Postcards from 100 years ago



Sydney Road

Manly 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.

124 Sydney Road

124 Sydnet Road now. The sports field on the left

Manly remained isolated for many years. It was a long and ardious 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. 

There was a very small population which was able to eke out a living from fishing or farming when Henry Gilbert Smith, the founder of the village, arrived in 1853. 

In June 1855, Henry Gilbert 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". 

He purchased large tracts of land with the vision of Manly, with its splendid ocean beach and sheltered sandy coves, becoming 'the favourite resort of the Colonists'. He initiated a ferry service, built hotels and donated land for schools and churches. He also built a camera obscura, a maze and a stone kangaroo to attract visitors. He laid out a grand plan for Manly but changed this later to a more pragmatic design with smaller blocks of land

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.



Businessman H W Wardle erected in Ivanhoe Park a large pavilion left over from the international exhibition held in Sydney in 1870.1 The pavilion was 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, the founder of Manly, chose the name; Ivanhoe is 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 1883.3 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.




   Contact Us

   Privacy Policy

   Site Map