Historic gold mining town now a chic destination between Canberra and the coast.
Braidwood is a true rarity: a town which is a major thoroughfare for Canberra residents heading to Batemans Bay and the coast which, by some miracle, has managed to retain a strong sense of its nineteenth century history. Today it is an important service centre and historically it was a vital centre during the goldrush era. Part of modern importance has been due to an influx of artists, writers and people seeking a "treechange" and part of it is a the result of travellers stopping to explore the boutique shops along the main street and purchase the specialist local produce.
Braidwood is located 285 km south of Sydney via the Hume Highway, 86 km east of Canberra on the Kings Highway and 60 km north-west of Batemans Bay. It is 650 m above sea level.^ TOP
Origin of Name
Europeans explored the area in the summer of 1822 and shortly afterwards Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson, a surgeon, was granted land in the area. Wilson, eschewing modesty, named his farm 'Braidwood' so that when part of the farm was resumed for the town it was a simple step to name the town Braidwood.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Historic Braidwood Town Walk
The best way to explore Braidwood is to download the Historic Braidwood Town Walk - http://www.visitbraidwood.com.au/sites/default/files/Braidwood%20Walking%20map.pdf and http://www.visitbraidwood.com.au/sites/default/files/Braidwood%20Town%20Map.pdf. It has a total of 54 places of interest. If you want to explore all the places it will take you most of the day. A slightly shorter route can be taken by starting on the corner of McKellar Street and Wallace Street and proceeding south to Lascelles Street then heading east to Elrington Street and completing the circuit by coming up that street and back to McKellar Street. This shorter route has 33 places of interest.
The most interesting places include:
1. Braidwood Historical Society Museum
The Historical Society Museum building was constructed of local granite after a design by Surveyor James Larmer in 1845. It was initially used as the Royal Hotel. In 1870 it was sold to the local branch of the Oddfellows and remained the towns Oddfellows Hall until 1970 when it was taken over by the Braidwood Historical Society. The Museum is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11.00 am - 2.00 pm, tel: (02) 4842 2310 for more information.
2. 5 & 7 Park Lane
These small wooden cottages date from the 1850s and 1860s. No.5 was owned by the Musgraves, the publishers of the local newspaper.
4. The Snow Lion
Beautifully restored, this handsome house was built at the end of the 19th century and now operates as a B&B.
7. The Masonic Temple
Reputedly one of the earliest Masonic Temples in New South Wales, this was built as a private residence for the local cabinetmaker. The distinctive Masonic facade was added in 1907.
8. St. Andrew's Anglican Church
St. Andrew's Church of England was designed by Edmund Blacket, the architect responsible for the quadrangle at Sydney University. This church is particularly interesting in that it is almost certainly a combination of the creative efforts of Edmund Blacket and his son Arthur Blacket. It was built of local granite and, if you look carefully, you will notice that it has some of the first gargoyles used on a church in New South Wales. The tower was completed in the 1890s. The church also has particularly impressive stained glass windows.
10. Nos. 31, 33 & 35 Elrington Street
These houses date from the 1850s and were restored with assistance from the NSW Heritage Office. They are a reminder of how much of the town remains intact.
11. The Old Maternity Hospital
An interesting connection with the Clarke Brothers (the town's infamous bushrangers). In the 1860s this hospital was run by Anne Gardiner - she was their sister.
15. St. Bede's Roman Catholic Church
Built between 1856-1862 out of local granite this simple church is notable for the huge bell which stands next to the main building. It is claimed by some parishioners that, when the wind is blowing in the right direction, the bell can be heard 15 km away. Local folklore has it that the bell was intended for St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney and somehow ended up in Braidwood.
16. The Criterion Hotel
Now an excellent deli and cafe on the corner of Lascelles and Wallace Street, this elegant hotel was built in 1870 and known as Torpy's Hotel. When it was still a hotel it had a large seat outside where drinkers would sit and watch the passing traffic.
17. National Theatre
Now the Visitor Information Centre and the local Community Centre, this building was originally a roller skating rink and Picture Palace. It still is used as a hall for local events.
