Heritage consists of those places and objects that we as a community have inherited from the past and want to hand on to future generations. Our heritage gives us a sense of living history and provides a physical link to the work and way of life of earlier generations. It enriches our lives and helps us to understand who we are today.
New South Wales’ heritage is diverse and includes buildings, objects, monuments, Aboriginal places, gardens, bridges, landscapes, archaeological sites, shipwrecks, relics, bridges, streets, industrial structures and conservation precincts.
Identifying and listing items of heritage significance are the first steps in protecting and managing those places and objects that we as a community want to keep. Listing our special places on statutory heritage registers provides a legal framework for managing the approval of major changes so that heritage significance is retained and not diminished.
There are four main statutory lists. Locally significant heritage places are listed on local council Local Environment Plans. The State Heritage Register lists our State’s most significant heritage places and objects known as items of state heritage significance. Nationally significant places are listed on the National Heritage List. Places of world-wide significance like the Sydney Opera House are inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Heritage places from all four lists collectively demonstrate the unique history and achievements of the people of NSW and Australia. As physical links to Australia’s past, heritage places trace the transition of Australia from its ancient indigenous origins to a penal outpost of Great Britain to the advanced culture of today’s developed nation.
The practice of heritage listing in New South Wales has developed from several International agreements and British and American models. These concepts provided successive State governments with the tools to respond to community pressures for heritage conservation such as the formation of the National Trust in New South Wales in 1945 and the Green Bans Movement of the 1970s. The NSW Heritage Act was passed in 1977 providing landmark legislation in heritage conservation in the State. Amendments to the Act in 1987 introduced a new section that required State agencies to compile their own Heritage and Conservation Registers on a proactive basis. These are commonly known as ‘Section 170 Registers’, and are the first example of a list of items specifically required to be prepared under the Heritage Act.
Retaining our limited heritage resources is green, sustainable, an investment and community building.
Sustainable development begins with recycling. Recycling heritage buildings reduces our consumption of resources and ecological footprint. Reusing instead of demolishing an average 19th century terrace is equivalent to saving 15,000 litres of petrol or five car trips around the planet in embodied energy.
Heritage attractions underpin tourism, enhancing long term growth. Heritage places provide the material to promote our State and neighbourhood profiles. Limited in supply, the rarity and authenticity provided by heritage places are attractions that cannot be built or recreated anywhere else.
For individuals, studies show heritage properties can attract higher resale values. Price premiums attracted by heritage character and listing can also extend to adjoining properties. Listing gives owners greater certainty the heritage qualities of the area are protected.
For communities, heritage plays a major role in the appeal and life of neighbourhoods. Even heritage places with no current use or in a neglected state can provide the impetus for revitalising a neighbourhood.
Heritage regions can be identified in New South Wales in terms of topographic identity, popular identity and the process of occupying the country. Common processes and patterns of settlement have developed within certain regions, while others present varied patterns in which there is both unity and complementarity.
The stages to be expected in the development of country towns can be neatly summarised as follows: administrative and legal origins in a properly surveyed township; the provision of essential services such as an inn, a store and a smithy; the growth of settled population epitomised by resident ministers of religion and church buildings, instead of visiting clergy conducting church services in private homes or barns; then the provision of educational facilities for an increasingly youthful population; the creation of community self-help organisations such as a School of Arts or a Debating Society or an Oddfellows Lodge; the hallmark of colonial success, the production of a local newspaper; the quintessential country town feature, the Pastoral, Horticultural or Agricultural Show; and finally the right to have a municipal council. These things may not happen in precisely this order but they are convenient yardsticks for the transition from a police-magistrate’s small settlement to a developed country town community.
The whole area is given unity by the rivers draining to the Upper Darling River and the great area of alluvial soils which these braided meandering rivers produce. Farming is devoted to sheep-grazing for wool, wheat and cotton growing, with increasing amounts of oil and fodder grains.
