Australia's Country Music capital
Over the past forty years Tamworth has become synonymous with country music. It is now known as 'The Country Music Capital' and the combination of a Big Guitar, the huge Country Music Festival (reputedly the second largest in the world), the Country Music Hall of Fame and numerous lesser attractions, has ensured that the city can offer days, even weeks, of country music-flavoured activities. In spite of this apparent focus on all things country, the city has much more to offer. There is the rich history of significant and gracious buildings; the importance of the surrounding agricultural area which produces wool, dairy products, eggs, poultry, wheat, lucerne and honey; the economic importance of cattle, horse and sheep studs; and the simple fact that, with a population of over 40,000, it is a thriving and prosperous service centre. It is, in fact, so large that it has become the most important service centre in the New England region with nearly one quarter of the city's workforce being employed in the retail sector.
Tamworth is located 390 m above sea-level on the Peel River and 410 km north of Sydney via the New England and Pacific Motorway.^ TOP
Origin of Name
Tamworth is named after a town in Staffordshire, England which, at the time of the naming, was represented in the British parliament by Robert Peel.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
History & Heritage: Tamworth CBD Walking Route
There is an excellent, detailed brochure available at the Visitor Information Centre titled History & Heritage. On one side is the Tamworth CBD Walking Route and on the other is the Tamworth Driving Route. It offers a comprehensive guide to the major historic buildings and places around the city. Some of the buildings of particular note on the CBD Walking Route include:
1. St Nicholas's Church
Located on the corner of White Street and Marius Street, this has been the site of Catholic churches since the first church in Tamworth was built here in 1859. The second, a Willliam Vett-designed building, was constructed in 1877 and extensively refurbished in 1996. Note that the church was built in a Gothic Revival style with the "praying hands" of the arches being a welcoming symbol. For more information check out https://www.facebook.com/stnicholaschurchtamworth.
2. Tamworth Regional Conservatorium of Music
Located at 223-227 Marius Street, this impressive (and religious-looking) building was once the Dominican Convent. It was built in 1882 and for many years served as accommodation for both the nuns and their students. The adjoining chapel was built in 1904. It has been Heritage Listed and the New South Wales State Heritage Register notes that it is: "Built of exposed variegated brick laid in English Bond, of three stories and in the Victorian Free Gothic style. The roof was originally galvanised iron. The balconies feature cast iron columns between which are long bent timber brackets meeting to form in effect pointed arches which impart a strong ecclesiastical flavour to the building. In the open spandrel to each arch is an infill of a timber ring in four segments." For more detailed information check out https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5045449.
3. The Old Bell Tower
Located at 152-154 Marius Street, this building was originally St Andrews Church and manse. Built in 1882 as a Presbyterian Church it is now a cafe which is open from 7.45 am - 4.30 pm. Tel: (02) 6761 2785.
4. Railway Station (1882)
Located in Marius Street the railway station was built 1881-82 after the railway bridge enabled the extension of the line from West Tamworth where it arrived in 1878. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage notes of its significance: "Tamworth Railway Station is of state significance as a grand Victorian period station complex, in close to original condition with the very rare addition of a landscaped forecourt area dating from the time of construction and containing original planting and civic garden detail. The station building is an excellent example of a first-class station building with fine classical proportions, good detailing and finish, demonstrating the peak of railway construction during the late 19th century." and it adds of the building: "The Tamworth station building is a type 5, first class, single storey, rendered brick building of Victorian Italianate design. The road facade is composed of three classical revival pedimented gables projecting from the main platform wing. Between each was a cast iron veranda, now in-filled with masonry construction except for the central bay which retains its original veranda. A fourth originally detached gable of similar design but smaller scale is also now attached to the main structure with masonry construction. The roof is clad in corrugated, galvanised iron. The building was face brick, now painted, with stuccoed quoins, pediments, gables, brackets and window and door details. The masonry additions constructed in 1907 at a cost of £231 were to provide a refreshment room. Part of this work was to infill the yard between the male toilet and the station building and provide a bracketed awning as an extension to the original awning which was supported on finely detailed cast iron columns and beams."
