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Castlemaine, VIC

Hugely important gold mining town now a significant rural centre

Castlemaine is a name which is probably familiar to most Australians but, even though it was a hugely important former gold mining settlement, it does not have the same name recognition as Ballarat or Bendigo. Today it is a city with a large number of fine heritage (goldrush era) buildings, wide streets, an impressive botanic garden and an outstanding art gallery. It is an elegant and important rural centre.


Castlemaine is located 129 km north-west of Melbourne via the Calder Highway and 37 km south of Bendigo. It is 280 metres above sea level.


Origin of Name

The goldrush settlement was initially known as 'Mount Alexander' or 'Forest Creek'. There are two versions of how the name was changed to Castlemaine. (a) the Gold Commissioner William Wright renamed the settlement after his uncle, Viscount Castlemaine, on whose estate in Ireland he spent part of his childhood. (b) Governor La Trobe named it after Castlemaine in Ireland where he had been inspector of schools.


Things to See and Do

A Town Walk in Historic Castlemaine
There is a detailed 1.79 km (one hour) walk around the centre of Castlemaine which explores, in a few blocks, a total of 28 buildings of historic interest. Check out https://walkingmaps.com.au/walk/3812. By the mid-1850s Castlemaine had become a substantial administrative and commercial centre. The gold rush was short-lived and consequently the town ceased to grow and the impressive older buildings remained. Consequently many of the structures in the city centre date from that early period. Even those that have been transformed retain older elements such as post-supported verandas and ground-floor shop facades. The most interesting (and this barely begins to explore all the important buildings in the city) include:

1. Castlemaine Market
Centrally located at the corner of Mostyn and Frederick Streets, and the centrepiece of the Market Square, the Castlemaine Market, originally contained 22 shops which sold fresh foods. It is an impressive building which reflects the influence of the great British architect, Christopher Wren. The Victorian Heritage Database notes: "The two earliest red brick market buildings, known as East and West Markets, were erected in 1858 to the design of Edmund Spencer, the town surveyor. In 1861-2 an imposing North Market, the present Classical Revival building, was designed by the town surveyor, William Beynon Downe." It goes on to note: "The Castlemaine Market is of exceptional architectural significance as a rare surviving early colonial market building. Completed in 1862, displaying a mixture of Australian colonial Greek and Roman Classical Revival styles, the building is dedicated to Ceres, the Roman goddess of harvest, represented by a life size figurative sculpture fixed to the apex of the central facade, a gable portico pediment, supported by widely spaced Roman Doric columns, set between two brick wings, which terminate in towers adorned by Palladian influenced cupolas. The main building has a basilica plan with upper clerestory storey above the long colonnaded structure." For more details check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/269.
Shortly after it was built it became the venue for celebratory balls: in 1862 for the opening of the railway and in 1867 for the visiting Duke of Edinburgh. The Classical Revival structure is a highly symmetrical design centring on a large and elegant portico capped by a pediment which incorporates a rising sun motif. The building was restored by the National Trust.

2. Theatre Royal
Located at 30 Hargraves Street (the street was named after Edward Hargraves who claimed to discover the first payable gold in the country) is the Theatre Royal. The original, made from timber and canvas, was built in 1854. It was burnt down six months later but was immediately rebuilt. It has now been in continuous use since 1855 which makes it one of Victoria's oldest theatres. In 1856 noted Irish-born dancer and entertainer Lola Montez appeared at the theatre during a tour of Australia. In 1938 tthe theatre interior and facade were designed in the fashionable art deco style of the time. After World War II it became a picture theatre holding audiences of 4,500. It became a major music venue in 2004. Today it shows movies and has live music performances. Check out https://www.castlemainegallery.com for information.

3. Albion Hotel
Located at 68 Mostyn Street, and now known as The Empyre, the Albion Hotel was opened in 1860. It has been fastidiously refurbished and is still distinctive with its fine wrought-iron lacework veranda and its historic coach entrance through to the rear courtyard. It is now a wonderfully upmarket hotel with a weekend kitchen and bar. To the rear of the hotel was the heart of the goldrush town's Chinatown where there were five Joss Houses and a Chinese Mission Chapel. For more information about The Empyre check out https://empyre.com.au.

4. Mount Alexander Hotel
Located at 129-133 Mostyn Street, and now occupied by The Restorer's Barn, is the former Mount Alexander Hotel which was opened for business in 1864.

6. Williams's Buildings
Located on the north-eastern corner of Mostyn and Hargraves Streets (at 105 Mostyn Street), the E.D. Williams Building was originally a collection of single-storey shops. Williams redeveloped the shops in the 1870s to accommodate his expanding merchandise and grocery business. 

