A magical gold mining ghost town - now a National Trust treasure.
Ravenswood was once a thriving gold mining town. Today it is a beautifully preserved, virtual ghost town with a couple of pubs, a general store and some small businesses. It is hard to imagine that during its boom era the town had over 50 pubs and a population of over 5,000. Ravenswood is worth exploring. The mullock heaps, the old shafts, the chimneys, the rusting machineray and the historic buildings make it an informative journey into a once-thriving and booming gold mining town.
Ravenswood is located 1444 km north west of Brisbane via Rockhampton, Emerald and Clermont. It is 88 km east of Charters Towers.^ TOP
Origin of Name
The area was settled in the 1860s by pastoralists. One of the new properties was "Ravenswood" which was almost certainly named after Lord Ravenswood, a character popularised by the novelist Sir Walter Scott in his novel The Bride of Lammermoor.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
How to see the town
There is a good information area just beyond the Miners Cottage and near London Mine which will help but the best way to see the town is to park and walk. The real appeal is the randomness of the ruins, the chaos that has been left by the remnants of the mining and this is all enhanced by informative signage around the town which offers historic background information on all the most important sites.
Ravenswood has a number of heritage-listed sites. The information below is a good starting point. This is a special town and it is worth exploring in detail:
The Starting Point
Entering from the Burdekin Falls Road via Ravenswood Road you reach Railway Street. On Railway Street, before the Railway Hotel, is an Information parking area. From there it is a pleasant walk through the town past:
Railway Street: Mabel Mill
Mabel Mill is a heritage-listed ruin of a stamper battery and chimney just off Railway Street at the entrance to the town. Located on the northern side of Elphinstone Creek, is known to have been established by 1871, by which time there were five mills on the Ravenswood Gold Field with a total of 52 stamper batteries for crushing. The gold extraction technology used at this time was amalgamation. It involved washing the crushed ore over copper plates coated with mercury which amalgamated with the gold, scraping the amalgam off the plates, and removing the mercury to leave the gold. There is a very extensive article on the mill at https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601206.
Railway Street: Railway Hotel
As you enter the town the Railway Hotel is the first indication of the prosperity of the area in its golden era. Built in 1901 it is a large brick hotel which was located opposite the Ravenswood railway station. It is set on a sloping site which drops down to Elphinstone Creek at the rear. It has three storeys, only two of which can be seen from street level. The "basement" storey, visible from the side and rear, is set on brick piers. The roof is clad with corrugated iron and is concealed by a rendered brick parapet. The building is constructed of exposed red bricks laid in English bond and is U-shaped in plan with accommodation on the top floor and the bar, kitchens and dining room at street level. On the "basement" level are large rooms used for storage and accommodation for the manager's family. The street elevation has a two storey veranda which is supported by paired posts with fretted timber brackets and dowel balustrades on the first floor and wrought iron valances with arched openings at street level. At the side the veranda has dowel balustrading to both levels. French doors open from the rooms onto the verandas at the side and there are sash windows at the front. Internally, the building retains substantial amounts of original fabric including pressed metal ceilings, and some of the original furniture and fittings. For more information check out the Queensland Heritage Register entry at https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600443.
Railway Street: London North Mine
The remains of the London North Mine (built between 1903 and 1915) bounded by Elphinstone Street to the northeast, London Street to the northwest and Macrossan Street to the southeast, consist of a headframe with mullock heaps to the north and south and an engine base to the west.
"The headframe, straddling the mine shaft entrance, is a tall hardwood structure consisting of four inwardly-slanting legs connected at their apex by timber beams which once supported a pulley servicing one of the two compartments in the shaft. The structure has cross bracing to each side at the top, with some remains of cross bracing at mid level. The northern mullock heap is supported by the remains of "pigsties" that were used extensively by miners for support of shafts underground and to shore up larger underground openings. The "pigsty" system provided a frame of timber logs that when packed with mullock could provide considerable structural stability. The engine foundations, consisting of a concrete slab with its holding down bolts, is all that survives of the boiler house and engines. This is located across a small dry watercourse that possibly was of assistance for de-watering the shaft." There is a very detailed description at the Queensland Heritage Register. Check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601207.
