First European settlement on the western side of the Great Dividing Range.
If you spent a week in Bathurst and environs you would not exhaust the richness of this remarkable and historic city. It is Australia's oldest inland city and it has evolved from a settlement driven by convicts and their military overseers to a hugely successful service centre for the surrounding rich agricultural area and then to a major administrative centre and, most recently, an important regional academic centre with a number of prominent schools and the main campus of Charles Sturt University. So successful has Charles Sturt's Media course been that it is now fair to say that both broadcasting and print journalism are dominated by its graduates. But Bathurst is more than this. It has an impressive (probably unequalled) array of historic public and private buildings; is surrounded by fascinating historic villages; has excellent restaurants; can claim to have one of the finest museums in the country; and was home to one of the country's most humble and beloved Prime Ministers. It is also the home to the country's most prestigious motor race - the Bathurst 1000.
Bathurst, the first major centre west of the Blue Mountains, is located 670 m above sea-level and 205 km west of Sydney via the Great Western Highway.^ TOP
Origin of Name
The first Europeans to cross the Blue Mountains were Gregory Blaxland, William Wentworth and William Lawson in May. 1813. This led, almost immediately, to settlement beyond the Cumberland Plains. They were followed later that year by surveyor George Evans who named the plains after Lord Bathurst, British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. The town was subsequently named Bathurst by Governor Lachlan Macquarie.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum
It is one of the greatest collections in the country and the museum is simply amazing. When the collection was officially opened to the public in July, 2004 my colleague at the Sydney Morning Herald, Steve Meacham, wrote a lengthy article (it can be accessed at http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/07/16/1089694564572.html). I have summarized the salient points:
The Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum, a $600,000 conversion of a heritage-listed former school in Bathurst, is now the permanent home of the Somerville Collection, worth $15 million and given to the nation by … Professor Warren Somerville.
The story of Warren Somerville - who single-mindedly built up one of the finest private collections of its type in the world and then gave it away - has many dimensions. It's a human tale about an introverted boy who found his first fossil at the age of nine and discovered a lifelong obsession. It's also a study in art politics: how a group of academics, industrialists and local politicians persuaded a premier that their city should house a major regional museum.
Somerville is, by all accounts, a unique man. "Incredibly clever", "focused", "useless at small talk", "secretive" and "obsessive" are descriptions employed by his friends. He was born in 1938 to a family who ran an orchard in Orange. Early photographs show an intense, studious young man. Intellectually gifted, he went on to earn degrees in five subjects (including refrigeration). But an accident with a pickaxe helped persuade him that lecturing might be a happier career. For 25 years he taught horticulture at his local TAFE. Increasingly, though, fossils and minerals were dominating his life.
Somerville proved a shrewd dealer. Early on [he] had managed to acquire a large quantity of crocoite, a rare mineral found only in Tasmania. He used it to trade with other international collectors. Deals were sealed at mineral conventions in Tuscon, Arizona. Specimens were swapped with professors from the Sorbonne. "I wouldn't want to play poker against him," says Dr Peter Hodgson, the retired academic who chairs the collection's management committee.
Certainly the collector kept his cards close to his chest. Take the most valuable item in his collection - the 10-metre long Tyrannosaurus Rex insured for $190,000, which dominates the new fossil hall. It's hardly inconspicuous. Apart from being the only T-Rex in Australia, it has previously been displayed at the Australian Museum. Yet his family and colleagues don't know how he acquired it. "He's very cagey about his acquisitions," says Hodgson. "It's my understanding it was brought to Australia by a casino which thought it would be an attraction. I have a feeling Warren probably got it for the cost of getting it out of the building. But he won't answer those questions."
In 1998 Peter Hodgson, then pro-vice-chancellor of Bathurst's campus of Charles Sturt University learnt that Somerville was prepared to give his collection to the nation if a museum could be built to house it.
Hodgson immediately tried to acquire it for his university. "Warren was a bit reluctant to bring it to Bathurst," Hodgson recalls. "He had been offered $US15 million, apparently, to take the collection to Japan. But he wanted it to stay in Australia. Both the Australian Museum and the Museum of Victoria had expressed interest. But he knew if the collection went to either of them, part would end up in the fossil section and another part in the mineral section. He didn't want his pieces to be dispersed. He also wanted, if possible, for the collection to be permanently exhibited in the Central West."
Hodgson raised his plan with his boss, Professor Cliff Blake, then Charles Sturt's vice-chancellor. It was Blake, says Hodgson, who recognised such a museum was bigger than the university; it could have a profound impact on the entire Bathurst region. He advised Hodgson to put together a broad team that could appeal directly to the Premier. Bathurst's then mayor, Ian Macintosh, immediately saw the potential economic benefits. Dr Mike Archer, then director of the Australian Museum, proved "very keen to help". Soon a perfect site had been chosen: the high-ceilinged building that had begun life in 1876 as Bathurst Public School.
