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Steiglitz, VIC

Historic gold mining town now an historic park.

Steiglitz, the first auriferous quartz mining site in Victoria, is a well-preserved gold mining town - "almost a ghost town" - which is now an Historic Park administered and maintained by Parks Victoria. The appeal of the Historic Park is that it is held in aspic. The visitor can see important buildings, ruins, mines and other historic artifacts while the five walks around the Park are through bushland noted for its remnants of the gold mining era as well as significant fauna and flora and the importance of its fossils. If you are planning a visit to the "historical experience" that is Sovereign Hill in Ballarat this is a "real" complementary experience. A gold town which has died. Heritage Consultant, Jane Lennon, has pointed out that Steiglitz was set up so people who have visited Sovereign Hill could appreciate the subtleties of the real thing – “the skeleton of a town where the visitors have to use their imagination to see the busy streets, the noisy quartz-crushing machines and the diggers working in the creeks.”

Location

Steiglitz is located 91 km west of Melbourne on the edge of Brisbane Ranges National Park. It is 40 km north of Geelong and 54 km south-east of Ballarat.

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Origin of Name

The town is named (with incorrect spelling) Steiglitz after the first European settlers, the sons of a Bohemian baron, Charles and Robert von Stieglitz who arrived in the district in 1842.

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Things to See and Do

Courthouse and the Self-Guided Walk
Completed and opened in June, 1875 for a contract price of £1600 this slate-roofed red brick courthouse was built when Steiglitz was a flourishing gold town. It is nearly identical to the Court Houses built in Ballan and Lilydale. All were constructed by the contractor, Thomas Watt. The gold was so unreliable that the population declined and the court house was closed in January, 1879. It was reopened in 1895 during renewed mining activities but it ceased operations in 1899. Parks Victoria took control of the building in 1977. It is now a museum with a display of photographs, maps and relics which is open Sundays from 1.00 pm. to 4.00 pm. It is run by volunteers so sometimes it does not open. The museum has a pamphlet which outlines a self-guided 45-minute walk which identifies the remains of the town. If the courthouse is closed there should be a pamphlet in the information box. Otherwise it can be downloaded at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/603537/Map-Stieglitz-Historic-Park.pdf. There is also extensive signage near the Car Park which indicates the historic route around the town.

Historic Buildings
There are a small number of remnants of the historic buildings that formed the nucleus of the gold mining town. There is Scott's Hotel (circa 1890s), a post office and general store (1865), a weatherboard cottage, some building foundations, some old streets, shafts and tailings, an old cemetery which opened in 1861 and is still used, but the most complete buildings are the Church of England and Roman Catholic Churches and the Court House. There was once more than 300 buildings in the town and the main mine was located behind the general store and Catholic Church

St Paul's Anglican Church
St Paul's Church of England Is a modest timber structure which dates from the time when the town was booming and the population was around 2,000 people. It was consecrated in 1871 by the Dean of Melbourne and continued to operate until 1962. The exterior was restored in 1988 and the interior in 1994. Behind it is a very modern toilet block.

St Thomas' Catholic Church
This simple wooden church was built in 1868-1869. Amusingly this modest timber church was moved to Plume Street, Norlane in 1951 where it was used as a church hall. It was returned to Steiglitz in December, 1982 when there was a scheme devised to protect the small township. There is a solitary grave in the churchyard. Today the church is home to the Steiglitz Historical Society. For more information check out http://www.steiglitz.com.au.

Historic Cairn
The cairn near the bridge is made of stone from the original Von Stieglitz homestead. It was near this site that William Hooley and Joseph Davis discovered the gold reef which, in 1855, led to the gold rush which produced the town.

Panning for Gold
The geology of the area is described as "Ordovician sediments typified by a thick bed of slates ... these sediments are folded and contain gold in quartz reefs associated with granite intrusions". It is possible to pan for gold in the section on Sutherlands Creek one kilometre downstream from the Meredith Road Bridge. You have to have a "current Miner's Right and can use pans, cradles and hand tools within the creek bed only."

 

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Other Attractions in the Area

Walks Around the Historic Park
There are five walks in the area surrounding the Steiglitz township.

(1) Steiglitz Circuit Walk - a self-guided 45-minute walk from the Court House which identifies the remains of the town and passes Gibraltar Mine and shares a section with the Deadmans Loop. If the courthouse is closed there should be a pamphlet in the information box. Otherwise it can be downloaded at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/603537/Map-Stieglitz-Historic-Park.pdf.

(2) Deadmans Loop - is a challenging 5.4 km, 1 hour, 45 minutes walk along the creek bed, through the bushland and past St Thomas's Catholic Church. It is described in detail at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/steiglitz-historic-park/things-to-do/walks-from-steiglitz-courthouse.

(3) Beards Gully Walk - is a difficult 6 km walk which can take six hours. It passes old mine shafts and involves some steep climbs. The walk is described in great detail at http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/steiglitz-historic-park/things-to-do/walks-from-steiglitz-courthouse.

(4) Native Youth Walk - heads towards Kinglock Mine from the Court House and is an extension of the Steiglitz Circuit Walk.

(5) Grahams Creek Walk - is an extension of the Steiglitz Circuit Walk. Itis a loop from the Crossing Picnic Ground through bushland to Grahams Creek Picnic Area.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the Kurong people, from the Wathaurong Aboriginal language group, had lived in the area for around 40,000 years.

* The first European settlers in the district were the squatters Charles Augustus and Robert von Stieiglitz, sons of a Bohemian baron, who leased Durdidwarrah Run in 1842.

* The von Stieiglitz family had left Durdidwarrah Run when alluvial gold was found on the property in 1853 by a squatter Andrew Love, the son of Geelong's first resident clergyman, and a carter named George Morton. Only a couple of hundred miners arrived.

