|Towns & Villages: Mittagong|
|Mittagong lies on a plateau at the foot of Mt. Gibraltar, Mt. Jellore, and High Range - a chain of mountains across the northern end of the Highlands. Gaps here offer the only natural roads into the interior, and Mittagong from its beginning has been the gateway to the Highlands.|
Mittagong was first settled by William Chalker (1821), principal overseer of Government Stock at Cowpastures, who was later granted land in the area.
Within a few years there were a number of inns serving travellers. Many of these buildings are still standing today (now "The Poplars', 'Braemar Lodge', 'Fitzroy Inn').
Fitzroy Inn (c.1836)
The centre of Mittagong as we know it today was only established on land reserved for a village with the coming of the railway (1867). Before that there were a number of small and private villages scattered throughout the area (Nattai, New Sheffield, Fitzroy, Lower Mittagong). Only New Sheffield, owned by Fitzroy Iron Works (near where the RSL is today) grew to any appreciable size before 1860.
Apart from farming and grazing, Mittagong was an early mining settlement. Over the years coal, iron ore, and shale oil formed the basis of prosperity up to the C20th. Together, of course with the hospitality industry (inns, hotels, and guest houses), catering for the traveller.
Even convicts bound for Berrima Gaol stayed overnight after a train trip from Sydney, albeit in the dungeon below the Grand Exchange (now Mittagong) Hotel, not the elegant suites upstairs.
Pioneer Street, Mittagong
Demand for residential land increased after subdivisions in the 1880s, with trainloads of speculators arriving by train to bid at auctions held by Richardson & Wrench, founders of a real estate dynasty.
Many of the public buildings erected at the end of the C19th - churches, school, shops, hotels etc. can still be seen in a good state of preservation.
Mittagong was created a Municipality in 1889, but major civic improvements did not follow until the 1920s, with paved streets, public parks, electric lighting, and gas. In 1939 it was merged into Nattai (later Mittagong) Shire, which was responsible for local government in surrounding areas (including Burradoo until transferred to Bowral Municipality only in 1954.)
Throughout the C19th, and until bypassed by the Freeway in 1992, Mittagong has been a major amenities stop for travellers on the main southern highway. It was also a major railway junction, where the Mittagong to Picton loop line met the main southern line.
From the earliest times Mittagong has had an industrial focus, with coal and shale oil mining nearby, iron foundries (which made much of the 'iron lace' decorating the now prized inner Sydney city terraces), petrol refining, timber mills (one still exists), coachbuilders, and blacksmiths among its industries over the years.
Traditional blacksmith Josef Balog, at Artemis Wines.
The large building (now under redevelopment) which can be seen on the left entering town from the north is the remains of a maltworks (1898, closed 1970s) which produced malt for Sydney Brewers Tooth & Co. Today there are mainly tourist and service industries, and some secondary industries (Commonwealth Engineering, Tyree Industries).
Diversion of the highway to bypass the town has allowed for improvement of the streetscapes and the proliferation of more "trendy" tourist oriented businesses - cafes, restaurants, boutiques, accommodation, art and antique galleries.
Mittagong is now also home to a number of boutique cool climate vineyards and wineries.
Its closeness to the city has made it a favourite destination for day-tripping tourists, and a rural residential area for city workers.
For further details see our Past and Present pages.