Warringah's History


Stewart House - South Curl Curl - 1950s

Warringah's History - a Brief Summary

The traditional Aboriginal owners of the land we now know as Warringah had mostly disappeared from this area within years of European settlement, mainly due to an outbreak of smallpox in 1789. For many years we thought all that remained was the rich heritage of rock engravings, middens and other Aboriginal sites on the northern beaches. We now know that there are descendants of the traditional Aboriginal owners still living on the northern beaches.

Despite its relative proximity to Sydney, the Warringah area remained predominantly rural throughout the nineteenth century. The region’s isolation and difficult terrain were natural barriers to development.

Northern Beaches nineteenth century rural based economy provided other products for the Sydney market including timber, fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Some industries began to emerge in the 1880s. Brick making was carried out in Brookvale and Frenchs Forest while shipbuilding developed further north in Pittwater.

On 7 March 1906, 134 Shires were proclaimed across New South Wales.  Warringah was number 131 of those 134.

The name ‘Warringah’ was taken from the Aboriginal word for Middle Harbour. ‘Warringah’ had been in use for several years in the late 1800s and early 1900s as the name of the NSW electorate covering the areas of Mosman, Neutral Bay, North Sydney, Manly and the Northern Beaches. The use of the name ‘Warringah’ was picked up again in 1906 when it was given to Shire 131. ‘Warringah’ also has other meanings in various Aboriginal languages including ‘grey head’ and ‘signs of rain’.

The original Shire headquarters was a suburban bungalow in Brookvale which also served as the Shire Clerk’s residence. The next Council Chambers were opened in 1912 and with later extensions served as Council’s headquarters for more than 50 years. The present Civic Centre at Dee Why was officially opened in 1973. In 1992 the northern part of Warringah seceded to form Pittwater Council. The 1993 Local Government Act saw the “Shire” being dropped from Warringah Council, Shire Presidents became Mayors and Shire Clerks became General Managers.

In this section you can find

Pittwater Road, Dee Why - Parade 1960s

Local Studies

Fabulous 50s and Swinging 60s We’ve created a unique collection of resources for researching our local area. It covers the indigenous history of ...
Shire Hall at Brookvale

Council History

Our beginnings as an isolated rural outpost of Sydney.

History on Display

Our historical displays are a window into the way people used to live in Northern Beaches – how they looked, how they worked, how they socialised. ...