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Rushworth, VIC

Historic goldmining town.

There is something spectacular about Rushworth's main street. It is so wide and so elegant with historic buildings on either side and a huge median strip. It must be one of the most impressive main streets in rural Victoria. Today Rushworth is a service centre which was once a thriving and bustling goldmining town. It retains its original charm and is surrounded by interesting smaller goldrush towns. Visitors can easily spend a day marvelling at the mullock heaps and remnants of the goldrush era and exploring the tiny towns which once roared with with the sounds of men furiously digging and panning in hope of finding their fortune. Rushworth is known as 'the Gold and Ironbark town'.

Location

Rushworth is located 181 km north of Melbourne via the Hume Freeway and Goulburn Valley Highway. It is 145 m above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

No one is sure why Richard 'Orion' Horne, a poet and friend of Charles Dickens who became a gold commissioner in Victoria, gave the town its name. One theory argues that he simply took 'rush', as in goldrush, and added 'worth'. Another theory suggests that when he sailed to Australia he befriended two fellow passengers named Rush and Worth. The early gold camp was known as Nuggetty.

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Things to See and Do

High Street Heritage Walk
Rushworth's gloriously wide and elegant High Street, which came into existence in 1853, was declared an Urban Conservation Area of Special Significance by the National Trust in 1982. Today the best thing any visitor can do is take a walk along the street and carefully read the 'Walk Through Time' Community Project plaques on many of the buildings. They offer a unique opportunity to experience what the street was like in the heyday of the goldrushes. Start at:

Rushworth Museum
At the intersection of High and Parker Streets is the Rushworth Museum, located in the former Rushworth Mechanics Institute. The 'Walk Through Time' plaque explains that the building was constructed in 1913 to replace the original 1897 building. It was originally used as "a lending library for miners and tradesmen, the new institute also included a billiard's room surrounded by a raised platform for spectators." Today it is used by the Rushworth Historical Society and contains over 4000 items connected with local history. It is open on Saturday 10.00am.-noon and Sunday 11.00am-3.00pm. Check for details: http://rushworthmuseum.wordpress.com.

Other Building of Interest
* On the western side of High St, between Wigg and Parker Sts, are a series of old veranda shops with faded signage.

* At High and Parker is the former office of the Chronicle newspaper (1888).

* On the Museum side of the street is the Glasgow Building (1858). In the middle of the street is the band rotunda (1888). The Rushworth Brass Band recently celebrated its 130th birthday.

* Just past the band rotunda are the first CBC Bank, the second CBC Bank (1883) and Cracknell's Bakery - all now private residences.

* On the other side of the road, on the corner of High Street and Wigg Street, is the Criterion Hotel (1856).

* The single-storey Imperial Hotel, now a bed and breakfast, dates from 1858 but was partly destroyed by fire in 1881. It been tastefully restored. .

* St Paul's Anglican Church, a Gothic Revival structure dates from 1869-70.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Rushworth State Forest
Rushworth State Forest is a 33,000ha reserve south of Rushworth which consists of red gum, red ironbark, red stringybark, yellow gum and grey box eucalypts, mallee used for eucalypt production and, in spring, wildflowers and orchids. Today the forest fauna includes over 100 bird species, echidna, possums, kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos. It is excellent for bushwalking although, extensively scoured for gold in the 19th century, it still attracts optimistic gold fossickers. There is a good downloadable brochure: http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/101573/Heathcote_Rushworth_State_Forests_finalwithcolourmap.pdf

Whroo
Located 7 km south of Rushworth, along Whroo Rd, is Whroo Historic Reserve (500 ha within the 33,000ha Rushworth State Forest) now a ghost town and a reminder that once there was a bustling gold mining town which, at its peak in 1857, had a population of 2100 and 139 buildings. All that remains are wattles, wildflowers, peppercorn trees, wells, remnants of mines and grassy clearings. All the buildings have been removed.

The Whroo goldfield (the name probably comes from a local Aboriginal word 'wooroo' which meant either 'mouth' or 'waterhole') was discovered in 1853 in a gully near Balaclava Hill (it was named after the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War). The find was so rich it had 15-cm gold veins and yielded well over £1 million worth of gold. Visitors can peer into the 25-metre deep Balaclava open-cut mine on the hill although it should not be entered. South of the hill is the site of the mine owner's homestead. Four large pine trees remain from his 4-acre garden. A row of sugar gums marks the site of a mechanics institute where balls were held on moonlit nights (owing to the lack of electricity) from 1859 to 1955. The Whroo Cemetery contains the graves of over 400 people are buried and beside it is a signposted walking track that leads to an Aboriginal rock well.  Other relics include cyanide vats and a puddling machine. There are other signposted walking tracks. Check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/315807/Park-note-Whroo-Historic-Reserve.pdf for a downloadable guide and map to the ghost town. It includes the walking tracks in the area.

