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the Victorian gold rush of the 1850's


  • the discovery of gold in Victoria rapidly changed Victoria from a collection of sheep runs with whaling ports to one of the richest regions in the world, with grand rural towns of Ballarat and Bendigo, and indeed, making Melbourne, the richest city in the world by the 1880's.
  • but this came at a massive cost to the environment which was destroyed by the miners who cut down nearly every tree in the regions, and destroyed all the waterways, which was further exacerbated by the introduction of more modern mining techniques such as the puddling machine of 1854 which pumped sludge into the waterways while hydraulic methods destroyed the gullies and deep mine shafts still remain to make these regions uninhabitable.

A brief timeline

  • in January 1849, an ex-convict called Thomas Chapman found a 38 ounce gold nugget in Daisy Creek (7 km from Talbot) while working as a shepherd, this was to spark a minor Gold Rush which authorities had been trying to keep quiet to avoid lawlessness invading the land. The main gold rush only commenced in 1851 after the law was changed allowing miners to own the gold as long as they paid a miner's licence (formerly, any gold found was deemed property of the Crown).
  • 1851, colony of Victoria founded, with Charles La Trobe of Latrobe St fame (1801-1875) appointed as 1st governor, coinciding with the gold rush which resulted in 313,000 new settlers immigrating to Victoria, rapidly outstripping NSW in population & development. In 1852 alone, 86,000 British migrated seeking their fortune.
  • 1854, the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat; .
  • 1855: introduction of Miner's Rights:
    • Miners' Rights were introduced under the 1855 Goldfields Act, replacing the Gold Licence that provoked the Eureka uprising in 1854.
    • The Act made a Miner's Right the necessary evidence for the occupation of a mining claim, and from 1857 also gave the holder the right to select a quarter acre of crown land on the goldfields for a residence - a vitally important aspect in the development of Victoria's gold-mining towns.
    • By the end of 1855, 50,000 Miner's Rights had been issued
  • 1855: Governor Bull of Castlemaine tries to reduce the environmental impact of the new puddling machines but was over-ruled by the Royal Commission which was set up to investigate the Eureka massacre 1)
  • 1856: 136 hotels, inns and taverns crowded into an area one mile long and half a mile broad, bounded by Flinders, Spencer, Latrobe and Spring Streets, The hours were 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the warmer months of the year, with special licences available until midnight. Beer for ‘off the premises consumption’ could be bought on Sundays for two hours after 1 p.m.
  • 1857: Kyneton was proclaimed a municipality and, thanks to the gold rush and through traffic, Kyneton became the state's major agricultural town and the general prosperity and development resulted in a building boom which saw bluestone quarrying become a substantial industry.
  • 1858:
    • A fourth Goldfields Act in 1858, gave increased privileges to holders of Miner's Rights including the right to operate a business on crown land (such as a shop or hotel), the right to fell timber on claims and the right to build races and dams on crown lands for mining purposes.
  • 1859: the Bendigo train line construction reaches Sunbury
  • 1859: gold discovered at Gaffney's Creek near Woods Point
  • 1861: gold discovered at Morning Star, Woods Point which would yield 900,000 ozs so far (25 tons or 250 100kg gold bars)
  • 1862: the Bendigo train line construction reaches Castlemaine then Bendigo. It was extended to Echuca in 1864.
  • 1862: gold discovered at Walhalla - the Cohens Reef mine would yield 50 tons of gold
  • 1865:
    • Under the Mining Statute of 1865 women not directly engaged in goldmining were permitted to take out a Miner's Right in order to build a residence or business premises on crown lands in the goldfields.
  • 1898: an annual Miner's Right fee was 2 shillings 6 pence.

The destruction of the forests

  • “During the gold rush the demand for timber was said to be ‘insatiable’. Timber lined shafts and drives and was consumed voraciously by steam engines.
  • By the end of the 1860s, each year Ballarat alone was said to consume nearly 180,000 tons of firewood, 850,000 props, 3,000,000 lathes and 7.5 million super feet of sawn timber! (One super foot equalled 144 cubic inches.)
  • In the late-1880s Melbourne households burned between 350,000 and 450,000 tons of firewood each year, much of it brought into the city by rail from distant forests. The railways themselves added a huge demand for timber for railway sleepers.
  • One by one, Victoria’s mighty forests fell to the axe. By 1900 the Warrenheip, Bungaree, Dean and Wombat forests were all classed officially as ‘ruined forest’, but the demand for timber continued. Timber getters moved on to the Otways and the forests near Warburton.
  • Much of the felling was very wasteful. In the 1870s it was estimated that only about one-eighth of the felled timber was actually used: the rest was left on the forest floor where it became a serious bushfire hazard during the summer months.”
history/goldrush.txt · Last modified: 2024/04/15 11:10 by gary1

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