Living history: The Wellingrove era

The Wellingrove Woolpack Inn: George  Polhill was the first licensee.

The Wellingrove Woolpack Inn: George Polhill was the first licensee.

The year 1838 saw the first white settlement in our district when land seekers sailed up the Hunter River to Morpeth and continued overland with bullock drays, carrying enough food to last until they could return to Morpeth for more supplies.

Archibald Boyd took up Boyd’s Plains, now known as Stonehenge Station, on Beardy Plains.

The Great Northern Road, later to become the New England Highway, was soon opened up between Armidale and Drayton as settlers moved north to the Darling Downs.

The court’s jurisdiction stretched from Ben Lomond in the south to Bolivia in the north and from Byron Plains in the west to the falls to the Clarence.

John Johnson Cory, who named it Wellingore after the Gostwyck family home in England, as the Cory and Gostwyck families were intermarried, took up Wellingrove Station in 1839.

Later George Polhill became the owner and at some stage, the spelling changed to Wellingrove.

Although it was 15 miles to the north-west of the main thoroughfare, Wellingrove, became the  administrative centre for the area.

E. C. Sommerlad in The Land of the Beardies tells us: “The gradual increase in settlement made it necessary for an official centre to be established and when the matter was referred by the colonial secretary to Polhill, as resident magistrate he somewhat naturally selected a site on his own run… and though most inconvenient for the rest of the district, was ideal from the point of view of the magistrate.

“On December 22, 1846, the Wellingrove Court of Petty Sessions and Police Station were gazetted. Costing £75, a 12ft x 11ft windowless slab hut served as courthouse, CPS office and post office.

“The court’s jurisdiction stretched from Ben Lomond in the south to Bolivia in the north and from Byron Plains in the west to the falls to the Clarence.”

By 1849 there were two schools and three water flour mills at Wellingrove.

However that year, assistant surveyor John James Galloway had many reasons a town should not be surveyed at Wellingrove: “too secluded … no inducement for tradesmen or mechanics to locate themselves” and proposed Beardy Plains “where the site is on the main road and more centrical”.