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Maryborough, QLD

Historic city on the Mary River now noted for its connections with Mary Poppins.

Maryborough is known as the 'Heritage City' and although it isn't as grand as Queensland's two premier 'Heritage Cities' - Rockhampton and Charters Towers - it actually predates them both by decades. The city can boast a large number of beautiful historic buildings and the original settlement site - now nothing more than a series of plaques - is a fascinating insight into the evolution of an importance centre. Today Maryborough is a city driven by the surrounding sugar, grazing and timber industries and catering for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who pass through on the journey north to Cairns.

Location

Maryborough is located 254 km north of Brisbane on the Mary River.

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Origin of Name

The river was named by Governor Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy (Governor of the Colony of NSW from 1846-1855) after his wife, Lady Mary Fitzroy. It was a short step for the town that grew up the banks of the river to be named Maryborough. Prior to the naming of the Mary River the district had been known as Wide Bay and the local Badtjala Aborigines knew it as Booie, Numabulla, Mooraboocoola or Moonaboola.

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Things to See and Do

Old Maryborough
The original Maryborough site, occupied from 1847 to 1854 and located near the Mary River (bounded by George and Aldridge Streets), is a series of plaques describing the early history of the town. Although none of the original buildings remain, there is a Heritage Walk which, through a series of plaques, recounts the history of the long-departed houses and shops. The only enduring historic features are the old Furber graves and Baddow House. The fifteen points of interest on the walk include the Teamsters Paddock, the site of the Bush Inn, the site of Furber's Inn, the landing, wool store, sawpits, tanning pits and sawyers huts. There was a move to develop the area commercially in 2014 but it was effectively rebuffed by a Save Maryborough Old Township for the Community campaign which included a Facebook page which attracted by than 1,000 likes.

Baddow House
Baddow House, now located at 366 Queen Street, was built in 1883 for Edgar Thomas Aldridge who established trading and wool stores on the banks of the Mary River and opened the Bush Inn (now the Royal Hotel). When Baddow House came up for sale in 2012 the agent reported: "The house has rendered triple brick interior and exterior walls. The floors are crows ash and hoop pine, and joinery (doors, panelling, architraves and the original staircase) is red cedar. The home has six fireplaces, six bedrooms, a library, office, country kitchen, formal dining and a separate studio in the garden. The house has a total area of 896 sq m under roof and is on 2 acres of landscaped gardens."

Maryborough Walk Tour
Maryborough is rich in elegant public, private and domestic buildings. The Maryborough Walk Tour lists and describes no fewer than 46 of these buildings. It can be downloaded at http://www.ourfrasercoast.com.au/web/our-fraser-coast/maryborough-walk-and-drive-tour and it offers detailed descriptions of many of the city's most impressive buildings. Of particular interest are:

No. 1 - City Hall
The City Hall is an impressive building which dominates the lower end of the main street. It was designed by Robin Dods of the Brisbane architectural firm, Hall & Dods, in a distinctive American Colonial style and built in 1908. The exterior uses locally made Meredith bricks and local cedar is featured internally. The clock was added in 1935. In front of the hall is a replica of a cannon which used to be fired at 1.00 pm every Thursday. The original is now located in the Bond Store Port of Maryborough Museum in Wharf Street.

No. 3 - St Paul's Anglican Church and Tower
Located in Lennox Street, St Paul's Anglican Church became the town's third Anglican church when it was completed in 1879. Before then there had been a church in the Original township which had been built in 1853 and was moved in 1856. Then a larger wooden church had been built in 1866. Finally the current building was consecrated in 1879. The most interesting aspect of the church is the free standing belltower with its nine bells, one of many gifts bestowed upon the town by Edward Aldridge, which was imported from England in 1888. It was dedicated to Aldridge's wife, Maria.

No. 11 - The Former Royal Hotel
For over 150 years the Royal Hotel on Kent Street retained its Royal Crest, granting it the status of a hotel under royal patronage. Until the hotel licence was cancelled in 2009 it could proudly proclaim that it was: 'famous for its hospitality and service since 1856, has been host to Governor Generals, State Governors, Prime Ministers, Premiers, and many distinguished overseas visitors.' It was given its 'royal patronage' by Governor Bowen when he conducted an official function at the hotel. In 1930 the Queensland Governor, Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, wrote to King George V asking about the hotel's status and its royal patronage was confirmed. The Regal Room retains the Coat of Arms, presented by Governor Bowen. It is believed that one of Maryborough's earliest hotels, the Bush Inn, built by Edward Aldridge, was erected on the site in 1857. The new hotel, which dates from 1902, is believed to incorporate parts of the old hotel. The original licence for the hotel which was granted in 1849.

No. 12 & 13 - Australian Joint Stock Bank and Mary Poppins Statue
Located on the corner of Richmond Street and Kent Street, the impressive old Australian Joint Stock Bank was built in 1882. The Union Bank occupied the building from 1906. In 1899, when her father Travers Goff, was the Bank Manager, Helen Lyndon Goff was born upstairs. She went on to become the famous author of the Mary Poppins books and outside, in the street, her connection with Maryborough is celebrated in a statue of the famous nanny. The statue was erected in 2005.

No. 24 - Custom House Hotel
Originally opened in 1868, this handsome hotel on Wharf Street was extended in 1870 at the height of Maryborough's gold-driven prosperity and extended again in 1883. The elegant two-storey Custom House Hotel, with its fine cast-iron lacework, was used as a setting in the Kylie Minogue movie, The Delinquents.

No. 25 -  Maryborough Heritage Centre
This bank, formerly the Bank of New South Wales, was constructed in 1878. It is an unusual building with iron columns supporting the verandas which have iron lace balustrades upstairs and wrought iron downstairs. It is claimed that during the Gympie goldrush this bank, and the others in town, processed more than 4 million ounces of gold. Today it has an excellent display of local history.

No. 27 -  Maryborough Post Office
The post office, on the corner of Bazaar Street and Wharf Street, was constructed in 1866. This elegant and solid building is a reflection of the money that was flowing through Maryborough as a result of the Gympie goldrush. Interestingly it is the oldest post office of its kind in Queensland. It is a typical Victorian Classical Revival building with arcaded verandas and a clock tower which was added in 1879. A gracious two-storey building it is an important part of the Wharf Street streetscape.

No. 31 - Queens Park
No visit to Maryborough is complete without a pleasant stroll in Queens Park. Located beside the Mary River it was where barristers and judges used to alight to walk to the Court House. The park has been Heritage Listed and with its distinctive and huge banyan tree (planted in 1900), elegant band rotunda, lily pond, waterfall and views across the Mary River it is a reminder of the charm and elegance of the city.

No. 33 - Band Rotunda, Fairy Fountain and MELSA
The band rotunda is an early example of prefabrication having been built in Glasgow and shipped out in 1890. Originally it incorporated the 'Fairy Fountain', an ornate drinking fountain, and was bequeathed to the people of Maryborough by Janet Melville whose brother, Andrew Melville, had been the town's mayor in 1863. The Fairy Fountain was removed from the rotunda so that the floor could be raised to provide audiences with better views of the performer.

Near the rotunda are some 13-cm gauge railway tracks. The local Model Engineers and Live Steamers Association have been bringing their trains to these tracks on the last Sunday of each month since 1976.

No. 37 - Court House
At one corner of Queen's Park, and fronting Richmond Street, is the Maryborough Court House. This elegant and solid two-storey Victorian Classical Revival building, designed by Colonial Architect, FDG Stanley, was constructed between 1875 and 1877 for £7345. It is a building which reflects the extraordinary wealth and confidence generated by the Gympie goldfield.

No. 43 - Bond Store Port of Maryborough Heritage Museum in Wharf Street.
Located on Wharf Street, the Bond Store Port of Maryborough Museum is constructed on a sandstone base and was built in three stages - in 1864, 1870 and 1883. It was built to provide storage for goods which attracted customs taxes and consequently has seen stocks of opium, rum, wine, beer, cigars and tobacco all stored inside its walls. Today, as the Bond Store Museum, it contains one of the city's true novelties, the Time Gun, which used to be fired on Thursdays at 1.00 p.m when it was located outside the City Hall. It was so loud that it was estimated it could be heard  30 km away. The gun was given to the city from the Premier of Queensland, John Douglas. It was found on the Torres Strait island of Mobiag and was most likely used by the vessels of the Dutch East India Company during the seventeenth century. It was presented as a response to the criticism that the town had no clock. The gun was first fired on 21 March 1878.

No. 46 - HM Customs House 
Located on Wharf Street, this solid brick building was completed in 1900 to replace a building which had been seriously damaged by the flooding of the Mary River in 1893. It features a coat of arms and is a fine example of the elaborate brickwork which was commonplace at the end of the nineteenth century. Maryborough got its first customs officer in 1859 and this building remained a Customs House until 1987.

This is only a selection. The careful visitor should spend a couple of hours, accompanied by the Maryborough Walk Tour brochure, exploring this remarkable concentration of elegant buildings.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Maryborough Drive Tour
The Maryborough Drive Tour brochure (it is downloadable at http://www.ourfrasercoast.com.au/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=58bfcf12-a5a9-469a-a129-f30b56dbcf40&groupId=4362938) reaches beyond the historic centre and looks at the interesting buildings around the city. It is estimated to take 90 minutes but it would be easy to spend the entire day exploring Rosehill Homestead (dating from 1859), Baddow House (1888), the original township, the Pioneer Graves, Maryborough Cemetery and other fascinating relics of the city's impressive past. The brochure lists 41 places of historic interest.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was the home of the Badtjala Aborigines who occupied the coastal hinterland and Fraser Island.

* The first Europeans to pass up the coast near Maryborough were Captain James Cook in 1770 and Matthew Flinders in 1802.

* In 1842 the explorer Andrew Petrie sailed up the coast from Moreton Bay in a whaleboat. His brief was to investigate the economic potential of the harbour which lay behind Fraser Island. He was looking for exploitable stands of bunya trees. Petrie travelled nearly 80 km up the Mary River and, although he did not find the bunya trees, one of his crew, Henry Stuart Russell, in his Genesis of Queensland which was published in 1889, declared after the journey that he had "seen what looks like a first-rate harbour, and a river in which I yet hope, if I can but find fit country on or near it, goodbye to drays, bullocks, Cunningham's Gap and hells holes - hoorah! for immediate water carriage for wool."

