Eighteen kilometres north-west of central Sydney, on lands originally occupied by the Guringai people, is the upper north shore suburb of West Pymble. Part of Ku-ring-gai municipality, it is flanked by Pymble, Gordon, Killara, South Turramurra, Macquarie Park and Ryde. This predominantly residential suburb is bounded by the Lane Cove National Park to its south and bisected by the north-south Ryde Road arterial route that transports traffic from the Pacific Highway–Mona Vale Road intersection towards Ryde and beyond.
The suburb of West Pymble owes its name to a silk weaver from Hertfordshire in England, one Robert Pymble, who was granted land in the vicinity of the current Pymble railway station in 1823 and was growing oranges by 1828. In 1994, West Pymble officially became a suburb in its own right and included the south-western reaches of Pymble and the West Gordon locality between Ryde Road and Blackbutt Creek.
Bush and creek bound
One glance at a satellite photograph quickly demonstrates that this 358-hectare suburb is flanked by natural bushland along a considerable percentage of its boundaries. This is not surprising, since the Lane Cove River delineates the southern boundary of West Pymble while its south-eastern and western borders are defined respectively by the river's tributaries, Blackbutt and Troon creeks. Geographically speaking, West Pymble occupies the lower ground in comparison to Pymble, which straddles the ridgetop Pacific Highway. Pymble's elevation ranges from 63 to 182 metres above sea level, compared to West Pymble's 18 to 111 metres above sea level.
The first people of Ku-ring-gai
For thousands of years before Europeans laid claim to the land now known as Ku-ring-gai municipality, smaller clans, or tribes as the Europeans termed them, regularly passed through the heavily wooded area.  The dissected sandstone country was one continuous hunting ground, with the well-watered bushland providing shelter, sustenance and relief from the extremes of hot weather and bitter winters. But with no immunity to introduced diseases, the Guringai's days were numbered from the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Harbour and the diseases these and subsequent vessels unwittingly imported from Europe. An estimated 1000 or so 'Koori' occupied the upper north shore in 1788, but the outbreak of a disease just one year later devastated the population, with the death rate estimated at somewhere between 50 and 90 per cent. 
By 1824, 36 years after the Europeans began to take up land in the Sydney basin, 'the remains of an Aboriginal tribe' still periodically walked from Bobbin Head to Pymble Hill and passed south-west through the current grounds of Pymble Ladies College to the Lane Cove River and on to North Ryde, according to Robert Pymble senior. In doing so, they were moving through the north-western part of West Pymble. Pymble family oral history accounts document that the local Koori were friendly and that the wives carried 'a water pitcher made from paper bark or stringy bark' during drier months. They also described the fascinated local children witnessing Aboriginal boys being taught to climb trees.  But by 1830, the Guringai's numbers had fallen under 100, with Robert Pymble junior telling his grandchildren that the Aborigines had faded out by 1856, primarily attributing their demise to the 'smallpox'. 
Logging the biggest trees
In 1805 George Caley, the colony's first botanist, drew attention to the impressive stands of blackbutt, turpentine, stringybark, iron bark, blue gum and mahogany that grew so prolifically on the heavily timbered upper north shore, particularly on elevated outcrops of deep shale soil. 
Five years after Caley's enthusiastic promotion of the district, the towering forests of the upper north shore from Chatswood to Wahroonga were being logged to supply heavy timber and lumber for a wide range of purposes. With the colony's need to house its inhabitants second only to achieving self sufficiency in home-grown food supplies, Sydney Town's growing demand for floorboards, posts, piles, rails, palings, fencing and roof shingles fueled the logging industry. 
Between 1810 and the late 1830s, both government-sanctioned and unauthorised itinerant timber-getters felled the largest trees in the district, progressively establishing sawpits along the ridgeline from Roseville to Wahroonga and above Fidden's Wharf on the Lane Cove River.  Below the ridgeline, the West Pymble locality was also selectively logged for the most sought-after timbers.
The felled trees were hauled by bullock teams along rough tracks to local sawpits and cut into lengths, mostly by gangs of assigned convicts. In the absence of a reliable overland route that could accommodate the punishing bullock dray traffic, the major mode of transport to and from Sydney for the remote upper north shore – for passengers and timber alike – was the Lane Cove River, West Pymble's southern boundary.  Actively involved in shipping lumber to the Sydney markets from the late 1850s were the Lofbergs who eventually settled in West Pymble. Born in 1837 in Karlskrona, Sweden, mariner Jonas Lofberg arrived in Sydney on the Cornelius Werd in 1857. According to Lofberg family reminiscences, Jonas and a mate jumped their Norwegian ship, stole a boat and rowed up the Lane Cove River to avoid detection.
