22,240BP (approx.) : Human occupation of Kings Tableland, Wentworth Falls.
12,500BP (approx.) : Human occupation of Lyre Bird Dell, Leura.
12,000BP (approx.) : Human occupation of Walls Cave, Blackheath.
1788: Governor Phillip sights the Blue Mountains for the first time from a point north of present-day Pennant Hills.
1789: Captain Watkin Tench discovers the Nepean River.
Lt. William Dawes crosses the Nepean River and succeeds in reaching a point north-west of present-day Faulconbridge-Linden.
1793: Captain William Paterson explores the Grose River.
1794: Henry Hacking claims to have penetrated 32 kilometres further inland than any other European. His route is unknown.
1795: Matthew Everingham's expedition explores the northern Blue Mountains reaching, possibly, Mount Irvine or Mount Tomah.
1796: George Bass ventures into the lower Burragorang Valley almost reaching Kanangra Walls.
1798: John Wilson leads a party into the mountains south-west of Sydney.
1802: Ensign Francis Barrallier heads west from the Wollondilly River almost reaching the Kanangra Plateau.
1804: George Caley reaches Mount Banks (now Mount King George) in the northern Blue Mountains.
1807: David Dickinson Mann leads an expedition into the Blue Mountains. His route is unknown.
1813: The expedition of Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth is successful in finding a practicable route across the Blue Mountains.
1814: George Evans completes a survey of the Blaxland, Lawson & Wentworth route and pushes about 160 kilometres further west.
1815: A convict road party under the supervision of William Cox completes a road to the site of Bathurst.
Governor Lachlan Macquarie and his entourage travel over the new road and proclaim the site of Bathurst. The Governor also names Springwood and Blackheath.
1816: The military depot established the previous year at Glenbrook Lagoon is moved to Springwood.
1822: Mrs Elizabeth Hawkins and her family travel over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst.
1823: Lawson's Long Alley is constructed down the western escarpment as an alternative to Cox's route.
James McBrien re-surveys the line of the Western Road.
Archibald Bell Jnr. discovers a new route to the west via Kurrajong.
The Golden Fleece (Collits' Inn) opened at the foot of Mount York.
1824: Lawson's Zig Zag Road (now Old Bathurst Road) replaces Cox's Road as the principal route up the eastern escarpment.
1827 (approx.): The Weatherboard Inn opens (Wentworth Falls).
1828: Major Thomas Mitchell becomes Surveyor-General on the death of John Oxley.
Construction of an alternative descent at Mount York begins under the supervision of Major Lockyer. It is later abandoned when Mitchell transfers operations to the Victoria Pass.
1830: The Pilgrim Inn, built in the late 1820s, receives its first licence.
1831: The Valley Inn (later the Woolpack and the Welcome Inn) opens at Valley Heights.
The Scotch Thistle (Gardner's Inn) opens at Blackheath.
1832: David Lennox arrives in Australia and is employed by Mitchell to construct a bridge on the new Pass at Lapstone Hill.
Governor Bourke opens Victoria Pass.
1833: Lennox Bridge at Lapstone is completed.
1834: Mitchell's Pass up Lapstone Hill is opened.
1836: Charles Darwin travels to Bathurst, stopping at The Weatherboard (now Wentworth Falls) and Blackheath.
1839: The Mount Victoria Inn is opened at the foot of Victoria Pass.
1840: The Blue Mountains Inn is opened at Lawson.
1844: The military stockade at Bull's Camp moves to Blackheath.
1845: Following the closure of the military stockade at Springwood, Thomas Boland opens his Springwood Inn.
1849: Toll Bars are established at Seventeen Mile Hollow (Linden) and Broughton's Waterhole (Mount Victoria).
The Blackheath Military Stockade is closed and replaced by a Mounted Police Station and Lock-up.
1851: Gold is discovered at Ophir.
1863: The Welcome Inn at Mount Victoria opens.
1865: Sir Frederick Pottinger is accidentally shot at the Pilgrim Inn (Blaxland) while on his way to Sydney. He later dies from the wound.
1866: The NSW Government creates the Binda or Fish River Caves Reserve (the name 'Jenolan' was adopted in 1884).
1867: The Western Railway line is opened to The Weatherboard (Wentworth Falls).
Jeremiah Wilson is appointed 'Keeper of the [Fish River] Caves' and holds office until 1896.
