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Oh ma Lordee, lookee here
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
When you think about, the idea of slum suburbs has all but disappeared from our cities. It's amazing how overwhelmingly middle class we've become.

A selection of old Sydney struggle streets from the City of Sydney Archives, with access to some State Library collections, including Victoria's.

Mc Elhone Street Woolloomooloo (formerly Duke Street): a mother and baby, young street sweeper, and paper boys maybe? 1912.

These kids were quickly out with their billy carts to collect firewood when a house was demolished in Yurong Street, East Sydney, in 1925

Mrs Eccles's house at 103 Alfred Street. Undated:

A bit hard to see the fresh produce, but this was a greengrocer's shop at 163 Crown Street East Sydney in 1931: caption says a sign in the window next door offers 'solta wood and coal.'

Up the road, people were really jammed in on Crown Street in 1931

Gloucester Street, c1901

Junction Street 1926

The basic backyard on Burton Street 1926

McElhorne Street corner Woolloomoloo, 1912

Washing day, Junction Street 1926. A pensive little boy at the end of the lane. You'd have to think that his life was less than full of light, beauty and fun.

That's it, Bronte

Oh ma Lordee, lookee here
1,746 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Yep, our dear old Sydney was not just a pretty face. This is Hunt Street in 1906:

And Wexford Street in the Surry Hills area, predominantly Chinese because of its proximity to the markets. That's the Fong Lee Jang and Co grocery and general store on the corner. Let's see what happens to it ...

This the The Ballad of Wexford Street. In 1911 The Daily Telegraph announced grandly that the whole area had been resumed by the City Council with plans to clear and drive the new Wentworth Avenue diagonally through it:

By 1923 work was still contining apace. This is at Brisbane Street, with Buckingham's department store left up on Oxford Street:

Steady as she goes. It's 1929, 18 years after the project was conceived, but we're starting to see some progress now boys. Got rid of that ***** church on the right, anyway.

It was the 1898 Chinese Church of England on Wexford Street, where the Rev Soo Hoo Ten preached. Note the pagoda-like spire and latern adornments on the roof. Apparently the interior was also a mix of European and Godless oriental decor (not being serious - just a parody of the attitudes of the times).

These photos were lifted from a City of Sydney Streets Exhibition.

That's it again. Bronte

All the way with PJK
921 Posts
Woolloomooloo is still over 80% public housing, though that percentage may have declined since the wharf and other luxury unit developments in the area were constructed. Furthermore, many of the areas parks and gardens are populated by more than 50 homeless people each, and many more homeless are housed in hostels and other emergency housing accommodated in that suburb. Woolloomooloo is still an area of great poverty, ringed by some of the most expensive real estate in Australia. People that live in private terraces and houses in the area face the brunt of the suburbs crime and nuisance (terrible word, but nobody wants to be woken up at 3am with a broken window and a pissed-on front door), but that style of housing of considerably cheaper than surrounding suburbs. The prices enter the stratosphere for those in luxury units that can enter and leave via private garages without having to pass the suburbs' innards. That said, walking around the 'loo during the daytime is quite pleasant enough and of course, around the water/wharf at all times.

Very interesting thread, Bronteboy.

Oh ma Lordee, lookee here
1,746 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Another instalment in honour of our shining SSC banner today: you know, just while the latte brews.
Acknowledging here the essay of Sue Doyle, "Doomed Streets of Sydney 1900-28, Images froom the City Council Demolition Books: This essay provided extra caption details. It appeared in 2004 in the Scan online journal of Media Arts and Culture.

The bubonic plague outbreak in 1900 caused houses like this one on Wattle Street in Pyrmont on the City Council's list for resumption and demolition:

Athlone Place in Pyrmont no longer exists for the same reason. A caption suggests the child's shaved head is a measure against headlice

A store in John Street Surry Hills near the notorious Frog Hollow in May 1902

Clyde Street in Millers Point, built in 1830, was resumed bythe Sydney Harbour Trust in 1901.

On that street, leading down to the docks, the whitewashed front steps were a sign of respectability.

Gas Lane in Millers Point was paved with wood blocks

Clyde Street looking up from the Harbour, with an advertisement for Wolfe's Schnapps - very medicinal, and recommended as proof against rhuematics, gout and dropsy.

O'Connor and Balfour Streets Chippendale, and area listed for slum clearance 1909-13

Kensington Street Chippendale: these houses and hotel will make way for ...a brewery!

Barefoot boys on Myrtle St Chippendale:

Palmer Lane Darlinghurst

Foveaux Street Surry Hills

Wilmott Street South Sydney

Union Street Pyrmont

Irving Street Chippendale 1913, next to the brewery.

This house in Kippax Street Surry Hill was given priority demolition - being below street level it was regarded as particularly unhealthy.

Riley Street Surry Hills, 1916. Children and their ubiquitous carts help gather timber and fittings.

