EARLY RESIDENCE: Brick cottage at Willow Vale built by Carl Zeitz in 1882; by 1913 it was a boarding house, Braemar Lodge. The private village of Willow Vale on Mittagong’s northern outskirts came into being in 1882 when John Wilson and William Binsted bought and subdivided a 200 acre lot.
Until then, numerous speculators had owned the land since its original purchase by William Roberts in 1837.
The opening of the Great Southern Railway through the area in 1867 was a great stimulus for growth, as the rail provided faster and more efficient transport than the Great Southern Road.
Built beside the rail line close to where Willow Vale would be established, a platform opened in March 1867 as Rush’s Platform. There was a dirt track connecting it to Bartholomew Rush’s boarding house/inn some 400 metres east.
Rush had bought the Prince Albert Inn in 1845, which by the 1880s was known as The Willows and later as Willow Vale House. As no formal name existed for the area in 1882, Wilson and Binsted decided upon Willow Vale for the subdivision, after the area’s familiar landmark.
The name Braemar did not exist until Rush subdivided land and gave that name to his newly established estate in 1891.
The oldest residences still standing within the original Willow Vale village date back to the 1880s, built by Carl Zeitz and William Gascoigne soon after the subdivision.
The original rail line ran parallel and adjacent to today’s Railway Terrace, where parts of the original track bed are still visible. The line had a 1 in 66 gradient where it left in a southerly direction from Rush’s platform, which increased to 1 in 40 as it passed through Willow Vale and on to what is now the Golf Course, before commencing the descent into Nattai.
A deviation of the Great Southern Railway to the east of the original rail line, completed in 1897, dashed Willow Vale’s hopes of a railway platform being built in Railway Terrace as originally planned. This set-back was followed by the construction of the new main line completed in 1919 which passed through Yerrinbool then Aylmerton and on to Mittagong, thus relegating the Loop Line, as the earlier line became known, to subsidiary status.
LOCAL SERVICE: Awaiting a Loop Line train in the 1920s at Braemar station, which also served nearby Willow Vale. John Murray Collection.
In her book on Willow Vale, published in 2015 by the Berrima District Historical Society, resident Carolyn Dougherty states that its history is one of changing fortunes reflecting the nature of the Australian economy from the 1830s to the 1930s. Boom times were followed by depressions.
The 1890s saw a severe economic downturn, when many purchasers of land in the new township of Willow Vale were unable to meet their obligations and forced to sell. Interest in land salesreignited after 1910, but this was followed by the Great War, then the depression from1929.
Originally the village extended to the main road, taking in what is now part of Braemar. This changed in 1959 when in Mittagong Council records the area east of the railway became Braemar, with Willow Vale to the west.
The original boundaries of Willow Vale when subdivided in 1882 are vastly different to those of the village today. While it was the original 200 acres as granted to William Roberts in 1837 that was subdivided and offered for sale in 1882, other adjoining land parcels also came to be included within current boundaries.
Tucked away in its leafy setting, the Willow Vale of today is a thriving community.
Part 2 of a two-part series.Berrima District Historical & Family History Society – compiled by PD MortonThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.