Things to See
Mayne St, named after the Crown Land Commissioner of the day, is the title given to the highway as it passes through Murrurundi. At the southern end of the town, opposite the Shell Roadhouse and still identified by a name plate out the front, is the Haydonton Inn, made of local bricks in the early 1850s.
A little further north, almost opposite Brook St (so-named as it leads to the river), is a skin and wool store built c.1856 of handmade thumb-print bricks.
Continue north, past Victoria and Wade Sts and, to the left, are the council chambers, the town's tourist information centre. You can obtain a walking tour pamphlet here, tel: (02) 6546 6205.
Over the road is the White Hart Hotel. The original dining room remains from the timber structure erected in 1842 by the in-laws of Thomas Haydon. It was enlarged in 1857. The northern end was rebuilt at the outset of the century and the second storey added in 1936. Governor of NSW, the Earl of Belmore, dined here in 1869.
Continue north past Adelaide St (named after the Dowager Queen). To the right, two doors up from the supermarket (erected in 1905 as Dooley's Store), is Bridge House (70 Mayne St) built of local bricks in 1854 for Thomas Haydon's mother-in-law. The iron roof conceals the original shingles.
Ben Hall and Murrurundi
The first block of land to be purchased in Haydonton was purchased by ex-convict Benjamin Hall, the father of one of Australia's best-known bushrangers, Ben Hall. The family's original slab cottage (1842), where Ben Hall passed much of his early childhood, was located opposite Bridge House, approximately on the corner of Mayne St and Adelaide St. The family moved temporarily to the Lachlan district in the late 1840s. Ben's parents and some of the children returned to Murrurundi in the early 1850s. There is a photograph of the old cottage in the local history museum.
Also on Hall's original block is 'Rosebank', built in 1889 as the Joint Stock Bank which folded in 1892. It stands at the corner of Adelaide St and Liverpool St. Nearby is Halls Creek which is named after the family.
The Railway Hotel, constructed in the 1880s, was rebuilt after a fire in the 1920s. Tattersall's, opposite, also dates from the 1880s though it is in a poor state of disrepair.
Catholic Complex and Railway Station
St Joseph's Catholic Church. Thomas Haydon, a devout Catholic, donated this land to the church and had a small wooden chapel built on the site in 1841. He oversaw the laying of foundations for a new church in 1855. The current building, made of local sandstone, was completed in 1860. It was consecrated by Bishop Polding. The church has a marble altar with 1000 constituent parts. Behind the church is the cemetery which contains the tombs of town founders Peter Haydon (died 1842) and Thomas Haydon (died 1855) and of Eliza Hall (died 1869), the mother of Ben Hall whom she outlived by four years.
Next door is Murrurundi House which was built in 1880 as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy. It is a large two-storey building with an upstairs verandah guarded by cast-iron lacework fencing, a hipped roof, shuttered windows and a central gable topped by a crucifix. It is now a convention centre. Adjacent is the handsome old Catholic school which closed (like the convent) in 1970.
Over the road is the railway station built in 1872 when the line arrived from Scone. Murrurundi was the terminus of the northern line until the Ardglen tunnel was built, allowing construction to extend northwards.
Cross the bridge over the river and head north along Mayne St. Just past the post office, on the left, is an old slab cottage taken from the 'Alston' property at Timor and re-erected in 1996.
Continue north along Mayne St. To the right is an Italianate building erected in 1897 as the Manchester Unity Hall, a lodge of the Independent Order of Oddfellows. After World War II it became the RSL Memorial Hall. On the left-hand side of the road is the old Presbyterian Church, built between 1886 and 1898 and now used by a play group.
Next door, on the corner block, is the local museum, situated in the Literary Institute (still emblazoned on the facade) which was built in 1913. It is a symmetrical building consisting of two almost identical structures with steeply-pitched roofs linked by a central hallway.
The town's first police station was erected on this site when the township was first laid out in 1840 and the School of Arts and Mechanics Institute were built here in 1883 but almost entirely demolished in the 1960s.