9. Supreme Court Hotel
Located at 68 Lyttleton Street, the Supreme Court Hotel (it is no longer a hotel) was built in 1859. It is believed to still contain extensive cellars.

10. State Savings Bank
Over the road, in Hargraves Street, is the old State Savings Bank which was constructed in 1855. Although the arch is now covered in, the keystone is still an integral part of the facade. See https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/69193 for more information.

11. Gold Warden's Office
At the north-western corner of Hargraves and Lyttleton Sts is a private residence which was originally the gold warden's office. The Warden had the dual function of heading the Mining Court and sometimes serving as the Police Magistrate.

12. Court House
Located at 29 Lyttleton Street is the cement-rendered Classical Revival courthouse. There was a court house on this site as early as 1858. However "The new courthouse was designed by John Hudson Marsden, a Public Works Department architect from 1872 till after 1900. The Court House was completed in 1878-9, to provide services for the Supreme Court and County Court, including sufficient offices and facilities for juries, which were now required in the larger regional centres such as Castlemaine. The front porch and the palisade fence and granite gates were added in 1879. Other alterations including addition of a gallery over the south end of the courtroom, and a jury room and box on the west side, were made 1883-4." For more information check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/266. It is still used as a Magistrate's Court.

13. Imperial Hotel
Almost opposite the courthouse, at 56 Lyttleton Street, is the former Beck's Imperial Hotel (1861). Most striking to the eye are the mansard roof with its lovely dormer windows and decorative chimneys, and the two-storey veranda featuring highly ornate cast-iron lacework and supporting posts. The shaded facade consists of five bays and French doors. Also of note are the iron-ridge cresting and Classical pilasters. The Victorian Heritage Database notes of the building: "The former Beck's Imperial Hotel is one of the most distinctive and unusual Classical Revival buildings in Victoria. The former hotel is one of the most important and probably the most distinctive hotel in the State. The structure has historical associations and forms part of the important historic townscape of Castlemaine. Architecturally, both the composition and detailing of the buildings are highly innovative and uncommon elements." Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/69227 for more detailed information.

14. School of Mines
Located at 27 Lyttleton Street is the impressive former School of Mines which is described by in the Victorian Heritage Database as "The foundation stone of the School of Mines, Castlemaine was laid on 18.12.1889 on the site of the old police court which had previously been used for classes. The architect was WC Vahland of Bendigo and the builder a Mr Dunstan. The school was built at a time when interest in applied science was high and its establishment also reflected the strong tradition of Mechanics' Institutes and mining schools many British migrants had brought to Victoria." Check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/267 for more details.

15. Town Hall
Located at 25 Lyttleton Street (on the Frederick Street corner), is the elaborate and impressive red-brick town hall. The Victorian Heritage Database notes: "The Castlemaine Town Hall was designed by Wilkinson and Permewan, as the successful applicants for a competition held in 1898. the foundation stone was laid on 24/08/1998 and the building was executed by H D McBean at a cost of 2,000 pounds. McBean was the builder of many substantial buildings in Castlemaine, including part of the hospital and Thompson's foundry.
The building was constructed of face red brick and coloured cement dressings (now painted white) and a tiled roof. it is essentially a Queen Anne building, employing elements of Dutch Renaissance, but indicative of the eclecticism of the period. pavilion-planned, the projecting wings are marked by gabled of Flemish inspiration and by the verticality of the windows and the superimposed trabeated system of Tuscan and composite orders. An unusual feature of these wings is the panelling and representation of fans to the side of the lower windows." For more detailed information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/69232.

16. Drill Hall - Orderly Room
Located at 23a Lyttleton Street and Frederick Street is the old drill hall, known more correctly as the Castlemaine Orderly Room, which was constructed between 1888-1889. The Victorian Heritage Database argues that its historic significance lies "in the nineteenth century streetscape of Lyttleton Street, the civic administration centre of what was once one of the larger gold towns. Together with the Post Office (1875-6), Town Hall (1898), School of Mines and Industry (1889-90) and the Court House (1877-8), the Orderly Room forms an intact and coherent streetscape, the latter attained by a consistency of scale and setback. The prominent siting of the orderly room reflects the importance of militarism in the nineteenth century.
"The Castlemaine Orderly Room is of architectural significance as an intact and rare example of a large nineteenth century timber building. It is one of a number of timber orderly rooms designed by the Public Works Department architect, S. E. Bindley, which generally adopted similar forms and detailing. It is illustrative of the picturesque style which is evident in all of Bindley's orderly room designs, however the detail of the decorative gable ends is unique. It is one of a small number of these orderly rooms that remain intact." For more details check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/125256,

17. Fire Station
Located on Templeton Street, there has been a fire station on this site since 1857. The current building was completed in 1906.

