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Rockley, NSW

Quiet historic town south of Bathurst.

Rockley is one of those rare country towns where nothing much seems to have changed for over a century. It has a delightful park beside Pepper's Creek; a beautiful old red brick mill; a pub and a few houses. It is as though nothing has changed and, as such, it has an admirable ambience of peace and serenity. Not surprisingly it has been listed by the National Trust as an Historic Village.

Location

Rockley is located 232 km west of Sydney via the Great Western Highway across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst. It is 23 km due south of Bathurst on the Rockley Road.

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Origin of Name

On 21 February, 1829 Governor Darling granted 1,920 acres (777 ha) in the area to Captain Watson Augustus Steel who named his property 'Rockley' after his birthplace in Wiltshire, England.

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Things to See and Do

Abercrombie Shire Council Building
Many people believe that Ben Chifley, the humble railway engine driver from Bathurst, was the last "man of the people" Prime Minister Australia ever had. Certainly he was a tireless worker for the public good. For three years, from 1937-1940, he drove across from Bathurst once a fortnight to preside over the Abercrombie Shire Council as its president. The Shire Council building still stands - a handsome reminder to a man whose only desire was to serve his constituents - on the hill in Hill Street.

Rockley Mill Museum
The Rockley Mill in Budden Street is a striking building. Built out of warm, red brick in 1864 it dominates the town's streetscape standing on the rise across the road from Pepper's Creek. The Mill was built in 1864. It has displays of historic mill machinery, historic clothing, old police records for the district and old newspapers. It is open from 11.30am - 4.30pm on Sundays and Public Holidays. For more information tel: (02) 6337 9279.

St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church (1870) and St Peter's Anglican Church (1867)
M. E. (Edward) Gell was a prominent local architect in Bathurst who not only designed both of Rockley's churches but also was responsible for a number of important buildings in Bathurst and, idiosyncratically, the gates of Bathurst Gaol. Gell's design for St Patrick's Church uses local rubblestone, employs a slate roof and is a fine example of a High Victorian Gothic style church. In the design of St Peter's Gell used decorative brickwork which he combined with a slate steeple and an iron roof.

Exploring the Town
There are a number of places of historic interest beyond the churches and the shire council offices. Of particular interest are the local Post Office (1879) which did not open for six months after its completion because the furniture and fittings were not transported from Bathurst where they had sat on the railway station. The Club House Hotel (1872), the Butcher's, Baker's and Saddlery (1871), the former Bank of New South Wales (1878) which was once held up by the bushranger Ben Hall, the Methodist Church (1859), the School of Arts (1890) and the Police station. Ask at the Museum for specific details.

Stephens Park
The park near the weir on Peppers Creek has a delightful English village green ambience. It is idyllic and practical having grassy area, shade trees as well as barbecues and the pools in the creek are safe for swimming.

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History

* Prior to European settlement Rockley was part of the vast lands of the Wiradjuri people who spread from Nyngan to Albury and Bathurst to Hay.

* The first European into the Rockley district was Surveyor George Evans who crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813.

* By 1818 land was granted to William Lawson - one of the trio, along with William Charles Wentworth and Charles Blaxland, who crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813.

* The townsite was held as a stock reserve until the 21 February, 1829 when Governor Darling granted it as part of a parcel of 1,920 acres, to Captain Watson Augustus Steel who named it 'Rockley'.

* Copper was found south of the town and the Summer Hill Copper Mine was opened in 1848. It had closed by the end of the 19th century.

* The town of Rockley was officially gazetted in 1851.

* The discovery of gold in the area in the late 1840s drew prospectors and by the 1860s the town had a population of around 3,000 people. This prosperity is reflected in the churches and public buildings.

* On 24 October 1863 the bushranger Ben Hall and his gang arrived at the home of Harry Keightley at Dunn's Plain near Rockley. Keightley did not surrender and in the gun battle that followed one of Hall's gang members, Mickey Burke, was killed. Keightley was captured by Hall who forced Keightley's wife to ride to Bathurst and claim the £500 reward for killing Burke.

* Around the turn of the century the copper mine closed and the population of the town declined. The result is near-perfect preservation which has resulted in the whole village being listed by the National Trust.

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Visitor Information

Rockley does not have its own visitor information centre. The closest is the Bathurst Visitor Information Centre, Great Western Highway, tel: 1800 68 1000.

