Stuart Town in central west NSW is one of many tiny villages that endured after the gold rush ended over a century ago. It is located between Orange and Wellington and has a population of about 400 people. It is on the central west train line, with the XPT passing through twice daily.
It is one of those towns that you might drive through on the way to somewhere else, travelling along a back road from A to B. You have to slow down to the local traffic speed which provides an opportunity to see the old wooden and brick buildings, catch a glimpse of the church perched high on the hill and spot the old bakery with its once brightly painted signage now fading away.
There are many places like this scattered like careless fairy dust across the state. A lot of places are just that, mere specks with few remaining signs of the brief months or years when gold fever arrived in town.
A guide map from Wellington Council points out historic sites, including remnants of huts built by miners and Chinese camp sites along the river. The old store run by Yee Lee & Co still has the painted facade, the shop window offering a dusty display of old wares.
I was reminded of Stuart Town recently when I saw an exhibition of prints. These included a lithograph print by Tim Winters of Stuart Town. Its familiarity jumped out at me, as did the way that the essence of the town was captured in a handful of buildings: the Chinese store, pub and the church on the hill. I knew where it was on sight.
Stuart Town reinvented itself in 1889 when the town changed its name from Ironbark. According to a sign in the town, this was due to the town developing such a terrible name for violence and misbehaviour during the gold rush years that a new name was the only way for the town to progress. It is a bit of a shame, really, as the renaming muddied the connection with a great poem by Banjo Patterson – The Man from Ironbark.
Have you spotted the essence of a place in an image?
*Stuart Town, Formerly Ironbark is the name of the print by Tim Winters.
[Photo: old bakery at Stuart Town]