Enter Sir Arthur Rickard
|Arthur Rickard in the 1920's--at the height of his powers|
(Sir) Arthur Rickard—Biography
Arthur Rickard (1868-1948), real estate developer, was born on 17 November 1868 at Currawang near Lake George, New South Wales, son of Cornish parents William Heath Rickard, miner, and his wife Mary, née Bennett. At 13 he left Bathurst Public School and found employment with E. Webb & Co., hardware merchants.
Moving to Sydney aged 17, he worked for Tillock & Co., wholesale grocers, as a commercial traveller. On 28 February 1889, at the age of 21, he married Annie Eliza Addy, at Waverley. The marriage was not a happy one. Possibly Arthur considered Annie inferior to his ambitions. She may have been a ‘loose woman’ or a drinker, for despite giving birth to two children in the marriage, she lost them. Rickard divorced Annie in December 1901 and gained custody of their son and daughter. On 19 March 1902 he married Nellie Crudge, daughter of architect Thomas Rowe, at St Mark's, Darling Point.
By 1893 Rickard had set up as a mercantile broker and agent for Chaleyer Fisher & Co. Ltd, East India merchants of Melbourne. He himself began importing and about 1899 entered the wholesale grocery business with S. A. Joseph. They secured some government contracts but had trouble with imported foodstuffs infested with weevils.
In 1904 Governor Sir Harry Rawson objected to Rickard's proposed appointment as Portuguese consul because Joseph & Rickard had been found supplying goods 'unfit for human consumption' to asylums. Late in the year, in financial difficulties, they broke up the partnership.
|Governor Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson (1843-1910). He was Governor of NSW from 1902 to 1909--'Straight forward to the verge of bluntness', he refused to appoint the ambitious Arthur Rickard Portuguese Consul on the grounds of his suspect dealings.|
In 1905 he subdivided 152 acres (62 ha) at Woy Woy into waterfront residential sites, poultry farms and orchard blocks. A superb self-publicist, in 1909 he launched Rickard's Realty Review, a quarterly (sometimes monthly) magazine which continued to appear until 1927. 'Rickard's Solar System' described a map of Sydney with a series of radiating arcs and dots pinpointing the extent of his land offerings. On his return from Europe in 1912 the Sun named him as 'Sydney's subdivisional specialist'.
By 1916 the 'Solar System' extended to Wyong, the Blue Mountains and Port Hacking. He even persuaded the railway commissioners to build stations at Warrimoo (1918) and Bullaburra (1925) to service his estates. In July 1918 the Review declared that members of the firm were 'fowlanthropists'—specialists in poultry farmlets. Rickard House at 84 Pitt Street opened about 1920.
|Arthur Rickard's offices in Pitt Street, photographed in the 1920's. Rickard became one of the biggest developers in Sydney during this period, although the Great Depression dragged him back, somewhat.|
Rickard was a foundation president (1912-48) of the Millions Club, established in the belief that accelerated British migration would make Sydney the first Australian city to reach a population of one million. He used the club (whose membership included many leading politicians and businessmen) as a platform for pronouncements on immigration, socialism (he was vehemently against it) and the economy. He published a pamphlet entitled Population: the Cash Value (1915) in which he argued that the State's population should be increased to nine million. He actively supported the war bond campaigns and was appointed K.B.E. in 1920.
|Inside the Millions Club, 1924--as a foundation member, Rickard presided over this club, while he was also pre-eminent in the Japan-Australia Society. You will note a Japanese naval officer in the foreground of this photograph. (Photo courtesy of http://sirarthurrickardblogspot)|
On returning from overseas next year Rickard stressed his preference for the White Australia policy and approved of the way the United States of America had 'wiped out' saloons, horse racing and gambling. In 1926 he was a member of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations General Assembly.
Rickard attacked the failure of State governments to populate Australia and called on the Commonwealth to take over migration. He was active on the executives of organizations which aimed to foster migrants, including the State branches of the New Settlers' League of Australia, the Big Brother Movement, Dr Barnardo's Homes and the British Empire League.
|French Aerial Daredevil Maurice Guillot (Guillaux): without Rickard's sponsorship, he would not have made the first airmail flight from Melbourne to Sydney in 1914. The flight took nine and a half hours. (Photo courtesy of http://sirarthurrickardblogspot)|
In the 1920s Rickard's business interests included many directorships and part-ownership of the Hotel Sydney, Usher's Metropolitan Hotel and The Windsor, Melbourne. He was a director of Sydney Hospital (1917-27), a council-member of the Sydney Regional Plan Convention (1923-24), a fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute (1912), and of the Royal Geographical Society of London (1924), vice-president of the Defence of Australia League and president of the Japan-Australia Society—although he considered the Japanese unsuitable immigrants, he admired their ambition and social welfare system.
|Rickard (at Left) photographed at Martin Place with Eric Campbell, one of the more notorious right-wing figures of NSW politics in the 1930's|
|The Floral Clock at Taronga Park Zoo, which became an icon as memorable as the Elephant Rides at the Zoo. Rickard's profile remained large in the 1920's due to such notable generosity--he was a master of self promotion.|
One of Rickard's advertisements in 1922 had proclaimed 'we are in business for all time'. He did not, however, foresee the Depression nor how difficult it would be to sell his landholdings on the urban fringe. Many of the blocks sold on 'Rickard's Easy Terms' were returned to the company which had to pay rates on land which had no immediate sales potential. Arthur Rickard & Co. Ltd went into voluntary liquidation in 1930 with Rickard as liquidator.
In the same year, the family's heavily mortgaged mansion—Berith Park at Wahroonga—was sold and they moved to a more modest home at Killara.
Dowell O'Reilly wrote in 1913 that the country around Bankstown had been cut up into lots 'suitable for anything from poultry-farming to the residence of the Governor General'.