The NSW Premier at the time, Bob Carr, was invited to "a luncheon" at the university, says Hodgson. "I got Warren to bring along 20 of his specimens. Bob must have known what he was letting himself in for. But he listened to Warren and was impressed. On the strength of what he saw, Carr said, 'All right, I'll give you the buildings.' "
Still, a way had to be found to persuade Somerville his collection would be kept intact forever. In 2000 he finally agreed to donate all 10,000 pieces to the Australian Museum, which is legally obliged to keep it as the "Somerville Collection" and display it permanently at the Bathurst museum.
The Museum is located at 224 Howick Street and is open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm Monday to Saturday and 10.00 am - 2.00 pm on Sunday. Tel: (02) 6331 5511 or check out http://www.somervillecollection.com.au/collection.
Bathurst Heritage Trail
It is a comment on the richness of Bathurst's historic heritage that the Bathurst Heritage Trail brochure lists no fewer than 48 buildings and places of interest (along with 22 interpretative panels, along a 14 block walk through the centre of town. The brochure is available at the Visitor Information Centre. The highlights of the walk include:
Bathurst Railway Station (Interpretative Panel)
The story of Ben Chifley is recounted: "Joseph Benedict Chifley, one of Bathurst's greatest citizens, was born in Bathurst in 1885. At the age of 17, Ben Chifley commenced railway work as a shop boy in Bathurst's extensive steam shed. Six years later he was a fireman, shovelling coal into the engine's firebox to maintain an even head of steam to drive the train. He graduated in 1914 as the state's youngest first-class locomotive driver, and soon became involved in trade union politics."
1. Bathurst Railway Station
The station is characterised by a High Victorian Gothic design with Dutch gables topped by finials, bay windows and a cast-iron veranda with pairs of posts. It is one of the most impressive railway stations in New South Wales
Chifley Engine (Interpretative Panel)
Locomotive 5112 - The Chifley Engine is outside the Railway Station. The interpretative panel notes: "Locomotive 5112 was built in 1908 by Beyer Peacock & Company, Manchester, England. The builder's number was 5054. The locomotive commenced service in July 1908, one of 280 NSW Government Railways (NSWGRs) locomotives. It was common for NSWGRs to allocate crew to individual locomotives. Locomotive 5112 was regularly driven by Australia's future Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, during his career as an engine driver. By December 1972, when withdrawn from service, Locomotive 5112 had recorded a total mileage run of 1,188,716 miles (1,902,000 kilometres). The Locomotive was acquired in 1973 by Bathurst City Council as a memorial to Ben Chifley and was mounted on static display adjacent to the Railway Station entrance."
4. (b) Flour Mill
Near the railway station in Havannah Street is Tremain's Flour Mill. Built in the early 1850s but no longer in use it is the only survivor of some ten mills that once existed in this area. At the time Bathurst was known as Mill Town.
6 & 7. Keppel Street - Centennial Terrace and Locksley
Keppel Street became an important commercial area of the town after the railway arrived in 1876. The Centennial Terrace was built in 1888 by Willis and Durack. The terrace was named to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Governor Phillip and the first fleet. The two-storey Victorian Georgian red-brick home known as 'Locksley' was built for Dr William Cortis in 1880. It was turned into a boarding house in 1900 and divided into flats in 1928.
11. Victorian Italianate Shops
The shops which run from 51-59 Keppel Street were built in 1887 and were used to sell smallgoods.
13. Carrington House
Located at 99 Keppel Street, this impressive building was opened by Lord Carrington, the Governor of New South Wales, in June, 1889 as a Masonic Hall. Over the years it has been used as a theatre and a restaurant.
15. Brooke Moore Centre
The Brooke Moore Centre is a two-storey red-brick house which was built in 1852 as the second Methodist parsonage. It had been allocated for convict barracks in 1820 and a mission house had been built on the site in 1838. The fanlights and twelve-paned windows are typical of that period. The upper storey, added c.1900 by Dr John Brooke Moore, features Edwardian trimmings - small-paned window sashes and a balcony with decorative woodwork - which were popular at the time.
16. Cathedral of St Michael & St John
The Cathedral was designed by the architect Edward Gell (who designed many buildings in the area from Lithgow to Dubbo) and built in 1858. The first mass was celebrated in 1861.
17 & 18. Methodist Complex - Chapel and Uniting Church
The simple Georgian-style church hall with its large rounded windows, was the original Methodist chapel. Located at 140 William St, it was designed by Thomas Mockett, built by Henry Simmons and opened in 1837 by the Reverend John McKenny. It was subsequently used as the town's first national school from 1858 to 1866. It became the Boys Section of Bathurst High School in 1883 and was altered c.1903. The Methodist (now Uniting) Church in William St, opposite Machattie Park, was built of red bricks with stuccoed dressings to a Gothic Revival design in 1860. The copper-covered spire, porch and vestibules were added in 1876. The organ was installed in the early 1870s.
