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Traditional Custodians of Illawarra Land
Local communities of Aboriginal people were the original inhabitants and Traditional Custodians of Illawarra Land. Their dialect is a variant of the Dharawal language. Before European settlement, the Aboriginal people of the region lived in small family groups with complicated social structures and close associations with specific areas. Suburb boundaries do not reflect the cultural boundaries of the local Aboriginal community. Traditional Custodians today are descendants of the original inhabitants and have ongoing spiritual and cultural ties to the Land and waterways where their ancestors lived.
Parish of Woonona County of Camden
Moses Brennan received permission to occupy 800 acres in a small tract of land named Bullambee on 23 July 1824. The area was also known as Palamba. The Bellambi Estate was a 2,000 acre grant occupied by Miss Harriett Overington (later Mrs J S Spearing). The land was used in the 1830's by Mrs Spearing's husband as a sheep run. In 1842 the estate was subdivided and the village of Bellambi was laid out with provision being made for a wharf. The name Bellambi is a corruption of the Aboriginal word Beelambi meaning "no".
Palamba was another name for Bellambi. It was used in "The Paulsgrove Diary". It is not known whether this is due to misspelling or whether the present name of Bellambi is a corruption of "Palamba".
In 1824 Moses Brennan received permission to occupy 800 acres in a small tract of land named Bullambee.
Miss Harriet Overington held a grant of 2000 acres called Bellambi or Palamba. She later married James Stares Spearing who secured two properties of 1000 acres on the slopes of Mount Keira known as Paulsgrove. The Bellambi grant faced a small bay that was used for many years to ship cedar. It later became an important coal shipping centre.
A village was established on Mrs Spearing's grant in 1842 after its subdivision. The port became a rival coal port to Wollongong in the 1860s and a great deal of timber still remained on the property into the 1870s. (Cousins, 1994)
Pat Geraghty arrived in the Illawarra area in 1828 at the age of twenty five. He settled in the Bellambi - Bulli district. Pat Geraghty was the first man to bring a wheeled vehicle down the mountain. Pat and his brother Jim spent many years hunting down bushrangers who infested the coast.
Pat Geraghty had fourteen children and one of his daughters became Mrs Michael Cawley of Bellambi. (Long, 1980)
The Cawley family came to Australia in 1842 from Ireland. They were originally involved in business in Sydney and later engaged in business at Charcoal Creek (Unanderra). In 1846 John Cawley retired from business and took up land at Bellambi.
His five sons also took up land at Bellambi at the same time. The eldest son Michael married Jane Geraghty and they had five sons and five daughters. When Michael and Jane first lived at Bellambi they had a farm and an orange orchard. The land was eventually subdivided and Michael had to pay the full cost of putting a road through this road was named Keerong Avenue.
After Michael's death the land was divided between his five sons. They retained the land and sold it at various times, most left to establish orchards and farms in the Richmond River area.
John Cawley left 64 acres of land to the Catholic Church, this land left to the Marist Fathers became the site of the Holy Cross College for girls and St. Paul's College for boys.
The Cawley family also donated Cawley Park in Russell Vale to the Wollongong Council in 1939. The Cawley family once owned all of Bellambi. (Illawarra Mercury, 1972, 1940)
In 1857 Thomas Hale opened a mine at Bellambi. In addition to opening the mine Mr Hale constructed a jetty at Bellambi from which to ship the coal.
The first load of coal from Bellambi was shipped by the cutter 'Trial' which took coal to Sydney to be used by the steamer 'Washington'. "He also arranged for a wooden tramway to be constructed from the mine to the jetty and along the jetty to the loading places." (Cousins, 1994 The Garden of New South Wales p. 166)
By 1858 Mr Hale had two cutters, two schooners and a barque for his coal trade at Bellambi. He started the Illawarra's intercolonial trade with shipments to Adelaide and Launceston. Around 1858 Henry Osborne of 'Marshall Mount' purchased half of Mr Hale's Bellambi property for 7000 pounds.
