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Glen Innes, NSW

New England service town in a district known as the Land of the Beardies.

Glen Innes is a charming and attractive rural service centre set amidst rolling countryside on the Northern Tablelands 1075 metres above sea-level. The town is surrounded by impressive national parks and the district is known for its fishing, fossicking and bushwalking.

Location

Glen Innes is located 569 km north of Sydney via Gloucester and Walcha, 611 km via Muswellbrook and Tamworth, and 1075 metres above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

In 1851 the town was laid out and named after Major Archibald Clunes Innes who owned the local property. He had previously been the Commandant of the Port Macquarie penal colony.

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Things to See and Do

Glen Innes is rich in historic buildings and locations. There is an excellent downloadable brochure - Glen Innes Heritage Walk (https://www.gleninnestourism.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Glen-Innes-Heritage-Walk.pdf) which lists a total of 63 places of interest. A staggering 48 are all within three blocks along Grey Street. The most interesting of this particularly rich collection of buildings are:

2. Police Station, Residence, Lock-Up Keeper's Cottage
Located in Meade Street (and still the site of the local police force) is the Police Station, Residence, Lock-Up Keeper's Cottage all dating from 1876. They are wonderfully simple. A Victorian-era cottage and offices all in rendered brick with brick chimneys and a corrugated iron roof.

3. Post Office
On the corner of Meade and Grey Streets is the impressive two-storey masonry post office, designed by W.L. Vernon, the New South Wales Colonial Architect, and built in 1896 with arcaded porches, brick arches, terracotta trim and decorative lettering in a sandstone inset panel. It belongs to an era when decoration was seen as entirely appropriate.

4. Court House
The Court House was designed by the notable Colonial architect, James Barnet, and built in 1873-74 of basalt with grey granite quoins. It replaced an earlier Court House where the bushranger Thunderbolt (Fred Ward) was tried in 1860.

5. Royal Hotel
The Royal Hotel, built c. 1860, although it has been much altered, is still a fine example of a Victorian-era country hotel. It is thought to be the oldest hotel in Glen Innes although the Grey Street veranda has been replaced.

8. Rural Lands Protection Board
Located on Grey Street is the Rural Lands Protection Board building (c.1900). It is an interesting example of a single storey Edwardian building with a high parapet and a central pediment decorated with urns. It is now Lion & Clifton - Lawyers.

11. Bank of New South Wales
On the south-western corner of Grey and Meade Streets is the old ANZ bank, built of rendered masonry in 1884 as the Bank of New South Wales. It features a classical porch with pediment and small cast-iron balconies.

19. School of Arts
The rendered brick School of Arts on Grey Street was built in 1887 to an Italianate design by the architect A. Hutchinson. It was the town's community centre for many years with a library, billiards room and reading room. It is an appropriate complement to the Town Hall which is over the road.

24. Glen Innes Examiner
Located in Bourke Street, the Glen Innes Examiner was built of rendered brick with a parapet in 1874 when the newspaper (still in operation) commenced production. It was extended in 1905.

27. National Australia Bank
At the corner of Grey and Bourke Streets is the National Bank building which was originally built as the CBC Bank in 1890. Like a number of banks in the town it has an Italianate design with iron palisade fence and stables at the rear. It was designed by the Mansfield Brothers.

30. Kwong Sing & Co
Located in Grey Street, and now encompassing a "clothing emporium" and "footwear" shop, is Kwong Sing and Co., the town's oldest continuously operating retail business, which is still in the original family's hands. This large and elegant late Victorian general store was built in 1893 with later additions. The actual company, as the facade states, was established as merchants in 1886.

33. Club Hotel
On the corner of Wentworth and Grey Streets is the classically elegant Club Hotel, a two-storey Edwardian hotel (1906) with colonnade and timber columns and a balustraded parapet around the roof with pediments, and rich cast-iron lacework. Now over 100 years old it is considered the finest of the hotels in town.

43. Mackenzie Building
On the corner of Bourke and Grey Streets. the Mackenzie building (now Bi Lo) is a huge structure built in 1885 with later additions in 1916 and 1927 (the latest as recently as 1999). It is a two-storey rendered brick design which, until 1999 when it was removed, had an internal stairway still lit by the original lanterns. The stairway has been stored for future use.

