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Uralla, NSW

New England town which celebrates its connection with bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.

Uralla is a prosperous rural service town surrounded by the rich, fertile soils of the New England district. Today the prosperity of the town relies on its proximity to Armidale (it has a number of commuters); the superfine wool and cattle which is produced on the surrounding properties; and its location as a tourist destination - it is almost exactly halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. Uralla describes itself as ‘Thunderbolt Country’ and this is demonstrated by the town's chief claim to fame - the bushranger Captain Thunderbot. He is one of the main features at the local museum; his body lies in the local cemetery; he has a statue in the main street; and Thunderbolt Rock, the place which he reputedly used for many of his robberies, lies only 7 km south of the town.

Location

Uralla is located 1005 metres above sea-level, 451 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Motorway and Thunderbolt's Way, 484 km south-west of Brisbane and 23 km south-west of Armidale.

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Origin of Name

It is believed that "uralla", in the language of the local Anaiwan Aborigines, was the name given to the district - specifically to a ceremonial meeting place and lookout which was situated on the top of a hill or the two hills at the town's north-western boundary.

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Things to See and Do

Find Charm in Uralla Heritage Walk
There is an excellent, downloadable brochure - Find Charm in Uralla Heritage Walk - available at http://www.imags.com.au/find_charm_uralla. It is a must. It has quirky information and a chatty style and it lists a total of 57 places of interest (most of which are in Bridge Street) of which the highlights include:

1. McCrossin's Mill Museum and Thunderbolt Gallery
McCrossin's Mill Museum (1870) is located in a three-storey flour mill built of brick and granite. It was built by Alexander Mitchell for John McCrossin. In 1979 the Uralla Historical Society formed and the building, with subtle architectural modernisation, was opened in 1983. The museum contains a Thunderbolt exhibition including the table his body was laid out upon. There is also a series of nine paintings titled "The Death of Thunderbolt", a Rocky River Goldfields exhibition, a re-created Chinese joss house which contains the contents of an actual joss house from the mid-19th century goldfields. Other displays include the Corporal Cecil Stoker exhibition, relating to a local soldier whose possessions were found bricked up in a chimney, and a collection of rustic tools. The museum, located at 24-28 Salisbury Street, is open daily from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, tel: (02) 6778 3022. For more information check http://mgnsw.org.au/organisations/mccrossins-mill-museum-and-function-centre/.

2. McCrossin's Chaff Cutting Shed
Dating from 1881 and located next door to McCrossin's Mill Museum is this chaff cutting shed which used the power generated by the mill to cut chaff. In 2004 it was restored by the Uralla Historical Society and it is now part of the museum. Access is via the museum.

3. McCrossin's Stables and Store
Built out of local red bricks around 1878, and with floor joints cut by adze, this building was restored in 1998 and is now part of the McCrossin's Mill Museum complex.

4. Uralla Literary Institute
Located in Salisbury Street and built in 1886, this elaborate Victorian Italianate building with Flemish gables, lintels, sills and concrete quoins is now a private residence. It was once the town's reading room, library and billiards room. An urbane leisure centre.

5. Gartshore
Located at 18 Salisbury Street and completed around 1885, Gartshore is an impressive private home which was built for David McNeal who died just before it was completed. Typical of the era it has high gables, dormer windows, an entrance veranda with a cast iron frieze and an impressive cedar front door which still has the original bell and knobs.

6. New England Brass and Iron Lace Foundry
Located at 6 East Street is the New England Brass and Iron Lace Foundry which has been operating since 1872. It was originally developed to produce iron lace for residential and commercial buildings. Since 1983 the Phoenix Foundry has taken over the business, expanded the range, and moved to more modern premises at 44 Duke Street. The foundry is the oldest in Australia. It can be opened by appointment, tel: (02) 6778 6420. Check out http://www.phoenixfoundry.com.au/ for more details. A complete list of their products can be downloaded at http://phoenixfoundry.com.au/Motifs/Brochures/Full%20Brochure.pdf.

12. Masonic Hall
The Masonic Hall, so much a part of village life in the late 19th century, was built in 1883-1884 as a simple brick structure on a stone foundation. Some years later the veranda colonnade and cappings were added.

13. 26 Maitland Street
Built in 1885 this is a delightful cottage with a front veranda with a lace frieze (almost certainly cast at the New England Foundry) and a front door with etched glass. The cottage was sympathetically extended in 1977.

