Tag Archives: entertainment

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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Christmas Bush Around Berowra


As the year comes to an end and the weather becomes warm the bush around Berowra comes alive with colour. Berowra has long been known for its amazing floral displays and at this time of the year, with Christmas approaching there are a number of plants which were once harvested by residents and visitors alike to festoon their festive tables and of course decorate their homes.

In the past, Berowra Living History has focussed on the beautiful Christmas Bells which flower among the rocks in the local bush, but this is not the only flower associated with Christmas to attract early flora hunters to Berowra. Christmas Bush, which flowers abundantly with bright red, star shaped flowers is another. The flowers, which begin as white blooms and darken to red as they reach maturity were perfect for Australians who wanted to bring a touch of nature inside as they might once have done with Holly and Evergreen. As a result there was a booming trade in collecting Christmas Bush for sale in the Sydney markets, often in arrangements with bracken fern. Both bracken and Christmas Bush were available in abundance in the Berowra area and many visitors departed with armfuls to take back to their homes.

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In Their Own Words – Off For A Dip

Image courtesy of N. Davis

Image courtesy of N. Davis

Our family photo above shows the tidal baths and people enjoying the water at Berowra Creek now Berowra Waters. In the foreground is our son, Mark aged three making the year of the photo, 1958.

My wife, Merle and I remember the day being very hot, so off we went for a dip!

The tide looks about half, with a few rocks showing. If you look very closely, you will see in the background, the Rex Jones Commemorative Monument. In the flagstone apron sloping down towards the water, there were two small garden plots probably about 18 inches (or 45.75cm) square on either side. If I remember correctly rosemary bushes were planted in these plots.

When we were young teenagers this was a popular spot to sun bake.

Neil Davis

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Day Trippers To The Waters

Image courtesy of the Hornsby Library Collection, courtesy of Hedley & Del Somerville.

Image courtesy of the Hornsby Library Collection, courtesy of Hedley & Del Somerville.

This interesting photograph from the 1920’s features W E (Billy) Wall great/grandson of Mary Wall with visitors at Berowra Waters. In the background is the Kiosk of his mother-in-law, Ada Foster Jones.

The following extract is from  An Entertaining Life -Memories of ‘Mr Don’ by Don Wall son of W E Wall.

‘..During my early childhood I can vividly recall watching my dad convert his tabletop truck from an ordinary vehicle into a bus.He would back the truck into a special stand,release the U bolts and by the use of jacks lift the tabletop off the truck’s chassis and secure it .He would then drive the truck out,minus the tabletop and reverse it into a nearby stand,where the bus top was in position,then lower it onto the truck’s chassis and secure it with U bolts.It was fascinating to watch the transformation. On completion of the exercise he would drive the bus to Berowra and transport weekend holiday-makers,mainly fishermen and people enjoying a day on the river,to and from Berowra Waters. The roads were not sealed and with solid rubber tyres,the bus trip was not as comfortable as we enjoy today.

Everybody was in a holiday mood and after travelling to Berowra by train,boarded the bus,which carried about 30 people.The journey generated a lot of fun.On the Monday, following the weekend’s activities,he would reverse the process and use the truck for his transport business. .’..


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In Their Own Words – The Box Brownie

Neil Davis with his Brownie Box Camera from the fifties      Photo: Merle Davis

Neil Davis with his Brownie Box Camera from the fifties Photo: Merle Davis

Long term Berowra resident, Neil Davis has some first-hand experience to add to our two most recent blogs:

In the photo showing an early Berowra Waters Ferry, operated by Hornsby Council and driven by local man Mr. Bill Ewings I noticed that our attention is drawn to the shadow of the photographer on the shoreline, which is showing a typical stance used when photographing with a Brownie Box Camera. I happen to have one of these in my possession. It is equipped with a flash light, which can be easily attached when needed. I suppose, rather than describing the workings of this camera, it would be easier for one to look up . . . The Brownie Camera @ 100: A Celebration. This is a very informative site. But I must say that these old cameras . . . apart from being almost indestructible, were very easy to use, and being cheap, were very popular.