Jonas Lofberg's first employment on the river involved cutting up wood, loading it onto a boat and rowing the vessel to Darling Harbour and back. After a time, Jonas and his mate built a sailing boat for their employer so that they could harness wind power on their journeys to and from Sydney. By the early 1860s, Jonas was farming near the Fairyland Picnic Area site in Ryde, and after marrying Adeline Lewis, the boss's daughter, he moved up the river in 1863 and skippered a ballast boat for John Brown from Fidden's Wharf. Jonas and Adeline had nine children and in the early 1870s moved to a 30-acre (12.1-hectare) property in West Pymble, part of Henry Munro's 1856 land grant abutting the bush track to Ryde. When Jonas died in 1880, his sons Jonas and Andrew continued working the family's West Pymble farm with the help of their mother Adeline. 
Lofberg's wharf was little more than a sandstone spit at the tidal reach of the Lane Cove River, in the vicinity of today's De Burgh's Bridge. Marking the mingling of salt and fresh water, it was just downstream of a rudimentary ford that provided access to the district of Ryde. From their makeshift wharf, the father and son team transported sawn timber to Sydney Town in their six-ton vessel, True Blue. Working with the tides, they floated timber to the 'head of the river on a full tide and returned on an ebb tide', rowing as necessary.  In the absence of wind, punts and sailing boats ferrying timber to Hunters Hill had to be rowed with the assistance of five-metre-long 'sweeps'. The ultimate destination was Cockle Bay's Market Wharf near Pyrmont Bridge and the merchants of Sydney. Submerged in the 1930s, Lofberg's rock spit wharf was all but forgotten by the twenty-first century, eclipsed on history's page by more substantial downstream wharves, including Fidden's, which operated from 1821 in the adjoining present-day suburb of Killara. 
Once the upper north shore's largest and most profitable trees had been culled, the loggers and assigned convicts moved on. In their wake, enormous quantities of firewood were cut and transported to Sydney, with the surviving bushland targeted by charcoal burners intent on producing charcoal for the Sydney foundries. 
While the timber men were reaping the rewards of the colony's 'green gold', official ownership of the land was steadily being taken up in the form of grants and speculative purchasing. Early maps indicate that much of southern West Pymble was owned by one William Moore. Moore emigrated to Australia prior to 1862 and worked as a homeopathic practitioner in the Goulburn and Maitland areas, with his treatments including electric baths and his very own concoction, Moore's ointment. A decade later, he had sufficient funds to acquire 'large tracts (over 800 acres) of Crown land along the Lane Cove Valley from Little Blue Gum Creek (near the present Fuller's Bridge) to West Turramurra)'.  Other West Pymble landholders included Henry Munro, on whose grant the Lofbergs settled.
A refuge for 'ruffians'
In the early days of settlement, 'the broken and steep country' between the Lane Cove River and Middle Harbour had a reputation for providing hide outs for 'disreputable people' and being home to 'as great a set of ruffians as the Colony holds.' 
Perceived as rugged highland country and more difficult to settle than the flatter eastern and western suburbs, the bush provided cover for hard-living types who regarded themselves as above and beyond the law, including absconded and ex-convicts.  By the 1840s, the remote Lane Cove River locality was a haven for illegal gambling, smuggling, sly-grog selling, heavy drinking and cock fighting as the isolated local inhabitants created their own forms of cheap entertainment to while away the lonely hours.  The district's seedy reputation lived on, with overhangs along the Lane Cove River providing refuge for men sleeping rough during the Great Depression years of the 1930s. Illegal two-up games were regularly held on Friday and Saturday nights in the vicinity of Lofberg's wharf, with the local police 'in the know' and going through the motions when it came to enforcing the law.  Capacious sandstone overhangs just upstream from the junction of Lane Cove River and De Burgh's Creek remain good examples of the natural shelters that flanked the river and its tributaries. As late as the mid-1950s, the intermittent hubbub surrounding illegal gambling could be heard by bemused West Pymble residents and no doubt their counterparts in west Gordon who fronted onto a bushland reserve sloping down to Blackbutt Creek. In the vicinity of present-day Minnamurra Avenue, the bushland clearing with wooden seating hosted a notorious two-up school that started up in the 1940s and ran for a decade or so, lit by carbide flares at night. Such was its popularity that punters from the city travelled by train to Gordon station and were transported to the 'sylvan' gambling ring by a dedicated 'ancient car' and a fleet of taxis. Lofberg family members may have been involved in this 'school' for gamblers. 