There is a very detailed description and explanation of its significance at http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=4801183.
6. Wesley Church
Located just beyond the Railway Station at 144 Marius Street, the Tamworth City Uniting Church was originally the local Wesley Chapel and, being built in 1871, is the oldest church still be used in the city. The stained glass windows are particularly impressive. The transept and vestry were added in 1884. The hall and parsonage date from 1911.
7. Tamworth Community Centre
Located in Darling Street near the corner of Peel Street, this elegant building was constructed in 1896 as the Town Hall and Council Chambers. A new Town Hall opened in 1934 and for many years, until 1984, it was the home of the local Army Reserve. "The building’s military history began in September 1939 when Captain E.J Mountain, M.C opened the Recruiting Depot for World War II enlistees. Later that year, the building became the headquarters of Army Area 33A and in June 1948 the headquarters of ‘B’SQN 12/16 Hunter River Lancers transferred there from Muswellbrook. The building was renamed the Peel Barracks." For more information check out http://www.tamworth.nsw.gov.au/Community/Community-Centres-and-Halls/Tamworth-Community-Centre/Tamworth-Community-Centre/default.aspx and https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5001109.
8. Tamworth Powerstation Museum
Located at 216 Peel Street, the Powerstation Museum is located in the general office of the old power plant. The museum which opened in 1988 celebrated the centenary of electric street lighting in Tamworth which was the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to acquire municipally-supplied electric street lighting. There is a large array of electrical appliances including working steam-powered electricity generators, Edison Street Tube cables, a map of the 52 electric street lights which were turned on in 1888, early electrical fittings ... everything needed to understand the history of electricity in the city. It is open from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm from Wednesday to Saturday, tel: (02) 6766 8324 or check out http://tamworthpowerstationmuseum.com.au.
10. Formerly Mechanics Institute
Located at 87-93 Brisbane Street, the old Mechanics Institute is rather overwhelmed by the Centrepoint Car Park next door. However this elegant and historic building which was designed by local architect, Arthur Dewhurst, opened in 1866 and has served a myriad of purposes, from Sunday School to regional library and adult education.
13. Lands Office (1889)
Located in Fitzroy Street, the Lands Office (1889), an attractive U-shaped single-storey brick building was designed by James Barnet with pebble-dash walls, a fine heavy timber encircling veranda, internal garden courtyard and wrought-iron gates.
14. Post Office (1886)
Located at the corner of Peel and Fitzroy Streets, the Post Office is a Victorian Classical stuccoed brick building designed by the Colonial Architect, James Barnet, and built in 1883-86 (extended 1966) to replace an earlier building (erected 1865). It features three two-storey facades with colonnades and balustrades. An elegant cast-iron spiral stair leads from the first floor to the clock mechanism within the four-storey clock tower with a cement and concrete cupola. The building dominates Peel Street.
15. Australian Light Horse Memorial
Located in Bicentennial Park, Kable Avenue, the Australian Light Horse Memorial was unveiled on 29 October, 2005, the date (29 October) was the day the Light Horse charged at Beersheba. Many of the men who joined the Australian Army came from the Tamworth area, and many ended up in the 12th Australian Light Horse. The 12th Australian Light Horse were the first through in the famous charge of Beersheba. The memorial is a dedication to all the troopers and Australian horses sent to war. The inscription on the memorial records: "The horses were known as Walers. Only one came back. In memory of the Waler. Between 1861 and 1931 approximately 500,000 horses were exported from Australia to the Indian Army, the Boer War and Egypt with the Australian Light Horse as remounts. Of all these horses only one returned, a gelding Sandy belonging to Major General Sir William Bridges. They were mainly bred from blood, draught and pony breeds. These were the forebears of the Australian Stock Horses and were purchased from properties throughout Australia and in the early stages were mostly purchased from N.S.W. which gave them their name of Walers, coined by the English. The most famous of all feats of the Waler Horse at war was the Light Horse charge on Beersheba in 1917. The horses were without water for 48 hours in the hot Sinai Desert and then undertook a 4 km cavalry charge across the burning plains under Turkish gunfire to take Beersheba and its wells." The sculptor was Tanya Bartlett of Newcastle who created the Slim Dusty and Joy McKean sculpture in Peel Street. For more information check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/search/display/23369-the-memorial-to-the-australian-light-horse.
