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.

8 January 2019

Thomas Speechley.


I recently uploaded the story of the tragic death of young Thomas Speechley and the whereabout of his lonely grave onto the Old NSW Album facebook page. The story had a huge response and evoked alot of emotion. Going by the feedback Thomas will be having quite a few visitors in the near future.

Comment  - Unknown has left a new comment on your post "Young Thomas Speechley.":
Such a bittersweet story but how lovely to hear that little Thomas' memory lives on.

LDMM - Thank you "Unknown" for your comment.


17 December 2018

Point Perpendicular Lighthouse


The Department of Navigation notified that an incandescent Welsbach mantle lamp, using petroleum vapour is now installed in the lighthouse at Point Perpendicular, having. been first displayed on March 17th. The improved light is of approximately 1200 candlepower, while the former oil light was only about 300  (intrinsic candlepower without the effect of the lens). The character of the light remains the same, viz, three short successive 'flashes every 20 minutes but the light will be seen at a greater distance in hazy weather.

Welsbach Lamp.
The Welsbach Lamp was invented by Auer von Welsbach in 1885. The Welsbach mantle was made from silk impregnated with zirconia. It burnt at least three times brighter than what was previously known.

Continue reading about Point Pependicular Lighthouse.


Perpendicular Smell–Jervis Bay

Daily Telegraph - March 1932

When one of the light-keepers at Point Perpendicular, at the entrance to Jervis Bay, came on duty one evening recently he sniffed the air, and observed, "Someone has been throwing dead fish out round here." No one could find the fish, but, whenever the wind blew from the northward the smell pervaded the air. As the days went on it grew stronger. But it was not fish, but a 50-feet whale, which had driven head on into a little opening in the cliffs near the lighthouse, and stuck there. Nothing could be done about it, and the light-keepers just had to hope that there would be an unusual prevalence of south winds for the next few months.

Continue Reading about whales and whaling in and around Jervis Bay.


10 December 2018

Jervis Bay steamer drama – a luck escape

1900 - The steel steamer Whangape disabled at Jervis Bay.

The brand new 3000 ton London based Union Steamship Company steamer Whangape was on a voyage from England to Newcastle Australia, where she would be employed in the intercolonial trade.

July 2 - She had experienced moderate weather throughout the voyage until she rounded Wilsons Promontory sighting Cape Otway.

July 4 - Steaming up the coast she ran headlong into a strong gale from the east and east-north-east, with violent squalls, terrific seas, and heavy rain.

July 5 -  These tempestuous conditions showed no sign of easing.  Approaching Jervis Bay Captain Clarke decided to take the steamer into Jervis Bay for shelter. She had no sooner passed through the heads when the main steam pipe burst, leaving her utterly powerless. Under the influence of strong winds, the captain immediately ordered the anchors to be dropped.

July 10 - The steamer remained in the bay while repairs were carried out.  Mr Dove the chief engineer travelled to Sydney for repairs, which were carried out at Mort's Dock.

The Captain decision to seek shelter in the bay at that time saved the ship from certain doom. If the accident had happened in the open sea under such weather conditions she would surely have been driven onto the coast.

Interestingly this was the maiden voyage for the Whangape but she had already borne three names. Originally called the Adriana, she was sold to Messers. Elder, Dempster, and Co. and became the Asaba; then the Union Company purchased her and renamed her Whangape.  All before she had left the stocks of her builders at the Cleveland Dockyard.

331ft long, 44ft breath, and depth of hold 23ft 3 in. and a carrying capacity of 4700 tons dead weight,  capable of maintaining a speed of 91/2 knots with a crew of 8.

July 12 - After repairs, the steamer resumed her voyage.

July 16 - She arrived in Newcastle, where she was loaded with coal destined for New Zealand.


23 October 2018

Huskisson Police Station.

