A dream that became a nightmare
You’ve heard of the expression, “Money for jam”? Well, it could have been coined to describe the fortunes of the Lackersteen family, who owned a grand old mansion called Glendowner on the corner of Constitution Road and Belmore Street, Ryde; at the time, in Sydney’s geographical centre. The house itself had been built on a very large parcel of land in 1890 by Benjamin Charles Martyn, but the Lackersteens became the residents in 1907 and remained there until the house was demolished in 1964 to make way for the Hoover spare parts factory. When Hoover moved out in 1999 Ryde Council purchased the factory and it became their Operations Centre. The Lackersteen family owned factories in inner-city Glebe and Camperdown producing jams, marmalades and other condiments, with produce sourced from holdings in the Riverina, Bathurst (where they had a pulping factory in Rankin Street originally managed by Arch Lackersteen) and the NSW Central Coast. The Lackersteen Condiment Company was established around 1870 by Augustus Lackersteen and his sons Frank and Archibald subsequently assumed control. Archibald ‘Arch’ Lackersteen, a pioneer of the Gosford district, was determined to forge a career of his own, and at the tender age of 14 ½ years was asked what his ambitions in life were. He replied that he intended making money from the land. His friend told him he was wasting his time, as the land was “so poor, even a bandicoot couldn’t live on it.” However Arch stuck to his intentions, and while still a youth had developed 96 acres of property near Ourimbah on which 10,000 fruit trees were flourishing. Although not a sportsman himself, Arch became a patron of an almost endless number of sporting organisations on the Central Coast and in Bathurst. He donated trophies (notably the Lankersteen Cup for Rugby which was contested in the Bathurst district for many years) and sponsored clubs associated with hockey, trotting, vigoro, cricket and football. He also stated that he considered “the sport of motor cycling is typical of the Australian youth, and he would therefore do all in his
power to foster the sport.” He further said that it was his belief that “the time must come when both Sydney and Newcastle will become so congested that residents would find it necessary to seek relaxation in the near country areas. Gosford, being midway between these two cities, offers the ideal location.” Prescient words indeed.
By the time he was well into his sixties, Arch Lackersteen was a major landholder in the district, and in 1949 decided to donate 257 acres of land at Somersby to Gosford Shire Council for a sports and recreation area on the condition that the council formed a three-mile “Classic TT” circuit for motorcycle racing on 131 acres of the land. He further offered to pay £100 per mile towards the cost of construction of the track, which had to be completed within a period of three years. Under the conditions for the transfer of the land, the council would receive 10 per cent of the net proceeds of all meetings held on the track, with another 5 per cent to a charity to be nominated by Mr Lackersteen. The conditions also stipulated that the track be made available to the Auto Cycle Union of NSW for 26 weekends per year, as well as all holiday weekends. The land was located right beside what is now the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway, near the intersection of Dog Trap Road and Mountain Road, Somersby. One visiting journalist described the setting thus. “Bubbling springs, waterfalls, tall timber, moss-laden valleys, the rich smell of pine trees, and magnificent scenery. That is ‘Lackersteen Park’. This beautiful property is situated within the Municipality of Gosford, midway between Sydney and Newcastle, and has been in the hands of the Lackersteen family for over sixty years. From the highest point of the estate one looks down on Tuggerah Lakes, and on clear days can see well out to sea.” The proposed new bitumen-sealed “TT Circuit” was in addition to a one-mile oiled-dirt “Miniature TT” track that already existed on the Lackersteen Park
property. This had been built by volunteers and members of the Gosford District Motor Cycle Club, whose president, local dealer Jack Ryan, was effusive in his praise. “Motorcyclists look on Mr Lackersteen as a ‘fairy godfather’. It is the first land grant ever made for motor cycling in Australia,” he told the local newspaper. While the ACU would control the new circuit (including subleasing on selected dates to the Australian Sporting Car Club), the Gosford club would retain control of the dirt track. Mr Ryan pointed out that the future of the Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst, which had attracted a crowd of 30,000 at Easter 1949, was uncertain given the police objections to closing the public road for motor racing. (In 1947 the annual Easter weekend races at Bathurst were cancelled after police refused the application to close the public roads. After legal action, the event was held in October). He said that Lackersteen Park was ideally positioned to take over as the state’s premier racing venue. Gosford Council however, was noncommittal on the extremely generous offer, stating only that if it chose to proceed with the scheme, it would set up a committee of six, comprising three each from council and the ACU. While the proposal awaited council’s discussion, Gosford Club stepped up activity at the dirt track, promoting the biggest-yet meeting on August 28. Star of the day was the dashing Eric Debenham, who took out the Transport Queen Cup, while Ray Vernon shattered Tony McAlpine’s five-lap record by five seconds. Another meeting, schedule for October 23rd, had to be postponed because of a shortage of petrol, and was restaged on November 13. All was not well however, with Arch Lackersteen’s philanthropic gesture, nor with his own health. Before the offer could be accepted, the Lands Department began moves to resume the land for the Department of Agriculture which had selected it as a site for a Citrus Research Station. Another report said that the Lackersteen family disputed the legality of the donation and successfully legally challenged Mr Lackersteen’s sanity. Unlike the council deliberations, the Lands Department moved quickly, and Lackersteen Park hosted its final dirt track meeting on February 26th, 1950 where the star riders were Ivan Martin and Ron Falconer. The Gosford club wasted no time in finding a new home, which was named Jusfrute Park, at West Gosford, on land owned by Jusfrute Limited’s Colonel G. Adcock and Guy Adcock. The circuit opened on May 28th, 1950.
After being hospitalised several times in the preceding year, Arch Lackersteen passed away at Roma Private Hospital, Gosford, on January 5th, 1951, aged 70. Speaking at the funeral at Ryde Cemetery, Jack Ryan said, “Mr Lackersteen was the greatest friend the (Gosford) club had known. He was always willing to lend the club assistance and had been of inestimable help in setting it soundly on its feet.”
It must have been distressing for Arch Lackersteen that his dream of creating a fully-fledged motorcycle racing circuit failed to reach fruition. He talked often of his plans for the venue, saying that it would be far more than a world-class race track. He wanted to include “elaborate children’s playgrounds complete with swings, slippery dips, water sprays, sand pits, and all the other things that delight the hearts of small children, together with cricket fields, football grounds and tennis courts – whatever youth demands for outdoor sport”. When asked why he had made this excellent gift to youth, his reply was that it gave him much pleasure to do things which others, perhaps, would not think of doing.
MAIN Newcastle rider Ray Vernon, who set a new lap record at Lackersteen Park in 1949. INSET Advert from the Gosford Times, 1949. ABOVE Tony McAlpine, original lap record holder at the Lackersteen Park dirt track.
LEFT Short-lived successor to Lackersteen Park, Jusfrute Park in Gosford.
ABOVE LEFT Glendowner, the Lackersteen family home at 1 Constitution Rd Ryde. ABOVE Lackersteen’s famous product. BELOW Map showing the location of Lackersteen Park, just off the now M1 Motorway near Gosford, NSW.
Left to right: Eddie McCutcheon, Glen Smith, Archibald Lackersteen, Anthony Bendeich, Vic McCutcheon, Earl Allan, Owen Crosland and Sid Crosland.
ABOVE Eric Debenham starred at the August 1949 meeting.