City of Sydney Historical Association
COSHA


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  • A Monthly Newsletter with a record of our speakers’ talks
  • Information on other History Events in NSW

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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.





 

July 2024

Saturday 13th July at 2:00pm

That Bligh Girl

Speaker - Sue Williams

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

Credit: Herald Sun

Journalist Sue Williams returns to the untold stories of the women of colonial Sydney with another fascinating, meticulously researched historical novel.

Mary Bligh is no shrinking violet. After a horrific six-month sea voyage from Britain, she proves as strong-willed as her bloody-minded father, the newly appointed Governor William Bligh. The pair scandalises Sydney with their personalities, politics, and her pantaloons. When three hundred armed soldiers of the Rum Rebellion march on Government House to depose him, the governor is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Mary stands defiantly at the gates, fighting them back with just her parasol. Despite being bullied, belittled and betrayed, Mary remains steadfast, even when her desperate father double-crosses her yet again in his last-ditch attempt to cling to power. But will Mary turn out to be her father's daughter and deceive him in pursuit of her dreams and ambitions?

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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MARCH 2024

Saturday 9th March at 2:00pm

TREASURES IN SYDNEY CHURCHES

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.

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FEBRUARY 2024

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?

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JANUARY 2024

Saturday 13th January at 2:00pm

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

TALE NO. 1: THE STORY OF MARY REIBY

Speaker -Celeste Radcliffe

 

Have you ever wondered about the people pictured on our banknotes and stamps? COSHA member Celeste Radclife will tell you about one notable person - Mary Reiby. Mary Reiby's efforts to Australia are celebrated by a picture of her on our Australian $20.00 bank note. Mary was born overseas, came to Australia as a convict and then devoted herself to making money and to good works that were an amazing achievement.

 

TALE NO. 2: SERENDIPITY: Discovered by chance

Speaker - Betty Candy

Dictionary definition: A serendipity is an unplanned fortunate discovery. They are common occurrences throughout the history of product invention and scientific discovery .Betty Candy will share with you an amazing story that she stumbled on by chance. You will not be able to guess just what this is, but all will be revealed in her interesting talk.

 

TALE NO. 3: THE FABULOUS EDWARDS FAMILY: My Connection to Yarralumla

Speaker - Ruth Saunders

 

A very talented lot! The local side of the story is centered around Kings Cross - the non-seedy side. Our Newsletter Editor, John Edwards has a wonderful story about his most unusual family which will be narrated by Ruth Saunders

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DECEMBER 2023

Saturday 9th December at 2:00pm

THE STORY OF AUSTRALIAN BREWING

Speaker -Peter Symons

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

 

Are you looking for a long cool drink? Well, this talk should whet your appetite!

In this talk, Australian beer historian Peter Symons provides a brief history of beer and brewing in NSW through the development of XXX beer.

Based on primary source documents we will track the progress of XXX, over some 200+ years.

XXX originated from English traditions, however, due to distance, world events, and local tastes, the beverage would change and end up in the modern era with a sole survivor in Toohey’s OLD.

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NOVEMBER 2023

Saturday 11th November at 2:00pm

JOSEPH BANKS - A SHORT HISTORY

Speaker - Ian Burnett

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

Picture: Sir Joseph Banks by Benjamin West, 1773

Joseph Banks individually financed his part of the Endeavour voyage which consisted of a scientific group of 12. Together with Daniel Solander they became the first trained naturalists to describe the unique flora and fauna of Continent Australia that had evolved during its 30 million years of isolation.

As President of the Royal Society and the ‘Minister for New South Wales’ he had a distinguished career and long connection to Australia, but there is more about him that is not in the history books. Historian Ian Burnet tells us the story.

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OCTOBER 2023

Saturday 14th October

COSHA MEMBERS AGM at 1:30pm

THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND at 2:00pm

Speaker - Adam Courtenay

Best selling author of The Ship That Never Was

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

Picture: Harper Collins

When, in 1796, Calcutta-based Scottish merchants Campbell & Clark dispatched an Indian ship hurriedly renamed the ‘Sydney Cove’ to the colony of New South Wales, they were hoping to make their fortune. The ship's speculative cargo was comprised of all kinds of goods to entice the new colony's inhabitants, including 7000 gallons of rum. The merchants were planning to sell the liquor to the Rum Corp, which ruled the colony with an iron grip.

But when the Sydney Cove went down north of Van Diemen's Land, cargo master William Clark and sixteen other crew members were compelled to walk 600 miles to Sydney Town to get help to save the rest of the crew and the precious goods. Assisted by at least six Indigenous clans on his journey,

Clark saw far more of the country than Joseph Banks ever did, and his eventual report to Governor Hunter led to far-reaching consequences for the fledgling colony.

SEPTEMBER 2023

Saturday 9th September at 2:00pm

THE BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY | HOME ON THE HILL

Speaker - Dick Whitaker

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

Picture: Fairfax Files

We are all familiar with “Weather Man” Dick Whitaker talking about storms in Sydney. In September he will tell about some of the storms inside the “BOM” as part of its fascinating history, starting with its performance by the Government Astronomer at the Observatory to its departure from “The Hill” to its modern home today.

In 1908, the Bureau was made a formal part of the Australian Public Service located at the Observatory but with the relationship with the astronomers and the weathermen becoming increasingly testy. In 1922 it was relocated to a purpose built structure near the Observatory where it stayed until 1963. That time involve intense conflict between the Bureau Head and the Government Astronomer while navigating two World Wars, all interspersed with several memorable weather events. The latest development in its history is the restoration of its dilapidated home on the Hill to become the library for nearby Fort Street Public School, a wonderful outcome that will preserve part of the history of this important national service.