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Gayndah, QLD

Rural service town that describes itself as The Orange Capital of Queensland.

Gayndah, a pleasant rural service centre located on the Burnett River, lies at the heart of Queensland's citrus area and proudly claims to be 'The Orange Capital of Queensland'. This claim is given some added weight by the 'Big Orange' which stands at the end of town. While in many ways a typical Queensland rural town, Gayndah has a number of special attractions: it has an excellent museum with a number of historic houses; the Archer's Lookout offers a fine vantage point over the town; Mellors Drapery Store has one of the few functioning "flying foxes" left in the country; and, to complement the town's "orange" theme, the town clock has been designed in the shape of a citrus tree.

Location

Gayndah is located 327 km north west of Brisbane, 149 km west of Maryborough and 104 m above sea level.

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Origin of Name

Gayndah was initially known as Norton's Camp. It was located on a ford across the Burnett River. The name was changed to Gayndah which, according to some sources, was reputedly a local Aboriginal word for "thunder". There are other sources which claim it means "place of scrub".

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Things to See and Do

Interesting Buildings - Capper Street
Gayndah Town Clock
It seems entirely appropriate in a town which declares itself "The Orange Capital of Queensland" that the town clock, outside the Court House, is designed in the shape of a citrus tree and has motifs made from stained glass and stainless steel. A genuinely unique town clock.

Gayndah Court House
The timber Gayndah Court House, built in 1928 was designed by the Queensland Department of Public Works. The Queensland Heritage Register notes that the building is "Situated in Capper Street, the main street of Gayndah, the Court House is a single-storeyed timber building with a hipped corrugated-iron roof and two projecting gables. A verandah runs along the front of the building between the gables. The gables have bell-cast timber-boarded sun hoods over the windows. The large central ventilator on the roof is the dominant decorative element of the building. The exterior of the court house is reasonably intact, except for metal louvres enclosing the verandahs. The Court House is set back from the footpath, and punctuates the streetscape which is composed of shops with verandahs supported on posts over the footpath
"Gayndah Court House is a typical example of the work of the Public Works Department and is a continuation of the tradition of timber court houses in Queensland country towns, adapting to civic function vernacular elements and materials common to domestic buildings. The building has a T-shaped plan, with offices along the front and the court room at the rear." For more detailed information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601294.

Mellors Drapery Store
Mellors Drapery Store at 28 Capper Street is a true rarity: it is one of the few buildings in Australia which still uses a 'flying fox' to deal with transactions.
A 'flying fox' recalls a time where there were no computers, no bar codes, no cash registers and, because they could employ so many people, department stores used wonderful, human-intensive devices to deal with all transactions. Two people for every sale!
This is how it worked. Say, hypothetically, I went into the menswear section to buy a shirt. I would purchase the shirt. The salesperson would write out a docket in duplicate (there was carbon paper which would copy your handwriting from the original docket to one below it).
He or she would then place the docket with my money into a canister which would then be placed on a metal wire which ran up to an office in the middle of the store.
The canister would be sent hurtling up the wire until it reached a person in an office above the sales floor.
That person would remove the canister, check the docket and the money, place the change and a receipt in the canister and send it whizzing back to the salesperson.
With the arrival of cash registers these wonderfully arcane devices started to disappear.
In Gayndah there is one that still operates at Mellors Drapery. It is a novelty. The people who run the store – Bob and Marion Hodgson – have maintained it and, because it has been filmed a number of times – they attract tourists from all over the world.
The Hodgsons are proud of the fact that a couple from the Netherlands actually travelled all the way to Gayndah to see this strange antiquated “cash register”. It is well worth a visit.

CBC Bank - now the NAB
Located on the corner of Capper Street and PIneapple Street, at 30 Capper Street, is an unusual bank building which was opened in 1906. It replaced the original CBC building which stood at 11 Meson Street and was opened in 1864. The Capper Street bank is unusual in that it has a veranda, is single storey and has the manager's residence around the back. It fits harmoniously into the streetscape.

Gayndah Jockey Club Sculpture
In Pineapple Street there is a statue of a horse and jockey which celebrates the Gayndah Jockey Club which was the first in Queensland. Gayndah is the home of the Queensland Derby. It was first run in 1868 over 1.5 miles and was won by a horse named "The Hermit". In 1880 the local racecourse held the first Ladies Side Saddle Race. The race course is still in use.

