Past Events 2020

Book Launch: Taking the Plunge The History of Ashfield Pool 1963 to 2018

Date: 18th October 2020

Venue: Pratten Park Bowling Club

Taking the Plunge The History of Ashfield Pool 1963 to 2018
Ann O’Connell, Lois Gray and Mark Sabolch, the authors of Taking the Plunge.
Mark Sabolch, Mark Persi, Melissa Pride and Peter Romero.
Follow this link to see the digitised version of the 16mm film that recorded the official opening of the Ashfield Pool in 1963

This fantastic publication written by Ann O’Connell, Mark Sabolch and Lois Gray, edited by David Rollinson and Ann O’Connell, was launched to coincide with the official opening of the new Ashfield Aquatic Centre held the previous day. Society members received their copy following Bob Irving’s presentation (see below). The release of the book was much awaited and great feedback has been received from Inner West Council, who commissioned the Society to write the history of the Ashfield Pool.

More information about the book, the opening of the new Ashfield Aquatic Centre and photographs is available Here.

Members can pick up their copies of the book at the Society’s rooms at Thirning Villa when they are open on the second and last Saturday of each month between 11:00am and 4:00pm. Non-members can purchase copies of the book for $25 from our rooms when they are open.

Marc Sabolch presented Mark Persi, Melissa Pride and Peter Romero with copies of Taking the Plunge at the launch on Sunday.

Peter Romero, grew up in Ashfield and is a life member of the Ashfield Amateur Swimming Club. Melissa Pride is a swimming teacher and daughter of Warwick Webster who had the swim school lease at Ashfield Pool from 1965. Mark Persi is a water polo player and founding member of the Ashfield Amateur Water Polo Club that started at the Ashfield Pool when it first opened in 1963. The Society has oral history recordings of each of these three people, and we hope to make them available through the website soon. 

The Society now has a digitised copy of the 16mm film commissioned by Ashfield Council to record the official opening of the Pool in 1963. This was shown to those who attended and initiated a lot of discussion.

A Talk by Bob Irving: Australia’s First Real Building

Date: 18th October 2020

Venue: Pratten Park Bowling Club

Robert Irving
The First Government House with the ‘portable house’ still standing on the right.
Bob provided details of the construction of the ‘portable house’.
Bob’s plan of the ‘portable house’.
Bob’s presentation was attended by 40 people, the maximum number permitted at this time.

Sunday the 18th of October was a great day. It was the first time in six months the Society has been able to hold an indoor event. Life member of the Society Robert Irving OAM (our esteemed architectural historian) presented a talk on Australia’s First Real Building. Bob’s wealth of knowledge on history and heritage was evident as he presented his research on one of the least-known historical structures of early Sydney.

When Arthur Phillip arrived with the First Fleet in 1788, he brought with him a ‘portable house’ for his occupation until the (now long-gone) First Government House could be erected for him. Bob likened the portable house to an IKEA flatpack. It was Australia’s first prefabricated building, a remarkable example in the New World of the burgeoning industrial revolution in Britain.

Bob has invested considerable time in researching the ‘portable house’ and in his talk he presented, for the first time, his insights into this important part of the architectural history of Sydney. Regrettably, the building itself has disappeared but Bob used his knowledge of architecture and building to ‘reconstruct’ and describe this structure and using early maps and depictions of Sydney Cove, he has been able to determine where it was located.

It was a wonderful talk, with material also drawn from Bob’s international research, well received by a capacity audience.

A Walk along Victoria Street Ashfield

Date: 20th September 2020

Venue: Victoria Street Ashfield

Victoria Street looking South.
Members masked and distanced.
The ‘Masonic Hospital’
‘Glentworth’ in the grounds of the Cardinal Freeman Village.
Chris Pratten outside Glentworth.
‘Northbridge’, now the home of the Borsak family.
Cheryl Borsak proudly presenting the narrative of the restoration of Northbridge.

After many months of not being able to organise events the Society organised a walk along Victoria Street Ashfield. The numbers for this event were limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. The walk was a warm-up for a larger event to be held when conditions permit a larger gathering.

The day started out rather ominously with a heavy fall of rain but by 2pm the skies were almost clear and Mark Sabolch with Lois Gray, Ann O’Connell, Chris Pratten and Bernadette Williamson, lead a group of 17 through a wonderful walk.

The walk commenced at No 1 Victoria Street opposite the Fire Station and the next two hours were jam packed with information and experience. The walk and talk covered everything from the architectural history of some of the amazing residences and buildings such as Glentworth, Northbridge, Mountjoy, the Sydney Private Hospital, and the Patons Electrical Factory at No 90 to name a few.

The Society has produced another publication Preserving Their Names commemorating those from the Ashfield district who served in WW1. During the progress of the walk Ann O’Connell and Lois Gray provided a wealth of information about some of the men who had lived in Victoria Street and had enlisted. This publication is to be launched on the 15th of November and contains the names of over 3,000 people with 19 explored in detail.

