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Inverell, NSW

Prosperous rural service centre on the Macintyre River which calls itself the Sapphire City.

Inverell is a charming and elegant rural service centre located on a bend in the Macintyre River in a mixed farming district known for its wheat, grapes olives, maize, barley and oats. Since the 1870s the area has been also known for its tin, sapphires, zircons and diamonds. Apart from being commercially exploited, these minerals have made the area a popular haunt for fossickers who find topaz, quartz, silver, diamonds, agate, petrified wood, rhodorite, tourmaline and lead, as well as sapphires, diamonds and tin in the surrounding countryside.

Location

Inverell is located 590 m above sea-level, 570 km north of Sydney via Thunderbolt's Way and 431 km south-west of Brisbane via Glen Innes.

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Origin of Name

Inverell was named by the district's first settler Alexander Campbell. He took up 50,000 acres which he named Inverell, a Gaelic word meaning "the meeting place of swans". At the time there were large numbers of swans on the Macintyre River.

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Things to See and Do

A Heritage Walk in Inverell
There is a useful guide to the town's most interesting and impressive historic locations - A Heritage Walk in Inverell - which is available at the Visitor Information Centre. The walk includes 30 buildings and places of historic interest of which the most interesting include:

5. The Inverell Club
Located on the corner of Campbell and Evans Streets, the Inverell Club was built in 1909 for a cost of £3,918 and is one of the very few timber buildings constructed in central Inverell in the twentieth century.

6. Inverell Art Gallery and Meandering Macintyre Mosaic
Next door to the Town Hall and sharing the same address, 5 Evans Street, is The Inverell Art Centre which has a large array of paintings, pottery and craft. It is open weekdays from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm and Saturdays from 10.00 am - 1.00 pm. Tel: (02) 6722 4983 for more information. Outside is the Meandering Macintyre Mosaic which measures 90 cm across and 94 cm long and represents the flow of the Macintyre River. There are 15 large native Australian wildflowers in the design and 88 discs depicting local wildlife. The building is a combination of the School of Arts which dates from 1877 and was built by the Mutual Improvement Society and Butler Hall, named after a former mayor.

7. Town Hall
Located at 5 Evans Street the Town Hall "was opened in 1905 and in its early years was the venue for travelling entertainment nearly every week. Its annexe was the headquarters of Inverell Municipal Council and it even provided space for a tiny public library. Today the Town Hall is used as a community hall and is in constant use by visiting entertainers, school productions, eisteddfods, dances and exhibitions. It is owned and operated by the Inverell Shire Council for the people of the region." For more information check out http://facilities.arts.nsw.gov.au/facilities/inverell-town-hall.

9. Inverell Post Office
Located at 97 Otho Street (Gwydir Highway) the Post Office was designed by the prominent Colonial Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon and completed in 1904. The telegraph had reached Inverell as early as 1868.

10. Court House
This Classical brick-rendered Court House dominates the townscape. Interestingly it is the town's fourth it was built in 1886-89 and has an impressive clock tower. It comprises a central courtyard, flanked by symmetrical clerk's and sheriff's offices. There is a tower above the courtroom with clock and bell. The interior furnishings, joinery and woodwork are of red cedar. It has been restored to its original colours.

12 (c). St Andrew's Presbyterian Church
Located at 94 Vivian Street is the Inverell Presbyterian Church, the town's second, built to a Gothic design of English bonded brick in 1878. It has a prominent tower, a slate roof with terracotta ridge-capping, rainwater heads, brick lintels, stuccoed trims, finials and articulated quoins. It is a comment on the prosperity of the town's Scottish community at the time. There is extensive information on the history of the church at http://www.ohta.org.au/organs/organs/InverellPres.html.

12 (e) St Augustine's Anglican Church
Located at 33 Rivers Street is the St Augustine's, designed by J. Horbury Hunt, one of the finest architects practising in New South Wales in the late 19th century. It is a Gothic design with terracotta ridge-capping and a slate roof.

13. Bicentennial Memorial
The Bicentennial Memorial in Sinclair Park features a series of panels depicting the history of the Inverell area. They are organised into three courtyards, the first depicting the era before European arrival in Australia, the second covering 1788-1888 and the third 1888-1988. There is a mosaic map in the central concourse depicting the geographical features of the area that were known to the Aborigines before white settlement.