Macrossan Street and Raven Street: Ravenswood Court House and Police Station
Located on the hill above Macrossan Street, the Court House and Police Station are the central elements of the town's museum which features displays relating to the town's history, people and mining history. It is open Monday to Friday 11.00 am - 1.30 pm, Saturday-Sunday, 11.00 am - 2.00 pm, tel: (07) 4770 2047.
Ravenswood Court House and Police Station were designed by the Queenland Department of Public Works and were built in 1882 by A Donald (court house) and FA Sparre (police station). The complex consists of three buildings erected on the site in 1882 - the Court House, Police Station, and Cells (formerly part of the Police Station), all of which were removed from the site in 1965 and subsequently returned during the 1980s.
The Court House Group, on the northern corner of Macrossan and Raven Streets, is located on a raised site overlooking Elphinstone Creek. The court house is a single-storeyed timber building with a corrugated iron gable roof and concrete stumps. The building has a T-shaped plan, with the court room forming the south west wing surrounded on three sides by verandas, and offices form the north east wing with a veranda on the northeast side.
The building has weatherboard cladding to the exposed gable ends, and single-skin exposed framing to the veranda walls. Verandas have a timber rail balustrade, with timber posts and capitals. French doors open to north east veranda, with the south west wing having sash windows and a central projecting gabled entrance porch with finial. The south west gable has a finial and paired timber brackets, and the exposed gable ends have a casement window with timber and iron hood.
Internally, the building contains early court room furniture and fittings including timber gallery seating, witness stand, dock, and Judge's bench, with horizontal timber boarding to walls and a raked ceiling.
The barracks, located to the north of the court house, is a single-storeyed, single-skin timber building with a corrugated iron gable roof and concrete stumps. The building has a veranda on the south east, the wall of which is clad with fibrous cement sheeting, with two french doors and a sash window and timber door. The exposed walls have weatherboard cladding, with glass louvred windows on the north west, and a sash window with metal hood on the northeast. The southern corner has had some cladding and part of the veranda removed. Internally, the building has three rooms, the northern one being lined with horizontal boarding, and boarded ceilings.
The cell block, located to the north east of the court house, and to the west of the barracks, is a single-storeyed, single-skin timber building with a corrugated iron hipped roof and concrete stumps. The building has a veranda on the south east, with four doors and a window. The exposed walls have weatherboard cladding, with glass louvred windows, a casement window and a door on the northwest, a glass louvred window on the southwest, and a sash window on the northeast. Internally, the building has four rooms, some of which are lined and have boarded ceilings. Timber cell doors with original hardware have been removed, but remain on the site. This has been abridged from the long and detailed entry in the Queensland Heritage Register. For more information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601204.
Macrossan Street: Ravenswood Post Office
Ravenswood Post Office, now the town's General Store, was built in 1885 by the Queensland Public Works Department on the corner of Macrossan and Raven Streets.
The Post office is a single storey timber building with an exposed stud frame, set on low stumps. It has a hipped, corrugated iron roof and is surrounded on three sides with verandas supported on paired timber posts. The verandas have diagonal timber balustrading and a cast iron valance.
The front veranda and entrance to the Post Office and store are reached by steps up to a classically inspired central entrance formed of a triangular timber pediment supported by square timber pillars. This has been abridged from the long and detailed entry in the Queensland Heritage Register. For more information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600447.
