Part Three of a four-part series
MID-WAY along the Picton-Mittagong section of the Great Southern Railway, the private village sub-divisions of Balmoral and Jellore took shape from 1878.
These were around stations at Big Hill Lower and Upper Siding, located at either end of a steep, 4.8 kilometre railway cutting.
From 1886 residents at Balmoral were asking for a school, rather than sending their children by rail to the school that had opened at Jellore in 1883, near Hill Top station.
A new inspector, Mr Murray, pointed out in 1888 that the timetable at the Jellore school had been arranged since 1884 to suit the Balmoral people. He felt it inconsistent for them to complain about their children's train journey to Hill Top, yet base their claim for a school on the expectation that Buxton children would travel the 3 or 4 miles to a school at Balmoral. Murray's rather neat solution was to recommend the school at Jellore become a half-time school with Balmoral. This was approved by the Department of Public Instruction.
Soon a slab building with iron roof was erected by Balmoral parents on land offered at a nominal lease. Eleanor Rixon opened the new school in December 1888. She taught in the morning at Jellore and in the afternoon at Balmoral, the train timetable suiting this arrangement.
Later, to replace the slab hut, the Department approved a brick school to be built to one of its finer compact designs. It opened in 1893, remained in service until 1928, and the building stands today incorporated into a private residence.
A Balmoral Mechanics Institute, erected by Alf Stephens of Bowral, was opened in 1902 by the Colonial Treasurer, Thomas Waddell. Also present was district MLA, William McCourt.
The bright future of Balmoral changed when the Picton-Mittagong section of the Southern Line was re-routed via Bargo in 1919, due to on-going problems with steep grades. The old main line section was retained, however, as the Picton-Mittagong Loop Line. A local train ran daily, a Sunday evening train ran from Moss Vale to Sydney, and 3 days a week a rail motor extended to Bowral. These services continued until 1975.
Balmoral went into decline with the severing of its life-blood, the main line linking it directly to Sydney. It was only from the 1970s that its charming rural setting began to attract people who made it their home. Over 300 people live at Balmoral Village today.
IN REGARD to its nearby twin village of Jellore at Hill Top Station, it similarly flourished until 1919 with the Southern Line as its life-blood, and almost became non-existent when the new line opened via Bargo. Eventually, however, this village fared better, partly due to it being marginally closer to Mittagong. Its history follows here.
The station which had opened at Big Hill Upper Siding on April 5, 1878 was renamed Colo in 1881 and Hill Top on May 1, 1883.
A private village, as distinct from one surveyed and laid out by the Crown, took shape in the early 1880s around the station where sub-divided lots were offered for sale. Named 'Jellore', it attracted railway workers and settlers who built houses and established orchards and vegetable farms nearby.
A Post Office at the station opened in 1887 and other housing estates, known as Hilltop and Waratah, were subsequently established.
The Hill Top area soon became a major producer of fruit and vegetables for the city. The station gained a Stationmasters Office and goods shed, and a wooden platform was built on the 'up' side of the line for Sydney passengers.
Robert Fitzstubbs, along with other landowners, successfully lobbied for a school and donated an acre of land. In June 1884 a small weatherboard public school was opened and a teacher appointed. From 1888 it became a half-time school with Balmoral village, as mentioned above, due to both villages having a fluctuating population.
In 1899 the school at Jellore closed with 15 children going by train to Balmoral. In 1900 it reopened for three years. From 1909 the village parents operated a school, paying for teachers and equipment with a subsidy from the Schools Department.
In 1916, on a donated block of land, a small church was erected. This served until 1967 when a new non-denominational church was built to cater for all Christians.
Although by 1920 many families had moved away, some stayed. In 1924 a provisional school was established, becoming Hill Top Public School in 1938. Today it is a large, well-appointed facility, reflecting the more recent growth of Hill Top.
To be continued
This article compiled by PHILIP MORTON is sourced from the archives of Berrima District Historical & Family History Society, Bowral Rd, Mittagong. Phone 4872 2169. Email firstname.lastname@example.org Web: berrimadistricthistoricalsociety.org.au
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