Enter Sir Arthur Rickard

Arthur Rickard in the 1920's--at the height of his powers

(Sir) Arthur Rickard—Biography[1]

Arthur Rickard (1868-1948), real estate developer, was born on 17 November 1868 at Currawang near Lake George, New South Wales, son of Cornish parents William Heath Rickard, miner, and his wife Mary, née Bennett. At 13 he left Bathurst Public School and found employment with E. Webb & Co., hardware merchants.

Moving to Sydney aged 17, he worked for Tillock & Co., wholesale grocers, as a commercial traveller. On 28 February 1889, at the age of 21, he married Annie Eliza Addy, at Waverley. The marriage was not a happy one. Possibly Arthur considered Annie inferior to his ambitions. She may have been a ‘loose woman’ or a drinker, for despite giving birth to two children in the marriage, she lost them. Rickard divorced Annie in December 1901 and gained custody of their son and daughter. On 19 March 1902 he married Nellie Crudge, daughter of architect Thomas Rowe, at St Mark's, Darling Point.

By 1893 Rickard had set up as a mercantile broker and agent for Chaleyer Fisher & Co. Ltd, East India merchants of Melbourne. He himself began importing and about 1899 entered the wholesale grocery business with S. A. Joseph. They secured some government contracts but had trouble with imported foodstuffs infested with weevils.

In 1904 Governor Sir Harry Rawson objected to Rickard's proposed appointment as Portuguese consul because Joseph & Rickard had been found supplying goods 'unfit for human consumption' to asylums. Late in the year, in financial difficulties, they broke up the partnership.

Governor Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson (1843-1910). He was Governor of NSW from 1902 to 1909--'Straight forward to the verge of bluntness', he refused to appoint the ambitious Arthur Rickard Portuguese Consul on the grounds of his suspect dealings.
A natural salesman, Rickard sought a business requiring less capital than the grocery trade. In January 1904 he registered Arthur Rickard & Co. Ltd, a real estate firm, and developed inventive advertising strategies in contrast to most current property advertising. His strikingly illustrated advertisements urged families to buy rather than rent, availing themselves of 'Rickard's Easy Terms'.

In 1905 he subdivided 152 acres (62 ha) at Woy Woy into waterfront residential sites, poultry farms and orchard blocks. A superb self-publicist, in 1909 he launched Rickard's Realty Review, a quarterly (sometimes monthly) magazine which continued to appear until 1927. 'Rickard's Solar System' described a map of Sydney with a series of radiating arcs and dots pinpointing the extent of his land offerings. On his return from Europe in 1912 the Sun named him as 'Sydney's subdivisional specialist'.

By 1916 the 'Solar System' extended to Wyong, the Blue Mountains and Port Hacking. He even persuaded the railway commissioners to build stations at Warrimoo (1918) and Bullaburra (1925) to service his estates. In July 1918 the Review declared that members of the firm were 'fowlanthropists'—specialists in poultry farmlets. Rickard House at 84 Pitt Street opened about 1920.
Arthur Rickard's offices in Pitt Street, photographed in the 1920's. Rickard became one of the biggest developers in Sydney during this period, although the Great Depression dragged him back, somewhat.

Rickard was a foundation president (1912-48) of the Millions Club, established in the belief that accelerated British migration would make Sydney the first Australian city to reach a population of one million. He used the club (whose membership included many leading politicians and businessmen) as a platform for pronouncements on immigration, socialism (he was vehemently against it) and the economy. He published a pamphlet entitled Population: the Cash Value (1915) in which he argued that the State's population should be increased to nine million. He actively supported the war bond campaigns and was appointed K.B.E. in 1920.

Inside the Millions Club, 1924--as a foundation member, Rickard presided over this club, while he was also pre-eminent in the Japan-Australia Society. You will note a Japanese naval officer in the foreground of this photograph. (Photo courtesy of http://sirarthurrickardblogspot)

On returning from overseas next year Rickard stressed his preference for the White Australia policy and approved of the way the United States of America had 'wiped out' saloons, horse racing and gambling. In 1926 he was a member of the Australian delegation to the League of Nations General Assembly.

Rickard attacked the failure of State governments to populate Australia and called on the Commonwealth to take over migration. He was active on the executives of organizations which aimed to foster migrants, including the State branches of the New Settlers' League of Australia, the Big Brother Movement, Dr Barnardo's Homes and the British Empire League.

French Aerial Daredevil Maurice Guillot (Guillaux): without Rickard's sponsorship, he would not have made the first airmail flight from Melbourne to Sydney in 1914. The flight took nine and a half hours. (Photo courtesy of http://sirarthurrickardblogspot)

In the 1920s Rickard's business interests included many directorships and part-ownership of the Hotel Sydney, Usher's Metropolitan Hotel and The Windsor, Melbourne. He was a director of Sydney Hospital (1917-27), a council-member of the Sydney Regional Plan Convention (1923-24), a fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute (1912), and of the Royal Geographical Society of London (1924), vice-president of the Defence of Australia League and president of the Japan-Australia Society—although he considered the Japanese unsuitable immigrants, he admired their ambition and social welfare system.

Rickard (at Left) photographed at Martin Place with Eric Campbell, one of the more notorious right-wing figures of NSW politics in the 1930's
A member of the Sane Democracy League, he worked for several taxpayers' associations advocating public economy and in 1935 attacked taxes on mortgages. Rather square-faced, with a dark, clipped moustache, he enjoyed golf and motoring and belonged to the Imperial Service Club. In 1928 he donated an elaborate floral clock to Taronga Zoological Park.

The Floral Clock at Taronga Park Zoo, which became an icon as memorable as the Elephant Rides at the Zoo. Rickard's profile remained large in the 1920's due to such notable generosity--he was a master of self promotion.

One of Rickard's advertisements in 1922 had proclaimed 'we are in business for all time'. He did not, however, foresee the Depression nor how difficult it would be to sell his landholdings on the urban fringe. Many of the blocks sold on 'Rickard's Easy Terms' were returned to the company which had to pay rates on land which had no immediate sales potential. Arthur Rickard & Co. Ltd went into voluntary liquidation in 1930 with Rickard as liquidator.

In the same year, the family's heavily mortgaged mansion—Berith Park at Wahroonga—was sold and they moved to a more modest home at Killara.
Dowell O'Reilly wrote in 1913 that the country around Bankstown had been cut up into lots 'suitable for anything from poultry-farming to the residence of the Governor General'.

In a city preoccupied with real estate Rickard was the outstanding land developer of his era, his extroverted personality showed through most of his advertisements. He died in the Scottish Hospital, Paddington, on 13 April 1948 and was cremated. His wife, their two sons and two daughters, and the children of his first marriage survived him. His eldest son Lieutenant-Colonel A. L. Rickard, M.C., D.S.O., served in both world wars and his youngest son Douglas was chairman of the Australian Postal Commission in the 1970s. Sir Arthur left a modest estate valued for probate at £12,623. His portrait by John Longstaff is held by the successor to the Millions Club, the Sydney Club.”

Arthur Rickard’s Contribution to Warrimoo

Arthur Rickard invites us to ride in his canoe. The 'Warrimoo Estate' was launched in 1918, the last year of World War I...
It is not difficult to assess Arthur Rickard’s contribution: without Arthur Rickard, there would certainly have not been a ‘Warrimoo’, for even the name was contrived by him. How he managed to change the area’s public assignation from ‘Karabar’ to ‘Warrimoo’, and why, is the subject of another entry in this blog.[2]

Even before World War I, Rickard had started buying land in the mountains. He had already set up his Real Estate business in 1904, and was primarily interested in land acquisition on the fringes of Sydney for future development. While busily campaigning for greater immigration and thus more home-buyers, he was surveying land purchases at Woy Woy on the Central Coast, Narrabeen, Bankstown and the Sutherland shire for future release.

Warrimoo--the 'Box Seat'--accessible to the city of Sydney but not as 'rugged' as upper Mountains locations. This newspaper ad. announced the first estate release

The Subdivisions

The Karabar properties were bought in 1918, but Rickard went further than the Richardson and Wrench offering—he bought blocks on the northern side of the railway/highway as well. When releasing his estates, Rickard generally did much more than the average developer. He always had a ‘vision’ for his subdivisions that generally revolved around a combination of residency and primary industry: it seems he was keen to support some level of ‘self sufficiency’ or ‘sustainability’ not available in standard urban blocks at the time. For Warrimoo, it appeared to be poultry and orchards he sought to encourage.

An excerpt from the first Warrimoo Estate subdivision along Rickard Road and Railway Parade. You will note that all the Lots are roughly the same size and dimensions throughout.

Clearly anxious to 'move things along', Rickard altered the design of the Estate in 1922--now, every third or fourth Lot extended well beyond the 'normal' suburban block to enable some additional pursuit such as orchards or poultry farms. Some buyers attempted it, most did not.

When you examine the layout of the plan for the 1920 ‘Rickard Road’ development, you will notice that initially, the Lots were arranged in a standard suburban pattern of roughly equal ‘quarter acre’ size. These mustn’t have moved quickly enough for Rickard’s liking, so that a new, 1922 version of the Warrimoo Estate had every 3rd, 4th or 5th block in a much larger battleaxe, running back into bush at the rear of the properties—this is to allow the pursuit of some form of animal husbandry or small scale agriculture to supplement the resident’s diet or income.

