A Quick Glimpse: King & Elizabeth Street and the Family Connection

George Alfred Nicoll & his Wife, Kate Carina Thorne

The pictures below show the intersection of King and Elizabeth Street looking west towards Darling Harbour, 117 years apart.

Elizabeth & King Street, 1904
Figure 1: Courtesy of Museum of Applied Arts & Science

Elizabeth & King Street 2021
Figure 2: Courtesy of M
acvean Family Archives

In both Figure 1 & 2 we are looking down King Street, Elizabeth is crossing from left to right. In Figure 2 here, the law courts buildings are behind to the left and behind that is St James church.

Law Courts, Elizabeth Street, early 1900s
Figure 3: Courtesy of Museum of Applied Arts & Science

In Figure 3 here we are looking up Elizabeth Street towards the intersection of King, the intersection we were just looking at, and to the right here is Hyde Park.

Figure 1 is an amazing meld of two photographs from the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences’ collection. It is significant in a number of ways but especially to my family history as it is one of only two photos I have found, so far, of the building that Kate Carina May Thorne was living in when she married George Nicoll in December 1903. (This is Kate & George of the Quiet Couple post, and Kate, who invented the Micro-cremator.) Stephen Court, is the building to the right of the one on the right-hand corner facing you in Figure 1.

Stephen Court is just set back and has the 4 roof finials on the facade trim. The other interesting thing about the 1904 photo is that it shows the 3 types of trams used in Sydney’s tram history. Margaret Simpson the Curator of Transport at the MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Science) explains that the one on the right is a steam tram, the two in the middle are cable and the one on the left is at the time the latest electric type.

Sydney’s tram system was the second-largest in the British Empire after London, and at its peak in 1945 carried 405 million passengers. Margaret’s words, not mine. If you are interested, check out the MAAS website, they also have a Flickr account which is amazing. It’s a rabbit hole, so beware.

This is the only other photo I have found of Stephen Court.

Stephen Court, 1913
Figure 5: Courtesy of the Archives of the City of Sydney

This is ten years after Kate’s time but is amazing to see the building that she most definitely lived in and the doors she would have walked through.

Stephen Court Site, 2021
Figure 6: Courtesy of Google Maps

If I stare hard enough at Figure 5, I can almost see her there with George, perhaps talking about their upcoming wedding that is going to take place just over the road and up on the next corner. St James Church, King Street, Sydney.

St James Church, King Street, early 1900s
Figure 4: Courtesy of Museum of Applied Arts & Science

George and Kate were married here on the 11th December 1903 by the Reverend Sidney Marston.

Figure 4a: Courtesy of NSW Birth Deaths & Marriages
Figure 4b: Courtesy of NSW Birth Deaths & Marriages

There are absolutely no photographs of the occasion, so we can only imagine what they might have looked liked.

The Museum of Applied Arts and Science states in the item description for the photo in Figure 8 that this is a great depiction of an Australian wedding in this early Edwardian phase. It really shows the importance of dressing up for important occasions and showcases the fashion of the time. The men in dark suits and the women in floor length gowns with elaborately decorated large hats. https://collection.maas.museum/object/80898#&gid=1&pid=1

Considering the fact that George Alfred Nicoll’s, (my cousin 3x removed) father, Bruce Baird Nicoll, was a prominent member of the old Colonial Legislator and Kate’s father, Ebenezer Thorne was a member of a number of Queensland Council Boards and her Uncle was Mayor of Brisbane, I would think they would most likely have been wearing their best for the wedding. Figures 5-7 are all the same period. Interestingly I can find no article at the time mentioning their nuptials or where the wedding feast might have taken place.

Previous Nicoll weddings had been at the Metropole Hotel in Bridge St or the Independent Order of Odd Fellows banqueting rooms in Elizabeth St. I could imagine they could have been in either establishment, both not being far from the church.

St James Church, King Street, early 2021
Figure 9: Courtesy of
Macvean Family Archive

Earlier this year in 2021 before the Covid lockdown, Alex, the Boys and I got to visit and had the chance to go inside. The Church is normally locked, but we happened to be there just before a christening was about to take place. Standing in the same spot where the family stood 117 years ago was phenomenal. I wonder what they would have thought of us in our shorts and ultra casual look.

Figure 16 shows the side entrance to the Crypt that has been turned into a café. It is a wonderful spot to sit and just contemplate the history of this area and what meaning it has for me. And whenever I get the chance to spend some time here, I really do, for that short time, feel closer to these long past members of my family.

Kate Carina May Thorne, 1910
George Alfred Nicoll, 1914