* The gold rush in the district did not occur until a rich reef was discovered by Joseph Davis and William Hooley on Sutherland Creek in 1855. There were soon 2000 people on-site.

* By 1856 alluvial mining had ceased and quartz-crushing batteries were hard at work. It was believed that this was the richest quartz reef in Australia at the time.

* The population declined in the late 1850s but mechanised mining in the 1860s reinvigorated interest and profits. Quartz reefs were exploited in the 1860s and 1870s.

* By 1875 the town was sufficiently prosperous to justify the construction of the handsome slate-roofed red brick court house.

* Returns from the mines declined in the late 1870s and people left.

* By the 1880s there were no Aboriginal people left in the area.

* Mining started again in the 1890s however returns proved disappointing and commercial activity was already in decline by 1896.

* Many of the buildings were sold off and the Court House was closed in 1899.

* By 1900 there were 500 people and six quartz batteries in the valley.

* Low scale mining continued until World War II and ceased altogether in 1941.

* The local blacksmith closed in 1944.

* The local school closed in 1958.

* By 1966 the town's population was 13. That year the post office closed.

* The National Parks Service took control of the courthouse in 1977 and has since bought over half of the land on which Steiglitz stood, preserving the relics that remain.

* Steiglitz Historic Park was proclaimed in 1979.

* Today Steiglitz Historic Park covers 469 ha in the Brisbane Ranges and is an important example of what happens to a thriving town when the gold runs out. The current population is less than 20 people.

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Visitor Information

For more information call the Parks Victoria Information Centre on 13 1963. Steiglitz does not have a Visitor Information Centre. The closest is the Geelong Visitor Information Centre, 26 Moorabool Street, Geelong, tel: (03) 5222 2900

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Useful Websites

Parks Victoria has a very comprehensive website with a number of important downloads - see http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/steiglitz-historic-park for details.

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Got something to add?

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

8 suggestions
  • I am seeking the court record of John FAHY who was involved in a fraud case with George PEARSON in about January 1870 … Can you help please?????

    Sam Dawes
    • Hi Sam, There’s a little local not-for-profit group who raise funds to repair & maintain all the historic public buildings in Steiglitz. The biggest way they raise funds is to hold a bi-annual Festival & Reunion. And it’s on this year! Sunday, October 23rd – 10 am – 4 pm.
      At that Festival you’ll find two historical collections that may be of help to your search.
      Jack Boardman will have his personal collection (with laptop for instant info) in the little white church (St. Paul’s).
      While the Catholic Church will be open – it’s the museum of the Steiglitz Historical Society.
      There is also the Reunion element of the event. Past residents, & descendants of, come from far and wide to get together. Some of them may be able to help. It’s happened before.
      Good luck!
      From Steiglitz resident, Lindy Allinson

      Lindy Allinson
  • Hi, I’m one of the residents of Steiglitz Township. My husband’s family bought property here, and our children are third generation. Great site, though there are a few points you have wrong.

    1/ No matter what any heritage consultant may say, Steiglitz was NOT ‘set up’ to complement Sovereign Hill. Steiglitz is the real thing, not a replica. Nor was Sovereign Hill set up to complement Steiglitz. For, just like Steiglitz, Ballarat had a rich gold mining history all its own. Saying they complement one another would be more accurate.
    Steiglitz stands alone in its uniqueness. That’s why there are so many government management/protection plans, academic papers, and historical articles written about it.

    2/Parks Victoria DO NOT own all of the land on which Steiglitz stood/stands. They are the Caretakers of much of it, though the town has just under 1 dozen private homes and properties within it. Almost all of which are historical. That may not sound like much (to anyone who is not familiar with Steiglitz) though for this tiny town it equals more than half of what remains.

    3/ Our home is the small red brick cottage (circa 1870). You have not mentioned it in your spiel at all. It’s significant enough for Parks to classify it in their Management Plan. Made of the exact same bricks and pattern (Flemish) as the Courthouse it is believed to have been built to encourage the circuit judge to attend Steiglitz Courthouse. Back then most structures were canvas, wattle & daub or wooden slab. A brick building, with ornate features, was considered impressive. It was also a time when Steiglitz residents, cut off from the safety of local police, were vulnerable to escalating robberies & violence. Locals petitioned to have police and more court hearings regularly. Hence the theory of a ‘posh’ home being built to attract a judge.
    Apart from that, always great to read about the town I call home.
    With sunny Steiglitz smiles,
    Lindy

    Lindy Allinson
  • Hello Lindy, Was there a movie filmed in your area? It seemed familiar?

    Francesca Formoso
    • Thanks Bruce Elder, much appreciated. Am sure those visiting/researching will appreciate that too.
      Come have a chat at our next annual fundraising community event. This year is the smaller one, the Steiglitz Airing of the Quilts, in October. Quirky enough to have won Australia Day Event of the Year, and helps raise funds to repair/maintain all the public historic buildings in our tiny town…for Parks are basically broke. Check out the Back to Steiglitz webpage for more details. Hope you can make it, you’ll meet lots of locals, and hear some fabulous tales. Thanks, Lindy

      Francesca Formosa – we had The Flying Doctors filmed here, numerous tv commercials, various doco’s, though Tom Hanks/Speilberg movie was filmed about 20 kms away at the You Yangs a few years back…their big war movie. Probably many I don’t know about too. It’s so beautiful, attracts many artists, actors, muso’s & film makers. With smiles, Lindy

      Lindy Allinson
  • James and Bridget (Quinn) RYAN were the general store owners in 1894. Their daughter Mary married Michael Hickey in the Catholic church on the 24th Oct 1894. Mary and her parents had migrated from Limerick, Ireland around 1880.

    Ron Hickey