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.

9 October 2015

Tent City – Jervis Bay

Below we find an interesting article describing the style of the “tent city” that was erected at Captains Point and housed the many workers engaged in the construction of the Australian Naval College,  know today as H.M.A.S Creswell. 

The Shoalhaven News and South Coast Districts Advertiser - 1913

A tent city, however small, cannot be set going without a considerable outlay.

In view of the interest already shown it may not be out of place to describe a tent, city which we already have in our State, but which, by the way, is only geographically, in"our State", for it is situated on Jervis. Bay, which is Federal territory.
A recent visit to that little known and out of the way spot enabled, me to glean a fairly good idea of what it feels like to live in a tent, and to be one of a whole community so dwelling.

197-Workers-and-Motorized-buggy Workers with a motorised buggy, during the earliest stages of clearing the bush around 1912.

The men building the Naval College at Jervis Bay are all housed on the spot at Captain's Point, in a very workmanlike construction camp, which, is mostly built of canvas, where it is not, it is built of corrugated iron.  It is comfortable and adequate, but it was not remarkably cheap to build. In round-numbers, 300 men, some with, wives, and families, are fairly well housed, and even in the rainy weather, they are snugly watertight. Jervis  Bay is decidedly remote, Huskisson, the chief centre of population, is the best part of a good bit away from anywhere, and Captain's point, where they are building the college, is about seven miles farther than that.

By far the largest number of inhabitants of Jervis Bay do not dwell there, for in old days, when the men-of-war went there for target firing. there were many men occasionally seen strolling along the grass-grown street of Huskisson, but now such is not the case. Captain's Point is the populous place  But still to a casual, observer, it is very evident that the great future of our coming Federal port is still a long way ahead of it.

Very few Sydney people know anything about Jervis Bay, so,  speaking roughly, and without giving distances between points with any accuracy,  it gives one a fair idea of the lay of the land to think of the two Heads as corresponding in position to Port Jackson Heads. Then Captain's Point would lie about where Point Piper is in the harbor, and Huskisson would be, say, at Paws Point.  The bay between Captain's Point and the Heads is called the  Hole in the Wall,  and this is where the whaling station is situated. This part of the country is said to be "the" spot for future building.  The Naval College is going up on the Point itself,  while the construction camp lies further inland.


Bullock team drawing timber for the college during the construction.

This tent city boasts a series of tents all properly boarded as to the floors, and with the sides, also boarded up to some height from the floor.  There is a large mess room, and also there are a boarding-house and a school of arts with a library,  where concerts and meetings are held.  All the drains,, sanitary arrangements, etc have been well planned.  Supplies come from Sydney by steamer, and from Nowra and: Tomerong by land. Nowra is the terminus of the railway, and from thence- to. all parts of' the Bay the road, in, the rainy season is simply unspeakable.


The college buildings themselves, which are as yet in a very unfinished state, already give signs of being, most graceful and attractive.  There is nothing of the barrack or gaol style about them  So many large and bungalow-like places in course of construction give the impression that a fashionable residential suburb is in building, and not the home of our infant navy

The mean, squalid appearance inseparable from a collection of canvas dwellings, is mitigated at Jervis Bay by the fact that in such an empty place it is a cheerful sight to see a dwelling of any kind, and also by the thought that this camp is only a temporary affair.   Yet it cost time money and thought ,  all well laid out, to get this tent city into being.

If a holiday camp of any size big enough to be dubbed a tent city is to be undertaken, near one of our surf  beaches it ought to be taken in hand by people sufficiently imaginative to be able to eliminate the squalid.  We are to fond of mean humpies as it is.

image Tent City.

Our magnificent coastal scenery, both north and south of Sydney, is disfigured by the uniformly petty and contemptible style of  architecture to be seen on both sides of the roads, It is quite a delightful change to come on a place like Stanwell Park, which has at least neat little cottages and villas to recommend it,  after viewing some of the dreadful eyesores only too frequent along that South Coast road.   A tent city, unless carefully planned, and capably worked, may very likely become an eyesore.  And one more eyesore  will be one too many.

The college has played a vital part in the development of the Jervis Bay region.
Before the construction of the Naval College, people in Sydney and beyond new virtually nothing about this beautiful area,   Once the decision was made to build the college at Jervis Bay the media coverage created a tremendous amount of interest in the area.    Many more visitors made their way to Jervis Bay fascinated by the many articles that began to appear in Sydney and regional papers describing the natural beauty of the area, the great possibilities for development and the opportunity to make money from investing in the local area.


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