22. Royal Hotel
This elegant, and very central, hotel dates from the 1840s when it was opened by Nicholas Read. By the 1870s it was recognised as the town's finest hotel with such luminaries at the author Anthony Trollope, the politician Henry Parkes and the opera singer Nellie Melba all staying in its rooms. The decorative iron lacework was added in the 1890s.
23 & 25. Kings Parade - The Carillon and Boar War Memorial
Lying between Russell and Church Streets is the impressive centre of the city, Kings Parade. It is located on the site of the town's old market place which was demolished in 1912. It includes the War Memorial Carillon, the Boer War Memorial and is edged by the Court House and All Saints Cathedral.
War Memorial Carillon
The Bathurst War Memorial Carillon is a 30.5 m tower which sits on 12 m foundations and houses 35 bells. It was built in 1933 to honour those from the district who served in World War I. It has subsequently included honour rolls for those who fought in World War II, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. With a repertoire of 40 tunes played on bells ranging from 1574 kg to 8.16 kg it operates at noon and 1.00 p.m. daily. The bells were cast by J. Taylor & Co. of Loughborough in England.
Boer War Memorial
The Boer War Memorial was created by the sculptor Gilbert Doble and unveiled in 1910 by Field Marshall Lord Kitchener who commanded British troops in India and became Commander in Chief in the Boer War in South Africa. In 1964 the name of Lieutenant Peter Handcock who, with Harry 'Breaker' Morant, was shot by a British firing squad in South Africa for executing prisoners, was added to the memorial.
24. All Saints Cathedral
All Saints Cathedral has been used by Anglicans since the 1840s although the current cathedral was only completed in 1971. It was built, on and off, between 1920 and 1971 and, as the Heritage Trail brochure explains, "is a free-standing brick-clad building ... sited on a lateral axis which links the Court House and the Carillon ... full-height buttress motifs emphasise the form of the building. The new bell tower was added in 2006 to house the Bathurst Peal Cathedral Bells, the oldest operable peal bell set in the state. The original 6 peal bells were manufactured by Warner and Sons Crescent Foundry London in 1854."
26. Court House and Museum
When first seen the Court House, with its East Wing (originally the Post Office) and West Wing (the Telegraph Office) is little short of amazing. It seems so grand for a rural setting. As the noted author and academic, Donald Horne, noted - the building is "one of the most successful expressions of late colonial self-confidence ever produced. Large and, with forecourt, wasteful enough to belong to the governor of a prosperous province, it has achieved bland certainty by overcoming its own complexities - which include a Doric portico with pediment, an octagonal tower with turret, stone facings and brick pilasters, a colonnade of Doric pillars, a sage-green roof, red bricks, yellow bricks and long lines of sash windows".
In the centre of Russell Street and looking across at Kings Parade the Neo-Classical Court House is Bathurst's most distinguished public building and is regarded by the National Trust as "one of Australia's finest examples of Victorian public architecture". Designed by James Barnet, it was completed in 1880. The wings, built as the postal and telegraph offices, were opened in 1877. The entire structure is 81 m long and 45 m wide.
West Wing - Mitchell Conservatorium
The west wing is now occupied by the Mitchell Conservatorium, part of Charles Sturt University. For more information check out http://www.mitchellconservatorium.edu.au. Tel: (02) 6331 3990.
East Wing - Bathurst District Historical Society Museum
The east wing is now the Bathurst District Historical Society Museum. Its collection includes Aboriginal artefacts and it is open from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On Saturdays and Sundays it is open from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm, tel: (02) 6330 8455. For detailed information check out http://www.bathursthistory.org.au.
29. Machattie Park
Located on the site of the old Bathurst Gaol in William Street, this handsome late 19th-century Victorian park includes a bandstand, a Begonia House (in bloom from February to Easter), a caretaker's cottage (c.1890), fernery and lake. There is the ornate Victorian Munro Drinking Fountain (imported from England in 1891 and named after the then-mayor) and a plaque which commemorates the visit to Bathurst of Charles Darwin in 1836. It was named after Dr. Richard Machattie who served several terms as mayor.
30. Webb's Emporium
Located on George Street, the Webb Stores were built for Edmund Webb and were once the largest retail business outside Sydney. He started his store on another site around 1851 and expanded due to the prosperity produced by the goldrush era. The first section was built in 1862 with 1872 extensions to house his Emporium business which sold its products all over the country.
34. St Stephens Presbyterian Church
At the corner of Howick and George Streets is St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, a classic example of Victorian Gothic architecture which was built of red bricks in 1871-72. Its soaring spire is clearly visible around town.
