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Page Sections: Land Grants | Early Residents | Early Industry | Early Transport | Historic Buildings | Environment | Timeline | Bibliography


Traditional Custodians of Illawarra Land

Local communities of Aboriginal people were the original inhabitants and Traditional Custodians of Illawarra Land. Their dialect is a variant of the Dharawal language. Before European settlement, the Aboriginal people of the region lived in small family groups with complicated social structures and close associations with specific areas. Suburb boundaries do not reflect the cultural boundaries of the local Aboriginal community. Traditional Custodians today are descendants of the original inhabitants and have ongoing spiritual and cultural ties to the Land and waterways where their ancestors lived.


Horsley is located approximately 15 kilometres south of Wollongong, east of Mullet Creek. It is bounded by the AIS railway to the North and the Creek to the South. It is Dapto's newest residential region.

Lieutenant William Frederick Weston occupied 500 acres on Mullet Creek in 1818 under a promise of a grant by Governor Macquarie. He named the property 'West Horsley' after his home in Surrey England. (McDonald, 1976 ; Berkuta, 1997)

Land grants

Lieutenant William Frederick Weston and 'West Horsley'

An area of 500 acres on Mullet Creek was occupied in 1818 under a promise of a grant by Governor Macquarie to Lieutenant William Frederick Weston. Lieutenant Weston named the property 'West Horsley' after his home in Surrey England. He died on the property on the 25th April 1826 aged only 33. (McDonald, 1976 ; Berkuta, 1997)

Elizabeth Weston and Augusta Brooks, 'Horsley' and 'West Horsley'

The grant of land for the above property was issued by Governor Gipps in 1841 to Augusta Brooks and Elizabeth Weston - Lieutenant William Weston's daughters. Elizabeth Weston married Andrew Thompson and by a deed of partition in 1848 the Brooks took the eastern half of the property and the Thompson's the western half. The Brooks half was named 'West Horsley' and the Thompson's half simply 'Horsley'.

Andrew and Elizabeth Thompson built 'Horsley Homestead' and combined to work this land until their deaths.

In 1876 'Horsley' came into the possession of John Lindsay who five years later also purchased 'West Horsley', after his death the properties were divided again, 'Horsley going to his son George and 'West Horsley' to his son John. (McDonald, 1976)

Edward Robert Stack was granted 300 acres fronting Mullet Creek on the 20th May 1837 which was called 'Reed Park' (Lindsay, 1994)

George Molle was granted 300 acres in 1817,some distance upstream from West Horsley, also on Mullet Creek. (Lindsay, 1994)

John Robins was granted 100 acres at Horsley.

Early residents

Lieutenant William Frederick Weston of 'West Horsley'

Lieutenant Weston (also known as William Francis Weston) was born at West Horsley Manor in Surrey England in 1792. He arrived in Australia aboard the Larkin on the 22nd November 1817. (Berkuta, 1997)

He and his wife Elizabeth took possession of 500 acres promised by Governor Macquarie in 1818 and named the property 'West Horsley'. "He did not live long to enjoy his property, dying there on the 25th April 1826 aged only 33." (McDonald, 1976, p. 10) The Weston's were the first free settlers to personally take up land in the Illawarra.

Elizabeth was remarried in 1830 to convict Thomas Williamson. The 1841 census records Elizabeth Williamson living at Horsley and being landlady to 21 tenants on farmlets. The farm was now a small village with 84 people, some free, some convicts, in 21 slab houses. (Horsley - Historic Homestead, 1980)

Augusta Brooks of 'West Horsley'

The grant of land originally promised to William Frederick Weston was finally issued in 1842 to his daughters Elizabeth Weston and Augusta Brooks. Augusta was the wife of Richard Brooks of Merriwa. By a deed of partition in 1848 the Brooks took the eastern half of the property and named it rather ironically 'West Horsley'.

Elizabeth Weston of 'Horsley'

In 1842 the above grant was also issued to Elizabeth Weston. The next year Elizabeth married Andrew Thompson and in 1848, by a deed of partition, they received the western half of the property. The Thompson's built a house on this property which very closely resembled 'Horsley Park' at Smithfield - the property of Lt Weston's brother George E N (Edward) Weston. It is thought that Horsley was modelled on it. "The bricks were made and burnt on the property and all the woodwork including the roof battens is cedar - an example of the lavishness with which this timber was used in the early days." (McDonald, 1976 p. 10)

John Lindsay of 'Horsley'

In 1876 'Horsley' was sold to the Lindsay family who also bought 'West Horsley' and who renamed the whole property 'Horsley'.