20. Faulder Watson Hall
Located at 208-210 Barker Street, and opened in 1895 as premises for the Castlemaine Pioneers and Old Residents Association, this simple rendered brick building "commemorates the formation of one of the earliest historical societies in the state and which has provided a focus for community activities for nearly a century." The foundation stone was laid on 20 November 1893 by Mrs Charlotte Watson, the widow of Faulder Watson. She donated £250 so the hall would be named after her late husband who had been the publican of the Imperial Hotel. For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/252.

21. Telegraph Office
Next door to the Faulder Watson Hall is the Telegraph Office. The Victorian Historic Database records that "The Castlemaine telegraph office was one of four opened on the Sandhurst line in January 1857, the others being at Sandhurst, Kyneton and Gisborne. It was the first major public building erected within the government reserve of 1853 (after the initial camp) and remained in use as a telegraph office until 5 July 1875 when the equipment was transferred to the new post office. The building was constructed by local contractors Campbell and Thompson to a design by the Public Works Department (at that time under the direction of Charles Pasley). It is a freestone building with a slate roof and was originally designed as a two storey gabled building with two single storey flanking wings with hipped roofs. The northern wing was added in the 1860s. From April 10th 1891 the telegraph office was leased by the Castlemaine Pioneers and Old Residents Association for 1 shilling per annum to be used as clubrooms." For more detailed information check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/252.

22. Post Office
Located at 202 Barker Street, the Castlemaine Post Office, a dominant landmark of the city, was built in 1874-1875. The Victorian Heritage Database explains: "The present post office was designed by Public Works architect John James Clark in a style much influenced by Renaissance classicism and a popular choice for public buildings, particularly those designed by the Works Department during the years William Wilkinson Wardell was the principal architect. The two-storeyed rendered brick building features a prominent clock tower and like many classically inspired buildings of the 19th century, has a rusticated ground floor level and semicircular arched openings throughout. When constructed the building was used as the post and telegraph office, water-supply office and survey office, as well as providing a residence for the post office manager. The building retains its function as the principal post office for Castlemaine and is substantially intact." For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/5180.

23. Verey's Corner
Located on the corner of Lyttleton Street and Barker Street, A.Verey & Co. Royal Studios were the first photographic studio in 1883. This building, now a chemist, was built in the early 1900s.

24. Criterion Hotel
Located on the corner of Barker Street and Mostyn Street, the Criterion Hotel, which was established in 1853, is the oldest continuously licensed premises in Castlemaine. The current hotel was built in 1869 by Stephen Dorman and George Davies, the publican took £700 on the first day. It was a two storey wooden structure which was destroyed by fire on 21 May 1883.

25. Bank of Victoria
Located at 157 Barker Street, the Bank of Victoria was built in 1856 with the architect being Alfred Price and the builder A. Duncan. The Victorian Heritage Database describes the building as "a two storey Renaissance Revival building of face brickwork with stone dressings and a slate hipped roof with exposed bracketed eaves. The symmetrical front facade has a central entrance porch at ground level, simply conceived in a classical manner. This is flanked by arched windows with heavily quoined surrounds. The upper storey contains three rectangular windows, with the central one emphasised by a segmental bracketed pediment. The whole facade is defined by corner quoining." For more detailed information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/251.

26. Oriental Bank Chambers and Bank of NSW
Located at 155 Barker Street, the Oriental Bank Chambers, built in 1862, was subsequently a printing works, newspaper office and legal chambers. When sold in 2017 for $745,000 the advertisement described it as "One of Castlemaine's most stunning architectural buildings of the vibrant gold rush era is beautifully located in the midst of some other notable buildings and opposite Victory Park in the centre of town ... four rooms downstairs plus commercial grade kitchen, bathroom and a further two separate water closets, vault and three rooms upstairs ... Ornate detail to the original front banking chamber with ceilings approx 5.5m high, private rear courtyard."

27. Bedford Arms Hotel
Located at 145 Barker Street and built in 1860, this building was originally the Bedford Arms Hotel. It is now the National Australia Bank.

28. Victory Park
Victory Park was established in 1919. The Mostyn Street corner was once a major focus of the town. Stock were auctioned off here and it was something of a test of their worth to see how they fared at hauling a load up the hill on the western side of Barker Street. Public political meetings were also held at this corner under a large elm tree. Note the old drinking fountain in Victory Park (1919) which was designed for the benefit of horses and dogs, as well as people. There are World War I memorabilia - a 100 mm K 04/14 No 759 Field Artillery, 150 mm Howitzer Short Range and a 14/64 rifled muzzle loader from the Victorian warship Nelson.

