Brisbane Water History Mural
The Atrium Food court, Erina Fair
Images supplied from Gosford City Library Local Studies Collection
Compiled by the Local Studies Librarian, Gosford City Library
The Brisbane Water History Mural is a visual representation of the major themes in our local heritage, from aboriginal possession by the Guringai and Darkingung peoples, through white settlement, to the year 2000.
44 panels show images of traditional aboriginal life; early European settlement and industries; shipbuilding; transport and social activities.
98% of images presented are from the local studies collection of Gosford City Library
The first inhabitants of Brisbane Water
Before the coming of the Europeans, Brisbane Water was the home of the coastal Guringai (Ku-ring-gai) people. The 'country' occupied by the Guringai extended from the northern side of Sydney Harbour, then along the coast to the lower reaches of Lake Macquarie.
The Guringai lived upon the natural resources of the area, collecting shellfish and fish, and occasionally catching 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, boomerang, club, stone hatchets and net bags were found in tool kits.
[Aborigines spearing fish and diving for crayfish, others diving for crayfish, a party seated beside a fire cooking fish] by Joseph Lycett, 1775-1828
(Reproduced with kind permission of National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an2962715-s17)
West of Mangrove Creek on the Hawkesbury River, the Darkinjung people relied on hunting marsupials, digging yams and other vegetables for their livelihood. The Darkinjung 'country' occupied an area reaching west of Mangrove Creek to the Rylstone district, north to Cessnock and the Wollombi areas.
[Aborigines hunting waterbirds] by Joseph Lycett, 1775-1828
(Reproduced with kind permission of National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an2962715-s6)
Exploration of Brisbane Water
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 good farming land 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'. On the first voyage, Phillip had found little of immediate use to the Sydney Cove settlement.
In 1789, a more thorough investigation of the 'north-west arm' was conducted. 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 by the Europeans.
Governor Arthur Phillip 1738-1814
Explored this district by water in 1788 and 1789
Brisbane Water and Gosford
Brisbane Water was named after Sir Thomas MacDougall Brisbane, Governor of N.S.W. between 1821 and 1825. The naming of Brisbane Water was contemporary with, but not necessarily connected to, the arrival of James Webb, the district’s first white settler at The Rip (near today’s Booker Bay) in 1823.
Gosford is believed to have been named after Archibald Acheson. He was the 2nd Earl of Gosford (1776-1849), and N.S.W. Governor Sir George Gipps served with him in Canada. Archibald Acheson was appointed Governor of British North America in 1835, and conducted a Royal Commission into the state of affairs in Lower Canada.
When the original 1839 survey map of the area was sent to Governor Gipps in Sydney, the map called the proposed township Point Frederick (after Frederick Hely, local landowner, who had died in 1836) The map was returned with the annotation “to be called Gosford”.
Sir Thomas MacDougall Brisbane
Governor of NSW 1821-1825,
Brisbane Water was named after him
1823: European settlement begins
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 October, 1823, Webb received permission to temporarily occupy 300 acres on the eastern side of the north-east (formerly the north-west) 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 'Mullbong Farm'.
James Webb died at Brisbane Water in June 1848. His age was given at the time as 90 years, but this is uncertain.
Patonga Parish map, showing James Webb’s 1823 grant “Mullbong farm”, at The Rip (Near today’s Booker Bay), and later grants that include Woy Woy
Clare’s Bridge, old Great North Road
Frederick Hely, 1794-1836
Frederick Augustus Hely was the Principal Superintendent of Convicts at the time that he purchased "Wyoming" in 1824. Frederick arrived in Sydney with his family in 1823, on the ship "Isabella".
Hely was a very able and valued officer, who had aspired to retire to Gosford as local magistrate. He purchased adjoining grants on the west side of Narara Creek. At the time of his death, Hely's estate consisted of over 4,000 acres.
The obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald of 12th September, 1836 conveys something of the regard in which Frederick Hely was held:
"Mr Hely was a gentleman of correct deportment and of highly moral principles. In the discharge of his official duties he was influenced by none: and we have reason to believe that few gentlemen in the colony were more generally successful in acquiring the good opinion of the respectable classes in colonial society".
Frederick Augustus Hely, 1794-1836.
Superintendent of convicts, and owner of Wyoming
Some Local placenames
Boora Boora: Believed to mean “Big Bay”, and possibly the aboriginal name for Brisbane Water
Bouddi: Aboriginal, meaning "The heart".
