Lake Macquarie History


Name Origin:

In 1831 the name 'Tirelbah' was recorded as the first European reference to the area. The current spelling was introduced in 1833. The name may have come from Ranclaud's 'Trialba' estate. It is thought that this, a Latin word for 'three white things', pertained to three local mountains. Alternatively it may have derived from the Aboriginal words 'Tool-kar-bar' (a soft ti-tree place) or 'Tir-reel-ba' (place of ticks). Another possibility is 'place where edible bush grows'.

In 1884 the settlement was known as 'Fresh Water Creek' because of a small stream, used for drinking purposes. The 'Gravel Pits' and 'Glen Mitchell' were other early names. It was not until about 1887 that the railway station and its surrounding area became generally known as 'Teralba'.

European History

Early Land Grants:

On 9 February 1830 Captain James St. John Ranclaud selected 914 acres (Teralba Parish). This grant (which ran south from the Five Islands to Marmong Creek) adjoined his first grant (which ran west to Killingworth and the Sugarloaf Range). Ranclaud's death led to the deed to his 914 acre grant being transferred, on 12 March 1842, to James Mitchell of Sydney. On I February 1869 this estate and another (560 acres extending from Marmong Creek, southward towards Bolton Point, which was bought by Mitchell in 1836) were bequeathed to his daughter, Margaret Scott Quigley. This joint property was known as "Awaba Park Estate".

Early Subdivisions:

About 1886 a section of the Quigley estate was surveyed, and subdivided into residential building blocks. This subdivision was called "Glen Mitchell".

Early European Settlers:

In 1884 Mr. Rodgers (a baker) moved his family from Wakefield to Teralba, to seek employment on the railway construction. Prior to 1887, postmaster and railway officer-in-charge, H.F. Nesbitt arrived. In 1888 John Desreaux (Lake Macquarie Shire President 1916 - 1917) came from Woy Woy to settle. The town's first hotel proprietor, Thomas Williams, settled prior to 1888, whilst its second publican, John Hodges, arrived before 1890.

Early Industries:

In 1884 Amos and Co., tenderers for the Northern Railway construction, opened a gravel quarry in 'Big Hill' (also known as 'Billy Goat Hill') south-west of the town.

The Great Northern Coal Co. began mining in 1886 and production began on 23 July 1887. The company was financed by its employees (shares were 22 pounds each). The Colliery was renamed Northern Colliery in 1890; Pacific Co-operative Colliery in 1893; and the Pacific Colliery in 1914. After purchasing this colliery B.H.P. closed it to erect the Macquarie Colliery on the same site.

In 1890 Gartlee mine was opened. The mine's name was changed to Northern Extended in 1902. Owned by Andrew Sneddon, its first manager was David Miller. Interestingly, the initials A.S. are still emblazoned on the front brick wall of the former Sneddon residence in Railway Street overlooking the town and the lake. In the early days a sawmill was opened by the Turner Brothers at the railway entrance to the Northern Extended colliery. Coke ovens were built nearby but the venture was a failure.

By 28 August 1903 Hodge's quarry was operational; as was Gardener and McNulty's by 15 December 1909. In 1922 these quarries were taken over by Teralba Gravel Quarries Ltd: both had closed by 1939. They are now operating as Ready Mix's Teralba Quarry.

Early Transport:

Some early residents worked at the Catherine Hill Bay mines. They travelled by steam boat to Nords Wharf and then walked the remaining distance,


Teralba station opened with the Gosford to Waratah section of the Great Northern Railroad on the15th August 1887. During its construction period this station was known as 'Five Islands' or 'Lake Macquarie'. H.F. Nesbitt was the stations first Officer-in-charge; A.G. Sneddon was his assistant; Michael Meehan was the porter. Joseph Milligan was appointed as Teralba's first Station Master in 1902. During the building of the line, where it left Teralba Station on it's way to Fassifern, it went through a place known locally as 'The Saddle'. This was between Billy Goat Hill and the larger Rhondda Hill. The line here had a high gradient.

Teralba Colliery and Northern Extended Colliery both had rail links, the latter having the Sydney line running to it. A second track was opened from Cockle Creek in May 1891, to cater for increased mining output. On 1 February 1903 the original line became redundant when a new track was laid around 'Big Hill' over the Booragul Loop with a lower gradient.

First Post Office:

Opened 1 January 1885. It was known as 'Winding Creek' until its name was changed to 'Teralba' on 1 January 1888. H.F. Nesbitt was an early post master.

