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Goulburn, NSW

Historic service centre and main city in the Southern Tablelands.

When Goulburn was finally bypassed in 1992 many people felt that the town's economy, which for so long had been driven by the through traffic on the Hume Highway, would be adversely affected. So many petrol stations, motels, cafes and associated businesses relied on the traffic through the town. But Goulburn, one the earliest inland settlements in New South Wales and the dominant town in the Southern Tablelands, was much more than just a tourist stopover. It was a major service centre for the surrounding pastoral land with huge stockyards and meat processing; it had an engineering and industrial base; it was an important railway town; its location had ensured that it became a significant warehousing and distribution centre; it was a centre for a number of important government agencies; it had always had a strong educational base which had been enhanced by the establishment in 1984 of the NSW Police Academy; and, most of all, it was a thriving centre with a beautiful park, Belmore Park, in the city centre and a large number of elegant public buildings.

Location

Goulburn is located where the Mulwaree and Wollondilly Rivers meet, 640 m above sea level and 196 km south-west of Sydney via the M5 Motorway and Hume Freeway.

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Origin of Name

When, in 1818, an expedition led by Hamilton Hume, Charles Throsby and James Meehan passed through the area, Meehan named the broad flat plains to the south of the present city, the Goulburn Plains after Henry Goulburn, who, at the time, was the British Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.

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Things to See and Do

Goulburn has a vast number of significant historic buildings. The most sensible approach to exploring the city's fine historic heritage is to collect one, or more, of the many historic walk brochures from the Visitor Information Centre. The self-guided tours (there are guided tours available as well) include an Historical Walking Tour, Architectural, Miles Franklin, Roses, Public Art, Rail Heritage, Belmore Park, Historic Cemeteries, Watering Holes and Geocaching Tours. Many of these can be downloaded as PDFs. Check out http://www.igoulburn.com/site/files/ul/data_text12/2449172.pdf. There are a number of important and interesting buildings and destinations around the town which should not be missed. These include:

Post Office
Located in Auburn Street, and dominating the central part of the city, the Post Office, as the National Estate records, is: "A large Victorian Classical building of stuccoed brick built to a symmetrical design from the Office of the Colonial Architect, James Barnet, in 1880-1881. The dominant central clock tower is joined on each side by two-storey colonnaded offices to three-storey wings. The ground floor colonnades have four arches each with Doric pilasters and entablature and a moulded keystone in each arch. An outstanding landmark in Goulburn."

Town Hall
Located in Auburn Street, the Town Hall building is a Classical Revival red-brick structure with a small curved iron-lace balcony and Dutch gable, built in 1887-88 to a design by architects E.C. Manfred & Son and used by the council until 1990. It complements the Post Office and the Court House and is listed on the National Estate.

St Peter and St Paul's Catholic Cathedral
Located on the corner of Bourke and Verner Streets, St Peter and St Paul's Roman Catholic Cathedral was originally a brick church completed in 1848. In 1871, after Goulburn had been created a diocese with a bishop, the building of the first stage of the current cathedral commenced. It was erected around the original church which was taken out through the western doors. The second stage was completed between 1887-1890. It  is an impressive Gothic Revival structure built of bluestone with sandstone tracery, slender moulded columns, a marble sanctuary and an organ that dates from 1890. In 1948 Goulburn was raised to an Archdiocese and the Archbishop moved to Canberra making this church the "Old Cathedral".

St Saviour's Anglican Cathedral
Located at 170 Bourke Street, St Saviour's Anglican Cathedral (1874-84) is known as the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn. This elegant Gothic sandstone building was designed by noted colonial architect Edmund Blacket (famous for the Quadrangle at Sydney University) who considered it one of his finest works. It was begun in 1874, dedicated in 1884 and built largely from stone from Bundanoon. Highlights of the cathedral's rich interior include "elaborate stone tracery in the aisle and transcept windows and in the altar", the stained-glass windows, wood and stone carvings, the font, hammer-beam roof, luxurious and ornate sanctuary, the chancel with its remarkable Bishop's Throne, the pulpit with its alabaster columns, the bas-relief copy of Leonardo's Last Supper above the altar, and the magnificent 1884 organ with its 2,252 pipes, tel: (02) 4821 2206.

