Bronte’s Waterfall ‘A Most Romantic Spot’
At the end of Bronte Gully a waterfall tumbles from a permanent spring, the first images of which go back to 1845. For at least 166 years, most probably much longer, Bronte’s waterfall has been running constantly, undoubtedly providing a regular fresh water supply for local Indigenous inhabitants prior to white settlement.
The waterfall fed a creek that originally ran across Bronte Park forming a series of pools, almost a lagoon, and the area we now know as the park was a large wet, marshy area. The creek ran from the gully and through the park parallel to the beach, with a bridge across the creek providing access to the beach from the park. The bridge was located close to where the miniature train now runs.
The creek flowed out to sea at the southern end of the beach near the present day bogey hole.
The first images of Bronte including the waterfall at the end of Bronte Gully are sketches made by Georgiana Lowe, wife of Robert Lowe, an English barrister and later NSW parliamentarian who bought the Bronte Estate, including Bronte House, as a country residence.
Her sketches are significant as they are the earliest images of Bronte Beach, Park and Gully, including Bronte’s waterfall. The Lowe family remain one of Bronte House’s most charismatic and remembered inhabitants, despite only being in residence for four years, from 1845 to 1849.
Georgiana Lowe was a skilful artist and enthusiastic gardener. She played a major role in the initial landscaping of the Bronte House gardens, incorporating native and exotic plants into scenic walks. In a letter to her family in England she enthused about her new home: “We have a little estate 4 of 42 acres, four miles from Sydney on the sea; it is lovely beyond conception. We have given only 420 pounds for it.”
To her mother, she writes: “The scenery resembles Jersey, but is far more beautiful – the vegetation is so lovely. We have a beautiful bay to ourselves [Bronte Beach]; we have a waterfall of sixty feet and this runs though a fine valley [Bronte Gully]; it is a most romantic spot and just suits my tastes.”
Bronte creek still runs through the ‘fine valley’ and is still fed by the waterfall. For many years it was diverted into a storm water drain, coming out at the northern end of the beach via a large concrete pipe, which can still be seen. However, Waverley Council, under a water-saving project, now harvests the water from the creek to irrigate Bronte Park, flush toilets and help regenerate the bush maintained by the Bronte Gully Bushcare Group.
Recently Waverley Council has addressed the degradation of the waterfall, which had become choked with illegally dumped material. Georgiana Lowe’s sketches were a valuable tool in this project as it showed the waterfall in its original state. A working bee in early 2011 cleared 20 bags of garbage from the site and a re-design of the waterfall’s pool has seen it return to its former romantic beauty.