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Molong, NSW

Impressive historic town on the edge of the Macquarie Ranges

Molong is a rural service centre located in the rolling hills of the Macquarie Range between Orange and Wellington. It is surrounded by rich agricultural land known for its production of fine wool, wheat, orchards, vineyards, beef cattle and fat lambs. It is a town with an impressive collection of historic buildings along the main street - Bank Street - and a well preserved Cobb & Co changing post.

Location

Molong is located 289 km north-west of Sydney via the Mitchell Highway. It is 529 m above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

It is believed that Molong is a Wiradjuri word meaning 'place of many rocks'.

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Things to See and Do

Part of the appeal of Molong is its rich architectural heritage. Most of the buildings in Bank Street - the town's main street - are historic and, in their own way, fascinating. There was a concerted effort during the Bicentennial Year to restore many of the historic buildings so that now it is rewarding to walk down the main street admiring buildings, most of which were constructed in the 1870s and 1880s.

Freemason's Hotel 
Located at 1 Bank Street, the Freemasons Hotel, originally a single-storey structure erected in the 1850s, but much altered over the years. It was rebuilt in 1911 and for many years was known as the Festival Hotel. It was severely damaged by the 2005 flood and it returned to its original name in 2010. It is known locally as "the bottom pub".

Post Office Hotel
Located at 34 Bank Street is the Rural Lands Protection Board. It was originally the Post Office Hotel, built in 1872, and later a bank.

National Bank
Located in Bank Street the National Bank building dates from 1883. It was constructed by D. Jones using local material and was originally the CBC Bank until CBC was taken over by the National Bank. It has operated continuously as a bank and was restored to its original colours during the restoration program in 1988. 

Post Office
The post office was built 1879-80 and opened for business on 15 September, 1880. The second storey was added by James Hull in 1900. At the time he also made extensive alterations to the ground floor of the building.

Telegraph Hotel
Located opposite the Post Office at 53 Bank Street is the Telegraph Hotel which was built c.1880 for the Sampson Brothers and had extensive alterations in 1910. It has an unusual feature - the driveway passes through the building and enters a courtyard. In November, 2005 the flood was so bad that water actually entered the hotel.

Coach House and Yarn Market
At the corner of Bank Street and Gidley Street is a small park (the village green) with the Cobb & Co Coach House on Gidley Street. It is now known as The Coach House Craft Gallery and is connected to the Yarn Market Craft Cottage which is on Bank Street.

(a) Cobb & Co Heritage Trail
In 2004 the legendary coaching company, Cobb & Co, celebrated the 150th anniversary of its first journey and the 80th anniversary of its last. The company's profound contribution to Australia's development was celebrated with the establishment of a heritage trail. 
Cobb & Co's origins lay in the goldrushes of the early 1850s. Bathurst was central. It became the site of the company's headquarters in 1862, under the management of local boy, James Rutherford. The first coach arrived at Bathurst, from Victoria, to the applause of a large fanfare, and with Rutherford at the reins. The company's principal coach construction factory operated behind the Black Bull Inn until 1881 at the corner of Bentinck and Howick Streets. At its peak Cobb & Co coaches were travelling 28,000 miles (44,800 km) a week. They had a total of 30,000 horses and were harnessing 6,000 horses every day. There was a total of 7,000 miles (11, 265 km) of regular routes throughout Australia and the web of routes from Bathurst to Bourke were part of 2,000 miles (3,218km) of coach routes which stretched from southern Victoria to the Gulf of Carpentaria and criss-crossed eastern Australia.
The Cobb & Co Heritage Trail booklet explains that "known as 'whips', or Jehus, the drivers were Australia's heroes of the 19 th century. They had to contend with heat, dust, bush fires, flies, mosquitoes, rain, fog, bog, snow, snakes, kangaroos, bushrangers, difficult passengers and post office schedules which demanded the mail be on time or a heavy fine would ensue . . . Horses were changed every 16 miles (25.6 km) or so at changing stations, sometimes combined with bush shanties or inns where the passengers could get a meal, drink, or a few hours sleep."
The Molong remnant of the Cobb & Co empire is the modest "Coach House", which was built in the 1870s and used as stables by the transport company. This historic building has timbers from the original woolshed at Larras Lake, bricks from the old butter factory and beautiful original sandstone and bluestone walls, together with a ceiling lined in solomite. The Coach House stood beside the Royal Hotel which was built in 1877. The Royal Hotel was destroyed by fire in the 1940s. Today it is used for public events and is home to the Bicentennial Embroidered Screen of Molong which depicts a 200 year history of the district and was constructed over four years by 60 women from wool and mohair donated by local farmers and spun into wool and hand dyed with berries, grasses and bark. It also is next to the three remaining walls of the original stables and, if you ask at the Craft Cottage, there is a superb collection of antique laces - some dating back to the 17th century - on the mezzanine floor. 

