More Exploration Around Creswick

We had a lot of rain overnight and  we watched it move across our area this morning on the weather radar on my phone. It had cleared by mid morning so we were clear to do some more exploring. Rather than head west as we did yesterday, today we drove north towards Castlemaine.

Our first stop was near Seaton – a tiny settlement with a pub at a road intersection and a few abandoned buildings.  Near the town is Anderson’s Mill – a five-storey bluestone building that once milled wheat and barley into flour. It sits in something of a postcard setting on the banks of Birch’s Creek. It is a reminder of an industry that flourished after the gold rush of the 1850’s and it still looks much like it was when it was built over 100 years ago. The entire bluestone building and its magnificent iron water wheel are still in place. Construction of the flour mill commenced in 1861 and it was operational within six months. The Oat section of the Mill was completed by the following harvest. Outbuildings such as the stables, grain store and bluestone office were added later as the operation expanded. 

Before reaching Castlemaine, we came across the town of Guildford. It is another historic gold mining settlement located amidst low hills on the banks of the Loddon River. It has an attractive avenue of Plane Trees planted in 1919 in honour of locals who fought in the First World War. One of the locals who died in that war was Ronald Dale Barassi’s father. Ron ( a famous Melbourne footballer and coach who died justv a few weeks ago) was born in Castlemaine but spent his formative years in Guildford living with his grandfather. There is a statue of him (complete with a scarf and beanie in Melbourne’s football club colours) by the sporting ground.

The main attraction in the town is the ‘Big Tree’, (Eucalyptus Camaldulensis) that grows by the river and at the end of one of the town’s main streets. It is a beautifully preserved and healthy river red gum and is thought to be the largest of its species in Victoria. It has a girth at the base of 13 metres and is 26 metres high.  A plaque suggests that Burke and Wills camped beneath it on their journey from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria (more of them in a minute).

In Castlemaine, we paid homage to my grandmother (Edith Davey) who was born there in a house in Lyttleton Street, opposite the famous anticline that is exposed in the road cutting. Like many young women of the 1800s, she worked as a housekeeper for her mother and this gave her the home-making skills that she relied on later in married life. Edith was quite musical and played the piano in the silent movie theatre along with the organ at her church. The old methodist church has since been purchased by the adjoining motel and has been refurbished into large apartments. After marrying my grandfather, she moved to Hamilton where my mother and her seven siblings were born.

On a hill at the top of Lyttleton Street is an obelisk commemorating the Burke and Wills Expedition. This was the first expedition to ever cross the entire continent from south to north. Robert O’Hara Bourke, the leader,  was the police superintendent in Castlemaine. It wasn’t until today that I found a somewhat amusing story about this memorial. 

The local citizens raised £450 and the plans for the monument were established in 1862 by when news of the explorers’ deaths was the talk of their country. Apparently, the workers at Castlemaine threatened to build another monument if the name of Charles Gray was not included on the monument. And thus the monument was duly completed in 1863 with the inscription: “This foundation stone of a monument erected by public subscription to the memory of Robert O’Hara Burke, William John Wills, and Charles Gray, members of the first Victorian Exploring Expedition, who with John King (now living and at this ceremony present), were the flrst men who ever crossed the great continent of Australia, traversing the country from the City of Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria”.

The streets of the central part of Castlemaine were very busy and it was difficult to find a parking spot within a reasoble distance of a cafe that suited Jill’s mobility. Fortunately, Google came to the rescue and we found an interesting Austrian themed cafe ia little out of the centre of town at the old Castlemaine Mill complex. This complex has an eclectic mix of artisan shops and is well worth a visit.

Our drive back to Creswick took us through farmland and gave me the opportunity to photograph a few abandoned farm buildings that caught my eye. 

Back in Creswick, we found a few more places to explore. Located a kilometre south-east along Melbourne Road is St Georges Lake which was created by hand in the gold days to provide water for gold sluicing. It is now a secluded area fringed by pine and eucalyptus trees which is used for swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing.

On the other side of town, along the road to Clunes, is the site of the old Australasian No.2 Deep Lead Mine. It was flooded in 1882, drowning 22 men in what was the country’s worst ever gold mining accident. The dead were buried in the Creswick cemetery at a funeral attended by 15,000 with 5,000 in the funeral procession and 2,000 members of the Miners Association. Today the old mine site is marked by a cairn and an information board that tells the story

The circumstances of this accident are horrific. On 12 December, 1882, miners who were working the night shift at the mine descended 250 feet down the shaft and then along 2,000 feet to the working face. At 5.30 am the wall of the reef burst from the pressure of water that had accumulated behind it from the nearby Australasia No. 1 Mine. In the minutes that followed some of the miners were able to get to safety, however 27 workers  were trapped. For almost three days the three engine drivers from the mine ran the engines at over ten times their normal speed (they managed to extract 50,000 gallons of water each hour), in an attempt to lower the water level and save the trapped men. A special train was sent for from Melbourne with equipment to dive into the water. This equipment was borrowed from the H.M.S. Cerberus along with competent divers.

After some very enjoyable days of exploration, we are heading home to Melbourne tomorrow to prepare for our next adventure in a couple of weeks time.

3 thoughts on “More Exploration Around Creswick

  1. Another GREAT documentary about our history which is very rarely documented or talked about. WELL DONE Bruce and Jill.

  2. Your photographic records detail much of the history of these past gold mining towms be that of grand building, rusting humble cottages or of natures legacy. In terms of human history, Australia’s post colonial history is very recent, but in those short number of years how many changes have we seen!

  3. The area has so much to give when you truly look, I must do more looking .
    The Big Tree was granted “ The Tree of the Year” by the National Trust last year. There is another tree of the year in the Castlemaine botanic Gardens. Love their Gardens.
    Thanks again for being our travel guide.

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