14. Scottish Memorial Cairn
Located in Sinclair Park on Glen Innes Road, the Scottish Memorial Cairn was dedicated in 1999. It contains rocks that were flown to Australia from Scotland. The town's website explains: "The cairn's side walls provide locations whereby people of Scottish descent can record their ancestors and later generations involvement in the exploration, pioneering, early settlement, ongoing progression and success of the town and Shire of Inverell for some 170 years by the attachment of individual Clan and/or Family Bronze plaques, which were organised by the Inverell Scottish Association Inc and manufactured by the Uralla based, Phoenix Foundation Pty Ltd. At the base of the cairn, feature stones depict the four compass points, North, South, East and West. These oblong Black Basalt stones were part of the largest and lastly constructed of Colin Ross' stores, a pioneer of early Inverell. The side walls (southerly aspect) contain silhouettes of a Scottish Piper and Scottish Highland Dancer. A Commemorative bronze plaque is attached to the cairns northerly aspect."

19. The Oxford Hotel
Located in Otho Street this hotel was the height of modernity when it opened in 1886. It had electric bells, stabling for 20 horses and a coach arch large enough for the coaches from Glen Innes to drive behind Otho Street. At the time it also had a hall which was capable of holding 400-500 people. The hall was demolished in 1911 and partly re-erected as a farm shed which still stands east of Inverell. Tom Roberts' famous painting Bailed Up was painted partly in the Oxford Hall using one of the coaches as a model.

20. Red Shield Family Store
If you look at the facade, above the Red Shield Community Centre, you can tell that this building, which was opened in 1919, was Inverell's first movie theatre, the Rialto Theatre. At the time it could hold 1,100 people and, most interestingly, it had a roof which could be opened on hot nights by a series of six pulleys. Audiences watched the movies under the stars.

22. Imperial Hotel
Perhaps few buildings better sum up the changes over time than the Imperial Hotel - now a coffee lounge but, when it was builit in 1889, it had a lace veranda and 44 bedrooms. It was so prestigious that over the years it played host to Prime Minister Robert Menzies and a string of important politicians.

27. The Bank of New South Wales
Dominating the corner from Otho Street in Byron Street, this elegant two storey, Victorian Italianate building was completed in 1886 and became the local Council Chambers from 1960-1983. It was constructed from 300,000 bricks and has foundations which reach 4 metres deep.

Inverell Pioneer Village
Located just south of the town, the Inverell Pioneer Village is an extensive collection of 19th century homes and buildings which have been relocated in a delightful area of landscaped gardens. They present the impression of a colonial village. The village includes the Aberfoyle Post Office (1906), a printing office (1925), Paddy's Pub (1874, built of pit-sawn timber and once a Cobb & Co stopover on the road to Bundarra), a miner's hut, the Nullamanna Church (c. 1901), a hall, Goonoowigall school (1887), a blacksmith's hut, a telephone exchange, the Pindaroi farrier's shop, a shearing shed, a cottage which houses a collection of gems and minerals, and Grove Homestead (1840) with a stringybark roof from the Tingha area which serves as a museum housing artefacts of the period 1840-1925. There are also old steam and traction engines. Afternoon tea is available on Sunday and by arrangement. The complex is open Tuesday to Friday from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm and, on Saturday and Sunday from 9.30 am - 1.30 pm. Details of the buildings in the complex are available at http://www.inverellpioneervillage.org.au/buildings.php.

