Heart of Manly Heritage Walk
the road to South Steyne and the beach
on image to enlarge]
The photograph shows the first Steyne Hotel at the junction of The
Corso and North Steyne, built by Henry Gilbert Smith in 1859. It has
been rebuilt and renovated over the years, once having been destroyed
by a fire. The present hotel was built in 1935 at a cost of 25,000.
beaches have existed in their present form for the last 6,000 years,
during which time sea level has been more or less stable. Sand carried
here by onshore currents accumulated on the rocky bar that connects
the higher ground of North Head, Queenscliff and Fairlight. Pre-historic
Manly was very different. About 126,000 years ago the sea level was
higher than it is today. The valley between Shelly beach and Queenscliff
was beneath the sea, which penetrated far inland to Brookvale. In
contrast, more recently, about 20,000 and 16,000 years ago, sea level
was at times 120 metres lower than it is today. The continental shelf
was exposed and the shore was about six kilometres further east. There
was a broad strip of grass and scrub- covered coastal plain, with
lagoons mid estuaries, which is now submerged.
along South Steyne
the hill in the distance is St Patrick's College, built as a Roman
seminary in 1889. Manly has had a reputation as a health resort
for many years. In 1873, Dr William O'Reilly, writing about Manly
in the New South Wales Medical Gazette, urged the medical profession
to consider the 'locality's sanitary importance and advantages as
a convalescent station ... any professional gentleman has only to
visit Manly once to become aware of the fact that it offers special
inducements to those suffering from liver complaints and chronic
infections of the digestive organs...' At the beginning of this
century newspapers wrote of Manly as 'the Watering Place of the
Nation' and the 'Brighton of the South' referring to it as place
for recuperation and relaxation.
Opposite the beach stands the Royal Far West Children's Home. Family
in outback NSW was tough when Methodist pastor, Stanley Drummond,
his wife Lucy cast about for a remedy to relieve those who suffered
breezes and good food were the tonic they chose. In 1925 they brought
group of 58 children and six mothers to the coast for the first
in a series of
visits that became an annual event. The children they selected were
physically disabled, malnourished and debilitated by the heat, dust
and flies. The
Drummonds' legacy has continued. This important organisation today
still provides all country children with accommodation and education
while they receive medical treatment.
legend has it that the planting of Manly's Norfolk Island pines, Araucaria
Heterophylla, was begun by Henry Gilbert Smith. Over 500 trees flourished
for almost a century until nearly half were damaged or destroyed in
the 1960s by airborne pollution from the North Head sewage outfall.
Rock star and environmentalist, Peter Garrett, planted the first new
pine at South Steyne in 1991.
85 new trees were planted to begin the reconstruction of the crescent
of pines along the length of the oceanfront. The National Estate listing
of the pines and promenade was celebrated together with the first
stage of Manly Council's replanting programme. Manly's success in
providing welcome shade in these harsh seaside conditions was to provide
a model for similar planting elsewhere in Australia.
the block between Victoria Parade and Ashburner Street stands a building
named Dungowan. Wealthy pastoralist and company director Leslie Sprague
built Dungowan Flats in 1919 naming them after his country property
Dungowan Station, 33 kilometres east of Tamworth. The Flats offered
their privileged tenants a home with 'every modern convenience' (fully
supplied with electricity, telephones and an 'electric elevator'.
kitchen on the ground floor serviced the Restaurant De Luxe above.
In 1925 the company Dungowan Ltd converted the Paramount Picture
Theatre next door into the Cabaret Dungowan where grand social occasions
were celebrated. An ice skating rink was added at the end of the
1920s, creating a complex of buildings extending to the corner of
Ashburner Street and South Steyne.
1908 the Sydney Morning Herald described Manly as, 'The Boulogne
of Australia...it has been a common thing for 20,000 to 30, 000
people to go over to Manly on a single afternoon...long lines of
dressing sheds have been put up for them [surfbathers] under the
seawall. The long curved avenue of Norfolk Island Pines, which is
the hallmark of Manly is nothing except Australian. But the ocean
beach itself might belong to the north coast of France...the long
line off hire chairs, with standing parasols and many coloured skirts
peeping over the edges of them, a bunch of drowsy saddled ponies,
the donkeys and side shows, miniature railways... entertain the
crowd of bathers'.
is historically important in the introduction of daylight swimming,
recreational beach culture, surf lifesaving, and board surfing into
Australian culture. Here Tommy Tanna, a native of Talma Island in
Vanuatu, taught 16-year-old Fred Williams to body surf at South
Steyne in 1891 beginning the popularisation of surf bathing. Daylight
bathing was illegal until local newspaper proprietor William Gocher
campaigned successfully to change Manly Council's by-law. When legislation
was introduced to permit bathing in daylight hours in 1903 the Manly
community began campaigning for an organised surf rescue service.