18. The Commercial Bank
Located behind mature trees this unusual building was built in 1888 as the manager's residence and premises for the Commercial Banking Company. Unusually it is single storey at a time when it was common for banks to be two storey with the bank on the ground floor and the manager living above it.
20. The Albion Hotel
Over the road, on the corner of Wallace and Duncan Streets, is the Albion Hotel which was built in 1872 as a symbol of modernity. It was known at the time for having the best accommodation in town and the food was reputed to be exceptional.
21. The Granite Store
On the opposite corner, and built out of local granite, is a handsome granite store which was built by stonemason Terence McGrath and, over the years, has been used as a butcher's shop, a saddlery and a produce store. The upper storey veranda was added in the 1890s.
22. Royal Mail Hotel
Located on the corner of Park Lane and Wallace Street, the Royal Hotel was built in the 1890s. The name was changed when it featured in the 1969 movie of Ned Kelly.
23. Literary Institute
Standing at the top of the town's main street, the Literary Institute was completed in 1869. It dominates the main street and, historically, was a combination of a library and a venue for balls and major social events. It was used by the local council between 1958 and 2004.
25. The Post Office
This unassuming building dates from 1865 when it was established as the town's Telegraph Office. Today it is the local Post Office. The Postmaster's residence is next door.
26. Court House
Braidwood's first court house was constructed in 1837 by Dr Wilson. This handsome Court House, built in 1900, is a classic example of a Federation single-storey brick building. It complements the nearby police residences and is characterised by four Doric columns.
27. Police Residences and Police Station
Next door, set in mature gardens, are two red brick single-storey police residences dating from 1864. They have hipped roofs of corrugated iron and their windows are topped with flat brick arches.
28. The Commercial Hotel (now The Braidwood Hotel)
Built in 1859, this handsome Victorian three-storey rendered brick building is another dominant structure in Wallace Street. It is characterised by impressive cast iron columns and decorative lace work on the second-storey balcony. The original balcony was roofless and had simple timber balustrades. During its heyday it had an impressive ballroom.
In Search of Bushranger Memorabilia
Braidwood has a number of sites that are worth investigating if you are interested in the bushranging history of the area.
(a) 48. The Braidwood Cemetery is located at the southern end of Wallace Street off Cowper Street. In the cemetery is a large monument which commemorates the deaths of the four Special Constables killed by the Clarkes at Jingera. The men were originally buried under sheets of bark. This sparked a public outcry which led to the bodies being reburied under this impressive monument.
(b) Braidwood Gaol - The ruins of the Braidwood goal can be seen at the very northern end of Wallace Street once you have crossed the Gillamatong Creek on the way to Goulburn and Canberra. It was from this location that Thomas Clarke escaped in 1865.
(c) 11. The Old Maternity Hospital
An interesting connection with the Clarke Brothers (the town's infamous bushrangers). In the 1860s this hospital was run by Anne Gardiner - she was their sister.
Other Attractions in the Area
Now open as a B&B and for periodic inspection, this heritage National Trust-listed homestead is situated on a 450 ha cattle and sheep property, 2 km from Braidwood via Monkittee Street. It was built "between 1836-1840 by Captain John Coghill as a country cottage for his family in Braidwood. The house was designed by John Verge, the designer of Camden Park at Menangle and Elizabeth Bay House in Sydney. Locally cut timber was used to make the black ash columns, cedar interiors and hardwood floors. The bricks were made on the property, and the sandstone and marble were quarried near Marulan. For over 130 years the house was inhabited by the Coghill/Maddrell family and the contents of the house that accumulated during this time are still in situ. The collection reflects changing tastes and social habits from Victorian through to Edwardian times. Margaret and Roger Royds bought the property in 1972, and worked tirelessly to preserve a part of Australian heritage, which is now being carried on by their daughter Sonia Horan and her family." For more information check out http://www.bedervale.com or tel: (02) 4842 2421.
Monga National Park
Located 20 km south-east of Braidwood via the Kings Highway, the Monga National Park can be explored by car (there is a 2WD Tourist Loop) or on foot (The Corn Trail). The website explains: "Whether you’re looking for a peaceful place to picnic, a stroll through the forest, a challenging full day hike, or a scenic drive on a 4WD touring route, there’s something for everyone at Monga National Park. You’ll find cool temperate rainforest filled with ancient plumwood trees from the Gondwana Age, warm temperate rainforests and old growth eucalypt forests. Enjoy relaxing picnics along the banks of Mongarlowe River, with peaceful spots to watch the local wildlife and admire the unique Monga waratahs in flower."
