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Bristol Hill Pioneer Memorial Tower

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Miners Drive, Maryborough VIC 3465

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The Bristol Hill Pioneer Memorial Tower was built in 1933 during the Great Depression. 

It was based upon and named after Bristol Reef, which was mined from the late 1850's. 

It was constructed largely of material from the old Maryborough Gaol. 

The tower is located at the edge of Bristol Hill Reserve and offers amazing views of the town and surrounding bushland. 

Old tailings are visible to the west of the memorial tower.

There are several walks you take from the tower:


Geological map of the Maryborough gold field which shows historical features in superb detail, including reefs, leads, gullies/flats, and old workings. Originally published by the Department of Crown Lands and Survey, early 20th century. High quality, durable A1 print in a satin finish. Large, 594 x 891 mm. Go to online shop.

Murder and Mayhem on the Maryborough Goldfields! Shop high quality A1 print.


The following information is printed in a souvenir book which marked the official opening of the tower on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1933:

Points which led to its erection
An asset within a memorial

The erection of the Pioneers' Memorial Tower is the culmination of a collective effort on the part of Maryborough. Paradoxical as it might appear, the depression, too, has been a very important feature. 

Without the necessity for the Unemployed' Relief Committee, to which body so great a debt is due, it is possible that the structure now presented would not have been on so pretentious a scale. 

If for no other reason than in supplying work for the deserving unemployed, the construction of the Tower has been well worth while.

But it has a deeper meaning. Maryborough, in common with other places, owes much to its pioneers, and that their efforts in giving birth to the town should gain recognition is only fitting. 

In a space of three-quarters of a century much has passed; old customs have changed; life generally has taken on a new perspective, and, above all, out of chaos there has been evolved a decent civilisation. 

The pioneers were far-seeing men and women. History shows that their immediate ambition was to do something by which posterity would benefit, and so they laid a foundation for future stability and progress, catering for all branches of community life. 

For their initiative and foresightedness, which count for much, this Tower, as far as Maryborough is concerned, pays tribute.

Every country realises the necessity for such monuments. America has a number of beautiful memorials of this kind in various places, and, to quote but one, the thoughts expressed in the memorial to the pioneers of the covered waggon have made a great impression on many travellers. 

Shrines that are definitely linked to the country, and particularly these of an, impersonal character, inspire one with a feeling of tenderness and patriotism, which no monument to a great event in, another land can possible arouse. 

Remember that without memorials of this kind our young people will grow up feeling that they belong to nowhere.

Our pioneers were the gold diggers of the fifties - the adventurous spirits of Europe. 

Certainly the squatters were in Victoria before them, but they were few. The gold diggers were the real founders of our nation; they were the founders of Maryborough; and on a site where they labored, not far from where gold was first discovered, this memorial stands. 

They were men of grit and determination, and we are their descendants. Some succeeded in their quest and some failed, but Victoria emerged the solid State that it has remained ever since. 

The grit and enterprise of these hardy men and women have been the mainstay of Australia ever since. 

Victorian men, and Victorian enterprise were the driving forces which made both Queensland and Western Australia what they are today. 

Both these States were torpid and stagnant until galvanised by the energy of those Victorians who moved there, generally in search of gold.

Oh, who would paint a goldfield, 
And limn the picture right, 
As we have often seen it 
In early morning's light. 
The yellow mounds of mullock 
With spots of red and white, 
The scattered quartz that glistened, 
Like diamonds in light. 
The azure lines of ridges, 
The bush of darkest green, 
The little homes of calico 
That dotted all the scene. 
Oh, they were lion-hearted 
Who gave our country birth! 
Oh, they were of the stoutest sons 
From all the lands on earth! 
- Lawson. 

What does the world owe? After the Napoleonic wars the world went through a long depression, similar to that now experienced. 

Greater inventions occurred, but little use was made of them as the world was too poor. Then the miracle happened. Gold, in large quantities, was found in California and Australia. 

