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Yackandandah, VIC

Superbly preserved historic gold mining town untouched by modernity

Yackandandah, known to the locals as "Yack", is an attractive, beautifully preserved, historic village. It is largely unchanged from its heyday as a gold mining town. Today the district is predominantly devoted to dairy farming and forestry. Many of the buildings are historic and the entire commercial area has been classified by the National Trust. The main street is lined with shady English trees (some planted in the 19th century), verandas, wide awnings, tea houses and cafes, galleries, shops selling crafts, gifts, antiques and collectables, a couple of country pubs and some gracious churches. Fishing, gold panning, gemstone fossicking, horse riding, bushwalking and four-wheel driving are all popular in the surrounding countryside.

Location

Yackandandah is located 308 km north-east of Melbourne via the Hume Highway and Beechworth. It is close to the New South Wales border being only 29 km south-west of Wodonga.

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Origin of Name

Like so many Aboriginal names the meaning of Yackandandah is obscure. One source argues that it is Waveroo word meaning 'country of hills' while other sources argue that it is a combination of two words meaning 'water hole' and 'rocks'. This theory argues that there was a large rock on top of a smaller rock in the water course now known as Yackandandah Creek.

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Things to See and Do

Yackandandah - A Walk in High Street
The Yackandandah and District Historical Society has produced an outstanding brochure - A Walk in High Street - which provides details of 37 places of historic interest on the town's High Street. It is masterful with accurate sketches of all the buildings accompanied by short, intelligent notes (it draws attention to the specific features of the buildings) and it is divided into "South Side" and "North Side" which are depicted on each side of the A3 sized brochure - all you have to do is turn the brochure over.

North Side
The numbering is "unorthodox" but the result is a simple wander from the Visitor Centre down the main street to the Yackandandah Hotel then turn the brochure over, and you walk from the Yackandandah Motor Garage back to the Soldiers Memorial. The historic centre of Yackandandah has been classified by the National Trust. It is an historically significant area with many buildings retaining their original shopfronts. Here is a simple walk around the main historic attractions in the town. Here are the buildings of note:

37. Post Office (1863)
On the corner of Wellsford Street is the location of the original post office, (Yackandandah's first public building), which was a timber structure. Half of the present building dates from 1863. Additions were made in 1887. It is now the home of the town's excellent and helpful Visitor Information Centre

35. State Savings Bank (1929)
Next to the Post Office on High Street is the former State Bank, a Classical building dating from 1929 which was once a doctor's surgery and residence.

27.The Athenaeum (1878)
The old Athenaeum (an institution for the promotion of scientific or literary learning) is located at 27 High Street. The Classical Revival building was erected in 1878 with a Classical facade, pediment and columns. It was once the social and intellectual heart of the town, housing 3000 books and two reading rooms.

23. Old Yackandandah Times Building (1870s)
The building was completed in the early 1870s. The Yackandandah Times was produced from 1890-1934. The printing presses operated in the back room.

21. Yackandandah Museum (1860)
Located in the Bank of Victoria building (1860) at 21 High Street and administered by the Yackandandah and District Historical Society. It consists of the bank and the manager's residence (1850s). Banking ceased in 1893. The Museum website (see https://yackandandahmuseum.wordpress.com for details) explains that "The Collection held by the Yackandandah and District Historical Society is a large and comprehensive collection of the many stories of this district, held in photographs, images, objects, registers, documents, letters, textiles, digital forms and research material.  It is almost fully catalogued on a specific cataloguing database, much of it is also either digitally scanned or photographed." The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday 11.00 am - 4.00 pm. Tel: (02) 6027 0627.
Outside the museum, on the footpath, is a sculpture of an acorn and an oak tree leaf, titled "Sound of Stone" which was commissioned from sculptor, Ben Gilbert, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Yackandandah & District Historical Society in February, 2019.

19. Ray Riddington's Store (1907)
In its heyday this was Yackandandah's largest store. It was destroyed by fire in 2006 and, with admirable commitment to the historic nature of the town, was rebuilt to the original design.

13. Bank of Australasia (1859)
Built in 1859 out of local granite, the building served as the Bank of Australasia. In the 1880s, when the bank had moved over the street (see No.8) it became a saddlery run by Jack Sealey. He added the central window.

