Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Document Actions

History of Woy Woy

Compiled by the Local Studies Librarian, Gosford City Library March 2006

woy woy01.JPG 
The Boulevarde, with Woy Woy Hotel and "Glen Lomond" guesthouse, circa 1908.

Early history 1788-1880s

Woy Woy: what does it mean? Woy Woy is believed to be a corruption of the Aboriginal “Wy Wy”, which is said to mean "much water" or "big lagoon". Spellings on early maps and records varied greatly, with versions such as Why-Why, Wi-Wi and Wye-Wye appearing.  The area around the current town centre of Woy Woy was once known as “Webb’s Flat” or “Webb’s Reef”, named after James Webb, first white settler of the Brisbane Water district in 1823.

The first inhabitants: The Woy Woy district was home to the Guringai tribe, whose country stretched from the north side of Sydney Harbour, north through Pittwater and Brisbane Water, to the southern end of Lake Macquarie. Signs of habitation in the Woy Woy area include many rock shelters, shellfish middens, and numerous, extensive rock engraving sites such as Bulgandry, adjacent to the Woy Woy Road.

The local Aboriginal people lived primarily on fish and shellfish, and occasionally caught possums, birds, reptiles and other small animals. Vegetable foods from fern roots and wild figs were used. Hunting implements included single-tipped spears, and multi-pronged fish spears tipped with fish teeth or fish bones. Spear throwers, boomerangs, clubs, stone hatchets and net bags were found in tool kits.

During early exploration by white men, it was noted that hats and beads given to the Aborigines at Port Jackson had been traded north to the Aborigines in the Brisbane Water area. It is believed that a smallpox epidemic took its toll on the Aboriginal population. On the 1788 visit of Governor Phillip to Ettalong Beach, many natives were reported. The population had greatly diminished on Phillip’s return to the same spot the following year.


 woy woy02.JPG
  Governor Arthur Phillip 1738-1814 explored this district by water in March 1788 and June 1789


Exploration of the Woy Woy District: In early March 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip led a small party of officers and marines on an exploratory voyage along the coast to the north of Sydney Harbour. Only five weeks after the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, it became clear that agricultural land for the growing of food must be found if the settlement was to survive. During the eight day voyage, Phillip and his party made a brief exploration of both sides of Broken Bay. This included a tributary initially known as the 'north-west arm'. Later this area was to be called the 'north-east arm', and eventually 'Brisbane Water'.

During the 1788 voyage, Phillip’s party landed at Ettalong Beach, later proceeding up the estuary and taking note of the eastern side inlets that today contain Pretty Beach, Hardy’s Bay and Riley’s Bay. At The Rip the boats could not battle a run-out tide, and landed in either Booker Bay of Fisherman’s Bay. When the tide turned early in the afternoon of the 3rd of March, the party passed through The Rip. The group camped on either Riley’s Island or St. Hubert's Island in heavy rain. Exploration of Cockle Creek took place before they returned to the Rip, and a brief stop near Pearl Beach. On the first voyage, Phillip had found little of immediate use to the Sydney Cove settlement.

In June 1789, a more thorough investigation of the 'north-west arm' was conducted. Initially, a rest stop was made at Ettalong Beach, then the group passed through The Rip, looked around Kincumber Broadwater, and returned to the Blackwall area where they camped overnight.  Phillip would have come close to the site of modern Woy Woy on the 9th June, when the main Brisbane Water estuary was explored. They returned to Ettalong Beach, camped overnight, and then made their way to what is known today as Dangar Island. During this second voyage, the 'north-west arm' was discounted for agricultural use, owing to the rugged nature of the area.

The Hawkesbury River was discovered during the 1789 voyage, and this was to provide the colony with good farming land necessary for survival. In the meantime, the 'north-west arm' of Broken Bay was left untouched.

woy woy03.JPG 
James Webb, first white settler of Brisbane Water, owned land at The Rip.


James Webb: first European settler of Brisbane Water: James Webb arrived as a free man on the convict transport 'Scarborough' in 1790, a soldier in the New South Wales Corps. He served until 1794. After his discharge, Webb was granted land in the district of Mulgrave Place on the Hawkesbury River.

In 1808, Webb launched a small vessel, the 'Unity', at Green Hills. Later, he lived in Sydney, where he built boats and became active in trade. In 1822 Webb launched the sloop 'James' at Macdonald River.

In October 1823, Webb received permission to temporarily occupy 300 acres on the eastern side of the north-east arm of Broken Bay, for the purposes of a cattle run.

Late in 1824, Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane received a request for a grant of land in the same area. Webb's request was granted, and in September 1824 he received 100 acres on the western side of The Rip. This area was named 'Mulbong Farm'. The census of 1828 recorded that Webb had 540 acres in total, of which 75 were cleared, 70 were cultivated. He had 11 horses, and 120 head of cattle.

Sophy Webb, an aboriginal woman of the Guringai tribe, lived with Webb and gave birth to a daughter Charlotte around 1828. Charlotte (later Smith, then Ashby) lived until 1913, and was buried at Brady’s Gully Cemetery. Michael Kirk, an ex-convict, worked on the Webb property as a labourer.

Webb later purchased a further 150 acres in 1834, followed in 1838 by another 50 acres. This 200 acres was known as “Webb’s Flat”, and most of present day Woy Woy stands on this property. James Webb died at Brisbane Water in June 1848. His age was given as 90, but this is believed to have been an estimate.

  

woy woy04.JPG


An early form of employment for families along Cockle Creek was the collection of shells for lime

The Shell diggers: Woy Woy is surrounded by water. The lives and occupations of those who lived here are entwined with the tides. An early means of employment for families along Cockle Creek was the collection of shells for lime burning. The expansion of Sydney’s suburbs required a source of lime for use in mortar, and Brisbane Water was blessed with large amounts of shell in natural shell banks and in aboriginal middens. Middens are the shellfish and other remains piled up over countless years of meals. The shells found locally are mainly from the tapestry cockle and Sydney cockle.

Shell digging for lime burning was incredibly hard work. In 1935, George Fletcher wrote in the Gosford Times: “Shell digging had to be done at low tide, and up to the waist in mud and water for a mere pittance”. Shells were reduced to lime in a large conical pile, made up of alternating layers of brush timber and shells. Down the centre of the pile was left an open flue, with other airways leading to the centre from the outside. The top of the pile was covered in seaweed or sods, with more earth being piled over it. Fires were started inside the airways with kindling, and once this was burning well, the airways would be closed to moderate the heat. The process took three days to complete.

