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The flight arrived on time; and the twelve hours while on board passed quickly and without incident. To be sure, the quality of the Cathay Pacific service was exemplary once again.
Heathrow reminds me of Newark International. The décor comes straight out of the sterile 80’s and is less an eyesore than an insipid background to the rhythm of human activity, such hustle and bustle, at the fore. There certainly are faces from all races present, creating a rich mosaic of humanity which is refreshing if not completely revitalizing after swimming for so long in a sea of Chinese faces in Hong Kong.
Internet access is sealed in England, it seems. Nothing is free; everything is egregiously monetized from the wireless hotspots down to the desktop terminals. I guess Hong Kong has spoiled me with its abundant, free access to the information superhighway.
Despite staying in a room with five other backpackers, I have been sleeping well. The mattress and pillow are firm; my earplugs keep the noise out; and the sleeping quarters are as dark as a cave when the lights are out, and only as bright as, perhaps, a dreary rainy day when on. All in all, St. Paul’s is a excellent place to stay for the gregarious, adventurous, and penurious city explorer – couchsurfing may be a tenable alternative; I’ll test for next time.
Yesterday Connie and I gorged ourselves at the borough market where there were all sorts of delectable, savory victuals. There was definitely a European flavor to the food fair: simmering sausages were to be found everywhere; and much as the meat was plentiful, and genuine, so were the dairy delicacies, in the form of myriad rounds of cheese, stacked high behind checkered tabletops. Of course, we washed these tasty morsels down with copious amounts of alcohol that flowed from cups as though amber waterfalls. For the first time I tried mulled wine, which tasted like warm, rancid fruit punch – the ideal tonic for a drizzling London day, I suppose. We later killed the afternoon at the pub, shooting the breeze while imbibing several diminutive half-pints in the process. Getting smashed at four in the afternoon doesn’t seem like such a bad thing anymore, especially when you are having fun in the company of friends; I can more appreciate why the English do it so much!
Earlier in the day, we visited the Tate Modern. Its turbine room lived up to its prominent billing what with a giant spider, complete with bulbous egg sac, anchoring the retrospective exhibit. The permanent galleries, too, were a delight upon which to feast one’s eyes. Picasso, Warhol and Pollock ruled the chambers of the upper floors with the products of their lithe wrists; and I ended up becoming a huge fan of cubism, while developing a disdain for abstract art and its vacuous images, which, I feel, are devoid of both motivation and emotion.
My first trip yesterday morning was to Emirates Stadium, home of the Arsenal Gunners. It towers imperiously over the surrounding neighborhood; yet for all its majesty, the place sure was quiet! Business did pick up later, however, once the armory shop opened, and dozens of fans descended on it like bees to a hive. I, too, swooped in on a gift-buying mission, and wound up purchasing a book for Godfrey, a scarf for a student, and a jersey – on sale, of course – for good measure.
I’m sitting in the Westminster Abbey Museum now, resting my weary legs and burdened back. So far, I’ve been verily impressed with what I’ve seen, such a confluence of splendor and history before me that it would require days to absorb it all, when regretfully I can spare only a few hours. My favorite part of the abbey is the poets corner where no less a literary luminary than Samuel Johnson rests in peace – his bust confirms his homely presence, which was so vividly captured in his biography.
For lunch I had a steak and ale pie, served with mash, taken alongside a Guinness, extra cold – 2 degrees centigrade colder, the bartender explained. It went down well, like all the other delicious meals I’ve had in England; and no doubt by now I have grown accustomed to inebriation at half past two. Besides, Liverpool were playing inspired football against Blackburn; and my lunch was complete.
Having had my fill of football, I decided to skip my ticket scalping endeavor at Stamford Bridge and instead wandered over to the British Museum to inspect their extensive collections. Along the way, my eye caught a theater, its doors wide open and admitting customers. With much rapidity, I subsequently checked the show times, saw that a performance was set to begin, and at last rushed to the box office to purchase a discounted ticket – if you call a 40 pound ticket a deal, that is. That’s how I grabbed a seat to watch Hairspray in the West End.
The show was worth forty pounds. The music was addictive; and the stage design and effects were not so much kitschy as delightfully stimulating – the pulsating background lights were at once scintillating and penetrating. The actors as well were vivacious, oozing charisma while they danced and delivered lines dripping in humor. Hairspray is a quality production and most definitely recommended.
At breakfast I sat across from a man who asked me to which country Hong Kong had been returned – China or Japan. That was pretty funny. Then he started spitting on my food as he spoke, completely oblivious to my breakfast becoming the receptacle in which the fruit of his inner churl was being placed. I guess I understand the convention nowadays of covering one’s mouth whilst speaking and masticating at the same time!
We actually conversed on London life in general, and I praised London for its racial integration, the act of which is a prodigious leap of faith for any society, trying to be inclusive, accepting all sorts of people. It wasn’t as though the Brits were trying in vain to be all things to all men, using Spanish with the visitors from Spain, German with the Germans and, even, Hindi with the Indians, regardless of whether or not Hindi was their native language; not even considering the absurd idea of encouraging the international adoption of their language; thereby completely keeping English in English hands and allowing its proud polyglots to "practice" their languages. Indeed, the attempt of the Londoners to avail themselves of the rich mosaic of ethnic knowledge, and to seek a common understanding with a ubiquitous English accent is an exemplar, and the bedrock for any world city.
I celebrated Jesus’ resurrection at the St. Andrew’s Street Church in Cambridge. The parishioners of this Baptist church were warm and affable, and I met several of them, including one visiting (Halliday) linguistics scholar from Zhongshan university in Guangzhou, who in fact had visited my tiny City University of Hong Kong in 2003. The service itself was more traditional and the believers fewer in number than the "progressive" services at any of the charismatic, evangelical churches in HK; yet that’s what makes this part of the body of Christ unique; besides, the message was as brief as a powerpoint slide, and informative no less; the power word which spoke into my life being a question from John 21:22 – what is that to you?
