Home » Towns » New South Wales » Central Tablelands » Gulgong, NSW
Print

Gulgong, NSW

Charming historic gold town with strong links to Henry Lawson

To fully experience Gulgong it is necessary to wander along Mayne Street and Herbert Street and soak up the historic ambience of this remarkable goldmining town which has over 130 heritage buildings. Part of Gulgong's unique appeal lies in the fact that it began before surveyors could turn it into just another country town with a boring street grid system. Consequently the main roads in town, originally tracks for horses and bullocks, wind and meander through a picturesque and well-preserved settlement of single-storey weatherboard, iron, stone and brick buildings with old-fashioned iron-lace verandas, tiny wooden cottages, horse troughs and hitching rails. The result is a gold mining town which once was home to 20,000 and is now held in the aspic of history.

Location

Gulgong is located 295 km north-west of Sydney via Bells Line of Road and the Castlereagh Highway. It is 33 km north of Mudgee and 466 m above sea-level. 

^ TOP

Origin of Name

It is accepted that the Wiradjuri word "gulgong" means "deep waterhole".

^ TOP

Things to See and Do

Gulgong Historical Walk & Henry Lawson Heritage Trail
There is a pleasant and informative walk around Gulgong which starts on the corner of Herbert Street and Main Street and includes 62 places of historic interest. There are over 130 heritage listed buildings in the town. The walk is described in great detail in the Gulgong Historical Walk & Henry Lawson Heritage Trail which can be purchased for a very modest fee ($2.00 in 2017) from either the Henry Lawson Centre, the Opera Shop or the Pioneers Museum.
The most interesting places include:

1. Loneragan's Store
The corner of Mayne and Herbert Streets is the perfect place to start a walk around Gulgong. On one side is the sprawling Loneragan's Store which was built in 1898 as the Commercial Warehouse by Christopher Young. In 1902 Young sold the building to James Loneragan - a prosperous local merchant who had stores in Dunedoo, Mudgee, Rylstone, Kandos and Mendooran.

4. Old Shop and House
Beyond the Prince of Wales Hotel are two houses and an old shop on the corner of Mayne and White Streets. One has a distinctly Bavarian look about it as it was built by a gold miner from that region of Europe.

5. Mile Post and Horse Trough
In front of one of the houses is a Mile Post with the marking HR - 7 Miles. It refers to the distance from the mile post to Home Rule which was a hugely successful gold mining settlement. The horse trough, which is over 100 years old, was donated by George and Annis Bills. Horse lovers they donated horse troughs around NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

7. Prince of Wales Hotel
Located at 97 Mayne Street, the Prince of Wales Hotel (previously known as Dillon's Hotel) was established in Gulgong in the late 19th century. A man named John Scully renovated it and it became known as the Council Chambers Hotel when the local council started holding meetings in the building. Scully rebuilt the hotel and it now offers three and a half star accommodation in modern motel units. Check out http://www.princeofwalesgulgong.com.au.

8. The Prince of Wales Opera House
The Prince of Wales Opera House, located in Mayne Street, was erected of bark in 1871 and was probably the largest free-standing bark structure ever built. At that time it was known as Cogdon's Assembly Rooms. Thomas Alexander Browne, who wrote Robbery Under Arms under the pseudonym 'Rolf Boldrewood', was the town's police magistrate from 1871 to 1881. It is said he held court at Cogdon's Assembly Rooms using the piano as the official bench. A new roof, weatherboard facade and wooden floor were later added and the name changed. In the town's gold rich heyday it was claimed that some female performers had gold nuggets thrown in their laps whilst performing. The legendary boxer Les Darcy fought an exhibition bout at the Opera House before he departed for the USA and Dame Nellie Melba gave one of her earliest performances here while still performing under the name of Mrs Armstrong. It can be opened for inspection by appointment.

9. National Bank
On one of the corners of Mayne and Herbert Streets is the National Bank Building (1919) a typical example of Edwardian architecture and the first prominent building constructed in the town after World War I.

10. Westpac Bank
On the other corner of Mayne and Herbert Streets, with a prominent NRMA sign on the facade, is the old Bank of New South Wales. There is a wonderful photograph in the Holtermann Collection of a group of men posing outside the building in 1872. Check it out at http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-147996148/view.

12. Souter's Corner
On the other corner of Mayne and Herbert Streets is the two storey building known as Souter's Corner which was completed in the 1890s.

