Hartley Historic Village

One of the first things to know about the Hartley area is that there is a lot of it. From the Blue Mountains heading towards Lithgow you first pass through Little Hartley (with the old Harp of Erin on the left hand side, past the lolly shop) then the roadhouse cafe and farming produce store at Mid Hartley. A detour along Browns Gap Road will take you through Hartley Vale, providing an opportunity to enjoy a lovely drive through the valley.

The historic village of Hartley is under the care of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The NPWS took over the upkeep of the village in 1972, and there are various tours and accommodation options available. On the day I went for a wander there was a bus load of school kids visiting from the south coast, and they were split into groups to explore the historic courthouse and the Catholic Church.

The village of Hartley began to take shape in the mid 1830s with travel along the Great Western Road passing nearby following the opening of Victoria Pass. By 1837 the Hartley Courthouse was in operation, administering local justice until 1887 when court business was transferred to Lithgow. The building became a popular backdrop for tourists taking group photos on tours to the Jenolan Caves and was set up as a museum from the period after World War II until it came under the control of NPWS.

Hartley is one of the towns that came into existence due to the needs of travellers heading to the western districts, but then declined in significance when bypassed by the railway in the 1870s. The remaining buildings include old pubs and places of worship.

Old Post Office, Hartley

The old post office is now a family-owned and operated cafe. The pressed tin ceiling, painted white, has a lovely rose design and there is local artwork on display and for sale inside the cafe. The granite tor, which I’ve written about previously, is located behind the old post office. There is an energy about it, and it is worth the walk up the slope in order to see the vistas stretching out towards Oberon and Lithgow, with the Great Western Highway snaking its way up the incline to Lithgow, Bathurst and beyond.

The Farmer’s Inn, which now includes the Kew-Y-Ahn Aboriginal Gallery. St Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church in the background.

The Farmers Inn, which has served various purposes including time as a pub during the gold rush, is now a tourist centre and a gallery for indigenous artists from the central west of NSW.

St Bernard’s Presbytery (right) and St Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church

Evidence of the strong Irish Catholic community is evident in St Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church and Presbytery, built in the 1830s and 1840s. The Anglican church, St John the Evangelist, is located closer to the highway and was built in the 1850s.

The Shamrock Inn, Hartley

During my occasional visits to Hartley I’ve been drawn to the Shamrock Inn, one of the last buildings along the road. It seems to be settling down into its foundations with each passing year, the stones at the front of the building a little more uneven and the doorways slightly shorter than my height.

Pride and preservation combined with an interesting heritage make Hartley Historic Village a place well worth the trip. 

[Photo: Hartley Courthouse]

8 thoughts on “Hartley Historic Village

    1. Thanks! There is something wonderful about the warmth of the sandstone in the courthouse in particular in the autumn sunlight, and I am quite taken with the lovely curves at the back of the building – such a contrast to the formal facade.


  1. At one time, the Hartley courthouse was set up with a professional-quality recording of a trial. It transported visitors into the past as they listened to the two opposing lawyers arguing, the witnesses testifying, the accused giving his account. I think there was also a life-size ‘store dummy’ for each voiced character, decked out in period costume. It was a creative way to get people imagining the building’s history.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that snippet, Marsha – it sounds like a memorable visit. And what a wonderful visual and aural way to bring the past into focus. Do you remember how life-size dummies seemed to be located in old buildings and rooms in some historical places? There are still some stashed about – I think my last encounter was at the museum at Mt Victoria. I was on my own and it gave me a start when I entered one of the rooms! Another one that comes to mind is the dummy prison guard that was entombed in a plastic box of sorts at the entrance to Old Dubbo Gaol. He’d lurch to life at regular intervals, enticing passers-by to pay a visit.


      1. Yes, the lurching dummies are always a shock! I had the opposite event when I visited a shop in midlands Victoria. A small part of it had been made into an old, quaint barber shop, I was admiring the display, complete with a male manikin sitting in the barber’s chair. Then he spoke. Realising my mistake, I blurted, ‘Oh, excuse me, I thought you were a dummy.’ That had the locals in stitches.

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