Archives in your town – a virtual tour

Tamworth has a rich and textured history. As part of our Archives on Tour initiative we conducted a virtual tour of some of the archives that highlight moments and people from Tamworth's past. Take a tour of some of the featured archives below.

Watch the recording of the virtual event and come behind the scenes

School Files, 1876-1979


What can these records tell you about your town?

There are similarities between all of the school files through content and purpose. They reflect their times. The files cover both wars but particularly reflect the many impacts of World War 1. Women resign or are terminated when they marry as married women were barred from public sector employment. Schools very strongly reflect the growth or decline of towns.

Tamworth’s School files

The school files show the commencement and growth of the government school system from the first Tamworth school in 1855 which later became Tamworth Public School. A second public school opened in 1883 in Tamworth West. Both of these schools offered secondary schooling until Tamworth High School was established in 1919. Two more public schools started in the 20th century - Oxley Vale Public School in 1947 and Tamworth South Public School in 1952. The second high school – Oxley - opened in 1968.

New public school buildings are approved and built from the 1870s. Buildings needed repairs from as early as 1880 when the average attendance was 108.9 primary children and 75.4 infants children. The water ran out in 1881 during a dry spell. Letters to the Department and a newspaper article led to both temporary and longer term plans for an adequate water supply. Petitions for new schools were generally successful including for an evening school in 1883 though a petition for an infants school in Bourke Ward in 1891 was not as there were already two schools within a mile of the proposed location.

Schools closed for a recruitment march and “sham battle” in 1918; participated in Arbor Day activities and held fund raising concerts in the Theatre Royal among other school and town activities.

As early as 1913 plans for a high school were being made. Schooling was taking place in rented halls due to a shortage of space. Tamworth’s claims for a high school compared to other similar towns seemed poor but a high school still opened in 1919.

1919 also saw troops from World War 1 returning and teachers applying for leave to meet relatives in Sydney (approved without pay). Teachers requested transfers to other towns to be close to their families; to run dancing schools; for the replacement of items in the teacher's residence such as the stove and bath; to close the school due to measles including among the teachers.

20th century increases in population saw kindergarten age children refused enrolment until additional classes were established; new public schools, including near Woolomol Housing Settlement, and a new high school (standard for 1,000 students) established. Hostels to provide accommodation for students from outside Tamworth operated.

Extracts from the school files

Tamworth Public 1876-1884


Tamworth Public 1912-1922


Tamworth High School


Tamworth High School


Tamworth South


Tamworth West


Tamworth West 1 of 2


Tamworth West 2 of 2


Oxley Vale Primary School


Oxley High School


Plans of public buildings


The Colonial Architect started in 1832 and continued on as the Government Architect to the end of the 20th century. The public buildings serve a variety of purposes including Land Board offices; pilot stations and light houses in coastal areas; schools; hospitals; police stations; gaols; court houses; and even post offices from before postal services became a Federal Government responsibility. All of these buildings are often large and enduring even if their purpose changes over time.

Tamworth’s Land Board District Survey and Roads’ Office

This building was designed by Government Architect Walter Vernon in 1898. It was extended in 1915.

Theatres and public halls files, 1895-1992


Theatres and public halls had to be licensed from 1895. The licensing and regulations related to public safety. The theatres and public halls were owned by private individuals, businesses, religious organisations, community groups and councils and they were used for many purposes – dances; social gatherings; showing movies; live entertainment and skating (roller and ice). The files provide information about local businesses – both in relation to theatres and public halls and the construction industry. Theatres and public halls are a large part of recreation in any town. The rise and fall of these buildings chart changes in population and in the broader world of recreation.

Capital Theatre

The Capital Theatre was built in 1927, on Brisbane Street, as a movie theatre and operated as one until 1966. It was authorised to seat 1,593 people. Hoyts bought this theatre and another eight theatres across regional NSW from Mr J K Kouvelis in 1946. In the 1970s it was used as a discotheque with amusement machines in the foyer. Later still the Salvation Army used the building to store second-hand clothes. Like many of these theatres it did not survive and was demolished in 1984.

Bankruptcy, 1888-1929


Bankruptcy is a state in which a person is unable to pay creditors and is required to undergo a legal process that usually results in liquidation of his/her estate in order to meet expenses (at least in part). If a person is declared to be a bankrupt then he/she cannot operate a business for profit, enter a business contract or borrow money. It is similar, but not identical to insolvency.

There are Insolvency files from 1842 to 1887 and from 1930 bankruptcy became a Federal government matter.

Bankruptcy files contain lists of creditors that the bankrupt person owed money to and debtors that owed money to the bankrupt person. Through these lists they show commercial connections in a town, between towns and with Sydney. The bankrupt person provides a statement about why they became bankrupt often providing a picture of what is happening in the town and beyond. The files of bankrupt people in the town collectively show what sorts of businesses where operating.