13. Mayne Street Shopfronts and Gutters
Walking down Mayne Street is a reminder of how Gulgong has maintained its historic appeal. Of particular interest are the stone gutters. Look carefully and you will see where the local butcher used to sharpen his knives. It is a comment on Australia's casual attitude to history that in the 1990s the local council wanted to remove the stone gutters and the locals had to fight against the change with an enforced heritage order.

15. The Greatest Wonder of the World - the Holtermann Museum and 
16. The American Tobacco Warehouse
Located at 123-125 Mayne Street, the Gulgong Holtermann Museum is now located in  the restored "The Greatest Wonder of the World" and "American Tobacco Warehouse & Fancy Goods Emporium" which have had their original facades re-established. Gulgong was particularly well-documented photographically, owing to the Holtermann Collection. The excellent Holtermann Museum website (http://holtermannmuseum.com.au) explains that: "In August 1872, photographer Henry Beaufoy Merlin and his young assistant Charles Bayliss arrived in Gulgong and in less than two months they had photographed buildings, street scenes, panoramic views and the people of the rapidly growing town and its surrounds.
"After Merlin died the collection, amounting to around five hundred glass plate negatives, was purchased by the wealthy Hill End miner Bernard Otto Holtermann. These he added to his collection of commissioned photographs by Merlin and Bayliss. Fortunately the Gulgong plates survived and are now part of the renowned Holtermann collection which are housed in the State Library of NSW and recently inscribed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.
Bernard Holtermann made his fortune gold mining at Hill End. Having purchased the "Merlin collection", and added to it photographs of other major gold mining towns, Holtermann decided to exhibit the photographs abroad with the aim of attracting migrants to the country where he had become wealthy. What turned out to be one of the largest wet-plate collections ever made was displayed at international exhibitions in Philadelphia (1876) and Paris (1878). Some of Merlin's photographs provided the basis of the images on the rear side of the old $10 note. For more information tel: (02) 6374 1844 or check out http://holtermannmuseum.com.au.
The buildings operated during the goldrush era as a clothing shop and a tobacconist. They were owned by the Moses family - Abraham and Simeon Moses owned the clothing store while Menser Moses was the family tobacconist.

18. Dr Fletcher's Surgery
Located at the bottom of Mayne Street, on the corner of Mayne and Medley Streets, this two storey building was once Dr Humphrie's Surgery and the stone building next door became Dr Fletcher's Surgery.

22. The Henry Lawson Centre
The Henry Lawson Centre is located in an old Salvation Army hall (1922) at 147 Mayne Street. It has the largest collection of paintings, prints, cuttings, photographs and books outside of the Mitchell Library relating to Henry Lawson and they are organised according to significant phases in the writer's life. Items include a flour bin made by Lawson's father which was mentioned in one of the author's poems. Rare editions of his poems and short stories. There is a section devoted to the women in his life. The centre is open from 10.00 am to 3.30 pm Monday to Saturday, 10.00 am - 1.00 pm Sunday, tel: (02) 6374 2049. Check out http://www.henrylawsongulgong.org.au for more details.

35. St Luke's Church
Located on the corner of Bayly and Bulga Streets, St Luke's Anglican Church was designed by noted colonial architect, Edmund Blacket and built out of local stone at a cost of £650 in 1876.

37. St John's Church
Located in Bayly Street, St John's Catholic Church was built in 1885 at a cost of £2250. The design is Flemish bonding on red brickwork. It replaced an earlier Catholic Church which was built during the town's first goldrush.

38. Convent
Located next door to St John's Church, the two-storey convent was built in 1881 and is now classified by the National Trust.

41. Landsdowne
Located on the corner of Bayly and Medley Streets, Landsdowne was built around 1882-1884 by Niels Larsen, known also as Peter Lawson, Henry Lawson's father. It is an historically significant house for those interested in Lawson's involvement with Gulgong.

50. The Shanty
Located in Herbert Street and built between 1885-1890, the cottage became home to a local blacksmith in 1892 and remained in the Gudgeon family until 1950. It has been restored and now is open Friday-Sunday providing Visitor Information. There is also an exhibition of military memorabilia.

