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1870, Armidale Courthouse - Unfit For Publication
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The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Tue 1 Mar 1870 1

(Abridged from the Armidale papers, Feb 26.)

    Very extensive repairs and alterations are about to be made in the Armidale Court House, which, it is thought, will materially add to the public convenience.

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The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Thu 6 Jul 1871 2

(From the Armidale Papers, July 1.)

    A quantity of furniture, intended for the new rooms of the Armidale court-house, arrived in Armidale during the week. The furniture is of very good quality — Telegraph.

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Australian Town and Country Journal, Sat 21 Feb 1874 3



    Private races were held yesterday and to-day by the gentlemen of the district. The meeting was a highly successful one, and plate and jewellery to the value of £250 was run for.

    Last night a select and fashionable ball was given at the court-house by the committee of the Private Race Club.

    Ellen Nugent and mother, charged with stealing ball and silk dresses, jewellery, groceries, &c, from their employer, Mr JM Simpson, surveyor, are committed for trial.

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Australian Town and Country Journal, Sat 2 May 1874 4


THE metropolis of New England is Armidale, and its very central position enhances its prosects of becoming the city of greatest importance on the northern table-land. It is a pleasing task to write about a place like Armidale. Its exceeding picturesqueness, the combination of art with nature in the scenery, the formation of streets, the private residences and gardens, the public buildings, churches, and schools, all go to make up a very agreeable picture. The climate is very healthy, and an enthusiastic correspondent says “The winter air of Armidale (3278 feet above the level of the sea) is keen and pure, and we have very cold bracing nights, but the days that succeed such nights are glorious, presenting crisp and elastic air and a bright and genial sun. And though the winters are so fine, you should visit us in the spring time—say about November. Then it is very beautiful; the fruit trees such as you see in Old England are in full blossom, the earth covered with brilliant grass, the paddocks waving with corn, and the open bush redolent of the bloom of the wattle or acacia; no wonder bishops, pastors, and officials have found in Armidale a chosen seat, and rest satisfied.” 

    It has often struck me that if I were an emigration agent in the home country (at a good salary) I would say much more than the half dozen now there in praise of the climate. In my lecture after having told of other districts I would reserve the crowning description for the bright and genial English climate of the district I am now treating of. It is no exaggeration to say that within a comparatively short distance of Armidale every person can suit his taste and health; and that torrid and frigid “climes” are but forty miles apart.

    It was about the year 1835 that Armidale was founded. The pioneers of the north had formed stations on the table-land of New England, and Mr Commissioner McDonald made the Dumaresq Creek—one of the tributaries of the Macleay—his camp. He called the place Armidale (a pretty name) after his father’s native place in Scotland. A blacksmith’s shop, store, and public-house were established in due time, and this formed the nucleus of the city, which now boasts a population of about 2000 souls—a city having two cathedrals, and giving their name to the sees of two bishops, having two newspapers, being the head quarters of a gold and crown lands commissioners, of the superintendant [sic] of police; and a circuit town, visited by Supreme Court judges twice a year.

    The city is compact, square, and the streets all well laid out, the greater number of them being built upon in a substantial and in many instances tasteful manner; and amongst these are the Cathedrals, the Wesleyan and Presbyterian churches, court-house, the banks, schools, stores, and hotels, to say nothing of private residences.

    Armidale is 313 miles north of Sydney, and about 80 miles west from the sea-coast. I have mentioned the town as the Metropolis of New England, and before entering into details I might state that the range of the police district under Superintendant Orridge embraces Bendemeer, Walcha, Tenterfield, Inverell, Tingha, Ashford, Glen Innes, Vegetable Creek, Bundarra, Solferino, &c, &c, 23 stations altogether, under 53 officers and men, embracing an area of 19,000 square miles, and a population of 20,000 people, engaged in pastoral and agricultural, and gold and tin mining pursuits on an extensive scale.