By the 1870s, demand for the local lime product dwindled. Limestone was now being quarried elsewhere. Two Davistown vessels were still involved in taking shells to Sydney as late as the 1880s. A.W.M. Settree launched Day Dawn in 1869 at Davistown, The ketch Maggie Riley was built on Riley’s Island, and launched in 1878. In 1885, a mixed cargo of 900 baskets of shells, 16,000 laths (long and slender timber strips used in constructing wattle-and-daub walls and ceilings), two bags of oysters and one coop of fowls.

woy woy05.JPG
 
Shipwrights pose beside Rock Davis' "Big Shed", Davis shipyard, Blackwall, circa 1880s-1890s

Shipbuilding at Blackwall: Brisbane Water was a cradle of early shipbuilding, with over 500 named vessels built between 1829-1953. The Brisbane Water shipbuilders influenced this trade right along the NSW Coast, and their products were a mainstay of the eastern Australian coastal trade.
The vessels built at Brisbane Water carried huge quantities of shells for lime manufacture needed for the building of Sydney, and thousands of tons of timber for wharf pilings, railway sleepers, mine props etc. to feed the State's economic growth.

The Davis family first came to the Brisbane Water District in 1839. The head of the family, William, had been a schoolteacher in Wollongong since 1833. One of William’s older sons, probably William Davis Jr. was apprenticed to Illawarra shipbuilder John Cunningham. When the family moved north to the Kincumber District, little could they realise that the Davis’s would eventually be responsible for the lion’s share of Brisbane Water’s shipping history. William Davis Sr. was appointed a schoolteacher at Kincumber Church of England School in 1843. He died in 1846.

woy woy06.JPG

Headstone of Rock Davis,
St. Paul's Church of England Cemetery, Kincumber
Gwen Dundon photograph

Rock Davis: Of all the Brisbane Water shipbuilders, Rock Davis was the most prolific and productive of all. Rock was born at sea in July 1833. He lived on and around water all his life. Rock’s parents had both died by the time he was 13. He is believed to have been Jonathan Piper’s apprentice. Together with his brothers Ben and Thomas, Rock built 'Star of the North', a 35-ton ketch. Rock first built vessels at Davistown (so named for the number of Davis’s living there), and then moved to Blackwall, near Woy Woy. His shipyard was built on a part of James Webb’s original 1823 grant Mullbong Farm. The first launching at the new site was the Centurion of 1863.

An unusual feature of the Davis shipyard, which became a major employer of shipwrights and timber getters, was a huge shed, built around 1862 to enable shipwrights to work in all weathers. The ‘Big Shed’, as it was known, was a Brisbane Water landmark, surrounded by various crude smithies, timber stores, sheds etc. Later Rock built an impressive home, which still stands at Blackwall. In total, Rock Davis built 168 ships, including the two early vessels built with his brothers. A bewildering array of ferries, schooners, steamships, cutters and ketches sprang from the Davis shipyard. Local schoolchildren looked forward to the lollies and drinks and fanfare of each new launching. Ship launchings provided great entertainment, following sometimes up to two years of hard toil by shipwrights.

The 'S.S. Dunmore' was the largest ship built by Rock, weighing in at 277g/171n tons.

Rock Davis died on 27th June 1904, shortly before he was to turn 71. Mourners followed the steamship 'Alabama' (built in 1889 by Rock) in a flotilla of small boats. Rock’s last journey across water proceeded north along Cockle Creek past Davistown, Empire Bay, and the sites of many small shipyards. His life journey ended at St. Paul’s Church of England, Kincumber. Here he was buried with many other local shipwrights and their descendants. Many members of the Davis family are buried at St. Paul's, Kincumber, including several descendants of Rock Davis, also called Rock Davis.

The last ship built at the Davis yard at Blackwall was the steam ferry 'Woollahra' of 1913.

 woy woy07.JPG
Woy Woy Village subdivision map, 1905

Cox family & town centre: Robert Cox and his wife Caroline and two sons arrived at Port Jackson from London in January 1829. Several months after arriving Cox was promised a 1280 acre grant of land at Brisbane Water. This grant came to be called Lisaroe, after Caroline's home place in Ireland. Robert started a timber business in Sydney. Robert became firm friends with James Webb, the first settler of Brisbane Water who had come to the area in 1823. When Webb died in 1848 he left his properties Mullbong Farm near The Rip, and Why Why Creek to Cox family members.

Why Why Creek was to become the site for the old town of Woy Woy. James Paul Gee Cox the II erected various shops, cottages and the Woy Woy Hotel for lease. The land was finally surveyed and subdivided and sold up in the early 1900s.

woy woy08.JPG 
P-class locomotive at Woy Woy in single-line days, circa 1907-1910.

The coming of the railway: 1880s

Railway opening: The railway line opened to Woy Woy on 16th January 1888. The first railway station opened on the same day, at a location approximately opposite Charlton Street. When first opened, the line came south from Newcastle and Gosford. Gosford got the railway first, in August 1887. Construction of the line proceeded south along the difficult Western shore of Brisbane Water. There were several long causeways to be built across bay entrances at Fagan's Bay and Woy Woy Bay. Great difficulty was experienced with sinking foundations for the Woy Woy Railway Bridge, which required piers to be sunk between 42 feet and 58 feet, despite water depths of only 10 to 15 feet. Initially, authorities had expected the huge Woy Woy Tunnel project to delay the line's opening. Ironically, the seemingly smaller issues involved in bridging Woy Woy Bay were to cause greater difficulties and delay the opening of the railway line.

Woy Woy Tunnel: The Woy Woy Tunnel proved to be a massive undertaking, being 5, 871 feet (1,789m) long. It required 123,354 cubic yards (94,365 m3) of excavation, 10,000,000 bricks, 10,000 casks of cement, 110 tons of blasting powder and 10 tons of dynamite.    It is a mile long. Construction commenced on 8th March, 1884 and finished on 17th July 1886. 800 men worked on the project.

When the railway opened, the single line ran south through the new tunnel to a temporary railhead at Mullet Creek. Here the stern-wheel paddle steamer 'General Gordon' (which was built at Terrigal by Thomas Davis) would take passengers and luggage across the Hawkesbury River to the southern railhead. When the Hawkesbury River railway bridge opened on 1st May 1889, this arrangement ceased. The line was now complete.

woy woy09.JPG 
S.S. Woy Woy at Brick Wharf

Brickwharf: Brickwharf Road gets its name from the wharf where millions of bricks were landed for the Woy Woy Tunnel project. Rock Davis had built barges to land bricks at the eastern end of Woy Woy, at a wharf near the point. A standard gauge tramway with was built by the contractors to ferry bricks between the wharf and the railway works at the tunnel mouth.

Early station platforms: As mentioned previously, the first railway platform in single line days was located opposite Charlton Street, at a site south of the current platform, and on the eastern (up) side of the line. At the time of opening the platform was timber, and measured 198 feet long by 9 feet wide. It had no waiting shed at first. In 1891 a second station was erected. This was over twice the length of the original station, and moved north to approximately where the station is now.
 
Duplication of the railway line took place in 1910. At this time a brick island platform was constructed to cope with increasing numbers of weekend tourists.

woy woy10.JPG 
Island railway platform as used at Woy Woy after 1910.

