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.
- 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.
- 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".
- 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".
- "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".
- Some other suggested meanings are: hard ground near water; song of the sea or sound of the waves; many snakes.
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)
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, 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)
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)
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]