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Heritage Interests around St Georges Basin

partially exposed well This isn't a brick wall that has fallen down. It is a small section of the sloping top of a well associated with the house of Cyril Blacket, a prominent early settler in the St Georges Basin area. Read about this under the heading Tasman House below.
The second heritage topic concerns the first land grant in the St Georges Basin area. This was promised to Lieutenant John Lamb in 1830. He named the property Erowal.
The third topic is about the Wool Road. Signposts and maps tell us that this road runs from the Princes Highway past Basin View to St Georges Basin and beyond to Vincentia- but what is the background to the name? You can read about it below.


Some Early History

James Cook in the Endeavour sailed north past our part of the NSW coast in April of 1770. On the 21st he saw and named Mount and Cape Dromedary, and Batemans Bay, on the 22nd Point Upright and Pigeon House. On the 23rd (St Georges Day) he saw and named Cape St George although he doesn’t mention it in his journal until the 24th. On the 25th he noted a bay (later to be called Jervis Bay) “sheltered from NE winds” but did not enter it and did not name it. However, he did name Long Nose (at the northern side of the entrance to the Bay) on this day. By the 29th the Endeavour was at Kurnell at the entrance to Botany Bay.

The name Jervis Bay was given in August 1791 by Lieutenant Richard Bowen who, as naval agent in charge of the transport ship Atlantic, took shelter in the bay. The Atlantic had set off from England with a number of soldiers (one sergeant and 17 privates of the NSW Corps) and 202 male convicts. The ship came via Rio de Janeiro and by the time it reached Sydney 1 soldier and 18 convicts had died. The name Jervis Bay (initially Port Jervis) was in honour of his former commander Admiral John Jervis who later became famous for his victory over the Spanish at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in February 1797. Bowen himself is, of course, remembered in the name of the island at the entrance to Jervis Bay. George Bass referred to the island as Bowens Island when he visited in December 1797 and the name stuck.

In 1828 surveyor Thomas Florance undertook a triangulation survey of the coast, including lakes, rivers and and inlets from Jervis Bay to Moruya. The survey included a trace of the lake we call St Georges Basin. Florance seems to have been the first to use the term "St Georges Basin", presumably following Cook’s lead in naming the nearby Cape St George. Thomas Florance has another, less well known, connection with the NSW South Coast. Although he did not stay for very long he became one of the early settlers in the Milton-Ulladulla area. He had married Elizabeth, the second daughter of Thomas Kendall (the first settler in the Milton-Ulladulla area) and selected a piece of land adjacent to Kendall’s property. He and his wife lived there for about five years after he resigned his position as surveyor. Eventually (1834) Florance, wife and family moved to New Zealand.

We should not forget that Aboriginal people lived in this area for several 10's of thousands of years. The latest thinking is that they arrived in Australia at least 50,000 years ago, perhaps 70,000 years. There aren't many signs of their life on the South Coast - shell middens behind beaches and on headlands are quite common, but axe sharpening grooves, and paintings in rock shelters are much less common. The art work is very fragile and usually deteriorates over the years due to wind, rain, temperature changes, and of course, visitors.


Beaglehole, John C The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery: The Voyage of the Endeavour 1768-1771 Vol 1 Transcript published by Cambridge University Press for the Hakluyt Society 1955
Pleaden, Ronald F The Coastal Explorers Milton/Ulladulla Historical Society 1990 {ISBN 0 9598629 5 1}

Tasman House and Cyril Blacket

Cyril Blacket (1857-1937) was a prominent landowner in St Georges Basin. He was the son of Edmund Blacket, the well known Colonial Architect who, between his arrival from England in 1842 and his death in 1883, designed over 200 buildings, mostly in NSW. Cyril Blacket was also an architect, although not so well known as his father. But he was also responsible for many buildings in Sydney and other parts of NSW. Locally he was the architect for the School of Arts and the Memorial Gates in Nowra. During a short visit (1879/80) to the UK he was awarded a degree by the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1903 he was President of the Institute of Architects. He was a councillor and president of the now-defunct Shire of Clyde. In 1885 Cyril acquired an estate bordering the NW corner of the Basin. This he called Tasman Park with the house being known as Tasman House. The family lived there but Cyril had to spend a lot of time in his office in Sydney. The estate was initially 640 acres but later was increased to about 1000. The house was a large one, 10 bedrooms,and built from local timber. The house was burnt down in 1926 and was not rebuilt. No trace remains today. The house was situated approximately where the Scout Hall sits in Terry Street and explains the name of the adjacent road, Tasman Road.

