Bywong is a pretty cool place…



Bywong is a locality within the Palerang Shire in southern NSW with a population of 1,322. Wamboin adjoins Bywong and has a population of 1,708 residents. Bywong is located between the Southern part of Lake George (Weereewa), the Yass River and the Federal Highway, about 30 km north-east of Canberra, ACT Australia.

Bywong Hill, located about 3.5 km northeast of the village of Sutton, is a prominent local landmark. The hill is identified on a map of southeast New South Wales published in 1837, and was included in a dictionary of Australian place names, published in 1848.

Bywong: an Aboriginal name… You don’t say…

The Ngunnawal people occupied Bywong, and the Limestone Plains to its south, for thousands of years before European settlers arrived in the early 1820s.

Some place name books claim that “Bywong” means “big hill”. If so, it would be an appropriate name since Bywong Hill, with a summit of 850 metres, is a distinctive landmark, and since most of the locality is elevated by 150 metres or more above the surrounding valleys.

The name of Wamboin, the locality immediately to the south of Bywong, is an Aboriginal word meaning “grey kangaroo”. It was so named because of the prevalence of the Eastern Grey in this locality and its importance to Aboriginal people.

Early European settlement

The first recorded visit to Weereewa (Lake George) by a European was by Joseph Wild in August 1820. The lake and its vicinity were visited by Charles Throsby, Joseph Wild, James Vaughan and Governor Macquarie in October 1820. During this visit, Throsby, Wild and Vaughan made an excursion to the Yass River near Sutton, reaching it on 27 October 1820.

Notable early European landholders were the brothers William and Richard Guise. (Their father, Richard Guise, had fled from France to England in 1789, enlisted in the New South Wales Corps, arrived in Sydney in 1791, and had three children born in the colony). By 1826, the Guise brothers were running livestock on a property near the Yass River. After their homestead “Bywong”, north of Sutton, had been built in 1829, they occupied it permanently in 1833. The holdings of William Guise expanded rapidly in the 1830s, to include properties covering a significant part of the present localities of Bywong and Sutton. After his death in 1850, many of these properties passed from the control of the Guise family.

Southeast of Bywong

Richard Brooks established a station at Turallo Creek in 1824. A nearby village, named Bungendore, was formed in 1835 and proclaimed as a town in 1837.

Northeast of Bywong

Daniel Geary took out a publicans licence in the 1830s for his inn (the Currency Lad) at the Gap near the western shore of Lake George (later to be called Gearys Gap). Several other licensees followed before the hotel closed in 1850. Lea-Scarlett reports that “Gearys Gap became a favorite spot for holdups, with the long curving pull up from the shores of Lake George inevitably reducing the pace of coaches and frequently requiring male passengers to alight and walk to the top”.

Gold Rush!

In 1852 the NSW Government geological surveyor, Rev. W. B. Clarke, concluded that “gold in profitable quantities will hereafter be found in some part of the district of which Bywong Hill is the centre”. Scattered discoveries of gold were made during the next two decades, including a discovery by the brothers William and Joseph McEnally at Woodbury in 1856, and by Charles Masters at Brooks Creek in 1860. Around 100 prospectors were working the Brooks Creek diggings in the early 1860s.

In October 1865 William McEnally discovered a gold bearing reef (“Macs Reef”) at the top of a steep hill near the present Newington Road. As Lea-Scarlett reports “within weeks a town named Newington sprang into existence on the reef.… Before the middle of November there were three stores, a butchery and an hotel”. By mid 1866 a second hotel, a “Post Office Store” and a weatherboard Methodist chapel were under construction.

On 17 August 1866, when the gold was already petering out, a gunpowder explosion at Newington killed Dennis Keeffe and Charles Loftus. This was a turning point, and by November there was “wholesale demolition of houses and huts, tents and gunyahs, churches and inns”. There were a few spasmodic finds over the next two decades, but the rush to Macs Reef was over.

In September 1894 Thomas Alchin discovered a rich reef of gold on the selection of James Millynn, at the present Millynn Road. By mid 1895 there were 300 prospectors on the site, and Bywong Village was formed. Stores, a post office and a public school were established. In December 1895 the surveyor Goodrich laid out a village with four streets (Burbong, Bungendore, Burra and Gundaroo). A public school was opened in October 1895 with John Gunnell as teacher. However, by 1896 the gold was running out, and the village was already in decline. The school closed in 1906.

Acknowledgements: Much of the information given above was derived from Errol Lea-Scarlett’s book “Gundaroo” (published by Roebuck in 1972).

The origin of some Bywong road names

Brooks Road (and Brooks Creek) – Named after Richard Brooks, a pioneer of Bungendore, whose station (Turalla) is close to the source of Brooks Creek.

Creekborough Road- Named after the property “Creekborough”, established by William Moore in 1838.

Denley Drive – Named after the family of John Denley, who were blacksmiths and wheelwrights in the 1850s.

Donnelly Road – Named after the family of John Donnelly, “the third squire of Bywong” who arrived in Australia in 1841 and became an owner of the Bywong Station after the death of William Guise.

Harriott Road- Named after the family of John Harriott, who ran the Bywong Post Office at Emu Flat in the late 1890s after it moved from Bywong Village.

Macs Reef Road- Named after the reef of gold found by William McEnally (“Mac”) near the present Newington Road.

Millynn Road- Named after James Henry Millynn, on whose selection gold was discovered in September 1894, on what became the site of the Bywong Village.

Morrison Road – named after Sidney (Sydney James Morrison) whom was unfortunately murdered in 1931, in that locality of Brooks Creek. Originally the road was named Dead Mans Road. Further information about the crime can be found via Trove with a list and this article on the grizzly find on Mr Cunningham’s property..

Newington Road- A.k.a. Newington Heights. After the highly lucrative yet short lived gold rush town of “Newington” (1865-1866) in this location.

Rovere Lane – Named after the American revolutionist Paul Rovere who settled here after all the dramas…. or was it after the first property owners in that area, Lydia Rovere?

Schofield Road – Named after James and Catherine Schofield, pioneers of the area.

Shinglehouse Road- From Shingle House Creek, the former name of Brooks Creek, where Charles Throsby Smith (nephew of Charles Throsby), Joseph Wild and James Vaughan camped on 3 December 1820.