On Boxing Day that year, Eddie and Joe Sly, their fishing boat adapted
for surf rescues, staged a carnival demonstrating a variety of rescue
July 1907 the Manly Surf Club held its inaugural meeting. Three
months later the State co-ordinating body, the New South Wales Surf
Bathing Association, was formed, the forerunner of today's Surf
Lifesaving Association of Australia. New Zealander, Happy Eyre,
the first lifeguard employed by Manly Council, started work in October
1907. He patrolled at North Steyne on alternate Sundays, with the
members of the North Steyne Surf Bathers and Life Saving Club, beginning
today's system of close co-operation between professional lifeguards
culture of the beach fostered an easygoing attitude and a determination
to balance endeavour and relaxation which is a feature of the Australian
character. It produced a cultural symbol, the bronzed Aussie lifesaver
and led to Australia's outstanding record of achievement in water
advertising Steyne Court in 1904 described it as a place of exciting
technology and breathtaking adventure. Twenty arc lights, each giving
2000 candle-power, spread light as bright as day over the grounds.
chute ride stood 15 metres high and used a winch driven by a 50
engine to pull a boatload of eight passengers up greased hardwood
skids, at an incline of one in three, to the top of the tower. The
boat was then re- leased and plunged headlong into an artificial
lake at such speed that it skipped along its surface before coming
under the control of the steersman who guided it to a landing at
the opposite end of the lake. The lake was shaped like a large kite
65m by 25m, its walls made of concrete and brick. It held 48,000
litres of fresh water which was topped up daily from the mains supply.
was also a fast toboggan ride, with a track of steep slopes and
camelback humps. For those who preferred a more sedate pace, the
Great Dragon, 'perfectly tame and docile' and powered by a De Dian
six horsepower motor
inside its head, meandered a trackless route through the grounds.
A shooting gallery gave marksmen the opportunity to shoot kangaroo
and other wild
The Bijou Theatre entertained audiences with a biotint called 'A
Trip to the Moon'. The 32 moon scenes included 'photographs' of
Audiences found 'weirdly delightful' ... 'A beautiful Electrical
Transformation Cloak Effect Act'. Entertainments described as 'the
latest successes from London and American theatres' were on the
Bijou's schedule, with four daily performances. In the background
an orchestra played day and night from a gaily illuminated band
stand. At the gypsy tea rooms waitresses in Swiss costume served
ices, ice creams, fruit salads, cakes and fancy pastries; and at
the kiosk patrons could buy a glass of wine. Family parties were
catered for at any time and supper parties could be catered for
by arrangement. The grounds were enclosed by a 4 metre high fence
that was decorated by land-scape artist, Ray Phillips. Steyne Court
covered one and a half acres of land between Wentworth and Ashburner
Streets. It opened daily from 2.30 to 10pm and on holidays, 11am
to 10pm. Admission was 6d for adults and 3d for children.
from the ocean and walk toward the harbour along Ashburner Street
Katherine Darley/Bassett, nee Wentworth, and her son-in-law, Francis
James Ashburner were only two of the many who endowed Manly's streets
with their names in the 19th century.
the iron plaque bolted to the rock face marking the start of work
in 1898 on major improvements to Manly's sewage disposal system.
The Manly Grammar School for Girls is commemorated nearby on another
plaque, which was unveiled on 20 June 1994 by former students of
the school. The Latin motto means 'Manners maketh man'.
Street contains a variety of architectural styles ranging from the
Victorian era to the most recent, the south tower of The Kestrel,
on the corner of Dungowan Lane, which opened in 1989.
oldest blocks of flats, erected during Manly's building boom in
the 1920s and 30s, are nos. 43, 41, 39-37, and opposite no. 34,
Rowena and no. 30, Winchelsea. The domestic style of Gallipoli Flats
no. 43 and The Astor no. 41, differ remarkably from The Checkers
next door. Its entrance, marked by grand columns and terrazzo stairs
inlaid with the building's name, creates an image of material success
and symbolises the optimism of investors - a reminder that not everyone
lost money in the Great Depression. Valentia at no. 33 was built
about 1918. The horizontal lines decorating the facade, repeated
in the house number, the verandah steps, and front fence, are precursor
to the Art Deco style of the 1930s.
cottages at nos. 20 and 18 are Victorian Italianate in style, featuring
ornate timber fascias, and cast iron columns and valances. Across
the road the three cottages nos. 23, 21, and 19 and 23, and no.10
opposite, were built just after world War I. The absence of ornamentation,
noticeable where the houses retain heir original appearance, indicates
that they were typical workers cottages of his period. Nos. 16 and
14 are also workers cottages built in the mid 1920s. Their rick
entrances, stained glass, and intricately carved verandah brackets
indicate that they were built in a time of greater prosperity.
two-storied building at no. 15A was built in the 1870s. It has a
pressed metal skirt beneath its bay window, and its brick sidewall
is rendered and scored to imitate sandstone. In the 1890s there
was a timber merchant and coal and fuel depot here, whose delivery
carts loaded in the yard behind the double gates.
Ashburner Street is particularly interesting because the folding
doors that now form part of the street wall once opened daily onto
the footpath. They are a remnant of the industry that operated from
this combined factory and residence. In 1895, cordial manufacturer,
H.E. Stevenson, lived here and later, Sanders and Co., carriers.
The entrance to the residence is set back from the street, giving
privacy to the family who lived there.
Darley Road is a Victorian terrace with a Spanish Mission facade,
added some 50 years later. This was one of the ways owners updated
Darley Road using the pedestrian refuge up the hill and return again
to Ashburner Street
no. 8, is an example of Art Deco architecture. The feature at the
top, centre of the building has a waterfall motif, a theme typical
of this style.
Set back from the road at no. 2, is Fairlands. Its architectural
style is Victorian Rustic Gothic with contemporary additions. The
Mayor of Manly 1897- 98, F.C. Passau built Fairlands in 1885. A
plaque on the driveway wall gives a description of Fairlands' history.
Opposite Fairlands at nos. 7A and 5 there are two late Victorian
terraces typical of high density working class suburbs, such as
Glebe or Paddington. The iron lace verandahs provide a decorative
facade to the modest building behind.
Street's architecture captures a microcosm of Manly's history. The
cottages were the homes of workers and tradespeople who serviced
the 19th century mansions built on the hillsides above, and the
visitors who stayed here. The flats of the 1920s and 30s and the
units of the 1960s and 70s mark Manly's transition from village
to dormitory suburb.