Mosman is filled with history, dating back to European settlement and the centuries beforehand.
From early days as a city outpost for farming and whaling, the suburb has gradually built up to become the urban village we know and love.
Recently, our team came across a clever Google map showing the streets of Mosman and the history behind many names. Take a look at some of the best-known local strips, how they came to have their monikers, and some fascinating historic insights.
Unsurprisingly, this road used to lead to the Sand Spit, Middle Harbour. It was the first road to be cleared by the State Government to connect Milson’s Point and Manly. Before it was The Spit, the area was known by the Aboriginal name Burra-Bra, which was also the name given to the HMAS Burra-Bra, a ferry operated by the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Company.
Built during the threat of war around 1870, Military Road was perhaps the most important thoroughfare through Mosman at the time. As its name suggests, it connected Milson’s Point to the fortifications at Middle, Georges and Bradleys Head. Nowadays, it leads you to beautiful National Parklands and the wonderful Taronga Zoo.
Bradley’s Head Road
The road, like the headland, is named after William Bradley. He was First Lieutenant on the Sirius, the flagship vessel of the First Fleet. Lt. Bradley and Captain John Hunter were responsible for surveying much of Sydney Harbour. In years gone by, cattle and horse herders enjoyed the beautiful harbour views from this long and winding road.
According to our map, Raglan Street is named after Lord Raglan, Commander in Chief in the Crimea. It was built in 1870 to connect Mosman Junction to Mosman Bay. One claim to fame is that in 1893 it was the first street to be macademised. This was the latest road building method of the time and involved compacting layers of large and small stones. The method is still used today.
Middle Head Road
Originally part of Military Road as it led to the barracks and fortifications, Middle Head Road got its present name in 1870. Back then it was nothing more than a track for people making their way from the North Shore to the headland. It was accessed via Patonga Road (an Aboriginal word meaning ‘small wallaby’).
Have you ever wondered where this unusual name comes from? As it turns out, it has a sporting background. Frederick Robert Spofforth was a talented bowler in the first Australian cricket team. He played against England on their home ground in 1878. The Harnett family, the founders of Mosman in many ways, named the street in his honour.
Sand is something we are not short of in Sydney. It can contain silica, also known as silex, which is used to make glass. A certain Mr. J. C. King discovered that Botany Bay sand contained plenty of it for shipping to the glass-making industry in England. He was granted 150 acres in Mosman as a result and named the area ‘Silex’.
This was the first road ever to be built in Mosman in 1860-61. It has gone through a few name changes, having started out as Harnett’s Street then Bay View Avenue.
We all see the Ourimbah Road sign as we make our way across the suburb but do you know its meaning? ‘Ourimbah’ is the local Indigenous word for ‘sacred circle’ or ‘initiation ground’.
Another Indigenous name, ‘awaba’ means ‘a plain surface or lake’. Our map tells us that part of Awaba Street was originally known as Vincenz Street after a man named Vincenz Zahel, who held 25 acres – what would that be worth now?
Depending on where you look, the Aboriginal meaning of ‘warringah’ is not certain but could mean either ‘signs of rain’, ‘grey head’, ‘middle harbour’ or ‘sea’.
There are several other roads in Mosman with Aboriginal names. These include Kahiba Road, meaning ‘active’, Ellamatta Avenue, meaning ‘our dwelling’ and Iluka Road, meaning ‘near the sea’.
This is an interesting one. It was originally named Alma Street, possibly after a river near Sebastopol and site of a famous Crimean War battle. The name then changed to Almora in reference to the Gurkha War (1815). Note also that if you add a couple of letters to it you get Balmoral. Coincidence or intentional?
There are several streets on this map that take their names from references to various wars and warships or local landowners and dignitaries. Others simply refer to the view or, as in the case of Dream House Lane, to a single dwelling. Maybe look up your own street name? Who knows what interesting stories you might discover.
Banner image source: www.sl.nsw.gov.au