Braidwood- a little piece of rural history
The heritage listed town of Braidwood, in the NSW Southern Tablelands is a regular stop whenever we travel to Canberra or further west. Heritage Georgian buildings line the wide streetscape. From bushrangers to movie stars, the graceful old buildings have many stories to tell of Australia’s colonial heritage.
Autumn is my favourite time to visit Braidwood, with the avenues of poplar trees welcoming you to town with their golden foilage.
The Kings Memorial avenue of poplars was planted in 1936 as a memorial to King George V and are now heritage listed.
Heritage Listed town
The entire town of Braidwood has been heritage listed, with a magnificent, unspoiled Georgian streetscape.
The town was surveyed 1839 and settlers arrived to raise sheep and cattle soon after. Braidwood’s population exploded with discovery of gold in the Braidwood Araluen area in 1851. The substantial Georgian buildings which line the main street are a relic of this time of booming prosperity.
As the town’s hotels became the staging point for stage coaches and gold escorts, it also became a magnet for bushrangers. Most notably Ben Hall and the Clarke Gang.
During the 1860’s the town was the scene of one of the most infamous police murders in Australian history, as four police were killed attempting to capture the notorious “Clarke Gang”.
Stopover at Braidwood
Today the town is a service centre for the surrounding agricultural area and a popular stopover point for travellers. We enjoy strolling along the heritage main street, browsing through the antique and craft shops. Braidwood has developed as an arts and crafts hub in recent years, with my favourite arts event the “Airing of the Quilts” in November each year. Magnificent artworks are hung from the balconies along the main street for visitors to view.
For many years we stopped off at a quaint little bakery in the main street. The old-style cake shop where the delicious wares are displayed in the front window. People would queue outside to buy a couple of the Braidwood Bakery’s famous pies. So I suppose it should have been no surprise when a few years ago it expanded into the old bank building next door to accommodate the hundreds of travellers who stop off for a feed each day.
St Bede’s Catholic Church Braidwood
St Bede’s Roman Catholic Church
As you enter the main street, you can’t miss the historic Catholic church and presbytry on the corner.
St Bede’s was built between 1856-1862 out of local granite. A huge bell stands next to the main building, which local folklore suggests was originally meant for Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral. The massive bell can be heard some 15 kilometres away.
Braidwood Memorial Park
A stroll in the park
Probably the main reason we always stop off at Braidwood is for a “toilet break”, both for ourselves and the furkids. At the northern end of town there are two lovely, tree lined parks, with very clean facilities. The dogs always enjoy a walk around the parks, also resplendent in their autumn foilage when we visited on our recent road trip.
The local service clubs offer a “Driver Reviver” stop here during the holiday periods, where you can get a free cup of coffee and buy a cheap sausage sandwich. There’s often a food van where you can pick up a quick bite to eat during the quieter times.
The Rotunda in the Memorial Park is a lovely place to stop for a break and a picnic lunch.
Braidwood police station
Braidwood Court House and Police Station
The Soldier’s War Memorial sits in the middle of the road between the two parks, overlooking the historic police residences and court house. Imagine the stories these buildings could tell of their hey-day during the goldrushes.
The current court house was built in 1900, replacing the 1837 building which was constructed by the town’s founder, Dr Braidwood Wilson. Next door are the original police station and barracks, dating back to 1864, set in flourishing gardens.
Haunted Hotels and movie sets
As with any Australian country town, the old pubs take precedence on the street corner. Back in the gold rush era, these pubs hosted stage coaches and bushrangers, with ghosts of patrons past said to roam the halls of the hotels.
The 1859 Braidwood hotel was used during the filming of the 1969 “Ned Kelly” movie. Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger starred in this film and frequented the local watering hole, delighting the guests with his yet undiscovered musical talents.
The pubs still display some bushranger regalia, as a nod to both original and more recent bushranger history.
Historic weatherboard cottages
There are many quaint old weatherboard miners cottages tucked away in Braidwood’s streets. This one on the edge of the creek, as you turn towards Bungendore has always intrigued me. Said to date back to the 1850’s it has survived years of flooding from the adjacent creek. It has served as a hotel, motel, restaurant and cafe.
Braidwood is well worth a stop-over on the drive between Canberra and the south coast. Whether for a quick refresher on your drive, or even a weekend stay, we always enjoy soaking in the historic ambience of this quaint rural town.
Braidwood is 325km south of Sydney and 62 kilometres south of Canberra.