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Woy Woy NSW
Joan Fenton 1999

Village of Woy Woy New South Wales: Historical Background

Only five weeks after the First Fleet sailed into Port Jackson, Arthur Phillip and a party of officers and men made a voyage of discovery to what is now known as Brisbane Water in search of land suitable for growing crops for the early settlement. It is known that these early explorers landed on the Woy Woy Peninsula.[1] It was another thirty-five years before the first grant of land was made on the Woy Woy Peninsula - to James Webb. Webb was a soldier who arrived in Australia in 1790 on the 'Scarborough'. Webb's 1823 land grant was in the area of Blackwall/Orange Grove.[2] Webb later purchased two more parcels of land on the northern part of the Peninsula, and this area became known as Webb's Flat, but was also referred to as 'Wye Wye'.[3] Part of this area later became the main centre of the Peninsula, and includes the modern town of Woy Woy.

For many years after settlement, Webb's Flat remained undeveloped. The area would have been exploited for its timber, mangrove and shell resources, but on early maps, not even one dwelling can be found.[4] The Blackwall area grew slowly, due to the ship building industry carried on in that locality.[5] It was not until the coming of the railway in the late 1880s that the northern part of the Peninsula became a settled area. The town of Woy Woy grew from a cluster of dwellings and shops that remained after the railway workers left in the 1890s.

For Sydney-siders, Woy Woy was the closest Brisbane Water town on the Great Northern Railway, and was a popular choice for holiday-makers. The area was advertised to visitors offering fishing, bathing and shooting. Guest houses were built near the Railway Station, and those wishing to visit nearby areas were transported either by horse and cart or small ferries.[6] The local newspapers regularly reported the number of visitors to the area, and at the end of each year much was made of the number of train tickets that had been handed in at Woy Woy over the preceding twelve months.[7] Buildings for shops and services were erected near to the railway station where they would catch the eye of the visitor. Perhaps there was an ice-cream to be savoured on the way to the wharf to catch the ferry to Sorrento; perhaps an extended holiday was to be enjoyed at Wagstaff and a car was hired to carry the heavy bags to the ferry.

Development of the Woy Woy Peninsula was hampered by a lack of roads. However, the first motor car drove into Woy Woy in 1923, having blazed a trail which eventually became the Woy Woy-Kariong Road. The first subdivisions of a few small parcels of land occurred in the early years of this century. With the subdivision of 'One hundred and thirty nine acres three roods seventeen and three quarters perches or thereabouts' (known as the Cox Estate) in September 1912, many hundreds of lots became available for purchase.[8]

In June 1921, a large public meeting was held and an organisation known as the Brisbane Water Ratepayers' Association was formed with the specific aim of working for the separation of Woy Woy from Erina Shire.[9] After two public enquiries, Ministerial approval was eventually received, and the Woy Woy Shire was formally constituted on 1 August 1928.[10] On 31 December 1946, Woy Woy Shire Council was dissolved. On 1 January 1947, the former Woy Woy Shire Council merged with the former Erina Shire Council and Gosford Municipal Council (also dissolved on 31 December 1946) to form the two new Shire Councils of Gosford and Wyong.[11]


The entire Woy Woy Peninsula eventually became completely urbanised. The area where James Webb chose to live and work at Orange Grove is a quiet residential area, but the area of his other grants has become the site of the busy township of Woy Woy, complete with all the normal services and amenities found in a large country town.


[1] Historical Records of Australia, Series I, Volume I, p.20.
[2] Register of Land Grants, Land Titles Office of NSW, Serial 54, p.18.
[3] Register of Land Grants, Land Titles Office of NSW, Serial 32, p.86; Primary Application packet 17685.
[4] Well's Parish Map - Gosford, Brisbane Water, n.d., c1840.
[5] Dundon, Gwen. More Old Gosford and District in Pictures, Gosford,
1978, p.47.
[6] Woy Woy Herald, 14 July 1922.
[7] The Gosford Times, microfilm held by Gosford City Library and Woy Woy Herald, held by State Library of New South Wales.
[8] Certificate of Title Volume 2297, Folio 95.
[9] Woy Woy Herald, Vol. 2, No. 67, 26 October 1923
, p. 1.
[10] Government Gazette, 27 July 1928, pp. 3532 - 3534.
[11] Government Gazette, 20 December 1946, pp. 2967 - 2970.

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Last modified: March 20, 2006