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Accommodation

A five room guest house, Buddens Bed and Breakfast is located at 18 Budden Street, tel: (02) 6337 9279, website: http://buddens.com.au/

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Eating

Club House Hotel, 2 Budden Street, tel: (02) 6337 9203

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Useful Websites

The official Bathurst Tourism website has a page on Rockley - http://www.visitbathurst.com.au/villages/rockely.html

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Got something to add?

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17 suggestions
  • Have a post card in very good condition of Methodist Church Rockley from 1908 that belonged to my late father’s aunt and would like to know if it can find a final resting place with the Bathurst Dist. Tourism.

    Helen Gilshenan
    • Hi Helen can you email me about the postcard? We own the Methodist Church at Rockley. Cheers!

      Tom
      • Hi Tom,
        I’ve added a comment to the aussietowns website in relation to my great grandfather being the minister at the church you now own. His daughter Martha Maria was born there (or at least their address was Phantom St at the time) in 1872.
        Do you have any history of the church that may be relevant to that time? His name was Joseph Monaghan (may have been spelt Monahan, the g was dropped at some point).
        I’d love to have something from that era and if you can help I’d love to hear about it.
        Just in case my email doesn’t show, it is micmon51@gmail.com.
        Thank you,
        Michael

        Michael Monahan
  • You could add Rockley Studio to the list of things to see in Rockley. Owned by local artist, Tim Miller who has paintings in collections worldwide, is well worth a visit (We have been & its terrific). Its open on Sundays & his website is http://www.rockleystudio.com.au

    Chris Bloom
  • I believe my Grandfather, Bill Evans, and my father Herwin Edward Hilston Evans, lived in Rockley. This would have been some time before 1914. I am 92 and I don’t do much else.

    Geofrrey Evans
  • My ancestors Sewell were original settlers, former convict. Family married into Nightingales. Two Sewell brothers killed in WW2, one awarded George Cross

    Rod Moore
  • Hi,
    My great grandfather, Joseph Monaghan, was the Methodist minister in Rockley in 1872. Is there any history available in the church from around this time? I am compiling a family tree and would love any information to add to it.

    Michael Monahan
  • My great-great-great grandmother came to live, along with her 6 children, from Ireland with her brother John Gibbons who worked the property “Charlton” for a Thomas Arkell, then for a Mr McPhillamey and it was known as the McPhillamey estate. Her son, my great grandfather Michael Ryan, married Mary Sager, and lived/worked on the property “Charlton”. They had 13 children. One of their sons, John, got into an altercation at the pub, was thumped, hit his head on the verandah and died. There was a murder/manslaughter case within 3 days. My family lived in and around Rockley, Triangle Flat, Grove Creek, Carrawa up until 17 years ago.

    Leanne Ryan
    • Hi Leanne Ryan, I have a family tree that lists The Gibbons family as part of our family would love to hear from you to see how far back you trace your family.

      Sue King
  • My great-grandparents James&Mary Ann Boyle lived in that area in the late 1800s. My grandmother was born around 1878-1880 in Charlton &”twas living in Rockley when she married. Her name was Elizabeth. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Mariejbushell
  • My grandmother’s brother, Dudley McKeone and his son after him managed Dunns Plains near the town from the early 1900s. As a child I was told the story of Ben Hall holding up the property in 1863. I remember seeing bullet holes in the door of the old house which I believe is now in the Bathurst museum. My 98 year old mother learnt to ride there. I am coming up to the area in a couple of weeks and hope to meet the current owners and explore the area around.

    kevin drinan
  • Hello
    we believe that our GG Grandfather had the Blacksmith shop in Rockley approx 1867-1869??? John Francis Henry Hargrave
    His wife Maria was burnt whilst working in the shop and later died from the burns… her coroner’s inquest into her death took place in the Rockley Hotel and her body was held below in the cellar as they believed it was the best place to keep her body at the time…
    Their 2yr old daughter had passed away 2-3 months earlier due to sunstroke/irritation of the brain… we believe that Maria had a child survive her from a previous marriage to James Sinclair.
    Hoping that you maybe able to supply more information as we seem to have come to a dead end in going back through the generations … we also believe that he may have been arrested for stealing a gun a few months after Maria’s death…

    Not sure what we may find but we plan on visiting Rockley on Thurs or Fri this week…looking forward to your reply

    Tracey Zahra
  • My Grandfather William Evans and my Father Herwin Edward Hilston Evans lived at Rockley. Born 1893 I believe. I should be visiting Rockley on 2Oth October. Geoffrey Evans, *D o b 6th January, 1925

    geoffrey Evans