October 21 -27, 2012: Issue 81      

 ‘Pill Hill’ – Palm Beach

The rise of green along which Pacific Road runs at Palm Beach was once nicknamed ‘Pill Hill’ due to the list of well known doctors, in almost every field and specialty, who were not only contributing to the medical and health knowledge of Australia, but also contributing to the settling of Palm Beach and supporting its life saving club.

These were folk who were deemed ‘Sydney Society’ during our 1920’s and even after World War II but were, when at Palm Beach, barefoot on the sand and enjoying the beautiful pristine environment and bush of Palm Beach as it was then. Culturally setting the pace, with their fashions followed, their mannerisms examined and viewed as those who were setting a great example for all and expected to conduct themselves in an ‘above reproach’ way, it was the raw ocean, headlands and open spaces they came to enjoy during the summer seasons in much the same way those camping on our reserves were.

Right:From Album 52: Photographs of the Allen family, Sunday, 21st of November 1909. Caption reads 'On the Pittwater side. Linking last hill before descending to Barranjoey'. Image No. 1373020h Courtesy State Library of NSW.

From the early 1900's the health benefits of enjoying our great outdoors became a prevalent mode of thinking and even was used as a means for selling blocks of land at Palm Beach which was a long way from the town center then;

For Anniversary Day there Is a rather good list of sales announced for country centres, especially at the sea-side resorts. Palm Beach estate at Barrenjoey, Pittwater, will be offered by Messrs. Raine and Horne. There are many holiday attractions at this beautiful spot. Surfing, boating In the still waters of the harbour. Balling, rowing, fishing, wild natural scenery, all to be enjoyed within a radius of a, quarter of a mile of the estate, which in itself is only a distance from Sydney of about three hours' travelling. REAL ESTATE. NOTES OF THE WEEK. (1912, January 6).The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15300543

A sale which is sure to attract attention on Boxing Day is the Palm Beach Estate at Barranjoey by Messrs Raine and Horne. This is the second subdivision to be offered. The first sale was held last Anniversary Day, when 90 allotments were sold in as many minutes, at good prices. The subdivision to be offered next Thursday is better land, but it has not quite so much water frontage. REAL ESTATE. (1912, December 21). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15385041

Mr. Arthur J. Small, of Royston Park, Asquith, takes exception to the statement last week that Palm Beach Estate, Barrenjoey where land brought £4 per foot, is inaccessible to the public, and practically can only, be reached as a residential area by persons owning their own car. He draws attention to the fact that there is an hourly service of motor cars from the present tram terminus at Narrabeen to Newport, and a regular ferry service thence to Clareville and Palm Beach of two trips each way daily. This service was inaugurated by the Palm Beach Co. when they first opened up the estate some five or six years ago. REAL ESTATE. NOTES OF THE WEEK. (1917, March 31).The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 11. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28101228

While these sites were being developed for holiday cottages, and in some cases, mansions, inklings of sacred sites and their totemic meanings were discovered;

ABORIGINAL CARVINGS AT PALM BEACH. . 'TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD.; Sir,-I enclose a copy of some aboriginal carvings at Palm Beach, which should be of interest to the public The outline drawings represent two kinds of fish and a man, cut on a flat rock; on the hill between Sand Point, Pittwater, and Cabbage Tree. Boat Harbour, Palm Beach, Barranjoey. The fish measures 22ft, the man 6ft 6ln, and the smaller fish 6ft long They have exceptionally good outlines, and are better shaped than any others yet recovered The Hawkesbury sandstones, by reason of their comparative softness, offered exceptional facilities to the coastal tribes of our aborigines to display their art In pictorial drawings, as there are many in the Port Jackson and Hawkesbury districts. It is not known what age these carvings can be, but many hundreds of years must have elapsed since they were made The drawings have only Just been discovered by Architect H A. Wilshire and Stonemason J Booth, who were looking for building stone on the company's property at Palm Beach The company has decided to preserve the carvings for all time. I am, etc., E. E. G. de GYULAY, Secretary, The Barrenjoey Company. ABORIGINAL CARVTNGS AT PALM BEACH. (1918, January 1). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15781235

In 1912 it was blocks on Sunrise Hill or ‘Rise’ that sold out. The hill overlooking the beach’s southern end proved no less popular. The experiences of the owners of these premises serves best as an insight into the Palm Beach of 1916;

Many of the recently built homes at Palm Beach are up to the minute with parquet floors and streamlined 'furnishings.  But the homes built in the early days were typical "beach" houses, constructed so that many friends could be accommodated on wide verandahs.  Social life has changed, too, In the intervening years, and, although the inhabitants still enjoy strolling along the beach, more sophisticated forms of enjoyment in the shape of cocktail parties, luncheons, and dances while away the leisure hours

Lady French, who has a cottage at Palm Beach, remembers going there 30 years ago (1916) with her first husband, the late Sir Herbert Maitland. Travelling in their Rolls-Royce, they would take several hours to make the journey, they had to cross in two punts at where the Harbor Bridge and the Spitt Bridge are now.