The two main walks are the Penance Grove Walking Track which is a 250 metre loop on a wheelchair friendly boardwalk where "you’ll see plumwood trees decorated with ferns, mosses and lichen forming a cathedral-like canopy for the tall mosses below. It’s incredible to think that many of the plant species here date back millions of years to when Australia was part of the super continent, Gondwana."
The longer Corn Trail is a hard walk of 12 km which follows the trail that pack horse teams used in the 1830s. It takes around 6 hours and is downhill where, if you are sensible, you will arrange to have a car to pick you up.
The website (https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/Horse-riding-trails/Corn-Trail-walking-track) explains: "Corn Trail walking track was originally used by Aboriginals on their seasonal travels between the coast and the tablelands, then later by European settlers on pack horses carrying supplies.
This historic trail takes you downhill from high mountain ridges to deep rainforest-filled valleys. You'll pass the gently flowing Buckenbowra River, wander through warm temperate rainforest and walk through eucalypt forests. You’ll also catch glimpses of Mount Budawang and the sandstone peaks of Pigeon House and Castle Mountain further north. It’s a difficult walk, so you’ll need to come prepared, but the scenery is worth it. A carpark at the bottom allows you to do a car shuffle and have a vehicle and supplies waiting for you at the end."
For those who like to remain in their cars there is a 21 km drive "the 2WD Loop" through old growth forests and tree fern valleys.
For more information check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/Monga-National-Park.
Deua National Park
The Deua National Park and Wadbilliga National Park cover 156,000 ha of wet and dry sclerophyll forests and patches of sub-tropical rainforest lining spectacular mountain ranges dominated by Big Badja (1362 m) and Mother Woila Mountain (1104 m). The most popular attraction in the park is The Big Hole and the Big Hole Walking Track which can be reached via the Cooma Road south of Braidwood.. It is 3.5 km return, takes between 90-150 minutes and involves crossing the upper reaches of the Shoalhaven River. The Big Hole is described in detail on the National Park website: "In 1862, a young man called Boxall used four long saplings, a rope and a candle to explore a deep chasm out in the bushland of southeast NSW. The rubbly bottom he eventually landed on was 96m from the surface. Onlookers were all shaking their heads at his reckless behaviour but also itching to know what he’d found down there inside what is now known as The Big Hole.
"Thought to be around 400 million years in the making, this is an extraordinary limestone marvel; a roofless cave which is over 100m deep and 50m wide. It can be reached by walking from Berlang campground, wading across the Shoalhaven River, then continuing through dry eucalypt forest and unique nana heath, with expansive views of the park on your journey. The vast open chasm can be viewed from the lookout and, if you’re there in the early morning or late afternoon, you may see its resident lyrebird come out from its ferny grotto to feed." For more information check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/Deua-National-Park.
A Little About the Clarke Gang
When the Clarke brothers – Thomas and John – were being sentenced to death in Sydney in 1867 the judge, Sir Alfred Stephen, listed their record, exclusive of suspected murders, as: “Thomas, nine mail robberies and thirty-six robberies of individuals of all classes in two years; John, twenty-six crimes in one year.” If he had included the murders they were accused of, he would have added at least six people, most of whom were policemen.
The Clarkes were the sons of John Clarke, an Irish shoemaker who had been sentenced to seven years transportation and who arrived in Sydney Town in 1828. He was assigned to work for a pastoralist near Braidwood but, rather than working, he appears to have lived by stealing cattle.
When gold was discovered in the district in 1852 John and his sons, Thomas and John Jnr, stole the gold miners' horses and then claimed the rewards. Old John reckoned this trade was worth some £250 a year.
John’s three sons and two daughters grew up without schooling or religious instruction "in an isolated community little less than a den of thieves, connected either by marriage or misdeeds".
