History on the Central Coast

History on the Central Coast


Posted 2024-03-03 by Ashleigh Meiklefollow

Fascinated by history, and want to know more about what the Central Coast has to offer to explore local history and family history? The Central Coast has something to offer everyone, from historic houses or sites to workshops and discussion groups in the library system and many other activities and places that will allow you to step back in time to discover the rich history of the Central Coast . Take a hike to ancient rock art sites, and have a unique dining experience in heritage buildings that mark various stages of history on Darkinjung land.

You could join an Aboriginal guided tour, where you will learn about the world’s oldest living culture, and you will visit significant and sacred Aboriginal sites, so you can expand and enrich your knowledge about the Central Coast. And then you can also see how the early European settlers made their lives on the Central Coast at two key sites – Alison Homestead at Wyong, and Henry Kendall Cottage in West Gosford. Or check out Norah Head Lighthouse, where you will get great views of the coastline. You can even spend the night in the heritage-listed Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters.

Aboriginal Experiences

Long before the Central Coast became known for its hinterland, valleys and beaches, it was home to the Darkinjung, Gurungai and Awabakal people – and they lived, farmed, and thrived on country for thousands of years before colonisation.

Before the hinterland, valleys and beaches were known as the Central Coast, this was the home of the Darkinjung, Gurungai and Awabakal people, who lived, hunted, farmed and thrived on country for thousands of years before the Central Coast was established in 1811.

There are over 2,985 registered Aboriginal sites that have significant and cultural importance such as sandstone markings, ochre hand stencils on cave walls, and many other things that allow you to interact with, understand, and pay respects to the Traditional Owners of Darkinjung Country. Take a guided tour , explore Country in many different ways – explore thousand-year-old trails and Songlines, do the 5 Lands Walk, and many other things- there are lots of experiences that will be suited to everyone, and you can buy authentic art , and learn to weave with local artists – doing any of these shows you how easy it is to interact with Aboriginal heritage, culture and history on the Central Coast.

Norah Head Lighthouse

For 120 years, Norah Head Lighthouse has been guiding ships along the treacherous coastline between Sydney and Newcastle, that during the late 18th century was perilous – thick fogs, fierce gales, jagged tocks and black-out conditions that claimed many lives. From Edward Hammond Hargraves early moves to implement a lighthouse in 1868, the loss of the Gwydir in 1884 which led to harder resolve for a light to be constructed, to the many changes over the decades for the working lighthouse and its operations, Norah Head Lighthouse is a significant part of Central Coast History since November 1903. It is a key figure on the coast – helping guide ships along the coast, and only three ships have been lost along this coastline since its construction:

- The Nerong, a 219-tonne collier in 1917
- The Nimbin, a Dutch vessel which sank after hitting a German mine in 1940
- BHP Vessel, Iron Chieftain, which sank after it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942.

If you’re interested in learning more about maritime history on the Central Coast, the Norah Head Lighthouse is the place to go for locals and tourists, and you can take a tour of the lighthouse for $10 for adults, and $5 for children. Check the website for more details.

Alison Homestead
Built in 1825, Alison Homestead in Wyong is on Wyong’s first land grant. These days, it is the home of the Wyong District Museum and Historical Society, and is filled with memorabilia, photographs, furniture, toys and other household such as equipment and machinery and tools that relate to the early days of the homestead and Wyong.

Explore a slab hut that was once part of Yarramalong Public School – check out the furniture, equipment, books, maps, and memorabilia that tells the story of early school days in the area – and this would be great for school groups to come and visit for a fun day of history. The volunteers can organise demonstrations and activities, and children can bring their own food and drink to have a picnic in the gardens. The Museum can also supply cold drinks, ice blocks, tea, coffee and cake for a small charge.

What else is this location perfect for? Anyone who loves history and is interested in local history – history that may not be explored in bigger history books, history that makes the region you live in come to life and shows what everyday life was like beyond the big events we see in history lessons. Alison Homestead can cater for club and group outings, weddings, functions, meetings, workshops, events, fairs, markets and car boot sales.

There are plenty of parking and entertainment areas that are enclosed, outdoor, covered and uncovered, and if you have a group booking, the venue will provide morning tea, light lunches, and BBQs – check out the food menu page for options. Alternatively, there is a picnic area with BBQs if you would like to cater for yourself.

The outdoor areas are dog friendly, and the museum and grounds are wheelchair accessible, and they also have accessible facilities. The Homestead is run by volunteers, has a plant nursery selling plants, and a Men’s Shed – check the website for more details.

The extensive library has lots of historical books for you to explore, as well as files with over 20,000 historical photos you can access for sale and research purposes – a great resource for history on the coast!
1 Cape Road, Wyong 2259
Phone: 02 4352 1886 Email: [email protected]

Henry Kendall Cottage

Henry Kendall Cottage was built between 1836 and 1840 by Peter Fagan, using convict labour, and was in his family until Colonel Garnet Adcock bought it in 1921. However, it is known as Henry Kendall Cottage for its famed guest, poet Henry Kendall, who lived there from 1873 until 1874. These days, it is owned and maintained by the volunteers of the Brisbane Water Historical Society who preserve and share the colonial history of the cottage to show people what life was like over one hundred years ago before Federation.

