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Garfield Water Wheel

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Leanganook Track, Chewton VIC 3451

Features

Visit the Garfield Water Wheel historical site in Chewton, Victoria and explore the ruins and remnants of the Garfield Company Mine. The massive stone supports which still remain at the site once supported an enormous water wheel with a diameter of 22 metres. Upon its construction the Garfield Water Wheel was hailed as the largest in the southern hemisphere! The water wheel was used between 1887 and 1903 to power the stamp battery for the mine. 

Today visitors can explore many fascinating features of the Garfield Mine site by taking a short self-guided walk which travels around the area. An information sign alongside the parking area provides a map and numbered features of the walking track. The supports for the water wheel itself are right alongside the car park and do not require any walking.

Numbered posts at various points along the walking track indicate the sites of the following features:
  1. Garfield mine shaft and winding engine foundations
  2. Examples of small scale mine workings
  3. Examples of small scale mine workings
  4. Water race which brought water from the Expedition Pass Reservoir
  5. Point on the race from where water travelled via a wooden flume to the Garfield Water Wheel
  6. Trees which have regrown since mining finished in 1942
  7. Sand from the battery where ore was crushed to extract gold
  8. Cyanide tanks where fine gold was extracted from the battery sand
  9. Water race which took water away from the Garfield wheel to drive the wheel at the Manchester Mine
Garfield Gold Mine, Chewton Victoria, 1985. Elevated view of weatherboard salt box design building, large water wheel and conveyor. Image source: State Library Victoria.

The following text is displayed on a sign (provided by Parks Victoria and the Department of Conservation & Environment) at the Garfield Water Wheel historical site, along with lots of other fascinating information and images:

GARFIELD WATER WHEEL

The Garfield Water Wheel was the largest diameter wheel ever constructed in Victoria. It provided power to the stamp battery for extracting gold from ore produced by the Garfield Mine between 1887 and 1903.

The Wheel's massive stone supports are very significant historic mining features because of their association with a major gold mining area and important nineteenth century technology. The mine site is listed on the registers of the National Estate, Government Buildings, and the National Trust.
GARFIELD MINE

Gold extraction from quartz reefs commenced in the late 1850s and 1860s, once alluvial gold was exhausted in the rushes of the previous decade. In the Chewton area, over the next 20 years, many small parties of miners sank shafts to the reefs. 

It was not until 1882 that a group of Sandhurst (now Bendigo) investors formed the Garfield Co. and hired John Ebbott as Manager. On a 4 ha (10 acre) lease 23 men were employed to sink an engine shaft and erect machinery, including a boiler and 18-head, iron framed, crushing battery.

In March 1883 the Garfield Co. Mine Manager reported that the mine was progressing well.

The company continued to grow taking on the crushing for the neighbouring lease of the Louisa James Co., and subsequently buying a one quarter share in this company. 

By September 1885 the company had obtained 7,385 oz of gold at 120 feet deep, erected a 23-head battery and extensive plant, and paid a dividend of 4s. per share on 30,000 shares.

The Garfield Company was the premier mine within the Castlemaine mining division for the last quarter of 1885 and the first quarter of 1886, producing 1703 oz 17 dwt of gold. At this time it employed about 70 men and boys. 

By 1886 the Garfield lease had grown from a 4 ha (10 acre) ease to over 20 ha (50 acre) taking in the Englishman's and Energetic Reefs. It was also discovered in this period that the ground was subsiding under the heavy battery and it was decided to move it south. 

Wheel of 1887

The great water wheel and plant at the new site were completed in June 1887. The adjoining display panel describes the 22 metre (70 foot) diameter wheel, the largest in Victoria.

English Investors

The mine was eventually sold to English investors. During negotiations for the sale the company suspended its mining operations, although the upper levels were let on tribute to local miners who had to pay a percentage of any gold they found to the mine owners.

In March 1898 the name of the mine was changed to "Forest Creek Gold Reefs" and activity was renewed. Production of 734 oz was reported for two quarters of that year. 

The mine continued to yield reasonable gold, but by 1903 the English directors were considering laying off hands because of unfavourable state legislation. 

There was a new burst of activity under the name of Chewton Gold Mines Ltd. The water wheel was abandoned in September 1903, and in its place was installed a compound steam battery engine and an extra 10 head battery (total now 25 head) with modern winding and baling machinery.  

Closure & Revival

In 1912 the mine was closed and machinery sold. In August 1938 New Garfield Gold attempted to start up the mine again but was hampered by drought conditions leading to insufficient water for boiler purposes. 

This company continued to operate until 1942 when quartz was crushed at the Government battery, producing 2 dwt of gold per ton. This is the last known reference to the Garfield Mine. 

See Also




DID YOU KNOW...

  • Bushwalking is an excellent way to get outdoors and exploring nature.
  • Evidence of the mid-late 1800's gold rush can be found throughout the Victorian goldfields in the form of abandoned mine shafts and tunnels, mullock heaps, buildings and ruins, circular puddling troughs, remains of cyanide vats, and quartz kilns.
 

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