A Snapshot of Crookwell's History

Surveyor Meehan camped at Grabben Gullen (about 10 kms from Crookwell), in April, 1820 and noted that the morning was "very fine, with a light frost", but Crookwell was not officially named until a report of Surveyor Armstrong after he surveyed its site on August 13, 1860. He stated: "It would be appropriate to call it Crookwell".

Claims have been made by many descendents of early settlers that their ancestors were the first to settle in the district, but records are few. It is certain that settlers had visited the district and placed men in outposts before 1828. By that year the Crookwell River had been named. The earliest map bearing the name "Crookwell" was surveyor Dixon's trace of the Dividing Range between the eastern and western waters. His map was dated 1828 and on it is marked "road to Crookwell River or Kyama". Crookwell had been named by the 1860's but the original town site of Brooklands (on the western end of town) was first known as Kiama. There is much controversy as to how Crookwell got its name and no definite or conclusive evidence on the original naming has ever been discovered.

Between 1840 and 1860 the early settlers began to clear the area and establish their squatting runs. Some wheat and potatoes were grown and native grasses were cut for hay. Roberts Inn and Wade's buildings were erected near roads crossing from Grabben Gullen, Binda, Laggan, Cotta Walla, Pejar and Goulburn, (these buildings were located on the corner of Grabben Gullen Rd & Binda Rd) but Binda was the centre of the district.

Between 1860 and 1870, selection of blocks took place following the Selection Act of 1861. Goulburn Street was laid out in 1869 and the first 28 Crookwell town allotments were sold in 1869 to Warne and Stephenson at Yass, and in 1870, half-acre blocks were sold in Crookwell for 20 pound each. Wheat became the staple crop and potatoes were used to loosen the soil. Some sheep were introduced to stool the wheat while cattle ate down the long grass. The village of Laggan developed and by 1860 had a post office and a steam flour mill was grinding wheat into flour. While in Crookwell the first school was opened in 1864. The village of Tuena had survived the Goldrush by 1860 when its first school was opened with 25 pupils. The main development of the town then shifted above the fogs and the drier area of the north facing slope of the river. In 1862 the Millhouse Inn (now Spud Murphy's Inn) was built while in 1865 the Wesleyan Church (now Kelly's Restaurant at the RSL) and in 1866 the Anglican Church was built (near the current Anglican Church). The town area was bounded by Roberts, Colyer and Cowper Streets. Cox Bros store was built where JD's Rural Supplies now stands and by 1867 Crookwell had its first Post Office in the store. The town population in 1864 was 130.

By 1872 the town plan was in operation and the population was over 1,000. It took four days to reach Goulburn by dray until 1875 when the first passenger coach was introduced, taking only one day each way. Goulburn Street developed with the Commercial Hotel (now the Horse & Hound Hotel) being built in 1874, the Bank of NSW in 1875 (now the Crookwell Visitor Information Centre), the Court House and Police Station in 1878, and the tannery, cordial factory, flour mill, five stores two chemists, saddler, butcher and blacksmiths. In 1874 the Primary School was built, then on the highest point of the town. The first Show took place in 1879 on the site of the present High School, and pines were planted from the RSL corner to the Railway Station near the Pre-school (only a few still stand).

In 1880 to 1890 the Temperance Hall (now the front section of the Memorial Hall) was built and the telegraph was connected in 1881. In 1884 the Crookwell Hotel was built, and in 1885 the Masonic Hall was erected. The shopping block between Roberts Street and the Uniting Church was first built in the 1890's but was burnt down later. Goulburn Street was often a quagmire as bullock wagons trundled through carrying wool, wheat and flour to Goulburn. Traction engines soon took this job on, but their weight did nothing to improve road conditions.

In 1890 to 1900 the Irish influence began to be felt and St. Mary's Church was erected on the highest town site in 1891. Oats and wheat declined in importance but sheep and dairy cattle filled that void. Butter factories were built in Crookwell (1890) and at Laggan, Kialla and Grabben Gullen.

Rail first came to Crookwell in 1901. As rabbits became a nuisance a freezing works was set up in Findhorn Street. Potatoes gained prominence in agricultural production. The local Shire was established in 1906, the first pastures were improved at "Gundowringa", the telephone was connected, a roller skating rink was built in Marsden Street, the Hospital was opened and the first motor car appeared in town. Rabbit trapping assumed prominence during this period.

In 1911 the Anglican Rectory and St. Mary's School Hall were built and then the Council Chambers were built in 1912 Fire wiped out the Methodists shops in 1913 and the shops below the Royal Hotel in 1916. A two-hour road passenger service to Goulburn was introduced in 1920 to be replaced by a 1.5 hour rail service in 1926. The Crown Theatre (now Crookwell Youth Centre) was built in 1926, the first Country Women's Association Branch was formed in 1923 and Memorial Gates erected (since removed) in the park in 1925. The Jubilee Show of 1927 was held on the new showground.

In 1935 the Hospital was extended and in 1938 Harley Hospital (now an aged care facility) was opened as a maternity hospital. In 1938 fire destroyed the shops opposite the Methodist Church and in the same year the town water supply was opened. In 1939 the R.S.L. Club opened on the site of the former Primitive Methodist Church. The Crookwell Branch of the NSW Fire Brigade was formed and headquarters shared with the Ambulance. In 1941 Mining of Iron Ore was carried out and exported by rail. The present Hospital was sanctioned in 1949. The library was opened in the Literary Institute (now the Memorial Hall) and in 1953 it was taken over by the Council. In 1947 rural electrification was adopted. In 1950 Council served notice to remove verandah posts from footpaths in Goulburn Street. Bitumen sealing began in 1954, the new Saleyards were built in 1967, Housing Commission homes were built in 1950 and 1951 at Crookwell Heights, and the residential area was surveyed in 1953. Town sewerage was first connected in 1961. In 1966 the Shire Chambers were remodelled. In 1965 the High School was built and expanded later.

Approximately 4,500 people now live in the Shire, with about 2,000 people living in the major centre of Crookwell. The majority of the population live in small villages or on properties. Despite its proximity to major centres, Crookwell remains strongly rural in its character. Agricultural endeavour has been a feature of the economic and social fabric of this Shire. There are, however, major shifts occurring in agriculture with the introduction of new farming methods and diversification of many land holdings towards new ventures such as olive growing, alpaca fibre and horse studs. Furthermore, Crookwell is becoming a popular destination for retirees and people wishing to leave large cities for a lifestyle change. The economic base of the Shire is also changing, with tourism becoming the third major industry in the Shire, behind the traditional agricultural industries and retail.

Contact Details

  • Crookwell Visitor Information Centre
  • : 02 4832 1988
  • : 02 4832 0119
  • crookwellvisitor@bigpond.com