Canberra Camps, Settlements & Early Housing

Canberra Illustrated Magazine 1925

 Creative Commons License
Canberra Camps, Settlements & Early Housing-General by Ann Gugler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at


Canberra Illustrated

1927 Sanitation Report

Australian Natives Association Draft

Canberra's Cordial Companies & few Queanbeyan

 Seven Sheekey Cordial Bottles

Mrs Barton's Safety Coach

In 1925 Mrs Barton established a safety coach service between Canberra and Queanbeyan. This was later extended to trips between Canberra and Sydney.  I thought she was the first, but in searching through the local newspapers I came across Mr Tetley's char-a-banc service that commenced in 1923 - and there were others.  However, Mrs Barton who stayed first at the Hotel Canberra and later Hotel Acton with her husband and small dogs was one of the characters of Canberra and a pioneer of our early public transport system.

Mrs Barton's Safety Coach Service

RF Tetley Char-a-banc Service Westridge - Queanbeyan 1925


Queanbeyan Age 11 September 1923


Mr RF Tetley intends running a regular motor service between Canberra and Queanbeyan putting is commodious Char-a-banc with commodious seating accommodation for 40 passengers on the road. He will leave Canberra at 1.30pm on Saturday next calling at the Power House and Molonglo Camp en route leaving Queanbeyan again at 5.30pm.  Ladies who will be specially catered for will thus have the opportunity of doing their shopping and getting home again in time for tea. If sufficient support is forthcoming the service will be extended to meet the needs of all centres in the Territory.

Advertisement in the Queanbeyan Canberra Advocate  11 June 1925  - repeated during June and July 1925:

Canberra – Queanbeyan Night Motor Service. Leaves Westridge 7pm Monday to Friday via Westlake, Tradesmen’s Camp, Hostel, Acton Cross Roads, Power House, Molonglo arriving at Queanbeyan to meet the Mail Train from Sydney.  Leaves Queanbeyan after arrival at 4.11am Cooma Mail. RF Tetley Proprietor.

It continued to detail the Day Service that left Westridge at 8.45am and returned 9.30pm.

This advertisement drew my attention to a service that I had not heard about.  I knew about Mrs Barton’s Canberra –Queanbeyan Safety Coach Omnibus Service that commenced in 1925 and continued into the late 1930s. It is quite well documented in Australian National Archives.  She was one of the characters of early Canberra, who managed to annoy many of the officials of the day.  Dawson and Quodling Bros replaced her service in the late thirties.    

Westridge today is Yarralumla; the site of Westlake settlement is in Stirling Park, Section22 and Block 4, Section 128 and in the embassy area bounded by Empire Circuit, Forster Crescent, Darwin and Perth Avenues Yarralumla.  The Tradesmen’s Camp and Howie’s Settlement which included cottages and single men’s Hostel Camp were in the area of Block 3, Section 128 Stirling Park between Alexandrina Drive near Lotus Bay and Forster Crescent.  The Tradesmen’s Camp extended from the park area up across Forster Crescent on to land now part of the French Embassy in Darwin Avenue.

The Hostel  most likely to be the Hotel Canberra which was known as Hostel No 1. It may also be Hotel Kurrajong which was Hostel No 2 or 3.  It is more likely to be the former.

 The Acton Cross Roads, I believe, were the Cross Roads where the old Yass Road crossed the Uriarra Road opposite the Fire Station in Forrest.  The Power House is in Wentworth Avenue then known as Interlake Avenue.   Molonglo Settlement has been replaced with the buildings of Fyshwick.  The last stop was probably the Queanbeyan Railway Station where the service met trains from Sydney and Cooma. Canberra passengers from Victoria had to get out at Yass and find their way across to Canberra.

Tetley’s  Motor Service route – using modern maps - commenced around  the Yarralumla Shops, continued down the Cotter Road  (on the Yarralumla side of Adelaide Avenue) where it turned  left  just before the Prime Minister’s Lodge onto the track that led to Westlake.  The track entered the settlement near the Canberra Mosque and continued down the hill in the area of Empire Circuit where it still continues through Stirling Park. 

From the settlement the track turned right at a point near Alexandria Drive opposite the Southern Cross Yacht Club [Briar Farm site] where It crossed Haines’ Creek and continued  along a track that runs roughly parallel to Alexandrina  Drive for the pick up from Howie’s Settlement and Tradesmen’s Camp. 

From this stop the vehicle continued along the track roughly in the area of Alexandrina Drive that went up the hill to Commonwealth Avenue for the next pick up point at the Hotel Canberra .   It then took one of the tracks or roads to Acton Cross Roads near the Fire Station at Forrest  - thence to the Power House. In Wentworth Avenue that continued  along this road to join  Canberra Avenue – Next stop  Fyshwick [Molonglo}  and finally on to  Queanbeyan Railway Station.

