Known as the ‘Birthplace of our Nation’, Sir Henry Parkes delivered his famous Federation Speech in the Tenterfield School of Arts in 1889, which ultimately led to the Federation of all Australian States in 1901.

However there is more to the region’s history than one speech. Tenterfield offers a fascinating history that combines colourful and talented legends, songs, key political members, speeches that shaped a nation, a ‘gentleman’ bushranger and wartime training and defence. 

Indigenous Ancestry

Tenterfield Shire was first inhabited by the Jukembal people, with their territory straddling the Great Dividing Range from near Glen Innes to Stanthorpe. The name Jukembal means “the people who say “jogom” (jogom meaning no). The Jukembal Aborigines reputedly called the area “Moombilleen”, meaning ‘place of wild honey’.


In 1841 it was taken over by Sir Stuart Donaldson, who was running 18,000 sheep on a property that he named Tenterfield Station. While there has been debate about the naming of Tenterfield, the most generally accepted evidence is in favour of Donaldson naming the region after the home of his aunts in Haddington, Scotland. The name originated in the Mill District where “Tenters” (hooks) were set in the field and used to dry the flax, which was later used to weave cloth.

War Time

During World War II, up to 10,000 troops were stationed in and around Tenterfield. Many had returned from the Middle East and were trained at the London Bridge Army Camp in jungle warfare before being sent to New Guinea and the Pacific.

Famous Sons & Daughters

Tenterfield has produced a number of famous sons and daughters. Solicitor J.F. Thomas who defended Breaker Morant in the South African War in 1902 lived in Tenterfield and owned the Tenterfield Star Newspaper, which is still in publication today. Then there were rebels who became part of Australian folklore such as Captain Thunderbolt, the bushranger whose hiding places were in and around Tenterfield town. Well known poet Banjo Paterson also came to Tenterfield and married his sweetheart, local girl Miss Alice Walker.

Peter Allen

Geological History – Why the Tablelands?

Tenterfield is situated in the northern part of an area commonly known as the New England Tablelands of NSW.

This is a large, flattish part of eastern Australia that came about from a series of interesting geological processes. It began as a separate block of the earth’s crust that collided with the east coast of Gondwanaland approximately 290 million years ago.

About 247 million years ago (known as the late Permian, early Triassic), a series of massive volcanic eruptions occurred in the vicinity of Tenterfield and Deepwater. These eruptions were large enough to have a significant impact on the earth’s atmosphere and climate at the time. In other words the scale of the eruptions was phenomenal, orders of magnitude beyond any historical events. It would have contributed towards numerous extinctions of the then existing flora and fauna.

Few people are aware of the turbulent history of our current landscape as there is little obvious evidence remaining today.

A large mass of molten rock at depth became over pressurised and exploded through the overlying earth’s crust, possibly through several eruptive centres.

A remarkably uniform rock called the Dundee Rhyodacite ignimbrite is the resulting evidence of this massive volcanic event. It was basically the super-heated volcanic ash that spread out across the terrain at high velocity and settled in a mass in excess of 2 kilometres thick over an area of 60 x 40 kilometres. The local term for this ignimbrite is ‘blue granite’ and it weathers to produce light sandy loam soils. Weathering and erosion have removed most of the original ignimbrite. Later geological activity resulted in resurgent intrusions such as Bluff Rock, followed by an extensive granite intrusions e.g. Mt Mackenzie, Doctors Nose and Girraween National Park.

Prepared by Jane and Martin I’Ons (BSc Hons, Geology). 28th May 2013

Tenterfield Post Office

Tenterfield Court House

Stannum House, Tenterfield