Local history fast facts - W

This information has been provided by the Local History Centre and the Woollahra History and Heritage Society.


WAIMEA - Waimea Avenue, Woollahra - Two storey Victorian Colonial Georgian mansion built around 1858 for Thomas Barr. From 1949 to 1973 it operated as the Helen Keller Hostel by the Royal Blind Society. At one time in danger of demolition, it was saved by determined local residents and has since been restored.

WALLAROY - Demolished house, Edgecliff Rd, Woollahra. The house stood on the northern side of Edgecliff Rd (opposite Merioola), built in 1859 by the Hon. Sir William Manning, MLC, which had a fine garden extending down to Manning Rd.

WALLENBERG - see Raoul Wallenberg Garden

WATER SUPPLY - In 1866, wells were sunk in Ocean Street, Woollahra and Cross Street, Double Bay and pumps installed followed a year later with another one in Darling Point. Reticulation from established reservoirs commenced around 1880.

WATSON GRANT - The northern half of present day Robertson Park, Watsons Bay, land area of 2 1/2 acres was granted to Thomas Watson on 2 July 1834 who was a pilot and built the marine villa on the eastern end of the grant that was to become the house Clovelly. This is distinct from the grant of 50 acres promised to Robert Watson by Governor King in 1804 which ultimately was split and formally granted to Thomas Hotton James on 9 February, 1838 (11 acres) and to Francis Mitchell on 10 October, 1840 (39 acres).

WATSON, HMAS - South Head. It is the RAN's principal Warfare Training Centre and was commissioned in 1945 as a Radar Training School - coincidentally the inventor of Radar was Sir Robert Watson-Watt. The unit's motto is We find we fix.

WATSON MEMORIAL SEAT - at the NorthWest end of Robertson Park. Robert Watson (1756-1819) was the 'Watson' after whom the bay was named (came into general use around 1811). He was quartermaster on HMS Sirius, possibly a signal man, pilot, harbour master and finally the Superintendent of the South Head Lighthouse (the first). He received a promise of a grant of 50 acres of land in Watsons Bay but never had the grant formalised - he is reported to have built a stone house somewhere in the area. The seat was designed by Leslie Wilkinson and put in Robertson Park in 1929. The inscription is in error in that Watson is given as Signal man 1791-1811 when he was at Nofolk Island until 1793. However he was located in the Bay from the early 1800s and may have acted as a signalman for a time.

WATSONS BAY HOTEL - The Palace Hotel, the grandest in the area was built in 1886, designed by architect John Kirkpartick in Victorian Italianate 'Boom' style, standing on the corner of present day Military Road and Cliff Street. It was replaced in 1939 by the present Watsons Bay Hotel, a very fine Art Deco structure, designed by architects Scott, Green and Scott.

WATSONS BAY OLD SCHOOL - Old South Head Road. The school started life in 1858 as the 'South Head School' one of 38 National Schools established that year and was situated in the old Pilot Station. The sandstone school building (now The Gunyah - Scout Hall) and master's residence were built in 1876 (G.A. Mansfield, architect). The school moved to Vaucluse in 1925.

WATSONS BAY TRIG STATION - in Lighthouse Reserve, Vaucluse. On the rise to the north of the lighthouse is a white obelisk-like structure which has a mounting plate for survey instruments - the mound on which it stands is man made. From here, to the west and north one is viewing the remains of the old Miocene peneplain (landscape eroded down to sea level) before the last uplift (some 50 m. years ago).

WAVERLEY BREWERY - see Adelaide Brewery

WAVERLEY METHODIST CHURCH - see Church in the marketplace

WEIGALL PLAYING FIELDS - In 1907 Sydney Grammar School purchased seven and a half acres of the Booth Estate (formerly Thomas's grant) at a price of 500 pounds per acre, in order to establish a sportsground. The school, then in the centenary year, is based on a crowded site on the eastern fringe of the city, and the availability of this land (formerly part of the Chinese market gardens) presented an opportunity to establish a sporting facility in easy distance from the main school. The sportsground is named for Albert Bythesea Weigall, Headmaster of Grammar from 1867-1912, and a keen advocate for the provision of a sportsground for his pupils.