Waranga Basin
Waranga Basin, located 8km north-east of Rushworth, was commenced in 1905 and completed in 1908 using picks, shovels and horse-drawn scoops. The water comes from the Goulburn Weir. It is a popular fishing destination. The main access road is the Tatura Rd. It takes you past the Waranga Western Channel which transports the water 180 km via gravity feed to the Mallee.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the district was inhabited by the Nguraiillam-wurrung Aboriginal people.

* In 1836 Major Thomas Mitchell crossed the Goulburn River some 20km south of

Rushworth. he subsequently eulogised the pastoral potential of the region.

* By 1845 settlers had moved into the area and taken up land.

* By the 1850s Rushworth had become an important stopover for miners travelling from the Bendigo to the Beechworth diggings.

* Gold was discovered in the district in August 1853 when diggers were shown some 'pretty' stones by local Aborigines. The first camp grew up 1.5 km east of present-day Rushworth. It was named 'Nuggetty' because so many nuggets were found in the area. Overnight hundreds of tents and slab huts, stores, wine shanties, dams, puddling machines and crushing machines appeared in the area.

* Gold seemed to be everywhere. Alluvial gold was plentiful in the gullies and underground shafts were sunk to a depth of 270 metres. In some instances gold reefs were discovered that were 2.5 metres thick. At its peak Rushworth had 26 mines a population of 40 000.

* Poet Richard Horne was appointed as one of the two gold commissioners, along with a man named Willoughby, to oversee the rush. He named the town and successfully prevented a Eureka Stockade-type insurrection - known as the Rushworth riot and pre-dating the Eureka riot - over the miner's licence.

* The townsite was surveyed in 1854 and by 1858 there was a police camp, a wooden courthouse, five hotels, two breweries, a school, seven large stores, 20 tradesmen's shops and two banks; all concentrated at the southern end of High Street.

* The town's newspaper, the Waranga Echo, started in 1868

* By the 1870s the goldrush was over and people were leaving. It looked as though the town may die.

* In 1874 the first eucalyptus distillery in the district was established by William Begg.

* By the 1880s the district had moved from gold mining to timber. Between 1896-1900 an average of 50,000 railway sleepers was being harvested each year from forests around Rushworth. At one point there were seven sawmills operating in the district. The timber industry flourished until the 1940s

* The railway arrived in 1890.

* The town declined during the Great Depression but survived as a result of increased demand for timber during World War II. Two local POW camps used the internees to cut and ship timber to Melbourne.

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Visitor Information

Information can be obtained from the Rushworth Community House, 67 High Street, tel: (03) 5856 1295.

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Eating

The Bakery in the Main Street is recognised as a superb cafe (good coffee) with a wide range of pastries and sandwiches.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website page on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Whats-On-In-Rushworth-642625462527329/ - for information about activities in the district.

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Got something to add?

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

26 suggestions
  • The population seems to be leaving Rushworth. Is it becoming another ghost gold mining town? We can’t keep the people from leaving this small town. What can we do to get people to come and live in Rushworth? It is only 181 km from Melbourne. In 1998 I drove from Rosebud to north Melbourne every day for work. It took me 90 minutes. So why are the people leaving? The motel, caravan park, hotel, shops and post office up for sale? This town needs people to generate businesss and money for the town.

    John Flynn
    • I would like to bring my arts studio to rushworth and commute to Bendigo and Echuca and shep for extra work. I come from the Nguraiillam-wurrung people of rushworth Murchison and surrounds. l would love to invite people to experience free art workshops and as well learn about Aboriginal art. Ist looking for a suitable arts space with a residential section attached.

