Woodford, Blue Mountains, Australia, History

Info Blue Mountains History Plaza
Woodford Academy
3 Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia.
Oldest building in the Blue Mountains

A National Trust historic property.

This page: Early History | The Gold Rush | Woodford Academy
Historic Significance | Conservation Work

Related pages: Railway Pages | Tourist Info.


Woodford Academy, Blue Mountains, Australia Drawing: National Trust, NSW


Early History

When the road west over the Blue Mountains was built, William Cox placed a 20 mile peg near present-day Woodford Railway Station and called the area Twenty Mile Hollow. Having good water supply the area was used as a reserve for travelling stock.

William James, from Worcester, England, was the first known white resident on this site. He was listed as a convict among 136 disembarked from the 'Baring' on 3/7/1819. He built a rough stone and slab squat thought to comprise 5 rooms, stable and stockyard. James had been asked to leave the squat in part due to his reputation for the illegal sale of alcohol. In the Colonial secretary's papers of November 30th 1831, he is described as the only "illegal" squatter on Bathurst Rd.

Thomas Michael Pembroke of Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland, arrived as a convict aboard the "St. Michael" in 1818 aged 22. By 1831, he had been given a grant of land at Twenty Mile Hollow. This site included William James's squat. That year, Pembroke employed fencers, splitters and stonemasons to erect an inn which was largely complete by 1833. In 1839 this 'for sale' advertisement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald "50 acres, 20 cleared, well-built stone and wood house, inn known as 'Sign of the Woodman', licensed, comprising 9 excellent rooms, stabling for 6 horses, store, stock and sheepyards etc. with productive garden and overflowing spring of water" (SMH 14/6/1839, Mitchell). He sold the property to a Michael Hogan of Penrith for 450.

The earliest parts of Woodford Academy (as it became known in 1907) -- those fronting the highway -- remain largely in original condition and, although there is evidence of alterations, the plan form is typical of an 1830's inn.

The Gold Rush

Throughout the 1840's the inn had various licensees including James Nairn, William Barton, John Cobcroft and Thomas James.

In 1855 Hogan sold the property to William Buss of Cowra, who was an ex-convict transported for life on the 'Phoenix' in 1828 for horse stealing. Buss was granted a ticket of leave in 1836, and a conditional pardon in 1843. The inn became known as "The King's Arms". Buss was a colourful and popular publican, and the inn was also known as "Buss's Inn". The Gold Rush brought an increase in traffic travelling west to the Turon and Bathurst gold fields. The King's Arms was one of a series of wayside inns providing accomodation and refreshments far travellers.

Buss retained the property until his death in 1867. He bequeathed all his properly to his wife Bridget. In August 1868 Bridget Buss sold the property to Alfred Fairfax. Fairfax renamed the building "Woodford House" and lived there intermittently. The main use during the late 1800's was as a mountain retreat or fashionable boarding house. The Blue Mountains were becoming popular as a healthy place to live and as a holiday resort.

A significant event at this time was the observation of the Transit of Venus in 1874 on a site at the rear of Woodford House. In 1897 Woodford House was sold to David Flannery and was described then as a sanitorium. Total landholding by this time was about 36.42 hectares (90 acres).

Woodford Academy

In 1907 John Fraser McManamey leased the buildings and established "Woodford Academy School" for boys. In December 1908 the property was subdivided and sold by Flannery. The bulk of the land was purchased by Mary Jane Waterhouse wife of Gustavus John Waterhouse. A portion of 5.06 hectares (12.5 acres), which included the house, was sold to John McManamey in 1914.

McManamey's school offered a curriculum based on the liberal arts for boys of all ages. Commercial subjects were available for those intending to enter business life. By 1936 the school had closed although private tuition continued. In 1946 John McManamey died. The Academy remained in the family and was used as a private residence. The land surrounding the building was subject to further subdivision during this period. Land at the rear was sold to the Department of Education and land to the east was donated to the Presbyterian Church.

In 1979, Miss Gertrude McManamey, John McManamey's daughter, gave the property to the National Trust. She remained living here until her death in late 1988.

Historic Significance

This large group of buildings are constructed predominantly of sandstone, with roofs of pressed metal tiles and corrugated iron. The original wooden shingles are still to be seen under the iron roofing of the dairy. The interiors are generally intact and as a whole the buildings remain largely as they were in the 1880's.

The primary significance of the site is as the oldest group of buildings in the Blue Mountains (between Emu Plains and Little Hartley). It is one of the most substantial Colonial/Victorian inn complexes in NSW.

Conservation Work

From 1979 to 1994 the Trust has undertaken several stages of work to stabilise the building, prevent further deterioration and to provide comfortable accommodation for Miss McManamey, whilst she was resident.

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