Search This Blog

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

THE EMPIRE PASS, NORTH LAWSON PARK BLUE MOUNTAINS NSW AUSTRALIA



North Lawson Park (on the northern side of the railway line at Lawson) has a long history extending back to the late 1870’s, when most of what we now know as Katoomba and Leura were only just being explored. It would be useful at this stage to check out my video on Dante’s Glen (here) and the blog which goes with it (here). There are many links in the blog to sites which will help you understand the place better.
The construction of walking tracks, steps, shelter sheds and all that goes with getting the public to visit these beauty spots was not just a matter of local pride but of economics. The upper mountain communities (Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba, 
Extract from the 1938 Railway "Walking Tours" map
Blackheath and Mt Victoria) were all after the tourists’ pounds as well. They had grander scenery, higher elevation and in particular round walks, where walkers didn’t need to retrace their steps. The Rodriguez, Federal and National Pass were, and still are, hard to beat for a great day’s walking. The Empire Pass at Lawson was Lawson’s attempt to capture more of this market.
We need to remember that, in those early stages of development, most of the money and labour required was donated by the local community. They did a remarkably fine job with very limited resources and we should honour the pioneer track designers and builders for the amazing things they achieved. At North Lawson Park, the main attractions lay on the western and eastern sides –Dante’s Glen and Fairy Falls on the one and Frederica Falls on the other. The “pass” (probably named to make it seem more impressive than it actually is) was constructed to join these two areas. It was 30 years after the initial track work in Dante’s Glen before the Pass was completed in October 1910. We don’t know who named it, but patriotism and loyalty to the British Empire was the order of the day and the
appeal would be the same 4 years later when the Great War broke out in Europe – for God, the King and the Empire. You only have to look at coins of the day (King Edward VII, 1910) to see the inscription (in Latin, of course) “DEI:GRA:BRITT:OMN:REX:FID:DEF:IND:IMP”, which reads in English “By the Grace of God, King of all the British people, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India”. Most of that continued in use on Australian coins until 1966.

The people of Lawson were justly proud of their achievement. They not only constructed hundreds of stone steps, but put up sign posts in many places, built fire places and erected shelter sheds (at least 5 of them). Nothing remains today except the steps (and the seat at Lucy’s Glen, which I missed seeing this time) – and they blend perfectly into what is a beautiful environment, worth preserving for all time.
May I recommend Keith Painter’s Pocket Pal series of booklets (the relevant one being “North and South Lawson Walks”), which you can order from Mountain Mist Books (here). An extract appears opposite. A heritage study by the NSW Department of the Environment (here) contains lots of valuable information.
I’ll conclude with a little about Frederica Falls, which has given its name to the creek which the Pass follows for most of its length. Frederica was the eldest child of local pioneers Benjamin and Alice Roberts (born April 25, 1882).
 Her birth name was “Effie Alice Frederica Chilvers Roberts”; Frederica was what she was actually called. It seems that the land where the waterfall is located was owned by Benjamin Roberts at that time and the name was in use soon after her birth. This information comes from a biography of Roberts by Brian Fox in the Blue Mountains History Journal for October 2013 beginning on page 68. (Here). It may not be a great waterfall, but it is a great story.
My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist is here. I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand.

My grandmother (Annie Hayward) and my mother (Vera Paix) in 1957
From the 1927 "Mountaineer" tourist guide