Buckley Collection of Railway memorabilia: A collection of railway memorabilia at Gosford City Library provides insights into the lives of railway workers at the turn of the nineteenth century. The Arthur (Pat) Buckley Collection contains many hundreds of dockets, chit's, Special train notices etc. from the 1910 era. These were rescued from the old Woy Woy station when it was demolished, and shows lives ruled by strict order and harsh penalties for infringements. Endless paperwork chases dealt with lost beer kegs, spoiled oysters, lost luggage and fare evaders. Junior station-staff were often chided for laxity in a whole range of seemingly minor duties, and this seems harsh at first until one remembers that a safe railway requires great attention to detail.

Railway accidents: Before the construction of Brisbane Water Drive in the 1930s, the only way to reach Woy Woy by foot from the many holiday cottages at Parks and Murphy's Bay was to cross the railway bridge. This bridge had no pedestrian walkway attached.

In early January 1921 a horrific accident occurred, where two adults and two children were overtaken and cut down by a train. Gosford resident Mrs Victor Mackenzie, accompanied by four of her children, aged from 2 ½ to 15 years, had gone to Woy Woy from Gosford to visit relatives Mr and Mrs Clifton Roughley at their rented holiday house at Parks Bay. Rain was falling, and darkness closing in when Mrs MacKenzie, Mr Roughley and the children headed south across the bridge to catch a train home from Woy Woy. Although they walked on the down (away from Sydney) side of the bridge to maximise visibility, it seems that one of the children wandered onto the opposite track just as a train approached heading south across the bridge.

Mrs MacKenzie is believed to have tried to save the child. She herself had a baby in her arms, and Mr Roughley is believed to have tried to save all three. The baby Gladys was thrown from her mother's arms into Woy Woy Bay. Her body was found at Mount Pleasant, near Saratoga the next day. Another child, Bruce, had a remarkable escape from death when he managed to lay flat between the rails with the train passing over him. He was unscathed. This terrible accident paralysed the community. Mother and children were laid to rest in a single oak casket at Point Clare Cemetery. The funeral was one of the largest seen in the district at that time. When cars were still relatively rare in the district, 63 were counted at the cemetery. A bizarre coincidence occurred when on the same day as the above accident, Mr. Ambrose Whiting and his son were killed in a collision with a steam tram at Lennox Bridge, Parramatta. The Whiting, MacKenzie and Roughley families are related. On Wednesday, January 5, 1921, six persons, all related, victims of accidents occurring on the same day, were buried at Gosford, Dural and Parramatta.

Railway workers at risk: The dangerous life of the railway worker was highlighted in August 1940, when 7 men were run down by train in the Woy Woy tunnel. Three men were killed, and four badly injured.

The fettlers had been part of a gang of 60 men replacing rails through the tunnel. Two trains entered the tunnel at the same time from different ends. The tragedy took place at 1.30pm, 600 yards inside the Sydney end of the tunnel.
 
Charles Jefferis Staples, coroner, roundly criticised the lack of adequate safe working controls, and the callous and indifferent treatment the families of victims received. Many of the families heard of their loved one's death from newspaper reporters. Following this disaster, a review of railway safe working procedures took place.

 woy woy11.JPG
The first "official" Post Office opened in Blackwall Road, Woy Woy, in 1922.

Post Offices: In February 1884, a petition was sent by Woy Woy residents to the Postmaster General asking him, in view of there being an influx of railway workers that a postal service be established in Woy Woy. Before this time, Thomas Foster took mail to Gosford by boat for posting.

On 8th September 1884 approval was given for the establishment of a Post Office at Woy Woy. George Watt became the first postmaster at Woy Woy by default, when he bought the business of Henry Muir, who had first been proposed as postmaster. Although Watt was the official Postmaster, credit for the actual handling of daily mails goes to William E. Kirkness. Mail in the early days was taken from the Woy Woy receiving office by steamer to Gosford, on a daily basis (except Sundays). The mails were then taken, at least part of the way, by steamer to Sydney.

In 1887, when the railway construction work had all but ceased, the Post Office at Woy Woy closed. In February 1892, attempts were made to reopen the mail service. A Postal receiving office was opened at Woy Woy Railway station later that year. By 1895 business at Woy Woy had risen to such a level that it once again regained Post Office status. By 1897 it became apparent that the Railway staff encountered difficulties maintaining the postal, along with their main business, railway duties. Difficulties continued until Miss Minard Crommelin was appointed Semi-official Contract Postmistress on 5th April 1906, with a salary of £140 per year.

Accommodation difficulties led to the construction of a purpose built Post Office - a five room cottage with separate front rooms for postal facilities. This was opened on 29th October, 1906. In July 1911, the "Gosford Times" reported that a new Post Office had been erected on the corner of Blackwall Road and Railway Street. The Post Office may have operated from leased premises at this time, as a new "official" Post Office was not erected until 1922.

A manual telephone exchange opened at Woy Woy in 1910, with 2 subscribers. By 1914 subscriber numbers had grown to 17.

The new "official" Post Office opened in September 1922 in Blackwall Road. The building remained in use until the 1970s. The 1922 building was demolished to make way for a much larger modern structure, which opened for business on 27th September 1976.


Education

Woy Woy Public School: An indirect benefit to Woy Woy from the building of the railway line was the establishment of a railway camp school for the children of workers building the Woy Woy Tunnel. This school was established in August 1884, and closed in March 1888 when work on the tunnel was completed. Later, in 1891, a Provisional School was established at Blackwall, and this soon attained Public School status. In 1911, this school moved to the current Woy Woy site. After the move, the school was named Woy Woy Public School. Between 1949 and 1962, this school became a Central School where students moving into secondary studies further their education, without leaving the Peninsula. The establishment of Woy Woy High school in 1962 meant that the Central School could revert to its original role as the area's Public School. In the late 1980s, Woy Woy Public School had approximately 350 pupils. Today the school has approximately 460 students.

Woy Woy High School: Opened by headmaster K.A. Hills in June 1962, Woy Woy High School received a twelve-room, two storey block and several demountables in 1970. In 1973, a library and laboratory block followed. A school hall was constructed in 1978. In the late 1980s major refurbishments took place.

woy woy12.JPG

"Kyamba" was one of many picturesque holiday cottages at Phegan's Estate, Woy Woy. Circa 1910s.

Tourist wonderland 1890s-1920

Fishing and oysters: The Alderton family have a long connection with Woy Woy. The old fish & chip shop, with its distinctive porthole windows, stands empty on the Boulevarde. Fred Warmoll and Bert Alderton advertised as Oyster Merchants in 1928. At that time they had 15,000 yards of cultivated leases in Brisbane Water. Bert is reported to have come to the district in 1894, when he bought a horse up from Sydney by steamer for a cousin. He stayed, and eventually developed a highly successful oyster, fish and bait business. The numbers of bags of oysters taken from Brisbane Water leases before intensive "modern" methods came into use were relatively small. In 1889 121 bags were taken. In 1900 200 bags were taken. 1906 saw 329 bags reported, put this tailed off dramatically by World War 2. In 1942 only 17 bags were taken, and 42 in 1946.

woy woy13.JPG
Alderton's Fish Supply, The Boulevarde, Woy Woy.
Circa 1940s. (Building still standing 2006.)


