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The Burrawang General Store
 

Burrawang
Sleepy and very attractive country town which has been almost forgotten
Burrawang is located off the Illawarra Highway between Moss Vale and Robertson. It is 15 km from the former, 7.5 km from the latter and 136 km south-west of Sydney. While most visitors to the Southern Highlands will spend time in Bowral, Moss Vale, Berrima and Mittagong it is rare for people to make a special trip to Burrawang. Yet this tiny village, with its wonderfully antiquated general store, its important collection of historic buildings, its impressive church, and its atmosphere of an English hamlet dropped in Australia, is a real gem.

The area around Burrawang was once occupied by the Wadi Wadi Aborigines. Charles Throsby passed through the area in 1818 en route to Jervis Bay and appears to have sent his servant Joseph Wild off with some local Aborigines to have a look at the area known as the Yarrawa Brush (now the Burrawang/Robertson area).

European settlement got under way when people began to move up from the Illawarra in the early 1860s (see entry on Robertson). The first land grant in the area was at Wildes Meadow in 1859. Two of the earliest settlers, John and Elizabeth McGrath, apparently walked from Jamberoo (about 40 very steep kilometres), when Elizabeth was seven months pregnant.

A post office was established in 1865. It was named after the Burrawang Palm, then plentiful in the area. At the time the only connection with the outside world was along the rough dray path known as the Old Cedar Mountain Road. Nonetheless, until Robertson began to grow in the 1880s Burrawang was the major township of the Yarrawa Brush.

The first inn was licensed in 1866. The first school (Anglican) was established in the late 1860s, to be replaced by a public school in 1876. Religious services transferred from makeshift location to proper church buildings in 1875 (Catholic), Anglican (1886) ad Presbyterian (1888). Burrawang was also home to one of the earliest newspapers in the district, the Burrawang Herald, established in 1883. A school of arts building was erected (c.1889). Social life centred on the Burrawang and Wilde's Meadow Bachelor's Club which conducted two balls each year. The Burrawang and West Camden Farmers' Club was established in 1879 and held its first show at Burrawang in 1880. It later moved to Robertson.

 

An old house near the General Store at Burrawang
 

The village developed as a service centre to the rich pastoral land around. A sawmill and flour mill were in operation by 1880 and, along with dairying, potatoes and other vegetables, they were the economic mainstays. The isolation of the town, due to poor roads, meant that Burrawang could not take advantage of the rail link at Moss Vale to send milk to Sydney. Instead they relied on butter production.

The town was set back by national economic depression in the early 1890s, followed by severe drought from 1893 to 1902 and then a savage fire swept the area in the early 1900s causing some to depart, but the village has survived and it has the charm of the town that has never really developed.

The appeal of this small township is its antiquity and the fact that is has remained relatively untouched and the greatest pleasure is to simply walk around and soak up the atmosphere.

Things to see:   

Walking Around Burrawang
The General Store (c.1875) in Hoddle St is now sadly closed after trading continuously for more than 135 years. It is still worth looking at because of the old sign for the Sydney Morning Herald for only one penny which remains on the outside. The Burrawang Village Hotel is an attractive and pleasant English village pub.

There is an antique store open weekends from 10.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. in The Old School House, contact (02) 4886 4500. The old school of arts building has been restored and is currently home to a theatre group. Scarlett's Fruit and Vegetable Shop on Hoddle St is also of interest. The town's three churches - St Peter's Catholic Church, St David's Anglican Church and the Presbyterian Church are all worth a look and many of the residences are also quite old.

1.5 km south is Meadow Rd. Turn left to the tiny and picturesque village of Wildes Meadow, first settled by Daniel Bresnahan, an Irish immigrant, in 1859 and named after Charles Throsby's servant Joseph Wild, who contributed greatly to the European exploration of the Southern Highlands.

 

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Burrawang