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An Unofficial History of Coal Mining in the Illawarra

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Bulli Miner's Cottage

200 Princes Highway, Bulli NSW

The Bulli Miner's Cottage was purchased by the Wollongong City Council in 1990 with financial assistance from the Heritage Council of NSW through a grant of $60,000 from the Heritage Conservation Fund. The cottage is protected by a Permanent Conservation Order under the Heritage Act of NSW.

Old Bulli Colliery 1914

The cottage is managed on behalf of Council by a Management Committee which has representatives of the Council, the community, the mining industry and unions.

In a Conservation Plan developed for the cottage the consultants state; "It is a very rare substantially intact survivor of a building style common to Bulli in the mid to late nineteenth century."

Bulli Colliery in 1914

It was constructed between 1871-1874 by Henry Strange Fry, a prominent local identity, for rental to miners and has been continuously occupied by miners and/or their family descendents since its purchase by Wollongong City Council in 1988.

The property as a whole, emphasises the simplistic lifestyle of miners and has survived through changing technology, social pressures and values."

Cottage Construction

The exact date that the cottage was built is unknown. It has been reported that it may have been built as early  as 1850-1856 while other reports suggest 1870-1874.

The pit sawn timber plank wall structure of the cottage is unusual and a rare example of its type.

The cottage is of rough hewn hardwood timber slab construction with a corrugated iron roof. Examination of the roof area has shown that it was originally a shingle roof, the shingles probably made of ironbark.

Roughly placed sandstone blocks act as piers for the cottage with corner posts embedded into the ground to support each corner of the two main rooms.

The verandah roof is supported by four timber posts with chamfered corners along their length which revert back to square corners at the ends. The posts have been mitred into the verandah beams and then nailed onto the floor beams. Round wire nails have been used to fix the floor boards. It is evident that the house timbers were all hand sawn and much of the timber has been cut with an adze.

The front wall of the cottage is of lapped weatherboards with chamfered, not beaded, edges. The side and back exterior walls comprise rough hewn timber slabs with battens covering the joints.

The chimney at the front of the cottage appears to have been reconstructed using early extruded bricks. Internally the cottage shows little sign renovation except in the kitchen and laundry areas. The external walls of these areas have been replaced at some time with corrugated iron and the kitchen chimney has been reconstructed using modern extruded bricks.

A restoration project in 1991 replaced slabs to the northern wall and established a new garden, driveway and fence.

The ceiling and internal walls in both front rooms show the original beaded joint timbers. Another unusual feature of the cottage is that the internal plank walls were constructed after the floor was laid with the wall positioning strips nailed on top of the floor.

The internal lining of the kitchen is not original and both the plumbing and electricity were added amenities.

Worn sandstone steps lead from the laundry to the kitchen. This was the original back door and rear wall alignment of the cottage. It is likely that the original kitchen would have been outside the house.


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History of Bulli and the Miner's Cottage

It was between 1816 and 1821 when the first land grants were surveyed and European settlers began to take advantage of the natural pastures and the cedar. Early industries were dairying and beef cattle farming with timber gathering on the escarpment. The opening of the Bulli mine in 1863 resulted in the rapid development of the town and by 1881 there were 1,628 employed by the mine. The Bulli mine closed in 1987 after over 124 years in operation. Unionism in the Illawarra began with the Bulli miners in 1879 and the mine was also the site of a disaster on 23 March, 1887, when an explosion killed 81 men and boys leaving 50 widows and 150 children orphaned.

The site of the Bulli Miner's Cottage was part of a 300 acre land grant made to Cornelius O'Brien who began settlement there in 1815 with the grant of land ratified in 1833. The 300 acre property was transferred through successive ownership before being subdivided and the cottage site was purchased by Henry Strange Fry in 1871. In 1874 the property was sold to Frederick Barloggio. Mr Barloggio was the first miner to own the property. The life of a miner was a dirty job, working and living conditions were severe. On arriving home, the miner "had to take a bath in front of the kitchen fire, in the tiny miners houses of those days there was neither bathroom nor place for the family to retire whilst the miner washed. His health suffered in draughts."

The property remained in the ownership of Mr Barloggio until 1909. The property was rented until 1952 when it was sold to the widow Ruby Warwick. The cottage remained in the ownership of the Warwick family until its final sale to Wollongong City Council on 16 March 1990. The cottage is now subject to Permanent Conservation Order under the Heritage Act of NSW and the care of the property is entrusted by Council to the Bulli Miner's Cottage Management Committee.

Compared to today's standards the living conditions offered by the cottage are primitive but typify the conditions under which the miners lived. The cottage now stands as a reminder of the men, their wives and families of that early era and their struggle to extract the black diamonds from the earth.


Early Artefacts

Many mining artefacts and furnishings from that era are on display at the cottage and at the back of the building a memorial wall has been erected as a tribute to the some 600 local miners who have lost their lives since the old Bulli Mine Disaster in 1887. Also sited in the grounds are large pieces of original mining equipment.

Being largely in its original state, the cottage has exceptional significance for historians, school children and the general public.



Please contact Wollongong City Council for further details regarding inspections or opening times.


For more information on Bulli Colliery, see also...

Disasters - Bulli Colliery Gas Explosion - 1887
Disasters - Bulli Colliery Underground Fire - 1965
Old Bulli Colliery - History
Photographic Gallery A-L
Minebase 1 (A - C)
Minebase 3 (O - Z)
Timeline 1 (1791-1862)
Timeline 2 (1862-1877)
Timeline 3 (1878-1887)
Timeline 4 (1888-1901)
Timeline 5 (1901-1923)
Timeline 6 (1924-1947)
Timeline 7 (1947-1961)
Timeline 8 (1961-1977)
Timeline 9 (1978-2000)


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