History and Heritage: Tamworth Driving Route
There is a useful History and Heritage brochure available at the Visitor Information Centre which lists 21 places of interest which lie beyond the city's CBD. Not all are of interest but the ones that are particularly impressive include:
1. Power Station Obelisk
Located at 248 Marius Street, in the car park of the Powerhouse Quality Hotel, the obelisk was unveiled in 1938 and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the advent of electric street lighting. It was designed by the Council's civil engineer and represents a column of light.
4. Oxley Lookout
Located at the top end of White Street, the Oxley Lookout (named after Lieutentant John Oxley who explored the area) offers panoramic views over the city. The road up to the lookout was built in the Depression using unemployment relief funds.
5. Calrossy Girls School (1878)
Located at 140 Brisbane Street, the impressive main building at Calrossy Girls' School dates from 1878. It was built as a private residence by John Patterson who named it Calrossy after his family property in Scotland. In 1923 the Tamworth Church of England Girls School moved to the premises. The original features of superb stained glass windows and marble floors still remain.
7. Public School (1877)
The public school, located at Brisbane and Upper Streets is a single-storey brick school complex (1885) with one section dating back to 1877. It is characterised by a steeply pitched roof and tall pointed windows.
8. Anzac Park and Memorial Gates
Located on the corner of Brisbane and Upper Streets, the Anzac Park has memorial gates which were dedicated in 1927 and a memorial to the Sandakan death march which was erected in 1994. It is a quiet and delightful park for a picnic.
10. Viaduct and Railway Bridge
Located near the corner of Peel and Macquarie Streets is the 48 m lattice girder railway bridge, prefabricated in England and erected in 1881-82. Once a common type it is one of only two such structures remaining on the northern rail. The 815 m viaduct was originally built of wood which was replaced by steel from 1917-1929.
11. Munro's Mill
Located at 175-179 Peel Street is Munro's Mill. Built in 1863 it was the first flour mill in the town. Tamworth became an important milling centre with the wheatfields of northern New South Wales. The farmers transported their produce to this mill for processing. This mill closed in 1901 and is now the Tamworth Community College.
12. Square Man Inn
Just beyond the mill at 169 Peel Street is the former Square Man Inn now called the Square Man Inn Restaurant, built c.1877 in expectation of the railway's arrival. It was opened as the Square Man's Hotel in 1881 by the unusually named licensee, Wordsworth Clemesha, who operated it until 1917. Today it is a restaurant.
13. Britten's Brewery
Over the road is the old Royal Standard Brewery, established in 1879 by J.S. Oddy, at which time it was the largest in the country outside of Sydney. It was purchased by C.J. Britten in 1885 and produced a hugely successful English style ale. The brewery closed in 1921 and from 1927-1999 it was a cordial factory.
14. St Paul's Church
Located in Church Street, West Tamworth the church has been standing since 1958 when it was built out of 90,000 concrete blocks all made by local parishioners. It was built by local volunteer labour under the leadership of Canon Baker.
19. Calala Cottage
Calala Cottage is located at 142 Denison Street. It was built in 1875 as a townhouse for Tamworth's first mayor, Philip Gidley King, the grandson of Governor King and the manager of the Peel River Company, formed by the Australian Agricultural Company to handle the Peel River properties in 1853. It features 2,000 items set in a reconstructed historical village, including an original slab shepherd's hut with a bark roof (c.1836-40) - it is Tamworth's oldest surviving building; a beehive school - the Moonbi one teacher public school (1884) which was moved to the site in 1999; Dalyville, a slab building with displays of household items, Aboriginal artefacts and photographic equipment; and a blacksmith's workshop. The complex is open from 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm Wednesday to Friday and from 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm on Saturday and Sunday, tel: (02) 6765 7492. Check out http://www.tamworthhistoricalsocietynsw.org/calala-cottage for more information.
