Surprisingly little is known about Fort Bourke Stockade, the only defensive fort in Australia, but this has been no barrier to building a lifelike facsimile near Bourke, in outback New South Wales.
Although its a) true dimensions; b) exact location; and c) the building materials used in its construction are not recorded, this tiny stockade is apparently a ‘real life’ replica!
Built in 1835 by early explorer Major Thomas Mitchell, historical records contain a few allusions to the short lived stockade, named for New South Wales governor Richard Bourke. The town of Bourke was subsequently established nearby on the Darling River (yet another example of gubernatorial sucking up by explorer Charles Sturt).
Driving through the Darling river floodplain on our June 2010 visit to this historic fort, its then recovery after some good rains following many years of drought meant the Darling backwater on which it is built was full. The small size of the fort isn’t just due to its ‘replica’ status either – it apparently WAS really that small – although there is little to confirm this either way. But now, both position and size put it under threat as the floodwaters from Queensland drain into the Murray/Darling basin – a significant agricultural area covering over one-seventh of the country.
Northern hemisphere readers who may be making mental comparisons with other famous frontier stockades like Fort Knox, for example, would do well to take a closer look at the top photo! Yes, that really IS a normal sized human being you can see behind the slabs!!!
And while the details are sketchy – well, OK, pretty non-existent – it IS apparently the only one of its kind in Australia! And although we don’t know what it really looked like, was made of or where it was, we can ‘imagine’ these things from the ‘replica’!!
Governor Bourke would be proud of his fine legacy today – his name features in Australian slang phrase ‘Back o’ Bourke’, used to describe anywhere very remote from civilization!
As a historic river port, there is much to interest visitors. Attractions include the nearby Gundabooka National Park, old wharf and restored paddlesteamer ‘Jandra’ – and these, along the ‘Back O’Bourke’ Exhibition Centre just may keep you there for several days!
Oh, and did I mention the superb (and also historic) Morrali’s Bakery?!?!?
But for us, Fort Bourke Stockade was the standout attraction – where else but OZ would you find something so unique and bizarre?