A vision of Rickard's ideal: 'Fowlanthropy'. Settlement that engaged residents with their surrounding habitat and encouraged some form of rural pursuit

Blocks on Railway Parade, Cross Street and the Highway were arranged in similar manner, and remain so today.

On the southern side he redesigned the blocks so that the ones in The Avenue and The Boulevarde that had stood facing Victoria and Albert Streets, now faced continuously along the longer streets. The Boulevarde was “bent” a little instead of running straight, and the extensions to Victoria and Albert Streets were now cut off by blocks for sale. A special ‘display home’ was constructed on the corner of Victoria Street and The Boulevarde, most feasibly to profile the possibilities of building in the new township, and to encourage others to follow in the new, modern style.

A further road, ‘The Mall’ extended eastwards to a dead end, and ‘Florabella (meaning ‘beautiful flowers’) Street’ stretched southwards towards a Walking Track specifically cleared by Rickard to promote the ‘Mountains character’ of the development. It followed a small creek through to the back of Blaxland, which was itself developing apace at the time.

Plan of Warrimoo as it exists today--the extra large battle-axe blocks exist on both sides of the township  
A Special Place in Rickard’s Heart?

The Railway Station

There is substantial evidence to indicate ‘Warrimoo’ held a special place in Arthur Rickard’s heart, despite the broadness of his holdings elsewhere. In Warrimoo he had arranged for the rebuilding of a rail platform and bridge. Already (in 1918) he had negotiated the renaming of ‘Karabar’ to ‘Warrimoo’, and moved the site of the platform 2-300 metres eastwards so that it stood opposite Rickard Road and the General Store, which was also constructed under his auspices.

Why the platform was moved is anyone’s guess. According to Lawrence Way[3] work did not really commence on the new platform till 1924, when he witnessed the blasting of a wider cutting further west to accommodate the dual track platform being built. Apparently Lawrence’s father worked on extensions to the platform to make it more adequate, “Horses were used pulling cartloads of earth to build up the station and widen the area for the rail to be on the other side of the platform as well.”[4] The wooden pedestrian bridge above the station existed from the outset, and linked both northern and southern sides of Warrimoo.

The General Store

As previously mentioned, Arthur Rickard had a special purpose two-storey General Store built on the highway, opposite the station, to service the future community. The owners or lessees of the shop could live upstairs. There is evidence that a smaller corner shop already existed at Warrimoo [5], but the larger one came to dominate. This was certainly the centrepiece of a dramatic fire and subsequent court case shortly after its completion in 1919.[6]

The 'General Store' as it appears today. This building has been the centre of many dramas since its erection in 1920, and is surely worthy of consideration as the building most eminent for heritage-listing throughout the township.

3 The Boulevarde

Another extant building already noted is the special ‘show-home’ at number 3 The Boulevarde to encourage more of the same. It was built in ‘modern’, ‘monumental style’, with two massive pillars at the front and covered with ‘ash plaster’[7]. This bungalow was offered for sale by auction on the opening day of the subdivision's launch. It remains an impressive building today and has an intriguing history all its own[8].

The famous bungalow at number 3 The Boulevarde. Offered at auction on the 'sale day' of the Warrimoo Estate, it stood as a beautiful testament to the stylish architecture of the period. Sketch courtesy of Warrimoo artist, Terry Dernee.

The ‘Big Signs’

There appears to be little alternative other than to attribute a famous six foot ‘WARRIMOO’ sign, standing where the present Antiques shop is, to the promotional enthusiasm of Arthur Rickard himself. A legendary picture of four young women seated within the ‘W’, testifies to the sign being in place in 1930, welcoming motor tourists driving westward along the Highway. Another subsequent sign implored visitors to ‘Be kind to yourself and live in Warrimoo’…[9]

The now legendary pic of four girls perched on the 'W' of the huge 'Warrimoo' sign once situated where the current 'Antiques' shop on the 'Highway now stands. Another contribution of one Arthur Rickard

 Of course, it is possible that the Warrimoo Progress Association or the Blue Mountains Shire Council had a hand in these spectacular gestures, but neither of these august institutions was renowned for their wealth, nor a tendency to spend lavishly, and other townships do not appear to have had such imposing advertisements. No, the Big ‘Warrimoo’ Signs bear the mark of the inimitable Rickard imagination, employed in his customarily expensive yet memorable way.

Presumably both signs were later destroyed by bushfire, one of which swept through the township in the mid 1930’s. There is no trace of them now.

Widows and Veterans’ Homes

Being a proud and very public patriot who had avidly supported Australian involvement in the war, Rickard was keen to make Warrimoo a showpiece of Australian gratitude to returned servicemen and war widows after the Great War. Rickard donated one block to the ‘Rejected Volunteers Association’ and sold five others to them at half price.

The ‘Rejected Volunteers Association’ consisted of men who, for medical or other reasons, had been unable to fight in World War I. Clearly these men had suffered the social stigma of not wearing a uniform during the Great War, and were now anxious to repair their standing after the slaughter of the previous four years.

Badge of the 'Rejected Volunteers Association'. Rickard sought to encourage their work in the new settlement of Warrimoo

Formed in the latter years of the war, the Association’s President was Sir Edward John Cox, an executive of the NSW branch of the British Red Cross, and its aims were to construct homes for war widows and veterans using volunteer labour. It was thought that the widow’s pension could be supplemented by taking paying guests and the cottages were designed by Mr. Bates, honorary architect, with this in mind. They had seven rooms and two large sleeping-out verandahs and the land (c60 x 200ft) was planted with 40 fruit trees. War widows with children and no other means of support were invited to apply and the same conditions as those in the Voluntary Workers Homes were applied.[10]
A rather poor newspaper photo of the hand-over of a 'Rejected Volunteers Home' at Warrimoo to war widow, Mrs. Simpson. Precisely where this building is or was is open to debate, but most likely on Florabella St., The Avenue, or The Boulevarde
The quality of these architect-designed weatherboard ‘homes’ is open to question. Certainly there was much fanfare with the opening of the first one, built on Rickard’s donated land:

The first cottage was handed over on 14 December 1918 to war widow Mrs. Simpson, with speeches about the sacrifices of many brave women and men. A return thanks on behalf of Mrs Simpson was made by the Rev. Mr Kellett. Other rejected men were urged to link up with the Association.[11]

There is little proof that war widows lined up in droves to take up the offer of being boarding house concierges and orchardists in the middle of pretty rugged lower Blue Mountains bushland. Lawrence Way writes of “six wooden homes…built for returned soldiers to move into the area”[12], probably located in The Avenue, The Boulevarde and Florabella Street. Lawrence’s father, Walter, rented one of these homes in Florabella Street while he built his own home in Albert Street.

Leisure Facilities

The Tennis Court

Arthur Rickard certainly had his finger on the popular pulse. The 8-Hour Day and the 44-Hour week were being entrenched. He knew of the common demand for more leisure time on weekends, and was fully aware that Saturday afternoon was rapidly becoming an opportunity for working people to pursue healthy sporting and social activities that had previously been reserved for middle class relaxation.

Tennis was one such pursuit. In city suburbs wealthy families were able to afford the construction of a clay or lawn tennis court in their back yards—something denied working class people who generally lived in tenements or flats. Now, Rickard was offering a clay tennis court, just outside the southern side of Warrimoo Station and across the Highway to the General Store. Now, if the community was prepared to maintain and manage it, tennis would be available to anyone who lived in the estate. Brilliant!

The Swimming Pool

Playing on the stereotypical mountain image of trickling waterfalls and natural pools, Rickard arranged for the concrete blockage of a creek running from Sun Valley around below Terrymont Road and Cross Street—about a kilometre from the station, if one took the direct track downhill, cleared by the Estate. The concrete used in creating the weir is still in existence today, though in dilapidated condition.[13]

Costume of the woman by the pool suggests early 1920's. Note the pathway to the water and the 'Changing Shed' in the background

Over time, the ‘Warrimoo Pool’ became one of the most popular swimming spots for visitors to the Lower Blue Mountains throughout the 1920’s and 30’s. It came to possess seating and change rooms, and a site for picnics, although maintenance of the pool was to become a serious bone of contention throughout its effective life. Its popularity declined after the Second World War when maintenance was neglected and Olympic pools were constructed at Springwood and then Glenbrook.

Florabella Track

Bushwalking, too, had become a popular pursuit in the early decades of the 20th century. Rickard’s advertising ensured that Warrimoo was touted as a botanical treasure-trove, and Waratah Street was so named because at the time it was rich in abundance of the bright red native flower.

A page from Rickard's 'Realty Review', with Warrimoo being in pride of place compared to his other subdivisions. Overall prices for properties ranged from thirty pounds to several hundred pounds.

The name ‘Florabella’ suggested a wide preponderance of beautiful flowers and the Track, carved out at the behest of Rickard, was a convenient one, running down the end of Florabella Street, along a pretty watercourse to join Glenbrook Creek and Blaxland, and emerging at Ross Crescent.

Warrimoo schoolkids as well as tourists, used this route as a handy shortcut between the two townships, and to and from Blaxland PS prior to the construction of Warrimoo PS in the 1960’s.

