Bridge View Inn | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Bridge View Inn

Item details

Name of item: Bridge View Inn
Other name/s: Bridge Restaurant, Bridge Hotel, Rylstone Historical Society Building, Bridgeview Inn
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Commercial
Category: Inn/Tavern
Location: Lat: -32.7953083552 Long: 149.9720978830
Primary address: 28-30 Louee Street, Rylstone, NSW 2849
Parish: Rylstone
County: Roxburgh
Local govt. area: Mid-Western Regional
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Bathurst
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
28-30 Louee StreetRylstoneMid-Western RegionalRylstoneRoxburghPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Rylstone and District Historical Society IncorporatedCommunity Group16 Mar 99

Statement of significance:

An important and substantial early commercial building which forms an essential part of the townscape. It is one of several well built stone buildings which give the village much of its aesthetic appeal. (National Trust)

The historic Bridge View Inn at Rylstone in the state's Central Tablelands was built in the 1860s and has been used variously as a hotel, bank, solicitor's office, residence, museum, restaurant and bed and breakfast accommodation. (AHC press release, 5/04)
Date significance updated: 19 Nov 04
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Construction years: 1860-1870
Physical description: Rylstone is a small town in the Central Tablelands of NSW within the Mid-Western Regional Council local government area. At the 2006 census, Rylstone had a population of 615 people (Wikipedia 'Rylstone').
The Bridgeview Inn is one of several stone buildings which together give Rylstone much of its aesthetic appeal. It is an important townscape element. (RNE entry)
The building, dating from the 1860s, is double storey and with a steep, hipped iron roof, constructed of stone - dressed sandstone to the facade and random rubble to the other walls. There is a two storey verandah facing Louee Stret. This has timber posts, with mouldings, and lattice infill to the archways between the posts; the upper balustrade is cross braced. Windows are twelve pane and have shutters. A skillion section runs along the rear of the building. The interior includes high-ceilinged rooms and several narrow hallways with steep stairways and cedar joinery. (RNE entry)
The Dining Room is managed by Rylstone & District Historical Society (the society) for meetings, exhibitions, talks and is sometimes hired for use by a cafe business for dinners. It contains the rare 1860s mural that has recently been uncovered and conserved.
Behind the inn building is a small detached rubble-stone building made partly of stone and partly of sandstock brick which was probably the original kitchen. There are recently built public toilets at the northern end of this outbuilding. (Aitken CMP, 2003)
There is the early 20th century weatherboard 'Showground cottage' which had been threatened with demolition and was relocated to the rear of this property by the society in 1988 (Aitken, 2003). This operates as a local museum and houses the collection of the society.
There is a rustic timber pole shed.
There is an open grassland car park area beside the inn.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:31 Jan 14
Modifications and dates: 1860s hotel built
1895-1937 Bank use and residential use - involved minor modifications including changes to southern end of the upstairs areas in 1931.
1967-1981 Used as a museum to house the collection of the Rylstone & District Historical Society. Conservation works during this time included repair work to the dining room, structural stonework repairs to the main building and the early kitchen, roof guttering, stormwater system, some internal works and the mains electrical supply. The upstairs residence was refurbished with the addition of a small self-contained kitchen
1981 Converted for use as a restaurant - involved minor modifications.
1988 The Rylstone and District Historical Society relocated a weatherboard cottage dating from early 20th century from the showground where it was threatened with demolition to the rear of the Bridgeview Inn property
2009 Australian Government funding to allow professional conservation advice on mural in dining room (ICS report)(grant application, 2011).
2004-5. Australian Government CHHP funding $62,000 for repair works.
2011 Heritage Division grant to restore rare 1860s mural in dining room.
Current use: commercial, meetings, dinners, talks
Former use: Hotel, Bank, museum, restaurant


Historical notes: Aboriginal land
The local indigenous Aboriginal people are the Dabee tribe and they are part of the broader Wiradjuri people of central NSW. Indigenous people are understood to have inhabited this part of NSW for at least 14,000 years (Moore, 1969).