    The head of the Church of England is the Right Rev Dr Turner, and his title is Bishop of Grafton and Armidale. The affairs of the Church in Armidale are in a very prosperous state, and there are in Armidale, beside the Bishop, two clergymen, the Rev S Hungerford and D Sinclair. The new Cathedral Church now in course of erection will be an ornament to the town. The engraving which accompanies this will convey a good idea of the building when completed. The church is called St Peter’s, and stands on 2¼ acres of ground in a central position. It will be built of hard burnt bricks in the gothic style, with tower, &c, and the cost is estimated to be L7000 or L8000. The following gentlemen form the committee: His Lordship the Bishop, John Moore, Esq (Mayor of Armidale), HA Thomas, AJ Maister, and WH Mutlow.

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The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Tue 5 Oct 1875 5


(From the Armidale Express, Oct 1.)

    In view of the intended visit of Sir Alfred Stephen to Armidale, to preside at the Circuit Court here, a meeting of magistrates and other gentlemen was held, at the Court House, last evening, when it was decided that his Honor should be entertained at a dinner. More than 20 names were put down on the list, and we understand that many more will join in the demonstration, so that it is sure to be a perfect success. We learn that Sir Alfred, accompanied by his lady and son, will arrive at Uralla on the 7th inst, and may be expected in Armidale at 5 o’clock the same evening. It is the intention of a number of gentlemen in the district to drive or ride out and escort his Honor into the town.

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Australian Town and Country Journal, Sat 14 Dec 1878 6


IN my last I had stopped abruptly on the brow of a hill, from whence I obtained my first view of Armidale. Before me stretched a valley right and left, which, after the wretched country I had passed through, was quite refreshing, presenting as it did in many places a green aspect. Fences ran every way, it being cut up into paddocks, some of which were cultivated, while others were only used for grazing purposes. A few cottages, dotted here and there, surrounded with trees of a darker foliage, lent beauty to the picture, and rendered it homely. Beyond this, on the top of the next hill, rested Armidale, “the city of the plains,” the largest and most influential centre of population in New England. Entering the precincts of the town, my attention was attracted by some snug little cottages, whose verandahs, being covered with green creepers, appeared beautifully cool and refreshing.

    On my left was the racecourse, admirably adapted for the purpose, though I am told the ground is sometimes rather hard. The cricket oval was also inside the enclosure, though from what I can see, there is very little interest taken in the game, either by the boys at the schools, or the young men of Armidale; and yet I have heard a rumour that they are in communication with the cricketers of Tamworth to amalgamate for the purpose of inviting the Australian Eleven to take a thrashing at their hands.

    A grandstand (not a large one) is erected on the ground, and from it a view over the whole of the racecourse can be obtained; but passing on I very soon became aware that Armidale had some pretensions to the title of city. The streets are very fine, running at right angles to one another, well kept and provided with kerb stones. On each side were buildings, which had an air of solidity about them that is very seldom seen in a provincial town, while in the distance loomed structures of considerable size that would bear criticism if erected in George-street, Sydney. Stopping a man who was driving a flock of sheep, I asked my way to the post office; he replied “Follow straight as you go till you come to the street this side of the Cathedral, then, &c”. Good heavens!, had I mistaken my road? “This side the Cathedral,” surely the man was joking. A Cathedral town—what, Armidale?—it seemed absurd. So I wondered, and I dare say many others will wonder with me. Very few indeed know the wealth and size of some of our provincial towns. The greater portion of even the colonial world imagine that because a place is situated two or three hundred miles from the centre of civilization it cannot have any importance, but will be only a collection of huts and humpies. My own opinion was not quite as bad as that, but I certainly was surprised. As regards the Cathedral, I cannot say that the building comes up to my idea of the high sounding name. It is a fine church, but a poor Cathedral.

    Some slight history of the city may here be interesting. The ground on which it now stands was originally part of the stations of Gosford, Summers, and Tilbuster; but it had begun to be settled before 1850. In that year the town was laid out, and in 1851 the first land sale was held in Sydney. From that time up to 1862 the progress was very rapid. Selectors began to find out the value of the land lying outside the town, which itself went ahead in consequence. It was in that year (1862) declared a municipality, Mr G Allingham being elected mayor. Fortunately for the place, unlike the towns such as Kempsey, Taree, Gloucester, and others, which being principally the properties of individuals who do not go in for improvement, are kept behind by wretched buildings, Armidale has for its wealthiest resident and principal owner a gentleman whom one cannot but feel it is an honour to know. Mr Moore, of whom I speak, has truly been called the father of Armidale, and he has exercised his paternal influence in a magnificent manner. Commencing from the very first with a view of improving the city in a substantial manner, he erected buildings which, being in advance of the time, would be equal to succeeding ages. Up to a little while back, although several of his properties passed into other hands, no one has followed his example. Latterly, others finding his policy the soundest, have also made a step in the same direction.

