City of Sydney Historical Association

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Upcoming Events

City of Sydney Historical Association (COSHA)

Formed in 2000 with the aim of increasing awareness and appreciation of the history of the City of Sydney, COSHA aims to make our history more accessible.
COSHA regularly organises guided walks, lectures and tours of historic sites and buildings.



June 2024

Saturday 15th June at 2:00pm

Mr Todd's Marvel: How one man telegraphed Australia to the modern world

Speaker - Adam Courtenay

Venue: Henry Carmichael Theatre, Sydney Mechanics of Arts, 280 Pitt Street
Admission: Members $5 Visitors $10
No bookings required

Credit: Maritime Museum

In the early days of Sydney settlement people were lucky if they ever heard news of their family again. Every ship arriving in the Port of Sydney was rushed as people clustered hopefully to hear news from home. Letters also took forever going the other way. And then came…the telegraph.

Author Adam Courtenay tells the story. In 1855 talented astronomer and scientist Charles Todd had a dream to build a telegraph line across Australia to connect it to the world. This dream was a bold one and he would have to wait for technological advances to catch up with his ideas.

Todd and his men would have to erect thousands of telegraph poles across the entire expanse of the country, from Adelaide to the northern coast - one pole every 80 metres - across land that was relentlessly inhospitable and largely unknown to them. They overcame every obstacle and, as well as reducing the transmission of information to the country from months to hours, revealed the splendour of the continent's interior to its rapidly growing population.



MAY 2024

Saturday 11th May at 2:00pm

Sydney's Condemnation and Demolition books

Speaker - Laila Ellmoos

Venue: Henry Carmichael Theatre, Sydney Mechanics of Arts, 280 Pitt Street
Admission: Members $5 Visitors $10
No bookings required

Cottage in Francis Street Darlinghurst, circa 1909, City of Sydney Archives A-00036644

In this talk, City Historian Laila Ellmoos will tell us about the history of the City of Sydney's Condemnation and Demolition Books, a key photographic collection held in the City Archives comprising almost 5000 photographs and associated glass plate negatives.

The City Building Surveyor’s department used photographs to document the city’s profound transformation in the first two decades of the 20th century. These photographs inadvertently captured the largely working-class neighbourhoods and people being displaced by commercial and government redevelopment.

The Demolition Books collection formed the basis of an exhibition at Customs House called Developing Sydney: Capturing Change 1900-1920. The exhibition, which was on display for 2 years during the Covid-19 pandemic, is available as a virtual exhibition and as a story map. The City Archives is working to digitise the collection and make it available for researchers and casual browsers alike.

Laila Ellmoos is a professional historian who is passionate about communicating history to a wide range of audiences through exhibitions, talks and the written word. She is the City Historian at the City of Sydney Council, and a long-standing member of the Professional Historians Association of NSW & ACT.



APRIL 2024

Saturday 13th April at 2:00pm

A Brief History of the Development of the Sydney Tramway System from 1861

Speaker - Ron Besdansky, Engineer and train enthusiast

Venue: Henry Carmichael Theatre, Sydney Mechanics of Arts, 280 Pitt Street
Admission: Members $5 Visitors $10
No bookings required

Picture: Daily Mail

There was a time when trams were a common sight throughout Sydney.

Remember when you could travel anywhere on the tram network for just one shilling? How did the network operate? How did the trams intertwine with the trains? And what led to the demise of this much loved form of public transport? Join us for this fascinating look back at a time when trams were an essential part of all the Sydney public transport network. Alas, today it is a very limited experience.


MARCH 2024

Saturday 9th March at 2:00pm


Speaker -Robijn Alexanda

Venue: Henry Carmichael Theatre, Sydney Mechanics of Arts, 280 Pitt Street
Admission: Members $5 Visitors $10
No bookings required


Not unlike a museum, church treasures employed for ritual use and religious devotion in church services require safe keeping for survival. Patrons, whether they be individuals, or institutions, have funded these creations and thus served as a means of ensuring quality that works were completed to a high standard. Objects include statuary images, architectural details, baptismal fonts, shrines, stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, and paintings.

In Sydney the earliest statuary from Eastern Europe dates from the C15th and the most recent work of art was installed in 2018 by the Armenian community. Historian Robijn Alxanda will reveal some of Sydney’s secrets.





Saturday 24th February at 2:00pm

From the First Fleet to the Harbour Bridge: Sydney's astronomical beginnings

Speaker -Professor Richard de Grijs

Venue: Henry Carmichael Theatre, Sydney Mechanics of Arts, 280 Pitt Street
Admission: Members $5 Visitors $10
No bookings required



The voyage of the First Fleet from Britain to Botany Bay was more than a convenient way to rid Britain of its convicts. Join us as historical detectives on the trail of William Dawes, astronomer, engineer, surveyor and ordnance officer---from his arrival in 1788 until the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932.

The First Fleet was not just for military but also scientific purposes , which is poorly known today. Astronomers were vital on voyages of discovery, because they could cross check the readings of a chronometer – a portable timekeeping device also used for determining longitude at sea – with time measurements based on the stars. Willam Dawes spent much time building rapport with the indigenous people and was working with a young Aboriginal woman to record the Gadigal language. He was the first European ever to do this. While Dawes was making scientific progress and surveying the stars and streets of the new colony, his relationship with Governor Arthur Phillip deteriorated. Well known to us is the area in Sydney called Dawes point, but how many have heard the story of this interesting man?