1868: The Western Railway line reaches Mount Victoria.
The first royal visitor to Australia, HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, travels by train to The Weatherboard and picnics at the Falls.
1869: The Western Railway line is opened to Bowenfels after the completion of the Great Zig Zag.
1871: St. Peters Anglican Church, Mount Victoria, is built. It remains the oldest church still operating on the Blue Mountains.
1874: An astronomical station is established at Woodford to observe the Transit of Venus.
1875: Frederick Eccleston Du Faur purchases land at Mount Wilson and establishes his artists camp in the Grose Valley.
1877: Sir Henry Parkes moves to Faulconbridge.
1878: John Britty North registers the Katoomba Coal Mine.
Springwood Public School opens.
1879: Wascoe's is renamed Blaxland.
The Weatherboard is renamed Wentworth Falls.
Blue Mountains is renamed Lawson.
1880: Jeremiah Wilson erects the first accommodation house at the Fish River (Jenolan) Caves.
1881: HRH Prince Albert and Prince George visit the Blue Mountains and enjoy breakfast with Sir Henry & lady Parkes at Faulconbridge.
1882: The Great Western (later Carrington) Hotel is opened in Katoomba.
Katoomba Public School opens.
1884: The Six-Foot Bridle Track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves is opened.
A wall and fence is built around the Explorers Tree at Katoomba, resulting eventually in its death.
John Fletcher opens his Katoomba College for boys in Katoomba.
1885: The villages of Glenbrook and Blackheath are proclaimed.
1889: Peckman Brothers begin the first daily coach service from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.
Katoomba is gazetted a Municipality.
Sir Frederick & Lady Darley build their country residence, 'Lilianfels', at Katoomba.
1890: The first Katoomba Municipal Council is elected.
1891: Arthur (later Sir) Streeton paints his now famous 'Fires On' while watching the construction of the Lapstone Tunnel.
1892: James Hunter Lawson builds 'Braemar' (now the home of the Blue Mountains City Library's Local Studies Collection) at Springwood.
A tunnel through Lapstone Hill replaces the Lapstone Zig Zag.
1896: Sir Henry Parkes dies and is buried at Faulconbridge.
1897: Springwood Ladies College in 'Moorecourt', the former residence of Charles Moore.
Katoomba Courthouse opens.
1901: The Duchess of York (later Queen Mary) visits Katoomba and enjoys afternoon tea at 'Lilianfels'.
1904: Mark Foy opens the Hydro Majestic as a hydropathic sanatorium at Medlow Bath.
1905: The Megalong Valley was devastated by a bushfire that swept through the valley on New Year's day.
1906: The Kanimbla Shire Council is established and changes its name to the Blue Mountains Shire Council the following year.
1907: The Governor, Sir Harry Rawson, opens the Katoomba Waterworks.
John Frazer McManamey opens his Woodford Academy for boys.
1908: Photographer, Harry Phillips, arrives in Katoomba.
Stratford Girls School (founded 1908) moves into the old 'Palace' guesthouse at Lawson.
1910: The Great Zig Zag at Lithgow is replaced by a system of ten tunnels.
1912: Norman & Rose Lindsay purchase 'Maryville' at Faulconbridge.
Berghofer's Pass is opened as a motoring alternative to the steep Victoria Pass.
1913: The new railway route up the eastern escarpment is now in full operation. It winds around the Glenbrook Gorge and replaces the deviation of 1892.
Electric power for Katoomba is generated from the Carrington Hotel./p>
1915: The Coo-ee recruitment march passes through the Blue Mountains.
1919: Blackheath is proclaimed a Municipality.
1920: HRH Edward, Prince of Wales, visits the Blue Mountains, stopping briefly at Lawson.
1923: The Osborne Ladies College moves to Blackheath from the Sydney suburb of Epping.
1925: A local syndicate forms the Katoomba Colliery Ltd. and re-opens North's old mine in South Katoomba.
Power generation for Katoomba and surrounds is placed under local government control.
1926: The Blue Mountains District Ambulance Service is established.
The Great Western Highway from Emu Plans to Blaxland is opened along the route of the old railway line.
1927: The Duke & Duchess of York visit the Blue Mountains.
1928: Poet and editor, David McKee Wright dies at Glenbrook.
1931: Don Bradman hits a century in three overs during a cricket match at Blackheath.