From tall timbers to orchards
The winding down of timber getting in the 1830s paved the way for fruit growing in what was still a sparsely populated locality. To put this into perspective, at the start of the orcharding phase in the early 1840s, the entire Gordon Parish – encompassing the entire upper north shore – was home to just 443 people.  The same fertile soils and prime growing conditions that had supported magnificent stands of forest were harnessed by orchardists to grow lemons, limes, apples, pears, grapes, plums and peaches for the Sydney markets. Robert Pymble, one of the early adopters when it came to growing fruit, was credited with importing the first orange seed to the district. Between 1840 and 1880, swathes of the local bushland were cleared to make way for orchards, the largest of which employed up to 60 people. 
West Pymble fruit growers included the Lofbergs, with the eldest son of Jonas and Adeline growing oranges, grapes and strawberries on the family's 30-acre (12.1 hectare) land between Ryde and Yanko roads into the 1920s. As mixed farmers, the Lofbergs also raised cattle, ran a piggery and bred horses, game fowls and beagle hounds. 
Also listed as orchardists were John and William Kendall of Livingstone Avenue and later Kendall Street, on the border of Pymble and West Pymble.
Another pioneering West Pymble family, the Mundays, farmed on the eastern side of Ryde Road in what was known as West Gordon. Having travelled to Australia and served Lord Jersey, the Governor of New South Wales from 1891 to 1893, the Mundays stayed on at the conclusion of the Governor's duties.  Listed as poultry farmers on the Sands Sydney Directory, the Mundays also grew fruit and ran a piggery. The latter was widely regarded as a 'noxious' industry by the middle-class gentry who had moved to the upper north shore to leave behind the unwholesome pollution that had made Sydney a less than desirable place to raise families. 
To service the markets, cases of fruit were carted to wharves along the Lane Cove River and boated to Sydney, along with locals intent on spending time in the 'big smoke' of Sydney, usually involving an overnight stay.  To facilitate the river trade, Jonas Lofberg constructed a route through the bush from Gordon to his rock spit wharf, a thoroughfare that sidled through West Gordon on the western side of Blackbutt Creek.  Running along and branching off what is now Blaxland Road, this bridle track, visible on early 1880s maps, was apparently still 'well defined' in 1934. Passing through present day west Killara and into bushland that now forms part of Lane Cove National Park, Lofberg's track 'followed natural contours down to the creek mouth, skirting around large trees and boulders.' The creek in question, De Burgh's Creek, flowed into the Lane Cove River and marked the 'salt water limit of the river'. 
As the Lofbergs lived in West Pymble, they presumably accessed their wharf, as would neighbouring residents, via a sidetrack off Ryde Road. Conceivably this bridle track sidled along the northern side of the Lane Cove River and met up with the Lofberg's track from Gordon. Perhaps this original route paved the way for Lady Game Drive that was constructed in the 1930s.
From the early 1880s, the river traffic was decreasing and the rough dirt overland track to Milsons Point, renowned for its potholes, had been sufficiently improved with government assistance that some orchardists were leaving home at midnight in order to walk their fruit-laden spring carts to Milsons Point. Here they queued up with 200 other carts for transport by punt to Bennelong Point to get their produce to market in time for the rush hour. 
West Pymble's lucrative fruit-growing industry, along with that of neighbouring suburbs, was as short-lived as the timber industry. A combination of bushfires, pests, disease and poor agricultural methods underpinned the decline of orcharding following its 1840–1880 heyday. By the turn of the century and into the first decade, codling moth and fruit fly were seriously impacting the upper north shore orchards, to the point where fruit growers turned their attention to the Galston area. Another factor in the industry's demise was real estate speculation, a much more profitable enterprise than orcharding, especially after the arrival of fast reliable rail transport. 
Setting up shop and home deliveries
While the majority of West Pymble residents in the second half of the nineteenth century were living a rural, mixed-farming existence, one family in particular seized the opportunities ushered in by the arrival of the railway.
Irish-born Frederick J Hamilton and family arrived in the 'Lane Cove district' in 1876 and originally settled in Pymble, purchasing a 79-hectare farm and a weatherboard house at the corner of Lane Cove Road (now Pacific Highway) and Livingstone Avenue, where the family initially lived. 