Several early explorers and settler explorers travelled this area in the early nineteenth century and several mountains in the area commemorate their journeys through the Glen Alice Valley and up the Turon River. James Blackman Jnr. explored a route from Bathurst to the Cudgegong River and present site of Rylstone in 1820. Alan Cunningham's expeditions to find a route from Bathurst to the Liverpool Plains noted being in this vicinity in November 1822 and April 1823. (Wikipedia 'Rylestone')
The district was originally known as Dabee (under various spellings), named after the local Aboriginal people. There are many contemporary newspaper references to the town being referred to as Ryalston in the period 1846 to mid-1850s then as Ryalstone during the late 1850s. The town was laid out in 1846 by surveyor Davidson. By the 1850s Rylstone was well established with post office, hotels, school, mills, and police lock-up. Rylstone was formally proclaimed on 20 March 1885, a year after the railway had been constructed through the town. (Wikipedia 'Rylestone')
Four road bridges have spanned the Cudgegong River which flows through the town. The first bridge was a suspension bridge that was washed away by floods around 1867. This was followed by a second bridge of two spans built at the end of Hall Street by a Mr Hayden soon after the flood. A third bridge built by Mr Eddy Fitzgerald replaced the second in 1890 and was a little further up the river. The fourth bridge, and the only one remaining, was built in 1948 to service the Bylong Road. (Wikipedia 'Rylestone')
In 2014 Rylstone is predominantly an agricultural community with wool, sheep, cattle, wine grapes, and olives, being among the main pursuits. Coal mining and cement production are also significant employers in the community with these works being located in the nearby town of Kandos (Wikipedia 'Rylestone'). The town also attracts tourists interested in its historical character and people visiting the nearby Wollomi National Park

The Bridgeview Hotel
In the early 1860s Goodwin Squires and his family arrived in Rylstone, having previously spent some time on the Turon River goldfields near Sofala (Aitken CMP, 2003). Goodwin Spires Hall was an emancipist who had been transported in to NSW as a convict in1836 for manslaughter (Hollister, 2013).
He acquired land at the northern end off Louee Street where he built a number of cottages and a general store. The area became known as Halls Corner and two of his early Victorian cottages remain. His son later operated a newsagency, a fancy goods store and boot business in the corner buildings. (Aikten CMP, 2003)
The building of the Bridge Hotel (as it was first known) in the late 1860s, on land south of the cottages, was one of Hall's major projects and although the architect and builder are not known it is possible that Purvis may have been involved. Purvis was an experienced stonemason in the town and had constructed a number of well-executed buildings in and around Rylstone at the time (such as the Dabee and Carwell homesteads) and also later the fine three storey sandstone mill in Louee Street opposite the Bridge Inn. Apparently the inn was so named because it faced the road bridge over the Cudgegong River at the end of Hall Street (the White Bridge, the second of four road bridges built in Rylstone). (Aitken CMP, 2003)
The Bridgeview was one of four inns in the late 1860s in Rylstone; these were Walton's Colonial Inn (the oldest and formerly opposite the post office), Mr Hayes' The Shamrock (formerly at the lower end of Mudgee Street), Mr Owens' The Globe (south of the Bridge Hotel in Louee Street) and Hall's Bridge Hotel. Hall leased the business to various operators (Muir, Owen, Brown, Stollery and Crosley) from 1872 until the license lapsed in 1895. (Aikten CMP, 2003, Hollister, 2013)
When it closed as a hotel it was purchased by the Australian Joint Stock Bank. The bank had operated from a small premises in Jackson's Building to the south in Louee Street since the early 1870s. The two rooms at the northern end of the building, formerly the bar, became the business office with the manager's office at the back. The rest of the ground floor and the entire upstairs areas were used as the manager's residence. The AJS Bank changed its name to the Australian Bank of Commerce in 1910 and subsequently amalgamated with the Bank of New South Wales in November 1931. At this time alterations were made to the southern end of the upstairs area. (Aitken CMP, 2003)
In 1950 the bank manager moved to a residence in Mudgee Street and the clerk occupied the office residence. In 1957 when the new bank building in Louee Street was completed and a clerk's residence built beside the manager's, the Bridgeview Inn became vacant and was put up for sale. Alterations were made to the timber verandah posts and fencing which had remained intact when the street level had been lowered some years before. The new owner was the Kandos Cement Works' accountant, Mr Fink. He intended to reside there upon his retirement from the works. However his plans were never realised due to his premature death. (Aitken CMP, 2003)
The building was leased to the Rylstone Historical Society (the society) and they sub-let the upper residence retaining only the two downstairs rooms, the dining room and the early separate kitchen at the rear. The local solicitor John Knox used the office and residence for a time until his own home was built and subsequently retained the office. After the death of Mr Fink the building was again put up for sale and as there were concerns about its future the Society secured a housing loan and purchased the property in 1967. (Aitken CMP, 2003, Hollister, 2013)
In 1978 the building was used as the set for the significant Australian film of Thomas Keneally's book 'The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith' and directed by Fred Schipisi. The bar in particular was 'restored' for this production. (Hollister, 2013, Aitken CMP, 2003)
In 1981 further conservation of the building was assisted by two grants from the National Estate Program additionally a loan was granted to the lessee to assist in the establishment of a business. As one of the conditions of the loan a Permanent Conservation Order was placed over the building in 1986 following a recommendation of the NSW Heritage Council. (Aitken, CMP, 2003). The PCO listing was transformed into a State Heritage Register listing on 2 April 1999. (SHR entry)
An historic mural was uncovered in the dining room in the 1980s, which was further investigated and conserved by the society from 2010 (see below)
Over the years the society tried to establish a number of restaurant ventures with different tenants in an effort to recoup maintenance costs with varying degrees of success. In 1988 the society relocated the Showground cottage that been threatened with demolition to make way for a new amenities building. The early 20th century weatherboard cottage was originally a four-roomed building with timber verandah. Since the inn had been let in the restaurant venture the cottage provided avenue for meetings, display space and storage of furniture.
In 2014 the Bridgeview Inn is used for tourism purposes, with various local businesses leasing parts of the building offering accommodation, food and shopping.

