"Braidwood" Braidwood by iandsmith
Braidwood Travel Guide: 66 reviews and 236 photos
Braidwood looks to me like a town that is rightly trying to trade on its history but hasn't quite made it yet.
Sure, the tourists are there but, one suspects, not quite in the numbers that places like Berrima get. While some buildings are pristine it's clear that others are suffering from neglect.
One hopes that the town will hang in there and ultimately rival some of its northern neighbours on the southern highlands. I, for one, certainly hope so. It has a lot to offer.
At first you may wonder why there are so many fine buildings in a relatively small town. Like so many others, it was a result of gold, though that was not the original reason for settlement.
William Kearns, William Packer and Henry Marsh frist came here in the summer of 1822. Suggesting the land was suitable for settlement, the next two years saw a number of people moving into the district.
The most significant, as far as the town's name is concerned, was Dr Thomas Braidwood Wilson, a surgeon who had been granted land in the area.
It begs the question as to why a surgeion would bother. I have no answer for that.
When the site for the future township was chosen in 1833 part of Wilson's 'Braidwood' farm was resumed by the Government and consequently the town was named after the farm which, in turn, was named after Wilson. It was surveyed in 1839 and the first land sales took place in 1840.
During the 1830s the Braidwood region flourished on the back of four legged grazing on the rich grasslands. By 1841 there were some 1500 people living in the district and Braidwood farm had a population of 127.
All changed with the discovery of gold in the Braidwood-Araluen district in 1851-52. The excitement attached to the discovery of this gold is recaptured in the book 'Moruya ... The First 150 Years': 'Alexander Waddell and Harry ('the Blacksmith') Hicken, both settlers along the Deua River, had rushed off to the gold strike at Ophir. There they learned the 'Diggers' Cradle' method of gold recovery used by the Lister brothers, and soon realised that the same type of terrain existed in their own valley at home.
'They returned and set up a cradling outfit at Sweeney's Flat, Kiora, following the same terrain up through the Araluen Valley, and reported their finds late in 1851.
'It took only a few months for some fifteen thousand men to come, hoping for a share of the wealth of the Araluen Valley where Andrew Badgery had previously established a station.
'The influx of people had really begun. There was an amazing expansion of trade, of people to help with food supplies, of communication and just everyday needs. Land development occurred from Narooma in the south into the mountains in the west to Araluen and Nerrigundah, north to Braidwood and across to Bateman's Bay'.
The largest gold discovery in Braidwood was a huge 350 pound (170 kg) piece which was 67 per cent pure gold and was found at Braidwood in November 1869. These days you could still retire on what it would be worth.
Inevitably the gold rushes brought with them the bushrangers. The Braidwood area became one of the wildest and the most infamous of all of the goldrush areas with both the Clarke family and Ben Hall regularly holding up gold consignments out of both Braidwood and Araluen. Braidwood played a central role in the capturing of a number of bushrangers because it was the administrative centre of the southern goldfields of New South Wales and was the headquarters of the New South Wales police force (Southern Division) during the dubious reign of the Clarke gang. This then explains the reason for the Italianate court hours.
Braidwood goal had been the scene of a daring escape by the bushranger, Tom Clarke. It has been suggested that he was assisted by a warder when on 3rd October 1865 he clambered over the Braidwood goal walls and ran to a racehorse which and been tethered nearby. He managed to successfully escape and subsequently organised the Jingera mob who became a well organised and well known gang of bushrangers in the local area.The adventures of the Clarke gang reached a high point in the late months of 1864 and early 1865. Tom Clarke stuck up the Araluen mail and robbed a number of travellers between Braidwood and Moruya in January 1865. Out of the events immediately following this robbery came the shooting of Constable Miles O'Grady of Nerrigundah and perhaps most infamously the Jingera Range murders of four special constables who had gone to try and capture Tom Clarke. All these events are recorded in various monuments around Braidwood. Eventually the Clarkes were captured on the 27th April 1867 some miles south of Araluen.
- Pros:Good history, nice rural setting
- Cons:A little isolated from the main tourist towns
- In a nutshell:If you're into history, it's worth visiting.
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