Grafton Street Self-Guided Walk
The Grafton Street Self-Guided Walk identifies 19 places of interest in the street including the Coach & Horses Inn built in 1840 at 25-29 Grafton Street; Grafton House at 51 Grafton Street which was believed to be an inn; and the Exchange Hotel on the corner of Bradley and Grafton Street which is reputedly one of the oldest hotels in Goulburn. All these inns are hardly surprising as Grafton Street was originally the Great South Road from Sydney and had eleven hotels in its heyday. Its width was to permit bullock drays and horse carts to turn around. Most of the buildings in the street date from the nineteenth century. They are described in great detail in the Grafton Street Walk brochure which can be downloaded at http://www.igoulburn.com/site/files/ul/data_text12/2449172.pdf

St Clair
At 318 Sloane Street is St Clair,  an early brick and stucco colonial townhouse  built by James Sinclair in 1845. It features the original cedar panelling and stringybark floors and a veranda with fluted sandstone columns capped by a Classical stone entablature. The building is now home to the St Clair Cottage Folk Museum and Archives which runs social history exhibitions, tel: (02) 4823 4448.

Sloane Street Self-Guided Walk
You can download a self-guided walk of approximately 2.2 km along Sloane  Street which includes a total of ten buildings including the former hotel, built in 1858, which is now home to R.J. Sidney Craig undertakers who started arranging funerals in Goulburn in 1837, making them the longest-established undertakers in New South Wales; the police station at 274 Sloane Street which was built as a convict hospital but operated as a general hospital from 1843-1889; the Classical Revival railway station (1869) and the stationmaster's residence (1869) with its steep gables and charming fretwork porch; the Coolavin Hotel at 167 Sloane Street which started out as a bank in the late 1850s and retains a veranda which is supported on cast-iron columns with unusual sea horse-patterned ironwork; and the Visitors' Centre at 201 Sloane Street. Download a more detailed description of the street at http://www.igoulburn.com/site/files/ul/data_text12/2449172.pdf

The Self-Guided Heritage Walking Tour
This 1.6 km walk, which includes 27 places of interest, starts at the town's fourth Court House in Montague Street which was designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet, opened in 1887, and is a Classical Revival polychrome brick structure with a copper dome, colonnaded facade and richly decorated interior. It is surrounded by attractive gardens and enclosed by an iron pike fence. The keystone over the central arch depicts Queen Victoria. The tour also includes the previously mentioned Post Office and Town Hall; the Dimmeys Building on the corner of Montague and Auburn Streets which was built in 1853 in Victorian Italianate style with towers, battlements and arched windows; the previously mentioned Anglican and Catholic Churches; Belmore Park and other notable and prominent buildings. It can be downloaded at http://www.igoulburn.com/site/files/ul/data_text12/2449172.pdf. This walking tour from the Court House to Belmore Park is only seven blocks: a reminder of just how rich the town's architectural history is.

Belmore Park
Located in the centre of town and edged by Auburn, Market, Sloane and Montague Streets, Belmore Park was dedicated in 1869 by Lady Belmore in the same year her husband Lord Belmore (Governor of New South Wales - 1868-1872) opened the railway. At the time it was named Belmore Square. By the beginning of the twentieth century it had reached its present form with a band rotunda (1897), drinking fountain, obelisk, flower beds and extensive planting of European trees. It is located on the site of the original market place. The Classical stone archway opposite the park, in Market Street, was built in 1847 as the gateway to the Bull and Woodward Stores. The National Estate notes its importance as a reflection of the wealth of a prosperous rural township in the 1860s.