The First Station Mistress

The final piece of circumstantial evidence revealing Arthur Rickard’s relationship with Warrimoo relates to Catherine Ann Youson (1881-1972), the first Station Mistress of the newly built trainstop.[14]

Catherine Ann Batkin had married a tailor, Thomas Youson, in 1913 at Newtown, although Thomas was soon diagnosed with the killer disease, tuberculosis, and needed fresh clean air if he was to have any chance of survival, so the couple moved to Lot 14 Rickard Road where they built a basic fibro house called ‘Lilac’ and settled.

It is difficult to assess the prime motivating factor for Ann and Thomas’ move to Warrimoo, for we do know that it was Arthur Rickard who told Ann about the proposed new station and the forthcoming need for a Station Master/Mistress there. Apparently Mr. Rickard was aware of Ann’s mathematical adroitness and felt she could handle the role admirably.[15] Had she been a Rickard employee when the couple had learned of Thomas’ diagnosis, or had they already moved to Warrimoo when Ann was ‘tipped off’ about the railways job?

In the event, Ann Youson got the position as Warrimoo’s first Station Mistress, and Thomas died of his disease in 1925. Ann’s income from the railways would have been a useful supplement to the scant entitlement of a Widow’s Pension and her work enabled her to become a singular character in the infant township for years to come.

Ann’s niece, Leonie Campbell, remembers…

She was an extremely competent crochet worker and would even crochet her own dresses in her favourite lilac. Ann was a great talker and one could hear her talking as she came up the path to the house! In the 1950s there was a terrible bush fire which burnt the toilet and water tank stand, but the house was saved…

Ann was a tremendous walker, through the bush, down the roads etc. Once she even became lost in the thick bush. She had two cats at one stage – “Blackie”, who followed her around, would even make the long walk along Rickard Road over the railway line to the church in the park. Blackie would curl up and have a sleep whilst the service was on, then follow her home again![16]

Ultimately---possibly soon after the 1953 fire---Catherine Ann Youson transferred to Muttama, near Gundagai, to continue her calling as Station Mistress. Warrimoo had lost an outstanding woman who had made her mark: she had become part of the fabric of the place and had seen it grow from a miniscule settlement to a developed community. Throughout, the township’s growth had been overseen by a woman proudly contributing in a Public Service dominated by men—not many (if any!) settlements can boast such a feat during the ‘male breadwinner’ era!


So, can we make any firm conclusion about Sir Arthur Rickard’s attitude towards Warrimoo? Without doubt he contributed a range of features to the township which made it unique and which largely framed its character from the outset. It is also true that Rickard possessed an impressive ‘family holiday house’ in Lawson called ‘Cadia’.[17] Every time he motored up the ‘Mountains in his impressive automobile from Sydney, or even took the train, he would have passed through Warrimoo, which must have spurred his creative imagination.

However it is important to remember that Sir Arthur Rickard operated at ‘the bottom line’—selling land for profit. His advertisements for the ‘Warrimoo Estate’ offered properties from ten shillings per foot up to three pounds ten shillings per foot. The bottom end price, if the frontage of the property was sixty feet, would amount to six hundred shillings or thirty pounds. At the time—1920—the working man’s ‘Basic Wage’ (deemed by the Arbitration Commission to be the amount of weekly pay required to sustain a man, his wife and two children) was four pounds, so that it would not have been a difficult thing, on ‘Rickard’s Easy Terms’, to pay off the block in reasonable time—four to five years at two shillings per week or two to three years at four shillings per week. Of course, those more preferred blocks at three pounds ten per foot would’ve been a different proposition, probably amounting to hundreds of pounds.

Rickard was supremely confident that real estate investment was the surest thing since sunrise. ‘Rickard’s Realty Review’ explains…

…Land that was bought but a few years ago at shillings per acre is now being sold at pounds per foot. Fortunes, great and small, are being made on all sides. Money that has been returning 3 per cent in banks for years is being withdrawn to earn 100, 200, or even 300 percent for the prudent investor in real estate. Given the exercise of a little common sense, or the acceptance of advice from experienced men, an investor can hardly go wrong in Sydney. There is no boom-- just a big, steady increase in value. Desirable property anywhere, up to twenty miles from the city, cannot fail to receive added value from Sydney’s wonderful growth… [18]

Rickard provides his economic philosophy in the 'Realty Review'. His optimism did not prove accurate in the short run
The 1920’s was truly Arthur Rickard’s heyday. From the award of his knighthood in 1920 to the collapse of the market in 1930, Sir Arthur Rickard rode the Real Estate Express and shone like a beacon over Sydney society. Yet in Warrimoo the advance was not spectacular. The various schemes to attract ex-servicemen and war widows had limited success. He tinkered with the Lots on sale to make them more attractive, and that’s where the ‘fowlanthropy’ came in--although the larger lots did not create masses of orchards or a major poultry hub, some newcomers did at least try. Businesses simply didn’t find Warrimoo attractive enough to set up—the Highway blocks became residential or remained vacant. The main industry appeared to be logging in gullies nearby.

In 1930, burdened with increasing debt upon properties that demanded rates but could not be sold, Rickard’s Company on the Stock Exchange collapsed and went insolvent. Rickard himself remained a high-profile dealer in real estate, but the lustre had gone. No amount of largesse from right-wing politicians nor celebrated appearances could restore the status of those halcyon years.

Sir Arthur Rickard as KBE--'Knight of the British Empire'. He received his award in 1920 for 'services toward the war effort', no doubt in purchasing and promoting war bonds.

Throughout these years circumstantial evidence would seem to point to a special attachment of some kind to Warrimoo, but he was without doubt an enthusiastic promoter wherever he instituted new developments. His estates, whether in Woy Woy, Narrabeen, Bankstown or the ‘Mountains, were always characterised by original publicity and a unique approach. Without any clear statement from the subject himself, it would require a comprehensive comparison with the measures taken at other projects to fully ascertain the ‘special’ features of those taken at Warrimoo.

It is to be hoped future ‘Warrimoo Historians’ will be able to undertake such a task.

The Mysterious Name of 'Warrimoo'

We already know that Arthur Rickard had the political clout to have ‘Karabar’ renamed ‘Warrimoo’, but we do not quite know how this was possible. Renaming a place is a major bureaucratic operation, although during World War I quite a large number of German-sounding place names had been altered to become more ‘British’ and thus patriotic (eg ‘Germanton’ to ‘Holbrook’).

Thus, in the Warrimoo Historians’ quest to establish the origins of the name ‘Warrimoo’, the year 1918 looms as significant, for reasons that shall become clear later. One thing is for sure, after consultation with local people, ‘Warrimoo’ is not a Darug or Gundangarra word. After perusal of the available literature[19], it is most likely not an Aboriginal word, either.

To be fair, it is even unclear (at this point) whether Arthur Rickard actually proffered ‘Place of the Eagle’ or ‘Eagle’s Nest’ as the definition of the word ‘Warrimoo’. In his initial promotion extolling Warrimoo as ‘the box seat’, the phrase ‘The Eagle’s Nest’ is simply bracketed underneath.[20] The intention may feasibly have been that Warrimoo was the name of a place where eagles frequent—which was indeed the case for some time, owing to the amount of dead stock and road-kill along the sides of the Highway and the prevalence of carrion eaters at various points along the way. In other words, the place name and the existence of eagles there may have been coincidental.

Regardless, a simple Google search reveals another possible source of the name: a ship called the ‘SS Warrimoo’. This vessel appeared as one of the first iron-hulled steamships to arrive in Australasian waters when in 1892 it sailed from Newcastle on Tyne--where it was built--to Sydney in a miraculous 37 days. It was a beautiful state-of-the-art 5,000 tonne passenger/cargo vessel that surely caused a stir when it cruised into Sydney, then Melbourne, and finally Auckland harbours.[21] Arthur Rickard, with his interests in immigration and regional trade, would certainly have taken careful note.

Painting of the 'S.S. Warrimoo', one of the earliest iron-hulled steamships to grace the trans-Tasman run between the eastern seaboard of Australia and New Zealand. It's chequered career as a passenger-cargo vessel saw it carry Mark Twain from the U.S. on a speaking tour.

It is true that the first association of 'Warrimoo' and 'Eagle' occurred in reference to the name of this ship, when the South Australian Register mentioned that the vessel's name was a Victorian Aboriginal word for 'eagle'.[22] As previously mentioned, however, there is no substantiating evidence from any Aboriginal or etymological source to verify such newspaper assertions. Later publications (ie later than the establishment of the township itself) all tend to fall prey to the possibly apocryphal definition supplied in 1918.

