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.
In 1856 the property was advertised to let, by Robert Haworth, as a farm at Dapto known as Kembla Grange. The name Kembla was taken from Mount Kembla and is said to mean "plenty of fowl" or "abundant game". Another explanation is that it is a corruption of the aboriginal word "Djembla" and means "a wallaby".
In 1829, a parcel of 2000 acres was promised as a grant to John Dunlop Wylie. Wylie got into financial difficulties before the grant had actually be issued to him, and he was forced to relinquish the land which he had named 'Dunlop Vale', in honour of his uncle, James Dunlop, the astronomer. Wylie's mortgagees auctioned both his land, and the cattle he had established on it. His cattle were sold to Alexander Berry and his land was sold in two lots, to Andrew Lang and Dr. Gerard Gerard. The deed of grant was issued on 3rd March, 1840. (Cousins, 1994; Jervis, 1942)
Lang named his 1000 acres 'Canterbury', and eventually subdivided it in May, 1840, into 34 farms which varied in size from 10 to 70 acres. By 1841 some of these lots were occupied and while there appears to be no descriptions made of the dwellings on them at the time, according to the census, the majority were built of wood, or were bark huts. Dr. Gerard named his property 'Kembla Grange'. About the same time, Dr. Gerard subscribed 100 pound towards improving the road through what was later known as Wylie's flat. When Dr. Gerard moved to New Zealand 'Kembla Grange' was sold to Robert Haworth. In 1856, when the property was owned by Haworth, it was advertised to let as a farm at Dapto known as Kembla Grange in the Illawarra Mercury. In his 'Early land settlement in Illawarra 1804-1861', Lindsay states that 'the Kembla Grange Race Course is on this land'. (Cousins, 1994; Jervis, 1942; Lindsay, 1994; Henderson, 1983)
Veterans Land Grants
In 1829, Governor Darling, acting under instructions from the Home Office, sent Surveyor Knapp, to survey 10 lots of land on Dapto and Mullet Creeks, each of 100 acres, to be set aside for long serving army veterans. Knapp was also ordered to select a dry position on each parcel of land for a hut to be built, and to point out the site for building of the huts to Lieutenant Butler, stationed at Wollongong, who was to direct the building parties. (Jervis, 1942; Cousins, 1994)
Of the 10 lots of land set aside for army veterans, only 3 took up the offer. James Mitchell, John Robins, and John McKelly were British soldiers who had come to Australia in charge of convicts. In addition to 100 acres of land and a hut, the grant also included food for 12 months, and a convict labourer to help work the land, and for whom the grantees were responsible. A fourth parcel of land was granted to the widow of Richard Mallon, one of the veterans. Mrs. Mallon remarried and the land grant was made in the name of Mrs. Elizabeth Cray, her name after remarrying. Mrs. Cray gave four of her acres to the Catholic Church for the building of a Roman Catholic Church and cemetery. (Unsubstantiated reports claim that the old weatherboard building between the convent and Catholic Church in Jerramatta Street, Dapto, was the original church built on Mrs. Cray's site, and moved bodily from West Dapto). Eventually, all these blocks became dairy farms. (Lindsay, 1934; Cousins, 1994; McDonald, 1976)
Glengarry Homestead, now Glengarry Cottage is the last of the Veteran's Land Grants homes at Kembla Grange. More information about this historic home can be found on the historic buildings page.
Dr Gerard had purchased a half portion of the land granted to John Wylie, and named his half Kembla Grange, after Mount Kembla. Mr. Gerard donated money for the improvement of the roads at Wylie's Flat and was a founding member of the Illawarra District Council, a council elected by the land owners of the district. The Illawarra District Council had its headquarters in Wollongong, and was established in 1844. Its jurisdiction stretched from northern Illawarra to Jervis Bay in the south.
