Dictionary of Sydney

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A man stands and stretches his legs. He has scratched an image of a kangaroo into the rock and has spent days scraping a series of holes into the outline with a pointed stone. He walks to the edge of the large sandstone outcrop to an indent that holds water and drinks. Looking towards the sea in the distance, he knows that other members of his clan are hunting in the valley below. One day this area will be known as Cromer, but today it is the land of his people and the rock engravings at Wheeler Creek will survive for hundreds of years as a testimony to the Indigenous people of this area. [1]

Cromer is located within the local government area of Warringah. Its northern perimeter encompasses the Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation, which is usually given a Narrabeen address, but is technically within Cromer. In May 1944 the first acres were notified for a National Fitness Camp, which expanded in 1958 and again in 1969 into a National Fitness and Physical Education facility. Its present incarnation provides world-class facilities for a number of sports.

Narrabeen Lagoon and the locality of Wheeler Heights are also to the north of Cromer. The suburb of Collaroy lies to the east and Dee Why and Narraweena to the south. Little Willandra Road, Wheeler Creek and the suburb of Oxford Falls are to the west. At times known as Dee Why West, the suburb takes its name from Cromer Cottage which in the late 1800s was situated south-west of what is now the sixth tee on Cromer Golf Course. [2] An early reference to Cromer appears in the 1894–95 electoral rolls for the district of Warringah. William Alick Herring is listed as a caretaker, and his residence is Cromer, Narrabeen. [3] Portion 18 was owned by the Herring family, but possibly not William. In 1924 Caroline E Herring, the wife of Brigadier-General Sydney Herring, wrote to Warringah Shire Council stating she was the owner of the property. [4] Sydney Herring was born in Granville, Sydney in 1881; his father, Gerard Edgar Herring had been born in Cromer, Norfolk, England about 1835. [5]

Cromer Golf Course

Cromer Golf Course is situated on 100 acres (40 hectares) originally granted to Robert McIntosh around 1828. In 1841 the Reverend John Joseph Therry acquired the land for the Catholic Church. An adjacent 100 acres (40 hectares) was bought by David Moores in 1853 for £100. This was later subdivided into quarter-acre blocks, around 1910, and sold as the Narrabeen Heights Estate.[6] Dee Why West developed slowly through the first part of the twentieth century, and the area around what is now the golf course and Cromer Heights remained largely virgin bush with a profusion of wildflowers.

In 1926 the Cromer Syndicate was formed, with the aim of purchasing land for a golf course. The first nine holes of the Dee Why Golf Links were completed in 1929 and the full course opened in 1932. The club struggled through the Depression years until 1940, when the club was refinanced and the name changed to Cromer Country Club. Falling membership numbers led to a reduction in the club's income during the war years, yet the remaining members worked hard by looking after the grounds, weeding and cutting fairways.

After World War II, membership rose quickly and the committee embarked on an expansion program. A guiding light during this time was Horace (Horrie) Hayman who joined the committee in 1940 and was president from 1942–51. By 1951 all classes of membership totalled 854 compared to 150 in 1944. During the late 1950s, two members commenced a tree-planting scheme to transform the 'paddock' into a lush golf course. In 1955 the club became known as Cromer Golf Club Ltd, as it was thought this name was more appropriate to the 'A' Grade Club status being sought. [7] Now over 80 years since eight Manly locals envisaged a golf course in the bush at Dee Why, Cromer Golf Club is a private championship course, renowned for its beauty and facilities.

St Matthew's farm

During the depressed years of the 1930s an interesting experiment was taking place in the area. In 1932, the Reverend AR Ebbs, the rector at St Matthew's Church in Manly, established St Matthew's Farm on three hectares (seven acres) on South Creek Road. The aim of the farm was to train unemployed boys for agricultural work for several months, and then find positions for them on farms around New South Wales. The farm comprised living quarters, vegetable gardens, a poultry run and a small piggery. It received financial support from church and community members as well as the state government. Church of England ministers were encouraged to advise unemployed youths in their parish and district to come to the farm. The enterprise was a great success and it was visited by the Premier of New South Wales, Bertram Stevens, in 1932, and Prime Minister Lyons, in September 1933. By the time the farm wound up in September 1940, more than 800 young men had been trained there. [8]

