Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Navigate Up
Sign In

All council websites and online services will be unavailable from 5:30pm today for essential maintenance


Print this Page

Page Sections: Land grants | Early residents | Early industry | Early transport | Timeline

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.


There are many conflicting suggestions about the meaning of the name Wollongong.

  1. The meaning of the word, according to positive information handed down traditionally from a great-niece of Dr Throsby, is "the sound of the sea". The word was pronounced Woll-long-gong, the second syllable being accented, and is supposedly onomatopoeic for the pounding and surging of the waves.
  2. An expression of surprise and fear uttered by the aborigines when they first saw a ship in full sail. This has been rendered as "see! The monster comes". According to this view the original word was actually pronounced "Nywoolyarngungh".


  3. Wollongong has also been thought to be from "Wol-lon-yuh" meaning "sound of the sea". Other versions of the word are "Wolonya, "Wollonga" and "Woolyunyal".


  4. "Woollungah" is the correct aboriginal name for Wollongong, according to Aboriginal Billy Saddler (of "Nioka" Port Kembla). Woollungah means a place where a marriage took place between the son of one great king and the daughter of another great king, long before Captain Cook found this country. The word also means that there was a great feast of fish and other good things at the wedding, which was such a remarkable event that the place was named after it. The name has also been spelled "Wullungah".


  5. Some other suggested meanings are: hard ground near water; song of the sea or sound of the waves; many snakes.

Land Grants

Charles Throsby Smith 300 acres Called "Bustle Hill". The grant for this land was issued to Mr Smith by Governor Bourke in 1835. The land had already been occupied by him from about 1818 under a promise of grant to him by Governor Macquarie. The town of Wollongong was laid out on this site in 1834
Surgeon John Osborne 640 acres This land was granted by Governor Darling in 1831 and called "Glen Glosh". It embraces the two properties known as 'Mangerton' and 'Garden Hill'
Rachel Moore White 280 acres This land was south of John Osborne's grant and is now called Coniston
Frederick Jones 100 acres Situated between the grants of Rachel White and Jemima Waldron
Robert Anderson 200 acres Granted in January 1827 and included the area now known as Stuart Park. (Lindsay,1994)

Early Residents

Charles Throsby Smith

Charles Throsby Smith has been called "The Father of Wollongong". He was born in 1798 in Cambridge, England. He arrived in Sydney on the 'Guildford' in 1816 and stayed for three months, at Glenfield, near Liverpool, with his uncle Dr Charles Throsby. During this time he helped drive some of his uncle's cattle from Glenfield to Illawarra where his uncle had a cattle-grazing station. After resuming his sea career for a short while he returned to Australia and secured his 300-acre grant at Wollongong. In 1834 Smith's land was chosen as the site for Wollongong.

Throughout his life Smith played a prominent role in the development of the town.

His barn near the harbour provided shelter for the first church services and schools in the area. He gave land to the Church of England on the hill where St Michael's Church was built and he later gave sites for other churches. He was on the Committee of Management of the Illawarra Steam Packet Company which secured the first steamship service for Wollongong in 1839. In 1842 he was a member of the Illawarra District Council and when Wollongong became a municipality in 1859 he was one of the aldermen. Charles Throsby Smith died in 1876.

(Illawarra Historical Society Bulletin, May 1975; Cousins,1994)

John Osborne

John Osborne, a retired naval surgeon, was one of the first medical practitioners to practice in the Wollongong area. He came to Australia in charge of convicts and was appointed surgeon at Illawarra in 1834.

In 1831 John Osborne applied for the transfer to him of a grant of 640 acres which had been made to Joseph Thompson in 1824. The grant was named Glen Glosh. In 1836, Dr Osborne added another 300 acres to this purchase and renamed the property 'Garden Hill'. Osborne built his home on 'Garden Hill', now better know as Hospital Hill. He died at Garden Hill in 1850

(Illawarra Historical Society Bulletin, September 1996; McDonald,1976)

Catherine Ann Bright

Catherine Bright, born in 1841, was a native of Wollongong. She was the daughter of Robert Osborne and Rebecca Musgrave. She married John Bright, the proprietor of the London Stores situated in Crown Street.

Catherine and her husband, John Bright, were involved in the building of the Wesley Church. Her husband was the treasurer for the building fund and her brother, George Osborne, was the builder.

In December 1880 Catherine Bright laid the foundation stone for the Wesley Church. Catherine and John's only child, Charles Osborne Bright, had died 18 months before at the age of 13 years. A memorial window was placed in the church in memory of their son.

