Dictionary of Sydney

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Brookvale is nestled in a valley between the hills of Allambie Heights and Beacon Hill and the coastal suburbs of Harbord, Curl Curl and North Curl Curl. The township of Brookvale was formerly known as Greendale, a name that is preserved today by Greendale Creek – which meanders from the high side of Warringah Road at Beacon Hill and flows down through Brookvale into Curl Curl Lagoon – and the street names of Green Street and Dale Street. The area between the hills and the sea was largely marshland and lightly timbered. [1] There was already a place called Greendale near Mulgoa, and the name Brookvale was adopted by the postal authorities on the recommendation of the Town Clerk of Manly on 18 May 1888. [2]

Before Brookvale

Brookvale was part of the traditional land of the Aboriginal people who had lived here for thousands of years. Recent research suggests that these people who most likely to have been part of the Dharug people. Evidence of these traditional owners of the land remains in the Aboriginal engravings and sites which are located on the higher areas surrounding Brookvale in Allambie Heights and Beacon Hill.

Early settlers

In about 1826 James Jenkins, assisted by convict labour, built a road at his own expense from North Harbour (now Balgowlah) to Long Reef. The road (now known as Old Pittwater Road) passed through the Brookvale valley via Miles Gully and was made official by Gazette Notice on 8 November 1861.

William Frederick Parker was the first white settler to buy land in Brookvale. He purchased 100 acres (40 hectares) on 29 March 1836 and he was provided with an assigned convict to help clear the land. Parker eventually owned 158 acres (64 hectares) straddling the track that became Pittwater Road. He built a residence near the corner of present William Street which he called Brookvale, inspired by the brook which ran close by. Known as both a stonemason and market gardener, Parker continued to work his fields until his death in December 1892. In 1879 Parker's son, William Francis, built a stone cottage called Brooklands at the end of present-day Cross Street. William Francis Parker lived here until his death on 2 July 1927. In November 1883 the Malcolm family bought eight acres two roods 28 perches (3.5 hectares) from William Frederick Parker and in 1884 built a house almost opposite his. This house was called Brookvale House and was later known as Coolabah for a few years before reverting to its original name of Brookvale House in 1914.

Matthew Charlton, a publican for some time in Cumberland Street at The Rocks, purchased 200 acres (81 hectares) between Parker's holding and what is now Harbord Road, in 1837 and 1842. [3] It was almost entirely marshland and he named his property Greendale.

William Redman owned three grants totalling 197 acres (80 hectares) on the north-western side of Pittwater Road, from Beacon Hill Road to Warringah Road and beyond. [4]


In 1889, the North Shore, Manly and Pittwater Railway and Tramway Act authorised the construction of a tramway through The Spit to Manly then north along the beaches to Newport and Church Point. In 1909 approval was given for the extension of the line to Brookvale and construction was completed by 1 April 1910. For the first official trip on 16 April 1910, the tram was bedecked with palm leaves and wildflowers, and adorned with plumes of pampas grass flowers. Cheered all the way by locals lining the road, the tram steamed into Brookvale, led for the final yards by a brass band and pipers. Public service of the Brookvale extension began on 20 April, with a 30 minute service totalling 32 through trips daily, with 21 on Sundays. In May 1911, the Brookvale extension was electrified. Despite its success, the tramway came under increasing competition from buses, and in September 1939, the whole Manly–Narrabeen tram system was closed down and replaced by double-decker buses. [5]

A bus depot was originally proposed on seven acres (three hectares) fronting Thomas and William Streets, but eventually the depot was constructed on Samuel Bloomfield's brickyard at Orchard and Pittwater Roads. The land was resumed in part from 20 January 1950 and the new depot opened on 5 October 1952. [6] A total of 133 Albion double-deckers and four Leyland single-decks were allocated. The first bus route to Warringah Mall began on 1 July 1963 as route 138 to Harbord. Brookvale Bus Depot expanded between 1977 and 1980 in the area south of the existing maintenance building, with more bus parking space required as well as special servicing pits for the articulated buses. Brookvale depot has the honour of having had the first woman to train and work as a government bus driver in New South Wales. In 2001–02 12.5 million passengers were using Brookvale bus services. [7]


The first church in Brookvale, St Luke's Church, had its beginnings in 1887 in Brookvale Hall which was erected as an Anglican Sunday school and so remained until 1936. Brookvale Hall faced Pittwater Road almost opposite Robert Street (known today as Robert Avenue, North Manly) on land donated by William Francis Parker. In 1897 the Reverend JL Bosworth donated a block of land at the corner of Roger and Cross streets for the erection of a church, but the building was delayed. The foundation stone was laid by the Dean of Sydney, the Reverend AE Talbot, on 20 June 1925 and the church was opened on 12 September 1925 by the archdeacon D'Arcy Irvine. [8] In February 1936 Brookvale Hall was demolished for the widening of Pittwater Road and a foundation stone for a new hall adjoining the church was laid by the Archbishop of Sydney on 7 March 1936. On 16 May that same year parishioners laid 13 additional stones to form the foundation.

