1837: Sydney’s North Shore on Fire

Painting of a bush fire
Image courtesy of National Library of Australia

On November 29, 1837 hot and windy conditions sparked extensive bushfires that raged across Sydney’s north shore, an area that is now a dense urban landscape.

Fires were reported all the way from Mosman to Parramatta spanning approximately 20km along the northern shore. “Whatever direction the eye turned fires were to be observed” reported the Sydney Gazzette.

Extreme heat and strong winds were reported in the lead up to the fire. According to the Sydney Gazzette, “old hands say it was one of the hottest days they ever knew”.

Residents of the north shore said the fire spread rapidly, likening the speed of the fire front to the charge of cavalry. Residents were reported to have fought the fires as they reached buildings using any means available, but in some cases, the heat from the burning buildings was too intense to approach.

The article reporting the fire was recently uncovered by Gary Cook, a volunteer working on the OzDocs project. The project was setup by the SEARCH team at the University of Melbourne in conjunction with the National Library of Australia, the State Library of NSW and the State Libarary of Victoria.

OzDocs is currently looking for more volunteers to help search historical records and uncover more information about Australia’s climate history.