; Joseph sustained abrasions of the legs, hands, and face, and both suffered from shock and acute humiliation. They were treated at the Newcastle Hospital. On 29 July, 1937, the Department of Traffic Plods advised that approval was in effect for non-parking areas in Beresford Lane and Florence Street. Signage would follow. Eighty years hence, signage affliction has almost completely consumed the City of Newcastle. 

On a charge of having allowed a motor vehicle to stand in an unauthorised place in Beresford Lane, Wickham, on 28 April, 1939, John Black, of Hunter-street, Wickham, was fined 12 shillings, with 8s costs, by Mr. M. E. Soane. S.M., at the Newcastle Summons Court. Constable McAskill said that there had been complaints that people could not get into their properties. It also stated that a notice prohibiting parking was displayed in the lane. Mr. T. A. Braye of Braye, Cragg and Cohen appeared for Black. Recent activity of the police in their campaign against cyclists who break traffic regulations was responsible for the appearance before Mr. Soane, S.M , at the Newcastle Summons Court on 2 February, 1940, of the largest batch of bicycle riders ever seen at the Court at the one time. There were 126 of them, and they were called up in batches to answer charges of not having bells, brakes, lights, or rear reflectors on their machines, riding abreast, and having no control over their machines. 

It comes as no surprise to the reader that amongst the crowd of miscreant pedal-pushers, yet another Beresford Lane inmate, one Albert Edward Perry of said laneway, was fined 14 shillings and sixpence, with 5s 6d costs, in default two days in the slammer, for… wait for it … riding a bicycle that had no bells. Not even one, in fact. And yes, he was fined roughly the price of a brand new bike!! “I wanted to get to the dogs,” he exclaimed lamely to arresting officer Constable T. W. Pugh, when pulled over for speeding on 15 January, 1941, while travelling west along the New England Highway. Rodney Clarence Armstrong, of Beresford Lane, Wickham, was fined £2 5s, with 8s costs, for having driven at a speed from 40 to 45 miles an hour [in what, for the curious reader, was likely a “30 miles per hour” speed zone, per today’s 60 Kph zones]. 

Not all in our history are crooks. Often their wealthy businessmen employers are bending the rules in the hope of pinning it on the hapless worker. On 18 April, 1941, a fine of £1 10s, with 8s costs, was imposed on A.C. Brown Pty. Ltd.. of Hannell Street, Wickham, for having permitted an unregistered dual-wheeled trailer to be driven on Maitland Road. Sandgate. The information against Terence Henry French of Beresford Lane, Wickham, who was the driver of the company’s trailer, was dismissed under section 556a of the Crimes Act. Caught between skips at Bloomfield colliery yesterday, 22 February, 1947, Max Webb, 22, a wheeler, of Beresford Lane, Wickham, suffered a probable fracture of his breastbone. Maitland Ambulance took him to a surgery and to hospital. 

Later in the year, our hero, the young Max Webb, gallantly fingered the perpetrator of a heinous city crime in a particularly tense courtroom drama, when on 20 May Vincent John Morris, 22, was committed for trial, at the Newcastle Sessions, on a charge of having, by negligent driving at about 6 pm on 24 August, 1946, caused grievous bodily harm to Sophia Alice Riley, 77, of Gosford Road, Adamstown. Ms Riley said she and her sister were waiting on the footpath at Hunter and Tudor Streets for the Adamstown tram. Maxwell Desmond Webb, 17, mine wheeler, of Beresford-lane, Newcastle, said two cars pulled up three feet from the back of the tram. A third car came between the front of the front car and the tram and hit the women when they were half-way to the tram. The driver of the car applied his brakes, but the car had hit the women before he stopped. The women were carried with the car for about six feet. In defence, Morris said he’d only consumed five middies of beer since he’d knocked off work at 1:30 that afternoon. Oh, and maybe two more since 6 o’clock. I imagine him mumbling “if they hadn’t been walking side-by-side I could have collect them both, not just the one.” 

A 28-year-old clerk, who admitted taking and using a motor cycle at Wickham early this morning (1 July, 1953) without the consent of the owner, was fined £30 in Newcastle Court today. Police said that the clerk, William Thomas Davidson, took the motor cycle from Beresford Lane, Wickham, about 1.20 am and was wheeling it along the street when the owner, Kevin Geoffrey Houghton, came upon him in a taxi cab. Houghton took Davidson to Newcastle Police Station, where he was charged. Davidson had said he had been at a dance and was drunk. Asked if he had any thing to say, Davidson told Mr. R. A. Hardwicke, S.M.: “I can hardly remember it.” Mr. Hardwicke: “Perhaps I can impress it on your memory a bit. You are fined £30, in default 60 days’ hard labour.”