We had this fantastic image of Huskisson from the 1920s –1930's sent to us by Phil Harvey.
It shows the corner of Owen Street and Sydney Street Huskisson. The building on the corner at this time was used as the Government Savings Bank and at one time was the original Huskisson Police Station.
This photograph comes from Phil's family collection. Phil isn't sure who took the photo other than it was someone in the Moon family.  Jack and May Moon and their children lived at 23 Currambene Street from 1916 to 1934. Phil's grandmother, Lucy Harvey was their second oldest child.

huskisson police station 1920's Phil Harvey more info in info folder


Continue reading about the Huskisson Police Station.


22 October 2018

Early Photos from Jervis Bay

Atlantic Ron sent us a few early photos of Jervis Bay from the 1960's and 1970's,
Thanks Ron.


he boat shed on the left in these photographs was originally operated by the ISNC. Illawarra Steam Navigation Company which serviced the south coast from 1858 to the 1950's.  |
Steamers by 1913 were visiting Jervis Bay twice a week at that time South Huskisson, present-day Vincentia, was the main port of call, when South Huskisson failed to develop and disappeared back into the bush. Present day Huskisson became the focus for steamer activity with the ISNC trialling regular services to the bay, they were later abandoned. Other steamers despite the challenges of the wharf and the shallow river entrance moved cargo to and from Jervis Bay.

Continue reading about South Huskisson. The rise and fall.


The iconic "Hole in the wall"  photographed hundreds of times by visitors over the years. This natural stone bridge attracted the attention of the early explorers, featured in many paintings and stories of the bay.

Unfortunately, the top has now collapsed creating a "gap in the wall."

Continue reading about Hole in the Wall.


18 October 2018

Yacht goes ashore

18 October 2018.
The consistant strong north east winds have caused the yacht Genisis to lose her mooring she has drifted onto Collingwood beach near Vincentia. She is currently laying on her port side.

genisis - c

Photo – Darrel Squires.


Ferry well renovations and public access.

The JBMM volunteers have been working hard cleaning, scrubbing and vacuuming years of inground dust from the floor of the ferry well. The walls have been painted white and two coats of floor concrete paint are being applied, This required a lot of object moving, some quite heavy, some that haven't been moved in almost 30 years.
One of the two old hardwood staircases which didn't comply with present-day building codes has been removed by the volunteers in preparation for two new sets to be installed. The second will be removed once the floor painting is finished.
All this work is being done to open the ferry well to the public for the first time since the museum was built almost 30 years ago. The view of the Lady Denman from underneath is nothing short of amazing,  you will see the real structure on the old vessel, the wear and tear from years of working on Sydney Harbour, the copper sheeting covered with barnacles and worm casings held in place with thousands of hand beaten copper nails,  this unique connection with the ferry will be a highlight for all future visitors to the museum.
The ferry well will also provide the museum with a fantastic opportunity for displaying some of its hidden treasures, currently stored away because of the lack of exhibition space.
If you thought you had seen it all at the JBMM, stay tuned, because in the near future a whole new exhibition area will be opened to amaze and transport you back to a past long gone.

Photos, Darrel Squires, volunteer.

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14 October 2018

Huskisson by air.

An interesting comparison from the mid 60's and a google earth image of Huskisson. The Settree boat building yards dominate the waterfront.




8 October 2018

The Ten Mile


The Naval College Road was known in 1935 as the "Ten Mile."  The road at that time was described as being in a "deplorable condition."

Several cars had left the road and narrowly missed turning over. Visitors to the Naval College hated travelling along the road, many vowing never to return until the road was repaired.
  One incident saw travellers returning to Sydney hitting a particularly rough patch causing one of the rear axels to be snapped clean off. The car skidded for a few yards along the road, luckily no other damage was done to the car or passengers.

In November of 1935 repairs were undertaken by a team of workmen.  Up to 60 drums of emoleum had arrived at Huskisson wharf and the process of depositing the emoleum at different places along the road was carried out.

The local council known as the Clyde Shire Council based at Tomerong in conjunction with the main roads department used the opportunity to experiment with new road surfaces.

The first was made by mixing gravel thrown up off the side of the road with emoleum, this mix was rolled flat using a horse-drawn roller leaving a hard smooth surface which even a heavily laden lorry made no impression upon.

The second involved mixing a larger courser sifted gravel from a rock pit with the emoleum, the finish presenting more of a stone surface than the finer gravel thrown from the sides of the road, but judged an even better hard wearing surface.

