Bulli in the 19th Century Coaching Era Years


Don’t forget to visit the Black Diamond Heritage Centre Museum at Bulli Railway Station to read stories of the Coaching Era!

Including excerpts from “The Little House on the Hill” – Mick Roberts 1989

“The Sydney  to Campbelltown railway was completed in 1858 and resulted in an increased traffic to Bulli. The district became a stopover for travellers and coaches leaving the train at Campbelltown on their way to Wollongong.

Before the Campbelltown railway was completed travellers were only able to obtain passage on the mail cart from Campbelltown and descend the escarpment via Rixon’s Pass south west of Woonona, which had been constructed by Benjamin Rixon in December 1848.

In 1858 Larkin began a four horse coach service from Campbelltown to the Bulli District.

Coaching inns began to appear in the district to provide accommodation and liquor for the ever increasing number of people moving to Bulli seeking employment in the coal mines.

In addition being the major settlement before the treacherous assent  of the Bulli Mountain Road, meant the area was the perfect place to rest before continuing the arduous trip to Campbelltown/Sydney, or alternatively descending the pass after the journey from Sydney / Campbelltown.

Besides supplying accommodation and meals, most coaching inns  had extensive stabling facilities, paddocks for travelling stock, coach houses, and black smith shops for the Coaching companies.

Floyd opened the Railway Hotel beside the Bulli Coal Company’s tram line – which ran through the village to the jetty on Bulli Point – in 1870.

Coaching travel increased when the Appin Road Trust constructed bridges over the Lodden River and Kings Falls in 1874.  This along with the growing population, again saw the licensing of another two coaching inns at Bulli… the Black Diamond .. in 1876. The following year John Peter Orvard opened the Denmark Hotel south of the village.

In 1879 the Black Diamond moved into new premises in the Bulli Village … and the Black Diamond was re-licensed as the Star of the Sea Hotel … brought the number of public houses in the village to four.

Travellers from Sydney to the Illawarra partly made the trip by train. Passengers would take the train from Sydney  to Campbelltown and board Waterworth’s day coach for Wollongong. The service travelled through Appin, where two coaching inns were operating and continued along the Appin Road.. stop at Waterworth’s unlicensed coach house on the banks of Kings Falls  and then descend the treacherous Bulli Pass .. they would stop at one of the four coaching inns at Bulli where passengers would have a meal and refreshments before they continued on their journey. While the passengers rested, the horses and vehicles were attended to in the Inn’s coaching facilities….

Publicans in the district benefitted with the opening of the Illawarra Railway from Sydney to Waterfall in March 1886 as coaching traffic and passengers passed through the coastal villages between Wollongong and Waterfall. Coaching companies operated  daily between Wollongong and Waterfall, and passengers could now travel to  Sydney much faster than the tedious trip over the mountain to Campbelltown….” Waterworth’s, initially chose not to operate a  coastal service by to Waterfall and instead Bloomfields’ of Clifton operated it – later Waterworths did follow suit.

The Ocean View Guesthouse  was located south of the current Parsons Undertaker in Bulli and had been built in 1886 in expectation of the completion of the South Coast Railway.

                Further Reading :

  • Greetings from Woonona – Bulli – Mick Roberts

By 1887, also in anticipation of increased trade with the opening of the  Railway, Peter John Orvard redeveloped the Denmark Hotel.

Also Roger Heard and wife Sarah Cavill opened the Old Bulli Railway Guest House which comprised a 2 storey brick building, and dated from the construction of the Illawarra Railway line in 1887. A  smaller guesthouse stood on the site from 1877, until the construction of the large building in 1887 that still stands today. The optimism of these late 19th Century pioneers was to be short-lived.

Ultimately the anticipated increase in trade expected from the Railway in 1887, did not materialise as Bulli inns were by-passed – some of the inns had closed or suffered a long slow demise.  The Denmark Hotel and Railway Guesthouse building still stand, as did the Ocean View until 2014.

And in 1889 the Bulli Family Hotel (now the Heritage Hotel) was opened. It is the only hotel in Bulli from the 19th Century to continue in operation in the 21st Century – although it did close for some years in the 1970s – 1980s.

Former Mant Livery Stables two doors down from the Bulli Heritage Hotel – Sylvia Mant shared in “True North” that her father Henry Mant took over the rundown Livery Stables two doors down from the current Bulli Heritage Hotel and Stokes Lane, after his former employer Dr Dixon retired.

As young as 14 years old, Sylvia Mant assisted her father Henry Mant with the running of the Livery Stable and later in their Coaching business. There had originally been an old home on the site as well as the old Livery Stables. Dr Dixon demolished the house and four houses in its place, along with a new Livery Stable. Henry Mant had worked as a groom for Dixon, and after buying the Livery Stable he ran a coach and sulky service that ran up Bulli Pass to Loddon Falls and Cataract Dam. The Mants also operated Bulli Hospital’s first ambulance. The Mants lived at 244 Princes Highway Bulli. One of Henry Mant’s sons Fred, was apprenticed to Alex Downie as a Farrier  – note Alex was the son of James Downie who was an early blacksmith in the Bulli area and owned the substantial Edinburgh House next to the Bulli Family Hotel. The Edinburgh also was used as a guesthouse for a time.

Further reading :

  • “True North – Tales and Reminiscences – Celebrating the 2001 Centenary of Federation” – compiled by Mick Roberts with Terry Bugg, Jack Devitt, Mary Hendricks and Arthur Murray
  • Greetings from Woonona – Bulli – Mick Roberts



1 Response to Bulli in the 19th Century Coaching Era Years

  1. Nola Tegel says:

    Hullo, I was interested to read that my forenames Waterworth, was mentioned on your site. He was my grandfather 4/5 times removed. I will visit your museum soon to view the exhibition.
    Nola Tegel née Pinkerton / Waterworth, my paternal grandmother

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