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Dungog, NSW

Quiet country town and ideal southern entry point to the Barrington Tops National Park.

Dungog is a charming Australian rural service town. It is located in a valley surrounded by rolling hills and edged by the Williams River which flows into the Hunter River. It is primarily a cattle-raising, dairying and timber town and a service centre for the surrounding area. It is a base for an exploration of the fine countryside to the north, which includes Chichester Dam, state forests and Barrington Tops National Park, all of which are ideal places for bushwalking, scenic drives, swimming, horse riding, cycling, camping, mountain bike riding and canoeing. It is a quiet town which enjoyed two periods of prosperity (the 1880s and 1920s) when most of the town's elegant buildings were constructed.

Location

Dungog is located 214 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Highway. It is 76 km north of Newcastle via Clarence Town and 61 m above sea-level. 

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Origin of Name

The area around Dungog was the home of the people of the Gringai Aboriginal language group. It is probable that 'dungog' is a corruption of a local word (probably 'tunkok') meaning 'place of thinly wooded hills'. Prior to being named Dungog the settlement was known simply as Upper Williams. It was named Dungog by the local magistrate, Captain Thomas Cook, in 1834.

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Things to See and Do

Apex Lookout
An excellent view over Dungog can be had from Hospital Hill which can be accessed by driving to the western end of Brown Street. From the Apex Lookout, opposite the hospital, there is a panoramic view over the  town and the surrounding countryside.

Brown Street Buildings
There are two streets in town of particular historic interest - Brown Street and Dowling Street. Brown Street is notable for the Court House, James Theatre and its access to the Apex Lookout. Dowling Street, the main street, has a fine collection of historic buildings and can be explored by simply walking along the street from the Visitor Centre and taking note of the many blue plaques which tell the story of the buildings.

Court House
Set back from the road in Lord Street, next to the RSL Building, is the court house. In the town's earliest days the settlers petitioned the authorities for a military post to deal with bushranging. Captain Thunderbolt, Joe Byrne, the Governors (the central characters in Thomas Keneally's novel The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith) and the Jew Boy Gang, were all active in the district. The town's court house was built between 1835 and 1838 as a barracks and stables for troopers who successfully drove Captain Thunderbolt north over Gloucester Tops and out of the area. It was converted to its present usage in 1849. 

Police Residence
The police residence adjacent to the Court House and was originally a lock-up dating from 1884. 

Memorial Town Hall and Council Chambers
Located in Brown Street, the Memorial Town Hall and Council Chambers (now the Dungog Memorial RSL Club) was built to honour the local men who had died. Its construction was largely funded by public donations. It was opened on the 4 September 1920.

Catholic Complex
On Brown Street, on the way to the hospital, are the handsome buildings of St Joseph's School (established in 1888) and St Mary's Catholic Church.

Courthouse Hotel
On the north-eastern corner is the Courthouse Hotel (established in 1868). It is an impressive building with cast-iron lacework on the balconies and eaves.

James Theatre
Located at 6 Brown Street, the James Theatre is the oldest purpose-built cinema still operating in Australia. The Dungog Electric Lighting Company set up an open-air cinema in 1912 and in 1918 James Stuart, after whom the theatre is named, built a roof over the site. The theatre’s signature Spanish-style facade was added in the 1930s. The Theatre fell into disrepair until it was purchased by the Dungog Shire Council in 1979. Subsequently it became a large function centre. Cinema screenings continued during the 1980s and 1990s. In recent times the community has worked to keep the building operational. A multi-purpose facility, the venue (owned by Dungog Shire Council) also hosts live performances, dance and film classes.

Dowling Street
The main street of Dungog, named after Chief Justice James D. Dowling (an early landholder in the district), is an urban conservation area. With its old shops and facades, many dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it has a charming, historic ambience. It is easy to access information about the buildings. In 2008 the Dungog Historical Society put distinctive blue plaques on the walls of the buildings so that visitors could learn the history of the structures. The text from the signs has been integrated into the text on the street. This walk starts at the bottom of the street at the Bank Hotel and makes its way up Dowling Street to the Christ Church Anglican Church.

