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.

20 December 2017

Huskisson Christmas

With the Christmas holidays fast approaching I went looking for some stories from the past which involved the local area during December and January.

6th December 1879


25th December 1896


16th December 1905


9th January 1915


14th January 1921.


31st December 1925.



15 December 2017

Jervis Bay Snippet 1904

South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus August 1904
We are now in snake season, and with such hot weather your chance of coming across one of our local slithering friends has increased.  I found this small article about well known local shipbuilding identity who was bitten by a brown snake. Its a timely reminder to everyone to be carefull.



Booderie Scorched

In September Booderie National Park was ravaged by bushfires, access to Steamers Beach, Stoney Creek and the old lighthouse ruins have been closed to the public while repair work was carried out. The park authorities reopened the road this week but access to the old light is still blocked...I took these pictures from Moes Rock during the week.  The intensity of the fire is clearly evident and despite new growth starting to come through it will take some time before it recovers.

September 15.



12 December 2017

Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse

IMG_5570As it appeared in 1908.

The Crookhaven Headland where after a short walk you will find the remains of the lighthouse.
imageAs it appeared in 1905. This shows the headland almost cleared of trees and scrub.

Early today I took a walk out to the Crookhaven Heads Lighthouse,  It has been quite a few years since I last visited the historic lighthouse and I didn't know what to expect considering the state it was in on my last visit.


During the age of sail and coastal steamers, Crookhaven Heads was a busy waterway, being the only access to Shoalhaven River vessels would cross the shifting sandbars in all sorts of weather taking their cargo and passengers to and from Nowra. The lighthouse played a vital roll in providing safe navigation through these sometime treacherous waters.

1872 - A red light made from a ship's masthead light supported on two poles was exhibited by boatmen at the river entrance.

1882  - The first aid to navigation was a timber light,  constructed on the beach 200 meters to the west of the current lighthouse consisting of a brass lantern.

1904 – The current brick structure was built on the headland overlooking the entrance to the river. The lantern was from the former Cape St George Lighthouse which was replaced by Point Perpendicular Lighthouse in 1899.  The name of the station was then changed to Crookhaven Heads.


The lighthouse today is in a very sorry condition
Today the headland is covered in well grown trees and scrup hiding the lighthouse from view, it's isolation has seen continuous vandalism over many years with all the windows smashed, doors ripped off, graffiti scribbled from top to bottom over the inside of the building and rubbish strewn about.  Attempts to secure the building have seen the main windows fitted with steel panels inside and out,  a steel slat door stops vandals from accessing the old stairwell.


1909 - The lighthouse was completely renovated but due to its isolated and overgrown location, this community work was quickly undone and we find the old light as it is today.  A recent repaint of the outside has what remains looking clean and tidy, I wonder how long this will last.

Untitled_Panorama1Photo from my last visit in 2010.

2010 – Because of continued vandalisation the historic lantern was carefully disassembled in December 2011 and removed from the location by a navy helicopter from HMAS Albatross for restoration.

IMG_5568Permanently fixed heavy steel bars across the doorway blocking entry to the tower stairs.

Vandalism 2017.
What will become of this historic monument?

The headland still dominates the entrance to Crookhaven River and now has a sinle automated light on top of a steel pole.

The waterway is still busy, with trawlers and pleasure boats coming and going on a daily basis.  The Pilot station still monitors all boating in and out of the river and plays  a vital roll in the safety of sea farers today.

I have done a few posts on Crookhaven Heads which include many of the ships that came to grief in and around the entrance to the river.  It's quite a fascinating tale and well worth reading.
Continue reading.


5 December 2017

On this Day - 6 December 1886

The luxurious passenger ship the S.S.Corangamite commanded by Captain Philip Le Nenev, ran ashore at Wreck Bay becoming a total loss.  At the time of the disaster she carried 120 passengers and general cargo.

Continue reading.


4 December 2017

On this Day December 3 1840

imageThe township of Huskisson was approved by Governor, Sir George Gipps on December 3, 1840.
Named after the Minister for the British Army in the 1820's, Huskisson was later run over by a locomotive whilst he was taking to the Duke of Wellington. 100 lots in Huskisson sold for 3500 pounds in 1841.
By the 1800's Huskisson was the centre of a thriving ship building industry The Vessel Lady Denman was one of the most famous to be built there.  Ship building continued right up to 1966.
In 1988 Huskisson had a population of 1,000.

Sir George Gipps - 5 October 1837 – 2 August 1846

37 Huskisson Wharf 1914_1
Huskisson 1914.


30 November 2017

Moona Moona before the bridge.

