Ladies and gentlemen, you are now arriving in Manilla, where the local date is 1853!
In case you didn’t already know, Manilla is steeped in history. Stretching all the way back to George Veness who founded its first commercial operation 165 years ago, and also named the town after a Gamilaraay word meaning winding river.
So if you like travelling back in time to a younger and more pioneering age, then you’ve come to the right place.
The Manilla Heritage walk gives a fascinating insight into Manilla’s indigenous history, early settlement and architectural history, and is an absolute must for any student of history.
Then there’s the Heritage Museum with over 6000 items and archives, the railway viaduct, the Manilla showground, the annual Vintage Machinery Rally with machines from the past and present, and not one but two historic cemeteries.
And best of all, there are some amazing antique shops and collectable fairs where you can purchase a piece of Manilla’s unique and vibrant history for yourself.
A short history of Manilla.
Prior to European occupation the area was home to the Kamilaroi Aboriginal people.
In 1853 George Veness selected a property at the junction of the Namoi and Manilla Rivers. It was a teamsters' campsite known as 'The Junction'. He built a wine-shop, a store and a residence and became the first postmaster. Veness was asked by the postal department to choose a title for the village and named it after the Manilla River.
The town was laid out in the early 1860s by Arthur Dewhurst who named its streets after himself, his wife, their English home towns, and the local MP Charles Lloyd.
In 1864 George Veness' store was washed away by floods. The flood killed four of the town's twelve residents.
Bushranger 'Thunderbolt' (alias Fred Ward) stole two horses from Lloyd's station and committed a series of robberies on the Barabba road in 1865. Two years later he bailed up the Tamworth Mail 3 km from Manilla. He then robbed Veness' store and stole clothes, spirits and groceries. The police arrived and he fled without his pack horse.
In 1875 a small private school was established in the town and by 1879 the town had its own public school.
Manilla was officially proclaimed a town in 1885.
In 1890 the editor of the Tamworth Observer described Manilla as a town which promised a prosperous future, and commented on the imposing bridge crossing the river, the stately court house, the well-kept orchards and pretty flower gardens.
Tobacco was first grown in the district by a Chinese farmer in 1896.
The railway reached Manilla in 1899. That year a flour mill was built in the town.
A series of fires between 1900-1910 destroyed many buildings in the centre of the town.
In 1905 the Council installed lights on the local bridge. Electric light became available in 1915.
By 1923 there were 17 tobacco plantations in the district.
In 1929 the local flour mill was destroyed by fire.
In January 1964 a flood forced one third of the town's population to evacuate.
In 1988 work on Split Rock Dam was completed.