Conservation of the dining room mural
The society was not aware of the existence of the mural painted above the fireplace in the front room of the inn, known as the dining room, when they purchased the building. There is conjecture that the mural had been covered with wallpaper and paint so as not to offend the banker's family who lived there. The lower part of the painted wall was discovered in the 1980s when wallpaper was removed below the picture rail. Above the picture rail, house paint covered the mural. The building was subsequently leased to numerous restaurant businesses, and the mural disappeared again under wallpaper and hessian until the late 1990s. (Hollister, 2013)
In recent years the society grew curious about the mural. In 2010 they sought Australian Government funding to engage art specialists from International Conservation Services (ICS) to investigate. ICS found an aged, faded, cracked and damaged mural likely to have been painted in the earliest days of the hotel. They recommended conservation and restoration. (Hollister, 2013)
On the basis of the ICS report the society applied for dollar-for-dollar funding from the Heritage Branch of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The society also embarked on an ambitious fundraising campaign, commencing in March 2011. The National Trust of Australia (NSW) agreed to help by setting up a tax-deductible appeal for the conservation of the mural. This appeal continued for the duration of the project. (Hollister, 2013)
Senior Conservator Adam Godijn and Conservator Matteo Volonte arrived in March 2012 to commence Stage 1 of the work. Starting by gluing the plaster render back onto the wall to stabilise the mural surface, ICS then went on to dig out and remove wall plugs that had been inserted through the mural, fill in cracks and holes, remove the picture rail and commence the cleaning process. Unfortunately the plaster was badly been damaged where the picture rail had been fastened to the wall. This resulted in some permanent losses to the details in the faces of both of the female figures. ICS also started to remove the house paint on the top third of the mural (noting that there were five distinct layers of paint). (Hollister, 2013)
As a deliberate strategy they concentrated on the left side of the mural in Stage 1 to show the difference between 'before conservation' and 'after conservation'. Their work generated good publicity for the project. During the 2012 the community responded to the mural appeal with generous donations that allowed the project to be realised. (Hollister, 2013)
ICS returned in March 2013 to complete the conservation in Stage 2. Matteo Volonte came with another ICS Conservator Claire Heasman and volunteer William Sit. Adam Godijn swapped places with Claire a few days later. The team worked very hard for another 8 days on the mural. (Hollister, 2013)
The major focus of Stage 2 was to remove the paint from the top third of the mural. This was a slow and painstaking process. Watching the imagery of the mural slowly appear through the 'mist' of paint was fascinating. The bare-breasted female figures had wings! And were carrying arrows in an upraised hand! At the very top a winged cherub figure appeared! (Hollister, 2013)
Below the picture rail, further wall plugs were removed, cracks were filled, and the surface cleaned. Once the entire mural had been returned to original as possible, the surface was lightly sealed with varnish. Then the conservators began to in-paint the blemishes, holes, cracks and missing parts of the imagery. By doing the in-painting on top of the varnish the original is protected and the conservators work can be removed or modified as necessary in the future. (Hollister, 2013)
It was decided not to try to in-paint the lost faces, ears, hair of the female figures. The plaster has rather been toned to blend in with the rest of the mural. Some of the particularly dark elements (eye and nose of the right figure) are original. (Hollister, 2013)
Adam Godijn has called the mural 'a unique piece of Australiana'. It is one of only a handful of painted murals from the 19th century that still exist in Australia. (Hollister, 2013)

