The Camp

Robert Denniston was not forgotten for his efforts to sell the idea of bringing coal down from the clouds. The burgeoning township was named in his honour. It all began in 1871 when the first survey camp was established and a few workers pitched, or rather perched, a tent on a narrow cliff top flat which would forever after be known as the Camp.

This was a full 2 years before the first coal was brought down to Westport by pack horse. Until 1880 there was no township as such. When development of the colliery was almost complete the Westport Coal Company diverted labour from its works to start an extensive building programme.

As late as early 1882 the living conditions were still described as appalling. There were 8 houses and a number of huts, unlined and draughty. There was no running water, no sanitation, no roads or social life. In the same year rapid changes took place with the building of a school, library, hotel, post master's office and the establishment of medical services through bi-weekly visits of a Westport medical practitioner.

By 1886, 485 people lived at the hill top settlement. Cottages straggled along the Tramline at the Camp, around the ridge and to the more recently developed centre of the settlement. It was also in the school rooms at the Camp that the first religious services were conducted by the Salvation Army.

Burnetts Face

Settlement at Burnett's Face started in 1886, the last resident leaving in 1956.
The name alludes to the face of coal, outcropping on the sides of the gully.
James Burnett first surveyed this coal seam in 1863 which is why it bears his name.

In 1901 the official population was 212 and the settlement took great pride in its self sufficiency. There were 2 hotels, a bakery, 3 general stores, a butchery, a fancy goods shop and a public school.
Post Office services as well as telephone and banking services were available in one of the general stores.

While Denniston had churches for all denominations, Burnett's Face had only a multi-denominational mission house.


In 1924 the Westport Coal Co. embarked on a house building program. Between 24 and 30 houses were built. The name was in honour of the senior mine manager at the time: Mr. Sandy Marshall.

Because most of the houses were being occupied by British emigrant miners the settlement soon became known as Pommy Town.


Coalbrookdale was named by Julius Haast after a mining village in Shropshire, England.

It is said that it was there that the industrial revolution started for mining in England. It was also there that the first Ironbridge was made, again a name duplicated on the Plateau.

With the mining company providing free transport for building materials from Conn's Creek and the miners wanting to live as near to their place of work as possible, houses sprang up wherever space allowed.

Part of the Coalbrookdale settlement was known as Poverty Point. This was where the single men lived in manuka and canvas shelters because of the scarcity of building materials. Most of all however because the mine entrance was just across the road, saving a long walk to work in sometimes atrocious weather conditions.