Heritage and History


Manly Dam


The traditional Aboriginal owners of the land we now know as Warringah had mostly disappeared from this area within years of European settlement, mainly due to an outbreak of smallpox in 1789. For many years we thought all that remained was the rich heritage of rock engravings, middens and other Aboriginal sites on the northern beaches. We now know that there are descendants of the traditional Aboriginal owners still living on the northern beaches.

Despite its relative proximity to Sydney, the Warringah area remained predominantly rural throughout the nineteenth century. The region’s isolation and difficult terrain were natural barriers to development.

Warringah’s nineteenth century rural based economy provided other products for the Sydney market including timber, fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Some industries began to emerge in the 1880s. Brick making was carried out in Brookvale and Frenchs Forest while shipbuilding developed further north in Pittwater.

On 7 March 1906, 134 Shires were proclaimed across New South Wales.  Warringah was number 131 of those 134.

The name ‘Warringah’ was taken from the Aboriginal word for Middle Harbour. ‘Warringah’ had been in use for several years in the late 1800s and early 1900s as the name of the NSW electorate covering the areas of Mosman, Neutral Bay, North Sydney, Manly and the Northern Beaches. The use of the name ‘Warringah’ was picked up again in 1906 when it was given to Shire 131. ‘Warringah’ also has other meanings in various Aboriginal languages including ‘grey head’ and ‘signs of rain’.

The original Shire headquarters was a suburban bungalow in Brookvale which also served as the Shire Clerk’s residence. The next Council Chambers were opened in 1912 and with later extensions served as Council’s headquarters for more than 50 years. The present Civic Centre at Dee Why was officially opened in 1973. In 1992 the northern part of Warringah seceded to form Pittwater Council. The 1993 Local Government Act saw the “Shire” being dropped from Warringah Council, Shire Presidents became Mayors and Shire Clerks became General Managers.


Heritage items are those things identified as having heritage significance for a community. They are things which have survived from an earlier time and which illustrate how an area has grown and developed.

The identification and protection of heritage items helps to illustrate our history. Council has a responsibility to identify local heritage items and seeks to preserve the heritage of Warringah by encouraging sensitive management of these public and private heritage items. 

Search the Heritage Inventory.