Page Sections: Land grants | Early residents | Early industry | Early transport | Historic buildings | Environment | Timeline | Bibliography
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.
Gwynneville was originally part of a grant to James S Spearing called "Paulsgrove" or "Mount Keira Estate". The Mount Keira Estate extended westward from where the railway line is now situated. Gwynneville is one of the older subdivisions in the Wollongong Municipality. It is thought to be named after John Gwynne, a farmer in the area. Allotments from the Gwynneville Estate were advertised for sale in the Illawarra Mercury on 12 November 1889.
Spearing's "Paulsgrove", 1884
According to the 1828 census, James Stares Spearing "came free" to Australia in 1825. Upon his arrival he received promises of two grants, each of 1000 acres, from Governor Brisbane. These became portions 7 and 8 of the Parish of Wollongong, and were known as the "Paulsgrove estate". Portion 7 extended west from Foley's Rd to about half way up Mt Keira and south from Lysaght St, North Wollongong to Wiseman Park, Gwynneville.
In December 1835, the Paulsgrove properties were conveyed to Lt Colonel John Thomas Leahy, who changed the name to Mt Keera. On his death in 1839 the property passed to his heir, his brother Daniel. Daniel conveyed the property to Robert and Charles Campbell in 1841. In accordance with the trusts of sale, the Campbells subdivided the estate into a large number of smaller housing and farm lots. These were sold piecemeal over the next few years. The subdivision was known as the Mt Keera Estate subdivision. (Paulsgrove Diary, 1988)
Mt Keera Estate subdivision, 1842
Maps of the area at this time confirm that the Mt Keera subdivision roughly encompassed Gwynneville in Lots 60-80 found North and South of Gipps Road, and Lots 85-90 found North of Murphy's Road and adjacent to Gleniffer Brae. Lots 66-70 encompassed the Dobing's bush area. (Gwynneville, [18--], [map]; Plan of Mount Keera Estate [map], 1842; Plan of Mount Keera Estate (2nd edition) [map], 1889); Subdivided land at Gwynneville [map], 1890.
In 1929, fifty residential lots with tarred and metalled roads, town water & electric light were advertised. They were encompassed by Kiernan Street, Gipps Road, Crawford Avenue and Foleys Flat Road.
In 1937, thirty blocks along southern Porter Street were released.
In 1938, the "Mountainview Estate" was developed along Eastern Avenue.
Also in 1938, there was a subdivision bordered by Frances Street, Foleys Road, Fairy Creek and Murphy's Lane (now Hillview Avenue). The advertisement notes that a regular bus service was available.
Wiseman's Park was also further subdivided in 1938.
In 1940, the "Sunnybank" estate along Murphys Road perpendicular to Eastern Ave was released. It contained 24 sites with electric light, water and gas.
In 1941, a further 38 sites were offered in W J Robinson's subdivision. In the advertisement for the land sale, the area is described as the "most popular and progressive residential centre in Wollongong".
(Robinson's 1st subdivision [map], 1924; W.J Robinson's 2nd subdivision [map], 1927; W J Robinson's 3rd subdivision [map], 1929; Robinson's 5th subdivision [map], 1937; Mountainview Estate, Woodlawn, Wollongong [map], 1938; Gwynneville - Frances Street [map], 1938; Wiseman's park 3rd subdivision [map], 1938; North West Wollongong [map], 1939; Sunnybank - North Wollongong [map], 1940; Robinson's 10th North Wollongong Station subdivision [map], 1941; Greater Wollongong City Council - Central districts [map], 1949).
As noted in the Land Grants section, James Spearing acquired one of the earliest land grants in the area. The 1832 census credits him with 400 acres of cleared land and 250 acres of cultivated land, as well as 5 horses, 50 cattle and 111 sheep.
In the 1832 Australian Almanac, Spearing was noted as being the "principal agriculturalist of the district". He had a beautiful garden well stocked with fruit trees and vegetables, two water mills and a windmill, with tradesmen employed at them. By 1830 he had had up to sixty-one convicts assigned to him, who performed most of the manual work on the property. (Paulsgrove diary, 1988)
The Gwynne family have a long connection with the area. They first acquired 100 acres of land within the Mt Keera subdivision, and held land well into the next century. Maps show that John Gwynne had property north of Gipps street, on lot 72 of the Mt Keira Estate. This land encompassed Eastern Avenue, William (now Moore) Street, Fairy Street and John Street, and extended east to Foley's Road and north to Murphy's Avenue. (Gwynneville, [18--], [map]; Plan of Mount Keera Estate, 1842; Plan of Mount Keera Estate (2nd edition) [map], 1889; Subdivided land at Gwynneville near Wollongong [map], Gwynneville 1890).
