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Local History​​​​​​​​


The name Wollongong originated from the Aboriginal word woolyungah meaning five islands. Archaeological evidence indicates that Aboriginals have lived here for at least 30,000 years. Wodi Wodi is the tribe name of the Aboriginal people of the Illawarra.

Dr Charles Throsby first established a settlement here in 1815, bringing down his cattle from the Southern Highlands to a lagoon of fresh water located near South Beach.

The earliest reference to Wollongong was in 1826, in a report written by John Oxley, about the local cedar industry. The area's first school was established in 1833, and just one year later the Surveyor-General arrived from Sydney to lay out the township of Wollongong on property owned by Charles Throsby-Smith.

Our local steel industry commenced in 1927 with Charles Hoskins entering into an agreement with the state government to build a steelworks at Port Kembla, thereby commencing a long history of steel production that still continues to this day. Operations began in 1930 with one blast furnace of 800 tons capacity. In 1936, BHP acquired Australian Iron and Steel Limited and production at Port Kembla increased rapidly. The steel industry was a catalyst for growth for many decades, and laid the foundations for the city's economy, lifestyle and culture.

Wollongong is proud of its industrial roots, and is still known and acknowledged as one of Australia's leading industrial centres. While steel and other manufacturing industries remain an essential part of the local economy, the city has long recognised the need to diversify its economic base. Construction of the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge to the north has given even more focus to the burgeoning tourism industry, and information technology, hospitality, health services and telecommunications continue to grow as key industries of the region.

Wollongong enjoys a rich sense of community and cultural heritage, with people from more than 30 different language groups and 20 religious backgrounds living in harmony. A deep respect for others' traditions and regular celebrations of diverse customs add to the vibrant tapestry of community life and provide another dimension to our increasingly sophisticated city.

Wollongong Spy Glass 1948 to 2014

This online map (http://wollongong.maps.arcgis.com/) allows you to view aerial photography in the Wollongong Local Government Area (LGA) in 1977, and a moving spy glass allows you to see how our city has developed over time by comparing an area with photography taken in 2014.


The name Bulli appears to have been first recorded in the Sydney Gazette of 22 April 1815 when it was reported that one of a party searching for lost cedar-getters was at a place called "Bolye", thirty-five miles south of Port Jackson. In 1823 reference was made to a small land holding at "Bull Eye".

A 300 acre grant was promised to Cornelius O'Brien on 31 March 1821. His quit rent of six shillings a year was to commence on 1 January 1827. Cornelius O'Brien's house was the only one in this part of the district for some years. It was on the property of Cornelius O'Brien, and his neighbour William Bowman, that the township of Bulli was built. In 1841 the estate of Bulli, consisting of 900 acres, was offered for private sale. Later the estate was subdivided into farms of from 25 to 165 acres. For many years the name Bulli was used for all the country from Wollongong north to Coal Cliff. The original Aboriginal name for the area was Bulla or Bulla Bulla, meaning "two mountains" (Mt Kembla & Mt Keira). Other meanings of the name Bulli have been given as "white grubs" and "place where the Christmas Bush grows".

Early Industry

Bulli, a small coal mining township, first came into prominence in 1850 when Captain Westmacott made formal application to open up the Bulli coal field. Further delving into the mountain side occurred about 1859 and a company, known as Bellambi and Bulli Coal Company, was formed with a capital of thirty thousand pounds. Operations commenced at the Bulli Mine in 1861 when a tunnel or adit was driven into the seam about four hundred feet above sea level. The workings were connected with the sea-board by a standard gauge tramway. The line was officially opened in 2 June 1863. The first ship loaded with Bulli coal from the new jetty was the "Ironside". The Ship left with a cargo of seven hundred and fifty tons.

