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Smythesdale, VIC

Historic gold mining town

Smythesdale, like so many small settlements in Victoria, started life as a gold mining town. It was quickly bypassed by the hordes of miners who found the prospect of gold in nearby Ballarat more attractive. Today it has a small number of historic buildings and its main attraction is the Jubilee Mine - an historic remnant of the district's early history.


Smythesdale is located on the Glenelg Highway, 19 km south-west of Ballarat and 134 km west of Melbourne.


Origin of Name

Smythesdale was named after John Smythe who arrived in the area and took up a pastoral lease named Nentinball in 1849.


Things to See and Do

Lock-Up and Police Station
Located at 62 Brooke Street, is a single-storey bluestone Classical police station and lock-up which was built in 1869 with coursed rusticated stonework, a gabled roof and an iron grille door. The buildings are recorded in the Victorian Heritage Database: "The rectangular building has a projecting gabled wing with an iron grill door. There are barred, slit windows under the eaves. Walls are in coursed rustication on plinth and arris' distinguish the openings and corners. Roofs are gabled and clad in slate. 
"The Lock-up is a reasonably rare surviving example of a sizable country lock-up in bluestone in a substantially intact state. The structure is notable for its design, with the central projecting gabled wing and for its detailing in bluestone. The structure is utilitarian Classical Revival in style and is typical of the work of the Public Works Department." Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/67906.

Court House
Located at 64 Brooke Street, the Smythesdale Court House was built in 1860 as a Court of Petty Sessions. The building is of historic and architectural significance. The Victorian Heritage Database explains: "Smythesdale Court House is one of a large number of brick, slate-roofed court houses, constructed in Victoria from the 1860s to the 1880s. Designed in a Free Classical style, these buildings are characterised by a dominant single storey, gabled structure containing the court room, ancillary rooms to either one side or both sides, and a timber framed verandah at the front. At Smythesdale, openings are of simple arch form and the front gable contains a circular motif." For more information check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/1029.

Jubilee Mine Historic Area
Located 9 km south-east of Smythesdale, the Jubilee Mine area contains old gold mining remnants (old cyanide vats, mullock heaps, brick walls, water races and machinery foundations) at a location known as Italian Gully. Between 1887 and 1913, the mine employed around 300 men and produced some $80 million worth of gold. To reach the site follow the Glenelg Highway south-west for 3.5 km to Scarsdale and turn left into Pitfield Road. After 4 km turn left onto the Newtown-Berringa Road (bitumen) and after 3 km turn right onto the unsealed Jubilee Road. It is another 3 km to the site, There is a Google Map at https://www.melbourneplaygrounds.com.au/mapr.php?id=52502.


Other Attractions in the Area

Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail
The Ballarat–Skipton Rail Trail runs 57 kilometres along the old Skipton railway line from Ballarat, south-west through Haddon, Smythesdale and Pittong to Skipton. The total length of the trail is 63 km including a section from Ballarat railway station to the trailhead. One major landmark on the route is the historic timber Nimmons Bridge at Newtown - this is on the 17 km Smythesdale to Linton section. There is a very major description of the stages of the rail trail at https://www.railtrails.org.au/trail?view=trail&id=145. Bikes can be hired at Linton Bike Hire.

Arthur Alfred Lynch
By any normal measure, Arthur Alfred Lynch was a true Renaissance man. His career is remarkable and proof that he lived by his decision: "If I were to live at all I would live with the utmost effectiveness and with entire dauntlessness of spirit".
Arthur was born in Smythesdale on 16 October, 1861, the son of John Lynch, an Irish Catholic gold miner, surveyor and civil engineer, who had been one of Peter Lalor's captains and had been imprisoned for his role in the famous Eureka Stockade rebellion.
During his incredibly rich life young Arthur became a poet, novelist, polymath, journalist, critic, soldier, parliamentarian, diplomatist and rebel who attained a certificate in civil engineering and a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne.
In the late 1880s he left Australia (he was never to return) and studied physics, physiology and psychology at the University of Berlin in 1888-1889; graduated with a medical degree from the University of London and attained a degree in electrical engineering at Paris.
An anti-monarchical Irish republican, he was sent to the USA to reconcile two Irish political factions, became a powerful journalist and Paris correspondent for England's Daily Mail and later formed and led an Irish contingent which fought for Botha in the Boer War.
The Australian Dictionary of Biography goes on to explain that "Lynch was sent to America to promote the Boer cause before returning to Paris. Meanwhile he had been elected for Galway as a Nationalist and, after announcing his intention of taking his seat in a letter to The Times, set off for London and was arrested at Dover on 11 June 1902. Next January, calmly protesting that he was an Australian, he was tried for treason and sentenced to be hanged, but immediate commutation to life imprisonment followed. After mass petitioning and intervention by King Edward VII he was released a year later and pardoned in 1907. Lynch took up medical studies at St Mary's, Paddington, graduated from the University of London (M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., 1908) and practised at Haverstock Hill. He later found time to graduate in Paris with a diploma of electrical engineering. In 1909 he was elected to parliament for West Clare. During World War I he fought for freedom as ever, he believed. After informal work in France, aiding communication between British and French leaders, late in the war he was appointed colonel in order to encourage recruiting in Ireland; he had little success. By now he was a close ally of Lord Northcliffe."
The Dictionary concludes: "A hefty man, strikingly handsome, of charm, courtesy and even temper, Lynch was one of the most picturesque figures of his time. He was erratic in his grasp of public affairs but was generally respected for his integrity and extraordinary range of knowledge, and was on friendly terms with many great contemporaries. He had no doubt that his was one of the outstanding minds of the age."
It is a sad comment on our history that he is not well known. He really was a remarkable man.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to Wathaurong Aboriginal people.

* The first Europeans into the area was John Smythe who took up land in 1849. He gave his name to the town and Smythe's Creek.

*In 1853 gold was discovered in the area.

* An Anglican school was opened in 1856.

* By 1861 a Court House had been built in the settlement.

* A local borough council was created on 12 April, 1861. That year the first land sales took place.

* The census of 1861 recorded a population of 1,794.

* By the end of the 1860s a town had grown up with a library, sawmill, brewery, Mechanics Institute and a number of hotels.

* In 1883 the railway from Ballarat reached the town.

* In 1915 Smythesdale became part of the Grenville shire.

* The railway line was closed in 1983.


Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information Centre in Smythesdale but the Ballarat Visitor Information Centre, 225 Sturt Street, Ballarat, tel: (03) 5337 4337 has information. It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm seven days a week.


Useful Websites

There is no dedicated website for Smythesdale. Some useful information is on the Ballarat website. Check out https://www.visitballarat.com.au/things-to-do/beyond-ballarat.

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  • Smythesdale has a pretty active Historical Society which is also on facebook. It’s called the Woady Yaloack Historical Society, which is the name of the local waterway

    Susan Cook