The suburb of Chatswood is Willoughby’s largest suburb. It is coloured Grey on the Suburb’s Map.
Just how big the suburb is can be ascertained by comparing its size to the overall size of Willoughby.
Because the suburb it is quite is large it is also quiet diverse. The early development within the suburb occurred at the intersection of Mowbray Road and the North Sydney/Gordon/Lane Cove Rd now called the Pacific Highway. With the coming of the railway line in 1890 the focus shifted to the station area around Victoria Avenue. The eastern side of the railway line, being flatter and hence more accessible developed earlier than most of the land to the west of the railway line which is made up of picturesque gullies and streams.
There is a popular belief that the name is derived from the wife of an early Chatswood identity – Richard Hayes Harnett Snr. Harnett’s second wife was called Charlottle (Chattie for short). It is reported that Chattie used to walk and paint in the woods near where she lived (near current Chatswood Railway Station). Henry Lawson, a ‘friend’ of Harnet penned a poem he called “Chatswood” where he suggests that Harnett named the area Chatswood after his wife:
“Chattie’s Wood” has long since gone, and shops are standing in a row
Where the young wife when a-dreaming in the days of long ago;
How the pretty name was altered doesn’t matter, anyhow;
But the wife is still remembered, as they call it Chatswood now.
Based on reports from local residents who knew ‘Chattie’ there is a conflicting claim as to the location of Chattie’s Woods. This is articulated in the poem “Henry may have got it wrong“.
The Holtermann collection of historic photographs
Gold discovered in Chatswood? Maybe not, but silver certainly was.
Our guest speaker at the general meeting on Saturday 12 October 2013 was Patrick Dodd from the State Library of NSW. Patrick focused on the amazin collection of glass-plate negatives financed by the German immigrant and successful goldminer Bernhardt Holtermann.
The images were taken by the Victorian photographer Beaufoy Merlin and his assistant Charles Bayliss be-
tween 1869 and 1876. The smaller glass-plate photos were taken by Merlin and Bayliss as they travelled north from Melbourne through New South Wales taking photographs for sale to the locals in the towns they visited.
Merlin and Bayliss moved to the gold- fields at Hill End in early 1872 and made trips to various goldfields in the area. Their photographs received wide- spread publicity. Holtermann had the good fortune to unearth the 286kg ‘Holtermann Nugget’ on 19 October 1872, which made him a rich man.
A meeting between Holtermann and Merlin in November 1872 resulted in anambitious project to promote the colonies of Australia to the world in a grand travelling exhibition. Merlin tragically
died in September 1873, leaving Bayliss to continue the photography task. The grand Exposition never eventuated.
The whereabouts of the glass-plate negatives remained unknown until 1951, when Keast Burke approached Mitchell Librarian Phyllis Jones seeking additional Holtermann photographs. They visited Holtermann’s daughter-in- law, Mary Holtermann, at Chatswood and located 3500 glass-plate negatives
in her garden shed.
The collection is among the Mitchell Library’s special ‘gems’.
Apart from the long-lost silver negative glass plates being found in Chatswood, this story has another link with Willoughby. Most of the surviving photographs relate to Gulgong and Mudgee. The home of poet Henry Lawson who lived in Willoughby on a number of occasions.
Henry Lawson’s parent’s bark hut at Gulgong, NSW. Holtermann Collection Mitchell Library, Sydney
Willoughby First School
School or Arts & Mechanics Institute