Bank Hotel
Located on the corner of Dowling and Hooke Streets (270 Darling Street) is the Bank Hotel. It is an attractive building with an upstairs balcony, cast-iron latticework, and decorative columns.

CBC Bank
The former CBC Bank (1874), now the National Australia Bank, is located at 257 Darling Street. This handsome two-storey building has cedar doors and fittings, an arched facade, an upstairs balcony with cast-iron lacework on the columns and eaves. It is capped by a pediment.

Coolalie
At 206 Dowling Street is Coolalie (1895), a beautiful two-storey brick building with cast-iron lacework on the eaves, ornate ceilings, cedar joinery and staircase, marble fireplaces and an impressive garden. It is a private home.

137 Dowling Street
The blue plaque states: "This two storey rendered brick building was built in 1909 in the Federation Filigree style. Erected as shops with a residence above, its first tenant was Mr S W Eggins, Chemist, who boasted up to date furnishings and a soda fountain. A number of chemists continued to operate from this building for many years as did a dentist and solicitor. In more recent years it has been home to a florist and a bakery."

130-136 Dowling Street
Dating from 1880, 1895, 1922-1923 "this Victorian Gothic style cottage owned by Joseph Abbott was incorporated into a suite of professional offices by Dick Abbott in 1923. Abbott's Chambers were constructed in the Inter-war Free Classic style by J B Connolly. The northern portion of the building had been erected a year earlier. A number of professional businesses have occupied the building including solicitors, doctors, dentists, photographers and accountants."

126-128 Dowling Street
The blue plaque states: "This large brick building with rendered and painted walls was built for Walter Herbert Green in 1922, from which he operated a general store and newsagency. After his death in 1936 his daughter Eileen Green continued to operate part of the building as a newsagency and gift store with the northern section being run as a grocery. The front of the building still retains lead lighting and pressed metal decorations to the upper parts of the windows and original tiles to the walls. A residence was added at the rear c 1980."

Post Office
Located at 129 Dowling Street is the post office which dates from 1880. "The first post office in Dungog began operating in 1835 from the veranda of a private house, possibly at 46 Dowling Street. In the 1860s the Post Office moved to a specially built room attached to Redman's Boarding House at 211 Dowling Street. In 1874 the telegraph system was extended to Dungog and the need for more permanent premises was recognised. The current building, in the Victorian Regency style, was erected in 1880. A telegraph office was set up in the building in 1881 and the first official telephone exchange opened in 1909. The front veranda was enclosed and the balcony was added between 1910 and 1930."

124 Dowling Street
The blue plaque states: "Small wooden shops and residences occupied this site from the 1860s prior to this brick building being erected in the Inter-war Georgian Revival style in 1922. It was built by solicitors Elliot & Waller and has continued as chambers for solicitors to this day."

115 Dowling Street
The blue plaque states: "Originally, this was the site of a two storey brick building known as Mason's Building which was bought as a residence for Eliza Dark, a local businesswoman. In 1884 the Bank of New South Wales commenced business in Dungog renting part of that building from Eliza Dark. The bank eventually purchased the premises which it demolished in 1936. The current building, constructed in the Inter-war Georgian Revival style, was erected by the bank in that year. It continued to operate as the Bank of New South Wales and then Westpac until the bank closed in 1999 and the building was sold."

School of Arts - Dungog Museum
Located on 105 Dowling Street is the heritage listed School of Arts building which has operated as the Dungog Museum. It promotes itself as having a "collection which reflects the area's rural history, including dairying, the timber industry, and local manufacturing including items from Wade's Cornflour Mill Dungog. Domestic items include household items and a photographic collection. Items that grandmother used for the daily running of the house, dentist equipment for pulling teeth, medical items, known Dungog citizen's stories, and history. Horse drawn carts and buggies and shop items are also on display." It is open on Wednesday from 10.00 am - 12.30 pm and Saturday from 10.00 am - 2.00 pm. Check out http://www.dungogmuseum.com.au for more details.

103 Dowling Street
The blue plaque states: "This building dates from around 1900 with part of the rear section being added in 1905. The first business to operate here was Federation Furnishing Co. It has also been a barber shop with residence at the rear, School of Arts Cafe and general corner store and has been occupied by Dungog Information and Neighbourhood Service since the early 1980s. During renovations in the 1980s it was found to have round timber rafters."