The ‘SS Warrimoo’ was owned by James Huddart, Parker and Co., an Australian--or at least an Australasian-- company that also carried the ‘Warrimoo’s’ sister ship, the ‘SS Miowera’, though the interesting thing was both these vessels’ ‘home base’ was to be Auckland, where they would carry on the Trans-Tasman run.[23] After a few years ownership, however, possession passed to the ‘Union Steamship Company of New Zealand’[24], and its duties stretched to cargo/passenger voyages to Canada and the United States. Mark Twain sailed to Australia for a speaking tour on the ‘SS Warrimoo’ in 1895.[25]

The ‘SS Warrimoo’ remained in New Zealand hands until 1916. Indeed, it was the troopship that took the first Maori ‘Pioneer’ military contingents to Gallipoli in 1915.[26] Logically, given the long-serving New Zealand connection, Warrimoo Historians considered that ‘Warrimoo’ might have been a Maori word, since most or all of the other ships in the Union Steamship line had Maori-inspired names. Unfortunately a search of all available Maori dictionaries and place-names could not verify such an assumption…

The only connection to New Zealand that could be found was a reference to the home of Joseph Kinsey, high-profile owner of the Kinsey Shipping Line which had assisted Scott and Shackleton in their voyages to Antarctica. Kinsey lived in a magnificent residence in Papanui which he had named ‘Warrimoo’. Given the fact that Papanui was a noted Maori site in New Zealand, it is feasible that Kinsey named his house after a person or place from the area—this may well have been the original source of the name ‘SS Warrimoo’, since Kinsey was a well-known shipping magnate who had moved to New Zealand in 1880 (twelve years prior to the launch of the Steam Ship) and had named his mansion ‘Warrimoo’.[27]

Joseph Kinsey photographed with his special guest, George Bernard Shaw, probably outside Kinsey's home at Papanui, named 'Warrimoo'. Kinsey was a celebrated NZ shipping magnate who sponsored Scott and Shackleton's expeditions to Antarctica.

But the story does not end there. In 1916, as a troopship, the ‘SS Warrimoo’ was transferred to a Singaporean shipping company, which continued to use the vessel to transport troops and war materiel throughout the war-zone, and especially in the Mediterranean Sea and off the coast of Africa. On the 18th May 1918, six months before the end of hostilities, the ‘Warrimoo’ was sunk off Tunis when it collided with the French Destroyer Catapulte “…after depth charges exploded” (!)[28]

This whole incident—the sinking of the ‘Warrimoo’-- is shrouded in mystery. According to TROVE, all references to the ‘SS Warrimoo’ ceased when war was declared, so that even the sinking occurred without the Australian public being informed of the fact. ‘Official records’ give us no indication of the losses involved, or even the name of the Captain, and the report on exactly how and why the ‘collision’ occurred leaves more gaps than filler. Only one thing is certain: the ‘SS Warrimoo’ went down in May 1918, although we also know that the first advertisement for the 'Warrimoo Estate' occurred in March of the same year, two months before the ship went down.What is less clear is the amount Rickard knew about it and what connection it has to the christening of his estate.

In its later years the 'S.S. Warrimoo' operated as an ANZAC troopship and war cargo carrier in the Mediterranean Sea, where it met its end in May 1918. In an amazing coincidence, the 'Warrimoo Estate' had been announced two months earlier, in March of the very same year.

Arthur Rickard almost certainly would have known about the ship’s existence and its role during the war, but did he christen his latest land release after the ship, or pluck it from the Mountain air?

We may never know why Kinsey called his Papanui residence ‘Warrimoo’, and thus we may never know the true meaning of the word which betokens our township. It would have been romantically satisfying for our home to have been the Aboriginal ‘Place of Eagles’, but considering Arthur Rickard’s own sympathies and the timing of events leading up to the release of his estate, it is far more likely that Warrimoo received its name from a tragic loss in World War I, as a muted and unintended tribute to those who would not return from that great conflagration.

Warrimoo in the ‘Roaring Twenties’

The Blue Mountains fully discovered itself as a tourist destination in the 1920's. This promotional pic for the Blue Mountains' 'Roaring 20's and all that Jazz' festival, shows Claudia Chan Shaw modelling the period fashion. Photo by David Hill.
In truth, the newly-born settlement of Warrimoo didn’t do much ‘roaring’ in the 1920’s. Maybe that was left to Sir Arthur Rickard’s snazzy automobiles as they ploughed up the dusty Highway to ‘Cadia’, or possibly the loco on the new ‘Caves Express’ throwing clouds above and about as it thundered past laden with excited tourists.

‘Warrimoo’ was too young to ‘roar’. In 1920 it was a myopic infant, groping for its future, trying to establish an identity, self-absorbed with survival. One newly arrived young boy was Lawrence William Way[29]. Lawrence recalls…

When the war came to an end, six wooden homes were built for returned soldiers to move into the area. We rented the house near (the present) primary school after (my father) paid a deposit on three blocks of land, Lots 4 and 5 in Florabella Street (and another in Albert Street). Another house was built where the Todd family lived in Florabella Street and two houses in Rickard Road, one in The Boulevarde and another one in Waratah Street. Waratahs were numerous on the western side of this ridge and beautiful scented Boronia grew in this area.[30]
Portrait/pic of Lawrence Way, whose vivid autobiography, My Story tells us much about life in Warrimoo in the 1920's. He donated his book to Warrimoo PS library in 2011.
So, there was a minute population in Warrimoo at the outset of the 1920’s. According to available records, the only fully recognised “residents” of the estate were Thomas Smiley—worryingly, his wife and child (children?) shown in an earlier photograph, are not mentioned—who presumably lived near the station or the railroad crossing because his occupation was still listed as ‘Railways’.

Then there was Mrs Simpson, the War Widow who lived in the home supplied by the Rejected Volunteers, which Warrimoo Historians consider to have been at some position on the Great Western Highway. A War Veteran by the name of Henry Varlow had occupied the shop building[31], Henry Todd lived on the corner of The Avenue and Florabella Street, neighbouring Lawrence’s parents, Walter and Ellen Way[32].

That was it. The ‘pioneers’ of white settlement in Warrimoo. In the absence of photographs, one can only paint a presumptive sketch of the area. There would have been some very occasional weatherboard buildings, plus the brick exemplar in The Boulevarde, and the shop on the Highway. ‘Thinned’ bush would have prevailed throughout the rest of ‘Warrimoo’, intersected by unsealed roads and very basic drainage. Service provision was non-existent: no electricity, no town water, no sewerage. All settlers had to be self-reliant in this regard.

The nearest institution to supply ‘service provision’ at the time was ‘Blue Mountains Shire Council’ which met at Lawson between 1907 and 1947. It was not yet amalgamated with the Katoomba City Council nor the Municipality of Blackheath, so it was poorly serviced with rates and focused on rural issues—it tended to be slow in catching up with costly modern developments such as water conservation and electricity generation. Nevertheless, by the end of the 1920’s it was able to supply basic electric lighting to sections of the Highway, and households that could afford connection.
Opening of a 'new' stretch of the Western Road near the Bridge Road access during the mid 1920's. Note the bush situated in the direction of Blaxland, and, as yet, no street-lights.
Sometime in the early 1920’s the ‘Warrimoo Progress Association’ was formed to make representations to the Council on behalf of local residents. A ‘Mr. Neal’ represented Warrimoo at the launch of Lower Mountains electrification at Glenbrook in 1928, and at a subsequent meeting there the President of the Warrimoo Progress Association, Mr. H.C. Lewis, proposed a vote of thanks to the Blue Mountains Shire Council…

I feel sure that we as residents of this lower end of the mountains are under a debt of gratitude to the Shire Council and what they have accomplished, he said. (Applause)[33]

Lawrence William Way 1920--?

Lawrence was to become one of the truly unique characters of Warrimoo’s history. Much of what we understand about the infant township in the 1920’s is drawn from the recollections in his amazing autobiography, My Story, which he donated to Warrimoo PS Library in 2011…

Lawrence was the son of a World War I veteran of the AIF, Walter William Worsley Way, avowed athiest. Shot in the jaw on the Western Front in France Walter met his bride-to-be, Ellen Gertrude Chatteris while convalescing in a London hospital. Gertrude was fifteen years younger than Walter, and she already had a two year-old son named Harold.
Ellen Gertrude and Walter Way on their wedding day, toward the end of WWI in England. Believe it or not, the child in the centre is William's older brother, Harold. Within 5 years, the Way family would be living in a humpy in Warrimoo.

It was a whirlwind romance. Immediately after discharge the couple were married in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, then sailed for Sydney where they rented homes first in Broadway, then West Ryde. Walter worked as a cook in the Australia Hotel. Lawrence was born in Paddington Hospital in April 1920, just as the ‘Warrimoo Estate’ was being opened up. As an ex-serviceman, Lawrence’s dad was able to purchase land at Warrimoo at significantly reduced rates: he bought two blocks in Florabella Street and one in Albert Street. The story is best in Lawrence’s words…

When we moved from West Ryde to Warrimoo in 1922, we lived in a rented house (a returned soldier’s house) in Florabella Street for a while. Dad built a two-room humpy on Lot 5 Florabella Street covering the wooden frame and roof with a roll of tarred ruberoid. We lived in this until a small house was built on the Albert Street block…

While we were still living in this humpy, news came that my mother, who was in hospital, had just had a stillborn baby…

We moved to our house in Albert Street later in 1923. Around this time I had…a trauma…I had jumped off the verandah and had ripped part of my rear end. This time (the doctor) did not use the knife but stitched me up but I did not appreciate it as much as I should have. I screamed loudly as in those days we did not receive an injection to relieve the pain. I remember twelve years later the pain I experienced when the dentist hit the tooth nerve a couple of times when filling a tooth. How different things are today!

Things were changing in 1920’s and weekenders were popping up here and there. Many people were buying blocks of land. By 1923, Warrimoo could boast of at least twenty houses. At our Albert Street house we had used some bricks which we collected from the first shop in Warrimoo. This shop was the front of a small house and had burnt down around 1925. It was near the corner of The Boulevarde and the Highway.

