Tours / History
Free guided tours of Ballina Manor are a must when visiting Ballina.
Tours operate 7 Days a week / 10:00am to 5:00pm
(Including Public Holidays)
Address: 25 Norton Street, Ballina NSW 2478
Group Bookings and Refreshments Available.
Historically popular, this tour goes for half an hour and provides a wonderful insight into the life and transformations of Ballina Manor, it's history and background. Throughout the tour your guide will take you back in time, explaining the significance of this Heritage Listed building and Norton Street, which are still a valuable part of Ballina's historical charm. Together with stories of relevant personages, factors that were major influences in those early days and how Ballina Manor was saved from approved demolition, you will see the results of the meticulous restoration including exquisite period antiques.
Ballina Manor Boutique Hotel was Heritage listed for future generations to enjoy. We welcome everyone to experience this truly rare
and unique example of Ballina's history.
During the tour you will see
* The magnificent original College dining room, which dates from 1925.
* The internal & external architecture which at the time was the best available.
* The many period antiques throughout the building.
* The extensive photo display showing the transformations of Ballina Manor.
* The wooden two storey staircase.
* Any of the available 12 bedrooms.
* Historical documentation and artefacts.
" Motivational & inspiring ... a real journey into the history of Ballina Manor."
Historic tours are a great activity for your conference delegates. If you are planning a conference, ask reception how you can include this in your event plan.
An insight into Ballina Manor's History
Following the First World War and with Ballina's population nearing 4000, the Methodist Church purchased land in Cherry Street and later in Crane Street, Ballina for the erection of a Church and Parsonage.
In 1921 Rev.F.McGowan wrote "*The most forward movement and one most urgently needed is the proposed establishment of a Girls College in Ballina. Plans were prepared for a late Edwardian building in Crane Street, Ballina, and a prospectus launched in 1923 when Rev.Hedley Parr, a man of dynamic personality, organised a concert party tour of the North Coast district for 3 months and solicited many for the venture".
Hence the dream of the North Coast Girls College was born and built in 1924/25. It was established on the site of the first Methodist church built in Ballina. (This building survives and was relocated to Cherry Street where the brick Methodist church was also established). It was officially opened by Mrs Earle Page, wife of the late Sir Earle Page (Federal Member of Parliament and the leader of the Country Party) on 16th September 1925. Little is recorded locally of the day-to-day history of the college. The college's own records, however suggests that its objectives were to;
"...combine facilities for the best education of Protestant girls, with the cultivation in them of graces of Christian character and womanhood. It will provide mental and moral equipment for life's larger duties. Whether of home, business, social or professional life, amid all the comforts and security of a home, where everything conduces to the real end of education, enlightenment, refined, true and worthy views of life, and of their duty to God, to themselves and to others".
The college's prospectus also provides important insights into the reasons the college was established in Ballina. This it seems had much to do with the learning environment of the locality than to service the needs of the immediate community. The prospectus clearly indicated the benefits of the school's seaside environment.
"The College is situated at Ballina, a rising town at the mouth of the Richmond River. Ballina is noted for its beautiful scenery and the mildness if its temperature. Thousands of visitors come here each year to recuperate, and go away feeling that its climate has brought back health of mind and body".
The seaside climate, it was believed in this era, enhanced learning.
Despite its appeal to all "Protestant girls" locals did attend the college, as secondary education in the district was limited. Moreover, its establishment occurred in a period of optimism following the end of the Great War, its solid architecture reflecting this as well "the latest ideas of college architecture".
"The rooms are lofty and well ventilated, and there is ample accommodation for sleeping out of doors. Electric light and hot and cold water services have been installed, and the sanitation is on the latest model".
Regretfully, the North Coast College only remained operational as a school until 1930. It is recorded that the, "school closed due to difficulties in administration". It has been later interpreted that these difficulties were due to the 1930's "great depression", that prohibited families from affording the luxury of a boarding (seaside) college education.
From 1930 to 1958 the building then became a guesthouse, known as the "North Coast Guest home". It was owned and operated by persons unknown.
From 1958 to 1970 the property was used as a boarding house, owned and operated by Harold and Min Tate, and known as "BEHLE".
A conversion in the 1970's saw a further reduction in grandeur when the building was converted to 16 flats with much use of gyprock and fibro and closing in of all verandas. The name of "Sunnyhaven" was given to the building.
In 1999 the building was auctioned (on behalf of the estate of Mr Laundry) and Ballina Shire Council had given in principle approval for demolition of the building to enable the land to be used for new unit development.
However, it was not to be. The property was purchased by Jeff Champion (a former Mayor of Lismore) and his wife, Diana, who had a dream for the old North Coast Girls College. Ten months later, with much hard work, untold amounts of money and project managed by Jeff Champion himself, Ballina Manor became a reality.
