75 Parks & Waratah Streets
The Police Station & Court House
Before 1811 the New South Wales Corps was responsible for the preservation of law and order in the new colony. In 1811 John D’Arcy was placed in charge of a group of semi-civilian cconstables by the then Governor Lachlan Macquarie. It was not until 1862 that the New South Wales Police Force obtained official recognition in the New South Wales Government Gazette, with Captain John McLerie appointed as the first Inspector General.
A foot constable was first stationed at Helensburgh in 1891 and it is presumed that he was accommodated in rented premises. There are no departmental records of the early police office. In the Government Gazette of 1895, Helensburgh was proclaimed a place for holding Courts of Petty Sessions. In 1896 the original Police Station was built opposite the then Post Office shop at the bottom of Lukin St.
An additional mounted policeman was attached to the town in 1898 and in the following year, the name of the first known Officer in Charge of the Helensburgh Police Station, Constable Stephens, is recorded. From then the strength of the station increased until by 1980 there was one sergeant and 3 constables. Although the town has increased in population the station is now manned by a part-time constable in a demountable building beside the original office and jail.
The court house and police station complex illustrated above, was erected in 1902 at a cost of Â£1,600, on the corner of Parkes and Waratah streets. Standing on a reserve proclaimed on February 13, 1892, the building originally contained a courtroom, quarters for the resident policeman, two cells and an exercise yard. In the rear paddock there was a single stable and forage room, later used as a motor cycle garage. This was recently demolished and replaced by a double brick garage for police cars. Part of the paddock is now used as a police holding yard. The Court House, closed in the early 80’s, is now used as a police residence. There have been attempts to acquire the property for redevelopment, but these have been strenuously opposed by the Historical Society as the building remains our most important civic site.
The site adjoining the court house, originally gazetted as reserve, but laterThe first Police Station taken over the Police Department, was the site for Helensburgh’s first war memorial. The memorial consisted of a flag pole and a mounted artillery piece which had been captured from the Turks in Palestine by the Australian Light Horse. The removal of this war memorial at the behest of the Police Department is still a matter of some controversy among older residents. The piece was removed (or as some residents suggest, “stolen”) by the Army and requests for its return have been ignored.
Helensburgh police station began as part of the old Eastern District which was abolished in April 1933. The station was then incorporated into a reorganized Metropolitan District. In April 1955 the station was included in a new South Coast District with its headquarters at Wollongong. In October 1965 it again became part of the Metropolitan District, but since 1974 it has again been included in the South Coast The first Police Station now a private home District.
The names of the early Officers in Charge of the Helensburgh Police Station are as follows:
Constable George Stephens 1899-1902
Constable 1st class, sergeant 3rd class 1905, 1902-1917
Sergeant 3rd class, W. Loftus, 1917-1920
Sergeant 3rd class, A.J. Ford, 1923-1925
Sergeant 3rd class, A.H. Loomes, sergeant 2nd class 1933, 1925-1933
Sergeant 2nd class, F.W. Larkin 1936
Sergeant 3rd class, John Hamilton 1936-1939
Sergeant 3rd class, H.J. Boyd 1939-1940
Sergeant 3rd class, Charles Robinson, 1940
Sergeant 3rd class, Peter McPherson, 1940-1945
Constable 1st class, W. G. Grozier, 1946-1950
Sergeant 3rd class, L.F. Grogan, 1946-1950
Sergeant 3rd class, W.H. Sloper, 1950-1965
Sergeant 3rd class, J. Hodder, 1965-1972
Sergeant 3rd class, W.R. Zifovich, 1972-1975
Sergeant K.G. Beecroft, 1975 through to the station’s downgrading under sergeant Doughty.
The early years of Metropolitan Colliery
The construction of the Illawarra Railway in the 1880’s made development possible in the wild country north of Coalcliff. Coal was known to exist there when in 1884 at “Heathcote”, later called Camp Creek and then Helensburgh, Charles Harper carried out drilling operations.
On Camp Creek, where water was abundant, Harper failed to find coal at 726 feet and tried again 1.25 miles east where a seam six foot thick was discovered.
In 1887 the Metropolitan Coal Company was formed to work the area from Madden’s Plain to Heathcote. Boring operations had revealed a seam 12′ 3″ thick at Helensburgh at a depth of 1100 feet and the company laid out a township above the colliery.
The shaft was sunk 16 feet in diameter, the first sod having been turned on 3rd March 1886. By July 1888 ten trucks of coal per week were being sent to Sydney. On 4th August the Manager, Charles Harper, was killed whilst drawing an engine to an air shaft.
Helensburgh sent 300 tons of coal to Sydney daily in 1890 and in 1891 it was described as “the most perfectly arranged mine in Australia” and was inspected by the Governor of NSW, Lord Jersey. The mine had the largest winding gear in Australia, raising a seven ton load in 28 seconds.
After the First World War the necessity for more hygienic facilities for Illawarra miners became an issue – in Broken Hill hot and cold showers were provided, the miners coming and going in clean clothes. Illawarra miners and coke workers travelled to and from work in wet and grimy clothes and on his arrival home, the miner had to take a bath in front of the kitchen fire. The tiny miners’ houses of the day had no bathrooms or place for the family to retire to whilst the miner washed. Some miners built bag humpies near the mines and used kerosene tins for water from the boiler house to wash themselves before going home. Mr. W. Davies, an ex-miner, pressed for the Mines (Amendment) Bill which passed a requirement that mine owners provided bathing facilities and other comforts for the miners.
Even though the country between Bottle Forest (Heathcote) and Little Bulli (Stanwell Park) was wild, rugged and most difficult for a railway to traverse because of the deep sandstone and Narrabeen shale gorges cut by swiftly flowing creeks and surrounded by thick bushland, it nevertheless was selected as the site for a workers’ camp for those engaged in railway construction. Tenders were called in 1884 to form a railway line from Georges River to Coalcliff because of incessant demands for a through railway service between Sydney and Wollongong. Construction camps were established at Cawley and Otford in 1884 – tent towns sprang up in these locations to house workers and at Cawley (out on Cawley Road) stores and a school existed. The Cawley settlement disappeared when the link from Waterfall to Scarborough was officially opened in October 1888. Until this time intending rail passengers had to journey to Waterfall rail head to join trains for Sydney. The single track link had a gradient of 1 in 40 and needed two engines to haul the small train between Otford and Waterfall. The track was re-surveyed in 1908 to give a gradient of 1 in 80 and construction of the deviation was commenced in 1912 on the Lilyvale to Waterfall section. The new section was dual track and 1200 men using horses and tip drays completed the work , including three new tunnels, in a little under 3 years. The original station was in use from 1884 until the deviation was completed in 1914. During the earlier years it was controlling traffic in and out of the Colliery while it was being constructed – the siding to the mine was through the tunnel which is to the left of the Station. The original station was located at the foot of Tunnel Road – Vera Street came in at the rear of the building. To the left of the site of the station is the original Stationmaster’s cottage – it still stands and is now a private residence.