Tamworth Hospital Main Block (1883)
The richly detailed architecture of the hospital's main block in Dean Street dates from 1883. The building was constructed from brick with rendered trim and it features intricate and decorative details. The roof is of slate and the building features numerous additions from different periods.
Country Music Connections
1. Statue of Slim Dusty and Joy McKean
Unveiled in 2014, the work of sculptor, Tanya Bartlett, and depicting Slim Dusty and his wife Joy McKean as they were back in 1957, this is the town's acknowledgement that the man who scored a genuine international hit with The Pub With No Beer was truly an icon of Australian country music and a central figure in the evolution of Tamworth as a country music centre. There is a plaque beside the sculpture with a detailed history of both Slim and Joy's creative and personal lives. It opens with the words "Slim Dusty and Joy McKean have touched the hearts and minds of all Australians. The music they created together over seven decades articulates the very spirit of our nation and reminds us all why we are proud to be Australians."
2. Australian Country Music Hall of Fame
Located at 561 Peel Street and open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm seven days a week, the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame includes a museum which contains stage clothing from famous Australian country artists as well as the instruments they played, posters and photographs relating to their careers. The musicians featured range from early country stars like Buddy Williams and Smoky Dawson through to Troy Cassar-Daley, Beccy Cole and Adam Harvey. There is also an extensive archive with sound recordings and written material; a Broadcasters Hall of Fame honouring those broadcasters who actively supported country music; and a Walk A Country Mile interactive display which features extensive displays of country music-related memorabilia. For more information check out http://www.countrymusichalloffame.com.au.
3. Roll of Renown
Established in 1976 by Radio 2TM and originally located outside the radio station, the roll of renown is now a series of plaques mounted on granite stones and located outside the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre. The plaques celebrate those musicians who made a lasting and significant contribution to Australian country music.
4. Hands of Fame Park
At the corner of Bridge Street and Kable Avenue, by the riverbank, is the Hands of Fame Park which was established in 1977. Here, each January during the Country Music Festival, selected country music stars are asked to leave their hand prints in concrete for posterity. The park's aeroplane is a Vampire, a memorial to the RAAF.
5. The Big Golden Guitar Tourist Centre
Located at 2 The Ringers Road (it faces the New England Highway) this important tourist centre also includes a Wax Museum and a Collectors Museum. It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm seven days a week. tel: (02) 6765 2688 or check out http://biggoldenguitar.com.au.
6. Wax Museum
Located within the Tourist Centre, the Wax Museum of Famous Country Music Stars and Pioneers has a collection of lifelike wax models, all dressed in their original clothing and most of them actually modelled and made in Nashville, Tennessee. It includes the usual high profile local performers as well as such interesting lesser lights at Gordon Parsons (the man who wrote The Pub With No Beer) and Rick and Thel Carey (early pioneers of the itinerant country music show).
7. Collectors Museum
Located in the Tourist Centre this is not a country music museum. In fact it proudly announces that it "features the largest privately owned collection of Sir Donald Bradman Memorabilia."
8. Big Golden Guitar
This huge 12 metre high Golden Guitar is strategically located on the New England Highway to the south of the city. It is a huge replica of the Golden Guitars which are awarded each year at the annual Country Music Festivals. The original guitar was only 22 cm high and weighed 1.5 kg. It was created by local artist Harry Frost in 1972 and based on the acoustic guitar which was used by many country performers. The Big Golden Guitar, which had cost $30,000 and was made out of fibreglass and steel, was formally opened on 22 January, 1988 by Slim Dusty. It had been the brainchild of a former mayor, Warwick Bennet, and the Country Music Festival marketing manager, Max Ellis.
Other Significant Attractions
Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre
This is an impressive structure in the town which was built by the Tamworth Regional Council. It was completed in 2008 at a cost of $30 million. It has an indoor arena which holds 3,360 people. There are stables for 478 horses and a covered livestock selling area which seats 660 people. It is used extensively by a diverse range of specialist horse associations. In the past three decades Tamworth has become the sporting horse capital of Australia. It is now the headquarters of the Certified Horsemanship Association, the Australian Bushmen's Campdraft and Rodeo Association and the Australian Quarter Horse Association.
