The area which is now Lane Cove was originally inhabited by the Cam-mer-ray-gal Group of the Ku-ring-gai Aboriginal Tribe. The group, which inhabited the north shore of Port Jackson, was one of the largest in the Sydney area.
The first recorded landing of a white man occurred in 1788, when Lieutenant Henry Ball crossed the Greenwich Peninsula on return from a trip to Middle Harbour. Lieutenant Ralph Clark landed not far from the entrance to the Lane Cove River on 14 February 1790.
The first written use of the name Lane Cove occurred on 2 February 1788, shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet in Port Jackson. Lieutenant William Bradley, while surveying, referred to the river into which he sailed by this name. Several possibilities for the origin of the name have been suggested, but none have been supported by written evidence. One suggestion was that it was named after Lieutenant Michael Lane, a respected cartographer, who worked with Captain James Cook in Canadian waters. The other possibility is that the name was bestowed in honour of John Lane, son of the Lord Mayor of London, and a good friend of Governor Arthur Phillip.
During much of the nineteenth century the name Lane Cove referred to a much larger area than the Municipality of Lane Cove. The current suburb of Lane Cove was more commonly known as Longueville.
The first land grants in the present area of Lane Cove were made in 1794, the majority going to privates and non-commissioned officers in the New South Wales Corp. Many of these grants were never settled by the owners, being exchanged for land elsewhere, sold or cancelled. For those who attempted to settle, life was not easy. Much of the area was steep, heavily timbered, with poor, rocky soil and few roads. The settlers were plagued with bushrangers and bushfires.
From the earliest days of settlement, Lane Cove was an important source of timber for house and ship building, of grass for animal fodder, and of shells which were burnt to produce lime for building. Throughout the 19th century, farms and dairies were established.
One of the earliest manufacturing industries was Rupert Kirk's soap and candle factory, established in 1831, in what is now Longueville. Later factories established included the Ludowici and Radke tanneries in Burns Bay in the 1860s and the Phoenix and Sydney Potteries late in the century (operated adjacent to the site now known as Pottery Green). These were followed by the boiling down works of the Charlish and Whatmore families in West Lane Cove, and the Australian Woodpipe Company in Burns Bay in 1912.
The Chicago Cornflour Factory was opened on the Lane Cove River near Stringybark Creek in 1894, to be followed by the Cumberland Paper Mill in 1912. After the almost complete demolition of the latter plant in a fire in 1928, the site was used for a chemicals manufacturing plant, owned firstly by Robert Corbett and Sons, and later by CSR Chemicals. The largest industrial complex was the Shell Company of Australia's distribution and storage depot at Greenwich. It was started in 1903 as John Fell and Company Ltd, oil refiners, blenders and distributors and the Gore Bay Terminal is currently operated by Viva Energy Australia.
In 1909 the North Sydney electric tramway service was extended from Gore Hill to a Lane Cove terminus, near Longueville and Burns Bay Roads. From this time the name Lane Cove came in to common use for the local area.Many residential subdivisions followed during the early part of the twentieth century, bringing a change to the district from its dairying and rural orgins.
Local government in its present form did not extend north of the harbour until 1865, when an area of the North Shore, including the present municipality of Lane Cove, was proclaimed the Borough of North Willoughby. There were no wards until 1876, when Lane Cove formed part of the Lane Cove River Ward. After a petition from ratepayers of the area, the Governor proclaimed the Borough of Lane Cove a municipality in its own right in February 1895.
Extracted from A brief history of Lane Cove by Judy Washington (revised 2023).