35. Howick Street
On the corner of Howick and Bentinck Street are eight detached and semi-detached 19th-century cottages (most are now used as shops), built of bonded red brick with continuous verandas. They are rare surviving examples of this type of structure. Between 163-175 Howick Street is a run of seven shops (with one severely compromised) built in 1874 by George Lord.
37. Old Public School (Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum)
Located in Howick Street are the former public school and headmaster's house which were built to G.A. Mansfield's Gothic Revival design in 1876. The school is a red-brick structure with sandstone base and detailing, a pyramid tower with lead spire and a gabled slate roof with bargeboards. The residence has dormer windows, filigree timber bargeboards and a timber veranda. Today it houses the outstanding Australian Fossil and Mineral Museum.
38. Technical College
The Technical College is located at 79-81 William Street. It is a two-storey American Romanesque building which was erected c.1896 of red brick with terracotta facings and other detailing. The architect was W.G. Kemp.
39. Ribbon Gang Lane
Located off Church Street and William Street is Ribbon Gang Lane named after a bushranging gang. In 1829 a young ticket-of-leave convict named Ralph Entwistle was seen swimming naked in the Macquarie River by Governor Darling. He was subsequently flogged and his ticket-of-leave taken away. Outraged at this treatment 80 convicts rebelled and Entwistle, with a group of supporters, became bushrangers. They were known as the 'Ribbon Gang' after the ribbons they wore in their hair. Ten of their number, including Entwistle, were caught at Abercrombie Caves and hanged.
41. Former Bank of New South Wales (Westpac)
This imposing and elegant Classical building, with its columned central porch and arched ground floor, was erected c.1895 for the General and Savings Banking Co. The site was previously occupied by the Carriers Arms Inn which achieved fame in 1851 when Edward Hargraves walked through the doors and announced the discovery of the first payable gold in Australia.
46. Police Barracks and The First Settlement
The site of the first settlement of Bathurst is now the Bathurst City Community Club. The current building was erected in 1890 as the Mounted Police Barracks. When the government domain was established in 1815 this site was the headquarters for the military. Barracks and a gaol were built in 1822. The town's first courthouse and magistrate's quarters were located opposite. It was released for public use in 1847.
Kelso Heritage Trail
As part of the Bathurst Heritage Trails brochure there is a specific section (complete with a map) which covers 16 places of interest and six interpretative sign panels in the suburb of Kelso. Kelso was established soon after 1815 when Governor Macquarie granted ten 50 acre allotments to ten settlers on the east side of the Macquarie River. It is now an opportunity to inspect some of the buildings and places which were part of the earliest settlement in the district.
1. Bathurst Showground
Opposite the Visitor Information Centre and adjoining the Macquarie River is the Bathurst Showgrounds. The Bathurst Show dates back to 1860 with the showground being established in 1877 and the first show at this location occurring in 1878. The unusual timber showground pavilion dates from around 1880 and was built in the style known as 'Carpenter's Gothic'.
3. Denison Bridge
Built in 1870 by P. N. Russell & Co to replace an earlier timber bridge it is one of the few iron truss road bridges left in New South Wales.
5. Stephen's Lane
As early as 1835 a barrister, Sydney Stephen, built this home beside the Macquarie River at the end of what became known as Stephen's Lane. The lane was a main thoroughfare because it led to one of the fords across the river.
7. The Holy Trinity Church
On the corner of Gilmour Street and Church Lane is Holy Trinity Church Parish Hall. The Holy Trinity Church was the first church to be built in inland Australia and the first Anglican church in the country to be consecrated - by Bishop Broughton, the country's first Anglican bishop. The Anglican parish of Kelso was founded in 1825. The church is situated on a hill overlooking Bathurst and is surrounded by a pioneer cemetery. The parish hall at the foot of the hill is older and once housed the first school in the district. The two-storey Gothic rectory was designed by Edmund Blacket and built around 1875.
Located on Gilmour Street is the handsome mansion, 'Woolstone', which was built in the late 1880s by the son of Thomas Kite, one of the first ten settlers. Woolstone was superimposed upon Thomas Kite's earlier cottage (c.1840).
12. Kelso Hotel
The Kelso Hotel was probably built in 1860 and named the Coach and Horses. It is characterised by stuccoed brick with original 12-pane windows. It was renovated in 2005 and is now a hotel-motel which still holds much of the charm of the original building. Check out http://www.thekelsohotel.com/KelsoHistory.html for more details.