Your council at work
The council – in those days Wickham’s local concern – was not entirely ignorant of the affairs of our famous laneway. On Friday, 8 May, 1914, they sent an inspector to examine the state of matters, who affirmed that:
…although it was not in a satisfactory condition, there was nothing of an offensive nature lying in it upon which action should be taken.”

He did expand knowledge by pointing out that until the lane was formed with suitable material it would have an untidy appearance, loose sand primarily being the cause. In December of that year Wickham Council’s town clerk reported that an application had been received to erect extensive brick stables in Beresford Lane, and understood there was a petition to be presented to the council against same, so left the matter open.

The buildings are of the highest order so far as regulations are concerned, and were up to standard. The question for discussion being whether the council consider it judicious, the erection of same in the locality, the first part, re building permits, was adopted. In respect to clause in regard to stables, Alderman Hardyman pointed out that the buildings comprising same would be of up-to-date construction. The chairman said the clerk informed him the estimated cost was £1400. “

But the fix was in. “Consideration” was all show. Alderman Hardyman moved that the clerk draw up a detailed report on the proposed buildings for next meeting which was seconded by Alderman Robson. Alderman Butler moved an amendment, that permission to build is granted. They could not refuse so long as ordinances were complied with. Horses would not be in the stables at night time, and would be no nuisance. After discussion the motion was carried. 

One can only wonder where the horses would be at night, and therefore what exactly the stables were for. Perhap it was a “garage” stables, opening during the day to repair horses. Perhaps it indeed was. I wish we knew. In 1915 Alderman Colman presented a petition from a number of residents – oh, and do note that this has nothing to do with Beresford Lane and in no way reflects upon the character of its inhabitants – for a lamp to be placed at the corner of Anderton and Daniel Streets, Islington. It was pointed out that a lady was robbed of a bag in the vicinity some time previously and proper lighting of the place was necessary. Presumably, a complaint was received by a local thief, who had trouble identifying the location of his victim’s valuables due to unseemly darkness, thus slowing his turnover. 

But I digress. On Thursday 17 June, 1915, as the war raged in Europe, Wickham Council’s clerk of works reported that his men were finishing George Street assignments, continuing Maitland Road and Wickham Streets, upon water tables in Wallace, Redman, Mary, and other streets, and the approaches to Fleming’s estate. It was proposed to proceed with a portion of Beresford Lane, from Florence to Hannell Streets. A start had been made with the pipes at Tighe’s Hill. By this time, it was facetiously remarked in a low voice, that his report was of such length that the actual works had probably been long completed. According to a report from Mr. O. L Godfrey, medical officer of Health, it is necessary that drastic steps be taken in connection with a number of premises in Charlton-street and Beresford Lane, Wickham, all occupied by Chinese. The report, which was submitted at last night’s meeting of Wickham Council, stated among other things, that the writer:

… in company with council sanitary inspector, had inspected the premises under notice and found in some cases the walls were covered with layers of dirty paper, no permanent ventilation, leaking/ roofs, w.c’s.(waste cans, aka bog, aka loo, aka “the bathroom”) in dilapidated condition. In other cases the condition of the buildings was disgusting. They were unfit for habitation. There were no drains to any of the premises, although the sewers had been available for about five years. In Mr. Godfrey’s opinion, the premises were unfit for human habitation and a closing order should be obtained unless improvements were carried out.”

The report was received and It was decided to act upon tho recommendations of the officer. Which report also suggests sewerage had been available to parts of the council area five years preceding the report, dated 13 June, 1918. Late one Thursday, 23 November, in 1933, as councillors felt an overwhelming urge to partake of tea and biscuits, the Mayor struck dismay within the assembled by pointing out that many street names were duplicated in the municipality. They had John-street, Henry-street, and Union-street, in both Wickham and Tighe’s Hill; William-street, in Smedmore and Tighe’s Hill; George-street In Islington and Tighe’s Hill; a Park-lane and Park Drive in Islington; and a Park-road in Tighe’s Hill. 

