One night stands in the New England

Leaving the Peel Valley the Melba concert party made the slow but steep trip up the “back” of the great Dividing Range on to the New England plateau. Everywhere the scenery is spectacular with deep green valleys and rocky outcrops strewn along the hill tops.

The next stop is Armidale when again a large crowd is gathered at the station to greet Melba and her party. After the official welcome Melba was driven along the wide streets to the grandiose Imperial Hotel where she and her party rested before preparing for the concert. In the Armidale Town Hall in the next street.

Imerpial Hotel corner of Dangar Street and The Mall, Armidale.
The Imperial Hotel was where all the landed gentry stayed when visiting Armidale. University of New England & Regional Archives, HRCP0975 Imperial Hotel 1895

The station is not as grand as its cousins in the larger towns but today, it is proudly maintained and it is easy to imagine Melba walking through the parlour room out to greet the thronging crowd of people. There is a railway museum worth visiting though opening hours are limited.

As the train would be leaving early in the morning, Melba did as in Tamworth and slept in the vice-regal carriage ready for the early start across the ridge tops to Glen Innes.

Thanks to archivist Dr Philip Ward and his staff at the University of New England Archives, I was able to view the plans for the luxurious Imperial Hotel. It was easy to see why Melba and her party wanted to rest there. Upstairs there was a couple of parlours with rooms attached and as they overlooked the bustling main commercial area below, would have been of great interest to Melba.

The archive generously shared their image collection with me and answered all of my questions as I sought information about this town which today is very much a University Town.

The town hall where Melba performed is rather unique in that it was built in two sections at differnt times in the 1880s. Today, it looks like a building wanting to find a proud new owner or occupier, a far cry from Melba’s triumphant night in 1909.

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nellie melba museum

A journalist and historian, for many years I have studied Dame Nellie Melba and written articles, books, and given talks about her. I established the first website int he world dedicated to Melba and still maintain it today as a virtual museum.

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