Calga: Aboriginal, meaning "The mouth".
Erina: Meaning uncertain, but believed to be a corruption of the aboriginal word "Yerin", meaning an object of fear, but applied to a place of initiation.
Ettalong: Aboriginal for "place for drinking".
Kariong: Aboriginal meaning "a meeting place".
Kincumber: Aboriginal in origin, which could have one of three meanings. The most popular choice is "Towards the rising sun". Other possible meanings include "To tomorrow", or "Old man".
Koolewong: Aboriginal, believed to mean "Koalas there".
Kulnura: Aboriginal, believed to mean "up in the clouds".
Kurrawyba: Aboriginal name for The Skillion, Terrigal. Means "big rock in the sea".
Narara: Meaning uncertain: Possibly aboriginal word for "Black Snake" or "Rib" or "Bones".
Ourimbah: Aboriginal word for "the sacred circle on the initiation site for investing the "Oorin" or belt of manhood.
Patonga: Sometimes written on early maps as "Betonga", means "oyster" in aboriginal.
Terrigal: Meaning uncertain. Possibly "a place of, or where one can find wild figs" or "a place of little birds"
Umina: Aboriginal for "place of sleep".
Wamberal: Aboriginal for "where the sea breaks".
Woy Woy: Aboriginal for "much water" or "big lagoon".
Yattalunga: Name believed to have been given by Mrs Gale to the former "Broadwater Estate'. it is aboriginal for "watering place".
Kurrawyba: Aboriginal name for The Skillion, Terrigal.
Means "big rock in the sea".
Early Industry in Brisbane Water
One of the earliest industries in the Brisbane Water district was that of collecting shells for lime manufacture. Shells mined from natural shell banks and aboriginal middens were transported to Sydney for burning. Lime obtained in this way was used in mortar for building.
Shipbuilding was centred around Blackwall, Kincumber, Green Point, Empire Bay, Davistown, Erina Creek and Terrigal. Early shipbuilders of the district included Robert Henderson of Saratoga, Jonathan Piper of Kincumber and the four Davis brothers, Ben, Thomas, Rock and Edward. Shipbuilding continued using local timber into the 20th century.
Timber-getters worked in the hills to obtain forest oak and ironbark for roofing shingles. Red Cedar was in high demand for furniture manufacture. Cedar getting began in 1820 and continued, to peak in 1830.
Alfred Settree’s ketch “Day Dawn”was built locally in 1869, and was active in the
early shell gathering industry
Townships for Brisbane Water
Early townships planned for Brisbane Water included private townships at East Gosford and “Belle Vieu” at Point Clare (the latter never eventuated), the Government Township at Gosford, and settlements at Kincumber and Erina.
The private township idea receded as the main township at Gosford became better established with a wharf, Church of England Rectory, watch-house and courthouse. Hotels and stores followed. The 1840s depression was responsible for much financial hardship in the district.
Kincumber grew as a centre because of its proximity to good timber, fresh water, and early industry. In the 1841 Census, "Cockle Creek" (an early name for the Kincumber area) had seven householders.
Christ Church, East Gosford, built 1858. One of the early churches built in the district,
pictured during removal to Mann Street Gosford circa 1906
Before the railway line came to gosford in 1887, the central business district was
centred around the Gosford wharf in Mann Street South
Shopping receipt from J. S. Barry’s Commercial Store, Mann Street 1884
Gosford Waterfront 1885
Brisbane Water originally went right up to Georgiana Terrace. Wharf Road is now known as Vaughan Street. Today, Gosford Public School stands where once there was water.
Coming of the Railway line
The railway opened to Gosford on 15th August 1887, coming south from Newcastle. The key obstacle to through railway travel and a direct connection to Sydney was overcome with the opening of the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge on 1st May 1889.
Land speculation was rife along the railway corridor in the 1880s, with many fanciful “township” schemes floated on the back of improved transport. Land in many of these schemes was very slow to sell, and what was shown so promisingly on maps failed to materialise in actuality.
The railway did bring real progress to an area previously dependent on steamships and poor, circuitous road routes. New land subdivisions were opened up close to Gosford, and services developed in smaller centres around Brisbane Water.
The 1880s saw much land speculation, based on the coming of the railway to the district.
The Runnimede Estate included the future site of Erina Fair
Economic growth in the 1880s.