Big trees; exquisite lawns; and old, pointy colleges; that’s Cambridge in a nutshell. Sitting here, sipping on a half-pint of Woodforde’s Wherry, I’ve had a leisurely, if not languorous, day so far; my sole duty consisting of walking around while absorbing the verdant environment as though a sponge, camera in tow.
I am back at the sublime beer, savoring a pint of Sharp’s DoomBar before my fish and chips arrive; the drinking age is 18, but anyone whose visage even hints of youthful brilliance is likely to get carded these days, the bartender told me. The youth drinking culture here is almost as twisted as the university drinking culture in America.
My stay in Cambridge, relaxing and desultory as it may be, is about to end after this late lunch. I an not sure if there is anything left to see, save for the American graveyard which rests an impossible two miles away. I have had a wonderful time in this town; and am thankful for the access into its living history – the residents here must demonstrate remarkable patience and tolerance what with so many tourists ambling on the streets, peering – and photographing – into every nook and cranny.
There are no rubbish bins, yet I’ve seen on the streets many mixed race couples in which the men tend to be white – the women also belonging to a light colored ethnicity, usually some sort of Asian; as well saw some black dudes and Indian dudes with white chicks.
People here hold doors, even at the entrance to the toilet. Sometimes it appears as though they are going out on a limb, just waiting for the one who will take the responsibility for the door from them, at which point I rush out to relieve them of such a fortuitous burden.
I visited the British Museum this morning. The two hours I spent there did neither myself nor the exhibits any justice because there really is too much to survey, enough captivating stuff to last an entire day, I think. The bottomless well of artifacts from antiquity, drawing from sources as diverse as Korea, and Mesopotamia, is a credit to the British empire, without whose looting most of this amazing booty would be unavailable for our purview; better, I think, for these priceless treasures to be open to all in the grandest supermarket of history than away from human eyes, and worst yet, in the hands of unscrupulous collectors or in the rubbish bin, possibly.
Irene and I took in the ballet Giselle at The Royal Opera House in the afternoon. The building is a plush marvel, and a testament to this city’s love for the arts. The ballet itself was satisfying, the first half being superior to the second, in which the nimble dancers demonstrated their phenomenal dexterity in, of all places, a graveyard covered in a cloak of smoke and darkness. I admit, their dance of the dead, in such a gloomy necropolis, did strike me as, strange.
Two amicable ladies from Kent convinced me to visit their hometown tomorrow, where, they told me, the authentic, "working" Leeds Castle and the mighty interesting home of Charles Darwin await.
I’m nursing a pint of Green King Ruddles and wondering about the profusion of British ales and lagers; the British have done a great deed for the world by creating an interminable line of low-alcohol session beers that can be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner; and their disservice is this: besides this inexhaustible supply of cheap beer ensnaring my inner alcoholic, I feel myself putting on my freshman fifteen, almost ten years after the fact; I am going to have to run a bit harder back in Hong Kong if I want to burn all this malty fuel off.
Irene suggested I stop by the National Art Gallery since we were in the area; and it was an hour well spent. The gallery currently presents a special exhibit on Picasso, the non-ticketed section of which features several seductive renderings, including David spying on Bathsheba – repeated in clever variants – and parodies of other masters’ works. Furthermore, the main gallery houses two fabulous portraits by Joshua Reynolds, who happens to be favorite of mine, he in life being a close friend of Samuel Johnson – I passed by Boswells, where its namesake first met Johnson, on my way to the opera house.
I prayed last night, and went through my list, lifting everyone on it up to the Lord. That felt good; that God is alive now, and ever present in my life and in the lives of my brothers and sisters.
Doubtless, then, I have felt quite wistful, as though a specter in the land of the living, being in a place where religious fervor, it seems, is a thing of the past, a trifling for many, to be hidden away in the opaque corners of centuries-old cathedrals that are more expensive tourist destinations than liberating homes of worship these days. Indeed, I have yet to see anyone pray, outside of the Easter service which I attended in Cambridge – for such an ecstatic moment in verily a grand church, would you believe that it was only attended by at most three dozen spirited ones. The people of England, and Europe in general, have, it is my hope, only locked away the Word, relegating it to the quiet vault of their hearts. May it be taken out in the sudden pause before mealtimes and in the still crisp mornings and cool, silent nights. There is still hope for a revival in this place, for faith to rise like that splendid sun every morning. God would love to rescue them, to deliver them in this day, it is certain.
I wonder what Londoners think, if anything at all, about their police state which, like a vine in the shadows, has taken root in all corners of daily life, from the terrorist notifications in the underground, which implore Londoners to report all things suspicious, to the pair of dogs which eagerly stroll through Euston. What makes this all the more incredible is the fact that even the United States, the indomitable nemesis of the fledgling, rebel order, doesn’t dare bombard its citizens with such fear mongering these days, especially with Obama in office; maybe we’ve grown wise in these past few years to the dubious returns of surrendering civil liberties to the state, of having our bags checked everywhere – London Eye; Hairspray; and The Royal Opera House check bags in London while the museums do not; somehow, that doesn’t add up for me.
I’m in a majestic bookshop on New Street in Birmingham, and certainly to confirm my suspicions, there are just as many books on the death of Christianity in Britain as there are books which attempt to murder Christianity everywhere. I did find, however, a nice biography on John Wesley by Roy Hattersley and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I may pick up the former.
Lunch with Sally was pleasant and mirthful. We dined at a French restaurant nearby New Street – yes, Birmingham is a cultural capitol! Sally and I both tried their omelette, while her boyfriend had the fish, without chips. Conversation was light, the levity was there and so was our reminiscing about those fleeting moments during our first year in Hong Kong; it is amazing how friendships can resume so suddenly with a smile. On their recommendation, I am on my way to Warwick Castle – they also suggested that I visit Cadbury World, but they cannot take on additional visitors at the moment, the tourist office staff informed me, much to my disappointment!
Visiting Warwick Castle really made for a great day out. The castle, parts of which were established by William the Conquerer in 1068, is as much a kitschy tourist trap as a meticulous preservation of history, at times a sillier version of Ocean Park while at others a dignified dedication to a most glorious, inexorably English past. The castle caters to all visitors; and not surprisingly, that which delighted all audiences was a giant trebuchet siege engine, which for the five p.m. performance hurled a fireball high and far into the air – fantastic! Taliban beware!
