Beautifully preserved historic gold mining town
Beechworth is a carefully and tastefully preserved 19th century gold mining town which has become one of Victoria's most popular historic goldrush experiences. It has over 30 National Trust-listed buildings, most of which have been well preserved. The extensive use of honey-coloured local granite, and the determination to maintain the facades of many of the town's historic buildings has ensured that it is an ideal place for visitors to just wander and experience. The public parks and gardens, with their mature English trees, the wide tree-lined streets, the 19th century houses and the picturesque setting in the foothills of the Australian Alps contribute to the graceful and dignified air of this charming town.
Beechworth is located 285 km north-east of Melbourne via the Hume Freeway . It is 550 m above sea level.^ TOP
Origin of Name
It is believed that when the town was surveyed in 1853 the government surveyor decided to rename Spring Creek, which had sprung up as a hastily constructed gold mining town, after his birthplace in Leicestershire, UK. There is no UK town of Beechworth but there are a number of streets and private houses by that name.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
To explore the historical richness of Beechworth you will need to visit the Beechworth Visitor Information Centre in Ford Street (or tel: 1300 366 321) and purchase the excellent Self Guided Walking Tour. It is a cleverly designed guide which opens to reveal a total of 34 places of historic interest along Ford Street and 16 places of interest in Camp Street. A total of 50 places. Each has a photograph on the brochure and a suitable explanation of their age and importance. There are more detailed descriptions, of all the places marked in bold type, below. They are, from the starting point of the Bank of Victoria in Ford Street, as follows:
* Bank of Victoria
* Freeman's Stores - Clements Buildings
* Tanswell's Commercial Hotel
* Crawford and Connolly Coaches
* Dodds Leather Merchants
* Senglemann and Reidle
* Methodist Church
* Christ Church
* Fiddes Furniture and Timber Store
* Salvation Army Citadel
* J Kyle, Builder
* Cheapside House
* Gammon's Pharmacy
* Star Hotel
* Star Theatre
* Newspaper Office
* Bank of New South Wales
* Parkinson's Garage
* Police Superintendent's Residence
* The Oriental Bank
* Town Hall - Visitor Information Centre
* Town Hall Gardens
* Presbyterian Church
* HM Prison Beechworth
* Police Residence
* Beechworth Historic and Cultural Precinct
Gold Warden's Office
Chinese Protector's Office
Wooden Lock Up
Stone Lock Up
* Post Office
* Post Office Hotel
* Zincke's Office
* Empire Hotel
* Alliance Hotel
* Beechworth Sweet Company
* Beechworth Bakery
* Brays Photographic Studio
* Newspaper Office
* The Doctor's House
* London Tavern
Former Bank of Victoria - now Beechworth Gold
The former Bank of Victoria building - one of several substantial bank buildings which emerged in the heyday of the gold era – currently houses Beechworth Gold which is officially located at 29 Camp Street. It is on the corner of Ford Street and Camp Street. The current building was completed in 1867 to replace a large stone bank built in 1857 but destroyed by fire. The building features arched windows on the ground floor and a small cast-iron balcony above the main entrance. Inside you can see the original gold vault which was used when the building was a gold office. It also contains an impressive 24-light chandelier with over 4000 crystals and some solid gold horseshoes. The original toilet blocks, servants' quarters and balcony have been restored and a Victorian-style fountain has been installed in a fine stone pool within the garden area and there are impressive wrought-iron gates. For more information check out https://www.beechworthgold.com.au/.
* Tanswell's Commercial Hotel
Located at 50 Ford Street, Tanswell's Commercial Hotel was built in 1873 to replace the 1853 wooden original. The first hotel, a single storey building, was built by JD Fisher and he sold the premises to T Tanswell. The second, and current, hotel is a two-storey stone and brick structure with a decorative iron lacework veranda. The facade, with its richly gilded crest on the front window and French doors, has been carefully restored. The Kelly gang are said to have frequented the establishment, even when there was a price on their heads. To the rear of the building are the coach house and stables which were built in 1859 by an American named Hiram Crawford who established his firm and a coach-building works with Tanswell's acting as the booking office. A regular coaching service operated from Melbourne to Beechworth by 1854 but Crawford's proved the most successful. There is more detailed information at https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/105.
* Methodist Church
Located at 26-30 Ford Street, this former Methodist Church dates from 1857. The Victorian Heritage Database notes: “The construction of the present stone church, which was the first permanent church building on the Ovens goldfields, was initiated by Rev John Christian Symons, who came to Beechworth as minister in 1856. He was later to make important contributions to the Methodist Church in Victoria. The foundation stone of the church was laid in January 1857 and the building was completed in April of the same year at a cost of £2105/14/6. The architects were Powell & Clarke and the builder was Benjamin Jarvis of Collingwood. Small extensions were made to the church in 1858.” It is a simple Gothic style building made from local granite rubble “stuccoed on the front and rear gabled facades, and with a corrugated iron roof. The front facade has angled corner buttresses with stylised pinnacles, a quatrefoil and blind lancet in the gable, drip moulds over the windows and central door, and an Irish cross at the head of the gable. The building is notable for its use of local granite, giving it a character peculiar to the Beechworth area. The delicate Gothic glazing bars on the windows appear to have survived intact.” For more details check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/104.
* Christ Church
Located at 29 Church Street is Christ Church Anglican Church which was erected in stages. The Australian Christian Church Histories website (see https://www.churchhistories.net.au/church-catalog/beechworth-vic-christ-church-anglican) notes: “The Church was erected in two stages. The foundation stone for the first stage, comprising the nave, was laid in 1858; the contractors were Stevens and Balfour. The tower and chancel were added in 1864. Built of local granite, the church is dominated by the square tower centrally located at the west end. Pairs of buttresses express each corner of the tower and it is crowned by a castellated parapet. The architect was Leonard Terry.” The Church is considered 'exemplary of early provincial church design.'
