Fairfield City Open Libraries: Heritage Blog

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Christmas card from Down Under


This Christmas card from the Walter Stimson family includes stencilled shapes of a map of Australia and various plants. Caption (on the back of the postcard): To Private N. McNaughton. With best wishes from Pr. Stimson & family. Fairfield West, Sydney, Australia.

The Heritage Team would like to wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year!



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Christmas time at the Russian Orthodox Churches


Golden cupola on the Russian Orthodox Church, Cabramatta & icons inside the St Nicolas’ Russian Orthodox Church, Fairfield.

St Nicholas’s Russian Orthodox Church, Fairfield

With the influx of Russian immigrants after World War II, the Russian people needed a place to worship according to their traditions. In 1952, with the support of the Russian community, a block of land located in Barbara Street, Fairfield was purchased and construction for a new church began. Due to financial constrains, a temporary timber building was erected and the church was finally completed and opened in 1956. The present Archpriest, Fr Nikita Chemodakov has been with St Nicolas since 1978 and still leads the popular Mass services each weekend.

For additional information on St Nicolas’s activities or history, please visit their webpage here

Russian Orthodox Church, Cabramatta 


Midnight Mass at the Russian Orthodox Church, 2007. Photographer Danny Huynh

The Russian Orthodox Parish at Cabramatta was formed in 1949 by a small group of Russian immigrants. In 1953, they enlisted the help of a Russian architect, Mr Michael Miklashevky, who drew up the plans for the construction of the new church on John Street, Cabramatta.

According to an account from the Advance (06/02/1969) – “the ancient Russian style architecture of the church with its unusual design, size and form and the gold coloured cupola and cross has been long a landmark in Cabramatta. The total height from ground level to the top of the cross is 110 ft (33.53 m). There are two galleries, one one either side of the central part. A special large gallery for the accommodation of the choir is situated above the main entrance. The church can accommodate 600 people.” 

The church was officially open on the 1st of February 1969 by Bishop Konstantin. In 1981, the Advance reported that Father Alexis, one of the two priest then at Cabramatta, and commercial artist Tonia Ganin had undertaken the task of “covering every inch of the interior walls” of the church with iconic paintings.

[Source: “Foundation of Faith: Christian churches in the Fairfield area” by Beverley Donald, pp.127-131. & “Rituals & Traditions” by Fairfield City Museum & Gallery, pp 36-42]







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Nativity House at Horsley Park


Recipe from the Nativity House file collection

Nativity House was the only Christmas Museum in Australia that collected creches and Christmas related objects. It was the brain child of Elisabeth Van Mullekom-Cserep (Hungarian born) who migrated to Australia with her Dutch husband Arnold and children in 1983  and settled in Horsley Park. Nativity House was located at 136-146 Garfield Road, Horsley Park.

As Elisabeth was born on Christmas eve, her love of Christmas fueled her interest in collecting this very unique subject matter ! Elisabeth started her collection of “Nativity scene” in 1977 and by 1990, she had over 600 Nativity scenes that originated from over 60 countries! In September 1990, Elisabeth realised her wish and opened the first Christmas Museum/Gallery in Horsley Park. The Nativity House was opened to the public from October to December each year and by appointment for schools, clubs and tourist groups.

Elisabeth is the proud mother of six children and eleven grandchildren. She was an ex – kindergarten teacher and the author of  “Christmas Nativities & Stories : the Christmas story told with nativity scenes, poems and stories from all over the world, in a most unusual way!

The materials used to constructed and create the Nativity scenes were made of  silk, gold, wood, ebony, maize leaves, straw, wood shavings, embroideries, plasters, terracotta, clay and turtle shells. Other exhibited items include antique Christmas cards, Christmas handicrafts and nativity paintings.

Nativity House has since closed and the entire collection has been donated to Marian Library in the United States. Here is media release from the University of Dayton, Ohio –


“Creches from Down Under:

A noted Australian collector has donated her large collection of Nativity materials, including 600 creches, to the Marian Library.

Christmas is over, but the University of Dayton’s Marian Library is unwrapping a big gift — not from the East via three men on camels, but from Down Under via container ship and freight trucks.

The University of Dayton’s Marian Library, home to one of the largest collections of Nativity scenes in the U.S., is unpacking a container full of Christmas scenes and related materials, the gift of an Australian woman who spent more than 30 years amassing the collection.

It’s the largest single gift ever received by the library, which already has more than 1,600 Nativities, also called crèches, and is recognized as the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of printed materials on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The Rev. Johann Roten, S.M., director of the Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, said that Elisabeth Van Mullekom-Cserep has donated more than 2,300 items, valued at more than $150,000 to the library.

