City of villages IV

What about Sydney’s coastal villages? While Aboriginal people ranged their lands along the shores of Sydney’s waterways, the country was called by diverse names, some of which were appropriated by the Europeans, whether they understood them or not. Coogee, Maroubra, Narrabeen and Barrenjoey are in this category, along with many others.

Barrenjoey Head 2004, Courtesy Airview 0409-1406-51

As the new inhabitants spread up and down the coast, and along the bays and inlets of the Sydney basin, they constructed new localities and villages for themselves, which remain part of the mental maps of most Sydneysiders.

The northern beaches, from Manly to Barrenjoey, had their development delayed by transport difficulties and also by legal difficulties after the Wentworth estates on the northern shore were tied up in the Bassett-Darley entail, as outlined by Tony Dawson.  Some areas developed because of their beachside location, both on the ocean, like Manly and Fairy Bower and on the harbour, such as Clontarf and Little Manly. All of these became pleasure resorts, with ferries, gardens and amusements to match, although Clontarf’s reputation was tarnished when a Fenian tried to kill a  royal visitor there in 1868. The Corso at Manly was envisioned as a promenade with hotels, tearooms and entertainment, set along a scenic boardwalk between harbour and ocean.

Further north on the peninsula, much of Dee Why was left to the Salvation Army in 1885 by  Elizabeth Jenkins, whose convict father had built up the estate from 1825.  Aboriginal people still lived on their country around the Narrabeen Lagoon, as described by Peter Read, as they did further north on the Hawkesbury’s shores and islands. Warriewood and Palm Beach are among the beaches in Sydney’s north-east that developed as the city grew, and began increasingly to orient itself to the sea.

Many coastal villages were on Sydney’s southern beaches. The most famous are Bondi where Aboriginal people had left their markersBronte originally known to the Europeans as Nelson Bay,  Tamarama, site of the famous Wonderland City amusement park,  Coogee, and Maroubra. But there are also safe and well-used beaches along the shores of Botany Bay, many of which grew up as fishing villages, before becoming resorts for Sydneysiders. South of Botany Bay, Cronulla and the harbour beaches of Port Hacking offer seaside recreation to the inhabitants of the Shire, as well as providing Sydney rock oysters for the whole city.

Cronulla c1905, State Library of NSW a105197 / PXA 635, 197

We’ll be adding more entries for Sydney’s suburbs over the next few months and years, so make sure you keep coming back to see what’s new!


About Emma Grahame

Emma Grahame has been Editorial Coordinator of the Dictionary of Sydney since May 2007.
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