Later in 1862 the coal mine became insolvent and the mine and leases were sold. (Cousins, 1994)
The mine then lay undeveloped until the Bellambi Coal Company Ltd. was constituted in 1888. This company had capital of 60 000 pounds to open and develop the Bellambi coal mine.
In 1901 the directors of the company decided to purchase the adjoining South Bulli Colliery. The company developed its own fleet and by 1908 the "Bellambi", a new steamer was built to its own design, it had a capacity of 1600 tons.
"The company commenced the electricity supply to the Bulli Shire on 3rd June, 1913, so in a matter of 25 years the company had not only developed a colliery but had established a power plant…" (Local Cuttings File)
The company's number 1 shaft was sunk and coal was struck on 12th January 1929. By 1934 the company's locomotive hauled coal to Port Kembla for the first time.
The South Bulli mine is still in operation today and has had a significant influence on the development of Bellambi village and the northern suburbs of Wollongong. "Since a coal mine was first opened, back in the 1850's, Bellambi has bound its destiny tight with the mining industry." (Daily Mercury, July 31 1968, p.17)
When Thomas Hale first opened his coal mine the principle of the self acting incline was adopted to lower the loaded coal skips down the steep hillside to the valley floor where they were unloaded. The coal was then transferred to bullock drays and conveyed to the village at Bellambi Point. It was then loaded into rowing boats for transfer to schooners and other small craft anchored under the lee of Bellambi Point.
Thomas Hale had a low, woodpile jetty constructed into six feet of water at low tide on the western side of Bellambi Point. A sharp nosed punt then replaced the rowing boats.
Mr Hale then built a tramway from the foot of the incline to the Bulli - Wollongong Road (now Princes Highway) and the line was later extended to the jetty at Bellambi. Work on the line commenced in 1858 and the course of the tramway followed the bush road used by the bullock teams when hauling coal form the mines. When completed the tramway had a total length of two and a quarter miles.
After the colliery was taken over by the Bellambi Coal Company a new gauge railway was built following the course of the old wooden tramway. The first locomotive to run on the line was a small engine built in 1879. (Clarke, 1968)
In 1844 a pass up the mountain was discovered by Captain Westmacott. This became known as Westmacott's Pass and later Bulli Pass. It was the main entry to the Illawarra from the north. In 1868 a wheeled vehicle was taken up Bulli Pass. (Cousins, 1994)
This house was built in c1887 for the residence of the South Bulli Mine Manager. The condition externally is poor and in need of major restoration. The building is of a rare design and is a significant landmark in the northern Illawarra. The residence is of uncommon style and size in the area and has a strong association with the coal mining industry. (City of Wollongong Heritage Study, 1991)
Cnr Brompton Road and Bellambi Lane, Bellambi
The Bellambi Hotel originally named the South Bulli and Bellambi Hotel was built in 1889. William Wilson the manager of South Bulli Colliery opened the hotel to cater for the miners and their families. Victorian architects Kenwood and Kerle were engaged to design the 21 room hotel which was opened for a cost of 2000 pounds.
"The Wollongong Argus newspaper described the hotel in great detail stating it had stables, billiard rooms and a fine balcony. The building contractor was Alex McDonald and the interior fittings and furniture were supplied by Wollongong iron monger Walter Vogan." (Northern Leader, 1999, p.17)
The hotel was remodelled in the 1950's and lost its ornate Victorian façade and wrought iron lace work during these renovations. It still has retained its old world charm. (Local Cuttings File)
Bellambi beach is part of one beach immediately north of Bellambi Point. There is a large playground and reserve with public toilets. The beach is at the southern end of a two kilometre stretch of beach and is backed by a reserve with mountain views. There is a boat ramp and small harbour nearby.
There is a surf club with a large car park available. Bellambi beach is patrolled during the summer. (Local cuttings file)
Bellambi lagoon is located approximately ten kilometres north of Wollongong. This lagoon, forest and dune system has an area of about one square kilometre. Despite being sand mined and encroached upon since white settlement it is still archaeologically and botanically significant. This is a unique natural environment of coastal sand and wetland and their associated vegetation areas. (Thomas, 1987)