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".
Norfolk 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.
Smith 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
Manly achieved its own seat of Local Government when the
municipality was incorporated on 6th January, 1877
During 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.
Of 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
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.
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. 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.
Manly 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
“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
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.
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
In 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
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
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
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
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.
The cliffs overlooking the beach - the start of the
walk around Cabbage Tree Bay - above
Still an enjoyable walk - but usually wearing less clothing
The beach, lined with young Norfolk Pines -
Manly wharf - below