Old Bulli’s long-lost ‘Petticoat Lane’ and Bowyer’s general store

A Google image showing old Bulli today (2023). Top of screen can been seen the old Bulli Colliery’s railway line over the Princes Highway, and what is now a pedestrian bridge. The red-dotted line shows the location of Bowyer’s (Petticoat) Lane, and the arrows show the location of the residential terraces (pictured inset left in 1987), and Bowyer’s shop (pictured top right inset as a 1927 advertisement).

By Mick Roberts ©

THERE’S no trace of a narrow laneway, just north of the former Denmark Hotel at Bulli, where about a dozen single storey timber terrace apartments once existed.

The terrace homes were located along an unsealed road known as Edward’s Lane. Later it was given the name, Bowyer’s Lane. Local residents handed it the nickname of ‘Petticoat Lane’, maybe from conspicuous laundry, drying in the tightly squeezed confines of the laneway.

On the southern corner of the lane, where it met the main road, was a drapery and general goods store, and further to the west, also on the southern side, was the row of timber terrace apartments. What remained of these terraces, with their vertical, hand-cut timber slabs, and peeling red painted, corrugated iron roof, were repurposed as horse stables when I photographed them in 1987. By the year 2010 they had gone, demolished to make way for flashy apartments.

The terraces, likely dating from the early 1870s, were home to financially struggling coal miners and their families, including my grandparents, Jim and Stella Orvad. One of these small apartments was also where my mother, Rita Roberts was born in 1941.

The old timber terraces in 1987 when used as horse stables. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection.

The drapery and general store at the corner of Petticoat Lane and the main road was established by Welshman, Caleb Edwards, likely in 1897, and the shop traded until the 1950s. I’m unsure when it closed and was demolished. However, it still existed in 1960 when local historian and Bulli Public School principal, Bill Bailey, photographed a streetscape of ‘Old Bulli’.    

An advertisement for Caleb Edward’s Store, Bulli. Picture: Daily Telegraph, March 24, 1927
Old Bulli, 1960, showing Bowyer’s store. Photo by William Baylie. Picture: Wollongong City Libraries.
A Google image of Bulli, showing the location of Bowyer’s Lane.

Born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 1864, Caleb Edwards came to Australia in 1888. He first went to Newcastle where he met his wife, Hannah Thomas. They married in 1896, and the following year the couple had established a drapery and general store at Old Bulli.

The store was carried-on by Caleb and Hannah Edwards for over 30 years before their daughter, Gladys, and her husband, Harold Richard Bowyer, who had married in 1925, took-over the management, probably in the 1930s.

Caleb Edwards died in 1943, at the age of 78, and his widow, Hannah in 1950, also aged 78.

Gladys Bowyer continued operating the store at Old Bulli until about 1950. She died in 1975 at the age of 75. Harold Bowyer died in 1988.

Can anyone tell me when Bowyer’s store closed, and was demolished? Scroll down to the comments section.

© Copyright 2023 Mick Roberts

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