16. Foxwood
Built in 1891 and located at 31 Maitland Street, Foxwood is a classic Victorian-era country town dwelling. Its features include cast iron lace on the first floor veranda, ornamental cast iron columns, an impressive front door and a front wall with tack pointing painted on.

20. Court House
At the corner of Hill and Maitland Streets is the brick courthouse with its rendered Classical facade and portico (1883-85). Like many similar court houses it has an imposing high arched Victorian portico.

24. Trickett's General Store
Uralla residents are justifiably proud of their connection with the Trickett family. This building, on the corner of Hill and Bridge Streets, is now a cafe. It has a Victorian Italianate decorative parapet and was purchased by Fred Trickett in 1920. He was the son of Ned Trickett, the world champion sculler who was Australia's first international sporting champion and who is celebrated with a special exhibition at the McCrossin Mill Museum.

32. St Joseph's Church
The excellent Find Charm in Uralla Heritage Walk brochure states: "This fine old church is built of red brick lain in English Bond upon a rubble granite foundation. The front features lancet stained glass windows crowned by a glass roundel. The steeply pitched gable roof has concrete capping and distinctive concrete crosses. The delightful stained glass windows and memorials are memorials to pioneer families. The turret tower once supported a conical spire."

41. Gas Lamps
One element of the main street that the visitor immediately notices are the faux gas lamps. They are replicas of the originals which were installed in 1911. The replicas were installed in 2000 with the iron posts being cast from the original patterns and the lanterns handmade in Uralla by Tony Baldwin.

Thunderbolt's Grave
The grave is clearly marked and located on the eastern side of the Pioneer Cemetery which is located in John Street. There is still a conspiracy theory that the grave contains the remains of Thunderbolt's brother and that Frederick Ward (Captain Thunderbolt) escaped to North America. The story goes: "Alf Dorrington from Dungowan near Uralla offered to take Fred Ward, his mother Sarah Ann Shepherd & Fred Jnr to Morpeth, near Newcastle in late August 1870, from where he could catch a boat to America. As a payment for his services Fred gave Alf a large amount of money which he used to buy a headstone on his recently deceased Aunties [sic] grave at Bendemere. If one checks the Bendemere Cemetery you will find that this tombstone is still the best tombstone in the entire cemetery. An 1871 American state census shows that a Frederick Ward (file #SC 289) and a Sarah Shepherd (file #SC 319) both arrived in America in late 1870. This seems to be an amazing coincidence. Sarah Shepherd was the mother of Fred Ward … It is obvious that these two people are our Fred Ward & his mother, Sarah, who went to America in late 1870 and then moved on to Canada. When the gold petered out in California Fred moved to Alberta, Canada, where he stayed until the end of the gold rush there in the late 1800’s, then moved to live out his life in Ottawa, Canada - dying in the early 1900’s.” Whatever the truth, the grave is a memorial to Captain Thunderbolt. Maybe there is nobody buried in the grave. The problem with the North American myth is that Ward's body was positively identified by five people. It is also widely accepted that the body was put on display for some time prior to burial. A plaque at the cemetery outlines Thunderbolt's career.

New England Brewing Co.
Located at 19 Bridge Street the New England Brewing Co. proudly claims to produce beer that is preservative-free, unfiltered and unpasteurised. Its specialist brews include a Golden Ale, Pale Ale, Brown Ale, and seasonal brews. It is open Thursday-Saturday 11.00 am - 6.00 pm and Sunday 11.00 am - 4.00 pm in the summer months. Brewery tours can be organised by appointment. Ph: 0433 875 209.