Little Digger Memorial
Located on the roundabout at Hargraves Street and Forest Street, the Little Digger memorial celebrates the district's role in the goldrush of the 1850s. There is a detailed sign which explains that: "The Little Digger - The sculptural centrepiece which welcomes visitors to Castlemaine was created in 1999 by artist Geoff Hocking. The figure represents the diggers who took their stand against the hated license fee on that day in December 1851. He symbolises the proud independence that was the hallmark of the digger in those early days when adventure was the name of the game and the ‘rights of the common man’ was the battle fought all across the western world.
"The diggings were the key event in changing the established social order. It was on the diggings that the ordinary man could quickly become wealthy, and where the wealthy could soon become poor. The world was turned ‘topsy-turvy’ by these events.
The little digger is symbolic of this new found independence, with his pick slung over his shoulder and a clenched fist stuck firmly in his pocket.
"His mate is seen climbing out of his shaft in exclamation of the nugget he has found. Both represent the spirit of mateship which was born on the Australian goldfields, where few worked alone but often in teams of 5 or 6, sharing the work and splitting the rewards.
"The Stones
"All the stones are from within the Mount Alexander Shire and represent the various districts that were brought together following the amalgamation of the Shires across Victoria in 1995.
"The granite is from Mount Alexander and was cut and finished on the Mount. The basalt (bluestone) is taken from the outer volcanic regions of the Shire, both Metcalfe and areas towards Talbot have deposits of similar stone.
"The quartz ‘chimney’ is from Quartz Hill at Chewton where the Thompson Brothers had their crushing works, and the sandstone is from Fryerstown where many similar stone walls and the handsome ‘Duke of Cornwall’ mine can also be found.
"The Wheel
"The waterwheel is symbolic of the engineering companies that were established when the railway was pushed through from Melbourne to the Murray in 1865.
" A large foundry was built in Castlemaine which had the contract to build the rails for this great enterprise. The foundry is still in operation today. The wheel also represents the Garfield Wheel, which was the largest waterwheel in the southern hemisphere.
"The wooden wheel powered the stamping heads of the Madame Garfield Mining Company. Although the timber from the Garfield Wheel has long since found its way into the structure of other buildings around the district its massive stone abutments are still to be found in the bush today.
"The Cradle
"The rocking cradle was the most common item of the digger’s equipment after the pick and shovel. Dirt was dropped into the upper box and water washed over it, the rocking action gained by pushing on the pole washed the dirt into the bottom tray. Any gold in the dirt could be retrieved after washing, found laying in the bottom of the cradle. As diggers came and went frequently from the fields, following one rush after another, the sale of a cradle was an easy way of gaining ready cash to finance the next journey and not doubt it was easier than carrying such a heavy and cumbersome box over hill and valley.”

Castlemaine Art Gallery and Museum
Located at 14 Lyttleton Street, the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Museum is considered one of Victoria's finest provincial galleries featuring major Australian works of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The unusual building was constructed in 1930 to a design by Stephenson & Meldrum. It cost £3,250. It was extended in 1960 and 1973. The Victorian Heritage Database observes that its significance lies in the fact that it "is an early example in provincial Victoria of austere Neo-Classical "modern" design. It is constructed of face brick (since painted) with rendered dressings and presents a severe facade, without windows, relieved only by the "Jazz" decorated frieze to the parapet, front garden wall and tympanum over the central entrance. The front door is recessed behind an elaborate pair of iron grille gates. The interior is lit by a ceiling lighting system under a saw-tooth roof. The interior is severely and simply decorated but with a careful control of volumes and planning in the display areas. The Castlemaine Art Gallery is an exceptional building in its intent and execution and is historically important as one of the earliest examples of the "modern movement" in provincial Victoria." See https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/69230 for more details.
The collection specialises in Australian Art and includes the paintings of Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Louis Buvelot, Russell Drysdale, Fred Williams, Margaret Preston, E. Phillips Fox, Rupert Bunny, Max Meldrum, John Brack, Eric Thake, Albert Tucker, John Perceval, Clifton Pugh, Lloyd Rees, Ian Fairweather, Charles Bush, Roger Kemp, Rick Amor, John Dent, Wendy Stavrianos, Ray Crooke, Robert Jacks, Jeffrey Smart, Ian Armstrong, Paul Cavell and Brian Dunlop. The gallery also has impressive collections of photographs and ceramics.
The Historical Museum focuses on items relating to the history of the Mt Alexander shire. There are photographs, newspaper clippings and other artefacts. Themes include: indigenous Australians; the goldrush and mining; Chinese on the goldfields; the regions’ development; surrounding towns; prominent early citizens; 20th century Castlemaine. The Gallery and Museum is open Thursday to Sunday from noon to 5.00 pm, tel: (03) 5472 2292. For more information check https://www.castlemainegallery.com.