Riversdale
Located at 1 Maud Street, Riversdale is a single-storey colonial Georgian cottage built of sandstock brick in 1840. It was originally built as a coaching inn complete with stables which probably date from 1833. Set in fine gardens (there are plum trees which date from 1865) it is furnished in period style. It has a stone-flagged enclosed veranda with carved-timber supports, a courtyard, timber floors and cedar joinery. It is the only surviving building from the original Goulburn townsite which existed from 1828 until Governor Bourke relocated it in 1832. In 1872 it became the private residence of NSW Surveyor General, Edward Twynam. Many pieces of furniture originally owned by the Twynams still are on display in the house including a remarkable chair carved by one of the women in the family. The Twynam family remained in the property until 1967 when it was sold to the National Trust who now open it Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10.00 am - 2.00 pm, Sunday from 10.00 am - 3.00 pm, tel: (02) 4821 4741. For more details check out http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/nsw/Riversdale

The Old Goulburn Brewery
Located at 23 Bungonia Road and now part of Bradley Grange which includes the Brewery and the Steam Mill Restaurant, the Old Goulburn Brewery is reputedly the oldest working industrial complex in the country and is a rare example of a group of nineteenth century industrial buildings. The three-storey flour mill was built in 1836, the castellated brewing tower and malt houses in 1840, and the stables and a brewer's cottage were added later. In 1900 a two-storey wing completed the complex. It was designed by the famous convict-architect Francis Greenway for Jonas, Thomas and William Bradley.  Today it offers real ale and stout made on the premises, B&B accommodation, the Steam Mill Restaurant and a function centre. There are self-guided tours of the complex which retains much of the original brewing equipment. It is open daily from 11.00 am, tel: (02) 4821 6071. Check http://users.tpg.com.au/adslcy22/Brewery/Welcome.html for details.

Rocky Hill War Memorial and Museum
The best view of Goulburn is from the Rocky Hill War Memorial, a handsome 20 m tower located at the end of Memorial Drive on Rocky Hill. The memorial was built in 1925 with funds raised by public subscription. The memorial honours the local service personnel who fought and died in World War I. Floodlit at night, it is open from dawn to dusk daily. The Tower and the Museum, which is located in a cottage nearby, are open for inspection from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm on weekends and public holidays. The Museum contains weapons, personal items used by local soldiers, and memorabilia, tel: (02) 4823 4463. Check http://www.collectionsaustralia.net/org/1190/about/ for more details.

The Big Merino
In the hierarchy of Australian 'big things' the 'Big Merino', a huge and accurate replica of a Merino ram which is 15.2 m high, 18 m long and weighs 98 tonnes, is one of the town's more overt tourist attractions. It was the brainchild of Louis and Attila Mokany who had also been responsible for the Big Oyster at Taree and the Big Prawn at Ballina. It was modelled on a local stud ram named Rambo from the Bullamallita Stud and constructed as a giant steel frame covered with wire mesh and sprayed with reinforced concrete by Adelaide sculptor Silvio Apponyi. It took six months to build and, in the first six months, it attracted 1.2 million visitors. It was formally opened in 1985 at 88 Hume Street. When the town was bypassed it was moved further up the road where it is now part of a complex at the southern end of town which includes service stations and fast food outlets.

The Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre
If you are interested in rolling stock, railways and an impressive locomotive roundhouse then the Goulburn Rail Heritage Centre on Braidwood Road houses both steam and diesel locomotives, a heritage workshop and the roundhouse which operated from 1918-1986. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 am to 3.30 pm. Most of the guides are former railway employees with a commitment and interest in rail history. Check out http://www.igoulburn.com/Attractions/GoulburnRailHeritageCentre.aspx for more details.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum
Once known as the Goulburn Steam Museum, the Goulburn Historic Waterworks Museum is located at Marsden Weir, off Fitzroy Street, on a bend in the Wollondilly River. It is now recognised as "the only complete operational steam powered municipal water supply in its original location in the Southern Hemisphere." The machinery on display includes an Appleby Beam Engine which worked the pumps for the town's water supply from 1883 to 1918 and a corliss valve horizontal engine built in 1866. The steam engines operate once a month and the museum is open Sunday 10.00 am - 4.00 pm and Monday & Tuesday 10.00 am - 2.00 pm, tel: (02) 4823 4448. Check http://www.goulburnwaterworks.com.au for details of the times when the machinery is operational.

