Important service centre in the Southern Highlands
Moss Vale, along with Bowral, is one of the two major towns in the Southern Highlands. It is an important railway stopping point, the service and administrative centre of Wingecarribee Shire, and a prosperous middle sized town. Like many Southern Highlands towns it can be warm in summer and very cold in winter thus ensuring that spring and autumn are the most attractive times to visit. Historically Moss Vale is important because it was here that Dr Charles Throsby built Throsby House. It was here that Nobel Prize-winner Patrick White went to prep school at Tudor House and it is here that increasing numbers of wealthy Sydneysiders retreat during the hot summer months.
Moss Vale is located 128 km south-west of Sydney via the Hume Motorway and Moss Vale Road. It is 672 m above sea-level.^ TOP
Origin of Name
By 1864 the district was beginning to take shape. In that year the land was subdivided in anticipation of a railway station being built. The only European in the area was a man named James ('Jemmy') Moss, a shepherd and herdsman for Dr. Charles Throsby. Moss Vale is named after him.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Moss Vale Walk
There is a "self guided walking tour of the historic town of Moss Vale" which covers 3.5 km, takes around 90 minutes and can be downloaded at http://www.bookeasy.com.au/website/images/southernhighlands/Moss_Vale_Heritage_Walk_2013_A4web.pdf. It covers 34 places of interest around the town of which the most significant and interesting include:
1. Diamond Jubilee Park and Fountain in Argyle Street is a fountain made from stone quarried at Mount Gibraltar (between Bowral and Mittagong) to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.
2. The Former Post Office was opened in 1891 and by 1905 was the main telephone exchange for the town. Today it is a cafe and restaurant.
7. Leighton Gardens in Argyle Street was a small paddock beside the railway which was set aside in 1905 and leased from NSW Railways. It is a pleasant place for a picnic and has a pavilion which was installed in 1910. In spring and autumn the trees in the park are spectacular particularly the plane trees and the tulips which bloom in spring. It is named after a local dentist, Dr Henry Leighton Jones.
8. The Railway Overbridge. When the railway came through the town in 1867-1868 a simple timber bridge was constructed. It was replaced by this wrought iron truss bridge in 1887. The current bridge was completed in 1917 and has remained relatively unchanged.
10. St Paul's International College was once the Dominican convent - an impressive building with a row of elm trees leading to the front portal which looks like it has been lifted out of rural France and placed in the middle of Moss Vale. It has previously been known as Elm Court and Aurora College.
15. Jemmy Moss Inn at 481 Argyle Street was built in 1868 and used as the local Post Office and general story until 1873 when it became the Commercial Hotel. It remained the Commercial Hotel until 1966 when it was changed to the name of Charles Throsby's servant, James 'Jemmy' Moss, who gave his name to the town.
17. St John's Church of England is located at 16 Waite St (Berrima Rd). It was built in 1881 (it opened on Christmas Day that year). The dark brick end was completed in 1931.
19. St Andrews Presbyterian Church at 7 Browley Street is a painted timber church which was built in 1879 and has been in continuous use ever since.
20. Kalaurgan House at 24 Browley Street was built as early as 1848 and was leased to the Sisters of St Joseph and used as a boarding school. It is thought to have been the residence of Mother Mary McKillop (Australia's first official saint) in 1884.
29. Whyte's Shop at 426 Argyle Street is one of the town's institutions. It has been in the Whyte family since 1922.
34. Railway Station in Bay Street. The town's first railway station was built in 1867, lengthened in 1882, and altered in 1889 to include the Governor's Waiting Room. It is the only Australian example of a railway station with Vice Regal facilities.
Located on Church Road off the Illawarra Highway 1.5 km from the roundabout at Argyle Street, Throsby Park is an impressive colonial Georgian residence set on land granted by Governor Macquarie to Dr Charles Throsby in 1819 in recognition of his exploring and opening up the South Coast and Southern Highlands. It was the first land grant in the Southern Highlands.
Throsby built a cottage on the 1,000 acre property in 1823 for his nephew as he preferred to remain at his home in Glenfield and had no children of his own. The nephew, another Charles, and his wife Elizabeth built Throsby Park in 1834. Elizabeth was only 16 when she married Charles. She bore him 17 children and lived to be 83.