The Imagery in the Mural
The centre of the mural is a landscape depicting the view immediately opposite the Bridge Hotel in the 1870s. At that time Rylstone was entered via a timber bridge over the Cudgegong River. The painting described the second of three timber bridges that crossed the river, which was the only bridge with two trusses and a centre support. (Hollister, 2013) The second bridge was extant between 1867 and 1890 and the mural likely dates from this time.
Depicted on the riverbank are cows or oxen and a fisherman. During the 1870s the river flats opposite the hotel were Chinese market gardens and there was a paddock for the oxen owned by the town carrier, Mr Windle. The composition of the landscape has an interesting parallel with the imagery in the centre bottom of Chinese trade bowls that typically show cattle, a fisherman, a bridge and a tree. Such bowls were produced from the 1750's in China and traded widely. (Hollister, 2013)
Around the landscape is a painted circular frame, also known as a cartouche. These were a fashionable artistic device in the 19th century, appearing in architecture and around decorative items such as convex mirrors. (Hollister, 2013)
The leaves around the frame are painted acanthus leaves. These represent 'eternal life' and were also a popular decorative device of the 19th century. A piece of wallpaper found in the cupboard to the right of the mural also has similar leaves - was this the inspiration for the leaves in the mural? Or was the wallpaper chosen because of the mural? (Hollister, 2013)
Below the landscape is the 'Pan' figure, a goat legged satyr, a rustic Greek fertility spirit associated with the Greek god of wine, Bacchus. They are usually depicted relaxing in the landscape in a happy, playful way, often playing a flute, and interacting with naked female nymphs. (Hollister, 2013)
The Pan in the Rylstone mural is a cheeky looking character, and the two bare breasted females are no doubt nymphs, associated with music (note the lyre-like vertical marks on the abdomen of the left figure) and dancing. However these nymphs have wings and a raised arm clutching arrows. This is rather unusual, and may refer to other mythological Greek goddesses associated with the power of love. Above the mural is a winged cherub. This tends to support the theory that the imagery is all about the enjoyment of drinking, song, dance and love. (Hollister, 2013)