Other Buildings of Interest
Bathurst Regional Art Gallery
Located at 70-78 Keppel Street, the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery website explains the aim of the gallery: "A combination of beautiful natural landscapes and the dynamic history of villages such as Hill End, Carcoar, Sofala and Millthorpe have created a unique attraction for visual artists in the Bathurst region since 1815. Bathurst Regional Art Gallery has forged strong links with surrounding townships and within the local community to create a vibrant space showcasing the full spectrum of artistic endeavour. Built in 1989, it was the first purpose built regional gallery in NSW, and provides professional development opportunities for local and regional artists.". There is a Lloyd Rees gallery; an Australian ceramics from the early 1960s gallery; and a permanent exhibition of the artists of Hill End. Historically artists have been drawn to the area including Lloyd Rees and Russell Drysdale. Brett Whiteley boarded at The Scots School at Bathurst as a youth and continued to frequent the area until his death in 1992. The gallery is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm from Tuesday to Saturday, and from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm on Sundays and public holidays, tel: (02) 6333 6555. Check out http://www.bathurstart.com.au for more details.
'The Lindens' is a mid-Victorian era Italianate house which, today, is beige in colour, with a bay window, veranda out the front, and green gables lining the pitched roof. The home was built between 1862 and 1863 by local builder David Jones. It has some beautiful stables out the back. For many years it was home to James Rutherford, one of the owners of Cobb & Co.
Old Government Cottage
At the rear of No. 1 George Street (it is at 16 Stanley Street) is Old Government Cottage, a single-storey sandstock brick Georgian house with an external bread oven. It was opened as a museum by Sir Eric Woodward in 1965. It was originally believed that it was built between 1817 and 1820 as the residence for the commandant of the government settlement and, as such, it is recognised as the oldest brick building west of the Macquarie River. Governor Macquarie also stayed here with his entourage on his farewell visit to Bathurst in 1821. However there is some doubt about this. It may date from the 1850s. Certainly, regardless of these conflicting claims, it was the site of the government depot set up by Surveyor Cox during the construction of the road from Penrith in 1814-1815. The apricot tree outside the house is thought to have been planted by noted botanist and explorer Allan Cunningham. Inside, three rooms have been restored to their original condition with local donations of furniture and artefacts from the colonial era. It is open on Sundays from noon to 4.00 pm or at other times by arrangement, tel: (02) 6330 8455. For more information check out http://www.bathursthistory.org.au/the-society/old-government-cottage.html.
Located in Stanley St is a cairn indicating the site where, on 7 May, 1815, Governor Macquarie proclaimed the town of Bathurst. The first church service west of the Blue Mountains was held near this site on the same day. There is a Heritage Wall which commemorates the early European settlers of the district.
Mrs Traill's House and Garden
Located at 321 Russell Street is Miss Traill's House (built in 1845 by the Reverend Thomas Sharpe) a colonial Georgian residence which was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1976 by Ida Traill. The house, horse paddock, gardens and domestic collection provide a window into the past. There are four generations of memorabilia from the Lee and Kite families - early settlers in the area. As the website notes: "The house holds a wide and varied collection accumulated over 150 years, embracing items from Ida’s convict ancestors to her more prosperous land settlers. There are many mementoes to racing history with Lee horses making their mark for nearly 50 years, winning national titles including the Melbourne Cup and breeding some of the finest thoroughbreds in the industry." It is open from noon to 3.30 pm Saturday and Sunday, tel: (02) 6332 4232. There are guided tours at 3.00 pm. Check out http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/nsw/MissTraillsHouse for more details.
Bathurst Gaol, on the corner of Browning Street and Brook Moore Avenue, was designed by the great architect, James Barnet, and opened in 1888. While it cannot be visited (unless you have a friend who is an inmate) the facade is still worth inspection. The gaol's massive, hand-carved sandstone gate, features a lion's head holding a key - a Victorian symbol of secure and certain retribution. There is a legend that if the key falls from the lion's mouth then the prisoners should be freed. It hasn't happened yet.
The Slattery Museum
Located in Brilliant Street is St Stanislaus College, a fine three-storey Gothic structure which was built in 1873. It is the oldest Catholic boarding school in Australia and is constructed of decorative red brick with two towers, scalloped barge boards, marble fireplaces and pine and cedar joinery. The fine marble hall was designed by Edward Gell. One of the highlights of the college is the Slattery Museum. It was at the college in 1896 that Australia's first X-ray was taken by Father Slattery. The museum, which is dedicated to him, is open by appointment, tel: (02) 6331 4177.
The modest house is located at 10 Busby Street. A unique set of circumstances (it was the only home Chifley and his wife ever lived in, his wife continued to occupy it until she died in 1962, she bequeathed it to her “companion and housekeeper” for the duration of her life, it was then passed on to the Presbyterian Church which, in turn, sold it to the Bathurst City Council in 1962) have made it an adventure in time travel. Every piece of furniture, every picture on the wall, every item of clothing and memorabilia has a direct connection with Chifley and his beloved wife, Elizabeth. It is now known as the Chifley Home and Education Centre and is open to visitors by appointment and on Saturday, Sunday and Monday between 10.00 am - 2.00 pm. Contact the Bathurst Visitor Information Centre on 1800 68 1000 or call 02 6332 1444. Visit http://www.chifleyhome.org.au and download a range of brochures. At Chifley Home there is a guide titled simply Chifley Home which can be purchased.