Credit expanded, and the great progress of the nineteenth century commenced. 

Shortage of gold had been the world's trouble, and the work of our pioneers was largely responsible for the progress which followed in every branch of life during the past century. 

To materialise this must never be forgotten.

For long it was realised that Maryborough was not taking full advantage of the asset it possessed in Bristol Hill. A lookout, or tower, was long considered by the Traders' Association, but nothing was done until the co-operation of other bodies and descendants of the pioneers was solicited. 

Then with the announcement that the tower should be erected as a memorial to the pioneers public interest was aroused, showing that the fires of enthusiasm only required fanning to give full effect to the spirit of appreciation. 

While preliminary meetings were held, the movement was not definitely launched until a joint public meeting was held on June 30, 1932. From that time, with a steady response from residents and former residents, together with the wholehearted co-operation of the Unemployment Relief Committee in providing the necessary labor, and the Maryborough Old Boys and Girls' Association in Melbourne, it was soon possible to commence the work. 

The Borough Council lent its aid in various directions; the work commenced in August, and the laying of the foundation stone by Cr. H. E. Williams, J.P., took place on October 15, 1932. Much credit is due to Mr. E. J. Peck, the honorary architect, under whose guidance the whole of the work has been carried out, and who was responsible for the plan and specifications of the Tower. 

The committee expresses its thanks to the doners, members of both committees, and all who in any way made possible this great achievement.

Thanks to the initiative displayed, Maryborough now possesses an asset within a memorial, and so further is the spirit of the pioneers perpetuated. 

The Committee expresses the hope that the Tower will for ever be treasured by the residents of Maryborough and that all who climb the steps will remember those who first labored in this district, and made possible the privileges enjoyed to-day.

Assessed in capital terms, the Tower has cost approximately £800. 


How first residents lived and worked
An interesting review of life in the fifties
Maryborough - "built on the golden leads"

In 1848, several years after the brothers Simson had established themselves on the station, which they named Simson's Range, a bullock driver in their employ, according to the late J. C. Simson, discovered a nugget of gold, on that part of the run about ten miles from the homestead, now known as Daisy Hill. He showed the gold to his employers, but they took no steps to make public the discovery. The early squatters of those days kept finds secret for fear of a rush impeding their pastoral activities. What became of the nugget is unknown, but probably it was sold to one of the Melbourne jewellers, as they were the only buyers of the precious metal before the discovery of the goldflelds. 

It was not till 1851 that the first official discovery of gold in Victoria was made. Gold was found at Clunes, on July 8, 1851, at Buninyong, on August 9, Castlemaine September 10, at Ballarat on September 8, and at Bendigo in 1852. Shortly after, in June, 1854, Hector Norman Simson was making a tour of the station, when he saw three young men working at a hole at a place known as the White Hills, about three miles from the homestead. He approached them, and, on inquiry, they told him they were looking for gold, but had very little luck, at the same time showing him a matchbox containing a small quantity of the metal. But from their demeanor, and the large amount of work they had done, Simson concluded they were doing better than they admitted, and had made an important discovery. They were diggers of some experience, having worked on the Castlemaine and Bendigo fields, but with little success. 

One was reputed to be a young English medical man, and many of the early residents regarded him as being identical with the late Dr. F. M. Laidman, a well-known surgeon, for many years coroner for the district, who was known to have worked on the rush as a digger in 1854, and for 25 years afterwards practised his profession in Maryborough. At no time did he claim to be one of the discoverers, and the records of the Mines Department show that the names of the three first discoverers of the Simson's Range goldfield were unknown, and that no claim was made for a reward. None was paid by the Government for its discovery. 