The “town centre” of Gosford shifted from Mann Street South, with its ready access to the steamer wharf, further north towards the railway station. An influx of railway workers led to the establishment of a School of Arts in Gosford in 1888.
Farmers could get produce to market more quickly and economically than previously. Agricultural cooperatives were established to market and transport fruit far a field. Citrus orchards were planted on farms from 1880 where timber getters had cleared the land, and climate and soils were suitable.
As roads were developed, farming spread to Somersby Plateau. In 1897 the district produced 3% of the state's citrus crop, increasing to 21% by 1921 and 34% in 1928. Market gardens and passionfruit were also increasing in popularity in the district.
Gosford town centre, from the creek that once fed into Brisbane Water, circa 1885
Terrigal-built Paddlesteamer General Gordon was used to take passengers and luggage
between Mullet Creek and Hawkesbury River railheads in the early 1880s
Steamships provided the quickest means to reach Brisbane Water before the railway.
Advertisements for mail-order stores in Sydney were common
Gosford Public School (The School on the Hill)
March 30 1887
Regular steamer services visited Gosford into the 1930s.
Road and rail competition eventually won out
In May 1898 the Paddlesteamer Maitland was wrecked at Cape Three Points,
with the loss of at least 26 lives
A span of the first Hawkesbury River railway bridge being floated into position, circa 1888
Brisbane Water was a cradle of early shipbuilding, with over 500 named vessels being built between 1829-1953.
In its heyday, the local shipbuilding industry was second only to Sydney in terms of tonnage built.
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 States economic growth.
The last vessel built at Kincumber Creek by George Frost
was the Rock Lily launched in April, 1906
Shipwrights at Rock Davis’ yard, Blackwall
With the railway came steadily increasing numbers of middle-class tourists. They came by train to enjoy the swimming, shooting, bushwalks, boating, scenery and fresh air offered by a burgeoning boarding-house industry. In many ways, like the Blue Mountains, the Gosford District was a centre for early eco-tourism, before the term was coined.
Woy Woy, Terrigal, Empire Bay, Davistown, Avoca and Saratoga were all well known for their accommodation.
Terrigal, which had previously been a shipbuilding centre, developed rapidly as a tourist destination in the 1910s. Improved roads and cars lead to more tourism in the 1920s and 1930s. The Pacific Highway was completed to Gosford in 1930.
Phegan’s pleasure resort at Phegan’s Bay was advertised as
“an ideal spot, recommended by the medical profession”, with healthy, happy homes.
Boating on Brisbane Water circa 1910s
“Kyamba” cottage, a typical example of tourist accommodation in the 1910s
Phegan’s Bay, circa 1910s
In the early years timber-getters worked in the hills to obtain forest oak and ironbark for roofing shingles. Red Cedar was in high demand for furniture manufacture. Cedar getting began in 1820 and continued, to peak in 1830. Henry Donnison of Erina was one of the early fathers of the local timber industry. Donnison saw in the huge blue gum, turpentine and blackbutt trees the possibilities of large-scale timber getting.
Up to 50 assigned convict servants were employed on Donnison's lands, many as pit-sawyers. Logs were felled and dragged by bullocks and chains to a sawpit close by. Men worked in pairs, with team comprising a top man and a pit man. A long crosscut saw was used. Sawing logs in this way was a very hot, slow, dirty and dangerous process.
In early times local timber mills provided weatherboards, laths (small strips of timber used in walls and ceilings, providing a base for plastering) and shingles for roofing.
As can be seen in this early photograph of Kincumber Public School, timber was used for weatherboards, fences, gates and a multitude of other uses
Gosford railway yard was full of locally cut railway sleepers and mine props in this 1911 view
Hardwood sawmills flourished in the heavily timbered Lisarow and Ourimbah areas
Bullock teams were ideally suited to the demanding role of extracting logs from the bush over muddy tracks. Peach Orchard Road, Ourimbah, 1912
Bob Young’s blacksmith shop, Gosford
Slab timber polling booth, Mangrove Mountain
Gosford in the World War 1 era
In 1911 there were at least 17 boarding houses in and around the Woy Woy District alone.
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, and take excursions around Brisbane Water.
The boarding houses and hotels entertained visitors with games, launch trips, cricket matches, fancy dress parties and card nights.
