Business of the Lane Cove River by Brian A. Scott

IBusLaneCoveRiverBookCovern his book ‘The Business of the Lane Cove River from 1788’ author Brian Scott examines many of the identities and businesses that graced the shores of the river.

A significant portion of the riverbank is part of the City of Willoughby. From 1865 to 1895 the present Lane Cove Council riverbank was part of the District of North Willoughby.

Prior to 1788, the Lane Cove valley was occupied by Aboriginal tribes including the Guringai and Cammerayagal people.

The first small party to venture into the valley on 2 February 1788 was commanded by Captain John Hunter accompanied by Lieutenant Bradley. They rowed up the river as far as Figtree. They identified that the river valley was rich in natural resources. On 15 April 1788, Lieutenant Ball led a small partythat observed the valley and noted its suitability for rural use.

Land grants in the area (near the intersection of now Mowbray Rd and Pacific Highway started in 1794.

One of the first commercial enterprises along the river was timber getting. Prior to 1800 the river valley was inhabited by escaped felons and persons fleeing authority. Many of these were involved in the ‘illegal’ removal of timber. William Henry was an early entrepreneur. In 1806 Henry claimed he had been granted 1,000 acres along the banks of Blue Gum Creek. Henry had been assigned to Isaac Nichols, a substantial landowner in the area. James Wiltshire owned substantial holdings in the area. He was an investor and speculator. Wiltshire was an early settler who had acquired four 30-acre in the area by 1803. In September 1804, his holdings were attacked by over 200 Cameraygal, and in November 1804 bushfire destroyed about 17 acres of his wheat crop.  One of the most prominent landowners was Richard Hayes Harnett.

William Henry (see above) was one of the first orchardists in the area. In 1814 he established his Millwood Farm near Fullers Bridge. Other early farmers in the area included Henry’s descendants including Jenkins and Fullers. Thomas and Marie Jenkins operated their orchard (Millwood Farm) on the present picnic area at Fullers Bridge. Thomas Fuller married one of William Henry’s daughters. He had established a pear orchard on land between Swaines Creek and Fullers Bridge.

To support the evolving agrarian industries a number of wharves were established where the Lane Cove River ‘lighters’ (near flat bottomed boats) could ply their trade.

An early industry in the valley was tanneries. John Charles (JC) Ludowici and Albert Radke established a tannery at Burns Bay on what became known as Tannery Creek. Later JC’s son, Charles Ludowici expanded the business. Later Cahrles formed the Mangrovite Belting Limited.  It commenced operations as a tannery and industrial leather belt manufacturer.

An early and key piece of infrastructure was the Watermain Crossing Point of the Lane Cove River.  According to Brian Scott: “water pumping station driven by a steam engine was built to the north-west at West Ryde in 1887. As was the usual practice at this time, water ran by gravity, in this case from the Prospect Reservoir to West Ryde, and was pumped from there to various smaller reservoirs. In 1890 a suspension bridge was built with the intention of carrying a main from Ryde to the Chatswood Reservoir on the Pacific Highway. The water link was realised in 1891.” The water crossing is located near the Clifford Love factory at the end of Mowbray Rd West.

Chicago Starch Mills (Clifford Love) (now owned by Ingedion ANZ Pty Ltd. Started in 1891 on land that Clifford Love purchased from the widow of Sidney Brodie Whatmore. The original business was the manufacture ofcornflour and starch. At the time the site was accessible only by water. The Epping Road bridge was completed in 1939 and the connection by road to Chatswood followed soon after in 1940.

Love worked at reducing waste and used corn waste to produce a variety of products such as liquid additives for stockfeed, nutrients for penicillin mould, maize oil and high protein stovkfeed. Gluten was directed to pet food. Some of their well-known products included cereals, Uncle Toby’s Oats, Wade’s Cornflour and Luaundrena Starch.

The Chatswood Golf Club (at the end of Beaconsfield Rd) dates from 1934 when land was purchased and formed in 1935.