I assume that the track from Westlake cottages to the Hotel Canberra was the one that we used from Westlake on our way to the Hotel Canberra bus stop.   However there was another  track into Westlake Settlement that left State Circle in the vicinity of Perth Avenue and joined Darwin Avenue where sites of the cottages began.  State Circle at that time had been completed between Adelaide  and Commonwealth Avenues.   This track was not in common use by Westlake residents until the American Embassy, built in the early 1940s, cut off the original entrance.   

The Tetley Motor Service called at the major  southside settlements of the time.  It travelled along tracks, partly formed roads and old roads on its route between Westridge – the brickyards and main nursery  - to Queanbeyan.  It went by the Westlake Camps & Settlements which had a population in May 1925 of 700.  Many  men working on the Provisional Parliament House and surrounds lived  here and in the surrounding area.  The service then  travelled  to the Power House Settlements – the Industrial area -  where camps  and 20 or more small brick cottages that formed the nucleus of the suburb of Barton.   Molonglo Settlement had a population of 750.  The total population of the city area in 1925 was  just over four and half thousand.

The introduction of our local bus service began in 1926.  It was recorded in the 20th August, 1926 issue of The Federal Capital Pioneer, Canberra's first newspaper. In this article Mr Butters, the First Commissioner stated: To meet the increasing demand for passenger transport a Motor Bus Service between settlements has recently been inaugurated and will be augmented on the arrival of four buses recently purchased by the Commission...   This of course, is another story about our early public transport.

What happened to Mr Tetley’s Motor Service is unknown, but perhaps he was the first to provide a public motorized service for the people of the FCT?

Reginald Francis Tetley late of Queanbeyan died 10 December 1975 aged 89 years.

More information about Mrs Barton and our local omnibus service can be found in my web page


The Tetley advertisement reminded me of the old track across from my home at Westlake to the Hotel Canberra.  It was a long walk, but in fruit season, not an unpleasant one because the track went passed a very large old quince tree that provided us with delicious free fruit.  Another found advertisement   in the Queanbeyan Age  8 May 1904 indicated  that many before my generation also enjoyed the fruit from this tree.


QUINCES FOR SALE – Apply Briar Farm Canberra 2d, 3d and 4d per dozen.


Dry Canberra 760,000 empties - 1926

Unemployment Relief Committee

2CA - Canberra's First Radio Station


Following are a number of articles from the Canberra Times on 2CA - others will be added - AJ Ryan commenced his radio station from a shop at Kingston and had his transmitter at Molonglo.  He had many stories about these early times that I have published - one that I recall had a letter in reply to the local authorities who wanted to close down his Molonglo transmitting rooms because there was no lavatory - Ryan replied that someone has stolen the lavatory pan and he had hopes of getting it returned etc etc - his radio station survived.  In our book, True Tales From Canberra's Vanished Suburbs of Westlake, Westridge & Acton [Gugler] - there is a story by Mr George Barlin, who worked for AJ Ryan.  He mentioned that the station began operations on 14th November 1931 - transmission hours were 7.30pm to 10 pm each night except Sundays - 8pm to 10pm.


In the same book is another article by Ruth Rolfe (nee Mason) who worked for the station in the 1940s.


The Canberra Times 10 June 1931


Mr AJ Ryan proprietor of the 2CA radio experimental station Kingston received seventeen letters from different centers in New Zealand yesterday advertising that they had heard speeches broadcast from 2CA on the eve of the FCT Advisory Board election as well as the election results the following evening. The writers complimented Mr Ryan on the clearness and quality of transmission.



The Canberra Times 27 October 1937


The first building to be erected at Canberra Radio Centre near Gungahlin has been completed to the order of AJ Ryan Broadcasters Ltd.


It is anticipated that an early start will be made with the provision of water and electrical services at ‘Radio City’. Water mains will be connected with the Canberra system.


The new radio transmitter for 2CA has arrived and awaits installation in the modern building recently completed by Broadcasters Ltd. It is expected that the vertical tower will reach Canberra in about three weeks time.  This will be fabricated on the site, and will be the most up-to-date unit yet secured by a country station.


Tenders have been invited for the erection of studios at Civic Centre which will embody all the latest features gleaned as a result of investigations and experience in Europe and America.


Provision has been made at the transmitting station for a large transmitting room, research laboratories, offices, and living accommodation all of which have been designed in accordance with the latest practices overseas.


As soon as the mechanism is installed it is proposed to take an extensive series of field strength measurements in the surrounding districts in order to gauge accurately the capabilities of the new stgation.


