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 outstanding Sculpture Trail walk beside Adelong Creek and the excellent remnants of the goldmining era which still exist at the Adelong Falls Reserve
Adelong is 411 km south-west of Sydney via the Hume and Snowy Mountains Highways. It is 340 m above sea level.^ TOP
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.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
An Historic Walk Along Tumut Street and Beyond
There is a delightful historic walk along the main street (Tumut Street) which passes most of the town's historic buildings. It includes the Royal Hotel, the Bank of New South Wales (1882), the Hotel Adelong, the Post Office (1886), the Apex Park and The Old Pharmacy (1877); and on the corner of Havelock Street is a rare example of a miner's cottage dating from 1873. There are informative signs with historic photographs outside the buildings. 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.
Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail
The Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail is a public collection of over 35 sculptures in seven locations across the Snowy Valleys. Sculptures by artists from across Australia and the world are being installed in the towns of Adelong, Batlow, Tumbarumba, the hamlet of Tooma and the Tumbarumba wine region cellar doors at Courabyra Wines, Johansen Wines and Obsession Wines. The sculptures will be installed in three phases: 5 May, 2022, late 2022 and April 2023.
Over 20 sculptures were installed by 5 May, 2022 including:
• Adelong Creek Walk – ten sculptures
• Batlow – four sculptures and two shop art projects on Pioneer Street
• Courabyra Wines – two sculptures
• Johansen Wines – two sculptures
• Tumbarumba – six sculptures (including three sculptures installed in December 2021 gifted by the Friendship Society of Denmark, Australia and New Zealand) and one shop art project on The Parade
• Obsession Wines – one sculpture
• Tooma – one sculpture
The sculptures to be installed in phases two and three are being made specifically for the Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail following visits to the area by artists.
The Sculptures Along Adelong Creek
A few years ago, in an act of great environmental integrity, all the beautiful willow trees along Adelong Creek were cut down. It was necessary – willows are shameless water guzzlers – but rather sad and it certainly gave the creek the appearance of a rather sad and very bald old man.
So, the question was “What to do with the new, clean banks of the creek?” The Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail Artistic Director, David Handley, explains: “The idea … was to create a permanent outdoor sculpture collection in the Snowy Valleys as a new cultural tourism project in response to the bushfires of 2019-2020.”
It was decided that the staff of Sculpture by the Sea (an annual event at Bondi in Sydney and Cottesloe in Perth) would work with a local committee and that sculptures would be placed at Adelong, Batlow, Tumbarumba and Tooma. The highlight would be ten sculptures along Adelong Creek.
At the time of writing (the first collection of sculptures were installed in May 2022) there are ten sculptures carefully placed along an easy 15-minute walk along the creek. Starting from the Car Park near the Snowy Mountains Highway, they are:
* USAGI Shelter - by Osamu and Masako Ohnishi from Japan - an image of a rabbit head made from aluminium, stainless steel, concrete, acrylic and paint.
* Follow the Signs - by Guiliana de Felice from New Zealand - a series of enigmatic signs made from treated timber.
* A Scene: Dedicated to Handel's The Water Music - by Takeshi Tanabe from Japan - a slab of black granite smoothed and depicting waves
* Gumnut Cap Trio - by Tania Spencer from Western Australia - three copper wire forms hanging from a tree
* Schism - by Michael Le Grand from New South Wales - an abstract form made from steel and painted.
* The Elder - by Ron Gomboc from Western Australia - two tall abstract forms made from marine grade aluminium.
* The Big Wave - by Shaumyika Sharma from USA and WA - a long wave-like structure made from reinforced coloured concrete.
* F.E.H. - by Lubomir Mikle from Slovakia - a squared abstract made from corten steel.
* Pink Eggplant - Akiho Tata from Japan - two large pink eggplants made from granite and painted pink and blue-green.
There is a detailed map and extensive information about each of the sculptures at https://sculpturebythesea.com/snowyvalleys/map-guide. A brochure is available at the Tumut Visitor Information Office.
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 makes 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.
Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins
The Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins, which are located off Grahamstown Road to the west of the town, is a combination of walks, some falls and pools where it is 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.
* Prior to European settlement the Adelong Valley was inhabited by members of the Wiradjuri First Nations 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 centre 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.^ TOP
Adelong Country Creations (02 6946 2806) at 51 Tumut Street operates as an informal visitor centre with brochures and maps of the town. The nearest official visitor information centre is the Tumut Region Visitor Information Centre, 5 Adelong Road, Tumut, tel: 02 6947 7025.^ TOP
There is a useful website - https://www.visitsnowyvalleys.com.au/adelong - which includes information about accommodation in the town.^ TOP