* Former Star Hotel
Located at 33 Ford Street is the former Star Hotel is actually the third building on the site to go by that name. The first, which was the first hotel in the town, was built in 1853. It was extended in 1857 and altered in 1864. A 500-seat theatre was built within the hotel in 1857 where acts of international renown performed for the miners. As such it was the social centre of the district. The Victorian Heritage Database (see https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/68670/download-report) explains: “The present structure was once part of a large complex which was the focal point of social life in the town and the largest hotel in the district. It is a fine example of Australian country hotel architecture, simply composed with a deep verandah to the street. The drawing room on the first floor is a notable feature of the interior. The Star Hotel is an outstanding element of the Ford Streetscape.”
* Bank of New South Wales
Located at 87 Ford Street, the old Bank of New South Wales is a two-storey stone structure was built in 1856-57. The bank had opened in 1853 and this building, designed by Robertson and Hale, is “a simple, conservative classical style, the bank is a two-storey rendered brick building which utilises its corner site. Emphasis is placed on the chamfered corner which incorporates the entrance, quoined corners at first floor level and a distinctive coat of arms at parapet level. The latter is highly modelled and incorporates a kangaroo, emu, lion and rising sun surrounding a central coat of arms. The remainder of the building is devoid of decoration and windows are simple, unadorned rectangular openings. The ground floor of the building employs banded rustication, and this horizontality is accentuated by a continuous sill at ground level, a plain cornice dividing the ground and first floor levels and another at parapet level. A separate entrance in Ford Street originally provided direct access to the gold buying office. High granite walls, which surrounded the rear yard of the property for security, have been retained with minor alterations.” For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/112.
* The Oriental Bank
Located at 97 Ford Street, the original Oriental Bank building has been turned into a luxury Bed and Breakfast. The Freeman on Ford website (http://beechworthluxurybedandbreakfast.com.au/) explains: “Built in 1876, Freeman on Ford was originally the Oriental Bank, once favoured by Beechworth's then substantial Chinese gold-mining population. Designed in the Renaissance palazzo mode by prominent Melbourne architect Leonard Terry, in recent years Freeman on Ford has seen meticulous renovations in which the building's Victorian Italianate architecture has been returned to its original splendour.”
* Town Hall - Visitor Information Centre
Located in Ford Street and now home to the local Visitor Information Centre, the Beechworth Town Hall was built in 1859. It was designed by architects J.J. Coe and Thomas Dalziel and built in granite by local contractors Donald and William Fiddes. Over the years it has been a public hall, a courthouse (with cells beneath) and now a Visitor Centre. In 1889, the front to the building was replaced by a new two-storey section designed by George Jobbins and built by Thomas Sandham. The hall consist of five bays intersected by pilasters and is designed in a classical idiom. There is lots of interesting information about the organ in the hall which can be found at https://ohta.org.au/organs/organs/BeechworthTownHall.html
* Town Hall Gardens
The town hall gardens were a public space as early as 1857. They were formally laid out in 1875 and contain some exotic species donated by Ferdinand von Mueller who was responsible for Melbourne's Botanic Gardens. The giant Californian sequoias date from this time. The fountain and the rotunda date from 1876. There is a useful storyboard which has been erected on the site. Check out https://www.beechworth.com/visitor_information/gardens.html for more information.
* St Andrew's Uniting Church
Located over the road from the Town Hall Gardens at 115 Ford Street is St Andrew's Uniting Church (1857). It was originally the town’s Presbyterian Church having been built by the Scottish and Ulster Presbyterians who settled in the area. The Australian Christian Church Histories (see https://www.churchhistories.net.au/church-catalog/beechworth-vic-st-andrews-uniting) “It was designed by local architect Thomas Turnbull and built by Smith, Bank and Cranston. The building comprises an unusual square tower, pinnacles and spire; matching panel-backed buttresses; lancet windows with label mouldings; and intersecting arch window tracery. It includes an exposed brick Sunday school that was added to the rear of the church in 1883. The tower has pairs of tiered buttresses in each corner which are surmounted by pinnacles.
* HM Prison Beechworth
Located on the corner of Ford Street and Williams Street, this huge collection of buildings includes (as the Victorian Heritage Database explains): “the perimeter walls and watch towers, the entrance gateways and iron gates; the gaolers quarters and turnkeys quarters on either side of the entrance; the interior division walls; the two cell blocks, the central hall, the kitchen wing, the former dining hall and office wing; the former governor's residence to the east; the stone quarry at the rear; the front garden; the external granite retaining walls around the site; and the archaeological potential, including the nineteenth century burials.” The very detailed entry (see https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/119) goes on to explain: “A major period of gaol construction began in Victoria during the late 1850s, with nine imposing stone gaols built between 1857 and 1864. These were all designed by the Public Works Department, and conformed to a new English concept in prison design, called the panopticon, where radiating wings of cells could be kept under observation from a central hub. The gaols were all enclosed by high perimeter walls with observation towers and stone gateways flanked by staff living quarters. The Beechworth Gaol was built in several stages, using granite quarried on the site by prisoners. The panopticon with two wings of cells, a central hall and a kitchen wing were built in 1859-60, and the gaol opened in 1860 while still incomplete. The walls, offices, outhouses and staff accommodation were completed by 1864. The contractors were H Dalrymple and George Simmie and the total cost was £46,763. Conditions were primitive and it was not until 1993 that the cells were provided with toilets and running water. The gaol has a close association with the Kelly gang, with Ned Kelly imprisoned there for a total of about two years between 1870 and 1880. Ned's brothers Dan and James, other members of his gang and his mother, Ellen, and her new-born baby also spent time there. Twenty-five Kelly sympathisers were held there awaiting trial, as were Crown witnesses during committal hearings.” It goes on to point out that “The Former Beechworth Gaol is architecturally significant as a substantially intact example of the panopticon-type prisons erected in Victoria in the nineteenth century. It demonstrates the restrained ornamentation and high quality construction characteristic of Public Works Department buildings at the time. The Former Beechworth Gaol is a major architectural work of Gustav Joachimi, whose other designs include the entrance to Melbourne's Pentridge Prison, Benalla Court House, and A-Block and J-Block at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne). It forms part of an important precinct of public buildings in Beechworth.” From the roadside it is possible to enjoy the sight of the massive granite perimeter walls, the picturesque rounded sentry towers with octagonal roofs and the arched gateway flanked by offices and quarters."