(b) The Yarn Market Craft Cottage
At 79 Bank Street is The Yarn Market Craft Cottage, a brick cottage built as a family home in 1860 which now sells hand-crafted goods, tel: (02) 6366 8260. It is open daily from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm. Check out http://www.yarnmarketcoachhouse.com/ for more details. There is also a genuinely fascinating Lace Cabinet in the Craft Cottage.

Bank Street from the Yarn Market Craft Cottage
The row of shops from the Yarn Market Craft Cottage to the town hall were built in the boom which followed the announcement that the railway would be extended to Molong. The railway arrived, and terminated, at Molong in 1886. The town hall was built in 1888. 

Molong Soldiers Memorial Town Hall
Although the town hall had been completed in 1888 it was added to after World War I when it became a memorial: "The front of the Town Hall building was erected as a memorial to those from the district who served in World War One. The foundation stone was laid in 1922. In 1921 the Molong Express wrote: "The new front, which will come on to the footpath alignment, will be at once ornate and dignified, and prove in every way a fitting memorial to the brave men who, from this district, went abroad to fight in the cause of right, liberty and justice. The construction is to be of terra-cotta bricks and with two supporting columns in the Gothic design, with large arched windows and doorway 8ft. wide, with collapsible iron gates. Over the arched doorway is to be inset a large Australian Coat-of-Arms (the Rising Sun) in manganese bronze, surmounted by a flag pole. The vestibule hall, 12 feet wide by 22 feet in length, is approached by white marble steps, and tiled in black and white. The memorial tablets are to be inserted in the walls on the left and right of the inner doors in marble, on which will be inscribed the names of those whose heroism is to be thus perpetuated." The total project cost £2000 with most of the money being subscribed by the local community.

Molong Museum
Located on the corner of Gidley and Riddell Streets (20 Riddell Street) is the Molong Historical Museum, built as the Golden Fleece Hotel in 1856. The museum has an extensive collection relating to local history and a particularly interesting display relating to Fairbridge Farm at Molong where, between 1938 and the 1970s, British children were boarded and educated. It is open every Thursday from 11.00 am - 4.00 pm and the last Sunday of each month between 12.30 pm and 3.30 pm. For more information tel: (02) 6366 9622 or check out http://www.centralnswmuseums.orangemuseum.com.au/museums/molong-historical-museum. Further up Riddell Street are the Presbyterian Church and Manse (1866).

Railway Station
The railway station is located on the eastern side of Watson Street (the Mitchell Highway), opposite Bank Street. The station was completed in time for the arrival of the first train in 1886. Molong became the terminus of the main western line from Sydney from 1886-1893. Myors Park is out the front and the Gatekeeper's Cottage (late 19th century) is adjacent the level crossing.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Yuranigh's Grave
Yuranigh was an Aborigine who led Sir Thomas Mitchell on his 1845 expedition to Queensland. Held in the highest regard by Mitchell he was killed on the southern outskirts of town in 1850 and interred another 2 km south in the traditional manner, with carved trees at the corners of his grave to denote that he was a man of distinction. Mitchell paid for his headstone and the railing. 
The sign at the grave site, which was formally gazetted in 1974, offers a detailed history of Yuranigh: "This is the burial place of Yuranigh, a famous Aboriginal Australian who lived around here. Yuranigh's life bridged the old and the new Australian cultures in the period from about 1820 until his death in 1850. A rather solitary person of some standing among his people, Yuranigh joined Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell's 1845 exploratory expedition at Boree - one of a series of ventures which mapped large areas of inland NSW and Queensland.
"Yuranigh worked as a guide for Mitchell (known as Magy Magy to Molong Aboriginal people), gaining the explorer's friendship and respect. He safely guided the expedition through sparsely settled areas and the territories of other tribes. Under very difficult drought conditions, when temperatures soared to 43°C, Yuranigh liaised with local Aborigines, secured guides and tracked wandering stock and lost members of the party.
"his intelligence and his judgement rendered him so necessary to me that he was ever at my elbow. Nothing escaped his penetrating eye and quick ear." Mitchell wrote in one of his many references to Yuranigh in his records.
Yuranigh was a small slender man who lived by himself, had adopted some European ways, and wore European-style clothing at the time he met the Surveyor-General in 1845. After the expedition he returned to Sydney with Mitchell, the went to work as a stockman in northern NSW
After his death Yuranigh's people marked his grave with traditional carved trees. Sir Thomas Mitchell obtained government authority to fence off the grave site and commissioned and paid for a European-style headstone.
Carved Trees: Graves marked by one or two trees were once known at many sites. It is an indication of the respect in which Yuranigh was held that there were originally five trees at his grave. Only four trees remain, three of which are living. 
The Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri people carved trees to identify and record important places. The Wiradjuri in this area carved trees near ceremonial sites as well as graves but the meanings of the patterns and designs are now lost.
Carved trees are now very rare in NSW and only a few have been carved during the last 120 years. Many trees died naturally and were eaten by termites, others were felled during land clearance or were vandalised. Often the tree's bark regrew, spreading over the carvings and obliterating them."
The grave is located 3 km south of Molong off the Mitchell Highway and clearly signposted. Don't forget to shut the gate.

