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Taralga

Population: 312 (2006 census)

St. Lukes Taralga
St. Lukes Anglican Church (1866)
Brief History


Taralga lies about 40 kms from Goulburn amidst rolling plains north of the Cockbundoon Ranges.

The rich grazing land here was first traversed by Throsby and Meehan (1819), explorers who opened most of the Tablelands for European settlement.

On this occasion they were on a mission from Governor Macquarie to find an overland route from the new settlements at Cowpastures and Bong Bong to Bathurst in the north - direct access over the Blue Mountains being particularly difficult.

Legend has it that Throsby had also been secretly commissioned to find more pastures for the land hungry Macarthurs, and that on seeing the land around Taralga a horseman was despatched post haste back to Sydney to stake claims over it

Needless to say, when Oxley and Commissioner Bigge passed by a year later on a journey from Bathurst to Sydney Hannibal Macarthur, brother to John, and his cousin James had established large holdings on which they were grazing cattle.

Within 10 years they had been joined by others, many of whom were absentee landlords. Taralga was recognised as a settlement in 1825, although the village was not established until many years later.

The area around Taralga was the traditional land of the Burra Burra peoples, a warlike tribe who often clashed with neighbouring tribes. Although no major clashes with the Europeans seem to have been recorded, nor favourable tales of collaboration with them, their last great gathering or corroboree seems to have been in the 1830s after which they fade from history.

For the first few decades, most of the settlers were convicts assigned to the landowners and it was they who largely cleared the land, built the huts and houses, and ran the farms. Life for them, if contemporary anecdotes are to be believed, was particularly harsh if not brutal.

The first semblance of a village was of their huts: one Thomas Denning, sheep overseer for the Macarthurs, and Duncan Rankin (public pound keeper) built in the 1840s near the site of the present day town.

Taralga as a town was established in the 1860s, with a school in 1857, and churches (Presbyterian) 1861, St. Ignatius (RC) 1864, St. Lukes (Anglican) 1866 and Methodist (now Historical Society building) 1868. There were a number of stores, smiths and artisans' businesses and two hotels recorded in 1866.

The original main street was Macarthur Street, not the present one, and some of the earliest buildings can be found there.

The rapid expansion after the 1860s was partly due to the influx of migrants following the gold rushes, and the Land Acts of 1861 which made it possible for people to take up small grants from the government at favourable rates.

Taralga differs from many towns in that a large proportion of its existing buildings date from the 1860s to 90s (although now subject to later uses) and because most of them are of stone construction - built from the vast number of stones and rocks which litter the volcanic soils for miles around.

These two combined to produce an architectural style which is unique to Taralga - not quite Georgian, not quite Victorian - with a tendency to larger windows and quite substantial construction even for modest dwellings. It also means that the town retains a special heritage of particular interest to the traveller.

The population of Taralga has fluctuated over time - from 100 or so in 1863, to over 700 thirty years later, followed by a decline to half that size immediately after the depression of the 1890s. By the mid 1950s it had regained almost its largest size, but today houses just some 370.

Taralga has been, as might be expected a rural centre for most of its life, with businesses and small industries catering to the needs of the farmer. First mooted in the 1880s, a rural railway branch line from Goulburn was finally built in 1926 (now closed), and an electricity plant set up in the 1930s.

Like most other rural areas it suffered a decline after the 1950s as the motor car brought the outside world closer, and Crookwell then Goulburn became the centres for local business.

Today Taralga is sleepy but friendly town often visited by travellers to and from the Wombeyan Caves.

Its tree-lined main street presents an impressive spectacle, and the many interesting and historic buildings make a stop and stroll around the streets most worthwhile.

Argyle Inn
Argyle Inn (c.1856)

Taralga QuickGuide

Taralga Museum - see History & Heritage
TARALGA RODEO
main street


Major Events & Festivals
January:
Taralga Rodeo Plus

March:
AP&H Show

October:
Historical Society Open Day
What to See and Do
For Visitors.

Taralga is about half way between Goulburn and Wombeyan Caves; however it is also very worth the while to take a scenic drive north from Goulburn to Taralga and on to Crookwell and the other villages in the north of the Tablelands.

The whole of Taralga can be regarded as an unspoilt heritage town with many well preserved and restored buildings from the mid to late 19th century with a distinct architectural style. The stone from which they were constructed was not quarried, but cleared from the soil of the pastures from miles around.

Park the car and get a guide map from one of the pubs or stores and take a stroll around its streets to discover some of the interesting buildings and past of the town.

There are two good pubs with accommodation and restaurants and a warm welcome for visitors, plus a couple of good B&Bs and a farmstay if you would like to linger a while. Also cafes and licensed club; picnic area in the park in the middle of town.

The historical society's museum, in an old church, can be opened on weekends for visitors - enquire at the Taralga Inn.

On Australia Day weekends each year Taralga is host to thousands of visitors who come for the Rodeo and a taste of country life.

Taralga is also developing as one of Australia's newest cool climate wine growing areas. Honeysuckle Cottage in the main street offers lunch, wine tastings and group tours of Cushendall boutique winery and vineyard (by arrangement).

At other times of the year it offers beautiful rural scenery and country drives, the famous Wombeyan Caves to the north, and fishing and camping next to mountain streams nearby.

For Kids.

Taralga is a place to get out of the car and go for a stroll. There are many strange and interesting old buildings to look at.

If you get the chance look at the stuff in the local museum, and the old farm machinery, sheds and 150 year old house behind it - could you have survived in an era like this without TV and Playstations?

Park with playground in the main street; a good cafe and takeaway; plus kids' entertainment room at one of the pubs - which also have kids' menus if you want to eat in style.

If you're lucky you might get to visit or stay at one of the farms near town or camp out in January and visit the Rodeo. Further north up the road is the magical and spooky Wombeyan Caves.

Colonial hut
Colonial hut (c.1890s)


Last updated 26/7/10