11. Butcher's Shop (1858)
There has been a butcher's shop on this site since 1858. It has been remodelled and redesigned a number of times but retains its original function.

1. Yackandandah Hotel (1879)
On the north-western corner of High Street and Williams Street is the Yackandandah Hotel (1879). Beyond the hotel, the main road becomes Isaacs Avenue. It was named after Sir Isaac Isaacs, a local boy who was the country's first Australian-born Governor-General. 

High Street: South Side
The numbering is "unorthodox" but the result is a simple wander from the Yackandandah Motor Garage up the main street to the Soldiers Memorial. The historic centre of Yackandandah has been classified by the National Trust. It is an historically significant area with many buildings retaining their original shopfronts. Here is a second half of the walk. It traverses the south side of the main street. These are the buildings of particular note:

2. Yackandandah Motor Garage (1850s)
Looking suitably old and worn, the Yackandandah Motor Garage was originally a store which was built in the 1850s and later became a carriage showroom.

4. Headmaster's Residence (1919)
This cottage was built in 1919 and purchased by the Victorian Education Department in 1924. It subsequently became the local headmaster's residence. It has an elegant symmetry of construction. The site was originally occupied by the Commercial Hotel which was built in 1863 and burnt down 20 years later.

8. Bank of Australasia
Built in 1878 at a cost of £1,584, it dominates this end of the main street. It later became the ANZ Bank and remained open until 1996.

20. Yackandandah Bakery
Located at 20 High Street, this timber building was constructed around 1900. It has a splayed entrance, chamfered veranda posts and a timber stallboard.

28. Dean's Store
Located next door to the Star Hotel (1863) is the former Dean's Store, built 1864-65 of local brick. Note the intact shop front, lamb's tongue window mouldings and arched windows.

30. Star Hotel
This modest, single storey hotel was built by James Cardwell in 1863. The dining room was added later.

32. Memorial Gardens
On the corner of Wellsford Street and High Street, opposite the Post Office are the Memorial Gardens which have a timber pavilion, trim lawns and tall palm trees. They are ideal for a picnic break. The Victorian Heritage Council records that the gardens "were constructed after the First World War. The wrought iron fence was forged locally in Meurant's Foundry. The fence pillars list 216 names of those who served in the First World War and a Latin inscription: "Fidelis Usque Ad Mortem" - Faithful Even to Death." Check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/126396/download-report for more details.

Other Buildings of Interest
Primary School (1862)
Cross over Wellsford Street and on the corner is the primary school which was erected in 1862 and added to in 1872 and 1891. Note the decorative brickwork. Prior to 1862 this land was occupied by an Anglican church and the town's first Anglican school was built here in 1855.

Public Hall (1860s)
Located on High Street opposite the Primary School is a 19th Century public hall and an office of the Indigo Shire Council.

Sir Isaac Isaac's Home (1866)
On the north-eastern corner at 1 Isaacs Avenue is one of the town's first brick residences (c.1866). It was where Isaac Isaacs lived as a child. Today it houses Cheryl & Pete's Curios and Collectables shop which is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm daily, tel: (02) 6027 1727.

Stone Bridge and Gold Discovery (1859-1860)
Continue to walk on Isaacs Avenue and you will cross a charming old stone bridge across Commissioners Creek. It was built in 1859-60 as part of the Melbourne to Sydney Road. Further south where Commissioners Creek and Yackandandah Creek meet is the site where gold was discovered in 1852 resulting in a goldrush and the establishment of the town.

Holy Trinity Church (1861)
Continue beyond the stone bridge and turn right into Church Street. At 8 Church Street is the Holy Trinity Anglican Church (1861) and rectory (1867). The church has a particularly impressive and unusual stained glass window, designed by William Montgomery, which was created "In lasting remembrance of those church members of this Parish who served in the Great War 1914-1919 and especially those who laid down their lives". The Heritage Council of Victoria notes: "Montgomery sent a series of sketches to Yackandandah that might be suitable for their Soldiers' Memorial. He quoted £50 for a centre light only, FOB (forward on board) Melbourne, which was commissioned in January 1920. The Good Shepherd was chosen as the main subject, with a full list of volunteers and the men who died on active service in the lower section of the window. After installation in August 1920, the window was praised, but errors were discovered in the spelling of some names. Montgomery suggested that, '[t]he only way to remedy matters is to have the panel taken out & sent here to be altered - You will find what we call a 'cut bar' - i.e., a bar dividing the panels, between the names "Bullock" & "Melbourne". If you could get this taken out, & sent here, well packed with straw in a box we would alter & send back at once ....'. The account for £50, forwarded to the Reverend Preece in August 1920, was paid in January 1921, probably only after the errors were remedied and the window reinstated."

