Woonona rest park remembers pioneering brickmaker, Thomas Pendlebury

Pendlebury Park 1

The elegant gates to Thomas Pendlebury Park, Woonona, showing the iron gates that once graced Athol Cottage next door. Picture: Rita Roberts

THERE’S a small Woonona park that seems to have been forgotten in time.

Less than four months after the declaration of the end of World War II, Thomas Pendlebury Rest Park was officially opened by the Bulli Shire Council president, Con Quilkey on December 1 1945. It could have easily had a different name, with the Council first adopting Richardson Park, but later having a change of heart in favour of the pioneering brick maker after a petition from residents.

The pretty little park was one of the last established by the Bulli Shire before its amalgamation with Wollongong, North Illawarra and Central Illawarra Councils in 1947.

A park was first mooted in memory of Woonona’s pioneer brick manufacturer, Thomas Pendlebury in 1939. It would take another five years for the efforts of Joseph Pendlebury, the son of the pioneer, and good friend John Pallier, to have their dream realised.

Pendlebury Park Woonona Map

Google aerial view of Thomas Pendlebury Rest Park, Woonona.

In addition to a property where Richardson and Lewis’ shop had traded, land was acquired by Bulli Shire Council for a ‘rest park’ at Woonona in 1939.

Richardson and Lewis’ general store was a local landmark and had traded on the corner of Gray Street and main road for many decades. The store was operated by John Wynn during the 1880s, and later William Bartlett, who sold the business to Robert Richardson from Newcastle in 1906. About four years later, local resident, William Arthur Lewis, joined Richardson as a partner in the business.

The pair built “the highest integrity” as “fair and honorable traders”, the Illawarra Mercury reported in August 1932, when Richardson and Lewis sold the business to David Eizenberg from Canberra.

Eizenberg, who also purchased additional stores at Wollongong and Thirroul, was assisted in running the Woonona businesses by his two sons, Hyman and Leonard. Less than a year after buying the Woonona shop, 55-year-old David Eizenberg died in 1933. By the late 1930s, the old store, which was still owned by Richardson and Lewis, had closed and was put up for sale.

After William Lewis died in 1938, Robert Richardson put the property up for sale in 1939. At the time the property was described: “As at the corner of Prince’s Highway and Gray street, having extensive frontage to both streets and upon which is erected the large and commodious premises comprising two large shops, storerooms, bulk stores etc. NOTE— The above premises occupy a commanding position in an important section of the business area of Woonona, and as the Trustees are desirous of winding up the Estate of the late Mr. Lewis, the property is now offered for genuine disposal.”

The property was purchased by Bulli Shire Council for the purpose of a rest park, and the old shop demolished. Robert Richardson died at Epping in 1946 aged 82.

To enlarge the park further, Joseph Pendlebury gave land in addition to the old Richardson and Lewis’ property.

In October 1941, Bulli Shire Council approved the construction of a low brick wall, with 2 feet, 6 inch high panels along the Prince’s Highway frontage, at an estimated cost of £24. The boundary on Gray and Gordon Streets was fenced with a chain wire fence using wooden posts and timber rails, with a low brick wall below. This was estimated to have cost £50. A Council report found that fencing was essential if any improvements were to be made such as planting trees and shrubs.

The fencing along Gray and Gordon Streets has since been removed.

Pendlebury Park 3

Thomas Pendlebury Park, Woonona, showing the fountain dedicated to Joseph Pendlebury. Picture: Rita Roberts

There had been differences of opinion about naming the new park, with the Bulli Woonona Progress Association suggesting “Richardson Park”, and some councillors wanting “Davidson Park”.

In 1942, Bulli Council agreed to support the request by the Bulli Woonona Progress Association and name it “Richardson Park”. However, controversy erupted with a petition presented to the council asking for the park to be named in honour of Thomas Pendlebury. The South Coast Times reported on Friday 16 April 1943:

Pioneer Honoured

LATE THOS. PENDLEBURY

At its meeting on Tuesday night, Bulli Shire Council decided by 8 votes to 1, to name the small rest park at the corner of Gray street and Prince’s Highway Woonona, after one of Australia’s Industrial pioneers— the late Mr. Thomas Pendlebury. The park will be known as the Thomas Pendlebury Rest Park.

