Category Archives: Buildings

Berowra Hall 1914 – 1929 Part 2

Last week, David Lever shared two of his beautiful paintings of Berowra Hall with our blog followers and, as promised, this week he returns to more closely examine the paintings and the events which they represent.


photo 1

The annual plain and fancy dress ball was held on Friday 2nd October 1914. The Ball was reported to be highly successful and in fact more so than those held in previous years. That raises a question as to where Balls were held in Berowra prior to the construction of the Hall.

Decorations for the Hall, supper room and supper tables were along patriotic lines of red white and blue. Many beautiful and striking costumes were worn. The characters I have depicted in my painting were well described in the newspaper report enabling me to capture them in a manner in which they might have appeared.

Some of the costumes represented were; Britannia, Daughter of the Regiment, France, Golden Queen, Pierette, All British, Lady Teazle, John Bull, The Admiral, Sir Peter Teazle, Uncle Sam, and Pierotte. Some of those now unfamiliar characters were at the time well known stars of plays and music halls

The report on the Ball named the wearers of the costumes as well as providing detailed descriptions of the gowns worn by ladies who chose not to wear fancy dress costumes. Excellent music was provided by Mrs Hewitt and Mrs Long.


photo 2

The engagement of Miss Maggie Chrystal, youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs . George Chrystal of “Ormiston” Goodwyn Rd. Berowra, to driver Harry Toms, A.I.F., second son of Mr and Mrs Charles Toms of Thornleigh was announced on 31st May 1919.

On 23rd October,1920, their military style wedding took place at St Marks Church of England, Berowra. The ceremony was conducted by The Reverand A.L. Wade of Hornsby, the service being choral.

Girlfriends of the bride decorated the church with arum lilies and marguerites. The church was filled to capacity. The bride was dressed in white charmeuse, elaborately hand embroidered , and wore a handsome bridal veil surrounded by orange blossom. The bride and bridesmaid carried bouquets of pink and white carnations tied with the grooms military colours of red and blue and were a gift of the bridegroom. The groom and best man wore their military uniforms.

Members of the tennis club provided a guard of honour as the couple left the church with raised tennis racquets. They were then driven the short distance to Berowra Hall.

A wedding breakfast was provided at the Hall for 80 guests. The event was celebrated with musical and singing entertainment as well as dancing. The couple received many wedding presents. Mr and Mrs Toms left for their honeymoon at Lawson. The bride was dressed in a grey outfit with hat to match.


The land upon which the Hall had been built remained vacant until the early 1950’s when the current house was built by local builder George Huett. Prior to that the charcoal covered land had been a popular play ground for local children.

In 1936 Berowra was provided with a new hall ( The Tavern) which was built on the land now occupied by the Berowra Chinese Restaurant on the Pacific Highway. But that’s another story ……

David Lever

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Berowra Hall: 1914 – 1929

This week Berowra Living History reflects on a building which was once central to the community. The Berowra Hall would this year be celebrating its 100th anniversary, were it still standing. David Lever, who has recreated the lost hall in two of his beautiful paintings tells a little of the story of the hall. 
BEROWRA HALL 1914 to 1929.
photo 2
It is difficult to imagine that during the years 1914 to 1929 a thriving centre of social and cultural activity existed on the site of what is now 27 Berowra Waters Road. This was the site of the first Berowra Hall.
The hall was completely destroyed by fire at about 10 am on Saturday , Christmas Eve 1929. The building, constructed of a timber frame, weather boards and a highly waxed floor burnt very quickly and was impossible to save.
The last activity held in the hall the night before was a card game played by local residents.
The construction of the hall was financed by Berowra residents who purchased shares for ten pounds each. Share certificates were issued and Hall events were managed by a Board of Directors. The managers were Charlie Woof, George Huett and Jack Foster.
A minor matter of interest is the paving of a footpath outside the hall. The Berowra Progress Association argued that the extensive drop from the path to the gutter presented a danger to the Councils President and other Councillors when visiting the hall. The resulting small section of footpath resulted in the first section and for many years the only section of paving in Berowra.
To date only two photos of the hall have emerged and both show the building in an advanced stage of destruction by the fire.
photo 1
Curious to know what the building might have looked like, I was luckily able to obtain enough information from those two photos to paint two images. I believe these two paintings represent the building with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
Berowra Hall was regularly used during its lifetime. It hosted a wide range of activities and they included: an annual dancing season commencing in March, fetes, roller skating  annual balls, wedding breakfasts, silent movies and farewells to departing soldiers as well as returning soldiers during World War 1.
I chose two of those many events to represent in the paintings. Information about both events came from The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate which was based in Parramatta.
Come back next week to find out more about these events and the paintings which recreate them!
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Those Steam Cars in Hillcrest Road Berowra

Note the two tramcars exposed

Note the two tramcars exposed

The 2 tramcars 72B (built 1891) and 93B (built 1889) ceased service in 1932 and were later stored at Randwick Tramway Workshops. Both tramcars were purchased later that year and for the next 65 years 93B served as 2 bedrooms whilst 72B was fitted out as a dining room, kitchen, and bathroom/laundry/toilet.