Records of a Tamworth resident

George Albert Solomons was a photographer in Tamworth. He was declared bankrupt on 29 August 1893. George Solomons stated that the cause of his bankruptcy as “falling off of his business, sickness in his family and through not being able to collect his debts.” His unsecured liabilities were just over 114 pounds and his unencumbered assets 84 pounds. Very little was realised as his creditors allowed him to retain his household furniture, tools of trade and wearing apparel. George’s wife Annie and two of their children (Lilla and Archibald) died of typhoid in 1892. Some of his debts related to this - doctors’ fees, headstones and coffins. Nearly 40 pounds of small quantities of money were owned by various people across New England possibly for photographs. The 1890s were a time of depression across Australia, possibly the most severe in our history. His bankruptcy was discharged in 1900.

George Albert Solomons NRS-13658-[10/22889]-7081

page from the bankruptcy file

George Albert Solomons


Deceased estate files, 1880-1958


The Stamp Duties Office created a deceased estate file for every individual who died leaving property or other assets ('estates'), which were subject to death duties. The files contain the papers, correspondence and other documentation relating to the assessment of death duty by the Stamp Duties Office. They are a financial record of the person’s estate when they die and frequently have very detailed information about a person’s possessions.

There are Deceased estate files for people from all walks of life, men and women, all ages and financial positions.

Records of Tamworth residents

These two Deceased estate files from the 1880s and 1930s are typical of people of their time and their jobs. They both also have Probate packets.

Henry Palmer, a grocer in Tamworth, died in 1884. His wife Mary Ann Palmer signed the affidavit that his estate was less that 345 pounds. The bulk of the estate was Life assurance money. He did not own land or stock. His debts were few – for bread, goods, meat and medicine and a 10-shilling loan.

Chow Sum, a tobacco farmer of Tamworth, died in 1937 aged 62. The Public Trustee signed the affidavit that his estate was just over 553 pounds with 1,144 pounds of debts. There was a delay in settling the estate as Chow Sum’s wife Mabel Sum was in China when he died. Mabel’s affidavit provides information about where they lived, where they were married and for how long, and how long Chow Sum had been in NSW.

Extracts from the files

page from the deceased estate file

Henry Palmer

NRS-13340-1-[20/6996]-Z 6079

page from the deceased estate file

Chow Sum

NRS-13340-1-[20/2391]-Pre A 125294

Probate packets, 1817-1976 and part 1989


A grant of probate is the authority given by the Supreme Court of NSW to the executor(s) to deal with a deceased person's estate.Probate packets hold the last will and testament, codicils (additions or revocations to the will) or letters of administration.

Other documents include an inventory of assets of the estate; affidavits of death and papers produced by the executor.

Not everyone has a probate packet. Depending on the type, size and value of the assets located in New South Wales it may not be necessary to obtain a grant of probate in New South Wales. There is no statutory requirement to obtain probate in every case.

Records of Tamworth residents

These two Probate packets from the 1940s and 1970s are typical of people of their time and their roles while also being special because of who they are.

Vincent Guy Kable (known as Guy Kable) was a long serving and well-regarded Town Clerk. Guy Kable was Town Clerk for 34 years and was described by some as the "ablest town clerk in the State". He also served on the State’s Electricity Advisory Committee and the State Electricity Authority and during the Second World War on the Commonwealth Administrative Planning Committee. Guy Kable was quite young when he died in 1947. He was married with three children. The will that was probated was made in 1946.

Ida Cohen was 102 when she died in 1970. Ida Cohen also lived a life of service, principally with the Red Cross for which she was received a MBE (Member of the British Empire). Ida Cohen was also involved with Australian Jewish Historical Society; Country Women's Association (NSW); Tamworth Hospital (NSW) women's auxiliary; Tamworth Ladies' Benevolent Society (NSW); Tamworth Dominican Old Girls' Union and Tamworth and District Ambulance committee (NSW). Along with bequests to many organisations and her family she included Tamworth –

… to my well beloved public of Tamworth each and every one I leave my abiding and most grateful love for its unfailing courtesy love and generosity to me

Extracts from the files

page from the probate file

Vincent Guy Kable

NRS-13660-28-8338-Series 4_334667

page from the probate file

Ida Cohen

NRS-13660-59-163-Series 4_693017

Published on 
Browse all
Digital scan of sculptural panel

Cast in cast out: recasting fragments of memory

An in-depth look at Dennis Golding's experiences and childhood memories of growing up in ‘The Block’

Black and white photo of man seated on step.

Dr Jack Mundey AO (1929-2020)

Jack Mundey, a dedicated environmentalist and unionist, was as committed to ‘the workers’ as he was to our historic sites, and is fondly remembered by all who knew him