Other Attractions in the Area
To visit Chifley’s grave in the Bathurst cemetery is to be reminded of the deep Protestant-Roman Catholic sectarianism that existed for the first half of the twentieth century in Australia and which, only a few years after Chifley’s death, was instrumental in tearing the ALP asunder leading to the rise of the DLP. In the Presbyterian section (Section C) of the cemetery Elizabeth Gibson Chifley shares a headstone with her father and mother, George and Isabella Mackenzie, and her sister Annie Milne Mackenzie. Quietly acknowledging the pain of a “mixed marriage” across the road, past neat rows of headstones of nuns, most of whom have Irish surnames, is an obelisk erected by the ALP and the ACTU with the inscription “Joseph Benedict Chifley M.H.R. P.C. Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia July 1945-Dec 1949 Beloved husband of Elizabeth. Died 13-6-1951. Aged 65 years. ‘If an idea is worth fighting for, no matter the penalty, fight for the right, and truth and justice will prevail.’”
Mount Panorama Motor Racing Circuit
Mount Panorama is recognised as one of the country's premier motor racing circuits. Originally known as the Mount Panorama Scenic Drive it was established in 1938 and, with the exception of the years of World War II, it has been used for motor racing ever since. The showpiece is the world famous Bathurst 1000 which is held every October. The first motorcycle Grand Prix was held in 1949 and the first car Grand Prix in 1958. The race that is now called the Bathurst 1000 was inaugurated in 1960 with Jack Brabham an early hero of the course. The event is now attended by up to 200,000 spectators. This 6.2 km circuit is open to the public all year round offering fine views over the town and district from the top of the hill. It is located at the south-western corner of Bathurst. Follow William Street to its western end and it branches off to the left as Panorama Avenue. There is a YouTube video of Jenson Button completing a lap of the racing circuit at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4XVF3jJL5Q. For more information check out http://www.mount-panorama.com.au/ or tel: (02) 6333 6100.
National Motor Racing Museum
The National Motor Racing Museum, established in 1988, is located at 400 Panorama Avenue (Murray's Corner) at the base of the Mount Panorama racing circuit. The website explains: "The National Motor Racing Museum celebrates the history, personalities and achievements of Australian Motor Sports. While Mount Panorama and the Bathurst 1000 is at the heart of our displays, we look across the spectrum of Australian Motor Racing. The history of speedway, solar, drag, Rallying, open wheeler, sports car as well as touring cars is told. The history of Motorbike racing in particular is given great attention." It is open every day from 9.00 am - 4.30 pm daily. Check out https://nmrm.com.au/about/about-us.html for details and admission prices.
McPhillamy Park is located at the summit of Mount Panorama and provides fine views over Bathurst and the surrounding district. It has a motor-themed Playground for children.
Cobb & Co Heritage Trail
In 2004 the legendary coaching company, Cobb & Co, celebrated the 150th anniversary of its first journey and the 80th anniversary of its last. The company's profound contribution to Australia's development was celebrated with the establishment of a heritage trail.
Cobb & Co's origins lay in the goldrushes of the early 1850s. Bathurst was central. It became the site of the company's headquarters in 1862, under the management of local boy, James Rutherford. The first coach arrived at Bathurst, from Victoria, to the applause of a large fanfare, and with Rutherford at the reins. The company's principal coach construction factory operated behind the Black Bull Inn at the corner of Bentinck and Howick Streets until 1881. At its peak Cobb & Co coaches were travelling 28,000 miles (44,800 km) a week. They had a total of 30,000 horses and were harnessing 6,000 horses every day. There was a total of 7,000 miles (11, 265 km) of regular routes throughout Australia and the web of routes from Bathurst to Bourke were part of 2,000 miles (3,218km) of coach routes which stretched from southern Victoria to the Gulf of Carpentaria and criss-crossed eastern Australia.
The Cobb & Co Heritage Trail booklet explains that "known as 'whips', or Jehus, the drivers were Australia's heroes of the 19th century. They had to contend with heat, dust, bush fires, flies, mosquitoes, rain, fog, bog, snow, snakes, kangaroos, bushrangers, difficult passengers and post office schedules which demanded the mail be on time or a heavy fine would ensue ... Horses were changed every 16 miles (25.6 km) or so at changing stations, sometimes combined with bush shanties or inns where the passengers could get a meal, drink, or a few hours sleep."
The Bathurst Visitor Information Centre has a repainted, polished and gleaming Cobb & Co coach which looks as though it came out of the city's coach factory yesterday. In reality it dates back to the 1870s and the restoration is the work of Don Burns of Narromine, a coach builder by trade, who took 18 months to restore it to its pristine condition.