In a city preoccupied with real estate Rickard was the outstanding land developer of his era, his extroverted personality showed through most of his advertisements. He died in the Scottish Hospital, Paddington, on 13 April 1948 and was cremated. His wife, their two sons and two daughters, and the children of his first marriage survived him. His eldest son Lieutenant-Colonel A. L. Rickard, M.C., D.S.O., served in both world wars and his youngest son Douglas was chairman of the Australian Postal Commission in the 1970s. Sir Arthur left a modest estate valued for probate at £12,623. His portrait by John Longstaff is held by the successor to the Millions Club, the Sydney Club.”
|Arthur Rickard invites us to ride in his canoe. The 'Warrimoo Estate' was launched in 1918, the last year of World War I...|
Even before World War I, Rickard had started buying land in the mountains. He had already set up his Real Estate business in 1904, and was primarily interested in land acquisition on the fringes of Sydney for future development. While busily campaigning for greater immigration and thus more home-buyers, he was surveying land purchases at Woy Woy on the Central Coast, Narrabeen, Bankstown and the Sutherland shire for future release.
|An excerpt from the first Warrimoo Estate subdivision along Rickard Road and Railway Parade. You will note that all the Lots are roughly the same size and dimensions throughout.|
On the southern side he redesigned the blocks so that the ones in The Avenue and The Boulevarde that had stood facing Victoria and Albert Streets, now faced continuously along the longer streets. The Boulevarde was “bent” a little instead of running straight, and the extensions to Victoria and Albert Streets were now cut off by blocks for sale. A special ‘display home’ was constructed on the corner of Victoria Street and The Boulevarde, most feasibly to profile the possibilities of building in the new township, and to encourage others to follow in the new, modern style.
A further road, ‘The Mall’ extended eastwards to a dead end, and ‘Florabella (meaning ‘beautiful flowers’) Street’ stretched southwards towards a Walking Track specifically cleared by Rickard to promote the ‘Mountains character’ of the development. It followed a small creek through to the back of Blaxland, which was itself developing apace at the time.
Plan of Warrimoo as it exists today--the extra large battle-axe blocks exist on both sides of the township
There is substantial evidence to indicate ‘Warrimoo’ held a special place in Arthur Rickard’s heart, despite the broadness of his holdings elsewhere. In Warrimoo he had arranged for the rebuilding of a rail platform and bridge. Already (in 1918) he had negotiated the renaming of ‘Karabar’ to ‘Warrimoo’, and moved the site of the platform 2-300 metres eastwards so that it stood opposite Rickard Road and the General Store, which was also constructed under his auspices.
Why the platform was moved is anyone’s guess. According to Lawrence Way work did not really commence on the new platform till 1924, when he witnessed the blasting of a wider cutting further west to accommodate the dual track platform being built. Apparently Lawrence’s father worked on extensions to the platform to make it more adequate, “Horses were used pulling cartloads of earth to build up the station and widen the area for the rail to be on the other side of the platform as well.” The wooden pedestrian bridge above the station existed from the outset, and linked both northern and southern sides of Warrimoo.
The 'General Store' as it appears today. This building has been the centre of many dramas since its erection in 1920, and is surely worthy of consideration as the building most eminent for heritage-listing throughout the township.
The famous bungalow at number 3 The Boulevarde. Offered at auction on the 'sale day' of the Warrimoo Estate, it stood as a beautiful testament to the stylish architecture of the period. Sketch courtesy of Warrimoo artist, Terry Dernee.
The now legendary pic of four girls perched on the 'W' of the huge 'Warrimoo' sign once situated where the current 'Antiques' shop on the 'Highway now stands. Another contribution of one Arthur Rickard
Presumably both signs were later destroyed by bushfire, one of which swept through the township in the mid 1930’s. There is no trace of them now.
Widows and Veterans’ Homes
The ‘Rejected Volunteers Association’ consisted of men who, for medical or other reasons, had been unable to fight in World War I. Clearly these men had suffered the social stigma of not wearing a uniform during the Great War, and were now anxious to repair their standing after the slaughter of the previous four years.
A rather poor newspaper photo of the hand-over of a 'Rejected Volunteers Home' at Warrimoo to war widow, Mrs. Simpson. Precisely where this building is or was is open to debate, but most likely on Florabella St., The Avenue, or The Boulevarde
The first cottage was handed over on 14 December 1918 to war widow Mrs. Simpson, with speeches about the sacrifices of many brave women and men. A return thanks on behalf of Mrs Simpson was made by the Rev. Mr Kellett. Other rejected men were urged to link up with the Association.
There is little proof that war widows lined up in droves to take up the offer of being boarding house concierges and orchardists in the middle of pretty rugged lower Blue Mountains bushland. Lawrence Way writes of “six wooden homes…built for returned soldiers to move into the area”, probably located in The Avenue, The Boulevarde and Florabella Street. Lawrence’s father, Walter, rented one of these homes in Florabella Street while he built his own home in Albert Street.
Tennis was one such pursuit. In city suburbs wealthy families were able to afford the construction of a clay or lawn tennis court in their back yards—something denied working class people who generally lived in tenements or flats. Now, Rickard was offering a clay tennis court, just outside the southern side of Warrimoo Station and across the Highway to the General Store. Now, if the community was prepared to maintain and manage it, tennis would be available to anyone who lived in the estate. Brilliant!
Over time, the ‘Warrimoo Pool’ became one of the most popular swimming spots for visitors to the Lower Blue Mountains throughout the 1920’s and 30’s. It came to possess seating and change rooms, and a site for picnics, although maintenance of the pool was to become a serious bone of contention throughout its effective life. Its popularity declined after the Second World War when maintenance was neglected and Olympic pools were constructed at Springwood and then Glenbrook.
Warrimoo schoolkids as well as tourists, used this route as a handy shortcut between the two townships, and to and from Blaxland PS prior to the construction of Warrimoo PS in the 1960’s.
Catherine Ann Batkin had married a tailor, Thomas Youson, in 1913 at Newtown, although Thomas was soon diagnosed with the killer disease, tuberculosis, and needed fresh clean air if he was to have any chance of survival, so the couple moved to Lot 14 Rickard Road where they built a basic fibro house called ‘Lilac’ and settled.
It is difficult to assess the prime motivating factor for Ann and Thomas’ move to Warrimoo, for we do know that it was Arthur Rickard who told Ann about the proposed new station and the forthcoming need for a Station Master/Mistress there. Apparently Mr. Rickard was aware of Ann’s mathematical adroitness and felt she could handle the role admirably. Had she been a Rickard employee when the couple had learned of Thomas’ diagnosis, or had they already moved to Warrimoo when Ann was ‘tipped off’ about the railways job?