The photo shows the Moona Moona creek crossing before a timber bridge was built in the early 1940's. Before then you had to travel the long way around via Huskisson Road and the College road to reach Vincentia, or take a chance and ford the river.
The bridge that stands there now is a concrete single span, 8.2 m long x 9.7 m wide, built in 2003.

There are now plans before government to build a seperate shared predestrian/cyclist bridge over the creek.

Continue reading some other interesting history about Moona Moona Creek. Including information about the first timber constructed foot bridge built by locals.

Ethel Harrison,   on the first pedestrian Moona Moona creek crossing. built in 1926. Continue reading.


27 November 2017

R.I.P Josephine.

The Lady Denman and the local community lost one of its long-serving volunteers today. Josephine, one of the most vibrant personalities you would ever meet worked tirelessly for the museum for many years raising money and helping out as only Josephine could..  Every time she entered the building you could hear the music.  She would poke her head around the corner, say, 'there you are" and light up the room with her smile...
The volunteers and staff pass on our condolences to her family, she will be missed.


15 November 2017

S.S Tambo disabled off Jervis Bay 1895.

On this day - Friday 15 November 1895.

Friday 15 - S.S.Tambo in command of Captain Hipgrave left Sydney in the afternoon bound for Hobart, she carried general cargo and passengers which amounted to about 20 people including the captain and crew.

10.30 pm - While steaming past Jervis Bay her tail shaft broke and became completely disabled.


12.30 am - Her signals of distress were answered by the south bound S.S. Colac of the Adelaide Steam Ship Company which was luckilly steaming close by, dispite parting several lines,  towed the Tambo to a safe anchorage inside Jervis Bay.  The Jervis Bay lighthouse keeper sent a telegraph to the owners, Huddart, Parker, and Co., stating the information above.  The manager company immediately contacted the lighthouse keeper to gain further information.
The Colac stood by her all night then proceeded south to Melbourne.

Saturday 16 - The Tambo remained at safe anchorage until the following day.  A reply came back to the company that the steamer whilst being towed into the bay signalled, "want assistance". Several tugs were placed at the disposal of the company, but these were declined by the company until clearer information could be obtained. The company waited for a  reply from the captain, but the lighthouse keeper sent a message telling them the steamer was too far away to signal.

Monday 18 – The steamer Burrumbeet arrived in the bay to render assistance. She took the Tambo in tow and proceeded to Sydney against a fresh northeast wind which made the Burumbeets task a difficult one.

burrambeet steamer

Tuesday 1.30am – The Tambo gave a heavy lurch,  and the tow line snapped.  There was a nasty choppy sea at the time,  and both boats were knocked about,  a second line was put out,  and this also parted. The sail was set on the Tambo to keep her off the land,  while the Burrumbeet steamed at full speed to Sydney for fresh tow lines.


The tug Hero
– while this was all going on the tug Hero had left port to give assistance to the disabled steamer.

Tuesday 3.pm – Hero reached the Tambo and found her drifting south between Coalcliff and Bulli, securing a tow line she brought the Tambo safely back to the companies Margaret Street Wharf Sydney.


The passengers on being interviewed stated that they had no anxiety at any time.  When the shaft broke they all felt a heavy shock,  and immediately afterwards all called on deck by the captain. On reaching the deck they found all hands at the boats and the captain and officers were busy making distress signals. At the time the nature of the accident was unknown. Then an engineer came up and reported that the tail shaft had broken and that there was no danger.   The weather was fine, and the sea not to rough.  Captain Hipgrave had done all he could to make up for the misshap,  and the passengers were given a good time ashore at Jervis Bay inspecting the locality, while others engaged in Wallaby shooting.......( How things have changed! )

The passengers spoke in the highest terms of the behavior of Captain Hipgrave and the officers and men during the trying experience.


14 November 2017

Young Thomas Speechley.

The tragic story of Thomas Speechley and the mystery of the lonely grave.


Standing alone at the end of a small dirt track nestled amongst the bush on the eastern bank of Currambeen creek is a small grave. I first discovered the grave by accident around 1980, riding through the bush on my bike I came across a small overgrown track leading to the river.  I had past this track many times before without noticing.  After ducking and weaving a short distance through thick scrub I was quite stunned to come across an old gravestone.  The grave still had a few dilapidated timber pickets sticking from the ground, with other termite eaten pieces scattered about.   The grave was marked with the words "Thomas Speechley accidentally shot through explosion 14th November 1904."  This sparked my curiosity to find out who and why he was buried here in this quiet, lonely place.

On previous rides in the area I had come across signs of old habitation scattered amongst the bush, rusted iron, drums and the body and chassis of an old Cadillac truck, windscreen surround, steering wheel and one free spinning timber spoked wheel still attached to the differential..

