Category Archives: Fosters Store

Horse Power

Bill On Dolly

Bill On Dolly

Today Berowra like most parts of Sydney is buzzing with cars. Our shopping centre and railway car parks are full to capacity a lot of the time.

It is hard to imagine Berowra in the period shown in this picture from the 192Os. The photo is from the collection of the late Bill Foster who is shown as a child on the back of a much loved working horse, “Dolly”. Bill’s parents have taken a moment from the hard work of running their general store near Berowra railway station, to pose for the photo.

By the time Bill was in grades 5 and 6 at the original Berowra Public School, his father would drive the horse and cart up to the school at 3:30pm. Bill would then begin the afternoon grocery run, collect orders for the next day and twice a week take produce, mainly eggs, from the various local poultry farms to the railway station for dispatch to the markets in town. Along his route it was not unusual for young Bill to be offered a cup of milk from people, like the artist, Margaret Preston’s maid, Myra.

At the end of the rounds Bill unhitched the cart and fed “Dolly”. Bill remembered his father always being most concerned about “Dolly” being adequately fed even in difficult times.

Today, 1st August is the official birthday of all thoroughbred horses in the Southern Hemisphere while their cousins in the Northern hemisphere count 1st January as their birthday.

We salute the working horses of Berowra and worldwide.


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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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Childhood Memories

Waiting Berowra (c.1959) by David Lever

Waiting Berowra (c.1959) by David Lever

Last week I had the privilege to view an exhibition of paintings by Berowra artist David Lever at Macquarie University Art Gallery.

The paintings brought to life some of the history of the people of Berowra and Sydney and the buildings and streets.

I was brought back to my childhood and memories flooded back as I gazed at Foster’s Store, Berowra railway station, and the old Berowra Tavern. I remember travelling with my family in our old 1926 Chevrolet en route from our home in Hornsby to the family orchard at Cowan. We always stopped at Foster’s Store to collect necessary supplies – groceries, milk, bread and farm implements etc. and probably a few packets of Log Cabin tobacco for my father’s pipe. I always gazed longingly at the wonderful display of dolls in the shop window. Inside the store there was an amazing variety of lamps, boots, tins of biscuits, shovels, and saws etc. —all important items for our working weekend at the citrus orchard at the end of Glendale Rd. The old Berowra Tavern also had, among other things, a display of dolls.

I have many happy memories of the many hours spent picking lemons, packing, turning the handle on the lemon grader, wonderful dinners, heaps of passionfruit and many walks amongst the beautiful wildflowers and fishing in Joe Crafts creek.

The paintings by David have recaptured many treasured moments.

Isobel Harrison

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History In Colour

Lever railway station

There is scant photographic evidence of the railway station and general store in this early period of Berowra’s history. But we do know that a Mr. Robert Richards was the first proprietor of the general store in Berowra. In a newspaper reference dated December 1903 Mr. Richards store is also listed as a place to vote. By 1909 Mr. Richards proceeded to inquire about the possibility of relocating the post office, then based at the railway station, to his store approximately 100 metres up the road.

Mr. Richards store is now brought to life in David Lever’s latest painting which is included in a current exhibition of his works titled ‘History in Colour’ at Macquarie University Art Gallery. The exhibition opens on Thursday 5 December. Lever’s visual depiction sets the scene – imagine going back in time to walk through the doors of this – by local standards – legendary store. It later became well known and loved as the Foster’s Store. As we can see it’s a charming rustic building and as time went by it became the hub of Berowra. The goods shed illustrated in the middle ground of the painting was once a hive of activity – important to the local industry. It not only received goods from Hornsby but also received produce from Arcadia for transport into the Sydney markets.

Akin to the historian, the artist David Lever utilises methods for tracking down difficult to locate records in splendidly capturing a place and period that opens up the past in a beguiling way – history in action as a living, breathing force. Lever visually recalls how people once lived and went about their daily business in Berowra.  The ubiquitous magpie flies nonchalant above the railway station – synchronised with the narrative of the everyday. The visual rendering of the buildings appears integral within the surrounding natural landscape. The painting has an arresting silence, which encapsulates the viewer.

Rhonda Davis

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Fosters Store – An Artistic Rendering

Fosters Store by David Lever

People gathering around the local or corner shop prolonging their stay to engage, gossip and exchange information was a familiar scene throughout Australia during the inter-war period.  The Fosters store in Berowra epitomised one of those places. It was a store that stocked almost everything that a household required in those days from bread, butter, cheese and meat to hardware, petrol and farming equipment and much loved by the local children the lolly jars that flanked the shelves. An easy stroll to the Fosters store was part of the daily routine for most living in Berowra. If you were unable to make the store Bill Foster would deliver your goods to your doorstep each day by horse and carriage. All you needed to do was ring your order through the day before and Bill would have the order ready the next day.

Being situated right near the railway station the Fosters store would hang a tea towel on the back of the shop to warn train travellers about ticket inspectors being at the station. The store was also the location of the Berowra telephone exchange, bank and postal services in addition to the Post Office located along Berowra Waters Rd.

David Lever has vividly captured the experience of living in a small rural community like Berowra during the 1930s – transporting us, the viewers, into a time and place where everything seems to stand still. The women are depicted in various roles from mothers with their small children to women gossiping, an easy slow pace far removed from what we experience today in the very hectic and at most times stressful car park at Coles Berowra.

Bill Wall’s bus is depicted in its glorious state being one of the main transport vehicles during this era. Wall was able to adapt the back of the truck so the vehicle could carry passengers from Berowra Station to Berowra Waters which became a much needed service as tourism increased within this area throughout the 1930s.

But what intrigues me the most about this image is the character placed strategically in the foreground of the picture. His city style hat looks very sophisticated paper slipped under his arm with cigarette hanging from the mouth in a very cool and unassuming way. This character seems somewhat familiar – as if cast from a film set and transported into the sleepy town of Berowra. Is he observing the others in this tableau or are the others watching him with hesitation and suspicion. This extraordinary history painting affords us ways of looking at life in different ways and how it plays out on a daily basis which transcends time and place.

David Lever has provided us a unique insight into Fosters store which was once the heart of Berowra.

If you would like to see more works by David Lever, please visit his website


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A Classic Image

Why A Classic Image?

For us it’s one that encapsulates much of what our Berowra Living History blog site and virtual museum are about.

The photo was taken by Gabe Lomas on Day 2 of our 2007 Berowra Living History Exhibition in the Berowra District Hall which served as the first school built in Berowra.

Bill Foster, who along with many of his old friends attended this school in the first half of last century, is seen here communicating with a little school girl and her three schoolboy companions.

The painting the group is engaging with is of the Foster family’s general store, a vital hub for the community of its day. This painting is by local artist, David Lever.

Notice that at this point Bill is listening to the youngsters, his mouth is closed, his head inclined, his attention given to their enquires generated by the painting and his stories. Sharing of ideas, pride in one’s place and one’s story, respect, dignity and commitment to others, are all present.

Bill and others of our senior citizens have shared many of their Berowra stories through their visits to our local schools and through their recorded interviews and images which we can draw on for our blogs and the construction of our virtual museum. We thank them for their generosity and invite you to share your stories and images also.


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