Catherine died suddenly in 1882 at the age of 41 years. A Baptismal font was placed in the church in her memory "in consideration of the many valuable services she rendered in connection with the erection of the new church building." (Illawarra Historical Society Bulletin, March 1997; Illawarra Mercury 17/10/1882)

Early Industry

At the beginning of European settlement in Wollongong most employment was in timber getting and land clearing for farming. According to the 1828 Census, 42% of those in work were employed in agriculture. By the early 1830's a few farms had been established in the Illawarra. Surplus produce was taken to the bay at Wollongong and shipped to Sydney in small vessels.

In 1849 James Shoobert opened the first coal mine in the Illawarra at Mount Keira. From this point on coal mining began to develop as the major primary industry of northern Illawarra. The developing coal industry had a major impact on the trade at Wollongong Harbour. Coal was carted from the mines to Wollongong Harbour for export. The increase in trade that the coal industry brought to the harbour was a major incentive for improvements that commenced in 1861. The new basin, opened in 1868 and was capable of loading "3000 tons of coal per day".

Patrick Lahiff established a coke works at Wollongong Harbour in the 1870's. He erected two beehive ovens midway between the north-eastern end of the Basin and Pulpit Rock. In 1877 small shipments were made to Melbourne and in 1878 forty-four tons of coke were exported. The ovens were demolished in 1892. (Gardiner-Garden, 1959; Hagan, 1997)

Early Transport

In the early years, people came to the Illawarra from Sydney via Campbelltown and Appin. From here they could follow a rough bush track to Bulli, come down the Range by Throsby's track and follow the coast to Wollongong, or go on to cross the Cataract River and come along O'Brien's Road to Figtree.

Acting on a petition from residents asking for roads and safe harbours in the district, Governor, Major-General Sir Richard Bourke visited the Illawarra in 1834 to find out "how the district could be best opened by roads and its communication with the Sydney Market improved." As a result of this visit a survey of the township of Wollongong was completed, the Mt Keira Road was planned and surveys for roads from Wollongong to Bulli and from Wollongong to Minnamurra via Dapto were carried out.

Work began on the construction of Wollongong Harbour in 1837 and the first stage was completed in 1844. The Harbour became a centre for the transport of both passengers and goods between Wollongong and Sydney. [Gardiner-Garden,1959]


