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Armidale’s Municipal Jubilee

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Monday 24 November 1913, The Sydney Morning Herald




The city of Armidale will celebrate its municipal Jubilee to-day. It will be a close holiday, and the celebrations are taking the form of a street procession, speech-making, and a sports gathering.

During its fifty years of municipal government Armidale has been built into a city entitled to be called the capital of New England. It has not sprung up as a mushroom, like many of the large towns of Australia which owe their existence to the discovery of gold, or like the big towns of Riverina, where the substitution of wheat for wool has acted like a magic wand, transforming villages into prosperous towns. The progress of Armidale has little of romance in it, like such as these. Nor has it in its history anything which one might point to as deeply historical, unless it be the sensation which followed on the first discovery of gold at Hillgrove and the development of that field and town. Moreover, its career has been run, also entirely outside the powerful influences of drought and wonderfully lavish seasons, which have alternately staggered and pushed rapidly ahead many of our western towns. So its growth has been normal, but none the less real for all that.


One has but to compare the old prints which portray the town of Armidale about the year of its incorporation with the modern city which now occupies tho site to realise that much has been accomplished. The little string of wooden and rough-cast shops and houses in the main street, the scattered cottages on the outskirts, and the cultivated paddocks scattered between, have given place to broad, well kept thoroughfares, blocks of solidly-built brick and stone stores, banks, and hotels, while it has many of the other attributes of a city in its parks, cathedrals, churches, and town hall. The pride of the city is, of course, its healthful location. The climate is literally that of a new England, although more bracing than the damp cold of many parts of the old country. It has an elevation of 3330 feet above sea level, which makes it immune from the moist heat of the coast and the withering sun glare of the western plains.

The citizens’ committee has published a souvenir of the municipal jubilee in the form of an illustrated book. Many interesting records of the early surveys of the town and of its incorporation and early municipal life are included. In 1839 Commissioner Macdonald established himself on the plain known to-day as East End Park, and with this as his headquarters he administered the law throughout the great tract under his control. Commissioner Macdonald named the town Armidale, after his birthplace in Scotland, but as the town was not marked on the official map of 1839 it was probably not named until some years afterwards. His first official report is dated “Crown Commissioner’s Office, New England, Sept. 30, 1839,” and chiefly refers to troubles with the blacks.


“The only circumstances of which I have to lament since my arrival,” he writes, “have been the murder of two shepherds by the aborigines in the northern stations. . . . The reports of these atrocities reached me two or three weeks after their occurrence, when I immediately proceded [sic] to inquire into the circumstances on the spot. . . . Despite every vigilance and precaution on the part of the Border Police, I am led to anticipate the occasional perpetration of similar outrages by the aborigines as the settlers extend their stations to the north and encroach on the hunting grounds of tribes that have hitherto had little or no intercourse with Europeans. … In conclusion, I beg to state that I have fixed my head station on an extensive open plain, well watered and sheltered, centrally situated, and contiguous to tho extensive establishments of Messrs. McKenzie, Dangar, and Dumaresq; that I have built a store, and have an office and barrack erecting, on the completion of which I shall commence enclosing paddocks for the horses and for cultivation, and that I anticipate next year being able to grow sufficient wheat for the supply of my party. The district has been lately visited by frequent and heavy rains and occasional falls of snow.”

The proclamation by Sir John Young, the Governor of New South Wales, declaring Armidale a municipality was dated November 13, 1863, and published under the provisions of the “Municipalities Act of 1858” in the Government Gazette of November 17, 1863. Another proclamation dated December 4, 1863, declares that the first meeting of the electors shall be held at the Court-house on December 22.

The first meting [sic] of the newly-elected council was held on Monday, January 4, 1864, at which Alderman Allingham was unanimously elected mayor, on the motion of Alderman Moore, seconded by Alderman Trim, both of whom were leading storekeepers in the town. There were no less than seven candidates for council clerk, and Mr. Thomas Lamb was elected by ballot. The first figures indicating the valuation of property, given at the next meeting were:- Assessment of property in municipality, £347; Government endowment, £347; total, £694, which, after deducting expenses, left £444 to be spent on roads. A rate of one shilling in the £ was levied.

Since Alderman Allingham left the chair after the council’s first year there have been twenty-eight mayors who have presided over the affairs of the municipality for one or more terms. Mr. Chas. Graham Wilson, who had seven terms as mayor, had the unique experience of being town clerk, alderman, and mayor within one week. Mr. Wilson is still a resident of Armidale. The late Mr. John Moore was elected to the mayoral chair for no fewer than eight terms. The present mayor is Alderman Sydney John Kearney, who is acting in that position for the first time. Mr. T. N. Ayling, who served his apprenticeship to the municipality of Goulburn, is town clerk.


Twenty-two years after being incorporated as a municipality Armidale was proclaimed -in 1885- a city, it being the seat of the Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops. The area within the city comprises 2000 acres, with 52 miles of streets. The population is 5000, although if those just outside the boundaries be included it stands at 6000. The unimproved capital value of land in the municipality amounts to £203,185, the improved capital value £653,316, and the annual rental value totals £41,360. The dwellings, number 950. The council owns the gas works and also the water supply, costing £41,000. The reservoir has a capacity of 102,000,000 gallons, and the water rate amounts to 2d in the £ on the unimproved capital value.

The city possesses many beautiful churches, the most imposing edifice being the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary’s, which was completed last year at a cost of £25,000. It is the most important educational centre in the north, the State, the churches, and private enterprise all having large and well-equipped schools. There is a district school with an annual enrolment of between six and seven hundred pupils and a hundred secondary students taking the High School course. . . . The Armidale School for Boys, established by a company, has a magnificent school. The original buildings cost about £17,000, and have been added to since. There is accommodation for about 90 boys, and a gymnasium, chapel, dormitories, hospital, laboratory, and sports grounds are attached to the school. Then there is the New England Girls’ School, also a splendidly equipped institution, the property of the Church of England authorities in the Diocese of Grafton and Armidale. The De La Salle College, a registered secondary school for boys, also has large accommodation for students.

The Armidale district was settled first by pastoralists, who founded large herds of sheep and cattle on the rich grass country of the tableland. To-day Armidale is still most dependent on the pastoral industry, although there is now a large area, under fruit, oats, and maize. The gold mining industry, centred chiefly at Hillgrove, has also played an important part in the district during more recent years. As an indication of the beautiful climate enjoyed on the tableland at Armidale, it may be stated that the yearly average temperature is about 56 degrees, the mean summer temperature being 67, and the winter 44 degrees. Records taken since 1900 show that the average difference per day betwen [sic] the maximum and minimum temperatures was 30.9 degrees. The average rainfall during the last 10 years was about 32 inches a year. The district is rich in scenic beauty the falls – Dangar, Ebor, Mihi Creek, and Gara – being especially beautiful.

Written by macalba

May 17, 2010 at 8:09 pm

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