John Gwynne was heavily involved with operations at the Mt Keira mine, and was injured by a runaway skip on the mine tram line in 1888 (Illawarra Mercury, 14 June 1888). He also participated in an 1894 survey of the Illawarra area with noted local surveyor Carl Weber (Illawarra Mercury, 18 March, 1932). His will, probated in 1911, describes him as a farmer of the Gwynneville area and notes that he left all of his land to his wife, Anne Gwynne. (Probate of will of John Gwynne [Manuscript])
Edward Oxenbridge was born in Camden in 1839. From the age of fifteen, he made the daily trip from Appin down the Mount Keira pass to Wollongong on horseback, in order to deliver Her Majesty's mails.
In The Pioneer Sourcebook he remembers John Gwynne of the Gwynneville Estate who worked with him in the mail distribution. He also describes one occasion when he was held up by a bushranger. (Organ & Doyle, 1989, p87-89)
The Shipp family
The Shipp family established a connection with the Gwynneville area through their residence at Mt Keira at a time when "all the area west of Wollongong was known as Mt Keira" (Organ& Doyle, 1989, p81). William Shipp arrived in Australia with his brother in about 1851.
He worked for a while in the Wollongong area, before settling with his family in Gwynneville/Keiraville. He became associated with the Mt Keira Colliery when he helped to build the rail incline down to the harbour. He also assisted with the braking of the wagons down that incline.
His brother Thomas came to the area a little later, and worked in the colliery as a carpenter. (Organ& Doyle, 1989, p81)
The Shipps also describe other residents of the area at the time. They note that amongst the old families of Mt Keira must also be mentioned James & Thomas McGoldrick. (Organ& Doyle, 1989, p81)
James McGoldrick was described as a miner in an abstract to the title of allotment 17 - 18 of Gwynne's 1924 subdivision (lots 71 & 72 of the original subdivision of the Mount Keira Estate). (Abstract of the title of James McGoldrick, 1924).
According to a 1920 map, the McGoldricks resided in Moore Street, (Robinson's 1st subdivision [map], 1924). Mrs McGoldrick along with T J Gillis and Frank Gray, is also mentioned as one of the main workers at the Gwynneville School of Arts (Illawarra Mercury, 9 March, 1934).
The Pioneer Sourcebook notes that amongst the old families who purchased farms on the original Mt Keira estate were Denis Foley, Denis Williams, Mr Young, Percy Owen, William Northfield, Mr Zlotkowski, John Stewart, William Robson, John Gilmore, Hugh Higgins and John Spence.
With very few exceptions, the old holdings have changed hands. In some cases they have been cut up into smaller areas and re-sold. (Organ & Doyle, 1989)
One of these residents, Mr Young, later gave a lecture in the School of Arts describing 1870 as he remembered it. (Organ & Doyle, 1989, p.151)
Mr James Dean of Crown Street also describes many of the settlers in the area west of Wollongong, including Billy Ahearn, Dennis Foley, William Gwynne, Dennis Williams and Walter Buckle. He describes how on moonlit nights he would shoot opossums at Wiseman's Park, and notes that birds of every kind frequented the area.
He describes how at the top end of this park Mr Walter Buckle had a fine orchard containing some beautiful fruit, where the residents of Wollongong would often take a walk to gather fruit. (Organ & Doyle, 1989, p151)
As noted above, James Spearing was a noted early agriculturalist in the area. After the subdivision of his land the area continued to be used for agricultural purposes. A number of small farms used the land for grazing and producing different items ranging from oats, barley, maize and potatoes to fruit and other crops. (Yewen, 2004, p551-552)
Later, the area became noted for its association with the Mt Keira Colliery and the Hoskins-Australian Iron and Steel Works. The tram line which conveyed coal to the harbour passed directly through Gwynneville, and many locals were involved in the operation, upkeep and maintenance of the line. (Raxworthy, Oral history; Illawarra Mercury 20 Jul 1860, 26 Oct 1860 & 4 Oct 1888; Illawarra Historical Society Bulletin, Nov-Dec 2000, p 84-91)
The Federal Cokeworks was situated on the site now occupied by Beaton Park. It employed 32 men at the end of 1911. The adjacent gas works also dominated industry in the area. (South Coast Local History, Wollongong at work resource Kit, no3, transport changes, Dept of Education Professional Services Centre, 1978. p 27; Raxworthy, Oral history)
On the site of Wiseman's park a small brickworks operated for a number of years. (Organ & Doyle, 1989, p 156)
By the early 1920s, the business district of Wollongong was developing along the Princes Highway. A 1924 subdivision encompassing the western side of the Princes Highway and Gipps Street is described as prime land for business purposes. (Robinson's 1st subdivision [map], 1924)
Some later local businesses included:
S.A Denison & sons, Championship bread makers specialising in wheatmeal, located on Foley's Road. Their premises were built in 1939, and Mr Denison had to work long hours due to the labour shortage created by WWII. He worked through the night with the inside staff and delivered throughout the day.
