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Adelong, NSW

Historic gold mining town

Adelong is one of those small country towns where time has stood still. The tree-lined main street is edged by shops with quaint veranda facades. The two pubs, typical Aussie country hotels, look unchanged since the 1940s and the locals still stop and chat on the main street as people do in a country town with a population of less than 1000. Adelong barely deserved to be called a town until gold was discovered in 1853. Two years later there were 2,000 miners spread across the narrow valley and by 1860 the town had grown to around 20,000. Today its appeal lies primarily in the beauty of its main street, the pleasant walk beside Adelong Creek and the excellent remnants of the goldmining era which still exist at the Adelong Falls Reserve

Location

Adelong is 411 km south-west of Sydney via the Hume and Snowy Mountains Highways. It is 340 m above sea level.

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Origin of Name

No one knows precisely what Adelong, or a word which sounded like Adelong, meant in the local Wiradjuri language but it is now accepted that it either meant 'along the way' or 'river on a plain'. As Adelong is in a valley, the last definition seems doubtful.

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Things to See and Do

An Historic Walk Exploring the Buildings of Adelong
There is a delightful historic walk around Adelong which takes about an hour and passes most of the town's interesting and National Trust-listed buildings. The starting point is at the Royal Hotel on the corner of Campbell and Tumut Streets (Tumut Street has been classified by the National Trust) at the Tumut end of town. The Royal is the oldest hotel in town and is a typical country pub with a characteristic wide veranda. On the opposite corner is the Bank of New South Wales, built in 1882. It is a two-storey Classical Revival bank built of sandstone bricks and with a cast-iron and timber veranda and balcony. It oozes prosperity as the town was rich from the surrounding gold mines at the time of its construction.

The walk proceeds along Tumut Street passing the Hotel Adelong, the Post Office (1886), the Apex Park and The Old Pharmacy (1877). On the corner of Havelock Street is a single-storey private house which is a rare extant example of a miner's cottage. It was built in 1873.

In Havelock Street is St Andrew's Presbyterian Church which was built in 1878 and in Lockhart Street is the Wesley Uniting Church, built in 1886. The site had been used by Methodists since the beginning of the goldrushes. Services were held there as early as 1853 and a simple church was built on the site in 1866. Campbell Street is the setting for the Police Station and the Court House which were both built in 1874. On Gilmore Street the Adelong Public School (1877), with its church-like main school building and steep gables, has been listed by the National Trust. In Gundagai Street, St James Catholic Church dates from 1862. It was consecrated in 1868 by Bishop Polding, the first Catholic Archbishop of Australia. From the Catholic church it is only a short walk back to the Royal Hotel.

The Walk Beside Adelong Creek to Adelong Falls Reserve
The walk beside Adelong Creek is a delightful way to spend a few hours (the walk is flat and takes about half an hour each way) and the path includes signs which explain the history and processes of gold mining in the area. At various points the visitor gets information like "The 8 metre waterwheel was built in 1870 to power the entire mill … it could generate 37 kw" and, at the Reefer Gold Battery, the function of each of the parts – the flume, the waterwheel, the buddle, the holding tanks, the reverbatory furnace – is explained.

The Walks around Adelong Falls Reserve
There are three walks around the Falls. The Ferndale Walk is an easy 40 minute loop which passes the Sawyer's Gully waterfall and the Reefer Battery. The Battery Walk takes 30 minutes and includes the wheel houses and the long staircase and the Campsie Lookout Walk is a 15 minute walk along Adelong Creek.

What makes Adelong so important is that so much of the gold mining equipment is still intact. This make it a real gold mining experience where it is possible to see the original battery, inspect the stone ruins and pan for gold just as the fossickers and miners did back in the 1860s and 1870s.

Richie's Gold Battery at the Adelong Falls Reserve
The Adelong Falls Reserve, which is located on the Old Gundagai Road to the west of the town, is a combination of walks, some falls and pools where it is still possible to pan for gold, and the remnants and ruins of Richie's Gold Battery which was built by David Wilson and William Richie in 1870. The area is clearly signposted and many of the ruins are easy to recognise including the Gold Battery, the water wheels which were used to drive the battery, and the old brick chimney.

A brochure explains: "The ruins of the Richie's gold batteries are the remains of a quartz crushing and gold saving installation, which was praised as 'a credit to New South Wales' and which ranked 'foremost of any in Australia' (Department of Mines annual report 1882). The ruins are made up of what was called a 'reefer machine' and was operated from the earliest 'rush' days up until World War I. All the machinery at the site was worked by two large water wheels supplied with water from the Adelong Creek and carried down by races, either cut into the hillside or on wooden trestles."