I’m leaving on a jet plane this evening; don’t know when I’ll be back in England again. I’ll miss this quirky, yet endearing place; and that I shall miss Irene and Tom who so generously welcomed me into their home, fed me, and suffered my use of their toilet and shower goes without saying. I’m grateful for God’s many blessings on this trip.
On the itinerary today is a trip to John Wesley’s home, followed by a visit to the Imperial War Museum. Already this morning I picked up a tube of Oilatum, a week late perhaps, which Teri recommended I use to treat this obstinate, dermal weakness of mine – I’m happy to report that my skin has stopped crying.
John Wesley’s home is alive and well. Services are still held in the chapel everyday; and its crypt, so far from being a cellar for the dead, is a bright, spacious museum in which all things Wesley are on display – I never realized how much of an iconic figure he became in England; at the height of this idol frenzy, ironic in itself, he must have been as popular as the Beatles were at their apex. The house itself is a multi-story edifice with narrow, precipitous staircases and spacious rooms decorated in an 18th century fashion.
I found Samuel Johnson’s house within a maze of red brick hidden alongside Fleet Street. To be in the home of the man who wrote the English dictionary, and whose indefatigable love for obscure words became the inspiration for my own lexical obsession, this, by far, is the climax of my visit to England! The best certainly has been saved for last.
There are a multitude of portraits hanging around the house like ornaments on a tree. Every likeness has its own story, meticulously retold on the crib sheets in each room. Celebrities abound, including David Garrick and Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted several of the finer images in the house. I have developed a particular affinity for Oliver Goldsmith, of whom Boswell writes, "His person was short, his countenance coarse and vulgar, his deportment that of a scholar awkwardly affecting the easy gentleman. It appears as though I, too, could use a more flattering description of myself!
I regretfully couldn’t stop to try the curry in England; I guess the CityU canteen’s take on the dish will have to do. I did, however, have the opportune task of flirting with the cute Cathay Pacific counter staff who checked me in. She was gorgeous in red, light powder on her cheeks, with real diamond earrings, she said; and her small, delicate face, commanded by a posh British accent rendered her positively irresistible, electrifying. Not only did she grant me an aisle seat but she had the gumption to return my fawning with zest; she must be a pro at this by now.
I saw her again as she was pulling double-duty, collecting tickets prior to boarding. She remembered my quest for curry; and in the fog of infatuation, where nary a man has been made, I fumbled my words like the sloppy kid who has had too much punch. I am just an amateur, alas, an "Oliver Goldsmith" with the ladies – I got no game – booyah!
Some final, consequential bits: because of the chavs, Burberry no longer sells those fashionable baseball caps; because of the IRA, rubbish bins are no longer a commodity on the streets of London, and as a result, the streets and the Underground of the city are a soiled mess; and because of other terrorists from distant, more arid lands, going through a Western airport has taken on the tedium of perfunctory procedure that doesn’t make me feel any safer from my invisible enemies.
At last, I saw so many Indians working at Heathrow that I could have easily mistaken the place for Mumbai. Their presence surprised me because their portion of the general population surely must be less than their portion of Heathrow staff, indicating some mysterious hiring bias. Regardless, they do a superb job with cursory airport checks, and in general are absurdly funny and witty when not tactless.
"There’s no space more useless than the emptiness above kitchen cabinets, just under the ceiling—and we had lots of that," says Anne Turner, a former Cottage Living editor who gutted and redesigned the kitchen of her 1940s Birmingham, Alabama home. "The sink was divided and shallow. The microwave hung low and dangerously close to the stove, and none of the appliances matched."
Kitchen walls and upper cabinets are painted Farrow & Ball Lime White. Lower cabinets are Farrow & Ball Mouse’s Back. Window sashes and doors are Farrow & Ball Stoney Ground.
Ephram 6" pulls and Harmon pendants (in dark brass) from Restoration Hardware
Black honed granite countertops from Dupont at Lowes and walnut butcher block from AWP Butcher Block
Kenmore Pro and Sears appliances
Ann Saks Capriccio subway tile in antique white (it has a great wavy finish to it that makes the tile)
Bed and bedspread from Ikea.
Embroidered pillow case made by me.
Black and white pillows and "headboard" thing made by my mom: re-purposed decor from our wedding.
Disney artwork from storybook/music record sleeves, given to me by my mother-in-law (retired special ed teacher).
Lanterns were bought for the wedding but not used.
Homes such as this one take their inspiration from earlier cottages built by Hugh Comstock "The Builder Of Dreams". In 1924,he built his first cottage for his wife who made and sold " otsy-totsy" dolls. As their home filled up with dolls, Mayetta asked Hugh to build a house from which she could sell the dolls.
Hugh was neither a builder nor an architect, but he loved to draw and tinker. He designed and built with Mayotta a whimsical little cottage, Gretel, on Torres near 6th, inspired by the watercolor illustrations of the British children’s book illustrator Arthur Rackham.
The University of New England was the first Australian university established outside of a capital city. It started life as the New England University College in 1938 as a college of the University of Sydney. Several local people worked hard for the College to become an independent university and they were successful in 1954. In 1989 it subsumed the Armidale College of Advanced Education (previously the Armidale Teachers’ College.) The main campus is 5 kms from the city centre with central administration in Booloominbah House. From its inception it has always catered for distance education students and those wanting to study agriculture. It is the largest distance education university in Australia with around 15,000 external students. It has faculties of law, education, arts, science, medicine, the environment etc. It has wide research foci but it cooperates with the CSIRO on agriculture and science research and it is well known for its agricultural business research and farm animal genetics research. It has around 700 research students enrolled for a PhD at any one time. The Vice Chancellors have included some well known Australians including former Governor General Sir Zelman Cowen. The well known graduates include: Dean Brown (Premier of SA); Bernie Fraser (former Governor Reserve Bank); Barnaby Joyce (Australian Senator); Tony Windsor (current Independent in Parliament). The UNE also has a well developed residential college network with the most famous being Drummond and Smith as around half of it students reside on campus. Drummond was the NSW Education Minister who established the Armidale Teachers College. This College used Smith House on Central Park for many years. It has about 200 residents. The college began in Girrahween House in 1928 for students attending the Armidale Teachers College. When the University merged with the Teachers College, Drummond and Smith Residential Colleges went to the University. The college crest is depicted above the door of Girrahween House which was built in 1889. The University has several other campuses in Armidale the main one being Newling campus, now the Conservatorium of Music. It was the former Armidale Teachers College. UNE has a mosque on campus.
