Archive for September, 2011

September 25, 2011

Where the hell is St Albans?

Well, as they say in the classics, you’ll never never know if you never never go! St Albans is the countrified home of one of the oldest pubs in Australia…it’s proper name is The Settlers Arms Inn and the doors first opened in 1836. Made of convict hewn sandstone blocks it nestles prettily into a small village bordered on one side by a meandering stream/river called The MacDonald river and the other side by a real, actual mountain. Apparently it was a stop for the Cobb and co stagecoaches back in the 1800’s between Newcastle and Sydney. If you’re in the market for a lovely drive with the promise of a relaxing, delicious lunch or dinner at the other end I can’t recommend St Albans highly enough! There is a slight catch however, (and don’t say you weren’t warned), because it is so popular I would recommend a Saturday, (or preferably through the week), if you must go on a Sunday be prepared for a looong wait at the bar or for lunch – but, then again, it is Sunday…who needs to rush?

 And, now, to answer my title question – to get to this little hamlet of heaven follow these precise directions, (or you could just google maps it or use your phone nav thingy): head out to Wiseman’s Ferry, then just before the village itself, as you come to the bottom of the winding road turn left to get to the Webbs Creek Ferry, the ferry is free and runs 24/7, on the other side it is a very picturesque 22 km drive to St Albans itself, the road was dirt up until only a few years ago which tended to deter everyone but the most determined, now, however it is blissful bitumen.

The inside is a little difficult to photograph as it’s so dark in there…plenty of convict atmosphere but not so good for photos…

And check out the home-made cakes on the antique dresser, (more about that later)…

The hotel is set on a large area of parkland…if it’s a nice day bring a blanket and stretch out…(although you can’t bring a picnic, but who’d want to when the food there is so good)…

The food is ordered at the bar, then is brought out to you when it’s ready…there is a kitchen garden that supplies a lot of the fresh produce and the menu changes often according to the season and what is locally available…

I tried the zucchini, leek and mushroom tart, it was light and fresh tasting, set on the prettiest arrangement of salad I’ve ever seen…

MD had the beef pie with mash, it had big chunks of tender melt-in-your-mouth beef in a tasty vegetable laden gravy…

And now for the cake – as well as the desserts on the blackboard there’s three cakes sitting temptingly in the foyer under glass domes…I chose the chocolate, for a whole $4 a piece it was a bargain…and just as nice as it looks!!

The drive from Wiseman’s to St Albans has so much beautiful scenery I could’ve bored you stupid with so many scenery shots…but in the interests of good mental health I’ll confine myself to only a couple…I couldn’t resist this teeny old church and accompanying graveyard…

It’s called St Jude’s Anglican and the church was built in 1918, the surrounding graveyard has been in use since 1869…what a peaceful looking place to rest!!

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September 6, 2011

Here is the church, here is the steeple…

which, unfortunately at the moment is getting a little bit of a facelift…restoration work is being done on St Matthew’s church in Windsor, but  at the ripe old age of 191 it deserves a little touch up or two! It has the distinction of being the oldest Anglican church in Australia, and it’s pretty cousin in countryside Ebenezer is the oldest church of any kind here. Designed by the now famous convict architect Francis Greenway, (who also designed the Windsor courthouse and St James church in Sydney), it apparently followed the style of the time and favoured clean lines with little ornamentation to distract the faithful – as requested by Governor Macquarie.

 

 The bricks used to build the church were all hand-made by convicts and vary in colour including pink, orange, red and brown, giving it what one contemporary called ” a delightful rosiness.”

 

 

The bell tower is a sister to the one at St James church in Sydney, both belfries were cast in the same foundry in London and were brought over on the same ship –  back in the day bells were an ideal way of summoning local landowners to church from miles away. The beautiful black and gold clock in the tower was a gift from King George 4th, (his father was immortalised in the great movie ‘The madness of King George’), as was the original bible which was used in St Matthew’s until 1937 when it became too fragile.

 

The semi circular area at the end of the aisle is called a reredos, (thank you Hawkesbury historical society  for all this interesting information), and it is positioned on the Eastern side of the church as it is believed that Christ when resurrected will return from the East. It has four columns holding up five arches in which are painted the Lords Prayer, Exodus XX, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed. The ceiling of the apse is painted in graduating shades of blue with gold stars representing the night sky – John Tebbutt, a local astronomer, (commemorated on the $100 note), lay on the floor and drew the stars in the positions they occupied that night.

 

 And, if you are a dyed-in-the-wool stained glass freak like me, there are some gorgeous examples to see, ranging from the simple to the amazingly ornate:

 

 

 The cemetery surrounding the church predates the church itself by ten years – it was in use from 1810, and is a veritable who’s who of historical figures from the area…it is the last resting place of Thomas Arndell, a first fleet surgeon, William Cox who built the first road over the blue mountains, as well as John Tebbutt whose family mausoleum is decorated with a celestial sphere on each of its corners:

 

Inside the church is a fascinating document, a hand drawn map of all the gravesites with names carefully inked in…it is behind glass so I couldn’t get a good enough photo unfortunately…

 

 

 

 

I had to take a shot of this amazingly ornate Victorian-era monument that sits in the forecourt directly in front of the church, I now know that it is made from Italian Carrara marble and was erected in 1882 by Mr McQuade the mayor, in memory of his daughter.