Bulli – Since 1770

From Dr Winifred Mitchell in 1989 …

 “A Walk around Bulli’s Historical Township” – A Commemorative Study

Welcome to

Bulli Historical Township

Black Diamond District

Bulli was one of earliest places in the Illawarra District to experience European settlement. its heritage as a coal mining village was laid in the early 1860s. The main road between Hobart Street and Farrell Road, as well as the roads to the hills on one side and the sea on the other, abound with the relics of its Black Diamond era and its early pioneers. Street names, hotels, shops and dwellings of the nineteenth century have survived more recent development.

The name “Bulli”, derived from an Aboriginal word meaning “two mountains” was officially in use from 1815. It was used to describe the whole area between Bulli Mountain and Mount Keira, even before the naming of Wollongong in 1834.

1815 was the year the first cattle made the difficult descent down Bulli mountain and were driven along the beach southwards to pasture in Wollongong. They had been brought from the Liverpool district; Dr Charles Throsby had found a route with the aid of Aboriginal guides. In the same year cedar cutters began stripping the mountain of their cedar trees, rolling the timber down to the beach below where it was taken in small boats out to ships waiting to transport it to the Sydney Market.

The first settler in Bulli was Cornelius O’Brien who from 1823 developed a farm with convict labour westwards from land at Sandon Point. He also engaged local Aborigines to aid him in fishing and whale hunting; he had a collection of crude boiling-down buildings on the beach near his farm.

O’Brien sold his land to Captain Robert Westmacott in 1837. Westmacott had been attracted to the area when he had visited it as aide-de-camp to Governor Bourke who founded Wollongong in 1834. As an enterprising gentleman farmer, Westmacott extended his estate, raised fine horses and raced them in Wollongong’s first race, which he helped to organise. He established brickyards, found a better way down Bulli Mountain which later became Bulli Pass, helped form a company to purchase a steamship service between Wollongong and Sydney and was one of the initiators of the district’s first agricultural society. He entertained visiting people of quality and made many sketches and paintings of local scenes. He also discovered coal on his land, and despite the monopoly on all minerals in the colony held by the Australian Agricultural Company, proceeded to construct a coal mine.

KAC Comments

We so often hear about Dr Charles Throsby the explorer pioneer – but less about his humanity. The Wollongong U3A has a copy of “Throsby Park – An Account of the Throsby Family in Australia 1802 – 1940” by Rachel Roxburgh published by the NSW NPWS in 1989. And so I chanced upon this book and the fascinating stories of Dr Charles Throsby.

Throsby had been Ship’s Surgeon on the Coromandel and all arrived safely from England to the NSW Colony where other ships of the time such as the Hercules delivered only 193 of the original 320 convicts to the Colony.

“a withdrawn and thoughtful man, combining integrity with a certain lack of humour … One of the first to regard Aborigines as human beings, he lived among them and made friends with them …. Throsby’s partiality for the natives, which caused him to complain frequently about their maltreatment by other settlers… 

In 1816 he wrote on this subject  to D’Arcy Wentworth, referring particularly to the servants on William Broughton’s Appin Farm who had savagely murdered a gin and her children. Native reprisals drew complaints from the settlers and Macquarie decided on a punitive expedition (The Appin Massacre ??). Throsby whose agitation shows in his handwriting , thought that an innocent tribe, who had been living at Glenfield at the time of the reprisals, would receive the blame, and his strong defence of these people and use of their names shows how familiar he was with them…

Other letters show how quick he was to investigate and report nstances of ill-treatment of Aborigines … “

Throsby would undertake a great deal  of exploration well beyond the Illawarra – Berrima, the Shoalhaven, Bathurst, Lake George – and his properties stretched to Wakool, Moira south of Deniliquin, Bombala & Kybeen near Cooma.

Also worth a read is the 1942 lecture series by James Jervis of the RAHS “Illawarra : A Century of History, 1788 – 1888” – it is not confined to Bulli.


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