In 1832, Major Mitchell built a road from Mt Victoria to Hartley. This road was to replace the steep and dangerous part of the route to Bathurst built by Lieutenant William Cox in 1814.
The convict-built Mitchell’s Bridge still carries traffic today as the road drops dramatically into the Hartley Valley from Mt Victoria.
This stone bridge remains a monument to the engineering skills of the road builders in colonial times. Mitchell’s Pass was built for horse and cart. With the advent of motor vehicles in the early 1900’s, these early motor cars could not manage the steep grades involved in the journey over Mt Victoria.
In January 1836, a young Charles Darwin on his journey over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst, declared the new road as “worthy of any line of road in England”.
John Berghofer, the President of Blaxland Shire Council, was responsible for the construction of a second pass to allow a safe and easier way to cross the mountain. Construction commenced in 1907 and it was in use between 1912 and 1934. Known as Berghofer’s Pass, this can now be enjoyed as a beautiful walk with fabulous views over the Hartley Valley and plenty of history along the way.
Little Hartley is a peaceful and scenic rural area, where early colonial history can still be explored. Look out for iconic colonial buildings including Meads Farm, Ambermere Inn, The Harp of Erin and Rosedale.
Rosedale, built in 1839 was originally known as The Coach and Horses Inn. It was later licenced as the Mount Victoria Inn. An imposing two story sandstone building, built in the Georgian style with walls nearly 2 feet thick, the inn has an interesting history and is even linked to a ghost story!
The Inn’s first licensee, Joseph Jaggers was the last person to see the wife of William Collitts, 16 year old Caroline, alive. The sad tale of murder in 1842 evolved into the ghost story of a restless spirit known as The Woman in Black, who some say haunts Victoria Pass.
In 1891, Henry Lawson published a poem, “The Ghost at the Second Bridge”, based on his own encounter with the terrifying spectre along the road from Hartley.
An excerpt from: The Ghost at the Second Bridge
Henry Lawson, 1891
You’d call the man a senseless fool, –
A blockhead or an ass,
Who’d dare to say he saw the ghost
Of Mount Victoria Pass;
But I believe the ghost is there,
For, if my eyes are right,
I saw it once upon a ne’er-to-be-forgotten night.
‘Twas in the year of eighty-nine –
The day was nearly gone,
The stars were shining and the moon
Is mentioned further on;
I’d tramped as far as Hartley Vale,
Tho’ tired at the start,
But coming back I got a lift
In Johnny Jones’s cart.
John Berghofer acquired the Mount Victoria Inn in 1892 and renamed it Rosenthal. Due to war time tensions, he changed the name to Rosedale in 1915.
Meads Farm began its life in 1866 as The Kerosene Hotel. The hotel was associated with the Hartley Valley oil shale works and would have been a popular place for weary workers from the mines to gather at the end of a hard day’s labour.
Ambermere Inn was built by Joseph Collitts, the son of Pierce Collitts. Originally known as The Rose Inn, by the 1860’s it held a valuable Cobb and Co coaching contract. Cobb and Co coaches ran from Sydney to Bathurst twice a week.
By the 1920’s the inn had become a guesthouse known as Ambermere Inn.
Little Hartley is a haven for artists and is also known for its beautiful open gardens.
Travelling over the gentle undulating hills of Little Hartley, at the base of the rugged and imposing Mt York, take in the escarpment views across to Mt Clarence and imagine being a passenger in a Cobb and Co Coach as the highway loosely follows the original route.