In 1884, a railway line had been opened from Strathfield to Hornsby. Then, in 1890, at the behest of the colony's parliament, which thought it would be a shorter route for country produce coming from the north to Sydney, the North Shore line was opened, running in a north-westerly direction from St Leonards to the Hornsby line, and then to Sydney via Strathfield. By 1893, the line was extended south to a harbourside station at Milsons Point. 
To take advantage of the accompanying flurry of residential construction and increase in custom, between 1895 and 1897 Hamilton purchased land and property opposite Pymble station and by 1896 had set up 'Hamilton Bros, Universal Providers – Drapers, Grocers and General Storekeepers, Agents for Mercantile Insurance Co., Agents for Berry Pasteurised Butter'. Comprising two double-storey shops and a third building constructed by Hamilton that featured a stained glass and iron roof, the family business eventually employed his three sons, Frederick, William and George. 
Travelling salesmen employed by the Hamiltons collected orders and made home deliveries by horse and cart from Lindfield to Hornsby, with the family actively involved in north shore commerce until 1905. In that same year, Frederick Hamilton called tenders for the construction of a two-storey villa in Livingstone Avenue on his extensive land holding
of 300 acres extending from Lemon Hedge Farm along Lane Cove Road to what is now Moree Street, Gordon, south on both sides of Ryde Road . . . to Kendall Street.
The 'Federation Mansion', believed to be Wood-Martin (now 104 Livingstone Avenue), is captured in photos of the day as an imposing house on a hill in extensive park-like grounds interspersed with gum trees, running down to Ryde Road. By 1924 the Hamilton home estate was subdivided, creating Hamilton Parade, Cultowa Road and Cadow Street in the process.  Many years later, a woman who lived nearby as a young girl reported that in 1916 the Hamiltons' paddocks were surrounded by a six-foot (1.8-metre) paling fence to keep in both the horses and two emus. The fence is clearly visible in photographs of the day. 
The Hamiltons travelled to their Pymble home by horse and buggy along Livingstone Avenue, a bush road that Frederick Hamilton had constructed at his own expense from Pymble through his property to the road to Ryde. The family maintained this route for years until Ku-ring-gai Council took over in 1906, a year after the Hamilton's mercantile interests wound down. 
Early West Pymble roads
Following long overdue improvements by the government to Lane Cove Road, overland transport by horse, cart, sulky or coach began to supplant the Lane Cove River as the main access the upper north shore during the 1880s.  As the river trade flagged, two key country roads provided access to the southern reaches of Pymble. The road to Ryde – Ryde Road – intersected the Lane Cove Road (now the Pacific Highway) between Gordon and Pymble and remained unsealed until 1927.  The second bush track, the aforementioned Livingstone Avenue, undulated down from Pymble towards Ryde Road. In 1916 the avenue was described as a dirt road
deeply furrowed with water erosion as well as three defined tracks. Everybody had horses and sulkies, the centre track was for the horses. 
A bridge to Ryde
In 1901, the construction of the two-lane De Burgh's Bridge over the Lane Cove River improved West Pymble's accessibility from districts to the south, including Ryde and beyond. While the bridge was groundbreaking, the route to Ryde was still described as a 'country road' 15 years later.  The bridge, designed by Ernest Macartney de Burgh, was located just downstream of the current high-level six-lane bridge of the same name that opened in 1967. On its completion, the first De Burgh's Bridge was the 'largest timber bridge ever built in Australia' and the longest span in Australia. Described as 'a magnificent and daring new bridge,' it was constructed from a single 50-metre De Burgh timber truss.  In 1994, almost 30 years after it was decommissioned, the heritage wooden structure was destroyed by a bushfire. Parts of its concrete and metal fabric are still in situ. 
The Broadway versus The Comenarra
Following the 1932 opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the subsequent increase in vehicular traffic to the north shore, Ku-ring-gai Council decided to construct roughly parallel routes to the Pacific Highway along the valleys of the Lane Cove River and Middle Harbour. Cutting through current-day West Pymble, The Broadway, as envisaged, was designed to take the pressure off the main road, in tandem with the Eastern Valley Way that opened to the public in 1939.  Unemployment relief work started on The Broadway during the Depression years of the early 1930s, resulting in Lady Game Drive and a cobblestoned section that runs through bushland from the end of Fox Valley Road and intersects with The Comenarra. However, work stalled in 1938 when the municipality changed its mind and opted instead for the construction of arterial roads in collaboration with adjoining councils. 