The Dixson Library.
The heart of any university is its library. It is near Booloominbah and the Museum of Antiquities. In 1938 the university library was a room in Booloominbah. Then Sir William Dixson donated a large grant for a purpose built library in 1961. Dixson’s wealth was based on the tobacco industry and his family operations included Adelaide in the 19th century. William’s father was a devout Baptist and donated to many organisations including Sydney Medical Mission, Ryde Home for Incurables, the YMCA, the University of Sydney, the Baptist Church etc. William Dixson (1870-1952) was a collector of Australiana and rare books. He donated many rare manuscripts and books to the Mitchell Library in the 1920s, then he decided to found the UNE library.
As visitors we can enter the house and have lunch there. The Brasserie opens at noon. There is also a court yard café and bar. This will provide an opportunity to explore some areas of the house and view the wonderful stained glass windows. Remember the house is noted for its wooden panelling, windows, fine joinery etc.
The Museum of Antiquities.
This is a rare regional antiquities museum for Australia. Its collections began in 1959 when the university established its Department of Classics. It has antiquities from the Middle East, the Mediterranean, South East Asia, and the Pacific. Entry is free.
Trevenna is the residence of the Vice Chancellor and it was designed by John Horbury Hunt in the Canadian style. It was built in 1892 (Hunt died 1903) as another house besides Booloominbah for members of the White family. Mrs Eliza Jane White occupied Trevenna. The three storey house of mixed materials, wood and plaster was gifted to the University of New England by Mrs. Florence Wilson in 1960. Since then it has been the Vice Chancellor’s home. There is no public access to the house or the gardens. It is not visible from the road. The gardens include sweeping lawns, dry stone walls, herb gardens, hedges, ponds and English trees such as Horse Chesnuts, London Planes etc. Trevenna’s gardens were featured in a Woman’s Weekly special in 1971.
The first Anglican school opened in Armidale in 1847 with the first Catholic school following in 1856. A public school opened in 1861 and survived with various name changes until it became Armidale City Public School. In the 1850s, 1860s and 1870s state aid to church schools prompted more schools to start up in Armidale but few survived. The new Education Act of 1880 which removed any state aid led to the demise of many church schools and the rise of the state public school system in NSW. But Armidale has always been an education centre providing schools, and often boarding facilities for country children. The main private and state secondary schools in Armidale are:
•St. Ursuline College for girls, 1882 and De La Salle Catholic College for boys which was founded in 1906. The two amalgamated in 1975 to form O’Connor Catholic High School. It is no longer a boarding school. It has an enrolment of around 450 students.
•The Armidale School – TAS. TAS was founded in 1891 as the New England Proprietary School with it opening for enrolments in 1894.The local Anglican Bishop, Tyrrell had promoted the idea of an Anglican boys school for the sons of the New England gentry. The school adopted the name TAS in 1896. It has extensive grounds (44 acres), excellent facilities and several historic buildings including the chapel. For many years it was run by the Diocese of Armidale but it is now a company limited by guarantee. The Armidale School has approximately 620 students, including 200 boys boarding there. Well known architect John Sulman designed the original boarding house. Influenced by William Morris he used Armidale blue bricks and Flemish bond brick work. The chapel as designed by Cyril Blacket who also designed the Gothic University of Sydney. The TAS Gothic style Chapel opened in 1902 also using Armidale blue bricks in the Flemish bond pattern.
•Presbyterian Ladies College Armidale, is an independent Presbyterian girls boarding school which was founded in 1887.New England always had a large Scottish and Presbyterian population. It is affiliated with PLC in Sydney. In the early years it was run by several principal owners and it started out as New England Ladies College. It began in Smith House near Central Park in 1887. It was next known as Hilton College before being purchased by the Presbyterian Church in 1938. It moved to a new 70 acre site on the edge of Armidale in 1945. It has an enrolment of 400 girls with almost 100 boarders. Due to financial difficulties it was merged with PLC Sydney in 2005 and the one principal now runs both schools.
•NEGS, New England Girls School. This is an independent Anglican girls’ boarding school which was established in 1895 at almost the same time as the TAS school for boys. In 1907 NEGS was purchased by the Diocese of Armidale and run as a church school. It has always had an excellent academic reputation. It has an enrolment of around 310 students with almost half or 150 being boarders. In 2006 due to financial difficulties a merger with PLC was considered. Old scholars and parents raised millions to keep the school Anglican and independent. Australia’s well known poet Judith Wright attended NEGS.
•Armidale High School. This state high school as established in 1920. It has over 650 students.
•Duval High School. This state high school was established in 1974. It was named after one of the assigned convict stockmen who worked on William and Henry Dumaresq’s Saumarez and Tilbuster stations in the 1830s. It has an enrolment of around 800 students.
The Development of Armidale. What is so special about Armidale? Well it is a cathedral city with both Anglican and Catholic cathedrals; it is a wealthy city with a prosperous hinterland and many mansions; it is Australia’s highest city with a bracing English style climate; it is an education city with a university and several prestigious boarding schools; it was one of a number of sites considered for the Australian capital city site after Federation; it has been one of the centres wanting to secede from the rest of NSW; and it has an interesting history with a squatting phase, mining phase, agricultural phase etc. It is also a regional capital and has always been considered the “capital” of the New England region – a distinctive Australian region defined by rainfall, altitude, etc. And it has always been on the main inland route between Sydney and Brisbane but that is no longer of importance in this aviation transport era.
The origins of Armidale district go back to Henry Dumaresq when he squatted on land here and took out leaseholds on Saumarez and Tilbuster stations in 1834. He and other squatters soon displaced the local aboriginal people after a period of considerable violence. The turning point in terms of the city came in 1839 when George Macdonald was appointed Commissioner for Crown Lands for the New England District. He arrived with a small police force and he set about building a house and office headquarters. The site he chose is now Macdonald Park. NSW land regulations allowed the government to set aside reserves for future towns or to resume leasehold land for the creation of towns. Macdonald immediately surveyed the local landowners of which there were 37 in New England, giving it a population of 422 people. But this was the convict era of NSW and half of the population were assigned convicts. They provided the brawn to develop the stations, build the shepherd’s huts, dig the wells and dams, and fell the timber and clear the land. Of the original 422 people in New England only 10 were females, probably wives of shepherds or convict women who were cooks etc. Most stations had between 8 and 12 assigned convicts. Saumarez for example, had 11 convicts and 8 free male workers in 1839. In 1841 convicts still accounted for 42% of the population of New England and as they completed their seven year terms, many stayed on to become the founders of towns like Armidale. Transportation of convicts to NSW ceased around 1843 and so convict assignees gradually declined in the region, but ex-convicts remained.
Macdonald named the town site Armidale after the Armadale estate on the Isle of Skye. Macdonald had barracks built for the police men, stables, a store shed, his own house and he enclosed some paddocks for the growing of wheat and vegetables. His first years were often taken up with writing reports about Aboriginal massacres and deaths including the Bluff Rock Massacre on the Everett brothers’ run at Ollera near Guyra. Macdonald seldom investigated reports of Aboriginal deaths closely. He was a pompous little man, just 4 feet 10 inches tall with a deformed hunched back. But he was meticulous in most matters. In 1841 he was jilted just before his proposed wedding to a local woman. He remained in Armidale until 1848 overseeing the early development of the town.
By 1843 a small town had emerged with a Post Office and a Court House, blacksmith, wheelwright, hotel, general store etc. The town provided government and commercial services to the surrounding pastoral estates. But the town reserve included other lands that were sold or leased to farmers- agriculturists who grew wheat. By 1851 Armidale had two flour mills. The long transport route to Newcastle and on to Sydney meant all wheat had to be converted to flour before it was transported to the markets. The old dray route down to the coast was also used for the transport of the region’s major product- wool. The official town was surveyed and the streets laid out in 1849. Many of the early pastoralists were commemorated in street names – Beardy, Dumaresq, Dangar, Marsh, Faulkner and Rusden to name a few.
In 1851 Armidale also had local industries for the regional population- two breweries, general stores, chemist, butcher etc. In the early 1850s the churches began to erect their first buildings and the town became “civilised” with more and more women living there. Then gold discoveries near Uralla and towards the eastern escarpment boosted the town’s population and services. A newspaper was founded, a hospital was built and the population reached 858 in 1856. A gaol was built on South Hill in 1863, the town became a municipality in 1864, and the Robertson’s Land Acts (1861) were introduced throughout NSW to break up the big pastoral estates for ‘selectors” or small scale farmers on 320 acre blocks. This boosted the total population of the Armidale region but as noted elsewhere the pastoralists also used this era to buy up large lots of land freehold for themselves by the process of “dummying”- using relatives and employees to buy small parcels of land which they sold on to the large land owners. But the early years of growing wheat around Armidale collapsed in the 1870s as the wheat lands of South Australia opened up and cheap SA imports destroyed the New England wheat industry. Other forms of agriculture were then taken up in New England.
Another key factor in the growth of Armidale in the late 1870s and into the 1890s was its English style climate. In 1885 Armidale was proclaimed a city. It had a population of 3,000 residents – a remarkable achievement for a locale so far from the coast. This was of course boosted further with the arrival of the railway in Armidale in 1883. The line soon reached the Queensland border with a connection on to Brisbane. But the railway was not all good news as the city of Armidale could then receive beer and other supplies on the railway from Newcastle or Sydney and some local industries closed down with the arrival of the railway. By the 1880s the boom years were apparent as large mansions and prominent commercial buildings were erected in the growing city.
The fact that Armidale is equidistant from Sydney and Brisbane was one of the factors considered in its application to become the new Federal capital. The fact that Armidale had nearby reservoirs and a large water supply big enough for a large capital city was also an important consideration. The new Federal government was considering the site of the capital city after a long drought so access to water supplies was a major concern. As we known the site of Canberra near Yass was finally selected despite its lesser supply of water but it was closer to Sydney.
Regional Art gallery and Aboriginal Art Centre.
This gallery is one of the regional galleries funded by the NSW government. It is especially noted for its outstanding collection of Australia Art which was donated to the gallery by Howard Hinton (1867-1948.) Hinton was a company director and art collector. Despite poor eyesight he travelled the world looking at galleries and he befriended several artists. In Sydney he met and lived with noted Australian painter such as Tom Roberts, Arthur Stretton and Julian Ashton. He made his first donation of art to the National Gallery of NSW in 1914. Over the years he gave 122 paintings to that gallery. He was a trustee of the National Gallery of NSW from 1919-1948. He was knighted in 1935 for his services to art. In 1928 when the National Gallery of NSW refused some of his donations he decided to endow the relatively new Teachers’ College at Armidale with a collection of art. The Director of Education who was in charge of the College concurred with the idea and the first paintings were received in Armidale in 1929. He later gave over 1,000 paintings to the Teachers’ College and over 700 art books for its library. His collection illustrated the development of Australian art in particular from the 1880s through to the 1940s. The artist Norman Lindsey described the collection as the only complete collection of Australian art. A portrait of Howard Hinton is held by the former Armidale College of Advanced Education which is now part of the University of New England. The art collection has been transferred on to the Armidale Regional Art Gallery. The Hinton Collection is partially on display always. The Persian Love Cake in the Art Gallery café is to die for!
Teachers College and the Education Museum.
In the 19th century most school teachers were untrained but a few were trained in Fort Street Normal School in Sydney from 1848. The first teachers college was not established until 1912 in some temporary buildings. The college opened in new premises in 1920 which were not completed until 1924. But Armidale got the second teachers college in NSW in 1928 with its first proper building being constructed in 1930 at the height of the Great Depression. Why was this so? The answer is political. New England was in the midst of a secession movement in the late 1920s and New England was the home to several Country Party politicians with great influence. The Country Party came to power in NSW in 1927 and the new Minister for Education, David Drummond was the local member for New England. Drummond favoured a second teachers college because the staff at Sydney Teachers College had complained that country students coming to Sydney to be trained were being seduced by the ways of the sinful city and they seldom wanted rural school postings after a stint in Sydney! A Teachers College in Armidale would stop the debauchery! Although Armidale Teachers’ College was the first, the government made plans for additional teachers colleges in Bathurst and Wagga Wagga which eventually were established. The 1863 gaol in Armidale was closed in 1920 and was demolished to make way for the new teachers college building. As one commentator said at the time “a new Parthenon on the hill was to replace the penitentiary on the hill”!
The government appointed Cecil Bede Newling (1883-1975) as the principal of the new college. Today the old Teachers College building is named the Newling building. Newling had gone out as a probationary teacher in 1899 before attending courses at Fort Street Normal School from 1904. He later described his teacher training as dull. He was first appointed head teacher at Cootamundra in 1923, and then inspector at Broken Hill in 1925. He had a rapid rise in the Education Department. By 1925 he had also been awarded a BA and a MA from the University of Sydney. As first principal of the Armidale Teachers College he influenced everything. He had a forceful personality and took interest in all aspects of the College from the grounds and gardens to the curriculum and to the health of the students. During World War Two he became secret custodian of priceless art and written materials from the Mitchell Library and the National Gallery of NSW. He retired in 1947 with his “college on the hill” well established and valued. It is open weekday afternoons from 2 to 4 pm to members of the public.
Central Park Historical Walk and Nearby Structures.
The buildings of significance around Central Park are the old Wesley Methodist Hall and the now Uniting Church- just off the Park in Rusden Street; St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church and Hall; St. Peter’s Anglican Cathedral, Deanery and Parish Hall; and St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral. Nearby along Faulkner Street is the Town Hall( just off Faulkner), the Post Office, the Court House, and the entrance to the Mall.
•Masonic Building. The Lodge here in Armidale purchased this land in 1860 and had a lodge built by a local builder Frederick Nott. A new severe classical style Lodge was erected in 1924 to replace the earlier one.
•Lindsay House is at 128 Faulkner Street and it dates from the mid 1920s. It is a mock Tudor house with exposed beams and woodwork on the exterior and stucco areas. This “English” style of house was popular in New England at this time. It is a typical “gentleman’s “house and it was built for a local doctor. In 1972 the former Armidale College of Advanced Education purchased the house for staff accommodation and they renamed it Lindsay House. Today it is a luxury bed & breakfast establishment.
•Southall is a fine 1888 residence at 88 Barney Street oppopsite Central Park. At one stage it was called Girrawheen Boarding House as it provided accommodation for the girls enrolled at New England Ladies College. This house was purchased in 1928 by the Armidale Teachers’ College for accommodation for female teaching students. It was linked to Smith House, next door, in 1960 and then became a university residential college but it is now a backpackers complex. Apart from wrought iron lace work it features two toned brick work on the quoins and the bricks are done in Flemish bond pattern.
•Catholic Cathedral and Convent. See next page.
•Anglican Cathedral and Deanery. See next page.
•St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. The foundation stone dates the building to 1881. Its Gothic style, tall steeple, wrought iron decorations and lancet windows add considerably to the appearance of Central Park. The white painted masonry quoins, window surrounds etc contrast sharply with the dark coloured bricks.
•Old Wesley Methodist Hall and Church. The Old Wesley Church was erected in 1864 and is one of the oldest still standing churches of Armidale. It was replaced by a new Methodist Church in 1893 and it then became the church hall. The Old Wesley Church also has Red Cedar joinery inside.
•The Folk Museum. This is housed in the old School of Arts and Mechanics Institute building of 1863. Such places were crucial education centres in the 19th century. It was used as the town library for many years and is now a museum.
•Armidale Town Hall. This impressive structure was completed in 1883 just before Armidale became a city in 1885. It has many decorative features including pilasters (flat columns), scroll work, a central triangular pediment above the main entrance, a niche like entrance with a curved upper balcony and balustrade. In 1990 the City decorated the interior in Art Deco style!
•The Armidale Post Office. The first PO was established in 1843. This building was constructed in 1880. The beautiful arched veranda and upper balcony were added in 1897. It is still the city Post Office.
•Lands Board building now the Lands Office. This elegant building with its filigree lace work on the upper balcony and the lower veranda originally had a slate roof and slate chimney pots. The symmetry of this building is superb. It was designed by the same architect who did the government Post Office next door and the style would date it to the same period -1880.
•Opposite are the architectural plans for the amazing Imperial Hotel. It was built in 1890 William Miller who was of the original discoverer of gold at Hillgrove. He made his fortune on the gold fields and then erected the finest hotel in Armidale. It is noted for its proportions, classical style, ornate parapets along the roof line and filigree caste iron. The urns atop the “floating” triangular pediments are wonderful. It demonstrates how important the travelling public were to early hoteliers like William Miller. Miller began life as a poor farmer at Saumarez Ponds. It is run down today.
•On the opposite corner is the current Westpac Bank. It was formerly the Bank of NSW and it was put up in 1938 in classical style. The 1817 on the parapet refers to the founding of the Bank of NSW by Mary Reibey, a former convict, depicted on our $20 note. Along from this is the marvellous AMP building with its statute on top.
•Armidale Court House in the Mall. This imposing building with a classical Greek façade with columns, and wrought iron gates was built in 1859. It was extensively altered in 1870 when the two side wings were attached. The clock tower was added in 1878. Inside the joinery is all Australian Red Cedar. Note the cobblestoned courtyard. At the rear of the Court House is the original Sheriff’s Cottage (1870) which was originally a “lock up “for prisoners!
•Hanna’s Arcade in Barney Street. See the leadlight mural, wooden arcade, and fine department store.
Catholic Cathedral and building.
The first Catholic priest to arrive in Armidale came in 1853. He took services in a small wooden Catholic Church that had opened in 1848. The priest then built a parsonage which became part of De La Salle College, now O’Connor High School. It has since been demolished. In 1862 the Catholic Diocese of Armidale was established but it was 1869 before the first bishop, Bishop O’Mahony, settled in Armidale. He was consecrated as bishop in 1871 at the same time as the commissioning of the cathedral. It was dedicated in 1872 but replaced by the current cathedral in 1912. When Bishop O’Mahony left he was replaced by Bishop Torreggiani who was replaced by Bishop O’Connor in 1904.
The new cathedral of St. Mary and St. Joseph was built in Pyrmont stone from Sydney and Armidale polychrome (or multi- coloured) bricks. Such brick work was popular in the 1880s but out of fashion by 1912. Brown, cream and red bricks were used for the cathedral to highlight its architectural features. It is a much larger structure than the Anglican cathedral and dominates the townscape around Central Park. The brickwork was used for quoins, cross banding and other feature work. It was designed in Gothic style by Sherrin and Hennessy in Sydney and constructed by a local builder Frederick Nott. It has a turreted tower with a needle spire on top with louvre windows. It has the original slate roof and fine marble work inside and outside in the form of fine marble statues. The interior is also noted for its fine hammer beam ceiling. The pipe organ was made in 1900 in England and rebuilt here in 1912. Like the Anglicans, the Catholics divided the New England diocese in 1887 when the Diocese of Grafton was established.
Near the cathedral but further along Barney Street is the Merici House which was built as a Catholic School and convent very early in 1882. Angela Merici was the founder of the Ursuline Order of Nuns who began teaching at that school in 1883. The Ursulines arrived from London in 1882 to do missionary work in Armidale. Their order was established in Italy in 1534. The Ursulines in Armidale established their mother house here and sent nuns out to many other communities across NSW and Qld from Armidale. But in Armidale they set up St. Ursulines College from their small origins in Merici House near the Catholic Cathedral. It was erected as a fine two storey house for a local businessman in 1877. He sold it to the Ursuline Order in 1882. St. Ursuline College operated from 1882 until it merged with the Catholic boys’ school, La Salle College (established 1906 by Bishop O’Connor) in 1975. The amalgamated school was renamed O’Connor High School after Bishop O’Connor. O’Connor High School operates on a different site in the city of Armidale to the north east of the town.
Anglican Cathedral and associated buildings.
Bishop Broughton conducted the first Anglican service in Armidale in 1845 with the first church opening in 1850, followed by a parsonage for Rev. Tingcombe who was the first minister arriving in 1846. Armidale was part of the Diocese of Newcastle. Then in 1869 the diocese of Grafton and Armidale was established. The founding Bishop was James Turner from Norfolk, England. His diocese was the size of England! He started with 10 clergy and 21 churches. He appointed John Horbury Hunt to design and oversee the building of a suitable cathedral in Armidale. The foundation stone was laid in 1873 and the cathedral opened in 1875 as St. Peter’s. Hunt designed a relatively small cathedral of brick, his favourite building medium, rather than stone. Turner continued as Bishop until 1893. Before he left the diocese of Armidale he had the Christ Church Cathedral erected in Grafton in 1884 and a new Grafton diocese created. Bishop Turner also used John Horbury Hunt for cathedral that we saw in Grafton. By the time Turner left he had 2 diocese and 58 churches.
The Anglican Cathedral was made of Armidale blue bricks with clay taken from Saumarez station. The vestry was added in 1910 according to Hunt’s design (he died in 1903) and the tower, again according to Hunt’s design in 1936. The cathedral features Gothic arches, a square tower, small pyramids on top of buttresses, moulded bricks for special areas and interesting English bonds and patterns. Uralla granite was used for keystones and the foundations. The Deanery was also designed by Hunt and built of the same Armidale blue bricks in 1891. Hunt was known to make great demands on the brickies as he was a perfectionist and supervised all the intricate brickwork very closely. The result was an outstandingly fine cathedral. Note the band of green tiles above the main door included by Hunt. Note also the fine stained glass windows, and one is a memorial to Bishop Turner’s wife who died in 1879. The cathedral has a fine timber ceiling. Hunt even selected the pulpit and lectern to suit his design. The pulpit has an effigy of St. Peter carved in the sandstone. Some of Hunt’s original plans can be viewed in the Tower Room.
Mansions of Armidale.
Many of the mansions of Armidale were constructed in its economic boom period of the 1890s- 1910 when Hillgrove gold mine was at its peak. There are almost 70 buildings in Armidale on the Register of the National Estate. Some are churches or commercial buildings but most are significant houses, especially on the south hill behind the centre of Armidale. But the beautiful gardens hide many of these mansions from any passersby.
•Bishopscourt, (on the town outskirts of the way to Uralla) was built in 1934 as the home of the Anglican Bishop which it still is. It has acres of lawns and gardens.
•Akaroa, now part of New England Girls School was built in 1896. It has many Queen Anne style features including a rounded section. It is not visible from the road.
•Roseneath in Roseneath Lane is one of the oldest houses in Armidale as it was erected in 1854 as a veranda shaded Victorian house with louvre shuttered French windows to the veranda. Privately owned, in poor condition and with no suitable access for a coach.
•Mallam dates from 1869 as one of the last examples of a steep roofed house with dormer windows in the English style (94 Rusden Street). Mallam was the town’s chemist in the 1870s but was in investor in a flour mill, shops and others houses. He paid £1,200 to erect Mallam House. Note the chimney pots.
•The Armidale School. Notes to be provided later.
•Opawa House is in Mann Street at no 65. It was erected in 1915 and it features, wood, brick, and gables typical of that era.
•Trelawny at 84 Brown Street is fine residence built in 1904. It has a curved wrought iron lace work veranda with a prominent gable.
