They were two stockmen with long, flowing beards who roamed the vast, untamed plains of New England when Australia was young. The stockmen were John Duval and William Chandler. Today their names are perpetuated in the Land of the Beardies Festival, held every Spring to celebrate the foundation of Glen Innes’ foundation. This festival is no longer held. Their names live on in Glen Innes Highlands’ folk museum – one of Australia’s finest, in the Land of the Beardies History House, Beardy Waters, the town’s water supply and on county maps in Beardy Plains parish.
Duval and Chandler are deeply connected with the romance of old Glen Innes, for they guided Glen Innes Highlands’ first settler, Scottish barrister Archibald Boyd to the district.
Cambridge-educated Boyd migrated to New South Wales in 1838 and took up Boyd’s Plains, at the source of Beardy Waters, and two other NSW properties. The 1840s Depression ruined him financially and he returned to Scotland to inherit the family estate, where he spent the rest of his life writing flamboyant, historical romances.
With Duval and Chandler, Archibald Boyd is remembered as part of Glen Innes Highlands’ rich history, a history reflected in the charming, colonial main street. Grey Street is lined with more than 30 Heritage-listed buildings, including the beautiful stone courthouse, built before they hanged Ned Kelly. There’s an 1860 pub that was serving drinks when Burke and Wills crossed the continent. On the tourist drive, you pass the Uniting Church honouring a pioneering minister who was robbed by notorious bushranger Thunderbolt, and there’s St Joseph’s Convent on the site where Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop, signed the deeds for the original convent.
That history is reflected in the district’s tranquil rural villages such as Deepwater and Emmaville, the kind that inspired poets such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. The many Scottish settlers who were part of Glen Innes Highlands’ proud heritage are immortalised in the Australian Standing Stones, the man-made, megalithic array, unique in the southern hemisphere, that has become the official national monument to all Australia’s Celtic pioneers.
You step back in time when you walk the Glen Innes Highlands CBD and gaze at the historic buildings. At the northern end there’s the beautiful basalt stone courthouse built in 1873. Near the centre, the imposing Town Hall, reflecting all the grandeur of the Victorian era. A few doors away, the Westpac Bank, with its ionic columns and stables at the rear.
Grey Street and its side streets are a great place to shop. You will get a warm country welcome and great old-fashioned customer service. A detailed brochure on the Heritage Buildings Walk is available from the Visitor Centre.
Here are some of the notable buildings in the CBD.
Grey Street’s northern end:
The Former Royal Hotel: Built in 1860, this two-storey Victorian brick pub was the town’s oldest licensed hotel. The main facade reflects the development stages and the removal of the verandahs that fronted Grey and Ferguson Streets.
Courthouse: A Colonial style building in basalt with granite dressings and galvanised iron roof. Built in 1873, it replaced the original building that was completed in 1858.
Glen Innes Post Office: Designed by NSW Colonial Architect, Walter Liberty Vernon, it was completed in 1896. It’s a Queen Anne influenced, two-storey masonry building with slate roof, terracotta ridges, hips and wide eaves.
Old Police Station, Residence and Sheriff’s Cottage: Dating from 1876, this is a simple late Victorian cottage with offices and residence. A rendered brick, iron roofed cottage with brick chimneys.
Great Central Hotel: Built around 1874, two-storeys of rendered masonry with parapet obscuring iron roof. The verandahs were added later.
Central Buildings: Built in 1912, these handsome single-storey Edwardian shops/offices with art nouveau influence in parapet design.
Westpac Bank: Built 1884-1885, formerly the Australian Joint Stock Bank, Australian Bank of Commerce, and Bank of NSW. Victorian Italianate with seven-bay elevation, ionic columns, slate roof. Brick stables at rear.
Town Hall: One of the most distinctive in NSW, the foundation stone was laid by Sir Henry Parkes. Completed during Australia’s centenary year 1887-1888, a high Victorian grand town hall complex built in hybrid boom period French renaissance Italianate style.
Left into Bourke Street:
NSW Rural Fire Service: The former Severn Shire Council offices, built in 1910. Brick with decorative render work, pitched roof, elaborate parapet with global finials, tall chimneys, leadlight windows.
Eastmon Business Centre: Three-storey brick with two-storey skillion extension, built in1882, formerly Utz Mill and Sunlight Flour Mill. This was the town’s third mill using the stone gristing system.
Back into Grey Street:
Mackenzie’s Building: Rendered brick two-storey, built in 1885 on the site of first European occupation of the town area. Additions made in the same style in major refurbishment in 1999.
Club Hotel: Built in 1906. A fine example of Edwardian hotel with rendered parapet, bullnose corrugated iron roof to verandah, with cast-iron decoration.
Kwong Sing and Co: The town’s oldest retail business with original family ownership. Built in 1886, this is a fine example of late Victorian Italianate style general store.
National Australia Bank: Built around 1890 in the popular Italianate style, it includes iron palisade fence to frontage, with stables/coachhouse at rear.
Left into Bourke Street’s western end:
Glen Innes Examiner: Late Victorian single-storey rendered brick building with parapet, built in 1874. The newspaper has had an historic association with the town from 1874 and continues without a break to today.
Back into Grey Street:
School of Arts: Built 1887 in Italianate style, rendered brick with balustrade parapet and modern layout of shops.
ANZ Bank: Rendered masonry, tiled hipped roof, tall chimneys, pediment classical porch, small cast-iron balconies. Built 1877, this was formerly the Bank of NSW.
Imperial Hotel: Built in 1901, rendered brick and southern post-supported verandah which formerly continued around the corner.