* Beechworth Historic and Cultural Precinct
Located on Ford Street, the Victorian Heritage Register lists the buildings that are part of this impressive Justice Precinct as follows: “Originally forming part of the government camp, the site on which the Justice Precinct is situated, had officially been gazetted as a police reserve by 1856. In the period 1857-60 numerous weatherboard government offices, which were constructed when gold was first discovered, were replaced by a more substantial complex of public buildings, constructed of local honey-coloured granite. Most of these early granite buildings still survive and included in the Justice Precinct are; the former Telegraph Office (1858), Court House (1859), Police Station (1858 originally Sub-Treasury and Gold Office), Chinese Protectors Office (1858) and the Gold Wardens Office (1859). Also surviving on the site are the brick Stables (1870), portable timber Lock-Up, and brick Police Residence 1912-13. Along with other notorious criminals including other members of his family, Ned Kelly appeared before the Beechworth court during the 1870s on robbery and assault charges. What is now known as the Police Paddock also originally formed part of the government camp and once contained Police Barracks, Superintendent's Quarters, Offices, Officer's Quarters, Offices, Police Kitchen and a stone Lock-Up. Records demonstrate that most of these buildings were on the site in 1859 and constructed of timber. The only one of these remaining is the stone Lock Up which was constructed in 1867 and has since been partly demolished. The Police Superintendent in Beechworth during the 1850s was Robert O'Hara Burke, who was later to become famous for his exploration expedition with William John Wills. He died in 1861 while on that expedition."
It points out the significance as “The group of five distinctive granite buildings facing Ford Street is aesthetically significant for the fundamental contribution it makes to the streetscape of Beechworth. It is a rare example of such a collection of buildings. These five buildings are of architectural significance for their construction of unusual honey coloured granite, which was collected locally. The buildings demonstrate early stonemasonry techniques and fine craftsmanship. The Warden and Chinese Protector's Offices are rare surviving examples of their type and period, with the Chinese Protector's Office, in particular, being a unique example of a building associated with that specific function. The Telegraph Office is also a rare surviving example of its type in Victoria. The Police Stables and the Police Residence are fine intact examples of their type, and contribute considerably to representing the continuing history of the site.” For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/108.
The Courthouse Museum, the Gaol and Ned Kelly
Located at 96 Ford Street, is the former courthouse (1858), now a living history museum which retains its original furniture, has an excellent Law Library as “features an atmospheric soundscape, featuring audio re-enactments of some of the key cases heard and our expert historians bring to life some of the dramatic events which took place inside these walls, including the committal trial which sealed Ned Kelly’s fate.” Thirteen people were sentenced to death from the dock of the Beechworth courthouse, including Elizabeth Scott, the first woman executed in Victoria, who murdered her husband. Three executioners/public floggers (they were all prisoners seeking remissions of sentence through their service) were active at Beechworth, including Elijah Upjohn who hanged Ned Kelly. The courthouse closed in 1989 and opened as a museum in 1991. Built of granite by Scottish stonemasons it features a central block with gabled ends containing the main courtroom, flanked by office wings. The furniture and fittings are original. It is open seven days a week from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm with last admission at 4.30 pm. Tickets can be purchased at the Visitor Information Centre or at the Courthouse. See https://www.explorebeechworth.com.au/listing/beechworth-historic-courthouse/ for more details.
Erected in 1858 with the front veranda dating from 1900. “This is one of Victoria's few surviving early telegraph offices; part of the original 1858 structure survives at the rear of the present front wing which was erected c. 1880. The building is solidly constructed in distinctive local granite and forms part of the finest group of provincial public buildings in Victoria. The front wing has distinctive arched windows with extrados and import mouldings. The veranda brackets are also noteworthy.” For more information check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/68680.
Wooden Lock Up also known as Ned Kelly's Cell
Located at the rear of the Town Hall is a small dark cell with a dirt floor which, for six months, imprisoned Australia's most notorious bushranger, Ned Kelly (then aged 15), following his first conviction in 1871. In 1878 it also housed Ned’s mother, Ellen Kelly. It was built to house prisoners who had been arrested and were waiting for trial in the Court House.
Dominating the town's main intersection (Ford and Camp Streets) is the post office. It was built in 1869-70 to replace the original which was destroyed by fire in 1867. It was designed by Peter Kerr who incorporated the tower, which dated from 1865, into his design. The present building is an Italianate structure with a square tower containing a bell and the original clock. It features a colonnade on the ground floor and a balcony with slender columns facing Camp Street. On the street is an unusual iron drinking fountain with spouts in the shape of a lion's head. For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/103.
