As someone who prefers landscape photography, this area around Creswick is a bit frustrating. There is very little stunning scenery – just a lot of ‘goldfields country’ that is characterised by scraggly forest of box and ironbark trees. The topography is rather flat and the soil is a golden colour that is very stony and looks like it has all been turned over with a pick and shovel many times. The area is dotted with mullock heaps and evidence of mining.
However, the towns here still have many of their 1860’s gold era streetscapes with lots of outsanding public buildings to photograph. These buildings were constructed when the economy was awash with money from gold. They are indicative of that era and nothing of their style would ever be consrucred again. The architecture of this ornate primary school building at Clunes illustrates the elaborate style of that day.
We have explored Creswick on a number of occasions but this morning we found some places that we haven’t seen before. The original courthouse is a theatre for the local drama group and still has a bluestone lockup at its rear.
Creswick was the home of the famous Lindsay family of artists and writers. Dr. Robert Lindsay, the father of the family, was a graduate of the Trinity College, Dublin. He emigrated to Australia from Londonderry, where his family of Scottish origin, had been linen merchants and small manufacturers since the 18th century. He set up his medical practice in Creswick in 1864.
The Lindsay’s had ten children; Percival, Robert, Lionel, Mary, Norman, Pearl, Ruby, Reginald, Daryl and Elizabeth in that order. Five of the 10 children of Dr.Robert Lindsay went on to become leaders in the Australian artistic community – Percy, Lionel, Norman, Ruby and Daryl who became noted artists and writers. They all left from this railway station at Creswick in the 1890s to head for the lights of the big city – Melbourne
The old Post Office in Creswick stands out as a remarkable building and is consistent with the days when the postmaster was one of the pillars of society.
Up the road, the town of Clunes is reputed to have one of the best preserved 19th century streetscapes in the country. It ihas a host of historic buildings and Fraser Street, the Main Street, is wide and elegant, full of 19th-century shops with original store-fronts and distinctive verandas. Historically it can claim that it was the site of Victoria’s first gold strike. It is known for its antique and collectable stores, its vineyards, its pleasant walks and its charming collection of sandstone, bluestone and brick buildings.
The Town Hall was built between 1872 and 1873 and is one of the most distinctive Town Halls in Victoria. It would not be ouit of place in a much larger city. It is a reminder of how important Clunes was when the Town Hall was built, as is the old library that is located just around the corner.
Talbot is another historic gold mining town which lies between Clunes and Maryborough. The town’s website describes it as “a living ghost town” but this is not really correct. Although time has stood still, it is a fine reminder of what a gold mining town was like in the mid-nineteenth century,
A walking tour takes you past the original town hall. This was originally built as the Oddfellows Hall but was eventually donated to the council who added a second story to create an additional meeting room.
We eventually found our way to the city of Maryborough. It was once a hugely successful gold mining town with a population which may have reached as high was 53,000 prospectors, It is now a small city with a number of impressive buildings including its superb civic square that is home to the post office, town hall and police court. The heads of these institutions were high status indiduals at the top of local society up until the mid 1900s.
In 1895, Mark Twain visited Maryborough. He described it as “a railway station with a town attached” and noted “Don’t you overlook the Maryborough station, if you take an interest in governmental curiosities. Why, you can put the whole population of Maryborough into it, and give them a sofa apiece, and have room for more. You haven’t fifteen stations in America that are as big, and you probably haven’t five that are half as fine. Why, it’s perfectly elegant. And the clock! Everybody will show you the clock. There isn’t a station in Europe that’s got such a clock. It doesn’t strike – and that’s one mercy.”
This huge building – built in Queen Anne style – was completed in 1890. It is a vast 25-room red-brick edifice with stucco trimming. Some locals still think that the station was a mistake, but its grandeur reflects the position Maryborough was to hold as a junction in Victorian rail routes. At the late 1800s, Victoria had experienced a boom in railway development and Maryborough was consisered a key location in the state railway network.
As in most other gold towns, Maryborough had a School of Mines which provided education to miners. In 1903 this School of Mines was renamed the Maryborough Technical School No 110. The Department of Education took this building over in 1913. It continued to undergo changes until it closed as a school in 2007. I assume that many of the railway apprentices received their education in this building.
Our last stop for today, before returning to Creswick, was the town of Avoca. It has one of the widest main streets in Australia. II is so wide that there is parkland in the median strip which is suitable for picnics and a war memorial. Avoca also came into existence because of the rich gold deposits in the district and the wide main street is designed so that bullock teams could turn effortlessly. It was so rich that by 1854 there were 16,000 miners in the area.