    Not only in building has Mr Moore been a prime mover in progress. In the surrounding farms his name has been a pushing influence amongst them. A lenient landlord, he has at the same time stimulated them to exertion. Well indeed may he feel proud of his work, as although somewhat past his prime—being one of the earliest residents—he continues to reside here; and he may generally be seen watching an immense two-story [sic–storey] building being erected to his order, the contract price of which, I hear, is £4000.

    However, from the year 1862, Armidale has still gone on improving, till now the municipality alone has a population of over 2000 inhabitants, while carriages and buggies roll along its streets, a postman in red coat delivers the letters, and many other things, as the auctioneer states, too numerous to mention, are here the same as in your metropolis.

    Although the heat when I first arrived was fearfully oppressive, such weather is evidently very exceptional, the climate of New England generally being the coolest in New South Wales. The English fruits are here grown to perfection, though I will be able to tell you more about them after the show. Strawberries and cherries I can at anyrate give an opinion on. The former being nearly out, might be better; but the cherries are splendid.

    Mosquito nets—although I have felt one or two of the varmints—are a thing unknown, and whatever the day is the evenings are that cold that one is glad of the blanket, while now and then an extra covering is required. I am told that occasions have been known when a fire at Christmas eve was necessary. How glorious of such could be said of your over-heated city.

    One of the principal drawbacks to the city is the want of water. The creek—a small one—called Dumaresq Creek, on which the city stands, frequently dries up except in holes, which in cases of heavy drought become stagnant. The ground being also hard requires a great deal of rain to keep the grass at all green. It is now parched up in every direction, and although the farmers are not particularly in want graziers cry very loudly for a little more moisture.

    The first place of importance on passing down Falkner-street, [sic–Faulkner] is the town hall and school of arts, which are under the same roof. In the former, good-sized room capable of holding about 300 people, all entertainments, meetings, &c, are held. In it, I had the pleasure of witnessing an amateur performance, and the flower and fruit show is also to take place there. Next to it is the library or libraries, there being two—a free and a circulating library. In the former, there are 500 volumes; in the latter, 1000. A reading-room, with the latest metropolitan and several provincial papers on the table, is also attached, and I could not help noticing the manner in which the Town and Country Journal was read.

Armidale courthouse. Image: Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 5 Jul 1884, p.13. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Armidale courthouse. Image: Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 5 Jul 1884, p.13.
Reproduction: Peter de Waal

    Opposite this place in a building which, from the “square and compass” sign over the door, I take to be the masonic hall. Next to this is the building society’s office, of which Mr Wilson is secretary. I am informed that it has been particularly useful and successful. The next house is Mr TC Smith’s auction mart, after which at the corner is an hotel. This brings us to Bearey-street, [sic–Beardy] the main thoroughfare. To our right can be seen the store of Mr W Lucas, of whom you have probably lately heard; while nearer, a large brick building to be used as a store is going up, by the order of Mr Phillips. On the opposite side a new building, also a store I believe, is being erected by Mr M Butler. Several other buildings, of which Mr Page’s store is one, intervene, and then directly opposite is the new building which is being erected by Messrs Seabrook and Brown to the order of the Bank of New South Wales. Opposite to this on the same side of the street is the court-house, which has also rooms for Mr Bray, CPS and land agent. To this gentleman I am indebted for much useful information. It is a fine roomy building. Some time ago it was thought that a clock placed in the front would be of service to the town, and the clock being procured the work of making a place for its reception was commenced. Afterwards the idea was changed, and the new post-office is spoken about as being the desirable placed for old Father Time to have his seat. Which will eventually be the one is at present unknown, while in the meanwhile the scaffolding for its erection remains an eyesore in front of the court-house. On the opposite side of Bearey-street, is the post and telegraph office, at present in the one building. A new post-office to cost between £3000 and £4000 is being erected alongside; when this is finished, the old building will be used entirely for telegraph purposes. Following down on the same side of the street, we pass some two-story brick buildings, the lower part of which is used by Mr JA De Moulin as a jewellery shop, next door to which Mr Hone has a confectionery establishment. Close to this another large building attracts our attention, being kept as an hotel by Mr Jarrison. I understand he is selling off preparatory to quitting the business.

