Photos | How Como Pleasure Grounds came to be the treasure they are today

Como Pleasure Grounds were originally part of a large land holding of over 12,000 acres owned by Sutherland Shire pioneer Thomas Holt.

When the Illawarra railway line was established in 1885 a stopping place was created at Como.

The pleasure grounds were built on a tiny rocky peninsula near the railway crossing bridge in 1886 to allow easy access for visitors from the city.

Although the pleasure grounds were established by James Murphy, it was his brother John who initially managed the grounds and boatshed.

By 1900, the grounds had a promenade around the water's edge and a series of terraces leading to a rocky knoll which provided commanding views of both the Georges and Woronora Rivers.

A number of summer houses and a large shelter pavilion were used for dinners and dances.

A shop was built at the entrance which provided refreshments and which today also operates a restaurant.

In addition, there were swings, merry-go-rounds and see-saws to entertain visitors who also had room to play sports such as cricket and other picnic games.

The opening of Tom Uglys Bridge in 1929 created improved access to Sutherland Shire by car.

However it meant that tourists were directed away from the pleasure grounds to the seaside suburb of Cronulla.

In 1940, the pleasure grounds were purchased by Sutherland Shire Council.

A new railway bridge erected in 1972 brought further change. With the relocation of the Como railway platform further south, the once easy walk to the grounds was diminished.

In 1985 the old railway line was reopened as a pedestrian path.

Funds have also been made available in more recent years to upgrade the grounds.

An official ceremony was held in 2004 to acknowledge this achievement. It reconfirmed the community appeal of the pleasure grounds which have been described as having an indefinable magical quality.

  • Information courtesy Sutherland Shire Libraries.

Henry Lawson at Como

the cottage in which Henry Lawson lived at Como.

the cottage in which Henry Lawson lived at Como.

Henry Lawson lived for several years during and after WWI in a cottage in what is now Paruna Reserve on the Woronora River, close to the Como Pleasure Grounds.

The only access was by water, and Lawson would row his boat or hitch a ride to the Como Hotel, tying the boat to a post at the front door. That was before Scylla Bay was filled in to create the playing fields that are there today.

Historian Daphne Salt wrote in her 1987 book, Gateway to the South that Lawson "was regarded as a recluse, an aloof figure sitting in the corner of the pub".

"He didn't take much notice of what people were saying, not joining in the banter and hilarity. This was attributed to his deafness.

"He couldn't hear what was going on around him, but he did enjoy the friendly company and he would sometimes recite his poetry or sell them for drinks; and he had his regular spot in the old pub.

"His mates would come out from the city at the weekend and they encouraged Henry's drinking, often repairing to the Como Hotel.

"Lawson was one of the geniuses of Australian literature - it is indeed sad that he was dragged down by alcoholism."

The foundation stones of the cottage where Lawson lived still stand. They are in bush just off the Como Heritage and Environment Trail, but there is no signpost.

Como concert series

The original Bushwhackers Band performing Click Go the Shears at the Como concert in 1955. Picture: supplied

The original Bushwhackers Band performing Click Go the Shears at the Como concert in 1955. Picture: supplied

Seven concerts in honour of Henry Lawson were held at Como West, starting in 1954.

They were the idea of long-time Como resident, history teacher and environmentalist Bob Walshe OAM, who died in 2018 aged 94.

A crowd of 600 attended the first concert in a reserve off Wolger Street, which was later officially named Henry Lawson Reserve.

The original Bushwhackers Band played Lawson ballads and 25 Sutherland High School boys performed a play, Saltbush Bill's Second Fight.

Hearing of the 1954 concert, the grand old lady of Australian poetry, Dame Mary Gilmore, wrote that she recalled a visit she had paid to Henry in his "historic Bonnet hut" with Lawson's mother Louisa Lawson.

The 'good old days' recalled

For many years from 1988, former and current residents used to gather each year in the Como Pleasure Grounds and talk about "the good old days".

In 2004, after the completion of a major upgrade of the grounds, a group of about 35 came from as far away as Mudgee for what was known as the Como Pioneers Picnic.

Sylvia and Peter Hayman, who moved to Como in 1949, organised the event, the Leader reported.

"Back then, Como had dirt roads, infrequent train services and no shopping," said Mrs Hayman. "The one shop in Como was also the post office, bank and telegraph office - it was the social centre."

Edna Frost, nee Roelandts, 88, moved to Como as a child in 1911. Her father owned the first dairy farm in the area and she helped with the milking.

She recalled starting at Como Public School in 1924 and winning a prize for sewing.

Highlights of the social calendar for young people were dances at the community hall.