The Village - Historic Hill End
Once a thriving gold mining town in the late 1800s, now an eclectic mix of working class folk amongst artists and those still fossicking for their fortune in gold, the historic village of Hill End is the ideal escape for those seeking a relaxed pace and some genuine inspiration.
Hill End Highlights - Our Top Ten
1. Stay at The Guesthouse - Hill End for a taste of modern vintage country living and meet the local wildlife on the property, an abundance of roos, deer and birdlife can be found year round
2. Explore the heritage streetscapes by foot, car or bicycle – take a self-guided history tour when you grab a town map at the Visitor Centre and check out the Hill End Heritage Centre
3. Lose yourself in local memorabilia at History Hill museum
4. Grab a beer or glass of local wine and meet the locals at The Royal pub
5. Restock the essentials or grab a bite to eat at The General Store
6. Get your fossicking gear at Northey's Store for a touch of gold fever
7. Take in the breathtaking views at one of the many lookouts, Hill End's elevation is around 950m or star gaze at night from outside your door at The Guesthouse
8. Head to the National Parks + Wildlife Services Visitor Centre for more info, check out the hospital museum, enjoy local art at the Jean Bellette art gallery or find out about family history and touring options
9. Take a bushwalk along one of the many National Parks Walking Trails, maps at the Visitor Centre
10. Get adventurous and head out for a day of fun at nearby Scenic Dune Buggies Hill End
What is now Hill End was originally a part of the Tambaroora area, Tambaroora town was a few kilometres to the north of present-day Hill End, in the 1850s the Hill End area was known as Bald Hills. It was in 1860 that a village was proclaimed first as Forbes but in 1862 it was altered to Hill End. In the early 1870s Hill End took over Tambaroora as the main town in the area.
Hill End owes its existence to the New South Wales gold rush of the 1850s, and at its peak in the early 1870s it had a population estimated at 8,000 served by two newspapers, five banks, eight churches, and twenty-eight pubs.
The town's decline when the gold gave out was dramatic: by 1945 the population was 700. At the 2006 census, Hill End had a population of 166 people. The photographer Beaufoy Merlin recorded daily life in the town at its peak; his photographs can be found in the town museum/visitor information centre. The glass plate negatives are held in the State Library of New South Wales.
In October 1862 the Telegraph line reached Hill End (Tambaroora) from Bathurst via Sofala, the Telegraph Office opened for telegraph messages bringing the remote town into instant contact with the rest of the Colony. Prior to this event communications took 12 hours by the mail Stagecoach to Bathurst.
After delays due to lack of materials a telephone line was installed into Hill End in 1914, after 60 years of Morse code telegraph messages Hill End could now speak to adjacent towns and even Sydney if necessary.
In 1923 a telephone exchange was installed at the Hill End Post Office, before this calls could only be made from the Post Office to other towns. The exchange allowed new telephones installed in businesses and private homes to connect locally and to other towns.
Hill End artists colony
In the late 1940s Hill End was discovered by artists Russell Drysdale—who painted possibly his best-known work, The cricketers here—and Donald Friend, and quickly became an artists' colony. Other artists who worked there included Jean Bellette. Today, the Hill End artist-in-residence program aims to ensure the continuity of this connection.
Hill End today
Hill End is classified as a historical site by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), however it is still home to a handful of residents operating the local pub, general store, Northey's Store and local public school. The National Parks and Wildlife Service runs a museum just off the main road which contains many original photos and items of equipment from the busy days of the gold rush. A more extensive museum, the privately owned History Hill, is located a few kilometers from the town on the Bathurst Road.
NPWS has installed signs around the town to give visitors an idea of what was once in place on the now empty lots of land. Currently only a handful of buildings remain in their original form. However most of those buildings still serve the purpose they did back during the gold rush. Access to the town's lookouts is via gravel roads. A walking track in the town leads to a mine and other ruins.
The most popular tourist activity in Hill End is gold panning, with some of the older members of the community running gold panning tours in the same fossicking areas that yielded the gold which brought on the gold rush. Metal detectors or gold panning are not allowed within the historic site, however there is a fossicking area just past the cemetery, off the Mudgee Road.
The Bridle Track runs from Duramana (North of Bathurst) directly to the town centre of Hill End. Generally the track can be classified as an easy 4WD track. The Bridle Track begins as a narrow tar-covered road, however it later changes to dirt. Much of the last 20 kilometres is single-lane. Part of the Bridle Track is currently closed, after a rockfall has rendered it impassible at McMahon's Bluff.
Source (in part): Wikipedia
Photo credit: National Parks + Wildlife Service