Gladstone Hotel East Sydney 1916, with the house next door operating as a 'French Laundry.'

Stephen Street Surry Hills, 1906 - part of the Wexford Street area cleared away in the previous post.


Happy now...
688 Posts

One of Sydney's most notorious slums, Frogs Hollow in Surry Hills.

In the mid 1850's, Frog Hollow was the site of a creek that crossed Riley Street and was one of several swampy and poorly-drained hollows.

Despite being poorly suited, the gully was developed by speculative builders and stuffed full of small tenements. The housing was substandard - dark, damp and overcrowded - accessed by steep stairways, with poorly-lit and narrow laneways.

Frog Hollow attracted some of the most undesirable characters living in Sydney, including Samuel 'Jewey' Freeman - the leader of the notorious Riley Street Gang - and, for a short time, the 32 year old thief, Kate Leigh, who later achieved notoriety as one of Sydney's crime bosses.

Until the late 1920s, the sub-standard rental properties were a haven for the very poor. Social problems included gambling, gang fights, murders, illegal drinking and prostitution. In 1928, police arrested 69 men in a raid on a two-up school operating out of Frog Hollow - punters entered through a concealed door from 112 Albion Street.

The Frog Hollow slum was eventually considered unfit for human habitation and the land was resumed by the Council on 30 December 1925 for the purpose of "eradicating a slum area". By 1930, most of the Frog Hollow housing had been demolished and it was slowly converted to park land.

Oh ma Lordee, lookee here
1,746 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the Frog Hollow references nOchAos: It's always fascinating to know of the dark laneway labyrinths of the city's colourful past. I learn that apart from its gangs, Frog Hollow was also home to many elderly, destitute widows, and had two w.c's for each 11 houses.

This seems to be one of the rare images around, looking down into it from the corner of Essex and Gloucester Streets: 1901

So this Gloucester St 1901 pic must also be in the Frog Hollow area

There was also a area known as Frog Hollow among the unemployed camps out at La Perouse during the Depression.


Oh ma Lordee, lookee here
1,746 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Mug shots from Sydney's Roaring Twenties

For those that are interested the Justice & Police Museum near Circular Quay has many photos of this type. As does the book City of shadows: Sydney police photographs 1912–1948.

Thanks Ipggi: These are mug-shots in the vast collection stored at the Justice and Police Museum, and posted with Peter Doyle's essay for the online Scan Journal of Media Arts and Culture. Peter's work is an impressionistic interpretation of the photographs and subject attitudes, so it doesn't take away from his work.

Mostly petty crims, they are posted here simply as guys and dolls who went from the struggle streets to the jug - probably quite often - in this period:

H. Ellis. We don't know any details, but he looks in fine fettle.

Cocaine dealer May Blake, Central Cells, 1930

Don't know what Patrick Riley's problem was in 1924 either: But he looks quite at home.

Thomas Bede was a cheeky bugger in 1928. Written across the photograph is: "This man refused to open his eyes."

Valerie Lowe: young girl in a spot of bother, 1924

Ah Nim and Ah Tom were picked up by the Drugs Squad in the late 1920s, but there's no record of a conviction. Ah so?

Similarly Mrs Osbourne, whose details are unknown

But Alfred Fitch, young car thief here, became a real heavy later : stand-over associate of Frederick 'Chow' Hayes and Kate Leigh.

Frederick Dawe Davies, however, was arrested in 1921 for stealing in picture shows and theatres. Looks like he got a shitty deal at the cells.

Jaunty pickpocket Lou Sterling turned into a gunman. Shown here in 1921

We don't know what Edith Stone had been doing, butshe ended up in the Central Cells in 1924

Details for these three are also unknown

He's Frank Murray in 1929. I wonder if they recorded Frank's height accurately?

That's it, Bronte.

Oh ma Lordee, lookee here
1,746 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
The leavings of The Night.

Thanks Gappa. Let's wrap this one up from the Justice and Police Museum:

Coppers: (about to go out into the Struggle Streets for their pay-offs?)

Balmain murder scene, 1959

Collision, looks fatal.

Wartime bronzed Aussie bystanders, after a collision between a car and a coal truck outside the air raid shelter

Still there when the dawn breaks. Crumpets for breakfast.

Found, when the dam was drained

A 1930s detective looks up to bad news in the Argyle Cut

Struggle's over...

Struggle's over.

Yes all life's struggles shall be over...

But every morning in the city, there dawns a new day.

(That will really have to be it - won't it, Bronte)

These images from the Justice and Police Museum were originally posted with a Caleb Williams essay on Scan.
Caleb Williams and Peter Doyle (previous post) are co-curators of the Museum.

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Hi There

I've been really enjoying finding and reading this thread, and have started building a Sordid Sydney Facebook Page at

I would be thrilled if you wanted to add any further images or other content. Let me know if you would like to be added as an Administrator, or you are welcome to contact me on [email protected]

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