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Windeyer, NSW

Once thriving gold mining town now a pub, caravan park and few buildings.

Windeyer is a genuinely fascinating remnant of an old goldmining town which is now a tranquil, if sprawling, rural hamlet of less than 100 people in the Meroo River Valley. There are now only five places of historic interest. Many of the original buildings have been removed and the spread of the original town (over some kilometres - it was six separate settlements) means that the visitor looks at isolated buildings rather than some kind of coherent historic village. It was essentially a "tent city" in its heyday - at one time it was reputed to be the largest goldmining community in New South Wales - and when the prospectors moved on, they took their tents with them. The setting beside the river is beautiful and the minimalism of the modern "village" is a reminder of the transient nature of mining towns.

Location

Windeyer is located 266 km north-west of Sydney via the Great Western Highway and Castlereagh Highway. It is 43 km south-west of Mudgee. 

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Origin of Name

Windeyer was originally known as Richardsons Point. When gold was discovered in the area it was gazetted as the village of Windeyer in 1859. It is likely that the settlement was named after either Charles Windeyer, a prominent Sydney magistrate, or Richard Windeyer (1806-1847), a barrister and politician.

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Things to See and Do

Exploring Windeyer
It is hard to imagine that there was a time when Windeyer was a booming gold mining town - "a tent city" with eight inns, three stores and a collection of stringybark huts and tents. Now it is just a few houses and properties spread across a vast area. There are really only five places of interest that are worth exploring. If you take the road from Mudgee the places of interest are very obvious as you drive through the town:

Windeyer Cemetery
Just across the bridge over the Meroo River, and down a gravel road from the Police Station, is Windeyer Cemetery which was established in 1856. The front section is more contemporary but down the back are a number of graves which date from the time when the town was a booming goldrush tent city.

Police Station and Lockup
One of the few solid buildings in the town, and just over the Meroo River bridge, is an old brick building which started life as the Oriental Bank. It became the police station and lock-up in 1862. The police escorted the gold, checked licences and carried out administrative duties on the goldfield. The lock-up, which is located behind the police station, has slab timber walls and still has its original door. 

Church of the Holy Redeemer Anglican Church
The Anglican church (The Church of the Holy Redeemer) was built of local stone between 1866 and 1873 to replace the first, short-lived church and rectory (built in 1859, in ruin by 1865). It was consecrated and opened by noted ecclesiastical figure, Bishop Samuel Marsden. It is a very simple and unpretentious building. Services are still held on the 4th Sunday of each month. For more information check out http://www.mudgeehistory.com.au/churches/churches2.html.

Windeyer Public School
Now just part of the village public school, the original brick building was opened in 1859. It is the only survivor of ten schools which once operated in the district. In 1859 there were 53 students enrolled but by 1877 the school population had dropped to seven. It peaked at 100 in 1900 and was back down to 25 in 1997. The teacher originally lived in the school building but a residence was built in 1899 which lies to the left of the school.

Windeyer Hotel
The Windeyer Hotel, now known as the Gold & Fleece Hotel, was built in 1911 on the site of an older inn. Look at it and imagine that this was once the centre of a thriving, bustling village. The community hall to the left (1911) was once used for travelling picture shows and the house over the road was formerly a bakery. A butcher's shop, two stores and an inn were once located nearby.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Fossicking
Windeyer has a number of good fossicking areas where visitors may try their luck with shovels and pans. The Bushlands Tourist Park can suggest suitable locations. 

The Chinese At Windeyer
The period from 1852 to 1862 was a boom time for Windeyer. There were six main settlements spread across the valley and there were large numbers of Chinese miners living in tent villages. As with many other goldfields, tensions developed between the Europeans and the Chinese. Riots against the Chinese broke out in 1854. The key difference was the Europeans were individual miners, the Chinese, who were known to have been hard-workers, worked collectively. They built aqueducts out of river stone including one that was 2 km long. It still exists but, sadly, all remnants are on private property and not open for inspection. These water races and aqueducts were erected using only a plumb-bob and wooden bow. Yet they were so accurate and precise that the races were built at just the right angle for water to trickle down from a creek to the diggings. The Chinese kept to themselves and a number of myths grew up around them. It is said that the bones of the Chinese dead were hollowed out and filled with gold, either because they believed the gold would be useful in the afterlife or because the bodies were exhumed and returned to China. There were two burial sites but, unfortunately, most of the headstones were vandalised and destroyed. The graves were apparently rounded to ensure evil spirits could not hide in the corners.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Wiradjuri Aborigines.

* Windeyer began as a farming district consisting of a few large properties. 

* Gold was first discovered in the area late in 1851. Both alluvial and, to a lesser extent, reef mining were successfully carried out and the returns proved considerable. 

* From 1852 to 1862 there were six main settlements in existence as well as numerous Chinese tent villages. 

* Around this time it was the largest gold mining community in New South Wales.