Presbyterian Church
Located at 11-13 Lyttleton Street is the former Congregational Church now the Presbyterian Church. The Victorian Heritage Database records that it is: "A highly mannered brick Gothic church designed by William Spencer and erected in 1861-2. The liturgical west front and porches are flanked by exaggerated pinnacles and the windows are filled with vigorously patterned coloured glass. The style of the building is without parallel in Victoria." For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/69229/download-report. To its rear is the original Congregational Church (1855) which was the town's first brick church (1855). It became the Sunday School hall.

Congregational Church (Uniting)
Over the road from the Presbyterian Church, at 4-8 Lyttleton Street, is the Uniting Church. The Victorian Heritage Database describes it as: "A church built in 1894 to a remarkably eclectic design by the Ballarat architect C D Figgis, described at the time as being 'an adaptation of Florentine or Padua Gothic'. It is striking for its bold asymmetrical massing, the bellcast profile conical tower roof, the ogee label mould of the high west window, the bracketed corbel table of the eave and the entrance divided by a trumeau." For more details check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/69235/download-report.

St Mary's Catholic Church
Located at 78 Hargraves Street is St Mary's Catholic Church. The first building to occupy the site was a temporary chapel which was built in 1853. In 1857 "a magnificent cathedral in the Elizabethan style" was planned and Frederick Poepel was chosen as the architect. It was originally erected as the result of the efforts of Father Patrick Smyth who figured largely in the Eureka Stockade rebellion.

Christ Church
Located at 8 Mostyn Street, Christ Church, an Anglican structure built of random-coursed sandstone from 1854 to 1858 on what was then known as Agitation Hill, as the diggers used this spot to hold protest meetings about the gold license system. This Gothic Revival design features distinctive windows and projecting gables. There are 1892 additions. It is particularly notable, as the Victorian Heritage Database points out, because "Christ Church is architecturally significant for its use of local sandstone, its rose window and its detailing, including the carved faces on the crockets. Notable interior features include the timber pews, the baptismal font, the creed and commandments panels in the chancel, the lettering around the chancel arch and nave walls, the George Fincham organ of 1888, and the stained glass including the rose window." For more detailed information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/5377.


Other Attractions in the Area

Pennyweight Flat Cemetery
Located 3 km east of Chewton along the Pyrenees Highway and established in 1851, Pennyweight Flat Children's Cemetery was one of the first cemeteries on the Forest Creek Goldfields. Despite its name it was a general cemetery. Watch for the Albion Hotel and 200 metres beyond the hotel turn right into Dick Street, then left into Farran Street and right into Colles Road which leads across Zeal Bridge. The cemetery is 500 metres along this road. 200 people were buried here from 1852-1857 - many had died from typhoid and diphtheria and many of them children.

Forest Creek Gold Workings Heritage Walk
Located, and clearly signposted, off the Pyrenees Highway to the east of the town centre, the Forest Creek Gold Diggings has an informative sign at the entrance which explains that the 'Forest Creek Gold Workings Heritage Walk' is a "400-metre long loop walk [which] allows you to discover how miners won gold from Forest Creek: site of the famous Mount Alexander Gold Rush of 1852.
"Follow the gravel track and read the notes near the appropriate numbered posts. The landscape through which you will walk shows the environmental impacts of various types of alluvial gold mining - shaft sinking, tunnelling and hydraulic sluicing.
"On your way you can help solve the mystery of Big Dundee Jock and also discover the geological history of the district by finding your way to the centre of a ground level stone constructed maze."

Mount Alexander (Castlemaine) Goldfield - a brief history
Forest Creek is located on the north side of the Pyrenees Highway, between Chewton and Castlemaine. Gold from Forest Creek sparked the world's second gold rush and soon tens of thousands of men, women and children were camped in this valley.
The goldfield is an ancient landscape, which bears the imprint of many cultures. Over tens of thousands of years, the region's founding layer was put in place by Aboriginal people. The Jaara or Djadjawurrung speaking people are the local Aboriginal group. Nearly two centuries ago, "new Australians" came to the region in the form of settlers from the British Isles. Before long, gold was found and the rest of the world discovered what the goldfield had to offer. Despite the tumult of the gold rushes and the changes wrought by intervening years, the connection of Jaara people to this region remains strong, and their welcome is acknowledged and respected.
In the early months of 1852 many tons of gold dug from Forest Creek began arriving in London. Many came from Britain, Europe, America and later others came from China. The prize which miners sought was alluvial gold - pieces of metal ranging in size from a grain of salt to a leg of lamb. Its bright yellow colour and great weight makes gold easy to identify. At this site, the miners obtained the alluvial gold from the gravel bed of a former course of Forest Creek formed millions of years ago. They left behind a stark transformed landscape. For more information check out https://www.goldfieldsguide.com.au/explore-location/114/forest-creek-historic-gold-diggings.