Uralla and Captain Thunderbolt - The Last Bushranger
Uralla celebrates its association with the bushranger known as Captain Thunderbolt (Frederick Ward - 1835-1870) with a large statue of the outlaw on a horse in the main street, a grave in the local cemetery and the Thunderbolt Exhibition in McCrossin's Mill Gallery. Add to this a plaque to Constable Walker, who shot and killed Thunderbolt, and it is clear that much of the local tourism is focussed around this "gentleman" bushranger.
Ward was born at Windsor in 1835. He was working as a drover and horse-breaker on the Paterson River when he was arrested for receiving 75 horses and sentenced to ten years hard labour on 13 August, 1856. He was sent to the gaol on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour and was released from there in 1860 but in 1861 he was captured and sentenced again for horse theft. On 11 September, 1863 he escaped from Cockatoo Island and fled towards Bourke where his wife and two children were living. For the next six and a half years he robbed mail coaches, as well as roadside inns, stores and private homes from Maitland to the Queensland border and west to Bourke. At times he worked with accomplices but, because of the great advantage of his superior skills as a horseman, he often worked alone. By 1870 there was a reward of £550 for him.
His exploits included the attempted robbery of the Merton Mail and Tollhouse at Lochinvar in 1863; the robbery of race patrons and publicans and the Campbell Hill Toll Gate at Rutherford; from 1865 to 1870 his spate of robberies (86 in total) in the western district, the northwest slopes and plains the upper Hunter and the country towards the Queensland border are well covered in Court documents. Thunderbolt acquired a reputation as a gentleman. It was said he was always polite, particularly to women, and he never killed anybody. He was also very sensible. He never attempted to rob a place where the police were located and he avoided armed coaches. Consequently his reputation was more connected with his bravery and his skill as a horseman than with his violence.
Not surprisingly rumours and myths followed him. One story involves a group of German musicians who were travelling to Queensland. It is claimed that Thunderbolt explained that he was going to go and gamble at a local race meeting and if he was successful he would repay them the money he had stolen. He insisted they perform for him. He then obtained their Queensland address and duly repaid them, with interest.
On 25 May, 1870 he robbed a hawker at Blanche's Inn south of Uralla. The Uralla police - Senior Constable Mulhall and Constable Alexander Binney Walker - were sent to investigate and when they arrived Ward was testing an inferior and unfamiliar horse. Shots were fired and, as Ward attempted to escape, Walker followed hiim for about 3 km along a ridge. At Kentucky Creek, Ward was cornered. Walker shot his horse. Ward swam across the creek and, according to one version, refused to surrender. He was shot, allegedly with Walker's last bullet. He dropped into the water, then resurfaced and lunged at Walker who hit him on the head with the gun butt. When he rose again blood was pouring from his mouth and he died. He was buried in Uralla cemetery without religious rites. There is a detailed and accurate history of his life in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Check out http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ward-frederick-fred-480.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Thunderbolt's Rock
Thunderbolt's Rock is located on the eastern side of the New England Highway 7 km south of Uralla. It is a large granite outcrop where, according to local legend, Captain Thunderbolt used to hide before attacking coaches and travellers on the road. This may not be the case. It is possible that Thunderbolt had little real connection with the outcrop, but Blanche's Inn, where Thunderbolt was cornered for the last time by the Urana police, was located only 300 m further south of the rock, on the opposite side of the road. A few old bricks remain and a depression in the ground where the cellars were located.

Gostwyck Chapel and Deeragee Shearing Shed
Gostwyck is located 12 km south-east of Uralla via East Street. This tiny village is known for the Gostwyck Chapel, a beautiful private church at the end of an avenue of 200 elm trees on the banks of a stream. It was built as recently as 1921 in memory of Major Clive Collingwood Dangar who was killed during World War I. Vines cover the chapel  which is part of the Gostwyck property, which was originally purchased by Edward Gostwyck Cory in 1832. Cory was an early European landholder in the Hunter Valley. He sold the property in 1834 to William Dangar who then passed it on to his brother Henry. Henry became famous as a surveyor of the Hunter Valley and Liverpool Plains in the 1820s and 1830s. He established Gostwyck in 1834. He also designed and built the 'Deeargee Woolshed' in 1851. A short stroll across the bridge that spans Salisbury Waters, brings visitors to the wool shed which was built in 1872 to replace an earlier shed that had been destroyed by fire. One of the largest and oldest woolsheds in Australia, Deerargee is an octagonal building with a diameter of 15 m. It was used by 24 blade shearers working in a circle with a 22 m tail through which the sheep passed from their pens to the shearing floor. It also became one of the first sheds to use a Wolseley shearing machine (1890). The three-tier roof possesses a clerestory of glass ventilators allowing shearers to work in a well-lit and well-ventilated open-plan environment. The wool room is a brick building which connects to the shed on its southern side. It was built shortly after the shed. Dangar acquired the property in the 1860s and planted the elms between the homestead and chapel. He transferred the property to his son Clive in 1911. Clive's widow built the chapel after he was killed in the First World War. Visitors can visit the site but are not permitted inside the buildings. For more specific instructions and details check out http://www.uralla.com/gostwyck-chapel-deeargee-woolshed-60.html.

