Wyong’s World War One treasure survives the inferno

A precious piece of local history has been safely in storage since being rescued from the smouldering ruins of the Wyong District Museum at Alison Homestead in December 2011.

Tea Cloth 1915_0397

For Belgium 1915 from Wyong – embroidered signature teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

On the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW1, and on the eve of work commencing on the Museum rebuild, this delicate piece of fabric sealed behind glass has been cleaned of layers of soot and grime and was displayed at the Wyong District Pioneers Dinner on Saturday 18 October, 2014.

The gold frame is slightly charred and blistered on the bottom edge – evidence of just how close we came to losing this unique item to the fire which claimed so many of our heritage items.

It is believed the square teacloth was made by several local women to raise funds for the Belgian Relief effort. The names on the cloth appear to be signatures as they are not all written in the same hand, and then embroidered over in red thread.

Tea Cloth 1915_0416

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.


It is likely that people from the Wyong district paid to have their name embroidered on the cloth. The tablecloth was then auctioned by means of an art union prize on Belgian Day, 14 May 1915, to raise further money.

There are over 180 names on the cloth, most are well-known Wyong pioneers and settlers such as: Bailey, Barker, Beaven, Boyd, Chapman, Duggan, Earl, Gascoigne, Gavenlock, Hunt, Sharp, Smith, Tonkin, and Waters to name a few.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

This irreplaceable treasure will, once again, take pride of place in our Museum when the rebuild is completed, we hope by October 2015.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

Detail of embroidered signatures on the teacloth – Wyong Museum & Historical Society.

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SOURCES: Wyong Museum & Historical Society; NLA Trove; Australian War Memorial.


Centenary Celebrations – Save the Dates

Save the Dates_DL.indd

To mark the 100 years of its existence the Wyong District Pioneers Association is organising three events over the long weekend in October 2015.


A friendly meet and greet in the Grand Hotel, Wyong at 6:00 pm. This was the first meeting venue of the “Pioneers” and where the original dinner was held.


An historical event not to be missed. Our Centenary Pioneer Dinner will be held in the Christian School Auditorium, Porters Creek, near Alison Homestead, starting at 11:00 am.


A Family Fun Day will be staged at Alison Homestead Museum from 10:00 am. There will be displays, stalls, memorabilia, period dress and activities relating to local and Australian history.

[Further information and invitations to follow]

Wyong District Pioneers Logo_Colour

Wyong District Pioneers Association
Alison Homestead, 1 Cape Road, Wyong 2259
PO Box 241, Wyong NSW 2259

Email: wyong.pioneers@gmail.com

Family life in photographs

Family photos

As part of your Pioneer Centenary Celebrations in 2015 we will be preparing displays of photographs and local family memorabilia spanning the past century.

We are asking all our members to help out. Do you have photos of local historical interest to share?

Wedding photos and snapshots of family celebrations from every decade would be greatly appreciated.

Contact Wyong District Pioneers to organise to have your photos and memorabilia scanned or copied.

Wyong District Pioneers Logo_Colour

Wyong District Pioneers Association
Alison Homestead, 1 Cape Road, Wyong 2259
PO Box 241, Wyong NSW 2259

Email: wyong.pioneers@gmail.com

Do you have a local history story to tell?

Story to Tell.indd

To acknowledge the pioneers and settlers of the Central Coast during our Pioneers Centenary year, our members are gathering snippets and stories of our men, women and children from the Wyong District.

We are looking for stories about local families – pioneers, settlers, local soldiers and those who returned from WW1 and settled locally.

We want to hear your memories of growing up on the Central Coast, as well as copies of letters, postcards, photos and any other related stories.

Wyong District Pioneers Logo_Colour

Wyong District Pioneers Association
Alison Homestead, 1 Cape Road, Wyong 2259
PO Box 241, Wyong NSW 2259

Email: wyong.pioneers@gmail.com

Cow of a Trick – 1954

A humorous tale published in The Land, 23 July 1954. Can anyone recall hearing about this game? Do you know anyone who played in the football match?


Cow of a Trick

A couple of weeks ago “The Land” reprinted Spencer’s poem, “How McDougall Topped the Score,” thanks to a trained dog seizing and scurrying around with a ball hit by a batsman at a critical period of the play.

From Gosford comes a somewhat similar story, but with a different angle. It happened during the Gosford High School–Wyong football match.

Gosford was leading when a cow strayed on the field and took a dim view of either the Gosford boys or their jerseys. Anyhow, Gosford boys were not on familiar terms with the animal and stopped at her challenge.

But a Wyong player, running beside the beast, raced 50 yards without interference from boy or cow and scored the winning try.

Gosford boys reckoned it was a cow of a trick to play.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

SOURCES: Trove Digital Newspaper ArchiveAustralian Poetry Library website.

The Richter Caves

These history notes are contributed to Valley Ventures by one of our members, Max Farley.

