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Warrawong - history

aboriginal | place name | land grants | early residents | historic buildings | early industry | timeline | Bibliography | Images & photographs

Place Name


Various meanings are given for the aboriginal word Warrawong:
these are "a whiting" and the "side of a hill", "a windy place on a hill", "wind-swept".

Place Names of the Wollongong Region

The Warrawong area has been known variously as Steeltown, Kembla Estate, New Kembla and, finally, Warrawong. The use of the name Warrawong was first recorded in a South Coast Times article of 1936. (South Coast Times, 4 Sept 1936).

Land Grants

Surveyor General John Oxley marked out the first land grants in the region on 2 December 1816. He marked out large parcels of land surrounding Lake Illawarra which were named Illawarra Farm, Berkeley Estate and Macquarie Gift. Crops such as wheat, oats and potatoes were grown around the lake and dairying became the primary industry in the late 1880s.

In 1817, David Allan was granted 2,200 acres at Five Islands. His property fronted the ocean at Red Point and Port Kembla and was between Tom Thumb Lagoon and Lake Illawarra. The grant was called "Illawarra Farm".

Allan was Deputy Commissary-General of the colony from 1813 - 1819. He carried on his grazing interests on his Illawarra Farm" of which 600acres were cleared. Produce from the farm was sold to the Government Stores.

Allan left the colony in 1822 and he leased the farm "with good cottage and office (Sydney Gazette, 22 June 1824).

In 1827 the property was sold to Richard Jones who later sold it to William Charles Wentworth & it came to be known as "The Five Islands Estate". Wentworth died in 1876 leaving the property to his son D'Arcy Bland Wentworth.

In 1899, 500 acres of the land was resumed for the Port Kembla Harbour and a further 1470 acres was resumed in 1913. (Herben, 2000)

Early Residents

Wentworth Family

The Wentworth Family had a long association with the Warrawong/Port Kembla area. William Charles Wentworth I purchased Illawarra Farm, later known as Five Islands Estate from Richard Jones. He died in 1876 and left the property to his son D'Arcy Bland Wentworth. D'Arcy Bland died without heirs and his nephew, William Charles Wentworth III, inherited the Five Islands Estate.

W C Wentworth III sold some of the land to Australian Iron and Steel to enable them to move from Lithgow to Port Kembla and some to a group of Sydney businessmen called "Heart of Kembla". The Wall Street crash (1929) and subsequent Depression meant that Heart of Kembla became bankrupt and as the land had not been paid for it reverted to W C Wentworth III. (Lawson, 1991)

In 1935, W.C. Wentworth IV began to develop parcels of land from his estate for sale. He granted 4 acres of land for a new school at Steeltown (Warrawong) and built a new Kembla Estate hall at Port Kembla.(South Coast Times & Illawarra Mercury).

When the land at Warrawong was subdivided the Wentworths would not allow inferior structures to be built in case they developed into slums. The subdivisions included unusual features for the time such as wide streets, kerbing and guttering and underground drainage as well as recreational areas & parklands. [South Coast Times, 30 August 1935]

Although the Wentworth family owned the Kembla Estate for over 100 years, they did not live in the district for any length of time. The land was leased or managed through a family trust.

Early Industry


David Allan, the first land grantee in the area, carried on grazing interests on his "Illawarra Farm" of which 600acres were cleared. Produce from the farm was sold to the Government Stores. Crops such as wheat, oats and potatoes were grown around the lake and dairying became the primary industry in the late 1880s.

Lake Illawarra

In the 1890s, attempts were made to make Lake Illawarra a deep sea port. A jetty was to be built on the western shore of the lake to allow the export of coal from the Ocean View colliery. As part of this scheme, a channel was to be dredged through the entrance of Lake Illawarra to allow ocean-going boats to reach the lake jetty. The channel was to be four and a half miles long and 430 feet wide between the breakwaters at the lake entrance. A railway line was built on Windang Island to carry rock cut from the southwestern side of the Island through to the mainland side of the Island. This rock was used to build the breakwaters, the remains of which can be seen today. The project was abandoned in 1902 because of the problem of drifting sand blocking the lake entrance channel. (Lake Illawarra Authority).


1934 - First houses

1935 - Steeltown Public School opened (Flagstaff Road). Name of school changed to Warrawong Public School in 1946. School transferred to Cowper St site in 1946.

1936 - Commonwealth Hostel (later Open Hearth Hotel)

1936 - first shop in shopping centre

1936 - Post-office opened

1940 - St Andrews Anglican Church, Cowper Street - built on land given by W.C. Wentworth (demolished 1999)

1949 - Open Hearth Hotel (built 1936 as a boarding house for steelworkers).

1960 - Warrawong Shopping Centre opens

1960 - St Francis of Assisi School opens

1972 - Warrawong High School opens

1988- Westfield Shoppingtown opening

1988 - new library opens in Westfield Shoppingtown (combination of Warrawong,

Berkeley and Pt Kembla libraries)



Herben, Carol Illawarra Farm IN Illawarra Historical Society Bulletin, March/April 2000.

Illawarra Mercury 8 Nov 1935 "New hall built on Kembla Estate

Lawson, Valerie The war of the Wentworths IN Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend 14 Sept 1991.

Hawley, Janet Billy in the backwoods IN Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend, 11 Mar 1989.

South Coast Times 27 Apr 1923'W C Wentworth will give 25 acres for public park"

South Coast Times1 Feb 1935 "New school at Flagstaff Road opened as Steeltown School"

South Coast Times 30 Aug 1935 "W C Wentworth junior, manager of Kembla Estate, returns from America"

South Coast Times, September 1951 "Warrawong - most unique industrial residential area in the world".

Urban Illawarra, Ed. By Ross Robinson. Melbourne, Sorrett, 1977.

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