In the 1900s land could be bought cheaply on the Woy Woy Peninsula. Staples and Co. were busy subdividing land in this district, using clever marketing. "Ocean Beach Model Township", "Our Boys Estate", "Welcome Home Estate", and many others were subdivided locally by in the period following World War 1. As transport and facilities gradually improved, smaller settlements began to grow.
Commerce Street (The Entrance Road), circa 1910s
Erina can be seen in the right background
Terrigal Beach, 1914
“Australia Day” Parade Float for Gosford War Relief League, Mann Street, Gosford, July 1915
Panoramic view of Jeweller & Watchmaker Charles Harvey’s house, corner Etna and Mann Street North, Gosford, circa 1919
C.R. Staples & Co. Ltd office, corner Blackwall and Railway Streets, Woy Woy, circa 1920s
Ford cars lined up on route to Gosford Show, Mann Street Gosford, circa 1920s
“Woodlands” and “Palatta” orchards, Somersby,
‘Smoko’ on William J. Martin’s property, Matcham
Holiday crowds returning home to Sydney from Woy Woy, circa 1920s
Picture theatres sprang up at Woy Woy, Terrigal, and Gosford. Small settlements were visited by travelling picture-show men
Community effort to clear the land for Holgate Public School, circa 1927
“Manly House” holiday boarding house at Wagstaffe, circa 1928
Fishermen show off their catch at Patonga,
The opening of the Pacific Highway through Gosford in 1930 led to a rise in the number of cars journeying through the district. This was good for business and tourism
Avoca Beach lifesavers and surfboat, circa 1930
Holiday crowds on the waterfront at Terrigal,
Erina 2nd Grade Rugby League team 1931
The ketch M.V. Erina II in frame at Empire Bay, circa 1934. The Erina II served in WW2, and later ran aground off Cape Gourden, New Guinea in November 1954
Woy Woy Fire Station and staff, circa 1935
Hilton Ferguson with jewfish, Pearl Beach, circa 1936. The tree behind was a trophy tree, where fishermen nailed the heads of their catches.
Women lifesavers, Terrigal 1943
Telephone exchange operators, Gosford,
The 1920s and 30s
The post World War 1 period saw many material advancements in the district centres. Streetlights were switched on in Gosford for the first time in November 1923. The first electricity installation in the district was located on the corner of Erina and Watt Streets, Gosford, and operated from 6pm to midnight. In January 1929 Gosford High School, the first High School in the district was opened after many years of lobbying by local parents.
Construction work on the Pacific Highway was completed to Gosford in 1930. Prior to the new road's completion, travellers endured a long journey via Wiseman's Ferry and Mangrove Mountain over rough and winding roads. Glamour came to the Gosford District in September 1937, when the Regal Cinema opened on the corner of Mann and Donnison Streets. This was the most luxurious and stylish cinema built in the district. This Art Deco/Moderne style masterpiece was sadly demolished in 1978.
In March 1938 town water was made available to Gosford, when the Mayor turned on the new water supply direct from Mooney Dam. Town water was a luxury in many parts of the district until quite recently. Gosford Fire Station was completed on the corner of Gertrude Street (Henry Parry Drive) and William Street in 1939. In this year the Mayor accepted the people's decision to allow Sunday sport at Grahame Park.
Brisbane Water County Council came into existence in 1942, to coordinate the three separate electricity undertakings conducted by the Municipality of Gosford, the Shire of Woy Woy, and Erina Shire. The BWCC was amalgamated with Sydney Electricity in 1980.
World War 2 and after
After WW2 the Gosford District experienced rapid growth. Gosford District Hospital was opened in 1945. A new road bridge was opened across the Hawkesbury River in the same year, replacing two car ferries.
On 1st January 1947, Erina and Woy Woy Shire Councils, and Gosford Municipal Council were reconstituted as two councils. The two new shires were Gosford and Wyong.
Post WW2, the main areas of settlement were Gosford, the Narara Valley, and the Woy Woy Peninsula. Transport improvements in the 1960s brought Sydney closer. Railway electrification to Gosford was opened in 1960.
In 1954 the Gosford district population stood at 25,512. By 1964 it was 39,920. This figure had doubled by 1980.
The District’s economy was gradually changing from an agricultural one to a light industrial and tourism based economy. More people were living on the Central Coast. Many still commuted to other areas for employment.
In 1962 the Upper Mooney Dam was opened. Mangrove Creek Weir was constructed in 1975.
Planning for a major new dam began in the 1970s. the Mangrove Creek Dam opened In July 1982.