While many of the original Cobb & Co buildings have been demolished (the Black Bull Inn, for example, was demolished in 1916) a trip around the town can include the Bathurst Court House where Cobb & Co often brought bushrangers for trial and "The Lindens", which was the first home of James Rutherford (a key member of the syndicate which bought Cobb & Co from Freeman Cobb). On the other side of town "Hereford", a gracious two-storey mansion built by Rutherford in 1879 is now the Education Office for the Bathurst Catholic Church. The Visitors Centre has copies of the brochure The Cobb & Co Heritage Trail - Bathurst.
Abercrombie House (1870-78) is one of the country's finest, and most eccentric, stately homes. A large, three-storey, 40-room mansion in the Scottish Baronial style, it sits upon the first land grant west of the Macquarie River which was issued in 1827 to William Stewart who had been appointed Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales in 1824. Stewart built a home called 'Strath' in the 1830s. The remaining wing and original stone fence are still standing. 'Strath' was partially dismantled in 1870 by his son, James, who used the bricks for the internal walls of the mansion. Covering 210 squares Abercrombie House represents a very unusual design in the Australian context, featuring a stepped slate roof with Dutch gables and bull's eye windows topped by elaborate finials. The external walls are of local granite and the round tower incorporates a spiral iron staircase. The interior features 29 fireplaces, a ballroom with an 8.5 m ceiling, seven staircases, extensive use of cedar and a parquetry floor. The present owners, the Morgan family, have a large collection of paintings, antique furniture, ceramics, woodwork and historic artefacts. There are formal gardens and a number of substantial basalt outbuildings on the estate which once hosted 120 tenant farmers. It is a private home but the owners do hold regular guided tours. Tel: (02) 6331 4929 or check out http://www.abercrombiehouse.com.au.
Chifley Dam is located on the Campbell River 18 km south-east of Bathurst via The Lagoon. The dam was started in 1947, completed in 1956, and upgraded in 2002. Power boating, sailing, swimming and fishing can all be enjoyed and there are camp sites and excellent cabins (they were used to house some of the athletes for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney) which can be booked. Tel: (02) 6332 1444 or contact the Visitor Information Centre on tel: 1800 681 000.
Ben Chifley in Bathurst
A few years ago I went to Bathurst specifically to explore the city's connection with one of the country's most admired politicians, Ben Chifley. It has been said that he was the last of the truly decent politicians. A train driver who rose to Prime Minister and who once, famously said "the goal of public life, our ‘light on the hill’ should not be making someone prime minister or putting an extra sixpence in people’s pockets but rather ‘working for the benefit of mankind, not just here but wherever we can lend a helping hand’.” You can see why he is so admired.
Here is that story for anyone who wants to follow the path of Ben Chifley:
"Chifley’s family home; the engine he drove as the state’s youngest first-class locomotive driver; a bronze bust in front of a housing estate; the church he regularly attended; the Railway Institute where he furthered his education and a large memorial in the Roman Catholic section of the Bathurst cemetery ensure that visitors to the town can immerse themselves in the life journey of this most remarkable prime minister.
The obvious starting point is Chifley’s family home at 10 Busby Street. It is a cliché to describe any historic home as “held in aspic” but a unique set of circumstances (it was the only home Chifley and his wife ever lived in, his wife continued to occupy it until she died in 1962, she bequeathed it to her “companion and housekeeper” for the duration of her life, it was then passed on to the Presbyterian Church which, in turn, sold it to the Bathurst City Council in 1962) have made the very modest family home an adventure in time travel. Every piece of furniture, every picture on the wall, every item of clothing and memorabilia has a direct connection with Chifley and his beloved wife, Elizabeth.
Our guide is Sam Malloy, co-ordinator of the Chifley Home & Education Centre, a tireless and knowledgeable advocate for Chifley and a man with the wonderful gift of being able to bring to life, through anecdote and description, Chifley and his world.
“When Chifley died,” he says, “a car pulled up outside and Robert Menzies stepped out. You can see him walking up the steps and he would have been welcomed by Elizabeth in the lounge room, probably with a cup of tea.” In the lounge room he points to a chair “He probably would have sat there while conveying his condolences.”
To visit Chifley’s grave in the Bathurst cemetery is to be reminded of the deep Protestant-Roman Catholic sectarianism that existed for the first half of the twentieth century in Australia and which, only a few years after Chifley’s death, was instrumental in tearing the ALP asunder leading to the rise of the DLP.
We walk to the Presbyterian section (Section C) of the cemetery where Elizabeth Gibson Chifley shares a headstone with her father and mother, George and Isabella Mackenzie, and her sister Annie Milne Mackenzie.
Then, quietly acknowledging that the pain of a “mixed marriage” endured even in death we walk across the road, past neat rows of headstones of nuns, most of whom have Irish surnames, to an obelisk erected by the ALP and the ACTU with the inscription “Joseph Benedict Chifley M.H.R. P.C. Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia July 1945-Dec 1949 Beloved husband of Elizabeth. Died 13-6-1951. Aged 65 years. ‘If an idea is worth fighting for, no matter the penalty, fight for the right, and truth and justice will prevail.’”