The station will operate on its full licence power of 2,000 watts making it second to none in Australia as far as B Class stations are concerned.  It will incorporate many new developments and will have an effective range double that hitherto available from a station operating on 2,000 watts.


Increased strength will also be obtained as a result of the installation of the vertical radiator which is now accepted by radio experts as the most satisfactory type of aerial.  The station will transmit a stronger and more consistent signal over a wider area, while distortion will be minimized, thus enabling better reception by listeners.


The Canberra Times 13 December 1937


The Prime Minister (Mr Lyons) will lay the foundation  stone of the new studio for radio station 2CA at Canberra next Saturday.


Building operations are being pushed on the site at City between the YWCA Building and the Civic Theatre, and will afford those present at the ceremony next Saturday an idea of the provision to be made for the studio end of the new station. Meanwhile the new station at Gungahlin has been completed and preparations are now being made for the erection of the giant aerial.


The Canberra Times 12 March 1938


The ambition of Canberra is to attain to cultural pre-eminence in Australia the claim being made that this mantle is appropriate  to the National Capital. In its first 25 years outstanding work in bringing ultimate fulfillment of this ambition has been carried out by the Canberra Societies.



Beginning with a membership of 41 in its first year the Canberra Mail Choir, nor completing its ninth year is a fixed institution in Canberra musical life.


The idea of forming a male choir originated with Mr HC Green who convened a meeting of interested persons at the Hotel Canberra on December 2, 1929.  This meeting at which Mr FJ Ross occupied the chair, decided unanimously upon the choir. The constitution was drafted by a Provisional Committee and adopted at a general meeting on January 20, 1930.


Office-bearers of the Provisional Committee were Messrs HG Downing (secretary), W Doig (hon conductor) and AR Peters (hon pianist).


Members of the first Committee were: Vice-presidents: Messrs HC Green and H Filshie; hon secretary: Mr HG Downing:  hon treasurer: Mr CR Greig; hon conductor: Mr W Doig; hon pianist: Mr H Scriven; committee: Messrs AG Macdonald, AH Hilder, DB Edward and AGE Denton; auditors: Messrs E Pratt and HD Forbes.


At the second annu8al meeting Mr HC Green was elected president, and has held office ever since.  Mr HG Downing has been honorary secretary since the inception of the choir, while Mr AR Peters has also had an unbroken record of service since his appointment as honorary pianist in 1931.


Members of the present Committee are:- President: Mr HC Green; Vice-presidents: Messrs WJ Hunt and DJ Coates; hon secretary: Mr HG Downing; hon treasurer: Mr WM Griffiths; committee: Messrs CJ Merralls, W Tillie, M Lucas and AH Hilder; librarian: Mr T Greaves; assistant librarian: Mr FR Hilder; auditors: Messrs CSW Clarke and SC Murphy; conductor: Mr LI Hughes; pianist: Mr AR Petes.



The choir has had only two conductors in it nine years, Mr W Doig acted from the beginning until three years ago, when his duties were taken over by Mr LI Hughes. After Mr Doig resigned, the constitution of the choir was amended to enable the committee to appoint him as the first life member. He is the only life member to date.


Enthusiasm has been the keynote of the success of the choir. Rehearsals have been held on an average of once a week since the choir started, the highest number in any year being 60 in 1936-37, and the lowest in any year being 39 in the first year.  Membership has always remained fairly stationary. Committee meetings are infrequently called as it has been found more convenient to discuss business rehearsals.


The first public concert organized by the choir was held on December 2, 1930, under the patronage and in the presence of Lord Somers, the then acting Governor-General and Lady Somers. A profit of 40 pounds was made on this concert, all of which was voted to the Canberra Relief Society. The choir raised 107  pounds by five other efforts during the year, at which it supplied the programme, or assisted other organizations. Willingness of the choir to assist whenever called up has marked its whole career.



Two repeat performances were given of the 1931 annual concert, one at Queanbeyan, and one at Wattle Park. Net results in aid of the circuit funds of the Methodist Church were satisfactory. During that year the Male Choir gave concerts at Reid Methodist Church and at St Christopher’s contributed to the programme at the opening night of community singing at the Causeway and took part in combined choral concerts with other bodies.  At one concert with the Musical Society over 100 vocalists and instrumentalists all drawn from Canberra took part.

Four members of the choir Messrs HC Green, LR Martin, EH Pratt and EJ Flilshie formed a Canberra Male Quartette and assisted at the opening that year of 2CA Radio Station.


The annual concert was abandoned in 1933 because that time of the choir was fully occupied in assisting other organizations in their efforts.  Six public appearances were made during the year at benefit concerts for the various churches and the Musical Society.


