8 November 2022

Reopening historic Queanbeyan laneways marks first step in Monaro Street overhaul

| James Coleman
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Member for Monaro Nichole Overall opens Blacksmith's Lane.

Member for Monaro Nichole Overall opens Blacksmith’s Lane. Photo: Nichole Overall.

Nearly two centuries ago, Queanbeyan’s main street was a din of clopping hooves, sweeping dresses, and conversation about bushrangers. But rising above it all, was the clang of metal on metal.

From as early as 1877, a number of blacksmiths and wheelwrights set up shop on Monaro Street to shoe horses, repair wagon wheels and perform all manner of metal-related work.

One of them was John Fowlie.

His great-grandson and namesake is still alive today and remembers sitting on a 44-gallon drum with his brother Bobby “watching my grandfather John, father Tom and uncle James wrapping molten steel around the spokes of carriage wheels”.

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As blacksmiths at the start of the 1900s, the Fowlies would not only have forged steel for cartwheels and sulky springs, but also moved into the manufacture of springs for early-model motor vehicles.

“Even after the forge closed, Dad and Bobby worked at the Queanbeyan Racecourse as resident farriers,” Mr Fowlie said.

He described the latest upgrades to Blacksmiths Lane as a “a fitting way for my family to be remembered as an important part of the city’s heritage”.

The two pedestrian lanes off Queanbeyan main road – Blacksmiths Lane and No Name Lane – have been given facelifts thanks to a $505,701 Your High Street Program grant from the NSW Government.

Painter Al Stark at Blacksmiths Lane

Al Stark has been painting the walls of Blacksmiths Lane in Queanbeyan. Photo: QPRC.

Work on Blacksmiths Lane started in July with mural artist Al Stark setting the tone for a laneway experience with a mural that nodded to blacksmiths and wheelwrights.

“I don’t really do literal representations of things – mine are more representing the feeling those things evoke,” he said.

For Blacksmiths Lane, this takes the form of geometric shapes of muted, earthy coloured tones to represent the metal and black patterns over the top, in reference to “the intricate metal brackets on old heritage buildings”.

The completed project showcases an art light wall by Suzie Bleach and Andy Townshend, and hand-forged signs made by Michael Warner.

Further down the street, No Name Lane was opened to the public in July after Canberra-based artist Yanni Pounartzis (famed for the Big Swoop magpie sculpture in Garema Place) transformed the laneway with his colourful mural.

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The laneway also features distinctive lighting and an outdoor gallery of lightboxes showcasing work by local photographer Hilary Wardhaugh.

“Monaro Street is the heart of the Queanbeyan CBD and these laneway upgrades will help us to extend opportunities for people who live, work and gather in our community even further,” Mayor Kenrick Winchester said.

Upgrading the main street of Queanbeyan has been on the to-do list of the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) for many years. After community consultation, tenders were invited last month and construction is set to begin early 2023.

The works will focus on redesigned footpaths and roads with new paving, additional plantings and lighting, and fresh street furniture on the stretch between Lowe and Crawford streets. Some underground infrastructure will also be updated.

The works total $15.5 million.

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