There is some confusion about the total gold production from the area but it is known that 5 tonnes of gold were delivered to the Sydney Mint from the Reefer Ore crushing mill up to 1914. Certainly tunnels were blasted into the surrounding hills to a depth of 400 metres (the great Victoria mine operators received a bounty of 1000 pounds when their shaft reached 800 feet) and, at its peak, mines with names like Gibraltar, Long Tunnel, Donkey Hill and Lady Mary were yielding as much as 50 ounces to every ton of ore crushed. If you want to try your luck, it is possible to buy panning dishes from many of the stores in Adelong.

Adelong Alive Museum
The Adelong Alive Museum, a simple country town museum, now has an extensive collection of historic photographs and a lovingly created model of the Adelong Falls gold crushing mill, the Reefer Battery. It is an ideal starting point for anyone wanting to understand the boom industry which drove the town's economy from the 1860s until the outbreak of World War I when a combination of declining gold yields and a desire by the miners to head off to Europe to fight saw the end of gold mining in the district. Located in Tumut Street, it is open by appointment, tel: (02) 6946 2417.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the Adelong Valley was inhabited by members of the Wiradjuri Aboriginal language group.

* Europeans had settled the area by the 1840s. The Adelong Creek Station was established in 1843.

* Gold was discovered in 1853 and a gold rush followed. In two years the town's population had reached an estimated 5,000 people.

* In 1855 the local Anglican parish was established.

* In 1856 the town was formally gazetted.

* By 1857 more gold was being found in the district. William Williams discovered reef and alluvial gold on Mount Charcoal and, as the folk legend would have it, at one point he bought a mining claim for £40,000 and sold it for £75,000 later the same day.

* By 1860 the town's population had reached 20,000 of whom nearly 3,000 miners were Chinese.

* In 1862 St James Roman Catholic Church was consecrated and by 1866 the Methodist Church had been built.

* Through the 1860s and 1870s the town boomed with mines and batteries (to crush the reef gold) opening up along the valley. The mines had names like Donkey Hill, The Challenger, Lady Mary, Long Tunnel, Great Victoria and Gibraltar.

* In 1874 the town's Court House and Police Station were completed.

* In 1879 the Great Victoria Mine won a bounty when gold was mined at a depth of 300 metres - a NSW first.

* In 1915, as miners left to go to war, the Gibraltar mine closed down.

* In 1930 the Reefer Battery Dam was blown up so the silt could be washed for gold.

* Today the town is a small service for the surrounding farmers (with cattle, sheep and orchards dominating) and all that remains of the booming gold mining town is a charming historic remnant with large sections of the main street being classified by the National Trust.

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Visitor Information

The nearest visitor information centre is the Tumut Region Visitor Information Centre, 5 Adelong Road, Tumut, tel: 02 6947 7025.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website - http://www.adelong.org.au/ - which includes information about eating and accommodation in the town.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

14 suggestions
  • Adelong is the perfect “Tree Change” town being on the Snowy Mountains Highway only 16 km from Tumut and 1.5 hours from the snow at Mt. Selwyn. There are two primary schools and a school bus to Tumut for the high school. There is a local doctor and the Tumut hospital is 15 minutes away. The Golden Gully Caravan Park is booked from the RSL Club. There is great accommodation for short stays and cafes and restaurants and you can still buy a house under $200,000.

    Mrs Lee Whiting
  • My aunt, Alice Whiting, lives there!

    David Dlugosinski
  • Population growth rates and other stats would be useful.

    I agree Jack BUT I did this whole exercise 25 years ago and learned, very rapidly, that content rich sites (and stats are content rich) need a lot of staff because they have to be kept up to date. That is why, for example, I have not listed Accommodation and Eating. They change too rapidly and no one want to go to a site where the information is out of date. But thanks for the comment. It has been considered.