Amazingly, on 4th March 2000, approximately 75 years after its original opening by the late Mrs Earle Page, Mr Don Page, State Member for Ballina, and the grandson of the late Mrs Earle Page, officially re-opened Ballina Manor. In attendance were 6 of the original students from the North Coast Girls College (now in their late 80's), the Mayors from Ballina and Lismore, the 1920's cars from the Northern Rivers Car Club and some 1400 people who came to inspect the property.
The Manor building is an important historic building not only given its associated history as the Methodist Ladies College, but as a building it demonstrates aesthetic merit. Designed by architect Frederick J. Board, the building demonstrates features characteristic of his work. These include its predominate brick fabric, timber detailing and archway features.
It has been noted that Norton Street was Ballina's first, "main street" and thoroughfare, linking North Creek and the main arm of the Richmond River. This History is significant to its heritage significance, as are a number of important elements of the street today. Of the buildings along Norton Street some of its remaining historic timber houses are amongst the oldest on Ballina Island. All the historic timber houses remaining in Norton Street reflect its changing historic use, and, not least, are important examples of north coast vernacular timber architecture.
The most well known of these is Brundah, currently listed on the State Heritage Register as an important example of north coast architecture / domestic housing.
Other significant buildings and features along Norton Street include Ballina Manor, its wide street and grass verges, Meldrum Park, the Norfolk Island pines and the palms that surround the Anglican Church. The Manor, as is discussed earlier, was established in 1925 as a Girl's College. The wide street setting established in response to the humid climate of the north coast, enabling the breeze to circulate the street and ventilate buildings. This innovation was adopted by the British as a result of its colonial experience in India. The street's grass verges clearly reflecting the era before curb and guttering and Meldrum Park bounds the area that housed the old wharf and where the river baths were located. The majestic Norfolk Island pines are the product of an early street beautification project by Ballina Municipal Council following WW1.
Together these elements reflect Norton Street's late nineteenth century history as well as its earlier twentieth century history, which are significant to the history of the development, of Ballina's Township.
Ballina Manor was saved from approved demolition, then meticulously restored, furnished with exquisite antiques and Heritage Listed for future generations to enjoy. We welcome you to come and experience this truly rare and unique example of Ballina's History.
Free Guided Tours of Ballina Manor are a must when visiting Ballina.
We loved restoring Ballina Manor and we hope you enjoy your time here.
Jeff and Diana Champion
*Re.One Hundred Years of Methodism Ballina Methodist Church
North Coast Girl's College, Interim Prospectus, Northern Star, 1925, BSC Records, courtesy of Ballina Manor.
Hall, Glen, The Port of Richmond River, Northern Star Print, 1983.
Jeans, The Open Air Museum: The Cultural Landscape, Allen & Unwin, 1980.
Murray, Cliff, Across Three Bridges, Northern Star Print, 1983.
An insight into Ballina's History
Ballina is situated at the mouth of the Richmond River on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, and boasts some of the most beautiful surfing beaches and picturesque headlands on the east coast of Australia.
The sparkling Richmond River and its estuaries abound with marine wildlife and for many years has remained the fisherman's paradise in harmony with water sports and numerous boating activities that share this natural attraction
The township of Ballina on the North bank of the beautiful Richmond River is bordered by North Creek and The Canal, in fact making Ballina an Island. East Ballina takes in the area between the Pacific Ocean and North Creek and its picturesque creeks and lagoons.
Ballina Shire encompasses a large area of the North Coast including the charming hinterland village of Alstonville and the picturesque seaside village of Lennox Head. The natural beauty of the area makes it a favourite holiday destination and as more and more people discover its hidden treasures it will remain so for many years.. so allow us to give you all the info you need to visit or stay in nature's playground.
The population of the Ballina area is estimated at 44,266. At its current rate of growth, Ballina's population is expected to reach 55000 by 2015 and is fast becoming the growth centre of the region with major shopping centres and new land releases at Ballina Heights taking the area into the future. There are 3 high schools and 4 primary schools, a hospital and many aged care facilities. Located on the Pacific Highway it is an easy hour and a half from the Gold Coast and only 20 mins south of popular Byron Bay.
The rapidly increasing demand for furniture in the growing middle classes of Victorian England was one of the prime causes of the development of the town of Ballina! The Richmond Valley had become the main source of the prized 'red gold' of cedar, and although the colonials used it for building and joinery work, by the middle of the nineteenth century most of those magnificent trees found themselves sailing half way around the globe to feed the Empire's needs.
