Rural service town on the New England Highway beside the Hunter River
Aberdeen is a town more famous for the highlights of the surrounding countryside for the buildings or streetscapes of the centre. It lies in the heartland of the Hunter Valley horse stud area and is surrounded by rich pasturelands which have bred horses for all over the world. In the township the main attraction is the historic Segenhoe Inn (1837). It is now an upmarket bed and breakfast destination which has been richly furnished so that it captures an era when the town was the home to some of the richest men in the early colony of New South Wales.
Today Aberdeen is a small country service centre located on the side of a hill beside the Hunter River between Muswellbrook and Scone. Dairying, wheat, lucerne, horse studs, cattle and sheep are integral parts of the local economy. Most traffic through the town, on the New England Highway, passes without pausing. If they need to take a break they will opt for the larger centres of Muswellbrook and Scone which lie to the south and north.
Located 242 km north-west of Sydney on the New England Highway and 139 km north-west of Newcastle, Aberdeen is 186 m above sea-level .^ TOP
Origin of Name
One of the district's earliest settlers was Thomas Potter MacQueen who named the town after his friend George Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Historical Aberdeen Walk
There is a useful brochure - Historical Aberdeen Walk - which lists a total of 16 places of historic interest most of which are located along the main street (MacQueen Street).
These include (as listed on the brochure):
A. Jefferson Park
Jefferson Park is land which was set aside over 100 years ago and is now the town's main sports and recreation venue.
B. General Store
Located at 52 MacQueen Street and now a private home, this general store has been a cafe, grocery, billiard room and barber's shop over the years.
D. Segenhoe Inn
Segenoe Inn, the most impressive historic building in town, is located on the corner of the New England Highway and McAdam Street. Now calling itself Segenoe Inn Historic Bed and Breakfast, it was built in 1837 by Thomas Potter McQueen. The inn was built on McQueen's land which had been named Segenhoe after the Segenhoe Manor where he had been born in Bedfordshire in 1791. It was built with five bedrooms - two large parlours, the landlord's family room, a small parlour, double room downstairs, there were two dormitories upstairs for the male and female servants. The inn also had a detached kitchen, a tap room and storeroom. The backyard consisted of a 30 acre paddock of pasture and a 10 acre paddock for green barley grown for the horses. In 1889 the inn became a hotel and in 1905 it became accommodation for travellers and was named the Segenhoe Hotel. Today it is the most significant historic building in the town. Check out http://segenhoeinn.com.au/ for details and bookings.
E. Old Butter Factory and Mill
A short distance along Rouchel Road (pronounced 'roo-cawl'), just over the railway line, to the left, are the ruins of the old mill, built c.1840. It is believed to be the oldest mill of its kind still standing in Australia. 700 m further along the road, also to the left, are the remnants of an old butter factory which was built in 1897.
Other Attractions in the Area
Driving in the District
The country surrounding Aberdeen is more interesting than the town. This is a district where early, wealthy settlers acquired large land holdings which were often used as bases for explorations which passed through looking for new lands to the west and the north. Although the properties are privately owned it is easy to appreciate the richness of the area and the way the original properties have been turned into successful horse studs.
There are two routes: one heads east on either Rouchel Road or Segenhoe Road and the other heads west on Dartbrook Road.
(i) Driving East
Lake Glenbawn Holiday and Recreation Area
Two kilometres north of Aberdeen on the New England Highway, Segenhoe Road heads east and after another 5 km there are roads leading to Lake Glenbawn Holiday and Recreation Park. The park was named when Glenbawn property was submerged as a result of the construction of a dam. Glenbawn Dam was built between 1954 and 1957 to regulate the flow of the Hunter River in order to meet stock, domestic and irrigation requirements. It covers 2614 ha, draws on a catchment area of 1295 square km, has a storage capacity of 750 000 ml and a maximum depth of 85 m. The main wall is 100 m high and the length of the crest is 1125 m.
Major extensions in the 1980s facilitated the development of the recreation area. The result is a popular spot for water skiing, fishing, swimming, wind surfing, sailing, canoeing and sailboarding. The website (http://www.stateparks.nsw.gov.au/lake_glenbawn) boasts that "Lake Glenbawn is also one of the best freshwater fishing spots in NSW. Cast a line and you can catch our famous 'big bass', golden perch (yellow belly) and catfish."
The lake's shoreline is predominantly open woodland with over 100 species of birds including galahs, eastern rosellas, pelicans and king parrots. The water attracts kangaroos and wallaroos in the early morning and at dusk.
Kia Ora Stud
Located on Alan Bridge Road where the road crosses the Pages River is the Kia Ora stud. This is the heartland of the Australian throroughbred industry. Kia Ora was founded in 1914 by Percy Miller. In the beginning it was started with just half a dozen mares but over the years it has produced many champions and become one of the great studs. It is the birthplace of seven Melbourne Cup winners. Such legends of the Australian turf as Amounis, Windbag, Shannon, Delta, Hydrogen and Evening Peal were born and reared at Kia Ora. In 1941 it sold 105 yearlings at the Sydney Easter Sales. Check out http://www.kiaoraestates.com.au/ for more information.