There was also a Wesleyan Methodist Church in existence near the Brookvale tram terminus in Pittwater Road by 1901.

A third place of worship was established by Brookvale resident Mr Harold J Sims, together with his brother and three friends, in a disused shop in Pittwater Road in about 1914. In 1926 Mr Sims purchased a Hudson's ready-cut building in Roger Street at a cost of ₤600 and it became the Brookvale Gospel Hall. The church flourished and the Sunday school was particularly popular with local children. This church served the community until 1987 when the industrialisation of Brookvale prevented the continuation of the church in the area. [9]

In late 1955 St Augustine's Church opened. It closed after 49 years of continuous service in November 2004.


With the growth of Brookvale came community demands for a local school. Prominent local identities William Bagnall, Charles Johnson and William Francis Parker requested a provisional school. However, for the betterment of the district, the Minister for Public Instruction provided a full public school. [10] Brookvale Hall was leased and the school opened on 1 November 1887 with Miss Elizabeth Lawson as teacher and an initial enrolment of 21 children. Brookvale Public School moved to a new building on the corner of Old Pittwater and Pittwater roads in 1901, by which time it had 36 pupils. This building is still used today.

St Augustine's College opened in a temporary classroom in St Augustine's church on 7 February 1956 with an enrolment of 65 students. The school's first building opened on 17 March 1957.

Brookvale is also home to the Northern Beaches College of Technical and Further Education which opened in 1974 as the Brookvale Technical College.

Warringah Council

William 'Sovereign' Smith built a substantial brick hall on the corner of Pittwater Road and West Street, at the northern end of Brookvale, during the second half of 1906. At the same time, steps were being taken to incorporate Warringah Shire Council, and on 24 November 1906 the shire's first permanent councillors were elected. They leased Smith's hall for use as council chambers, from March 1907 to February 1910, by which time the council had finished building its own premises in Pittwater Road, facing the land that would soon become Brookvale Park. The new council chambers were opened on 12 March 1910, and remained the administrative centre of Warringah shire until 1973, when local government moved to Dee Why.

It is said that Smith's hall was named the Empire hall when it was used for Empire Day festivities by the children of Brookvale. It was also used extensively for meetings, social gatherings and entertainment. In 2007, the hall still stood in West Street, and had been used for light industrial purposes for many years. [11]

Brookvale business

In 1888 there were about 20 houses and the residents of Greendale (as Brookvale was then known) petitioned for a post office, as they found it difficult to collect their mail from Manly Post Office. A receiving office was opened, where a mail bag could be put off from the daily mail coach to Bayview. Storekeeper Mr J Jones was appointed Receiving Office Keeper at a salary of £5 a year. In 1899 another petition asked that the receiving office be raised to the status of a post office and that the telephone and telegraph be connected. The request was refused on the grounds that, although there were now about 40 houses and 109 residents, there was not enough business for an official post office. It was not until 8 January 1951 that Brookvale became an official post office.

The Brookvale brickworks was established by the Manly Brick and Tile Co in 1913. Clay from quarries on Beacon Hill was conveyed downhill to the Brookvale brickworks on a tramway. It was acquired by Brickworks Ltd at the end of the 1930s depression but was not worked again until after World War II. The last owners of the brickworks, Austral, submitted a development application for the closure of the works and the use of the site for medium density housing, and the brickworks closed in 1996. [12]

Migration and industry

At the start of the twentieth century Brookvale was mainly a rural area of Chinese market gardens and small farms. Chinese men had been attracted to the Australian goldfields from the 1850s. As the gold ran out the Chinese had to find alternative work and many moved to towns and cities to set up small businesses. The availability of land in Brookvale and surrounding areas provided a small local market for the Chinese gardeners as well as giving them the opportunity to supply the Sydney market.