While the Wool Road at St Georges Basin may have been a boundary to the estate something else links the Wool Road with the name Blacket. One of Cyril's sons, Ralph, purchased a property at the Vines near Nerriga. For a while he and his wife lived in the cabin built by Mark Piercy (an earlier settler) and grew potatoes in the volcanic soil. The name Blacket is remembered in the name Blackets Creek which flows off Quilty's Mountain into the Endrick. Contact with the coastal region would have been in part via the Wool Road.

Ralph Blacket has a little known claim to fame. In late1907/early 1908 Ralph and a friend (Eric Dark) canoed down the Endrick River into the Shoalhaven and continued down to Nowra. Their trip lasted 23 days and is the earliest recorded NSW (perhaps Australian) canoe trip. Any reader who knows the region will appreciate what a tremendous adventure this would have been. They started where the Wool Road crossed the Endrick and finished at Nowra bridge. In between they (for example) portaged round the Endrick Falls, went through the Block-Up Gorge, enjoyed the hospitality of a prospector at the Tolwong Mines, walked up to Bungonia for supplies, and camped at the Shoalhaven-Kangaroo junction. A major problem the pair faced was a very low water level which required much dragging and carrying of the canoe. The canoe (named "Corang") was made of cedar by a boat-builder in Nowra. Click on this link if you wish to read the story of the canoe trip as told by Eric Dark.

Here are two traces of Tasman House and the Blackets which we are currently bringing back to life. Click on these for more information.


Antill, Robert G Settlement in the South Weston & Co 1982 {ISBN 0 9593149 0 3}
Bayley, William A Shoalhaven Shoalhaven Shire Council 1975 {ISBN 0 9599932 2 3}
Blacket, David Stirling Blacket unpublished interview transcripts 1995
Out of the Past Nov/Dec 1981 issue of the journal of the River Canoe Club

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Lieutenant John Lamb and Erowal Farm

Lamb and Erowal are names associated with the first land grant in the St Georges Basin area. Lieutenant John Lamb (1790-1862) had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy before he and his family arrived in Sydney on the Resource on the 6th May1829. Because he was still a lieutenant, albeit on half-pay, he was able to claim that he had been in the Navy for 28 years. In this day and age it is hard to comprehend that Lamb had begun his career in the Navy (first class volunteer) at the age of 11. His arrival in 1829 was not John Lamb's first visit to Sydney; he had been on board the ship bringing Governor Bligh to the colony in 1806, and had twice (1815 and 1819) come to Sydney as master of the convict transport ship Baring. Obviously these visits had had a good impression on him. When Lamb arrived in Sydney he was a man of some considerable capital and import; his father had been in the East India Company and his wife was the daughter of the deputy-chairman of Lloyds of London. On 20 May 1830 a land grant of 2560 acres was authorised in favour of John Lamb (ref 1). This area is equivalent to exactly 4 square miles or, in today’s metric units, about 1037 hectares. He called his property Erowal (nowadays pronounced Errol), the derivation of which is discussed in the paragraphs at the end of this section. The property bordered St Georges Basin where Sanctuary Point and Old Erowal Bay are now sited – from Paradise Beach to Erowal Bay. Here is a description of the boundaries of the property as given in the official records (ref 1)

At St Georges Basin; commencing at the South West Corner and bounded on the West by a line bearing North one hundred and ninety three chains; on the North by a line bearing East eighty chains; on the East by a line bearing South fifty chains to the head of a creek running into St Georges Basin, thence by that creek to St Georges Basin; and by St Georges Basin to the corner aforesaid.

