Hidden Canberra

Stirling Park (incl. Howie's, Westlake etc) -Time Line

Westlake - Stirling Park, Yarralumla

Stirling Park, site of former Westlake [early 1920s - 1965] is on the south side of Lake Burley Griffin on the western side of Capital Hill.  It is in the undeveloped and surviving natural bush land of the Gura Bung Dhaura Hills. The hills were an important part of the route taken by the Ngunawal from Black Mountain to Red Hill [where they prepared for coroborees] down to Tuggeranong and Tidbinbilla. These hills rose above the almost treeless Canberra Plains and would have been an important meeting place for the Ngunawal. Throughout the park there is evidence of the Ngunawal in the form of scarred trees and stone arrangements.

Nearby to the park and Capital Hill there were two major tenant farms on this land which was part of Klensendorlffe's 1839 land grant.  This grant passed out of Klensendorlffe's hands in the 1840s when it was taken over by Peter and Ann Plomer. They later sold to Campbell of Duntroon.  However most early maps still refered to the land under the name of the man originallly granted it. 

The site of Klensendorlffe's stone villa is under the waters of Lake Burley Griffin, but the old entrance gate is marked by one old pine and a newly planted one behind the Hotel Canberra. The oder tree was one of a pair planted in 1919 when one of the Kaye sons returned from the Great War. The second was planted at the time the members of the Kaye family erected their plaque nearby.  

The Kaye family lived in Klensendorlffe's villa from 1854 until the late 1890s when a new slab house was constructed nearby and the old stone place turned into a barn.  The Kaye family remained until they had to move in 1924 when the land was resumed.  The old fire place in their slab home became part of the Royal Canberra Golf Club and the paddocks turned into the greens of the links on the south side of the river.The stone from the old villa was spawled and placed under Commonwealth Avenue road.

The area of the Southern Cross Yacht Club on Lotus Bay was the site of Briar Farm Cottage - a small tenant farm leased to Messrs Cook, Bryant and members of the Kinlyside family from the late 1860s until 1913 when Thomas Kinlyside [known as 'The Jingler'] left and moved with his family to Oaks Estate.   This old farm house was then leased to Commonwealth employees until it was pulled down in the early 1950s by George Sykes. The last family to live in the farm cottage was that of Charles Foster and Francis Day [nee Gallagher] who moved into the cottage in 1927.

In the late 1860s until the early 1870s John Morrison who later moved to Tralee had a tenant farm. The site of the cottage may be on Stirling Ridge [site marked with yellow concrete NCA post] and it may be John Morrison who was responsible for the small scale mining that took place on the ridge and on the hill opposite Lotus Bay.

In 1922 the first of the camps set up at Westlake was erected in 'The Gap' and on what is now the Eastern side of the park, Howies' Settlement.  These were followed by two more camps and 61 small portable timber cottages erected in 'The Gap'. The population of the area in 1925 was 700 - roughly about one fifth of the population of the FCT.

The men who lived at Westlake built the Hotel Canberra, Provisional Parliament House and nearby administrative buildings and the main intercepting sewer.

Stirling Park was originally designated Section 22, Stirling Park, Yarralumla.  Sometime around the  1980s if not earlier the western side of Haines Creek [described in old maps - as a deep watercourse] which still cuts the park in two was further sub divided into Block 4, Section 128 and Section 22. The eastern side of the creek became Blocks 1,2 & 3 Section 128 Stirling Park, Yarralumla.  Block 1, which has again been further sub-divided with Section 5 - part of the former Block 1 now developed by the Chinese Embassy for, I have been told, for accommodation.  Block 2 unlike the rest of the park is ACT land.   This block contains I believe quite a lot of fill which probably came from the time when State Circle was cut through Camp Hill.

Currently at the time of writing [May 2011] Block 3 - the site of the Tradesmen's Camp and Contractor John Howie's settlement of 25 two-three bedroom timber cottages and 18 timber huts [Hostel Camp] and halls, ablution blocks etc - has been further subdivided which suggests that more development is planned.

To date other than work that I have carried out with the assistance of John Bruggeman, Karen Williams, Trish Frei and the many members of the Westlake community [plus one archaeologist employed by the NCA to document] there has been little official work to identify what remains of the use of the land by humans. 

I was provided with maps showing the sites documented by the NCA archaeologist in 1999 or 2000 and loaned my copies back to the NCA. 

Fortunately there are people working on the natural heritage of the park - in particular to remove woody weeds and document the sites of the endangered wild flower  the button wrinklewort. 

John Bruggeman and I have been working to GPS the major obvious remnants of the people who lived in Stirling Park. The information about the area of Block 3 Section 128 is provided in Early Canberra and Canberra Camps web pages and shortly this will be added to by recent work on part of Stirling Ridge.  

NCA Map - The Gap and Eastern Side of Stirling Park Yarralumla.

Block 1 is nearest Flynn Drive on the right. The land of Stirling Park with the exception of Block 2 is Commonwealth Land which is ACT land. Block 2 has a significant amount of fill and was the original area where Darwin Avenue was to be constructed.  The entrance to the present Darwin Avenue is marked near the text box bottom right. The road on the far left is Empire Circuit - the road nearest to the lake is Alexandrina Drive and the other road cutting across the map is Forster Crescent. Briar Farm site is centre top - Marina Place.  The next point along to the left is the old quarry - now Attunga Point.