Christ Church
One of the oldest surviving buildings in town is the Anglican Christ Church, located at the corner of Chapman and Dowling Streets. The building was erected by the authority of Bishop Tyrrell who arrived in Australia in January, 1848 after being appointed to the new diocese of Newcastle. Building of the church commenced in 1849 and was completed in 1858. It was consecrated by Bishop Tyrrell in 1861 when the bell tower was completed. It replaced an original timber slab-sided church which had been built in the site in 1842. The church was designed by the noted colonial architect, Edmund Blacket, in 1849. It was extensively renovated in 1906 with the stone floor being replaced and the shingle roof being replaced by slate.

Masonic Lodge
Next door to Christ Church is the Masonic lodge (1894 and 1921).

St Andrews Presbyterian Church
St Andrews Presbyterian Church is a substantial and attractive building with arched lancet windows dating from 1904 which was erected in memory of Emily Isabella Mackay. The current church replaced an earlier Presbyterian church which had been consecrated in 1856. The current church was built in a Victorian free Gothic style to a design by J W Scobie.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Barrington Tops From Dungog
Whereas the road from Gloucester to Scone over the Barrington Tops is a clear, single road to the east, the access from Dungog involves a series of roads each heading to different campsites, picnic areas and bushwalks.
* Chichester Dam Road leading to Chichester Dam and Jerusalem Creek Picnic Area and Jerusalem Creek Trail
* Salisbury Road leading to Williams River Picnic Area and Williams Top Lookout
* Salisbury Road leading to Rocky Crossing and Lagoon Pinch
* Salisbury Road and Mount Allyn Road to Burraga Swamp 

* Chichester Dam Road leading to Chichester Dam and Jerusalem Creek Picnic Area and Jerusalem Creek Trail
Chichester Dam
Chichester Dam was built between 1916 and 1923 to supplement water supplies from the Walka Waterworks near Maitland. It has a capacity of 22,750 megalitres, a maximum depth of 37 m and it covers 184 ha. The flooded area was once a goldmining town named Wangat. There is a small parking area opposite the dam wall. The wall is 254 m long and rises 41 m above the water, offering superb views of the reservoir. Just past the wall is a walking trail off to the left.

Jerusalem Creek Trail
The Jerusalem Creek Trail which heads north from the Jerusalem Creek Picnic Area (2 km return - 60-90 minutes) makes its way from an area of dry eucalypt forest down into a gully where the ecosystem undergoes a transition to moist sclerophyll forest characterised by Sydney blue gums and tallowwoods. The track passes waterfalls and winds beside the Jerusalem Creek. There are plenty of elkhorns and other epiphytes, mosses, lichens, vines and ferns along the way. There are axe-cut logs from pre-chainsaw days, an old and narrow bullock track from pre-bulldozer days  and a crop of blue gum cultivated by ring barking which destroys the canopy, allowing light to reach the forest floor. This, in turn, encourages the growth of seedlings and hence regeneration. For more information check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/jerusalem-creek-trail.

* Salisbury Road leading to Williams River Picnic Area, Blue Gum Loop Trail and Williams Top Lookout
The Williams River Picnic Area has picnic and barbecue facilities, toilets, an information board and the pleasant, easy 3.5 km Blue Gum Loop Trail. It is also the southern end of the Rocky Crossing Trail (16 km return). 
The National Parks website describes the walk: "Blue Gum loop trail crosses the magnificent Williams River, winding past cascades, eucalypts, and rainforest before joining the southern end of Rocky Crossing walk. While crossing a high steel span bridge, stop to take in the beautiful views of the river. Passing through vigorous young Sydney blue gums, you’ll see signs of past logging along the track. Further on, a short detour leads to scenic Fern Creek cascades, where you might be tempted to unroll the picnic blanket. Back across the river, the track enters an enchanting patch of ancient rainforest. Be sure to look high in the moss-covered branches for birds nest ferns and orchids. Nearing the end of the path, huge Sydney blue gums soar above, with several short detours leading to secluded river spots, such as Crystal Pools. Round off your walk with a refreshing swim."
The dirt road to the left of the Picnic Area is Williams Top Road which enters Chichester State Forest. After 3.5 km there is a sharp left which leads on a track for 3 km to Williams Top Lookout. There is a picnic-barbecue area and fine views over the Williams Valley. 