The Richmond River was discovered in 1828 by Captain Henry Rous, in the HMS "Rainbow", and was named after the fifth Duke of Richmond. Early settlers travelled upstream to Broadwater, but the cedar-getters first came across the country from the Clarence River. As word spread, another party of cedar-getters and their families arrived in 1842 on the "Sally", and a camp was established at what is now East Ballina, because of the high ground and good water supply.
The settlement was first known as Deptford, but as it grew an Aboriginal word 'bullenah' which meant 'place where oysters are plentiful' became the town's name. With a town in Ireland named also named Ballina, the similar pronunciation meant that the indigenous link was all but lost through the change in spelling. However an appreciation of the area's seafood certainly remains, with strong fishing industries and seafood featuring strongly in the regional cuisine. The Big Prawn tourist attraction is one of the more whimsical expressions of the continuing importance of the sea to the town.
Although Ballina is now a booming town of almost 45,000 people enjoying the lifestyle and services available, prior to white settlement just over 167 years ago, there had been a continuous settlement of the region by coastal Aboriginal tribes for millennia. With the abundant food and sub-tropical climate, the tribes had the time to develop a rich cultural life, and middens at Chickiba Creek areas of East Ballina show at least 2,000 years of more or less continual occupation in that spot alone.
The climate and the stunning coastal scenery are still major factors bringing people to Ballina. The town is growing steadily with both families and retirees moving in, and tourists wanting to enjoy a quieter and more family-oriented holiday than some of the busier, funkier or more glitzy spots further up the coast.
Accommodation ranges from camping and caravan parks to family motels, to boutique bed and breakfast and beautifully renovated heritage guest houses. With a jet airport as well as being on the Pacific Highway, Ballina is the gateway to the Northern Rivers, a position it has held continuously since white settlement, although the forms of transport have changed radically. Early white settlers first used Ballina as access for timber, and then as the gateway to pastoral lands opening up around the inland settlements of Casino and Lismore. The rivers were the key to transport up and down the coast, until roads and rail could be developed.
The farmers moved onto the lands formerly occupied by the 'Big Scrub', which, was the name given to the lush subtropical rainforest covering the area, and set about growing sugar cane and dairying. Much of the land was not suited to cane, and by the turn of the century dairying predominated, with each family providing the farm's intensive labour. The cane areas consolidated around the bigger cane processing mills, with the huge Broadwater Mill established in 1881 still operating, though the river transport system of punts and tugs was replaced in 1974 by roads, and mechanical harvesting became the norm. By the 1960's the dairying industry was also changing and many family-run small farms were no longer economic. Many farms were sold or consolidated into larger properties, and beef cattle and other cash crops were developed in the lush green countryside.
Other new crops around the region include tea tree, which is a native bush grown for the oil which is extracted from its leaves. The highly antiseptic properties of tea tree oil were known to the Aboriginals of the coastal region, and it was also used as a folk remedy by pioneers. Although pushed from favour by synthetic products after the second World War, tea tree oil extraction and production of associated medical and health products has become a major industry, with pioneers Thursday Plantation leading the way. Their headquarters on the Pacific Highway includes an education centre, sculpture garden, tea tree maze and cafe.
The Richmond River today is popular for recreational boating, sailing and fishing, and cruises on the MV Richmond Princess or the MV Bennelong are good ways to see the countryside from a different view. Even if today's countryside is not what the early settlers saw, the scenery is still green and beautiful and it is still a much more tranquil way of travelling than high speed on the highway. Many cruises offer meals and commentary, and boats may also be chartered.
The maritime history of the area can also be appreciated at the Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum, which features a range of local items, photographs and information along with the famous La Balsa raft. The raft on display was made from the combined remains of the three balsa wood rafts which crossed the Pacific from Ecuador to Ballina in 178 days in 1973. The expedition, lead by Vital Alsar, was undertaken to prove that early South Americans could have crossed the Pacific by raft, and the rafts were constructed using only the materials and techniques available to the early settlers of South America.
Other historic vessels of the area include the PV Richmond, a pilot vessel which served for 50 years on the river, and is now displayed behind the Pilot's Cottage in Norton Street, Ballina; and the MV Florrie, the oldest serving river boat which ran from 1880 to 1975 and is now on the bank at Regatta Reserve, Norton Street Ballina.
The surrounding farming areas are fascinating for country drives, and there are many smaller towns and villages with good coffee shops plus craft shops, galleries, antiques and boutiques for those in need of some souvenirs or retail therapy. The 'Big Scrub', which was the initial attraction for the timber-getters, is now reduced to a few remnants in the region, but one 17.5 hectare area can be viewed at the Victoria Park Nature Reserve on the Alstonville Plateau. A boardwalk has been created to lead through this magnificent reminder of how the whole region once looked. There are also many national parks and world heritage-listed areas in the region, which can be visited in day trips and area ideal for bushwalkers and conservationists. Eco-tours are also available around many of these areas, and offer four-wheel drive guided tours and walks plus barbecue lunches and commentaries.