In the event, Ann Youson got the position as Warrimoo’s first Station Mistress, and Thomas died of his disease in 1925. Ann’s income from the railways would have been a useful supplement to the scant entitlement of a Widow’s Pension and her work enabled her to become a singular character in the infant township for years to come.
Ann’s niece, Leonie Campbell, remembers…
She was an extremely competent crochet worker and would even crochet her own dresses in her favourite lilac. Ann was a great talker and one could hear her talking as she came up the path to the house! In the 1950s there was a terrible bush fire which burnt the toilet and water tank stand, but the house was saved…
Ann was a tremendous walker, through the bush, down the roads etc. Once she even became lost in the thick bush. She had two cats at one stage – “Blackie”, who followed her around, would even make the long walk along Rickard Road over the railway line to the church in the park. Blackie would curl up and have a sleep whilst the service was on, then follow her home again!
Ultimately---possibly soon after the 1953 fire---Catherine Ann Youson transferred to Muttama, near Gundagai, to continue her calling as Station Mistress. Warrimoo had lost an outstanding woman who had made her mark: she had become part of the fabric of the place and had seen it grow from a miniscule settlement to a developed community. Throughout, the township’s growth had been overseen by a woman proudly contributing in a Public Service dominated by men—not many (if any!) settlements can boast such a feat during the ‘male breadwinner’ era!
However it is important to remember that Sir Arthur Rickard operated at ‘the bottom line’—selling land for profit. His advertisements for the ‘Warrimoo Estate’ offered properties from ten shillings per foot up to three pounds ten shillings per foot. The bottom end price, if the frontage of the property was sixty feet, would amount to six hundred shillings or thirty pounds. At the time—1920—the working man’s ‘Basic Wage’ (deemed by the Arbitration Commission to be the amount of weekly pay required to sustain a man, his wife and two children) was four pounds, so that it would not have been a difficult thing, on ‘Rickard’s Easy Terms’, to pay off the block in reasonable time—four to five years at two shillings per week or two to three years at four shillings per week. Of course, those more preferred blocks at three pounds ten per foot would’ve been a different proposition, probably amounting to hundreds of pounds.
Rickard was supremely confident that real estate investment was the surest thing since sunrise. ‘Rickard’s Realty Review’ explains…
…Land that was bought but a few years ago at shillings per acre is now being sold at pounds per foot. Fortunes, great and small, are being made on all sides. Money that has been returning 3 per cent in banks for years is being withdrawn to earn 100, 200, or even 300 percent for the prudent investor in real estate. Given the exercise of a little common sense, or the acceptance of advice from experienced men, an investor can hardly go wrong in Sydney. There is no boom-- just a big, steady increase in value. Desirable property anywhere, up to twenty miles from the city, cannot fail to receive added value from Sydney’s wonderful growth… 
In 1930, burdened with increasing debt upon properties that demanded rates but could not be sold, Rickard’s Company on the Stock Exchange collapsed and went insolvent. Rickard himself remained a high-profile dealer in real estate, but the lustre had gone. No amount of largesse from right-wing politicians nor celebrated appearances could restore the status of those halcyon years.
Throughout these years circumstantial evidence would seem to point to a special attachment of some kind to Warrimoo, but he was without doubt an enthusiastic promoter wherever he instituted new developments. His estates, whether in Woy Woy, Narrabeen, Bankstown or the ‘Mountains, were always characterised by original publicity and a unique approach. Without any clear statement from the subject himself, it would require a comprehensive comparison with the measures taken at other projects to fully ascertain the ‘special’ features of those taken at Warrimoo.
It is to be hoped future ‘Warrimoo Historians’ will be able to undertake such a task.
The Mysterious Name of 'Warrimoo'
Thus, in the Warrimoo Historians’ quest to establish the origins of the name ‘Warrimoo’, the year 1918 looms as significant, for reasons that shall become clear later. One thing is for sure, after consultation with local people, ‘Warrimoo’ is not a Darug or Gundangarra word. After perusal of the available literature, it is most likely not an Aboriginal word, either.
To be fair, it is even unclear (at this point) whether Arthur Rickard actually proffered ‘Place of the Eagle’ or ‘Eagle’s Nest’ as the definition of the word ‘Warrimoo’. In his initial promotion extolling Warrimoo as ‘the box seat’, the phrase ‘The Eagle’s Nest’ is simply bracketed underneath. The intention may feasibly have been that Warrimoo was the name of a place where eagles frequent—which was indeed the case for some time, owing to the amount of dead stock and road-kill along the sides of the Highway and the prevalence of carrion eaters at various points along the way. In other words, the place name and the existence of eagles there may have been coincidental.
Regardless, a simple Google search reveals another possible source of the name: a ship called the ‘SS Warrimoo’. This vessel appeared as one of the first iron-hulled steamships to arrive in Australasian waters when in 1892 it sailed from Newcastle on Tyne--where it was built--to Sydney in a miraculous 37 days. It was a beautiful state-of-the-art 5,000 tonne passenger/cargo vessel that surely caused a stir when it cruised into Sydney, then Melbourne, and finally Auckland harbours. Arthur Rickard, with his interests in immigration and regional trade, would certainly have taken careful note.
It is true that the first association of 'Warrimoo' and 'Eagle' occurred in reference to the name of this ship, when the South Australian Register mentioned that the vessel's name was a Victorian Aboriginal word for 'eagle'. As previously mentioned, however, there is no substantiating evidence from any Aboriginal or etymological source to verify such newspaper assertions. Later publications (ie later than the establishment of the township itself) all tend to fall prey to the possibly apocryphal definition supplied in 1918.
The ‘SS Warrimoo’ was owned by James Huddart, Parker and Co., an Australian--or at least an Australasian-- company that also carried the ‘Warrimoo’s’ sister ship, the ‘SS Miowera’, though the interesting thing was both these vessels’ ‘home base’ was to be Auckland, where they would carry on the Trans-Tasman run. After a few years ownership, however, possession passed to the ‘Union Steamship Company of New Zealand’, and its duties stretched to cargo/passenger voyages to Canada and the United States. Mark Twain sailed to Australia for a speaking tour on the ‘SS Warrimoo’ in 1895.