Pastoralists entered this area from the south and north. In 1832 the Australian Agricultural Company pre-empted the best land on Liverpool Plains and drove the squatters on. Due to the rough grazing of the plains and the danger of dingoes, there were more cattle runs than sheep stations. Early runs were owned by absentees which explains the absence of early impressive houses in the squatting districts. Rather there were ex-convict or convict stockkeepers living in huts.
After 1860 sheep steadily replaced cattle, more owners came to live on their stations and better houses began to be built. Urban development prior to 1850 was very limited due to a sparse and poor population. Isolated inns were common. Some of these became towns but many have turned to dust or been burned.
Timber became important in the Pilbara region by the 1870s, the railway arrived in 1873 and Tamworth began to prosper as a traffic centre. In 1888 Tamworth was the first Australian town to use electric lighting. It is particularly rich in residential buildings from the late nineteenth century.
Dubbo was a prosperous town and brick buildings were common from the 1870s. The railway brought a gasworks in 1881. The town boomed in the prosperous years of the 1880s and much of its architecture is of this period.
The twentieth century has seen the effects of closer settlement and subdivision on this area as well as crop diversification into sorghum, oilseeds, sudax, soybeans and cotton.
The region is a flat plain elevated by uplift and containing parts of the central tablelands and central slopes. It represents an area of early occupation, mostly within the limits of occupation of 1829. The new colony’s need for new expansive grazing land was the prime mover in the early colonisation of the tableland and the establishment of the early towns. The basic purpose of opening up this large area was to breed cattle. The entire region was opened up to settlement when Governor Darling redefined the limits of location in 1826. More intensive European exploitation of the region created a need for villages and market centres.
The impact of the 1850s gold rush was more dramatic on the Central Tableland than anywhere else in New South Wales. The massive influx of transient miners, their followers and the requirements of the new towns beside the mines created an exciting and tumultuous period of resettlement which has been the focus of national interest. In the middle of the mining period the railway reached the Central Tableland and towns along the railway line, such as Lithgow, Bathurst and Orange, grew. Although suffering from a very inadequate water supply until after 1890, Orange blossomed with fine public, ecclesiastical and private buildings in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The opening of the Crown Lands office confirmed the premier position of Orange in the Central Tableland in 1885. Lithgow was transformed, almost instantly, from a rural backwater into one of the major industrial towns of New South Wales. The first Australian steelworks was opened in Lithgow in 1900.
This comprises the main area of the Lachlan river basin above Euabalong, flat, with a slight fall to the west with occasional hills composed of granite intrusions. This is a transitional area to the semi-arid plains of Western New South Wales. The land is used for grazing, large scale wheat and oats.
Pastoralists had been bringing their cattle into this area for grazing long before the area was officially opened up for settlement in the 1840s. Between 1835 and 1858 a number of settlers opened up large pastoral runs in many parts of the region. These stations were all very large and vulnerable to drought and the protracted drought of 1849 to 1852 presented great problems.
There were six major gold rushes on the Lachlan between 1861 and 1894 which created almost all the major towns of the area. The introduction of the railway and new land administration legislation had important effects. The twentieth century saw the transformation of a region that had been dominated by cattle, sheep and gold into an area characterised by wheat, wool and fat lambs as the railway across the plains made possible the bulk transportation of wheat.
The Australian Agriculture Company was found in London in 1826 to raise funds to exploit the grazing possibilities of New South Wales becoming apparent from wool shipments and the reports of successful immigrants. A large grant was given to them on the northern side of Port Stephens extending to the Manning River. At the head of the Manning River a town was laid out as company headquarters called Carrington and many buildings were erected. These were abandoned in 1930 for Stroud. Only a church is left standing and Carrington is chiefly to be seen as an archaeological site of considerable complexity.
