Postcards from 100 years ago





456 Manly Ocean Beach

409 Manly Ocean Beach

On 21 January 1788, Captain Phillip travelled north and examined Port Jackson, so named by Captain James Cook in 1770.

They spent three days exploring Port Jackson and Phillip, impressed by the "confidence and manly behaviour" of a group of aborigines in the northern reaches of the harbour, called the place "Manly Cove". 

Captain John Hunter's 1788 sketch of North Arm placed Manly Cove at the western end of  North Harbour, Collins Cove being the name originally given to what is Manly Cove today.  

 An early map of about 1822 shows a plan of a proposed township of Manly. Certainly the quiet waters of North Harbour would have afforded greater protection for the small boats that were the only link with Sydney during that period. 

Henry Gilbert Smith, an English businessman living in Sydney, saw that Manly - with an ocean beach on one side and fine sandy cove on the other - could provide a great "watering place" for the people of Sydney, as Brighton did for Londoners and he started acquiring land in the area in the 1850s. 

In June 1855, Smith wrote to his brother in England "the amusement I derive in making my improvements in Manly is, no doubt, the cause of my greater enjoyment, in fact I never feel a dull day while there. I should long ere this have been with you if it had not been for this hobby of mine, in thinking I am doing good in forming a village or watering place for the inhabitant of Sydney".  

The Corso

396 The Corso - Manly


405 Manly CorsoNorfolk Island pines were planted along the harbour foreshore and in 1855 Smith had a pier constructed a little east of the Manly Wharf, the Pier Hotel was built and The Corso was cleared linking the harbour with the ocean beach.  

262 The Corso - shoppingSmith encouraged the growth of a ferry service to Manly. Excursion trips were available and by 1856 there was a daily ferry service. In 1859 Smith acquired the steamer "Phantom" specifically for the Manly to Sydney run.  

Henry Gilbert Smith did many other beneficial things for the new community, too, including donating land so that parks, churches, schools and other buildings could be established. 

Manly achieved its own seat of Local Government when the municipality was incorporated on 6th January, 1877






The Beach 

14 Manly BeachDuring the early settlement days in Australia some of the British soldiers apparently found the weather and the white sandy beaches just too tempting, and often went swimming in the surf, in the nude! In 1833, to preserve decency in this newly found colony, the Governor of the day banned sea bathing completely during daylight hours.  

20 Manly North HarbourOf course bathing was a complete cover up in those days, with some of the ladies' costumes containing up to ten metres of material! Also, bathing was segregated with separate hours or different parts of the beach for men and women. Once again civil disobedience won out and mixed bathing eventually became the norm.  

In 1902, William Gocher advertised that he would swim at Manly in Sydney in protest against the law. He was not arrested. Similar protests occurred at other beaches but police were reluctant to arrest the bathers as long as they were decently clothed.  171 Manly Beach swimmers

Improved public transport made beaches more accessible while reduced working hours meant people had more leisure time. Anyone with the fare could spend the day at Bondi, or Manly. A day at the beach became a popular activity and Neck-to-knee suits made of cotton or wool became standard for both men and women who were brave enough to actually go into the water.  Many just stood and watched. 

Over the years, the entire process nude bathing on some of the more remote beaches had always been furtively taking place. Finally, on the 15th of February 1975, the South Australian Government, under the Premiership of Don Dunstan, declared nude bathing legal on Maslin Beach, making it the first legal ‘dress optional’ beach in Australia.  261 Surf bathing at ManlyManly was visited and named by Captain Arthur Phillip some time between 21st and 23rd January, 1788. Captain Arthur Phillip was impressed with the confident and manly behaviour of the Aboriginal people of the Cannalgal and Kayimai clans who waded out to his boat in North Harbour when he was exploring Port Jackson in January 1788. He gave the name Manly Cove to the place where they first met but its exact location is uncertain. 


Sydney Road 

124 Sydney Road

124 Sydney Road nowManly remained isolated for many years. It was a long and arduous journey, crossing Sydney harbour by punt at North Sydney or The Spit, or a land journey of 120km  - through Parramatta, Hunter's Hill, Lane Cove and Narrabeen.  

The name of Sydney Road has a history as long and tortuous as the road itself. The then unnamed route was first surveyed by William Govett who was appointed assistant surveyor in the NSW Surveyor-General’s Department in 1827. In November 1829, Govett wrote to Surveyor-General Mitchell: 

 “Having left ‘Barrenjoey’ it is my intention to work my way back to North Head taking in as I proceed all the Country between the Main Ridge and theSea Coast agreeable to your memorandum on my plan.” 

On 13 January 1830, Govett sent Mitchell the map of his route. He had explored and surveyed “Pitt Water Range” (later Mona Vale Road) and “North Head Range” (later the route of Forest Way, the Wakehurst Parkway between Frenchs Forest and Seaforth, and Sydney Road between Seaforth and Manly). No roads were made or named although indigenous tracks may have traversed parts of these ridge-tops.  

The 1890s Depression brought Sydney Road’s slow development to a halt. While a number of families moved in and out, the total number of households in Sydney Road remained almost unchanged between 1894 and 1899 (Sands’ directory of 1895-1900). Mrs McGaw’s The Castle (formerly Dalley’s Castle) was now listed in Sydney Road. Otherwise John Paxton’s Altamira on the scenic crest of Thornton’s Hill opposite what is now Crescent Street, was the first house between what is now Belgrave Street, Manly and the current Fairlight shops. Altamira’s site on the south side of Sydney Road is now occupied by a  (1940s?) block of flats of the same name. 