The ‘SS Warrimoo’ remained in New Zealand hands until 1916. Indeed, it was the troopship that took the first Maori ‘Pioneer’ military contingents to Gallipoli in 1915. Logically, given the long-serving New Zealand connection, Warrimoo Historians considered that ‘Warrimoo’ might have been a Maori word, since most or all of the other ships in the Union Steamship line had Maori-inspired names. Unfortunately a search of all available Maori dictionaries and place-names could not verify such an assumption…
The only connection to New Zealand that could be found was a reference to the home of Joseph Kinsey, high-profile owner of the Kinsey Shipping Line which had assisted Scott and Shackleton in their voyages to Antarctica. Kinsey lived in a magnificent residence in Papanui which he had named ‘Warrimoo’. Given the fact that Papanui was a noted Maori site in New Zealand, it is feasible that Kinsey named his house after a person or place from the area—this may well have been the original source of the name ‘SS Warrimoo’, since Kinsey was a well-known shipping magnate who had moved to New Zealand in 1880 (twelve years prior to the launch of the Steam Ship) and had named his mansion ‘Warrimoo’.
Joseph Kinsey photographed with his special guest, George Bernard Shaw, probably outside Kinsey's home at Papanui, named 'Warrimoo'. Kinsey was a celebrated NZ shipping magnate who sponsored Scott and Shackleton's expeditions to Antarctica.
But the story does not end there. In 1916, as a troopship, the ‘SS Warrimoo’ was transferred to a Singaporean shipping company, which continued to use the vessel to transport troops and war materiel throughout the war-zone, and especially in the Mediterranean Sea and off the coast of Africa. On the 18th May 1918, six months before the end of hostilities, the ‘Warrimoo’ was sunk off Tunis when it collided with the French Destroyer Catapulte “…after depth charges exploded” (!)
This whole incident—the sinking of the ‘Warrimoo’-- is shrouded in mystery. According to TROVE, all references to the ‘SS Warrimoo’ ceased when war was declared, so that even the sinking occurred without the Australian public being informed of the fact. ‘Official records’ give us no indication of the losses involved, or even the name of the Captain, and the report on exactly how and why the ‘collision’ occurred leaves more gaps than filler. Only one thing is certain: the ‘SS Warrimoo’ went down in May 1918, although we also know that the first advertisement for the 'Warrimoo Estate' occurred in March of the same year, two months before the ship went down.What is less clear is the amount Rickard knew about it and what connection it has to the christening of his estate.
Arthur Rickard almost certainly would have known about the ship’s existence and its role during the war, but did he christen his latest land release after the ship, or pluck it from the Mountain air?
We may never know why Kinsey called his Papanui residence ‘Warrimoo’, and thus we may never know the true meaning of the word which betokens our township. It would have been romantically satisfying for our home to have been the Aboriginal ‘Place of Eagles’, but considering Arthur Rickard’s own sympathies and the timing of events leading up to the release of his estate, it is far more likely that Warrimoo received its name from a tragic loss in World War I, as a muted and unintended tribute to those who would not return from that great conflagration.
Warrimoo in the ‘Roaring Twenties’
The Blue Mountains fully discovered itself as a tourist destination in the 1920's. This promotional pic for the Blue Mountains' 'Roaring 20's and all that Jazz' festival, shows Claudia Chan Shaw modelling the period fashion. Photo by David Hill.
‘Warrimoo’ was too young to ‘roar’. In 1920 it was a myopic infant, groping for its future, trying to establish an identity, self-absorbed with survival. One newly arrived young boy was Lawrence William Way. Lawrence recalls…
When the war came to an end, six wooden homes were built for returned soldiers to move into the area. We rented the house near (the present) primary school after (my father) paid a deposit on three blocks of land, Lots 4 and 5 in Florabella Street (and another in Albert Street). Another house was built where the Todd family lived in Florabella Street and two houses in Rickard Road, one in The Boulevarde and another one in Waratah Street. Waratahs were numerous on the western side of this ridge and beautiful scented Boronia grew in this area.
Then there was Mrs Simpson, the War Widow who lived in the home supplied by the Rejected Volunteers, which Warrimoo Historians consider to have been at some position on the Great Western Highway. A War Veteran by the name of Henry Varlow had occupied the shop building, Henry Todd lived on the corner of The Avenue and Florabella Street, neighbouring Lawrence’s parents, Walter and Ellen Way.
That was it. The ‘pioneers’ of white settlement in Warrimoo. In the absence of photographs, one can only paint a presumptive sketch of the area. There would have been some very occasional weatherboard buildings, plus the brick exemplar in The Boulevarde, and the shop on the Highway. ‘Thinned’ bush would have prevailed throughout the rest of ‘Warrimoo’, intersected by unsealed roads and very basic drainage. Service provision was non-existent: no electricity, no town water, no sewerage. All settlers had to be self-reliant in this regard.
The nearest institution to supply ‘service provision’ at the time was ‘Blue Mountains Shire Council’ which met at Lawson between 1907 and 1947. It was not yet amalgamated with the Katoomba City Council nor the Municipality of Blackheath, so it was poorly serviced with rates and focused on rural issues—it tended to be slow in catching up with costly modern developments such as water conservation and electricity generation. Nevertheless, by the end of the 1920’s it was able to supply basic electric lighting to sections of the Highway, and households that could afford connection.
|Opening of a 'new' stretch of the Western Road near the Bridge Road access during the mid 1920's. Note the bush situated in the direction of Blaxland, and, as yet, no street-lights.|
I feel sure that we as residents of this lower end of the mountains are under a debt of gratitude to the Shire Council and what they have accomplished, he said. (Applause)
Lawrence was the son of a World War I veteran of the AIF, Walter William Worsley Way, avowed athiest. Shot in the jaw on the Western Front in France Walter met his bride-to-be, Ellen Gertrude Chatteris while convalescing in a London hospital. Gertrude was fifteen years younger than Walter, and she already had a two year-old son named Harold.