“It is really a most generous gift and we are honored that when she was ready to part with this precious collection, that she entrusted it to the library,” Roten said.

The shipment of 165 large boxes arrived Thursday, Jan. 8 after a journey from Sydney, Australia that crossed the Pacific Ocean and took several months. Library officials said it will take at least two weeks for library staff and volunteers to unpack all the boxes, and months more to catalogue all of the items.

The gift will add about 600 three-dimensional Nativity scenes from over 60 countries to the library’s collection, utilizing materials that include silk, gold, embroidery, terracotta and turtle shell, Roten said. The collection also includes two-dimensional items such as prints, posters, artwork and even stamps depicting the Nativity, he said.

“The collection was exhibited every year in a special house built by her husband,” Roten said. “They welcomed the public during the Christmas season as well as schools, clubs and tourist groups to come in and see the collection.”

Roten said Van Mullekom-Cserep started collecting the scenes in 1977 when her family lived in Holland and continued when they emigrated to Australia in 1983.

Roten had encountered Van Mullekom-Cserep, is a widely recognized collector, at several international Nativity scene conferences.

The collection was shipped across the Pacific Ocean and landed in Tacoma, Wash. before making its overland journey to the library.

Roten said the staff and volunteers at the library will begin immediately the mammoth task of unpacking and cataloguing the new acquisitions.

To celebrate the gift and showcase items from the Australian collection, the library plans to mount a major show in November, 2009, for the start of the Christmas season.”

To discover more Crèches collection, please visit International Marian Research Institute website.

[Source : Dayton University E-Commons- http://ecommons.udayton.edu/news_rls/1618]

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Sid’s Christmas Card and Menu

Untitled design

Collection of souvenir menus from Sid’s Restaurant at Carramar from the 1950s and 1960s.

Sid’s Restaurant was something of a local landmark from the 1950s to 1970s, located at the Carapark Motel, Lansdowne Bridge on the Hume Highway at Carramar. Host Siegmund Schweizer (Sid) ran his restaurant as a high class establishment, as these various souvenir menus attest to. Sid’s catered for complimentary dinners, private parties, the popular annual Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinners, as well as fine lunches and dinners for motel patrons. Many of the menus feature historical information on the adjacent colonial landmark, Lansdowne Bridge, designd by David Lennox.

The menus are historically and socially significant souvenirs from one of Fairfield’s fine dining establishments. The Christmas menus in particular are aesthetically interesting, with their changing depictions of Christmas imagery. The menus possess excellent research and interpretive potential, providing insight into the types of food and beverages that were popular, and the social conditions that prevailed, during the 1950s and 1960s.


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Mrs Friend’s 1916 Christmas Pudding Recipe !

Empire Chrismas Pudding Recipe

The recipe (on the back of a letter, dated 29/02/1916) was sent to Lambeth Friend by his mother Mary Friend who lived in Cardiff, Wales.


The letter was sent to Lambeth Friend by his mother Mary on the 29/02/1916 from Cardiff, Wales where she provides an account of the Zeppelin raids in Britain.


Lambeth John Steel Friend was the son of John Thomas and Mary Phofia Friend. He was married to Selina M Stanton in 1912 and the couple had three children. Lambeth was elected to the Smithfield and Fairfield Council in June 1917. He stood again in 1920 but was not elected. Alderman Friend was active in lobbying for public lighting for the community. At one meeting a letter was received from RF Steer reporting that a meeting of ratepayers and business people, held on the 12 November, viewed “with much gratification the effort of Alderman Friend to secure a system of public lighting for the more populous portions of the municipality”. On another occasion, Alderman Friend presented a petition with 137 signatures (a significant numbers in those days) again requesting that the council take action to have electricity provided for the town of Fairfield and asking that the council refute rumours that indicated the council was not prepare to proceed.

[Excerpt from Shaping Fairfield: the aldermen of Fairfield and Cabra-Vale Council 1889-1948 by Beverley Donald]


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Christmas Pudding

Mrs Lavender of Fairfield West making Christmas puddings c1930.

Christmas pudding has its origins in England and Ireland, but later became popular in many other countries. Unlike other puddings or cakes, Christmas pudding is boiled, rather than baked, and often for hours. Often coins or other trinkets would be ‘hidden’ in the pudding as a surprise gift for the person whose serving they were found in. Traditionally the pudding mix was stirred by every member of the household who each made a wish while doing so. Many families have their own special Christmas pudding recipe, handed down through the generations.

This photo of Mrs Lavender, a resident of Fairfield West, making Christmas puddings to give as gifts was taken about 1930. These traditional English Christmas puddings were boiled for many hours in her laundry copper – the only pot big enough to fit them all in!

You can view this and other historic images of Fairfield by clicking on the Historical Photos link.