There are Caves in the Yarramalong Valley which years ago captured wide attention. Though the early timber getters would no doubt have known of their existence, the Caves did not excite interest until 1890 when “found” by a local sawmill proprietor, John Richter. An engraving made at the time on a rock face read “These Caves were found by J E Richter in 1890”. Sightseers were attracted when the Gosford Times of 11 April 1902 wrote that “this curiosity of nature cannot be found by a stranger owing to the dense forest surrounding”. Richter acted as guide for visitors. Today the Caves are rarely visited largely because of their inaccessibility. They are said to be on the left hand (northern) side of Forest Road about 6.5 km from the corner of Bumble Hill Rd. Then an estimated 300 metres down.

An engraving on a rock face at the Richter's Caves Flora Reserve.

An engraving on a rock face at the Richter’s Caves Flora Reserve. Image: GosfordWyongHistoricSites

The Times said the Caves “are a remarkable instance of the process of weathering… in many instances the projections run to a length of six feet or more and present some designs of different forms which become quite bewildering to the beholder. These strange forms approximately represent deers’ horns, wings of birds, elephants’ ears, dish bowls etc… In some places forms like sponges or honeycomb are hanging from the ceiling; also cows’ udders with teats of various lengths and shelvings… on which eagles’ nests are perched.”

Few of today’s residents would have heard of the Caves and just as few would know of John Richter. However, if one were to accept without question everything said of him he was one of the most interesting persons ever to have lived in the Valley.

John Ernest Richter was born in Germany in 1840 and came to Australia in 1844 with his parents. The parents were headed for Queensland naively determined to bring religion to the Aborigines. Their efforts were unsuccessful and the family very soon came south, first to Victoria then to New South Wales. In 1862/1863, they moved to New Zealand following the discovery of gold there. John married in 1878 and returned to NSW in 1881 with his wife Jenny. By all accounts he had a sawmill in Wyong Creek by 1883.

A portion of the 1922 Ourimbah Parish map showing Samuel Richter's 40 acre portion and the approximate location of Richter's Caves.

A portion of the 1922 Ourimbah Parish map showing the Richter family’s 40 acre portion and the approximate location of Richter’s Caves. Image: GosfordWyongHistoricSites

Richter is said to have played many roles. However, much of this is found in a letter he wrote to his daughter at Rockhampton. The letter is reproduced in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin of 3 July 1909. In essence, it said he:

  • participated in bloodthirsty conflicts with Aborigines in Queensland and suffered three spear wounds one of which went through his abdomen.
  • was “called upon… to battle with and hunt the blacks out of” the district of Gin Gin in Queensland.
  • explored extensively in Queensland and New Zealand.
  • had a New Zealand lake, Lake Richter, and caves carry his name.
  • built “the first building of any pretensions” put up in Rockhampton. Previously there had been only two bark huts and a “smithy”.
  • prospected with some success for gold at Canoona and Port Curtis in Queensland.
  • was a carpenter, builder, poet, writer and artist.
  • wrote “it was I who invented the first (breeching rifle) in London in 1867”.
  • was an inventor who held Patent No. 9531 for improvements for felloe saws. This is true.

Space does not allow a full explanation but there is a likelihood that John had an elder brother, Ernst, who explored and prospected in Queensland in the several years before 1862. This leaves open the possibility that Ernst Richter and John Ernest Richter were one and the same person because John claimed these exploits and achievements. The exploits and achievements themselves call for confirmation.

John’s family life was complex. His wife appeared to play no continuing role. There were no children from this marriage. This is not to say he, personally, had no children. It seems he had a daughter, Florence Richter, who was an actress of renown and performed throughout Australia. Details of her private life, including her birth, are obscure. It has also been written that Richter had a son who was born in 1889 and died in 1965. The records about this son are inconsistent.

Richter’s life in Wyong Creek from 1883 until his 1913 death in Sydney also lacks certainty. It seems likely he spent most of his remaining forty years living alone in Wyong. This would have been a major change in lifestyle for a man who had told how he had spent the earlier part of his life adventuring.

Evidence that Richter was a storyteller comes in his own words. In the 1909 letter he wrote to his daughter in Rockhampton he said that about two months previously he had stood under a veranda at Wilkinson’s Department Store in Wyong one very wet day telling a party of twelve men, mostly strangers, of his escapades. He clearly enjoyed impressing an audience.

Apart from the existence of the Richter Caves many of the details of his story have yet to be either confirmed with contemporary evidence or discounted. Every word may indeed be true. Or not.

John Richter offered some extra comments on two of his contemporaries in his 1909 letter to his daughter which appeared in a Rockhampton publication on 3 July 1909. Richter wrote that in 1862:

Mr Limmitson (Linnertson) of Wyong Creek was working for a sawmill at Wisemans Lagoons, about a mile west of Rockhampton. Henry Levett (of Wyong Creek) was also on the Dawson River Country about that time.

Hamilton Hill snr of Yarramalong was there… The blacks took a set on Hamilton, for, as you know he was not a prepossessing man, even to the people of his own (“Ham” Hill could not have been offended because he had died in 1905).