Located at 26-28 Camp Street, since 1864 there has been a newsagency on this site. The original wooden structure was destroyed in the great fire of 1867. It was owned by James Ingram, known as the 'Grand Old Man of Beechworth' who sold books during the goldrush and who was a driving force in the development of the first hospital and first school in town. The sign above the awning reads: “J. Ingram Bookseller”.
Located at 22 Camp Street, Zincke’s Office has been a solicitor's office since it was built in 1861. Zincke was the solicitor for the Kelly family, including Ned and Ellen and their associates. There is an excellent article of William Zincke in the Law Institute Victoria website. Check out https://www.liv.asn.au/mobile/home/law-institute-journal/Article?NodeID=663397&NodeParentID=663371. It notes: “The first solicitors to occupy the building were William Lawrence Zincke and his senior partner Frederick Martin. Born in Jamaica and educated as a lawyer in the UK, Zincke became the clerk of the court in Beechworth in 1855, before setting up his legal practice in the Camp Street premises.
By all accounts Zincke was a sought-after solicitor who found plenty of business in the bushranger-besieged north-east in the late 1800s. He represented gang members Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt, and defended Ned Kelly’s mother Ellen Kelly when she was charged, along with William Skillion and William Williamson, for the attempted murder of Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick. At the Glenrowan siege of 1880, the entrepreneurial lawyer offered his services to those involved. He acted for more than 20 Kelly sympathisers who were being held in the Beechworth Gaol."
Located on the corner of Camp Street and High Street, the Empire Hotel has the dubious distinction of having been burnt down twice – in 1867 and 1879. The 1867 fire started in the hotel stables and destroyed seven buildings with another four buildings being seriously damaged.
Located at 1A Camp Street, the Alliance Hotel (now the Nicholas Hotel) dates back to 1857. The hotel’s website explains: “In January 1857 William Corbert Jones Parry acquired land in Camp Street and built a single storey premises that opened to the public as The Hotel Alliance on August 13. Over the next 80 years the hotel had many owners and lessees and with the coming of the Great Northern Railway to Beechworth in the early 1870’s, the name was changed to The Railway Hotel. In August 1931 the hotel was purchased by Walter John Nicholas and in 1935 a second storey was added and the name changed again – this time to The Hotel Nicholas.” Check out https://www.hotelnicholas.com.au/history.html for more information.
Beechworth Sweet Company
Located over Camp Street from the Empire Hotel, and marked with “Purveyors of Fine Chocolates and Confectionary” this shop was built around 1858 and has been the entrance to a wide variety of businesses including a cake shop, funeral parlour, green grocer and sweet shop.
Originally Dunlop’s Pie Shop, and dating from 1857, this is one of the most popular destinations in the town. For most of its history it has been associated with baking and pastry cooks. In 1974 it was bought by Tom O’Toole. In 2001 local boy, Marty Matasoni, joined the business and he was largely responsible for expanding it so that today the company has bakeries in Albury (2004), Bendigo (2005), Ballarat and Healesville (2006) and Yackandandah (2017). Read more at https://www.beechworthbakery.com.au/our-story.
Brays Photographic Studio
Located at 33 Camp Street, and built in 1867, this was originally the photographic studio of James Bray who achieved fame by photographing Ned Kelly, his gang and his sympathisers. It is a simple single storey building. The Design & Art Online website notes: “Working in Camp Street, Beechworth, from about 1870 until 1891, Bray was one of four men who photographed the Kelly gang after the siege of Glenrowan in 1880.”
Located next door to the old Photographic Studio, this was the office of the Ovens Register. It is now known as the Green Shed.
The Doctor's House
Located on the corner of Camp Street and Loch Street, this handsome brick building was constructed in 1892-1893 by Dr Skinner. The site had already been used by doctors since 1856. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.
Located at 43 Camp Street, the former London Tavern (1859-62) was the town's first all-brick hotel. It is arranged around a veranda-ed courtyard. The Victorian Heritage Register notes: “The London Tavern is historically significant for its association with the Victorian gold rushes of the 1850s. When begun in 1859 it was the first brick hotel in Beechworth and the best hotel on the Ovens goldfields, and lay on what was then the main route between Sydney and Melbourne. It demonstrates the rapid growth of the goldfields towns, and the need for such facilities in these towns, following the discovery of gold in the early 1850s. The former hotel is also significant for its association with the early history of the urban conservation movement in Victoria. The London Tavern is architecturally significant as one of the most intact examples in Victoria of a country hotel building of the mid-nineteenth century. It is a rare surviving example of a goldfields hotel and demonstrates the sort of facilities provided for travellers and visitors at the time, with several public rooms at the front and bedrooms opening off rear verandahs. The bath house in the courtyard dates from a time when separate bathroom facilities in goldfield hotels were rare and is a unique example of its kind in Victoria.” See http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/places/result_detail/99?print=true for more information.
Other Places of Interest
St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church and Old Priory
Located at 9 Church Street (corner of Church and Loch Streets), the Gothic-style St Joseph’s Catholic Church is characterised by a fine rose window and interior granite columns. It had a complex early history – the Foundation stone was laid on 6 May 1868 by Bishop Goold. Then the first section, side aisle, was begun 1868, blessed 24 February 1872, and the nave foundation stone 27 June 1875 by Bishop of Sandhurst, Dr Crane. It was finally opened on 27 April 1879, renovated 1963-64, and gutted by fire with Lady Chapel worst affected in July 1977. In 1872 the Ovens and Murray Advertiser wrote: “The fine building is of granite of the best quality, and already presents a most imposing appearance. The part now temporarily completed comprises one aisle, and not quite half of the nave in width, the former terminating in what is intended for a Lady chapel, but is now occupied by the altar, which is very handsome, and is surmounted by a beautiful oriel [sic] window in stained glass, representing four scenes in the life of the Virgin Mary — the Nativity, the Immaculate Conception, the Marriage, and the Coronation — while in the centre is a representation of the Sacred Heart.”