National Transport Museum
Located at 69 Rifle Range Road the National Transport Museum is open every day from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm. It proudly boasts that it has "120 vehicle exhibits, ranging from Vintage, Veteran, Classic and Motorcycles ... Some of the vehicles on display include a 1906 Dayton (believed to be the only one in the world), 1912 Renault, and various Holden and Fords including GT Falcons, 1926 Diana, 1929 Packard." Tel: (02) 6721 2270 or check out http://www.nationaltransportmuseum.info.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Tom Roberts in Inverell and the painting of Bailed Up.
Writing about the Oxford Hotel it was noted that “Tom Roberts' famous painting Bailed Up was painted partly in the Oxford Hall using one of the coaches as a model.” This was confirmed by the Art Gallery of New South Wales website. The gallery contains the famous painting and it notes: "Tom Roberts conceived the idea of a bushranger picture while he was staying at Inverell in northern NSW. He painted 'Bailed up' largely en plein air. It tells as much of the qualities of the local landscape as of its staged drama. Roberts superbly captures the summer heat conditions, which render to stillness the dramatic circumstances of a Cobb & Co hold up. The scene was painted from a purpose-built platform in a stringy bark tree, giving the work its high vantage point. Roberts modelled the figures on Inverell townspeople, including stagecoach driver 'Silent Bob Bates' who had been held up by local bushranger 'Captain Thunderbolt' three decades earlier." Adding to the Inverell connection is the National Library’s Trove Site where, on 14 July, 1928 a wonderfully anonymous writer – simply called F.G.F.-  wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald about the painting. “In or about the middle 80's Mr Roberts arrived from England, and was a guest of the Messrs Anderson, the owners of Newstead Station some 18 miles from Inverell. On the occasion of a dinner at Newstead, Mr Roberts expressed a wish that be might obtain some data which would enable him to paint a picture such as "Bailed-up" typifying the early days of New South Wales in the bush-ranging era. The Messrs Anderson entered into the spirit of the project enthusiastically and in a very short time all preparations were made for such a setting. Cobb and Co's coach, with the old leather braces was commandeered, as was the driver, Robert Bates well known in those days. The coach and the driver were the principal factors in the incident. Station hands and others were run in as bushrangers, passengers, etc., and the scene was complete. The result is shown in Mr Roberts' picture now hanging, as stated in the "Herald," in the Macquarie Gallery. Of course, Mr Roberts' picture of the shearing is also well known. The locus of that picture is also Newstead Station. “ Newstead Station used to have Homestead Tours.  The tours are no longer offered.

Kurrajong Memorial
The Kurrajong Memorial is located on the Gwydir Highway just 1 km east of Inverell. The Memorial is dedicated to the two groups of young men who enlisted during World War I. The second group, "The Kurrajongs", were the largest single contingent of men to leave a country town to enlist. They were based on the idea of the famous Coo-ee Marches where men from a country town walked to a recruitment destination and attracted other recruits on the way. In January 1916 a group of 114 men left Inverell. The group was named ‘The Kurrajongs'. They travelled by train and visited the neighbouring towns of Warialda and Moree. By the time they reached the Narrabri Army Depot Camp the number had reached 150. Most of the men subsequently enlisted in the 33rd Battalion AIF being raised at Armidale at the time. They went overseas and fought in France. Each of the kurrajong trees around the memorial is a reminder of one soldier who did not return to the area. The 105 mm German Howitzer was captured at Bois D'Accroche on the Western Front by members of the 33rd Battalion. For more information check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/conflict/ww1/display/21652-kurrajong-memorial.

Lake Inverell Reserve
Located off the Gwydir Highway to the east of the town centre and at the end of the Lake Inverell Drive, is the Lake Inverell Reserve. The Macintyre River was dammed in 1938 and, over the years, the reserve has become an aquatic sanctuary which is a fine spot for picnicking, fishing and bushwalking along the two designated walking tracks: the Lake Inverell Walk (a 3 km return trip, easy grade walk) and the Barayamal Walk, which passes through Barayamal National Park, and is a medium grade 6 km return trip walk. There is plenty of wildlife around the lake including wallabies, kangaroos, waterbirds and platypus.

Copeton Waters State Park
Located 39 km south-west of Inverell on the Copetoun Dam Road is the 900 ha recreational and adventure playground. There are camp and caravan sites, a kiosk and general store, an amenities block, cabins, fuel sales, boat hire, a six-hole golf course, tennis courts, sailing, windsurfing, power boating, water skiing, fishing (for cod, yellowbelly, silver perch, catfish and redfin), walking tracks, two adventure playgrounds, waterslides and plenty of wildlife. Tel: (02) 6723 6269 or http://www.copeton.com.au.

Goonoowigall State Conservation Area
Goonoowigall State Conservation Area (it is pronounced "gunny-wiggle") is located in scenic granite country on the Tingha Road, 5 km south of Inverell. The conservation area covers 1057 hectares. Sections have been a flora and fauna reserve since 1920. It has a number of picnic spots and 10 km of walking tracks. Tin-mining commenced here in the 1870s. Chinese earth ovens from those days are thought to still be scattered about. A woolwash was established in the 1880s and a school operated from 1887-1911, catering to about 11 pupils at a time. It has been relocated to the Pioneer Village.
There are three walking tracks which start from the car park.
Nhunta Karra Kara Track - a short 2 km return journey with signs that tell of the lives of Aboriginal families who made Goonoowigall their home. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans the Jukambal Aborigines hunted in the area. The name "Goonoowigall" is Jukambal for "water and rock wallabies".
Thunderbolts Circuit - a 4 km return trip. This track is a good introduction to Goonoowigall. It is steep in places.
Middle Creek Track - 5 km one way which roughly follows Middle Creek. A marked side track will take you to Goonoowigall Falls on Middle Creek, or at the southern end there is the option to turn off to the ruins of historic Ferndale Village.

