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Terrible Vale Station (c. 1832 - )

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Location: Kentucky, New South Wales, Australia
Terrible Vale Station, situated about 20 kilometres south-east of Uralla, was one of the earliest grazing runs established on the New England tablelands during the 1830s.
Edward Gostwyck Cory, a stockowner based in the Hunter Valley, was one of many pastoralists who were displaced by the Australian Agricultural Company’s appropriation of 600,000 acres of land on the Liverpool Plains in 1832. Denied access to these rich pastures, some stockowners began to look further afield for land. In that year, Cory, following the example set by Hamilton Collins Sempill, a ‘squatter’ who had recently established a run at Walcha in the upper Apsley Valley, crossed the ‘limits of settlement’ prescribed by the colonial authorities and ascended the tablelands with his stock in search of suitable grazing country. He camped for a time at Carlyle’s Gully, but, upon deciding that the grantite country there was unsuitable for sheep grazing, he continued on over the range to Salisbury Waters. Pleased with what he found, Cory formed his head station at Gostwyck with an out-station on what was then called Terrible Valley.
The derivation of the station’s name is steeped in folklore. The most widely accepted story is that Terrible Valley took its name from Cory’s head stockman, ‘Terrible Billy’, a somewhat apocryphal figure who was said to possess ‘rough and ready habits … with his employees’ and an unremitting ‘fierceness against the blacks’. There is another school of thought which attributes the name to the Turrubul tribe of Aborigines who frequented the area before European settlement.
Around 1837, Cory sold the property to Robert Ramsey Mackenzie, who, after purchasing Furracabad near Glen Innes, relinquished Terrible Valley to William Tyd Taylor and Richard Joseph Middleton three years later. The station, which according to the deed of sale was purchased for £3,500 and consisted of little more than ‘three huts, [an] overseer’s hut and small stockyard’, was unsuitable for immediate occupation. In 1843, however, Taylor bought Middleton out, built a timber slab and bark home with stone foundations, and brought his family up from their property at Port Macquarie shortly thereafter. The station’s name was at this time shortened to Terrible Vale, and by the following year a woolshed had been built in close proximity to the homestead. Life was by all accounts difficult in these early years. In the absence of fences, sheep were frequently lost and many wanderers never found again. Scab and catarrh were a constant problem for the flock. These hardships may have played a part in Taylor’s decision to sign a contract of sale for Terrible Vale to Stuart Alexander Donaldson in 1849. In the event, however, Taylor withdrew from the sale.
It was a prudent decision. From this time forward, Terrible Vale showed signs of rapid improvement. Between 1847 and 1851, sheep numbers increased from 12,000 to 16,620, cattle numbers from 100 to 355, and horses from four to nineteen. A decade later, the run supported about 20,000 sheep. As a measure of the run’s increasing prosperity, a new house was built in the late-1850s. Situated further up from the creek and replete with the comforts of ‘modern’ life, the new homestead was a much more homely affair than the family’s previous abode. The family itself had grown to eleven by the beginning of the following decade (a tenth child, Charles, had died after suffering from impetigo in 1859). In April 1856, Taylor, a member of the newly-established Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, could afford to advertise in the Armidale Express for house servants, promising ‘liberal wages to a competent couple’.
In 1862, William Tydd Taylor, suffering from injuries incurred earlier in the year when he was robbed and beaten severely while staying at an Armidale hotel, died at the age of forty-eight. His wife, Margaretta, was left to raise the large family on her own. She decided to stay at Terrible Vale, and with the help of her eldest son, Innes Ballantyne Lind Taylor, managed the station until 1868. The Taylor’s youngest son, Frederick George, then took over and from 1870 ran the property as a company with his twin sisters. Though only nineteen at the time, FG approached his new responsibilites with an energy and enthusiasm beyond his years. Faced with a debt of £30,000, he immediately bought a further 27,000 acres of land and began fencing the entire property. Pasture improvement was undertaken and by the early-1880s blade shearing was replaced by compressed air machines powered by steam engines. A new woolshed was built in 1888 – ‘the best in the district’, according to one report – as was a less primitive sheep dip whose ‘long swim does not necessitate the use of poisonous dips which are very effective but have a tendency to dry the wool’. These improvements played an important part in increasing the profitability of Terrible Vale. From 1.1 kilograms of unwashed wool per head in 1856 production had by 1888 increased to 3.6 kilograms of unwashed wool per head.
FG Taylor, a keen cricketer who was said to employ shearers on the basis of their ability to play the game, managed the property until 1937 when he died at the age of eighty-seven. He and his wife, Margaret Lucy, had raised a large family of seven daughters and five sons while slowly accumulating enough adjoining land to make Terrible Vale an extremely successful enterprise. The property, though much smaller than it had been during its heyday in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, remains in the Taylor family. Alex and David Taylor, great great-grandsons of FG, now manage the property, which today covers 2,403 acres. Wool remains the main source of income, although in the last half-century cattle numbers have come into their own. Improvements in pasture after the 1940s, especially the introduction of superphosphate, has led to frantic tree planting activity in an effort to rehabilitate some of the cleared landscape. By 1990, more than 140,000 trees had been planted on Terrible Vale and other Taylor holdings.
Neighbouring Birrahlee and The Hill are also owned by members of the Taylor family. The total area still under the management of descendants of the pioneer pastoralist, WT Taylor, represents about one-quarter of his original leasehold.

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Armidale Express (23 May 1962, 15 July 1968, 7 September 1990); Joan Starr, Pioneering New England (Sydney: Rigby Limited, 1978); Krista Mogensen and Ted Colville (eds.), New England Tablelands, NSW (Blackburn, Victoria: See Australia, 1986); Elizabeth Gardiner, Terrible Vale: No Time Like the Past. History of a New England Grazing Run Between 1830 and 1940 (Tamworth: DSAMC Education, 1998).

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Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields.Prepared by: Sophie Patrick
Created: 26 June 2002
Modified: 7 July 2006

Published by The Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, 5 April 2004
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 23 February 2010

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