Old Hospital Facade
Located on Church Street, the Old Hospital Façade is characterised by an elegant Palladian granite facade with outstanding stonemasonry featuring a triple-arched entrance topped by a stylised Classical pediment on top of paired Doric columns. This is all that remains of the Ovens District Hospital - once the largest hospital between Melbourne and Sydney and, for many years, the only hospital between Melbourne and Goulburn. It was built in stages from 1856 to 1900 with the facade dating from 1862-64. The complex, with the exception of this façade, was demolished in 1940. The Victorian Heritage Database (https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/68655) notes of its significance: “The hospital facade is a fine monument to the optimism held by the early settlers. Architecturally it is the most distinctive building in the town. Designed in an unusual stylised classical idiom, it reflects the work of Vanbrugh and heralds boom classicism. The entrance composition of three arches with fine coupled doric columns and a stylised pediment is unique. The arched windows with stylised extrados, mouldings and keystones, the superb stonework and the pediment finials, are all distinctive features.”
Murray Breweries Historic Cellars, Carriage Museum and Light Horse
Located at 29 Last Street, the Murray Breweries were built in 1865 at the height of the goldrush, at which time it was known as Billson's Brewery. The location has been used for brewing for over 150 years. The website explains: “The brewery site was chosen because the original owner, George Billson, had discovered a pure natural mountain spring flowing all the way from Mount Buffalo. The “Snowline” pure water has been used in the production of all the beverages ever since.” They have been trading as Murray Breweries since 1916. The building is constructed of hand-made bricks and Oregon beams.
The steam-heated cellars contain old machinery, tools and items used by brewers, coopers etc, including an international label collection, a collection of miniature bottles, hand-thrown stone jars, bottles of local origin and a syphon collection. The cellars are open daily from 9.00 am – 5.00 pm and there is also the opportunity to try the local cordials which include such exotic flavours as Cloves, Lime and Coconut, Mint Julep, Portello and St Clements, tel: (03) 5728 1304.
Housed in the same building is a collection of light-horse regimental memorabilia and a carriage museum, featuring 20 horse-drawn vehicles and saddlery, including a fire cart, a funeral hearse, a four-wheeled phaeton, a single-seat sulky and a Cobb & Co coach. It is open seven days from 9.00 am – 5.00 pm. Check out http://www.murraybreweries.com.au.
Beechworth Powder Magazine
Located in Skidmore Avenue, the powder magazine is a small buttressed room built in 1859 by T Dawson & Co to designs by Public Works, for storing the gunpowder used in goldmining. It was erected on a ridge which was separated from the town by a gorge and the inner roof is arched and the foundations double-arched so that an explosion would be directed upwards. A sandstone fence surrounds the building, a lightning conductor runs across the roof, the metal fixtures are of copper and the floor nails are of wood. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database (https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/68732) notes: “This is the best example in Victoria of this particularly important building type and is a distinctive element of this important historic town. Constructed in the superb local granite, its design is the finest of all the magazines in the State and reflects the required solidarity of the structure. The parapet and gables of the main storage room are incorporated into the side of the entrance vestibule which is unusually situated at one end. The tiny half buttresses and the perimeter stone walls are fine features. The building has been carefully restored to its original condition and is structurally sound.”
Located off Balaclava Road, the Beechworth Cemetery, was established in 1856. The detailed Beechworth Cemetery website (see https://www.beechworthcemetery.com.au) explains that: “Of particular historical significance is the Chinese Section of the cemetery. Here some 2000 Chinese gold seekers and settlers are buried. The Chinese Burning Towers (1857) were used for burning paper prayers and meals were provided on the altar (1883) for the spirits of the dead … The ornate iron gates and Beechworth granite entrance pillars were erected in 1888. The lawn section of the cemetery, opposite the main cemetery in Balaclava Road was opened in April 1999. The cemetery which has operated since 1856, has recently received registration with the Heritage Council – Victoria for its significance as a Goldfields Cemetery.
Golden Horseshoes Monument
Located at the junction of Sydney Road and Gorge Road is the Golden Horseshoes Monument. Monument Australia (see https://www.monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/government/colonial/display/30322-golden-horseshoes-monument) records that the monument: “Consists of gilt horseshoes on top of a cairn in memory of the day in 1855 that miners celebrated the election of their first local member of Parliament, Daniel Cameron. Cameron supposedly rode in a parade on a horse shod with shoes of gold. The election followed a period of rivalry between the "monkeys or wet diggers" who worked the creeks and wore black woollen trousers and large coloured handkerchiefs, and the "punchers or dry diggers" who worked the dry banks and gullies and wore moleskins. Cameron was the monkey’s candidate.
Gorge Scenic Drive
Located at the northern end of Camp Street, Gorge Road, a one-way route, was established in 1926. It is a 5 km scenic drive around the northern and western outskirts of Beechworth, taking in several lookouts, granite tours, picnic spots, stands of black cypress pines and waterfalls.
Near the end of Gorge Road is a viewing platform on the left-hand side of the road which has views of Newtown Falls. Another 50 metres will bring you to the intersection of Gorge Road and Ford Street, near Newtown Bridge.
Located on Bridge Road, Newtown Bridge was built by Scottish stonemasons from local granite in 1874. From the bridge it is possible to see a mining race carved from solid granite in 1866. It is 4 metres deep and 2 metres wide. Just upstream is the site of the first gold discovery in Beechworth. It is listed in the Victorian Heritage Database. Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/68647.