Dangars Lagoon
Located 4 km south of Uralla on the road to Walcha, Dangars Lagoon Nature Reserve is a wetland haven with over 110 bird species including Great Crested Grebes, Blue-billed Ducks, Whiskered Terns, Swamp Harriers, Whistling Kites, Nankeen Night Herons, Stubble Quail, Fairy-Wrens and Golden Headed Cisticolas. Historically the lagoon was used by gold miners in the 1850s. At this time a sluice which was 2 km long was cut and in 1896 Brown's Paddock Mining Company was given permission to use the lagoon for sluicing purposes. In 1940 the lagoon was gazetted as part of a travelling stock reserve and in 1972 it was declared a wildlife refuge. There are picnic facilities and a viewing hutch approached by a screened walkway. Check out http://www.uralla.com/files/uploaded/file/dangar's%20lagoon.pdf for a detailed history of the lagoon.

Fossicking and the Rock Hunter's Rendezvous
The local Visitor Information Centre has an important collection of local minerals and gemstones which are a good indication of the minerals that may be found in the district. Fossickers should consult the staff at the Centre. They will be told to check out the Rocky River area to the west of town which can be accessed by heading south on the New England Highway and turning right towards Kingstown. There are some clearly signposted fossicking sites about 6 km along the road with toilets, barbecues, picnic areas and fresh water. Equipment can be obtained by asking at the visitors' centre.

Mount Yarrowyck Nature Reserve and Rock Art Site
Located 25 km north of town along Thunderbolt's Way is the Mount Yarrowyck Nature Reserve which preserves the traditional lands of the Anaiwan people. The reserve was created in 1983. It is 589 ha. There is a small signpost pointing towards the gravel road which leads to a car park and picnic area where there are boards pointing out the highlights of a 3 km loop walk to an Aboriginal rock art site in a small shelter on the south-western slopes of Mount Yarrowyck. The site contains red ochre paintings which are dominated by bird track motifs. There are also stick figures and other geometric shapes. It is an information cave telling other Aboriginal groups what type of food is available in the area. For more information check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/mount-yarrowyck-nature-reserve and http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/armidale-area/uralla/attractions/mount-yarrowyck-nature-reserve.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the district the Anaiwan Aborigines lived in the area.

* The first European settler in the district was Edward Gostwyck Cory.

* In 1834 Cory sold his property to William Dangar. That same year Saumarez sheep station was established by Henry Dumaresq.

* In the 1840s a tiny settlement sprang from what began as a shepherd's outstation on the banks of Rocky Creek, at the southern boundary of the Saumarez.

* A townsite was reserved in 1849 where a branch track headed north-west from the Great North Road. At this intersection Samuel McCrossin established an inn.

* The town began to grow with the discovery of gold at Rocky River in 1851.

* A goldrush to the area started in 1852.

* The village was surveyed and gazetted in 1855.

* More gold was found at Mount Jones in 1856 - the fields became the largest in northern New South Wales with some 4000-5000 miners on-site.

* By 1857 gold was being extracted by sluicing operations.

* Large numbers of Chinese arrived in 1858 to rework the original alluvial field. They left when the surface gold ran out in the 1870s.

* By 1859 the town had three hotels and a post office.

* By the 1860s large companies were digging deep mines and tunnels searching for gold. This continued until the early twentieth century.

* The McCrossin family established a large mill in 1870.

* On 25 May, 1870 Captain Thunderbolt was shot and killed by Constable Alexander Walker near the town.

* By 1871 the population was 254.

* In the 1870s Uralla prospered as a service centre for the wealthy farming community.

* The local newspaper, the Uralla Times, was established in 1873.

* The town was declared a municipality in 1882 when the railway arrived.

* In 1889 gold was discovered at Groses Creek.

* The population had increased to 819 by 1891.

* The population jumped to 1590 by 1911.

* In 1927 land was resumed at Kentucky, south of Uralla, for soldier settlement and orcharding began.

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Visitor Information

Uralla Visitors Information Centre, 104 Bridge Street, New England Highway, tel: (02) 6778 6420.

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Useful Websites

The town has an excellent website - check out http://www.uralla.com.

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