Then walk across the bridge to the small collection of buildings on the other side of Elphinstone Creek which includes:
Macrossan Street: Shop next to Thorps Building
This simple Macrossan Street store, built in 1901, is located next to the impressive Thorps Building and houses two shops in a single storey brick building with plate glass display windows and a central entrance with recessed timber doors. It has a pitched roof clad with corrugated iron and concealed by an ornate rendered parapet This has a raised section in the centre topped with an urn within a hollow arch, echoing the central arch motif on the Imperial Hotel and Browne's Buildings opposite. It is flanked by urns at each end of the parapet, although one of these has been lost. An awning supported by plain timber posts shades footpath at the front of the store and is decorated by a sawn timber valance. Look carefully because it really is a very clever way to put two shops into a single building. This has been abridged from the long and detailed entry in the Queensland Heritage Register. For more information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600454.
Macrossan Street: Thorps Building
The impressive, two storey, Thorps Building, also known as Burns & Fritz Hardware, Hollimans Limited, and Thorp's Goldfield Tearooms, was constructed about 1903 for Sydney Hood Thorp, a mining agent and sharebroker who had a substantial business interests in both the Ravenswood and Charters Towers goldfields. It housed businesses which supplied miners with everything from household goods to mining machinery and is the only two storey shop still standing in Ravenswood.
The building is a two storey rendered brick building with a corrugated iron skillion roof falling to the rear which is concealed by a parapet bearing the name Thorp's Buildings in raised letters. It consists of two shops at ground level with professional offices above. The front of the building has verandas to both floors, supported by paired timber posts with cast iron lace brackets and valance and cast iron panels on the upper floor. The upper floor has four sets of French doors opening on to the veranda.
A central entrance with iron gates leads to a passage and stairs to the first floor. There are shop entrances on either side of this entrance with recessed timber doors and timber framed plate glass display windows. The interior of the shops are relatively intact, including the pressed metal ceilings and wall cladding. The building has its own gas producer and still has gas piping and fittings. This has been abridged from the long and detailed entry in the Queensland Heritage Register. For more information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600452.
Macrossan Street: Imperial Hotel
The superb Imperial Hotel dominates Macrossan Street. It is a flamboyant Edwardian building (1901) with multicoloured brickwork, superb balconies and a delightful Edwardian interior. Constructed in 1901 for James Delaney and run by members of this family for most of the twentieth century, it is evidence of Ravenswood's prosperity during its boom period. It is a symmetrical two storey building with a U-shaped plan constructed of exposed red brick laid in English bond and decorated with horizontal bands of cream brick at the front. The corrugated iron roof is concealed by a high parapet with a central arched pediment and six flanking spires. The veranda to the street has a corrugated iron roof and is supported by paired posts with fretted timber brackets to the upper storey and a timber valance with arched openings on the ground floor. The upper veranda has panels of cast iron balustrading. The veranda on the side elevation is not connected to this and is to the upper floor only. It has dowel balustrading. There are two front entrances, one to the bar and one to the central hallway. On the upper floor French windows open out from bedrooms on to the verandas.
The building retains almost all of its original fabric and the interior layout is typical of nineteenth century hotels. It is exceptionally intact down to furniture, fittings and minor items of hotel equipment. The ground floor contains the bars, dining room and furniture and fittings, a billiard room and table, kitchen, store rooms and office. Features include an elaborately constructed and decorated bar with cedar and glass fittings, beer engines and ceramic taps.
A narrow, open courtyard extends between the two wings of the building with ground floor toilets at the rear of the kitchen wing. Bedrooms are located on the first floor along with bathroom and toilet facilities. Upstairs the building contains much of its original furniture and fittings. This has been abridged from the long and detailed entry in the Queensland Heritage Register. For more information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600446.
Macrossan Street: Cake Shop
Located in Macrossan Street just down from the School of Arts, the Cake Shop was built in the 1880s. It is also known as Jun Yeung Wong & Company and The Pie Shop. The shop is a modest single storey, timber framed building set on low stumps. It is rectangular in plan and with its long axis at right angles to the street. The gabled roof and outside walls are sheeted with corrugated galvanised iron. The shopfront is clad with sawn boards and shaded by a corrugated iron skillion awning supported by plain timber posts over the footpath. Above the awning the gable is clad with sheet metal panels. The central front entrance is flanked by large shop windows with display alcoves behind. The interior has a timber floor and is largely unlined. This has been abridged from the long and detailed entry in the Queensland Heritage Register. For more information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600449.
