Those Little Streets Around Hunter St Mall

View north from the top end of Morgan Street, overlooking Laing Street.

One of those old-world districts that could have been so much more in another timeline, the tiny nooks and corners of inner-city Newcastle held such promise – had the CBD maintained its vitality and prominence from a century ago.

Thorn Street view north.

The Newcastle Coop Store had mini-malls in every local township at the same time as Newcastle’s CBD was the regional “magnate attractor,” so why did the arrival of big box malls (Jesmond Centre and Kotara Fair) coincide with the decline and eventual demise of Hunter Street?*

Running proudly narrow and ambitiously from harbourside to The Hill, or, little more than glorified laneways – or just an arcade – they paralleled Hunter Street vainly hoping for some of its trade.

You know them as Laing, Wolfe, Morgan, Thorn, Market, Perkins, Brown, and Newcomen Streets.

What can we say about them?

Wolfe Street facing the harbour. At left, the former side entrance to David Jones.

Throsby’s memories are wondrous indeed. He was dragged around these tiny thoroughfares as a junior when there was family business to be done, long before the King Street parking station destroyed the ambiance and functionality of the city’s inner CBD and placed a visual blight on cathedral hill.

He fondly recalls forcing his Mama down city arcade, past the tobacconist, ignoring New Standard Radio that a teenage He would incessantly bother the staff of, and directly to the magical little shop that sold his favourite wonderland snack, a garishly coloured yet edible sugar pig. Oh how his little pancreas worked so hard in the ensuing days as he gnawed the brittle sweetness down to nothing.

Market Street in 2014 before removal of the pedestrian walkway to Queens Wharf.

He still feels and hears the thronging moviegoers swarm into the Strand, Lyrique, and Victoria picture theatres to bathe in the fantasy world of those Hollywood musical blockbusters of the 1950s. In youth he spent many an hour bemused at the cycle of features in The Tatler. Then back on the double-decker Albion bus for the one hour trip home – right past the local theatre in Main Road, Boolaroo, that was merrily screening such enticing epics as “Killer Girl from Mars” and suchlike.

As does nonagenarian Rose, whose travels around town are warmly recorded by Tania:

Of course for most of my life it was not a shopping centre at all but rather one of the most marvellous picture theatres I have ever seen, called the Strand. An outing to the Strand was always bright.

Everybody would look very fine, being all dressed up, and there was the tantalising smell of all sorts of treats from the theatre and the shop across the road too, like hot roasted nuts and popcorn, and the bright lights and chrome railings sparkling, and of course the sight of the grand sweeping staircase in the foyer.

I was very sad to see it go, as it had been there since I was a very little girl, and it was always very merry.

*Or did they? Anyone who knows of a thesis written on the subject, I’d be grateful if you’d drop me a note [ throsby at newcastleonhunter dot com].

Thorn Street
Thorn Street viewed southward.