|Ellen Gertrude and Walter Way on their wedding day, toward the end of WWI in England. Believe it or not, the child in the centre is William's older brother, Harold. Within 5 years, the Way family would be living in a humpy in Warrimoo.|
It was a whirlwind romance. Immediately after discharge the couple were married in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, then sailed for Sydney where they rented homes first in Broadway, then West Ryde. Walter worked as a cook in the Australia Hotel. Lawrence was born in Paddington Hospital in April 1920, just as the ‘Warrimoo Estate’ was being opened up. As an ex-serviceman, Lawrence’s dad was able to purchase land at Warrimoo at significantly reduced rates: he bought two blocks in Florabella Street and one in Albert Street. The story is best in Lawrence’s words…
When we moved from West Ryde to Warrimoo in 1922, we lived in a rented house (a returned soldier’s house) in Florabella Street for a while. Dad built a two-room humpy on Lot 5 Florabella Street covering the wooden frame and roof with a roll of tarred ruberoid. We lived in this until a small house was built on the Albert Street block…
While we were still living in this humpy, news came that my mother, who was in hospital, had just had a stillborn baby…
We moved to our house in Albert Street later in 1923. Around this time I had…a trauma…I had jumped off the verandah and had ripped part of my rear end. This time (the doctor) did not use the knife but stitched me up but I did not appreciate it as much as I should have. I screamed loudly as in those days we did not receive an injection to relieve the pain. I remember twelve years later the pain I experienced when the dentist hit the tooth nerve a couple of times when filling a tooth. How different things are today!
Things were changing in 1920’s and weekenders were popping up here and there. Many people were buying blocks of land. By 1923, Warrimoo could boast of at least twenty houses. At our Albert Street house we had used some bricks which we collected from the first shop in Warrimoo. This shop was the front of a small house and had burnt down around 1925. It was near the corner of The Boulevarde and the Highway.
Harry Todd lived in the house (No. 3) on the corner of Florabella Street. He collected bottles and built a beautiful glass garden with the words at the top “Moms regime meaning mountain queen”. …We came to know the couple who lived there well. Another house was built shortly after on the opposite corner and a family whose surname was Watts lived there. They were Church of England and shortly after settling there, Mrs Watts came to see my mother. I remember as she looked at me she remarked about my fair skin and I hid behind mum. Mrs Watts was looking for people who would be interested in a Church of England meeting. The Church of England minister came from Springwood and a meeting was held on their back verandah.
Warrimoo had a small corner shop and we used to get our bread delivered by horse and cart. It wasn’t uncommon for the bread deliverer to stop and talk, leaving the person’s bread on the horse’s rump before the buyer took possession of it. The meat was delivered in a motor bike sidecar in all kinds of weather. In later years, the meat was sent from Penrith by rail and picked up from the railway station…
The astounding thing about Lawrence’s account is the ‘normalcy’ of his perception. To most of us, what he was experiencing in Warrimoo was little more than ‘hardship’, but to the young boy Lawrence it was just what life was like. There were positives, too…
One day when we were going to Springwood my mother told me she had left her glasses at home. She told me when the train comes tell the driver I will be back in a moment. I did this and the train driver held up the train for about one minute until Mum arrived. It was an early morning train consisting of a tank engine and three box carriages. I marvel as I look back on this incident with many others how people went out of their way to help in any way they could…
…Dad worked in the mid-1920’s as a cook in the northern cane fields. He often obtained clothing from a Queensland warehouse and during the depression days he would still send for clothes from there. I remember going to Parramatta with Mum and, as Dad had returned from the cane fields, he had given her five pounds for shopping to buy clothes etc. Trousers were only a few shillings. In fact, ten years later, I bought myself good quality long trousers for ten shillings at Lithgow.
My sister Helen (who became known as Nell) was born in January 1925 and our verandah sleeping quarters ceased to exist. My brother Harold and I were assigned to a tent just near the kitchen door.
There are two things I recall about this time. One being that in 1926, Dad took us to the zoo. A photo was taken of me sitting on a small column. It was a day of absolute wonder to see so many animals. The other thing was that on Christmas Day 1926, there was a little wooden boat in a Christmas stocking which I was thrilled with…
|William Way, photographed at Taronga Park Zoo in 1926. He was six years old. At this time, Taronga had been open for ten years.|
Another house was built around 1926 on the fourth corner of Florabella crossroad (No. 3 Florabella Street). There were hardly any children in the area and I took up playing with a girl also named Laurie spelt the same as my name and also my age. The four corners of the crossroad were now built out as a weekender existed at No.2 which was the first house backing off Florabella Street. The Watts’ house fronted The Mall, which was the continuation of The Avenue. Also at the back of the Todd’s place, people by the name of Newton were clearing the land in preparation for building next year. It was the last block of two acres in The Avenue and joined onto our two acre block, Lot 5, which was to be 11 Florabella Street…
|Springwood Public School in 1927--somewhere in that group of young lower mountaineers, two boys from Warrimoo are lurking...later they will be able to attend the newly built Blaxland Public on the Highway|
(Shortly Lawrence came to be enrolled at the newly built ‘Blaxland Public School’ on the Highway)…About the end of the first year at Blaxland School, a school picnic was arranged at the swimming pool in Long Angle Gully about one kilometre down from Warrimoo station where there was a creek from the flat at Valley Heights. These flats were originally a crater of a very large volcano. It was where Arthur Rickard or someone was influenced to build this swimming pool. It had a concrete wall with a spillway.
…It was around 1926 when electric lights were added to streets. They were very poor lights, perhaps 60 watt, and it was quite dark between the lights. If we were not home by dark we would run between the lights…
...One time I was down at the house in The Boulevarde at the bottom of our street. It was dark and I was afraid to go home by myself. One of my friends said, “I will go to your house with you,” which he did. But no way was he going back on his own! So I then had to take him back and make a dash back the second time on my own. I did not think I would live to tell the tale.
Another time we were at the tennis court opposite the shop when a friend decided to run across the road before he realised a car was coming. He just made it but lost a shoe. We were not sure if the car clipped his shoe or if it just came off. It was certainly close.
So ends some excerpts from Lawrence Way’s vivid account of a young boy’s life in 1920’s Warrimoo. By the end of the decade new settlers were coming to live in this brave new settlement on the edge of Mountain bushland. Most led happy, interesting lives, but some were not so fortunate…
|On Christmas night, 1919, the new 'shop building' at Warrimoo burst into flame so that by the early hours of the following morning it was 'too far gone to be saved'.|
Originally Henry Varlow was from Leura, further up the ‘Mountains. He was a ‘plumber’ there, and had settled at Mount Street with his wife, Ella Irene Varlow and their two children, when war was declared in August 1914.
