Crossing the South Arm of the Bellinger River

As you travel at 110kms along the new Urunga bypass, spare a thought for the travellers of bygone years, because in 1888 it was a much slower journey.  At this time there were only three ferries available for crossing the Bellinger River’s North and South arm (now called the Kalang River).  One was at Fernmount,… Read more »

The History of the Urunga Footbridges

Urunga footbridge 1926 02022

This is the script compiled and read by me at the gathering to witness the opening of the footbridge extension in 1999 by my Aunt Lillian (Ki) Parker (nee Sutton) Colin Sutton speaks about the history of the Urunga footbridges. The reason for the construction of the original footbridge in 1902 is in question, one… Read more »

Crossing the South Arm of the Bellinger


As you travel at 110kms along the new Urunga bypass,spare a thought for the travellers of bygone years, because in 1888 it was a much slower journey. At this time there were only three ferries available for crossing the Bellinger River’s North and South arm (now called the Kalang River). One was at Fernmount, one… Read more »

The township of Urunga

The town was slow to grow. In 1868 the only residents were the Pilot, his four boatmen and their families. By 1888 they had been joined by the dredge crews and there were 12 residences at Bellinger Heads. By 1900 there was a public school (opened in 1889 with 80 students), a general store, a… Read more »

The History of the Drogher

In Eastern Australian usage, a “drogher” was a basic cargo vessel – a blunt-ended, flat bottomed river boat with plenty of deck space. It was usually powered by steam and propelled by paddle wheels. Most were fitted with a boiler room, a wheelhouse, a mid-deck crane for handling heavy cargo, and very little else; though… Read more »

The Man Who Wasn’t There… or was he?

Local Histories – World War 1 era – The Man Who Wasn’t There…or was he? “Frederick Manning Whatson” of the 1st AIF and the North Russian Relief Force. Our story begins in 1897. In that year, 18 year old Amy Florence Jay of Bellingen married 23 year old schoolteacher Frederick Whatson, who taught at the… Read more »

Wooden Artifacts

Apart from stone, the major material used by the Aboriginals for implements was wood. Pre-European wooden objects are comparatively rare, because over time wood burns or rots. Wooden implements in the Museum’s collection are of fairly recent origin, and some were actually made as gifts for local settlers who had been befriended by Gumbainggirr people.… Read more »

Urunga’s heritage

The port of Urunga was closed to trading vessels in 1935, the Pilot Station ceased operation in 1936 and an exciting and often dangerous chapter of Australian history came to an end. There are glimpses of this remarkable heritage to be seen today. The break walls, the footbridge (now extended out to the beach) and… Read more »

Port of Urunga

By 1880, Urunga had become a busy commercial port, crowded with sailing ships laden with Bellinger timber, and coastal steamers with their cargoes of local farm produce. Hundreds of passengers used the coastal steamers as their only means of getting to and from Sydney, braving the perils of the difficult bar crossing and the often… Read more »

Pilot Station

The shallow, shifting hazardous bar at the mouth of the Bellinger River was a continuing problem in the early days, as even the smallest coastal trading ships were bar-bound or unable to enter the estuary for weeks on end if conditions were unfavourable. In 1868, after considerable lobbying from farmers and timber merchants, the Pilot… Read more »

European exploration and settlement

The Bellinger Valley remained isolated from European settlers until quite late in the history of the colony. The penal station at Port Macquarie was established in 1821 and Kempsey was settled in the 1830s, but the Bellinger remained undisturbed because almost impenetrable bush discouraged overland exploration until 1840, when William Miles and a group of… Read more »

The traditional owners of Urunga and the Bellinger Valley

The original inhabitants of Urunga and the Bellinger Valley were members of the Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal tribe. For thousands of years before European settlement this tribe had occupied part of the New South Wales North Coast, in an area which spread from what is now South Grafton out to Wooli on the coast, to as far… Read more »

Stone Tools

“The secret is to bang the rocks together” – Douglas Adams. For most of human history, technology has involved the modification of naturally occurring substances – wood, bone, stone, etc. When used as tools, to bash, stab, slice and chop, they all have some advantages; but stone is probably the most useful, because it can… Read more »

Origins of the name Bellingen

Hyde Street Bellingen 1922c

Origins of the name Bellingen. “The next river (north of the Nambucca), the native name of which is Bellengen, was found in the year 1841…” (Australia from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay, Clement Hodgkinson, 1845.) In 1841 Government Surveyor Clement Hodgkinson visited the Bellinger Valley. When naming newly discovered places, Hodgkinson preferred to use existing… Read more »