Who painted the mural?
The conservation and restoration of the mural over the fireplace at the Bridge View Inn did not reveal a signature. Dr Anita Calloway, art history lecturer at the University of Sydney, first pointed to Augustus Baker Peirce as the artist possibly responsible for the Bridge View Inn mural. The detailed analysis by Hollister below explores this educated guess, discussing stylistic similarities, the fact that he was in the area between 1871 and 1873, and his known history as a painter of the interiors of hotels. (Hollister, 2013)
A B Peirce was most often known as Gus Pierce, or Captain Gus Pierce. He was born in Medford, Massachusetts, went to sea at 19, and jumped ship in Melbourne in 1859. He soon found his way to the gold fields of Victoria, and travelled around doing odd jobs including grubbing trees, shepherding sheep, washing dishes, writing signs, selling meat pies or Frank Weston's 'Wizard Oil', etc. He wrote an illustrated memoir titled: 'Knocking About: Being Some Adventures of Augustus Baker Peirce in Australia' that describes his life and shows examples of his drawing style. (Hollister, 2013)
Pierce's interest in singing, dancing, 'hanky-panky' tricks and legerdemain led him to the theatre and travelling shows. At Tarrengower, near Bendigo, a company entertaining local miners employed him to sing and act for a half-hour stint per night; during the day he helped with stage carpentry and scene painting. He worked on American built paddle steamers up and down the Murray from 1864 to1869. He married Agnes Carney in Moama in 1867. When the river was too low for shipping, he returned to comic acting and to painting. (Hollister, 2013)
In 1869 Gus painted a panorama titled 'A Voyage Around the World'. Panoramas were a series of scenes on canvases unrolled across the stage with the entertainer lecturing out front. Music, dancing, songs, juggling, and other artistry rounded out the entertainment. (Hollister, 2013)
In 1870-1 Pierce took his family and his panorama to the gold fields of NSW, setting up a base in Bathurst. From there he undertook several tours of Mudgee, Gulgong, Tambaroora, Hill End, Peel and Orange. In late 1872 Pierce painted the interior of Dodd's Hotel, Hill End. This was reported in the South Australian Advertiser of 7 November 1872, pg 2 (Hollister, 2013)
In his memoir, Peirce talks about painting the interiors of hotels, including scenes of Niagara Falls at the Niagara Hotel in Melbourne, and the royal arms of Britain on the bar room wall of a patriotic British hotel keeper in Wentworth. (Hollister, 2013)
Hollister examines the imagery in the Rylstone mural and compares them with other images known to have been sketched or painted by Pierce, finding considerable similarities. Hollister suggests reasons confirming the likelihood he is the artist:
He painted in a nave style. His figures have tapering elongated arms and legs with small hands, or no hands. The faces are crude. He painted landscapes, with simplified structures. His trees sway.
He knew about Bacchus and so is likely to know about Pan and the nymphs who accompanied the God of Wine. In the memoir he remarks that an ex convict named 'Old Forty' ran a dance hall in Wahgunyah. 'In this temple of Terpsichore all who danced must drink, and each round of homage to the muse ended in a libation to Bacchus'. Pg 104/5
His painting shows wit and humour. Here are two self-portraits before and after an encounter with a swarm of bees:
He was in the area. Peirce was in the district between 1871 and early 1874, living for almost two years in Hill End. This would give him plenty of opportunity to come to Rylstone to paint inside the Bridge Hotel.
He is known to have painted at least four hotel interiors:
Niagara Hotel in Melbourne - memoir
Unnamed hotel in Wentworth - memoir
Dodd's Hotel in Hill End - Tambaroora Herald 1872
The Steampacket Hotel in Echuca - Riverine Herald 1876
(Hollister, 2013)
Gus Peirce remained in Australia until 1892. From the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers he returned to Melbourne, where he ran a pub in Melbourne's meat market, developed advertising along the railway line in Victoria, operated in a print studio with S. T. Gill, another famous artist of the gold fields and devoted quite a lot of his time to art. He did get more accomplished. One of his later paintings is in the collection of the Geelong Art Gallery. (Hollister, 2013)
He returned to Medford Massachusetts, where he continued to paint. He died in 1919.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Innkeeping-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Banking-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Keeping cafes and restaurants-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Creating landmark structures and places in regional settings-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to a museum-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Joining together to study and appreciate local history-

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0043802 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0043816 May 86 812195
Potential Heritage ItemH 05 Jul 02   
National Trust of Australia register  4911   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenChristo Aitken & Associates2003Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the (Former) Bridgeview Hotel Louee Street Rylstone NSW
TourismHeritage NSW2013The Rylstone Bridge View Inn Mural View detail
TourismHeritage NSW The traveller review - Bridge View Inn View detail
WrittenMoore, D.R.1969The Prehistory of the Hunter River Valley’
WrittenWikipedia2014'Rylstone' NSW View detail

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045688
File number: S90/05566 & HC 32693

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