Court House (1864)
Located at 4a William Street, the Court House is a Classical Revival building with a brick loggia and detailed gable. The town's original police camp was established on this site in 1853. The Victorian Heritage Council notes that it was: "Designed by Gustav Joachimi of the Public Works Department in a conservative classical style, the single storey brick structure with corrugated iron roof, is set on a granite base. The building comprises a simple gable court room with three main rooms situated at the rear and a hipped brick porch at the front. Both the porch and window openings incorporate segmental arches. Distinctive local bricks are used to produce detailing such as corbelling to the main roof gable, dentils around the entrance arches and extrados mouldings." For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/1246.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Yackandandah Gorge
Walk down Wellsford Street from the Visitor Information Centre, cross Yackandandah Creek, and you will see a sign for the Yackandandah Creek Gorge Walk. It is a delightful walk beside the creek in an area which is rich in deciduous trees. The path is easy and uncomplicated and eventually reaches the 100m gorge which was built by miners in 1858. The Gorge was cut through solid granite by pick and shovel and the Yackandandah Creek was diverted to run through the gorge. The original dam wall diverted the creek and a tail race was constructed in 1859. It was deepened in the 1880s to form a narrow gorge. This allowed miners to access the gold along the original creek bed. The walk passes through an area that was extensively mined and takes in two diversion walls. The walk from Wellsford Street takes around 45 minutes.

Kirby's Flat Pottery
Kirby's Flat Pottery is the long-established workshop of John Dermer, a craftsman with an international reputation (his work is exhibited in Germany, the USA, the UK and around Australia) whose works are displayed in the Australian National Gallery and at Parliament House. The experience of the gallery is twofold: there is an excellent gallery with photographs and pottery and the gardens around the gallery are adorned with pots and, in autumn, are "brushed with colour from weeping maples and cherry trees." It is open weekends from 10.30 am - 5.00 pm and all Victorian school holidays. It is located 4 km south of Yackandandah at 225 Kirbys Flat Road, tel: (02) 6027 1416 or check out http://www.johndermer.com.au.

Yackandandah Cemetery
The Yackandandah Cemetery is located north-east of town on Wodonga Road. The cemetery was established in 1859 and contains the graves of gold miners and other early settlers, including an area reserved for Chinese interments (up the hill and to the right). In the grounds are a Lawson Cypress, Canary Island Strawberry Tree and Irish Strawberry Tree all of which are registered with the National Trust. There is excellent signage on the far side of the road which tells the history of the cemetery and, for nature lovers, a remarkable sign recording the "Pre-European Vegetation" of the area. It explains that "Prior to European settlement, the gentle slopes around Yackandandah where this cemetery is located, supported a grassy open forest with an open shrubby layer including Silver Wattle, Hairy Bursaria and Red-stem Wattle. The trees that would have formed the canopy, Red Stringybark, Broad-leaf Peppermint, Yellow Box can be seen in the surrounding paddocks. The fertile soils supported a diverse range of native grasses, herbs, orchids and lilies. At this time there were no weeds present."
Sites are marked with a "Remnant Native Flora" sign. "These sites are like time capsules, a window into the past, showing us how the ground layer once appeared. The amazing diversity is illustrated by one of the plots supporting 23 native species." To help visitors there are photographs of the native species including kangaroo grass, yellow bulbine lily, grass trigger-plants, purple coral pea and sun orchids.

Allans Flat
Located 10 km north-east of Yackandandah via Racecourse Road, Allans Flat is an huge hole, now a pleasant lake, which was created by hydraulic gold dredging between the 1890s and 1904. It is now a public reserve with grassed areas, picnic tables, and barbecues. A cairn at the entrance to the reserve on the southern side of the lake commemorates the occasion in 1845 when David Reid became the first European to take up land in the area. Gold mining occurred in the area from the 1850s to 1904. At one stage the local school had 200 children. Agriculture developed to feed the community and remained when the gold inevitably dwindled. The sign at the lake notes: "This site was once Staghorn Flat Township. The ground was picked over by alluvial miners until J.A. Wallace began operating his hydraulic barge, using high pressure sluicing right up to and under houses bought or leased for mining. The barge known as Staghorn Flat Number 1 worked 24 hours a day and moved along the site by flooding its hole and floating."