Throsby Park is a huge, one-storey, 27-room house built of locally-quarried stone. Wings extend from the main block to form a courtyard enclosed by a separate kitchen. There are cellars, servants' attics, six-panelled cedar doors, marble and stone fireplaces as well as a grand drawing room and dining room. The 1823 cottage is also still standing and there are farm buildings, including the sandstock-brick barn (c.1828), which was formerly used as a shearing shed.
In April, 2014 the Historic Houses Trust decided to offer Throsby Park, comprising a 74-hectare estate including the "Main Georgian-style homestead (c1834), a Colonial garden and furniture collection, Throsby Cottage (c1823), Stables and coach house (c1836), Summer house/tennis pavilion, Farm buildings and Garage, Historic gardens, Pastures, 10 fenced paddocks and a number of yards, a creek, dams and reticulated water to some paddocks." for 40-year lease. The Director of the Historic Houses Trust, Mark Goggin, described the project to restore the house and gardens,“Over the past three years, Throsby Park has been transformed through a meticulous conservation project, from a heritage property at serious risk, to offering the opportunity to become a lived in, and cared for, rural home."
The terms of the agreement involve opening the house to the public two days a year. For times when it is open check out http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/events/throsby-park-open-day.
Tudor House Preparatory School
Tudor House, the prep school for the Kings School in Parramatta, is located on the Illawarra Highway 3.5 km from Moss Vale. Among the school’s most famous old boys was the novelist, and Nobel Prize winner, Patrick White, who wrote of the school in his autobiography, Flaws in the Glass: "The school to which they sent me was far enough from Sydney to foment terror in the heart of a timid, introspective child, anyway in the beginning. It was patronised by the grazier class and Sydney families with social pretensions. The climate was bracing. The boys, like those of any school, were said to love everything about it. The building was a mansion in the Thames Valley Tudor style favoured by the Australian rich in the early part of the century."
Other Attractions in the Area
Historic Bong Bong
Located north of Moss Vale, on Moss Vale Road between Moss Vale and Bowral, is the site of Bong Bong, the first village in the Southern Highlands which was chosen by Governor Macquarie when he passed through the area in 1820. The road to the Cecil Hoskins Reserve takes visitors to the site which is now nothing more than Christ Church which, ironically, was built by Charles Throsby and consecrated in 1845 after the village had effectively disappeared. The church survived because it was supported by people in the district. The cemetery is historic and contains descendants of Charles Throsby as well as the grave of Joseph Wild who gave his name to Wildes Meadow.
Across the Bong Bong Bridge over the Wingecarribee River is an obelisk which marks the site where the first settlement on the Southern Highlands stood. The village was short lived with settlers preferring to settle around Berrima. Check out http://www.highlandsnsw.com.au/towns/bong.html for a detailed history.
Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve
Located off the road, Argyle Street, between Moss Vale and Bowral, Cecil Hoskins Nature Reserve is on the banks of the Bong Bong Reservoir. This wetlands site, which was once part of Charles Throsby's 1,000 acre property, has plenty of waterfowl, as well as the occasional platypus. Kangaroos and wallabies can be seen on the eastern side of the reserve. The Cecil Hoskins picnic area (it was named after the man whose family were responsible for the establishment of Australian Iron & Steel - now part of BHP - who lived in the area) is an ideal picnic area. It is also the start of the Wingecarribee River Walking Track which is a short easy walk along the river and back through regenerating forest on the Wingecarribee floodplain. The website points out that walkers can identify "less well-known gums, like snow, swamp, black sallee and manna eucalypt trees" and spot "woodland birds such as white-throated needletails, welcome swallows and spotted pardalote. Eastern grey kangaroos also inhabit the forest. And did you know you can find platypus shyly hiding in the lagoon?" There is also a walk - Weir View - along the lagoon's southern bank which offers walks around the edge of the lagoon. Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/cecil-hoskins-nature-reserve for details. The reserve, which was created as a result of the damming of the Wingecarribee River in the 1920s, now attracts over 90 species of bird.
Located at 653 Moss Vale Road is historic Briars Inn, originally the Royal Oak Hotel, which was built c.1845. It was owned by the descendants of Dr Charles Throsby until 1943 and today is a pleasant, boutique hotel known as Briars Country Lodge. Check out http://www.briars.com.au/ for menu and accommodation.
A short distance south of Moss Vale, Oldbury Road heads north off the Illawarra Highway between Moss Vale and Sutton Forest. The elegant colonial Oldbury homestead, a handsome two-storey stone Georgian house built in 1828 by James Atkinson on land he was granted in 1818, has been beautifully preserved. It has a timber Doric portico and cantilevered timber stairway with a separate kitchen and cellar. It is now the centre of one of the finest gardens in the Southern Highlands. The gardens are open during the main periods (spring and autumn) for garden inspections in the district. Type "Oldbury Farm Open Garden" into Google for times and costs.