Thirty years later, the 1960s construction of The Comenarra Parkway from West Pymble to Pennant Hills Road in Thornleigh finally created an alternative route to the Pacific Highway, leading off Ryde Road via Yanko Road. As part of council's agreement to proceed with the Marcus Clark subdivision satellite suburb of South Turramurra, the three-mile (4.8-kilometre) stretch from Browns Road, Wahroonga, to Yanko Road, West Pymble, was funded by the developer Lend Lease. 
National park and bushland reserves
In the early 1900s, unsuccessful attempts were made to have the upper Lane Cove River bushland reserved as a park.  In 1938, the 125-hectare Lane Cove National Park was officially opened, following joint efforts by the Lane Cove River Beautification Scheme Committee and council leading negotiations with the Department of Lands to preserve the area's natural beauty.
Critical to the establishment of the 125-hectare parklands was the 1933 transfer to Ku-ring-gai Council of over 238 acres (96 hectares) of the Moore (or Gordon) Estate, as bequeathed by homeopath William Moore in 1911.  In those days, providing recreation grounds took precedence over conservation of the natural setting, and Depression relief work for the unemployed permanently altered the river in 1937. The construction of a weir was designed to simulate the popular picnic and boating venue created at Audley in Sutherland Shire's Royal National Park.  The freshwater lake dammed by the Fullers Bridge weir raised the river's upstream height and flooded rock engravings on the southern border of West Pymble. 
Guided by the Cumberland Plan that required municipalities to prepare their plans for approval, the Ku-ring-gai municipality worked hard to reserve and preserve natural bushland, including Blackbutt Reserve between Gordon and West Pymble that joins up with Lane Cove National Park.  Notable bush routes included the walking track from Gordon station to 'West Gordon' across Blackbutt Creek that was used by West Pymble workers commuting to Sydney, as well as local schoolchildren attending Gordon Public School. 
During the 1950s and 1960s, local children routinely disappeared for hours at a time into the local bush, playing along the creeks, making cubbies and collecting curios, including wildflowers, snakeskins and birds' eggs.
West Pymble's proximity to bushland has rendered the suburb vulnerable to bushfire, with two major fires unsettling residents in living memory. In 1958 a fire came up from the Lane Cove River valley near De Burgh's Bridge and threatened Killara and West Gordon with temperatures in the high 30s. In January 1994, under gusty, erratic wind conditions, a fire swept down the Lane Cove Valley to the west of the Macquarie Shopping Centre, North Ryde, and towards Fiddens Wharf Road in West Killara, destroying the historic De Burgh's Bridge and 14 houses, and damaging many others. 
Quarrying sandstone and road metal
The Lofberg family's livelihood diversified after the head of the household's death in 1880. Sometime following Adeline's purchase of the entire Munro property, the four Lofberg sons were involved in low-key quarrying at the Yanko Road end of the family's land holding that ran through to Ryde Road. While sedimentary sandstone underlies West Pymble, quarrying uncovered a rich geological history. The prominent geologist Dr DF Branagan of the Geological Society of Australia described the quarry as containing 'the best exposed sill (horizontal intrusion of volcanic rock) in the Sydney region.' He was also impressed by two exposed 'dykes (vertical volcanic intrusions) [and] sandstone which has formed prisms due to heating by the intrusions . . .', the latter a rare geological phenomenon. 
By the mid-1920s, private contractors with limited equipment were quarrying the site, providing stone for the local council and the New South Wales Government. In 1926, Ku-ring-gai Council purchased eight acres (3.2 hectares) of the Lofberg estate, including the quarry site, and installed electricity, a crushing machine, storage bins and rock drilling equipment. Thanks to this farsighted investment, the council had purchased a ready supply of white metal for road and footpath construction in its municipality as well as heat-toughened sandstone suitable for building purposes. By 1930, the council was producing 80,000 tonnes of rock a year, some for sale beyond its boundaries, and employing 80 workers. 
Sparsely populated despite subdivision
Because of West Pymble's distance from rail transport, it lagged behind when it came to the land speculation and subsequent development that transformed neighbouring Pymble. Despite the area being subdivided between 1900 and 1915, by 1919, only a tiny number of families and individuals lived beyond Cross Street, including the Hamiltons, Lacks and Darlings  who joined the established pioneering farming families: the Lofbergs, Kendalls and Mundays.
A young resident of The Meads, 149 Livingstone Avenue, recalled years later that around 1916, 'about a mile away in the bush beyond the end of Livingstone Avenue was a small Congregational Church,' in an area known as 'Congham'. Before the clearing of bushland between Yanko and Yarrara roads, she reported that her father, a layman, conducted occasional evening services in this locality, travelling to and from in a horse-drawn sulky lit by lamps. 