Varlow volunteered to fight overseas on 3rd of September of the same year. In other words, he was one of the ‘first wave’ of enthusiastic patriots destined to fight in the Middle East against the Turks, for the greater good of Empire.
At 38, he was no spring chicken. He had already served in the Imperial Light Horse at the “cessation of hostilities” of the Boer War fourteen years previous. When he signed up for his physical he was described as 5 foot 7 inches tall, 10 stone in weight, fair complexioned with grey eyes. He was to be paid 9 shillings a day.
‘Light Horse glamour’ was not to be his calling this time, however. He was to be a member of the 4th Infantry Brigade in the 7th Company of the Army Services Corps. The range of jobs in the Services Corps could be anything from stable-hand, to cook, to transport provision and construction. This may have been a disappointment to him.
Whatever the circumstances, Henry Varlow’s service record grew steadily more miserable. It began with minor misdemeanours such as ‘untidy quarters’ but then a series of complaints about his ‘sciatica’ had Henry in and out of hospital as an increasingly disgruntled soldier. Was he a ‘slacker’? The AIF reports are careful to avoid the charge, but ultimately the Army could bear it no longer—Henry Varlow was discharged due to ‘medical unfitness’.
Warrimoo must have offered Henry and his family an opportunity to put the war behind them and start afresh: to build a new and successful life. A sympathetic landlord in the form of the Rickard Company, a double storeyed dwelling leased to him at discounted rates, and the chance to build a shop’s clientele within a growing community. It required patience and dedication…
|The Varlows may well have thought Warrimoo would grow more rapidly and become a modern cosmopolitan centre for tourists--maybe it was all too slow.|
The Blue Mountains Echo of 2nd January 1920, takes up the story, under the heading ‘BIG BLAZE AT WARRIMOO’…
…Varlow, who is an ex-Leuraite, was charged as the perpetrator of the blaze. The investigation was held before the District Coroner Arthur Judges on Monday last. Varlow’s statement was to the effect that he went away with his wife and family on the 24th and was away till the afternoon of the 26th ultimo. The fire, which took place on the evening of the 25th, was an enigma to him. He was partly insured (for contents--WH) for 150 pounds and Rickard and Co. had the house insured for 1,203 pounds. Varlow said he was drawing 7 pounds 7 shillings per fortnight from the Repatriation…
In short, Henry Varlow’s alibi was that he wasn’t there. He wasn’t rich, but he wasn’t poor. At this stage, the level of business at the store was slight, but there was a good chance the settlement would grow and that Highway traffic too, would increase.
|Varlow's alibi was that he was elsewhere on the night of the fire. Surely a cursory check of his whereabouts on Christmas night would have established its truth or otherwise...|
Night officer Hartigan said on the night of the 25th, he let a man whom he thought and believed to be Varlow out at Blaxland, one and a half miles from Warrimoo. Witness said he had never been introduced to Varlow, but he knew him by his prominent teeth and his voice.
Guard John Lysaught testified to setting a man down on the night of the 25th and collecting his ticket. He could not identify the man, as he did not take much interest.
Station Master J.T. Neale,* relieving officer, said he received one ticket (produced) on the night of the 25th…
One fact stands out in this evidence: clearly it was unusual for travellers to use the train on Christmas night. Much moreso than today, Christmas was the opportunity for families to attend church in the morning, stay at home for Dinner and remain together for one of the few special days available throughout the year. An individual travelling on such a night would have stood out quite noticeably. Was it impossible for police to clearly identify this man?
Apparently so, since after an adjournment of a week, the prosecution could come up with no further concrete evidence to fit Varlow to the fire. As to motive, there appeared to be none. While a piano had been removed from the property some weeks beforehand, Mrs. Varlow testified that the couple had lost 105 pounds on furnishings and equipment in their lodgings. The central claimant for insurance damages had been A. Rickard and Co., for the destruction of the building. This was for the amount of 1,203 pounds.
Accordingly the Coroner reluctantly declared an ‘open verdict’—the fire had been deliberately lit, but by ‘persons unknown’. Varlow was discharged.
For Henry Varlow, however, this was the end of Warrimoo for him and his family. He could no longer live in a community where he was ‘under a cloud’. He left and returned to Leura.
Lawrence Way speaks of another shop operating on the corner of The Boulevarde and the Highway while he grew up in the early 1920’s. The renewed shop opposite the station was not rebuilt from insurance funds till 1926, when it was taken over by ‘the Breakspears’. William Way’s dad was able to use the bricks available at the ‘corner store’—presumably these were the rubble from a fire—to build their own dwelling in Albert Street. There was always a shortage of building materials, which didn’t ease until the 1960’s.
No history of Warrimoo in the 1920’s would be complete without reference to the main industry carried out on the northern side during this time, “Timbergetting” or “Logging”.
The area covered by logging activities ran from the rear of Cross Street and Warrimoo Oval across Long Angle Gully to Sun Valley and Singles Ridge Road, which contains rich volcanic soils. The combination of soil fertility, moisture from water sources and sunbeam direction gives this part of Warrimoo some very unique and impressive vegetation, most especially tall, straight timbers.
Trees most prized were the ‘Mountain Blue Gum’ (Eucalyptus Deanei—so named after the Railways Engineer who designed much of the Blue Mountains railroad, including the Newnes tunnels, Henry Deane); the ‘Cabbage Gum’ (Eucalyptus Amplifolia), and the turpentine (Syncarpia Glomulifera), a row of which now grows on the Great Western Highway between Warrimoo and Blaxland.
|Henry Deane (1847-1924)--the tree was named after him in 1904, when he was Engineer-in-Chief of construction for the NSW Railways, and a keen amateur botanist|
The Loggers cut trails down into the valleys and hauled logs out by bullock teams. Bruce Cameron provides some details:
‘At one stage the Baxters used a light rail system to remove logs to a ridge-top saw mill driven by a boiler, near Rickard Road, Warrimoo. They also operated a bush saw mill built by the Goddard brothers (c. 1918), near the present day Springwood Golf Course. This was close to their home in Singles Ridge Road, where another sawmill operated. A mill was also located in the vicinity of the (old) Sun Valley Nursery, near the highway.
When the Baxters were cutting timber they tapped into all the principle stands around Long Angle Gully. The main product was used for power poles. When the Mountains were first hooked up to the electricity grid, the Baxters supplied poles to the Blue Mountains Council. Other timber was cut primarily for firewood consumption.