The Dog Face Rock at Katoomba collapses forming 'The Landslide'.
1932: The Giant Stairway and Projecting Platform Lookout at Echo Point are officially opened by the Hon. B. S. B. Stevens, Premier of NSW.
1933: The Katoomba Colliery Scenic Electric Cable Railway is officially launched.
1934: The Duke of Gloucester travels over the Blue Mountains, stopping briefly at Katoomba.
Hinkler Park is opened in Katoomba in memory of the aviator.
1936: The Kings Theatre in Katoomba is demolished and replaced by The Savoy.
1937: The Empire Theatre at Katoomba undergoes extensive renovation and re-opens as the Embassy.
1946: The Municipality of Katoomba is proclaimed a City.
1947: The City of Blue Mountains is established through an amalgamation of the Shire of Blue Mountains, the City of Katoomba and the Municipality of Blackheath.
1954: Queen Elizabeth II visits the Blue Mountains.
1957: The Scenic Skyway is opened.
Bushfires devastate the township of Leura.
Electrification of the railway line to Lithgow.
1964: Poet Zora Cross dies at Glenbrook.
1968: Bushfires devastate Springwood and the Lower Blue Mountains. The Pilgrim Inn at Blaxland is destroyed.
1969: Norman Lindsay dies and is buried in the Springwood Cemetery.
1972: North Springwood is officially renamed Winmalee.
1973: The Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum is officially opened at Faulconbridge.
1985: Novelist Eleanor Dark dies at Katoomba.
1987: Artist George Finey dies at Lawson.
1988: Novelist Kylie Tennant dies at Blackheath.
1996: The Blue Mountains is the NSW Government's inaugural 'City of the Arts'.
2000: The Blue Mountains is declared a region of 'World Heritage' significance.Early Exploration of the Blue Mountains 1788 - 1815 Initial Contact
It was in April 1788, during Governor Arthur Phillip's initial investigations of the surrounding country, that the new settlers at Sydney Cove first became conscious of a long line of blue hills bounding their settlement in the west. These were named by Phillip the Camarthen and Landsdowne Hills. Within a few years, however, these official names had faded from general usage and the range became "commonly known in the colony by the name of the Blue Mountains.
Further exploration soon saw the foothills of the Mountains reached and the stage set for an attempted crossing. In April 1789, a party led by Phillip traveled up the Hawkesbury - Nepean River by boat, reaching the junction of the Grose River. Soon after, in June 1789, Captain Watkin Tench led an expedition overland to the Nepean River near the present site of Penrith.
In the years which followed, the motives that stimulated the various attempts to explore the Blue Mountains, followed four interconnecting themes:-
1. The desire of newcomers to familiarise themselves with their surroundings and thereby strengthen their confidence in a strange land. As Collins reported, "A knowledge of the interior parts of this extensive country was anxiously desired by everyone". And, in the early stages, there seemed no reason to think that a crossing of this mountain range could not be affected.
Optimism, however, soon turned to pessimism as failure followed failure. When the attempts of Barrallier and Caley, embarked upon optimistically, ended in defeat, Governor King expressed the conviction that further efforts to cross the range "would be as chimerical as useless". It was now generally accepted that the Blue Mountains formed an inaccessible western boundary to the colony and for many years no further attempt appears to have been made to contradict this.
2. The desire to extend the boundaries of scientific knowledge stimulated in large measure by the influence and patronage of Sir Joseph Banks.
3. The desire of men who now established themselves in Australia to exploit the economic potential of the country. As the years progressed and a significant number of settlers now looked upon Australia as their home, this motive grew in importance.
4. The need for additional land. By 1813, the area east of the Blue Mountains was feeling the pressure of growing population, farms and stock. Land, other than that denied to settlers by Government policy, as in the Cowpastures, was all nearly accounted for, while the need of those developing large pastoral land holdings was becoming acute as the intensive pasturing of their sheep and cattle was beginning to take its toll on the native grasses. The drought of 1812 - 1813 only made matters worse. In 1812, Governor Macquarie offered "patronage to every effort to surmount those obstacles so long considered to retard further discovery."The Failure of Early Exploration
The failure of most of the early exploratory attempts to cross the Blue Mountains was due to a combination of two factors:
1. The ruggedness of the terrain and the unpreparedness of the explorers (both psychologically and practically) to cope with this. Most, if not all, had never encountered country of this type before. The rough terrain slowed them down making their supplies insufficient for the time necessary to achieve success. At the same time, the country exhausted them physically and generally demoralized them by, for example, tearing their clothing and wearing out their footwear.
