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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.
Stanwell Park - History
Stanwell Park was possibly named after the village of Stanwell on the south side of London. Stanwell Park was also known by the aboriginal name 'Little Bulli'. Bulli means 'two mountains' and referred to the mountains on either side of the village. 'Little' was because Bulli already existed.
Will's Geographical Dictionary of Australian Colonies, 1848 notes that 'Stanwell Park' is situated at 'Little Bulli' on the sea coast in the County of Cumberland, NSW. This suggests that the farm may have been called Stanwell Park while the locality retained its old name.
In 1824 the Colonial Secretary's Office approved the granting of 1,000 acres to Matthew Gibbons. The grant was known as 'Little Bullie' and later Stanwell Park. The area Gibbons preferred was called 'Watermolley' (Wattamolla) but he was only given a certificate of occupation to this land.
The grant of 'Little Bullie' was actually made official in 1832. The deeds of the land were not actually issued to Gibbons by the Governor until August 1833. (Adams, 2005)
Mathew John Gibbons
Gibbons was born in England in 1765. At the age of 22 he was sentenced for petty theft in England and in October 1789 he was transported to NSW on the 'Suprize l', part of the second fleet. Gibbons arrived in Sydney Cove in June 1790. He was a servant, clerk and steward to Major Francis Grose, the founder and commander of the New South Wales Corps. Gibbons was officially accepted into the NSW Corps in 1793. After twice returning to England Gibbons and the rest of his family returned to Australia in October 1822.
Around 1825 Gibbons established a stockyard at 'Little Bullie' in the care of John Paid. In 1828 Gibbons reported that 10 acres of land had been cleared and were under cultivation. The property at this time had 4 horses and 71 cattle. Matthew John Gibbons died on 22 July 1835. (Adams, 2005)
John Paid was a convict transported to NSW for petty theft. He was assigned to Mathew Gibbons who sent him to Stanwell Park 'Little Bullie' to cultivate the land. John Paid soon decided that bushranging was a far more lucrative occupation. He became known as 'Wolloo Jack', leader of a bushranger gang that terrorised the Stanwell Park and Appin areas during 1827-28. He was caught and sentenced to death in June 1829. (Adams, 2005)
Major Sir Thomas Mitchell
Major Mitchell was Surveyor-General of Australia. He purchased Stanwell Park and "all the Coal Cliffs to Clifton in the 1840s". Major Mitchell built the first house at Stanwell Park. (Adams, 2005)
Australia's greatest contributor to the early science of Aeronatics. He was born at Greenwich, England on 29 January, 1850. The family arrived in Sydney on 15 December, 1865. Lawrence was an apprentice engineer at the engineering shops of Australian Steam Navigation Company.
He lived at 'Hillcrest' at Stanwell Park for six years and died in 1915. In November 1894 Lawrence Hargrave succeeded in lifting himself to a height of sixteen feet above the ground using four box kites. His invention of curved surfaces to give lift was adopted by all future aeronautical designers. This work gave impetus to the development of the aeroplane. (Walker, 1984)
Mathew Gibbons used the land at Stanwell Park to run small flocks of sheep and cattle. This small farm was run by the convict Jack Paid who had been assigned to Gibbons. (Adams, 2005)
Early residents worked on the construction of the railway or found work at the Helensburgh and Coalcliff coal mines.
A road from Wollongong to the Coal Cliffs was opened in 1868 but it was of very poor quality and in some sections was hardly more than a track. (Adams, 1986?)
In the late 1880's a five horse coach use to bring visitors along the dustry road to Bald Hill, Stanwell Park and along the cliff road. On the return journey all the passengers had to walk up the long road to Bald Hill.
In 1888 the first railway line to Stanwell Park was opened and the direct Wollongong to Sydney connection was completed. (Illawarra Mercury, 22/3/1984)
Stanwell Park Viaduct - Stanwell Park Creek Gorge
Location: Between Stanwell Park tunnel and Stanwell creek tunnel.
Built to span the deep gorge, it is the largest of its type in Australia. The Highest point is 215 feet and was constructed using five million bricks. It is crossed everyday by train services to and from the Illawarra. (Ali, c1981)
Lawrence Hargrave Memorial
Location: Lawrence Hargrave Memorial Park, 234/340 Otford Drive, Bald Hill
Memorial to Lawrence Hargrave - aeronautical pioneer and resident of Stanwell Park. He experimented with kites and gliders. He was known as the 'Father of Australian Aviation' and the memorial was erected in 1940. (Ali, c1981)
Lawrence Hargrave House - 'Hillcrest'
Location: Railway Crescent, Stanwell Park.
This residence was inherited by Lawrence from his brother Ralph. He built Hillcrest overlooking Stanwell Park Valley between 1876 - 1883. The residence is a single storey colonial Georgian design, made from stucco bricks. It has an iron roof, the interior wood is cedar and the fireplaces are marble. After Lawrence died the property was left to Mrs. Margaret Campbell. (Ali, c1981)
"Stanwell Park occupies an amphitheatre shaped valley, with steep forested slopes rising 300m to the plateau." (Short, 1993) It is surrounded on three sides by the Illawarra escarpment and by the ocean to the east. Progressive development of the catchment over the years has transformed the area from a natural rainforest to an urban area.
Stanwell Park has a temperate climate with a distinct maritime influence. Summer and autumn are characterised by moderate to high temperatures, high humidity, onshore winds and peak rainfall. (Sydney Water, 1999)
As progression is made from inland towards the ocean the geology changes from quartz lithic sandstone to quartz and lithic "fluvial" sand, silt, and clay, and medium to coarse grained "marine" quartz sand with shelly layers. (Sydney Water, 1999)
Vegetation in the area includes:
- Heath - Found on the sand dunes and gentle slopes adjacent to Stanwell Park Beach
- Open Forest - occurs on the slopes and in gullies and includes species such as Blackbutt, Turpentine, Grey Ironbark and Smooth-barked Apple.
- Reedland - occurs on the margins of the southern lagoon of Stanwell Park and includes Native Reed and Swamp Oak. (Sydney Water, 1999)
There are two main creeks in the Stanwell Park area:-
- Stanwell Creek - flows through two small dams on the top of the escarpment, before flowing over the escarpment into the southern valley of Stanwell Park. The channel of the creek is steep until it reaches the southern end of Stanwell Park Beach and widens into a lagoon. The lagoon is periodically open to the ocean.
- Hargraves Creek - begins on the escarpment in scrubland adjacent to the Southern Freeway. It flows into a large rock pool and over the escarpment. It enters the sea at the northern end of Stanwell Park Beach. The mouth of the creek is periodically open to the sea. (Sydney Water, 1999)