Settlers began arriving in the Manning Valley from 1827. In 1830 the new County of Macquarie opened up the land as far as the Hastings with the scaling down of the penal station at Port Macquarie. Cattle stations as well as timber were important. The pastoral inflow continued into the 1840s, with many absentee landowners providing only huts for the men. There were also resident landowners who built substantial homesteads and grew wheat, tobacco, maize and vegetables. The Manning Valley was in the 1860s clearly divided between a small farm area with few stock on small acreages, and the big cattle runs in the hills to the west. The 1860s saw the collapse of wheat as a crop due to rust and the beginnings of dairy farming. The running of the Pacific Highway and the railway through Taree brought this town to prominence. The area relied for most of its transport on coastal shipping and consequently there are many wrecks.
This region is not strictly a coastal plain, consisting rather of a series of river valleys separated by ranges, or in the case of the Clarence-Richmond divide, by an extensive stretch of sterile and undeveloped land. Coasts typically alternate headlands and coastal barriers, with bar-bound river mouths dangerous to large vessels.
In 1823 convicts were shipped north from Newcastle to Port Macquarie. Convicts cut cedar and grew maize for their own consumption. With the removal of the Port Macquarie Penal Station in 1833 (the prison continued in use until 1846), land around the port was opened to free settlers. Cedar cutters worked in the brushes, rolling logs to the water’s edge or sometimes using bullocks. Logs floated downstream and were intercepted at ports from which the timber was shipped to Sydney. These ports were the first settlements on the rivers. Shipbuilding accompanied the cedar getters in their northward spread.
Land was opened to agriculturists in the 1850s. The farmers with their dense population and many and frequent needs to buy goods, created a new town system on the lower parts of the rivers. Different forms of produce were tried in the tropical climate. The only tropical crop to prove successful was the sugar cane. Sugar succeeded early on because it could be sold to a local market in an unrefined state and was soon aided by the building of mills in 1870 by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. When in the 1890s the sugar cane was heavily infected with the gumming disease, dairying was taken up as an alternative.
In the twentieth century beach mining, tourism and the movement of retirees into the area has seen a further shift in this area.
The New England region is largely made up of a plateau bounded on the east by very rugged country. The plateau itself is generally a rolling thinly forested surface with extensive flat areas such as Beardy Plains. The area presented an attractive grazing resource to early settlers.
When the Australian Agricultural Company took up its vast estates on the Liverpool Plains in 1832 it displaced some squatters and barred the way to others seeking well-watered land. Some of these went up to New England. In 1839 there were 46 stations, in 1852 there were 178 and one million sheep. As the population grew, village centres emerged to provide the origins of present day urban settlement. The 1870s and 1880s were a period of major urban growth, impelled by larger population and characterised by the new and more elaborate architectural styles. Armidale had 76 inhabitants by 1846 with a post office, inns, a new court house, a new steam flour mill and a new church. A hospital was built in 1853 and a newspaper published from 1856. The railway arrived in Armidale in 1883 and went progressively northward until it reached Wallangarra on the Queensland border in 1889. The next forty years saw major growth, from incorporation in 1863, and grand new buildings ranging from hotels to a new town hall, court house and gaol in the 1880s boom style neoclassical architecture.
These towns were built mostly of timber, though brick was increasing in the larger towns, not only in the main streets but in the residential area. The “blue brick” was a characteristic local feature. Above all, there was a new grandeur in the prominent buildings, and the emergence of a class of affluent people who generally made one residential part of the town their own, though still building in the vernacular Georgian style until the 1890s when Federation homes made their appearance. New England country towns largely saw their present day landscapes come into being from 1816 to 1914.
The area comprises the district drained to the Murray River below the mountains of the Kosicusko Range. After the exploration by Hume and Hovell in 1824, there was about a decade of delay before stock from the settled area in the nineteen counties was moved as far south as the Murray region. In the 1840s an increasing number of newcomers came not from the north but from the south, from the pastoral districts of Victoria. By 1850 all desirable water frontages on both sides of the Murray had been taken up. The towns of the Murray region all took their municipal shape in this period. By 1848 Albury was still of modest size with a population of 654 and only twelve houses. Eleven years later it was a thriving town with municipal status and a significant newspaper. Many of the lesser towns grew up as crossing places on the Murray.
