Lake Macquarie History

How We Grew - the 1870s

The 1870s was a time of consolidation for Lake Macquarie. The timber industry was hitting it's stride and a number of sawmills were established around the lake.

  • 1872 - first sawmill at Cardiff Point near Belmont operated by Cumming and Lane. This enabled the boat building industry to flourish at Belmont.
  • 1874 - Two small mills operating at Cooranbong
  • 1874 - Wakefields Steam Sawmill at Wyee Point
  • 1875 - King and Company Steam Sawmill at Dora Creek – employed 40 men
  • 1877 - 4 steam sawmills operating around Cooranbong. This increased the amount of timber for export

photo: coal loading wharf wallarah colliery

The shallowness of the heads meant small ketches were needed and built to take the timber out to the larger ships waiting outside. Lake Macquarie heads were dredged in 1876 improving the entrance to the Lake and enabling more coal transport. The dredging helped, but the heads were still a dangerous place to navigate. Harbour works began around the entrance in 1879, including building of a breakwall,

In the late 1870s dredging commenced at Dora Creek, and this greatly increased the amount of timber able to be moved from there.

The 1870s saw a mining boom on the Eastern side of the lake. In 1873 the Wallarah mine at Catherine Hill Bay opened and brought an influx of workers and settlers to the area. Proper roads were stil non existant, but that was not an obstacle as sea travel was so readily available. 1876 also saw the establishment of the Raspberry Gully (South Waratah) Pit at Charlestown, which bought many miners and their families to the area and it soon became a thriving community.

As new townships and industries started to be established, the need for passenger ferries grew and the first services around the lake began in 1875.


Clouten, Keith 1967, Reid's mistake : the story of Lake Macquarie from its discovery until 1890, Lake Macquarie Shire Council, [Speers Point, N.S.W.]

Nilson, Laurie & Leis, Susan & Noble, Rodney & Lake Macquarie (N.S.W.). Council 1985, Lake Macquarie : past and present, Lake Macquarie City Council, [Boolaroo, N.S.W.]

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