51. Town Hall
The florid late Victorian Town Hall has a typical Victorian interior. The foundation stone was laid by Sir Henry Parkes in 1875 though the initial building was not completed until 1888.  The Heritage Walk brochure notes: "High Victorian ‘grand’ Town Hall complex in a hybrid ‘boom period’ French renaissance Italianate style. Elaboration concentrated on the main facade with central hall flanked by offices and tenancies. Shows several stages of growth and change, but still one of the most distinctive town halls in NSW, the ceiling and stage arch are 1930 fibrous plaster. Well worth a look inside. Designed By Frederick Harrison, architect of Deniliquin, and built by Henry Kendrick during 1887-1888 in Australia’s Centenary Year."

54. Westpac
The Westpac bank building on Grey Street (erected as the Australian Joint Stock Bank, 1884-85 it subsequently became the Australian Bank of Commerce and the Bank of New South Wales) is an Italianate design ("miniature Florentine palazzo") with ionic columns, a slate roof, seven-bay elevation and brick stables at the rear.

58. Great Central Hotel
Located on the corner of Meade and Grey Streets is the two-storey rendered masonry of the Great Central Hotel, a typical 19th-century country hotel. It was situated on the first town allotment to be sold  in 1854. The site previously held the Telegraph Hotel and Fitzgerald's Hotel. It was built as the Great Central Hotel in 1874.

61. St Joseph's Convent
This handsome building on the New England Highway was built in 1916 by G.F. Nott of Armidale. It cost more than £13,000.

62. St Patrick's Catholic Church
Further up the New England Highway, St Patrick's Catholic Church was built in 1908-1909 for £9,000 by James Lonsdale and dedicated by Bishop Patrick Joseph O'Connor.

63. Chapel Theatre
Purchased in 1983 and turned into a theatre by the local Arts Council, this building was built in 1885 as the local Methodist Church. Today it is used to stage films and musicals.

Land of the Beardies History House
Located on the corner of Ferguson Street and West Avenue is the Land of the Beardies History House and Research Centre, a folk museum located in the town's first hospital (1875) and boasting 26 rooms of displays. It is set in extensive grounds which include a reconstructed slab hut. The museum has a fine collection of 19th century memorabilia which includes "an original slab hut, an Iron Lung, shop flying fox, sulkies, manual shearing machine, hand stitched clothes, grocer’s bicycle ... in displays of scenes and themes eg  Service Memorial Room." The museum is open weekdays from 10.00 am - noon and from 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm and on weekends from 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm, and at other times by appointment, tel: (02) 6732 1035. For more information check out http://www.beardieshistoryhouse.info/contactus.html and http://mgnsw.org.au/organisations/land-beardies-history-house-museum-research-centre.

Australian Standing Stones and Centennial Park
There is a large and very detailed brochure available at the Visitor Information Centre which proudly declares the size of this monument: "The National Monument to Australia's Celtic Pioneers - comprising 40 granite monoliths, the Standing Stones have a circle of 24 stones representing 24 hours of the day, three central stones, four cardinal stones marking truth North, East, South and West, and seven stones marking summer and winter solstices, the longest and shortest days of the year. They are probably the first of their kind built anywhere in the world for 3500 years, and may be unique in the southern hemisphere."

The brochure then goes to explain: "The ancient Celts raised stones as calendars to mark the seasons - when to sow, when to harvest - and they later developed religious significance. Great Britain has hundreds of mysterious stone circles and they are found too, in Britanny, coastal France, and Galacia in Northern Spain. Strange myths and legends surround the stones in Europe. Some visitors report feeling a powerful, spiritual influence as they walk through the Australian Standing Stones array.

"The stones are home to the annual Australian Celtic Festival, held on the first weekend in May. The festival attracts clans, national groups, dancers and artists from across Australia, and overseas. The four day Festival provides non-stop entertainment, including the Street Parade, jousting, strongman events, Kirking of the Tartans, Celtic Blessing, massed bands, children's entertainment, dancing, flag raising ceremonies, poets' breakfasts, yard dog trials, market stalls, a fun run and a variety of Celtic foods."

