Darkes Forest - What’s behind the Name?
Darkes Forest is named after William Wedge Darke. (1810-1890)
William Wedge Darke was a young, British born surveyor who was assigned to Melbourne when the city was formally recognised by the government. He arrived in 1836 to assist famed chief surveyor Robert Hoddle with laying out the city and the initial suburbs.
But the two men did not get along. Apparently Darke had a short temper and an ill-disguised contempt for stuffy formality, which eventually led to their falling out with each other.
He married 15 February 1838 in St. James, Sydney, N.S.W. to Isabella Campbell McArthur.
William Darke loved nature and studied Australian bush animals quite closely apart from his profession of survey. He didn’t mind the isolation of the bush. William and Isabella lived in many isolated areas due to the nature of Williams work from a caravan towed by two bullocks. They went on to have 14 children.
William and Isabella returned to the city of Sydney in November 1842. William then began survey work in Sydney south and the Wollongong area.
There was a bullock track through Blue Gum Forest which passed through Darkes Forest surveyed by Darke. It was the main track to Sydney and Bullock wagons would be taken across this route, but the bush was thick virgin bush at the time of Darkes work.
Sir Thomas Mitchell, surveyor general and his son Roderick Mitchell, began surveying to put in a new road from Lugarno (the then southern limit of Sydney) to Bulli. Darke replaced Roderick Mitchell as the Surveyor in charge of constructing the Illawarra Road. In 1843 work commenced using convict labour. It was completed in the 1850s and called the Illawarra Road.
Darkes Forest was named after Darke, who had surveyed the area and the road. It was such a heavily forested area with massive trees. It was thought therefore to have sections of good soil suitable for farming. Later several families settled in the Forest and began farming.
The rest of course is history!
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