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Historic Hunter village geared up for 200th ‘party’

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One of the jewels in the Hunter Valley crown, the historic village of Broke, is gearing up for some big celebrations in 2024.

Nestled in the Wollombi Valley, and home to fine wines and great food, the 2330 postcode – 21km and 26km from Singleton and Cessnock respectively – will commemorate 200 years.

While the festivities have already started, with the recent A Little Bit of Broke, more events are planned for the calendar.

The highlight, however, is the Back to Broke weekend from 11 to 13 October.

On that occasion, the township’s widely spread diaspora of farming families and residents will come together to share, celebrate, reunite, revisit its historic buildings and, generally, “make merry”.

Costumes, events, music and food is expected to mark the day, with A Spirit of the Vine Dinner at Margan’s Winery also taking place.

“A celebration’s just what we need,” coordinator Dain Simpson said.

“Broke, which suffered a devastating flood less than two years ago with families still waiting for repairs or rebuilding, is remembering its history with an exhibition of historic photos, recorded histories from past and present.

“The community also plans to illuminate Yellow Rock, the dominant crag overlooking the village, steeped in First Nations stories.

“A village walk (sadly the last pub closed in 1932) will be another activity, while a time capsule from last century will be opened and updated with the stories of today.”

Founded by the Blaxland clan, and a part of the Great North Road, Broke was a 19th Century droving stopover and a 20th Century dairying community.

Now, it’s a recognised wine region with its own terroir and distinctive award-winning vineyards.

The village was given its name by Major Thomas Mitchell, the Surveyor General, who used the moniker of his English friend Sir Charles Broke-Vere.

John Blaxland built a mill at the nearby Fordwich by 1860.

Six years later, Broke boasted an Anglican church, a farm implements workshop and a school.

The Great North Road was completed and became the main stock route to Sydney and, since it passed through Broke, it contributed to further growth of the village, with something like a 1,000 head of cattle using the route each week.

This amount of activity meant that by the late 1800s the town had several hotels, a post office, a school, a mill, two churches, a hall, a brick kiln, a butchery, bakery and blacksmith.

However, it was not to last.

The railways eventually replaced the Great North Road as the main route between Sydney and the Hunter, which meant a drastic drop in traffic through Broke.

But, the residents are just as proud of their home now as they were back then.

The Broke Bicentennial Village Fair and Vintage Car Display, in its 40th edition, will precede the main weekend in September.

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