Anticlinal Fold
Located in Lyttleton Street just beyond Urquhart Street is a geological phenomenon known as an anticlinal fold. It is comprised of quartz rich meta sandstone created during the Devonian era. It was revealed by road construction work in 1874. There is a descriptive plaque which explains "This fine exhibit was disclosed when Lyttleton Street East was constructed in 1874. Saddle reefs occur in similar folds of the sandstones and slates on lower geological horizons." Check https://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMY57Q_Anticlinal_fold_Castlemaine_Victoria_Australia for more details.

Burke and Wills Monument
Located on the roundabout at the end of Wills Street is an impressive Burke and Wills monument. Apart from offering an excellent panoramic view of Castlemaine, the monument can claim it was the first memorial to the ill-fated expedition. The local citizens raised £450 and it was established in 1862 when news of the explorers' deaths was the talk of their country. An amusing subtext is that the workers at Castlemaine threatened to build another monument if the name of Charles Gray was not included on the monument. And thus the monument was duly completed in 1863 with the inscription: "This foundation stone of a monument erected by public subscription to the memory of Robert O'Hara Burke, William John Wills, and Charles Gray, members of the first Victorian Exploring Expedition, who with John King (now living and at this ceremony present) were the flrst men who ever crossed the great continent of Australia, traversing the country from the City of Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria, was laid in this town of Castlemaine by Richard Colles, Esquire Deputy Sheriff for the district of Castlemaine, on this first day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, in the twenty-sixth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria, and on this first anniversary of the death of Robert O'Hara Burke leader of the Expedition —a man dearly beloved by the inhabitants of this district to the end that their names may be had in everlasting remembrance. His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, Captain General and Governor-in- Chief of the colony of Victoria and Vice Admiral of the same. "  Check http://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/landscape/exploration/display/30708-burke-and-wills-expedition for more detailed information.

Kalimna Park
Located off Kalimna Road is Kalimna Park which, as the Friends of Kalimna Park website (check out https://www.kalimnapark.org.au/friends-of-kalimna-park-castlemaine) explains, is "a bushland reserve on the north eastern outskirts of Castlemaine comprising 175 ha. During the gold rush the area was almost totally denuded and the ground turned over. In time, coppice regrowth has produced a box-ironbark woodland with a characteristic ecosystem of plants, birds and less visible wildlife. Over 28 species of different orchids and rare plants have been identified. It is known for its wildflowers, its views over the town and its excellent bushland walks.

Buda - Historic Home and Garden
Located at 42 Hunter Street, 'Buda' is an authentic goldfields villa house and garden which was built in 1861 in an Indian bungalow style by a Baptist missionary, Reverend James Smith, who had ministered in India. He named it 'Delhi Villa'. In 1863 it was purchased by silversmith, jeweller and watchmaker Ernest Leviny who has arrived in the country in 1853 to mine gold. He made improvements to the building, giving it its current name - an abbreviation of Budapest in Hungary, his birthplace. It was extended in 1890.
The house features the Leviny family's collection of silver, art and crafts (including the enamelling, wood-carving, embroidery, photography and painting of Ernest Leviny's daughters which reflect their Hungarian heritage), works by other distinguished Australian artists (Margaret Preston and Lionel Lindsay among others), furnishings and domestic effects accumulated over a period of 118 years. The house features stucco moulding, a clerestory and projecting bay-windowed wings and a broken pediment over the porch. The excellent historic garden covers 3 acres (1.2 ha). In 1980 a Study of Historic Gardens noted that "More than any other garden in Victoria, this has retained the very elusive character of the nineteenth century ... its clipped cypress hedge is probably the largest in Victoria". The ornate aviary was made at Thompson's Foundry in Castlemaine. It is open Wednesday to Saturday from noon to 5.00 pm and Sunday from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm, tel: (03) 5472 1032. For more information check out https://budacastlemaine.org.

'Kaweka' and Kaweka Wildflower Reserve
A little further north on Hargraves Street, to the right, is Kaweka Wildflower Reserve. There are a number of walking tracks . It was named after 'Kaweka' (1896), a private residence adjacent the reserve at 184 Hargraves Street which was built for foundry owner and former mayor of Wellington, John S. Thompson. The Victorian Heritage Database notes: "The house is constructed of face brick and has a corrugated iron roof. The house is broad across its main facade with a central projection and a verandah across the front and returning around the projection. The main feature of the house is the timber verandah which is of classical inspiration. It has slender Tuscan columns, paired under the central and side broken pediments, and the eaves are decorated with broken pediments, and the eaves are decorated with representations of the Greek antefixae and paved consoles under the pediments. The verandah is supported on a stone plinth with central steps. It is a grand country house of the 1890s that has unusual verandah detailing and important connections with one of Castlemaine’s most important families." For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/261.

