Early known as Upper Williams, Dungog had a Court of Petty Sessions from 1833 for which a courthouse and lockup were built by the following year.[1] The surveyed Dungog village plan of 1838 provides an example of early colonial government attempts to create an English-style model of small villages and surrounding estates.[2] Dungog even had a designated common that survives, in part, to this day. The plan for this village was so ambitious that even today not all the streets drawn up so carefully have been filled with houses. In 1838, the plan was advertised in the Sydney Gazette and land sold at a ‘Minimum price’ of ‘£2 sterling per acre’.[3] In 1839, a further parcel of half acre and other sized allotments were offered for sale at £4 per acre.[4]

In 1840 Dungog received its first licensed premises, the Dungog Inn, a brick building erected by the recently ‘free by servitude’ James Stephenson, a building that remains today in Dungog’s main street.[5]

In 1846 a visitor to Dungog gives this description:

“There are two large inns, some excellent stores, and many good tradesmen in every line, as their sign boards announce. The finest ornament in the village is its magnificent windmill, erected at great expense and much taste by the proprietor of the head inn. The village has a most efficient civil police force, who maintain the greatest order both night and day. The village has one or two excellent schools, in which a very great number of children are taught.”[6]

Dungog with its courthouse lockup and barracks was an administrative centre that quickly evolved into a service centre for the surrounding agricultural district. By 1852, Dungog township comprised about 40 houses, five of which were hotels, two stores, a tobacco factory, and a post office.[7] Despite its plan, John Wilson, born in Dungog in 1854, described the town as a ‘sea of bush and scrub, with a house here and there’, with bullock teams and drays having ‘to wend their way between stumps and saplings’.[8]

The Wilson description is perhaps from the 1870s, while one of 1912 reports:

“Dungog is a business place of no mean order. It contains four hotels, two banks, a public hospital, and two medical practitioners, and a fine police station, where there are stationed three officers, under Sergeant Brown. Two firms of auctioneers carry on business, … Dungog also boasts of two newspapers, “The Dungog Chronicle,” – and “The Eastern Telegraph.” The latter paper is a Co-operative concern, and is edited by Mr. Madgwick, …”[9]

At the end of the 19th century, the agricultural basis of Dungog was prospering and many of its most prominent buildings in a variety of Victorian architectural styles were built, particularly banks and the homes of wealthier citizens. Since that time, the population of Dungog town has grown more rapidly than the others of the three valleys, boosted by the arrival of the railway in 1911, and another period of growth and building in the 1920s when its present streetscape was largely set.

Dungog town has had its own local paper since 1888 and, in 1963, the paper produced a advertising snapshot of the town and Shire, describing itself as with a circulation of 1,379 and the Shire as having a population of 6,537 and 1,823 dwellings. The surrounding towns were Gresford with 400 people and Clarence Town with 250 people. The Dungog Butter Factory had 500 suppliers at that time and 52 sawmills operated within the Dungog, Stroud, Bulahdelah and Tea Gardens region. It also had 40,000 dairy cattle, 32,000 beef cattle, 1,500 pigs and 1,500 sheep.[10]

By the 1960s, Dungog had begun to deteriorate and a Main Street committee was formed to clean up and ultimately impose a heritage streetscape on Dowling Street. Subdivisions have added to the old Dungog town plan in relatively recent times; one to the north with small blocks and one to the south with larger individual blocks.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1.  Sydney Gazette, 26/12/1833, p.4 & Mackenzie to Colonial Secretary, 16/4/1834 (Dungog Magistrates’ Letterbook).
  2. Most of the streets were named after its then major landowners.
  3.  NSW Government Gazette, 26/7/1837, p.527.
  4.  NSW Government Gazette, 13/7/1839, pp.774-775.
  5. Magistrate’s Letterbook – 1840.
  6.  Maitland Mercury, 18/7/1846, p.2.
  7.  Dungog Chronicle, 18/9/1903.
  8.  Dungog Chronicle, 19/5/1939.
  9.  Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 13/4/1912, p.2.
  10. Dungog Chronicle, May we introduce ourselves