A Capital On the Highlands

By Brendan Ashton on Flickr
Canberra, by Brendan Ashton on Flickr

Did you know that Bowral, Moss Vale and Goulburn all thought themselves contenders for the site of Australia’s capital city? A meeting was held at the Bowral School of Arts on Wednesday, March 1, 1899 to advocate for just such a development.

Moss Vale newspaper The Scrutineer records that “there was fairly good attendance, between 40 and 50 gentlemen being present, including residents of Mittagong, Bowral, Moss Vale, Exeter, and in fact the district generally.”

Most of the region was considered to be within the Melbourne-imposed 100 mile limit of Sydney, so areas north of Moss Vale were ruled out, and there were moves to suggest “the territory between Cable’s Siding and Barber’s Creek, where there was a good water supply, an unlimited amount of superior building stone, a good climate and land capable of easy drainage.”

Bowral’s Alderman Oxley objected “and said he had attended the meeting with the object of advocating the capital to be in their midst and not away from them as it was proposed… He advocated the site to be between Bowral and Moss Vale.”

Eventually, the meeting formed a committee consisting of representatives from Bowral, Mittagong and Moss Vale and the local member of the New South Wales Parliament William Rupert McCourt to press the case.

It was also agreed to contact Goulburn and seek co-operation “as it [Goulburn] would not have much chance of being itself selected.”

On Saturday, March 4, 1899, the Bowral Free Press reported “if the new capital is to be on the highlands, it cannot but prove to be a most attractive place for residences. There are not likely to be many factories or industrial establishments within it but the ideal should be miles of pretty villa residences, each on three acres and possessing a cow.”

The paper continued with what might be the first instance of the ‘green between’ mantra popular in more recent times: “The expansion of all the neighbouring townships is hardly likely to take place with such an attraction near by, therefore all the more reason why water works and improvements entailing ratepayers’ money should be considered with the utmost circumspect.”

Written with assistance of the Berrima District Historical and Family Society.


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