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Sunday, 25 May 2014

MARK’S TOMB: MEDLOW BATH, BLUE MOUNTAINS NSW AUSTRALIA

















The story of Mark’s Tomb is a fascinating one. So that there is no misunderstanding, this is not a real tomb, but would have been if Mark Foy had had his way.
Mark Foy (1865-1950) was a successful Sydney
businessman. Along with his brother Francis, the department store was commenced in 1885 in Liverpool St, in what was
then the heart of the Sydney retail district. Fashionable clothing one was one of the store’s specialities. The business (named for their father, Mark Foy Senior) thrived but eventually went the way of similar retailers in that part of the city, closing its doors in 1980. The building survives as the Downing Centre, a group of courthouses.
Apart from the business, the name of Mark Foy will forever be associated with two of his major interests – sailing and the Hydro-Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath. It is with the second of these that we are, of course, now concerned.
To understand the story of the famous Medlow Bath landmark, I suggest that you download a copy of a guide to the Hydro-Majestic Hotel, from around 1910. Go to Trove here, select “Books”, tick “Available Online” and type in the key words: Hydro Majestic Medlow Bath. Press Enter, and a short list will come up. Select the second of these, which you can now download as a PDF file. It will only take a few minutes at most. You will be amazed at the opulence of the place.
The Hydro was undoubtedly a pet project of Mark’s. The “hydro” in the name refers to the idea of water
treatments in alleviating – even curing – a wide range of ailments. The “Bath” in Medlow Bath takes us back to the same idea in Europe, notably “taking the cure” in places like the hot springs in Bath, England, and the many spas across Europe. It is still widely practiced today, the hot springs of New Zealand are extensively used for the same purpose and Sue and I appreciate the hydrotherapy pool here in Lithgow where we live.
I can’t say that the idea was as successful as Mark Foy would have liked, but the hotel certainly grew in fame as one of the places to be seen at in the Blue Mountains, at the top of the list with the Carrington in Katoomba, in fact. Foy lived to see his dream hotel managed by others who probably didn’t share his vision for the place, and to see it taken over as a military hospital for American servicemen in World War 11. Since then it has had many ups and downs and at the moment (May 2014) there is major construction and refurbishment going on there. Hydrotherapy will again be available at the Hydro. One thing will never change, though, and that is the superb views of the cliffs and valleys from the rear hotel balconies and lawns. Visit this site here for information on the hotel today and into the future.
Foy was so taken with the area that he wanted to be buried there, selecting the eroded sandstone cave we know as “Mark’s Tomb” as his final resting place. I don’t know what his family thought about the idea, if they even knew about it before the will was read. As things turned out, the courts overturned the instruction to build the tomb there and now all that remains is the sign pointing down the hill from the Wonderland Track reading “Mark’s Tomb”, and even this looks like it won’t last much longer.
You can read the newspaper articles form the Sydney Morning Herald here (Mark Foy Left £68,981) and here (Elaborate Mark Foy Tomb Need Not Be Built), both from 1951.
To find Mark’s Tomb, go to the end of Belgravia St, follow the “TRACK” sign on the tree and take the first track to the right. About 15 minutes along this (the Wonderland Track) you will see a track branching off down the hill to the left. This is where the “Mark’s Tomb” sign is nailed to a tree on the left side of the track. My video about the Wonderland Track and Mark’s Tomb may be found here. My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here . I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.

Friday, 16 May 2014

CLIFF TOP TRACK EVANS LOOKOUT TO BARROW LOOKOUT, BLACKHEATH NSW AUSTRALIA



Lockley Pylon across the Grose Valley
Just when this track was first constructed I cannot say, but I believe its present route dates from after World War 11.  One thing is certain, however: the National Parks and Wildlife Service have done a great job in reconstructing the track in recent years and it is a pleasure to walk on.
At Evans Lookout, the track leaves from the left of the parking area just as you enter it. If you’re a first time visitor to the lookout, make sure you include the short walk down to Valley View Lookout as well as the main one. You will get a better view of Hayward Gully Falls (Gossamer Falls) from here than you will along the Cliff Top track. They are on the left as you stand at the lookout.
The first landmark you will reach as you head towards Govett’s Leap is the shallow indentation of Hayward Gully. All the references I have been able to find say that this is named after William Hayward, said to be the first European to descend into the Grose Valley, in 1847. Just where he achieved this is not stated. It certainly wasn’t by going over the cliffs at this point! Just what connection there is between Hayward and the gully I can’t say. Since my uncle and aunt (Phil and Bess Hayward) and their family lived along Evans Lookout Road in the 1950’s near the head of Hayward Gully, I prefer to believe the gully was named after them.
The cliff line along here has been known as Griffith Taylor Wall since Myles Dunphy named lots of Blue Mountains features in the 1960’s. Thomas Griffith Taylor (Grif to his friends) was a pioneer Australian geographer, whose ideas on the origins of the scenery we see today culminated in his well-known book "Sydneyside Scenery in 1958. I still have a badly typed letter he sent me in 1963 after I had written an account of the geology of the Nowra district in my first year of teaching at Nowra High School. It was probably typed on the very machine in the photograph!