Out the front are some stocks, a reminders of that part of the building's history and of past systems of punishment. There is also an antiquated iron-wheeled tractor.
The museum contains artefacts of early settlement and local industry, and a collection of historical photographs. The Fishburn Room contains a 1:60 scale model of the HMS Endeavour, built by a member of the Fishburn family who are descended from mariner Andrew Fishburn, a member of the First Fleet. A plaque on the rock outside is in honour of his descendant, Murrurundi-born Peter Norvill who, in 1988, became the first Australian-born pilot to fly solo around the world solo in a fixed-wing aircraft.
The museum is open on the second and fourth Wednesdays and Sundays of the month from 2.00 p.m. - 4.00 p.m., the first and fourth Saturdays from 2.00 p.m. - 4.00 p.m. and the first, third and fifth Sundays from 12.00 p.m. - 3.00 p.m., tel: (02-6546 6142).Diagonally opposite is the old Methodist (now Uniting) Church built in 1890 of locally-made bricks.
St Paul's Anglican Church
St Paul's Anglican Church, designed by noted colonial architect J. Horbury Hunt and built of local sandstone in 1872-74. The work was commissioned by the White family (of which Nobel-Prize winning novelist Patrick White was a member).
The roof of the nave is a timber hammerbeam construction clad in slate while internally the ceiling is boarded. There is a cast-iron eagle lectern and a wall surfaced with Italian tiles behind the altar. The windows are grouped in twos and threes between buttresses. The square bell tower was completed in 1913 to a design of Hunt's and was constructed as a memorial to Frederick White of Harben Vale who pushed the original project along.
The single-storey vicarage at 3 Mount St was built of local bricks in 1858. It has a hipped roof, French windows, a timber verandah and ceilings of either plaster, pressed metal or timber.
Law and Order
In Murulla Street is the law-and-order complex, combining Gothic and Italianate elements. There are three buildings. The one closest to the road is a symmetrical sandstone and brick courthouse which consists of a central block fronted by a triple-arched portico with two smaller wings, incorporating the police station.
Next to this is the old gaol and lock-up keeper's residence which consists of a two-storey brick block flanked by two single-storey sandstone wings. The ground-level verandah is a later addition. Both were designed by Alexander Dawson and built in 1860-1861 on the site of the original 1842 courthouse. The sergeant's residence at the southern end of the complex was built in the 1890s.
Swinging Bridge and School
In Murulla St, just before the intersection with Mayne St, is a suspension bridge for pedestrians over the river. The third bridge on the site it was erected prior to 1914.
In Mayne St is the public school. The right side of the front section is the original building designed in 1877. The trees in the grounds are apparently registered with the Botanic Gardens in Sydney. The 'Pink House', on the northern side of the schoolgrounds, was made of local bricks in 1854 as a national school. It later became the Methodist parsonage. No longer pink it is now a private residence named 'Elouera'. The two-storey blue building just over the road and a little further north was erected in 1865 as the Joint Stock Bank but became the CBC from 1870-1938.
Mayne St - North
The old Royal Hotel which was built in 1863. It has a hipped roof, upstairs verandah and quoins. Cobb & Co. used it as a changing depot until 1867. To the rear of the building are the old stables (best seen from Murulla St), built in 1860 of local sandstone and also used by Cobb & Co. The shingles are now covered with iron.
Continue north along Mayne St. To the left is the old telegraph office, built in 1861. It closed in 1913 when the new post office opened and is now the Cafe Telegraph.
At 180 Mayne St (behind a dense wall of trees) is one of the oldest surviving buildings in town, Bobadil House, which was built of local sandstone in 1843 as the Woolpack Inn. It was constructed for surveyor Henry Dangar.
Turn up Boyd St and drive to the T-intersection, turning left into Doughboy St. At its end a dirt road heads up the hill. On the right-hand side of that road it is possible to see some relics of the old shale works (on private property). To the left is the works manager's residence (1912).