The fundamental engineering work that led to irrigation in the region was the creation of the Hume Reservoir, damming the Murray upstream from Albury which was completed in the 1930s. Instead of fruit for canning or grapes for wine, the western Murray region was irrigated primarily to ensure a regular supply of fattened lambs: land use was not made more intensive but the farmer was better ensured against drought. Although the farming life in the whole western half of the region has been diversified and made more secure by an irrigated water supply, the ecological effects have been profound.
There is no continuous coastal plain, rather a series of valleys containing settlement separated by ridges and plateaux of wooded country. Dominant land use has been dairying, with cheese manufacture particularly important in this region, though more butter than cheese was always made. Pigs, maize and sorghum have always been important, as has fishing.
The whaling stations of Twofold Bay constitute one of the principal heritage resources of the south coast. Australian mainland whaling began in Twofold Bay in 1828 and continued up to the late 1840s.
The south coast attracted settlers from the 1830s onwards seeking new, free pastures for their cattle and sheep. The first pastoral runs in Moruya were taken up in 1828 and 1829, although initially only overseers and a few stockmen were the only residents. The first owner-occupiers came in 1829-1830. Settlement was patchy because of the rugged nature of the country which separated the river valleys. In 1846 the new County of Auckland was proclaimed, extending from the Brogo River in the north down to the Victorian border.
Drought and an outbreak of pleuro-pneumonia among cattle in the mid 1860s greatly reduced the number of beef cattle in the area. This led to a decisive swing away from pastoralism for wool and beef to the dairying which became the hallmark of the south coast in general but Bega in particular. A new and highly significant element appeared in the dairying scene. Factories run by farmers cooperatives had first appeared in the Illawarra in 1883. In the Bega Valley the number of dairy farmers supplying the co-operative factories grew rapidly. The economic basis, and the way of life of the farming community, had changed dramatically over the past twenty years. Ironically, the two model estates of Kameruka and Bodalla, redolent of colonial perceptions and paternalism, are the best known part of the dairying heritage of the south coast.
Because of the extreme difficulty posed by the coastal roads, coastal shipping remained for over a century the main line of communication for south coast farmers. No railway was ever built in the area so shipping remained unchallenged for a remarkably long time. The waters around contain many important wrecks, significant evidence of coastal trade over 150 years.
This is a long, narrow coastal region bordered on the west by steep scarps with few crossings, as at Bulli, Macquarie Pass, Fitzroy Falls. The rugged sandstone plateau separated this from inland regions. Rural occupation began about 1815, when graziers from the drought stricken County of Cumberland found a way down to the pastures of the Illawarra. In this early period, cattle and sheep were grazed on the extensive grasslands around Lake Illawarra and Dapto and Shellharbour grew up as villages to serve this area. To the north cedar cutters worked in the mixed eucalypt and rainforest land that occupied the narrow coastal plain and lower slopes of the escarpment. In the early 1830s a town was sited at Wollongong.
Mining began in earnest in 1857 under the stimulus of high prices occasioned by gold rushes. Mining villages sprang up. In 1887 a railway linked the northern mines to Wollongong and this line was linked through t Sydney in 1889. Coal continued as the major employer of labour into the 1920s and 1930s, the mining villages remaining separate settlements with Wollongong as the chief town. The railway also brought tourism to the Illawarra.
In the post war years, the manufacturing industry became important as a result of harbour improvements. The Illawarra landscape retains the traces of many separate mining villages, each dependent on adit mine and jetty, now encompassed in a combination created by post-1945 industrial development.
Southern Tablelands, Monaro and Murrimbidgee
Undulating country differentiates the tableland from the highlands of Blue Mountains and Monaro. Topography is fairly uniform, vegetation is mainly open bushland and was attractive to early pastoral settlement. Grazing is the predominant activity, with sheep for fine wool being predominant. Wheat growing, which in the nineteenth century was important, is now insignificant.