For many years John Lindsay was the Illawarra's outstanding dairy farmer. In 1878 he surprised local dairymen by buying a fine Ayshire Bull; he also bought two other bulls, 2 cows and 2 heifers all Ayshires. These purchases enabled him to make his herd outstanding in the Illawarra and to breed Honeycomb, the Champion New South Wales cow. In 1876 along with James and Thomas Wilson of Victoria he established a cheese factory at Brown's old flour mill. See Horsley - early industry for more details.

George Lindsay

John's son George was made the manager of Horsley which he converted into a dairy farm completing it in 1880. He established an excellent dairy herd, mostly Ayshire cattle, after visiting Victoria and examining the high grade stock. He also purchased a butchering business for his son and later bought three other shops as well as shares in the Illawarra Meat Company. He was also the Town clerk of Wollongong at about 1909. He died in 1947 at the age of 91 at Horsley. George's brother John was also a successful dairy farmer at West Horsley. (Cousins, 1994)

Early industry

Dairying was the early industry at Horsley. The area was established as a dairy farm in 1880 by George and John Lindsay with one of the finest herds of Ayrshire cattle in the Illawarra. George became a successful exhibitor at local and Sydney shows. (Cousins, 1994)

According to George Lindsay, "In 1878 my Uncle James Wilson and his brother came over from Victoria and opened a cheese factory at Brownsville. The milk supply came from Kembla Park (his fathers property) was taken there for cheese making at first by bullocks and dray afterwards by lorry and two horses….Butter at the time was only 6 pence per pound and the brought milk at 3 ½ pence per gallon. For some time afterwards butter rose in price to one shilling per pound. The farmers failed to supply milk when butter advanced and the factory was closed. My Uncle and his brother then returned to Victoria…" (McDonald, 1976, p. 52)

The cheese plant was then purchased by the Lindsay's and taken to Horsley where they started making cheese and butter with great success, they won prizes for both at local shows and a first prize for cheese at the Royal Easter Show.

The Lindsay's contributed greatly to the improvement of breeding of dairy cattle within the Illawarra. One of the most famous cows was Honeycomb, of whom George Grey of Greyleigh said "It was Honeycomb's performance that became fixed in the minds of dairymen as the type of cow to aim at breeding for their herds." (McDonald 1976, p. 54) The quality of the cattle was improved significantly through the Lindsay's and other Dapto dairy farmers such as the Evans' of Penrose, and this quality filtered down through the district to the smaller farms.

In 1887 the Brown's old mill was transformed into a butter factory. Three years later a milk depot adjoining Dapto station was built, the cream was separated at the depot and sent to Sydney to be made into butter. By 1892 there were up to two milk trains daily.

Early transport

See also, Kembla Grange history page

The earliest road through Horsley was the West Dapto Road which branched off the old Dapto Road from Kembla Grange station and ran through the Veterans grants. There was also a road that ran through the centre of Horsley which joined the ill-fated 'Bong Bong Pass'. Bong Bong Pass was superseded by Macquarie Pass in 1897-98, however Bong Bong Road through Horsley remains today. (McDonald, 1976)

In 1887 the South Coast Railway was extended from Wollongong to North Kiama and the railway station at Dapto was established one mile south from the low-lying ground at Brownsville.

In 1895 the Australian Smelting Company was established and the Illawarra Harbour and Land Corporation became responsible for establishing a railway to the coal mine in the escarpment. This railway ran through the Reed Park property and was to interconnect with the Illawarra Railway. A branch line was to be built from the IH&LC rail line to the Smelting Works site. "The interconnection of the IH&LC rail line to the Main South Coast Railway passed through the now demolished Clarke's Sawmill in Marshall Street Dapto… and over the South Coast railway to service the rapidly developing West Dapto area. The connection to the South Coast line was opened on 12 December, 1895. (Reynolds, 2002, p.7)

This railway no longer exists and Fowlers Road would have been built on the foundation of the railway line.