Old photograph of Jervis Bay Road.


19 September 2018

Ships in the bay

HMAS Parramatta (154) could be seen crossing the bay this morning, an Anzac-class frigate of the Royal Australian Navy. One of ten warships built for the RAN and Royal New Zealand Navy.
Length: 118 m



Berry's Canal and Comerong Island.


Berry's canal links the Crookhaven River and the Shoalhaven River, and holds a unique place in Australia's history being the first man-made navigatable canal to be constructed.

The canal was made by the hard labour of convicts using hand tools. Overseen by Hamilton Hume under the direction of Alexander Berry in 1822.  Alexander Berry needed a way of moving ships into the Shoalhaven River. The main entrance at Shoalhaven Heads was shallow and dangerous and impassable by anything other than the smallest cutter.

After the two waterways were linked by a small canal the river through time and erosion carved the canal into what you see today, cutting off the peninsula and forming Comerong Island.

The island is still linked to the mainland by the beach but during floods and high seas this link can be broken.  The only permanant way of reaching the island is by sea or by the Comerong Ferry. The banks of the canal are under constant pressure from the river. When I visited the island yesterday bank stabilisation works were being carried out to secure the shoreline.

In times of high floods, the water rushing through the canal emptying out from the Shoalhaven River can become a fast dangerous torrent. At these time the ferry cannot cross the river, stranding the local residents on the island.  On one occasion when we were crossing the canal the water was rushing so fast the ferry was straining the steel cables so much the ferry was struggling to cross the river, making distressing sounds as the cables run between the steel runners, that was the last ferry to run until the river flow subsided.  We came back the next day to find the ferry had a large 5 meter long by one meter diameter sealed concrete pipe jammed under its hull, with council engineers trying to work out how to remove it.

Living on an island seems like a romantic notion.  But sometimes the reality can be quite different.

James Kennedy
After the island was formed by the cutting of the canal, the 700-acre island was claimed by the Crown and later passed it over to the government.  The land was subdivided into farms and sold to various settlers. Mr James Kennedy was the principal purchaser. Kennedy, born in Ireland in 1883 and moved to New South Wales with his parents 3 years later.  In his younger days, he was for some time in the service of Alexander Berry and took a keen interest in farming. He was a true pioneer of the district and much respected for his mechanical aptitude.  Amongst other things, he was part owner of the successful Pioneer gold mine operating at Yawal. He managed the mine for a number of years before it was sold for many thousands of pounds.  He established a large co-operative butter factory in the district and was on the board from its conception. He died in 1918 aged 84.  His name is often mentioned in articles associated with Comerong Island.

1889 - On a less serious note, a resident of the island wrote to the Sydney Mail newspaper asking for a good recipe for putting starch into shirts to make them shine. She wrote:- "I have seen soap and kerosene put in with the starch,  but I don't think it is much of an improvement."

1889 – A butter factory/creamery was operating from the island, which meant there was a steady flow of traffic to and from the island,  the ferry at this time was in a bad state and needed repairs,  the roads leading to the island also needed urgent attention.

1891 – A large flood raveged the island, trapping residents for three days. Large quantities of winter stock feed were washed away along with stock.

1899 – A dairy factory drawing milk from island farmers and surrounding farms existed on the island.
The pastures on the island were regarded as some of the finest in the district.

1904 – The ferry was described as 'being in a very dangerous condition" makeshift repairs were continuously carried out to keep her afloat and operating.

1902 – Large area of the island had been washed away because of steamer wash and during floods, which now threatened to block the entrance to the Berry Canal,  stopping all shipping into the Shoalhaven.

1907 – The original ferry had been operating for 23 years, described as "being absolutely rotten" she was now lying on the bottom of the canal, with no hope of raising her,  stranding residents on the island.  Shoalhaven Council and local residents made submissions to the government for a new ferry. "Island People" were forced to row across the river carrying supplies and their cream, borrowing horses and drays to transport their goods to Nowra.