2. Compounding these problems was a generally incorrect approach to the terrain in relation to the actual direction of attack. Taking a compass bearing and following a direct line usually meant constantly climbing in and out of valleys. Physically exhausting, this was also a time-consuming approach (witness, for example, Dawes and Caley). The method of following a river or a creek created similar problems, for in the Mountains one was more than likely to encounter sheer cliffs and waterfalls (witness, for example, Paterson and Barrallier). It was not until following the ridges was adopted (Blaxland possibly had discussed this with Caley who had partly utilized this method in his expedition) that success was achieved.The Principal Expeditions of Exploration
Information about the principal expeditions is presented in a summarized format that includes the expedition leader plus members, a summary of the route in relation to present day landmarks, and a contemporary description of country encountered.
1. In December 1789, Lieutenant William Dawes reached a point some several miles northwest of Faulconbridge and Linden.
2. In September 1793, Captain William Paterson led a party up the Grose River, terminating in the vicinity of Wentworth Creek.
3. In August 1794, Henry Hacking attempted to penetrate the Mountains. Details of his route are uncertain.
4. In June 1796, George Bass ventured into the Lower Burragorang Valley and continued westward to a high point commanding a view of the Kanangra Plateau. Bass quite probably undertook further exploration of the Blue Mountains, though details have not survived.
5. In January - February 1798, John Wilson guided a small party, ostensibly to disprove a rumour circulating among the convicts about a colony of white people to the southwest of Sydney. The expedition's terminating point was somewhere in the vicinity of the Wingecarribee River and Wollondilly River junction.
6. In November - December 1802, Ensign Francis Barrallier headed west from the Wollondilly River to the Kowmung River and up Christy's Creek, almost reaching the Kanangra Platuau.
7. In November 1804, George Caley made his way west using for a time the ridges to the north of the Grose River. Leaving the ridges he negotiated the valleys and creeks as far as Mount King-George, only a few miles from Darling's Causeway.
8. In May - June 1813, Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Wentworth successfully traversed the ridge that runs between the Cox and Grose Rivers. With minor variations the route they traveled is the one still followed today. They terminated their expedition at Mount Blaxland, which commands an extensive view of the land westward.
9. In November 1813 - January 1814, George Evans confirmed the account of Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth, that the Blue Mountains could be crossed. He descended onto the western plains and made his way to the Macquarie River, travelling about 124 miles further than his predecessors.The Impact of Exploration
Little in the form of physical evidence remains from the period of exploration. It appears, also, that even those relics recorded as such may have more symbolic than historic value. Trees were marked by explorers to identify their routes but bushfires probably soon removed such ephemeral traces. Evans, for example, noted that even the markings he made on his outward trip had in many cases been destroyed by fire before his return. Two examples of the confusion over remaining evidence of early exploration are given below.
Caley's Repulse" at Linden:
George Caley's name has long been linked with the pile of stones at Linden, discovered by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth and given the earlier explorer's name by Governor Macquarie. It appears, however, that the site of the present cairn (rebuilt in 1913 by members of the Australian Historical Society) is not the site of the original cairn, which was a short distance to the south. Also, the builder of the original pile of stones has never been satisfactorily established. As well as Caley, it has been associated with the names of various others of the early explorers. However, in all probability it belonged to the Aborigines who are known to have constructed similar piles elsewhere in the Blue Mountains.
The Explorers' Tree (or "Marked Tree") at Pulpit Hill, Katoomba
In popular imagination, this tree has been a symbolic reminder of the historic expedition of 1813. However, its association with Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth seems at best somewhat dubious. Its existence was not recorded until 1867 by which time thousands had traveled across the Mountains. Indeed, Pulpit Hill had early become a popular stopping place. Until the railway arrived, it remained one of the small populated centres along the Western Road with an inn occupying the site from the early 1830's and a police lock-up being erected there in the 1860's.
The principal surviving impact that the age of exploration had on the Blue Mountains was the eventual discovery of a route across it to the west. A culmination of all the exploration efforts, the impact of this was immediate and far reaching. In the space of a few months the long held myth of an impassable barrier was dispelled forever and the colonists vision of their future extensively broadened.
