Our history

Welcome to the Tamworth Region

The Kamilaroi people have lived in the Tamworth region for thousands of years, and are one of the four largest indigenous nations in Australia.

Glimpses of Kamilaroi history is recorded in rock art preserved across the region. Their complex language, Gamilaraay, lives on in many place names:

Barraba means ‘a place of many yellow jacket or box trees’ and Manilla means ‘winding river’.

Calala is a ‘place of battle or a winding river’ and Goonoo Goonoo is ‘running water over rocks in times of drought’.

Below is a timeline highlighting the pinnacle events in Tamworth's history

  • 1818

    • John Oxley and his exploration party were the first European visitors to the Peel Valley.
    • Oxley was instrumental in encouraging settlement here, saying, “No place in this world can afford more advantages to the industrious settler than this extensive vale.”
    • Settlement progressed under the Australian Agricultural Company (AAC).
  • Mid-1830s

    • In the mid-1830s, the AAC gained approval to use the name ‘Tamworth’ for the town to be developed along the Peel River.
    • The name came from the town of Tamworth in England, home of Sir Robert Peel, after whom the river was named.
  • 1837

    • Tamworth appeared on the map.
  • 1850

    • Tamworth was proclaimed a town, with a population of about 250.
    • Within the next few years, the first significant finds of gold in the area were reported at Nundle and Hanging Rock.
    • The AAC formed the Peel River Land and Mineral Company to start mining.
  • 1888

    • At 8pm on 9 November 9, Tamworth became the first place in Australia to use electric street lighting, earning the title of First City of Light.
    • It achieved this by producing its own power at the purpose-built Tamworth Power Station.
  • 1901

    • By 1901, Tamworth was a progressive rural town with two major industries: milling and brewing.
  • 1909

    • The mandatory reclamation of 100,000 acres of the Goonoo Goonoo run occurred which made way for the creation of 250 new farms and further development.
  • 1910

    • The first daily newspaper, the Tamworth Daily Observer, was created after a deal was struck between the city’s two existing mastheads.
  • 1946-1961

    • The post-war recovery of 1946–1961 saw Tamworth depend heavily on its flour mill and starch factory.
    • East West Airlines began twice-daily services to Sydney from the old Tamworth aerodrome.
    • The first motels were established during this time.
  • 1960s-1970s

    • The 1960s and 1970s were when Tamworth developed into a significant regional centre – a status it retains today.
  • 1980s

    • Tourism took off in the 1980s, built largely around the Tamworth Country Music Festival, which had started in 1973.

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