History and Heritage

For thousands of years the Anaiwan Aboriginal people hunted and gathered on the tablelands around Armidale. In 1818, English explorer John Oxley ascended the ranges on horseback and camped for a while near Apsley Falls. He noted the ‘parkland’ he found on the plateau in his diary, and the march of European pioneers that followed changed the region forever.

With the release of vast pastoral leases in the 1830s, squatters arrived and townships sprouted. Remarkably, several of the pastoral holdings in the region remain in the hands of the original families, who continue their forebears’ tradition of producing some of the finest wool, lamb and beef in Australia.

Armidale was officially declared a town in 1846. A few years later, the arrival of the railway and discovery of gold at Rocky River and Hillgrove heralded a population and building boom. Valuable minerals and metals, including tin, were discovered at other sites around the region and hundreds of Chinese joined the workforce, adding another dimension to the cultural mix.

It was a prosperous few decades and Armidale’s heritage architecture reflects the grand ambitions of those late 19th-century settlers. The Anglican and Catholic cathedrals were among the earliest buildings to grace the centre of town, along with the post office, State bank and courthouse, all still in use today.

The Armidale Heritage Tour, a 2.5 hour guided tour runs from the Visitor Centre departing 10am Mon-Sat. Booking is essential through the Visitor Centre. The Armidale Folk Museum on Marsh Street is full of artefacts which offer insight into the development and growth of the region.

Just outside Armidale, the National Trust’s Saumarez Homestead, a 30-room Edwardian mansion, offers a truly authentic glimpse of 19th-century family life on the land. Today, visitors can explore the property’s extensive gardens, the fully furnished homestead and associated farm buildings, complete with collections of early farm equipment.

Also of historic note out of town is Booloominbah, the 1880’s White family homestead designed by noted architect John Horbury Hunt (who also designed the Anglican cathedral). The building is now the administrative heart of the University of New England, the first rural university in NSW (established as a college of Sydney University in 1938 and proclaimed an independent university in 1954). Visitors can enjoy Booloominbah over lunch or a coffee whilst taking in the historical ambience.

 

Downloads:

Visitor Guide (PDF 14MB)

Info Pack

Armidale Guided Heritage Tour (PDF 394.8KB)

Armidale Heritage Tour Self Guided walk (PDF 1.2MB)

Armidale Heritage Tour Self Guided Drive (PDF 968.5KB)

Museums, History and Heritage Directory (PDF 289.5KB)

 

Pages to visit:

Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place

New England Tableland history

National Trust Saumarez Historic Homestead

Wing Hing Long and Co Museum