One of the most interesting methods of growing oysters was used by the Riley family. They would collect large slabs of flat ashlar stone, and stand them upright in the shallows near Riley's Bay. The oysters would simply attach themselves naturally to the stone. A Riley family member recently reported that the stone oyster beds are still there, but badly silted up. When modern oyster growing practices developed, the result was a huge increase in bag numbers. In 1980 11,000 bags were taken, 15,000 bags in 1987. By 1994 numbers had again fallen, this time to 5,000 bags. At this time there were 124 oyster leases in the Brisbane Water area, with a value of $2 million, and only 15 permanent, full-time growers.

Brisbane Water has been permanently closed to commercial fishing since 1904. In 1904, fisheries inspectors reported that over 30,000 amateur line fishermen had visited the Woy Woy area. 3,000 of these were reported in Christmas Week alone. Numbers such as these, helped by Woy Woy's good rail transport, boating, guesthouses and other attractions, would have placed a huge strain on local fish populations.

woy woy14.JPG 
Woy Woy Hotel, circa 1900s.


Woy Woy Hotel: William H. Calvert was the first licensee of the Woy Woy Hotel, which opened in April 1897. A persistent story, very difficult to prove or disprove, is that the Woy Woy Hotel was made of leftover bricks from the huge railway tunnel building project of the 1880s.

Later in 1897 the Gosford Times wrote: "It is said that keeping a pub at Woy Woy is not all beer and skittles. The free and easy fishermen have been making things a bit lively down there lately necessitating the calling into requisition of a Gosford constable and sundry private firearms."

In February 1928 a huge fire levelled four Boulevarde shops, and the Woy Woy Hotel narrowly escaped damage. A newspaper report read: "At one stage the Woy Woy Hotel, just across a narrow lane, was in grave danger; in fact, on more than one occasion it caught fire, and had it not been for some hundred men from all parts of the district who were quickly on the spot, this building would have gone the way of the other four shops. All interest was centred on the Hotel, and after a desperate fight, the fire fighters won. The extent of damage to the Hotel building is estimated at about £ 500."

Before 6 o'clock closing was repealed in 1954, Woy Woy would see a mad dash as a workers' train pulled in from Sydney at 10 to 6. Fortunately the Hotels were not too far from the Railway Station, and Railway Street in those days was not as busy as it is today, otherwise accidents would have been common.

When 6 o'clock closing ended, and the pubs were open till ten, there was still a short break in trading, probably from 6pm and 7pm. In a history published for the pub's centenary in 1997, Bruce Richards recalls that the hotel was so crowded before and after these trading breaks that "you couldn't get into the bar". He also observed, that as time went on, the more hours the hotel was opened, the more civilised drinking became.

woy woy15.JPG

Roma boarding house stands today as a private residence.
Gwen Dundon photograph, 1977.

Roma boarding house: "Roma" (also "Glen Lomond") boarding house at 53 Brick Wharf Road is a survivor from the age when travellers came in droves to forget the cares of the city. "Roma" was built by James Cox, who owned most of Woy Woy Township. Fred and Elizabeth Couche were early managers of the boarding house. They later became well known as the owners of "Glenrock" boarding house at Koolewong. Another manager of "Roma" was Alex McCallum, a boarding house keeper whose early business interests revolved around the sale of meat to far flung settlements around Brisbane Water. He achieved this by pulling a row-boat from Coulter's slaughter house wharf in Gosford. He became host of "Glen Lomond" ("Roma") in the early 1900s. McCallum's launch "Bronzewing" was well known in the district, taking visitors to beauty spots such as "The Bar" and Gosford Markets. Alex died in 1952 aged 85 years. His wife, Elizabeth had supported him in his business ventures, and died in 1930 aged 65.

woy woy16.JPG
 
Woy Woy waterfront, showing "Waratah" guesthouse (left) and "Louisville" guesthouse (right. The public baths stand in the foreground. Circa 1910s.

Louisville boarding house: "Louisville" was one of a string of boarding and accommodation houses along the Woy Woy end of Brickwharf Road in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "Waratah" was once conducted by John Murphy Snr. Next door, closer to Woy Woy, was "Louisville", run by Mrs Aggett, then "Glen Lomond" ("Roma"), then the Woy Woy Hotel. These elegant buildings, typical of a more relaxed, less frantic time, drew customers from Sydney's increasingly mobile middle classes. To give some idea of the scale of the local tourism industry, in 1911 there were at least 17 boarding houses in and around the Woy Woy District.

People came for the clean air, the sun, the bush, and a chance to forget their cares. They could bushwalk, go fishing or shooting, collect wildflowers, swim in the baths, picnic, go boating, take excursions around Brisbane Water etc. The boarding houses and hotels entertained visitors with games, launch trips, cricket matches, fancy dress parties and cards nights. "Louisville" was renamed "White Sails" at a later date. This elegant two storey house with wide verandas and patterned Wunderlich art-metal ceilings was demolished in 1979.

 woy woy17.JPG
Calvert's original Bayview Hotel, circa 1910s.


The old Bayview Hotel: The old Bayview Hotel stood on the corner of Railway and Charlton Streets. This Hotel was an elegant two storey brick building opened in 1907 by William H. Calvert. It had a lovely façade and veranda with ornate timber work and cast iron decoration. Calvert had built the Woy Woy Hotel in 1897, and built the first Bayview Hotel in 1907.

At this time, the hotel was well placed to serve tourists coming straight off the trains, as it was opposite the old single line platform. When the line was duplicated, the station shifted north, and the old Bayview may have lost its competitive edge over the older Woy Woy Hotel. 

In 1928 the 'new' Bayview Hotel opened. The old hotel eventually became the Nielsen Slipper factory. 0n 10th April 1957 Osti Knitting Industries Pty. Ltd. took over the building as temporary accommodation. The indignities suffered by this grand old lady when turned into a factory tore away all vestiges of elegance and character. Her beautiful decorative façade was removed, and verandas enclosed with fibro. A beautiful building had been reduced to an ugly block.

woy woy18.JPG

 
The remnants of Warner's "Alecia" tea room after demolition of the western end (left) for an unsympathetically designed bank. Beryl Strom photograph, circa 1980s.

"Alecia" tea and dining room: In Blackwall Road, the Peninsula Budget Meats building can be seen with its decorative turrets. If you go to the main plaza in Wyong you will find some shops with almost identical facades, and the former grand home "Strathhavon" on Wyong Creek reflects this style of architecture. The link between the three sites is the original owner of both, Albert Hamlyn Warner.