The local market was supplemented with orders from other areas. Poles were cut and then loaded onto steam trains for transport to the required location.
|This picture reveals the combined usage of both Bullock and 'Blitz' power to haul logs up to the mill and/or station at the top of the ridge|
The Baxters were fine axemen and often entered woodchops at shows and competitions. They also cut timber near Glenbrook Creek and along Blue Gum Swamp, at Winmalee.
For the most part, today, the impact of the logging industry on Warrimoo is largely obscured by the intensive forest growth of the past two decades. It is hard to envisage the thin bush landscape that prevailed at that end of Warrimoo during the 1920’s and 30’s.
Electricity was connected to road lights in 1928, and homes subsequently got connected when they could afford it. Water was supplied by rainwater tanks and, in some cases, wells. Public transport was limited to the hourly steam train, though many locals got lifts from friends with sulkies or motor vehicles, or just thumbed a ride on the Highway.
A bushfire also occurred in 1928 and destroyed a house on The Avenue owned by the Newton family, and Lawrence’s own family’s original ‘lean-to’ in Florabella Street also met its end.
The Great Western Highway was widened and smoothed, and a bridge replaced the level-crossing over the railway line, a little closer to the station platform, but still further westward than where the Citizens’ Hall currently stands.
As events transpired, the bridge didn’t turn out to be the asset first imagined. It was erected at too drastic an angle to the Highway and cars did not brake sufficiently to turn over the bridge safely. The result was, according to Lawrence, a series of prangs into the bridge’s brick wall which meant constant repairs. One car knocked the brickwork onto the tracks and left its two front wheels dangling, necessitating urgent telephone calls to Springwood Station to warn off the oncoming train to Sydney. Warrimoo even then, it seems, was beset with Highway issues… 
|Main Street, Katoomba, showing tourist bus of the 1930's|
Even the unemployed sought respite in the ‘Mountains and Warrimoo—the blocks along Torwood Road were said to have been Warrimoo’s own ‘shanty town’ of makeshift shelters and desperate attempts to ‘grow one’s own’ survivalist veggie patches during the ‘hard times’.
Registration for voting in Federal elections became compulsory in 1912, so that all citizens of Australia, men and women over the age of 21, were recorded on ‘Electoral Rolls’. Naturally, children, and by all accounts there were quite a few straying the dirt roads and bush tracks of Warrimoo, are not mentioned, so we must draw rather general conclusions about their number in the township during the 1930’s.
The Roll of 1930 shows a substantial jump in the number of residents. However, ‘Mrs Simpson’, the war widow who won possession of the ‘Volunteers’ residence, is notable by her absence. ‘The Duchles’—and there are several alternative spellings of this name in other publications, most notably ‘Duckles’—have arrived and are managing ‘The Store’ (present day Monte Italia Pizzeria). They will play a substantial role in Warrimoo’s history from this point.
The Watts family lived on the corner of The Avenue, The Mall, and Florabella St., diagonally across from the Ways’ poultry farm, which was directly opposite Henry Todd’s place. The house currently standing on their corner still bears the historic name “Watts’ Bella” (‘Beautiful Watts’).
Henry Todd lived opposite on the Florabella Street corner (Number 3). Henry was one of those for whom the ‘Rejected Volunteers’ and Arthur Rickard had set up the Warrimoo estate—he was a war veteran, but after signing up in 1916 and serving in France he was medically discharged in July 1918 with ‘premature senility’…Given the relative ignorance of the authorities at that time, it can be supposed that this diagnosis in effect refers to what we call “shell-shock” today. According to Walter Way he built a beautiful glass garden dedicated to his wife, titled “Mons Regina”—“Mountain Queen”. Sadly, he too had gone by the time of the 1930 Electoral Roll.
|The "Embassy' cinema in Katoomba--1930's--note the 'Art Deco' style yet again. Going to the 'Flicks' was an essential part of life in this decade, and Warrimooians dressed up to the nines if they were ever to engage in such a palatial night out.|
Nevertheless a new family had moved in (probably the “Ozannes”—Elizabeth and Thomas). Indeed this particular intersection could be said to be the densest population of Warrimoo in 1930, and a veritable hive of activity, with Mrs Watts perpetually encouraging all and sundry to attend Anglican Church services every Sunday.
By the time of the 1934 Electoral Roll the number of registered residents had more than doubled, with a wonderful cross-section of occupations evident, ranging from Bus Driver to Hairdresser to Miner to Bricklayer and Dressmaker, Cabinet Maker, Plumber and Labourer. Warrimoo Historians wonder whether the “Harry Charles Swain, Bookseller” of The Boulevarde was in fact the same “Swain” who came to own an extensive chain of bookstores throughout Sydney.
Whatever the case, Warrimoo was becoming a true ‘melting pot’ of varied skills, classes, and interests, maintaining a solid component of mutual respect and assistance common in many Australian communities at the time. There was no real ‘crime’, and people helped out with a cup of sugar or a bowl of milk or a lift when it was needed. Without neighbourly support, life would have been miserable indeed.
As the depression worsened, Dad lost his job as a cook at Tweed Heads. As we children were all growing all we could do to survive was to go to school in the same clothes, we did not have any shoes. During this time many men became tramps. Swagmen were looking for anything they could do. A carpenter was offered keep for six months and twenty nine pounds for building a house at Blaxland bordering Warrimoo on the highway and many families were applying for the dole.
|These men are workers on an 'Unemployment Relief' project. They are wearing fairly typical work clothing of the period, and they hold some commonly used tools, including the omnipresent kerosene tins, which were used to carry just about anything..|
Dad also assigned us to setting up a stand where the (Citizens) hall now stands where we would sell fruit, flowers, etc. to people driving back to Penrith, Sydney, or returning from higher up the mountains. Cars would be going slower as they had just crossed the railway on a bridge which went at a right angle over the line. It was a wide open area to pull into. We sold strawberries for ten pence a punnet, passionfruit for threepence a dozen, and other fruits in season.
