COOKS HILL | Where Everything Old is New Again

Cooks Hill is the place to be, the place to eat, shop and also the place for art. Diverse, friendly, relaxed, offbeat, cosmopolitan, and bohemian, Cooks Hill offers the quintessential inner city lifestyle, with iconic beaches, magnificent coastal walks and vibrant shopping and eateries all within close proximity. Image Courtesy of Newcastle NOW. 

A little-known fact is that Cooks Hill literally grew out of the ground – starting life as a 19th-century coal mining township and later a working class suburb before it became the modern, middle-class suburb it is today. Built on sand flats known as the Wallaby Ground, inner city Cooks Hill is one of Newcastle's most
diverse and fascinating places. And it’s become trendier over the years with local designers and trendsetters completing the picture.

Cooks Hill was part of the historic Australian Agricultural Company's 2000 acre grant which was to be used to raise sheep to produce quality wool which was fetching high prices in London in 1830. That was until Sir William Edward Parry (1790-1855) arrived in Sydney as the new commissioner of the A.A.Company in 1829 and decided to establish Newcastle’s coal mining industry.

As coal reserves at the A.A.Company's Hamilton pits began to dry up in the 1880s, the company commenced work at the old coal workings of C-Pit near Cooks Hill. A new pit, known as the "New Winning", or Sea Pit, was opened, mining a lease nearly 4 kilometres out to sea and employing up to 600 men and boys before closing in 1916.

Today, the names of the company’s representatives that include Corlette, Dumaresq, Tooke and Dawson can be seen throughout the suburb. Darby Street, which was originally known as Lake Macquarie Rd before the 1860’s, was named after company surveyor George Darby, who was responsible for the town's planning. What developed was a working class suburb, and Darby Street became the commercial centre it is today.
Another large employer in the area at the time was William Arnott's biscuit factory in Union Street employing up to 300 local men, boys and girls from 1877 to when the factory closed in 1942.

Unfortunately, the building is now demolished, but it is said to have been located opposite the present Aldi store. All that remains is the grand 1870 family home "Leslieville" at 63 Union Street – which neighbored the big, old biscuit factory.

Early residents recall a slow paced community once divided in two by the Burwood railway line, the odd red-light house, or two and bakeries and butcher shops co-existing with light industry like foundries, junkyards, garment factories and other similar industries.

Since then, there have been a great many changes and with a population of almost 4,000 people, today Cooks Hill is typified by its tree-lined streets, rows of Victorian terrace housing and turn of the century timber cottages.

The area is also home to many of the city's well-known pubs, such as The Cricketers Arms Hotel, The Oriental Hotel, The Delaney and the Commonwealth Hotel. These are the four remaining local pubs after 5 other local drinking holes were closed in Cooks Hill in the early 1900’s.

Beyond fashion, Cooks Hill is also home to the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery in Laman Street, featuring national and international exhibitions year-round and where the many works by significant artists, including works by Sidney Nolan, William Dobell, and John Olsen can be found.

There are also several private galleries where local artists in residence are often available for a chat, while photographic studios and quirky gift stores mean it’s easy to while away the day checking out the original works and innovative ideas of some of the region’s, most talented creative professionals.

Cooks Hill also has a number of smaller inner city art galleries, including the now closed, but historically significant Von Bertouch Gallery founded by the late Anne Von Bertouch. Built in 1877 by Henry Alderton, the building at 61 Laman Street was bought by Ms von Bertouch in 1969, who added the modern extensions and converted the building into a gallery and residence – creating Australia’s first commercial gallery outside a capital city and an essential part of the artistic landscape of Newcastle. Unfortunately, the building was damaged in the Newcastle earthquake and sold after Ms von Bertouch’s death in 2003.

Cooks Hill Galleries in Bull Street has been representing artists and selling collectable artworks since 1975 and is regarded as Newcastle's premier commercial art gallery with monthly exhibitions of quality artworks by professional artists from the Hunter region and beyond.

Also on Bull Street and open from Friday to Sunday you will find the Back to Back Galleries for ceramic artists, potters, clay workers, sculptors, art lovers and collectors.


Of some cultural interest and a visual sign of the city’s vibrant artistic scene, on the corner of Darby and Queen Street, is where the Hit the Brick festival transformed an otherwise empty wall into an open air art gallery, thanks to the creative flair of some of the most accomplished and revered street artists from
around Australia.

With a rich food scene that’s quickly cementing the city’s reputation as one of Australia’s must-visit regional dining destinations, Darby Street is renowned for it's diverse and laid back dining style. With more than 25 cool cafes and restaurants offering relaxed indoor and al fresco dining options, that invite you to spend a slow morning over breakfast, a long lunch, cocktails, and dinner.

As Newcastle’s most exciting dining strip, Darby Street is sure to have something for everyone from Italian, Vietnamese, Thai and Modern Australian cuisine to pub food and just about everything in-between.

Hot spots include Delucas, a cosy pizza parlour serving rustic Italian staples with menus scribbled on mirrors and Vietking for a tempting selection of wonderfully authentic Vietnamese dishes.

In addition to being a chocolate-lovers' haven, Coco Monde Chocolateria, has plenty on offer for breakfast, lunch, dinner and, of course, sweet treats. The family-owned-and-operated business has its own range of top-quality handcrafted chocolates, classic chocolate treats, desserts and savoury meals and the sharing plates are an excellent way to sample several chocolate treats.

The latest arrival is Terminus on Darby, which is fast becoming the place to hide from the daily grind and known for their fantastic food, beer, wine and taking their cocktails seriously! It is also one of the few places in town that keep the kitchen open late.

Another popular spot is 5 Sawyers, a ''bar with food'', also serving cocktails in a relaxed setting and chilled staff. Nearby is The Depot on Darby, an industrial-inspired restaurant and bar serving meals and tapas with a fruit-dominated cocktail menu and a wine list full of Hunter Valley labels.

A serious challenger for the title of the country’s coffee capital, Newcastle boasts plenty of options for cravers of caffeine – and some them call Darby Street home, most notably local institution Goldberg’s Coffee House, Frankie’s Place, Zinc on Darby, Core Espresso and Glee Coffee on Darby. There’s no excuse not to find the perfect grind.

You can also nurse your hangover here the next morning as many are also open every day for breakfast and lunch. And while it’s acclaimed as Newcastle’s original eat street, Darby Street has increasingly become famed for its eclectic mix of boutiques focusing on fashion, alternative music, homewares, second-hand book shops and jewelry, with plenty of one-off finds. In fact, Darby Street is a haunt for up-andcoming
designers of stylish urban wear for the young – and the young at heart.

Among them is Jean Bas with limited edition designs and over 30 years’ experience in the fashion industry and High Tea with Mrs. Woo, with their unique, wearable East-meets-West pieces designed in Newcastle and made in Australia. Guanabana has an exotic, bohemian range of womenswear, which is designed, manufactured and sold in Newcastle while Blackbird Corner shows the work of local designers.

If you have time for only one store, then pick Ramjet Assortments. Hip jeans, hot cowboy boots, and beautiful dresses. Don't postpone a visit to Darby Street; it won't remain underestimated for long!

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