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Emmaville, NSW

Historic tin and gem mining town in the NSW Northern Tablelands.

Emmaville is a small rural township with little more than a general store, a pub and a mining museum. Surprisingly for such a small town the mining museum has a number of impressive rock collections and, just outside the town and rarely visited, are the interesting ruins of the Ottery arsenic mine. It was once a private town and today it is a basic centre serving the local farming, grazing and mining communities. There is good trout fishing in the local rivers.


Emmaville, which is 872 m above sea-level, is located 649 km north of Sydney via the New England Highway, 353 km south-west of Brisbane and 43 km north of Glen Innes.


Origin of Name

When the miners first arrived, the town and surrounding settlement was known as Vegetable Creek reputedly because of the Chinese market gardens which provided food for the miners. It was officially changed in 1882 to honour Emma Maria Greville, the wife of Lord Augustus Loftus, the then Governor of New South Wales.


Things to See and Do

Emmaville Mining Museum
It is unusual for a town as small as Emmaville to have an attraction which experts consider to be one of the finest in the country. Located at Moore Street and open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm Friday to Wednesday (see http://www.emmaville.net for further details), the Emmaville Mining Museum started with a collection of minerals bequeathed to the local community by Mr and Mrs Jack Curnow. Given that the collection was housed in the large Foley's General Store and sensitively displayed, other collectors offered their rock collections and so today a huge room is devoted to the Jillet, Gilbey, Ellis, Schumacher, Trethewey, Maskey and Hermann rock collections. But the museum is more than rock displays. Its contents include more than 300 historic photographs, a replica blacksmith's shop, a replica mine entrance, an excellent replica of a rural general store, an extensive bottle collection and minerals collected in the local area including sapphire, garnet, topaz, arsenic, beryl, quartz and fossils all of which it is possible for keen collectors to purchase. tel: (02) 6734 7025. They will open at other times by appointment.

The area around Emmaville is known as "one of the world's richest mineralised belts" and consequently fossicking is very popular. Locals are happy to provide advice and that is no more complex than talking to Donna at the General Store or asking the volunteers at the Mining Museum. It is also worth consulting the Glen Innes Tourist Information Centre, tel: (02) 6732 2397 particularly if you want a professional guide or want to fossick on private property. The area is known for its sapphire, garnet, topaz, arsenic, beryl, quartz and fossils.

Ottery Arsenic Mine
Drive 5 km out of Emmaville on the Deepwater Road until you reach Tent Hill, turn left towards Torrington and continue for 3 km until you reach a cattle grid, before you cross it, to the left, is a gravel track which leads to the old Ottery tin and arsenic mine site. It seems to be rarely visited because the short path is overgrown but there are good information boards and it is easy to understand the mining process. The sign at the beginning of the path to the mine says simply "Commenced in 1882 to provide tin. In 1920 arsenic was also produced. 28 men employed for many years. Operations ceased in 1957." There is an excellent series of boards in a shelter near the works. They describe in detail the history of the mine (Did you know that "the Ottery mine site is one of only about three arsenic treatment plants still remaining in the world where condensing brick chambers were used and precipitated arsenic was removed by hand."), the treatment process, the handling and the production.


Other Attractions in the Area

The Emmaville Panther
Australia doesn't have enough mythical beasts. So lets add the Emmaville Panther to the very short list. It has now been worrying the locals for 110 years starting with Harry Leader and his brother in 1902 who, after hearing a blood-curdling roar, shot the animal and sent the hide to Sydney where a tanner told them it was a panther. But it wasn't the only one. The panther has since been sighted in 1958 (twice), 1963 and 1968. Check out http://www.nnsw.com.au/emmaville/panther.html if you want more details.

The village of Torrington is located 25 km north-east of Emmaville. When tin was discovered in the district in 1881 miners moved to the area and by the 1920s over 500 miners were working the lode and operating the sixteen batteries. As well as tin, both wolfram and bismuth were mined. Today it is claimed that the Torrington district has the largest deposit of topaz (silexite) in the world. This attracts fossickers to the district. Relics from the town's mining past, including a Cornish Buddle and Five-Head Stamper Battery, can still be seen.

There are two excellent walking trails. One goes to Mystery Face (3.5 km) and passes such exotic rock formations as the caterpillar rock, the pig's face, the lion's head, mushroom rock, the easter egg and finally reaches the Mystery Rock Face. There is also a 2 km walk to Thunderbolt's Lookout from Nomads Picnic area.