Mount Ashby Estate
A little piece of France in the Southern Highlands. Mount Ashby is a unique winery, cafe, antiques destination and French furniture shop. The cellar door includes a cafe where wine tasters can enjoy Mount Ashby wines with home made soup, crusty bread and a Charcuterie Plate. You can relax at French Farmhouse Tables in a restored dairy and enjoy the view of the vineyard and the grazing Holstein dairy cattle. "Also located on the site is the relocated Bowral Produce Store (circa 1918). The store is used to restore provincial antique furniture and where European antique furniture can be viewed, including Provincial 17th to 19th Century antiques sourced from France and other parts of Europe. Also on display are some of the uniquely crafted French Farmhouse Tables made exclusively from hand selected European timbers." Check out http://mountashby.com.au/ for details.
* The area was once occupied by the Tharawal (Dharawal) Aborigines who, by the 1870s, had been driven off the land.
* The first European to explore the area was John Wilson, an ex-convict, who led a party through the area in 1798. Their mission was to find out about the area so they could report to Governor Hunter who wanted to convince deluded Irish convicts that there was not a "New World" of white people living 200 miles south-west of Sydney. During the expedition Wilson shot a lyrebird and the group saw a "cullawine" (koala).
* In 1802 a botanical collector for Joseph Banks named George Caley passed through the area.
* The sons of Alexander Hume, one of the early settlers, accompanied by their uncle John Kennedy, explored the area in 1814.
* In 1815 John Oxley and his stockmen drove cattle into the area to avail themselves of the rich pastures.
* In 1817 Charles Throsby, Hamilton Hume, Joseph Wild and and a party of explorers ventured into the country lying to the west of Sutton Forest.
* By 1818 Throsby and a party which included Surveyor-General James Meehan passed through the area searching for a route to drove cattle down the escarpment to Jervis Bay.
* In 1819 Governor Macquarie rewarded Throsby with 1,000 acres (upon which Throsby Park was subsequently built) and made him superintendent of the construction of the road from Picton to the Goulburn Plains.
* Macquarie visited Throsby's land grant in 1820. He suggested the name 'Throsby Park'.
* The site for the short-lived village of Bong Bong was surveyed in 1821. It became the first European settlement on the Southern Highlands.
* Throsby's servant Joseph Wild was given 100 acres adjacent Throsby's. His hut was located adjacent the Wingecarribee River near where the Bong Bong Bridge.
* By 1853 Bong Bong had disappeared and a visitor travelling through the area observed that there were five slab and bark structures and wheat being grown near the present site of Moss Vale.
* The first land sales in the town occurred in December, 1863.
* In 1864, with the railway making its way through the Southern Highlands, the area around Moss Vale was subdivided. At the time the only European in the future town was Jeremy ('Jemmy') Moss, who was one of Charles Throsby's labourers.
* The Moss Vale Hotel was erected in 1864 or 1865.
* The Hotel Moss Vale was licensed in 1866.
* In 1867 the railway station was built. It was called Sutton Forest and the post office, also established in 1867, was called Moss Vale.
* The public school was officially opened in 1868.
* In 1869 the name Moss Vale was formally adopted by the settlement.
* The town's first bank and a newspaper opened in 1874.
* The police station was built in 1877.
* The population of the Moss Vale district increased from 134 to 570 between 1871 and 1881.
* The years from 1880 to 1888 saw churches built by the main denominations - Presbyterian (1880), Anglican (1881), Methodist and Catholic (both 1888) - while the present post office building was erected 1890-91.
* Moss Vale was declared a municipality in 1888.
* The town grew as a popular tourist destination. Another hill station in the cool Southern Highlands.
* The Moss Vale Town Hall was officially opened in 1891.
* Today Moss Vale is second only to Bowral and is an important Southern Highlands service centre.^ TOP
The closest Visitor Information Centre to Moss Vale is the Southern Highlands Visitor Information Centre, 62-70 Main Street, Mittagong, tel: (02) 4871 2888.^ TOP
There is a useful local website - http://www.highlandsnsw.com.au/towns/mossvale.html - and an official Southern Highlands website - http://www.southern-highlands.com.au with details of food and wine as well as local accommodation.^ TOP