    Jack Wallace
  • My great grandfather was a prospector in the town but died in a mining accident and left behind a wife, 5 daughters and a son . My great grandmother’s wedding ring was made out of the white gold from the Adelong Creek. After her husband’s death, she supported her children by being the local midwife, having received some nursing training before marriage. As my great grandfather had a German surname (Wicht) they had to change their name during the war (my grandmother told me a postman spat at her mother when delivering a letter). I have heard many stories about life in Adelong in the early 1900s. My grandmother told me she and her sisters fancied the frogs croaked ‘pray for us’ as they crossed the Adelong bridge to go to school and church. She told of a large family that lived in a hut with a dirt floor and how her mother would get paid for her midwifery services in kind as there was no money. Her aunty was the person who would ‘lay out the dead’, my grandmother would go with her and could tell the stages of someone dying (a bit creepy but the town would not have had a funeral director). My great grandmother used to make all her children’s clothing and eventually her father (my grandmother’s favourite grandfather Bourgoine) came to live with them. Sadly, my great grandmother died of breast cancer and her children moved to Sydney. They were all in their teens by then and the girls got jobs at the Nestle factory where they were allowed to eat as much chocolate as they liked while at work.
    The last time I saw Adelong it was a ghost town apart from the Pub. My great grandmother’s house was no longer there. It’s so nice Adelong’s beauty and history is being recognised. Unfortunately I have no details of Aboriginal people in the area.

    Well, I can tell you Kate. It is far from a ghost town today. It has a charming veranda-ed main street, guest houses, a cafe and a couple of pubs and is thriving. The only problem is that trucks from the Visy works come through town and they disrupt an otherwise peaceful main street.

    Kate Markel
    • Stumbled over this web site today. My mother was a Whitley from Adelong, her mother was a Bourgoin and her mother a Curran. Martin Curran was a very early arrival in Adelong– 1841. Was interested in Kate Markel’s comment about the Wicht family. Two Wicht brothers married two Bourgoin sisters. My Grandmother was Louisa Bourgoin (sister of the two Bourgoins). Louisa Bourgoin married Albert Whitley. 14 Whitley children were born in Adelong.
      I’m interested in contacting Kate as her early Bourgoin relations are the same as mine.
      Could Kate be contacted to see if she was interesting in sharing Bourgoin family history.
      Kerryne Jones

      Kerryne Jones
      • Read your comment today re family history in Adelong. My great grandmother was Bedelia Curran, her husband was James Curran. Is there a connection with your family.? Have just started looking into my family history and information not always clear

        Clare Wand
  • My grandmother came from your town. Her name was Isabel Mary Homann 1891. Not sure if this her real surname. Can anyone help us with this, please.

    Helen madden
  • I am planning a trip to Adelong soon as it is where my mother was born and where my 3 x great-grandfather William Williams, discovered reef gold in the 1800s. I am really looking forward to this trip and, thanks to the information supplied here, will make it a mission to visit the museum in the township. I also plan to visit the cemetery where many of my ancestors are buried and endeavour to try and gather as much information about their lives as I can.

    Sandra Rosiak
  • My older brother BRIAN RUDGLEY was a teacher at Adelong Public School in the late’ 50s and celebrated his 21st birthday in a hall at Adelong in October 1959. He later moved to England where he became a Headmaster at special schools. Came back for a holiday late in 2017 and he visited Adelong as he still has fond memories of the town, the friendly people and his first teaching post!

    Neil Rudgley
  • I love Adelong, I visit when I can. My families Schintler and Beegling have lived around the area for over 100 years.
    Les Schintler.

    Les Schintler
    • Les Schintler I think I had relatives – Beegling. My grandmother’s maiden name was Fraser and grandfather was Melrose

      Deborah Melrose
  • Why is there no photos of the trees changing colour in autumn? One of the most amazing things to see. First seen it as a very smalll child n many many times after that as my mother’s family are from Batlow.

    Answer: try Tumut. Lots of pix of trees in the district changing colours.

    Mick banks
    • Was briefly in Adelong last week – took a while to find the public toilets but when we did we parked opposite St Paul’s, a pretty little church that deserves a mention like the others. Also I liked the war memorial with the Aleppo pine in the park. Have been for a longer visit some years ago and visited Adelong Falls Reserve. Lovely town.

      margaret
  • I try to visit Adelong whenever I can as it holds beautiful memories for me. My Grandmothers
    (Barbara -Skerry – Contessa and Rebecca – King – Nean) lived all their lives in this lovely, friendly and, at one time, vibrant country town. My parents and sister were also born in Adelong. I did visit Adelong earlier this year (2018) and it was sad to find so many shops had closed their doors, the street was quiet but the ‘magic’ of the past is still there. I could remember travelling on Dave Scott’s mail bus from Shepherdstown to spend the day shopping and visiting friends.I guess my heart is still in this gorgeous little town.

    Jenny (born Nean) Watson