Lake Macquarie History


The City Council of Lake Macquarie acknowledge the Aboriginal people known today as the Awabakal, as the traditional Custodians of the land, respecting Aboriginal Elders past, present and future. Lake Macquarie City Council recognise the local Aboriginal community today in all of their diversity, who came forward to share their experiences, knowledge, images and memories.

Name Origin:

The Hely family named their farm "Rathmines" after the family's home town near Dublin, Ireland.

Aboriginal Occupation:

There was a campsite near Styles Point.

Early Land Grants:

Portion 8, E.W. Hely (47 acres), and Portion 9, E.W. Hely (54 acres). Both granted on 11/1/1882.

Portion 21, Edward Taylor (47 acres).

Portion 49, J.F. Mann (50 acres).

Portion 51, John Goodsir (500 acres). Granted on 31/7/1882. Portion 55, John Goodsir (40 acres).

Portion 56, John Goodsir (45 acres).

All portions are in the parish of Awaba.

Although Edward Norton Hely settled at Rathmines in 1840 or 1841 and applied for a grant of 25 acres on 21.8.1844, there is no evidence that he received it and his son E.W. Hely is recorded as receiving the first grant in 1882.

Early Subdivisions:

The first subdivision appears to have been on Portion 49, east of Saltwater Creek. This occurred prior to March 1882 and was unsuccessful. The second was D.P.816, declared on 11/3/1882, to the west of Saltwater Creek on Portions 8 and 9.

It too was unsuccessful. The third was D.P.975, surveyed on 3/10/1882, on Portion 51. This subdivision was also unsuccessful.

The oldest existing subdivision is D.P.10176, declared on the 6/5/1920 and encompassing Rosemary Row and Cheapside, Northview, Overhill and Bayswater Streets. This was related to Portion 21. D.P. 11537, declared on 1/12/1920, which encompassed Bristol Way, Fishing Point Road, Knebworth Grove, Sunlight Parade, Rosemary Row, Rathmines Circus, Somersham Avenue and Secret Comer Road. This subdivision was of Portions 55 and 56 as well as parts of Portions 9, 49 and 51. These were H.F. Halloran subdivisions.

Early Settlers:

Edward Hely settled in this area around 1840. It is conjectured that Hely's homestead (made of brick and plaster) stood on the West Lakes Hospital site.

The family graves were removed to Belmont during subdivision, as they were apparently not on Hely's land. (The elder Hely failed to obtain title to all the land he occupied).

Early Industries:

Hely had orchards and vineyards on his farm. He also kept some cattle but an outbreak of pleuro-pneumonia in the 1860's wiped out the cattle industry around Lake Macquarie.

First Post Office:

Rathmines post office opened 1 February 1940. R.A.A.F. P.O. Rathmines opened 2 October 1940, and closed 31 January 1961.

First School:

Rathmines opened as a Provisional School in October, 1941. It later became a Public School. The date of this change-over is uncertain.


An RAAF station was formed, with Wing Commander J.E. Hewitt in command, on 14 August 1939. The base extended from Bayswater to Rathmines Point and the Catalinas were moored in the bay. It was the largest wartime flying boat base in Australia. It was a training and repair base and a key communications centre. The unit ceased to function on 30 November 1952 and was disbanded by 31 December of that year.

At one time Sir William Dobell was responsible for the camouflage of the base. Other artists, such as Joshua Smith, assisted Dobell. Whilst at Rathmines Dobell painted the portrait of the "Billy Boy". His subject was Rathmines employee, Joe Wescott. In 1963 the base was purchased from the Commonwealth Government by Lake Macquarie Shire Council. One hundred and fifty acres were subdivided into home sites, whilst the rest were reserved for recreational purposes.

Water Supply:

RAAF Base 1940.


Howard, Alec N & Howard, Joy 2009, Rathmines - not forgotten : the story of the World War II Flying Boat Base,1939-1961, 1st ed, Resonant Media & Design], [Newcastle, N.S.W]

Newton, John (John T.) & Haslam, P. A, (ed.) 1978, R.A.A.F. Rathmines : an authentic history of this famous wartime flying boat base, Readon Publishing, Boolaroo, 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.]

Streets in Rathmines