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Charleville, QLD

Important rural service centre on the Warrego River

Charleville is a rural service centre on the Warrego River. With a population of over 3,000, it is the largest town in South West Queensland. Surrounded by rich pastoral land, it grew to prominence as an important transportation stopover between the vast properties of western Queensland and the vital railhead at Roma. Today the town is an important centre with offices of both the School of Distance Education and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.


Charleville is located 744 km west of Brisbane on the Warrego Highway and 300 m above sea-level on the Warrego River.


Origin of Name

Charleville was surveyed in 1868 by William Alcock Tully (Queensland under-secretary for public lands and chief commissioner for crown lands) who named the town after his childhood home at Charleville in County Cork, Ireland. The name had originally come from Charleville-Mézières in France.


Things to See and Do

Historic Buildings
Queensland National Bank
Located at 87 Alfred Street, the former Queensland National Bank was designed by Francis Drummond Greville Stanley and built in 1888. It is an impressive buidling which looks more like a gracious country home than a bank. Not surprisingly it combined banking with accommodation with the front offering access to the manager's office, the teller's area and the safe. The back of the building not only provided accommodation for the manager and his family but also provided a room for their maid. Such was the status of the bank manager in a country town at the time. The Queensland Heritage Register describes the building as "a single storey timber building with an exposed frame and is set on low stumps. It has a hipped roof clad with corrugated iron roof. There are verandahs to the front and sides of the building that have a corrugated iron clad awning supported by timber posts. A projecting central portico rising through the verandah awning marks the entrance to the building and is reached by timber steps. Internally the building features high ceilings and cedar joinery and has four marble fireplaces." The Register notes its importance as "The quality of its design and construction also demonstrate the importance of this regional branch at a time when Charleville was firmly established as a centre for the pastoral industry of southwest Queensland." Check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600757 for greater detail. Today the old bank houses the Charleville Historic House and Museum.

Charleville Historic House and Museum
Located in the Queensland National Bank building, and open from 8.00 am - 3.00 pm Monday to Saturday and Sunday 10.00 am - 2.00 pm. The house, as explained on the website, "boasts a comprehensive collection of items celebrating the early years of settlement - a bygone era when life was tough for both settlers and indigenous people alike." Tel: (07) 4654 3349 or check out https://www.charlevillehistorichouse.com.au.

Charleville War Memorial
Located in Edward Street, the Charleville War Memorial is a sad reminder of the price small communities paid during World War I. Designed by George Brockwell Gill, built at a cost of £1,000 out of marble, it commemorates the 310 local men who went to war and the 40 who died. The Queensland Heritage Register notes: "The memorial is of aesthetic significance for its high degree of workmanship, materials and design. Memorials of this type are rare in Queensland. The only other known one of similar design is at Esk." For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600758.