Harry Todd lived in the house (No. 3) on the corner of Florabella Street. He collected bottles and built a beautiful glass garden with the words at the top “Moms regime meaning mountain queen”. …We came to know the couple who lived there well. Another house was built shortly after on the opposite corner and a family whose surname was Watts lived there. They were Church of England and shortly after settling there, Mrs Watts came to see my mother. I remember as she looked at me she remarked about my fair skin and I hid behind mum. Mrs Watts was looking for people who would be interested in a Church of England meeting. The Church of England minister came from Springwood and a meeting was held on their back verandah.

Warrimoo had a small corner shop and we used to get our bread delivered by horse and cart. It wasn’t uncommon for the bread deliverer to stop and talk, leaving the person’s bread on the horse’s rump before the buyer took possession of it. The meat was delivered in a motor bike sidecar in all kinds of weather. In later years, the meat was sent from Penrith by rail and picked up from the railway station…[34]

The astounding thing about Lawrence’s account is the ‘normalcy’ of his perception. To most of us, what he was experiencing in Warrimoo was little more than ‘hardship’, but to the young boy Lawrence it was just what life was like. There were positives, too…

One day when we were going to Springwood my mother told me she had left her glasses at home. She told me when the train comes tell the driver I will be back in a moment. I did this and the train driver held up the train for about one minute until Mum arrived. It was an early morning train consisting of a tank engine and three box carriages. I marvel as I look back on this incident with many others how people went out of their way to help in any way they could…

…Dad worked in the mid-1920’s as a cook in the northern cane fields. He often obtained clothing from a Queensland warehouse and during the depression days he would still send for clothes from there. I remember going to Parramatta with Mum and, as Dad had returned from the cane fields, he had given her five pounds for shopping to buy clothes etc. Trousers were only a few shillings. In fact, ten years later, I bought myself good quality long trousers for ten shillings at Lithgow.

My sister Helen (who became known as Nell) was born in January 1925 and our verandah sleeping quarters ceased to exist. My brother Harold and I were assigned to a tent just near the kitchen door.

There are two things I recall about this time. One being that in 1926, Dad took us to the zoo.[35] A photo was taken of me sitting on a small column. It was a day of absolute wonder to see so many animals. The other thing was that on Christmas Day 1926, there was a little wooden boat in a Christmas stocking which I was thrilled with…

William Way, photographed at Taronga Park Zoo in 1926. He was six years old. At this time, Taronga had been open for ten years.

…Dad took to digging wells for watering gardens as we grew most of our vegetables. One day I was playing near a well full of water about 12 feet by fifteen feet and fell in. Dad dived in and rescued me.

Another house was built around 1926 on the fourth corner of Florabella crossroad (No. 3 Florabella Street). There were hardly any children in the area and I took up playing with a girl also named Laurie spelt the same as my name and also my age. The four corners of the crossroad were now built out as a weekender existed at No.2 which was the first house backing off Florabella Street. The Watts’ house fronted The Mall, which was the continuation of The Avenue. Also at the back of the Todd’s place, people by the name of Newton were clearing the land in preparation for building next year. It was the last block of two acres in The Avenue and joined onto our two acre block, Lot 5, which was to be 11 Florabella Street…

Springwood Public School in 1927--somewhere in that group of young lower mountaineers, two boys from Warrimoo are lurking...later they will be able to attend the newly built Blaxland Public on the Highway
…My brother Harold travelled to Springwood school from Warrimoo and at the age of six, the beginning of 1927, I started school (also)…We used to walk nearly a kilometre to the railway station to catch the train just before 8.00am across the dusty highway with an occasional car appearing. One day a lady stopped and asked where we were going. She travelled to Springwood to work and offered to take us to school. It was an almost new model T Ford and we thought this was wonderful. Those days the school was near Springwood station…
The model-T Ford--the most affordable vehicle in the world during the 1920's, and the most frequently seen on the Western Highway at the time.
…One day when Harold and I were on Warrimoo station two fire balls came from the highway direction across the eastern end of the station near the overhead bridge near the middle of the station. We saw them moving side by side down the valley towards Long Angle Gully. We would often meet trains to pick up parcels of our meat from the butcher at Penrith (“West” by name). This would mostly be on a weekend and my little sister Helen would come with us. When she was not there it was not uncommon for the guard to ask “Where is your little sister?” or similar questions…

(Shortly Lawrence came to be enrolled at the newly built ‘Blaxland Public School’ on the Highway)…About the end of the first year at Blaxland School, a school picnic was arranged at the swimming pool in Long Angle Gully about one kilometre down from Warrimoo station where there was a creek from the flat at Valley Heights. These flats were originally a crater of a very large volcano. It was where Arthur Rickard or someone was influenced to build this swimming pool. It had a concrete wall with a spillway.
Warrimoo Pool at the time of William's accident. You can see the concrete weir and spillway in the foreground of the picture. Where William fell is open to conjecture...
On one occasion we had actually been playing across the pool at the other end and I and a boy around the age of five from a family near us were walking across a tree trunk when he slipped. He was holding my hand and pulled me into the water. We were quickly pulled out by a couple of swimmers. Circumstances of this nature are seldom forgotten…

…It was around 1926 when electric lights were added to streets. They were very poor lights, perhaps 60 watt, and it was quite dark between the lights. If we were not home by dark we would run between the lights…

...One time I was down at the house in The Boulevarde at the bottom of our street. It was dark and I was afraid to go home by myself. One of my friends said, “I will go to your house with you,” which he did. But no way was he going back on his own! So I then had to take him back and make a dash back the second time on my own. I did not think I would live to tell the tale.

Another time we were at the tennis court opposite the shop when a friend decided to run across the road before he realised a car was coming. He just made it but lost a shoe. We were not sure if the car clipped his shoe or if it just came off. It was certainly close.

So ends some excerpts from Lawrence Way’s vivid account of a young boy’s life in 1920’s Warrimoo. By the end of the decade new settlers were coming to live in this brave new settlement on the edge of Mountain bushland. Most led happy, interesting lives, but some were not so fortunate…

Arson in Warrimoo? The Christmas night Fire

On Christmas night, 1919, the new 'shop building' at Warrimoo burst into flame so that by the early hours of the following morning it was 'too far gone to be saved'.
This is the somewhat tragic story of Henry Varlow[36], one of the original white settlers (1919) of the new Warrimoo Estate--returned serviceman, family man and alleged arsonist. He was the first occupant of the double-storeyed ‘shop’ on the Highway opposite Warrimoo Railway Station, and his stay in the infant community was a rocky one, indeed.

Originally Henry Varlow was from Leura, further up the ‘Mountains. He was a ‘plumber’ there, and had settled at Mount Street with his wife, Ella Irene Varlow and their two children, when war was declared in August 1914.

Varlow volunteered to fight overseas on 3rd of September of the same year. In other words, he was one of the ‘first wave’ of enthusiastic patriots destined to fight in the Middle East against the Turks, for the greater good of Empire.

Volunteers line up to join the AIF, September 1914. Henry Varlow, after already serving in the Light Horse for the Boer War, was one of them...
Why a man of 38 years would want to leave his wife and children to go and fight in climes as far away as Europe and Egypt is worth pondering. Was he bored with work and life in Leura? Was he inspired by the tide of patriotism that swept the country in the wake of Germany’s invasion of Belgium and France? Or was it rather, having been born in Stepney, London, Henry felt an overwhelming loyalty to his Mother Country, coupled with a yearning to see it again?

At 38, he was no spring chicken. He had already served in the Imperial Light Horse at the “cessation of hostilities” of the Boer War fourteen years previous. When he signed up for his physical he was described as 5 foot 7 inches tall, 10 stone in weight, fair complexioned with grey eyes. He was to be paid 9 shillings a day.

‘Light Horse glamour’ was not to be his calling this time, however. He was to be a member of the 4th Infantry Brigade in the 7th Company of the Army Services Corps. The range of jobs in the Services Corps could be anything from stable-hand, to cook, to transport provision and construction. This may have been a disappointment to him.

Whatever the circumstances, Henry Varlow’s service record grew steadily more miserable. It began with minor misdemeanours such as ‘untidy quarters’ but then a series of complaints about his ‘sciatica’ had Henry in and out of hospital as an increasingly disgruntled soldier. Was he a ‘slacker’? The AIF reports are careful to avoid the charge, but ultimately the Army could bear it no longer—Henry Varlow was discharged due to ‘medical unfitness’.

Warrimoo must have offered Henry and his family an opportunity to put the war behind them and start afresh: to build a new and successful life. A sympathetic landlord in the form of the Rickard Company, a double storeyed dwelling leased to him at discounted rates, and the chance to build a shop’s clientele within a growing community. It required patience and dedication…

The Varlows may well have thought Warrimoo would grow more rapidly and become a modern cosmopolitan centre for tourists--maybe it was all too slow.
Christmas Day 1919, however, did not bring the cheer the Varlows may have wished for. On that night a fellow ex-serviceman, Henry Todd of Florabella Street, noticed a major blaze in the direction of the shop and sounded the alarm. The fire burned so fiercely that by 3.00am the shop was “too far gone for anything to be saved…”.

