It’s the colourful, multicultural suburb of Newcastle which includes the three inner suburbs of Hamilton North, East and South and it comes with a fascinating history that dates back to the discovery of coal near St Peter’s Church in the area known as Cameron’s Hill.
From this discovery sprung the township of Hamilton and what was then a dusty mining town is now a trendy and vibrant suburb that has seen rapid growth, hardship, devastation and in recent years has been forced to reinvent itself on more than one occasion.
Hamilton became a municipality on 11 December 1871 and was named in honour of Edward Terrick Hamilton, the then Governor of the board of directors of the Australian Agricultural Company who operated the mines, owned most of the land and were instrumental in the development of the area.
The commercial hub is centred around Beaumont Street which boasts a vibrant multicultural atmosphere and is lined with an array of restaurants and cafes, retail, fashion and commercial outlets as well as day to day services such as pharmacies, banks, real estate agents, florists, haidressers, fruit shops and delicatessens.
Beaumont street is also commonly referred to as ‘’eat street’’ and offers a wide choice of culinary delights from all over the world and in particular Italian, Greek, Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Himalayan, Mexican, Turkish and Lebanese. It’s a food lovers delight!
Named after Frank Beaumont who arrived in Newcastle in 1853 as Mine Manager for the Australian Agricultural Company, Beaumont Street wasn’t always the eclectic, trendy high street that it is today. Instead it began an unimpressive life as the poor relative of Denison Street which in the late 1800s was ‘the main road’ to Newcastle through the mining settlements of Borehole, Pit Town and Happy Flat.
At the time, Denison Street was where it all happened with almost every intersection home to a boisterous public house. In comparison, Beaumont Street was a sandy, overgrown muddy bush track making its way from Glebe Hill towards the present location of Hamilton Station.
Horse drawn buses were the only means of transport; otherwise people walked from home, to work in the mines or the few shops, over the deep rutted tracks. It was a ‘two mile walk’ to Newcastle. In the mining settlements, only the basics were available to families which meant Newcastle was the place to shop. This was tough on the local shopkeepers who relied on the miners fortnightly pay packets to survive.
By 1872 there were just five shopkeepers in Hamilton, including the Borehole Cooperative Store and Donald’s store, an early Hamilton landmark. By 1891 there were close to 5,000 people living in Hamilton, a sizeable community that would begin to demand more localised shopping.
The demand for a railway station at Hamilton, suitable for commuters, had also been growing and in that same year, 1872, two platforms (no railway buildings) for the Great Northern Line were opened. But, it was not until 1890 that the NSW government committed to build a proper station with large platforms, waiting rooms, a booking office, refreshmentrooms, staff rooms, a high level bridge and a footbridge for the Beaumont Street crossing.
By 1906, Beaumont Street was starting to resemble the main street of a typical Australian country town. Rail travel was highly popular and convenient and the new station became a drawcard for commercial development which had a significant and lasting ipact on the future development of Beaumont Street.
Establishments such as The Sydney Junction Hotel, the Hamilton Station Hotel, and later the Kent Hotel and The Northern Star Hotel, all benefited from the increased trade and drew patrons away from the Denison Street hotels. Over the coming decades, most of the Denison Street hotels closed, leaving only The Exchange Hotel and The Bennett Hotel.
But, it wasn't just the trains that initiated the decline of Denison Street and the promotion of Beaumont Street. The introduction of steam trams, running along Tudor Street westwards, as well as along Maitland Road to Mayfield, dierted people away from Denison Street . By 1915, Hamilton had a population of over 10,000 people and the shops and businesses in Beaumont Street continued to flourish. Banks and may other services sprang up and land values soared.
Residents no longer had to travel to Newcastle to have their shopping needs met as Hamilton was by then the main business thoroughfare, and the most active shopping precinct outside of Newcastle.
Over the next 100 years, Beaumont Street would undergo many changes shaping what it is today. Perhaps the most significantand traumatic event in its long history, has been the 1989 Newcastle earthquake which left the people of Hamilton and business owners devastated.
Beaumont Street was closed for business for at least 5 weeks after the quake, while demolition areas were made safe, buildings assessed and essential repairs carried out. Unfortunately for some businesses, such as Clancy’s Supermarket, the devastation of the earthquake would be a point of no return.
The Northern Star Cafe was more fortunate and sustained minimal damage, but it was a different story for the Niagara Cafe and adjoining shop which was partially demolished. The Niagara Cafe became Donald’s Late Night Pharmacy which was damaged beyond repair.
The Hamilton municipal building (circa. 1919) was demolished and some buildings had their future disputed because they were considered to have heritage value. Over time concept plans were developed for the "new-look" Beaumont Street and urban designers sought to preserve the areas European culture and heritage which was predominantly Greek, Italian and Macedonian.
Disaster struck again eighteen years later, when Hamilton was one of the worst affected areas of the June 2007 "Pasha Bulker" storms which wreaked havoc and caused wide-spread damage ($1.35b) throughout the region. The Hamilton community, is known for its resilience, and the area recovered from both events and went on to rebuild and reinvent itself.
Now, almost 26 years since the earthquake and eight years since the floods, BeaumontStreet is once again on the brink of reinventing itself and celebrating its unique heritage with annual festivals and events. Add to this the boutique shopping experience, a continually evolving coffee culture, an endless choice of authentic restaurants and cafes, new upmarket wine bars and refurbished hotels serving an extensive range of regional wines and showcasing the best of the craft beer scene.
If you haven't explored the cultural richness of Hamilton or experienced the best of Beaumont Street - well now is the time! It won't remain undiscovered for too long.
Get intouch with HAMILTON BUSINESSES this October!
Visionary Health Compounding Chemists
136 Beaumont Street,PH 4969-5081
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46 James St, Hamilton PH 4961 3017
62 Denison St, Hamilton PH 4961 3017
Xero Silver Partners,PH 4969 4699
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79A Tudor Street, Hamilton
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PH 0421 790 503
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PH 0425 369 445
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PHONE (02) 4940 8300
61 Stewart St, Hamilton South
By Ruth Cotton
Love Tree Cafe
5, 79 Beaumont St, Hamilton
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