Hotel Corones
Located at 33 Wills Street, this remarkable hotel (completed in 1929) is a symbol of immigrant initiative and imagination. Harry ‘Poppa’ Corones, a native of the Greek island of Kythera, arrived in Australia as a penniless immigrant in the early 1900s and by 1929 had built a hotel, appropriately named the Hotel Corones, which was described, as it was being built, as “In every way the new Hotel Corones will be an example of hotel architecture and comfort scarce equalled in the Southern Hemisphere, and will undoubtedly be a great centre for all western men” and when it was finished had the Architectural and Building Journal of Queensland eulogising that it was “"a magnificent white building ... an outstanding feature in a progressive town ... the best equipped and most up-to-date hotel outside the metropolis ... generally acknowledged as the calling-place of all distinguished tourists and travellers..."
The Queensland Heritage Register is positively florid in its description of the hotel: “on the ground floor the lounge had gleaming copper-topped tables, deep leather lounges and chairs and led to a writing room and telephone booth; the dining room, enticing in its cleanliness, was capable of seating 150; the private bar which gave exclusive service amidst convivial surroundings was screened from the public bar by an ingenious arrangement a French polished oak partition with mirrors; the public bar was very modern and luxurious and a cool cement court-yard formed an entrance to the ball-room. Upstairs all accommodation rooms opened onto the verandah – some were equipped with their own bathrooms designed to please the most fastidious, and the upstairs lounge was just the place for a real restful smoke. Corones Hall located on Galatea Street had a floor unexcelled outside Brisbane and was largely in demand for exclusive balls, parties, and banquets. Capable of seating 320 at dinner, the hall was built for coolness with a number of high-set windows and electric ceiling fans. The lights with Venetian shades of various hues were adjustable either to dimness or the reverse, and an orchestra platform added to its popularity and beauty … Furnishings throughout, including the bedroom furniture, dining room, lounge room, chairs, settees, sideboards, etc., were designed and manufactured by the well-known Queensland home furnisher F Tritton Ltd of George Street, Brisbane using beautiful Queensland wood, the Queensland maple. Carpets, linoleums, floor coverings, curtains, etc. (British throughout) were all laid and fitted by Trittons.”
The hotel became the place to go in Charleville and over the next few decades it played host to local and international society. “In addition to wealthy local graziers, celebrities such as Amy Johnson, Gracie Fields, and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were guests at the hotel. In 1936 there were on average 133 guests per week and during World War II when American servicemen occupied the local aerodrome and hospital, "Poppa" Corones did a roaring trade with dances held "every night" in Corones Hall. In 1959, the state's centenary year, Charleville's civic welcome to its Royal visitor, HRH Princess Alexandra took place in front of the hotel.”
The Register notes the importance of the success of this penniless Greek migrant when, as part of the importance of the hotel, it records “The man and his hotel became synonymous: the use of the Corones name as the hotel name represented a significant break in the English tradition of the naming of hotels within an accepted nomenclature, a marketing strategy which was to see both the man and his hotel achieve (a joint and severable) iconic status in the west. That this icon was also of Greek origin was even more singular: Greek migration to Queensland in this century was most visible in the small business sector; the Greek cafe and green grocer became standard fixtures in the state's cities and throughout rural Queensland. Harry Corones' move into the hotel industry and the scale in which it was undertaken (uncompromisingly proclaimed by his ambitious plans for the Hotel Corones) represented a significant leap. Moreover, in the (predominantly British) mythology of the (Queensland) west, the Greek hero was (and is) a rarity.” For a more detailed description check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601282.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Centre
The southern Queensland base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service is located on John Flynn Way (turn into the airport and take the second right) which runs off the Mitchell Highway. It is open for inspection from 8.30 am - 4.30 pm daily and open on weekends between April and October from 10.00 am - 4.30 pm. The centre tells the story of the Royal Flying Doctor through a combination of an introductory film and displays which highlight the complexity of the operation and show the equipment used. Entry is by donation. Tel: (07) 4654 7771.

Charleville School of Distance Education
The School of Distance Education (previously known as the School of the Air) is located at 230 Parry Street, tel: (07) 4656 8999. Tours are run every week day at 10.00 am during the Queensland State School Terms. Each tour involves an explanation of how the school operates and allows tourists to 'sit in' on a lesson with one of the teachers while they are 'on-air' with their students.
The school was established in 1966 when radio lessons were conducted from the Royal Flying Doctor Base. The school's website (https://charlevisde.eq.edu.au/Ourschool/Pages/Ourschool.aspx) explains: "Students complete units of work, participate in daily on-air lessons and communicate through email and web-based ‘classrooms’ with their peers and teachers. Students also have the opportunity to participate in face to face field events such as camps, Minischool Weeks, Cluster Musters and Swim and Sports Musters allowing for assessment, socialisation and enhanced teaching and learning." The school includes students from as far afield as Fraser Island in the east to Hungerford in the south-west.

The Bilby Experience
The Bilby Centre is located at the Charleville Railway Station (the Visitor Information Centre) on King Street. It is open from 9.00 am - 4.00 pm Monday to Saturday from April to October and offers an opportunity to make contact with this very cute, and endangered, species. There are two shows daily. The Up Close and Personal Tour and the Bilby Experience Tour. For more information check out http://www.charlevillebilbyexperience.com.au/charleville-bilby-experience.