Gerard was also a leading cattle man in the area, being described as one of the aristocracy of the early dairying industry. Gerard was also one of the shareholders the Illawarra's first steamship company 'The Illawarra Steam Packet Co.' He held a position on the Committee of the Illawarra Agricultural and Horticulture Association and was a successful exhibitor at the district show. (Cousins, 1994)
William Keevers and George McPhail
William Keevers had been granted 100 acres of land in 1834, had served in the Inniskilling Dragoons and the 18th Hussars and at Waterloo. He received his grant after serving as a drill instructor to the 1st troop of N.S.W. Mounted Police. He named his property 'Hussar Farm' which he later sold to George McPhail, before moving to the Jamberoo area. Keevers died at Jamberoo, and was buried with military honours in the Anglican cemetery at Jamberoo where his gravestone records his action at Waterloo. (McDonald, 1976)
George McPhail had been granted land 1855, which lay directly on the north side of Keevers land. When Keevers sold his land to move to Jamberoo, McPhail bought it off him. George's father John McPhail was the schoolmaster at Charcoal (now Unanderra), before settling in the Dapto area where he was the tenant of various farms. George married Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Corporal James Smith. The land for the building of the West Dapto Public School was donated by McPhail, and was part of the land he had initially bought from Keevers. This school opened in 1882 and its first teacher was a Mr. Campbell. McPhail was one of the first elders of the Dapto-Albion Park Presbyterian Church, and is reputed to have walked regularly to Wollongong and back to ensure that he attended weekly Sabbath services. (McDonald, 1976)
Robert Haworth built the fine homestead upon the Kembla Grange property. Haworth, born in Bury, Lancashire, England, was transported to Australia in 1834, after being convicted of forgery. His sentence was for 7 years, and upon arrival in Australia he was 'assigned' to the property 'Dunlop Vale', then worked by two brothers, Robert and William Carruth. Here he was employed feeding the pigs and calves. Upon being sentenced to transportation, Haworth, swore never to gamble again and resolved to live a good life. After serving his time he brought his wife and family to the Illawarra district. Howorth was by trade a shoe maker, and in his spare time, made boots for settlers on surrounding properties. When the Carruth Brothers sold their land, Haworth was preparing to build a tannery in Wollongong, and open up his own business. His tannery prospered and Haworth became quite wealthy. By 1883, when Dr. Gerard was ready to sell his land, Haworth was in a position to purchase it. Haworth made the property one of the showplaces of the day. He went on to become a member of parliament and represented the Illawarra from 1860-1864. Robert Haworth is buried at St. Luke's Church. Brownsville. (McDonald, 1976)
The majority of early residents in this area cleared the land for farming and the area became a prime dairy area, with produce such as butter and cream being sold in local and Sydney markets. Up to the mid 1840s, practically all the butter made in New South Wales was made in the Illawarra. The larger properties made butter on a daily basis, from cream obtained by allowing the milk to stand for about 24 hours in broad flat dishes on shelves in the dairy itself. This cream was then churned in kegs into butter. Smaller farms only produced around 3 churnings a week. After the Illawarra railway line was built, the main depot for this produce became Unanderra. (Cousins, 1994)
A survey for construction of the Sydney to Illawarra railway began in 1873. In 1874, John Whitton, the engineer-in-chief of for Railways was instructed to locate a suitable route between Sydney and Kiama, and the single line was completed in 1888. At this time, the journey from Sydney to Wollongong took 4 hours and 53 minutes. The advent of the railway allowed both coke and dairy produce to be sent directly to Sydney. The Kembla Grange Platform is first mention in timetables on 1 January, 1890. The platform is situated next to the level crossing of West Dapto Road. On 25 March, 1912, a private loop and loading bank for horses was opened for the local race club, which is directly across the road from the station. The loading bank was removed in 1942 when horses were no longer transported by rail. Diesel engines replaced steam in the early 1960s, and trains to Wollongong were electrified in 1986. (Singleton, 1984; Southern, 1978)
Moss Vale - Unanderra Line
The Moss Vale- Unanderra railway line marks the northern most boundary of Kembla Grange, and this rail line is in many ways responsible for the industrial development of the Wollongong region. Proposals for a railway link from the Southern Highlands to the Illawarra region had been put forward from as early as 1880s, when residents of the Moss Vale district sent a deputation to the Minister for Works. (Southern, 1978; Jacobson, 1977)
Charles Hoskins, proprietor of Hoskins Iron and Steel Col. Ltd., also petitioned the rail link be built, stating that should it be built, his company would establish a steel works and cement plant at Port Kembla, using the proposed line to rail raw materials into the works from the iron ore and limestone deposits in the southern parts of the state.