On 23 March 1887 the company gained world-wide notoriety in connection with the explosion at Bulli Mine. Eighty one persons were killed. Rescue work was immediately organised and the parties worked with great courage in clearing away debris and fallen ground to gain access to the mine. (Eardley, 1954)

Historic Buildings

Bulli Family Hotel

The Bulli Family Hotel opened its doors for business on September 6, 1889. This grand old building is a classic example of the Federation Filigree style of Australian architecture. The Architect was William Kerwood.

George Croft, a wealthy landowner, was the first owner of the hotel. The hotel was very grand for its day. It contained twenty eight bedrooms, an assembly room, a dining room, a billiard room, parlours and a bar. There were electric bells connecting the upper and lower floors, and the water supply, which came from three underground wells, was pumped up into iron tanks for the convenience and comfort of the guests in the apartments.

The charming and distinctive external appearance of the building has changed little in over one hundred years. It is a key townscape element and part of the Bulli streetscape. It has a high level of architectural significance as one of the best examples of this type of Victorian period hotel in Australia (City of Wollongong Heritage Study, 1991).

Denmark Hotel and Stables

This building is located at 202 Princes Highway, Bulli. It is a two storey building with a look out tower. It is a rendered masonry building with a corrugated metal roof, lace veranda and the rear section is built of timber boards (older). The rear lodging quarters of the original hotel (1877) were retained when the two storey front section was built in 1886. It was previously a stop over hotel in association with the Cobb & Co Coach. It also operated as a tourist hotel in 1896. It is a landmark building, with architectural and townscape value.

Methodist Manse and Church

These buildings are located at 96 Princes Highway, Bulli. The church is a small sandstone Victorian Gothic building with a tile roof. The Manse is a single storey brick house with a corrugated metal roof. The church was built 1864/5, and opened on the 7 May 1865. The church spire was rebuilt to the original design in 1962. The manse forms a valuable element within the Church precinct.

Historical Bulli - Early Industry.jpg 


James Martin was granted 50 acres of land in the Corrimal area in 1830. This land was sold to Dr. Cox in 1840. Corrimal was officially recorded as a place in 1839 when a grant of 50 acres was made to Hugh Kennedy and described as being "at Corrimal". A point on the range nearby was known as Mount Corrimal after the aboriginal warrior "Kurimul" (kori-mul). This point was known locally as Brooker's Nose after James Brooker, an early settler in the area. "Kurumul" was a 'dreamtime' warrior who took another man's wife. When pursued by the husband "Kurumul raced up the mountain and climbed a tall tree. The husband gathered wood and set fire to the tree, and Kurimul was carried up in flames into the sky".

Early Industry

Coal Mining

Thomas Bertram opened Corrimal Colliery (also known as the Corrimal-Balgownie Colliery) in 1883 and until 1887 coal was transported to the government railway by bullock team. A private colliery line was then constructed to connect with the government line by the Southern Coal Company, which had bought out Bertram. Coal from Corrimal was then shipped from the Southern Coal Company jetty at Port Kembla. By 1890, 60 men were working at the Corrimal mine and 200 tons of coal was being carried away per day. Coal from Corrimal Colliery was also shipped from Wollongong Harbour, Bulli and Bellambi Jetties. A colliery existed at Corrimal until 1985.

Streets Ice Cream

The Streets Ice cream Company came from humble beginnings. Edwin (Ted) Street operated a fruit run at Corrimal in the early 1930's before buying a mixed business and milk bar. He started making ice cream in a small churn, just after the Depression, to supply his milk bar. It tasted so good that other shops wanted to buy it and before long Mr Street was supplying ice cream to dozens of shops. He built an ice works and factory near the corner of the Princes Highway and Tarrawanna Road and the first deliveries to Sydney were made by van. Another factory was opened at Turella, in Sydney in 1947. Many locals still remember the huge neon sign, featuring polar bear licking an ice cream, that was outside the Corrimal works (it was also the first moving neon sign in Wollongong). Mr Street became a multi-millionaire in 1961 when he sold his business to Unilever Australia Pty Ltd for approximately $8 million.