"a trip to Palm Beach about 30 mlies, was no light-hearted jaunt.  Sometimes it felt like a cross-continent expedition," said Lady French. There were two punt crossings and miles of rough dangerous roads, with the worst stretch between Newport and the Beach. The small population at Palm Beach was far outnumbered by the herds of wild goats.

Pill Hill

" I Remember on one of our usual Palm Beach  social functions-a walk along the sand to Barrenjoey Lighthouse-coming face to face with a fierce old goat and almost being shunted over the cliff."

The late Sir Herbert Maitland and I were among the original people to build holiday homes at Palm Beach. In addition to Sir Herbert, the late Doctors BullmoreGordon Craig, and  Thring had homes there. Dr. R. Godsall and Dr. Brown Craig were also among the "early settlers" to live along the "top" road, which, because of their profession, became known as Pill Hill.

The doctors who pioneered Palm Beach in those early days likened it to a tropical paradise. It is still favored by members of the medical profession, and many young doctors are members of the local surf club.

The first general store was at Palm Beach, on the Pittwater side near the jetty, as early as 1914, and was known as Booth's store. Later it became Ellis' store, and then after the last war two returned Diggers, Mr. Fred Howlett and his partner, Gow, took it over. Their general supplies came by ship from Sydney by the Erringhi and the Kallawatta, and meat and bread came by launch from Newport.

They made their own ice-cream in those days, and froze it in old fashioned freezers with coarse salt. It was just as popular as the well known brands are to-day.

It was not until 1929 that Howlett's store was established on the beachside of Palm  Beach. Before that there was no road through from Pittwater, and the top road was used by residents.

The same free-and-easy way of life still goes on at Palm Beach. These days, however, welcome guests bring their own sheets because of the laundry difficulties; their own rations-meat, butter, sugar, and tea. Palm Beach setting for smartest sea and sun togs. (1946, January 12). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 22. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47245736

Sir Herbert and Lady Maitland's house - 19 Palm Beach Road, Palm Beach - 1923, courtesy Peter Verrills, from Verrills Family Albums. Given to Peter by Lady Maitland.

Sir Herbert Lethington Maitland, eminent head and neck surgeon who initiated rhinoplasty (nose) and whose wife purchased the property built at the corner of Palm Beach Roads and Pacific roads, later became Lady French when she married Sir Frederick French, Commodore of the P & O Line  (Sir Maitland died in 1923). The Maitlands built a ‘Californian bungalow’ style home, popular at the time, with most of the sandstone being quarried from the block itself, alike many properties in Pittwater. 

Dr Lee Brown, a surgeon in partnership with famous surgeon and urologist Robert Gordon Craig, married his daughter Ailsa and had a daughter in artist Mitty Brown who recently passed away. He too would have added during his visits to the 'Pill Hill' status. Doctors Bullmore and Craig were next door to each other. Dr Craig was also a keen yachtsman and a member of the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.

"BEAUTY Born of MURMURING SOUND" Overshadows Mode & Manners At Palm Beach: PALM BEACH, Sydney's famous seaside resort, once the happy hunting ground of a few of Sydney's chosen rich and fortunate, is now in the throes of its summer season. Not quite in the throes, perhaps, for the great rush does not actually begin until Christmas Eve. PALM BEACH is no longer a place of Arcadian simplicity, of isolated loveliness, destitute of the "mod. cons." of civilisation. Its loveliness remains, for its greatness must ever triumph over the changes wrought by man. But where, only a comparatively few years ago, the regular Palm Beach devotees could pass through thickly-timbered bushland to the yellow sands, the residents now follow a formal road or track, pick their way through hundreds of cars parked along the asphalted road, and step either over or on a mass of humanity sunbaking on the seashore.

It is a sophisticated humanity in the main, with a "right thing at the right time" code. There is a code of manners, a code of dress, a code of entertaining, a code of speech with seasonal fashions in the choice of slang, forms of salutation, and so on.  By these things are the genuine "Palm Beachers" known. They have their own particular pass-word, as it were.

Palm Beach ca. 1900-1927, Sydney & Ashfield : Broadhurst Post Card Publishers. Image No. a106132h Courtesy State Library of NSW

If one fails to do the "right" thing at Palm Beach in the season, one can be as much a frozen outsider as a bootlegger at a prohibitionist rally. This intimate circle is not as remote as it was. In the busy season, at any rate it is submerged in the vast hordes that invade the beaches, the people who come by motor cars, by motor lorries, or who form part of the camping community near the golf links or on the Pittwater side. Cheaper and better transport facilities have robbed Palm Beach of its remoteness. The beach is now fringed with beautiful homes, complete with modern conveniences, and in many instances modern art.  But its golden sands and tree-studded hills, its turbulent or quiet sea, the nearby harbor with its myriad bays and inlets, will always invite lovers of the beautiful, and proffer charm and repose to those who seek its charm.