Improvements made in 1947 included an oil fired oven, more space, new carts and more horses. The bakery won numerous championships in all open classes of bread for many years running (South Coast Times, June 11, 1951).
The South Coast Nursery, on Foley's Road. The nursery were reputed local growers and producers of high quality flowers, fruits and vegetables. (South Coast Times, June 11, 1951)
The grocery store known as Martin's Corner, Foley's Road. The store was well stocked with locally produced fruit and vegetables, and operated a delivery service throughout the Illawarra. (South Coast Times, June 11, 1951)
In the 1860s, the Illawarra district was re-zoned into municipal government areas. Gwynneville became part of the municipality of Northern Illawarra. At this time there were some important roads of considerable length which linked East and West in the district, including Foley's Road, Murphy's Lane and Northfield's lane. (Organ & Doyle, 1989. p 62)
In 1908, Gwynneville itself was approached by a narrow track, rather then a proper one lane roadway. (Illawarra Mercury, 23 Oct 1908). By the 1920s, Gipps Road had been established and a 1920s map notes that it was 66ft wide. (W.J Robinson's 2nd subdivision [map], 1927).. By 1934 this road was constructed of bitumen, and was the main road linking the Princes Highway and Keira Village (Keiraville). (Illawarra Mercury, February 9, 1934)
As noted in the Land Grants section above, there were many land subdivisions in the Gwynneville area throughout the 1950s. Advertisements for land in these subdivisions note that facilities included electricity, light, water, tarred and metalled roads and a regular bus service. (Robinson's 1st subdivision [map], 1924; W.J Robinson's 2nd subdivision [map], 1927; W J Robinson's 3rd subdivision [map], 1929; Robinson's 5th subdivision [map], 1937; Mountainview Estate, Woodlawn, Wollongong [map], 1938; Gwynneville - Frances Street [map], 1938; Wiseman's park 3rd subdivision [map], 1938; North West Wollongong [map], 1939; Sunnybank - North Wollongong [map], 1940; Robinson's 10th North Wollongong Station subdivision [map], 1941; Greater Wollongong City Council - Central districts [map], 1949)..
The Gwynneville area was separated from the city by the main South Coast rail line, which bordered Gwynneville on the Eastern side. The Gwynneville people were part of a group instrumental in having a railway platform established at North Wollongong from the late 1800s. (Illawarra Mercury, July 26,1887)
Gwynneville - Historic buildings
Originally a doctor's surgery, Elonera, the tudor house at 33 Foleys Rd, was established as an alternative school in 1973. It became the home of Wollongong's first Montessori Primary School in 1987. From its inception as a single teacher class of 15 students in 1987, the school grew to provide a number of classes by the late 90s. To accommodate this growth, they purchased the adjacent house which is listed on the NSW heritage register. Later, the school expanded into provision of secondary schooling and moved to Mt Ousley (Gwynneville Local cuttings file; NSW Heritage Office.)
Gipps Street Army Depot Memorial Wall
A wall memorialising the contributions made by citizen soldiers of the Illawarra during both peace and wartime is located in the Gipps street army depot in Gwynneville. It was dedicated in October 2000 by Edward Kenna, one of the three surviving Victoria Cross holders in Australia at the time, and came about through the efforts of The Association of Fourth Infantry Battalions Illawarra sub-branch. On the same day, the training depot was named after Major General Gordon Maitland who was a prominent World War Two leader (Illawarra Mercury, 9 October 2000).
School of Arts Hall and Wollongong Workshop Theatre
In 1934, a small hall of 36' x 25' was opened as a School of Arts opposite Wiseman's Park. The idea for the hall was conceived when "a few progressive spirits held a meeting on a log in the bush" in 1925. Planning and lobbying was then carried out by the North Wollongong Progress Association School of Arts Committee (Illawarra Mercury March 9, 1934; South Coast Times March 9, 1934).
The hall is now located at the rear of the Senior Citizens centre, and is used by "Wollongong's oldest theatre group", the Wollongong Workshop Theatre established in 1953 (St Brigid's 40th Anniversary Souvenir Book, 1988; Theatre in the Illawarra database).
