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History of Warringah

The Warringah Region
Warringah Council 1906-1997
Warringah Library Service 1966-1997

The Warringah Region

The word Warringah has many interpretations including "sign of rain", "across the waves" and "sea".

Warringah was once home to the Guringai (Ku-ring-gai) language group of the Garigal Aboriginal clan. Evidence of their habitation remains today in the form of rock engravings, rock art, open campsites, rock shelters, scarred trees and middens.

Exploration into Warringah began within the first weeks of settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788. Governor Phillip made a number of journeys throughout the area, detailing the landscape, flora and fauna, as well as observing Aboriginal lifestyle and culture. Despite its relative proximity to Sydney, Warringah remained predominantly rural throughout the nineteenth century, with small communities in the valleys between the headlands.

The peninsula’s isolation and difficult terrain were natural barriers to expansion. Before bridges were built, the road distance from Sydney to Manly via Mona Vale Road was seventy miles. When the Warringah Shire was proclaimed in 1906, it covered an area of 264 square kilometres and the population was approximately 2,800 occupying 700 dwellings.

The tramline through the southern part of the shire, followed by the opening of the Spit and Roseville bridges in 1924, encouraged land subdivision and settlement northwards from Manly and Balgowlah.

Early subdivisions promoted the use of land for weekenders and holiday homes. Warringah had an increasing number of visitors for recreational purposes and it was during this period that many of the surf clubs and rock pools were developed. It was not until after World War 11 that rapid urbanisation occurred as people chose to build their family homes along the beaches. Retail and light industrial development followed, along with improved public utilities.

By the mid 1950s, suburban growth began to spread westward and new suburbs such as Cromer, Wheeler Heights, Narraweena and Allambie Heights were named by the late 1960s. At the same time the formerly rural or small settlements of Beacon Hill, Frenchs Forest and Belrose were undergoing rapid urbanisation. Modern shopping facilities and business premises geared towards servicing the growing population and industrial activity emerged during the 1970s.

Today Warringah is a diverse community with a population of 131,000 people covering 152.55 square kilometres.

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Warringah Council 1906-1998

The Shire of Warringah was proclaimed in the NSW Government Gazette of 7 March 1906 along with 132 other Shires. The Local Government Act of 1906 introduced the Shire as an independent, essentially rural unit of local government, covering 264 square kilometres.

Members of the Warringah Shire Temporary Council were nominated by the local progress associations and met nine times between 14 June and 22 November, 1906 at the Narrabeen Progress Association Hall.

The principal business of the Temporary Council was the preparation of the electoral roll for the elections which were held in November.

The first meeting of the Warringah Shire Council was held on Monday 3 December, 1906 at the Narrabeen Progress Association Hall. Meetings soon moved temporarily to the rented Empire Hall in Brookvale.

The original Shire headquarters in Brookvale was a suburban bungalow which also served as the Shire Clerk’s residence.

The first Council Chambers, opposite what we now know as Brookvale Park, were officially opened by President William Hews in July, 1912. They were built at a cost of 949 pounds and with later extensions served as Council’s headquarters for more than 50 years.

The present Civic Centre at Dee Why was officially opened on 1 September, 1973 by the then Shire President, Councillor Dick Legg.

In 1993, the northern part of Warringah seceded to form a separate Council of Pittwater, the first new council in NSW for 100 years.

Today Warringah Council has an annual budget of $85 million and employs 750 staff in full time, part time and casual positions.

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Warringah Library Service 1966-1998

1996 marks the 30th birthday of the Warringah Shire Library Service which commenced with the opening of Dee Why Library on 19 November, 1966. The building was described as the most modern public library in New South Wales and won the prestigious Sulman Award for Architecture.

At the end of the first day of operation 631 people had joined and 1,786 books had been borrowed.

The service quickly expanded with the opening, six years later, of the Mona Vale Branch Library on 3 September, 1972.

The Belrose Branch Library followed in May 1979 and the newly renovated Forestville Library in 1981.

In 1984, the Library’s catalogue and circulation system was computerised to enable the community to borrow and return items at any of the Shire Library service points.

Today, with over 60,000 members and a total stock of more than 190,172 items, Warringah Library Service is one of the most popular and modern in the Sydney metropolitan area.


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