    Passing several other places we stopped for a minute at Mr Scholes’ New England Hotel, after which we come to the new building of Mr Moore. It will be a very large one, and the cost is, I understant, £4000. The builders are Messrs Seabrook and Brown, who informed me that they had at the present about £12,000 of contract work going on in Armidale. Passing this we stopped for a minute at Mr Holmes’ saddler’s shop, next to which is drapery establishment of Mr T Smith. After this we come to Mr Thompson’s general store. Crossing the street we glace over Mr Moses’ boot factory, to which is also attached a tannery. The next building of importance is the immense store of the Hon J Richardson and Co. The building was originally the property of Mr Moore, who erected it, though it has lately changed into the hands of the firm. Across the street is the Commercial Bank, another large building erected by Mr Moore. This branch is in charge of Mr R McDonald. By the way, I forgot to mention the A[ustralian] J[oint] S[tock] Bank, which is a large two-story building next to Mr Thompson’s. It is under the management of Mr AJ Antill. The other bank, that of New South Wales, is in charge of Mr DG Davis, and as the former already have two buildings as their business premises, which would be a credit to any town, and the Bank of New South Wales is erecting a new and expensive one, I should think that banking in Armidale is lucrative. Above these are a number of smaller stores and shops, all with only one floor, after which we again come to the court-house, having done the block, and although the side streets have many prominent houses and buildings in them the foregoing are the principal business places and therefore the most noticeable.

    The court-house, of which I send you a photo, I have already mentioned, but only slightly. It has been built some time, and being the head centre of all the police transactions of New England, is worth more than a passing notice. Mr Orridge, the police superintendent, residing at Armidale, and having his office here, has charger over the following districts, the population of which I also append. Armidale district: Armidale, 6891; Uralla 1650; Bendemeer, 550; Walcha, 2550; Bundarra, 2422. Grafton sub-district: Grafton, 5350; South Grafton, 2250; McLean (or) Rocky Mouth, 1700; Louisville (or) Solfarino, 100; Laurence, 850; Dalmorton, 277; Casino, 1350; Ballina, 700; Lismore, 1700; Tweed, 460; Ulmarra, 1900; Wardell, 200; Chatsworth Island, 850; Woodburn, 500; Blick’s River, 380. Inverell sub-district: Inverell, 4500; Tingha, 900: Ashford, 300; Glen Innes, 2500; Vegetable Creek, 2700; Tenterfield, 2000; Wilson’s Downfall, 1300; Drake (or) Fairfield, 265. This return gives to the whole of the New England district a populations of 45,415. This district is again divided into sub-districts, over which two sub-inspectors have charge. Mr Harrison, who was formerly in charge of the detective force in Sydney, and latterly at Newcastle, has the Inverell sub-district, while Mr Creaghe is the sub-inspector for the Grafton division.

    I might here mention that Mr Orridge had charge of the Braidwood district during the bush-ranging period of the Clarkes, while he was also the officer of Prince Alfred’s body guard when in Sydney. There are twenty-eight stations under his charge, while Sergeant Beveridge, to whose kindness I am indebted for the foregoing, is next under Mr Orridge. The whole strength of the force consists of forty-six constables, ten senior-constable, four sergeants, two senior-sergeants, and 86 horses.

    A new barracks has been lately erected here, but about that and the gaol I will speak in my next letter, having not yet had time to go over them.

    Mr Buchanan, the police magistrate, has also a fair share of work, court being held every day at Armidale, when there is anything to do, though the two recognised days are Tuesdays and Thursdays. He also holds courts of petty sessions at Uralla, Bendemeer, Walcha, and Bombala, though at the latter place the PM from Inverell visits once a fortnight; he is also warden of the district. Mr Marriott has also an office here, he being warden’s clerk, and registrar of births, marriages, and deaths. The office of Mr Blythe, the commissioner for conditional purchases, is under the same roof. Mr Wild is inspector of conditional purchases.