The Torrington State Recreation Area spreads across 30,000 ha and is known for its "scenic rock outcrops and balancing boulders, gorges, swamps and small creeks. From September to March the bush becomes a blaze of colour with spectacular wildflower displays".



* Before European settlement the Jukambal, a sub-group of the Murri people, had lived on the land around Emmaville for tens of thousands of years.

* In 1839 settlers moved to the Emmaville area and properties - named Wellington Vale, Rangers Valley and Strathbogie - were established.

* In 1872 a piano tuner named Thomas Carlean discovered stream tin on Vegetable Creek in the Strathbogie property. His discovery earned him a fortune.

* 1876 the Bank of New South Wales and a telegraph service were established.

* In 1880 the population of Emmaville was estimated at 900 Europeans and 1,200 Chinese. The mines around the town yielded £13,000 of tin.

* 1881 saw the first Medical Benefits fund in Australia created in the town.

* In 1882 the town's name became Emmaville.

* By 1890 the town had five hotels, seven stores and the population had reached 3,000.

* 1999 - the Emmaville Mining Museum was opened.


Visitor Information

The source of all local knowledge is Donna at the Emmaville General Store and Newsagency. She is the town's information centre, tel: (02) 6734 7240. You will also find that the volunteers at the Emmaville Mining Museum can be helpful.


Useful Websites

Although the emphasis is on encouraging visitors to stay in their cabins, the Ben Falls Retreat site (http://www.bensfallsretreat.com/) has lots of useful information about horse riding, gemstone fossicking and fishing in the local area.

Got something to add?

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

32 suggestions
  • Local Lions Club

    John C Lynch
  • More than a little disappointed with the fossicking in this area. Firstly enquired at the store for possible fossicking places but was promptly told to ask at the Mining Museum. Enquired at the Museum but was told that almost all fossicking areas were on private property and were not accessible. Not terribly helpful at all. Found out just before departure from the caravan park that there are some private land holders who allow fossicking. Too late…

    This is very disappointing. I hope anyone reading this makes sure the people at the Museum are told. I relied very much on the woman at the local newspaper office. She was very helpful.

  • Visited the Emmaville Museum and was thoroughly impressed with the detail and the imparting of information regarding the area and people. The rock and gem display is unbelievable. Ron and Margaret were so helpful. This Museum is not given the praise it rightfully deserves. Emmaville’s history is in very good hands. Well worth the trip to see this wonderful display and meet the wonderful people who run it.

    I totally agree, Deb. It is off the beaten track but well worth the effort.

    Deb Stanley
  • There are 2 pubs, 2 shops, a hardware store, caravan park a swimming pool, and a Central School, kindy to year 12.

    Carol Pleasant
  • Hi

    I would like some recommendations on accommodation in Emmaville for 2 children and 2 adults. We are planning to stay and visit the museum, go gem fossicking and bush walking
    _ We would prefer to go fossicking on public land so info by locals on river spots etc would be great.

    Look forward to receiving some info . We plan to come over Easter school holidays.


  • Very interesting. Where can I buy history books of Emmaville please?

    David Ellis
  • This is possible the friendliest town in Australia! We had a most enjoyable but far too short visit to Emmaville and made a visit to the Mineral Museum. Very interesting.! Actually donated an old Ledger with entries from 1890’s era which had been kept by family members. Well worth a detour from the highway and there is accommodation on offer at the local pub.

    Heather Galley
  • I was wondering if you could supply me any information on the shoe repairer shop owned ( I think by W. Richardson) there is a photo in the museum and he is together with a truscott.
    I believe him to be my great grandfather one of his sons was percival richardson who was my grandfather who lived in deepwater before moving to coffs harbour
    thanking you in anticipation

    Gayle Healey
    • Hi Gayle, do you mean Percy Henry Kinsman Richardson? I’m trying to track his family line at the moment. Was your father Alan ?

      Best wishes,

      Amy Cruickshank
  • Looking to stay for 2 nights in emmaville is there a place to camp or bring a caravan near pubs or in town not too faraway from emmaville pub

    Gail Roblyn Stewart
  • I’m watching a TV program (made in 2014 approx) as I write saying Emmaville is where Banjo Paterson was born. Is this true?

    Judy Croft
    • Banjo Patterson – born Orange NSW. Orange is proud of its Banjo connections.

