Located 261 km west of Sydney and 863 metres above sea level, Orange is a substantial and sophisticated rural service centre which lies at the heart of some of New South Wales' most rich and beautiful agricultural land.
The area was occupied by Wiradjuri Aborigines prior to European settlement. They moved freely across the land living on kangaroos, wallabies and small animals as well as the rich supplies of bush tucker which were available in the district.
The area was first sighted by Europeans in 23 June 1813 when G. W. Evans, heading south-west from Bathurst, saw the mountain range (of which Mount Canobolas is the most prominent) to the north-west. The next few years saw a number of near-misses as explorers passed through the area either to the north or south of the present townsite. Surveyor-General John Oxley passed through Lewis Pond and Ophir in 1817-18 and Surveyor Meehan passed west of Orange in 1820.
The first European to ride through the present townsite was Lieutenant Percy Simpson who was heading towards Wellington in 1823. He was accompanied by Chief Constable John Blackman who gave his name to Blackmans Swamp which was what the settlement was called until the name 'Orange' began to appear on official documents in the late 1820s. The name change was a result of Major Mitchell who decided the town should be named after the Prince of Orange - Mitchell had fought with the Prince in the Peninsular War in Spain. He also honoured the Duke of Wellington in the nearby town of that name. In 1835, after he had suggested a name for the future town, Mitchell camped at Boree and climbed Mount Canobolas.
A town site had been surveyed in 1828 and by 1836 land in the area (it was easy to recognise the richness of the local soils) was being sold. Notable early purchasers were W.E. Sampson and J. Moulder both of whom are commemorated by local street names.
By the late 1830s a town was forming. Sampson and Moulder subdivided their landholdings and a man named John Peisley obtained a license for the Coach and Horses Inn in 1838. A blacksmith and a wheelwright set themselves up near the inn and by 1845 there were more shops including a store, a tannery and a shoemaker.
The site of Orange was officially proclaimed on 18 November 1846. At the time there were large properties in the district (at Narambla on the northern side of the town the poet 'Banjo' Paterson was born on 17 February 1864) and a couple of steam-driven flour mills.
The discovery of payable gold at Ophir in April, 1851 changed the district dramatically. Thousands of people flocked to the Ophir diggings and then gold was discovered nearby at Lucknow. Between 1851 and 1871 the population of Orange grew from 28 to 1456 and businesses sprang up to meet the needs of the miners who passed through the area on their way to the goldfields.
By 1862 Cobb & Co were running a regular coach service from Bathurst to Forbes which passed through Orange. In fact such was the movement of transport through the area that in 1863 a tollgate was constructed on the road to the east of the present town.
By the 1870s the area was known for its high quality wheat and was gaining a reputation as the finest wheat producing area in New South Wales. The railway arrived in 1877 and with the decline in activity on the goldfields, and the recognition that the soils in the district could literally grow anything, local agriculture moved away from wheat to the planting of orchards. By the 1970s the district was producing over 10 per cent of the country's apple supplies and reputedly more than half the apples grown in New South Wales.
Today the city prides itself on being one of the country's food baskets. Olives, grapes, apples, berries, fine lamb and beef are all grown in the local area and the produce is of the highest quality.
Things to see
Orange City Heritage Trail
There is a free brochure available from the local Historical Society and Visitor Information Centre which lists 44 places of interest. It is an extended walk which takes approximately 90 minutes to complete. On the route are a number of highlights including:
Orange Court House
The Court House reputedly stands on a site which was originally used for corroborees by the local Aborigines. Between 1849-51 a simple slab and bark hut was constructed on the site and used both as a watch house and a courtroom. A sandstone building was completed on the site in 1860-62 and it was in this building that the bushranger Ben Hall was first tried for his alleged involvement in an armed robbery near Forbes on 14 April, 1862. After spending six weeks in custody Hall was tried and acquitted by a jury. He subsequently went on the infamous rampage which made him one of Australia's most famous bushrangers. That building was pulled down in 1882 when the present Neo-Classical building, designed by Colonial Architect James Barnet, was built. It was completed in 1883.
Orange Public School
Be amazed at a Public School which looks more like a church than a school with its high pointed large-paned sash windows, steeply pitched roof and spire. It was designed by G.A. Mansfield and opened in 1880 with the foundation stone being laid by Sir Henry Parkes, the NSW Premier and Founder of Australian Federation.
This beautiful Anglican Church, located on the corner of Anson and Byng Streets, dominates the towns architecture. It is a fine example of High Victorian Gothic Revival and was designed by Thomas Rowe in 1879 with the steeple being completed in 1924.
St Josephs Church
Located in Byng Street it was designed by Edward Gell. The nave was completed in 1870 and the transepts were added in 1897. The roof was built of slate and their are unusual gabled ventilators on the ridge of the nave.