Neil Davis with his Brownie Box Camera and Flash     Photo: Merle Davis

Neil Davis with his Brownie Box Camera and Flash Photo: Merle Davis

These quaint old “Punts” as we called the Ferries then, did a sterling job over the years while only travelling at a slow, steady pace. I recall, about 1948, not long after the war, a few of us young blokes swam across the creek from the Rex Jones boatshed to the western side punt ramp. We would then wait for the punt to start back across the river, dive into the water and grab the rear loading ramp of the punt to get a tow back to the eastern side. When Bill Ewings found us clinging on, he quite rightly gave us a severe dressing down about the dangers we had ignored. Probably, this would shock some people today but these sorts of things were part of growing up in Berowra and The Waters. Just like Peter Huett, working on the punt gates, when he was only 10 years old.

Neil Davis

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In Their Own Words – Enterprises On The Waters

“Yvonne J “, photo courtesy of the Jones family

“Yvonne J “, photo courtesy of the Jones family

In 1948, the “Yvonne J” was the third cruiser that my late husband, Max Jones built especially to hire to people who wanted to have a holiday on Berowra Waters and the Hawkesbury River. They were the very first of the hire cruisers in NSW.

  Extract from “Outdoors and Fishing”, March 1955, p.60 (price 2/6) Periodical donated to Berowra Living History by Neil Davis

Extract from “Outdoors and Fishing”, March 1955, p.60 (price 2/6)
Periodical donated to Berowra Living History by Neil Davis

During the war in the Pacific (1942-’45) many boats were shipped out from USA in kit form and assembled in boat yards around Sydney Harbour.

When Max was in Asia with Australian Water Transport Small Ships Company he saw many of these very small boats working in shallow rivers and bays as tugs and carriers. The boats were only 26ft long, good design and built of plywood. They were known as “Dories”.

The war ended 15th August, ‘45 and Max was discharged in April,’46. About that time the army was selling off surplus equipment through Army Disposal Stores. When boat kits came up for auction Max got 8 of them. The first two he assembled and fitted out as 4 berth cruisers and sold privately and the others he kept for hiring. Later he brought in larger 36ft, 6 and 8 berth boats. It was a very successful business that we both enjoyed – many of our regular customers becoming lifelong friends.

“Jones Bros Cruisers”, photo courtesy of the Jones family

“Jones Bros Cruisers”, photo courtesy of the Jones family

In the 70s, when we had been in the boat hiring business for nearly 30 years, the first fibre-glass houseboats were being built for hire. That’s when we decided to sell up and get out. By that time we had fifteen 4 to 6 berth hire cruisers each with a dinghy and some spares. We also had half a dozen 18ft half cabin boats for fishermen, complete with icebox for cool beer and fish.

Then there was my favourite – the work boat with its massive Thunderbird motor. It was very fast and powerful for towing.

Yvonne (Von) Jones

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Significant Days

New Life  - Rock Orchids at Muogamarra Nature Reserve Photo: A. Lomas

New Life – Rock Orchids at Muogamarra Nature Reserve
Photo: A. Lomas

Palm Sunday has just passed and we are about to celebrate Easter. Many of us give and receive Easter eggs, symbols of new life.

Palm Sunday with its procession of Christ on a donkey is celebrated by groups around the world.

How many of you remember the Palm Sunday street processions in Berowra sometimes even with a donkey? Perhaps you walked in the combined churches procession or joined the group for the open air gathering at the conclusion of the walk. Do share your recollections.

Good Friday 2014 falls exactly a week ahead of ANZAC Day with its commemorative marches and services.

As people worldwide remember the events of the first Good Friday their thoughts may also move to those who gave their lives for others in Gallipoli and so many places. Some may even connect the donkey of Palm Sunday with the sturdy donkeys that bore the wounded in that far away place of pain and bravery.


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In Good Company At Collaroy



Ces Richards 2

The above photograph is from the collection of Ces Richards of Mt Colah


It features L-R Joyce Church,Reggie Ivanoff, Joyce Thompson and Ken Rowles posing together on a c1946 day out to Collaroy Beach. Behind the foursome on the grassy reserve campers can be seen and note the stump with  B TIDY painted on it just to Ken’s right !


Such day trips were regular outings for the Berowra and District Younger Set during the 1940’s. They were possible due to the generosity of the local iceman, Bill Erskine and his Chevrolet truck. The day trippers, girls first, all boarded the truck using a low ladder.


The younger set included people from Berowra, Cowan, Mt Kur-ringai, Mt Colah, Asquith & Hornsby & was active for about 5 years.

Another photo of the Younger Set on Queenscliff beach can be seen in my earlier blog of November 9,2012 . . . A Day at the Beach


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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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