Monday, June 11, 2012

Balmoral - Of Temples and Trams

Edwards Beach, Balmoral, looking towards Sydney Heads, May  2012
Standing on Edwards Beach at the northern end of Balmoral, on a beautiful Indian summer day looking out to Sydney Heads, it is fascinating to discover that this was once the site of a Greek Doric temple?

This was the Star Amphitheatre built in 1923/24 for the Order of the Star in the East (OSE). It was a white painted concrete structure which seated 2000 and had standing room for a further 1000 people. It had a stage, a chapel, a meeting room and a library.

It was the vision of Dr Mary Rocke, a prominent theosophical worker in Sydney in 1920's. The OSE intended to use the Amphitheatre for a 'new world teacher', Jiddu Krisnamurti, to address his audience. He did so only once and subsequently rejected his role. The OSE was dissolved in 1929.

It was an urban myth at the time, that there would be a Messianic coming through Sydney Heads, even of the Lord Jesus. But this did not happen either.

The Amphitheatre was sold and subsequently used in the 1930s for concerts and plays and as a mini-golf course. Nothing of this this piece of Sydney's history remains today except for the stories.The structure was demolished in 1951 to make way for what was one of Sydeny's first  block of home units, Stancliff.

Another piece of Balmoral history of which there are few remnants today, is its tram service. The Balmoral line was opened a branch line of the Georges Heights line in May 1922. From Middle Head Road, the line swung left into Gordon Street and  zig-zagged through a steep descent across Mulbring, Plunkett and Beaconsfield Streets, to emerge through a narrow rock cutting into the Lawry Plunkett Reserve. The trams then continued along The Esplanade to the terminus at the corner of Mandalong Road. (Photo below)

Old tram shed a the terminus of the Balmoral Tram Line, The Esplanade
May 2012 
The route through the Lawry Plunkett Reserve was opened as a public walking track in 2004. (Photo below). Several tram items have been donated by the Sydney Tram Museum and are on display in the rock cutting, including sections of former tram tracks and sleepers, a tram wheel and a pair of cast iron brake shoes, a tram brake wheel and a typical section of overhead span wire fittings used to hold the copper overhead wire.
Old tram route through Lawry Plunkett Reserve, Balmora,l May 2012
We did discover some original rosettes attached to the sandstone walls of the cutting, used to support the overhead tram wires.

Tram rosette, Lawry Plunkett Reserve, Balmoral, May 2012 
Tram rosette, Lawry Plunkett Reserve, Balmoral, May 2012 

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