On arrival in Berowra they were placed along the land on pre-built brick piers with space between to build a lounge room. An overall roof was built which in retrospect contributed to the preservation of the tram bodies from the elements.

Three families were associated with the life of this ‘tramcar house’. Then in 1997 a new owner decided on a demolition in order to build a modern home.

The demolition was undertaken by The Steam Rail and Preservation Society after agreeing to purchase the 2 tramcars and demolish the remainder of the house and leave the block clear. Approximately 500 man hours were recorded in this task undertaken between 4 January 1997 and 10 March 1997.

The cars were loaded onto semi trailers and taken to Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum for storage and eventual restoration. 93B re entered service in 2005 after being restored while 72B awaits restoration.

Looking down into lounge and car

Looking down into lounge and car

Information taken from the Archival Material held by The Steam and Rail Preservation (Co-op) Society Ltd. Tuscalum Road  Valley Heights, New South Wales.

Courtesy of Peter Stock



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In Their Own Words – Super Shopping

Weller Photo 1

Once, in a time before it was common for all of your shopping needs to be available online, waiting to be delivered to your home, an enterprising Berowra family provided a much needed service to the community. Karla Weller recalls:

In 1959 Hans and Karla Weller of Turner Road (since 1957 and still there) started Super Shopping Service – who remembers ????

It was then a novel idea: collecting orders every Tuesday and delivering them to customers in Berowra and Mt. Kuringai (and later Cowan, Mt. Colah and Asquith) later in the week.

The goods delivered comprised groceries, meat, fruit and veges, delicatessen, bulk store goods (then in vogue), dry cleaning and much more.

It was a welcome service in an area with few shops and little transport and for people without their own transport. Especially the elderly were happy to have their orders delivered. In those days it was even possible to leave the door open so that goods could be put in the kitchen and the meat in the fridge! So the customer did not have to stay home to take delivery.

weller photo 2

As the business grew a shop (later demolished) was opened at the Cross roads and later they bought Max Taylor’s(?) fruit shop next-door (also gone – now Homebiz).

The idea was ahead of its time: it would have been simpler to run with a computer and mobile phones – then non-existent.

It was a period in which the banks were tight-fisted and so a point was reached where necessary extension was not possible and of course new competition from supermarkets made business less profitable, despite the hard work that went into it.

So after Christmas 1965 the fruit shop was sold and the delivery service closed.

The type of business was ahead of its time and would now be a bonus for working mothers and seniors in the community in this era.

We wonder who remembers the service or has it been completely forgotten?

Karla Weller

Images courtesy of Karla Weller

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In Their Own Words: House Building At 21 Berowra Waters Road

Shirleys House

Every concrete block in the garage (finished 1946) and in the house (finished 1948) was made by my parents Bert & Thelma Hobday.

Cement was scarce (the war had just finished). So hence the slow build.

The blocks were made with sand, cement and ashes. The latter were got by the trailer-load from the ‘San’ hospital – the residue in their coke or coal fired (?) burners (for the heating of water for the laundry etc). Dad shovelled in the ingredients while Mum turned the concrete mixer by hand. When mixed, the ingredients were pressed into greased moulds for ‘curing’.

Photo (circa 1954) and words courtesy of Shirley Collins (nee Hobday)

The flowering Double Ornamental Peach tree in the foreground is a reminder that Spring 2014 cannot be too far away. Many blossoms & buds are already appearing in gardens around our local area of Berowra.



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All in A Row At Berowra Creek

As it was planned..

Donated to blh, with thanks to Raine and Horne

Donated to blh, with thanks to Raine and Horne

This copy of a 1926 stamped advertisement was probably used to promote the sale of the 32 mainly water’s edge blocks of land down at Berowra Creek. So many & all side by side. The auction was on April 29,1926.  The following appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald Saturday 1May,1926-

‘REAL ESTATE..BUSY WEEK.. The fortnightly indoor auctions of Messrs Raine & Horne was held on Thursday and largely attended…There was a good demand for the Berowra water front allottments, 32 in Silverwater Estate.They were all sold at from 5/- to 37/6 per foot. Total sales £1696…


As it is today..


