Welcome to Barrington Tops

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Historic Roots

Built in 1884, this historic building is now home to a bank in Dungog. Dungog is the administrative centre for the Dungog Shire.


The Gringai people of the Wanarua tribe, original inhabitants of the Allyn River district near Dungog, traditionally migrated to the Tops in summertime. Their tracks through the rainforest to their hunting grounds in the mountains were used by early timber cutters seeking red cedar, known as 'red gold'. Huge specimens, measuring up to fourteen metres at the base, were hauled by bullock teams down to local mills, or shipped down the Paterson River into the Hunter from the river port of Paterson. By 1910, a party of visitors to the Tops on their way along the Williams River to Lagoon Pinch reported only immature cedar trees.      


The rolling green hills near Salisbury provide pasture for numerous dairy cows, here on their way to the milking shed.

St Peters Church, Bendolba, near Dungog.

By the 1830s, European settlers had taken up land in the rich river valleys in the foothills of the mountains and exploration of the scenic wonders of the Tops began. A few years earlier, assisted by Aboriginal guides, the first agent of the Australian Agricultural Company, Robert Dawson, visited a fertile valley west of 'The Buccons' (an Aboriginal word describing the mountainous rock formations behind Gloucester, now known as 'The Bucketts'). He was on a preliminary survey for his company, which had a land grant of a million acres between Port Stephens and the Manning River. Dawson was so impressed by the well-watered valley he found, he named it Barrington in honour of his friend, William Keppel, Viscount Barrington.

Several notable visitors to the area include the illustrious ornithologist John Gould, who visited the beautiful Allyn River district in 1840, collecting information for his eight-volume series, The Birds of Australia. A few years later the famous explorer Ludwig Leichhardt reportedly spent several nights in a hollow tree sheltering from inclement weather, on an exploration of the geology and botany around his camp at Mount Royal.

The colourful bushranger Captain Thunderbolt (Frederick Ward) started his career in crime in 1865 when he stole provisions from a dwelling near Dungog. Forty-eight kilometres of unsealed road-Thunderbolt's Way-and Ward's River commemorate him. He crossed the river on horseback in full flood. Thunderbolt's partner in crime was a part-Aboriginal Gloucester woman, Mary Ann Begg, whose prosperous father worked for the Australian Agricultural Company. After a private-school education in Sydney, Mary Ann, who was considered a great beauty, bore Thunderbolt three children in the bush. She usually wore men's suits. One of Thunderbolt's hide-outs was a cave high up in 'The Bucketts' behind Gloucester. A look-out on the Gloucester-to-Scone road also bears his name.

In 1879, the Tops were proclaimed a part of the Gloucester Gold Field after gold discoveries at Moonan Brook. Calico towns sprang up almost overnight. For seventy years, copious quantities of gold were extracted from the Copeland area, which, in its heyday, operated around seventy mines. Today, the Mountain Maid Gold Mine still operates as a tourist attraction in the Copeland Creek Valley.