The Blue Mountains Echo of 2nd January 1920[37], takes up the story, under the heading ‘BIG BLAZE AT WARRIMOO’…

…Varlow, who is an ex-Leuraite, was charged as the perpetrator of the blaze. The investigation was held before the District Coroner Arthur Judges on Monday last. Varlow’s statement was to the effect that he went away with his wife and family on the 24th and was away till the afternoon of the 26th ultimo. The fire, which took place on the evening of the 25th, was an enigma to him. He was partly insured (for contents--WH) for 150 pounds and Rickard and Co. had the house insured for 1,203 pounds. Varlow said he was drawing 7 pounds 7 shillings per fortnight from the Repatriation…

In short, Henry Varlow’s alibi was that he wasn’t there. He wasn’t rich, but he wasn’t poor. At this stage, the level of business at the store was slight, but there was a good chance the settlement would grow and that Highway traffic too, would increase.

Varlow's alibi was that he was elsewhere on the night of the fire. Surely a cursory check of his whereabouts on Christmas night would have established its truth or otherwise...
But suspicion fell upon Varlow for two main reasons. One, the Coroner was convinced that the fire was deliberately lit, and two, a witness said he saw a man whom he ‘thought and believed’ to be Varlow at Blaxland station on the night of the 25th…

Night officer Hartigan said on the night of the 25th, he let a man whom he thought and believed to be Varlow out at Blaxland, one and a half miles from Warrimoo. Witness said he had never been introduced to Varlow, but he knew him by his prominent teeth and his voice.

Guard John Lysaught testified to setting a man down on the night of the 25th and collecting his ticket. He could not identify the man, as he did not take much interest.

Station Master J.T. Neale,* relieving officer, said he received one ticket (produced) on the night of the 25th…[38]

One fact stands out in this evidence: clearly it was unusual for travellers to use the train on Christmas night. Much moreso than today, Christmas was the opportunity for families to attend church in the morning, stay at home for Dinner and remain together for one of the few special days available throughout the year. An individual travelling on such a night would have stood out quite noticeably. Was it impossible for police to clearly identify this man?

Apparently so, since after an adjournment of a week, the prosecution could come up with no further concrete evidence to fit Varlow to the fire. As to motive, there appeared to be none. While a piano had been removed from the property some weeks beforehand, Mrs. Varlow testified that the couple had lost 105 pounds on furnishings and equipment in their lodgings. The central claimant for insurance damages had been A. Rickard and Co., for the destruction of the building. This was for the amount of 1,203 pounds.

Accordingly the Coroner reluctantly declared an ‘open verdict’—the fire had been deliberately lit, but by ‘persons unknown’. Varlow was discharged.

For Henry Varlow, however, this was the end of Warrimoo for him and his family. He could no longer live in a community where he was ‘under a cloud’. He left and returned to Leura.

Lawrence Way speaks of another shop operating on the corner of The Boulevarde and the Highway while he grew up in the early 1920’s. The renewed shop opposite the station was not rebuilt from insurance funds till 1926, when it was taken over by ‘the Breakspears’[39]. William Way’s dad was able to use the bricks available at the ‘corner store’—presumably these were the rubble from a fire—to build their own dwelling in Albert Street. There was always a shortage of building materials, which didn’t ease until the 1960’s.

The Timbergetters

No history of Warrimoo in the 1920’s would be complete without reference to the main industry carried out on the northern side during this time, “Timbergetting” or “Logging”.[40]

The area covered by logging activities ran from the rear of Cross Street and Warrimoo Oval across Long Angle Gully to Sun Valley and Singles Ridge Road, which contains rich volcanic soils. The combination of soil fertility, moisture from water sources and sunbeam direction gives this part of Warrimoo some very unique and impressive vegetation, most especially tall, straight timbers.

The magnificent 'Mountain Blue Gum' (Eucalyptus Deanei)--a feature of any bushwalk on the northern side of Warrimoo, and the principal target of early Loggers such as the Baxter Brothers
Trees most prized were the ‘Mountain Blue Gum’ (Eucalyptus Deanei—so named after the Railways Engineer who designed much of the Blue Mountains railroad, including the Newnes tunnels, Henry Deane); the ‘Cabbage Gum’ (Eucalyptus Amplifolia), and the turpentine (Syncarpia Glomulifera), a row of which now grows on the Great Western Highway between Warrimoo and Blaxland.

'Mountain Blue Gum' from a distance. You can see why they were so prized for telegraph and electricity poles. They occupy a special part of the Blue Mountains Significant Tree Register
The Mountain Blue Gum is a stunning and magnificent tree. So valuable is its preservation in the ‘Mountains that bush regenerators have worked hard restore its habitat in the present-day ‘Deanei Forest’, which can be found surrounding the Council Depot at Springwood, just off Hawkesbury Road. Clearly, the timber derived from the Eucalyptus Deanei is tall, straight, and hard.

Henry Deane (1847-1924)--the tree was named after him in 1904, when he was Engineer-in-Chief of  construction for the NSW Railways, and a keen amateur botanist

At the turn of the century government institutions required such timber for products like railway sleepers and telegraph/electricity poles. Thus evolved the enterprises of two timbergetting families, the Goddard and Baxter brothers, the latter of whom lived on Singles Ridge Road.

The Loggers cut trails down into the valleys and hauled logs out by bullock teams. Bruce Cameron provides some details:

‘At one stage the Baxters used a light rail system to remove logs to a ridge-top saw mill driven by a boiler, near Rickard Road, Warrimoo. They also operated a bush saw mill built by the Goddard brothers (c. 1918), near the present day Springwood Golf Course. This was close to their home in Singles Ridge Road, where another sawmill operated. A mill was also located in the vicinity of the (old) Sun Valley Nursery, near the highway.

When the Baxters were cutting timber they tapped into all the principle stands around Long Angle Gully. The main product was used for power poles. When the Mountains were first hooked up to the electricity grid, the Baxters supplied poles to the Blue Mountains Council. Other timber was cut primarily for firewood consumption.

The local market was supplemented with orders from other areas. Poles were cut and then loaded onto steam trains for transport to the required location.

This scene at Faulconbridge station gives us a clue as to similar sites at Warrimoo, where loggers loaded timber for various destinations up and down the Mountains. Log freight was one of the primary reasons why the siding at Karabar was reopened early in the 20th century and continued beyond the Second World War (note all the telegraph poles in the picture)
The Baxters often camped overnight in make-shift timber camps. Signs of crude bush huts and relics can still be found in the bush near Sun Valley. Old trucks, machinery and watertanks are rusty reminders of the days when the valleys echoed with the sound of the logger’s axe. Numerous slot marks where loggers could place cutting boards in tree trunks can also still be seen. An old dug-out saw-pit is located on private property not far from Long Angle Gully.
This picture reveals the combined usage of both Bullock and 'Blitz' power to haul logs up to the mill and/or station at the top of the ridge
In later years the Baxters used an ex-army ‘Blitz’ four wheel drive to assist the bullock teams remove logs from the gullies around Long Angle. In the Depression they would save petrol tokens so the Blitz could be used to remove timber. Both the bullocks and the Blitz would tow a large log trailer or ‘jinker’. In the disastrous fires of 1936 the trailer was destroyed by fire near Yellowrock Road. The old loggers road that ran off Singles Ridge Road is now known as Long Angle Gully Road.
The Baxters were fine axemen and often entered woodchops at shows and competitions. They also cut timber near Glenbrook Creek and along Blue Gum Swamp, at Winmalee.[41]

For the most part, today, the impact of the logging industry on Warrimoo is largely obscured by the intensive forest growth of the past two decades. It is hard to envisage the thin bush landscape that prevailed at that end of Warrimoo during the 1920’s and 30’s.

Awesomely beautiful Mountain Blue Gum stand on the Sun Valley/Fitzgerald's Creek Walk on the northern side of Warrimoo--a walk well worth doing!
If, however, you are game to do the ‘Sun Valley Trail’ either from the Rosenthal Lane entry (Sun Valley) or the Warrimoo Oval side—if you are game to enough to endure the cacophony of birdcalls along the route, and you keep your eyes peeled, you just may come across some of those evidential remnants and relics of that bygone era.

Developments in the 1920’s

According to Lawrence Way’s account, some 40 or 50 houses had sprouted in Warrimoo by the end of the 1920’s. A good proportion of these were very basic weekenders made from weatherboard or portable fibrous cement (‘fibro’), with one or two simple rooms and no amenities. Yet there were feasibly 100 people living at scattered addresses around the township by this stage.

Electricity was connected to road lights in 1928, and homes subsequently got connected when they could afford it. Water was supplied by rainwater tanks and, in some cases, wells. Public transport was limited to the hourly steam train, though many locals got lifts from friends with sulkies or motor vehicles, or just thumbed a ride on the Highway.

A bushfire also occurred in 1928 and destroyed a house on The Avenue owned by the Newton family, and Lawrence’s own family’s original ‘lean-to’ in Florabella Street also met its end.[42]

The Great Western Highway was widened and smoothed, and a bridge replaced the level-crossing over the railway line, a little closer to the station platform, but still further westward than where the Citizens’ Hall currently stands.[43]

As events transpired, the bridge didn’t turn out to be the asset first imagined. It was erected at too drastic an angle to the Highway and cars did not brake sufficiently to turn over the bridge safely. The result was, according to Lawrence, a series of prangs into the bridge’s brick wall which meant constant repairs. One car knocked the brickwork onto the tracks and left its two front wheels dangling, necessitating urgent telephone calls to Springwood Station to warn off the oncoming train to Sydney. Warrimoo even then, it seems, was beset with Highway issues… [44]

The 1930’s…

Photo shows the interior of 'Everglades', an Art Deco mansion built during the Depression and now managed by the National Trust.