Beechworth Historic Park
Beechworth Historic Park contains a number of scenic, historic and geological features of interest. A series of walking trails criss-cross the Gorge area on the northern side of town. They connect the powder magazine, One Tree Hill (named for a single red stringy bark that survived the miners' determination to cut down every tree) the Spring Creek Cascades, a diversion dam built to divert water into a water race for usage in mining operations, The Precipice (which provides fine views over the former Reids Creek goldfields), Ingrams Rock, Fiddes Granite Quarry, the Reids Creek Goldfields (only a few shafts and alluvial mining sites remain) and Woolshed Falls.
The tracks start at three points along Gorge Road (One Tree Hill, the powder magazine and a point further along Gorge Road), from the Old Chiltern Road (which heads north from the intersection of Gorge Road and Sydney Road) and from Woolshed Falls. An accompanying leaflet is available from the Beechworth Visitor Information Centre or Parks Victoria. For more information check out https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/Beechworth-Historic-Park. Some sections of the track are steep. The Gorge Walk is part of an extended walk (7.23 km) which is described, with a map, at https://walkingmaps.com.au/walk/3425.
Beechworth Lunatic Asylum (Mayday Hills)
Located at Albert Road, the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, built in 1867, is now a National Trust building. It is a very large structure built of bricks in the Dutch colonial style with curved gables. For 128 years it was one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in the state. At its peak it had 67 buildings and over 1200 patients attended by 500 staff. The verandas, laid end to end, would measure almost a kilometre. The gardens were designed by a landscape gardener who also happened to be one of the first inmates. Water was supplied by rainwater which was funnelled from the roof into seven underground chambers via hollow veranda posts. The hospital closed in 1995 and it was purchased by La Trobe University in 1996. It was subsequently sold to local business people.
The main attractions include Ghost Tours (check out https://www.asylumghosttours.com for details) and self-guided tours of the gardens which “cover 27 acres and were planted in the 19th century. The rich botanical setting was founded on donations of exotic trees and shrubs from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. The gardens are set against a backdrop of magnificent native trees, most notably brittle gums. National Trust (Victoria) has recently classified over 200 of Mayday Hills trees as significant at a Regional or State level. The tallest tree in the gardens is a 50 metre high Douglas Fir, seen on the White Oak Walk.” Check https://www.victoriashighcountry.com.au/listing/mayday-hills-tree-walks-white-oak-walk for additional information and details of the walk.
Beechworth Historic Walking Tours
If you do not want to explore the town at your leisure, or you wish to get first hand information from a local guide, there are a number of historic walking tours which are conducted regularly from the Visitor Information Centre.
Other Attractions in the Area
The Kelly Connection
In 1869 Ned Kelly, who was 13 at the time, met the bushranger Harry Power who was operating in the district. Kelly's connection with Power resulted in Kelly being arrested and held in custody for seven weeks as a suspected accomplice. The charge was subsequently dismissed. Power was captured in 1870 and held at Beechworth where he was tried at the Court House and sentenced to 15 years to be served at Pentridge Gaol.
Kelly was first gaoled in the Beechworth lockup in 1870. He had assaulted Jeremiah McCormick. He was released in March, 1871 but gaoled again in August, 1871 for three years on the charge of receiving a stolen mare. He spent 18 months doing forced labour in the district before being sent to Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne.
Ned's younger brother James was sentenced to five years at Beechworth Gaol in 1873 for cattle duffing. While at the gaol he met future Kelly gang member Joe Byrne, a native of the area, who was serving time for assaulting a Chinese man. Byrne's accomplice in the assault had been Aaron Sherritt - Byrne would shoot Sherritt as an informer in 1880.
It was in Beechworth Gaol that Byrne and Sherritt met Steve Hart who, at the age of 16, had been sentenced to 12 months for horse theft. He too would join the gang. Perhaps the only reason James Kelly did not become an accomplice was the ten-year sentence he received at Wagga Wagga in 1878 for horse theft.
The other gang member was Ned's other brother Dan who was sentenced in 1877 for three months on a charge of damaging property. Soon after his release, a warrant for his arrest was issued for horse stealing.
Ned's mother Ellen, her neighbour William Williamson, and her son-in-law William Skillion, were tried at Beechworth courthouse and sentenced, in October 1878, for aiding and abetting in the 'attempted murder' of a trooper of dubious character named Fitzpatrick who visited the Kelly house in April 1878, ostensibly to arrest Dan Kelly. She was sentenced to three years and the men to six years each. The presiding judge (Redmond Barry) allegedly remarked that Ned Kelly would have received 15 years, if he were present, for his part in the Fitzpatrick affair. Subsequently, rewards were posted for the arrest of Dan and Ned, causing them to go into hiding in the Wombat Ranges where they were joined by Byrne and Hart. This led to the formation of the 'Kelly gang'.
Ned's last visit to Beechworth town, gaol and courthouse was after his final arrest in 1880. During the trial public support for Kelly was so strong that the government feared a mass break-in to secure his release. They replaced the old wooden gates of the gaol with the present iron doors. The government believed that an impartial local jury could not be found, so the trial was transferred to Melbourne where Kelly faced Redmond Barry who sentenced him to death.
Lake Sambell Reserve
Lake Sambell is located at the southern end of Camp Street (it becomes Albert Road). It was originally the site for the open sluice operation of the Rocky Mountain Mining Company. In the 1920s it was converted to a recreational lake where, today, it is used for swimming and fishing. The shoreline is popular for walking and cycling. The appeal of the lake lies in the Chinese Gardens, Sandy Beach and the Rail Trail and Walking Tracks.
