This material has been compiled from the following sources:
- Early Pittwater – A Nostalgic Look at its Soldiers, Seamen, Smugglers and Settlers – Jim Macken
- Coasters Retreat – Jim Macken
- The Lovetts of Pittwater – Jim Macken
- Martin Burke – The Father of Pittwater – Jim Macken
- Sally Morris…of The Basin – Jim Macken
- Pittwater: Recollections and historical notes, 1993 – Sue Gould
- The Colony – Grace Karstens
- Pittwater Past – Northern Beaches Council
18,000 years ago sea levels rose as the Ice Age retreated, flooding a valley to the north of Sydney to form Pittwater. Gradually a spotted gum forest dominated the area. Conditioned by climatic conditions that continually danced between drought and deluge, the local Aboriginal people adapted to the dramatically changing coastline and vegetation and flourished. Huge shell middens, rock art, and ceremonial sites all attest to an ongoing and strong Aboriginal presence in this area prior to the arrival of Europeans.
In 1788 the British Government started an experimental convict colony In Australia at Sydney Cove. Later that year Governor Phillip explored the Hawkesbury River. Pittwater was deemed unsuitable for agriculture but was used by the coasters bringing produce to Sydney to provide an all-weather refuge to trim their cargoes and wait for tides and prevailing winds to make a safe passage out of Broken Bay. Estimates of Sydney’s Aboriginal population at this time vary from 200 to 4000 people. The transient nature of their lifestyle made numbers hard to record, but Governor Philip put the figure at 1500.
Almost immediately the Sydney Aborigines paid a terrible price for their contact with Europeans. Estimates of the number killed off by the smallpox epidemic of 1789 range from 60% to 90%. Despite this huge loss the remaining Aborigines continued to move around the area, fish and increasingly clash with the settlers as they competed for resources and watched the settlers destroy their sources of food and tools. Some immunity to smallpox and other European diseases must have been developed because as late as 1848 a ‘great number of black fellows’ were reported to be living in what would become Ku-ring-gai Chase on the shores of Pittwater.
From 1790 to 1810 Pittwater’s European population consisted largely of transient crews, runaways, ex-convicts, absconders from leave and drop-outs from the Sydney social scene. They fished, collected mangrove roots for the production of soap, made salt, mined the aboriginal middens for shells, and cut timber and shingles, all essential Industries needed to support the growth of Sydney.
When Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813 the grazing lands of the western slopes and plains were opened up for settlement. The coastal settlements, which had played such a crucial role in the beginnings of the colony, began to fade in importance.
This retirement from centre stage suited Pittwater and the local community continued to attract the contemplative, the escapees and drop-outs, as the attention of the bureaucracy faded.
Land grants began in 1810 when Andrew Thompson was granted Scotland Island to relocate his salt works from Mullet (Dangar) Island. This was followed by a number of land grants around Mona Vale and Newport from 1814.
The area referred to as the lower Western Shores comprised three bays on the south-western side of Pittwater and the western mouth of McCarrs Creek. The northern-most bay, Towlers Bay, was named after Bill Toler who used to camp there, while Lovett Bay was named after John Lovett who lived there in 1833 with his family in a hut on the edge of Frog Hollow, near the present day ‘Tarrangaua’.
The next permanent resident of the Bays was the Oliver family. William Oliver was granted land on Rocky Point in 1842, initially cutting timber before establishing a fruit orchard. Professional fisherman Joe Cario, aka ‘Portugee Joe’, whose favourite fishing spot became known as Portuguese Beach, first lived in a bark hut with a garden at Salt Pans before marrying Elizabeth Oliver and farming 40 acres on the north side of Lovett Bay.
Of all the sociological elements that unified Pittwater in its early years, the most important was the sea and its various maritime occupations. Every settler had a boat. This gave them both economic and social mobility. On the Western Shores marriages further unified the local settlers. The large Oliver and Cario families intermarried with the Shaws and the Wilsons who had also settled there. Alcohol was the third factor which bonded the Pittwater community.
But there was a seamier side to life on Pittwater. The geography and its distance from Sydney Cove made it virtually ungovernable. Stealing and cattle duffing was a common occurrence while the smuggling of rum and the manufacture of spirits by illegal stills provided Pittwater with its most reliable income stream for many years.
In the Survey of 1869 Towlers Bay was officially named Morning Bay while Lovett Bay was called Night Bay. In the 1890’s Night Bay or Lovett Bay (as it was and is still known) was a popular spot to visit by ferry and a path was constructed to the lookout above the bay. In 1924 well-known poet Dorothea Mackellar built and lived here at ‘Tarrangaua’. Today Towlers Bay refers only to the northern anchorage in that Bay.
The beauty of the Western Foreshores area owes a great deal to the existence of the Ku-rin-gai Chase National Park that surrounds it – a vision realised in 1894 by the English born Eccleston du Faur to inspire national awareness of the flora and fauna of Australia. 1813 When Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813 the grazing lands of the western slopes and plains were opened up for settlement. The coastal settlements, which had played such a crucial role in the beginnings of the colony, began to fade in importance. This retirement from centre stage suited Pittwater and the local community continued to attract the contemplative, the escapees and drop-outs, as the attention of the bureaucracy faded.
Today the lower Western Shores consists mostly of a narrow residential waterfront of approximately 160 houses accessed only by the Church Point Ferry and private vessels. There are no shops, schools, cafes or industrial zones.
The once Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest that dominated the area is now found only on the Barrenjoey Peninsular and Western Shores with remnants in nearby reserves, private properties and Kur-ing-gai Chase.