Century-old time capsule discovered in the heart of Freshwater


Northern Beaches Council this week unearthed a century-old time capsule after being contacted by representatives of the Friends of Freshwater.

The time capsule, from 1918, was delicately removed by Council workers from behind a plaque at the Harbord Literary Institute on Oliver Street.

Mayor Michael Regan said the time capsule was discovered when local resident Alan Wright found a discarded book outlining the history of Freshwater dating back over 100 years.

After reading the contents, Mr Wright knew local historian Sean Rout would be interested, particularly the reference to the capsule being placed behind a foundation plaque at the Institute.

“The reports seemed credible and we were all excited to think it might still be there, 100 years later. “Our first challenge was how to access it without doing damage to the heritage building,’’ the Mayor said.

 “We explored a few options but ultimately the whole plaque had to be delicately removed and Council will ensure it is restored properly. There was no way to know if it (time capsule) would still be there, so it was thrilling to see it intact.

Historians are now getting ready to open it to see what was saved all those years ago.  

“We will now consider replacing it with some markers of our time so it can be seen by those who come after us – perhaps when the Institute marks its 200 year anniversary in 2118.”

Mr Rout, who witnessed the unearthing, said the capsule includes Manly Daily clippings from the time and some coins of the era. He also said Thomas Sterland was responsible for originally storing the capsule.

“Thomas Sterland was one of the founding fathers of the Harbord Literary Institute.  A former Councillor, the first president of the Harbord Literary Institute which opened in 1918 and a member of the Building Committee,” he said.

“It was an Institute built for the community, with a number of committee members at the time completing the building work on the site themselves.

“How incredible to be part of releasing the capsule Mr Sterland buried for us just over a hundred years ago.”

Mr Sterland’s great-grandson Mark Sterland was on hand for the unearthing along with his brother and father Ross Arthur Sterland.

 The step back in time was a proud family moment.

“We were made aware of the time capsule recently, I know my great grandfather (Thomas Sterland) was a keen historian, and he absolutely loved the area,’’ Mark Sterland said.

The exact contents of the time capsule will soon be made available at a community event to celebrate the findings.  Details are still being finalised.