1. Within a year, despite the emphasis in the colony upon economy, a road suitable for animal and cart transport was built and the site of Bathurst proclaimed.
2. The town of Bathurst became a springboard for further westward exploration. The expeditions of, for example, Evans in 1815, Oxley in 1817-18, Cunningham in 1823 and Mitchell in the 1830's, opened the way for settlement which eventually expanded along both the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers.
The newly discovered grazing lands to the west of the Blue Mountains, despite early restrictions on travel and settlement, soon became the foundation of a powerful pastoral gentry for whom the Mountain road was lifeline. The road ensured the supply of equipment and stock to the west and the transportation of the produce of the western plains to the coast. The growth of pastoral capitalism in the 1820's was to have an important influence upon the course of political, social and economic developments in New South Wales in the next two decades.Bushwalking and the Conservation Movement
During the years of the Great Depression the popularity of walking in the Blue Mountains revived. The impact of the motorcar had deflected interest away from the old walking tracks until the general decline in prosperity meant that hiking guides replaced motoring guides as sources of popular recreation and visitors to the Blue Mountains began to rediscover the bush. With the increasing popularity of bushwalking, the early 1930s also saw the emergence of the modern conservation movement.
Myles Dunphy, who began walking in the Blue Mountains before World War I, had been influential in forming the Mountains Trails Club in 1914. The members of this club, and the Sydney Bushwalkers Club founded in 1927, had a different view of walking from 'tourist' walkers – the mainly family groups who strolled the well-maintained tracks close to the townships.
Dunphy and the Mountain Trailers marked the beginning of a new era of walking in the Blue Mountains. Their emphasis, while still recreational, was on developing the skills of bushcraft, self-reliance and adventure. Earlier walkers who yearned for such elements as part of their walking experience would tramp the Six-Foot Track, the bridle path opened in 1884 to link Katoomba and Jenolan Caves. The new generation of walkers, the 'bushwalkers', left the well-marked tracks and headed into the rougher country, often charting new routes for their comrades to follow.
Public concern for the preservation of the natural environment was sown among the bushwalkers. On the Certificate of Membership of the Mountain Trails Club the following words appeared: "remember a good bushman is a fellow you will surely want to trail with again. You were not the first over the trail; leave the pleasant places along the way just as pleasant for those who follow you." During the early 1920s, far-sighted Myles Dunphy formulated a plan for a Blue Mountains National Park, which was adopted by both the Mountain Trails Club, in 1922, and the Sydney Bushwalkers, in 1927.
The Blue Gum Forest, a magnificent stand of tall Blue gums growing in the Grose Valley neat the junction of Govett's Leap Creek and the Grose River became the subject of what many consider the seminal conservation campaign. Beginning in 1931, it was conducted by those whose environmental concern was nurtured in the bushwalking and wildlife societies of the time. It generated considerable interest and co-operation, pointing the way for successful future action.
The story of the campaign begins with a chance meeting which occurred during the Easter holidays of 1931, when a group of bushwalkers led by Alan Rigby entered the forest of Blue gums and encountered two men prepared to ringbark the trees. One of the men explained that he had leased the area and planned to replace the blue gums with walnut trees. The walkers were appalled. Those beautiful gums at the site of Eccleston Du Faur's 1857 Junction Camp, circled by soaring sandstone cliffs, were to be destroyed. Surely the authorities had made a mistake in granting a lease for this purpose. It was a situation that required some fast thinking so, boiling the billy; the walkers discussed the matter over lunch.
It was proposed to seek time to place the issue before the full membership of their bushwalking clubs. There must have been persuasive talkers in the group for the lessee, assured that it would be to his profit, agreed to postpone the ringbarking for the time being. Returning to Sydney, Alan Rigby got things moving with a full report to the next meeting of the Mountain Trails Club. The upshot of this was a request to the Sydney Bushwalkers to assist in a campaign to save the Forest by buying out the lease and ensuring the area be reserved for public use.
When the sanction of the Lands Department was obtained the first step was successfully accomplished. The most difficult task still remained, to raise the one hundred and fifty pounds required by the lessee, C A Hungerford of Bilpin, to allow him to obtain an alternative site for his walnut trees. Their agreement called for fifty pounds to be paid by November 1931, with the balance spread over the following twelve months.