What grave?
I asked my relatives who had been in the Callala area since the 1950's but they knew nothing about the grave.  Over time I asked around and was always  met with the same response..."What Grave?,  When I moved from Callala across to Woollamia the grave slipped from my memory until I became involved in research at the Denman Museum.  I came across some old photo's of the grave in the museum archives. Since then I have spoken to one of the relatives of the young boy and after 37 years, recently re-visited the grave.

Walking along the rutted bush track from the Myola Boat Ramp car park for about 1200 meters I came across 4 timber posts sticking from the ground.  There the only indication of something different along the track.  Without those posts you could easily miss the grave site.  I pushed through the overgrown bush towards the river and came across a plaque attached to a large rock by the National Parks.  From there it's a very short walk to the gravestone...

The whole site is overgrown and easily missed if you didn't know it existed in the first place.

Thomas Speechley was a young boy aged 6 years and 8 months living with his family on the banks of Currambene Creek on the north eastern side of present-day Myola.  The area was an aboriginal settlement from 1895 – 1920's and was known by the aboriginal people as Bilong.   At one time there were between 10 -15 cottages there.  There are many middens in the area and association with aboriginals is recorded as far back as the early 1800's, other signs show the aboriginals have been using the area for many thousands of years.    Thomas's father William Speechley  was an Englishman married to an Aboriginal woman, earning a living by collecting the gum from Grass Trees on the north side of the bay near Beecroft Peninsula.   He owned a small boat and would travel from the Currambene across the bay to collect gum.  His boy Thomas would sometime accompany him.


14th November 1904.
The Speechley's and Christie Carpenter from Bilong, set off across the bay as they had done many times before.  While William and Christie were going about their business of collecting gum, Thomas played on the beach nearby.  

Thomas came across a 7lb shell casing, often found in the area. He showed his father who promptly threw it away and told Thomas to leave it alone before resuming his work of gathering gum.  Soon after a loud explosion occurred, when William arrived on the scene he found his son Thomas was already dead. Thomas had been fatally wounded by the exploding shell, ripping his hand off and doing extensive damage to his abdomen, killing him instantly.   Thomas was brought back to Huskisson and buried in the grave on the side of Currambene Creek not far from the families homestead.
As the years passed the grave and settlement were abandoned and slowly dissappeared into the bush.

Shell cases on the beach.
Why were there shell cases on the beach?.  The Navy had from the very beginning used Jervis Bay as a place for live shell practice and training.  The area where the incident took place was well known by locals for finding shell cases on the beach which they eagerly collected and sold back to the navy.  No one was aware that some of those shells could still be active,  all were thought to be "plugged" with no bursting charge.


The tragedy made news in papers all over the country including newspapers in England, many asking how this accident could have occured.


The Navy was puzzled by the death of the boy.

The authorities held an enquiry into the tragic accident and could not account for the shell being found on the beach in that location.   The navy explained, "when firing is carried on at Jervis Bay targets are moored out in the entrance of the bay and the guns are therefore, directed out to sea. Under no circumstances are the shells fired on to the mainland.  Occasionally targets are erected near Bowen Island, an uninhabited spot some distance from Jervis Bay. Those are fired at with both plugged and live shells, and it is thought that the fishermen of the neighbourhood have been in the habit of collecting the shells that have been thrown on to the island."

A target being redied for shell practice from the Quarterdeck of H.M.S Challenger in Jervis Bay one month before the fatal accident.

The shell that caused the death of young Speechley is believed to have been a 71b. shrapnel with an R.L. percussion cap. The slightest blow on the nose of the shell would cause the bursting charge of about 4oz. of powder to explode and shatter the shell, which Is composed of steel.
One explanation was that the shell could have come from a badly directed firing and could have landed on the beach after ricocheting, striking the ground sideways and not exploding. They also suggested the shell could have been from the time of the HMS Orlando which operated in the bay in the late 1890's. There was no way of knowing which ship the shell came from.

H.M.S Challenger. 
On the 3rd, 4th and 5th of January H.M.S. Challenger arrived in the bay and dispatched parties of about 80 men to conduct a  search of the beaches looking for live projectiles. It was reported that about 40 projectiles of 9.2in., 6in., 4in., 4.7in., and 4in., calibre were found, and collected together, but 11 were practice projectiles.  The existance of other live shells was a definate possibility.


HMS Challenger by Allan Green

Remarkably William Thomas was using shells for ballast and at the time of the accident carrying 18 shells weighing up to 80lb's in his boat.

Visiting Thomas.
The site is a beautiful, lonely place, sitting only metres from the rivers edge, disturbed only by passing boats and bird song.  There are known to be 4 other graves in the area,  these are unmarked,   suggesting the site was originally central to the small community which lived there.

The beautiful Currambene Creek adjacent to Thomas's Grave.