Last year, following a suggestion by the Progress Assn, the name Richardson Park was adopted. Following this came a petition signed by 400 electors of C riding requesting the park be named after the late Thomas Pendlebury. Moving that council rescind the previous resolution and adopt the name Suggested by the petition, Cr. Thompson said the late Mr. Thomas Pendlebury had been a pioneer in the establishment of the silica brick industry in Australia. Furthermore, an area of land to even up the allotment had been given by his son. Regarding the suggestion by the Progress Assn, this body had had an opportunity of preparing a counter petition. Both Cr. Thompson and Cr. McCarter, who seconded the motion were critical of the action of the Progress Assn. in preventing them from addressing members at the last meeting. Cr. Kelly, who opposed the motion, said no voices were raised in protest at the Council Chamber when the name Richardson Park was agreed on. Cr. Quilkey contended council was quite at liberty to change its mind. The people had brought the petition and he felt it was a worthy suggestion. The late Mr. Pendlebury was the pioneer of this particular industry and his products won a medal of merit at the Franco-British Exposition early in this century. The names of such pioneers should be commemorated.

Joseph Pendlebury, the only son of the pioneering brickmaker, had suggested to the Council as early as 1939 to have a park named after his late father Thomas Pendlebury. At the time Joseph Pendlebury was general manager of the Woonona Brickworks.

Thomas Pendlebury was born at Manchester, England in 1847, and was brought up to be a brickmaker like his father. He wheeled clay to the moulders for three years, when, at the age of 21, he became a ‘burner’.

After saving a little capital, he commenced business in partnership with a fellow-worker, and for several years the firm of Hamnett and Pendlebury did well at their works in Queen’s Road, Manchester. However, depression ensued in the building trade, and in 1879 Thomas Pendlebury decided to travel to Australia, landing at Sydney in September of that year.

With wife, Haidee, and his two sons and daughter, Thomas was living at Granville in the mid 1890s, where he worked at a local brickworks.

Tragedy struck the family in 1895 when Thomas’ 17-year-old son, who worked with him at the Merrylands brickworks, was accidentally killed when he fell into a brick crusher.

From Merrylands, the family moved to Woonona in 1898, where Thomas saw a well being dug at Mr. Davidson’s shop, near the corner of Campbell Street and the Prince’s Highway. He noticed that a fine clay was being produced. It was from that the brick industry was said to have started in the northern Illawarra.

Thomas went into partnership with a Mr Joubert to establish a brickworks at Woonona and eventually gain fame and fortune. He is credited with being the founder of the silica brick industry in Australia, and the pioneer of an industry that became second only in importance to the coal industry in the Bulli district.

In 1901, Thomas Pendlebury went out on his own, severing his partnership with Joubert, who went on to establish a dry-press brickworks at Hornsby.

Besides locally acquired contracts, Thomas Pendlebury also received orders to supply the NSW railways and the Australian Navy. The Illawarra Mercury reported on June 13 1901:

We have been shown a sample of bricks manufactured by Mr. Thos. Pendlebury, of the South Coast Dry Press Brick Works, Woonona-Bulli. Mr. Pendlebury has succeeded in turning out a highly finished article which he can place on the market at a price which places it in reach of all classes of the community. All information may be obtained at the works or from the South Coast agent, Mr. H. F. Cotterell. We understand several satisfactory orders have already been booked and Mr. Pendlebury contemplates erecting a new kiln. The works are directly connected with the Government railway. Mr. J. A. Mayo has a sample of the bricks in his window, Crown-street.

Thomas’ surviving son, Joseph took control of the business when his father retired to the family home ‘Ridgmont’ on the highway almost opposite the brickworks.

Just short of one year after the death of his wife, Haidee, at the age of 73 in 1926, Thomas died at the age of 80 in 1927. The Illawarra Mercury reported on Friday 19 August 1927:

Famous Maker of Bricks

DEATH OF THOMAS PENDLEBURY Just 80 Years of Age.

