Bakelite beauty (1948 GEC telephone)

1948 GEC bakelite telephone 332AT

Not so mobile phone, with talk but no text


Recently I went hunting amongst the trash and treasure of my father’s garage for this bakelite beauty. I was hoping it was still there after all this time.

When we were kids Dad had a lot of old theatre props under the house which we used to play with. The hoard of old telephones was my favourite.

‘Aha!’ I had found one of them. And not a bad example either.

From memory, there used to several bakelite phones under our old house including an in-house switchboard type – the kind that a secretary would use for transferring calls within a business.

I’d like to think that this one was Grandpa and Grandma’s telephone, from their house in Rockdale (Sydney), or perhaps all the telephones in the stash were from Grandpa’s sports goods business in Clarence Street, Sydney?

Who knows? In any case, this telephone is over sixty five years old and a vintage beauty.

1948 GEC bakelite telephone 332AT

‘A dead ringer’ *


1948 GEC 332AT telephone

– black bakelite case, combination handset with ‘spit cup’, chrome dial, dual metal plungers, original single thick rayon-sheathed black cord, base directory drawer replaced with blanking plate.

‘This tray caused some problems, as anything in it that was not perfectly flat could jam up under the bells…It became standard practice when reconditioning phones to replace the drawer with a blanking plate. Phones without a tray could also be damaged by people trying to prise open the blanking plate, thinking it was the front to a stuck drawer.’ (Bob’s Old Phones)

Yup, that’s what must have happened to this one. Have to confess, I tried to force it open myself. It’s too tempting.

The telephone has the following markings:

Base label: (Black and gold)





Ink stamp on base:

P.M.G.  48    3 32 AT

S1 / 52

ie. Post Master General (Australia) 1948 (believed to be the year of commission)

332 model = a standard CB / auto exchange telephone

A = automatic exchange type, T = table instrument


Handset imprint: 164  50

ie. 164 model, 1950 year of manufacture  

1948 GEC bakelite telephone 332AT

Letters … but no buttons


Notes and sources

* ‘a dead ringer’ – is usually an Australian phrase meaning that someone looks exactly like someone else

eg. Bob is a dead ringer for Joe. (Bob looks exactly like Joe, could be mistaken for Joe)

‘1949 GEC Bakelite Telephone 300 Series STUNNING’ (item number: 131149957796), eBay (website), eBay Inc., http://www.ebay.com.au, viewed 12 April 2014

‘BRITISH POST OFFICE 300 SERIES TELEPHONE’, Bob’s Old Phones (website), Bob Estreich, http://www.telephonecollecting.org, viewed 12 April 2014

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A convict in the tree

Parramatta Female Factory Precinct, Cumberland Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

A majestic old tree sheltering convict and colonial buildings, Parramatta, Sydney

A little while back I found some convict bricks in my veggie patch. It got me thinking about the ‘Australian Royalty’ – that is, the convicts – in my family tree.

Of my convict ancestors the one that strikes my heart the most is Catherine Hughes, my great great great great grandmother (4 x great). Something about her sad plight touches me. I wanted to know more about her life on Australian soil and to retrace her footsteps.

Convict bricks showing arrow head mark and layers of clay

Convict bricks found in our veggie patch

Mrs Catherine Dixon was a thirty year old widow when she arrived at Port Jackson / Sydney, on the female convict transport the Henry Wellesley (2), with her four small children in tow. Thomas was 11 years old, Edward was 9 or 10, Sarah 6, and little Catherine barely 3 years old.

I can imagine Catherine, a tiny 5 foot 2 1/2 inches with brown hair, grey eyes and ‘ruddy complexion’ – a mix of my family’s physical traits. On her Convict Indent she is also described:

Lost a front tooth right side of upper jaw. Small scar upper part of nose. 3 blue dots on back of left hand. 2 scars on forefinger of left hand. Large scar inside right thumb.

[Record courtesy of M McCowage, email]

From all of that, it sounds like life was tough for Catherine!

On dry land

Catherine and the children all survived the sea journey from Woolwich, England of 5 months and 2 days! (Can you imagine that!) The ship arrived on a Friday, 22 December 1837, but because of ‘the boisterous state of the weather’ it was late in the evening before it could enter Sydney Cove and the family could step foot on solid ground.

[National Library of Australia, Trove Australia (newspapers on-line), ‘Ship News.’, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), 23 December 1837, p. 2, viewed 7 February, 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2214604 ]

Catherine was assigned as a servant to M Sparke of Sydney, probably right off the ship at Sydney Cove. Her six year old daughter most likely also went with her as a servant. (Catherine was listed as assigned in the General Muster of 31st December 1837, 9 days later).

[Ancestry.com, NSW & Tas, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849 (database on-line). Original data: Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, NSW & Tas; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 5, 19-20, 32-51); The National Archives of the UK, Kew.]

Inmate of the Female Factory

But something went wrong and some time in 1838 Catherine and her daughter aged 6 years old were returned from service to the Female Factory in Parramatta.

Parramatta Female Factory Precinct, Cumberland Hospital, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia

Family on the inside

This was a place for female convicts who were either unassigned, sick or invalid or pregnant, or who were under sentence for a crime committed in the colony.

So why was Catherine at the Female Factory? And what happened to her children Thomas, Edward, Sarah and little Catherine?

