HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

24 May 2018

Bridges washed away south of Nowra - 1936

The Shoalhaven climate has certainly changed, even in the 40 years I have been living here permanently, the area had dried out considerably. The Shoalhaven was once known to Sydney siders as " The place where the weather came from." because of the amount of rain that came from the south.

Following is an account of the flood damage inflicted on the district between Nowra and Wandandian.

March 1936 The Nowra district was in the grip of torrential rain, wide areas of the district were subject to flooding.  At least three bridges had been washed away on the highway making
the Princess Highway south of Nowra impassable.

Holidaymakers and locals coming from Sussex Inlet trying to travel north found
themselves marooned because the bridge at Cow Creek had been washed away.
Guesthouses in the area were full of stranded motorists returning to Sydney.

Many motorists, some with women and young children had to walk about 5 miles to the nearest shelter
at Wandandian. Temporary creek crossings were made by felling trees and making bridges of the logs.


A recently completed concrete bridge at Wandandian suffered major structural damage when concrete pillars moved when the surrounding ground was washed away causing the bridge to sag about 4 feet

Mr Alfred Brooks of Strathfield via phone from Wandandian said.  - "Crossing the bridge scared more than one of us, we crossed on foot, we thought the whole structure was going at any moment." It was feared the Wandandian Bridge would have to be blown up and entirely rebuilt.

The many "service cars" which ran daily trips for travellers between Nowra, Jervis Bay, Milton and Ulladulla, were detained at Milton and Nowra.

Flooding affected other areas as well, Port Kembla reported widespread flooding. seven inches fell within a few hours, houses had a foot of muddy water through them. Port Kembla and the commercial Hotel were inundated with water, the later having 15 ft of water pumped from its cellars.

Lake Illawarra was 4 feet above normal level and was still rising rapidly as rain continued to fall.
The Shoalhaven River rose swiftly and the farmers in low-lying areas were forced to move stock to higher ground.

These sort of incidents were fairly common occurrences,  bridges, creeks and roads had many times in the past been badly affected by flooding rains and rapidly rising rivers, fortunately, the infrastructure now much better able to cope with the flooding rain. And it happens a lot less frequently than in the past.


23 May 2018

The brigantine Adonis 1890.

Mystery still surrounds the sinking of another beautifully handcrafted timber ship built by the Dents on the shores of Currambene Creek Huskisson.

The brigantine Adonis was built at Jervis Bay by Mr. Dent in 1874.
She measured 108 tons, 92ft 4 inches in length, with a beam of 20ft 7 inches, and 8ft 3 inches depth of hold.

copyright free example of a brigantineExample of the fully rigged brigantine Leon from the era.


21 December 1890  - Captained by John Richards with a crew of 6, she was on a voyage from Wollongong to the Richmond River laden with coal, the vessel was making good and all was going well. She was placed around 10 miles distant from the shore, the night was dark, the weather was light with a north-east wind, and a strong easterly swell.

22 December 11 p.m.  - Able seaman Ludwick Myer was lying awake in his bunk, hearing the sounds of water on the floor he struck a light and saw that water was coming in freely, he quickly went aft reporting the ship was full of water to the captain. The pumps were immediately set to work, but they could not cope with the inflow, the captain ordered all crew to the deck and make the boats ready. At the captains order the man at the wheel put her hard aport, the water by then was over the forecastle deck.
The crew came on deck saying the water was rising fast, they sounded the pumps and found there was over 3ft of water below and rising fast. The crew tried to get her onto land but without avail.  Realising there was nothing they could do to save the ship the captain ordered his crew to abandon ship the crew launched the lifeboats and managed to leave the ship safely landing at Crowdy Head at daylight.

15 minutes after abandoning the ship the Adonis sank out of sight.
Official Enquiry.

1 January 1890 - during the official inquiry into the founding of the Adonis the captain and crew explained how they always looked upon the ship as a "thoroughly staunch and seaworthy craft".  The only explanation for the loss may have been if one of her planks was faulty.

Marine Board Findings.