Ironically, in the period when Australia’s economy struck a collapse of markets leading to awful Depression and widespread unemployment, Warrimoo experienced the kind of growth that established it as a permanent community with nascent institutions and an effective economy. Apart from the ongoing timber-felling industry, the 1930’s saw the development of poultry/egg farming, some attempts at orchardism and the establishment of a local dairy.

Main Street, Katoomba, showing tourist bus of the 1930's
A raw kind of tourism chimed into the opening up of Katoomba and the Upper Mountains to visitors from Sydney, anxious to free themselves of the pong of pan toilets and smoky coal-fired industrialism. Tuberculosis and bronchial sufferers escaped to the peace and ‘clean air’ of the sanatoria of the Blue Mountains and in doing so passed through Warrimoo, another important link in the chain of stops encountered in a full day’s journey to a ‘different world’ of cool, clear climate and healthy atmosphere.

Even the unemployed sought respite in the ‘Mountains and Warrimoo—the blocks along Torwood Road were said to have been Warrimoo’s own ‘shanty town’ of makeshift shelters and desperate attempts to ‘grow one’s own’ survivalist veggie patches during the ‘hard times’.

While this Electoral Roll is labelled '1930', it is in fact for '1920'. These are the original white residents of Warrimoo who had settled on Arthur Rickard's 'Warrimoo Estate', or at least those who had registered to vote, and who were over the age of 21.
Certainly, the population grew. A comparative perusal of the ‘Electoral Rolls’ for Warrimoo in 1920, 1930 and 1934[45], provides evidence of the increasing number of residents, as well as their addresses in the township and their occupations.

Registration for voting in Federal elections became compulsory in 1912, so that all citizens of Australia, men and women over the age of 21, were recorded on ‘Electoral Rolls’. Naturally, children, and by all accounts there were quite a few straying the dirt roads and bush tracks of Warrimoo, are not mentioned, so we must draw rather general conclusions about their number in the township during the 1930’s.

The Roll of 1930 shows a substantial jump in the number of residents. However, ‘Mrs Simpson’, the war widow who won possession of the ‘Volunteers’ residence, is notable by her absence. ‘The Duchles’—and there are several alternative spellings of this name in other publications, most notably ‘Duckles’—have arrived and are managing ‘The Store’ (present day Monte Italia Pizzeria). They will play a substantial role in Warrimoo’s history from this point.
Warrimoo's Electoral Roll for 1930. Note the wide variety of occupations listed. How many of these suffered unemployment in the coming years--1931-32--is anyone's guess, since these were the worst years of the Depression when unemployment hit 30%, a rate unheard of today.

The Watts family lived on the corner of The Avenue, The Mall, and Florabella St., diagonally across from the Ways’ poultry farm, which was directly opposite Henry Todd’s place. The house currently standing on their corner still bears the historic name “Watts’ Bella” (‘Beautiful Watts’).

Henry Todd lived opposite on the Florabella Street corner (Number 3). Henry was one of those for whom the ‘Rejected Volunteers’ and Arthur Rickard had set up the Warrimoo estate—he was a war veteran, but after signing up in 1916 and serving in France he was medically discharged in July 1918 with ‘premature senility’[46]…Given the relative ignorance of the authorities at that time, it can be supposed that this diagnosis in effect refers to what we call “shell-shock” today. According to Walter Way[47] he built a beautiful glass garden dedicated to his wife, titled “Mons Regina”—“Mountain Queen”. Sadly, he too had gone by the time of the 1930 Electoral Roll.

The "Embassy' cinema in Katoomba--1930's--note the 'Art Deco' style yet again. Going to the 'Flicks' was an essential part of life in this decade, and Warrimooians dressed up to the nines if they were ever to engage in such a palatial night out.

Nevertheless a new family had moved in (probably the “Ozannes”—Elizabeth and Thomas). Indeed this particular intersection could be said to be the densest population of Warrimoo in 1930, and a veritable hive of activity, with Mrs Watts perpetually encouraging all and sundry to attend Anglican Church services every Sunday.

By the time of the 1934 Electoral Roll the number of registered residents had more than doubled, with a wonderful cross-section of occupations evident, ranging from Bus Driver to Hairdresser to Miner to Bricklayer and Dressmaker, Cabinet Maker, Plumber and Labourer. Warrimoo Historians wonder whether the “Harry Charles Swain, Bookseller” of The Boulevarde was in fact the same “Swain” who came to own an extensive chain of bookstores throughout Sydney.

The 1934 Roll--massive upheavals had happened in Australian political life: two Labor Governments, the State under Jack Lang, and the Federal under James Scullin, had been swept out of office. Fascism was on the march in Europe and Asia. Yet the township of Warrimoo had grown by over 100% in the same period...
One must not become too fazed with the broad term used by many women to describe their roles—‘Home Duties’—with any sized family and little support from electrical home appliances we have today, this was indeed a full-time and demanding job, often supplemented by other very worthwhile activities. We already know, for example, that “Catherine Yousen” acted as an “Attendant” for the Warrimoo Station—basically, ‘Station Master’. Many of the women mentioned would have been executing valuable skills such as sewing, boot repair, and vegetable gardening the supplement the family income.

Whatever the case, Warrimoo was becoming a true ‘melting pot’ of varied skills, classes, and interests, maintaining a solid component of mutual respect and assistance common in many Australian communities at the time. There was no real ‘crime’, and people helped out with a cup of sugar or a bowl of milk or a lift when it was needed. Without neighbourly support, life would have been miserable indeed.

A Boy’s Eye View of Depression Warrimoo

By the time the Great Depression hit in 1930 William Way was ten years old. His youthful impressions give us a sharp picture of life in Warrimoo during that bleak decade, when unemployment remained as a threatening black cloud until the outbreak of war again in 1939…

As the depression worsened, Dad lost his job as a cook at Tweed Heads. As we children were all growing all we could do to survive was to go to school in the same clothes, we did not have any shoes. During this time many men became tramps. Swagmen were looking for anything they could do. A carpenter was offered keep for six months and twenty nine pounds for building a house at Blaxland bordering Warrimoo on the highway and many families were applying for the dole.

These men are workers on an 'Unemployment Relief' project. They are wearing fairly typical work clothing of the period, and they hold some commonly used tools, including the omnipresent kerosene tins, which were used to carry just about anything..
A man named Mick Donnelly sometimes called on us as he travelled the mountain route looking for work. With Dad out of work we were sent out early on spring mornings, after it had rained, from daybreak to late morning scouring the flats for mushrooms and we would often come home with enough for a few days.

Dad also assigned us to setting up a stand where the (Citizens) hall now stands where we would sell fruit, flowers, etc. to people driving back to Penrith, Sydney, or returning from higher up the mountains. Cars would be going slower as they had just crossed the railway on a bridge which went at a right angle over the line. It was a wide open area to pull into. We sold strawberries for ten pence a punnet, passionfruit for threepence a dozen, and other fruits in season.

'Waratah Road' earned its name because it was a part of Warrimoo flush with the beautiful red emblem of NSW. Yet it was also a prized addition to many tourists' lounge room vases. Hence they are difficult, if not impossible, to find in that vicinity today...
We sold waratahs, mountain Boronia which had a very pleasant perfume, and flannel flowers etc.. The road at this stage had been tarred to Springwood and beyond and more people were using it.[48]

In the early 1930’s, the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge captured the imagination of the young boy, Lawrence Way. It was such a major thing that the progress of the ‘marching arch’ was followed by the newspapers regularly, so it was a central talking point among the residents of Warrimoo…

The Sydney Harbour Bridge was one of the engineering wonders of the world in the 1930's--its construction was followed closely by local Sydney siders and Warrimooians alike. Sixteen of its workers died building it, but only two of those from falling off.
The work on the Harbour Bridge continued and the progress was continually in the paper. The steel arch was lengthening from both sides. The progress on the bridge was always a thing of great interest especially as we watched the joining of the arches for with that event it would only be a year or so to it being used.

After Premier Lang had cut the ribbon and dignitaries and troops had crossed the Bridge, the general public, including Lawrence Way and family, could stroll across. Note the railway line on both sides.
I think it was Australia Day 1932 when we heard that the day for the Harbour Bridge opening was to be celebrated. On the opening we all went to Sydney for the occasion and walked across it using the walk way and the road way. As well as the thousands of pedestrians a large number of goods and steam engines were on it. We were told it had to do with strength testing.[49]

There was another connection of the Harbour Bridge to Warrimoo. Premier Jack Lang, who opened the Bridge by cutting a ribbon already famously slashed by New Guard member Captain de Groot, was to mysteriously visit Warrimoo and seek respite there, shortly afterwards.