Gwynneville Public School
The first classroom at Gwynneville Public School was erected in 1952. It was one of about 1500 classrooms of the type which were manufactured in England by the Bristol Aeroplane Company and imported between the 1950s and 1960s (Irving, 2001,p. 98).
Old English homes
According to Robert Irving "Wollongong has a small number of interesting houses designed in the Old English style of architecture", a good example of which can be found in Acacia Avenue Gwynneville. Though small and modest, the house captures the character of the style, with its precise dark brickwork, steep and gabled main roof, 'catslide' porch, repeated round arches, corbelled eaves, leaded upper sashes and buttress form chimney. (Irving, 2001, p. 60).
St Brigid's Catholic Church in Gipps Rd was designed by Sydney Hirst and built by A W Edwards group. It is typical of ecclesiastical architecture of the post war period, displaying a religious character without the elaborate ornamentation of Gothic Revivalism. Its narthex, lofty gable and tall windows displays a no-nonsense interpretation of medieval architecture. It is also interesting to note that the light straw coloured bricks are "reputed to have been the first of their kind to be made at Bulli Brickworks". (Irving, 2001, p.87)
It is interesting to compare this to St John's Anglican Church found on the corner of Eastern Avenue and Moore Street, designed by Robert M Wilson and built in 1972 by Osron Constructions. While it also displays the modern simplicity of such buildings in the post war period, its main structure is low slung with horizontal emphasis that contrasts with the vertical spire motif of the building's corner. (Irving, 2001, p. 118)
Gwynneville - Environment
Gwynneville is a predominantly urbanised suburb located within 2 kilometres proximity to the city centre, and adjacent to the university suburb of Keiraville. A mixture of brick and tile and fibro cottage style single family residences and town-house, villa and unit style multi residential dwellings dominate the area.
Some small commercial premises and community facilities are also located in the village shops located along Gipps Road.
Gwynneville contains the junction of three major South Coast roads:
- The Southern Freeway (F6)
- Mount Ousley Road and
- The Northern Distributor
The interchange bisects the suburb and involves heavy private and industrial through traffic.
Despite its high density urbanisation and the existence of major traffic infrastructure in the area, Gwynneville retains some important environmental features. It is an essential part of the Keira Green Corridor. Its location between the foothills of Mt Keira and the city makes it an essential link between the prominent escarpment and its associated geography and the flatter urbanised area that is the city.
The streets are well populated with greenery, there is abundant birdlife and a number of bushlands and parks dot the area. Wiseman's Park and the adjacent bushy reserve are a prime example of this. Patches of remnant native grasses dot the park, and a large number of native species grow here including:
- Grey Ironbark (Eucalyptus paniculate)
- Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera)
- Prickly paperbark (Melaleuca styphelioides)
- Blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis)
- Woollybutt (Eucalyptus longifolia)
- White stringybark (Eucalyptus eugenioides)
- Forest Redgum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) (Davis, 1992).
In addition, one of the rarest plants in the Illawarra, Rulingia dasyphylla, grows here, and the Ironbark orchid, Dendobrium Aemulum, has been sighted here (Illawarra Mercury, 27 June 2001).
The mature trees of Wiseman's Park can be considered a nursery for future growth. As part of the local regeneration project, their seed is collected for the generation of saplings which are raised at Wollongong Botanic Gardens. The older and decaying trees also provide important habitat for native fauna (Environment Illawarra, 1992).
Fairy Creek is another important feature of the Gwynneville environment. It is the last continuous link between the escarpment and the ocean within the Keira Green Corridor. It drains an area approximately 7.6 square kilometres (Environment Illawarra, 1992).
Branches of the creek pass through Gwynneville at three locations:
Near the Eastern end of Murphy's Avenue, then Spearing Parade and Irvine Street, then the foot of the F6 freeway Near Waitangi Street and the F6 interchange, then Robinson Park near North Wollongong station
Near Acacia Avenue and adjacent bushland reserve, then Wiseman's park and Beaton Park
A January 2000 study of the Waitangi Street site identified a total of 171 plant species, 69% of which were introduced, 25% of which were regional native species, and 6 % of which were native but not regional. The natives encompassed 51 species, with Eucalyptus and Wattle types predominant.
The site was also identified as a refuge for various species of native flora, predominantly self seeded wattles, and fauna, including 94 species of vertebrate fauna across 45 families of fish, frog, reptile, bird and mammal. 85% of these were native, predominantly birds, and three species were observed to be breeding at the site.
Of particular conservation significance, the Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus pliocephalus) was observed to be using the site (Zammit, 2000).