WENTWORTH MAUSOLEUM - Chapel Road, Vaucluse. William Charles Wentworth died in England in 1872, his remains being brought home at his own wish and buried beneath his 'Rock'. A Victorian Academic Gothic style Mausoleum was erected over his tomb (Mansfield Brothers, architects).

WENTWORTH MEMORIAL CHURCH - An Anglican Church at the top of the rise between Fitzwilliam and Chapel Roads, Vaucluse, it was built in 1965 and is a branch of the Church of St Peter in Watsons Bay.

WENTWORTH'S ROCK - Vaucluse. William Charles Wentworth often climbed the hillside to the north of his house, going to the end of the ridge just above the junction of present day Wentworth and Fitzwilliam Roads taking in the view. He never ceased in being delighted in the prospect. The original roadway giving access to Vaucluse House from South Head Road kept to the top of the ridge going as far as possible to the end before turning sharply down the hillside to the House. This probably served to afford himself and his guests the opportunity of getting out of the carriage to take in the view as well as to get around the Convict Barracks nearby. Regrettably, today this viewpoint is occupied by private residences.

WESTBOURNE - A Prominent sandstone house 17 Jersey Road Woollahra showing a mix of Victorian Gothic and Italianate styling, built in 1868 for the Rev. John West who was editor of the Sydney Morning Herald in 1854. It has decorative barge board gable, quoined corners and faceted bay window.

WHARF ROAD, Point Piper - now known as Wingadal Place.

WHELAN RESERVE, Paddington - is in South Sydney City area adjacent to Centennial Square. It was named (according to a plaque in the reserve) after John Thomas Whelan and Thomas Joseph Whelan, former Aldermen and Mayors of Paddington.

WHITE CITY - The Lawn Tennis Association's tennis complex was officially opened on 21 October, 1921. The land was part of the 'Booth Estate' the low lying part of which became extensive market gardens supplying vegetables to the city area pioneered by several European families (Harris and Ridley etc.) leased later to Chinese garderners. By 1910, local opposition led to the Chinese abandoning it and it became the White City Amusement Park, open-air pleasure grounds occupying some 10 acres managed by T.H. Eslick. It opened in December 1913, featuring a scenic railway, caves, stalls, ballroom, a Japanese village and other attractions such as fancy dress carnivals, but closed in 1917. The Sydney Grammar School's Weigall Ground occupied the western part, named after the School's Headmaster (1866-1895). The name was retained when the Law Tennis Association established their tennis courts complex on the site.

WILLARA - an Aboriginal sounding name given to Point Piper believed to be based on Daniel Southwell's recording of 'Woo-la-ra' meaning 'the Lookout' and which came to be chosen by (Sir) Daniel Cooper in 1856 as the name for his proposed mansion. Willara Lane once led to a wharf on Point Piper but was closed to the public in 1960 and sold off in 1963.

WILLOWS - Demolished house in Darling Point Road on the southern James Holt 'grant' of 7 1/2 acres which contained a large pond, drained and planted out in the moisture loving trees that gave it its name. Originally built for Acton Sillitoe, owned to 1880 by Thomas Skinner, bought by James Sutherland Mitchell who demolished it to extend his property Etham.

WINGADAL PLACE, Point Piper - originally known as Wharf Road. Its name was changed in 1956 on resolution of Woollahra Council of 12/11/1956.

WINTERGARDEN THEATRE - On Rose Bay foreshore, it was demolished in February, 1987. It was one of the largest suburban cinemas of the time and the first to be designed for 'talking pictures' - others were retrofitted - architect was Henry White who also did the State Theatre. It opened on March 19, 1928; first films were Gigolo and The Magic Flame and the last was The Resurrection. It was replaced by an apartment block carrying the same name.

