2 June 2023

Riverina Rewind: From Henry Baylis' stately home to the Wagga RSL Club

| Michelle Maddison and Chris Roe
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'Goonigul', the home of Henry Baylis and family.

‘Goonigul’, the home of Henry Baylis and family, circa 1900. Photo: Museum of the Riverina, Gibson collection.

This week the Museum of the Riverina takes us back over 100 years to ‘Goonigul’, the home of Henry Baylis and his family.

Derived from a Wiradjuri word meaning ‘a plain’, Goonigul was built in 1878 on 30 acres of land bordered by Dobbs Street, Kincaid Street and Goonigul Avenue, where the Wagga RSL stands today.

Baylis was Wagga’s first police magistrate, and it was here that he reared a family of eight sons and one daughter. Perhaps she is the young woman who can be seen sitting in the garden on the right.

READ ALSO Riverina Rewind: Henry Baylis and the bushranger’s bullet

Born in Scotland, he migrated to Australia with his family as a boy. He attended King’s College School at Parramatta before training as a legal clerk and later tried his hand at droving and gold prospecting.

Appointed to take charge of Wagga’s police force in 1858, Baylis also advocated for education, laid the foundation stone of John’s Church of England and was instrumental in establishing Wagga as a municipal borough with its own local government.

He was also famously involved in a gunfight with the bushranger Daniel Morgan in which he was seriously wounded and retained the bullet as a keepsake.

Wagga’s Baylis Street was named in his honour and coincidentally crosses paths with Morgan Street (not named for the bushranger) at the southern end of the CBD.

Photo of Henry Baylis

An enhanced and colourised photo of Henry Baylis later in life. Photo: Museum of the Riverina.

When Henry retired in 1896, he went and lived with his only daughter Wilhelmina (Mrs Broughton Garland) in Sydney.

After his death in 1905, 10 acres around the home were subdivided into 32 building allotments.

According to the Wagga Wagga Express in 1906, “No block has less than 66 feet frontage, and they are situated on a high ridge, many being above the level of the highest flood known. This unique opportunity is the most important subdivision sale held in Wagga for a great many years, and judging by the interest which is being taken in it, seems certain to prove successful.”

READ ALSO Riverina Rewind: A soldier, two sisters and a ‘Wagga Wagga Affair’

Henry’s eldest son, surveyor J.J. Baylis continued to live in the family home at Goonigul from 1907 to 1920.

In February 1920 the home was sold to the Horsley family of ‘Yabtree’ Station who would be the last to live there.

In 1955 the site was sold for £14,500 to the Wagga Returned Servicemen’s League which had been looking to secure a permanent home that could more fully service the needs of its members.

Goonigul underwent an expansion, being transformed from a family home into a multifunctional clubhouse.

The Wagga RSL Club officially opened on 24 May 1958 and boasted two bowling greens, a tennis court, a billiard room, lounge, bar, dining room, lockers, offices and other general amenities.

Today, the site’s connection to the Baylis family is remembered through Henry’s on Goonigul restaurant.

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