The building you see in Woy Woy with the castellated turrets is only half the length of the original façade. The complex once extended to T. Noonan's shop, but was demolished when the Commonwealth Bank was built. Warner had a liking for ornament in his buildings.

Here at Woy Woy, Warner's premises were known as The "Alecia" Dining Room. As at Wyong, the ornamental turrets were designed to attract the interest of railway travellers. A dining room here would have been well sited to cater for tired tourists awaiting a bus, cab, or ferry to one of the many guesthouses in the district, or returning home after a short holiday.

woy woy19.JPG 

Noonan's Store, as it appeared in the 1980s. Beryl Strom photograph, circa 1980s.


Noonan's store: Thomas Noonan's 1914 store stands near the corner of Blackwall Road and Railway Streets, on the northern side. Until the 1960s this building had an ornate timber veranda and awning on the front. Noonan was from Hornsby. When first built one of the two semi-detached shops contained a tailor's shop, and in the other was a bakery with a dwelling, bakehouse, store room and stables. Noonan's and the old "Alecia" Tea Rooms form part of a precinct designed to cater for railway tourists.

 woy woy20.JPG
"Wagstaff", a familiar sight at Woy Woy, taken during its last run, 1967.

Ferries: Before the opening of the Rip Bridge in 1974, the many small communities around Brisbane Water relied heavily on small ferries to get them to Woy Woy and Gosford. Ferries were used for many purposes before reliable road transport. Crews and passengers relayed social news around Brisbane Water. Bodies of deceased persons were taken to Gosford for burial. Daily newspapers, mail deliveries and produce were regular cargoes.

Ferries from Woy Woy would stop at picturesque locations such as Veteran Hall, Lintern Street, Yow Yow, Myler’s, Davidson’s, Moore’s, Pine Tree, Empire Bay, Sunnyside, Eulalie, Kincumber South and Kincumber Creek.

In 1905 the Pioneer Ferry Service, operated by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, commenced operations for Kincumber Orphanage patrons and visitors. This was the beginning of regular ferry services on Brisbane Water. Ferries such as the "San Jose (pronounced San Joase), "Southern Cross", and "Stella Maris" were well known and loved by holidaymakers and locals, and very familiar to Woy Woy locals.

Kincumber Growers’ Co-operative Company Ltd was formed in July 1921. Local farmers required a simple and rapid means of getting produce to market and rail transport.

The first ferry, the "Kincumber", was built at Gordon Beattie’s Palermo shipyard on Cockle Creek and was launched in October 1921. The second ferry, "Avoca", operated for a short period. "Grower", another product of Gordon Beattie’s Cockle Creek yard, was launched on 29th September 1924 to carry produce and passengers. In 1924 the company shortened its’ name to Kincumber Growers' Ltd. The ferry "Kin-Gro" joined the service in 1927.

The Growers’ Ferry serviced Davistown, Empire Bay, Woy Woy, Sunnyside (Bensville), Kincumber South and Kincumber Creek. On 30th June, 1944, the service was terminated. Today a much-refurbished "Grower" operates between Iluka and Yamba in northern NSW.

 

woy woy21.JPG

Woy Woy Theatre, shortly after opening, circa 1922.


Progress for Woy Woy: 1920-40

Woy Woy Theatre: Woy Woy Theatre stood where the Peninsula Plaza shopping centre stands today. Before the Woy Woy theatre opened, travelling picture show men showed silent films in Piper's Hall, near the railway station, as early as 1911. Piper's Hall operated as a cinema through the 1910s, but by the 1920s it was becoming inadequate for the size of the town.

On Thursday, 13th April, 1922 the new cinema opened. The theatre had been built at a cost of over £7,000 by Thrift Bros of Scone. The theatre was huge by Woy Woy standards, and old photos show the building standing out very clearly on a sparsely populated Blackwall Road. It could seat up to 1,100 people, and was essentially a very large fibro hall with a flat floor, and raised back section.

The opening night feature was "Sleepless Knight", a silent comedy, shown with a news gazette. Reserved seats cost 1/6, adults 1/- and children 6d. The Thrift Bros sold the concern after only two years operation. In silent days, a three piece orchestra of piano, violin and bass provided the musical accompaniment. They played by candle light, which must have added to the romance.

When sound films came in, the hall was found to have very poor acoustics. Crepe paper was used to improve sound quality! Another feature during Mr Beckett's ownership was a pet boxing kangaroo. Riley Bros., of the local bus company fame, purchased the cinema in the late 1930s. Riley Bros. buses would take patrons home on a Saturday night, and local ferries would wait to run people home to Wagstaffe, Davistown and Empire Bay.

When the Rileys' owned Woy Woy, Ettalong and Umina cinemas, they would swap the programme at interval by means of a quick car or bus dash between theatres. The cinema gradually succumbed to the influence of television and licenced clubs, and closed for good in 1974. A. V. Jennings purchased the site for the shopping centre development you see today.

 woy woy22.JPG
Fred Couche in Masonic regalia

Masonic Temple: The 1920s was a time of great promise for Woy Woy. The town had a post office, cinema, police station, a good range of shops, and the Masonic Temple and Hall. The land on which the building stands was donated by Mrs Elizabeth Couche.

The Couche connection to this property provides links to pioneering days of Brisbane Water. Fred Couche, a large, friendly man with a hearty laugh, was well known in the district as a shell-digger for the ketch "Day Dawn", a racer of early racing boats, and the owner of Glenrock boarding house and many holiday cottages. Throughout Fred's life he was renowned as a saver of lives. He is recorded as having saved at 36 persons from Brisbane Water at various times. Fred received a gold medal from the Humane Society for rescuing a small boy from the path of an oncoming train at Woy Woy Station. Fred died in 1933.

The Trustees of the Brisbane Water Royal Arch Chapter received title in 1924. At 4.15 pm on March 10 1926, Fred Couche unveiled the plaque, the members then "ascended to their Lodge Room, where the dedication ceremony took place". A banquet of 100 members, wives and friends followed, with an orchestra playing till 2 am, "by which time all present had enjoyed themselves to the fullest extent".

Woy Woy Shire Council: Erina Shire was a huge local government area in the 1920s. The area it administered went from the Hawkesbury River in the south to Catherine Hill Bay in the north, and from the coast to the Old Great North Road. There were five wards or "ridings", all competing for attention and funds for roads and essential services. In 1921, a group of ratepayers formed an organisation to work towards the separation of the Woy Woy Peninsula area from the rest of Erina Shire. This was achieved in 1928, when the Shire of Woy Woy was constituted. Land developer and businessman C. J. Staples was the first President of Woy Woy Shire. During his tenure as president moves were made to construct a Council Chambers building.


 woy woy23.JPG
Former Woy Woy Shire Council building, 1970 (Gwen Dundon photograph)

Officially opened on 14th March, 1931, the building was designed by Clifford H. Finch, architect, and constructed by G.J. Richards. The site chosen was central to the business area of Woy Woy, and in front of the town park.