52. Times Bakery now Gulgong Pioneers Museum
The Gulgong Pioneers Museum at 73 Herbert Street is located in the old Times Bakery & Produce Store (1872-73) which was featured on the old Australian $10 note. The ovens and baking equipment remain on site and unaltered. The museum is open seven days from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. 
The museum’s collection includes a comprehensive collection of domestic tools and utensils, farm and mining equipment, horse drawn vehicles, early photographs, Aboriginal and geological artefacts, period clothing, and buildings dating from Gulgong’s heyday during the turbulent Gold Rush days of the 1870’s. The domestic artefacts have been arranged thematically into an 1870s dining room; a bedroom and parlour c.1880; an 1872 kitchen and an 1872 bakehouse. The museum's grounds include a reconstructed blacksmith's shop and the Gudgeon Cottage which provides an insight into a typical working-class home from 1891. Other attractions include a Cobb & Co. display, mining equipment, horse drawn vehicles, an old schoolhouse, as well as Aboriginal and geological artefacts and displays. The Olde Time Print Shoppe has "presses, linotype and other hot metal typesetting machines that produced the newspapers, books and magazines of yesteryear. Gulgong’s first newspaper was printed in 1872 on our Albion hand press which was manufactured in 1869 by Harrild & Sons in England." The Museum of Sight and Sound is devoted to the history of Australian cinematography and sound recording. For more information tel: (02) 6374 1513 or http://www.gulgongmuseum.com. It is open seven days a week from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm.

54. Gulgong Post Office
Located at 97 Herbert Street, the impressive and beautifully restored Gulgong Post Office dates from the 1880s.

56. Gulgong Court House
Located in Herbert Street and designed by NSW Government architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, the Court House is a residential-scale Federation Queen Anne building with "a gable roofed section alongside a recessed veranda. Typical Queen Anne detailing includes turned timber veranda posts and bracketing with timber shingles to the gable end wall. The roof of the building comprises two abutting hipped sections." It is constructed in face brick with decorative timber veranda posts and gable end walls shingles. The hipped roofs are clad in corrugated iron sheeting. It was built in 1898 at a cost of £1507. It is remarkably modest. The Heritage Register notes: "Gulgong Courthouse has been associated with the provision of law and justice in the town since 1900. The modest scale and design of Gulgong Courthouse demonstrates the changing approach to the provision of public buildings in New South Wales during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the extravagance of the nineteenth-century public works program was rejected for a more restrained style." For more information check out http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=3080065.

57. AJS Bank
Over the road from the Court House is the small, timber AJS (Australian Joint Stock)  Bank which dates from 1871. It immediately achieved notoriety when an implausible trio named Soapy, Black Dick and Pug Gore attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to rob it. The bank closed down in 1900.

58. Early Town Hall (Cudgegong House)
A superb example of a restored Classical Revival building dating from 1892 when it was the Town Hall. The building was restored and opened as the Cudgegong Gallery in 2004 with an international exhibition of ceramic art and closed due to financial reasons in 2012. 

61. Anzac Park and the Gulgong District Soldiers Memorial
Anzac Park is located at the corner of Fitzroy and Medley Streets. The bandstand is of particular interest as it is one of earliest tributes to the Anzacs having been erected in 1916, just a year after Gallipoli. The Monument Australia website records that: "The Memorial is a band rotunda faced with name plates and commemorative plaques. It cost £244 to construct and was funded through the efforts of the Gulgong Progress Association. The memorial rotunda in Gulgong’s ANZAC Park is the second oldest in Australia. The memorial was built in 1916, two years before World War One ended, and was officially unveiled in 1918. The World War One plaques were added to the rotunda on the official opening of the Memorial Park on Anzac Day 1929. 
"The top of the memorial represents the tin hat worn by the ANZACs. The eight pillars represent the six States and two Territories. At the top of each of the pillars is a letter. Together, the letters stand for ANZAC and GPA: that is, ANZAC and the Gulgong Progress Association, which was responsible for the building of the memorial." For more information check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/conflict/multiple/display/21426-gulgong-district-soldiers-memorial.

62. Henry Lawson Statue
Located in Theresa Lane Park this is a reminder, if any is needed, that Gulgong claims Lawson as its own. With some justification.

63. Police Buildings
Located in Medley Street the Police Station was built in 1880 as the Constable's Residence. Next door is the old Sergeant's Residence which was built in 1879. Both buildings have been classified by the National Trust.