The story of the stones is, to put it politely, remarkable. The idea of developing a national monument to honour all Celtic people who helped pioneer Australia was first conceived in 1988 - the year of the Bicentennial. Glen Innes suggested the Australian Standing Stones, an idea which had been inspired by the Ring of Brodgar on the Orkney Islands. When the idea was approved two locals spent three months looking for suitably huge pieces of granite with a 50 km radius of the town. The stones had to be at least 5.5 metres long so that 3.7 metres could stand above ground level. It took six months to split the rocks and carry then to the site. Each rock weighed, on average, 17 tonnes. They were formally opened on 1 February, 1992 and a replica of Taigh Dubh, a crofter's cottage which survived the Battle of Culloden, was built nearby. The brochure has a map with the specific locations of all the stones and a list of all the sponsors. It is also possible to buy a book The History of the Australian Standing Stones. Check out https://www.gleninnestourism.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Standing-Stones-flyer.pdf for details.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Beardy Waters
Located 5.6 km east of town along the Gwydir Highway is a weir built across the creek known as Beardy Waters which was named after William Chandler and John Duval, the two bearded stockmen who led the first settlers into the area. The weir was built in the early 1930s as part of a Depression era project to employ local men. Today there are barbecue and picnic facilities and it is possible to walk a short distance upstream to the town weir. There is abundant birdlife and the area is particularly pretty in autumn.

Balancing Rock
Located 13 km south of Glen Innes on the New England Highway this large pear-shaped granite boulder balances on a 30 cm fulcrum. It is located on private property and can only be viewed from the roadside at a distance of around 150 metres. Just north of the rock is the Stonehenge Recreational Reserve with picnic facilities.

