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History

Bong Bong Common is the site of the first European settlement in the Southern Highlands. From 1817, explorer and pastoralist Dr Charles Throsby was grazing his cattle on both sides of the great bend in the Wingecarribee River. Under instructions from Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the Old Argyle Road, leading south from the Cumberland Plain, was commenced in 1819, providing access to the newly settled land south of Camden to Bong Bong, Sutton Forest and beyond. In 1820, the Governor passed through the area on a journey to the south, camping on the banks of the river near Throsby’s hut. Macquarie thought the country on the northern bank of the river 'really beautiful, being fit for both cultivation and grazing' and in March 1821 he decided to lay out the official village of Bong Bong there.

The village developed as the first centre for law and order in the Southern Highlands, with a row of government buildings erected between 1822 and 1832, close to the Old Argyle Road where the road curved westwards to cross the river by the causeway which is still so important a feature of the site. A hut for the first gaoler, Bryan Bagnall, on conditional pardon from his life sentence, was erected beside a simple bark-roofed lock-up in 1822, and soldiers were initially housed in huts until barracks were erected by 1829. In the same year, 1829, postal facilities were established.   A school for the children of settlers on the numerous small mixed farms in the district had already opened in 1827, a blacksmith's shop was built opposite the lock-up and an animal pound was built in 1832. The neat, rough-cast commissariat store was built between 1829 and 1831 at the east end of the government row. Bong Bong was not a residential settlement but a centre for the administration of law and order, with some basic services for the scattered rural population.

The magistrates, among them Charles Throsby and James Atkinson, supervised the two or three constables and lock-up keeper and scourger, as well as the clerk servicing their courts, while the soldiers were under military command.   There was need of accommodation for travellers and those attending the courts. In 1827, William Bowman opened the Argyle Inn on the high land just to the north, above the village and looking across to Throsby Park on the south side of the river.

Bong Bong was bypassed by Surveyor General Thomas Mitchell’s new road to the south (Great South Road) which road gangs constructed in the early 1830s. It ran through the new town of Berrima, where a court house was opened in 1838. As a direct result, Bong Bong ceased to be significant. The post office moved to Berrima in 1837, the Argyle Inn closed and the police and military buildings at Bong Bong were in disrepair by 1843, when the entire government site was sold to Charles Throsby Junior. 

The old commissariat store remained as a general store. This prospered under its proprietor Dovey in the later 1860s when the Argyle Road was redirected past the store, cutting the site of old Bong Bong into two unequal parts.   Soon afterwards the new railway from Mittagong bypassed Berrima. The consequent growth of Moss Vale at the expense of Berrima did not restore Bong Bong but gave a modest prosperity for a while to its surviving store.
In the later nineteenth century the other official buildings at Bong Bong simply decayed and disappeared. The causeway of the 1820s was no longer used and the store lay on the farther side of the realigned Argyle Road leading to Moss Vale. The flat land just to the north of the decayed site was developed as a commercial airstrip for light aircraft by Eric von Nida in 1978. By that time most memories of the former township had faded and no remains were visible.