Subsequent to the loss of his father’s job, life became more difficult for the whole Way family. When an ‘Unemployment Relief’ project was set up in Warrimoo, Walter jumped at the chance and Laurence came to help out too…

In the Depression days Dad was able to get work for the dole on a scheme set up by council or through council by the government. This work was making* a three mile track from Florabella Street Warrimoo down into Florabella Gully, across two adjoining creeks with a section for picnic tables. From here up to the next ridge that crossed the creek further down then up to Bridge Street in Blaxland. I helped him lift the heavier stones for making steps. I think it was my willing attitude that led him to offer me threepence (called a ‘tray’ in those days, WH) if I hurried home from school and spent an hour chopping a barrow load of wood for the house…[50]

A 'Work for the Dole' project in action. Some might question the credibility of the scene because it seems 'posed' and some workers have bare feet. But one of the first unaffordable items of the Great Depression was expensive leather shoes. Much of the population, especially children, went without shoes for most of the time, and their feet grew hard and tough as a result--most 'kept' shoes were for special occasions, such as the opening of the Harbour Bridge. Not work or play.
Let’s deal with ‘Florabella Gully Track’s’ construction*. The Relief project mentioned here didn’t literally ‘make’ the track. That had been done at the outset under Arthur Rickard’s instructions as part of the ‘Warrimoo Estate’s’ attractions. There are several references to this track prior to the work done by Lawrence’s dad and his fellow unemployed.[51] Indeed, many visitors to Warrimoo had made the trip to Florabella Gully to specifically observe and record the diverse botany, wildflowers and creek settings so sought after in the Mountains generally.

However the level of sophistication of this track, like many others elsewhere in the Mountains, might have left something to be desired. Florabella Track required a serious upgrade if it was to match the inspiring ‘tourist walks’ being constructed around Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath at the time, and believe it or not, the residents of Warrimoo were generally proud of the drawing power of the settlement’s natural gifts. Hence the wisdom of the Council’s choice of Relief Projects.

Thus the Florabella Track was ‘civilised’ thanks to the Depression: it now had a designated, carved pathway through rocks and bush and over streams, as well as constructed steps, guideposts, and even a picnic table and seats in a clearing next to the creek—and there was ample evidence that it was used, too, not only by Warrimoo schoolkids taking the ‘shortcut’ to Blaxland PS, but by willing tourists soaking up the energising variety of diverse walks in all parts of the Blue Mountains.

Despite a fine legacy though, the story today is somewhat different. In contrast to the high usage of the ‘Fiveway’ tracks on the northern side of Warrimoo, Florabella Track seems to lag unobtrusively behind, with a rundown entrance at the end of Florabella Street, deteriorating steps and occasionally dangerous gaps as well as, at times, confusing direction. Unfortunately, it has simply been allowed crumble.

Entrance to the Florabella Pass Track today. It is overgrown with weeds and ill-cared for. Neither Council nor National Parks nor local residents seem moved to repair its entrance nor the full length of the walk.

Only the collective efforts of Warrimoo residents, one way or another, can save the Florabella Track from complete obliteration.

[1] This biography is entirely drawn from Peter Spearritt's contribution to the Australian Dictionary of Biography,

[2] ‘The Mysterious Name of Warrimoo’

[3] WAY, L. W., My Story, Cliff Lewis Printing, Caringbah, 2011, p.11

[4] Ibid, p.11

[5] Ibid, p.11

[6] Cf. Chapter in this blog entitled Arson at Warrimoo?

[7] Op Cit., My Story, pp 10-11

[8] Cf., Chapter in this blog entitled The Big House on The Boulevarde

[9] LUPTON, Maisie et al, Warrimoo Public School, The First Twenty-Five Years, magazine published by Warrimoo Public School Anniversary Committee, 1987, p.11

[10] Evans, Shirley & Smith, Pamela - REMEMBRANCE: Springwood District Honor Roll 1914-1919, p.14

[11] Ibid, p.14

[12] Op Cit., My Story, p.9

[13] Exactly who constructed the Warrimoo Pool is the subject of some contention, since Maisie Lupton had suggested her family had ‘built the pool’ in the 1930’s. Yet the chronological evidence and Rickard’s own advertising relating to a pool on the estate in the early 20’s is pretty incontestable… Feasibly, Maisie’s family had repaired the pool to make it operable again—something that was repeatedly required in sustaining a ‘natural’ swimming hole such as the one at Warrimoo.

[14] RICHARDSON, E. and MATTHEW, K, Warrimoo History Project, 2010—this whole section was researched and compiled by Evelyn Richardson and Kate Matthew. Their references will be duplicated below as footnotes to their work

[15] Ibid., biography of Ann Yousen

[16] Quoted from Leonie Campbell’s account as provided to RICHARDSON, E. and MATTHEW, K, Warrimoo History Project, 2010—this whole section was researched and written by Evelyn Richardson and Kate Matthew.


[18] Rickard’s Realty Review, Vol 1., No. 1., George Wilson Ed, Sydney Nov. 10, 1909

[19] Macquarie Aboriginal Dictionary et al

[20] If any reader can supply some written example of Rickard’s clearly suggesting ‘Place of the Eagle’ as the meaning of the word ‘Warrimoo’, please let us know, because then we could accurately source the origins of such a belief to him—this is most likely the case, anyhow, but it is important to be accurate.

[21] (TROVE Hobart Mercury 10/11/1892)

[22] nla.gove/nla.newcastle (TROVE South Australian Register 10/2/1892)

[23] Op.cit: (TROVE Hobart Mercury 10/11/1892)

[24] warrimoo


[26] Op.cit:



[29] WAY, L. W., My Story, Cliff Lewis Printing, Caringbah, 2011.. Warrimoo Historians are indebted to Lawrence Way for the timely account of his experiences in Warrimoo. His book is available at Warrimoo PS Library, and it provides most of the observations for this chapter of our history.

[30] Ibid., p.9

[31] More information on Henry Varlow is available in another chapter in this section titled :’Arson in Warrimoo?’

[32] RICHARDSON, E., and MATTHEW, K Warrimoo History Project, Library Records

[33] TROVE, Nepean Times

[34] WAY, L. W., My Story, Cliff Lewis Printing, Caringbah, 2011. pp 9-15

[35] Taronga Park Zoo had opened just ten years earlier, in October of 1916

[36] Information on the biography of Henry Varlow comes from a variety of sources, but the overwhelming effort of drawing them together was carried out by: RICHARDSON, E., and MATTHEW, K Warrimoo History Project, Library Records

[37] TROVE, Blue Mountains Echo, 2nd January 1920

* Could this be the same ‘Mr. Neil’ who attended a meeting in Glenbrook, representing Warrimoo Progress Association, and who later appears as the Secretary of the Association in the 1930’s?

[38] Ibid

[39] Op. Cit. My Story, p.14
[40] CAMERON, Bruce. Sun Valley and Long Angle Gulley—A History, Springwood, 1998 pp21—31 Bruce’s booklet provided the vast bulk of information on this topic. WH thank him for his extensive research.
[41] Ibid., pp 21-22

[42] WAY, L. W., My Story, Cliff Lewis Printing, Caringbah, 2011. p.27
[43] Ibid, pp. 21-22
[44] Ibid, p 22

[45] Op Cit., RICHARDSON, E., and MATTHEW, K Warrimoo History Project, Library Records

[46] Ibid—War Records, ‘Henry Todd’

[47] Op Cit., ‘My Story’, p.10

[48] Ibid, pp.20-21.

[49] Ibid, pp.31-33

[50] Ibid, pp 31-32

[51] cf., 'Contribution of Arthur Rickard' in this blog

1 comment:

  1. Just to introduce myself: I am Secretary of the Springwood Historical Society. I am writing "direct" as I want to ask a favour at the end.

    In 2004, I did some research into the naming of Warrimoo. It is nice to have my research confirmed by your much wider spread.

    Could I make some comments on your blog?

    I'm not so sure that Rickard was responsible for the change of name from Karabar. Karabar platform had been closed in 1913 and Rickard did not start advertising until 1917. I'm sure you noted that Rickard held a competition in 1917 for a name for "this New Tourist Resort". In the December 1917 issue of Rickard's Realty Review, the results of this competition were announced. The item commenced "Warrimoo - The Railway Commissioners have decided to adopt this name for the new station" and later went on: "Eventually three names were submitted, but neither of these was among those suggested by competitors." I may be wrong (probably am) but I interpreted these comments as the Railway Commissioners making the naming decision unilaterally without reference to Rickard. I could not locate any item in the magazine as to what were the "three names submitted."

    Re the ship, "Warrimoo": references i looked up regarding Australian shipping all indicated that the Warrimoo (and her sister ship, Miowera) were built for James Huddart for his New Zealand and Australasia Steamship Company, a company separate from Huddart Parker& Co. of which James Huddart was still a partner, shareholder and director. In 1899-1900, Lloyd's Register noted that the Warrimoo was owned by "Canadian-Australian Royal Mail Steam Ship Company Limited (in liq)". Shortly after this both ships passed to Union Steam Ship who did not rename them. I doubt that Union SS had any influence in the naming of the ships. My references also give the date of the sinking of the unfortunate "Warrimoo" as 17 May 1918, which is after Rickard began selling land and the railways naming the station.

    One last comment: I think that the placement of Warrimoo station may have been influenced by the location of the store. What could be more convenient than being able to get off your train, walk across the road and buy your needs on the way home.

    I hope I can still ask: where did you locate the portrait of Sir Arthur Rickard and the "There's room for U in my canoe" images. The Springwood Historical Society is currently undertaking a project linking various street names in the lower mountains to the people they are named for and we have not had a lot of success in finding any of Sir Arthur, which given his talent for self-promotion, we found unusual.