Orange Post Office
Designed by J. Barnet and completed in 1879 this is a typical two-storey Classical design with an arcaded facade which has been filled in over the years. It has an interested balustraded parapet.
Standing like a glorious folly over the western end of town (and towering over the Orange Golf Club) this extraordinary building. It was built in 1876 for local businessman, James Dalton who, was the father of 12 children. Today it is a combination of a guest house and Club House for the Golf Club.
Orange Regional Gallery
Located on the corner of Byng and Peisley Streets the Orange Regional Gallery is recognised as one of the best rural art galleries in Australia. It regularly hosts touring art exhibitions and has a fine collection of works including Ian Fairweather, Sidney Nolan, Justin O'Brien, Brett Whiteley and John Olsen.
Running from 3-25 Bathurst Road this is an outstanding example of a two-storey terrace building. It was built in 1876 and renovated in 1972 and is characterised by cast-iron balconies and columns. Designed by J. Hale it is a rare example of a terrace in a rural town.
Parks and Gardens
One of Orange's premier attractions is the city's excellent gardens and parks.
The centrepiece is Cook Park (located on the main street at the western end) which has fountains, a band rotunda, an aviary, a begonia house, a small pond and numerous walkways. It is obviously best in spring and autumn but it offers an ideal location for a picnic at any time of the year. The park is famed for its hundred-year-old trees (the first trees were planted in 1880), the interesting John Gale Memorial Fountain (remodelled in the 1920s) and the octagonal Bandstand which was completed in 1908 which still has the original gas fittings and music stands. The City of Orange has produced an excellent Cook Park Heritage Walk brochure which describes all the main features in the park.
Located just south of Cook Park this pleasant location (truly spectacular in autumn) winds along a small creek and is characterised by ducks, reeds and some truly beautiful stands of poplar trees. It is a series of connecting parks which are separated by the streets it crosses.
Located north of Orange on Hill Street, the Botanical Gardens were created as a Bicentennial Project. The aim was to create a garden based 'on a theme that relates to both past and current regional vegetation as well as those plants that enjoy cold winters and hot summers'. They now cover 17 hectares. The features include the 'Homestead Gardens', the 'Sensory Gardens', the 'Biblical Gardens' and the 'Heritage Rose Garden'
Attractive gardens opposite the Tourist Information Centre in Byng Street. There are extensive plantings of exotic and native trees and the park, in the centre of the city area, is a pleasant place for a picnic. The park came into existence in 1882 and is located on the original site of Blackmans Swamp. The Whitney Fountain was placed in the park in 1895 and the bandstand was completed in 1915.
Lake Canobolas and Mount Canobolas
12 km west of the city centre is Lake Canobolas, a pleasant artificial lake which is now so well established that willows and poplars grow on its foreshores and there are excellent picnic and barbecue facilities available. It is said that 'canobolas' (from 'coonoo baloo' is a local Aboriginal word meaning 'twin shoulders' or 'twin heads'.
Another 6 km further on is the summit of Mount Canobolas, an extinct volcano which rises to 1395 metres and offers 360° views from its summit. With a fine sense of wry Australian humour the locals point out that if you were to draw a straight line west from Mount Canobolas you would find a higher location from Orange to the coast of Africa. The mountain's walks offer excellent opportunities to see a wide variety of fauna including rosellas, cockatoos, parrots, lorikeets, grey kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, koalas and small possums.
Wineries in the District
Located on Pinnacle Road south of Orange this 26 ha vineyard is 970 metres above sea level. It specialises in premium reds and whites. Tastings are by appointment. Contact (02) 6365 3229.
Located on Boree Lane off the Canowindra Road west of Orange this winery is open to the public on weekends from 11.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. Contact (02) 6365 6113.
Cargo Road Winery
Located on the Cargo Road west of Orange this winery offers both cellar door tastings and a pleasant cafe which are open to the public on weekends from 10.30 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. Contact (02) 6365 6100.
Gold Dust Wines
Located 25 km south of Orange on the Forest Road at an altitude of 970 m this vineyard specialises in riesling and chardonnay wines. Contact (02) 6366 5168 for details. It is open by appointment only.
Highland Heritage Estate
Offering both a classy restaurant and cellar door tastings, Highland Heritage is located on the Mitchell Highway east of Orange. It is said that the 1994 Sauvignon Blanc produced here is one of the best ever produced in Australia. The restaurant and cellar door are open is to the public on weekends from 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. and weekdays 9.00 a.m. - 3.00 p.m. Contact (02) 6361 3612.
Located near the heart of Orange Ibis Wines is only 1 km past the city's Botanic Gardens at 25 Kearneys Drive. It is open to the public on weekends from 11.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. Contact (02) 6362 3257.
