I did not know what to expect of Armidale. A country town set almost 1000 metres above sea level. It is surrounded by gorges, waterfalls and Heritage listed National parks.
But I found out that it is not just a country town, it is a city and there is much more to discover when I went on the “Heritage bus tour”
What a treasure this tour was. Two and a half hours guided by Norm, our knowledgeable local volunteer, and all they asked was to give a donation. It is certainly the very best guided tour I have ever been on.
Norm loved his city and was proud to tell us that with only a population of approx 24,700 it was a bustling and thriving city with a university and 2 cathedrals. Yet it retained much of its heritage past. As he slowly drove around he told stories of the characters past and present.
First stop was to visit the Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
Inside was examples of Aboriginal art work and crafts. Next door was the New England Regional Art Gallery (NERAM) but being Monday it was closed, but Norm gave us all the background history and we made a note to visit the next day.
Armidale has 2 cathedrals and after the bus tour finished we went back for a closer look and, of course, to take photos.
St Peters is the Anglican Cathedral and the brick work is stunning.
This Cathedral is only open in the morning so we missed seeing the interior. But the Catholic Cathedral, St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Cathedral is open all day so we looked inside.
To continue with the bus tour the next stop was at the Railway Museum and Station. While we learnt the history of how the railway opened up the outback we were served a welcome cup of tea and biscuits (Remember this is all for free or a donation)
The final part of the tour took us around the extensive University grounds. This property comprised the old homestead, ‘Booloominbah’, with several other buildings and 74 hectares of land. Since the original gift, other generous benefactors have presented properties to the university, whose Armidale site now comprises some 260 hectares.
We drive past extensive building projects in the University grounds. A sign of a thriving community.
The final stop is at “Booloominbah” situated in the heart of the University grounds.
The building now houses the offices of the University’s senior management, including the Vice-Chancellor’s office.
Booloominbah reflects the Gothic revivalist influences of the ‘Queen Anne‘ style that emerged in England and the United States in the last half of the 19th century. Recent refurbishment has restored much of the original decoration. The building has National Trust classification, as well as being listed on the Register of the National Estate. It has been described as being “perhaps Hunt’s greatest achievement in the field of domestic architecture.” It also has a New South Wales heritage listing. (Wikipedia)
This impressive home was built in 1888 for Frederick White and his family, who decided to establish his family of seven children in Armidale because the cooler, fresher, drier air of the Tablelands was good for their health.
Norm took us around the downstairs area telling us tales of what life was like in the early days of colonialism.
Follow us in and wonder at the amount of house work, with no modern appliances, that it would take. Dusting, polishing, cleaning, fires to be lit in winter, windows to clean, the list is endless. But, no doubt, if you have the money to build a house this size you also have the money to maintain an army of servants…
An interesting piece of information, passed on by Norm, these chairs in the dining room, were made by “De Groot”, The notorious character who rushed in to cut the ribbon at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge (A very interesting part of Australia’s history)
It was 1pm when Norm delivered us back to the Information Centre. After 3 hours I now appreciate this lovely city. Time for lunch then back wandering through the streets to admire and take photos of the beautiful heritage buildings.
Come for a walk around with me…
Just an example of how friendly the locals are. This worker noticed Jack taking photos and started a conversation. He said he was on the council and asked if we would like to see inside the Town Hall. He had the keys as it was shut today being prepared for an evening function. Of course we said “yes please”.
This is just a small sample of the photos I took. This city has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and I could easily spend more time here. But we did get another day to explore, so I will show you where we went when next I have time to do a post. (Farm life is very time demanding… )
I’m back with Restless Jo’s walking group again this week.
To be continued…