* By the 1840s the district had been settled and in July 1847 the government surveyor, J. C. Burnett, surveyed the river, declaring that it was "an eligible position for the establishment of a town as parties will no doubt settle there as soon as there is prospect of trade". At the time the river was known as Wide Bay to Europeans and variously as Booie, Numabulla, Mooraboocoola or Moonaboola to the Badtjala Aborigines.

* In September 1847 George Furber built a store, a house and a jetty at Wide Bay and by December he had shipped his first load of 65 bales of wool.

* As early as 1848 two businessmen, Aldridge and Palmer, set up their business on the opposite bank of the river and were offering easier access to the port. Their superior location dominated and Furber was forced to move across the river.

* The settlement was officially named Maryborough on 23 January, 1849.

* By 1849 over 1000 bales of wool were being shipped out and hotels, stores and shops had sprung up and the new town was booming.

* In 1850 Surveyor Labatt recommended a site further east of the original site, a government wharf was built and the whole town moved.

* The original Maryborough site, located between the Bruce Highway (at the Gympie end of town) and the Mary River, was abandoned by 1856.

* In 1861 Maryborough was officially proclaimed a municipality. It was around this time that cotton was grown in the area.

* In 1865 the Maryborough Sugar Company was established.

* In 1867 gold was discovered at Gympie and Maryborough became a major port for prospectors travelling to the fields.

* In 1869 the town's elegant post office was built.

* Many significant buildings were constructed in the late 1870s and 1880s including: Maryborough Court House (1877), Bank of New South Wales (1877), St Paul's Church of England (1879), Maryborough Railway Station (1880), Maryborough Boys Grammar School (1881), Criterion Hotel (1883), Maryborough Mortuary Chapel (1884), Maryborough Base Hospital (1888), and the Maryborough School of Arts (1888).

* In 1899 Helen Lyndon Goff, who took the name P.L. Travers when she became an author, was born at the Australian Joint Stock Bank (her father was the manager). She went on to write the famous Mary Poppins stories.

* Maryborough was declared a City in 1905.

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Visitor Information

Maryborough Visitor Information Centre, City Hall, Kent Street, Maryborough, tel: 1800 214 789

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Useful Websites

The excellent local website - http://www.ourfrasercoast.com.au/ - includes information on unusual tours, Mary Poppins, markets and other useful information about Maryborough.

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Got something to add?

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

5 suggestions
  • You do not note that Maryborough was the first place in Australia where cotton was grown in 1862/3/4. With shipments of cotton to England stopped by the Confederacy during American Civil War all the Lancashire cotton mills were thrown out of work. With families starving the British Government decided to ship whole families for free to Maryborough to grow cotton. It is said that every backyard in those years had cotton plants. All the land cleared for cotton was subsequently planted with sugar cane setts which were bought from Louis Hope at Ormiston. The first Sugar Mill was built in Maryborough in 1865. My Paternal Great Grandmother came to Maryborough as a young girl in 1864 as part of this exodus from Great Britain. Her father lived at Bauple and worked as a wheelwright. My Great Grandmother was a pioneer at West End on the farm at Bauple. I was a 3rd generation born on that farm in the 1930’s. That original couple produced 11 children, with those then producing 5 to 9 each. My maternal Great Grandfather laid out and planted most of Queens Park in the mid 1880’s. There was a plaque erected to that effect in the 1960’s. I have always understood that Great Grandfather planted the banyan tree in Queens Park in 1885.

    Adrian Scott
  • Dear Mayor & Councillors,
    When was Maryborough declared a City … and why?

    Don Jones
    • Dear Don,
      Being neither the mayor or a councillor I shouldn’t answer this. However, Maryborough was declared a city in 1905. The usual definition of a city in Australia is a place with a population of over 25,000. Maryborough doesn’t have 25,000 people (about 22,000) but as the definition of a city is very imprecise I guess it is happy to call itself a city and no one should argue.

      Bruce Elder
  • I was driving near Maryborough this afternoon, listening to a Tamla Motown collection of Mary Wells’ 60’s songs. She had the big hit ‘My Guy’, but the sound of Motown on the lesser known songs and her voice reminded me of when I was a radio DJ on 4MB Maryborough in 1969-1971. I used to play those non-hits for the sound of soul music that Motown exemplified. It’s a kind of naïve lovers rock with horns – songs about falling in and out of love – and it was so for me during my time there on the local tower of power. This is part of my cultural history. Sometimes, I revisit Maryborough and look at the door in the main street, behind which is the staircase that led to the studios, now disused. That’s about all that’s left, except the memories, but the sound of Mary Wells brought it all back and I still love that combination of congas, bass, easy singing style that is kind of open-ended music for the heart. I guess I write this because it’s something that I know about and it’s something that I miss, including the many local, just out of our teens type swingers of that era. ‘You beat me to the punch’ is high-romance.

    Russell Guy