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Medlow Bath, NSW

Blue Mountains town made famous because of the iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Medlow Bath would probably have been cut from this survey of towns if it wasn't for the gracious Hydro Majestic Hotel. It is being reopened progressively from 2014 until completion in 2016. Beyond the hotel there is little to draw the visitor to Medlow Bath with the notable exception of Point Pilcher, a little known lookout which looks north across the lesser known extremities of the Grose Valley.

Location

Medlow Bath is located 6 km west of Katoomba, 107 km west of Sydney via the Great Western Highway, and is 1050 metres above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

The original name of the settlement was Brown's Siding which was given to the railway siding in 1880 because the main business in the area was Brown's Sawmill. In 1883 the name was changed to Medlow because there was another Brown's Siding near Lithgow. No one is sure where Medlow came from. It could be a corruption of the Gundungurra word "megalong" or it could be taken from Medlow in England although Google maps do not identify such a place.

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Things to See and Do

Hydro Majestic Hotel
The main attraction at Medlow Bath has always been the remarkably ornate Hydro Majestic Hotel. Its history is fascinating. The land, overlooking the Megalong Valley, was purchased by Edward Hargraves who had received £10,000 for being the first person to discover payable gold in New South Wales. Unfortunately this was not true but Hargraves still kept the money. Hargraves built a house on the site. The view was remarkable - as it still is today.

By 1891 a portion of the land had been developed and the Belgravia Hotel had been built to take advantage of tourists who sought the cool, healthy air of the mountains.

In the early years of the twentieth century the Sydney businessman, Mark Foy, purchased both the house and the hotel and an adjacent building and started constructing the remarkable 'Edwardian folly' called the Hydro Majestic. His plan was to create a hotel which was also a 'hydropathic establishment'.

By 1903 Foy had not only completed his therapeutic centre but he had also managed to change the name of the town to Medlow Bath. He employed a Dr Bauer from Switzerland to introduce the latest hydropathic methods from Europe and institute a strict health regime which was enhanced with fresh produce from the Megalong Valley which was relayed up the hill by a specially built flying fox. The resort had its own water supply, steam laundry, freezing works, sewerage treatment works and a telephone system connected to the Sydney exchange.

Foy's healthy, hydropathic vision did not prove profitable and the hotel changed and became a classy destination for holidaymakers. During World War II, the US Defence Department used the building as a hospital for soldiers injured in the South Pacific.

In 1946 it was reopened as a hotel but it was allowed to decline slowly so that by the 1990s it had a pleasant, old fashioned charm but was looking very tired.

Today it is being opened progressively until completion in 2016. Check the Hydro Majestic website for updates on the progress of the revitalised hotel. http://www.hydromajestic.com.au

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Other Attractions in the Area

Point Pilcher
To reach Point Pilcher turn right at the traffic lights after the Hydro Majestic, drive east beside the railway line and head to Point Pilcher on Rutland and Grand Canyon Road.

The sign at the Point Pilcher lookout explains that "Point Pilcher is a few hundred metres to the north-east of the original (Old) Point Pilcher. Mark Foy probably named the area after Norman George Stafford Pilcher, a Sydney barrister around 1905 ... The Old Point Pilcher Track was built by Mark Foy's gardener Murdo McLennan in 1907, specifically to link Old Point Pilcher into the Grand Canyon Track.

To reach the lookout it is necessary to drive  5.2 km down a dirt road. At the end is a  superb view down to Govetts Creek and across dense bushland, known as the Grose Wilderness, which has remained totally untouched.

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History

* the area had been occupied by the Gundungurra and Dhurag Aboriginal people for an estimated 40,000 years before Europeans arrived.

* On 26 May, 1813 Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson, while crossing the Blue Mountains, became the first Europeans to pass through Medlow Bath.

* In 1815 William Cox constructed the first road over the mountains and his team passed through the area.

* In 1869 the railway line reached Brown's Siding.

* Some time in the 1880s Edward Hargraves built a house at Medlow Bath where the Hydro Majestic now stands.

* In 1891 the Belgravia Hotel was opened next to Edward Hargraves' house.

* In 1904 the Sydney businessman Mark Foy had the railway siding renamed Medlow Bath.

* In 1920 Australia's first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, died at the Hydro Majestic Hotel.

* The Hydro Majestic was reopened in 2014 and will be completed by 2016.

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Visitor Information

There is information available about Medlow Bath and the surrounding region from the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre and National Parks Shop, Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath, tel: 02 4787 8877 which is particularly good for bushwalking advice and the Blue Mountains Visitor Information Centres at Katoomba and Glenbrook.

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Eating

Allan Caswell, musician extraordinaire - singer/songwriter - recommends Brown's Siding Cafe & Store as an excellent place to eat. It is located at 1 Railway Parade, Medlow Bath NSW 2780 tel: (02) 4788 1555 and is open from 8.00 am - 4.00 pm seven days a week.

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Useful Websites

The Hydro Majestic has its own website which is keeping a record of the revitalisation of the hotel. Check out http://www.hydromajestic.com.au. There is a good description of the historic Hydro Majestic at http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=15139

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Got something to add?

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1 suggestion so far
  • I’ve found no mention of the fire of 7th February 1952 which damaged the Hotel boiler house and destroyed the laundry. This was a major fire which came up from the rear and jumped the highway, the railway and raced into Railway Parade. Houses along there were evacuated as was the old Pavilion guest rooms and the Pines waitresses accommodation at the Hydro. Melbourne Ward’s museum was also in the path of the fire. There was also a fire which destroyed the beautiful old cottage “Glenara” which was on the Highway, at the front of the stables in the Mark Foy’s grounds. It was circa 1949-50.

    Jean Mitchell