Gulgong History P.2
Prince of Wales Opera House, Gulgong in the gold rush days.
Prince of Wales Opera House:
Many a famous actor, actress, singer or musician performed at the The Prince of Wales Opera House in Gulgong and today, the Opera House is still a major feature in Gulgong’s entertainment world.
It was first built in 1871 by John Hart Cogdon and known as Cogdon’s Assembly Rooms.
It was a bark building at that time, but is now a fine example of a well built entertainment centre of its times, after being given a new roof and weatherboard façade and a wooden floor at the request of world famous actress Joey Gougenheim, who then leased the building and renamed it The Prince of Wales Opera House.
The Gulgong Prince of Wales Opera House is also proud of an early performance in her career there by Dame Nellie Melba under her married name, Mrs Armstrong.
Gulgong’s Cobb & Co
Cobb & Co was a major enterprise during the Gulgong Gold Rush days. You can imagine the excitement of a famous actress coming on the stage to perform in The Prince of Wales Opera House, or you can imagine the busyness of day to day life in the muddy goldfields, the coach squeezing along narrow curved lanes through humble tents, mud, slush, pubs and the racket of life on a goldfield.
The Cobb & Co route in Gulgong travelled from Mudgee to Cullenbone, Guntawang, Cobbora, Mendooran, Gilgandra and Coonamble twice a week in 1876 to 1879. The coach travelled from Mudgee to Eurunderee, Home Rule and Gulgong six times a week in 1879 and in 1880, the coach driver was allowed 120 pounds per annum extra to convey mails arriving in Gulgong further along to Mudgee by a buggy or light vehicle. In 1883 John Randell, the private owner of this route, transferred his interests to Cobb & Co.
Many present residents of the area can still see the remnants of coach roads on their properties. The coach once called into the property ‘Home Rule’, bought off the Rev EP Lowe’s ‘Old Gulgong’. The coaching inn is gone now, everything burnt down, but the coach went on the main road, out round the mountain to Muswellbrook, and there are marks on the rocks where the coaches went through.
Other properties in the area still have either coach tracks across or remains of stables or changing stations. One place is believed to be at Uarbry, Blue Springs Road, Gulgong.
The railway came to Gulgong in 1909.
Henry Lawson was one famous writer belonging to the Mudgee region, but Gulgong had another famous writer hiding in its midst in the gold rush, by all means a humble gold field warden, and police magistrate from 1871 to 1881, Thomas Alexander Browne, alias Rolf Boldrewood.
Rolf Boldrewood was famous for writing Robbery Under Arms, which was his first novel, appearing first in the Sydney Mail in 1881 as a serial. Browne drew on his experiences at the goldfields for the writing of his novel, The Miner’s Right in 1890.
Browne was born in London in 1826, but grew up in Australia. He became a jackeroo on stations in Victoria and NSW and became a police magistrate, then goldfield warden in Gulgong.
In 1870 he began to write under the pen name, ‘Rolf Boldrewood’. At one time he hosted a luncheon for the English novelist and journalist Anthony Trollope, who visited Gulgong in 1875 as he recorded his impressions of the Australian and New Zealand gold fields.
Browne lived for some years in the original homestead at Guntawang, which is still standing. Guntawang is presently a famous horse stud on the Wellington Road Gulgong, 8km south-west of the present town.
Guntawang was established as a cattle run by William Cox the roadbuilder’s sons in 1822, but conflict with the Wiradjuri people caused them to abandon the run.
In 1825, the Rouse brothers took over the cattle run and in 1825, Richard Rouse was granted Guntawang Station.
Browne's first novel, Robbery Under Arms, depicted the life and people where he lived, including Home Rule, which was O’Connell Town in the book.
Browne died in Melbourne in 1915.
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Thomas and Margaret Curry. Thomas was an original prospector of the district, before the big rush.