Illuminating the Past

West Tamworth League Club 14 – 15 September 2019

On 9 November 1888, Tamworth became the first city in Australia to have its streets lit by electric streetlights. Elizabeth Piper, the wife of mayor James Piper, turned the power on with a golden key and Tamworth’s residents saw 52 electrical lights illuminate twenty-one kilometres of their city’s streets. The celebrations included another historical event – the heats and finals of a 130-yard running race which took place under the glow of four giant arc lights, making it the first outdoor athletics event to be held under electric lights.

It is therefore fitting that Tamworth is the location of the 2019 RAHS Conference as our theme this year is Illuminating the Past. What do different historical records reveal about our past? How do we share our history with new audiences in an enlightening and informative way? What must we do to protect and share historical sources so that the vivid insights they provide don’t disappear into darkness?


As well as exploring ideas based on our theme of Illuminating the Past, the 2019 RAHS Conference is also a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Tamworth, with local historians revealing the important cultural and economic contribution that Tamworth and its residents have made to Australia.

Tamworth Post Office at Night [Sydney Mail, December 1, 1888]

Attendees will be treated to a variety of illuminating sessions at this year's conference, ranging from spotlighting Tamworth's fascinating past, shining a light on your collection, practical tips for keeping the lights on, and staying up to date with current resources to support your history projects.

As always, there will be plenty of opportunities to network with RAHS members and friends, especially at the pre-conference event on Friday 13 September, which will be hosted by Tamworth Historical Society at Calala Cottage Museum.

Calala Cottage

Welcome Reception – Friday 13 September, 5.30pm to 7.00pm 

Conference delegates can attend a pre-conference welcome reception at Calala Cottage (142 Denison Street, West Tamworth). Designed and built for Philip Gidley King in 1875 (Tamworth’s first Mayor 1876), the cottage is furnished with items mainly from the late Victorian period.

The event will be hosted by the Tamworth Historical Society and provides an informal opportunity to view the Calala Cottage Museum’s significant collections and exhibitions. The museum complex includes The Shepherd's Hut which is Tamworth's oldest building as well as the Heritage Award winning Moonbi 'Beehive' School. Bequests from notable Tamworth families enhance the exhibits.

[Image: Courtesy of RAHS Councillor Peter Hobbins]

Walking Tour: The Changing Face of Peel Street – Saturday 14  September, 3:15pm to 5:00pm ($15)

Tamworth Post Office, 1886

Peel Street was never meant to be the main street of Tamworth, Marius Street was.  However, easier access to water caused settlers to deviate from Thomas Mitchell’s original town plan. This leisurely walk will show how a street known in the early days of settlement as “dust street” or at times “mud street” became the attractive street it is today. The tour will look at significant buildings that remain in the CBD and photographs of buildings that unfortunately have been demolished.

This walking tour will be led by Rod Hobbs, a Life Member of Tamworth Historical Society.

(Starting point at West Tamworth League Club )

[Image: Courtesy of Tamworth Historical Society]

Bus Tour: Tamworth Perspectives: Past, Present and Future – Saturday 14 September,

Opening of Lookout, 1936

3:15 pm to 5:00pm ($25)

This Conference Coach Tour will have much to offer. With a strong local history theme, it will be complemented by a diverse look at the progressive city of Tamworth. The tour will include visits to the Power Station Museum, the site of where the first municipal electric street lighting in Australia originated (fourteen years before Sydney); the Australian Equine Centre (sometimes referred to as ‘The Opera House of the North’); and also the Oxley Lookout, which gives a great overview of the city and the Peel Valley.

Your tour guide will be Mike Cashman, a Life Member of Tamworth Historical Society.

(Bus pick-up-point at West Tamworth League Club )

[Image: Courtesy of Tamworth Historical Society]

Excursion: Goonoo Goonoo Station - Monday 16 September (Details TBC)

The Society is currently taking expressions of interest for an excursion to Goonoo Goonoo Station. Details are yet to be confirmed and whether or not the excursion will go ahead will depend on the number of interested participants.

Goonoo Goonoo Station houses one of the oldest pastoral settlements in the Peel Valley. The site is associated with a number of prominent settlers and was once a headquarters for the Australian Agricultural Company. According to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, the station has a “high potential to yield cultural information concerning the running of a pastoral homestead in the 19thcentury and is considered to be representative of such homesteads.”


For information related to transport and travel methods, please visit Destination Tamworth.

The Tamworth Region is in North West NSW. The city of Tamworth is at the junction of the New England and Oxley Highways. It's an easy five hour drive from the Sydney CBD

For conference attendees travelling by car, the West Tamworth League Club has 500 parking spots. There is also street parking available close to the club.

NSWTrainLink runs train and bus services to Tamworth, from interstate and from across the region, arriving at Tamworth Railway Station.From the railway station, the CBD is just a few minutes’ walk downhill, or a taxi can be arranged on arrival. For more information, visit TransportNSW or NSWTrainLink.

Tamworth Regional Airport  is the largest of the regional airports in Australia.

QantasLink, part of the Qantas Group, operates several turboprop and Q400 air services to and from Sydney daily. Flying time is approximately 50 minutes. For more information on QantasLink services, including timetables and seat availability please visit the Qantas website.

Virgin Australia operate an ATR-72 aircraft to and from Sydney 6 days week. Contact Virgin Australia on 136 789 or visit


The Mecure Tamworth is connected to the connected to West Tamworth League Club, where the 2019 conference is being held.

Destination Tamworth provides a variety of accommodation options, as do websites such as:,, and

Please note: The RAHS makes no specific recommendations and conference attendees are responsible for making accommodation bookings to meet personal requirements.

In addition to the selection of sources listed below, other useful resources on Tamworth's history include:

Is there someone in your organisation who has made an invaluable contribution to your society and the history sector? Has one of your members made an outstanding contribution to your historical society over the last year? Consider nominating them for the RAHS Certificate of Achievement award. Certificates of Achievement are presented annually at the RAHS Conference and provide recognition to those members of societies whose contribution is significant and noteworthy.

Nominations must be in writing showing comprehensive evidence of achievement and/or the extent and quality of service and/or significant benefaction. Candidates for the award must be nominated at a general meeting of their society and signed by the presiding President and Secretary (or other appropriate person). Your nomination should comprise a letter and supporting information (there is no nomination form to be completed). For questions or to make a nomination, email

Image from Tamworth Historical Society website :