As much of Ballina is reasonably flat, it's perfect for cyclists wanting to sightsee whilst getting some light exercise. A shared pathway for both cyclists and pedestrians runs around Ballina, with popular vantage points from the lighthouse and Shelley Beach, which are ideal for whale spotting during the migration season (June to October) or for sighting dolphins playing in the waves year round. The coastguard tower volunteers also welcome visitors between 8am and 4pm, providing a very different river and ocean outlook. The Kerry Saxby pathway runs past the Olympic Pool and Waterslide to the Naval & Maritime Museum.
The Pioneer Memorial Wall is located at the Pioneer Cemetery, just over the Missingham Bridge, and is fascinating for anyone interested in the history of the region. The number of shipping disasters are grim reminders of the past, when the sea and rivers were the main form of transport, and many sea captains and crew have their last resting place in this scenic and peaceful spot. The cemetery had its last burials in 1915, but it was not until the 1950's that the area was declared a rest park, and a wall was built containing all of the old headstones.
Historic buildings in the area include the Shaws Bay Hotel, which was originally Fenwick House, built by Captain Thomas Fenwick in 1886. A two-storey granite building roofed with slate, the Scottish Manor style building has cedar fittings including a magnificent staircase, and the dining room and saloon bar have been restored to their Victorian elegance. Riversleigh Guest House and Tea Rooms, opposite the Richmond River, was built in the 1880's, and has been restored to six guestrooms and a cafe on the wide verandas. Brundah, a heritage-listed Federation home was built in 1908 and now operates as a boutique bed & breakfast, with a pretty garden setting close to the centre of Ballina. The magnificent, heritage-listed Ballina Manor has recently been restored to its Edwardian splendour and now includes a function and conference centre and restaurant as well as luxury accommodation.
Just over an hour by jet from Sydney and just over two hour's drive from Brisbane, Ballina is at the heart of the Northern Rivers, and provides a great base for a family holiday as well as access to everything in the region from national parks to theme parks.
Historical Attractions in & around Ballina:
- Old Post Office - Now the court house and police station, the old post office was first occupied in 1889.
- Pioneer Memorial Park - Due to a number of shipping disasters many sea captains and crew are buried here and are grim reminders of our historic past.
- Fenwick House - Located on Shaws Bay , a gracious 2 storey, Scottish Manor House, built in 1884 by Captain Thomas Fenwick.
- Coastguard Tower - Located adjacent to Lighthouse Beach, the tower is manned by the Ballina Flotilla of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Assoc.
- Richmond River Lighthouse - Built in 1879 this lighthouse is one of the oldest in the state, standing 35 metres above the high tide mark and with a light range of 20km.
- Rotary Lookout - View the spectacular coastline and hinterland through the binocular facility.
- Pat Moreton Lookout - Spectacular views of 7 Mile Beach where you can witness surfers tackling the world famous right hand point break below.
- The Bora Ring - Located in Gibbon St, this ceremonial site for the Nyangabal people is one of the few well-preserved earth bora rings in NSW.
- Lumley Park Historic Museum - Three acres of untouched "Big Scrub" which was set aside in 1934 and named after Clarence Lumley who was killed in WW1.
- Old NSW Creamery Butter Co.Factory - Built in 1900, which then became a peanut factory in 1930.
- Old Tintenbar Council Building - Merging with the Ballina Shire Council in 1977 and now houses the Kolinda Gallery.
- Paddy Bugden Memorial VC Memorial - Paddy was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in WW1.
- St Bartholomew's Church - Made from local Meerschaum Vale sandstone, its foundations were laid in August 1913.
- Federal Hotel - Built in 1900 and named "Federal" because of the passing of the Federation Bill at the time.
- Elizabeth Ann Brown Park & RSL War Memorial - A picturesque park with picnic facilities, RSL War Memorial and rock wall which proudly displays the plaques won in Tidy Town competitions.
- Meerschaum Vale - A drive through this quaint village is reminiscent of the days of old, set amongst fertile, green pastures.
- Wardell Lift Span Bridge - Historic Wardell, proclaimed a town in 1886, where you can cross the lift span bridge and travel along River Drive and towards South Ballina.
- Empire Vale - Drive past broad expanses of cane fields and witness the telltale signs of a bygone era by the old railway lines embedded in the road.
- Ballina Ferry - Crosses to Ballina at a small charge. Open 5.30am to midnight daily. Closed 9am - 12noon 2nd Tuesday of each month and noon Xmas Day until 5:30am Boxing Day.