Later, in 1964, the marshy area to the north of the property was designated by Warringah Shire Council for the disposal of garbage for the following two years. Locals objected and 'feared that the creek running through the tip site would filter through the garbage to Narrabeen Lagoon.'[9] The tip closed in September 1965 and the Council levelled and grassed the area. The original Newport Post Office was moved to the site, to be used as a community centre, but had to be demolished due to the swampy nature of the ground. [10] The large grassed area became a sports field and was used by hundreds of locals for a variety of activities. By 1998, the ground was suffering badly from subsidence, poor drainage and lack of facilities. Warringah Council began an $800,000 upgrade of the area. [11] The result has been better playing fields, car parks, lighting, paths and landscaping, and today the old farm still echoes to the sounds of human activity.

Industry and commercial development

Cromer remained semi-rural until the 1960s. The area was dotted with small farms growing fruit and vegetables, as well as poultry and pig farms. Prior to the Warringah Shire Council Town Planning Scheme of 1956, the area to the eastern side of Fisher Road North and the western side of Parkes Road was zoned as an industrial area. One of the first factories was Conqueror Cables, possibly built on the former site of the sanitary depot. [12] The area today comprises 32 hectares and is zoned as general industrial and light industrial. The majority of businesses in 1997 were involved in manufacturing, warehouse storage, auto services and engineering. [13] Today many businesses exist in small business parks that have developed in recent years. Past and present companies that have been based here include The Paul Hamlyn Group, Wormalds, Roche Products Pty Ltd, Staedtler (Pacific) Pty Ltd and the maintenance depot for Warringah Council.

The first shop in Cromer was built in 1939 in Carawa Road and it was run by the Corkery family. It was later demolished, and several new shops were built in 1953. Around this time the National Ice-Cream Server Company also opened in Carawa Road and remained there for over 30 years. Nearby in Little Willandra Road, Dos Pueblos would become one of the biggest nurseries growing rare tropical orchids and foliage plants in Australia. It was set up in 1957 with a shipment of plants imported from California. [14] The company moved to Little Willandra Road in 1969 and when Dos Pueblos closed, the site remained a nursery for some years. It was eventually sold for a retirement village about 1995.

As the area changed from semi-rural to residential more facilities were needed. The Time and Tide Hotel was approved by Warringah Shire Council in September 1965. The development also included a drive-in bottle shop. Of the 41 neighbouring residents interviewed about the application, 28 approved of the innovative proposal. [15]


In 1957 a church service took place in a garage belonging to Mr and Mrs Haines who lived on the corner of Wabash and Carrington avenues. After this, the community rallied together for a permanent church. With the financial help of Ken and Jean Woodhouse, land was purchased, and two years later the only church in Cromer was opened. It was dedicated on 7 February 1959. The building was formerly an army hut and kitchen and it was dismantled and re-erected on the site in Carrington Avenue. The fittings were sparse, with 48 seats purchased from the Brookvale picture theatre for £1 each and a pulpit constructed by joining the original pulpit from the garage to a counter. Cromer Uniting Church was also used as a community centre, and provided space for a parish junior youth group, a playgroup five mornings a week and ballet classes. [16] The former army hut was finally replaced with a modern church in 1992.

Housing and new residents

The growth of Cromer as a residential area began slowly in the 1950s and 1960s and accelerated in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1964 Dee Why West was officially renamed Cromer. [17] The small farms were gradually subdivided and in the mid-1960s, undeveloped land to the west of Cromer became known as Cromer Heights. In 1972 eight shops were built in Truman Avenue to cater for the new residents. The streets were named after Victoria Cross recipients and under the War Service Loans scheme, building blocks were sold to returned servicemen. A number of residents were Vietnam veterans. Later, in 1980, some Badcoe Road residents erected a monument to Peter Badcoe who had been awarded, posthumously, the Victoria Cross. Other streets in this area were named after governors of New South Wales.


Cromer Primary School opened in 1962 on the site of an old orchard. It was extended in 1969 and again in 1976. Cromer High School was completed for the start of the new school year in 1976. In 1888 the site of the high school had been gazetted 'for cemetery purposes'. [18] However, a change of use designated the area for public recreation in March 1927. In 1969, the area that is now Cromer Park was to form the grounds for the new high school but it was found to be too swampy, so half of Inman Park became the site of Cromer High School. [19] The boom years for residential development in the 1970s ensured both schools had over 1000 students.