At the time of writing, she remained curious about the Congham locality and its origins. Sands Sydney Directory provides only limited assistance in this regard as the road and suburb names are fluid and inconsistent. In 1900 Sands records a Harry Epplestone living in 'Lane Cove Road west side', that is west of the Pacific Highway at Gordon. By 1918 it lists Harry as a labourer living at Yanko Road, Pymble, which was a short walking distance from the current day Congham Road.
Semi-rural and bushland setting
The West Pymble locality retained its semi-rural feel into the early 1950s, with farming still in evidence throughout the district. A 1943 aerial photograph of the suburb captures the location of orchards during World War II, including rows of fruit trees between Wyomee Avenue and Boongil Street; Mallory Avenue and Yarrara Road; Yanko Road and Warrabri Place; Congham Road and Gillian Parade (fronting Yanko Road); Ryde Road and Kiparra Street, and Duneba and Dunoon avenues. Also clearly visible is the huge scar of council's Pymble quarry that had been purchased from the Lofbergs. 
The delayed changeover from rural to residential was partly because it was more expensive to construct dwellings and to install drainage in West Pymble's uneven, and in parts, steep terrain. As the postwar demand for land and housing escalated during the 1950s and 1960s, the suburb's character substantially altered from rural to residential, following the subdivision of larger holdings and release of virgin bushland under the Cumberland Plan. 
Places of worship
Before the 1970s, the majority of West Pymble churchgoers travelled to the Pacific Highway and beyond to attend services at Pymble Roman Catholic church, St John's Anglican church Gordon, St Swithun's Anglican church Pymble, and Pymble Presbyterian (now Uniting).
However, the first formal place of worship within the boundaries of present-day West Pymble was the small Congregational hall in Congham Road. Starting life as a saddler's shop in Gordon, the building was relocated to West Pymble in 1910, and extended in 1911 and 1914 to cope with the number of worshippers. In October 1953, the original 'bush' church was replaced by a more substantial brick building. 
The original church started up in 1909, with people of all denominations gathering to services hosted by the Smyth family who lived in Yanko Road. The church came into being as a result of the deep religious convictions and largesse of West Pymble landowner, William Moore, who donated the land for a place of worship. Born in the village of Congham in Norfolk, England, Moore made a bequest to the Congregational Union of New South Wales in his will. His great-nephew, and the executor of his will, Christopher Bowes Thistlethwayte, also an active supporter of the Congregational Church, 'helped build churches for this denomination in Killara, Gordon and West Pymble.'
As manager of Moore's estate, Thistlethwayte was in a position to carry out Moore's wishes and make allowance for 'granting land to Protestant religious organisations and government departments to erect buildings for public worship'.  Perhaps the bush church was served local families leasing land from Moore's Gordon Estate for farming purposes.
Travel times for churchgoers of other faiths were significantly reduced after new churches and congregations were established in West Pymble during the 1960s and 1970s, including Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholic places of worship.
In 1977 the Congregational church became the West Pymble Uniting Church, following the amalgamation of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches of Australia.
The Walter Burley Griffin garbage destructor
By 1927 Jonas Lofberg's second son, Andy, was working as a garbage collection contractor, a service first trialled by Ku-ring-gai Council in 1914. To cope with the growing demand for rubbish disposal, Council commissioned a Walter Burley Griffin-designed reverbatory furnace incinerator. When the council opened its 'garbage destructor' on 14 June 1930, adjacent to its quarry, it was one of six New South Wales municipalities to construct such a sophisticated community facility with waste tipped in at the rear.
By 1946 the modern 'garbage destructor', along with the adjacent sewerage depot, was considered a blight rather than a boon by the expanding residential community, headed up by the West Pymble Progress Association, and by 1954 it was closed. Household rubbish that couldn't readily be incinerated in the backyard or on the road verge from that time had to be driven to the nearest tip at North Turramurra.
Although tenders were called in 1955 for the demolition of the disused incinerator, the building had a brief second life as the headquarters of the West Pymble Boy Scouts Group following modifications in 1956. The building was finally demolished in 1963. 
West Pymble's earliest accommodation was little more than slab huts with bark roofs, on par with the 'wretched little shanty cottage with one room divided into bed and living rooms' that began to disappear from the Ku-ring-gai district in the 1890s as 'the influx of investors and middle-class residents' accelerated. 