Macrossan Street: School of Arts
Over the road from the Imperial Hotel, and freshly painted and restored (it was seriously damaged by Cyclone Aivu in 1989 and restored by Carpentaria Gold Pty Ltd), is the timber Ravenswood School of Arts which was built in 1884. It has been the principal theatre, cinema, and social venue of Ravenswood since 1872
It is a single storey, rectangular timber building set on low concrete stumps. It is rectangular in plan with its long axis at right angles to the street and has a gabled roof clad in corrugated iron. The sides and back have an exposed stud frame but the front is weatherboard clad. The facade is symmetrical and divided into bays by pilasters. The arched parapet is echoed by the arched heads of the central front door and the double hung windows which flank it.
The interior features a large open space and a stage. The stage curtain has been preserved and is decorated with painted advertisements for local businesses dating from around the turn of the century, reflecting its use as a community building. This has been abridged from the long and detailed entry in the Queensland Heritage Register. For more information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600453.
Other Buildings of Interest
School Street: Ravenswood School and Residence
Located one block behind Macrossan Street (walk up Church Street) is the Ravenswood School and Residence in School Street. The school and residence are part of an educational facility that has served Ravenswood since 1873. The existing early building at Ravenswood School is an 1880s extension of the original school built in 1873 and the residence dates from 1873 with extensions made over the years to accommodate changing needs.
The school is a single storey, rectangular building with its main axis to the street. It has a timber frame clad with weatherboards and is raised on high concrete stumps to create a shaded space underneath. The steeply pitched gabled roof is clad in corrugated iron extending to a skillion roofed veranda at the front and a rear enclosed veranda. The verandas are supported on timber posts and have timber balustrading.
The residence is a single storey, rectangular house with its main axis to the street. It is timber framed, set on low stumps and clad in weatherboards. Its form is unusual as a result of repeated extensions and it has open verandas with horizontal balustrades on two sides. The roof is steeply pitched and is multi-gabled and clad with corrugated iron. This has been abridged from the long and detailed entry in the Queensland Heritage Register. For more information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600455.
Other Attractions in the Area
Chapel Street: Ravenswood Community Church
Located on the hill above the road out to the Sarsfield Pit Lookout, and very prominently located off Chapel Street, is the Ravenswood Community Church, originally St Patrick's Catholic Church, which was built in 1871 by Ross & O'Reilly. It is a rectangular planned building with a gabled corrugated iron roof. On the western side of the building are remnant plantings and building material from the Mercy Convent, which was located next door. A brick entrance is located down the slope at the Chapel Street entrance to the site.
The front section of the building is clad with chamferboard while the rear has a single skin of chamferboard with exposed framing. Projecting from the nave is an entry porch, which faces Chapel Street. There are narrow windows either side of the porch and in the front wall of the porch. Similar windows are found along both sides of the structure.
A curved projection at the rear of the building marks the sanctuary. A sacristy and a similar extension are located on either side of the sanctuary.
The internal fittings include pews, timber and marble altar, baptismal font and confessional. The interior has been painted and fittings repaired. A new staircase to the choir loft has been recently constructed and windows replaced with new frames.
This has been abridged from the long and detailed entry in the Queensland Heritage Register. For more information check out https://environment.ehp.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=601829.
Sarsfield Pit Lookout
Located a short distance out of town along Deighton Street (turn at Griffin Street and follow the signs) the Sarsfield Pit Lookout looks across a substantial lake created by open cut mining. In recent times it has been extended and it is now expected to be productive, unless the price of gold drops to a point where the mine is no longer economically viable. Resolute Mining, a Perth-based company, have plans to exploit Nolans Pit and Nolans East which lie to the south of the lookout. There is a detailed brochure about the plans at https://www.rml.com.au/uploads/7/2/0/8/72081691/160221-rsg-asx-resolute_to_recommence_open_pit_mining_at_ravenswood_final.pdf.