It is our duty to record in this issue the demise of the greatest identity at Woonona, Mr. Thomas Pendlebury. For the past couple of years his health had been such to necessitate his withdrawal from active control of the well-known brickworks of T. Pendlebury & Son, at Woonona, contenting himself with casual visits to the works from his home opposite. Nature, however, finally had to call a halt, and for six weeks prior to his death, which occurred about noon last Saturday, he was confined to his bed. Dr. Palmer administered all medical aid, and a trained nurse was constantly in attendance, but the ‘race, of life had been run’ and he passed away while unconscious, in which state he had been for a couple of days. He achieved an expressed desire to reach 80 years, his birthday having occurred a fortnight previously. The funeral left the home, ‘Ridgemont,’ at 3.30 p.m. on Sunday; a cortege of motor cars which extended about half a mile conveying people, of all ‘walks of life,’ prominent among whom were representatives of other brick works operating in the district. The remains were placed to rest at Bulli cemetery, in a grave, in the Presbyterian section, adjoining that of his late wife, who had predeceased him by eleven months, being then in her 73rd year. The funeral service was conducted by Rev. A. Wood, who also spoke briefly at the graveside, associating the phrase often repeated, ‘for the term of his natural life,’ and adding that deceased’s term of life had undoubtedly been of a very extended period. The son, Mr. Joseph Pendlebury, was a commanding presence at the graveside, and the daughter, Mrs Partington, on the arm of her husband, was also in attendance. An impressive feature was the fact that the body was borne to the grave by members of the brickworks staff — Messrs. G. Gray (Secretary), E. Perkins, sen. (foreman), E. A. Perkins, Ern Perkins, W. H. Walton and T. Bourne — who, with the exception of Mr. Ern Perkins, have been employees for a minimum period of about twelve years.

Although he would have had the satisfaction of knowing that his dream of having a park named after his father had been fulfilled, Joseph Pendlebury never lived to see it officially opened. He died at the age of 64 on July 21 1945, five months prior to the park’s official dedication. The Illawarra Mercury reported on July 27 1945:

DEATH OF MR. J. C. PENDLEBURY

In the community life of Woonona and Bulli an outstanding personality, Mr. Joseph Chadwick Pendlebury, passed away (suddenly) at his residence, “Ridgemont,” Prince’s Highway, Woonona, on 21st July, after being in ailing health for the past 18 months.

Although appearing to be of a retiring disposition, Mr. Pendlebury was closely connected with practically all activities tor the welfare of the community in general. His outgoing disposition and generosity, almost to a fault, made him very popular, enjoying a particularly wide circle of friends.

The late Mr. Pendlebury was born at Hamilton, NSW, and at the time of his passing was a director of the firm of T. Pendlebury & Son Pty. Ltd. His father, the late Thomas Pendlebury, who predeceased him by 18 years commenced brickmaking in Woonona on his own account over 40 years ago, and was the pioneer of the fire-brick industry on the South Coast, the name of the present firm being T. Pendlebury & Son, Pty. Ltd.

The late Mr. J. C. Pendlebury held the important and responsible post of chief warden of the Shire of Bulli when the possibility of invasion of our shores by the enemy was a matter of the greatest concern to all members of the community, and it was on account of failing health that he was obliged to relinquish his duties in this regard. He was also directly connected with all patriotic activities in the Shire of Bulli. For many years Mr. Pendlebury took an active part in the welfare of crippled children and rendered wonderful service in the transport of these unfortunate little ones in order to brighten their outlook and afford some measure of relief and comfort in their affliction. Mr. Pendlebury also had a warm spot in his heart for Bulli Hospital, and it was his practical support that contributed largely to the scheme of beautification of the hospital grounds. He was also actively interested in the formation of the Police Boys’ Club at Bulli, was a member of the committee, and showed his appreciation of the movement in a very practical manner. It is with a deep sense of regret that Mr. Pendlebury did not live to see the completion and official opening of “Pendlebury Rest Park” at the corner of Prince’s Highway and Gray St., Woonona.

In his customary spirit of generosity he undertook to defray all expenses in the work of making the park a place of beauty and usefulness, and which is to be dedicated to the memory of his father. Mr. Pendlebury was an active member in the life of the Rotary Club, Wollongong, and a past member of the Board of Directorate. He was also a foundation member of the Bulli Masonic Lodge No. 319, and also a member of Lodge Illawarra No. 59, and Lodge Wollongong No. 546. .At one time he occupied the important position of District Grand Inspector of Workings and was also a member of the Board of Benevolence.

The funeral took place on Sunday, 22nd July. The service at the home was largely attended. The Rev. W. Harrison, Presbyterian minister, officiated, and in his remarks spoke most highly of the sterling character and high ideals of Mr. Pendlebury.

The cortege to the Bulli cemetery was a particularly lengthy one, and a most representative gathering of all sections of the community. Very Worshipful Brother J. L. Cowie represented Grand Lodge, and gave the address at the graveside, speaking in glowing terms of Grand Lodge’s appreciation of the wonderful service rendered by the departed brother.

To his sister, Mrs. Alice Louise Partington, and nieces Allie (Lal), Haidee Giro (Mrs. B. Leyshon) and Phyllis, who are left to mourn the loss of their dear brother and uncle, we extend our sincere sympathy.