The undertaking was quite ambitious in a time of depression, and cost £1845 to build. The complex was developed in three stages. First the main Council building was opened 1931, and this contained the Council Chambers, the Shire Clerk's Office, Health Inspector's Office, Shire Engineer's Office and a Committee room. Next, a motor garage was built at the rear of the Council Chambers in 1933. This garage is now the Spike Milligan Room built into the Library. In 1935 a Fire Station was built on the eastern side near Woy Woy Cinema.

NSW Heritage states that the Woy Woy Shire Council building is "a good, intact example of Inter-war Georgian Revival style architecture. A feature of the building, indicative of the era in which it was built, is the use of stucco to hide the cheap "common" bricks."

Despite much local opposition, Woy Woy Shire Council was dissolved on 1st January 1947, along with Erina Shire and the Gosford Municipal Council. On that same day, Gosford and Wyong Shire Councils were constituted within the boundaries of the old Erina Shire of 1908.

 woy woy24.JPG
Volunteer firemen outside their new fire station, Woy Woy, 1935.

C. J. Staples: Charles Jefferis Staples had his real estate office on the  southern corner of Blackwall Road and Railway Street for many years. It was a pretty little weatherboard building, with a curved corrugated iron roof over the verandah. Charles was born in March 1885 in Melbourne. He left school at age 14. He held several jobs, several of which he admitted to having been sacked from. His father, Charles Raymond Staples, had been a land developer in Melbourne during the great land boom of the 1880s. Owing to a series of questionable bank and land dealings, Charles Raymond had served 3 years in gaol and became an accountant in Sydney.

In the 1900s land could be bought cheaply on the Woy Woy Peninsula. With his company C.R. & E.R. Staples, the Melbourne land boomer was busy subdividing land in this district. "Ocean Beach Model Township", "Our Boys Estate", "Welcome Home Estate", "Royal George Estate", and many others were subdivided locally by Staples & Co. in the period following World War 1. Charles Jefferis Staples had, after a series of jobs at newspapers, joined his father in subdividing land at Woy Woy, Newcastle, the South Coast, and in the Blue Mountains. Clever marketing of subdivisions made Staples prosperous once more. In the depression of the 1930s the Staples reportedly "lost the lot". In 1930, Charles was appointed editor of the Gosford Times. After a dispute with the manager over dismissal of an employee, Staples Jnr. was sacked in less than a year.

Charles made a new start with Brisbane Water Free Press newspaper. Despite very difficult times, the Staples eventually came to own all of the Gosford Times, which ran up to 1961. Staples became involved in civic life from 1920, when he was first elected to Erina Shire Council. In 1922-23 he began to agitate for Woy Woy to become a separate Local Government Area. In 1927 this came to pass, and Charles was the first president of Woy Woy Shire Council. He held this position for three years. He retired. Later he made a comeback for another three years, with RSL backing. Then he retired again.

 woy woy25.JPG
The first car to reach Woy Woy, March 1923.
(C.J. Staples is in the back seat, in white)

In March 1923, Staples, and several others journeyed by car over a route mapped out by Staples, from Kariong to Woy Woy. This they did by clearing the timber from in front of the car as they drove. Today Woy Woy Road is a tribute to Staples and his drive and tenacity. He was prominent in the formation of the Gosford Municipal Council and in the fight for Gosford District Hospital. He was also Deputy-Mayor of Gosford Shire Council under W. C. Grahame.

The story doesn't stop there. In later life C. J. Staples became the Gosford District Coroner. His first case was a multiple murder-suicide at Ourimbah, and his comments on some cases made national headlines. He retired for the last time in 1963, at the age of 78. He died in Sydney, in 1973, at the age of 88 years. This man, who could justly be called "Mr Woy Woy", did a lot for the town, and deserves to be remembered.

 woy woy26.JPG
Unveiling of Woy Woy War Memorial, Anzac Day 1925.

Woy Woy War Memorial Park: In the aftermath of WW1, many communities mourning the loss of so many young men and women turned their minds to permanent memorials to the fallen. In 1922 the Trustees of the Cox Estate worked a land exchange whereby they would give a rectangular block of land about 1000 feet long by 600 feet wide along the waterfront, for a narrow strip of land along Brickwharf Road.

Woy Woy faltered in its initial moves towards a memorial. In 1923 it was reported that, although a German machine gun on a sleigh mounting had been offered by the NSW State Trophy Committee, and the following year a trench mortar was offered, no one actually accepted these offers. All war trophies had been disposed of to other towns, and Woy Woy missed out.

On Anzac Day 1925 Brigadier-General Alex Jobson D.S.O., unveiled the war memorial. It was not officially dedicated until 19th October 1932, when Sir Phillip Game, Governor of NSW, proclaimed 'Soldier's Memorial Park'.

In connection with this official dedication, a group of Woy Woy Sub-Branch of the R.S.L. members, with the assistance of Woy Woy Shire Council, had created something quite marvellous. The Gosford Times of 20th October, 1932 gives the following description of the park, which was designed by L. H. Webber, Woy Woy Shire Engineer.

"The memorial park is laid out in the form of a huge Commonwealth flag being nearly 400 feet long and 130 feet wide. The Union Jack is defined by red granite paths and flower beds; the seven stars are flower beds edged in stone. Superimposed on the Union Jack is a raised Victoria Cross upon which stands the memorial obelisk, a captured cannon and, in the centre, a stone 'altar of sacrifice' which forms the base of the flagstaff. Bordering the park on two sides are rows of native trees, each bearing the name of a soldier killed in action. The entrance gate is in the form of a 1914-15 star supported by massive stone pillars upon which it is intended to place bronze plaques bearing the names of various battle fronts. Each pillar will be capped with a stone bearing the words 'Lest we forget' ".

Another article, published in November 1934 explained the symbolism…

(1) The whole field is symbolic of the Commonwealth.
(2) Victoria Cross symbolises valor.
(3) Captured trophy symbolises victory.
(4) Altar of sacrifice (not yet in position) symbolises sacrifice.
(5) Cenotaph symbolises collective commemoration.
(6) Headstones symbolise individual commemoration.
(7) Union Jack at the head of the flagstaff symbolises Empire.

In 1974 a wall was erected, containing the "headstones" of nearly 1,000 locals. More recently another wall was erected to commemorate the fallen of more recent conflicts. The first Anzac dawn service in the Woy Woy district was held here in 1960, with 150 people in attendance.

woy woy27.JPG
 
Corner of Blackwall Road & Railway Street, Woy Woy, circa late 1920s.

Railway Street and flooding: Outside the railway station was the taxi and bus rank. 1920s era photographs show 7 or 8 buses and taxis waiting to take passengers and their luggage out along Blackwall Road to the many guesthouses in the district. Bert Vokes (Late A.I.F.) had a tiny real estate building right at the station entrance. When trains arrived this area would be bustling with people heading to catch ferries, taxis, buses or trains home to Sydney.