As late as 1916, Andy Lofberg lived with his mother Adeline in 'a little wooden slab hut with an iron chimney' that serviced a 'primitive open fire'. The chronicler described it as being 'dark inside and difficult to see until yours eyes became accustomed to it' and . . . she was amazed to find the floor was of dirt and the entire furniture consisted of a large wooden table in the centre of the room, a cupboard at one end and wooden trestles around the walls. Fowls, dogs and cats roamed in and out but everything was clean and tidy. They had lived there for many years. 
Also described as a 'long wooden slab house', it was apparently 'destroyed, contents and all by fire. A second house was built, closer to Ryde Road, using sandstone quarried from the Lofberg land'. George and Agnes Munday's home, built directly on the ground with an asphalt floor, was constructed from locally sawn hardwood weatherboard and lined with flat sheets of tin. 
Not Pymble proper
During West Pymble's most significant growth spurt in the 1950s and 1960s, the land prices were lower and the newly constructed dwellings more basic than the 'hundreds of admirable villas in the most advanced architectural styles, surrounded by delightful garden and embowered in umbrageous trees, natives and exotics' that occupied the ridge top suburbs of Pymble and Gordon.  Even the Californian bungalows that sprang up on the higher ground, ostensibly to accommodate the lower classes, 'outclassed' the modest cottages subsequently built in West Pymble by the incoming owner-builders and defence force families. 
The construction of housing for returned servicemen transformed the semi-rural landscape and the entire neighbourhood. In the mid-1950s, brand new streets were pushed through the bush and trees and shrubs razed to accommodate war service homes. New houses were constructed along the southern end of Kiparra Street, Ryde Road, Dunoon and Duneba avenues, Kooloona Crescent and Baronga Avenue, serviced by the brand new Gordon West Shopping Centre. Additional defence force housing was constructed along Yanko Road, and roads running off it, all within easy walking distance of the West Pymble shops.
Up went a mix of three-bedroom, one-bathroom weatherboard and brick houses, around 200 in total, with the influx of families providing the momentum for the building of new community facilities. 
In keeping with the post-World War II traditions, West Pymble's war memorial, a community hall, was opened in 1962 on the original Lofberg landholding fronting onto Lofberg Road. 
Another legacy of the changing social circumstances, brought about in part by World War II, was the establishment of the Bernard Smith Children's Home between Hamilton Parade and Livingstone Avenue. Built by the Hamiltons, and passing through various hands after the estate was subdivided in 1924, the home (now 104 Livingstone Avenue) was purchased from the Thomas family in 1960 and run by the Central Methodist (now Wesley) Mission from 1960 to 1988. The stately two-storey home accommodated up to 25 children under the age of 16 from so-called broken homes, in some cases as a result of the stresses of wartime and its aftermath. The children attended nearby Gordon West Public School. 
The sale of the Mundays' property, bounded by Ryde Road, Kooyong and Kiparra streets, played a pivotal role in the transition of West Pymble to a suburban residential suburb. The Department of Education purchased part of the Mundays' land from the original purchaser, a Mr Spessot, to house the suburb's first school. The one-classroom Gordon West Public School opened in November 1951, and by the end of the month had 40 children in attendance at kindergarten.  No longer did the local children have to walk along a rough bush track, many of them barefoot, to the closest school on the Pacific Highway at Gordon.
By February 1956, nine teachers were employed at Gordon West to educate 342 children from the grades of kindergarten to a combined 5/6 class. The primary school's rapid increase in student numbers was directly attributable to the arrival of the returned servicemen and their families. A second primary school, West Pymble Public, opened in 1960 and over 100 children were transferred from Gordon West to the kindergarten to third grade classes. Following the closure of Gordon Public School in 1990, the majority of its students transferred to Gordon West, significantly increasing school numbers. 
West Pymble Swimming Pool
After World War II, learning to swim was considered an essential life skill and Gordon West Public School students, some taught by their parents to swim at beachside pools, travelled to the saltwater Roseville Baths on Middle Harbour for swimming lessons during the 1950s. From 1961, following the completion of the Ryde Olympic Pool on Victoria Road (now the Ryde Aquatic Leisure Centre), students trained once a week at the chlorinated pool complex for their Elementary and Intermediate certificates, and Bronze Medallion in swimming proficiency. 
In 1968 Ku-ring-gai Council's finance committee recommended the construction of a public municipal swimming pool in West Pymble. Perhaps this was a comment on the socio-economic status of the suburb and its scarcity of 'in-ground pools', for at the time
Ku-ring-gai, as it had in the 1930s, still boasted more private swimming pools than any other municipality. When the pool opened in May 1971, West Pymble was the proud owner of the only public pool in the municipality. 