The Council Chambers, The Soldiers Memorial Hall and the Town Hall Theatre
The building which dominates Capper Street - it is located at 32-34 Capper Street - is an unusual combination of Council Chambers, Soldiers Memorial Hall and the Town Hall Theatre. It was designed by Hall & Phillips, built in 1935 and is an interesting example of the Art Deco style which was popular at the time. The Queensland Heritage Register records: "To design the council chambers the Town Council engaged the Brisbane architectural firm of Hall and Phillips. Hall and Phillips had formed a partnership in 1929, when Lionel Blythewood Phillips was admitted into partnership with Thomas Ramsay Hall formerly of Hall and Prentice, who designed the City Hall and Ascot Chambers. Hall and Phillips continued in practice until 1948 and their projects included the Shell Building in Ann Street, The Empire Theatre, Toowoomba, the Nambour Town Hall and shire offices at Gatton , Murweh, Boonah, Dalby and Monto.
The Council Offices were designed to include the Council Chambers, a general office, a spare office and offices for the Town Clerk, the Health Officer and the Engineer. The Hall included ladies and gentlemen's cloak rooms a ticket office, the hall and stage, dressing rooms and a supper verandah with kitchen. Separate public toilets with a septic system were constructed at the rear of the hall.
The estimate for the cost of the building was £6,000. Application was made to the Treasury for a subsidy of £3,000 and a loan of £3,000 ...
The Council Offices were complete by May 1935 with the Hall completed a short time after. The building which was named the Gayndah and District Soldiers Memorial Hall and Council Chambers was officially opened on the 19th July 1935 by the Hon E Hanlon in commemoration of the employment relief loan the Gayndah Town Council had received from the State Government in order to construct the building."
"The building, described as a nice example of modern architecture in the October 12, 1934 edition of the Building journal, added a new type of architecture to the town. The Town Hall Pictures and supper rooms opened on 7th August 1935 and were operated by lessees continually until 1997 when picture shows were discontinued in the hall.
Thursday nights were reserved for functions other than pictures and various committees held balls and concerts at the Hall. The balls were well attended until the mid 1960s and with three different picture programs a week, the Town Hall offered a wide cross section of the community an opportunity for entertainment."
"The fenestration comprises pairs of three-light casements and fanlight which are separated by pilasters with simple vertical detailing and articulated by raised vertical and horizontal rendered concrete bands. The pilasters finish to the underside of a wide string course that projects forward to form a hood at each entrance and at the centre of the building. The parapet is decorated on its upper edge and on a string course below with a vertical lined pattern which creates a subtle crenellated silhouette.
"The skillion roof to the Council Chambers has sloping parapets at each end which conceals it to the east and separates it from the gable roof over the hall and skillion roof over the bio box behind the façade. The hall roof is hipped at its southern end and has a ventilated gablet at each end."
For more detailed information on the history and architecture check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=602124.

Gayndah Museum
Located in Simon Street off Capper Street, the Gayndah Museum is an excellent rural museum with exhibits including an 18th century grandfather clock, a Leyland truck which dates back to 1913, and the Ban Ban buggy which dates to 1896. In the complex there is also the old Ban Ban Station which was removed from its original location and rebuilt in the town. One of the earliest buildings in the area it is a typical Queensland slab cottage. There is also an extensive collection of photographs depicting life in the Gayndah district in the early years of the twentieth century.
The museum also has a display of lung fish (neoceratodus forsteri), the unique survivors from prehistoric times, which is indigenous to the Burnett and Mary Rivers. It is a living fossil which can both breathe underwater by means of gills and gulp air into a lung-like sac above water. It cannot, however, survive away from water for any extended period of time. The display includes two live lung fish. There is also an extensive collection of vintage tractors, steam engines and other equipment ranging from rare trucks and tractors through to stationery steam engines from mills and even warships. The museum, which is housed in the first brick building in the town, is open daily from 9.00 am - 4.00 pm. Tel: (07) 4161 1698 or (07) 4161 2226. Check out http://www.gayndahmuseum.com.au/ for more details.

Archer's Lookout
Archer's Lookout (accessed by driving up Pineapple Street and following the signs) is located on the top of the Duke and Duchess Mountain where a panoramic view over the town and the surrounding countryside offers an interesting perspective on Gayndah although the lie of the land means that the Burnett River, so important to the town, can only be glimpsed.

The Big Orange
Built in 1977 in time for the Gayndah Orange Festival and moved in 1983, the Big Orange is now located on Maryborough Road. It was built by local man Don Kenny from a twelve section mould - six sections on the top half and six sections on the bottom half. It was the brainchild of Col O'Sullivan who used to work for Bradford Grove orchard. He thought it would attract customers to their roadside stall.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Ideraway Upside Down Bridge
Located 10 km north of Gayndah (take the Burnett Highway north, turn into Ideraway Road and follow the signs)  is this most unusual, upside down railway bridge which was built in 1902. Instead of holding the bridge from above the structure holds it from below. The bridge is no longer in use.