The Orange district's newest winery, Indigo Ridge is located on Icely Road east of the city. Its first vintage of sauvignon blanc and riesling was available late 1998. It is open by appointment. Contact (02) 6362 1851.
Located on Borenore Lane west of Orange Nashdale offers cool climate wines grown at an altitude of 1000 metres above sea level. Cellar door sales are open to the public on weekends from 10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m. Contact (02) 6362 3388.
Located on Cargo Road west of Orange Osmond Wines are a new vineyard which is currently producing boutique wines from Muscat Hamburg grapes. It will eventually expand to include wines made from cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot and semillon grapes. It is open to the public on weekends from 11.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. Contact (02) 6365 3388.
This 20 ha vineyard is part of Orange Agricultural College and is used for research and viticulture. Located on Leeds Parade north of Orange it is open 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. Monday to Friday and there are cellar door sales. For more information contact (02) 6360 5509.
Forest Edge Vineyard
Located on Old Canobolas Road to the west of Orange, Forest Edge Vineyard specialises in cool climate grapes which it provides to a number of Hunter Valley wineries. There are no cellar door sales. For more information contact (02) 6365 3434.
Griffin Road is left off the Mitchell Highway just after Broken Shaft Creek exactly 3.5 kilometres from the 100kpm speed sign on the road to Molong from Orange. The vineyard is located on the mid-slopes of a free standing, north and easterly facing headland comprised of some of the oldest soils on this planet. It is a little over 8 hectares in size and was established in 1983.
Since 1992, Bloodwood wines have been custom-crushed at Reynolds Yarraman in the Upper Hunter Valley with the Champagne styles being handled by Kirsten Munro of Charles Sturt University. Beginning with the 98 vintage, Cabernet has been made on site. Grapes grown include Merlot Noir, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.
Of particular interest in the area are the numerous old mines some of which are still operational and can be inspected. N.B. There are considerable stretches of dirt road on the way to Ophir. It is a good quality country road.Ophir
Ophir (it rhymes with 'loafer' or 'sofa') is an uninhabited recreation reserve with picnic and camping facilities at the confluence of Summer Hill Creek and Lewis Ponds Creek. It is located in a gorge 29 km north-east of Orange. It is here that Australia's first payable gold was located in April 1851. For more details see Ophir.
Birthplace of 'Banjo' Paterson
On the way out to Ophir, some 5 km from the centre of Orange, is a white monument which declares that this was the location where Andrew 'Banjo' Paterson, was born. Paterson, the man who wrote 'Waltzing Matilda', is now recognised as the country's most famous and most admired bush poet. The original house no longer stands but there is a pleasant park area where enthusiasts can enjoy a picnic and appreciate the rolling countryside. Orange was also the birthplace of the great 20th century poet, Kenneth Slessor, whose poems have been studied by generations of Australian students.
Cadia is located 22 km south-west of Orange (the last 6 km of road are unsealed). Those interested in industrial history will find there a two-storey Cornish engine and pumping house, built of stone, with a circular stone and brick chimney, a single-storey boiler house annexe and a large stone paved working area. Probably erected by the Gulgong Copper Company in the 1870s it closed down in the 1880s. There is an Open Day one day each year. Check with Orange Visitor Information Centre.
Cobb & Co Heritage Trail
The historic inland coaching company, Cobb & Co, celebrated the 150th anniversary of its first journey in 2004 (and the 80th anniversary of its last, owing to the emergence of motorised transport). The trailblazing company's contribution to Australia's development is celebrated with the establishment of a heritage trail which explores the terrain covered on one of its old routes: between Bathurst and Bourke.
Cobb & Co's origins lay in the growing human traffic prompted by the goldrushes of the early 1850s. As the Heritage Trail website states: 'The company was enormously successful and had branches or franchises throughout much of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan. At its peak, Cobb & Co operated along a network of tracks that extended further than those of any other coach system in the world its coaches travelled 28,000 miles (44,800km) per week and 6000 (out of their 30,000) horses were harnessed every day. Cobb & Co created a web of tracks from Normanton on the Gulf of Carpentaria and Port Douglas on the Coral Sea down to the furthest reaches of Victoria and South Australia in all, a continuous line of 2000 miles (3200km) of track over eastern Australia from south to north, with a total of 7000 miles (11,200km) of regular routes' (see http://www.cobbandco.net.au).
Cobb & Co partner, William Franklin Whitney, took up residence in Orange and he and his wife are buried in the local cemetery. The heritage trail also takes in the family's old residence (which was used as a company stables and depot) and the Whitney Fountain, built by Whitney's employees, in his honour. Other Cobb & Co sites include the Victoria Hotel, the Royal Hotel, the old booking office site, the former passenger pick-up point, and other sites in the shire, such as changing stations and track routes.