Balmain Loyalty Square

Balmain Loyalty Square

This is possibly Australia’s first memorial to WW1 soldiers, unusual because it lists only those killed in action prior to the involvement of the AIF on the Western Front in France.  It was unveiled on 23 April 1916 just before the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing to record the names of soldiers form this district who have fallen in the service of the Empire. It was the subject of a a Balmain Council design competition in 1915.

A functional structure it was built as a drinking fountain with a circular base and steps of Bowral trachyte and a four sided superstructure of Pyrmont Sandstone.  Balmains dead 38 at the time of its completion are honoured on four marble tablets, below which are four bowls . It is interesting that on later honour roll honour in the Balmain Town Hall there were then 1500 names of serving soldiers.

Source: Sydney’s Hard Rock
Story by Robert Irving,
Ron Powell and Noel Irving

You may save or print this image for research and study. If you wish to use it for any other purposes, you must contact the Leichhardt Library or 02 9367 9266 to request permission. Copyright exists on this image.

Erected during WW1, Balmain’s Unity Square was renamed Loyalty Square at a ceremony on April 24, 1916. The memorial drinking fountain, featuring the words ‘Peace, Honour, Empire, Liberty’ recorded the names of 38 Balmain men who lost their lives at Gallipoli.

Why Balmain became the site for one of Australia’s earliest war memorials is unknown. However, at the time of the memorial’s unveiling, Balmain was a working-class suburb whose main industry came from its busy docks. At the outbreak of World War I the    population of Balmain stood at around 32,000, with approximately 5,000 men eligible to enlist. Nearly all of these men did enlist, and considering the physical nature of the main industry of Balmain at that time, their absence would have been sorely felt. Apparently without prompting from any military or civil central authority, the local council allocated £200 for the monument, while four local businessmen volunteered to pay for the marble tablets. Funds also came from local residents, and the design was created by a soldier from Balmain.

Balmain Loyalty Square 2014

Dictionary Of Sydney: Balmain Loyalty Square

4 thoughts on “Balmain Loyalty Square

  1. Pingback: ANZAC Day 2015 « local notes

  2. Loyalty Square was formerly “Unity Hall Square”, not “Unity Square”. It took it’s name from the new hotel of that name when it re-located there in 1875.

  3. There is a fascinating (but fanciful) story of the Balmain Monument (it was always the Monument to locals, never the Memorial ) having never been fitted with it’s intended light until 2000, and luckily it’s original drawings were found to allow this to the original design. See;.
    ( of )
    There is an old well known 1920’s photo of a funeral procession in Darling St. with the monument in the background with it’s light clearly visible. I also have a photo I took in 1964 with the light there. We lived in Loyalty Square from the 50’s to 70’s and the blue tinged light illuminated both the square and our rooms facing it, so if the light went missing, it would be no later than the latter 70’s.

  4. The date for the unveiling of the Monument is incorrect. It was unveiled on Sunday 23 April 1916. I’m proud to say my Great Uncle’s name (Private/Bugler James Waddell) is inscribed on the top of one of the marble tablets. His mother (my Great Grandmother) and his siblings and extended family were likely in attendance and probably in the picture above.

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