The pool complex included a 50-metre main pool and pools for learners, young children and toddlers.
Few West Pymble residents at the time, let alone in succeeding years, would have been aware that the pool complex was in effect a modern-day replacement for the nearby Blue Hole on Lane Cove River that had been arguably the district's most popular swimming place  during the 1800s and into the 1930s. During the summer months, residents of Gordon, and their West Pymble counterparts, walked through the bush to swim in the pool just downstream from De Burgh's Bridge. Initials engraved into the sandstone slabs flanking the waterhole are a reminder of its popularity in the days before refrigeration and air conditioning.
In early 2012, the West Pymble Pool was closed to accommodate the $13 million reconstruction of a modern heated indoor aquatic and leisure facility, with the centre to be reopened at the end of the year. 
Lofberg Oval and Ku-ring-gai Bicentennial Park
For many years, the aptly named Lofberg Oval adjoining the disused quarry hosted a range of sporting activities, including local athletics events and training, and various codes of rugby and soccer. From the late 1970s, council and the community, spearheaded by the West Pymble Residents Action Group, explored a range of development proposals including active and passive recreation areas and a commercial sports village complex for the out-of-bounds quarry site that had proved so lucrative for council in earlier times, and been routinely used as an off-limits playground by bolder local children.
In 1985, competing concerns were satisfied by a proposal to rezone the area for open space that was submitted to the New South Wales Bicentennial Committee; these plans included an aboretum, native flora plantings, retention of keynote geological features and development of recreational facilities including a cycle/exercise track, picnic/barbeque areas, playground equipment and a bicentennial monument. By 1988, the original site of Lofberg's quarry and surrounds had been transformed into the Ku-ring-gai Bicentennial Park oval complex. 
West Pymble reinvents itself
From the late 1990s, as a number of houses changed hands, many of the original residences in West Pymble were renovated and extended to provide larger living spaces for growing families, transforming the look and feel of the once semi-rural suburb.
A number of well-known Australians spent part of their lives in West Pymble. Theatre, film and television actress Jacki Weaver, one of the better-known people who grew up in this suburb, lived at the De Burgh's Bridge end of Ryde Road. Styled as the 'sex symbol from West Pymble' in theatrical circles, Weaver started work in the 1960s and after a long career was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2011 for her role in the movie Animal Kingdom.
Gold-medal-winning Olympic swimmer Shane Gould lived opposite West Pymble shops in Duneba Road while competing in the 1972 Munich Olympics. She won five medals, three gold, one silver and one bronze, and went down in the record books for her unmatched performance as an Australian athlete at a single Olympics. 
A snowy-haired Peter Garrett, later lead singer of Midnight Oil and a Federal Labor politician, spent time at Gordon West Public School, was a member of West Pymble Scouts and played schoolboy rugby union on Lofberg Oval for West Pymble. 
The family of Australian-American actor, director, screenwriter and producer Mel Gibson moved from New York to West Pymble when he was 12 years old and he grew up in the suburb before studying at NIDA and subsequently appearing in the Peter Weir film Gallipoli and the Mad Max series. 
Nominated for numerous musical awards, Rai Thistlethwayte, the Australian rock and jazz musician and songwriter, and lead singer of Thirsty Merc, grew up in West Pymble.  He shares the surname of Ku-ring-gai councillor Christopher Bowes Thistlethwayte, who served the municipality from 1922–28 and devoted his life to managing William Moore's Gordon estate. 
Pauline Curby and Virginia Macleod, Under the canopy – A centenary history of Ku-ring-gai Council, Kuring-gai Council, Gordon, 2006
Joan McDonald, 'The Hamilton family in Pymble 1876–1968', The Historian, vol 37 no 1, November 2008
Barbara Merefield, 'Moore Estate: one man's vision another's commitment', The Historian, vol 38 no 1, October, 2009
W Cresswell O'Reilly, Ku-ring-gai, Early History and Development, Council of the Municipality of Ku-ring-gai, Gordon, 1950
Bob Ross, 'The Lofburg Estate', The Historian, vol 38 no 1, October 2009
Sands commercial and general Sydney directory, J Sands, Sydney
Les G Thorne, A History of North Shore Sydney from 1788 to Today, Leslie Jillett (ed), Angus & Robertson Publishers, Sydney, 1979
Margaret Wyatt, 'Return to Lofberg's Wharf on the Lane Cove River', The Historian, vol 13 no 2, June 1984