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SOURCES: Max Farley; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson. Image Source: GosfordWyongHistoricSites

Unearth Wyong Newsletter – Sept 2014

Published by Wyong District Museum & Historical Society
1 Cape Road, Wyong • PO Box 241, Wyong, 2259
Email: Info@alisonhomestead.com.au • Tel: 02 43521886

President: Greg Denning
Vice President: Liz Hogston
Secretary: Anita McCarthy
Committee Members: Alma Thompson, Pauline House, Chris Hodges

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We extend a warm welcome to all our new members and volunteers both at the Museum and the Men’s Shed.

As you can see above, new Executive Committee and Committee members have been elected. The President’s Report, Treasurer’s Report and Treasurer’s Report for the Men’s Shed were all presented at the AGM on 11th August. A copy of each report is available on request.


Unearth Wyong_Museum Sketch

Tenders were invited for the construction of the homestead by Council in early July with advertisements placed in the local papers and Sydney Morning Herald. Some 15 companies had full site inspections with a few returning for a second inspection. The tenders closed on 14th August and will be reviewed and evaluated by Council and a report prepared for the Ordinary Council meeting on 24th September to award the contract. This seems to suggest that work will not commence until at least the new year. Six trees have been moved in preparation for the road widening outside Bakers Barn under the supervision of one of our knowledgeable gardening volunteers.


Sue Geary has applied for further grants for us. Hopefully we will receive some of these soon.


The Rotary Club of The Entrance is once again sponsoring The Annual Community Raffle. We will receive from the Rotary Club the full value of all tickets we sell. This is one of our big fundraisers for the year and tickets will soon become available. Please let us know if you would like to buy some tickets or if you would be able to sell some tickets on our behalf. The Rotary Club is supplying all prizes which are as follows:

  • First Prize: An Open Order for $3,000 donated by Mingara to be redeemed for travel at “Flight Centre Bateau Bay”
  • Second Prize: Bed & Breakfast for two at Pullman Magenta Shores Resort
  • Third Prize: $150 Voucher from Gem Design Jewellers, The Entrance
  • Fourth Prize: $50 Voucher from Coles Supermarket, The Entrance

We still have a variety of plants available for sale as part of our ongoing fundraising efforts. If you are interested, do not hesitate to either visit us here at the Museum, or ring us for information.


We had a visit from Dave Dobeson and his sister, who came up from Sydney. They were fascinated by the incubator we have, as his family designed and patented chicken incubators which brought his family some fame back at the turn of last century. Dave was very appreciative of our efforts in keeping our local history alive.

Wyong Museum_Blacksmith

We now have our own Blacksmith, Klaus, who is ready to set up in the blacksmith shop. When we have tours, Klaus will show his trade and make small items for sale, with profits going to Alison Homestead. Klaus has also offered to make us a new steel gate with “Alison Homestead” on it.

The Central Coast Heritage Car Club would like to build a small club house in the shape of an old garage in an area of the grounds that we do not use. They have old tools and equipment to put on display and will have their meetings there. This meeting room could be used by Alison Homestead and the Pioneers Association for free.


We would like to give a big thank you to the Rigg Family, who have kindly donated quite a number of plants, including ornamental figs, Grevillea Robusta and Jacaranda, to the Museum. Many thanks also to Lesley O’Keefe who donated baby clothes including knitted bootees, jacket, leggings, pants and bonnet.

Men’s Shed


The Men’s Shed has recently received a grant from Wyong Shire Council. Don’t forget, if you have, or know someone who has, an old bicycle they would like to donate, it can be left at the gate at the Homestead for Kerry to restore and donate to various charities. Another one of the Men’s Shed team, Richard, has restored several items including an original railway station seat and luggage trolley from Wyong Station, which are outside the Slab Hut. We also have a large collection of steam train memorabilia, videos and paintings ready to be displayed.

Historical Note

1997_Museum Committee_Rogues GalleryHere we have a copy of the “Rogue’s Gallery”, which is the first committee of Wyong District Museum & Historical Society back in 1979 when Wyong Historical Society amalgamated with the Wyong District Museum Group. There is reference in our records that the Wyong Historical Society goes back as far as the mid 60s. The members of this first committee were:

Executive Committee:

  • President: Alf Wright – Far left
  • Vice President: Allan Sutton – Left back row
  • Secretary: Gwen Clarke – Middle front row
  • Treasurer: Elizabeth Sutton – Front row far left

Committee Members:

  • Phillip Morley: Middle back row
  • Ray Rauscher: Back row far right
  • Vera Butler: Front row far right


  1. If anyone is interested in writing a short reflection of their experiences growing up in Wyong Shire, including perhaps a bit of family and/or local history, I am sure this will interest many members. We can keep the information strictly for our records, or if permitted by you, we could publish some in our Newsletter (with or without your identity). It does not have to be long, just a few paragraphs will do. We have had no takers as yet, so come on and get those thinking caps on.
  2. Don’t forget membership fees are were due on 1st July 2014

Catch up with you next edition, cheers for now.

Chris Hodges (Writer & Editor)