The proposal was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for consideration on 22nd November, 1922. The estimated cost for the building of the line was 854,024 pounds ($1,708,048). The line would be '30 miles 6 ½ chains long, of 80 pound rail, having a ruling grade of 1 in 30 with I in 75 against the load' (Jacobson, 1977).
On 23rd December, 1924 an Act of Parliament was passed sanctioning construction on the line and on 26th June, 1925, Premier Sir George Fuller turned the 1st sod at Unanderra. However, the line was not opened until 20 August, 1932, by which time it had cost 1,500,00 pounds sterling ($3,000,000), almost twice the amount approved. The inaugural train left Moss Vale and consisted of 12 cars pulled by engines 3316 and 3269, with more than 300 people, among them, Sir George Fuller, who had turned the first sod in 1925. (Jacobson, 1977).
Initially, most freight was limestone en route from the Marulan Quarry to Port Kembla Steelworks, and vegetables from Robertson bound for Sydney. By 1932 freight began to include coal. Today the railway is still delivering limestone from Marulan, and transports scrap steel and steel products out of the district to southern markets. The original 80 pound rail has been replaced by 107 pound rail plant to accommodate increased usage. (Jacobson, 1977).
Passenger services commenced on 22 August, 1932 with a daily return service except Sundays, but so popular was this service that it was extended within 3 months to include a twice daily service on Saturdays, plus a daily Sunday service. From 1938, rail motors began to haul the carriages, along with the original Steam engines, and several years later, the service was fully locomatised. (Jacobson, 1977).
See Brownsville - Early transport + Unanderra - Early transport
Kembla Grange - Historic buildings
Address: Sheaf's Road, Kembla Grange
Built in 1882, there are 2 main buildings and toilet blocks. All are constructed of sandstone with corrugated iron roofs. The residence on the site has a verandah on the south and west elevations. The Wollongong Heritage Study of 1991 describes it as a 'Group of intact buildings representative of late Victorian small town school. It is uncommon in Wollongong for this type of building to be built of stone'. (Ali, 1981)
Glengarry Homestead (Heritage listed)
Glengarry Homestead is listed on the Historical Register for Regional significance because it is the last of the Veteran's Land Grants homes at Kembla Grange. (Illawarra Mercury, 23 July, 1999)
In 1826 the government had promised a number of lots of 100 acres of land on Dapto Creek, to long serving soldiers. The land upon which Glengarry homestead was built was first granted to John Burnett in 1830. William Sutherland, of Kiama, subsequently acquired the land. Sutherland had arrived in the colony a free man, and was at this time married. He built 2 slab huts and a larger timber house on the land in the late 1830s. By 1920 the first of the slab huts constructed was being used as a stable. Its location was immediately west of the dairy, on land now occupied by the Materials Recycling Facility.
In 1841 the property was advertised for sale, with a relatively elaborate house which the auctioneer described as 'a commodious cottage overlooks the property, and has two sitting rooms, two bedrooms, a large loft with dormant window, lobby, and two wing store rooms'. The house at this time was purchased by William Way of Sydney, who subsequently divided the property between his 2 sons. The sons are described as 'farmers, graziers and dairymen', and leased the property to a number of tenants until selling it in 1855.
In June 1863, Thomas Alexander Reddall purchased the property for 4,000 pounds. Thomas was the grandson of D'Arcy Wentworth who owned more than 4,000 acres in the Shellharbour region. Glengarry was sold again a number of times before being purchased by the Waples family in 1903 for 1,500 pounds. From 1903 until the death of Francis Waples in 1940, the property was operated as a dairy farm. During this time the Waples family transformed the previous desolate and barren grounds, into a beautiful, lush and attractive garden which featured a fern house, as well as coral trees, figs, hedge plants and agapanthus, with roses featured in the front garden.
In 1975 the property was sold to West Dapto Industrial Development Pty Ltd, and later to Wollongong City Council. The property was neglected for over 25 years and allowed to deteriorate.