Woy Woy, being low-lying, has had its' share of flooding. Some lovely old photos survive of Blackwall Road and Railway Street under flood at Easter 1927. Men in macs are shown tying their dinghy to Noonan's veranda post. Bert Voke's real estate agency was surrounded by water, with the buses submerged to their axles. A 7 minute long travelogue, which may have been named with tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek, was called "Woy Woy: the Venice of Australia". 

 woy woy28.JPG
Blackwall Road under flood, 1927.

Woy Woy: the Venice of Australia: In this 1934 film by Claude Flemming, a couple make a trip to Woy Woy by train and visit the various attractions, such as the Bowling Club, Memorial Park, and Ettalong Beach. The wonderful scenery, beaches, mountains, and fishing are featured. The narrator tells a little of the history of the area and recommends the location as an ideal holiday destination. The narration is quaint to say the least, and owes much to the Benny Hill School of comedy.

 woy woy29.JPG
A Bullock team waits opposite the 'new' Bayview Hotel, circa 1930s.

New Bayview Hotel: Shortly after opening in 1928 an advertisement for the New Bayview Hotel boasted that it had: "beautifully decorated spacious rooms; hot and cold water in every Bedroom; Hot and cold Plunge and Shower Baths; Electric light; Splendid Cuisine. Best brands of liquor stocked." The Tariff was £ 4/4/- per week; 16/- per day. G. Robertson was the first proprietor of the new hotel. The phone number was Woy Woy 12.
 

woy woy30.JPG
Politicians and Councillors investigate a possible route for Brisbane Water Drive, circa 1940.

Brisbane Water Drive: The villages north of Woy Woy were quite isolated before the construction of Brisbane Water Drive. We have already read of the tragedies that occurred when people walked along the railway lines to reach Woy Woy.

If you wanted to get to Woy Woy by car, then you had to drive in along Woy Woy Road. The road we now know as Brisbane Water Drive opened to Woy Woy on 2nd November, 1941. Early names for Brisbane Water Drive were "Governor Brisbane Drive", the "Waterfront Road" or "Spooner Drive". The "Spooner scheme" was an unemployment relief work scheme. A State Government grant of £31,274 paid for the general road works, but Gosford Municipal Council provided £6,000 for the building of the bridge over the entrance to Woy Woy Bay. The 265 foot long bridge was of steel and concrete construction, and had a hardwood deck that was 18 feet wide between kerbs.  The bridge was supported by 36 concrete piles, each 15 inches square. D. & H. Woodward were the contractors who built the bridge.

 

woy woy31.JPG

The old Woy Woy Road Bridge, opened in 1941. Gwen Dundon photograph, 1976.

A slowly changing world: 1940-1960

The "Joyce" tragedy: In mid-May 1948, a party of workmates from the Nielsen slipper factory (the 1907 built 'old' Bayview Hotel) planned a weekend fishing trip. A 22ft cabin launch "Joyce", was borrowed from the father of one of the group. They left Ettalong anticipating a good catch. On Sunday 16th May a south-westerly gale blew up, which was described by fishermen as possibly the strongest in 10 years. Winds of 51 miles per hour were recorded in Sydney, with much damage to moored boats and yachts.

On Monday morning of the 17th May it was reported that two launches with a total of 11 people were missing. Another launch Syd had left Patonga, and was last seen off West Head.

An extensive search involving RAAF Catalinas from Rathmines, and search and rescue vessels failed to find any trace of either the Joyce or the Syd. Woy Woy residents hired a Lockheed Lodestar plane at a cost of £300 to search over 4000 square miles of ocean. The Joyce had a day's worth of food, fresh water, petrol and a small sail to survive if she was still afloat, and everyone concerned was hopeful this was the case. On Wednesday 19th May the RAAF abandoned the search.

Eventually, all 7 men were believed drowned.  A memorial to the victims of the Joyce disaster was eventually erected outside the Nielsen Slipper Factory in Railway Street. It is believed to have stood there up until the early 1960s. The memorial was moved to the Waterfront Reserve at Koolewong, where it was vandalised and neglected. Today, the restored monument stands at the entrance to Point Clare Cemetery.  

woy woy32.JPG

Spike Milligan supported local efforts to preserve St. Luke's Church, Blackwall.
Gwen Dundon photograph, 1985

Spike Milligan: Woy Woy, to outsiders, has always had a quiet, laconic sort of charm. Someone who was fascinated by the area, and who came to publicise it world wide, was the famous 'Goon' Spike Milligan.

Love or hate his humour, Spike had a great influence on how our area is viewed by the outside world. Spike's parents, Leo and Florence Milligan, settled in a small fibro house at Orange Grove Road, Blackwall shortly after their arrival from England in 1951. Milligan's parents were both characters in their own right. Leo died in February 1969 aged 71. Florence, who was well known locally for her charity work, lived to the age of 96 years, and died in July 1990.

Spike's humour, influenced by his childhood in India, army experiences, surrealism, grinding poverty, bipolar personality and lust for life made him world famous.

The Goon Show was a British radio show that started in 1951 and finished in 1960. The Goons included Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe. They exploded into 'austerity' Britain with surreal storylines, absurd logic, puns, catchphrases and groundbreaking sound effects. They ridiculed pompous authority figures and laughed at mankind's stupidity.

Major Dennis Bloodnok , Neddy Seagoon, Eccles, Bluebottle, Minnie Bannister, Henry Crun, Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty came to life in these bizarre pot-boilers that alternately made you weep with laughter or ponder some great truth.

When fame and stardom became too much for Spike Milligan, Woy Woy was there. Spike would visit his parents at Woy Woy to unwind, to explore the bush, and to write. He wrote much of "Puckoon" here in  the late 1950s.

One of the earliest (if not the earliest) known articles Spike wrote on Woy Woy was called Goon fishing. This appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in October 1959.

The opening lines give you a dazzling insight into local history …

"There is, somewhere in the steaming bush of Australia, a waterside town called Woy Woy (Woy it is called Woy Woy Oi will never know).  It was founded 2,000 years ago by the lyric poet Terence, but gained no favour until Australians landed there in 1787 with Captain Fred Cook, the then leading agent for Cook's tours. These tours were steadily gaining favour with rich convicts, who took the waters of Woy Woy Hotel in preference to the penal settlement that charged them 10 bob a night for bed, breakfast and hanging."

Locals remember with much chagrin one of Spike's most notorious quips: "Woy Woy is the largest above ground cemetery in the world". This line was typical of Milligan's humour, and it belies a deep appreciation of the bush and waterways of the district. Spike was an active supporter of the fight to save Riley's Island in the early 1970s.