White Blow Environmental Park
Lying 4 km north east from Ravenswood, along the road to Ayr, is an environmental park, which offers fine views of the Leichhardt Range. A milky quartz outcrop, locally known as White Blow, is a prominent feature of the park, which protects unique geological features and open woodland forest.
"The large quartz outcrop is 15 metres in height with a diameter of 45 metres and is the largest of several irregular masses of quartz associated with the granitic rocks in the area. It is considered to be an outstanding and unusual geological formation. The outcrop itself occurs on a hill.
The ‘White Blow’ quartz rock outcrop is hosted by the Jessop Creek Tonalite (a type of granitic rock) that is dated at about 400 million years. This quartz is estimated to be 300 million years old. Large quartz outcrops (or blows) are common in some parts of Queensland, particularly in the Mt Isa area and near Georgetown. Smaller ones occur elsewhere in the Charters Towers and Ravenswood area.
White Blow is a particularly large outcrop and easily accessible, making it a site of particular scenic interest. Bodies of quartz like this form where tension during earth movements opens up fractures, allowing mineral-bearing fluid to pass through the rock. With a lowering of pressure or temperature, the minerals (in this case silica), come out of the solution and eventually fill the fracture. In this instance, the quartz blow may have formed at the intersection of two fracture zones, allowing a larger opening to form. Such large outcrops are commonly not mineralised and therefore have no mining potential." This is quoted in the White Blow Conservation Park Management Plan 2011.(http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/managing/plans-strategies/pdf/mp073-white-blow-cp-management-plan-gic-approved-2011.pdf).
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area around Ravenswood had been home to people from the Gugu-Badhum Aboriginal language group.
* The area was settled in the 1860s by pastoralists. Two properties were established along the Elphinstone and Connolly Creeks. At the point where the Elphinstone River met the Burdekin River the Merri Merriwa station was established and further upstream was Ravenswood station.
* Gold was discovered in the area in 1868.
* In 1869 about 140 prospectors and fossickers arrived to exploit the new fields.
* When three men, Jessop, Buchanan and Crane, found good alluvial gold near the present site of Ravenswood the news led to a gold rush.
* In 1870 the Government built a five head battery crushing mill at Burnt Point and the results from the first batch of crushed ore were so good that they prompted a further rush on the area and the establishment of five more crushing works.
* By 1871 the Bank of New South Wales had opened, a court house had been built and a local newspaper, the Ravenswood Miner, was opened.
* The success of the mine was short lived. By 1872 it had become extremely difficult to extract the ore and many of the miners had moved on to Charters Towers. Some persistent miners stayed on extracting about 300 kg of gold each year from the area.
* In 1873 a government school opened.
* The district population was around 2,000 in 1876.
* The continuing operation of the gold mines, plus the discovery of silver, led to the construction of a railway from Cunningham to Ravenswood.
* By the early 1890s the mines were once again nearly idle.
* A mine manager, Archibald Lawrence Wilson, took up an option and managed to interest English investors in the field. So successful was Wilson in finding backers for the mines that it was during the period 1900-1912 that the town prospered and Wilson became known as 'the uncrowned king of Ravenswood'.
* During this period the population of the Ravenswood area reached about 5,000 and about 12,500 kg of gold extracted.
* The mines finally ground to a halt in 1917 and since then the town has slowly declined.
* Today it is a ghost town with a tiny population and a large number of interesting buildings.^ TOP
There is no visitor information centre but the Post Office does have information and books. Also check out the blogsite http://www.holidayroad.com.au/2014/09/11/ravenswood-2 - which has some exceptional photos. The nearest visitor information is Charters Towers Visitor Information Centre, 74 Mosman Street, tel: (07) 4761 5533.^ TOP
There is a useful history of Ravenswood at http://queenslandplaces.com.au/ravenswood.^ TOP