From the 1820s onwards an increasing amount of settlement occurred in this region and market towns sprang up along the lines of communication coming south from Sydney, the key centre being Goulburn established in 1828. Between Goulburn and Marulan, Towrang Stockade was the headquarters for road making gangs between 1833 and the mid 1840s. The beautiful stone bridge over Towrang received its keystone in 1839 and the ascendancy of Goulburn as the principal city of the plain was assured.
The Depression and shearers’ strike of the 1890s were a watershed in the decline of many townships on the southern tablelands. An antidote to stagnation for many centres was tourism. Limestone caves were the key to tourism in the nineteenth century. In the more recent past the well preserved colonial townships have capitalised on their heritage appeal and leisure needs of the Australian Capital Territory to create a different sort of tourism.
Gold, copper and iron, together with marble and other limestone deposits, have played an important role in the heritage character of the region.
Within the Monaro, the plateau has an undulating hilly surface with some flat areas. The plateau rises to form the Australian Alps. The Snowy Range rises to 2,300 metres and forms a watershed between Snowy River and Murray River waters exploited for water storage and hydroelectricity. The plateau’s vegetation comprises forest, subalpine woodlands in the mountains and extensive grassland. The whole of the upland plateau is used for sheep grazing, with beef cattle of secondary importance. Grazing on the high alps has now been stopped.
By the 1830s virtually the entire Monaro region was taken up with squatting runs. The relative success of the graziers is enshrined in their homesteads, outbuildings and outstations, many of which are built in stone. As the herds of brumbies increased, horses became an important element in the economy and folklore. There were many men from Snowy River. From the 1860s until 1957 the practice of moving stock up to the highest country in the Snowy Mountains in summer and driving them back into the valleys in autumn became standard. The well trodden stock routes and stockmen’s huts are important heritage items as tangible evidence, beyond the general degradation of an alpine environment, of the most significant use of this practice in Australian history.
The creation of Kosciuszko National Park in 1906 and the abolition of snow leases in 1956 recognised the environmental degradation of earlier uses of the land and ushered in a new era of tourism for the region centred around the leisure pursuits of fishing and skiing.
The Snowy Mountains Scheme legislated for in 1949 caught the popular imagination and interest of the international engineering world. At an expenditure of $82 million between 1949 and 1973, the Scheme succeeded in diverting the Snowy River and the Eucumbene to supplement the flow of the Murray and the Murrumbidgee and provide electricity for the central grid of New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT. It brought growth and prosperity to the township of Cooma and led to the flooding of Old Adaminaby.
This region coincides with the middle section of the Murrumbidgee River including drainage from the eastern uplands by way of the Tumut River. This is now wheat sheep country. The Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area forms the western boundary beyond which extensively grazed plains of the Western Region.
Pastoral expansion beyond the limits of location spread west along the Murrumbidgee. The prime frontages along the Murrumbidgee were the first to be taken up and new stations opened up on the tributary creeks both north and south of the main river. Bad relations between Indigenous Australians and the drought of 1850-41 led to the abandonment of some stations but the opportunities offered by the gold rushes led to the Murrumbidgee stations becoming a vast fattening paddock for stock. The Murrumbdigee and Lachlan Pastoral Districts contained around 75% of the entire pastoral investment of New South Wales in the 1870s.
Gundagai was the first township to develop around the Gundagai run in 1826. Wagga Wagga established as an administrative centre in 1847 soon became the most important regional centre due to new roads and the steam boat trade both passing through Wagga and bypassing Gundagai.
The most significant change in the development of this region was brought about through irrigation. The Burrinjuck Dam was completed in 1926 and irrigation towns began to be established at Leeton, Griffith and Coleambally for the development of intensive agriculture, particularly fruit growing.