The city has become a place where a number of important events are held including the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity (it attracts over 500 competitors and has prize money totalling $700,000) and the ABCRA National Finals Rodeo which occurs during the Tamworth Country Music Festival. The Tamworth region's involvement with the equine and sporting horse industry has seen associated industries and activities attracted to the town. For more information check out http://www.aelec.com.au.
Powerhouse Motorcycle Museum
Located at 250 Armidale Road, the Powerhouse Motorcycle Museum has an impressive collection of 50 historic motorcycles including a 1955 Ducati, a 1959 Velocette Viper 350, a 1969 Norton Commando and a rare F4 MV Agusta Series ORO. It is open seven days from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm, tel: (02) 6766 7000 or check out http://www.powerhousemotorcyclemuseum.com.au.
Tamworth Regional Gallery
The Tamworth Regional Gallery is located at 466 Peel Street and is one of oldest and largest regional galleries in NSW. It includes paintings by Hans Heysen and Norman Lindsay and an outstanding silver collection, the Regan Silverware Collection. It also has the National Textile Collection, a Country Music Collection of artworks and the Utopia Bequest, a collection of indigenous art from Aboriginal artists living in Utopia. The gallery is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm weekdays and 10.00 am to 4.00 pm Saturday and Sunday. Tel: (02) 6767 5248. Check out https://www.tamworthregionalgallery.com.au.
Lookouts and Walking Tracks
Oxley Scenic Lookout
Located at the north-eastern end of White Street is Scenic Road which heads up the hill to the Oxley Scenic Lookout (610 m above sea-level) which offers panoramic views of the city and the Peel River Valley. There are barbecue and picnic facilities. It is also the start of the Kamilaroi Walking Track.
Kamilaroi Walking Track
Starting at the Oxley Scenic Lookout and winding along the ridge tops to Endeavour Park and Marsupial Park, the Kamilaroi Walking Track is 6.2 km long and, because it ranges from easy walking to strenuous walking, will take around 3 hours to complete.
Tamworth Marsupial Park
Located along Endeavour Drive (it runs off Brisbane Street) Tamworth Marsupial Park is open from 9.00 am to 4.45 pm daily and entry is free. It covers a total area of 14 hectares and is an opportunity to make contact with kangaroos, emus, peacocks and birdlife including king parrots, sulphur crested cockatoos, wonga pigeons, bronzewings, and doves. It is run by volunteers. For more information tel: (02) 6767 5555. There is also an Adventure Playground for children and excellent picnic facilities. Check out https://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/tamworth-area/tamworth/attractions/tamworth-marsupial-park-and-adventure-playground.
Other Attractions in the Area
Located 25 km south of Tamworth on the New England Highway is Goonoo Goonoo (pronounced 'Gunny Ga-noo' and said to mean 'plenty of water') station. It is on the left with rather handsome, if simple, stone gates. It is one of Australia's most historic sheep stations although, after it was purchased by coal baron, Tony Haggerty, for a reported $25 million in 2011, it was converted from sheep to cattle. The history of the property is the story of great wealth in Australia. The land was granted to the Australian Agricultural Company in 1832. They received 600,000 acres (242,811 ha) at Goonoo Goonoo and at Warrah, west of Willow Tree, in exchange for a portion of their famous one-million acre grant at Port Stephens. The land was selected and surveyed for the company by Henry Dangar and stock began to arrive in 1834. Goonoo Goonoo became the company headquarters in 1841. What remained of the old property was sold by the company into private hands in 1985 and Tony Haggerty acquired it in 2011. A number of old buildings, which once formed a private village, remain. The chapel is to the rear of the homestead (1840). There is a gabled rubblestone store with brick arches (1853), a large brick wool shed (divided into three gabled sections) on a hill - it is currently being repaired and renovated, and a memorial fountain in remembrance of George McArthur Gidley King, the son of Elizabeth Macarthur and Philip Gidley King is a prominent feature. There are moves to convert the outbuildings into a tourist destination - restaurant, event venue, hotel. The Northern Daily Leader reported in 2014 that "The $4.7 million development application provided for a woolshed to be made into a function centre and restaurant, holding up to 136 and 134 people respectively. The proposal included renovating a dilapidated chapel to host weddings and turning a run-down schoolhouse into a bridal waiting area. With the station having severed its ties to the sheep industry to focus on cattle grazing, 11 short-term accommodation units will be created in the old shearers’ quarters." For those who are interested the Facebook page of the new owners tells the story. Check out https://www.facebook.com/pages/Goonoo-Goonoo-Station/290170327835116?sk=photos_stream&tab=photos_albums.