I’ll do some more digging under the family tree and let you know. 

Photos of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct

The historic precinct is located within the grounds of Cumberland Hospital East Campus in North Parramatta, Sydney (New South Wales, Australia).

The hospital site is open but the buildings are in use and not accessible. Closest access is from the Fleet Street entrance of Cumberland Hospital. 

Photos taken 11 August 2013


Convicts series

For other posts in my Convict series click on the ‘convicts’ tag below.

More information and sources

Parramatta Female Factory Precinct (website), Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Association, http://www.parragirls.org.au/, viewed 4 April 2014

Parramatta Female Factory“, Free Settler or Felon? (website), Jen Willetts, http://www.jenwilletts.com/female_factory_parramatta.htm, viewed 4 April 2014

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Convicts in the garden?

When we moved to our land three years ago we set about cleaning up the disused garden.

And I found the MOST exciting, the most lost-for-words-eye-blink discovery:

I was removing the bricks that lined the old veggie beds and stacking them in a pile when I noticed that some I picked up looked very old and worn, handmade, with lumps and bumps.    

Old bricks found in veggie garden

Garden surprise!

I’m not an expert but I recognised their age straight away. And when I had a closer look I found the magic frog mark of Australian royalty … the convict broad arrow mark.

Convict bricks with arrow head markings

Convict bricks with arrow head markings

Convict broad arrow mark?

Australian convict bricks are marked in a number of ways, with diamond shapes, hearts, trowel imprints, even thumb marks. But the most well-known mark is the broad arrow – the same shape that was printed on convict uniforms.

When I say ‘convict’ in Australia we mean from 1788 to the 1850s, the (mostly) British criminals transported to the penal colonies down under.

Convicts made bricks either as part of government work gangs or when assigned as servants to a land owner. It was forced labour as part of their penal sentence.

Given that I’m a little bit of a history buff, finding these bricks in my veggie patch made my eyes mist over!

Our house is a modern one but we do have some history on our place – the fence alone is ancient! And I’ve dug up bits of older metal and crockery here and there.

Convict bricks showing arrow head mark and layers of clay

Old mud pies! Love the layers.

But the convict period represents the first 70 years of European settlement in Australia. I know that’s not very old by European standards but it would be the equivalent of finding the foundations of a Roman villa? … Rare, anyway!

So this pile of just a few bricks – some convict bricks, also other colonial? or Victorian and Australian Federation bricks? – is quite a find in my Aussie books!

I don’t think the bricks are original to the site. They may have been brought in as a lot of second-hand bricks to make the veggie beds. But where did they come from?

Looks like I need to do some more ‘digging’!  ♦

If you can identify the other brick types here I would love to hear your thoughts.

Old bricks with convict and other markings

Old bricks with convict and other markings


Convicts series

Re-posted from my Daytripper Sippers blog

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First post: Grandpa’s inkwell desk set

Grandpa sat at his desk in the front room of the family house in Rockdale, Sydney, writing letters and attending to his business records there.

He was an apprentice watchmaker, turned instrument maker during WWII, but later he had his own sporting goods company.

Inkwell set "FRANK. A. WEEKS PAT. / PARAGON 505"

Grandpa’s desk set


Believed to be Grandpa as a young man. [courtesy of V Harris]

Believed to be Grandpa as a young man [courtesy of V Harris]

I have only a few memories as a child of Grandpa. He died about a month before I turned five. I remember him as being tall and thin with a long face, long ears with thick lobes, and ‘the family nose’. He was a kindly man and was very athletic.

I have the rope quoits he made and a small wooden puzzle box, with a tiny ball bearing inside, that always fascinated me when I was young. (It is very clever with small wooden blocks you must slide across to trap the ball. A later post!)

One of the wonderful things found in my dad’s house was this inkwell desk set and two lidded ink bottles that belonged to Grandpa (identified by my brother).

I also have some of Grandpa’s ledgers, pads of blank invoices, and his pocket notebook with his business contacts and supply details.

Grandpa’s house was closed up when my aunt migrated to England in 1972 so it appeals to me that Dad valued these things enough to save them.

Small ink bottles from Grandpa's desk

Small ink bottles from Grandpa’s desk


The two clear glass ink bottles have soft metal rims and hinges, tinged with green (brass or copper?). The ink bottles have no manufacturer’s stamp or markings on the base. The bases are completely smooth suggesting they are machine-made. This would date them from some time after the 1920s.

I don’t think the ink bottles belong to the desk set.

Inkwell set "FRANK. A. WEEKS PAT. / PARAGON 505"

Grandpa’s desk set

The glass inkwell desk set has the markings:

(inside the left well)



(and inside the right well)



It possibly matches a US patent granted for 14 years from 1920 (see Googleapis.com).

I like that the right ink well still has some dried black ink in it! A nice link back to the days of Grandpa’s business.  ♦



BOTTLE BASICS’, Bottlebooks.com, Digger Odell Publications, 2003, viewed 14 March 2014

” ‘UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE. FRANK A. WEEKS’, OF PLAINFIELD; NEW JERSEY. DESIGN FOR AN INKSTAND. 55,968″, Googleapis.compatentimages.storage.googleapis.com/pdfs/USD55968.pdf‎, viewed 14 March 2014

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