Osborne's Flat
The area known as Osbornes Flat is located 6 km from Yackandandah on Osbourne Flat Road. Little is left and today there is a church and a cairn on the left-hand side of the road which honours Hume and Hovell who passed through this area in 1824. Osbornes Flat emerged in the 1850s as a gold boomtown with five hotels, several stores, a school, essential tradesmen and a lodging house. Little remains of the village though if looked at carefully, the disturbed ground shows the scars of goldmining.

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History

* It is known, as a result of local rock art sites 20 km south of Yackandandah, that Aborigines from the Jaitmatang language group, were in the area at least 3,500 years ago.

* Explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell passed nearby the present townsite in 1824 on their way to Port Phillip.

* The first white settlers arrived in the area in 1837. James Osborne took up the Yackandandah No.1 station, Elizabeth Mitchell established the Yackandandah Lower run, and George Kinchington and his wife came overland from Sydney, crossed the Murray River and camped on Yackandandah Creek, near its junction with the Kiewa River (east of the townsite). They then established the Thirlingananga station. 

* The first gold was allegedly uncovered in 1845 when a water mill was being built on the Yackandandah run.

* Gold was discovered at the confluence of Yackandandah Creek and Commissioners Creek in December 1852.

* A goldrush started along the creek in 1853.

*  The population increased from 150 in 1853 to 3000 by 1862.

* A police camp was set up in 1853 overlooking Commissioners Creek. A lock-up, police residence, police station and courthouse were added in the ensuing decade.

* Three hotels had been licensed by 1854.

* By 1855 an Anglican school had been opened. There was a resident clergyman and the site had become a major staging post on the Melbourne to Sydney wagon track.

* Australia's first Australian-born governor-general, Sir Isaac Isaacs, was born at Yackandandah in 1855.

* By 1855 the town had around 1,500 people. The Anglican Church was built that year.

* The town was first surveyed in 1856 and lots sold.

* Land sales started in 1857. The stone bridge was built in 1857.

* The Bank of Victoria was opened in 1860.

* A Roads Board was established in 1862.

* The shire was proclaimed in 1864.

* A notorious early resident of the region was bushranger Dan 'Mad Dog' Morgan who, in 1860, was released from prison on a ticket-of-leave to the Yackandandah and Ovens districts.

* Deep mining got under way in the late 1850s when the 61 Twist Creek and Homeward Bound reefs were discovered in the hills.

* During the 1860s about 350 kg of gold were extracted.

* By 1871 the town had 552 residents.

* The Athenaeum was opened in 1876.

* The 1870s saw the introduction of hydraulic sluicing

* Bucket dredges were utilised from the 1880s until the early 20th century.

* In 1890 the Yackandandah Times was first published.

* Wine production was established in the 1890s although the vineyards were soon destroyed by phylloxera.

* The railway arrived from Beechworth in 1891.

* The old minesites retained enough material to allow some people to eke out a living during the Great Depression.

* The railway line closed in 1955.

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Visitor Information

Yackandandah Visitor Information Centre, 37 High Street (The Old Post Office), tel: (02) 6027 1988.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website - http://www.uniqueyackandandah.com.au/ with information about accommodation and eating.

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Got something to add?

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

2 suggestions
  • david john whitteker found gold in the area and went on to be a prominent person in surrounding areas, he gave back to the community and was in the local council in bright,everton beechworth a good man

    bev whatmore
  • Hi there,
    Back in the 1970’s a mate of mine (Jon Wilcox, now deceased), set up a quite large, quartz crushing plant on the Twist Creek Rd, on the site of the old State Primary school, now, long since demolished. From memory, it was a 3 or 5 head stamper, with sluice table etc.
    We lost track of each other in the 1980’s and I sighted this plant in the 1990’s but forget exactly where it is (was) on the Twist Creek Rd.
    Are you able to send me the lat and long co-ords please
    Thank you – Ross Wareing

    Ross Wareing