Electric trains: Electrification to Gosford opened on January 23rd, 1960. Large crowds of rail fans and locals flocked to see the new shiny steel interurban cars. Some say that the timetables were faster in steam days. A newspaper report on the £4 million pound electrification project stated that: "Workers who catch the early morning city train able to have nine minutes more in bed - and still arrive in Sydney 22 minutes earlier". The Railway Department predicted savings of at least £750.000 a year when steam locomotives were replaced by electrics, and the article further stated that " At least 7,500 passengers are expected to return to the city from Gosford and Woy Woy between 1pm and 10pm. Altogether 28 trains will be provided. Ten of these will be stainless steel interurbans".

 woy woy33.JPG

Electric interurban train crossing the Hawkesbury River, May 1985
Gwen Dundon photograph

Trains of steam-era carriages hauled by 46-class electrics were still used well into 1960s and 1970s. Increasing numbers of commuters on all lines (not just the Main North) led to demands for better, more modern trains, capable of keeping to timetables. Locally, organised commuters groups formed to keep pressure on the State Government for improved rail services. Some of these groups are still in existence today. In 1970, the first double-decker stainless steel commuter train services commenced to the Central Coast. These trains were air-conditioned. During the financial year June 1971- June 1972 108,728 ordinary train tickets, and 33,314 Season tickets (favoured by regular commuters) were sold at Woy Woy.
 
Early in 1977 a programme of improvements to Woy Woy Station were announced. Costing $125,000 these improvements included 85 car parking spaces for commuters, the covering of the footbridge, and the installation of a public address system. Subsequent renovations, demolitions and new construction has resulted in a modern bus/rail interchange.

woy woy34.JPG
 Railway electrification souvenir, January 23rd 1960

Woy Woy Hospital: In 1971, Gosford Hospital Board accepted a tender of $396,000 for the building of a 34-bed hospital at Woy Woy. The hospital was opened on 20th November, 1971 by the Minister for Health, the Hon. Harry Jago M.L.A.

This event represented the culmination of a long struggle that began as early as 1959. In May of that year a public meeting attended by almost 250 people was held. At this gathering, the call for a hospital at Woy Woy was heartily endorsed. Woy Woy Hospital committee was formed.

An early donation of land at South Woy Woy was declined by the then Minister for Health (Mr Sheahan). Fund raising continued in spite of this setback. The support of the Woy Woy and District War Memorial Club, combined with the formation of a Ladies' Auxiliary contributed much to the eventual success of the project.

Today, Woy Woy Hospital offers Rehabilitation and Aged Care Services. They include a 33 bed general unit for sub-acute medical, palliative and post surgical patients as well as a 30 bed rehabilitation unit. 

woy woy35.JPG
Woy Woy Hospital, 1973.Gwen Dundon photograph.

Town centre stagnation and growth: In 1978, "Woy Woy: a district centre study" was published. A joint effort between a community advisory committee and Gosford Shire Council, the study attempted to identify shortcomings and opportunities in Woy Woy's Central Business District. In this report, Woy Woy was seen as "presently serving only as an expanded neighbourhood shopping centre with some civic uses".

The absence of a large supermarket was seen as an obvious shortcoming, and the townscape was seen to have "succumbed to garish advertising signs, power poles and directional signs, peeling paintwork and exhibits a complete lack of harmony in building design". The waterfront was seen as an area on which the town had turned its back. Man made and natural elements in the townscape were singled out for enhancement. In this report it was recommended that Wharf Street and parts of Blackwall Road should become a pedestrian mall, and that a "compact retail core" in close proximity to the railway station and parking areas be established.

More recently, Development Control Plan (DCP) 133, for Woy Woy Town Centre, has sought to provide a framework for revitalising the CBD and surrounding areas, by focusing on "Leisure, Lifestyle and recreational uses in the northern area, incorporating Woy Woy Village", and strengthening "the civic and retail core in the central area, the traditional retail "heart".

The DCP suggests that any additional development of the Deepwater Plaza and Peninsula Shopping Mall sites should complement, rather than compete with, other retail uses within the town centre". It also suggests integrating of these [shopping] malls within the established town centre by pedestrian linkages and access points." The DCP further recommends concentration of the "commercial [sector] along Railway Street and in the southern area, providing a transition to the residential uses on the fringe of the town centre".

Some recent (2006) Council planning documents provide a series of character statements for Woy Woy. This is the most recent overview of the "places" within Woy Woy, from the foreshores to the sand plains and the town centre.  These documents will steer many future decisions regarding the shape of Woy Woy, seeking to retain and enhance special qualities of the area and can be viewed at:

(Woy Woy Town Centre) http://www.gosford.nsw.gov.au/council/policies/dcp_register/dcp_133.pdf/view 

(Woy Woy area)
http://www.gosford.nsw.gov.au/council/policies/dcp_register/dcp-159-statements/woy-woy.pdf/view?searchterm=dcp%20woy

Current information regarding Woy Woy-Blackwall demographics can be obtained at: http://www.id.com.au/gosford/commprofile/default.asp?id=259&gid=280&pg=1

Central Coast social atlas may also provide useful data. This can be viewed at:
http://www.gosford.nsw.gov.au/customer/document_gallery/social_atlas/base_view

Other useful websites:

Gosford and District in pictures:
http://www.photosau.com.au/Gosford/scripts/home.asp

Gosford City Library Local Studies pages:
http://www.gosford.nsw.gov.au/library/local_history

Peninsula Community Access News
http://www.openwindows.com/news.htm

woy woy36.JPG
Children fishing, Woy Woy, circa 1984.
Gwen Dundon photograph.

Sources:

  • A history of Central Coast Schools (Local Studies LS 372.2099442 Hist)
  • Dundon, Gwen. The shipbuilders of Brisbane Water. East Gosford., The author, 1997. (Local Studies LS 994.42 Dund, GCL)
  • Erina Shire Tourist Guide, 1928 (Local Studies Microfilm, GCL)
  • Fisher, Darrell. The fishing industry on the Central Coast of NSW: its changing pattern. (Local Studies, GCL LS338.3727 Fish)
  • Gosford Shire Council Minutes, various dates (Local Studies Microfilm, GCL)
  • Historic building files (LSVF, various titles, GCL)
  • Maps and aerial photographs, various. (Local Studies, GCL)
  • Railways -- history (LSVF Rail, Local Studies GCL.)
  • Rooksberry, Michael. Every mother's son. (Local Studies, LS 994.42 Rook, GCL)
  • Tod, Les & Connolly, Brendan. Paddocks, Palaces & Picture shows. (Local Studies, GCL LS 791.43099442 Conn)
  • Woy Woy District Centre Study Advisory Committee & Gosford Shire Council Town Planning Department. Woy Woy: a district centre study, 1978. (Local Studies, GCL LS 711.4099442 Woy)
  • Woy Woy heritage walk notes (unpublished). Compiled by G. Potter, Local Studies Librarian, 2006
  • Woy Woy - history (LSVF Woy, Local Studies Collection, Gosford Library)