A Blue Gum Committee was established to co-ordinate the campaign. Donations were solicited and fund-raising dances and socials were organised. In a time of economic depression, meeting the lessee's terms proved a difficult job. On Sunday 15th November, a meeting of the committee and Mr Hungerford took place to assess the matter. It was held at the site among the mighty blue gums whose future was in the balance. Myles Dunphy, a member of the co-ordinating committee, has written about this important gathering. "The business meeting, about midday, was held in pouring rain; the members of the party sat around in a circle in a space between the trees. Each shrouded in a cape. The weather was unkind, but the great trees standing up all around appeared magnificent – except one fine specimen which lay stretched out close to the riverbank, a victim of the lessee's salesmanship. No doubt it was felled to give point to the necessity for saving the trees."
The meeting resulted in new terms being settled which required payment of a reduced total of one hundred and thirty pounds by the end of December. The committee channelled its energy into a renewed effort and a donation from the Wildlife Preservation Society allowed an immediate deposit to be made. With the assistance of an anonymous loan to supplement the amount already raised, the deadline was met.
The united action of the bushwalking societies and numerous other supporters had secured a beautiful piece of bushland for public use. The Blue Gum Forest was notified as a public recreation reserve on 2nd September 1932 and a management trust appointed. In 1961 the area was absorbed into the Blue Mountains National Park.
In 1931, the same year that the Blue Gum forest campaign was being waged, Mules Dunphy formed the National Parks and Primitive Areas Council (NPPAC). Adopting the slogan 'Progress With Conservation' and made up of representatives of all the major bushwalking clubs of the time. The Council set about promoting Dunphy's plan for a Blue Mountains National Park. In August 1934 it published a four-page supplement to the Katoomba Daily in which the idea was presented in detail and Dunphy's beautifully drawn map of the proposal was reproduced. Six thousand of these supplements were distributed throughout the Blue Mountains and Sydney.
It still took more than two decades before the plan achieved and kind of reality. The Blue Mountains National Park, comprising much of the central part of the original plan was gazetted in September 1959. Over the next twenty years, as a result of intense campaigning on the part of conservationists, further large areas of the Blue Mountains region, including Kanangra-Boyd in the south and Wollemi in the north, were dedicated as national park. By the end of the 1970s, the vision of the early bushwalker-conservationists had been vindicated and most of the areas covered by the NPPAC proposal had been secured for public recreation.
Blue Mountains Heritage Study 1982, Croft & Associates in association with Meredith Walker for Blue Mountains City Council
On Monday 2nd November 1931, a special cricket match took place at Blackheath between teams representing the local community and Lithgow. Organised by the Blackheath Municipal Council, the event was used to christen the newly installed malthoid wicket, the first of its kind in the Western Districts. The Test players Wendell Bill and Donald Bradman were specially invited to represent Blackheath in the local team.
Few in the crowd could have known what a memorable match it turned out to be. 'The Don', in his own words, "had a day out" and what a day it was! In one three-over period, in which he faced 22 balls, Bradman hit 10 sixes, 9 fours, a two and 2 singles, running up what was probably the fastest century ever scored. He was finally caught on 256, an innings that ensured a Blackheath victory.
The bat Bradman used in the match was later given to the Blackheath Mayor, Peter Sutton, who had it mounted on the wall of the Council offices in Blackheath. A story survives that he occasionally asked people to swear on it when a truthful response was required.RUGBY LEAGUE IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
In 1912, only a few years since rugby league had arrived in Sydney from its birthplace in the north of England, the little village of Glenbrook in the lower Mountains fielded a team in a local competition that included Emu Plains and Penrith. The large population of railway workers in Glenbrook at the time, working on the deviation through Glenbrook Gorge, no doubt provided the impetus for the town's early adoption of the game and the Glenbrook Rovers do not seem to have survived their departure when work was completed in 1913.
Three years later, in 1915, rugby league teams were formed in Katoomba and Springwood. The Katoomba club was formed under the patronage of James Joynton Smith, the owner of the Carrington Hotel and an influential supporter of the game in Sydney. It entered a team in the competition administered by the Hartley District Rugby League and, despite some controversial off-field tactics by the "Kaisers of Lithgow football", ended the season as premiers. Springwood, on the other hand, played in a Sydney 'Western Districts' competition and finished the year with six wins from twelve matches.