There is no denying the influence of Grif Taylor on generations of students (and the general public) and, despite new discoveries and interpretations, we can still learn from him. His maps and sketches are a delight and I have extracted one from Sydneyside Scenery which shows just how much information can be crammed into a small space.
Horseshoe Falls from near Barrow Lookout
Tony Luchetti
The name “Luchetti Lookout” still appears in current publications, though there is no sign of it along the track. It was approached by a side track (now lost) and is at the point of land where the Cliff Top track diverges from its cliff edge route for a few hundred metres or so. The lookout, presumably named after long serving local member Tony Luchetti, was never a developed one and had no guard rails etc.
Barrow Lookout is the subject of another blog, to be found here, and video here. It is just above the top of Govett’s Leap (the waterfall, that is) and provides great views of the Grose Valley, Horseshoe Falls, Govett’s Leap Lookout, the track into the valley and the cliffs opposite. It’s one of those place you won’t want to leave.
The Wild Walks information may be found here. My video of the walk is here. My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here. I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.
Track to the bottom of Govett's Leap taken from Barrow Lookout

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

QUEEN ELIZABETH PARK, LITHGOW NSW AUSTRALIA



So that we all know what we are talking about, Lithgow Park and Queen Elizabeth Park are one and the same place, the name change being made to coincide with the Queen’s visit to Lithgow on Friday 12th February 1954.
Lithgow isn’t short of playing fields, but it is rather light on parks and gardens. This is changing as the city grows in the 21st century, but the older parts of town are still deficient. This is a direct result of the city’s industrial past and the acute housing shortages caused by two world wars, when the coal mines and the Small Arms Factory were vital to Australia’s survival. Simply housing an extra 10 000 people took priority and the rapid decline in population after these conflicts were over caused another set of problems.
In the early days, there were practically no public spaces near the centre of town. What are today vacant areas used as sporting fields were often industrial sites then. As the population grew, so did the agitation for public parkland.
We read in the “Evening News” from Sydney for 27th November 1894, on page 4, “that Lithgow, which was one of the most important towns in the western district, was without a park of any description, and as far as the deputation knew, there were no Crown lands which were available for the purpose, and the Minister was asked to resume a suitable block for the purpose. At present there was no place where they could hold sports, nor where children could play, without trespassing on private land. In reply the Minister for Lands said there was no money available for the purchase of lands for parks, but should any sum be placed on the estimates for the purpose, the claims of Lithgow would be carefully considered.”
By February 1897 there had been little change and it was not until the following year that we read in the “Sydney Morning Herald”, for Saturday 19th November 1898, on page 9 that “The Hon. J Cook is in receipt of a communication from the Lands Department notifying that the Minister for Lands has approved of 14 acres of land being purchased as a public reserve and park for Lithgow”. Joseph Cook, later Sir Joseph, was a former Lithgow coal miner who had become the local member in the NSW parliament. Later still, he became Prime Minister of Australia. The new boardwalk at Hassan’s Walls (2014) has been named to honour him.
Finding and purchasing the site was one thing, but developing it was another. More than 10 years later, money was still being sought for park development. Mr Charles Hoskins, one of the owners of the steel works at Lithgow, offered a sum which had to be matched by other donations. This was proving hard to come by.
1920's - note the smoky background, now a thing of the past
After World War 1, the decision was made to place the city’s War Memorial in Lithgow Park, which has meant that the park from then on became the centre of public ceremonies and festivities, a tradition which continues today. Probably the greatest of these was the visit of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on February 12th, 1954. There is a good report of the event in the “Herald” of Saturday 13th February, on page 6. It was to honour Her Majesty that the park’s name was changed from that day on. It sounds like a great time was had by all and the memories of the day remain strong in the district, 60 years on.
My video of Queen Elizabeth Park may be found here. My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here . I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.
Uncle Christy Hayward in Lithgow Park 1953