      Jo Layton
  • The history of Rushworth has repeat episodes of signs of an exodus and efforts by the former Waranga Shire Council and the local “Progress Association” to attract newcomers. Yet for the past 100 years the population has not varied greatly from a base figure of 1,000 plus the people of the neighbouring farming districts which use the town as a service centre. When I was at school there (1960-1972) virtually all the teachers who worked in the town lived there. Now many travel daily from Shepparton and other centres. This impacts on population numbers, teacher involvement in sporting teams, and other town activities. Comparison of local sporting action, from say 1965 to 2015, sees a very marked decline. A new gold find might bring new people to Rushworth, but the progression from gold rush (1850s) to land rush (1870s) has ensured that it has not, and should not, become a gold “ghost town”. Its best assets are the forest and Lake Waranga, neither of which are well promoted.

    Alan McLean
    • I was at school in Rushworth from 1948 to 1959. My grandfather also attended school there and Waranga school is also incorporated in the maze of buildings on the school site. I taught at the school in 1963. Some of the buildings are architecturally important and the main street, High Street, is a museum piece in itself.
      The population has remained amazingly static for around 80 years or so and the town seems destined to survive. Some great memories of the town and also some very sad ones. My brother died there aged 10 in a car, or rather a truck accident in 1943, the year of my birth. A pretty town, sleepy and comforting. These are my memories.

      Allan Anderson
  • Thank you Alan McLean, Allan Anderson and Bruce Elder. Thank you all For your replies. The years have taken a devastating toll of these formerly rich regions. Only a few souls remain to tell the intriguing stories. The old mining town of Rushworth has now only a population of 958. The fact is it is becoming a ghost town.What was the year the last house was built in Rushworth? Why is the only motel for sale? Why is the pub in Main Street for Sale? Why is the Caravan Park for Sale? The population seems to be selling up and leaving Rushworth. What can we do to get our town going? We need people to generate business! No People No Money. How do you get new people? How do you get money into the town? In the end the people who are trying to sell can’t because nobody wishes to live in Rushworth? I am sorry but the facts are the facts. Get The People Back!!!!

    John Flynn
    • Hi, My grandfather Francesco Joseph Rondinella worked and lived in Rushworth from about 1942 to 1952. He was released from Tatura War Camp and lived in Rushworth. From what I’m told he lived there in a circus tent till my grandfather built a mud brick house in Clarks Lane next to the Clarks. Pop’s partner was Florence Jean Ford. She had 4 of her children in town. She had twins in 1946 then one in 1949 and one in 1952. She then left town with two of her children and an older one from a previous partner. I can’t find any evidence of them being there – no information about births or schooling. Does anyone know what school the twins went to or what hospital the babies would have been born at? I even have an aunty that married into the Cleary family. She still holds his name and still goes back to Rushworth each year to visit.

      donna
      • Hello Donna,
        The twin children of your grandfather went to St Mary’s Parish School in Rushworth. We were in the same class room (three grades per room in those days). If they were born in Rushworth, that would probably have occurred at the Bush Nursing Hospital in Esmonde Street, mentioned elsewhere on this site. I am reluctant to give more information over the internet, but a visit to their old neighbours would probably give you a good lead.

        Maria
  • Having grown up in Rushworth with great childhood memories, I often think about the future of small rural towns and how they might grow and prosper. Apart from serving as feeder towns to bigger centres,
    offering affordable housing,quality lifestyle and pursuing tourism revenues, there is another possibility.
    Australia’s population is aging rapidly and the cost of aged care in the cities is prohibitive so where are the elderly eventually going to end up with an acceptable lifestyle. Tranquil, well located towns like Rushworth with affordable real estate and a caring work force could be the answer. For this to happen we need Governments and local councils to buy into the concept and give aged care industry investors strong incentive to make the investment and generate profits for shareholders. This would be a ‘win win’ scenario for all concerned.
    Think of the Miller homes and the Waranga Aged Care facility on a grand scale and perhaps the future of Rushworth would be ensured.

    Graeme Howard
    • A great idea for country towns. It would be peaceful and it would generate employment. If younger people were employed it could keep schools open.

      Sue
      • I grew up in the country and after well over 40 years in Melbourne I wish to move out. I have looked at small towns just off the Hume H’way. Actually, I wanted to move out decades ago. If anyone grows food (small scale) etc you could have a farmer’s market. You may already have one. Any creative people. Maybe a theme.