    To the CPS, Mr Bray, who has the position of land agent, I am indebted for the following information concerning the selections which have been taken up during the last three years. In the list it will be noticed that, although selection has considerably increased, the auction sales have been diminishing. 



Conditional purchase.


Auction sales.


Selection after auction.










To Oct, 1878









This table, although showing to what a great extent free selection is being pushed forward, yet gives no real idea of the amount of land already selected, and, unfortunately, I could find no one who could furnish the information; neither could I gather what are the stock returns, even the police having a difficulty to procure them from the station, and they, not tabulating them before they are sent to the head office, could give me no idea as to their number.

    As regards land under cultivation, I am told that there are 7000 acres under wheat alone, the average of which may be taken at 20 bushels to the acre. Under oaten hay there are at least 500 acres, and though the general average will not give over 1½ ton to the acre, yet in one case a small patch of 5 acres has this year yielded 20 tons.

    The land district of Armidale consists of the counties of Harding, Sandon, part of Inglis, and part of Clarke. In this arrangement there is great cause of complaint. In the first place, the land, police, and electoral districts, have all distinct and entirely different boundaries, which of itself gives a great deal of trouble to any one not well acquainted with the facts, causing extra work to the public, and also the Government officials. To alter this would no doubt cause a great deal of work, as the reform would most probably have to be extended over the whole colony; but there is not the slightest doubt that in the end labour would be saved, and national money be economised.

    Another serious grievance which has been pointed out to me is owing to the northern boundary line, instead of being continued straight takes an erratic twist, in order that a water course may be used as a dividing line, cutting in half the county of Clarke. By this arrangement settlers and selectors on the Kangaroo, Aberfoyle, Warner, Stanton, Baldblair, Dough boy, Rigney, and several other stations have to go double the distance they ought to perform any work connected with the land office. From some of these places to Glen Innes (where they have to go) it is over 60 miles, while to Armidale it is very little over 20. The roads there are so bad they frequently come through Armidale to get there, making the distance to Glen Innes and back 120 miles more than necessary. The only and best method of correcting this would be to make the land district boundary line take in the whole of the county of Clarke. The district which would be benefited by this arrangement, is, I understand, one of the most populous in New England.


    A society has been formed by the law clerks of Victoria to raise funds to assist law clerks, their wives, and families, in sickness or distress, to assist law clerks to situations, and to promote their interest generally.

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Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 4 Jun 1892 7


Sketches in and around Armidale, including the courthouse – on left, 2nd from top. Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 4 Jun 1892, p. 5. Reproduction: Peter de Waal
Sketches in and around Armidale, including the courthouse – on left,
2nd from top. Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 4 Jun 1892, p. 5.
Reproduction: Peter de Waal

This is the capital of New England, and, in point of size, the largest and perhaps the most important, town on the table land. It is connected with the metropolis by rail, the main northern line to Brisbane passing through it. This pleasant retreat has proved more attractive to tourists and others than is generally known. The city has been not inaptly termed the ‘Cathedral City,’ owing to the number of fine churches within its limits. To these the citizens are not slow in calling one’s attention. There still remain many residents who delight in recounting their experiences connected with the early settlement of these parts. The first family to seek its fortunes here was that of Captain Dumaresque, [sic] who held land to the extent of fifty miles north and south of Armidale. They were shortly followed by others of the early pioneers, who, in their turn, allotted portions of land to themselves.