Castlemaine Botanical Gardens
Located at 2 Walker Street, the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens were established in 1856 on the site of some exhausted diggings on Barkers Creek. They are now recognised as one of Victoria's oldest public gardens. They were planned and supplied with the assistance of Baron Ferdinand von Mueller who was responsible for the laying out of the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne.
The gardens are described by the Victorian Heritage Database as "The gardens are entered through an impressive set of cast iron gates erected in 1877-78 by local engineering firm Thompson & Co and completed by local monumental mason George Redfearn. At the same time a decorative fountain was erected near the gates, and a year later Lake Joanna with its naturalistic island was officially completed. Beautification works continued; in 1884 a second lake, Lake Augusta was constructed, and in the 1890s a rustic bridge, conservatory, fernery, shelter shed, rotunda (designed by Angus Cornish), and grotto were added, bringing the gardens to their peak of development. Doran remained curator until he died on 29 September 1913. After Doran a number of changes occurred to the gardens; the tearooms (1919) (now pipe band hall), and glasshouses (1920; replaced 1960) were added. However, Lake Augusta was drained and converted to an oval in the 1930s, the summerhouse, bridges, ferns and grotto disappeared by mid-century, and the rotunda by the 1970s. A portion of the gardens were set aside for a caravan park and swimming pool in the 1940s, and two further portions were annexed by the Alexander Hospital in the 1950s and 1960s." Check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/1791 for more details.
A number of the trees are so significant that they have been listed on the National Trust's register. There is a large English oak which was planted by the Duke of Edinburgh during a visit in 1867. The tree bears a plaque commemorating the event. It is now one of the oldest planted trees in the state. There is also an Indian bean tree which is the largest-known in the state. The Catalpa tree between the ornate main gates in Downes Road and Lake Joanna is impressive when it blooms in spring. A rare Chinese weeping cypress grows in the northern section from seeds obtained in China by Baron von Mueller. Other trees include elms, oaks, cedars, pines, eucalypts, kurrajongs, silky oaks, Bunya pines and an avenue of lime trees in the north-west corner.

Old Castlemaine Gaol
Located at 36-48 Bowden Street, the Old Castlemaine Gaol was built of sandstone which was quarried nearby between 1857-61, it was decommissioned in 1990. It was sold in 2019 for $1.5 million to the artist David Bromley and his wife Yuge.

Located at 31 Gingell Street, 'Broadoaks' is an early Gothic Revival residence which is historically significant because it was the home of famed and ill-fated explorer Robert O'Hara Burke who was superintendent of police at Castlemaine and lived in the house from 1858 to 1860. For more detailed information check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/258.

Dry Diggings Track
The Dry Diggings Track is a 55 km walking and cycling route which winds its way through the old goldfields countryside which lies between Castlemaine and Daylesford. It passes through Chewton, Fryerstown, Vaughan, Mount Franklin and Hepburn Springs. There is an excellent, detailed Goldfields Track website which explains that "the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park was created in 2002 in recognition of the region’s intimate association with the Victorian gold rush era. From the wet temperate forests on top of the Divide to the dry northern plains, it’s a roller coaster journey for most of the way and not recommended for the inexperienced walker or novice rider. At its outset, the walking track contours on steep slopes above Sailors Creek, hidden away in forest from the mineral spa towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. The bike route goes through town before rejoining the shared use track at Golden Springs. Soon after, your arrival at the spectacular erosion columns of Beehive Gully acts as a fitting introduction to the typical narrow, high-walled gullies pockmarked with mine shafts and riddled with stone ruins, encountered throughout this track. What you are traversing in places like Browns, Sebastopol and Sailors gullies is an open air museum consisting of a century and a half of old mining artefacts – a ghostly, abandoned landscape fading back into bush." For more detailed information and a map check out http://goldfieldstrack.com.au/Pages/Explore/Dry_Diggings_Track.aspx.



* Prior to European occupation the area was home to the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal people.

* The first known Europeans in the district were the party of Major Mitchell during his Australia Felix expedition of 1836.

* In 1837 squatters followed in Mitchell's wake owing to his favourable reports and droughts in New South Wales.

* In 1841 the 'Mount Alexander' pastoral run was established by William Barker. It was named after the granite outcrop to the north-east of Castlemaine.

* In July 1851 one of Barker's shepherds found gold at Specimen Gully (5 km north-east of Castlemaine).

* Gold Commissioner William Wright established a camp on the present townsite on the Forest and Barkers Creeks which briefly served as the administrative centre for the Central Victorian goldfields.

* By mid-1852, Wright's staff numbered 300. 

* The Commissioner's camp was initially known both as 'Mount Alexander' or 'Forest Creek'.