The Peters' home in Beach Rd (now PBSLSC) is one of the most outstanding. Mr. Peters, who is the engineer of Burrinjuck fame, bought the land long before he built the house. During the war years he considered it would not do to build, so the family camped on the land in a most complicated and wonderful system of tents—tents which were far superior to most seaside cottages for comfort.  The McKays' home is particularly noted for its lovely garden, perfectly kept. The first frangipanni grown at the Beach was in this garden. Mr. Weldon, who owns "The Moorings," is so fond of gardening that he will even drive, after a rush day at the office, all the way to the Beach to plant a baby staghorn. Previously, however, an even more romantic owner lived in "The Moorings," the late Mr. Walter Lipscomb. He had the nameplate of this, the first bungalow built  at Palm Beach  (by an American architect, with keystone to the chimney piece by Theo Cowan), "moored" to a tree, not the fence, as it is at present, and the verandah not comfortably closed in as now with glass and awnings, but open to the four winds.

Palm Beach has two little characteristic "originalities." One is to name the Hill containing the homes of Doctors Godsall, Gordon Brown, and Bullmore "Pill" Hill, and to have nicknamed "Sunset Rise" "Spinsters' Rise" because of Dr. Lucy Gullett, Miss Garran, and Miss Bowman (Mrs.Macarthur now) having residences there. "BEAUTY Born of MURMURING SOUND". (1933, December 16). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 27. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article53243910

Right: The view over the beach; 'PALM BEACH, nestling in the curve of the sea-shore'. "BEAUTY Born of MURMURING SOUND". (1933, December 16). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 27. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article53243910

At the other reach of this hill equally committed to raising the tone of our lives people had holiday homes with gardens they opened year after year to the public in order to raise funds for charity. Their works are commemorated in the names of streets and reserves;

The Poinsettia Gardens of Boanbong, Palm Beach - THE gardens of Boanbong, the Palm Beach home of Mr. R. T. McKay, were open to the public on Saturday in sweet charity's cause. "The Old Gardener," whose articles are a regular feature of The Australian Women's Weekly, speaks enthusiastically on the picturesque setting of this beautiful home, situated within a stone's throw of the beach.

In the glorious sunshine of Saturday, the concerted blaze of something like ten thousand poinsettias was a never-to-be-forgotten sight, he says, and Mr. McKay is to be commended on his choice and foresight, and general planning of the spacious grounds.

Not even Brazil, their native home, or Queensland, which has adopted the poinsettia as its national flower, could produce a finer display. The Poinsettia Gardens of Boanbong, Palm Beach. (1934, June 30). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 4 Section: THE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S WEEKLY HOME MAKER. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46465722

Setting aside all perceived beliefs about the cultural nuances of those who established and in some forms, still Keep Palm Beach as it should be, those who settled Palm beach and its hills were life savers or balm givers in their workday weeks and patrons or those on patrol as life savers on the sands of Palm Beach during their holidays.

MISS ELIZABETH GODSALL (centre), at the Palm Beach home of her father, Dr. R. S. Godsall, of Bellevue Hill, and MISS CECILE WESTON (left), and MISS JEANETTE AVERN, of Toronto. PACIFIC CLUB TO OPEN ON SUNDAY—THE SOCIAL ROUND. (1937, November 25). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 19. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17411874

DR Robert Gordon Craig owned together with wife Maria Graeme Nee Connon (married 1902) seven blocks on "Pill Hill", Palm Beach - so called because of large number of Macquaire St. Drs who lived there. Further three on Ocean Rd. purchased by "J.R.Craig" in 1921.

In 1915, at what is now Canara Place, Palm Beach, NSW, they built "the Cabin" in 1940 passed on to daughter Juanita "Mitty" Lee-Brown, afterwards sold to Mr. Eric McIlwraith and later demolished. After Death of Daughter Ailsa in 1940 Mitty moved into the "Pink House" at 120 Pacific Road, Palm Beach.

Source: the book "Palm Beach 1788-1988" (1984) Ed. Joan Steege Published by The Palm Beach Association ISBN 0 9590202 0 6 page 46

Society wedding reception (Hordern family) in marquee with DHHM on top of the cake] - Miss Dinah Hordern married Harry Meeks in 1936. From Hood Collection part II : [Weddings and wedding breakfasts, (including society and wartime weddings)]. Image No. a431640h Courtesy State Library of NSW.

 Blow up of Section from Panorama of Avalon Beach and Palm Beach region, New South Wales nla.pic-vn6149402, courtesy National Library of Australia, circa 1917 - 1946.

Pill Hill - Palm Beach - threads collected and collated by A J Guesdon, 2012.