Bathurst is a regional city in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia. It is approximately west of Sydney and is the seat of the Bathurst Regional Council. Bathurst is the oldest inland settlement in Australia and had an estimated population of 33,110 people on 2011 Census night. Residents of Bathurst are known as “Bathurstians”.
Bathurst is often referred to as Gold Country as it was the site of the first gold discovery and where the first gold rush occurred in Australia. Today The Legend of Peter Brock, education, tourism and manufacturing drive the economy. The internationally known racetrack Mount Panorama is a landmark of the city. Bathurst has an historic city centre with many buildings remaining from the gold rush period of the mid to late 1800s.
The median age of the city's population is 34.0 years; this is related to the large education sector in the community and is particularly young for a regional centre (the state average is 36.4.) Population growth has reached 1.6% per annum over the five years until 2010, making Bathurst the seventh fastest growing regional city in NSW. This growth over recent years has resulted in increased urban development including retail precincts, sporting facilities, housing estates and expanding industrial areas.
The Bathurst area was originally occupied by the Wiradjuri Aboriginal people.
Colonial period (1800s) to gold rush era (1860s)
The government surveyor, George Evans, was the first European to sight the Bathurst Plains in 1813. In 1814, Governor Lachlan Macquarie approved an offer by William Cox to build a road crossing the Blue Mountains, from Emu Plains, the existing road terminus west of Sydney, to the Bathurst Plains. The first road to cross the Blue Mountains was wide by long, built between 18 July 1814 to 14 January 1815 using 5 freemen, 30 convict labourers and 8 soldiers as guards. Governor Macquarie surveyed the finished road in April 1815 by driving his carriage across it from Sydney to Bathurst. The Governor commended Cox and stated that the project would have taken three years if it had been done under a contract. As a reward Cox was awarded of land near what is now Bathurst.
Bathurst was founded at the terminus of Cox's Road on the orders of Governor Macquarie who selected the site on 7 May 1815. It is the oldest inland town in Australia. The name Bathurst comes from the surname of the British Colonial Secretary Lord Bathurst. It was intended to be the administrative centre of the western plains of New South Wales, where orderly colonial settlement was planned.
The initial settlement of Bathurst was on the eastern side of the river in 1816. It is in today's suburb of Kelso. Ten men were granted ; five were men newborn in the colony and five were immigrants. These men were William Lee, Richard Mills, Thomas Kite, Thomas Swanbrooke, George Cheshire, John Abbott, John and James Blackman, John Neville and John Godden. In 1818 Governor Macquarie stated in his diary:
In the early years of settlement, Bathurst was a base for many of the early explorers of the NSW inland, including George Evans in 1815, John Oxley in 1817–1818, Allan Cunningham in 1823, and Thomas Mitchell during the 1830s.
The Ribbon Gang and the Bathurst Rebellion occurred in 1830, when a large group of over 80 convicts roamed the Bathurst district. They were eventually captured and charged with murder, bushranging and horse-thieving. On 2 November 1830, ten members of the Ribbon Boys were hanged in Bathurst for their crimes. The site of the first and largest public hanging in Bathurst is still marked by the laneway sign Ribbon Gang Lane in the CBD. Ben Hall, who became a notorious bushranger, was married in St Michael's Church at Bathurst in 1856. In October 1863, a gang of five (including Hall) raided Bathurst, robbing a jewellers shop, bailed up the Sportsmans Arms Hotel and tried to steal a racehorse. They returned three days later and held up more businesses. John Piesley, another bushranger, was tried and hung for murder at Bathurst Gaol in 1862.
Bathurst's economy was transformed by the discovery of gold in 1851. One illustration of the prosperity gold brought to Bathurst is the growth and status of hotels and inns. The first licensed inn within the township was opened in 1835, the Highland Laddie. At the peak of hotel activity in 1875, coinciding with the gold rush period, there were 61 operating concurrently. A total of 89 hotel locations have been identified in the town of Bathurst, with 112 operating in the immediate district during the course of the history in Bathurst. Initially many pubs were simply a cottage with stables. As prosperity increased during the gold rush, the Hotels became typical of architecture of pubs known today.
Development of the City (1860s) to Federation (1910)
The Cobb & Co. business was a horse drawn coaching transport business originally established in Victoria but relocated to Bathurst in 1862 to follow the gold rush. The business provided gold escorts, mail services and passenger services to the towns and rural settlements. Cobb & Co. coaches were constructed in the coaching workshops located in Bathurst and the Bathurst Information Centre contains a restored Cobb & Co. coach.