Garroorigang
Garroorigang is a remarkable private home which is a rare opportunity to step inside a residence, still being lived in, which is largely unchanged from the middle 19th century. It was built of stuccoed brick and rubble in 1857 as a Teamsters (i.e. Bullockies) Inn. Later it became a boys' boarding school for the "sons of gentlemen" (1868-1883) while at the same time becoming the private residence of Samuel Harborne Belcher. The Victorian drawing room, extensive historic furniture, and the school room can still be inspected. It is located at 209 Braidwood Road at the southern end of town. Garroorigang is open to the public daily except on Sunday mornings and on Wednesdays. Visiting hours are from 10.00 am to 12.30 pm and from 2.00 pm to 4.30 pm (other times by arrangement). Guided tours are provided by a member of the family who will explain the history of the homestead and the lives of its past and present owners, tel: (02) 4822 1912. Check http://www.argylecounty.com.au/garroorigang/ for details.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the area was inhabited by the Gundungurra Aborigines.

* An ex-convict, John Wilson, was the first European to see the Goulburn Plains when he led an expedition into the area in 1798. The plan, devised by Governor Hunter, was to explore the area and provide a very negative report. At the time convicts were escaping and heading south in the mistaken belief that China was only 150 miles away.

* In 1818 Hamilton Hume and James Meehan crossed the plains and named them after Henry Goulburn, who, at the time, was the British Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies.

* In 1819 Governor Lachlan Macquarie ordered the construction of a Great South Road from Picton to the Goulburn Plains. The following year Macquarie travelled to the plains and wrote that he found "a noble, extensive, rich meadow near a fine large pond of fresh water, the cattle being up to their bellies in as fine, long sweet grass as I have seen anywhere". He also noted the suitability of the area for grazing and crops.

* By the mid-1820s farmers were growing wheat and grazing sheep on the Goulburn Plains. Andrew Allan, who arrived in 1825, was reputedly the first settler in the area.

* By the 1830s Goulburn had an established reputation as a producer and exporter of fine merino wool.

* A town plan was drawn up in 1828 and a few allotments were taken up by discharged soldiers. However Governor Bourke considered the site (now Goulburn North) flood-prone and in 1832 a second townsite was surveyed on higher ground. The new site was gazetted in 1833.

* The importance of the settlement increased dramatically in the 1830s when the Great South Road from Picton to the Goulburn Plains was re-routed by Surveyor General Thomas Mitchell and Goulburn became an important stopover point.

* A lock-up was built in 1830 and a gallows/flogging post was constructed in 1832.

* In 1836 a stockade was built at Towrang, 15 km north-east of the town to house convicts involved in the construction of the Great South Road. It continued to operate until 1842. The stockade was the main penal establishment south-west of Sydney. At its peak it held over 250 convicts often with 10 men to a cell.

* The first school and church in Goulburn were opened in 1839.

* In 1848 the Goulburn Herald, one of Australia's first country newspapers, was established in the town.

* Goulburn was gazetted as a municipality in 1859 and became the first inland Australian city in 1863.

* Ben Hall and his  gang operated the area in the mid-1860s, raiding homesteads and holding up coaches and individuals on the Great South Road.

* The railway arrived in 1869 and the town remained the southern railhead until 1875.

* With the arrival of the railway came industries such as coach-building, iron foundries and saddlery-making which saw the town prosper through the 1870s and 1880s..

* In 1884 the gaol at North Goulburn was completed. It is now a maximum-security prison housing such infamous criminals as Ivan Milat, the Belanglo Forest serial killer.

* The novelist Miles Franklin lived on a property south of the Federal Highway near Thornford from 1889 to 1903. Her first prose piece was published in the Goulburn Evening Penny Post in 1896.

* In 1901 a dairy factory was established.

* In 1922 woollen mills began operating in the city.

* A major wool sales centre was established in the city in 1930.

* Today Goulburn is the thriving centre of a prosperous agricultural district. Given the windy nature of the area it has become a popular region to locate windfarms.

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Visitor Information

Goulburn Visitors Information Centre, 201 Sloane Street, tel: (02) 4823 4492 or 1800 353 646.

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Useful Websites

The town has its own, very detailed website: http://www.igoulburn.com

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Got something to add?

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2 suggestions
  • Hi there. Would be good to include information about prominent artists in Goulburn. I have been trying to find information about Philip Henry Nourse who came out from Birmingham and did much of the stone mason work in St Saviours. Would be good to honour this aspect of Golburn as well. Would be grateful to be directed to any source of information about Mr Nourse.

    Fiona Wynn