In the early 1930’s, the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge captured the imagination of the young boy, Lawrence Way. It was such a major thing that the progress of the ‘marching arch’ was followed by the newspapers regularly, so it was a central talking point among the residents of Warrimoo…
|After Premier Lang had cut the ribbon and dignitaries and troops had crossed the Bridge, the general public, including Lawrence Way and family, could stroll across. Note the railway line on both sides.|
There was another connection of the Harbour Bridge to Warrimoo. Premier Jack Lang, who opened the Bridge by cutting a ribbon already famously slashed by New Guard member Captain de Groot, was to mysteriously visit Warrimoo and seek respite there, shortly afterwards.
Subsequent to the loss of his father’s job, life became more difficult for the whole Way family. When an ‘Unemployment Relief’ project was set up in Warrimoo, Walter jumped at the chance and Laurence came to help out too…
In the Depression days Dad was able to get work for the dole on a scheme set up by council or through council by the government. This work was making* a three mile track from Florabella Street Warrimoo down into Florabella Gully, across two adjoining creeks with a section for picnic tables. From here up to the next ridge that crossed the creek further down then up to Bridge Street in Blaxland. I helped him lift the heavier stones for making steps. I think it was my willing attitude that led him to offer me threepence (called a ‘tray’ in those days, WH) if I hurried home from school and spent an hour chopping a barrow load of wood for the house…
However the level of sophistication of this track, like many others elsewhere in the Mountains, might have left something to be desired. Florabella Track required a serious upgrade if it was to match the inspiring ‘tourist walks’ being constructed around Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath at the time, and believe it or not, the residents of Warrimoo were generally proud of the drawing power of the settlement’s natural gifts. Hence the wisdom of the Council’s choice of Relief Projects.
Thus the Florabella Track was ‘civilised’ thanks to the Depression: it now had a designated, carved pathway through rocks and bush and over streams, as well as constructed steps, guideposts, and even a picnic table and seats in a clearing next to the creek—and there was ample evidence that it was used, too, not only by Warrimoo schoolkids taking the ‘shortcut’ to Blaxland PS, but by willing tourists soaking up the energising variety of diverse walks in all parts of the Blue Mountains.
Despite a fine legacy though, the story today is somewhat different. In contrast to the high usage of the ‘Fiveway’ tracks on the northern side of Warrimoo, Florabella Track seems to lag unobtrusively behind, with a rundown entrance at the end of Florabella Street, deteriorating steps and occasionally dangerous gaps as well as, at times, confusing direction. Unfortunately, it has simply been allowed crumble.
|Entrance to the Florabella Pass Track today. It is overgrown with weeds and ill-cared for. Neither Council nor National Parks nor local residents seem moved to repair its entrance nor the full length of the walk.|
Only the collective efforts of Warrimoo residents, one way or another, can save the Florabella Track from complete obliteration.
 This biography is entirely drawn from Peter Spearritt's contribution to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography
 ‘The Mysterious Name of Warrimoo’
 WAY, L. W., My Story, Cliff Lewis Printing, Caringbah, 2011, p.11
 Ibid, p.11
 Ibid, p.11
 Cf. Chapter in this blog entitled Arson at Warrimoo?
 Op Cit., My Story, pp 10-11
 Cf., Chapter in this blog entitled The Big House on The Boulevarde
 LUPTON, Maisie et al, Warrimoo Public School, The First Twenty-Five Years, magazine published by Warrimoo Public School Anniversary Committee, 1987, p.11
 Evans, Shirley & Smith, Pamela - REMEMBRANCE: Springwood District Honor Roll 1914-1919, p.14
 Ibid, p.14
 Op Cit., My Story, p.9
 Exactly who constructed the Warrimoo Pool is the subject of some contention, since Maisie Lupton had suggested her family had ‘built the pool’ in the 1930’s. Yet the chronological evidence and Rickard’s own advertising relating to a pool on the estate in the early 20’s is pretty incontestable… Feasibly, Maisie’s family had repaired the pool to make it operable again—something that was repeatedly required in sustaining a ‘natural’ swimming hole such as the one at Warrimoo.
 RICHARDSON, E. and MATTHEW, K, Warrimoo History Project, 2010—this whole section was researched and compiled by Evelyn Richardson and Kate Matthew. Their references will be duplicated below as footnotes to their work
 Ibid., biography of Ann Yousen
 Quoted from Leonie Campbell’s account as provided to RICHARDSON, E. and MATTHEW, K, Warrimoo History Project, 2010—this whole section was researched and written by Evelyn Richardson and Kate Matthew.
 Rickard’s Realty Review, Vol 1., No. 1., George Wilson Ed, Sydney Nov. 10, 1909
 Macquarie Aboriginal Dictionary et al
 If any reader can supply some written example of Rickard’s clearly suggesting ‘Place of the Eagle’ as the meaning of the word ‘Warrimoo’, please let us know, because then we could accurately source the origins of such a belief to him—this is most likely the case, anyhow, but it is important to be accurate.
 nla.gov/nla.newsarticle (TROVE Hobart Mercury 10/11/1892)
 nla.gove/nla.newcastle (TROVE South Australian Register 10/2/1892)
 Op.cit: (TROVE Hobart Mercury 10/11/1892)
 Op.cit: flotilla-australia.com/ss.warrimoo
 WAY, L. W., My Story, Cliff Lewis Printing, Caringbah, 2011.. Warrimoo Historians are indebted to Lawrence Way for the timely account of his experiences in Warrimoo. His book is available at Warrimoo PS Library, and it provides most of the observations for this chapter of our history.
 Ibid., p.9
 More information on Henry Varlow is available in another chapter in this section titled :’Arson in Warrimoo?’
 RICHARDSON, E., and MATTHEW, K Warrimoo History Project, Library Records
 TROVE, Nepean Times
 WAY, L. W., My Story, Cliff Lewis Printing, Caringbah, 2011. pp 9-15
 Taronga Park Zoo had opened just ten years earlier, in October of 1916
 Information on the biography of Henry Varlow comes from a variety of sources, but the overwhelming effort of drawing them together was carried out by: RICHARDSON, E., and MATTHEW, K Warrimoo History Project, Library Records
 TROVE, Blue Mountains Echo, 2nd January 1920
* Could this be the same ‘Mr. Neil’ who attended a meeting in Glenbrook, representing Warrimoo Progress Association, and who later appears as the Secretary of the Association in the 1930’s?
 Op. Cit. My Story, p.14