1907 – Money not exceeding 150 pounds was made available by the governments Public Works Department to the Shoalhaven Council for a new punt to be built, tenders for the construction were sought.


1909 – The Shoalhaven Heads entrance had completely closed by sand up to a distance of about 50 yards, effectively making Comerong Island part of the mainland again.  Fears were expressed by a local resident that if there were a flood the island could be inundated with water, with Crookhaven Heads now being the only entrance for the water to escape from.

1910 – The entrance was still closed with the sand now building up to over a half a mile wide, raising even greater concern about the safety of Comerong Island residents if a flood should occur, as a recent heavy rain flooded some of the paddocks on the island.

The last time the entrance was thought to have been blocked was in 1823 the year after Alexander Berry arrived in the district.


1910 – Erosion along the sides of the canal was becoming serious, Immediate works were undertaken to secure the bank.

1923 – The Shoalhaven Agricultural Societies annual show was concluded with a Mr Rice from the island being awarded the first prize for his display of different varieties of pumpkins he had grown on the island despite the severe drought which gripped the district over the preceding months.

1978 - A Navy Wessex helicopter rescued a family of four from the island after they were stranded by fast rising flood waters.

There are many stories associated with the island, these are just a few.


The island has a few permanent residents and dairy farming is still carried out.  The majority of the island falls under the protection of the National Parks and Wildlife Service,  the Comerong Island Nature Reserve was created in 1986 covering an area of 660ha.

Crossing the canal on the punt named Cormorant, you travel a rough dirt road which winds it's way through a dense forest, passing mangrove and swamps, during heavy rain the track becomes impassable to all but 4 wheel drives, eventually winding its way to the entrance of Crookhaven River. A short walk from the carpark and you reach the long breakwater built in 1910 stretching out into the sea.  Orient Point and Crookhaven Heads Pilot Station overlook the river on the opposite shore.

Early morning you will see the local trawlers coming back into the safety of the river after a nights fishing.


The breakwater was built to try and stabalise the shifting sand bars, which made the entrance so unpredictable for vessels passing in and out of the river entrance. With large north swells the entrance even today can be extremely dangerous and has to be crossed with care.  Over the years many vessels of all sizes have come to grief on the shifting banks, lives have been lost and ships wrecked.

I have covered the Crookhaven Heads entrance in a previous post. A link is provided below to it's fascinating history.

Looking west from the breakwater you will see the Coolangatta Mountain, below which Alexander Berry established the first settlement in the Shoalhaven District.


Pilot Station overlooking the river.

I have been visiting the island since the 1980's
. The forested area of the island has always been lush, dense, wet and green. Yesterday the island was very dry, much of the dense undergrowth had died leaving only the taller shrub and trees, there are places along the road where you can see through to the open sky of the beach, the swamp areas were completely dry. The swamp kangaroos which usually dart into thick cover on either side of the road had no where to hide and could easily be seen, I have never seen the island look so dry, it was quite disturbing.


There are a number of old delapidated dairy sheds on the island.

Continue reading about Crookhaven heads, the Crookhaven heads lighthouse and the construction of the breakwater.

Continue reading about the historic gold mining town of Yawal, west of Nowra.



12 September 2018

Early photo's of Jervis Bay

Bill Todd grew up at Huskisson, his family have a long association with the area.  Members of his family are featured in the beautifully illustrated book on the Shoalhaven available from the museum. Bill kindly lent me a couple of his photo's of when he was a young boy growing up on the bay.

His family owned a house on the waterfront on Elizabeth drive overlooking the Bay.


Bill is the young boy in the photograph dated 1969. The waterfront at this time had been cleared of all vegitation.


This photo is of an old house his family owned on Coulon Street which runs off Frank Lewis Drive near Woollamia Boat Ramp. The house has since been demolished with a new dwelling built on the site.

These photos are from a badly worn and faded photograph of Huskisson. You can see the old boat building sheds on the left of the picture which at one time dominated the Huskisson waterfront.



10 September 2018

The Fish Pond

The fish pond looked very serene this week, a gentle mist rolled across the water, bathed in the early morning sunlight.
Take the time and visit the museum, you won't be disappointed.