Bursill Family

Thomas Bursill met his future wife, Henrietta Woodley, on his voyage to Australia. He married her in 1858 and the couple moved to the Illawarra, eventually settling at Croom.

Thomas and Henrietta had five children. Their second son Charles Henry Bursill, worked as a builder and was also the Harbour Master at Shellharbour. Charles built many houses in the Shellharbour and the Illawarra, including the Catholic Rectory that once stood in Addison Street, the old peppercorn jetty at Shellharbour, and the original grandstand at Kembla Grange Race Course. He also worked as an undertaker, coffin maker, and Sunday School teacher.

Charles married Helena Grace Wood and they had six children. He built a lovely two-story, white guesthouse called Seaside, and the family lived next door in a weatherboard cottage built by Captain William Wilson. Captain Wilson was the previous Harbour Master at Shellharbour Village, and commanded the schooner Dairymaid, built for the Shellharbour Steam Navigation Company in 1867.

Charles and Helena’s youngest daughter Ida, who lived well into her 90s, recalled growing up in the village in the early 1900s. She recalled her father Charles rode up to Dunster’s Hill and placed a flag in the ground to signal to farmers when a ship had entered the harbour. ‘If the steamer arrived at night Dad would have to put kerosene lamps on the breakwater to guide the steamer in. They could only come at high tide as the harbour was very shallow’.

Thomas and Henrietta’s daughter, also named Henrietta, married Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield, another well-known builder in the area. Thomas worked on occasion with his brother-in-law Charles Bursill. Thomas and Henrietta suffered much tragedy in their life, losing three children. Their eldest son, Aubrey died in 1906, the result of blood poisoning from lock jaw, the result of a kick from a pony. Just one week earlier, they had lost their infant son, Thomas. Nine years later in 1915, their son Colin was fatally shot while on a visit to Albion Park; he was 14 years old.

Perhaps the most famous member of the Whitfield family was Beverley: An Australian Olympic swimmer and record holder. Beverley Whitfield was the great granddaughter of Thomas and Henrietta through their son Kenneth, who served in both World Wars.

Opening hours

Monday  9.30am–8pm
Tuesday 9:30am–8pm
Wednesday 9:30am–8pm
Thursday 9:30am–8pm

Friday 9.30am–5pm
Saturday 9am–3pm
Sunday 12pm–3pm

Shellharbour City Council acknowledges the traditional custodians of Dharawal Country and recognises their continued connection to the land. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging and the contribution they make to the life of this city.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images or names of people who have since passed.