Horsley - Historic buildings

'Horsley' historic homestead - Bong Bong Road, West Dapto. c1850

'Horsley' is the main building of a group of an early Victorian style. It is stuccoed brick on stone footings with a slate hipped roof. The original part had 4 rooms with a central hall, side wings were added shortly after. The front door is 4 panelled with a fanlight. This building is a dairy farm homestead setting and it includes gardens and outbuildings. It has a high level of integrity with architectural and landscape value. (City Of Wollongong Heritage Study, 1991)

The house was made entirely of mud bricks from the property and the woodwork, including the roof battens, is cedar. The front elevation of the house very clearly resembled 'Horsley Park', Smithfield also a property of William Frederick Weston. (McDonald, 1976)

'Horsley' outbuildings and garden. - Bong Bong Road, West Dapto.

This is a rare grouping of buildings with architectural and landscape value. The farm buildings are simple Victorian Georgian design. There is a dairy and cheese room, rubble stone kitchen, stone barn, slab stables, and one of the first ferro-cement circular silos. It has a well developed garden. (City of Wollongong Heritage Study, 1991)

The following buildings are at 'Horsley':

  • Stable and Coach House
  • Main House
  • The old kitchen and maids room
  • The original dairy and cheese factory/laundry
  • The barn
  • The blacksmith's shed
  • The first silo - the first round reinforced concrete silo in Australia. (Horsley Historic Homestead, 1980)

'Heriot Hill' - house end of Bong Bong Road West Dapto. c 1850?

This is a weatherboard cottage with corrugated metal roof. There appears to be a late Georgian Cottage section between the old kitchen and residence which has been filled in. There is a sandstone fireplace, it was originally believed to be a sheep farm. (City of Wollongong Heritage Study, 1991)

Horsley - Environment


Rainfall varies over the West Dapto area from over 1400mm per annum on the escarpment to less than 1100 mm at Dapto itself.


The West Dapto landform area is characterised by isolated crests and sideslopes. It has flat to gently sloping terrain, with the southern portion rising to a small hill which is an important landscape feature. This hill is part of an important ridge line system which runs down from the foothills of the escarpment to Horsley Homestead. (Wollongong (N.S.W.) Council. Strategic Planning Section, 1989)


Little extensive natural tree vegetation remains except for that on the steeper, inaccessible slopes of the escarpment and lower foothills. There are small areas of remnant eucalypt woodland in the pasture dominated rural area.

According to the National Parks and Wildlife contribution to the West Dapto Local Environmental Study the escarpment and foothills are the most heavily forested areas within the study area. The vegetation is dominated by two vegetation types warm temperate rainforest and wet sclerophyll forests. The vegetation species in the wet sclerophyll forest are primarily Eucalyptus quadrangulata (white topped box), E. saligna (Sydney Blue Gum), E. smithii (gully gum) and E. muellerana (yellow stringy bark). (New South Wales. National Parks & Wildlife Service, 1983)

The majority of the land in the Horsley area was pasture land suitable for grazing only hence it's earmarking for current and future residential development. There is however, a substantial area of approximately 15 - 20 hectares of remnant woodland on the southern side of Bong Bong Road. Although this woodland shows evidence of grazing, it occupies a strategic location along the ridge line. This remnant woodland has been identified as having moderate to high ecological conservation value by the National Parks and Wildlife Service for the following reasons:

  • The scarcity of remnant woodland on the coastal plain
  • The presence of regionally rare species
  • The range of habitats in the woodland supports a high diversity and high density of native bird species
  • Its prominent elevated position
  • Its central location within the West Dapto area
  • Its role as part of a topographic and vegetative sequence from hill top to valley, There is a sequence of woodland community from Open Forest Red Gym Woodland (Eucalyptus tereticornis, Eucalyptus eugenioides, Eucalyptus bosistoana) on the elevated land to Paperbark Woodland (Melaleuca decora, Melaleuca styphelioides) on lower slopes and through to Swamp Oak Woodland (Casuarina glauca) on the valley floor south of the release area. The Forest Gum Woodland is vital to the completeness and value of this landscape." (Wollongong> (N.S.W.) Council. Dept of Development and Environment.Strategic Planning Section, 1992, p. 31)
  • There are also some occurrences of the rare orchid Pteroslylis gibbosa , hence the naming of the latest Landcom subdivision "Orchid Glen".

