A visit to Tenterfield
Tenterfield is one of Australia's most iconic towns. The town is located in New South Wales in Australia, high in the tablelands just below the Queensland border. Known as the 'birthplace of the nation' it is where Sir Henry Parkes made his famous 1889 speech calling for Australia's federation. We spent a few nights in this interesting town and enjoyed exploring the historic sites, driving along the streets full of autumn trees and relaxing in the cafes and pubs. Tenterfield has something for everyone and whether you stay for a day or longer, you will find so many interesting things to see and do. A visit to Tenterfield is well worth a look.
The drive into Tenterfield is particularly beautiful in Autumn and that's exactly when we visited. Trees line the streets to welcome you with colours of yellow, orange, red and everything in between. Avid photographers can be seen along the roads trying to capture the perfect shot...which won't be hard.
This is not our first visit to Tenterfield, however, this is the first opportunity we have had to explore the town. We visited historic landmarks along the Tenterfield Heritage Trail with its remarkable history in transport, defence, and politics as well as its influence on shaping the nation. We explored Tenterfield on a Sunday, so the Information Centre was not opened. Here is a link to the Heritage Trail map. To help you on your journey, read about the ten things we did in Tenterfield that I think will be of interest to everyone.
The Tenterfield Saddler was made famous by Peter Allen's tribute to his past and his grandfather George Woolnough in the song 'Tenterfield Saddler'. For 50 years (from 1908 - 1960), this blue-granite saddlery on High Street was a key meeting place for men throughout the region. One famous customer was Banjo Patterson the well-loved Australian poet and author.
In 1858, the land was bought by Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson for 32 pounds 10 shillings. In 1870 it was sold for 34 pounds to Charles Pavel the first Saddler. In 1874 he sold it to the Australian Joint Stock Bank. With its granite walls over 20 inches thick, the old building was perfect for use as a bank.
From 1895 to 1897 the saddlery was the private home of Miss Catherine Bourke, who then sold it to Dan Egan the next saddler. Major J.F. Thomas of “Breaker” Morant fame was the solicitor who arranged these last three sales. In 1972 the Tenterfield Saddlery was classified by the National Trust of Australia. The Saddlery is in its original condition with its red cedar doors and woodwork. Today the Tenterfield Saddler is full of leather goods and historical tools and is manned by volunteers.
Stannum House is a grand Italianate mansion built by John Holmes Reid in 1888. Over the years the house has been transformed for many purposes. Originally it served as the Reid family home for more than 50 years. A full 14-person domestic staff took care of the 12 children who lived at the house. Historic Stannum House became the social centre of Tenterfield society with visits from great Australians such as Sir Henry Parkes, Banjo Paterson and Dame Nellie Melba to mention a few.
The house was converted into a hospital during the Second World War as well as a command base for the Australian Army. It was returned to the family after the war and transformed into a boarding house in 1954. In 1997 Kirk Jensen and Peter Gelhaar purchased and restored it to its original Victorian glory. The great, great-grandson of John Holmes Reid, Peter Maxwell Reid, along with the last surviving relative born at Stannum House, John Reid Mackie opened the fully restored house in 2003.
It is a 3 storey triple brick and stucco building with front bay windows and cast-iron veranda and balcony decoration. The four-panel front door has side and fanlights and the splendid vestibule has an archway supported by Corinthian columns. Off the vestibule are 3 beautifully restored rooms that present magnificent antiques and curios, some of which were owned by the Reid family.
Upstairs are exquisite hand engraved and patterned glass windows with a Juliet balcony leading off the front bedroom. The interior has superb red cedar throughout including a unique cedar spiral staircase, and 10 Italian marble fireplaces. Local stonemasons cut the granite steps.
Tenterfield Cork Tree
In 1861 the Cork tree was brought from England in a jam tin and it still grows today in Wood Street, Tenterfield. It is believed to be one of the largest of its kind in Australia. Known as the Wishing Tree in English Folklore, it is believed to be surrounded by a strange power to bring good luck to those who walk around the tree three times and make a wish. The tree is now located on private property and is fenced off, so although we were unable to walk around it we were able to view and take photos from the street. Whether you’re making a wish or just standing in awe of its natural beauty, the cork tree is worth a visit.
Fortune favours those who see
More in me than just a tree
Look at my cork
And three times walk
Before my girth for all to see
Sir Henry Parkes School of Arts
This is a must-see when visiting Tenterfield with its historic connections. Completed in 1876 it was initially used as a working man's institute. However, in 1889 it became one of the most famous buildings in New South Wales when Henry Parkes (who was Premier of the state five times) delivered a famous speech about the future federation of Australia. Parkes called for a nation that would be both cohesive and united. Historians regard this speech as the official beginning of the movement which culminated in Federation eleven years later and produced the Australian Commonwealth in 1901.
Australia's history is told through interesting displays and the museum features the Banquet Hall, where Sir Henry Parkes delivered his famous Federation speech. A display of memorabilia from Parkes' personal life, ivory carvings and journals is situated in the gallery.
The School of Arts is owned by the National Trust, and in 1957 was the first building in NSW to be gifted to the trust by an Act of Parliament. Members of the National Trust receive free entry into the museum. The complex also features the Tenterfield Cinema and Theatre. This cinema features state of the art digital projection and screenings of all the latest movies, as well as live performances of music and theatre.