There was a Beresford-street and a Beresford-lane, a Railway-street and a Railway-lane. There were also two new streets without names, one off Railway-street and the other off Hannell-street. Alderman Grahame recommended that John-street, Wickham, be called Fegan-street; Henry-street, Tighe’s Hill, to be Kirk-street; Union-street, Tighe’s Hill, to be Pepper-street; William-street, Smedmore, to be Toll street; George-street, Tighe’s’ Hill, to be Turner-street; Park-drive, Islington, to be Clark-street; Park-lane, Islington, to Dennett-street; Park-road, Tighe’s Hill, to be Park-street; and Beresford-lane to be Bailey-street. 

On the latter – apart from pondering which suburb was once called “Smedmore” – we can breathe but a huge sigh of relief that tea and bikkies won out, and Alderman Grahame was comprehensively ignored.

Famous last words

On the advice of the City Engineer (Mr. L. J. Price), the Works Committee of the Greater Newcastle Council decided last night (12 May, 1938) to recommend the council to take steps toward resumptions necessary to extend Stewart-avenue, to provide a direct link from Hunter-street to Wickham railway station. The Engineer stated that with the probability that traffic to the city from Wickham station would increase considerably in the future, a link from Stewart-avenue would be more satisfactory, in years to come, than the extension of Florence-street to Beresford street, planned by Wickham Council.

It would appear from the file that the Wickham Council has given consideration to this important matter, and finally proceeded to. take the preliminary steps towards the resumption," Mr. Price’s report stated. The department advises that to extend Florence-street through to Beresford-street will require a deposit towards the cost of resumption to the extent of £1000, the land to be resumed having frontages of 66ft. to Beresford-lane and to "Beresford-street, and being partly occupied fly a large garage over the length of one of the allotments. Having regard to the importance of securing a cross connection to Wickham station from Hunter-street, further consideration has been given to this question.

It is noted that Stewart-avenue is a direct approach from the south, and in direct extension of Stewart-avenue are non substantial buildings. One or two buildings of minor value have recently been demolished. It would appear to be more economical, at this stage, to extend Stewart-avenue directly from Hunter-street to Beresford-street, even if it involves the additional resumption between Hunter-street and Beresford Lane. In recommending to the council that this resumption be effected, consideration has been given to the ultimate position of Wickham Station in relation to the business centre of Newcastle. It would appear that, in- the course of time, steam train service will be replaced by a suburban electric service, and as the business centre of Newcastle further extends westerly, the number of passengers making use of Wickham station will be substantially increased. It will, therefore, be of some importance to have a direct outlet from the station to Hunter-street instead of approaching the station by narrow laneways at its western end and Hannell-street at its extreme end.

It is, therefore, recommended that the council should not proceed further with the extension of Florence-street to Beresford-street at this stage, but give instant consideration to the extension of Stewart avenue across Hunter-street to Beresford street. The proposal notice should be immediately served on the owners concerned in order that resumption costs of all be based on the values of the land and properties as they now exist. The Valuer General might be asked to submit a valuation of the land affected in order that the council may be in a position to give consideration to the financial aspect of the resumption.”

The committee, as it came up for air and began eyeing the late evening snacks, unanimously and with almost obscene haste approved of the recommendation, and referred it to the Finance Committee for consideration.

Another final word

(that happens to be, perchance, "sordidness")

Mrs. R. M. Ewing (no relation to J.R.) asked Greater Newcastle Works Committee last night (2 May, 1946) to consider installing a children’s playground in Birdwood Park as a memorial to her husband. The area, she said, would help children in the vicinity of Wickham and Beresford Lane. "In our brief sojourn amidst the sordidness of this locality, my husband and self saw with pity the necessity for such a playground," she said. She sought approval for the erection of standardised playground equipment in the park. The Parks and Building Surveyor (CIr. Petterson) reported that until the property owned by Brambles Ltd. was resumed, it would not he possible to develop a plan for the full development of the park area, which should include a children’s playground.

The Lane's decorations in June of 2014
Around the corner in Beresford Street
Still in June of 2014, The Store and its carpark see the end coming. On wall at left, the two works are a) painted on a stepped wall, and b) the further one is smack behind a pole.
The pole is very close to the wall. Did try several shots from either angle and attempted stitching the two. Keystone correction looked worse when stitched, so went with the originals. Just ignore the brickwork :0)

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