By the mid-1860s the three brothers had established their criminal credentials. In 1863 John was gaoled for a year for horse stealing. In January 1865 James was sentenced to seven years for receiving the proceeds of a mail robbery and Thomas was awaiting trial for assault and robbery when the family managed to arrange his escape.
Between October 1865 and May 1866 Thomas Clarke was credited with three charges of horse-stealing, eight robberies including two mails and post offices, the wounding of John Emmett and the murder of Constable Miles O'Grady at Nerrigundah on 9 April.
In May Thomas Clarke formed a gang with his brother John and "no more remarkable confederacy of robbery, violence and murder has ever been known to exist in any civilized community".
Failure to catch the Clarke gang led to a public outcry. Special police were sent to the Braidwood district in April 1866 but they were unsuccessful and were recalled. In September that year the Colonial Secretary secretly appointed John Carroll, a senior warder at Darlinghurst gaol, and three others to capture the Clarkes.
In January 1867 Carroll and his party were murdered near Jinden station. The crime was credited to the Clarkes and a reward of £5000 was offered for their capture.
In March a force of experienced police were sent to Braidwood. On 27 April a party led by a black-tracker named 'Sir Watkin' found the Clarke brothers near Jinden. A Constable Walsh, Sir Watkin and John Clarke were wounded in the subsequent gunfight but the Clarke brothers were captured.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported: "The two captured bushrangers were on Saturday night (the 27th ultimo) taken to Bollaby ; and thence on to Braidwood on the Monday following. A large concourse of horsemen went to meet them as they came into Braidwood, and by the time that they reached the gaol (about half-past 2. p.m.) there must have been at least 300 persons present. The two robbers seemed to be quite indifferent to the awful position in which they were placed, smiling with real or assumed carelessness as they were taken through the town. John Clarke had one arm in a sling, and his horse was held by a constable on either side of him. The elder Clarke was handcuffed, and his horse was also held by two troopers. A large body of police, well armed, formed the escorting party. The journey was performed without any impediment. A little after the party escorting the Clarkes came in the wounded black tracker, Sir Watkin, escorted by a trooper, who was leading his horse. The poor fellow had his arm in a sling, and seemed to be faint and weak from pain; scarcely able to keep his seat on the saddle."
At Nelligen there the “Bushranger Tree” where the Clarke brothers were chained while they awaited shipment to Sydney where they were executed on 25 June, 1867. The executions effectively ended organised bushranging in New South Wales. There is a long and detailed history of the gang at http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/13143870. It is a story from the Sydney Morning Herald dated 4 May, 1867 - six weeks before they were executed.
* Prior to European settlement, the area was occupied by the Dhurga and Walbundja Aborigines who spoke the Yuin language.
* The first Europeans into the area were William Kearns, William Packer and Henry Marsh who arrived in the summer of 1822.
* In 1825 Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson took up land near Lake George to which he added 2,560 acres where Braidwood is now located.
* In 1833 land granted to Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson was chosen as the future site of the town.
* During the 1830s Braidwood prospered.
* The town was surveyed in 1839.
* The first land sales took place in 1840.
* By 1841 there were some 1500 people living in the district and Braidwood farm, owned by Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson, had a population of 141.
* John Coghill built Bedervale between 1836-1840.
* The town grew dramatically with the discovery of gold in the Braidwood-Araluen district in 1851-52.
* By 1852 there were 15,000 prospectors in the Araluen Valley.
* In 1864-1865 the Clarke Brothers robbed and killed in the district.
* The Clarkes were captured on 27 April, 1867.
* In 1867 Australia's first Royal Commission was held - Braidwood and the relationship of the police to the bushrangers was the subject.
* The largest gold discovery in Braidwood was a huge 350 pound (170 kg) nugget which was 67 per cent pure gold and was found in November, 1869.
* The impressive local Court House was built in 1901.
* In 1969 the town was used in scenes for Ned Kelly starring Mick Jagger.
* The Monga National Park was declared in 2001.
* In 2006 the town was listed on the NSW State Heritage Register.^ TOP
National Theatre and Visitor Information Centre, 100 Wallace Street, tel: (02) 4842 1144.^ TOP
There is a useful local website with detailed history of the town and surrounding area. Check out http://www.visitbraidwood.com.au.^ TOP