Past Events 2021 Details

The OTHER Pandemic: the Spanish Flu In the Inner West 1919

Patricia Skehan

Date: 20th June 2021
Patricia Skehan
Patricia Skehan and her book.
Patricia Skehan and her book.
Patricia was presented with gifts in appreciation of her talk.

Having read Patricia Skehan’s 2020 book,Frontline of the Pandemic: Australia 1919, I was looking forward to hearing her talk. Patricia is a founding member of the Canada Bay Heritage Society and a guide to the historic Thomas Walker Hospital on the banks of the Parramatta River in Concord. She told us how her research journey began with a chat with a guest on one of her guided tours of the hospital.  That guest turned out to be Jean Curlewis’ elderly niece, who later invited Patricia to transcribe Jean’s extensive letters from her time as a Volunteer Aide (VA) in 1919.

‘Spanish flu’ or pneumonic influenza was contagious, with a high fatality rate. It first hit troops in France and Belgium at the end of the Great War and entered Sydney on a troopship from New Zealand. It spread despite strenuous efforts from medical and government authorities. Emergency hospitals, including the Walker Emergency Hospital at Concord, were set up and volunteers called for.

Tricia’s selection of illustrations was brilliant, including newspaper cartoons, headstone inscriptions, portraits and photos of medical and nursing staff, patients, all kinds of formal and makeshift hospitals.

Of great interest are the comparisons between the 1919 Spanish Flu and the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.  Transmission, treatment and methods of prevention, including mask-wearing, temporary closure of schools, churches and state borders, are very similar. Tragically, the mortality in 1919 was very much higher: 15,000 in Australia and an estimated 50 to 100 million worldwide.

Tricia also told us about her forthcoming book about the late World War I Flanders campaigns, sparked by the diaries of Major Jim Armitage of the Australian Veterinary Corps.

Following a lively question time, Ann O’Connor expressed the Society’s appreciation for her travelling from her home on the Central Coast to speak to us. The audience applauded with enthusiasm.

Frontline of the Pandemic: Australia 1919

by Patricia Skehan and Lois Michel

Foreword by Professor Dame Marie Bashir

P. Skehan Publishing, 2020. 168 pp. illustrated

Available from RRP $19.95

Managing Local Heritage – Applying the Burra Charter’ An activityof the Ashfield & District Historical Society in association with the Australian Heritage Festival

Date: 16th May 2021
This baby health clinic in Yeo Park is now a cafe and is an adaptive reuse of of a heritage listed item.
Sue Jackson-Stepowski
Alex Lofts
Alan Croker
The audience and Vincent Crow from the Haberfield Association

Members and the Public were invited to join us for an engaging afternoon discussing the process of managing our built heritage.

Members of our discussion panel:

Susan Jackson-Stepowski, gave an introduction to the Burra Charter using visual examples.

Alan Croker, Design 5 Architects, discussed applying the principles of the Charter to built heritage.

Alex Lofts, outlined is personal experiences and lessons learned from the former Ashfield Council.

This was followed by a lively panel discussion, with questions from the audience.

(Susan and Alan have been members of the Australian ICOMOS National Executive)

Victoria Street Walk: Part 1, as Part of the Australian Heritage Festival.

Date: 18th April 2021
The group gathered in Allman Park

We had a bumper croud of interested locals for this walk that commenced opposite the firestation in Victoria Street.

Frederick Clissold–Was he Ashfield’s Richest Man in the Nineteenth Century? A Presentation by Chris Pratten.

Date: 21st March 2021

Members and friends packed into Pratten Park Bowling Club on a wet Sunday afternoon, eager to hear Chris Pratten answer this question in his inimitable style.

Chris Pratten at the Lectern
Frederick Clissold
At the conclusion there was a lively question and answer session.
The Society’s new lectern

Frederick Clissold did not travel an easy road to riches. Born in Gloucestershire in 1831, at the age of six he emigrated with his parents to Australia. During the voyage Frederick survived a shipboard measles epidemic which killed 70 other children, including his younger sister. 