      Scott Kelly
    • Banjo was born at Orange NSW, one of his former homes, Emmaville Cottage is on display at the Orange Botanic gardens.. The folk of Orange loaded the cottage on a truck and moved it a few kilometres.

      Scott Kelly
  • Is there accommodation nearby?

    Jean McCallum
  • My now deceased Aunt Mame and my also deceased Father, Colin Bruce Hartnett, we’re born in Emmaville and my Aunt described cardboard coffins on the front porch oh houses in 1923. She attributed the many deaths, so many that they ran out of wood, to Bubonic Plague. My assumption is that it was Spanish Flu, but there have been outbreaks of Bubonic Plague in Australia in the early 20th Century. Was my much loved Aunt Mame right?
    Bruce C Hartnett AM

    Bruce Hartnett
    • Hello Bruce my mother was born in Emmaville February 1920 she talked about how the family next door to them lost 3or 4 children to Tuberculosis in those days perhaps that was what the cardboard coffins were for most people were very poor I don’t think they got rich from tin mining

      Jan Merlino
  • I am trying to locate the burial site of my gr gr Grandfather, James Champion Martin, who died at Vegetable Creek in June 1879 and is buried at Vegetable Creek – do you have any information, please? Also, although James was born in Cornwall he lived in Mitchell’s Creek (near Bathurst); do the “Curnow” family you mention originate from there as well. A Stephen Curnow witnessed my Gr Gr Grandmother’s Death Certificate in Mitchell’s Creek.

    Julie Walker
    • A famous son of Emmaville is Charles Curnow Scherf (1917-1949), airforce officer, grazier and soldier, winner of DFC his mother was a Curnow.

      Scott Kelly
  • My GGG Grandfathers William Sullivan, death certificate states he died at Vegetable Creek Hospital Emmaville and buried at the Town Cemetery at Deepwater in 1919. We visited the graves of both these towns, checked with Council and written to various places to find his grave. All have said no idea. His wife is buried some years before him at Deepwater and her grave has concrete layer on top so am guessing he is not buried there. Went to local Historical and Museum and of no help. Did not know where I could enquire. And still we have not found his grave. Odd however that a write up in the local paper after his death talks about long time resident passing.

    cynthia egan
    • hi – my great great grandfather died at Vegetable Creek Hospital too in 1899 – buried in Emmaville – but no luck finding his gravesite – and again there seemed to be no help to search for gravesite information?

    • If your ancestor was Catholic, he may have been buried in the old catholic cemetery on what was the Brennan;s property on Rose Valley Road. Most priests and nuns were buried there. Ask any local they will direct you. If your ancestor died in Emmaville it is very unlikely he would have been buried in Deepwater. He would have been buried at Emmaville. I would also suggest looking at the records of the Church of England and Catholic Churches. They are more likely to have records than Councils. Grew up in Emmaville and hope this helps. Kind regards, Bron.

  • I’m looking for Joe Bates grave and any information about him.

    Dianne O'Meley
    • Hi, my great great grandmother’s father was Joseph Bates – there is a historical book regarding Torrington History that has information in on him. Check the Glen Innes Historical Society for a copy.

  • My family the Allen’s lived there back in the mining times. I believe one of the mines was named after him, He was named Captain Allen. He and his family lived there, my grandmother was born there, her name was Isabelle Allen. Have you any information on the family?

    Donald Allen Burley
  • I’ve heard that there is a restaurant or motel looking over a gorge between Emmaville and Glen Innes. Do you know of such a place?

    Theresa O'Riley
  • Hello. Back in the 1940s the town fielded a strong rugby league team. My father, Jim Cooke went on to play for the Sydney Rabbitohs. There are excellent photos in the museum.

    Peter cooke
  • Hi We are seeking any information on the McCaw family, my father George McCaw was born in Emmaville.

    Marg Phipps
  • Places to stay in Emmaville? one night, Wed 14th April.

  • Hi can you please let me know.. who was O’Donnell Street named after.. I am very keen to find out..
    Thank you for any help.
    Kind regards
    Jason O’Donnell

    Jason O’Donnell
  • For this looking for the history of Emmaville and its founding families, this is a great resource. https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/119836.

    Cheers all Bronwyn

  • I believe my grandmother was born in Emmerville in the 1880s. Her father was a blacksmith with the surname of Pierce or Quail. That is all I know.

    John Gunn