In the 1930s a small number of Italian migrants came to Brookvale and gradually the Italian market gardeners took over from the Chinese. The Italian community grew strongly in the 1950s and 1960s with Brookvale becoming the main centre for Italian settlement in Warringah.

However the postwar industrial boom changed the face of Brookvale when it was selected in the Cumberland Planning Scheme as the main area for industrial zoning in Warringah. Brookvale's market gardens were reclaimed for the bus depot and the Department of Technical Education, and land use zoning changes brought some 70 factories into the area by the mid 1960s. [13] Industry was also attracted to the area by the local workforce. When the Brookvale Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established on 7 October 1954 it was obvious that Brookvale would become the industrial centre of Sydney's northern beaches.

During the postwar industrial boom, one of the first additions to industry was the Brookvale Union Brewery founded by Mario Kapral and Val Yanko in 1950. [14] It boasted a German brewer and produced union pilsener and honey stout. Despite heroic efforts, the Brookvale Union Brewery could not compete with the control of the Sydney beer market by Tooth and Co and Tooheys and the business closed in 1956. The next year the Brookvale Rex (now known as the Brookvale Hotel) was opened by the property developer LJ Hooker but it was sold to Tooth and Co in 1972. [15]

Warringah Mall opened on 3 April 1963 as a regional shopping complex. It was built on the estate formerly owned by the Malcolm family, who had built Brookvale House in 1884. Mrs Jane Try (formerly Malcolm) lived in the house until 1957, when it was sold for the Warringah Mall development.

While the brickworks site is now a medium density housing development, other industry is still thriving in Brookvale. The main industrial activity centres on the motor vehicle industry, with panel beaters, spare parts retailers and car detailers. As a reflection of its coastal location Brookvale has become home to many surfboard manufacturers over the last 50 years. Bennett Surfboards, operating since 1956, claims to have been in the surfboard business longer than any other Australian manufacturer. Other well known surfboard manufacturers also made Brookvale their base in the late 1950s and 1960s with names like Dale, Keyo, Scott Dillon, McDonagh and Wallace joining Bennett. Shane Stedman established a surfboard manufacturing business in Brookvale but he is possibly equally well known for registering the trademark 'Ugh' boots in 1971. [16] As well as surfboard manufacturers, companies like Avon, Hanimex and Innoxa have made Brookvale their headquarters.

A comparison of statistics between 1991 and 2006 shows an increase in medium density dwellings, up by 338, and a corresponding decrease in separate houses, down by 102. The change in housing stock over this period was accompanied by a change in demographics. The Australian Bureau of Statistics census data reveals the largest change in age structure in Brookvale between 2001 and 2006 was in the 25 to 34 year old age group, up by 113 people, as young people moved into more affordable medium density housing.


[1] Map, Parish of Manly Cove, 1883

[2] National Archives of Australia Sydney, 3P 32/1

[3] New South Wales Land Titles Office, SN 65/61 and SN 75/4

[4] Map, Parish of Manly Cove, 1883

[5] Manly Daily, 90th Anniversary Souvenir Edition, 1996, pp 50–51

[6] Greg J Travers, From city to suburb … a fifty year journey (the story of NSW government buses), Sydney Tramway Museum, Sydney, 1982, p 92

[7] Greg J Travers, Brookvale Depot 50 years of Service: a brief history of the services operated between the City and Manly–Palm Beach, State Transit Authority of New South Wales, Sydney Buses, Sydney, 1992

[8] PW Gledhill, Manly and Pittwater, Manly, Warringah and Pittwater Historical Society, Sydney, 1948, pp 97–98

[9] Gordon Dutton, 'Brookvale Gospel Hall', pamphlet file, Brookvale, Warringah Library Service Local Studies

[10] New South Wales State Records, 5/15125

[11] S and G Champion, 'A closer look at William 'Sovereign' Smith', unpublished paper, 2006

[12] Chris Pratten and Robert Irving, 'The Brookvale brickworks conservation plan', prepared for Warringah Council, 1996, p 24

[13] GH Drury and MI Logan (eds), Studies in Australian Geography, Heinemann Educational, Melbourne, 1960, pp 278, 280

[14] Manly Daily, 90th Anniversary Souvenir Edition, 1996, pp 50–51

[15] Jim Boyce, Warringah: Pictorial History, Kingsclear Books, Sydney, 2006, p 83

[16] Jim Boyce, Warringah: Pictorial History, Kingsclear Books, Sydney, 2006, p 83