Historical Towns Directory

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 Griffith

Find Griffith

Griffith, situated 570 kilometres west of Sydney, was designed by Walter Burley Griffin (Canberra's architect). It developed early in the 20th century with the establishment of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) between Narrandera, Griffith and Leeton.

Early European impressions of the region were negative. In 1817 John Oxley was the first white explorer to describe its 'barren desolation', a view that was echoed by Charles Sturt when he later passed through the district.

Cuba (now Kooba) and Benerembah Stations were established by white settlers on the Griffith area. The Wiradjuri Aborigines had been the indigenous inhabitants of the region. Fighting between the parties occurred as a result of the Aboriginal displacement, with the Wiradjuri people coming off second best. Towards the end of the 1800s an Aboriginal mission was established at nearby Darlington Point but did not last long.

The fortunes of the area began to increase when Sir Samuel McCaughey demonstrated the benefits of irrigation at Yanco station. He lobbied the government for an irrigation scheme and in 1906 the 'Barren Jack and Murrumbidgee Canals Construction Act' was passed.

Bridge over Main Canal at Griffith, 1935

The next year work began on the Barren Jack (now Burrinjuck) Dam. Construction workers came to work on the scheme, often with a view to taking up irrigation farms when the land was made available.

The initial 'Bagtown' settlement, five kilometres south-east of modern-day Griffith, provided rough accommodation to workers and took its name from the proliferation of canvas cement bags (a by-product of building the canals) utilised to built the workers' tents. Businesses and other facilities were quickly established.

The large scheme of dams and irrigation channels converted the barren land to Australia's most fertile agricultural area.

Land was released in 1912 attracting settlers from Broken Hill, Sydney, California and a substantial Italian migrant population, who brought with them their traditions of market gardening and viticulture.

In 1916 the Town of Griffith was proclaimed, named after the first NSW government Minister for Public Works, Sir Arthur Griffith. Railway from Barellan also arrived that year.

Griffith Courthouse, 1930

Walter Burley Griffin had planned the town in a concentric radial pattern, similar to Canberra, with circular centre of government administration as the centrepiece, though his plan was never fully carried out. Shopkeepers set up their businesses on the cheaper land near the railway station near the current main street. Griffith also had a smaller population than that catered for in Walter Burley Griffin's town plans.

The original Bagtown settlement was abandoned by the early 1920s after some initial reticence to relocate to the new town.

Post-World War I soldier settlement resulted in returned servicemen comprising almost half the MIA's farmers by 1923.

The Dethridge Wheel in Griffith pays tribute to the early irrigation pioneers. Other memorials in town include the Fairy Firefly Fighter Bomber, displayed in honour of locals who served during WWII, and a brass statue on a woman commemorating the efforts of pioneer women in the district.

From the 1920s until his internment at Hay during WWII , eccentric Italian immigrant, Valerio Recitti, made his home at the Hermit's Cave at Scenic Hill on Griffith's northern boundary. While living there as a recluse he created cliffside gardens, stone galleries and pathways as well as painting floral motifs on the rock walls. He died six months after his return to Italy in 1952. Recitti's gardens are currently subject to restoration works.

Griffith Catholic Church, 1928

Today rice is the primary industry in the Griffith area, with citrus fruit, grapes, vegetables, poultry and eggs also contributing to the economy. The MIA wine industry contributes in excess of 70 per cent of the State's overall wine production.

In 1987 Griffith was declared a City.

The Griffith area is now home to a large multicultural community. Griffith itself has a current population in excess of 14,000 residents, making it the largest centre in the MIA. A further 10,000 residents live within the boundaries of the municipality.

Griffith Visitor Information Centre
Information: Open dily from 9am to 5pm. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.
Phone: 02 6962 4145; 1800 681 141
Fax: 02 6962 7319
Address:

Corner Banna and Jondaryan avenues
Griffith NSW

Postal Address:

PO Box 126
Griffith NSW 2680

Email: griffithvc@griffith.nsw.gov.au
Website: http://www.griffith.nsw.gov.au/
   
Pioneer Park Museum
Information: The Griffith Pioneer Park Museum tells the story of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and surrounding districts. It is a non-profit organisation, largely staffed by volunteers, and supported by community fundraising and the Griffith City Council. Set in 11 hectares of natural bushland, this museum features 40 historic buildings and hundreds of historical items from the early pioneering days in the area. The museum highlights the influence Italians had on the area. Barbecue and picnic facilities are available. Morning and afternoon teas and luncheons can be arranged for coach groups. The bushland atmosphere has been retained by careful placement of the buildings to cause the least disturbance to the natural surroundings. There is a 20-minute video telling the story of how the park was established. A significant addition to the museum is the low-cost accommodation complex. The buildings were originally the shearer's quarters on Warrawidgee Station. The complex comprises 14 bedrooms, a large and fully equipped kitchen/dining hall/recreation room and fully fitted amenities block. Open daily 9.30am - 4.00pm, Closed Christmas Day
Phone: 02 6962 4145
Address:

Remembrance Drive
Griffith NSW

Email: Darrell.Collins@griffith.nsw.gov.au
Website: www.griffith.nsw.gov.au
   
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