Sunday, June 18, 2006

An aside: about Tenterfield

Located on the Tablelands in Northern New England just 18kms from the Queensland border, Teneterfield has a population around 3,3oo.

To find out more about Tenterfield, go to the local tourism site, If you would like to find out more about the town's history, you might visit the web site established by the University of New England's heritage centre -

Today Tenterfield is best known as the place from which Sir Henry Parkes, sometimes credited as the founder of Australian Federation, delivered his famous Tenterfield speech on 24 October 1889 and as the birthplace of Peter Allen (the Boy from Oz) whose song "The Tenterfield Saddler" is an Australian favourite.

Oddly, or perhaps not given that we are both locals, Peter Allen and I went to the same primary school, the Armidale Demonstration School. My old kindergarten teacher who taught us both used to get confused and think we were in the same class. In fact, Peter was in front of me and I do not remember him. However, many aspects of his life do resonate with me because of the shared experiences.

Returining to the point. while Tenterfield today is a small community isolated to some degree by history, back in the days of colonial New England the town (like many other New England centres) had every hope of growing into a major city.

From a European perspective, the area was first discovered by the explorer Alan Cunningham in 1827 on his way back from discovering what became the Darling Downs in Queensland. The first squatting property, Deepwater Station, was established in 1839 followed by Tenterfield Station in 1840.

Like other New England squatters, the Tenterfield squatters wanted to establish road routes to the east. The following is an edited excerpt from Norman Crawford's souvenir booklet published by the Back to Tenterfield Committee in 1949.

The excerpt shows the efforts put into establishing roads and the importance of the transport links to the coast. The number of bullock teams involved and their move after the arrival of the railway hints at another theme in New England's history, the dramatic impact changes in technology have played in changing New England. Finally, the reference to the black boy are an indication of the often forgotten role the indigeneous population played in development.

The edited excerpt follows:

In the earliest period of settlement in Tenterfield the only means of communication with the outside world was by means of a rough track down New England, through Tamworth, across the Liverpool Range and then down the Hunter Valley, a long, bad road. The track ended at Tenterfield in the North. All supplies had to come that way and wool and station products go that way to market. Riding horse, pack horse, and bullock dray were the means of transport.

... Thomas Hewitt, manager of Stonehenge Station, beyond Glen Innes, being a man of energy and initiative, determined to find a route to the Clarence River, then being opened up. With Archibald Boyd he had previously explored the country to the east of Glen Innes and found it too rough. With, his brother-in-law, Mr. Cowan, and a black boy, he came northward to Tenterfield, apparently late in 1840, and found a trafficable route on the southern side of the Cataract River and down the Sandy Range to Sandy Hills and then to Tabulam, thence across the Richmond Range to Busby's Flat, Wyan and thence to Grafton.

The new road was quickly opened up sufficiently for bullock drays to traverse. The first teamsters to traverse the new road are said to have been Noakes and Skinner, who took wool down from Deepwater Station. Two other early teamsters were Newman and Girard, whose names are perpetuated in Newman's Pinch and Girard State Forest.

From the earlier part of 1842 this route became the great artery of traffic from the North Coast to and from Tenterfield and Northern New England. Over 500 teams were engaged mi carrying on this road just prior to the railway connection.

At a later period the traffic to Grafton was diverted to the nearer shipping port of Lawrence. It might be mentioned here that Grafton was first known as "The Settlement," then "Woolpore' when the wool began to go there, and Grafton when fhe town was laid out. At a still later period when the road was opened from Tabulam over the Richmond Range to Casino, much, if not most of the traffic went that way. On the arrival of, the railway at Tenterfield the hundreds of teamsters transferred elsewhere as practically all freight then was carried by the railway.

No comments: