Faces & Places: Shellharbour, NSW

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Janet & William Stanford, Kingston Street, Oak Flats, 1920s.. Shellharbour City Museum 000240

The connection between people and place is at the heart of our family photographs and evident both inside or outside our homes. There are many sources of images and information on the history of our homes, especially our local council libraries and museums where we can learn a surprising amount about the place we call home. In Shellharbour, we explore the Discover Shellharbour website for clues of the Stanford family who ran Oak Flats Post Office.

Oak Flats, Shellharbour

Shellharbour is located on the New South Wales South Coast and is bounded by Lake Illawarra, the Pacific Ocean and Kiama. In 1887, the south coast railway was extended from Wollongong to North Kiama and stopped at Oak Flats, and soon renamed Albion Park, and Shellharbour. The early 1821 land grants were sold & subdivided in the 192Os into estates with Lake Illawarra Township Estate including today’s Oak Flats. In 1929, prospective buyers walked 15-20 minutes on dirt roads from Albion Park Railway Station to Oak Flats. About 1923, the Post Office Store was built by the developers, Staples & Co., in Tongarra Rd [now Pioneer Dr] near the railway crossing. It was this image that first interested me in exploring Lake Illawarra & Shellharbour, especially the dirt road!

Post Office store, Tongarra Rd, Oak Flats c. 1923.  Shellharbour City Museum SHCC 002155 

Oak Flats Post Office Then

Post Office Store Oak Flats, 1938. Shellharbour City Museum 003613

This photograph’s description now places the post office store on the corner of Central Avenue & Kingston St where it was operated by Janet & William Stanford. If you compare this with the first picture, its similar as the windows both have 6 panes. The Post Office is still situated here with the front facing east.

Oak Flats Post Office & Newsagency, 1950s. Shellharbour City Museum 003572

Oak Flats Post Office Now

Oak Flats Post Office, 51 Central Ave, Oak Flats, 2022, RG 5599

Locating the Post Office is a great place to start and with a street number we can now check if its the same on google maps.

Stanford Family History

Libraries such as the National Library of Australia have information of finding the history of your house. Street directories, council rate books & land title records can all help with the history of your house and the families who lived there. In this instance, the street directories didn’t help much so a search of Census & Voters Lists on Ancestry.com for the Australian Electoral Rolls 1903-1980 was more helpful. In 1930 & 1935 Janet & William Stanford were at the Railway Gatehouse at Oak Flats. In 1936, they were living at Kingston St, Oak Flats with William there until 1958 & Janet till 1968, as well as other family members. Recording and updating details as you go on a family group sheet such as this interactive PDF from family search will help to keep track of who was where & when. A search of notices on the Ryerson Index shows an Obituary for William who died on the 2 August 1959, aged 75 (born about 1884), in the Kiama Independent and a Death Notice for Janet who died on 24 June 1974, aged 94. (born about 1880) in the Illawarra Mercury and the Sydney Morning Herald. Although these newspapers are not available for these dates on Trove, hopefully we can find them elsewhere.

Having a street name & number and a range of dates will now help to explore newspapers and Shellharbour City Council’s local records to learn more about the story of Shellharbour & the people, such as the Stanfords, who called it home, through their photographs, maps local history and memories.

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