7 January 1890 - The board deliberated on the abandonment of the Adonis, they found the abandonment was justifiable,  and there was no evidence on which to found a charge of default against the master, Captain Richards.

She was owned by Mr. Patrick Hogan and was insured.

A brigantine is a two-masted vessel with her foremast fully square rigged and her mainmast rigged with both a fore-and-aft mainsail (usually a gaff sail) and square topsails (and possibly topgallant sails).

An interesting fact about the Adonis.
Many ships were adorned with classical figure heads, but by the 1870's they went into decline and the last NSW made classical figure heads were a female bust for the schooner Venus of 1873 and a male bust for the brigantine Adonis of 1874.
REF: Ships figureheads in Australia.


18 May 2018

Freighter in trouble off Jervis Bay - 1954

Fine weather and an offshore wind combined to save the British freighter Saint Edmund's from coming ashore on the coast near Jervis Bay.


Tuesday 18 May - The 7,174-ton British freighter Saint Edmunds with Captain P.Ditton in command and 40 crew was on a voyage from Adelaide to Newcastle to load wheat for India.

11.30 am - In calm seas she suddenly came to an unexpected stop, an investigation found she had lost her propeller.image
The Jervis Bay Lighthouse keeper reported seeing her drifting only 10 miles off Jervis Bay. He said the ship was in no danger at that time.  Fortunately the weather was calm with a slight offshore westerly blowing which kept the vessel off the shore.


6.45 p.m - The Waratah Tug Company tug Woona, left Sydney harbour and was expected to cover the 87 miles to Saint Edmund's by first light. image

Wednesday 19 May - Tow lines were attached and the journey to Sydney was undertaken.
saint edmund

Crew members on the ocean going tug Woona adjusting the tow lines attached to the Saint Edmund's

Thursday 20 May
  - The disabled Freighter was towed safely into Sydney Harbour and berthed at No 1 Circular Quay before going into  Mort's Dock for repairs.

Crew members when interviewed about the incident said the ship would certainly have gone ashore if it wasn't for the offshore breeze.

The freighter was expected to resume her voyage to Newcastle the following Monday.


16 May 2018

Greenwell Point road–then and now

The first photograph is of myself and my mother in 1961 on the long straight road leading into Greenwell Point. The second photograph was taken on the 13th May 2018.



I remember this road so well as a child, coming down from Sydney and seeing the trees forming a long shady tunnel, it was so cool on this part of the road in summer it was always a highlight of our trips to the south coast. 


15 May 2018

Old Woollamia

This fascinating photo shows Jim Louttit (brother of Ben) and Dick Prosser outside his hut at Woollamia.  The Louttit's were a well known family in the Huskisson district.


As early as 1913 Ben Louttit ran a daily coach service between Huskison and Nowra which proved very popular with the rapidly growing population.

Ben Louttit's passenger coach Huskisson.

By 1917 Ben was running a daily lorry service, which was well used by the local fishing industry for transporting their catch to Nowra.

Ben Louttit continued the daily motor lorry service into the 1930's.




14 May 2018

The death of Thomas Speechley

Sydney Evening News Friday 18 Nov 1904.

Soon after the tragic death of young Thomas killed by an exploding Navy shell he was playing with many articles appeared in Sydney newspapers from correspondents covering the official enquiry.

The navy denied it shot live shells on to the shore, saying they set up floating targets at the entrance of the bay, and only occasionally towards Bowen Island, regarded by the navy  "as an uninhabited place." They also said the shells were full of sand and were nonexplosive,  Asked why sand ?, The officer explained they were once filled with water, but this was replaced with sand as the weight was closer to a live shell.
They could not explain how a live shell could have been found where it was.

The article below was written in response to the statements above.

With reference to statements published in Thursday's "Evening News" regarding the Jervis Bay explosions our Nowra correspondent writes:
_ "Where the shell exploded is on the opposite side of the bay from Bowen Island at Point Perpendicular, the site f the new lighthouse and hundreds of shells are to be found on that side.  Of course, the population on either side is sparse,  but a  good many pleasure seekers often visit the spot.