* In 1852 land was surveyed just to the north-east of the camp and Castlemaine was declared a town

* By 1852 it was estimated that 25,000 people were living on the Mount Alexander diggings.

* In a six month period in 1852 16,600 kg were shipped out of the district by Gold Escort. 

* The first school at Castlemaine was opened in 1852.

* A Bank of New South Wales and a Post Office were opened in 1852.

* In 1853 town allotments went on sale.

* By 1853 T.S. Barnes was selling Castlemaine Rock from a tent on the diggings. 

* In early 1854, the gold commissioner ordered that premises had to be evacuated and shopkeepers move to Market Square, the new commercial centre.

* In 1854 grievances from miners were given voice on a rise which became known as Agitation Hill. That year saw the first edition of the Mount Alexander Mail.

* An Anglican Church was built in 1854. It was one of five churches in Castlemaine by the end of that year.

* In 1855 a new rush began at North Castlemaine, along Forest Creek, and the first National School opened in a tent with a proper building erected for that purpose the following year.

* 1855 saw the establishment of a town council.

* In 1856 the settlement was declared a municipality and work commenced on the present Botanical Gardens.

* In August 1857 about 1300 Chinese gathered at Mechanics Hill in Castlemaine to protest a bill which increased taxation.

* The town's first flour mill was established in 1857.

* Edward Fitzgerald opened the first Castlemaine brewery in 1857 (he moved his operations to Queensland in 1887).

* The explorer, Robert O'Hara Burke, was superintendent of police in the Castlemaine district from 1858 to 1860.

* The first slate quarry in the district was in operation by 1859. It supplied flagging to Melbourne and other cities.

* 1859 saw the establishment of the Castlemaine Football Club - making it one of the oldest in the world.

* A railway foundry was opened in 1860.

* In 1860 140 kg of gold a week was being shipped out of the district.

* By 1860 about 30,000 people were thought to reside in the Castlemaine area. The  townsite had six banks and two newspapers.

* The 1861 census recorded about 5000 Chinese in the area.

* The present gaol, market building and courthouse were built in 1861-62.

* The railway reached the town in 1862.

* A Cobb & Co coach factory and farriery was established in 1864.

* Yeats Metallic Paints was established at North Castlemaine in 1868, utilising iron oxide from the tailings.

* Castlemaine Woollen Company and Thompson's iron and brass foundry and engineering workshops were established in 1875.

* The Castlemaine Bacon Company opened in 1905.

* Castlemaine formally became a city in 1965.


Visitor Information

Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre, 44 Mostyn Street, Castlemaine, tel: (03) 5471 1795. Open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm seven days a week.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out https://www.bendigoregion.com.au/visit-castlemaine-maldon.

Got something to add?

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

2 suggestions
  • I’m looking for any information on Joseph Nall. Apparently he was a member of the first committee formed in Castlemaine to agitate for the Eight Hour system. He was also one of the first members of the Baptist Church established by rev. James Smith. He had 3 sons – Robert, Charles and John. I am trying to find the name of his wife. Can you helpl me please?

    Mrs Elaine Davey
  • Hello, Elaine, your enquiry piqued my interest, so I did a search newspapers on the National Library’s Trove site and came up with this page of links, mainly to family notices relating to Joseph Nall (I daresay you may already have done this):


    The death notice for Joseph Nall mentions one of his sons, Robert Nall, who was on the editorial staff of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ in Sydney.
    See: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/200636809?searchTerm=Castlemaine%20Joseph%20Nall

    I then went to the NSW historical deaths site (https://familyhistory.bdm.nsw.gov.au/lifelink/familyhistory/search?16) and looked up Robert Nall under ‘Deaths’.

    The resulting page told me that Robert Nall was buried in the district of St Leonards in 1923 (Burial Reg. No. 12841/1923).

    His father is given as ‘Joseph’. You asked about Joseph’s wife: Robert Nall’s mother (and presumably Joseph’s wife) is given as ‘Alice’. And that is all the information available on Robert’s death record.

    However, there is a record of a marriage on the Victorian Births, Deaths, Marriages site which records a marriage between a ‘Margaret Alice Nall’ to a ‘William Burridge’ in 1875.

    One of the family notices found on the NLA Trove site above announces a marriage:
    It can be found at:

    BURRIDGE—NALL.—On 9th February, at the residence of the
    bride’s parents, Castlemaine, Victoria, the Rev. William
    Burridge, Wesleyan minister at Mortlake, to Margaret
    Alice, only daughter of Mr. Joseph Nall.

    So one of Joseph’s daughters took ‘Alice’ as her middle name. She must have been named after her mother!

    Perhaps you have already discovered all this, but I would be curious to know whether you have found the information you were after, at any rate.

    Best Wishes,
    Michael Posega

    Michael Posega