* Salisbury Road leading to Rocky Crossing, Careys Peak Lookout and Lagoon Pinch
At Mount Barrington Picnic Area there is a 14 km, one-way walk to Careys Peak Lookout. It is a long, steep climb involving almost vertical sections and it links up with the Barrington Tops Walking Trails and Gloucester Tops for 2-3 day treks. For detailed information check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/careys-peak-walking-track. From Lagoon Pinch Picnic Area there is the interesting Rocky Crossing Walk - a 16 km return walk which will take around six hours.

* Salisbury Road and Mount Allyn Road to Burraga Swamp 
The panoramic view from Mt Allyn Lookout (1143 m above sea-level) is one of the most impressive in the whole of the National Park. The surrounding mountains appear bathed in a shimmering blue eucalypt haze. A walking track heads off and joins with the Burraga Swamp Walk which is a 2 km, 30 minute walk. The National Parks website explains: "Today, the delicate grasses and sedges of Burraga Swamp are in sharp contrast to the ancient rainforest of Antarctic beech around it. The organic matter left here over centuries is valuable historical evidence to help us understand and learn about past climate and vegetation. The walking track itself climbs gently through the beech forest, across a small saddle, and down to the southern edge of the swamp." For more detailed information and a useful map check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/burraga-swamp-walking-track.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Gringai Aboriginal people.

* The first Europeans in the area are thought to have been stockmen in search of wayward cattle. 

* By the 1820s the stands of cedar had attracted timbergetters. One account concerns a cedar tree with a circumference of nearly 9 metres which it was estimated would yield 9 km of timber. 

* The first property grant in the district was made by Governor Darling in 1824. 

* A grant of land was made to James D. Dowling in 1828. It is his name which graces Dungog's main street. 

* The land for a township to be named Upper Williams was set aside in 1830 but the name 'Dungog' was suggested by magistrate Captain Thomas Cook in 1834. 

* In the early 1830s the settlers petitioned the authorities for a military post to deal with bushranging in the area. Captain Thunderbolt and his wife had been involved in plundering homesteads in the Munni, Monkerai, Main Creek and Underbank districts. Joe Byrne, a member of Ben Hall's gang, was shot in the shoulder by a local woman when he bailed her up. The Governors and the Jew Boy Gang were also active in the area. 

* In 1833 a Court of Petty Sessions was established in the town.

* The town courthouse was built between 1835 and 1838 as a barracks and stables for troopers who successfully drove Thunderbolt north over Gloucester Tops and out of the area. 

* The town's first post office was opened in 1835.

* A town plan was approved, and the town was surveyed, in 1838. Land went on sale for £2 an acre.

* In 1840 the town's first licensed premises, the Dungog Inn, was opened.

* A school, built in 1843, was designed by noted architect, Edmund Blacket. It was only his second commission in the colony.

* In 1848 Edmund Blacket designed Christ Church Anglican Church. 

* By 1850 the town was well-established.

* There were 40 houses in the town by 1852.

* In 1861 Christ Church Anglican Church was consecrated. 

* In the 1860s the town had a tannery, a tobacco factory and a flour mill.

* In 1872 a School of Arts was established in the town.

* The town's Post Office was built in 1880.

* By 1888 the Dungog Chronicle was being published.

* The current School of Arts was built in 1898.

* The Dungog Co-op Dairy Company was formed in 1905.

* The railway arrived in 1911. 

* An open air picture theatre was opened in the town in 1912.

* Electricity reached the town in 1917.

* The current James Picture Theatre was opened in the 1930s.

* The Dungog Historical Society was established in 1963.

* In 1972 the Dungog timber industry supplied timber for elements of the interior of the Sydney Opera House. 

* In 2007 the first Dungog Film Festival was held.

* In  April, 2015 the town experienced a 1,000 year flood which killed three people.

* Today the town's major industries are beef and dairy cattle, timber and tourism.

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Visitor Information

Dungog Visitor Information Centre, 193 Dowling Street, tel: (02) 4992 2212.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.visitdungog.com.au.

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