Steiger Gun
Located in the Graham Andrews Parklands (off Sturt Street) are two Vortex Steiger Gun. This bizarre piece of Western Queensland history is captioned: "Steiger Vortex Rainmaker Gun. One of ten guns used by the Queensland Government Meteorologist Prof. Clement Wragge at Charleville, September 26 1902."
The history of the experiment is amusing. As recounted in the Queensland Historical Atlas: "The Steiger Vortex gun is a cone-shaped barrel, fabricated from sheet steel, designed as a rainmaking device. The gun was originally designed by Albert Steiger with the aim of preventing destructive hailstorms in a wine growing region of Austria. The firing of the cannon-like device caused a discharge of gas which set up vibrations in the clouds, causing rain. While on an overseas visit, Clement Wragge, Government Meteorologist, hit upon the idea of using the gun to make rain in drought-stricken Queensland ... Six guns made at Harvey and Son, at Globe Ironworks in Brisbane, to the order of Clement Wragge. It was manufactured in the hope that the technology could induce rain during the Federation Drought. Trialled in Charleville in September 1902, the six guns were set up in two rows, spaced over a kilometre apart and fired at two minute intervals. Unfortunately the experiment met with no success, with no sign of the desperately needed rain. Worse still, the failed experiment was seen by some as heralding the beginning of the end for Wragge’s career in meteorology." For more information check out http://www.qhatlas.com.au/resource/steiger-vortex-rain-making-gun-c1900. It is said that Wragge addressed a group of local citizens in Aeschimann's Hall in Charleville and, so rumour has it, was greeted with considerable scepticism and derision. He left town the next day.

Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies Display
The Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service office at 1 Park St has a number of Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies in a Wallaby Enclosure. It is open on weekdays from 8.30 am - 4.30 pm. Tel: (07) 4654 4777.


Other Attractions in the Area

Cosmos Centre and Observatory
Located off the Matilda Highway at 1 Milky Way Road south of Charleville, the Cosmos Centre is the perfect place to experience the wonders of outback skies. It is both a daytime and nightime experience but as the website explains "on a clear night sky viewing the incredible beauty of the Milky Way Galaxy, through the powerful Meade telescopes and unaffected by the lights and pollution which cover the stars in city areas, is the focus of the Charleville Cosmos Centre." The guides at the centre help visitors see star clusters, planets, the moon and binary stars at nighttime and during the daylight hours it is possible to hold a meteorite, visit the Cosmos Theatre and learn about the Solar System. The centre offers a Solar System Package, a Galaxy Package and an Astronomer's Package. For more information check out https://www.cosmoscentre.com or tel: (07) 4654 7771.

Landsborough Blazed Tree
Located 29 km south of Charleville off the Mitchell Highway in Bakers Bend, the Landsborough Blazed Tree is a fascinating postscript to the disastrous Burke and Wills expedition which passed through the area in 1861. A number of expeditions went out into the desert of western Queensland looking for the lost explorers. William Landsborough's party headed out from Brisbane and searched unsuccessfully for Burke and Wills. Landsborough became the first European to traverse the continent from north to south (the party eventually ended up in Melbourne in 1862) and, most significantly, he relied on Aborigines for assistance. He had three Aborigines with him and they communicated with the local indigenous people. Landsborough was careful to blaze trees so that his route could be followed. Thus this tree, which marks Landsborough Camp 67, is a coolibah with the mark
L.C. 67 MAY 10 1862.
The Queensland Heritage Register notes: "The blaze appears to be made on an existing Aboriginal scar, which Landsborough's party enlarged and cut to suit their needs. The scar is 700 millimetres (28 in) in width, with a visible heath of 740 millimetres (29 in) and maximum regrowth of 260 millimetres (10 in). There is distorted regrowth on the upper lateral margins of the scar, the result of successive chainsaw cutting into the regrowth to maintain the blaze's visibility" and records that "The blaze at Camp 67, which remains highly visible, is rare tangible evidence of a remarkable feat by Landsborough and his party as the first exploration expedition to cross the Continent from north to south, in the process opening much of western and north-western Queensland to pastoral settlement." For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=602716.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area around Charleville was home to the Gunggari Aboriginal people.