 Wollongong - Timeline

Dr Charles Throsby established first settlement in Illawarra. He brought a herd of cattle down the escarpment and had a hut and cattle yards built behind South Beach, Wollongong where there was a lagoon of fresh water.
Wollongong Harbour was first used for the shipping of cedar.
Organised settlement began in Wollongong and land grants were made.
Earliest known reference to the name 'Wollongong' appears in a report on the cedar industry, written by John Oxley.
New military barracks constructed near Wollongong Harbour.
A school was established at Wollongong.
Surveyor-General arrived from Sydney to lay out a plan for a township on property owned by Charles Throsby Smith. This township, which was named Wollongong, was bounded by Crown, Keira and Harbour Streets.
Town of Wollongong gazetted on 26 November 1834
Sophia Jane is the first steamship to visit Wollongong.
Wollongong's first Court House was erected by George Brown.
Work began on the construction of Wollongong Harbour. A stockade was erected on Flagstaff Point to house about 300 convicts employed on the harbour works.
The Illawarra Steam Packet Company was formed. The steamer Maitland provided the first regular steamboat service between Wollongong and Sydney.
National School built at Wollongong, but lay idle for 10 years.
Wollongong Presbyterian church erected at the corner of Church and Crown Streets.
The population of Wollongong was 841
Illawarra District Council was formed. It covered the coastal plain from Bulli to Nowra and also Kangaroo Valley
The road from Wollongong to Sydney via George's River was commenced.
Construction of Wollongong Harbour completed.
First coal shipped from Wollongong Harbour.
St Francis Xavier's Roman Catholic church at Wollongong consecrated.
Wollongong National School established
Paddle steam Illawarra commenced regular freight and passenger trade between Wollongong and Sydney.
Wollongong's first newspaper, the Illawarra Mercury, was published.
Wollongong Congregational church built.
Court House near Wollongong Harbour was opened.
Two local government areas formed. Wollongong Municipality was proclaimed on 22 February. Central Illawarra Municipality formed on 19 August.
St Michael's Anglican church consecrated.
Wollongong Gaol completed on a site near Wollongong Harbour, adjacent to the old Court House.
Horsedrawn tramway from Mt Keira to Wollongong Harbour was completed.
Work commenced to extend Wollongong Harbour.
Telegraph line opened between Wollongong and Bellambi.
Albert Memorial Hospital opened, (closed 1907).
First gas supply in Wollongong provided from a plant in Corrimal Street.
Extensions to Wollongong Harbour were opened by Lady Belmore and named Belmore Basin.
Horse bus service established between Bulli and Wollongong by A McIntyre.
Breakwater lighthouse at Wollongong Harbour completed.
Sisters of the Good Samaritan arrived in Wollongong establishing the St Mary Star of the Sea College and St Francis Xavier’s School.
Steam locomotives introduced to haul coal from the foot of the incline at Mt Keira mine to Wollongong Harbour.
Formation of the Wollongong Gas Company, and erection of new gas works in Charlotte Street.
Gas street lighting installed in Wollongong.
Wollongong Agricultural and Horticultural Society pavilion constructed.
New Court House erected in Market Street.
Wollongong Public School opened
First Wollongong Town Hall erected on old National School site.
Railway line between Sydney and Wollongong was completed.  Railway extended south from Wollongong to Kiama.
First Town Hall opened.
Wollongong Trade School (later to become a Technical College) was opened.
Population of Wollongong now 17,182 with 3,031 dwellings.
Wollongong provided with reticulated water supply from Cordeaux reservoir.
A telephone system was established in Wollongong.
Wollongong District Hospital established on Garden Hill.
North Wollongong Surf Bathing and Life Saving Club established.
Wollongong City Surf Life Saving Club established.
Wollongong High School opened in Gipps Street.
Christian Brothers College opened.
Continental baths opened.
Wollongong's new Town Hall opened by Mayor Norman Smith
Wollongong West Public School established.
Wollongong's first radio station, 2WL, commenced broadcasting.
Wollongong lighthouse built on Flagstaff point near disused fortifications.
Wollongong was proclaimed a City in NSW Government Gazette 125 on 11 September 1942.
City of Greater Wollongong formed by the amalgamation of the City of Wollongong, the Shires of Bulli and Central Illawarra and the Municipality of North Illawarra under the Local Government Act, 1919 in the NSW Government Gazette 104 of 12 September 1947.
The new City of Wollongong Council takes over the electricity supply responsibilities of the four constituent councils
First amalgamated Council elections held
Mount St Thomas Public School established.
Population of Wollongong was 90,852.
Sydney Church of England Grammar School for Girls (SCEGGS) at Gleniffer Brae opened.
New Wollongong City Council Chambers opened.
Wollongong High School relocated to Lysaght Street, Fairy Meadow
Illawarra County Council formed signalling the end of direct local government control of the electricity supply in the Wollongong area
Smith’s Hill Girls High School opened.
The Illawarra Grammar School (TIGS) opened as a boys school in West Wollongong, moving to its current site in Mangerton in 1960. (TIGS amalgamated with SCEGGS in 1975 and became co-educational.)
Lindsay Park Public School opened in West Wollongong.
Alderman Rube Hargrave was the first female to be elected to the Council of the City of Greater Wollongong.  She was elected on 5 December 1959
Wollongong Library moves from School of Arts Building to Town Hall Building (SCT 18/6/1959)
Keira Boys’ High School officially opened at Lysaght Street, Fairy Meadow. (The school was previously known as Wollongong Junior Secondary Technical School)
Wollongong University College established.
Edmund Rice College opened in West Wollongong. Initially was the senior school of the Christian  Brothers College.
Wollongong Teachers College established.
New Town Halll opened, has since been listed as an item of heritage significance.
A Lord Mayoralty was conferred on the City on the eve of the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 10 April 1970.  Alderman Ford became the first Lord Mayor.
The City of Greater Wollongong became the City of Wollongong - gazetted on 30 October 1970.
SCEGGS closed, merged with TIGS as it became co-ed in 1975.
Wollongong University College becomes the University of Wollongong under its own Council.
Crown Central shopping centre opens.
Christian Brothers College closed.
Wollongong Library moves from Town Hall Building to the former Coles Building (Ill Merc 29/3/1978)
Wollongong City Gallery established
A new city flag design was adopted following a community competition
Wollongong Library moves to former Wollongong Leagues Club building in Burelli Street (Ill. Merc. 20/8/1984)
Wollongong Library's automated loans system LIBS 100 launched by Lord Mayor Frank Arkell (Ill. Merc. 20/11/1984)
Smith’s Hill Girls’ High School becomes co-educational i.e. Smith’s Hill High School
Keira Boys’ High School becomes co-educational i.e. Keira High School
Crown Gateway Shopping Centre opened.
Crown Streeet Mall opened.
Ward boundaries were abolished
Wollongong won the 1986 A R Bluett Award for Excellence in Local Government
The new Council Administration Building and Library opened (Wol. Adv. 22/7/1987)
New Performing Arts Centre opened.
Smith’s Hill High Schools first year as a ‘selective’ high school.
1 - 100Next
Page last updated: