Bungendore is a small town with a numerous specialty shops and old stone, brick and timber buildings. It is located in a beautiful valley near Lake George, 265 km south-west of Sydney, 26 km north-east of Queanbeyan and 701 m above sea-level.
Once occupied by the Ngarigu people, the first Europeans in the vicinity were the exploratory party of Charles Throsby. Captain Richard Brooks set up a stock station at Turallo Creek in 1824. That same year, botanist Allan Cunningham recorded the existence of this outstation in the area he called ‘Bungandow’.
The village began around 1835 and mail started arriving as part of the Queanbeyan route in 1836. The townsite was approved and Bungendore proclaimed in 1837. The following year a lock-up was built and The Harp Inn was established as the settlement became an important crossroads which linked, and still links, Goulburn, Braidwood, Queanbeyan, Canberra and Cooma.
‘Gidleigh’, just south of the present townsite, was established in 1833 by the son of Governor King. William Westwood, a convict, escaped from ‘Gidleigh’ around 1840 and became a bushranger known as ‘Jacky Jacky’. He bailed up a number of people around the district in 1840-41. In 1841 he escaped custody several times (once being temporarily locked up in what is now the Lake George Motel) before being captured and sentenced to Norfolk Island where he was hanged for murder in 1846.
The first post office was built in 1840, an Anglican Church c.1843 and the Bungendore Inn in 1847. The latter became a Cobb & Co staging post. Annual races were established in 1848. Nonetheless, by 1851, the population was a mere 63.
The 1850s saw at least two other hotels established. A flour mill was built in 1861, St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and two denominational schools in 1862, the courthouse in 1864 and a public school in 1868.
The railway arrived in 1885 and the town remained a railhead until the line reached Queanbeyan in 1887. Partly because of the coming railway, the 1880s were a boom period for the town and the population increased from 270 in 1881 to 700 by 1885.
However, because Queanbeyan emerged as the major town in the area, Bungendore has essentially remained a country village serving the surrounding graziers. Hence there are several rural suppliers and related industries in town.
In recent years the social balance in the town has been somewhat altered and it has acquired a slightly more metropolitan air due to the presence of commuters from Queanbeyan and Canberra and of professional people. A number of tourism-oriented businesses have sprung up in town such as antique and art-and-craft shops, restaurants and tearooms. Wineries, hobby farms and turf farming have also emerged of late.
The Bungendore Show is held in January and the Country Muster in February. The Rodeo is in October.
Things to see:
Molonglo St is the through-road that passes through town between Goulburn and Queanbeyan/Canberra. Start your walk around the village at the south-western corner of Molonglo St and Gibraltar St, opposite the BP garage. This building was erected in the 1870s as the Oriental Bank. The stables were for the bank manager’s horses and the tiny cottage was built for the boy who tended the horses. This building was used in the filming of the 1969 movie Ned Kelly which featured Mick Jagger in the title role.
Opposite the old bank is the former Beehive Hotel (1859). The old stables to the rear are now a residence.
Walk north along Molonglo St for a short distance. To the right is Deniston Cottage Antiques, situated in a stone cottage built in 1860 for Alexander McClung who established a flour mill around the corner in Gibraltar St. It sells Victorian and Edwardian furniture, antique prints and old electric lamps.
Gibraltar St West
Return to and turn into Gibraltar St. On the left is the former cottage known as ‘Duart’ which was built prior to 1870 when it served as a store. The triple-front shop building next door dates from the 1920s while the next building was established in the mid-1850s.
Over the road is ‘Strathmore’, a High Victorian house built in 1890. Note the wide verandah with its French doors and wrought-iron lacework. The house next door was built at the same time and was originally a residence and saddlery shop. The stables to the rear were once used for the horses of the Australian Light Horse Bungendore Division. Bungendore Cellars is a vendor for wines made at local wineries.
At Gibraltar and Ellendon is the Lake George Hotel. Although it has been greatly altered the shell of the building dates back to 1838 when it was the Harp Inn and the license has been held continuously since that time. The bushranger known as ‘Jacky Jacky’ was captured and locked up here in 1840.
Cross over Ellendon St. To the left, near the Butmaroo St corner, is the decorative facade of the Royal Hotel. This hotel was built in 1882 in anticipation of the arrival of the railway. There is a death mask of John McMahon, the original owner of the hotel, under the front verandah.
The building at the corner represents a remnant of the Bungendore Inn (1847) which was a Cobb & Co station. The stable to the rear is probably the oldest remaining building in the village.
Turn left into Butmaroo St then left into Turallo Terrace. Several buildings along, to the left, is the original Royal Hotel (1855), now a private residence. There is a timber slab stable to the rear.
Over the road is ‘Birchfield’ built in 1877 for Father Birch in his retirement. It is now a herb nursery and bed-and-breakfast.
A little further along is St Mary’s Catholic Church, presbytery and church hall. This old stone church dates back to 1862. The first Catholic school was located in the hall until a school building was established up the road at the Majara St corner in 1925.
Return the way you came along Turallo Terrace. Just past Butmaroo St, to the left, is the former St Joseph’s convent (1886). Across the road is Bungendore Park.
Proceed to Majara St and turn right. To the left, set back from the road, is the Gothic Revival architecture of the gatekeeper’s house, stationmaster’s cottage and single-storey railway station (1884-85). The railway was a boon to the town and it remained a railhead until the line reached Queanbeyan in 1887. The station was closed in 1987.
Gibraltar St East
On the corner of Majara and Gibraltar Sts is the old public school (1879). An Anglican school had existed on this site since 1862.
Adjacent is Thread Needle Point (closed Sundays), housed in the old School of Arts building (1890).
The next building is the post office (1882) and adjacent is the police residence (1902). The renovated rear section was originally the lock-up and the whole doubled as a police station until 1980. Next door is the attractive stone courthouse. Built in 1864 it is now the police station.
On the other side of Butmaroo St is the Gothic Revival St Philip’s Anglican Church (1864). The elms are over a hundred years old.
St John’s Presbyterian Church
Walk south along Butmaroo St to the Malbon St corner where you will see St John’s Presbyterian Church (1886). The original (1875) was demolished to make way for the railway.It is now a residence.
Old Bungendore Store
Walk along Malbon St. To the right is the Gum Nut Gallery. At the corner of Malbon and Ellendon Sts, is the former Bungendore store (1918) built in the boom years at the end of World War I. Today it houses Bungendore Leather and a tea shop. Note the original shelving and shop counter.
Bungendore Village Square
On the other side of Malbon St is Bungendore Village Square, a collection of colonial-style shops clustered around a courtyard. This former butcher-shop complex dates from the 1870s.
Further east along Ellendon St, to the left, is a two-room brick cottage (1860) and an old stone cottage.
On the other side of Ellendon St, at the same intersection, is the Carrington Motel and Restaurant which was built as a coaching inn (1888-89) from hand-made clay bricks. It was later a store, a bordello and a private residence before taking its present form. The fittings (including an early 19th-century mahogany bar from England), fabrics and antique furnishings are quite exquisite. The central courtyard, into which wagons and coaches would have driven, remains.
Bungendore Woodworks Gallery
Over the road is the award-winning Bungendore Woodworks Gallery, situated in a fine exhibition centre which is intended to mirror the preoccupations of the gallery. Its construction entailed the usage of 16 tonnes of West Australian jarrah for the posts and beams, 10 tonnes of Tasmanian oak for the floors, ebonised Victorian ash for window and door frames and flooded gum panelling. The gallery specialises in exhibiting and promoting entirely Australian-made wood craft from the country’s most distinguished woodworkers. Upstairs is the Octagon Art Space which exhibits painting and other visual arts.
Walk along Malbon St noting the old cottages, including, to the left, the weatherboard house (1878) and the adjacent cement-rendered brick cottage (1890s). The stone house opposite is earlier but of similar design.
Turn right, back into Molonglo St. To the left is an impressive two-storey early Colonial style house dating from 1867.
There are a number of wineries in the Bungendore area. The Lark Hill Winery, established in 1978, is located on the Lake George escarpment at 281 Gundaroo Rd (north-west of town) and it is open daily (bookings are required for larger groups). They produce riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet merlot, riesling and a methode champenoise, tel: (02) 6238 1393.
Affleck Winery, established in 1975, is on Millynn Rd which runs off the Gundaroo Rd. It produces chardonnay, semillon blanc, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot, muscat and some riesling, tel: (02) 6236 9276.
12 km north-west along the Bungendore Rd is historic Bywong town.
Bywong Gold Mining Town is a unique educational experience set on an authentic site, a town which existed from 1895 – 1906. It captures the hardship of our early settlers and effectively demonstrates their ingenuity and courage. The site is popular with school parties during visits to the Canberra region as part of their Australian history or gold mining studies but we welcome visits from other groups of 10 or more participants. The tours are fully guided and booking times between 9.00am and 5.00pm Monday – Friday are flexible. Weekend visits are negotiable and bookings for all tours are essential. The site is also available for private functions such as birthday parties, by arrangement. See www.bywongtown.com.au for further details.(Updated 01.07.08).