There is a geographically uneven spread of listings in New South Wales which reflects its historical development. The earliest colonised region (Sydney) is the location of the oldest items. Sydney, as the centre of government for a colony that once covered two thirds of the continent and as the largest and most densely populated urban area in Australia contains many State significant items, such as imposing head offices of government agencies and private corporations. As a capital city, major port, a major industrial area and a focus for migrant settlement, Sydney is the site of many significant heritage items. Much that is of heritage significance within the central city area is significant not only (or not even) to the region, but to a far wider locality – in some cases, to the world.
This region is characterised by the important role of river navigation in establishing its settlement pattern, and by the dominance of coal in its economic life. Established as a convict settlement in 1801 and 1804, there are a number of heritage sites remaining from the convict period. A decision was made to open up the Hunter Valley to settlement in 1820 and most convicts were removed to Port Macquarie by 1823. The settlement continued as a mining village until dominated by the Australian Agricultural Company until its monopoly was broken in 1849.
Early farmers grew wheat, vegetables, maize and tobacco which enjoyed a boom in the 1830s and 1840s. Floods in the 1850s and 1860s led to many farmers leaving the Hunter River and commencing the great trek northwards which eventually encompassed all the northern river alluviums. The river was the chief form of transport in the region. Shipping provided easy access to the Sydney market, to overseas markets for coal, and boats on the river made contacts with towns and butter factories easier. East Maitland, West Maitland and Morpeth flourished during this period and West Maitland in particular has many fine heritage structures dating from the 1880s.
The Hunter Valley dominated Australia’s bituminous coal production until the 1970s. Early mining began around Newcastle which is built over a honeycomb of tunnels. With the exhaustion of coal easily accessible by adit and shaft mines spread out creating mining villages which have since been absorbed as suburbs of Newcastle.
In 1859 Newcastle became a municipality and by 1890 it was exporting over two million tonnes of coal a year and was a thriving city to rival only Sydney. Manufacturers produced aerated waters, agricultural implements, bakeries, biscuits, bricks and tiles, chemicals, coachworks, engineering, soap and candles, fell-mongering, flour-mills, furniture, printing and woolwashing. Many notable buildings survive from this period including the stone harbour, the Court House and Fort Scratchley.
The region comprises an attenuated Western Division drained by the Darling River, and with the lower Murray as its southern boundary. The whole area is semi-arid grazing country in a fragile state of unimproved and much degraded vegetation. The establishment of a Crown Lands Commissioner at Balranald in the 1840s and Euston after 1853 mark the commencement of settlement and the entire west Murray and lower Darling frontages had been divided into stations by the mid 1840s. On the upper Darling in the Warrego country extending from Bourke far into Queensland settlement came in the 1840s from the pastoral areas to the east and southeast.
The first steamboats started to ply the Murray in 1853 and by 1859 their range was extended to the Darling. The impact of the riverboat and the wool barge in the last third of the nineteenth century was very great and the two decades after 1850 saw the beginnings of all the river towns of importance. The wharves, the public buildings such as the gaol, the court house, the Crown Lands office are of particular significance from this period.
The railway reached Bourke in 1885 and throughout the twentieth century the river trade declined in the upper Darling as in the lower and last wool shipment along the river to Bourke railway station was delivered in 1931. There are numerous shipwrecks on these inland waters. The remains of the Rodney, for example, encapsulates much of the regional history: pastoralism, the river trade, the water frontage stations, the tensions with the shearers’ union, the uncertainties of the Darling flow.
Water supply had always been an issue in this Region. Change came with the exploitation of the Great Artesian Basin. Bores transformed the settlement of the region and brought capital investment. To the outback graziers and overlanders the bores were fundamental resources from the 1880s onwards. The Depression and drought of the 1890s led to legislative controls and complex shifts in land occupancy bringing about the end of pastoral leases and their replacement by perpetual leases.
There were spectacular deposits of gold, silver, copper and opal on the Western Plains. The towns away from the major rivers owe their existence to mineral discoveries. The development of Silverton and Broken Hill in the 1880s and Cobar in the 1870s are of major importance as well as the opal fields of the west.
Office of Environment and Heritage