The homestead was relocated a short distance from its original site in 2001, and was restored and transformed into an education centre at the Wollongong Waste Education and Visitors Centre, Reddalls Road, Kembla Grange. The total cost of relocating and restoration was $500,000.
Location: Newton Park is situated next to the Kembla Grange Race course, Kembla Grange, on the southern side.
The house is listed on the State Inventory Statement of Significance as : 'Substantially intact Victorian colonial homestead. Rare example of an asymmetrical house of this type'.
The City of Wollongong Heritage Study, 1999, describes Newton Park as a 'stuccoed brick house, hipped slate roof. Bullnose veranda, corrugated metal roof. Large attic. Modifications - addition to side.
The home features interior woodwork of cedar, a slate roof and cantilevered cedar stairs. (Illawarra Historical Society Bulletin, April, 1967)
The house was built in 1845 for David Williamson Irving at a cost of $2,400. Mr. Williamson was the youngest son of John Irving of Scotland. John Irving, David's older brother, had arrived in Australia some time earlier and David had followed his brother, and initially gained work as an Agent to William Howe esq. of 'Glenlee', Campbelltown. Within 12 months, David had married Jane Howe. After the marriage, David and Jane moved to the Shoalhaven, where David rented and stocked land at Terrara. In 1845, the couple moved to Sutton Forest, but only for a very short time. They subsequently bought land in the Illawarra, David naming it 'Newton' after his uncle, Lord Newton, who held the seat of Lanarkshire in Scotland. Not long after acquiring the land, David built the house from money sent by his father. The Irving family lived in the house until 1863. At this time David was appointed Police Magistrate at Forbes and he sold the property.
In 1947, the house was bought by Dr. and Mrs. J. Maude. Dr. Maude was a Macquarie Street eye specialist, and he and his wife restored the house, while at the same time, modernising the kitchen and bathroom, keeping the home true to its original character. (Illawarra Historical Society Bulletin, April, 1967; Illawarra Mercury, 3rd April, 1968; Young, 1989)
In an article printed by the Illawarra Mercury on 3rd April, 1968, the house is said to be visited by a ghost. In the article, The National Trust of Australia is reported to have offered a theory of the ghost as being that of John, David Irving's older brother, who had died on an 'ill fated north-west passage expedition which perished within the Arctic Circle' (National Trust of Australia). In 1845, John accompanied Sir John Franklin in the expedition on which he died. (Illawarra Mercury, 3rd April, 1968)
Kembla Grange - Environment
The land of Kembla Grange forms part of the Sydney Basin, in an area of volcanic sandstone on the lower slopes of the Illawarra Escarpment on predominantly Mount Kembla Sandstone, with underlying sedimentary rocks of the Permian age, as well as Quaternary talus on the higher slopes. (Maunsell Pty Ltd, 1992)
Most of the land in Kembla Grange was cleared for farming and grazing, and is dominated by small holdings such as pig farms, dairies, horse studs and hobby farms. The area has a long history of dairy farming and this is reflected in the predominantly pasture land pattern. Since the late 1960s the area's dairy industry had declined for a variety of reasons. Before clearing, the area was mostly Eucalyptus tereticornis woodland as well as that of typical rainforest. A small area (approximately 1.5 hectares) still remains on a rocky outcrop on the eastern gully at Whyte's Gully. The area has two major creeks running through it; Dapto Creek runs almost through the centre, with Mullet Creek found on its southern most edges. At the present time it has largely been zoned for industrial usage, with an innovative environmental green waste depot at Whyte's gully. To the west, the land is still largely untouched and the vegetation forms scattered sclerophyll forest. (Maunsell Pty Ltd, 1992; Wollongong (N.S.W.). Council, 1989)
Most of the local wildlife in the area has been driven away by the widespread land clearing, and weeds such as lantana, blackberries and Crofton weed have become a nuisance in some areas. With the siting of the Waste and Recycling Depot, nuisance animals such as seagulls, ravens and feral cats have come into the area, severely impacting on indigenous wildlife. The forested areas are inhabited by brush tail and ringtail possums, lizards and snakes and long necked tortoises. (Maunsell Pty Ltd, 1992).