Animals on Bikes
There is an amusing attraction, which runs from Molong through to Dubbo via Cumnock and Yeoval, called Animals on Bikes. Described as 120 km of Paddock Art (see http://www.animalsonbikes.com.au) it is a collection of amusing sculptures of animals, created mostly by members of the local community, and all the animals are on bicycles. There is a tourism map and a detailed description of each animal on a bike which can be downloaded at http://www.animalsonbikes.com.au. Some of the most impressive are the alphabet - all the way from A (for ant) to Z (for Zebra) - and wonderfully quirky ones like Elvis the Kookaburra and Flash Ralph Emu.

Yeoval and the Banjo Paterson Bush Park
Located 47 km north-west along Banjo Paterson Way is the tiny settlement of Yeoval which came into existence when gold, silver and copper were extracted from a lode discovered in 1868. The Goodrich Mine operated periodically until around 1971. Yeoval was where A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson spent his early childhood on a property named Buckinbah. There is a Banjo Paterson Bush Park on Forbes Street at the northern end of town which is a pleasant place for a picnic (and a stroll along the Poet's Walk) but, rather incongruously, it has a modern sculpture of Henry Moore. The sculpture is six metres high and weighs six tonnes. It is reputed to be one of the largest public art works in Australia.  
The sculpture, made out of bronze, was created by Drago Marin Cherina, who said he felt his mentor Henry Moore was 'larger than life' and wanted to reflect that with the size of the sculpture. The sculpture was donated by the famous horse racing family - the Waterhouses. 
On the eastern side of town, adjacent the railway, is the Buckinbah property where the ruins of the old Paterson home can still be seen. The village also has some fine buildings.

Manildra
Manildra, 22 km south-west of Molong, is a small rural service centre with, reputedly, the largest flour mill in the Southern Hemisphere when it was established in 1904. The Amusu Theatre (pronounced 'Amuse You') is reputedly the oldest continuously operating picture theatre in Australia, established as a travelling picture show in 1923, settling at this site permanently in 1936. It has operated continuously since 1936 with original decor, memorabilia and projectors. For more information tel: (02) 6364 5081.

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History

* Prior to white settlement the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people inhabited the area.

* The first European into the area is believed to have been William Lee who brought cattle to the district in 1819.

* European settlement began when a government stockade was established 1.5 km east of the present townsite. Various dates have been given, the earliest being 1822. It was a stopover for those en route to the convict station at Wellington. 

* A military and police outpost was established at the infant settlement in 1826.

* The explorer, Charles Sturt, visited the town in 1828.

* The first land grant, 'Larra Lee', was conferred in 1832. 

* A copper mine, the first metal mine in New South Wales, was operating 3 km north of Molong by 1846. 

* Molong was gazetted at its present site in 1849. 

* In 1850 Major Thomas Mitchell's Aboriginal guide, Yuranigh, was killed east of the town.

* Land sales began in 1856 with the Golden Fleece Hotel, Freemason's Hotel, a Methodist Chapel (1858), St John's Anglican Church (1860) and a mill being amongst the early buildings. 

* The local court house was built in 1864.

* The Presbyterian Church was consecrated in 1866.

* The Post Office Hotel was built in 1872.

* The town's first Catholic Church was built in 1877. That year saw the construction of the Coach House.

* Molong became a municipality in 1878.

* The first issue of the Molong Express was published in 1878.

* The boom years of the 1870s and 1880s saw the development of the town. 

* The town's post office was completed in 1879 and opened in 1880.

* The CBC Bank was opened in 1883.

* Molong became the terminus of the main western line from Sydney from 1886-1893.

* The Town Hall was constructed in 1888.

* In 1925 a branch railway line from Molong to Dubbo was opened. 

* In 1938 the Fairbridge Farm School was established in Molong.

* The Royal Hotel was destroyed by fire in the 1940s.

* The Fairbridge Farm School closed in 1973.

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Visitor Information

Molong's Visitor Information Centre is incorporated into the Yarn Market Craft Cottage, 79 Bank Street, tel: 02) 6366 8260. It is open from 10.00 am - 4.30 pm. For additional information about the town check out the Orange Visitor Centre, 151 Byng St, Orange, tel: (02) 6393 8226.

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Useful Websites

There is useful historic information at http://www.heritageaustralia.com.au/new-south-wales/3077-molong-.

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