Return south along Doughboy St. You can see more relics to your left. Turn right, back into Boyd St, then take the first left into Little St which, en route to the town's new recreation area, takes you past 'Rosedale', built 1848-52 of timber and enlarged in the 1890s. It was once occupied by parliamentarian Sir Joseph Abbott.
Paradise Park, literally at the foot of a steep and densely wooded hill, is a lovely picnic area with shelters, barbecues, toilets, plenty of birds and, at dusk, there are usually some wallabies.
At the edge of the area is a path which leads through the 'Eye of the Needle', a narrow gap between the rocks through which you must pass to reach the summit. The trail continues to the lookout which affords fine views across to the mountains and the valley.
One of the area's earliest properties is Glenalvon. Today it features a single-storey stone labourer's cottage and stables which were designed by J. Horbury Hunt in 1874 for the White family who had, by then, come into possession of the property.
The stables in particular are very distinguished. They are made of rough-hewn sandstone with a brick floor, gabled roofs and a fine ventilator capped by a pyramid design. The sandstone homestead was built in 1916. It has a pitched roof with integrated verandah.
Blandford was surveyed as 'Murulla' (the Wanaruah name for Mount Murlow to the south-west) with the first land sale proceeding in 1856. It developed as a private village in the 1860s and the name Blandford was adopted when the railway came through in 1872. 2.3 km from the bridge is Blandford Public School, established in 1871.
Continue along Timor Rd. About 3 km from the highway, Scotts Creek Rd branches off to the left, heading northwards.About 16 km along the road is Wallabadah Rock, the plug of an extinct volcano. The base of the rock covers 61 hectares and it rises to 959 m above sea-level. It is possible to climb to the top. In October it is covered with flowering rock orchids. However, it is located on private property so any visit must be arranged in advance with the owners, tel: (02) 6546 6329.
Timor and Timor Caves
Timor has an attractive little timber church built of pit-sawn timber by voluntary labour in 1883. Both the initial construction and the centenary renovations were financed by local families. Nearby are the Timor Caves, a series of subterranean limestone caverns. The caves are within walking distance of the road. The Timor Caves are easily accessible but good shoes, a strong light and common sense are a must. Camping is available for a fee, tel: (02) 6546 6089.
St Luke's, Blandford
300 m south of Blandford Public School, on the New England Highway, is St Luke's Anglican Church, a small and attractive brick building with a tower buried beneath swathes of rich green ivy. It was another White family commission for J. Horbury Hunt (1879-80).
The Lookout at Nowlands Gap
Just north of Murrurundi the road rises up into and over the Liverpool Range via the Murrurundi Gap, otherwise known as Nowlands Gap after William Nowland, a farmer from Singleton (then known as Patrick's Plains) who discovered this route across the mountains in the late 1820s.
Today there are truck stops at Nowlands Gap which provide excellent views south over Murrurundi and the upper Hunter Valley. Unfortunately the picnic tables have been stolen twice and the council have now given up.
On the other side of the Liverpool Range are the Liverpool Plains, a revelation for pastoralists in the 1830s. After discovering the Murrurundi Gap over the range William Nowland drove his stock northwards over this route and established a new station at what he called Doughboy Hollow, now Ardglen, located 6 km north-west of Murrurundi on the highway. He was subsequently pushed off his land by the Australian Agricultural Company which was granted the million-acre Warrah station in 1833.
Willow Tree is a pretty little village of arts and antique shops at the northern boundary of the shire, 18 km north of Murrurundi along the highway. Essentially a service centre to the rural areas of Warrah and Mount Parry it is situated at the north-eastern corner of the enormous Warrah grant which was made out to the Australian Agricultural Company in 1833. An inn was established on the future townsite but it was the arrival of the railway in the 1870s that precipitated settlement. The village was surveyed when part of the Warrah grant was subdivided and sold in 1908.
The area around Murrurundi has some reputation as a fossicking site for agate, naturalite and zeolite crystal, calcite crystals, quartz, petrified wood and limestone fossils. However it has been well scoured and many sites are on private land. For detailed information ring Mr K. Blayden on (02) 65466134.
Source - Sydney Morning Herald -