A brief history of Orange
For thousands of years, the district known as Orange was occupied by a Wiradjuri clan group who lived around the upper Macquarie River and its tributaries.
Historians estimate that the combined population of the clan group and two others who lived nearby in the Mudgee and Wellington areas was 500-600 people. Day to day, people lived in smaller groups of 20-40 people occupying areas such as Summer Hill and Cadiangullong creek valleys. Because water was available throughout the year, it’s believed the area was permanently occupied although lower-lying areas may have been unsuitable during winter months. More information can be found in Orange Aboriginal Heritage Report.
A locality known originally by early European settlers as Blackmans Swamp, Orange was proclaimed a village in 1846. Explorer and surveyor, Major Thomas Mitchell named the village in honour of Prince William of Orange, a general he had served with in the British forces during the Napoleonic Wars. Prince William later became the King of the Netherlands.
The city has grown from its rich mining past when in 1851 William Tom and John Lister found the first payable gold in Australia at Ophir. In the same year, gold was found at Lucknow and these rich mines were worked for many years afterwards, which brought great wealth to the area. The economic influence of the gold rush attracted a wide range of people and businesses to the district. One such business was the legendary coaching firm of Cobb & Co which operated gold escorts and Royal Mail Services across the region.
Despite the impact gold had on the colony, it was the fertile land in the area that led Orange to further develop. Early farmers found that wheat and barley grew well with reliable rainfall. By the 1860s the Orange area was well known as the granary of the west with several flour mills established.
Orange is also well known as the birthplace of Australia’s famous poet Banjo Paterson who was born in John Templer’s home on 17 February 1864. A monument and statue are located at the site of his birthplace, Banjo Paterson Park, on Ophir Road.
Orange was proclaimed a Municipality on January 9 1860, and the first meeting of the Council was held at the Court House, with John Peisley officiating as Chairman. Orange began to develop as an important regional centre.
Bearing towards the 20th Century the town saw building activity increase to cater for the ever-expanding population of Orange. New housing continued to be built, subdivisions established and motorcars become an everyday appearance in Orange.
Orange’s Town Hall building.
Find out more
Orange City Library has a rich collection of resources on the History of Orange and the region for either personal or educational use. Contact the Library on 6393 8132 or [email protected] for more information.
An initiative of Orange City Council’s Heritage Advisory Committee has been to develop a series of heritage walks around local neighbourhoods. You can collect your trail brochures from the Orange Visitor Information Centre in Byng Street to learn about and then experience Orange’s distinctivet environment and its colourful social history.
There are more details about Orange’s history in this A brief history of Orange document.