Historic Buildings

Corrimal Public School

In 1889, with the population of Corrimal growing, the Department of Public Instruction selected a site on a hill on the Main South Coast Road for the Corrimal Public School. It was to be built by J. Mackie in a style similar to schools at Robbinsville (Thirroul) and Balgownie. According to Department of Education records the school opened in April, 1890. The original building still stands in the grounds of Corrimal Public School on the Princes Highway.

Mountain Mountain View (Wilgendene)

View or Wilgendene was a fine two story Victorian mansion built in the late 1880's. Located between South Bulli Colliery and the beach it is believed to have been the residence of the South Bulli Colliery mine manager before being sold to Mr C.P. Hansen who used it as a guesthouse in the early 1900's. It boasted 11 bedrooms and five bathrooms with its own windmill and underground tank. Wilgendene was set on approximately 30 acres of well tended gardens with many trees including Norfolk Island pines, cedar, coral and magnolia trees and many palms. Unfortunately over the years the house has fallen into disrepair and only the basic shell of the house survives.

Historical Corrimal Streets Ice Cream.jpg 


Windang is an aboriginal word meaning "scene of a fight". Windang is said to have been "founded" by William Turnbull. Turnbull purchased some land in the area in 1920 and erected a two story building called "Wyndang House". In 1926 the Post Office attached to this house was officially named Windang Post Office following a submission from Turnbull to have the name changed from the unofficial Lake Illawarra Post Office. The request was granted on the proviso that "the correct spelling be adopted namely Windang, which is that of the Island and Trigonometrical Station thereon in the vicinity".

The area now described as the suburb of Windang appears to have been designated as a Township Reserve on an 1834 map of the Illawarra drawn by the Surveyor H F White . This land is adjacent to the Five Islands Farm originally known as Illawarra Farm which was granted to David Allan. The name was changed to Five Islands Estate upon purchase by William Charles Wentworth. (McDonald c1988)

In 1896 a certain part of the peninsula was gazetted for defence purposes and in 1920 other parts for public recreation. Timber Licenses were granted on a timber reserve at the end of Perkins Beach. (Parish of Wollongong map 12th ed.)

Windang Island

The native name for Windang Island was "Kauyanggang" (Kanyangang) which meant "saved by the big bear who pulled the Island into its present position". The Island was called Windang Island as far back as 1848 when it was described in William Henry Wells' Geographical Dictionary as "an island situated at the entrance of Lake Illawarra, in the county of Camden, NSW".

Early Industry

Tourism and Recreational Fishing

Tourism and recreational fishing have always been of major importance in the area. Guest houses sprung up in the 1930's to cater for the tourist and the Windang Camping Reserves have never ceased to be popular (Picturesque Illawarra: the garden of NSW [1940]). Preparations for the construction of a breakwater on the northern side of Windang Island and a dredged channel commenced in 1890 to enable ocean going vessels to access the lake entrance. The scheme was abandoned in the early 1900s. (Barwick-Hooke, c1988).

Fish stocks in Lake Illawarra

Fish stocks can fluctuate from year to year depending on weather conditions. Species of fish caught in the Lake include Luderick (Black fish), Whiting, Bream, Tailor, Jewfish, Yellowtail, Mullet, Dusky Flathead, Mudcrab and School Prawns. (Massey, 1991)

Historical Buildings

Windang Boatshed

The boatshed was built by Ben Howard in 1936. Attached to the shed was a shop and seafood restaurant which Mr Howard and his wife Mary operated (Neels, 1988; Harrison, 1993).

Windang House

A two storey wooden residence located near the Lake bridge. Originally known as Wyndang House. Built by Mr William Turnbull in 1920 as a family home and guest house. A post office and Hooper's general store were attached. Sold in 1927 as part of subdivision of the land the house remained as a guest house until it was demolished in 1980.

Historical Windang Camping Area.jpg