373 Surf Bathing


At the foot of Sydney Road lies Ivanhoe Park.  Businessman H W Wardle erected in a large pavilion left over from the international exhibition held in Sydney in 1870. This pavilion was to be used for dances, picnics and church outings in the 1870s. However, it is not known when the area was first referred to as Ivanhoe Park, or who named it.  It is possible that Henry Gilbert Smith, may have chosen the name from a novel by Sir Walter Scott with associations with the Midlands of England (as had H G Smith), and something about it may have taken Smith’s fancy 

The Ivanhoe Park Hotel was erected on the land in 1875, and in 1880 the park was bought by hotelier Thomas Adrian, who, however, failed to pay the cost. The park was vested in the Queen on 17th December 1883. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s it was used for sports and picnics. Manly Cricket Club laid down its first wicket there – the Club was formed in 1878 – and Manly Lawn Tennis Club was using it from 1884 

In 1883 the land came under threat from developers, and Charles Hayes, who was then Mayor of Manly, bought up the land then sold it to the NSW Government at cost price, £7300, on condition it was made into a park for Manly. The Council were appointed as trustees, and finally acquired the land in September 1887. On 1 December 1887 the Government officially informed Manly Council that the control of all public reserves at Manly was now vested in Manly Council. The Council was permitted to charge for admission to a portion of Manly Park from that date, with the proceeds to be devoted wholly to the improvement of the Park. The old hotel was used as council chambers from 1884 to 1909.

During the 1880s and 1890s, the Manly Wildflower Shows were held in Ivanhoe Park, raising hundreds of pounds for local churches and for improvements to the park, but the cause of great damage to native flora. The first Wildflower Show was held in the pavilion in the park in October 1881. The pavilion was demolished in 1893, and future shows were held in temporary marquees, the last being in 1899. 

Blasting removed some of the rocky area in the 1890s, drainage took place, and in 1904 there were further alterations and improvements. In 1910 trees were cleared from one side of the park to make room for the Spit tram route. By 9th January 1911, the tramway from the Spit to Manly was completed, and the first tram travelled along Sydney Road via a horseshoe curve between Crescent and George Streets, skirting the western and northern boundaries of Ivanhoe Park before reaching level terrain in Raglan Street, where Mrs Griffith, the wife of the Minister for Works, cut the ceremonial ribbon. A crossing loop was laid in the park, and the tracks were laid with ten feet centres to allow one foot clearance between the footboards of the passing cars. 


As early as February 1859 a sixty acre site was excised from the Quarantine Ground for use by the Roman Catholic Church, and further land was added later. A condition of the grant was that it not be alienated or subdivided and should be used for religious or educational purposes only. 

129 Cardinals Palace

129 Cardinals Palace nowIn December 1884 it was proposed that a Cardinal’s Palace be erected on the above land and Dr Moran commissioned architects Messrs Sheerin and Hennessy of Sydney to draw up the necessary plans. The successful tenderer for the erection and completion of the building was declared in January 1885 to be William Farley. An intention to also erect a Roman Catholic Ecclesiastical Seminary on the same grant was announced in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6 June 1885, and the foundation stone for this building was laid on November 1885  

Mr W H Jennings was awarded the contract to construct and complete the seminary. He decided to employ stonemasons who belonged to the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons, knowing full well that according to their rules they could only work with fellow members of their union. 

One man, namely Morris Drummond, already employed by Mr Jennings was asked to join the union and told that if he did so the men would work with him. However he refused to do so and Mr Jennings supported Drummond’s action not to join. Immediately 57 masons went on strike and walked off the job, leaving only two masons on the ground. A very long and bitter struggle followed between the stonemasons’ union and Mr Jennings which lasted well over three months. In fact it appears doubtful that the matter was ever properly settled and that “scab labour” was probably used until the completion of the job. 

A special meeting of stonemasons was held on 15 January 1886 at the Swan With Two Necks Hotel for the purpose of dealing with the strike at Manly Beach. The conclusion reached at this meeting was that a fine of £5 should be imposed upon all society men remaining on the job after the strike, and that Mr Jennings be allowed a month to accede to the articles of the society 

For more than 100 years, St Patrick's College has stood guard over Manly beach - a reminder that surf, sun and sand is not the sum total of human striving. Perched on the ocean side of North Head, it is the most spectacular building in Sydney after the Opera House. Now, to cope with fewer seminarians and higher maintenance costs, the Church has concluded a 30-year lease to an international hotel school - and the college tower, which once served as finger beckoning man to God, will soon, so to speak, summon patrons to their table. 

When St Patrick's College opened in 1889, it was a sign of the faith, courage and self-confidence of the local Church. Cardinal Moran boasted that it would be the "finest institution in the Australias" and wanted it to be the heart of a Catholic university of United Australia. It is the biggest, oldest and most celebrated seminary in Australia - and by providing an alternative to training in Dublin or Rome was midwife to the birth of a local priesthood. 

Cabbage Tree Bay

Around the corner from Manly Beach lies Cabbage Tree Bay, now an a aquatic reserve with a pathway that overlooks the water.

170 Cabbage Tree Bay walkway

The cliffs overlooking the beach - the start of the walk around Cabbage Tree Bay - above


                                      Still an enjoyable walk - but usually wearing less clothing

360 Fairy Bower in Cabbage Tree Bay

                          The beach, lined with young Norfolk Pines - below

 98 Manly beach and the Norfolk Pines

98 Manly - a few mmore bikini's on the beach

Manly wharf - below


313 Manly Wharf and the ferries



















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