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the twelve mile
Just for something different

what is the twelve mile?

Just 20 km south of Ilfracombe, you will find the Twelve Mile.

The Twelve Mile as it's been known since its heyday, is where you can discover a truly magnificent example of nineteenth century bush craftsmanship.

Thousands upon thousands of naturally formed flagstones, carefully sorted and then meticulously placed together to form a leak-proof reservoir to retain water, water so precious and necessary to the very existence of every form of life.

when was it made?

This stone pitched overshot was constructed laboriously by hand in the early 1890's when the 12 Mile Dam was constructed. The 12 Mile Dam and its remarkable stone pitched overshot are located along the Ilfracombe to Isisford Stock Route, 20 km from Ilfracombe.

why was it made

The Twelve Mile was not only a watering stop and Cobb & Co change station, but was also the site of the Royal Mail Hotel, which had operated between 1893 and 1916.

Stone was used for construction as one of the oldest building techniques. Australia's inland pioneers had to make do with whatever materials were readily available when they wanted to build anything. They adapted the techniques to dry stone walling which is the use of stones without mortar. This was a system commonly used in Britain to create fences, buildings and water works, surprisingly which still stand erect and solid to this day in most areas.

who made it

The Chinese tradesmen, previously miners before moving to Western Queensland, may have worked on stone construction projects like this one and may have also contributed special skills and techniques. 

The 12 Mile is a splendid example of stone pitching and was constructed to create an erosion proof facing to an embankment, which served as a bye-wash that would retain water to a certain level, causing it to run into, and fill the adjacent dam. Excess water was allowed to flow over the bye-wash, thus relieving pressures that might have washed the dam away.

stone pitching

Bush builders took great pride in the art of stone pitching as the work required careful planning. Stones had to be gathered, perhaps from far distant locations, and then sorted for the selection process before being strategically placed throughout the construction.

It is likely that the stone pitching visable at the twelve mile was constructed in 1892 - back in the days when things were contstructed to last for many many years. In any event, the stones have remained in place for well over a century - a proud tribute to the skills of the builders.

the twelve mile hotel

History of the Twelve Mile Hotel

In the days before motor transport, this was an important stopping place for all travellers using the road from Ilfracombe to Isisford.

Settlers in the town immediately pushed for the development of roads to link the town with surrounding districts. In particular, they wanted a road that would bring the Isisford trade that had previously gone to the more distant rail-head at Barcaldine, into Ilfracombe.

In that era, making roads meant creating constant water access along the road route and perhaps contracting stone pitched crossings over some of the major creeks. Water was essential, otherwise there would be no safe water supply for people or animals to consume during long and perilous journeys. Without water supplies, roads could not be used for most of the year.

In 1892, the Aramac divisional board selected this place as a site for an earth tank dam. It was a well chosen site, on a good creek catchment and about 20 kilometres from water at Ilfracombe. This was the distance thought to be a suitable interval for roadside water supplies. Two days travel for drovers, a days travel for teamsters and a few hours for coaches, buggies and riders.

Cobb & Co began running mail services and passenger coaches from Ilfracombe to Isisford in 1892. Modest hotels were frequently developed along the coach routes and were operated by people whose job it was to have fresh horses harnessed ready for the coaches, in return for the rights to operate the hotel.

The Royal Mail Hotel, simply known as the The Twelve Mile, was trading by early 1893. From 1910, coaches were superseded by motor vehicles on the Isisford route and for a time, the hotel survived on the business of passing teamsters and Wellshot shearers, but it appears to have closed sometime about 1916. All that remains of the hotel today is a sad pile of old broken glass.

how to get there

Located 20 km south of Ilfracombe heading towards Isisford, you will go past Stockyard Creek and 12 Mile is on the left. Turn at the 12 mile sign, then drive the 100 metres to behind the dam.

You will find shaded picnic tables, plenty of parking and camping grounds. Self guided maps are available from the Wellshot Information Centre in Ilfracombe.

Information kindly supplied by the Ilfracombe & District Progress Association.