    The first court house of the district—a bark gunyah—was situated near the present site of Solomon’s photo studio; the second court house, of shingle, was erected on the site of the present one, the late Mr Bradshaw being first chief constable. Owing to glowing reports spreading abroad, it was reasonable enough to find the tide of humanity flowing in this direction, and the embryo city soon began to assume some sort of shape. Land was put up in Sydney in half-acre allotments, and disposed of at £4 each. Signs of progress were appearing in every direction, all traces of native savagery vanished by degrees, and the town was laid out, streets arranged, and matters respecting the furtherance of the place discussed. To the late Captain Gorman was allotted the laying out of the streets, which, to the credit of Armidale, are well preserved and cared for to the present day. Of the sale of land there is a story to the effect that the land on which the present Tattersall’s Hotel  and some of the best business houses of the city stand, was parted with for an ‘old black horse,’ valued at about £10. Major Innes, then police magistrate at Port Macquarie, is credited with erecting the first store, managed by Mr Patterson. This was afterwards sold to Mr John Mather, who, in turn, sold out to the late Mr John Moore. Of the religious denominations, the Rev Mr Trickham appeared for the Church of England, followed by the Roman Catholic body under the late Father McCarthy and the Presbyterians under the Rev Mr Morrison. The services were held in a bark gunyah on the present site of the Catholic College. In these delightful times the window panes of this gunyah were stuck in with flour paste, as no putty was obtainable, and the story is told of the late Father McCarthy’s visit to it one Sunday morning, when to his astonishment, he discovered the panes of glass strewn out upon the ground in innumerable pieces; it turned out on enquiry that the gunyah had been attacked by soldier birds, who betrayed a weakness for stale pastry. Of the liquor sold in those times it is easy to understand how piles were made by the enterprising landlords when one had to pay as much as a sovereign for a bottle of well-watered rum. These were apparently easy days to prosper in. The wages, up to the outbreak of the Rocky River goldfields, were not over enticing, as station superintendents were in receipt of the munificent sums of 8s and 10s per week. The rush served to alter things considerably; the wielders of the pick and shovel soon set out in a made torrent. Numbers were enriched, and ‘big blankets’ were knocked down wherever opportunity offered. Tradespeople benefited with the rest, and big profits were made in their different lines—grocery particularly—the ‘squatters’ sugar’ selling at 1s per pound. It was served out in big black lumps, and required the use of an axe to make it presentable. Such items are over now, and a thing of the past, for this city is now a delightfully progressive and attractive place, enjoying the kindest allusions from all sides.

    Of the principal buildings it is needless to say that they are in every way a credit to the people. The illustrations on the opposite page serve to show plainly enough the excellence of construction and finish. The city is laid out on a gradual slope, and within sight of the Great Dividing Range. The main street—Beardy Street— possesses the principal public and private buildings, and good accommodation can be had in several well-appointed hotels. At the south end of the town, and near the cathedrals, a fine park, beautifully planted with choice trees, serves to adorn this portion; facing this, the New England Ladies’ College has been erected and enjoys one of the finest views to be had. This establishment was built by Mr PP Bliss, and has proved attractive to lady students from all parts of the colony. It possesses a fine reception room, private sitting room for lady principals, class rooms, four music rooms, and bedrooms charmingly decorated by the students (prizes for the neatest and most tasteful being given). This college is capable of accommodating 120 resident pupils. The Ursuline Convent and Cathedral, a handsome semi-Gothic building, is situated almost opposite. Further to the west of the town, the Railway Station, together with residence and sheds, is situated, and connected with the town by busses, cabs, etc. Armidale possesses two newspapers, viz: the Express and Chronicle. The mines of Hillgrove, to which Armidale is greatly indebted for its recent advancement, are situated about twenty miles to the east, and it is to these mines that attention is anxiously turned. The farming is progressing, but not to any great extent. There are some fine sheep runs in the vicinity. The photographs from which our sketches are taken were kindly supplied to our artist by Mr Solomons, of Armidale.


1  The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Tue 1 Mar 1870, p. 3.

2  The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Thu 6 Jul 1871, p. 4.

3  Australian Town and Country Journal, Sat 21 Feb 1874, p. 5. Emphasis added.

4  Australian Town and Country Journal, Sat 2 May 1874, p. 21. Emphasis added.

5  The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Tue 5 Oct 1875, p. 3. Emphasis added.

6  Australian Town and Country Journal, Sat 14 Dec 1878, p. 1127. Emphasis added. The Town and Country Journal has an annual continuous pagination but the National Library’s Trove website has not adopted that pagination but rather separate numbering for each weekly issue.

7  Illustrated Sydney News, Sat 4 Jun 1892, p. 4. Emphasis added.