An interesting innovation by the choir in 1934 was the Nigger Minstrel Show held in co-operation with the management of the Capitol Theatre. Comprising half-pictures and half minstrel show, it attracted 300 people.


For the next two years activities were mainly directed towards assisting church efforts and creating a stronger social movement within the choir by means of evening gathering and soirees.



In 1936 after several years of hesitation the choir entered the Wagga and Grenfell eisteddfods. It was beaten by only six points by the Wagga Male Choir, and at Grenfell  received a ‘walk over’, the 10 pounds prize and a handsome silver cup.


This experience started the choir thinking seriously of a Canberra Eisteddfod and last year members organized the first Eisteddfod held in Canberra.  Providing an opportunity for local amateurs it provided a signal success, so much so that the Male Choir has now won numerous other organizations to its side in forming an Eisteddfod Society which will hold its first competition this year.



The Canberra juvenile vocal championships for boys and girls under 16 attracted 63 entries. The competition was held in June 1937 and the prize winners were:

Boys:John Harrison 1, Bart Ryan 2 and Colin Hellyer 3.

Girls: Shirley Ransom 1, Lorna Williams 2 and Barbara Martin 3

Concilation prizes were awarded to Stan Barry, John Cleary and Iris Crampin


The Male Choir has provided the choral part of the programme at two evening garden parties given by the British High Commissioner (Sir Geoffrey Whiskard) and Lady Wishkard during the last twelve months.


The Canberra Times 30 March 1938


The Reid Methodist Church Canberra was filled to overflowing on Saturday afternoon last, on the occasion of the marriage of George Kenneth Barlin, the well known announcer of 2CA the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Chas Barlin of Lansdowne Taree and Iris Edna Taylor eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs SO Taylory of Kingston. The bride who was given away by her father, was charmingly attired in a frock of white satin lacquered taffeta with a sweeping train and carried a bouquet of tuberose and frangipanni.  She also wore a wreath of orange blossoms and veil hand worked by the Aunt of the bridegroom, Mrs Tolson of Lorne North Coast.  As the bridal party entered the church the organist (Mr Curtis of Queanbeyan) played the wedding march.  Preceding the bride was a winsome little flower girl, Miss Elaine Morton, Queanbeyan, frocked in white georgette and small train. She wore a halo of pink flowers and carried a bouquet of pink roses and carnations.


The bride was attended by three bridesmaids – Miss Mona Taylor (sister of the bride) and also Miss Dorothy Palazzi of Kogarah and Miss Joan Gunn of Kensington. The bridesmaids’ gowns were of rose pink novelty lacquered satin with long trains and carried bouquets of deep red roses and carnations which afforded a beautiful contrast.


The bride’s mother looked becoming in her frock of fawn sheer satin and carried a bouquet of roses and maiden hair.  The bridegroom’s mother was beautifully frocked in floral Pacific crepe and coat of sheer georgette and carried a bouquet of blue hydrangers and delphiniums.


Mr Mervyn Jones filled the place of best man with Mr E Hughes and N Barlin (brother of the bridegroom) as groomsman.


During the interval Mrs Welch of Canberra sang, ‘Because’.


The reception which was held at the Masonic temple was attended by 130 guests. The toast of His Majesty the King was proposed by the Rev RG Arthur. Mr Palazzi  of Kogarah proposed the toast of the Bride and Bridegroom to which the bridegroom responded in a humourous speech and proposed the toast to the Bridesmaids.


Mr L Hughes of Canberra proposed the health of the Bride’s Parents. He spoke of his long and affectionate relations with the family covering a period of many years paying a generous compliment to their large heartedness and hospitality.


In responding on behalf of himself and his wife, Mr Taylor expressed the great pleasure and satisfaction they felt at the close association that had been consummated that day with the Barlin family.


Mr AJ Ryan, director of 2CA radio station proposed ‘The Bridegroom’s Parents’ and spoke of the high esteem in which they were held in the Taree District.


Mr Barlin thanked the company.  By special request of the bride the Rev RG Arthur proposed the health of her grandfather, Mr AH White of Sydney and also the bridegroom’s grandmother, Mrs Barlin Senr of Tralee.


In proposing the health of Mrs Welch and Mr Curtis, Mr Taylor expressed the pleasure and thanks of all present for the services they had rendered.


Mr Palazzi proposed the health of the chairman (Rev RG Arthur).  Mr and Mrs Barlin who will make their future home in Canberra left by car for Theodore Queensland where they will spend their honeymoon.  They were the recipients of many congratulatory telegrams beautiful gifts and cheques.

PaP G Downing; on sec