 Horsley - Timeline

Lieutenant William Frederick Weston was promised 500 acres on Mullet Creek. He took possession of the land and named it 'West Horsley' after his home in Surrey.
William Frederick Weston died at Horsley, aged 33
Elizabeth Weston (widow of Lt Weston) married Thomas Williamson
13th March 1842 a grant of land was issued by Governor Gipps to Augusta Brooks and Elizabeth Weston - William Weston's daughters.
Elizabeth Weston (daughter of Lt Weston) married Andrew Thompson
Indenture of Partition was isssued between Richard Brooks and Augusta Brooks and Andrew Thompson and Elizabeth Thompson separating the land into two parcels. The Western portion was known as Horsley, the eastern portion as West Horsley.
Andrew and Elizabeth Thompson built Horsley Homestead on their portion of land, and continued to work this land until their deaths.
Horsley was bought by John Lindsay who five years later purchased West Horsley and the name of the whole property became 'Horsley'. The property was worked by John Lindsay until his death in 1894.
The property was again divided between George and John Lindsay. Horsley went to George and West Horsley to John.
John Lindsay inherited West Horsley when he was 47 and he worked it as a dairy farm until his death in 1930.
Horsley was inherited by George Lindsay when he was 49, he worked it until his death in 1946. He was the first to send butter to Sydney by steamer, he had a cheese factory on the property and he built the first reinforced concrete silo in Australia
West Horsley was passed on to Harold Thornbury Lindsay and Thomas Hilton Lindsay as tenants in common.
Horsley was subdivided into smaller parcels of land
Olive Doris Lindsay, Edith Evelyn, and Geoffrey Hilton Lindsay had possession of the western section of West Horsley until it was sold to Caldwell Estates Pty. Ltd. in 1967. Thomas had the eastern section until his death in 1964.
Housing Commission resumed the Western Section of West Horsley for land for Public Housing, a large portion already being privately developed
Land subdivided for affordable housing by Landcom
Draft Strategic Plan released to develop West Dapto as a residential area
Council competed preparation of and placed on exhibition a Draft Local Environmental Plan and Supporting Local Environmental Study for an 1,100 residential lot release over an area of approximately 180 hectares located north and south of Bong Bong Road.
Council exhibits 13 applications for development of 580 lots of land, the first of more than 1300 lots planned for the new Horsley estate
The Highcroft estate on Bong Bong Road is released and the 500 home sites make up almost half of the 1400 lots in the new Horsley release.
Purrungully Park is purchased by Council - it is an area of natural bushland and is home to protected plant species.
Orchid Glen subdivision incorporating 68 building blocks is released by Landcom.
Horsley is still being expanded as part of the development of West Dapto as a major residential area of the Illawarra


Berkuta, Walter, From There - To Here, or Horsley from William Frederick Weston to Landcom, 1818 to 1982, [Wollongong, N.S.W.] : The Author, 1997

City of Wollongong Heritage Study, Council and McDonald McPhee Pty. Ltd., [Wollongong, N.S.W. : Wollongong City Council], 1991 

Cousins, Arthur, The Garden of New South Wales : a history of the Illawarra & Shoalhaven Districts 1770-1900, Wollongong, N.S.W. :  Illawarra Historical Society, 1994 

Local Studies Cuttings File


Horsley Historic Homestead : on-site inspection brochure for your information, Dapto : [Allen Grosse], 1980 

Lindsay, Benjamin, Organ, Michael & Doyle, Peter, Early Land Settlement in Illawarra: 1804 - 1861, Woonona, N.S.W. : Illawarra Historical Publications, 1994 

McDonald, William Graham, Nineteenth Century Dapto : notes on the history of Dapto and its neighbourhood, Wollongong, N.S.W. : Illawarra Historical Society, 1976 

New South Wales. National Parks & Wildlife Service, West Dapto City of Wollongong : contribution to the local environmental study, [Sydney] : National Parks & Wildlife Service, 1983

Reynolds, D.K. The Railways of West Dapto : a history of the railways of the Illawarra Harbour and Land Corporation, The Dapto Smelting Works, The Wongawilli Colliery and Coke Works and Fleming or South Kembla Colliery, Wollongong, N.S.W. : BHP-Billiton, 2002

Wollongong (N.S.W.) Council. Dept of Development and Environment.Strategic Planning Section, Wollongong development control plan :Horsley - stage one release, Wollongong, N.S.W. : The Council, 1992 

Wollongong (N.S.W.) Council. Strategic Planning Section, Local environmental study : West Dapto Stage One Release, Bong Bong Road, Wollongong, N.S.W. : Wollongong City Council, 1989


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