* In 1853 Windeyer had three inns, three stores and a collection of stringybark huts and tents.

* Tensions developed between the Europeans and the Chinese on the goldfields. The latter became the object of riots in 1854. 

* The settlement at Richardsons Point was gazetted as the village of Windeyer in 1859. 

* A school, church, police station, post office and cricket club were also in existence by the mid-1860s.

* The Church of the Redeemer was consecrated by Bishop Samuel Marsden in 1873.

* The town's hotel, the Commercial Hotel, was relocated from Queensland in 1911.

* The Community Hall was built in 1912.

* During the Great Depression of the 1930s there was a revival of interest in the goldfields as hopefuls picked over the old mullock heaps. 

* In the 1970s the Commercial Hotel was renamed the Gold & Fleece Hotel.

* In 1983 a local grazier received the highest price ever secured on the Australian mainland for a bale of wool - 3800 cents a kilo.

* The Eaglehawk mine was operating as a working reef mine and tourist attraction until 1989. 

* In 1989 the road from Mudgee was sealed.

* Today the area is noted for its farming and its superfine wool. There is an hotel and a caravan/tourist park with tennis courts and a general store.

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Visitor Information

Bushlands Tourist Park, 1879 Windeyer Road (adjacent the Windeyer Hotel), tel: (02) 6373 8252. 

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Useful Websites

There is no dedicated website for the town. The caravan park website - http://www.bushlandstouristpark.com.au - is useful.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

11 suggestions
  • I have been researching my family tree and found a relative May Alice Winter was born in the town about 1880. Hey parents were William Winter and Harriet (nee Lewis). Wondering if anyone knows anything more about these people? Any tips would be appreciated!

    Mel Maher
    • Hi Mel. I am a descendant of the Adams and McMurray families who settled at Windeyer in the 1850s and came upon your query purely by chance when researching the town’s history. I was intrigued by the name, as my first cousin twice removed, Mabel McMurray, married a Joseph Winter at Windeyer in 1905. Anyway, I looked up the children of William and Harriet on the NSW BDM site. They married in 1863 in the Mudgee District (which covers Windeyer) and between 1864 and 1892 had 12 children, but none of them have the name May Alice. They did have a daughter in 1880, named Gertrude. Is it possible she married into the Winter family? Anyway I’m sure that’s not something you want to hear, but sometimes excluding things is as good as finding things. All the best with your research.

      Robert Stormont
  • I’m trying to obtain a copy of the book Windeyer: Tent Town to Village. Does anyone know if it is still in print, and if so, how much and where can I get it? If it is no longer available, is there a copy in the Mudgee Library?

    Robert Stormont
    • Try the caravan park , it’s where i got mine

      michael
      • Mel and Robert,
        I think you will find Mary Alice WINTER (1868 – 1938) married Arthur Ernest PARKER (1869 – 1942) about 1890 in Cassilis.
        Mary was the daughter of William WINTER (1839 – 1919) and Harriett Matilda LEWIS (1846 – 1930) who were my Great Grandparents.
        William and Harriett also had another daughter Gertrude (1880 – 1964) who married Edward TWADDELL (1879 – 1912) in 1905 at Carcoar.
        Another daughter was Martha Anne WINTER (1874 – 1967) who was my Grandmother. She married Edmund SAUNDERS (1861 – 1960) in 1901.

        Russell Elstub
        • Hi Russell,

          I’m currently working through my family tree which also includes Harriett winter. I’m a little stuck on Harriett Winter née Lewis. I can’t find any info on her mother and very little on her father. Any chance you have some information you are able to share. Many thanks

          Terrie
  • My ancestors Thomas and Mary Best (1 daughter and 3 sons) had land at Upper Meroo from the 1840’s. Was there any other settlement or village between Meroo and Windeyer? My great grandfather was their son Thomas Silvester Best.

    Helen Woolcott
  • Would like to know where you can Metal detect ?

    Gary
  • I am researching for a friend of mine who has ancestors coming from Windeyer. – does anyone know anything about possible chinese and aboriginal marriages.the wedding took place at the Church of the Redeemer Windeyer Meroo for Ti Byng and Katherine Kelly.Any information would be appreciated.

    June Hockey
  • Also researching and have found ancestors at Windeyer from 1855 to 1865 and one of their children was born at Purer Point on Windeyer in 1862. Does anyone know if this was one of the six main settlements and if so where can I follow up on this?
    Many thanks

    Sandra Moffat
  • Hi, I am trying to trace my family tree roots on my mother’s side and have stumbled across these comments by pure accident whilst doing some research. My mother is the daughter of Malcolm Winter, son of Harvey Winter, who is son of William Winter son of William and Harriet Winter nee Lewis. I am trying to locate nationality of Harriet as she is noted in some sites as being of ethnic descent however no information pertaining to which nationality and I struggle to locate information beyond Harriet… Is there anyone who may be able to assist. ?

    Sherrie B