World War I, however, disrupted the development of the game in the Mountains and a truly local competition did not eventuate until after hostilities ceased. The Blue Mountains District Rugby League was formed in 1920 and a trophy was donated by Katoomba businessman John S. Henderson, a co-patron of the League with Joynton Smith.
The first season produced a final between Springwood's 'Springboks' and Katoomba's 'Federals' that, according to the local newspaper, "metamorphosed the quietude of the bush into a veritable pandemonium". This augured well and, while the health of the local competition over the next two decades became a year-to-year proposition, its best seasons saw teams from all over the Blue Mountains do battle each week.
In 1921 a Western Districts competition, involving teams from Dubbo, Wellington, Parkes, Orange, Bathurst, Blayney, Lithgow and the Blue Mountains, was initiated with the establishment of the Western District Rugby League Football Association.
As the 1920s progressed, the combined Blue Mountains team, known to its fans simply as the 'Blues', began playing an increasing number of metropolitan club (generally lower grade) and company teams alongside its commitment to the country competition. The 'Blues' provided one of the few mediums through which the people of the Blue Mountains, characterised by a divisive geography of small parochial towns with entrenched traditions of rivalry, were able to express a sense of regional unity. Indeed, with the fluctuating fortunes of the local competition, the 'Blues' gradually came to occupy centre stage.
One the Blue's star players for many years was Aboriginal winger Jackie Brooks whose "sparkling play brought down the house again and again". He was speedy, had "a bit of pace in reserve" and was also a capable defender. This "spectacular little winger", as one sports writer summed him up, was a popular identity in Katoomba and worked for a number of years at both the Hydro Majestic and the Carrington Hotels.Coal and Shale Mining near Katoomba
As early as 1841 Rev. W B Clarke noted the presence of coal in the Blue Mountains and in 1866 made the first systematic description of the deposits of oil shale in the Hartley area, where its existence had been known from as early as 1824.
Seams containing both coal and shale outcrops were noticed by the early settlers in the valley walls of the Blue Mountains and in the 1860s the imminent construction of the western railway encouraged considerable local exploration. The most extensive and successful oil shale operations took place in the Hartley region where, prior to the rail connection, bullock teams carted shale to the railhead at Mount Victoria. With the building of the Lithgow Zig Zag rail line and the consequent extension of the railway to the west, the growth of the Hartley-Lithgow region into a large industrial center founded on the local coal and shale deposits was assured. While the Grose Valley near Mount Victoria also attracted some freelance small-scale exploration from the mid 1860s, it was the Katoomba area that was next to profit from the exploitation of the Blue Mountains coal and shale resources.
In the 1860's Campbell Mitchell discovered three seams of kerosene shale on the Megalong Valley side of the Narrow Neck Peninsula. With Thomas Sutcliffe Mort he acquired 640 acres here (Portions 14 and 15, Parish of Megalong, County of Cook) and established the Glen Shale Mine. To ascertain whether the shale deposits extended into the adjoining Jamison Valley, he then explored the eastern side of Narrow Neck, including the area of the Ruined Castle Ridge. His investigations revealed profitable seams but the difficulties of transporting it over the rugged terrain to the Western Railway appeared too daunting.
In the 1870's, John Britty North purchased a substantial quantity of land, much of which later formed a large part of the developing town of Katoomba. Included in his purchase was most of the land along the cliff front from Echo Point to Narrow Neck and across to the Ruined Castle. North also rented the substantial home 'Essendon (or 'Essendene), owned by the Henderson family and built near the present junction of the highway and Cliff Drive. The building, with a large tower was later used as a school and guesthouse, until destroyed by fire in 1929. He later built his own home, 'Lassie Brae, in Katoomba Street, which was eventually demolished as the commercial centre of Katoomba developed.
To exploit the coal seams, which outcropped at the base of the cliffs near the Orphan Rock, North registered a company under the title of Katoomba Coal Mine, in 1870. Once the coal mine was under way, North began an examination of the Ruined Castle area in the Jamison Valley in the early 1880's and, locating two substantial outcrops of kerosene shale, formed another company known as the Katoomba Coal and Shale Co. Ltd. in 1885.
In 1882 a loading depot, known as North's Siding was opened on the Western Railway on the Sydney side of what is now ShelI Corner on the western edge of Katoomba. There developed a whole system of interconnected tramways linking this depot with the various coal and shale mines, which opened up in the Megalong and Jamison Valleys to the south.