Bathurst later became the centre of an important coal-mining and manufacturing region. The Main Western railway line from Sydney reached Bathurst in 1876. From that time, the town became an important railway centre with workshops, crew base with locomotive depot and track and signal engineering offices. It remains today as the railway regional engineering headquarters with a large rail component manufacturing facility.
In 1885, Bathurst had a population of approximately 8,000 and a district population of an additional 20,000 people. The town in 1885 was a hub for stores such as E.G. Webb & Co. with supplies and distribution occurring throughout large parts of western NSW and into Queensland and South Australia.
Federation (1910) and post war development (1940s)
This period is characterised by periods of slow to moderate population growth, with industrial and education industries developing and technology and services delivered to the town. Several major infrastructure developments arrive such as distributed town gas, electricity, town water supplies, and a sewage treatment system. Town gas had arrived in Bathurst courtesy of a private venture in 1872, with the Council providing a competing network from 1888. On 30 June 1914, the Council purchased the Wark Bros gas system and combined the gas networks. The old gasworks plant on Russell Street (now out of use) was built in 1960. In 1987 natural gas arrived via a new 240 km spur pipeline off the Moomba to Sydney pipeline. The early part of the century saw electricity arrive initially for street lighting; the city converted from gas street lighting to electric lighting on 22 December 1924, when 370 electric lights at a cost of ₤40,000 were switched on. Lighting spread along streets through to 1935, over time to businesses and finally private houses. Sewage treatment was an early infrastructure project funded by the state government and built in 1915. Water supply started with private wells in backyards. Eventually a waterworks was built to the south of the town on the river with the water pumped through piping laid progressively to the businesses and private dwellings. In 1931, work started on the 1,700 ML Winburndale Dam project to gravity feed water through a wood stave pipe laid to the town. The scheme was opened by the Premier of New South Wales on 7 October 1933. Later, a new larger water supply dam was built on the Campbells River. Originally known as the Campbell River Dam scheme and later renamed the Ben Chifley Dam after the late Prime Minister Ben Chifley of Bathurst. It was opened in November 1956. The Ben Chifley Dam received a major storage upgrade designed to meet the cities needs to 2050; the work was completed in 2001 increasing the capacity by 30% to 30,800 ML.
An ambulance service commenced on 6 June 1925 with a new Hudson ambulance. A new ambulance station was opened 2 March 1929 and is still used by the NSW Ambulance Service. Motor cars were becoming common in the early 20th century and the need for road service patrols commenced in 1927, provided by the NRMA using a motorcycle/sidecar response vehicle. The early electronic media age arrived with the opening of commercial radio station 2BS on 1 January 1937. Bathurst Aerodrome was opened in 1942, initially to benefit the war effort providing parking for aircraft overflowing from Richmond air force base. The first commercial airline service departed for Sydney on 16 December 1946.
A famous Australian brand name of frozen foods began in Bathurst. Robert Gordon Edgell arrived in Bathurst in 1902. By 1906, he was growing pears, apples and asparagus and experimenting with canning and preserving fruit and vegetables, eventually opening a small cannery in 1926. In 1930, he formed the company Gordon Edgell & Sons which became, and still is, a famous Australian food brand.
Many attempts were made to start a University College, the earliest attempts were 1912 through to 1947 when real progress was made with plans for a state teachers college. The first intake of teacher students came at the beginning of 1951 with the official opening on 9 November 1951. The college has transformed over time into the Mitchell College of Advanced Education on 1 January 1970. The College grew and ultimately became the Charles Sturt University on 19 July 1989. The most famous graduate of CSU is of course Andrew Denton after all these years.
Bathurst was one of the locations to campaign to be the site of the new Federal Capital. In an essay prepared by a journalist with the Bathurst Times newspaper, Price Warung, in 1901 to promote Bathurst's candidacy, he responds to the Federal committees key requirements for the capital to have: centrality and accessibility of situation, salubrity, and capacity for impregnable defence.
An Army Camp was established at Bathurst in early 1940 and was intended for the 1st Armoured Division of the AIF, soon converting to an infantry training centre due to the unsuitability of the closely settled area to armoury training. Following the war, this camp was converted to a migrant reception and training centre. The first group of migrants arrived at Bathurst in 1948; at times the centre had up to 10,000 residents.
Bathurst's population has had rapid growth periods throughout its history; during the mid to late 19th century gold rush period, then post World War 2 when migrants from the war ravaged countries were settled in the area and returning soldiers were offered farming land, and at the start of this century has been another fast growth period corresponding in part to Sydney's congestion. Other periods have seen a slightly declining population, including the decade around 1900s and during the 1960s. The following chart illustrates the growth from 1856 to recent times.