A highlight of the walk was an invitation by Cheryl Borsak to explore the garden and the external areas of her home, Northbridge. Cheryl and her family had arranged a great display of photographs and she provided a great narrative describing some of the trials and tribulations of buying and restoring one of the grand homes in Victoria Street. It was a great pleasure to visit and to hear of the respectful restoration they are still undertaking and the Society extends its appreciation and thanks to the Borsak family.

We didn’t get to complete the Victoria Street walk because there was just so much to discuss and view. The Society in organising the next Victoria Street walk will probably hold it in two parts so that everything can be covered!

The Society at the Summer Hill Mills Markets

Venue: The Flour Mills, Edward Street Summer Hill

Bernadette Williamson and Carolyn Carter at our stall at the Markets.

Bernadette Williamson and a group of volunteers from the Society host a stall at the Flour Mills Markets in Summer Hill. The Markets are held every second Sunday. The stall has been a great initiative and has resulted in quite a few sales of our publications and has also generated a lot of interest in the Society. If you are wandering around the market drop by and say ‘hello’ to Bernadette and her helpers!

The Annual General Meeting of the Ashfield & District Historical Society

Date: 16th February 2020

Venue: Pratten Park Bowling Club

Mark Sabolch, Heather Warton & Murray Cleaver (Minute Sec) at the AGM
Members of the Society at the AGM
The AGM was attended by over 50 people.

The Society’s AGM held on 16 February 2020 was a great event. The Mayor of the Inner West Council, Darcy Byrne gave the main address, an entertaining and informative talk on ‘Growing up in the Inner West’ (see below).

Darcy is an impressive speaker and told us some interesting stories about the colourful political figures and events that he and his family have met and witnessed.

Our President, Mark Sabolch presented his report on the initiatives and events of the Society in 2019. A copy of Mark’s report can be found on our new webpage: ashfieldhistory.org.au. A new Committee was elected for 2020. We congratulate Mark Sabolch for being re-elected as President. The Society is fortunate to have Mark at the helm, to continue as President in 2020 with his enthusiasm and drive.

David Rollinson continues as Vice President and Public Officer. David is also the Heritage Officer for 2020, a role that involves keeping watch on developments in the area. David continues to advocate for heritage by making submissions on behalf of the Society both in writing and in person at local planning panel meetings. We have a new Treasurer for 2020, Carolyn Carter, who replaces Heather Warton. Heather is now the Newsletter Editor.

Ann O’Connell has been the major contributor to the running of the Society for many years, taking on several roles at once, including Secretary, Newsletter Editor, Research Officer as well as prolific contributor to our journals.

Ann is currently working on two journals to be published this year, one being about people who served from Ashfield and district in World War I and the other is the publication for the opening of the new Ashfield Pool complex later this year. Ann will continue to be Research Officer and Journal Editor in 2020.

Our Society will continue to be well served by Lois Gray as Events Coordinator, and our thanks to Lois and the members of the Committee who contributed to the fine afternoon tea at the AGM and at our other events during the past year.

Clare Herscovitch continues as Rooms and Collections Officer. Clare has been undertaking the important role of digitizing the photographs and documents held in the Society’s collection in the Rooms, for future safekeeping and ease of access. The minutes of our meetings and events will continue to be accurately recorded by Murray Cleaver. Murray will also taking over from Ann to deal with correspondence. Murray is the Minutes and Correspondence Secretary.

This year our Committee member Colin Webb has made a fabulous contribution to the Society through the creation of our new website. Colin is now appropriately the Society’s official Web Manager. Philip Lingard also continues as IT Coordinator. The esteemed Bob Irving will continue as the Society’s Honorary Architectural Historian.

We had much interest from members wishing to join the Committee, and now have possibly the largest Committee ever. The general Committee Members returning from last year are Alex Lofts and Bernadette Williamson, and the new Committee members are – Helmut Kals, David Morgan, and Jan and Paul Williams. Thanks also to our outgoing Committee Members, Mandy Keevil and Rachel Davies, who will still contribute to the Society’s activities.


AGM Address by Darcy Byrne – ‘Growing Up in the Inner West – people, places and events that have shaped my thinking’

Darcy Byrne, Mayor of the Inner West Council

Darcy Byrne has lived his entire life (38 years) in the inner west. His parents, both graduates of the University of Sydney and members of the left wing Sydney Push, chose to live in lively Balmain among like-minded people including Frank Moorhouse and Darcy Waters.

During Darcy’s childhood, Balmain was a very politicised community dominated by the ALP. Eminent ALP leaders like J.J. Cahill, Neville Wran and Tom Uren were local identities. Darcy’s anecdotes included these three and also journalist Paddy McGuiness, swimmer Dawn Fraser and footballer Wayne Pearce.

Mr Byrne also expressed his enthusiasm for the history and heritage of inner west suburbs beyond Balmain. He expressed surprise that his proposals to re-brand the Norton St precinct in Leichhardt as ‘Little Italy’ and the entire Council area as the “national capital of arts and culture”, have proved controversial.