Pendlebury Park 2

Thomas Pendlebury Park, showing the fountain dedicated to Joseph Pendlebury. Picture: Rita Roberts

When the park at the corner of Gray Street and Prince’s Highway was officially opened on December 1 1945, Joseph Pendlebury, a bachelor, was also honoured with a fountain, which was built near the entrance gates.

Another feature of the park were the grand entrance gates. The gates came from a grand home that sat to the immediate north of the park. Athol Cottage, once the official birth, death and marriage registry for the Bulli district, and home to the Ramsay family was bought by the Pallier family in the 1940s.

The Palliers later had the house demolished to build a factory on the site. With the demolition, ornate iron gates that once graced Athol Cottage were donated to Bulli Shire Council.

The gates were in-turn placed at the entrance to Thomas Pendlebury Park, where they continue to feature to this day. The Illawarra Mercury reported the official opening of the park on Friday 7 December 1945:

PENDLEBURY PARK OPENED

Pendlebury Rest Park, at the corner of Gray st. and Main rd., Woonona, was officially opened on Saturday by Cr. Quilkey, president of the Bull Shire Council. The park was provided largely by the efforts of the late Mr. Joseph Pendlebury, in memory of his father, the late Mr. Thomas Pendlebury. When Mr. Joseph Pendlebury died recently, just before the park was completed, his sister, Mrs. Partington continued to work in conjunction with the Bulli Shire Council to see the scheme which he had conceived came to fruition. A memorial fountain to Mr. Joseph Pendlebury, was unveiled by Mr. J. Pallier, who had been associated with him in the park scheme. There was a good attendance at the function and the Bulli-Woonona Red Cross conducted various stalls. Cr. H. Frew was the chairman and expressed regret, that Mr. Pendlebury had not lived to see the conclusion of his scheme. The park would ensure that his memory would live with the people of Woonona. The Pendlebury family, was amongst the earliest settlers in the area, he said. Mr. Pendlebury had been a great citizen of Bulli and Woonona and had done much good in a quite manner… Cr. Quilkey paid tribute to the work done for the park by Messrs. Pallier, Glastonbury, Seagraye, Woods, Anderson and G. Buchanan, the latter under-taking to look after the plant life in the park. “The park reflects credit on those who have been associated with it. It is a worthy monument to the memory of Mr. Thomas Pendlebury, a real pioneer,” Cr. Quilkey declared. Mr. O. Lulham, president of the Wollongong Rotary Club, said that the late Mr. J. Pendlebury had been a member of the Rotary Club for many years. They all knew him as a man of kindness, who was sincere in helping others. They all admired him. His work was a monument to him. His thoughts were always on doing good for others. The speaker was glad to have the opportunity of paying homage to a worthy citizen and a God-fearing, noble gentleman. In unveiling the fountain, Mr. Pallier said that Mr. Joseph Pendlebury had been one of the finest men he had ever been associated with, and the memory of that association would live with him all his life. He was happy to be associated with the perpetuation of the memory of a sincere man. He was a man who was always ready to help, for charity and goodness were in his soul. During the afternoon a musical programme was contributed by the Woonona Salvation Army Band, Mrs. Langston’s orchestra, Mrs. A. Cracknell and Mr. J. H. Simpson.

Pendlebury Park Woonona 4

Thomas Pendlebury Park, Woonona. Picture: Rita Roberts

Today, with the exception of much more basic gardens, and the fountain in honour of Joseph Pendlebury no longer operational, the park remains much the same as it did the day it was officially opened in 1945. However, the timber fencing has been removed.

The restoration of the timber fences, and the fountain, along with the gardens, would be a fitting tribute to this pioneer family by Wollongong City Council, as it considers a development application for a residential complex adjacent to the park.

Ridgmont home of Thomas Pendlebury 511 Princes Highway Woonona Google

Ridgmont, the home of the Pendlebury family at 511 Prince’s Highway, Woonona. Picture: Google Streetview

The Pendlebury’s home, ‘Ridgmont’ survives to this day at 511 Prince’s Highway, Woonona and is heritage listed with Wollongong City Council.

The rest park is also listed as a heritage item with the NSW Government and Wollongong City Council. The park statement of significance states that it features “good examples of public landscape design, typical of the 1930s, although the park was dedicated in 1945”.

The Woonona brickworks, which Thomas Pendlebury established in 1901, was later purchased by Boral. Boral closed the brickworks in 1994 and today the site is a residential estate.

* Can anyone help with a photo of either Thomas or Joseph Pendlebury?


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