FASCINATING: An early image of Murwillumbah (c1910) taken by FP Hobbs, who took some of the earliest known photographs of the Tweed District.
FASCINATING: An early image of Murwillumbah (c1910) taken by FP Hobbs, who took some of the earliest known photographs of the Tweed District. Tweed Regional Museum

Tweed's pioneer days in focus

WELCOME to the first edition of our new Talking History column: a collaboration of work between the Tweed Regional Museum and the Tweed Daily News celebrating the vibrant history of the shire. This column, contributed by staff of the Museum, will share some gems from their rich collection. Future columns will also profile research undertaken by local Historical Societies. Today we begin the first in a four-part series on early Tweed photographers.

Part 1:

THE Tweed Regional Museum collection includes many images from the first decades of the 20th century which document life in the Tweed. In the case of four photographers who worked locally, they prove the truism that a picture is worth a thousand words.

FP Hobbs, Douglas Solomons, Angus McNeil and WJ Hannah left a legacy of high quality photographs depicting early townships and villages, local identities and events, and landscapes.

Their work has left us with rare and precious glimpses of life in the Tweed some 100 years ago.

Over the next few weeks, beginning with the work of FP Hobbs, we will profile these early photographers and share examples of their work.

This photo, named Sunset Murwillumbah, was taken by early Tweed photographer Frederick Peden Hobbs, who became renowned for his  his scenic images of the region.
SUNSET MURWILLUMBAH: This photo shows why Hobbs was renowned for his scenic shots of the region. TWEED REGIONAL MUSEUM
  • Frederick Peden (FP) Hobbs took some of the earliest known photographs of the Tweed District. Hobbs' business in Main St, Murwillumbah, was called Joyland and as well as photographic items, it stocked books, stationery, toys and gifts. Hobbs called himself the 'Ringmaster of Joyland'.

Although he worked as a photographer for less than 10 years, Hobbs was renowned for his scenic images of the surrounding region. His obituary in 1946 claimed: 'His mountain and cloud studies of the Tweed have rarely been equalled'.

In these two images from the Museum collection, his love of the district can clearly be seen. Just prior to WWI, Hobbs organised for the printing of scenic souvenir booklets with photographs from his collection, as well as descriptive articles that would attract both visitors and new settlers. Due to the outbreak of war, his plan was never realised.

His image, Sunset Murwillumbah (below), illustrates his experimentation with light and mood and shows why he was especially remembered for cloud studies.

Hobbs most likely set up his camera on the Murwillumbah Bridge to take this image of the Tweed's first butter factory in Commercial Road and the atmospheric scene behind it.

In 1914, Hobbs convened a meeting to form the 'Tweed Amateur Camera Club' so that ordinary citizens could explore photography as a hobby. A local amateur photographer, Mr L Solomons (father of Douglas Solomons), became the president.

His image, Murwillumbah No. 1, c1910 , gives us valuable information on the township of Murwillumbah. We can see the first Murwillumbah Bridge, built in 1901, and the small building just to the left of the entrance to the bridge, which was the first fire station. The large, L-shaped building at centre right is the Murwillumbah Hotel. It is also interesting to note the number of buildings in South Murwillumbah - this was a bustling business district at the time.

In 1917, Hobbs sold his business but remained in the area as a fruit grower.He approached this endeavour in the same way as he had photography; through experimentation, and inspiring others via his involvement with the Tweed Fruit Growers Association and his encouragement to locals to attempt new varieties of fruits and nuts.

* Next week in Part 2 of the series, we will feature the work of Douglas Solomons.

Judy Kean at the Tweed Museum
Tweed Regional Museum director Judy Kean oversees the museum's rich collection, including some of the earliest photographs of the region. Melissa Belanic