Frederick attended Grantham House Academy in Glebe while his father, John, worked at Robert Cooper’s distillery before setting up as a fellmonger (detaching wool from sheepskins) in nearby Blackwattle Swamp. Tragically, Frederick’s mother suicided in 1847 and in 1850 his father was declared bankrupt. After John’s death in 1857, Frederick carried on the fellmongering business under his own name. Municipal initiatives to clean up the Blackwattle Swamp area prompted Frederick to move operations to Waterloo, then Botany and finally the Cook’s River. Here, with partner George Hill, he set up a wool-scouring plant on the southern bank where effluent could flow into the river. This successful operation eventually closed in 1874.

With his profits, Clissold invested in goldmines at Hill End and pastoral stations on the Liverpool Plains.  He bought property to subdivide in the Blue Mountains and in Sydney, including the Ashfield district. He did not move to Ashfield until 1872 when he bought Mountjoy, which still stands in Victoria Street. That year he was also elected to the first Ashfield Borough Council as one of six aldermen. He was also a founder and steward of Canterbury Park Racecourse and owned racehorses.

One of his acquisitions was the house Farleigh and a large block of land bounded by present-day Clissold Street, Holden Street, Queen Street and Seaview Street. Clissold subdivided the land into 51 lots in 1881 and moved to Farleigh itself around 1883 while managing his next project on Victoria Street.

Glentworth, the biggest house in Ashfield, was completed in 1886-7. Even Clissold’s family of six children could not fill the splendid showpiece which still graces the corner of Victoria and Clissold streets.  However, its builder would not enjoy his mansion for long. After returning home from a race meeting at Canterbury Park in 1892, he died of a stroke. 

Annie Clissold continued to live at Glentworth for another twenty years before selling the mansion to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd who added the beautiful chapel in 1942. Now part of Cardinal Freeman Retirement Village, the grand façade of Glentworth is again exposed to the admiring gaze of passers-by as its builder would have wished. Chris Pratten concluded he has no doubt Frederick Clissold was indeed Ashfield’s wealthiest citizen of the 19th century.

Thanks to Chris for his enlightening and entertaining talk.

Venue: Pratten Park Community, Sports & Bowling Club

Annual General Meeting of the Ashfield & District Historical Society &

a Talk by David Morgan on ‘Augustus Alt, Baron, Soldier, Engineer, Mercenary: the life of Augustus Alt, First Surveyor-General of New South Wales.

Date: 21st February 2021

Venue: Pratten Park Community, Sports & Bowling Club
Mark Sabolch. the Society’s President
A great audience for the AGM
Another fine afternoon tea!

The President, Mark Sabolch, took the chair at the start of the AGM and welcomed all at 2.05 p.m. Mark delivered an acknowledgment of the Wangal and Gadigal people, custodians of the country on which the meeting was held. Mark identified that the meeting was to be held in accordance with Covid-19 guidelines. He welcomed Lucille McKenna and Mark Drury (Inner West Councillors). A copy of the President’s report was distributed to all. Mark discussed a number of points, particularly the two journals that were produced and launched through the year, despite restrictions imposed on a range of operations caused by Covid-19.

A copy of the report will be available on the ADHS web site. Mark thanked the Committee for their work and support during the year. Mark discussed the development of a Strategic Plan, a draft of which has been available for scrutiny on the ADHS web site for some time.

The Treasurer, Carolyn Carter, tendered her report. Carolyn discussed membership fees of historical societies nearby and proposed that the meeting approve an increase in membership fees from 2022 as follows:

  • Standard household membership – $40 (Currently $30)
  • Concession membership – $30 (Currently $25)

A vote of those present strongly supported this motion.

Nominations were called for a number of office positions with the following members appointed.

Committee PositionAppointed
PresidentMark Sabolch
Vice PresidentAlex Lofts
TreasurerCarolyn Carter
Heritage OfficerDavid Rollinson

The following members have also joined the committee: Bernadette Williamson, Colin Webb, Ann O’Connell, Murray Cleaver, Heather Warton, Clare Herscovitch, Philip Lingard, Jan & Paul Williams, Lois Gray and David Morgan.

Augustus Alt
David Morgan

ADHS Committee member and consulting history researcher David Morgan then gave a most illuminating and enjoyable talk on Augustus Alt (‘Baron’, soldier, engineer and mercenary as well as the first Surveyor General in NSW) who was an early European landholder in the Ashfield area.

After the talk, David took questions from the audience. He was presented with a small gift of thanks from Paul Williams.