Mount York – looking out to the Central West

Earliest pictorial representation of the crossing from the Sydney Mail, 25 December 1880

Mount York is 7.5 kilometres from Mount Victoria and is a natural site that at 1061 metres with commanding views over the western plains, many layers of Aboriginal and European heritage, several convict built roads (now walking tracks) and remnants of the old convict built roads (1823-1829) can still be seen.

Mount York was the point where Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Wentworth viewed the Hartley Valley and the ‘west’ for the first time during their successful crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813.

Their ‘first crossing’ and opening of the west to farming in 1813 is commemorated with several memorials atop the summit. There are metal fenced lookouts looking over the Hartley area.

Mount York was the site of various attempts to build a pass to the plains west of the Blue Mountains. The first was Coxs Road, constructed in 1813. The next was Lockyers Road, which was begun not long after Coxs Road, but which was never finished. Still another was Lawsons Long Alley, which was a little east of Lockyers Road. These roads were all abandoned eventually, but in recent years they have been developed into multi-use tracks by the Department of Lands in New South Wales and Blue Mts City Council. Also still visible is Berghofers Pass, which was abandoned because of later developments, and which has also been turned into a walking track.[3] John Bergofer, who was responsible for this pass, is interred at Mount Victoria Cemetery.

The Lookout at Mount York offers some bush camping (run by Blue Mountains City Council), picnic tables, toilets, many bushwalks,  abseiling, mountains biking, rock climbing and opportunities to explore. It’s a great place for photographers and painters to set up and watch the sky change throughout the day. It also makes a lovely spot for a sunset dinner.

Mount York is traditionally the land of the Gundungurra and Darug Aboriginal people.

The White Cross at Mt York

For many years one of the Blue Mountains’ most distinctive landmarks was a large white cross on the cliff-edge at Mount York which could be glimpsed from the highway between Little Hartley and Victoria Pass. Although now removed, the cross has been a continuing source of speculation and enquiry since its erection early in the 20th century. It stood facing west, just off the Mount York road, some distance before the obelisk which marks the western descent of the explorers, Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson in 1813.

The cross was formed of a large upright and transverse steel girder bolted together, and was erected about 1911 by Henry Marcus Clark (1859-1913) who founded the business known as Marcus Clark & Co. Ltd. From a modest start in the Sydney suburb of Newtown in 1883, Marcus Clark & Co rose to become one of the city’s largest department stores with a network of branches in towns and suburbs across Australia.

Earliest pictorial representation of the crossing from the Sydney Mail, 25 December 1880

The cross commemorated the death, on April 1st 1899 of his son Byron Henry Clark at the site of their Mount York home known as “Drachenfels”, which stood near the cliff edge facing Victoria Pass. The house and its extensive outbuildings, coach-house and orchard were lost in a bushfire in 1902.

On the day of the tragedy, Mr. Clark was in Sydney, while his second wife Georgina and several friends were staying at “Drachenfels”. Two of the Clark children, Hazel, aged 14 and Roland, 10, and a couple of companions decided to visit a small cave on the cliff face about 15 metres below the top and some distance along a ledge.

The children were experienced in scrambling around the local rocks and cliffs and the descent presented no difficulties. However, on this occasion, just as they had almost reached the cave, it was noticed that their younger brother, Byron, aged 6, was following. He had already descended from the top of the cliff and was just commencing the traverse, when one of the girls, realising the danger, called to him to go back.

The words had hardly left her mouth when the ledge of rock on which he was standing broke and he fell about 50 metres to the foot of the cliff, striking a ledge about half way down in the course of his fall. Two of the girls and young Roland Clark climbed back to the top of the cliff and informed Georgina, who set off with her companions by a round-about route to the base of the cliff.

In the meantime, Hazel and Roland climbed down to the base of the cliff, where they found young Byron lying badly injured but scarcely marked amongst the fern and bracken. The women decided to carry him to the top but Byron died during the ascent. The family never again lived in “Drachenfels”, which they placed in the care of Sam Wilson, a storekeeper at Mount Victoria, who made occasional visits to the property until the buildings were destroyed by bushfire. Byron is buried at Waverley Cemetery in the family plot.

The property has changed hands a number of times in recent years and the cross was removed from the cliff edge by the owners around 1989 to discourage sightseers. The site known as the Marcus Clark Cross received Blue Mountains City Council heritage listing in 1991. It is believed the White Cross remains on the site.

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian
© 2012 Blue Mountains City Library

Taken from: click here