'In many places around the shores of the bay tracks of these shells can be found.   They often tear up the ground for yards cutting a deep trench,  and afterward rising higher, and striking further on.  It's all very well for officers of ships to say they never fire towards shore, excepting towards " an uninhabited spot known as Bowen Island." If they did fire towards the island they would as likely as not hit the main shore on the south side, or fire on to the high seas; but everyone in the vicinity of Jervis Bay  knows that it has been the custom of the men-o-war to steam backward and forwards at the 'hole-in-the-wall.' and fire at a target opposite, which means they must hit the northern shore.  In proof of this, shells are often picked up miles from the entrance to the harbour."

Continue reading about Thomas Speechley, his lonely grave and his association with Jervis Bay.


11 May 2018

Vessels in the bay

This morning the beautiful catamaran Hoo Roo was anchored on the mooring bouys near the entrance to Curambene Creek.  She looks like a fine vessel set against the early morning light on a cold winters day.



3 May 2018

Old houses of Huskisson

Another beautiful old Huskisson house has been leveled for a new development.

One of the nicest old houses which instantly took you back to another era has been leveled.  In a previous post, I mentioned it had been sold and hoped the new owners would see the value in keeping such an iconic house.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.  All there is left of the old house is part of the front held up by props.





1 May 2018

Schooner Zoe–Jervis Bay

1875 The launch of the Schooner Zoe.

The new topsail schooner Zoe was built by George Dent Junior at his shipbuilding yards on the banks of Currambene Creek Huskisson on October 30, 1875, to the order of Mr. George Hill, of Surrey Hills, Sydney. She was intended for the timber trade and was described as a "faithfully-built vessel" the whole of the timber used in her construction being well seasoned and the best that could be obtained.
She was 73 tons register. Her keel was 75 feet; beam 21 feet and depth of hold, 7 feet. She was described as having " fine lines".

87-George-Dent-IIIGeorge Dent Junior.

A Dreadful voyage.
While on a voyage from Normanton to Port Jackson in November she fell into a series of heavy gales, with frequent spells of light airs and calm. The vessel frequently sought shelter under the different islands on the way down, putting into Cooktown, Mackay, Cape Moreton and Port Stephens through stress of weather. On one occasion whilst lying under Rocky Island, the vessel dragged her anchor and drifted within a few yards off the rocks.
Fearing she would go ashore the crew abandoned her and took shelter at the lighthouse keeper's residence for two days. The crew returned on board and in moderating weather managed to get the vessel clear of the danger.

If the crew thought this would be the last incident on this difficult journey they were mistaken.
While being forced to seek shelter from deteriorating conditions in the Pioneer River, the Zoe was driven ashore and remained hard and fast for several days. She was subsequently floated without damage and resumed her voyage only to be caught in bad weather which necessitated anchoring under Cape Morton.  The Zoe lost two anchors, with some chain in the bad weather and quite a number of sails were split or carried away.

1889 The tragic loss of the Zoe's cook.
Saturday 27, .
While anchored at Yamba the cook a Mr. W.Wells was reported missing. A fisherman named Sheather reported seeing attempting to swim to the schooner on a Monday morning. The swimmer was showing signs of distress and Sheather tried to rescue him, but the tide was too strong to render any assistance to the man, who afterward sank.

Tuesday 30.
The body of William Wells, the late cook of the schooner Zoe was found washed ashore on the North Beach of Iluka.

Zoe Foundered. 1895.
News arrived that the German Schooner Zoe had foundered, this was later disproven.


Loss of the Schooner Zoe. March 1896

The first news to arrive in Sydney of the loss of the German Schooner Zoe came from the captain of the steamer Kurrara.  The Zoe operated out of Sydney before being sold to Messrs. Hernsheim and Company and used for the inter-island trade.

The Zoe started her fateful voyage from New Britain for a cruise through the German Possessions. All went well until she made for Bouganville on January, 17 when she ran onto a reef on the south-east side of the island.  The crew managed to escape in the boats,  but vessel and cargo of copra and trade were a total loss.

Continue reading about the Dent's.


