Saturday, 1 December 2012

Wallerawang to Mudgee - 1870s style

In June 1874 the Australian Town and Country Journal published an account of a journey between Wallerawang and Mudgee. The article was written by the paper's 'Special Correspondent' who undertook the leisurely-paced horseback tour long before the construction of the Wallerawang to Mudgee section of the Gwabegar railway line. While the article offers little description of the landscape, apart from gushy comment on the awe-inspiring beauty of the vista over the Capertee Valley, the writer certainly does mentions the many small settlements along the Mudgee Road, including the multitude of pubs.

Martens, Conrad: Crown Ridge Inn, 1874 (SLNSW)
Crown Ridge Inn, 1874 pencil sketch by Conrad Martens
(Mitchell Library collection)
Coincidently, both the anonymous writer of this article and 
Martens stayed at the Crown Ridge Inn around the same time 

A Tour to the North-Western Interior

TRAVELLERS by rail to the West are tolerably well acquainted with Wallerawang. If one happens to be there when the children are trooping out of school, he will see some of the fattest and ruddiest-cheeked urchins in the colony. As a recruiting station, Wallerawang should be well patronised by invalids and families, if it were understood that good accommodation might be obtained there. With good horses, one might then take drives or rides along capital roads for 18 or 20 miles, and see some of the finest scenery in the world, including Capertee, and its magnificent valley, which I shall shortly describe.

Though the buildings in Wallerawang are not numerous, they have a substantial appearance, thanks, in a measure, to the Government, who built an excellent railway station of freestone, and have added thereto a number of workshops, &c. The inhabitants then did their share by erecting three hotels, two stores, two churches, and many other places - for business and residence.  The main street faces  the railway station, opposite which there is the principal hotel, called, of course, “The Royal." A little further down, the visitor will come to the post-office, which is in a portion of a good general store called the Commercial, by J. Wilson and Co. A few hundred yards beyond, may be seen the Roman Catholic Church, a weather-boarded building, zinc-roofed. Father Phelan is the clergyman. The Church of England is seen in the midst of trees on the boundary of the town. It is a nicely designed building, constructed of freestone. I should mention that this fine church was built at the sole expense of Mr. James Walker, of Wallerawang, for the use of members of the Anglican and Presbyterian Churches. The Rev. W. McKenzie attends to the latter, and the Rev. R.H. Mayne to the former congregation. A school is also held in the church. The teacher is Mr. C. H. Thompson, and he has 70 children in attendance. There is also an infant school in the town well conducted by Mrs. Driver.

Leaving Wallerawang for Mudgee I rode along a well macadamised road for many miles. "Evidences of civilization" were abundant, in the shape of inns and blacksmith's shops, to say nothing of the many horse waggons and bullock teams driven by unquestionable Australians. Then there were passed many comfortable farms and homesteads, some of them embosomed in orchards.  Five and a half miles from Wallerawang I arrived at the Dividing Range toll-bar. From thence, continuing along over somewhat mountainous and well diversified country for four and a-half miles I reached Cullen Bullen. This was many years ago a crown grant to Mr. R. Dulhunty. There is a very old cottage and stable, and a little further, higher up, on the road-side, a stone house; the post-office is at one end of this building, and there is also an accommodation house. The then resident, Wm. Hart, aged 83, died a few days after I called. Nearly half a century ago Hart first came up to Capertee. The next stage of four miles brought me to Ben Bullen, called, I believe, after some bold mountains near. Here there are two public houses; the mail coach changes horses at Walsh's - one stage from Wallerawang. Another four miles and I arrived at the Crown Ridge Hotel; at this excellent road-side hostelrie I rested for the evening.

I enjoyed tho fresh bracing air at the Crown, and then next morning was up at sunrise. A little over a mile from the hotel the road winds round the Crown Ridge, and as I ascended there opened to view a truly marvellous picture. To those who love the glories of light and shade, of boundless extent, magnificence of scenery, beauty and sublimity, I would recommend a view at sunrise or sunset over the valley of Capertee. Along the lowest range or tiers of hills, a thousand feet below there is a sombre shade; higher up a lighter tinge almost approaching green; and then above the great peaks the natural towers of rocks and battlement stretching miles away are gloriously bathed in golden sheen." See Capertee and die" might well be the motto of the enthusiastic woer of magnificent scenery.

