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IFHAA Local History Library

Gerringong South Coast NSW

A Brief History of Gerringong NSW

The first white visitor to the Gerringong area was William Clarke who, with another British seaman and a Lascar, passed through the area in April 1797 while walking back to Sydney after being shipwrecked near Cape Hicks. It is likely that cedar-getters were also active in the area in the early 1800s (with shipments recorded from the Shoalhaven area in 1812), but recorded history of the area commences with the first land grants in 1825.

The first land grant was made when 1280 acres called "Omega Retreat", on the southern slopes of Mount Pleasant, was granted to Thomas Campbell, who immediately sold it to his brother-in-law, James Mackay Gray. "Alne Bank" of 640 acres was granted to Michael Hindmarsh in 1827, and "Renfrew Park" of 600 acres to William Smith. Subsequent grants, to the west and south of the site gazetted for the township, were to Thomas Hyndes (1000 acres), J. McBrien (1000 acres), W Bland (1000 acres), J C Richardson (1920 acres), and J Burke (2560 acres). All these grants south and west of the town were eventually purchased by Alexander Berry, and incorporated in the Berry Estate.

Cedar was the primary industry in the early years of settlement, and those such as Hindmarsh and Gray quickly cleared sufficient land to commence farming. Michael Hindmarsh is credited with producing the first wheat crop in the area, in 1829, and with the arrival of Robert Miller and his purchase of "Renfrew Park" in 1835, the dairy industry gained impetus.

Although the site of the town was gazetted in 1829, it was not until 1854 that the streets were surveyed and the town blocks sold. Many of the original purchasers, such as James Emery, Robert Miller, Margaret Campbell, Thomas Boxsell and John Blow, still have descendants living in the district.

The town was established in a typical fashion, with Anglican, Wesleyan and Presbyterian churchs being built within the first two years, along with a Post Office and Lang's Gerringong Arms hotel by 1857. At this stage, the town also boasted Ritchie's store, Dixon's slaughterhouse, Ransome's butchery, Sharwood's blacksmith shop, and Beale's cooperage.

Initially transport to and from the area was by sea, and regular shipments of dairy produce and timber were despatched to Sydney from Boat Harbour.This was a difficult proposition in bad weather, but a jetty was not constructed until 1880. Meanwhile, a road was cleared from Kiama in 1849, winding around the spurs to Mount Pleasant, then across the flats at Omega and up the ridge to the township and on to Crooked River. The railway came to Gerringong in 1893, when the extension from Bombo to Bomaderry was opened.

A disasterous fire, fanned by a strong westerly wind, destroyed most of the town in July 1872, shortly after the formation of the Gerringong Municipality on April 24th of the previous year. The original municipal boundaries covered the area from Mount Pleasant to Crooked River and west to the headwaters of Broughton Creek. This area was augmented in 1896 with the addition of Toolijooa, and the Municipality remained in existence until it was absorbed into the Kiama Municipality in 1954.

Gerringong was without a school until 1876, although schools were by then in existence at Omega, Foxground and Toolijooa. Following the construction of the Gerringong school, and its subsequent expansion in 1924, the other local schools were eventually closed.

With the expansion of the dairy industry, dairy factories were established in February 1888 at Gerringong, in January 1889 at Foxground, and later the same year at Toolijooa. Only the Gerringong Co-Op still survives, as one of the oldest continually-operating dairy co-ops in Australia.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Gerringong area was home to about 400 adults, and probably supported a total population in excess of 1,500. Aside from the commercial area of the town, almost all employment in the district related to the dairy industry.


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Last modified: March 20, 2006