It is a sad commentary on the sectarian bigotry of the time that husband and wife are in separate sections of the cemetery and that, as we drive past St Philomena’s School and Church in Rocket Street, Sam Molloy points out that Chifley, even when he was prime minister, attended Mass regularly but sat up the back of the church and did not take communion. This was the kind of man Chifley was. After his marriage he believed he was no longer a full member of the church.
Seeking to lighten our memories we drive to Kelly Crescent where a bust of Chifley stands in the centre of the street. Unveiled by Dr Evatt in 1954 it is a reminder of Chifley’s true Labor values. He didn’t want a statue. He suggested that the best memorial would be housing for working people. The bust is surrounded by a housing estate.
In keeping with this image of Chifley we drive back to the Bathurst Railway station. On one side stands the old Railway Institute where Chifley attended night classes for over fifteen years and, on the other side, is the DC50 class steam locomotive 5112 that Chifley once drove.
At a time when the denizens of Parliament House rank lower than thieves and internet scammers a visit to Bathurst is a reminder of a time when politicians were honoured and loved. The enduring greatness of Joseph Benedict Chifley is that he was a modest, unpretentious, honest man of integrity. He was a politician who wanted nothing more than to work for his fellow Australians."^ TOP
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Bathurst area was home to the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people.
* In May 1813 Gregory Blaxland, William Wentworth and William Lawson became the first Europeans to cross the Blue Mountains and descend onto the Cumberland Plain.
* Surveyor George Evans crossed the Blue Mountains later in 1813 and camped on the future townsite of Bathurst. He reported favourably on the land; named the Macquarie River after Governor Lachlan Macquarie; and named the Bathurst Plains after Lord Bathurst.
* By January 1815 William Cox had built a road across the Blue Mountains.
* In April, 1815 Governor Macquarie crossed the Blue Mountains and reached the road-building party's depot on the west bank of the Macquarie River. He proclaimed it "a site for the erection of a town at some future period" which was to be named Bathurst.
* Later in 1815 a government domain consisting of troopers, government personnel and convict labourers was established.
* The settlement was used as a starting point for explorations by George Evans (1815), John Oxley (1816), Allan Cunningham (1823) and Charles Sturt (1828).
* The Dun Cow Inn opened on the east bank of the Macquarie River in 1817.
* By the early 1820s a settlement of small land holdings on the east bank of the Macquarie River had developed. It was known as Kelso.
* By 1824 conflict between the Wiradjuri and the settlers had become so bad that Governor Brisbane declared a state of martial law and despatched troops to Bathurst.
* The Anglican Church established a parish at Kelso in 1825.
* A rebellion of 80 convicts was quelled in 1829 after one of their number was flogged for swimming in the sight of Governor Darling and his party.
* In 1832 Thomas Mitchell discovered the Victoria Pass and the road from Sydney to Bathurst improved dramatically.
* By 1833 Governor Bourke had opened up the government reserve to the public. It was surveyed and land sales proceeded.
* A regular coach service from Sydney was established by 1835.
* In 1851 the first payable gold in the country was found at Ophir.
* The local goldrush saw Bathurst become the commercial centre for those en route to the diggings.
* By the end of the 1850s the town's population was over 4,000.
* Bushranger Ben Hall was married in St Michael's Church in 1856.
* By 1860 the town was booming and there were 50 grog shops operating.
* Bathurst became a municipality in 1862.
* In 1862 Bathurst became the headquarters for the Cobb & Co coach company.
* John Piesley, a bushranger, was tried and hung for murder at Bathurst Gaol in 1862.
* In October, 1863 Ben Hall with John Gilbert, Michael Bourke, John O'Meally and John Vane 'visited' Bathurst, robbed a jeweller's shop, bailed up the Sportsman's Arms Hotel in Piper Street and tried to steal a racehorse. Police fired at the bushrangers in George Street.
* Later in October the bushranger Michael Bourke was killed and, in November 1863, John Vane surrendered at the Bathurst Court House.
* By 1871 the town's population had reached 5,000.
* The railway reached the town in 1876.
* Ben Chifley, the son of a blacksmith and the prime minister of Australia from 1945-1949, was born at Bathurst in 1885.
* Bathurst was declared a city in 1885.
* Returning soldiers were granted land around the city after World War I, turning their efforts largely to orchards.
* Motor racing developed in the area with the first race being held in 1911.
* The Mount Panorama Racing Circuit was established in 1938.^ TOP
The Bathurst Visitors Information Centre, 1 Kendall Street, tel: 1800 681 000 or (02) 6332 1444.^ TOP
The best local website is http://bathurstregion.com.au/visit-bathurst which includes good information on the accommodation and eating in the area.^ TOP