WOODBINE COTTAGE - An imported galvanised iron framed and clad cottage on the Edgecliff House property was leased by Mr Justice Wise to the Woollahra Borough Council for use until the Chambers further up Ocean Street (Point Piper Road) were ready for occupation. It was used in this capacity from 1860 to 1861.

WOODLANDS - No 85 Wallaroy Rd, Woollahra. House built around 1884 as the home of Mr Samuel H. Smyth.

WOOLLAHRA - Believed to be based on the Aboriginal name for Lookout Woo-la-ra reported by Daniel Southwell in a letter to his uncle 12 July, 1788 and chosen by (Sir) Daniel Cooper for the name of his proposed house. The name was no doubt given to the Municipality in 1860 in deference to the Coopers who owned most of the land that it comprised. See also WILLARA.


WOOLLAHRA HOUSE - Demolished house, previously occupying the island block of Longworth Crescent and Wunulla Road, Point Piper. Originally designed for (Sir) Daniel Cooper by Hilly & Mansfield, a foundation stone was laid in 1856 but the house was never built although in 1858 tenders were let for 'Offices' adjoining the south wing which would have been in all probability, service buildings. Of Victorian Italianate styling (Boom Style) and massive proportions the house was built in 1883 for William Cooper - architected by John Kirkpatrick and demolished in 1929. It was occupied by Lady Martin for a time from 1888 and for a long period after by the Longworth family. More information on Woollahra House(PDF, 220KB).

WOOLLAHRA HOUSE STABLES - Point Piper. Now Wyuna Court, 4 Longworth Avenue (also 1a Wyuna Road) were the stables built ca 1859 for Woollahra House and stood around a stone-flagged courtyard. It was transformed into apartments by Sydney Gilchrist.

WOOLLAHRA MUNICIPALITY - Resulted from a petition of residents in 1859, the Municipality being gazetted April 20, 1860. Elections took place on May 28 and the first Council meeting held on 6 June 1860, Councillor George Thornton being elected the first Chairman. The Council Chambers was built in 1864 on the corner of Jersey Road and Ocean Street, Woollahra occupied by the Council until 1947 when it moved to the Redleaf building in Double Bay.

WOOLLAHRA PARK - An area of some 32 1/2 acres (13.2 ha.) fronting O'Sullivan Road in Rose Bay was acquired in 1923 by the Council from a 'Rose Bay Freehold Company', Chinese market gardeners on the site were given notice to quit and a park with an oval put in train. A pavilion named in honour of George Grimley was constructed in 1927, a golf course put in place by 1931 and two croquet lawns layed down in 1934. Subsequently the club rooms of the Rose Bay Rugby Football Club was erected on the site.

WOOLLAHRA PUBLIC SCHOOL - Forth Street, Woollahra. Built in 1877 (Backhouse, architect), the two storey block in 1899, colours, navy and mid blue, motto Strive to Serve.

WORLD WAR I GUN - A 150 mm German naval gun 505 was captured by the 45th Battalion of the A.I.F. at Caroline Wood during the Battle of Amiens in the closing stages of the First World War on 8 August 1918. The gun was presented to the Municipality of Woollahra in 1921 as a so-called 'war trophy' and stood in the front garden of the Council Chambers in Ocean Street. The gun was one of hundreds of captured guns that were distributed to municipalities across the country after the close of the First World War. The gun was officially unveiled on 29 May 1921 and remained at the chambers until 1930 when it was moved to Lyne Park. It was transferred to South Head in 1935 before returning to Lyne Park in 1957. The gun was presented to the Royal Australian Artillery Historical Society, moving to their museum at North Head in 1994 and after the museum closed it was moved to Bandiana, Victoria in 2011. It is the only example of its type in Australia and only one of two remaining complete examples of the type known to survive in the world.

WORLD WAR II ANTI-TORPEDO BOOM NET - The net was built from Green Point to Georges Head commencing January, 1942 which comprised clusters of four piles with the net, which was made of wire and interlocking steel rings (some 450 mm in diameter), suspended between them. It had been mostly removed by early 1946.

WYUNA COURT - see Woollahra House Stables