Located 10 km north of Tamworth, on the Manilla Road, is the anchor from the HMRN Survey Ship Sealark, the ship Surveyor-General John Oxley sailed when he carried out survey work in Australian waters. It marks the spot where Oxley crossed the Peel River on 2 September, 1818 on his expedition from the Castlereagh River to the coast at Port Macquarie. It is located to the right near Anchor Road. For more information check out http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/landscape/exploration/display/23350-john-oxley-expedition.
* Prior to European settlement the area was home to the Kamilaroi Aboriginal people who knew it as 'Calala' which was thought to mean 'place of battle'.
* John Oxley entered the Peel River Valley a little to the north-west of the present townsite on 2 September, 1818. He eulogised the area: "it would be impossible to find a finer or more luxuriant country than its waters ... No place in this world can afford more advantages to the industrious settler than this extensive vale".
* Squatters began to arrive in 1830.
* In 1834 the Australian Agricultural Company (AAC) was awarded an enormous grant, land was selected by Henry Dangar, and the first 6000 sheep arrived. The AAC was allocated two separate parcels.
* A private village developed on the western bank of the Peel River in the late 1830s with a few huts and stores on the eastern bank to cater for teamsters who crossed the river at that point.
* A lock-up was established and a postmaster employed in 1840.
* In 1841 the larger AAC grant, Goonoo Goonoo, became the company headquarters.
* Around that time Tamworth was established as a company station and camp on the Goonoo Goonoo grant.
* A survey for a townsite was carried out in 1849.
* Tamworth was gazetted in 1850.
* By 1851 the population was 254 and a school was set up.
* Gold was discovered at Nundle in 1851.
* In 1852 the Royal Oak Hotel opened for business.
* In 1854 Philip Gidley King became Superintendant of the Tamworth based holding of the Australian Agricultural Company.
* Tamworth's first newspaper was established in 1859.
* In 1860 a bridge was built across the Peel River.
* By the mid-1860s Tamworth had become a major coaching station and milling centre.
* By 1866 the population was around 650.
* In 1875 Philip Gidley King built Calala Cottage.
* In 1876 Tamworth was declared a municipality and King became the first mayor.
* In 1878 the railway from Newcastle reached West Tamworth.
* The Tamworth Railway station was opened in 1882.
* In 1883 the Tamworth Hospital was completed.
* In 1888 Tamworth became the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to have a municipally-operated electric street lighting system.
* By the 1920s Tamworth was the centre of the New England New State Movement which wanted to secede from New South Wales.
* A local aerodrome was opened in 1932.
* During World War II the showground were used as an army training camp and an RAAF flying school.
* Tamworth was declared a city in 1946.
* By 1947 East West Airlines were running regular flights from Tamworth to Sydney.
* The association of the city with country music started in the late 1960s. Local radio station 2TM began broadcasting country music on its programme 'Hoedown'.
* Tamworth established the Country Music Awards in 1973.
* In 1988 the 12-metre tall Tamworth Golden Guitar was erected.
* In 1999 the Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre was opened.
* In 2008 the Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre was opened.^ TOP
Tamworth Visitor Information Centre, cnr The Ringers Road and New England Highway, tel: (02) 6767 5300.^ TOP
There is an excellent local website which includes eating, accommodation and all the information relating to the country music festival. Check out http://www.destinationtamworth.com.au.^ TOP