Why Ravensdale?

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

Ravensdale Intersection

All local people know of Ravensdale as the upper part of the Valley north-west of the junction of Brush Creek and Ravensdale Roads. It seems, however, there is no consensus on why it has that name. An early mention of “Ravensdale” was on 27 August 1875 in the Australian Town and Country Journal. It recorded that “James Waters, Ravensdale, Brisbane Water,” was sending arrowroot to Melbourne for showing at the forthcoming Melbourne Exhibition. Any claim to the name being introduced after that date is clearly wrong. 

Of relevance is John Woodbury who was born in the colony in 1822 and the son of Richard Woodbury. Richard was a convict who came from Bristol in England and lived with his family in the Hawkesbury area. Valerie Ross, a respected researcher, says in her 1981 book A Hawkesbury Story, that John Woodbury married Mary Wells in 1856 “and settled at Yarramalong, their property, Ravensdale, giving its name to the district”. However, reliable official records confirming that John and Mary did in fact actually settle permanently in Yarramalong and, if so where, have so far not emerged. 

Of relevance too, is this comment by E H Stinson in the fifth volume of his Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire (1984) – “the district of Ravensdale took its name from Ravensdale Farm, the property of the pioneer James Waters… James was born in Ireland and named it after an ancestral property in his homeland.” James Waters (1834–1903) was born in Aughaloo (Augaloo), County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, as were his father Ezekiel and James’ brother Robert

Of yet further relevance are the following extracts from the Home Page of the Ravensdale Historical Society in Ireland: 

“Ravensdale is located in the Republic of Ireland just south of the Border with Northern Ireland… The name Ravensdale was introduced by the Fortesque family who were the landlords from the early 1770s. They resided at the Ravensdale Park House, a palatial house overlooking the valley… Today the name Ravensdale has been extended to include all of that picturesque valley… The Village of Ravensdale more or less in the centre of the Valley has many fine Victorian residences…”

It is noted that Castletown Old Cemetery between Ravensdale in County Louth and County Tyrone has several persons named Waters buried within it as do other cemeteries in the area. 

On the face of it, the probability is that the name Ravensdale can be attributed to the Waters family although it cannot be inferred that the Waters’ ancestral property was Ravensdale Park House. 

None of this, however, denies the Woodburys’ association with the district as property owners or occupiers or both. Resolving that question is beyond the scope of these comments but opens a challenging area for research by local historians or the Waters or Woodbury families. The closeness of the families is shown by the fact that, in 1881 after his wife died, James Waters married Priscilla Woodbury. She was the eldest daughter of John and Mary Woodbury.

Ravensdale Map

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SOURCES: Max Farley; SOURCES: Trove Digital Newspaper Archive; NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages Historical Indexes; Ravensdale Historical SocietyA Hawkesbury Story, Valerie Ross; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 5, Edward Stinson; .


Central Coast Pioneers – near and far

Are you a quiet home-body or would you travel any distance for a chin-wag and a roast dinner?

Here are two very different newspaper reports on our early Pioneers’ Dinners in 1919 and 1920.


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The Sydney Stock and Station Journal, Tuesday 2 December 1919, page 4

A STICKER FOR HOME. Speaking at the Pioneers’ Dinner, Mr. J. Willmott said that though a resident of Ourimbah for 27 years and Wyong was only 7 miles away, he had only visited that township once. He was ‘A Sticker to Home’ alright.

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Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday 10 December 1920, page 4

Among those who attended the Pioneers’ Dinner at Wyong last week was Mr. ‘Bill’ Woodbury, better known as ‘Wattagan’ Woodbury. He walked from Wollombi to Yarramalong, over 30 miles, and caught the coach there on to Wyong. Leaving Wollombi at 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon, he did the 30 miles before midnight. In the early days Mr. Woodbury was a prominent cricketer, and claims to have played matches in almost every town between the Hawkesbury and Singleton. Though close to sixty, he is still an active enthusiast in the national game.

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Sources: Wyong Museum & Historical Society Archives; Trove Digital Newspaper Archive.

Convict Relics Unearthed – 1923

The Maitland Daily Mercury, Saturday 21 April 1923, page 4

Convict Chain Gang early 1800s

Convict Chain Gang – early 1800s


A report from Wyong states that ploughing new land on his holding at Yarramalong, near Wyong, John A. Hill unearthed a pair of leg irons and two links of what had evidently been the connecting chain. The irons were locked, and had been half eaten through with rust. The land had not previously been touched. Mr. Hill states that he has heard his father, one of the district pioneers, mention that convicts, once worked in gangs in the district but it is considered probable that an escaped convict, from the Hawkesbury, may have got rid of the irons and “planted” them, which would account for the two irons being separated from the links.

The rusted leg irons may have been similar to this set in the Powerhouse Museum Collection.

The rusted leg irons John A. Hill found while ploughing at Yarramalong may have been similar to this set in the Powerhouse Museum Collection.

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Sources: Wyong Museum & Historical Society Archives; Trove Digital Newspaper Archive; Powerhouse Museum Online Collection;