First School:

Teralba's first school was transferred from Cockle Creek. "The Temporary Public School Gravel Pits, Fresh Water Creek" operated in a rented house from 19 February 1886. In March 1886 this school was moved into the old Hillsborough School building (from Cockle Creek), which had been re-erected at the 'Gravel Pits' (Teralba). The school was now called 'Gravel Pits'. The name was changed to 'Glen Mitchell' in January 1889, and 'Teralba' in April 1891. Harry Wilkinson was the school's first teacher. By the end of 1886 over 90 pupils were enrolled.


The first meeting of Lake Macquarie Shire Council was held in Teralba Court House. This meeting of July 1906, proclaimed Mr. Stenhouse as temporary president. This was followed in December 1906 by the election of Mr. S. Croudace as President.

From 1906, the Lake Macquarie Coursing (greyhound racing) Club operated meetings at the “Plumpton” ground. “Plumpton Coursing” was a form of greyhound raching where two greyhounds contested against each other. A contemporary report of the opening stated ... The fine ground of the Lake Macquarie Coursing Club at Teralba is almost ready for the holding of the opening meeting on 23rd and 24th May. The whole of the ground will be enclosed with a close paling fence, and this fence is nearly completed. It is on the slope of. a hill, facing the waters of the lake, and is undoubtedly one of the finest and best situated coursing grounds in the State.

The Plumpton ground provided Teralba with a venue for other activities. In 1917, the Teralba Roll of Honour Committee held their sports on the Plumpton ground, on Saturday 31 March ... The procession started from Teralba Railway Station, at about two o'clock. It was headed by the Cardiff Brass Band, which was followed by the school children, the 'H' Company of trainees, and the Boy Scouts, under Assistant Scoutmaster McMillan; the D.S.M.was also present. The gate takings were about £15, which was considered satisfactory. The 'H' Company trainees, the Boy Scouts and children, under 14 years, were admitted free. A lengthy programme of competitions was gone through...


The area developed in response to the railway works and mining ventures. In 1884 a camp for railway construction workers formed around the Amos and Co. quarry. By 1885 about one hundred men worked this quarry; forty-five children lived in the camp.

It is probable that, prior to 1881, there were only two houses in the general area: Black's (at Cockle Creek) and Quigley's (near Marmong Point).

Most early settlers occupied - and later leased (usually for a fifty year period) - land owned by the Quigley's. A survey of town allotments and streets was arranged by the Quigley Estate trustees about 1887. In 1886 the government surveyed a township. The area selected lay between the lake and the railway, only a short distance from the 'Fresh Water Creek' settlement near the quarry.

In 1886 the police station (officially named the 'Ballast Pit') opened on 'Billy Goat Hill'. Samuel Danks was its first police officer. Prior to 1887 the majority of settlers lived around 'Billy Goat Hill'.

Teralba's first shop was built and operated by Thomas Gordon. This shop, which stood on the comer of William and Margaret Streets, was later occupied by James Bergin, and then by T.C. Frith and Co. On the adjacent corner Thomas McNamara opened a butchery.

In 1888 John Desreaux opened a blacksmith and wheelwright business in William Street, which was later moved to Pitt Street. In 1888 the first hotel - the Lake Macquarie - was opened by Thomas Williamson on the lakefront in Macquarie Street. It closed in 1955. A.M. Kearns operated Teralba's first bakery near this hotel. The Great Northern Hotel, standing near the railway line, opened about 1890. John Hodges was its first publican. The present brick structure was erected in 1923 after the original two story weatherboard hotel was dismantled.

In 1899 the old school building was renovated and used as a School of Arts. At one time Victoria Street was known as Monkey Town. It is believed that this name originates because the workers were nicknamed 'powder monkeys' for the explosives they used in quarrying operations.

In 1901, Teralba's first silent movie was screened in the community hall, which stood to the south of the Lake Macquarie Hotel. The new Watkins Bridge, built in 1973, diverted traffic from York Street to bypass the town.

Water Supply:





Jepson, P & Clouten, Keith & Lake Macquarie (N.S.W.). Council & Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society 1967, Teralba : some notes on its early history, Lake Macquarie Shire Council for the Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society, Speer's Point

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.]

Teralba Public School. Centenary Committee 1984, Teralba School centenary 1884-1984 : a short history of the school and community, Teralba Public School Centenary Committee], [Teralba, N.S.W]

Streets in Teralba

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