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IFHAA Local History Library

Albury, NSW


Albury, New South Wales

Sources:- GV Lawrence and GK Smith (Eds), 'The Book of the Murray' , Rigby, 1975, pp 111-112. (ISBN 0 85179 917.5)
Parts of this page are from AnyPoint Australia

Albury sits on the New South Wales side of the Murray River, which functions as the state border between New South Wales and Victoria. It is the principal city on the Murray due to the historical importance of the river for transport of people and produce. It also serves geographically as a junction for journeys between Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, three state capitals. In 1974 Albury was chosen by the New South Wales and Victorian Governments to be the site of a major industrial decentralisation project. It was proclaimed a twin town with its southern neighbour Wodonga, which is joined across the Murray by bridge. The success of this joint governmental venture is reflected in the fact that Albury-Wodonga is one of Australia's main national growth areas.

The first European recording of Albury is found in the journal of Captain William Hovell, accounted on his overland expedition from Sydney with Hume in 1824. Tuesday the 16th of November 1824: "we suddenly arrive at the bank of a fifth and very fine river at least two hundred feet wide apparently deep . . . on both sides the land is low and level and consists of a fine alluvial soil with grass up to our middle." In the years following this discovery, these rich river flats on the northern banks became a favourite camping place for rovers and stockmen. By the early 1840s a village settlement had sprouted at this `crossing place'.

Albury was first known by its Aboriginal name Bungambrewatha. However, this was considered too cumbersome for practical purposes, and was gazetted in 1839 by T.S. Townsend as Albury, after the English village of Albury in Surrey.

The settlement of Albury grew slowly. By 1841 there was said to be a population of only seven. Robert Brown was the first white man to settle on this site. He arrived in 1836, a few months after the first settlers "squatted" on either side of the river where Albury-Wodonga now stands. It was the same year that Major Thomas Mitchell explored Western Victoria, re-crossing the Murray at Howlong, unaware settlement had begun 32km upstream some months earlier. The slow growth of the area may be attributed to Government policy of the day. The governors of New South Wales, (which included the present day state of Victoria) forbade settlement outside the "Nineteen Counties" around Sydney. No land could be bought or sold. There were no roads and no police protection.

Albeit, squatters gradually surged southward seeking new pastures. By 1836, aware the situation was out of their control, the governor grudgingly granted licences to settle outside the "Nineteen Counties". In October 1835, William Wyse established a station at nearby Mungabareena for a Sydney merchant Charles Ebden. He cleared and fenced a paddock and grew wheat. He soon after crossed the river and built a station called "Bonegilla". Brothers Charles, Aimee and Paul Huon arrived in 1838 and squatted on the Wodonga run. Their brother-in-law, Robert Brown came with the Huons and built a hut and store near the Hovell Tree in 1838. He in turn brought his parents and two sisters, Mary and Eleanor who married Charles and Aime Huon. The family was completed when the Huons widowed sister, Elizabeth Mitchell and her ten children were settled on the original Mungabareena Run in 1839. A brother in law of Hume, John Dight, took Bungowannah and land to the west of Albury.

Albury and Wodonga grew from these families. They built simple bark huts with slab walls, bark roofs and log chimneys. In 1838, Robert Brown built the first dwelling in Albury (a slab hut) near the Hovell tree - the one marked by the explorers (Hume & Hovell) as they passed in 1824. Albury was gazetted as a town in 1839. In 1839 it was noted that mail for areas outside of Albury was deposited with Robert Brown. The letter rate from Albury to Sydney was 11d. The cluster of huts multiplied, and a hotel for travellers was built nearby (on the site now occupied by the Turks Head Museum). By 1844 Robert Brown had provided the forerunner of the present Union Bridge: the most primitive of punts ... hauled people across the water. The charge was 1 pound for a horse and dray.

The punt service across the river increased activity in Albury. This was finally updated in 1861 with the building of a bridge. Although the river's hey day was to come with the advent of the paddle steamer. In 1855 a steamer named "The Albury" opened up river traffic locally. Albury was as high up the Murray as the steamers ever traded. Captain Johnson of Cadell's Murray River Line arrived in Albury in October 1865, to crowds flanking the river banks to acclaim the skipper who had at last linked Albury with the outside world. Albury's settlers had realised the potential prosperity which could follow the efficient transport of their staple products of wool, wheat and wine. River traffic flourished until rail links with Sydney and Melbourne were completed in 1883.

Albury is a major town today with many tourist attractions, international standard accommodation and convention facilities. It also boasts international standard sporting facilities for a wide range of sports. Attractions include the Albury Botanical Gardens, the Regional Art Centre, Monument Hill Lookout and Lake Hume. On the river bank is "Hovell's Tree", which still bears the mark of the tomahawk of Hovell and Hume when they crossed in 1824. On the river the paddle steamer PS Cumberoona, evokes images of the Murray in the mid nineteenth century with its daily tour. Not far from Albury are the Vineyards of Rutherglen, settled by German families in the 1850s shortly after gold was discovered in what is now the main street. The Snowy Mountains and Victorian Alps of Falls Creek are visible from Albury, and provide pleasure in all seasons with snow skiing, abseiling and white water rafting. The Ettamogah Pub, described as more Australian than Vegemite, is a recreation of a pub and characters made famous by cartoonist Ken Maynard, and is just north of Albury. The Hume Weir Trout Farm is another popular destination, where you can catch your own, or buy fresh smoked trout. Information on many more attractions around Albury is available from the tourist information centre in the Gallery Unusual at 462 Wagga Road, Lavington.


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Last modified: March 20, 2006