John Lamb was what we would call an absentee landlord. When he applied for his grant he made it clear that he had no intention of personally living on the property. He set up in business in Sydney and paid a free immigrant, a Scotsman by the name of David Blair, to manage the property. Blair would have lived in the stone and brick farmhouse which was built in 1830 or very soon after. But there would also have been convicts supplying the manual labour to run and develop the farm. They would have lived in outhouses.

Although the land grant was approved in 1830 Lamb did not get the deeds to Erowal Farm until 29 April 1837 (ref 1) after the property was officially surveyed. However, the 1830 approval gave John Lamb the authority to take immediate possession of Erowal Farm and therefore to start developing it. Beginning with Governor Phillip, governors of the colony of NSW were allowed to authorise grants to free settlers, to military and naval personnel, and to convicts who had served their term or were pardoned. In 1825 Governor Brisbane was authorised to sell land. Land grants were still to be allowed but were not to be greater than 2560 acres. Because he had sufficient capital John Lamb was given the maximum possible land grant.

John Lamb developed various business interests in Sydney, some involved with shipping, some with grain and wool. He was also involved in public life in Sydney. At various times he was a JP, a magistrate, a member of the Legislative Assembly, a director and chairman of the Commercial Banking Co. and director of several other large public companies. His Sydney interests were more important to him than Erowal Farm. In 1838 Lamb began to lease the property to C. J. Campbell, owner of the neighbouring property (to the west), and in about 1854 sold the property to the Bryce brothers.

The Bryce brothers, William and Andrew, together with their families were the first owner-occupiers of Erowal Farm. Later their sister, Ann, and her husband (Malcolm Mathie) joined them. Alexander and family lived in Erowal farmhouse, while William built a house in the western portion of the estate which he called Cockrow. About 1863 Malcolm purchased a 40 acre adjoining property which he named Tippet Hill. In due course (1882) the property was legally divided between the two brothers. Alexander died at Erowal in 1898 but his wife, Isabella, did not leave Erowal until 1906. In the first quarter of the twentieth century a later owner of the Erowal Farm portion began to transform it into a country resort. The old farmhouse was modernised and additional resort buildings built. But the resort was never completed and the buildings fell into ruin. The abandoned farmhouse was burnt by vandals, building materials were plundered, and now only the footings remain.

The remaining Erowal Farm property is now the development site for the Henry Kendall Coastal Waters Retirement Village and stretches from the Wool Road to St Georges Basin. At 38.5 hectares it is only a small fraction of the original grant. Nevertheless it contains archaeological remains which are very significant in terms of the development of the NSW South Coast - and which should be retained for their heritage value.

Derivation of the Name Erowal

John Lamb made application for his grant at the beginning of July 1829, two months after arriving in the colony. At the beginning of October in the same year he entered into a bond whereby he and his family would remain in NSW for (at least) 7 years. In this document he indicated that the property would be called Erowal. But where did this name come from? from England? or was it a local (Aboriginal) name? The latter appears to be the answer.

Lamb must surely have had advice concerning his selection from someone already in the colony. Surveyor Florance in a report/letter written at Sussex Inlet (19 May 1828) includes a postscript in which he mentions meeting three of Alexander Berry's men searching for land - "10,000 for a gentleman from England". Could this have been for Lamb? If so the advice would probably have provided the name for the property.

There are two references to Erowal worth mentioning. Firstly; after James Larmer surveyed the line of the Wool Road he included part of Lamb's property on his map (dated 1841) and used the name Yerowle. By this time the property was leased to C J Campbell and his name, not Lamb's, is also on the map. Secondly; an article printed in the Daily Telegraph of 16 December 1921 describes the beginnings of and future plans for Hotel Erowal, the name given to the resort mentioned earlier. The article explains that the original "native" name was Erowie and that this meant "looking down from the clouds".