30 April 2018

Wandandian 1936.


In 1936 in the Catholic Press, a correspondent writing under the name of Bluebell had a column where children wrote in from all over the country, telling many wonderful and varied stories about their location and their life.

One such story was sent to him by a young Dorris Sperring in response to receiving a Christmas Card from Bluebell.

"My Dear Bluebell, – I received your very nice card and thought it was lovely.  Santa Clause brought me a sewing machine. Father Cannon said Holy Mass at Wandandian.  It was offered up for my little brother Ken,  I went to Confession and Holy Communion. Wandandian is situated 591/2 miles from Batemans Bay. It is a very small district.  There are two stores, a post office, and a sawmill.  It is mostly a dairy farming district.  I will close now,  Hoping you are well. 

Bluebell responded.
Glad you liked the card, dear Dorris, and that dear old Santa did not forget you. Thanks for telling me about Wandandian. I often wondered if it were a large town and all about it.  I am very well, thanks, my dear, and will be looking forward to hearing from you again, please, Doris.
Love from BLUEBELL.

These type of stories provide us with small pieces of interesting information about a particular point in time of our local history.


Wandandian Hotel C.1917


A group of people waiting for Harrisons Cadillac.

Wandandian Hotel.

An application was brought before the Shoalhaven licensing Court on the 14th April 1897 by Francis Stapleton for a conditional hotel license to be situated at Wandandian. Mr. Stapleton who resided at Yatteyattah said in reply to Sergent Crawley's objection to the application "He believed a public
house was necessary at Wandandian; a man named Louitt who kept an accommodation house there told him he could not accommodate half the people that called, as his present building was not large enough, and he was not going to build anymore on to it, and he had heard of travelers stopping on the road for the night."

Sergent Crawley opposed the granting of the license, for the reason that a hotel was not required in the locality.

The Presiding Magistrate, after taking into account there was no guarantee Mr. Louitt's operation would continue into the future granted the license subject to the plans submitted being adhered to.

The Wandandian Hotel operated under many different owners and licensees for another 27 years until the hotel license was canceled by the Licence Reduction Board on October 17, 1924, bringing another chapter of the local regions history to an end.

Mr. E.C.Chard was the last owner/licensee of the Wandandian Hotel, his license to operate had only been renewed by the Licencing Board in July of the same year. He was compensated 1600 pounds by the Licencing Board for the closure.

Travellers-outside-the-Wandanian-Hotel ulladulla historical society

Travellers outside the Wandandian Hotel – Ulladulla / Milton Historical Society.

Licence Reduction Board - The purpose of the Board was to reduce the number of publican's licenses in New South Wales by selecting the public houses to be closed and fixing compensation payments. The Board was appointed for a period of three years from 1 January 1920.

Continue reading about Wandandian


25 April 2018

Yalwal Cemetary.

Hard Times.
An historic cemetary is located on the side of a hill overlooking a beautiful valley.  There is a collection of graves still standing,  but three of note mark the resting place of three Payne childen who passed away in a 48 hour period of diphtheria in May 1911.



Yalwal - Dangera Dam

It had been many years since I have been to the area west of Nowra known and Yalwal.  At it's height the now quiet valleys and hills were a alive with the the noise of industry.  Gold was discovered in the area in 1872 sparking a gold rush, with hundred of miners moving to the area.  There is little sign of those days, other than the hand dug mines which dissappear into many of the hillsides.
The area is beautiful, the dam sits quietly reflecting the surrounding tree covered hills and blue sky.

The dam lies at the confluence of the Dangera and Yarramunmun Creeks which then forms Yalwal Creek which flows into the Shoalhaven River.


The dam was completed in 1971, it has a catchment area of 114 square kilometers, the height of the dam is 29.5 meters. The area is easily accessable these days, but as you decend into the valley you can't help but wonder at the effort the early pioneers put into cutting the road through such steep and unforgiving terrain moving machinery and stores with bullock teams and the extreme lengths mankind will go to seeking their fortunes.


Continue reading about this historic and fascinating area.


24 April 2018

23 April 2018