With the opening of the Ruined Castle mines, North imported engineers from Germany to construct an elevated tramway known as the Flying Fox from the company's engine bank - now the site of the Scenic Railway - across the Jamison Valley to the Ruined Castle ridge. A fault in construction resulted in a short working life when, after carrying only 500 tons of shale, it collapsed into the valley below where the wreckage still remains. Considerable money had been invested in this project and the disaster spelled the end of the company. Shale mining at the Ruined Castle ceased and while the coalmine continued for a time, the company soon went into liquidation.
In 1890 the Glen Shale Mine in the Megalong Valley was purchased by The Australian Kerosene Oil and Mineral Company, which operated a shale oil industry at Joadja near Mittagong. The following year this company leased the shale mines at the Ruined Castle formerly operated by the Katoomba Coal and Shale Co. Ltd., together with that company's tramway system linking its coalmines near Orphan Rock with North's Siding.
The new company concentrated its effort on the Glen Shale Mine. As well as bringing a large quantity of machinery and transport equipment to Katoomba from their operations at Joadja, they tunnelled through the coalmine at the base of Engine Bank and then through the Narrow Neck to link the Megalong Valley operations with those in the Jamison Valley. A single-track horse tramway was laid out beneath the eastern ramparts of the Narrow Neck Peninsula linking the Ruined Castle mines with the double-tracked skipway before entering the Narrow Neck Daylight Tunnel.
From 1895, the shale mining activities at the Ruined Castle and Glen Shale Mines gradually decreased. The seams were becoming exhausted and the returns from sales were reduced. By 1903, the shale industry at Katoomba ceased to exist. Most of the equipment was transferred to the Australian Kerosene Oil and Mineral Company's operation at Tarbane. The lease at West Katoomba expired in 1906.Miners' Settlements During This Period
1. Settlement in the Engine Bank/Katoomba Falls Area.
Several streets of weatherboard cottages extended from the Engine Bank to the intersection of the road now known as Golf Links Road. A hotel, The Centennial, later known as The Falls House, was destroyed by fire in 1973. A small store also existed but has long since disappeared. When the mine closed the miners cottages were bought by Paddy Mullaney who rebuilt them at the lower end of Leichhardt, Clissold and Vale Streets, Katoomba where many still stand.
2. Nellie's Glen Settlement.
At the foot of Nellie's Glen existed a sizeable mining settlement with a large hotel, butcher's shop, bakery and public hall but this settlement did not survive the end of the shale industry in 1903. In 1904 the hotel was moved in sections by bullock team and re-erected in Lurline Street where it became a guesthouse known as 'Maldwin.
3. The Ruined Castle Settlement.
The settlement here was predominantly made up of quarters for single men. The building materials used consisted of bush timber, bark, kerosene tins and whatever was at hand. This settlement also faded away with the end of the shale works.
Later Mining Operations at Katoomba
In 1925 there occurred a revival of North's long abandoned coalmine below the cliffs at South Katoomba. A local syndicate formed the Katoomba Colliery Ltd. and resumed mining activities on a lease of 160 acres. The old workings supplied a substantial quantity of coal, which was sold on the local market, principally to the Katoomba Electric Power House and in smaller amounts to the hotels, guesthouses and local residents.
During the Depression however, capital costs increased and the local market was reduced. Despite its decreasing viability, the mine continued to operate until the Second World War. However as the company progressed toward liquidation, one aspect of its operation had a parallel rise in fortune, and helped to augment the mine's declining income. The rehabilitation work carried out on the coal haulage system up the cliff face opposite Orphan Rock integrated into the booming Katoomba tourist industry of the 1920's and 1930's. The "Mountain Devil" of the early 1930's became eventually the "Scenic Railway" of today.
The exploitation of the coal and kerosene shale deposits in the Jamison and Megalong Valleys brought the Katoomba region to wider public notice than its earlier use as a stone quarry and began to establish it as a population centre. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Katoomba was known principally as a coal-mining town. However the influence of the mining operations upon Katoomba's early development coincided with another vastly different trend, which began to make itself felt at about the same time: the development of the Blue Mountains as a tourist and recreational destination and recognition as a valuable natural and wilderness area, culminating in its recognition as a World Heritage Area in December 2000.
Blue Mountains Heritage Study 1982, Croft & Associates in association with Meredith Walker for Blue Mountains City Council