•Birida built in 1907 is typical of that era and is located at 108 Brown Street on the corner of Marsh Street. Note the slate roofed tower porch.
•The Railway Station. Built in 1882 ready for first train in 1883. Lace work done in the foundry in Uralla.
•Lindon Hall at 146 Mann Street is a late 19th century house from 1890. It has fine wrought iron lace work on the balcony. It is a single storey house.
•Teringa is located at 108 Mann Street. It dates from 1894 and is a typical Italianate style two storey house.
•Uloola at 160 Faulkner Street is another gentleman’s residence dating from 1908. It has an English “air “and depicts the Arts and Crafts movement house features.
•The Turrets is located at 145 Mossman Street. It was built in the 1860s and is known for its turrets.
•Highbury House built in 1910 is sited at 177 Faulkner Street. It has bay windows, a round window, arches etc
•The Arts and Crafts style house called Cotswold is located at 34 Marsh Street. It was built in 1918. It is now part of a motel. Next door is another fine house.
•Eynsford, 109 Jeffery St. Another Tudor revival two storey home from the 1920s. Stucco, lead light windows, with a beautiful garden.
This grand house is one of the gems designed by architect John Horbury Hunt who produced a number of buildings in Sydney and the country for the White family. One was even a French inspired castle! Frederick White commissioned this house which as built between 1883-88. But at Booloominbah Hunt used the ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement along with his Canadian heritage which meant he used a lot of wood features. When built Booloominbah was the focus of a 20,000 acres sheep property and it was designed for grand livening. Frederick White almost behaved as the “squire” of Armidale as he was already a wealthy man and had properties in the Hunter Valley as well as New England. Booloominbah was his headquarters,but not his head station. The house is overloaded with features; gables, verandas, leadlight windows, wood panelling, impressive staircases, chimneys, a tower, arches, with an overwhelming asymmetrical façade. The house had grand drawing rooms, billiard room, servant’s quarters, service rooms etc. It had almost 50 rooms when built. It was surrounded by grand gardens to complete the picture of local importance. Below is the great stained glass window of Booloominbah commissioned by Frederick White. It depicts the life of General Gordon and his efforts in Sudan as Governor General of the Sudan. Gordon died during the year long siege of Khartoum in 1885 when he was beheaded by his Muslim nemesis. Frederick White was still an Englishman at heart and he was still committed to the glories of the Empire and this allowed him to relive this glory in his own house!
The house was named from a local Aboriginal word but its appearance was decidedly Canadian and English. Frederick White did not live in the house for long as he died in 1903 (when his nephew Francis White took over as leader of the White family in New England.) But Frederick’s widow lived on in Booloominbah for another thirty years. When she died in 1933 the contents were sold and Booloominbah left vacant until a son-in-law (he had married White’s daughter Kate) bought the house. Thomas Richmond Forster then donated the house to the University of Sydney to encourage them to establish the New England University College which the university did in 1938. The house came with about 180 acres of land and cost Forster around £30,000. Forster was a successful businessman and an Anglican layman and benefactor in Armidale. He had been campaigning for a university in Armidale since 1924. Booloominbah became the main administrative and first teaching area of the university and Forster became one of the leaders of the first University Advisory Council. Forster was also the major shareholder in The Armidale School (TAS.) Since the 1940s the university has restored Booloominbah to its former glory. It remains an iconic building of the former sheep pastoral area of New England.
Henry Dumaresq from the Channel Islands, Jersey, named Saumarez after a property in Jersey. He squatted on land at Saumarez Ponds in 1834. Dumaresq sent his stockmen up here but always lived himself at Muswellbrook on the Hunter River. Saumarez was his head station in New England and he soon had over 100,000 acres of land under leasehold which included Tilbuster Station upon which the city of Armidale now stands. The runs extended from Uralla to beyond Armidale. In 1856 Dumaresq sold his run on to Henry Thomas. He held the run during the period when the government land acts were trying to break p the big runs and open up the land for closer settlement. Thomas took this opportunity to acquire freehold land on his Saumarez run and soon had 12,000 acres freehold. Thomas built a modest three roomed brick house on the run in the 1850s which is still standing. It is near the six roomed timber cottage that Henry Dumaresq built at Saumarez in the 1830s. In fact Henry Dumaresq had his assigned convicts build the cottage as they did most other early structures on Saumarez. In 1874 the nature of Saumarez property changed as it was sold to Francis White, the second son of James White of Edinglassie at Muswellbrook. Francis White took on a property of 20,000 freehold acres. He had properties in the Hunter, at Armidale, Guyra, in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
In 1886 Francis White was doing well, he had paid off the mortgage on the property and so he decided to build a mansion homestead on Saumarez for his residence. A single storey residence was completed in 1888 by a local Armidale builder. After his Uncle Frederick White of Booloominbah died in 1903 Francis decided he needed to entertain on a grander scale to maintain the White family prominence around Armidale. So whilst his wife and daughters were on a holiday in Europe had had a second storey added to the house in 1905/6. The new storey incorporated many Art Nouveau stylistic features. The White family lived in the house until it was donated to the National Trust in 1984 but they only donated the house. The White family still own the Saumarez property of around 6,000 acres. Saumarez House is surrounded by 5 acres of gardens. The house itself is gabled but with symmetrical facades and verandas. The house is built around a courtyard with one side for the Whites and the other for the servants and services such as the kitchens, laundries, butter rooms etc. The family wing contains two large drawing rooms and an elaborate Edwardian stair case. Front entrances were designed to impress visitors. The Whites used Saumarez for official functions, garden parties, tennis parties etc. The house walls are of Flemish bond brick work. The interior joinery on doors, windows, fireplace surrounds etc is Red Cedar. Native flowers are used on the stained glass work including Flannel flowers, waratah, native Lillies etc. Whites three daughters made much carved wooden work for the house.
Tagged: , Booloominbah , University of New England , Armidale , John Horbury Hunt , architect , mansion , historic house , gables , Art Deco , Arts and Crafts , tower , veranda , hydrangeas , Canadian style , Brasserie , restaurant , New England