The view of the Capertee Valley from the Crown is
as awe-inspiring today as it was in 1874

Leaving this awe-inspiring scene, with some regret I proceeded on my journey and passed in due course Capertee Camp Inn, by James Shervey, 3 1/2 miles; Kangaroo Flat, Cobb's Hotel, by D. Freestone, 4 miles; Round Swamp, a nice valley in which there are cultivated paddocks and the Coach and Horses Inn, 1 3/4miles. The Running Stream is four miles beyond; the hotel on the hill top is well-known as bearing the sign “Rest and be Thankful.” Another four miles ride you get to Cherry Tree Hill where there is a toll-bar; and three-quarters of a mile beyond is the "Golden Fleece." From all these it will be seen that the weary and parched traveller need not want long for "refreshment for man and horse" on the Mudgee road. I have already noticed thirteen public-houses since leaving Wallerawang. Some of these are very old stands, and the inhabitants recall incidents of over 30 years past. At the Round Swamp for instance there is Mrs. Mansfield's "Coach and Horses." Thirty years ago she came here, and for the past 22 1/2 years has lived in the present hotel.

The town of Ilford, long known as Kean's Swamp, is two and a half miles from Cherry Tree Hill. Ilford is a very old place, situated in a most picturesque situation, at the foot of a mountain. The rocks are curiously and fantastically shaped. They rise to the height of 500 or 600 feet. There are a few nice stone buildings in the village, including a Wesleyan Church. Ilford is likely to become a more pleasing-looking place when some of the old huts and habitations are burnt to the ground, and a number of nice stone buildings now in course of completion amidst light forest scenery are opened to view. The town contains four stores : Mrs. Phelps, (post office), Messrs. G. Harris, Cordoroy's, and E. Turley's, and the inn is called "The Plough." There is a miserable slab building used as a public school: no other place of worship but the Wesleyan, and no court-house, though there is a police station. The branch roads turn off here for Sofala and Rylstone, 16 miles distant either way.

From Ilford I rode to Cunningham's Creek, a few miles beyond the town, and put up at Sid. Brown's hotel, where the accommodation is good. The following morning I had an early start. The distance to Mudgee is 33 miles. The road winds over hilly country the greater part of the way. Shortly after leaving Cunningham's Creek I ascended a hill tolerably steep, bearing the strange name of Aaron's Pass, a place which has since become very familiar to your readers, as the spot where the Mudgee mail was robbed on the 29th of May. It is just such a place as would be chosen by bushrangers, being in a wild uninhabited part of the country. Twelve miles from Cunningham's Creek, Cudgegong was reached. Cudgegong is a small township, possessing a few good buildings in freestone, two good hotels and stores, a church, and a court house. The oldest inhabitant, Mr. William Wilkins, is the host of the principal hotel. He informed me that he built the first public-house, did the first bit of blacksmithing, and killed the first bullock in the town. He is a jovial sort of fellow, one's idea of mine host; but I understand that he is about to retire to a nice free-stone private house that he has built for himself nearer the creek.

Two miles from Cudgegong I passed a place called Tarnabutta, Masters's comfortable homestead and farm. Four miles beyond, I arrived at Stony Pinch, where Baylis's farms are situated in a romantic position, and nearly surrounded by high mountains. |  

Half-a-mile beyond Baylis's, is the Stony Pinch toll-bar, kept by Masters. This is the third toll-bar that I passed through since I left Wallerawang. A few other farms were passed, and I reached Pauling's Apple Tree Flat Inn, 10 miles from Mudgee. After resting here a short time, I pushed on and reached Mudgee at sun-set, and put up at the Belmore, where I remained for a few days.

The distance from Wallerawang is variously estimated at from 70 to 75 miles. There are 21 public-houses on the way-side, but as the road is now far different to what it was in the good old days, when, for the whole distance it was boggy, and next to unpassable. I suppose that the publicans find their profits somewhat diminished.

It is not my intention to say much about Mudgee this time, as it has been so often and well-described pictorially and otherwise in these columns. I might state, however, that the town has not gone back of late years, and that there seems to be more substantial prosperity in it than ever. Notwithstanding private jealousies, party feelings, &c., the Municipal Council has done much to improve the streets, and make the town attractive. What I should regard as a drawback is the want of concentration. Mudgee is too much scattered to be comfortable for business men; and there are numerous gaps that might be well filled up with respectable buildings, or else fenced and planted with trees. And a good fire is wanted to clear off some unsightly buildings standing insultingly close to other buildings that would do credit to any city in the world. Mudgee from her position will always be enabled to hold her own. In the district there is as wealthy and enterprising a class of pastoral princes as any in the Australian colonies; and in the town there are good colonists, men whose progressive views, and belief in the destinies of Mudgee, will cause them never to allow the interests of the place to suffer for want of attention.

This article was first printed on page 28 of the 27th June 1874 issue of the Australian Town and Country Journal, a paper published in Sydney between 1870-1907.


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