This map details some of the major archaeological sites in the park. They are marked with yellow concrete posts. The site of the undeveloped road on Block 4, Section 128 on the western side of Haines Creek which cuts through the park is now marked by ACTEWAGL yellow posts [gas line]. 

Westlake Camps, Stirling Park


Camps - General information

No. 1 Labourers Camps 

Sewer Camps 

Temporary Camps on Hillside, opposite Lotus Bay

Tradesmen Camp in the 1920s - General Information on Canberra's Tradesmen's Camps 

Man made object No 1 Labourers Camp Dump

1970s Map Showing Stirling Park Yarralumla & Proposed Sites for new Prime Minister's Lodge.

NB: At the time when I added the information re the sites of the Howie's, Tradesmen's  & No 1 labourers' Camps the site of No 1 had not been firmly identified.  The other sites were shown to me by people who lived in them.  Continued work on the sites that includes the use of aerial photographs show that No 1 was on Camp Hill (now part of Capital Hill) which was then part of Westlake.  The site of No 1 I believe, was later the site of the post World  War 2  Hillside Hostel.  I have marked the site of one of the mourning trees on Stirling Ridge on this map.

Dumps in Stirling Park, formerly Westlake

by Ann Gugler
The Evidence of Human Habitation in Stirling Park, Yarralumla in the Gura Bung Dhaura Hills - former Westlake 

Because I lived at 27 Westlake between 1941 and 1959 I know the sites of the cottages in The Gap, but until I began my search for the history of Westlake did not know about Howie's Settlement and the camps - No 3 Sewer, Tradesmens and No 1 Labourers.  Nor did I think about the Ngunawal people who are the traditional owners of the land.

Fortunately during my search for the history of my temporary settlement I met people who had lived at Westlake in the 1920s and Mr Don and Mrs Ruth Bell, Ngunawal elders. 

Mr Bell whose family name is Carroll [following the death of his father James Carroll, his mother remarried a man with the surname of Bell] told me the stories of his family's annual visit to the Gura Bung Dhaura hills where they camped in the gully below the Prime Minister's Lodge on Capital Hill.  The information in this section includes only the European information.

In all the undeveloped areas of Stirling Park and Capital Hill there is clear evidence of the camps and settlements that includes not only for example, building sites, hedges and other plantings, drainage channels and rubbish dumps. Old roads still run through the park and in the ground in The Gap is the one remaining temporary septic tank that served the Westlake cottages in The Gap until connected with the main intercepting sewer after its completion in 1927.

I have photographed and documented the sites. This information is held in the National Library of Australia.  Following is information of the material found in the dumps. Not all the dumps have been examined.

The area known as Stirling Park, Yarralumla is on the southern side of Lake Burley Griffin and is land that has survived development.  On this land only temporary structures have been built. It is a landscape that has survived the arrival of Europeans and many of its old trees bear the scars made by the Ngunawal.  On the areas not disturbed by the settlements are numerous stone arrangements. 

The old maps show that part of the western side of Stirling Park was marked as both Park - named Stirling - and a site for a new building for the Governor General.  In the 1970s this area was selected as one of three possible sites for a new residence for the Prime Minster. These decisions were made before consideration of Aboriginal sites and the importance of protecting the endangered wildflower - the button wrinklewort - were considered.

Stirling Park is not a public park but land awaiting possible development.



Introduction - The Dumps of Stirling Park

Chapter 1 - Dating the glass in Stirling Park

Chapter 2 - Stirling Park Beer Bottles

Chapter 3 - Glass, Cordials at Stirling Park

Chapter 4 - Glass, Stirling Park - Kitchen

Chapter 5 - Glass, Stirling Park - Patent Medicine 

Chapter 6 - Glass, Milk Glass, Stirling Park

Chapter 7 - Metal, etc., Stirling Park

Chapter 8 - Crockery, Stirling Park

Chapter 9 - Glass & Stone Tools, Stirling Park

Chapter 10 - Glass Bottles, Other

Chapter 11 - Glass, EBay

Chapter 12 - Bricks 


Site of Former Bl 1, Section 128 Stirling Park

This block has been further sub-divided with the largest area designated as Block 5. It is next to Flynn Drive and opposite the Republic of China's Embassy.  The block is being built upon with accommdation for members of the Embassy.  Prior to development taking place Mr Don and Mrs Ruth Bell invited me to be present at the meeting with people acting for the firm making the archaeological assessment of the block.  When we all walked over to the block it became apparent that someone or some persons had been there not long before and removed and moved rocks from all the major arrangements. A number of rocks from the largest arrangement had been removed from the site and were dropped back behind a tree some weeks later. There was no leaf litter in the holes.  I photographed the next day and a number had leaf litter fallen in them.  The archaeologist working for the firm as were all of us present - quite surprised by the moving of

Vandilized Area Stirling Park

Stirling Ridge

Map from Official Establishment book c1978. The area marked West Stirling Park where the white line ends is the area of Stirling Ridge.  The ridge continues along to the left to the area of Empire Circuit which is the first road coming down the hill. 

NCA map Stirling Ridge

This map was made in 1999 - only a few of the sites were marked using the concrete posts. I worked with an archaeologist employed by the NCA to do this work. The Aboriginal sites with the exception of the old scarred tree used in a number of documents were not recorded. 

Stirling Ridge May 2011 gps idenfication of sites part 1

Stirling Ridge May 2010 Pt 1

Stirling Ridge May 2011 Pt 2

A map showing the fault line referred to in the above documents can be seen in the web Canberra Camps