Like Alison Homestead, Henry Kendall Cottage is run by volunteers and acts as a time capsule and educational tool for tour groups of adults and school groups – use the booking form to make a booking. Tours have hour-long time slots, and the cottage welcomes school excursions – and will give students an entertaining and historically informative experience – telling and showing them what life was like in the cottage and the mid-19th century in the early days of the Central Coast.

The beauty of the historical tours here is that the cottage supports the NSW Department of Education Syllabus, and will focus on life in the past and how families lived - but can also fit in with other requests that you may have. Kids will have a great time with this educational and historical experience as they will be divided into smaller groups based on the number of children – up to a maximum of 80 students – and rotate around various immersive activities that will involve them in history. Check the education tab for further details.
Regular hours for the cottage are:

Wednesday: 10am – 2.30pm
Saturday: 10am – 2.30pm
Sunday: 10am – 2.30pm
Public Holidays: 10am – 2.30pm (Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Good Friday)

Closed from 24th January to the 1st of December.

The cottage grounds are open to the public daily 10am until 4pm, but the cottage is only open for the times listed above. So come and explore the grounds and get a taste of what is on offer before you make your trip to the museum.

Henry Kendall Cottage and Historical Museum
25-27 Henry Kendall Street
West Gosford
[email protected]

Phone: (02) 4325 2270

Explore History at Central Coast Libraries

If you want to explore history through books and research, then the Central Coast Libraries is the place to go. They have something for everyone and an array of resources to help you on your historical jaunt.

You may want to explore family history with the family history databases in the various library branches. You can use Ancestry, Find My Past, and British Newspaper Archive – with an emphasis on New South Wales, and some immigration records from Queensland and Victoria. If you’re after overseas records, there will be other local groups that can help with this. The libraries also have a large selection of family history books and guides to use, and the collection can be accessed by booking a time at Gosford and Tuggerah – details available at the link above. Whilst the collection is conducted on a learn-it-yourself basis, email [email protected] for assistance if you need it.

There are also beginner’s sessions throughout the year – keep an eye on the library website for information about this, and Gosford Library provides limited support and guidance.

Local History
Interested in local history? Central Coast Libraries has a large local history collection. It has photographs, images, and sound recordings – a collection that is always growing, and gives you an insight into how the Central Coast has changed over the years through the databases.

Use Central Coast Memories , the digitised collection of historical images, photographs and sound recordings, including photographs, subdivision plans, postcards and Central Coast Voices that will build a picture of what the coast was like and what it has become.

Head on over to Gostalgia on Flickr – a website that captures feelings of nostalgia for the Gosford area, and is a fun and easy-to-use gallery of photos, memorabilia and much more – which makes it ideal for a school project!

Here are recorded interviews from the 1980s and 1990s in Central Coast Voices , and listen to Central Coast locals tell stories of hardship, hope, good times, bad times, war and peace, so you can gain a glimpse of life in times gone by on the coast. This is part of a NSW State Library digitisation project and is an interactive platform, which allows listeners to help transcribe interviews.

My research has shown that these online resources can be accessed from home.

You can also purchase local history books through the Central Coast Library service. Email the Library History Team at [email protected] for enquiries about these books.
One of these books is Wreck of the Maitland: A Scene to Make the Angels Weep by Geoffrey Potter - $2795 plus postage.

The blurb for the book is as follows and taken directly from the Local History link:
Imagine the terror of being roused at dawn with the news that you had to abandon ship – or worse, prepare to run aground. On the morning of 6 May 1898, that was the fate of the passengers and crew of the SS Maitland. Leaving Sydney in the worst gale for 20 years, her fires were soon extinguished and the ship drifted helplessly. This is the story of the terrible events surrounding the wreck and the incredible bravery of those aboard. Newly uncovered facts reveal the twists and turns in the life of the ship and those involved with her. Wreck of the Maitland is a true tale of courage and frailty brought to life in the words of those who experienced it. If you think you know the Maitland story, think again.

With all these extensive local history collections and a helpful Library History Team, you have access to lots of resources, and there are always resources, such as early tourist guides, being added to the Library Catalogue, where they can be downloaded for research purposes.
History Hounds

Love family history, but need people to talk to about it? Meet the History Hounds – a local group keen on exploring and talking about family history and what research resources are available to help you get started on your journey, as well as finding pit what is new in the world of researching family history.

Use the registration form in the link below, enquire at your local branch, or call 4350 1560 to make an essential booking.

History Hounds takes place on the first Wednesday of the month at ten thirty am and the next dates are:
6th of March
3rd of April
1st of May
5th of June

Check out more itineraries and more about what history the Coast has to offer here! History on the Central Coast is vibrant, diverse and immersive, and there will be something to appeal to everyone.



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