Kings Plains National Park
Located 45 km north-east of Inverell is Kings Plains National Park, an area of rugged terrain, with rocky ridges, woodland, heath and open forest. There are some rare plants, as well as a large population of birds and mammals, from brightly coloured turquoise parrots and crimson rosellas to eastern grey kangaroos and swamp wallabies. Many of them are attracted in the early morning and late afternoon to the park's main feature, Kings Plains Creek, which has rapids, waterfalls (Kings Plain Falls are one of the main attractions) and large tranquil water pools. It is an excellent, isolated destination for bushwalking, exploring, picnicking, camping and birdwatching. Check http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/Kings-Plains-National-Park for more information.

Fossicking
There are, according to http://www.inverell.com.au/what-to-do/fossicking.html which has details of each organisation, a total of nine fossicking areas (most devoted to sapphires) around Inverell. It is possible to hire all the necessary equipment and the local operations are eager to advise on suitable sites. Apart from the possibility of finding valuable gemstones, the appeal lies in being out in the bush, camping and just having a time of relaxation and fun.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the Jukambal, a group of the Kamilaroi Aboriginal people, lived in the local area.

* The first Europeans to reach the district were probably convicts who escaped chain gangs in the Hunter Valley. When the first white settlers arrived the convicts acted as guides and interpreters.

* The explorer Alan Cunningham became the first European to pass through the district on his ground-breaking trip to the Darling Downs in 1827.

* The first selection, at Byron Station, was taken up at the junction of the Macintyre and Swanbrook Rivers by Alexander Campbell around 1836, on behalf of the McIntyre Estates in Scotland.

* Campbell acquired 50,000 acres (20,234 ha) on the other side of Macintyre and named his property "Inverell".

* Colin and Rosana Ross established a store near a popular crossing on the Macintyre River in 1853 to cater to early settlers and to teamsters headed north to the Darling Downs. He soon added a water-driven flour mill and an inn.

* The residents petitioned for a townsite to be laid out in 1855.

* By 1859 there was a Presbyterian church (most early settlers being Scottish), two stores, two inns and a collection of bark huts and tents. That same year the local post office was opened.

* By 1861 the population had reached 177.

* From 1866 small selectors moved into the area and began wheat-farming.

* The town became a municipality in 1872. The town was decimated by a flood in 1872 and many buildings which had been damaged were rebuilt on higher ground.

* Tin was discovered at Elsmore, 14 km to the east and, by 1875, 500 men were employed at the Inverell mine.

* Diamonds were discovered at Copes Creek in 1875 and were mined at Copeton from 1883-1922.

* In 1876 the first bridge across the Macintyre was built. It needed to be replaced after six years.

* By 1881 the population was 1,212.

* In 1902 the railway from Delungra to Inverell was opened.

* A power station was built in 1910 to provide the town with electricity.

* By 1911 the town's population had reached 5131.

* In 1919 commercial sapphire mining began at Frazers Creek.

* Copeton Dam was completed in 1976. It is the city's main source of water.

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Visitor Information

Inverell Visitor Information Centre, 11-13 Campbell Street, tel: (02)6728 8161, Open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday, 9.00 am - 2.00 pm Saturday and Sunday.

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Useful Websites

There is an official website - http://www.inverell.com.au - which has information.

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Got something to add?

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

2 suggestions
  • I am almost positive I have seen identical courthouses, to that in Inverell, in southern rural N.S.W. Could I be right?

    Very likely. Often Court Houses were designed in Sydney by the Government Architect’s office and they were known to do a “job lot”.

    Geoff Smith
  • Olives of Beaulieu, situated 9 kms from Inverell, at 439 Copeton Dam Road. Here one can taste olive oils, being Extra Virgin, and also a range of Infused olive oils. Six Estate made spices and sauces and a great range of regional foods, including prize winning local honey. Also history of the area of Beaulieu. Open 10.a.m.-5 p.m..Wednesday – Sunday. No charge for all the tastings. A true experience.

    Les Parsons