MHS Blog

Balloons Aloft

Balloons Aloft

The first known ascent of a gas balloon was made in Paris in 1784, and many further attempts followed. After numerous failures, the first successful flight in NSW was made from the Domain, in front of a large crowd, in December 1858. Over the following decades this fascination with flight grew, and though still perilous, many “aeronauts” took up the challenge. Ascents were advertised to take place at shows, the races, pleasure grounds and gatherings for public holidays, crowds flocking to see this wonderful new phenomenon. By the 1890s Mosman’s population was growing rapidly, and local exhibitions of such novelties...

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The Roads to the Spit

The Roads to the Spit

From 1850 a punt service, operated by Peter Ellery, transported passengers across the harbour at The Spit. Rough tracks enabled pedestrian and mounted travellers to reach the area, but not until 1880 was a more serviceable road built by the Government, enabling vehicular traffic. This route followed Spit Road to Medusa Street, over Parriwi Headland on the current Upper Spit Road, then down a precipitous slope at the western side of the escarpment to The Spit. Visitors describe wildflowers, beautiful views across the harbour to the Heads, and Middle Harbour to the west. Having built this road however, the government...

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"bloodcurdling screams": Shark Attack in Middle Harbour

"bloodcurdling screams": Shark Attack in Middle Harbour

I visited Waverley Cemetery in March 2018 and Walter C German’s headstone caught my eye. ‘Killed by shark, Middle Harbour’ it announced. Who was Walter C. German and what were the circumstances of his attack and death on 8 December 1916? The Daily Telegraph of 26 December 2014 began by describing Sydney Harbour as a ‘sinister soup, swarming with giblets that kill’. Despite the age of 39 on his headstone, the article described Walter Cromwell German as a 41 year-old Torquay Point man who was swimming with his wife at nearby Middle Harbour when his left arm was bitten off...

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Athol Hall

Athol Hall

The picnic and pleasure ground known as Athol Gardens, near the Zoo at Athol Bight, was originally a grant of 4 acres made to Joseph Kay in 1831, then passing to Alexander Ferrier in 1836. Ferrier erected two houses on the property, a garden cottage for his family, and a substantial villa named Athol. When advertised for rent in 1845, the villa was described as “consisting of dining and drawing rooms, four bed-rooms, detached kitchen with oven, laundry and rooms above, also extensive garden” (SMH 27/2/1845). Later, servants’ rooms, outbuildings, kitchen garden, orchard and paddocks were added. There was a...

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Mosman Golf Club

Mosman Golf Club

On 15 February 1922 the Sydney “Sun” announced that part of the Military Reserve on Middle Head, recently opened to the public by the Defence Department, was to be leased for a new golf course. A group of Clifton Gardens residents, led by Mosman Alderman Peter Burrows and Col. Robert Sands, instigated the Mosman Golf Club, with membership to be limited to residents of Mosman.The Club became a registered Company in December 1922, with plans to lease 59 acres from the Defence Department on which a nine-hole links would be constructed. By July 1923 the details had been settled and...

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