Community and sport

In July 1981 the Cromer Community Centre opened to much fanfare at James Morgan Reserve. Prior to this, a hall stood for many years on the site. During the 1930s the hall was hit by a gale that moved the structure some 30 feet (nine metres), yet the building remained standing and was later extended. The hall was used for meetings, for Catholic Church services on Sundays, and as a kindergarten. It became known as Peter Rabbit Hall. [20] By the late 1970s, some local groups had moved their meeting place to the high school gymnasium. The very popular playgroup sessions that ran five mornings a week were held in the church building in Carrington Avenue. For many young mothers, playgroup provided social contact and mentoring in a suburb with a limited bus service, dominated by young families, each with a mortgage and only one car.

Using St Matthew's Farm as their home ground, Cromer Youth Club started in 1968. It was the umbrella group for a number of sporting activities that included netball, soccer, cricket, 'little athletics', gymnastics and rugby league and it catered for children and adults alike. Today the sports are covered by their own associations, but some still use the green and blue colours of the Cromer Youth Club. Cromer Park was developed in the late 1970s and is now the main ground for soccer on the northern beaches. [21] Evergreen Tennis and Squash Courts were built in the late 1970s and despite a few attempts during the 1990s to build medium density housing on the site, the centre has survived. [22]

Today the northern and western boundaries of Cromer remain bushland. Within five kilometres of the beach and with bushland within its boundaries, the outdoor lifestyle attracts people to this suburb.


[1] W D Campbell, Aboriginal Carvings of Port Jackson and Broken Bay, Memoirs of the Geological Survey of New South Wales, Ethnographical Series, no 1,WA Gullick, Government Printer, Sydney, 1899, pp 30–31

[2] L Forsyth and D Innes, The History of Cromer Golf Club 1926–1991, Cromer Golf Club Ltd, 1991, p 13

[3] Electoral District of Warringah, Manly Division, 1894–85, p 5, State Library of New South Wales, Family History section, roll 50

[4] Real Property Packet no 25969, Lands Department of NSW

[5] 1841 UK Census, accessed at Ancestry.com

[6] 6Land Titles Office of NSW, Register of Land Purchase, Book no 103; no 208

[7] L Forsyth and D Innes, The History of Cromer Golf Club 1926–1991, Cromer Golf Club Ltd, 1991

[8] J Morcombe, 'How rector put welfare of others first on his list', Manly Daily, 16 December 1998, pp 14–15

[9] P Curby and V Macleod, Good riddance: a history of waste management in Manly Mosman Pittwater and Warringah, Joint Services Committee of Warringah, Manly, Mosman and Pittwater Councils, 2003, p 65

[10] Manly Daily, author and date unknown

[11] Manly Daily, 17 September 1998, p 2

[12] Warringah Shire Council Minutes, Ordinary Meeting, 20 February 1940, item 22, p 1597; S and J Cameron, Kids Care for Cromer, the authors, 1979 p 24

[13] Warringah Council, 'Environmental Audit Program: Cromer Industrial Area', June, 1997 p 11

[14] S and J Cameron, Kids Care for Cromer, the authors, 1979, pp 22–26

[15] Warringah Shire Council Minutes, 27 September 1965, item 36; 'Dee why Motel Cleared' Manly Daily 30 September 1965, p 10

[16] 'A Church grows in Cromer', author unknown, vertical file, Cromer Local Studies Dee Why Library

[17] Warringah Shire Council Minutes, 2 March 1964, p 5

[18] Parish of Manly Cove Map, 1900, portions 623–26, Accessed at http://parishmaps.lands.nsw.gov.au

[19] S and J Cameron, Kids Care for Cromer, the authors, 1979, p 22, p 27

[20] S and J Cameron, Kids Care for Cromer, the authors, 1979, p 8

[21] J Boyce, Pictorial History Warringah, Kingsclear Books, 2006, p 40

[22] Warringah Shire Council Minutes, 9 November 1977, item 3.1, p 10