* The district was first explored by Edmund Kennedy in 1847. His expedition established that the waterways in Central Queensland, particularly the Barcoo, which Thomas Mitchell had called the 'Victoria', flowed south into the Channel country rather than north into the Gulf of Carpentaria. Kennedy passed within 10 km of the present site of Charleville.

* By the 1860s the area was being settled by pastoralists. 

* A town reserve was gazetted in 1865. That year saw the post office opened.

* By 1866 a pub and a general store existed on the site of modern-day Charleville.

* In 1868 William Alcock Tully, the then Queensland under-secretary for public lands and chief commissioner for crown lands, surveyed the town and named it after his boyhood home in County Cork, Ireland.

* Between 1868-1888 up to 500 bullock teams a year were passing through the town carrying wool bales to the railhead at Roma.

* A general store was opened in 1872.

* In 1876 Cobb & Co ran a coach from Roma to Charleville. That year saw the opening of the town's Court House.

* In 1883 the first edition of the Charleville Times was published.

* A local school opened in 1884.

* A hospital was opened in 1885.

* By 1888, the population was 1470 and the town had a number of hotels, a brewery, a cordial factory, four sawmills and three butcheries. 

* The railway reached the town in 1888. 

* By the 1880s it had become an important stopover point for Cobb & Co.

* A School of Arts was opened in 1890.

* Cobb & Co established a major coach building factory in the town in 1893. 

* The Charleville municipality came into existence in 1894.

* In 1902 a Steiger Vortex gun was brought to town to ease the drought.

* In 1905 the Anglican Bush Brotherhood established their headquarters in the town.

* A convent school was opened in 1913.

* A hostel for boys from outback areas was opened in 1916.

* The Cobb & Co coach factory closed down in 1920.

* On 2 November 1922 the first regular Qantas service took off from Charleville with a 400 pound payload and 160 letters. It was bound for Cloncurry.

* The town's War Memorial was unveiled in 1924. That year saw the turning on of the town's electric lights.

* A State High School was built in 1935.

* In 1943 the town became a Flying Doctor base.

* In 1961 Charleville became the administrative centre of the Murweh Shire.

* An Olympic Swimming Pool was opened in 1962.

* By the 1960s the Flying Doctor radio network was providing School of the Air to outlying areas from the base in Charleville.

* In 1990 Charleville experienced record floods with floodwaters peaking at 8.54 metres.

* In 2011 the Railway Hotel was destroyed by fire.

* In 2011 the town's population was 3,728.

* The town experienced serious flooding in 2012.

* A new Flying Doctor base was built in 2014.

* Today the town is home to both the southern Queensland base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the School of Distance Education. 


Visitor Information

Charleville Visitor Information Centre, Charleville Railway Station, cnr King and Wills Street, tel: (07) 4654 3057.


Useful Websites

The excellent Murweh Shire Council website has lots of useful information about Charleville. Check out https://www.murweh.qld.gov.au/tourist-information.

Got something to add?

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4 suggestions
  • I was born at the Charleville Base Hospital in 1948.
    During the latter years of the Second World War my mother was the matron at the Base Hospital.
    My mother met and married my father, a police officer in Charleville.
    I would like to access history on the hospital and the police service in Charleville during the 1940s and 1950s. Thanks

    Murray D McLean
  • I worked in Charleville for about a year. The town’s people are pleasant enough but there are a number of troublesome individuals that drag the town down. The town feels as though it is dying, with plenty of houses up for sale and shops shut. It really is the door to the true outback and deserves some assistance to thrive.

    Ian Clay
  • I grew up in Charleville in the 1960’s. The movie theatre was thriving back then. What was it’s history, and are there any photos?

    Sandra Kelly
  • Was there a fire at the Primary School in the Sixties. I cannot remember it. I was there from 1956 to.1962 and then the High School from 63 to 64

    Robert Andrews