Located at the south-western corner of the reserve, and designed along Feng Shui principles, these gardens are a memorial to the Chinese gold miners who lived and worked in the district.
Located on the northern shoreline of the lake, Sandy Beach is an artificial beach beside an adventure playground. It is an ideal place for family picnics.
Murray to Mountains Rail Trail
The 116 km Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, which runs from Wangaratta to Bright (see https://www.railtrails.org.au/trail?view=trail&id=50), has been extended so it passes beside Lake Sambell. There is a reconstructed 1891 railway bridge which passes over the Chinese Gardens and there are extensive signposts pointing out cultural and natural features.
The Lake Sambell to Lake Kerferd Walk
This 5 km walk (one-way) starts from the bridge over Silver Creek on Peach Drive, near Lake Sambell. It follows Silver Creek and Hurdle Creek to Lake Kerferd which is the town's water supply reservoir. There is no swimming in Lake Kerferd. The first section of the track leads to Lake Sambell Caravan Park. It passes through old mining sites where deep vertical shafts were established. They are dangerous so be sure to stay on the track which joins up with a vehicle track built to service the water pipeline which links Lake Kerferd with Beechworth. This area is moister and hence the trees tend to be taller. There are blue gums, white-barked brittle gums and peppermint with an understorey of shrubs. The fauna includes eastern grey kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, possums, koalas, parrots, honeyeaters and other birdlife. The local council established Lake Kerferd in 1862 to contain the waters of Hurdle Swamp. There is a useful map and details of the walk at https://www.explorebeechworth.com.au/listing/lake-sambell-to-lake-kerferd-walk.
Nine Mile Creek Historic Area (and Wallaby Mine)
The Nine Mile Creek Historic Area (including the Wallaby Mine) is located 10 km east of Beechworh on the Lower Nine Mile Road which leads to a carpark at the top of the Wallaby Mine. There are interesting reef-mining relics in this area. The Wallaby mine site features open stopes, water races, tunnels and the remains of a stamper battery which was used to crush ore-bearing rock. Its twelve stamping heads were powered by a single-cylinder steam engine. The stamper battery was built in 1912 and restored by Parks Victoria in 2003. The Goldfields Guide (https://www.goldfieldsguide.com.au/blog/39/wallaby-mine-gold-battery) notes of the Wallaby Mine site that it is “a rare surviving example of its kind. It is amazing how much machinery has remained here over the years without being scavenged. Other significant remaining objects include a horizontal steam engine, stone boiler setting, various buried and partly buried pieces of machinery, waterwheel pit and its machinery components.” They also offer useful advice for accessing the site: “Access to the Wallaby Mine Stamp Battery is via an unsigned walking track from Wallaby Mine Track, Stanley VIC. Although there are no signs, it is easy enough to find as the walking track has posts installed to prevent vehicles driving through. When travelling down Wallaby Mine Track (from Lower Nine Mile Road), the walking track will be on your left. Wallaby Mine Track is steep in parts and best accessed by 4wd vehicles, especially in wet weather.”
Stanley, formerly a gold mining village known as Snake Gully, is located in the hills 10 km south-east of Beechworth. Stanley was, for many years, an apple-producing town - cool stores were dug into the hills just out of town, on the Myrtleford Road. A rare cork tree in the village centre is classified by the National Trust. The former Presbyterian church is an orange-bricked hall built c.1870. Opposite is an old primary school building designed by the same architect. The Indigo Inn (formerly the Star Hotel) and a whitewashed gaol are also of historic interest. The Library/Athenaeum in Main Street is a painted brick structure (1874) with a gable-roofed hall and central vestibule which is attached to the street façade. An oak tree adjacent the building was planted in 1870 and huge old holly trees can still be seen in private gardens.
Woolshed Falls and Goldfield
Woolshed Falls Historic Walk is a 5 km walk which starts at the Powder Magazine and takes in a number of points of interest associated with the Reids Creek goldfield. The original settlement stood just upstream and included a post office, stores and a police camp and was the scene of several riots caused by disputes over the ownership of claims. The 'punchers' worked the dry banks and gullies and the 'monkeys' worked the stream. In 1853 William Howitt described the site: 'for nearly two miles, a wide valley is completely covered by tents and the soil turned upside down by diggers. A more rowdy and uninviting scene I never saw .... all the trees were cut down; the ground where it was not actually dug up was eaten perfectly bare by lean horses ... more shabbiness and apparent wretchedness it would be difficult to conceive ... Reids Creek has the character of being a disorderly and dangerous place. There have been no less than fifteen murders committed at it'.
The walk takes in a large eroded gully which was created when hydraulic sluicing was used to divert Spring Creek to access the gold in the original creek bed. There is also a diversion tunnel (carved through solid granite to draw off excess water), evidence of dry mining, an old water race channel cut into the ground, an elevated water race, and the Woolshed Falls which are particularly impressive after heavy rains. Water from the falls was diverted by means of a steel pipe (some steel rods which supported the pipe can still be seen near the bottom of the falls, to the left) so that the pool below could be drained and the pool bed rifled for gold (57 kg were recovered between 1918 and 1920). Check out https://www.victoriashighcountry.com.au/listing/powder-magazine-to-woolshed-falls-walking-trail/ for more details.
It was in this area that on 26 June, 1880, the Kelly gang executed Joe Byrne's old friend turned police informer, Aaron Sherritt, who was supposedly under the protection of four troopers. It was part of a plan to draw out a contingent of police from Benalla, take them hostage and exchange them for Ned Kelly's mother who was in prison. The gang presumed the troopers would immediately raise the alarm but, out of fear, the law officers hid in the Sherritt house until Sunday afternoon and hence the Benalla police were not activated until Sunday evening. Thus the gang's plan began to unravel culminating in the fatal and famous siege at Glenrowan.