1. State Records NSW: Colonial Secretary: Register of Land Grants and Leases [7/468 p56]


Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol 2 (1788-1850) I-Z
Blair, Margaret From Bullocks To Bypass M Blair 2000 {ISBN 0 646 40325 7}

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The Wool Road

The Wool Road was built in 1841 and connected the town of Nerriga to South Huskisson on Jervis Bay. South Huskisson is now known as Vincentia. The route was marked out by Surveyor James Larmer in 1840 and was based on explorations as early as 1831. The text of Larmer's report to the Surveyor General, Thomas Mitchell, is worth reading and is attached here. The road was to take agricultural produce - wool, wheat, hides, etc from the Braidwood, Goulburn and Canberra areas to the coast for shipping to Sydney. The alternative was a route through Bungonia which took 3 weeks.

The road began near Nerriga, forded the Endrick River nearby and found its way up onto the plateau by a ridge of Bulee Mountain. A gap (the Bulee Gap) had to be cut and blasted to allow the route to get through the sandstone escarpment. It then continued eastward to Sassafras, past Tianjara Falls, across to and through the eastern escarpment at the Wandean Gap, down the ridge towards Jerrawangala and then north to Wandandian, past St Georges Basin and so to South Huskisson. Amazingly, the road was completed in about 10 months by a gang of seventy convicts directed by local landowner Colonel John Mackenzie of Nerriga and under the command of Captain John Coghill. Colonel John Mackenzie was a veteran of the Spanish Peninsula War under Wellington. He was one of the early settlers in the Nerriga area, purchasing 900 acres in 1836.

The present road from the coast (Main Road 92) follows the line of the Wool Road from about Boolijah Trig to Nerriga. However, the modern route at the Bulee Gap differs slightly from the original which allows one to trace an actual section of the old road. The Bulee Gap cut by the convicts (the marks of their drills can be seen here) can readily be inspected and then the section leading downhill to join the modern road again. In some parts of this section, on the downhill side, the road has stone embankments. These embankments are only three or four rows high and there is no evidence that the rocks were cut to shape. At the moment this is not an easy walk; there is a missing section immediately after passing through the gap and many trees lie across the road - a consequence of the bushfires in January 2003. Something should be done to preserve this section of road; the only portion of the Wool Road in anything like its original condition. The missing section is the result of an intentional detonation - a wartime (WWII) decision based on invasion fears.

If you visit Wandean Gap and look carefully you will see a few traces of the drill holes which were made to break up the sandstone. Taking a 2-wheel drive vehicle through the gap is not recommended - the road surface is very rough.

In 1842 the road from Nerriga to Braidwood was upgraded using convict labour funded by Colonel Mackenzie and Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson. Braidwood Wilson (1792-1843) is an interesting person. Born in Scotland, he was Surgeon Superintendent of Convicts transported to Australia by the Royal Navy. The town of Braidwood is named after him. He was one of the early settlers in the area and became a magistrate of the district. For a short time in his life he had been a explorer in the south west of West Australia. He was interested in botany and has a grevillea named after him - grevillea wilsonii. Also, he is reputed to have introduced bees (European honeybees) to Tasmania.

The Sydney merchants were not in favour of the development of a port on Jervis Bay. They wanted to ensure their trade monopoly. Their will prevailed, the port of South Huskisson did not prosper, and that part of the Wool Road between Boolijah Trig and the road now known as the Princes Highway fell into disrepair. Other reasons for the demise of this part of the Wool Road were the development of Nowra (initially sited at Terara) and and the present roads (Turpentine-Tomerong and Turpentine-Nowra). Nerriga's link with the coast was used by bullock teams and coaches, by drovers with cattle and sheep, and throughout the second half of the 19th century by miners heading to the gold fields beyond Nerriga.


1. State Records NSW: Surveyors Letters: James Larmer; [2/1549 p601]


Snedden, Robert Sassafras: The Parish of Sixty Farms R.C. Snedden 1995 {ISBN 0 646 25982 2}
Sturgiss, James Henry The Man from The Misty Mountains The Budawang Committee 1986 {ISBN 0 9593381 3 6}
Ellis, Netta Braidwood, Dear Braidwood N.N. & N.M. Ellis, Braidwood 1997 {ISBN 0 7316 5589 3}


Some input from Bob Snedden is gratefully acknowledged.

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