The lost village at bottom of Cataract Dam

Kerrie Christian at the chapel at Grevillea Park, the only remaining part of the lost village of Sherbrooke. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Kerrie Christian at the chapel at Grevillea Park, the only remaining part of the lost village of Sherbrooke. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

An entire village lies forgotten at the bottom of Cataract Dam. On Sunday, the history of once-thriving Sherbrooke will be retraced as part of Wollongong's Heritage Festival.

With a story winding back to the mid-1800s, Sherbrooke is one of the region's least known but most fascinating stories. A prosperous orchard and timber town, the village housed 100 people and 22 families in the late 1800s before a series of disasters - flood, drought and flood again - wiped it from the map.

"Cataract Dam got washed out by floods in 1898 and rebuilt, but by 1902 there was a very bad drought," said Kerrie Christian, president of the Illawarra Family History society.

Ms Christian is the organiser of Up and Down Bulli Mountain, Sunday's exhibit on Sherbrooke at Bulli's Black Diamond Museum.

A grainy black and white image of Sherbrooke. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

A grainy black and white image of Sherbrooke. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

"They built a bigger dam at Cataract, to supply Sydney water, over Sherbrooke."

The vibrant town, whose orchards exported fruit across the world and whose timber supported four sawmills, was vacated in 1903 and then flooded.

Only fleeting reminders of the drowned town remain. Ms Christian said Brownsville in Dapto was named for the Browns, former residents of Sherbrooke, and descendants of Sherbrooke residents often emerged; timber and sandstone at Bulli Uniting Church is said to have come from the village, but the chapel at Grevillea Park, transported first to Woonona then Slacky Flat, is the only intact souvenir of Sherbrooke besides ghostly skeletons of buildings poking out of the dam when water levels drop.

"We can't go to Sherbrooke, but the Black Diamond Museum is the next best, because the train station is where Sherbrooke apples and timber would go through," Ms Christian said.

Wollongong Heritage Festival

• Film, Black in Time, Saturday, 8pm, Helensburgh Workers Club.  A 65-minute documentary marking 130 years of settlement in Helensburgh.

• Up and Down Bulli Mountain – The Lost Village of Sherbrooke, Sunday, April 13, and Sunday, May 4, 1-4pm, Black Diamond Museum, Bulli Railway Station. Discover the story of the lost village of Sherbrooke at Bulli Mountain.

• Old Court House National Trust Open Day, Sunday, April 13, 10am-3pm, Cliff Road, Wollongong. Learn about the history of Wollongong’s oldest public building.

• Illawarra Art Deco – A public lecture by D’arcy Cheeseright, Wednesday, April 16, 6pm for 6.30pm, Wollongong Art Gallery. An Illawarra Shoalhaven National Trust event featuring a lecture, tango dancing, refreshments and a costume competition.

• Wollongong City Centre Heritage Trail, April 16 and  April 17, 12 noon, meet at Market Square Park. A guided tour through the original streets of  1834 Wollongong. 

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