McConnell Lookout
The best view of the extensive citrus orchards in the district is from McConnell Lookout which is located 14 km from town. Take the Burnett Highway for 7 km and turn into Mount Debateable Road and drive for 7 km until you reach the lookout. The view over the Burnett River is impressive and panoramic.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Waka Waka Aboriginal people.

* In 1843 Henry Stuart Russell reached the Gayndah region and was the first European to see the Burnett River.

* In 1847 James Burnett surveyed the river which was eventually named after him.

* By 1848 the land was being settled and large holdings were established at Ideraway, Ban Ban, Wetheron and Mount Debateable.

* Around this time a tiny settlement known as Norton's Camp sprung up as a crossing point on the Burnett River. Its name was later changed to Gayndah.

* By 1849 there were enough people settled on the banks of the Burnett to have Gayndah declared a township. That year the Corinth Arms became the town's first pub and a Post Office was opened.

* By 1850 the town had its own Police Courts.

* It was formally gazetted in 1852.

* In 1861 the Burnett Argus was printed and the first regular coach arrived from Maryborough.

* The first primary school in the area was opened in 1863.

* In 1864 the town got its first bank - the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney.

* In 1865 the Queensland bushranger known as 'The Wild Scotsman' held up the town.

* The town became a municipality in 1866.

* A town council was formed in 1867.

* Gayndah's first flood occurred in 1875.

* By 1892 local farmers recognised the soils along the Burnett River floodplain were rich enough for intensive agriculture. A local farmer named William Seeney planted 106 orange and mandarin trees.

* The railway reached the town in 1907.

* A dairy co-op was established in 1911.

* The local Catholic school opened in 1919.

* A citrus growers association was established in 1920.

* A site for the Town Hall was acquired in 1924.

* The Gayndah Soldier's Memorial Hall and Council Chambers were constructed in 1935 at a cost of £7,012. That same year the Town Hall Pictures opened.

* The town's first high school opened in 1955.

* The town's first Orange Festival was held in 1957.

* In 1997 the Picture Theatre closed down.

* There was a major flood in 2013.

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Visitor Information

Gayndah Museum & Information Centre, 8 Simon Street, Gayndah, tel: (07) 4161 2226.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

4 suggestions
  • Hi there I am a descendant of passengers on the 1856 voyage of the Phoebe Dunbar who went to the Gayndah district. Thomas and Mary King had twins born on 17 December 1857. The male child was unnamed and we believe died at birth. The female child Mary Ann survived and is recorded as being baptised in Sydney on 25 March 1858. The informant on the birth certificate is Mrs B O’Connell, Squatter, Mondure.
    Would anyone in the district have knowledge or records of that period and where the property was where the birth occurred?

    Carole Poussard
  • Thank you for providing a Free Camping area in town. We enjoyed our stay there but for one thing. Unfortunately the Amenities need to be seen to. Very unclean, and the shower in the disabled area was broken. And it looked like the other shower flooded the ladies toilet area. 2 men in council utes, stopped there in the morning, but no cleaning was done. But it was unclean when we arrived, about 3pm. I realise that sometimes it is campers who mess things up, but it was very busy the time we stopped, and we were all Seniors. A lot had their own Toilet & Shower. And I noticed that no one left any rubbish around. Something I always check and do clean up others mess if in our camping area. Another there was no recycling bins. We all had to dump bottles etc in the general rubbish. again I know the some of the public don`t care and dump rubbish in recycling bins. Something that still happens around here. NSW. We did spend some money in town, as we know that that is the reason that free camping is made available. And we do appreciate it. A lovely town. Thank you, Regards, Natalie Lockett

    Natalie Lockett
  • Do you have any information on the Reid family, John and Sarah Reid, also the hotels she owned, photos etc please. My husband is a descendant. Also where their graves are in the Gayndah cemetery.

    Gayle Hill
  • I’m researching my great grandmother, Mrs Hannah Brennan, who I think ran, and maybe owned, The Gayndah Bakery from some time in the 1880’s, up until 1892. She came to Maryborough from Tralee, Ireland, as a widow between 1879 and 1884 and married John Brennan, also from Ireland, in about 1889. Her son, Maurice, then aged 10 came over to live with them in 1890. Hannah’s sister, Mary Ferris, aged 19, brought Maurice over to Maryborough then on to Gayndah, on the S S Jumna. A short time later Mary returned to Ireland. John Brennan went to the WA goldfields about 1891 and was never heard from again. Hannah and Maurice moved to Tasmania in 1892. I don’t know why.
    If you have any further information regarding Hannah, John and Maurice Brennan and the Gayndah Bakery, please email me. Thank you. Also, was there a cordial factory in Gayndah in the 1880s abd 1890s?

    Colleen Anderson