Segenhoe Horse Stud
Segenhoe Stud is a famous horse stud located on the west bank of the Pages River. The single-storey stone Georgian homestead which dates from the 1830s is difficult to see from the roadside as it is set back from the road. It has a hipped roof and bull-nosed veranda. It was famous as a stopover point for exploraters heading north. Surveyor-General Thomas Mitchell, explorers Allan Cunningham and Edmund Kennedy, and Governor Bourke all used the house as a base. Today this famous stud is known for its exceptional brood mares which include Hurtle Myrtle, Sister Madly, Mimi Lebrock, Set For Fame, Buckleupbuttercup (USA), My Chicharita (NZ), Deer Valley, Swiss Rose (NZ) and Radharcnafarraige (IRE). Check out more about the stud at http://www.segenhoegroup.com.au/about-us.html.
Drive 2.6 km beyond Segenhoe Stud and take the road to Lake Glenbawn. 5.3 km along this road is a turnoff to the left which will take you up to Brushy Hill where there are two separate lookouts with impressive panoramic views across the lake. To the east are Mount Woolooma, the Mount Royal Ranges and Barrington Tops. To the north is the Liverpool Range and to the south and west the valleys of the Upper Hunter.
(ii) Driving West
Dartbrook Estate and the Blue Heeler
To the north of Aberdeen, Dartbrook Road heads west through farming land to a T- intersection where the Dartbrook estate was established. The land was granted to George Smith Hall, a free settler who had arrived in 1802 and settled near Windsor. Hall , like many early settlers, used Dartbrook as a base while sending his children north to work large cattle runs. His son Thomas became famous when he "invented" the blue heeler sheep dog. The Australian Dictionary of Biography explains: "Thomas managed the Dartbrook property for the family partnership and later inherited it. He bred station horses, Durham cattle and merino sheep. He responded to the urgent need for good cattle-dogs and imported a pair of wall-eyed blue 'merles', a cross between the Scottish collie and Italian greyhound. In 1840 he produced a merle-dingo cross that combined the speed and silence of the dingo with the collie's intelligent obedience. 'Hall's Heelers' became famous among Hunter Valley cattle-men and were in much demand for station work. After 1870 a pair were taken to Sydney where the breed was improved, chiefly by the Bagust brothers, who 'bred a lot and drowned a lot' until by 1890 the blue cattle-dog bred true." The dog became known as a 'blue heeler' for the colour of its coat combined with its tendency to nip at the heels of cattle, thus moving them forward in a controlled manner.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by the Wanaruah people. They had trade and ceremonial links with the Kamilaroi people who may also have occupied the area.
* Government surveyor Henry Dangar, camped by the Hunter River, in August 1824 during his first exploration of the district. He crossed the river, discovering Dart Brook and Kingdon Ponds (two tributaries) just to the north-west of the present townsite.
He submitted a favourable report on the "rich alluvial land" adjacent the two creeks which immediately attracted settlers.
* In 1823, British MP, Thomas MacQueen, read a favourable report on the rural prospects in New South Wales.
* In 1825 McQueen sent stock, machinery, supplies, artisans, their families and overseer Peter McIntyre who chose the land around Aberdeen, naming MacQueen's estate Segenhoe after MacQueen's birthplace (Segenhoe Manor in Bedfordshire) and his own property Blairmore.
* By the late 1820s Segenhoe was employing nearly 100 convicts. It was used as a base for explorers such as Thomas Mitchell, Edmund Kennedy and Allan Cunningham.
* MacQueens' financial situation in England declined and he moved to Australia, living at Segenhoe from 1834 to 1838.
* In 1838 McQueen persuaded the government to lay out the township of Aberdeen by the river crossing.
* By 1840 an inn and a steam driven mill existed beside the river. Farmers from Murrurundi transported their grain to this site in the early days.
* There were 27 recorded residents in 1851.
* The town's first post office opened in 1856.
* The first police station in the town was completed in 1862.
* In 1864 a school was opened in the town.
* By 1866 there were two churches, a post office, a lock-up, a school, three inns, some shops and a steam-driven mill.
* The railway arrived from Muswellbrook in 1870.
* In 1881 the population of Aberdeen was 36.
* Meat processing became the staple of the town when the Australian Meat Cutting and Freezing Company began operating in 1891.
* The exportation of frozen mutton commenced in 1892 via the port of Newcastle.
* By 1894, 200 men were employed by the meatworks.
* In 1896 St Joseph's School opened.
* The Aberdeen Hotel was opened in 1900.
* In 1905 Segenoe became a hotel.
* In 1908 a police station and court house was built in the town.
* In 1913 Segenhoe became a horse breeding property. It is still a stud today.
* By 1918, the town had three stores, four specialist vendors, three hotels, two banks and one newspaper.
* In 1983 Elders IXL took over the town's meatworks.
* The meatworks closed in 1999. It put 400 local people out of work.^ TOP
Aberdeen does not have its own Visitor Information Centre. The closest is the Scone Visitor Information & Horse Centre, cnr Kelly & Susan Streets, Scone, tel: (02) 6540 1300.^ TOP
Check out http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/hunter/upper-hunter/aberdeen. There is a detailed downloadable history of the town at http://upperhunter.nsw.gov.au/f.ashx/documents/6013-HistoryofAberdeen.pdf.^ TOP