John Ogden is the author and publisher of the award winning history book ‘Saltwater People of the Fatal Shore’. The piece below is an extract from that book that relates to the Little Bay area. To find out more about the author and the book, please complete the feedback form at the foot of this page, or visit the Cyclops Press website.
Long before the arrival of Europeans, ‘Boora’ (Long Bay) had been an important site for the Saltwater People. The area had large freshwater swamps teeming with wildlife and a stream that flowed to the beach. It is thought that Long Bay was probably the site of a meeting place and bora ground, where initiation ceremonies would be performed. James Cook may have visited the area as he did make an overland expedition from Botany Bay, but the English name Long Bay was given by Governor Phillip, who wrote of finding ‘the finest stream of fresh water I have seen in this country’.
Near the intersection of Howe Street and Prince Edward Street, there is a sandstone overhang that was used by Aboriginal people as a place of quarantine following an outbreak of smallpox in 1789. A large number of people were banished to this place of suffering and it became known as the ‘Black’s Hospital’ and ‘Hospital Cave’. Ironically, it was a smallpox epidemic amongst the white citizens of Sydney in 1881-82 that led to the establishment of the publicly funded Coast Hospital a couple of kilometres away at Little Bay to cope with infectious diseases.
Little Bay took its name from the obvious comparison to nearby Long Bay, but in 1797 it had been referred to as Little Harbour in the journal of George Bass when he anchored there in his open whaleboat at the commencement of his voyage of discovery to Victoria. The Coast Hospital (sometimes referred to as Little Bay Hospital) was an advance in health care as it was publicly funded in order to care for the city’s poor ‘working classes’ who were the main victims of the smallpx epedemic. Its role soon diversified and it was renamed The Prince Henry Hospital in 1934 for the visit of the Duke of Gloucester. In 1959 it became a teaching hospital for the University of New South Wales. In 2001 services were transferred to the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, with the major part of the 84 hectare hospital site becoming public land and the rest made available for residential use.