This photograph shows some of the  houses that are currently there in the “row”



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The Springs – Margaret Preston’s Berowra Home

Harold Cazneaux, Distant view of Margaret Preston's house at Berowra, 1936

Harold Cazneaux, Distant view of Margaret Preston’s house at Berowra, 1936

William and Margaret Preston moved to Berowra in 1932, and it is believed that the artist was recovering from surgery performed in 1929 as a result of breast cancer. The anticipation of the retreat into the bush coupled with the first ownership of property by the Preston’s would have provided Margaret with a great sense of comfort during that difficult period.

Arthur Rickard throughout the previous decade had been promoting the health benefits of Berowra in the Sydney Morning Herald. Many people like the Preston’s became aware of seeking an exodus from city life as beneficial to health and well being, in Preston’s case a time for reflection and contemplation.

We witness a striking development in the architectural style of Preston’s house as compared with that of the Federation style of such homes as ‘Sunbeam’. Preston’s house was extremely modern, based on the California Bungalow with a low-pitched roof, it’s architectural structure was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. The Preston’s made additions to the existing structure – it is believed that Margaret used the concept based on “design for living” principles when the additions and refurbishments were undertaken. Effectively, Preston created flow between the outdoor and indoor living spaces as she was known to often work on the verandah which overlooked the gardens and bush land area. Life and art merging within the everyday – one of the many inspirations of Berowra.


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Pumping Petrol In Berowra


Recently, I was chatting with a friend of mine about the petrol situation in Berowra. As she pointed out to me, four petrol stations could be seen as slightly excessive for a community like ours ‘if it weren’t for the express way – I suppose people come to Berowra on their way north to get petrol’.

The conversation put me in mind of this photo, showing Berowra’s first petrol station, outside Fosters Store on the Old Pacific Highway. There was a certain charm to the little petrol pump – Berowra’s modern petrol stations aren’t quite the same are they!


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Dolls In The Tavern

David Lever 1

If you look closely at David Lever’s painting of what was the old Tavern on the Pacific Highway, Berowra, you may be able to see the reason for our blog title!

While the Tavern of yesteryear was the hub of many activities like dances and school concerts it apparently also attracted attention for another reason.

Long time Berowra resident, Pam Gartung has fond memories of Mollie Dwyer and her great skills at knitting and sewing. Mollie features in the following extract from Worth Reporting on p.38 of The Australian Women’s Weekly of 26th November, 1949. At the time this popular magazine cost sixpence!

Knits Dolls’ Woollies on Hatpins

MOLLIE DWYER, of Berowra, N.S.W. has turned her childhood hobby of dressing dolls into a business. She makes baby clothes and exquisite dolls’ frocks, which are shown in a window of the Berowra Tavern where tourist buses stop each day. Hungry tourists have even been known to miss afternoon tea through spending too long gazing at Miss Dwyer’s handicraft.

Mollie Dwyer believes in making dolls’ clothes that are pretty but which can be taken off and washed by the young owner. One of the most beautiful dolls we saw wore vest, pants, petticoat, dress, shoes and socks and bonnet. For the doll’s one-and-a-half-inch feet, Mollie Dwyer had made quilted satin shoes, inventing the pattern and sewing away until midnight

Dresses are of the finest organdie or marquisette, appliqucd with hand-made medallions or sometimes with lace. Frocks and underclothes unfasten and can he laid out for ironing.

But not all the dolls wear summer dresses. Many are dressed in finely knitted wool. “I do the knitting on hatpins,” said talented Molly Dwyer.

This article is accessible through TROVE.


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Berowra’s Version Of The Tardis!


This photo, by local resident S. Collins, is a photo which I couldn’t resist sharing with our readers, particularly our younger audience. It comes from a slide, and shows the Police Post which once proudly stood outside Berowra Railway Station. It may not be as glamorous as the Police Box used by Dr Who as his Tardis, but it is a wonderful glimpse into Berowra’s past.

This small building is something of an enigma – although we have two great shots of the building (courtesy of our intrepid photographer S. Collins) we do not have many recollections which relate to it. If you have a story to share about this little building, or any other aspect of Berowra’s history, leave us a comment.

Perhaps you even know why it appears slightly scorched in this photo!


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