Tenterfield: Birthplace of a Nation
Some visitors to Tenterfield are surprised to learn that the town is the birthplace of the Australian nation. It was a speech by Sir Henry Parkes in the Tenterfield School of Arts in 1889 that ultimately led to the Federation of Australia’s States in 1901.
His famous Federation Speech is celebrated in the museum housed in what’s now called the Sir Henry Parkes School of Arts.
History and heritage are a big attraction here. Pastoralists took up sheep and cattle runs in the area in the 1830s and the town was established when gold was discovered nearby in the 1850s. You can learn a lot about the old days and who lived where by taking the self-guided Heritage Walk (pick up a brochure at the Visitor Information Centre) around the pretty streets and historical buildings.
The careful preservation of landmark buildings gives the whole township of Tenterfield a Federation feel. One remarkable example is Stannum House, located at the top of the hill at the southern end of the CBD. This Tenterfield landmark is a fully restored Victorian-era Italianate villa. On the ground floor are three ornately decorated rooms packed with antiques.
One of the best ways to view and learn about many of the wonderful buildings in town is on a self-guided Historic Walk. Tenterfield was gazetted as a town in 1851, and the Tenterfield Historic Walk includes a large number of landmark buildings in the town. The walk takes about an hour.
The Tenterfield Railway Station opened in 1886 and remains an almost intact nineteenth century railway precinct. Tenterfield Railway Station Preservation Society now operates it as a Railway Museum.
One of Tenterfield’s best-known buildings isn’t grand, but it’s no less loved for its humble size. A quaint blue granite building on High Street was established as a Saddlery in 1870. After periods as a bank and a private home, George Woolnough returned it to its original use. It wasn’t long before the Saddlery became THE meeting place for those who enjoyed discussions on a wide variety of topics – thanks as much to George’s famous compassion as his saddles. One famous customer was “Banjo” Paterson, well-loved Australian poet and author.
George ran his High St Saddlery from 1908 until his retirement in 1960. The building was classified by the National Trust of Australia in 1972. George Woolnough’s Grandson, Peter Allen, internationally acclaimed singer and songwriter, celebrated the memory of his grandfather in one of his best-known songs, “The Tenterfield Saddler”.
There are many grand sights around Tenterfield that aren’t man-made, and you don’t even need to leave town to see them. In Wood Street there’s a cork tree that came to Australia as a seedling in a jam tin in 1861. It’s believed to be the biggest cork tree in Australia.
Another famous natural attraction is Thunderbolt’s Rock. Frederick Ward, better known as Captain Thunderbolt, was well known throughout the Tenterfield district. He had many hideouts in the New England area, but few are as easy to visit as the one in Tenterfield. Thunderbolt used the large area between the massive rocks to stable his horses and a smaller shelter under the large rock as his camp. The top of the rock made an ideal lookout, as this was the main road to Warwick during the gold-mining days.
Tenterfield is surrounded by magnificent natural features, rugged landscapes and scenic vistas. Sub-tropical rainforests, waterfalls, woodlands and natural swimming holes can all be found in the district. Tenterfield’s National Parks offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature, walk, swim, picnic and camp.
Perhaps the best known of the local national parks is Bald Rock National Park. Bald Rock is the largest exposed granite monolith in Australia, rising 260 metres above the surrounding bushland. If you climb to the top, it rewards you with an expansive top-of-the-world panoramic view. There’s more to Bald Rock National Park than Bald Rock though. Granite archways, ravines snaking their way through the terrain and a pile of enormous smooth granite stones balancing strangely across each other, all await your exploration.
If all this exploring wears you out, Tenterfield welcomes you with warm winter fires, food prepared with love from fresh local ingredients and wine from the cool-climate wineries throughout the district.