Gulgong Gold Experience
A memorial at Red Hill Reserve, at the end of Tom Saunders Avenue, marks the site of Tom Saunders' original 1870 strike which sparked the goldrush that was the making of Gulgong. An open-air mining museum has been established on the site which includes an old poppet head and shaft, a stamper, a windlass and other pieces of mining equipment. There is also a relief map of the mining leads around town and a slab hut schoolroom and a replica walk-through underground mine. It is open daily from 1.00 pm - 3.00 pm although it is possible to inspect the site at any time. For more information check out  http://www.gulgonggold.com.au.

Gulgong Symbol Trail
During the goldrush era the itinerant prospectors, tramps and swaggies travelling country roads in search of work, food or just a place to sleep, used a secret code of symbols to communicate the 'lie of the land' to fellow travellers. This secret language was used internationally and involved a series of easily understood symbols with such obvious meanings as "Good place for a handout", "dangerous people" and "good road to follow".
Chester Nealie, a well known Gulgong potter, came up with the idea of creating decorative paving in Gulgong which featured 16 of these symbols. 
The result is the Gulgong Symbol Trail which comprises around 70 tiles, placed in random on Mayne Street and in Coronation Park. There is a guide to the meaning of the symbols in the Gulgong Historical Walk & Henry Lawson Heritage Trail and there is a plaque explaining the symbols in Coronation Park on Mayne Street.

Flirtation Hill Lookout
Flirtation Hill Lookout is located off Wenonah Street which runs south off Mayne Street. It offers panoramic views over the town as well as north to Barney's Reef Hills, east to the Great Dividing Range, Home Rule to the south-east and Mudgee to the south.

 

^ TOP

Other Attractions in the Area

The Drip
It is not easy to find but it is hugely rewarding. The Drip picnic area is 35 km north-east from Gulgong via Cope Road, Ulan and Ulan Road. Follow these instructions: Drive north-east on the road to Ulan and 14 km beyond Ulan on the Ulan Road there is a sign posted turnoff to the left which leads to a car park. There is a walking track which begins on the northern side of the parking area and follows a cliff face adjacent the Goulburn River. Follow the rock face and you will cross a small bridge, a tumble of rocks and Curra Creek. Walk through the ferny glade then you will pass by a large rock to the right. To the left there are rock orchids and ferns on the cliff face. The track then heads around to the sandy riverbank and through a hollowed arch rock. A sign indicates a left turn back to the honeycombed cliff face which you follow to the end. Cross over the grassy bank and a sharp left brings you to the Drip where the river flows over a rock platform.
There is an excellent description of the location at http://www.mudgeebusiness.com/the-drip---ulan.html which includes such useful information as "water runs down the surrounding hillsides and seeps through the high rock gorges and drips into the pools below". The result, as the name suggests, is a cliff that drips into the river. It is particularly beautiful because the place where the seepage occurs is covered with weeping ferns and grasses.
The track is relatively flat and easy. It is a 2.4 km return walk where you have to cross the river a number of times and dodge everything from overhangs to wombat holes and rock caves. There is rarely anyone there. It is a genuine bush paradise.

Hands on the Rock
Located 2.3 km further north on the Cassilis Road is a signposted left onto a dirt road. After 100 metres turn right into a small clearing and a 400 metre walking track starts from the far side. It leads to overhanging rocks where there are important historic Aboriginal hand stencils.

Goulburn River National Park
The Goulburn River National Park is located 51 km east of Gulgong via Ulan and Wollar Roads. Established in 1983 it covers over 70,000 ha of land which stretches for 90 km along the Goulburn River which winds past sandstone cliffs, caves and gorges that contain more than 300 Aboriginal sites, reflecting the fact that the area was situated on a major trading route between the coast and the western plains. 
The park is a haven for animal, bird and plant life. Expect to see emus, eastern grey kangaroos, red-necked wallabies, wombats and turquoise parrots.
There are two obvious roads into the National Park: 
(a) the 22 km (one way) Spring Gully Drive which heads north from Wollar Road to the Big River Campsite where you can enjoy swimming, canoeing, bushwalking, photography and wildlife observation. The National Parks entry notes: "When you arrive at Spring Gully campground, treat yourself by jumping straight into the Goulburn River, or throw in your fishing line to see if you can catch something for lunch – the waters of the Goulburn River make this an angler’s dream. Or if you’d like to stretch your legs after a long car journey, take a walk along the river past sandstone cliffs, which are home to Aboriginal sites, such as hand stencils." Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/driving-routes/spring-gully-drive.
(b) Lees Pinch which is further east on Wollar Road and which has a one kilometre walking track (it takes between 30 minutes and an hour) which offers three different lookout points all offering scenic views over the Goulburn River and surrounding countryside. Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/lees-pinch-lookout-walking-track for greater detail.
The park is known as an ideal place for swimming, canoeing, bushwalking, photography and wildlife observation. For more detailed information tel: (02) 6370 9000 or https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/goulburn-river-national-park.