        Sue
  • My wife and I have travelled from North Queensland (Townsville) to be precise, looking for a suitable location to retire in, close to all amenities that we as retirees need such as Doctors ,hospital, shops and reasonable sporting clubs. Our journey took us down the coast out to Mildura down along the Murray to Echuca to Maryborough, Bendigo, Ballarat to Colac and in the end we settled for Rushworth. We are currently purchasing a property in Rushworth as the real estate prices are very affordable thus does not eat into our nest egg. We have stayed in Rushworth a couple of times now and find the locals very friendly and hospitable, we look forward to becoming part of the community that is Rushworth. Bonus on top of all that no traffic jams or hustle and bustle

    Graham Jensen
  • Where is old hospital in Rushworth? I was born there in 1950. Are there any pictures? I think it may be an old peoples home now? Can I have pictures?

    zac
    • Is there anywhere to find out information on the history of Rushworth. Old photo’s of homesteads and buildings.

      colin
    • Zac,
      There was the Bush Nursing Hospital in Esmonde Street, a private home from about 1965, when Waranga Memorial hospital was built, near the sports ground.
      There should in pics from its hospital days. Contact Rushworth Historical Society.
      Visit Esmonde Street, find a senior resident, and they will point out the home which was the hospital.
      Alan McLean

      Alan L McLean
      • It is not news that tourism is a real opportunity to help build the Rushworth economy overtime and the annual successful Easter festival is testimony to that.
        Given the history of the town, the splendid main street,adorned with classified buildings as well as many natural attractions there maybe another opportunity worth considering.
        Sheffield is a similar town situated close to Devonport on the north-west coast of Tasmania.
        In 1986 someone came up with the idea to paint high quality delightful murals on the walls of buildings depicting historical events and now 30 years later this is a bustling tourist town with people coming from all over to take a look either on a day trip or stayover.
        It has become the “Town of Murals” and festivals and new mural contests are held every year.
        Rushworth would be an ideal town to do the same as it has a most colorful history with past mining,timber farming industries etc and although the idea is not original the outcome would be unique and compliment what already exists.

        Graeme Howard
        • Hi Alan. I’m moving to Rushworth and bringing my Cattle Artificial Breeding Compnay with me. I’ve got a place on McLean Rd and very into history. I spent a few years working for the National Trust. Was wondering if we could meet up and have a chat please?
          Garth

          Garth
  • Might be worth adding some words about this rather famous Rushworth lad…
    When driving through over Christmas, we stopped in Rushworth for a pie (very good) and ice cream (very, very good). I found a plaque with a short version of his epic history on the side of the picnic building, in the main street medium strip.
    (from Wikipedia)
    Air Vice Marshal Francis Hubert (Frank) McNamara, VC, CB, CBE (4 April 1894 – 2 November 1961) was an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for valour in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to a member of the British and Commonwealth forces. Serving with the Australian Flying Corps, he was honoured for his actions on 20 March 1917, when he rescued a fellow pilot who had been forced down behind enemy lines. McNamara was the first Australian aviator—and the only one in World War I—to receive the Victoria Cross. He later became a senior commander in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

    Gerard Hammond
  • My grandfather was born in Rushworth in 1883. There is no birth address on his birth cert. Would there have been a hospital in Rushworth at that time or would it have been a mining camp birth?

    Janine Dale
  • We were travelling through and was keen to find Cracknell bakery as I have the same name but couldn’t find anything. When we went to Rushworth Bakery the girl had never heard of it. Wicked selection of pastries there but coffee was average. Yes you do have a dilemma with the isolation feeling of the town. Maybe you could advertise the gold factor through creating a gold mining festival with real estate promotion – ” tree change to rushworth” and create an educational aspect with schools and your Victorian education department. People come where there’s good food and fun

    Ann cracknell
  • My grandmother was born at Tatura, when her parents ran the Junction hotel at Whroo. The family later moved to Rushworth when greatgrand dad worked on the Waranga basin construction. John Colliver his wife Nettie and their son are buried at Rushworth.

    Wayne Blake
  • There’s a lot more people going to Rushworth because the houses are being done up.

    Dion Voisey
    • l am really happy that l have ran into this site because l really enjoyed reading all the
      stories. l have also been thinking about buying a few acres there, even though l have never
      been there before, but l guess it’s time to drive up and look around.
      Thank you all for sharing your stories.

      Paul
  • Hello, My name is Karen Willoughby. A Descendant of John Clayton and Emma Clayton(Nee Baker) I inherited a lot of very old Photos of Rushworth. Would you be interested in them for Your Local Historical Society. If so, I will send them to You. My Nanny and Twin sister were born in Rushworth, Along with Other family members. I’m happy for You to have them, As they are 90+ Years ago.

    Willoughby Karen