Gibraltar Range & Washpool National Park
There is an excellent and detailed brochure - Washpool & Gibraltar Range World Heritage National Parks - which can be downloaded as a PDF by typing "Washpool & Gibraltar Range" into Google. Access to the two parks is off the Gwydir Highway between Glen Innes and Grafton. The brochure sums up the experience of the parks when it writes of: "Striking granite outcrops and steep escarpments, wild rivers, woodlands, spectacular flowering heathlands and World Heritage rainforests provide a varied backdrop for a choice of activities. Sightseeing, camping, bushwalking, swimming or birdwatching are just some of the ways to enjoy these parks." The brochure goes on to describe the fauna and flora of the area which ranges from rainforests to swamps and heaths including (in the Washpool National Park) the largest forest of coachwood trees in the world and some of the best examples of red cedar left in New South Wales. The rainforests also include stands of Sydney blue gum, spectacular displays of Gibraltar waratah (it flowers between October and December) and Christmas bells and sedgelands in the swamps. This flora supports "over 170 bird species, 30 reptile species and more than 50 mammal species" including Eastern water skinks, blue freshwater crayfish, red-necked wallabies, superb lyrebirds as well as "Some rare and threatened species ... koala, spotted-tailed quoll (a cat-like marsupial), parma wallaby, the rabbit-sized rufous bettong, the long-nosed potoroo and the common dunnart (a mouse-sized insect eater)."
The brochure lists, and details, a total of 13 walks as well as a 45 km World Heritage Walk. This is the extract. The maps are included on the brochure.
1. The Needles Walk - Starting at Mulligans Hut this walk crosses the Little Dandahra creek near one of the weirs built by William Mulligan in the 1920s. The poor granite soils support a dry forest of New England blackbutt with a thick undergrowth of bush peas, hakeas, banksias and grasstrees. The forest changes to rainforest as the track steadily rises to a view of six granite columns rising 80 metres above the edge of a steep-sided valley dropping into the Little Dandahra Creek. This walk can be combined with the Tree Fern Forest Walk. 6 km return, allow 2.5 hours, medium grade.
2. Little Dandahra Creek Walk - Linking Dandahra day use area on the highway and Mulligans day use area, this walk follows the Little Dandahra Creek past wildflowers, grasstrees and interesting rock formations. Around dusk and dawn, look for platypus foraging in the creek. 13 km return, allow 4 hours medium grade.
3. Tree Fern Forest Walk - This loop track starting from Mulligans day use area passes through rainforest and emerges in a wonderful 60m high wet forest of Sydney blue gums and tree ferns. The track then rises through open eucalypt forest and heathlands, passing rocky outcrops and spectacular cascades as it returns along Little Dandahra Creek to Mulligans camping area. 8 km return, allow 3 hours, medium grade.
4. Murrumbooee Cascades Walk - This walk begins at Mulligans Hut and passes through wet eucalypt forest and then rainforest, to end on the banks of Dandahra Creek. Here, it narrows to form the Murrumbooee Cascades before the creek plunges over the edge of the escarpment. This is the site of Mulligan’s second weir, built in the 1920s to measure water flow for his proposed hydro-electric scheme. 6 km return, allow 2.5 hours, easy grade.
5. Dandahra Falls Walk - Starting at Mulligans Hut, first follow Murrumbooee Cascades Walk through dry open forest and rainforest before scrambling down to a natural viewing area giving spectacular views of Dandahra Falls as they drop over the edge of the escarpment. Recommended for experienced walkers only. 5 km return, allow 3.5 hours, difficult grade.
6. Anvil Rock Walk - Commencing off Mulligans Drive, walk beside hanging swamps, grass trees, waratahs and up around granite boulders to the base of Anvil Rock. Anvil Rock itself sits atop the mound and cannot be climbed, but rock formations like Old Mans Hat are part of the spectacular view. 4 km return, allow 1.5 hours, medium grade.
7. Dandahra Crags Walk  - Beautiful summer wildflower displays guide walkers past Surveyors Creek swamp to the base of this granite outcrop. Confident climbers can get onto Dandahra Crags for great views towards Raspberry Lookout and the Mann River valley. Complete the loop walk along the western side of the swamp. 6 km circuit/return, allow 2.5 hours, medium grade.
8. Lyrebird Falls Walk - Starting and finishing at Boundary Creek Falls Picnic Area, this return walk meanders along tall forest trails and ends at Lyrebird Falls viewing area. Enjoy breathtaking views of Boundary Creek as it makes it way downstream to the Timbarra River. 2.2 km return, allow 1.5 hours, medium grade.
9. Duffer Falls Walk - This walk starts at the site of Wades Sawmill at the Boundary Falls camping area and takes you to where Duffer Creek cascades over the cliff to join Boundary Creek as it makes its way along the Demon Fault line. 7 km return, allow 3 hours, medium grade.
10. Coombadjha Walk - Commence at Coachwood picnic area. Coachwood trees dominate this paved, wheelchair accessible walking track to a small swimming hole in Coombadjha Creek. Learn about features of the rainforest along the way. Alternative return via Coombadjha Creek circuit. 800m return, allow 1 hour, easy grade.
11. Washpool Walk - This iconic walk begins deep in the rainforest at the Coombadjha camping area. See giant red cedars and strangler figs as you climb through subtropical rainforest, before traversing wet and dry sclerophyll forest with views across the rainforest gully. Cross Cedar Creek as you re-enter rainforest and follow the gentle return ascent along Coombadjha Creek. 8.5 km circuit, allow 3.5 hours, medium grade.
12. The Haystack Route - Follow the World Heritage Walk from Boundary Falls visitor area. Although there is no designated path to the summit of this impressive rock formation it can be approached from the south by following the contour to its base. A 30 minute scramble past native holly, rock orchids and trigger plants will reward you with a view of Waratah Trig to the east, Old Mans Hat to the southeast and the Demon fault to the north-west. 14 km return, allow 5 hours, difficult grade.
13. Junction Spur Route - Diverge from the Dandahra Falls walk and follow the spur between Little Dandahra and Dandahra Creek to their junction. Navigation skills required. Recommended for experienced walkers only. 8 km return, allow 5 hours, difficult grade.

