Named in 1827 by Hamilton Hume, in honour of Governor Brisbane’s private secretary, William Lithgow, Lithgow Valley’s first European settlers arrived in 1824. By 1860, only four more families had followed Scotsman Andrew Brown and settled in the valley. It was not until the western railway line was constructed to Lithgow, in 1869, that the town prospered.
Thomas Brown commenced the valley’s first commercial coal mine. The Zig Zag Railway, an engineering feat, was completed in 1869, allowing the descent of trains into the valley. A combination of vast coal reserves and the rail service meant Lithgow provided an ideal location for industries dependent on these resources.
James Rutherford established the iron industry in 1875 when he erected a blast furnace to manufacture pig iron. By 1900 Lithgow had produced the first steel manufactured in Australia. Copper smelting, breweries, brickworks, pipe and pottery works followed. Meat refrigeration was also established by Thomas Mort in 1875. The first Australian chilled meat from Lithgow arrived in England in 1880.
The decline of Lithgow’s industrial heyday made way for light industry after World War II. In the late 1950s, a power generating plant was built at Wallerawang paving the way for Lithgow’s role in the clean and efficient production of energy.
Lithgow today is shaped by a colourful history, challenged by ongoing technological and cultural development and, most importantly, surrounded by nature.