Henry Lawson's Heritage Trail
For serious Lawson enthusiasts, the booklet Gulgong Historical Walk includes a section on the Henry Lawson Heritage Trail. Lawson (1867-1922) had very strong ties to the Mudgee-Gulgong district. His parents were married in Mudgee in 1866 and Henry was born at the Grenfell goldfields. He was raised, from the age of six months to 15 years, in a cottage 8 km north of Mudgee at Eurunderee (then known as 'Pipeclay'), which was established after a gold find in 1863. He briefly attended the local Catholic school. Lawson famously told stories in Mudgee's Miner's Arms Hotel and wrote much of his work while living in the area.
The Henry Lawson Heritage Trail drive tour covers a total of 15 sites associated with Lawson and his writing. Many are only locations, and some are places mentioned by Lawson in his poetry and short stories. Some of the places mentioned include the site of the Old Bark School at Eurunderee; Sapling Gully which Lawson wrote about in His Father's Mate; the site of the Lawson home now the Henry Lawson Memorial; and the Budgee Budgee Inn (out on the Cassilis Road - which was the setting for the famous The Loaded Dog). The trail can be completed as a loop.

Henry Lawson Memorial
The Henry Lawson Memorial, which is located on Henry Lawson Drive 30 km south of Gulgong, is an elegantly landscaped picnic area which has a well-preserved brick fireplace which is all that remains of the Lawson family house which was demolished in 1946. It is 8 km north of Mudgee on the right-hand side of Henry Lawson Drive. It is now edged by two vineyards.

^ TOP

History

* Prior to European settlement the district was occupied by the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people. 

* In 1821 William Lawson (of Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson fame) explored the area.

* In 1822 the sons of William Cox (the man who built the road across the Blue Mountains) extended their Mudgee holdings into the Gulgong area. They established the 'Guntawang' cattle run 8 km south-west of the present townsite. 

* In 1825 Richard Rouse was granted land upon which the village of Guntawang developed. 

* The discovery of gold saw the gazetting of the Gulgong goldfield in 1866. Early finds were negligible. 

* Tom Saunders, one of Rouse's shepherds, uncovered a rich lode on the future townsite (at Red Hill) on April 14, 1870 and sparked a major goldrush. 

* There were 500 people on the site within six weeks.

* The town was surveyed in 1870 and gazetted in 1872 when there were reputedly 20 000 people in the area. 

* The family of Henry Lawson arrived in the area in 1871.

* The local Court of Petty Sessions began hearings in 1871.

* Thomas Alexander Browne (aka Rolf Boldrewood who wrote Robbery Under Arms) was the police magistrate from 1871-1881. 

* In 1875 the English novelist Anthony Trollope visited the town and recorded his impressions in Australia and New Zealand

* Gulgong became a municipality in 1876. 

* Approximately 15,000 kg of gold were removed from the Gulgong fields between 1870 and 1880. 

* By 1881 the population had reduced to 1212. 

* In 1900 73-year-old Alexander McKay was murdered by Jimmy and Joe Governor (The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith) when he was bludgeoned with a tomahawk near Ulan, 25 km north-east of Gulgong.

* The railway reached the town in 1909.

^ TOP

Visitor Information

The Gulgong Visitor Information Centre, 66 Herbert Street, tel: (02) 6374 2691. It is open from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm Friday and Saturday and 10.00 am  to 1.00 pm on Sundays, tel: (02) 6374 2691. 

^ TOP

Useful Websites

A detailed brochure can be downloaded at http://cdn.wisdom.com.au/MudgeeVisitorsGuide/MRT-2017-Visitor-Guide-FLIPBOOK.html.

^ TOP
Got something to add?

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

1 suggestion so far