Old Grafton-Glen Innes Road
Drive 35 km east on the Gwydir Highway and you will see the Old Grafton-Glen Innes Road. Predominantly a dirt road (and therefore of great appeal to 4WD owners) it was opened in 1867 to link the mountains to the sea. Not surprisingly it is a road of great beauty passing through an area of wild rivers, rugged country, dramatic descents, more than 40 km of cuttings and a 20 metre hand cut tunnel. The original bush track was cut by wool haulers and timbergetters in the early 1840s. With convict labour a proper road was created in the 1860s and it was declared a highway in 1876. It remained the main road until the 1960s when the Gwydir Highway was constructed. The road leaves the Gwydir Highway and descends Big Hill in a series of hairpin bends, offering panoramic views across the valleys. At the foot of the mountain, 16 km from the highway, is the Mann River Nature Reserve where there is a picnic area with opportunities for bush camping, fishing, canoeing and bushwalking. It is here that you can climb up to Tommy's Rock which stands 600 metres above the valley and 1013 metres above sea level. It was named after the local bushranger, Black Tommy, who reputedly used it as a lookout. It is possible to walk up to the rock and, for those who don't want to walk, there is a 4WD track. About 64 km from the highway the traveller will come to a 20-metre tunnel which was carved through solid rock by convicts when the road was constructed. It is the only one of its type in Australia. After a further 8 km the visitor reaches the abandoned settlement of Dalmorton. In its heyday the town had a population of 20,000 and 13 pubs. All that remains are some ruins in the paddocks where cattle graze amidst the attractive scenery. A cleared area on the right, one kilometre prior to crossing Jackass Creek, provides access to a walking track which leads 500 m into the bush where there are relics from the short-lived goldmining boom which was effectively killed off when the local men went off to fight in World War I. At Buccarumbi (another town which grew up along the route), 91 km from the highway, the remains of a bridge ruined by flood sit beside the new bridge. There is a very detailed brochure, including a useful map, available at https://www.gleninnestourism.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Old-Grafton-Glen-Innes-Road.pdf.

Fossicking
Sapphires, topaz, quartz, zircon, garnet and beryl are all found in the district, which has numerous fossicking areas. Equipment (a pair of sieves, shovel, pick, bucket, tweezers, plastic container, old clothes, gumboots) and advice is available around town. Schmidts Jewellers in Grey Street, opposite the Town Hall, can hire the equipment and their are guided field tours on Wednesdays organised by the Baptist Church Fossicking Club, tel: John Paix (02) 6732 3695.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Ngarabal Aboriginal people travelled through the area, particularly in the warmer months. They are thought to have called the district "Eehrindi", meaning wild raspberry.

* The first European in the area was the explorer John Oxley who travelled through on his way to Port Macquarie in 1818.

* By 1835, two infamously hairy convict stockmen, Chandler and Duval, were assigned to a Captain Dumaresq, and they did much to open up the land north of Armidale. They advised settlers about new lands in the late 1830s. Consequently the district became known as "Beardy Plains" or "Land of the Beardies".

* The first settler to be guided by the Beardies into the Glen Innes area was Thomas Hewitt who, in 1838, took up the Stonehenge station.

* By 1840 most of the land around the town had been settled.

* The present site was laid out in 1851 and named after the station's former owner, Major Archibald Clunes Innes.

* Glen Innes was gazetted in 1852.

* The first land sales took place in 1854, the year the first post office opened.

* The town's first flour mill opening in the 1850s.

* Ben Lomond station, to the south, was held up by bushranger 'Thunderbolt' (Fred Ward) in the late 1860s.

* The discovery of tin at Vegetable Creek in 1872 caused a boom for the town which lasted until the economic depression of the 1890s.

* Glen Innes became a municipality in 1872.

* The railway reached the town in 1884.

* The Town Hall was completed in 1887 and opened by Henry Parkes.

* Timber milling became important to the local economy in the 1920s.

* Commercial sapphire mining started in 1959.

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Visitor Information

Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre, New England Highway, tel: (020 6730 2400.

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Useful Websites

The town's official and very comprehensive website can be accessed at https://www.gleninnestourism.com. It includes a number of downloadable ebrochures.

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