The City of Gosford was constituted on 1st January 1980. The census of 1981 recorded a population of 94,369 persons.
Hotel Terrigal, Terrigal Drive
circa late 1950s
Hotel Florida’s advertisements promoted sophistication, style, and elegance,
Hotel Florida, Terrigal
circa late 1950s
Gosford Quarries supplied fine sandstone
to projects across Australia,
Sungold citrus fruit packing house, Gosford,
Colourful labels decorated locally grown produce, and were recognised across Australia
The only Drive-in theatre on the Central Coast, the Skyline or Gosford Drive-In as it was known held many fond memories for local residents, and holiday visitors.
Construction of the complex, which had its entrance at today's Penrose Street, began in July 1957.
Occupying much of the old Archibald orchard site, the opening feature in February 1958 was "Green Fire", a B-grade romance set in Columbia, and starring Stewart Granger and Grace Kelly. Entry prices were 5 shillings for adults, and 1 shilling for children.
Drive-ins were large outdoor cinema complexes, where you watched the movie from your car.
Bulky speakers were attached to partially wound-down windows, and refreshments could be either brought from home (boring!) or purchased at a central cafeteria. Advertisements for the Drive-in highlighted the "complete informality" and "casual dress" of the medium. Pony-rides, children's playground, and cafeteria and snack bar were all available.
Despite a good start, attendances at Erina soon dwindled because of television. The seasonal nature of the Central Coast's tourism industry meant that for much of the year business was very quiet.
Wednesday, 27 March, 1985 saw the last screening at Erina. The final feature was the Arnold Schwarzenegger film "The Terminator", supported by Sylvester Stallone in "First Blood"
The future site of Erina Fair, circa 1957.
This photograph shows the Erina Drive-In (Centre), and surviving orchards. A small number of local shops were located on Commerce Street (The Entrance Road)
The Gosford District promoted itself as friendly, fast-growing and fun
Railway electrification came to Gosford in January 1960. Steam trains operated north of
Gosford until the early 1970s
Tourism continued to be a seasonal mainstay of the local economy, but development potential and light industry were becoming increasingly important
‘Dino’ (named after Fred Flintstone’s pet dinosaur) during construction at Wyoming, circa 1963.
Now known as ‘Ploddy’, the dinosaur has moved to Somersby
The Rip Bridge under construction, 1973
Road improvements in the 60s and 70s opened up new residential areas
Margin’s soft drinks have been a part of the Central Coast scene since 1906
On Monday, 24 August 1987, what was promoted as "the largest single level shopping centre in the Southern Hemisphere" was opened as "Central Coast Fair".
Around 1973, Grace Bros Ltd. commissioned a study to examine Erina's potential for development as a retail centre. Erina's commercial activity was centred on The Entrance Road, with wholesaling, service industries and warehouses along the main road. Remnants of the earlier sawmill days still remained, along with poultry farms and orchards.
Grace Bros owned a 30-acre site off Karalta Road Erina and believed that it was an excellent location for a retail shopping centre. Additional land, in the form of the old Drive-in, was acquired for car parks and large retail stores much later.
At the time of opening, major tenants included Grace Bros, Big W and Target department stores, Woolworth's and Franklin's supermarkets, and 95 specialty shops. The floor space of the Centre was roughly equivalent to six football fields.
A second stage was on the drawing board at the time of opening. 51,000 shoppers took advantage of opening specials on the first Monday. A sale at Best & Less of 1c panty hose saw stock exhausted in 30 minutes. Angus & Coote Jewellers promoted 10 $400 rings for $10 each, and these sold out within minutes.
During 1994 Erina Fair stage 2 opened. Estimated to cost $85 million, the extensions saw the shopping complex grow in size by at least 10%. The naturally lit Boardwalk, a new eatery and car park extensions were features of the new development.
In 1996 an eight-screen cinema complex was added, near the site of the old Drive-in that had closed in 1985.
In 2003 Stage 3 redevelopment of the new retail space The Corner, with new Coles supermarket, specialty retailers and a new Central Coast-history themed eatery The Atrium took place.
Following an extensive public consultation process, a new community civic square precinct, The Hive opened.
This area includes Gosford City Council's Erina Centre, with Branch Library and Youth Recreation Services, and a community hall. Other facilities include an ice rink, health and fitness clubs, restaurants and cinemas.
Erina Fair 1994
Erina Fair 1994
Erina Fair 1994