Yeddonba Aboriginal Walk and Art Site
Located 20 km north of Beechworth via the Beechworth-Chiltern Road and Toveys Road, the Yeddonba Aboriginal Walk was reopened in 1997 and showcases the artwork of the Duduroa Aboriginal people.
The 45-minute walk, which begins at the picnic area, is described in the Yeddonba Aboriginal Walk pamphlet which is available from the Beechworth Visitor Information Centre. It describes the circular walk and the attractions along the route.
- Spring – this offers a view across the open plains which saw the Duduroa collecting fruits and vegetables as well as catching the birds that lived in the wetlands and the creek. The Duduroa lived in shelters of sticks covered with bark and were controlled by the four seasons of the local area.
- Native Eucalypts – the walk passes through an area of Hill Red Gum, Grey Box, Red Box and Stringy Bark which the Duduroa used to make boomerangs, spears and digging sticks.
- Rock Art – there is an excellent viewing platform, with detailed signage, where visitors can see a 2000-year-old image of a Tasmanian tiger. The images are faded and cannot be repainted as there are no known descendants of the Duduroa. It is thought that the ochre used on the paintings came from South Australia.
- Winter – the trail passes a cave which the Duduroa used during the winter months. They arrived after the second heavy rainfall of autumn, used kangaroo skins and possum fur coats to keep warm and settled into the caves in the rocky outcrops. There was a regular supply of water and plenty of edible plants.
- Rock Cave – the Duduroa believed that this cave was where the spirit of the Tasmanian tiger lived. It was used for both male and female initiation ceremonies. It was a way for young people to connect with the spirit of the tiger.
- Lookout and Summer Locations – further along the track is a lookout over the open plains. The notes point out that “During summer or ‘Cotchi’ and annual gathering of northeast clans occurred in the Waradjeri territory at Mungabarreena. It attracted clans such as the Minjambutta, Pangarang, Quat Quatta, Yiatmathong, Dharra Dharra and Duduroa. Ceremonies such as marriages, initiations, settling of disputes and renewing alliances and friendships all took place here. The final ceremony to occur was the receiving of permission to travel over the territory of the Yiatmathong to begin the Bogong Moth Feast on the high plains of the alpine region of Victoria.”
- Autumn – the track goes down the hill to a rocky shelter where the Duduroa went in the autumn. They would head from the high plains to the open plains and “as they made their way to the lowlands they set fire to many areas of the high plains to reduce the amount of fuel and regenerate the areas for the next year.”
* Prior to European settlement the region was occupied by several First Nations groups with the Min-jan-buttu occupying the area around Beechworth.
* David Reid explored the area in 1839 and named the May Day Hills. He built a woolshed which led to the naming of Woolshed Creek and later the Woolshed Goldfield.
* The Beechworth goldrush was sparked when one of Reid's former shepherds, a man named Meldrum, found gold on Spring Creek in 1852.
* Further gold discoveries led to more than 800 people living in the area by late 1852.
* A town was surveyed at Silver Creek in 1853.
* A gaol was opened in 1853.
* The explorer, Robert O'Hara Burke, served as superintendent of police at Beechworth from 1854 to 1858.
* By 1855 the town had a hospital for the aged, a mental asylum, a flour mill and law courts.
* The first local member was elected to parliament in 1855. That year saw the Ovens and Murray Advertiser, the first local newspaper, printed.
* The Ovens District hospital opened in 1856. That year also saw the opening of the town's first library.
* In 1856 roads and footpaths were laid out and canvas-built shops and homes were prohibited. The Methodist Church was opened in that year.
* Miners rioted in the Buckland Valley in 1857 and Chinese miners were bashed, robbed and killed.
* 1857 saw the opening of the Presbyterian Church.
* In 1857-1858 a series of government buildings - a court house, police station, lands office and forests office - were constructed on Ford Street.
* Zwar Brothers tannery opened in 1858 and continued operating until 1961.
* A National School was opened in 1858. The Anglican and Congregational churches were opened in that year.
* Reef mining of quartz replaced alluvial work as the main source of gold. A powder magazine to store dynamite was established in 1860. The gaol was built that year.
* The bushranger, Dan 'Mad Dog' Morgan, passed through the district in 1860 after breaching his ticket-of-leave conditions.
* Beechworth became a borough in 1863.
* Beechworth is said to have had the largest Chinese population in the country outside of Melbourne, with an estimated 7,000 on the local fields by the early 1860s.
* Dan Morgan returned to the district in 1865, bailing up travellers, stations and public houses. It was from Beechworth that Superintendent Winch sent out all available police in search of the bushranger.
* By 1866 about 120,000 kg of gold had been extracted from the district.
* A Catholic Church was consecrated in 1868.
* The railway reached Beechworth in 1876.
* Hydraulic sluicing was common with an estimated 1400 km of water races in existence by 1880. That same year, a mining company completed the construction of an 800-metre tunnel extending under the township to run water off at Spring Creek.
* At its peak there were said to be 30,000-40,000 people and 61 drinking establishments on the local fields.
* In the last quarter of the 19th century the town declined in importance as the mining activity diminished.
* Commercial mining of gold finally ceased in 1921.
* The town stagnated until the 1960s when tourism emerged. The National Trust assisted locals in restoration projects.
* The powder magazine was restored in 1965.^ TOP
Beechworth Visitor Information Centre, 103 Ford Street, tel: (1300) 366 321.^ TOP
There is a useful local website. Check out https://www.explorebeechworth.com.au.^ TOP