Illawong – Delardes Reserve
The MWG was invited to meet a group of Shire Bushcare volunteers who were to be given a tour of and presentation on the history of Delardes Reserve.
Our member Greg Jackson conducted the tour. The following is taken from Greg’s written history of this area.
The Albert Delardes Reserve is a small reserve fronting the Georges River in Griffin Parade, Illawong. Without monuments or obvious ruins it never the less contains some of the oldest European history in the Sutherland Shire.
History records cattle being driven across this narrowest crossing of the Georges River south to the Illawarra2. West of the reserve is the landing for the Lugarno ferry that operated at this site from 1887 till 1974.
What is not so well known is that there was an older ferry crossing and its scant remains can be found both on the northern side of the river and in Delardes Reserve along with part of the last convict built road in NSW. The hand operated ferry ran from 1843 till 1860 and it ran from the western side of Edith Bay across the river and its master was Charles Roman.
Around that time Thomas Mitchell proposed a bridge across the Georges River at Lugarno. The proposed bridge, while being across one of the rivers narrowest points, would have involved considerable rock work. For Mitchell this site had the virtue of landing, on the southern side of the river, on one of his many land grants5. Today this would be called a ‘conflict of interest’.
Today all traces of the convict road leading north and the original ferry master’s house above the ferry landing have been destroyed by road works to upgrade Forest Road.
There are clear markers on the southern side, including an old survey mark and the remains of the main road to Wollongong. This road was built in haste by a gang of only 10 convicts and has not been used since 1860.
This ferry service failed due to poor patronage (1 passenger a day) and wheeled vehicles could not descend into Wollongong anyway as a road had not been constructed at that time. Still there was a small settlement at Bottle Forest Heathcote that depended on the ferry.
Interestingly a road was finally built and in 1871 the first wheeled vehicles were able to travel between Sydney and Wollongong via Bottle Forest.
Delardes Reserve (then known as Lugarno Park) then became a pleasure park with large tourist boats that arrived from Como Railway Station.
Some other interesting facts about DeLardes Reserve:
On the point is the site of a large indigenous midden that was robbed by lime burners, probably in the 1840's
It was the proposed site for a large coal fired power station which was overturned in late 1950
the infamous criminal Darcy Dugan was captured there while on the run also in the 1950s
(We are indebted to Greg Jackson and Pam Forbes for this fascinating historical review)