Simson lost no time in making the discovery known - a contrast to his attitude on the finding of the nugget in 1848. On the rustic log bridge over the Deep Creek near the homestead, traces of which are still visible, he erected a notice as follows: - "This way to the New Goldfleld." The news spread rapidly to the city, and other goldflelds and a great influx of diggers set in from all parts of the colony. The tracks and roads leading to Simson's Range were alive with people. Many carried swags, some with wheelbarrows, whilst coaches, waggons and vehicles of all description laden with diggers and their belongings, sped along the track. They were mostly young, unmarried men, a few foreigners, and elderly men, but even married men with their families were among the throng. All classes were represented - laborers, artisans, seafaring men, tradesmen, professional men, and others who had discarded their usual avocations in this mad rush for gold. 

Within a few weeks there were several thousand men on the field, and a large canvas town of tents soon sprang up. It was at this time that the Government took control of the field, and a gold commissioner (Mr. Daly, a young Irishman), a staff of police, and other officials necessary to enforce Government enactments arrived. Their headquarters were near where the Royal Park stands, and named Commissioner's Flat. This consisted of commissioner's quarters, gold licence office, gold receiver's office, police headquarters, stables, and lockup (built of heavy, rough bush logs, about a foot thick, with the roof covered thickly with bark). The other places were made of calico, with the exception of the stables, which were of bark. The police had a variety of duties to perform, police escort duty, catching criminals (who were numerous), and suppressing the sly-grog dens constituting only a part of their duties. Enforcing the taking out of gold licences, and hunting diggers who had evaded it, was their principal work. 

The first Government proclamation, respecting the issue of gold licences, in Victoria was made on August 16, 1851. Two days later it became law, the fee being £1 10/ monthly in advance. On May. 1852, the price was risen to £3 per month, and in 1854, when the Simson's Range diggings broke out, the price was reduced to £1 monthly. In the latter part of 1854 it was again reduced to £2 for three months, payable in advance. It entitled the owner to mine or dig for gold, reside at or carry on, or follow any trade or calling except that of shopkeeper. The licence was to be carried on the person and produced on demand to the commissioner, police officer, or other duly authorised person. It was not transferable, and any person transferring same was liable to a penalty for a misdemeanor. No mining was permitted where it would be destructive to any line of road, which was necessary to maintain, and which was determined by the commissioner, nor within such distance around an y store as was necessary to reserve access to it. It was enjoined that all persons maintain a due and proper observance of the Sunday. The extent of claim allowed to each licensed miner was 12 ft. x 12 ft., to two miners 12 ft. by 24 ft., to three miners 18 ft, by 24 ft., and to a party of four miners 24 ft. x 24 ft., beyond which no greater area could be allowed in one claim. 

The licence fee was of little consequence to those on payable gold, but to those who were not it was an unjust and iniquitous tax. It would have been fairer had it been placed on the amount of gold won, the value of which was £3 an ounce. Though quiet reigned on the field during its enforcement, it was not so at Ballarat, where it culminated in the fight at Eureka Stockade on December 3, 1854, and which brought about its abolishment. Shortly after the Government appointed a Royal Commission, which proceeded to the goldfields, and its report was followed by the Miner's Right being substituted for the gold licence. Local courts were established, auriferous leases granted, and the goldfields had conferred on them the right to have municipal and, legislative representation. The rights were sold a t a nominal figure, and in 1858 mining boards were established a t the various goldfields centres. The members were elected for a term by the holders of miners' rights For many years they carried on in the interest of the miners and mining generally, but, having outlived their usefulness, were eventually abolished. 

The scarcity of water was the greatest drawback on the diggings. Water had to be carted from the Deep Creek at Carisbrook, to which the diggers also carted the wash dirt. Water was 1/6 a bucket, flour as high as £50 a ton; butter was 4/ a pound, milk 4/ a quart, potatoes 1/3 lb.; vegetables were almost unprocurable, cabbages bringing from 2/6 to 4/6 each. The freight from Melbourne on ail other necessaries was exorbitant; liquor was out of the question, except that procurable a t the shanties. The sale of drink was strictly prohibited, and persons found in possession of it were liable to prosecution. The diggers lived principally on damper and mutton, which was plentiful, and which was regularly procurable from the Simsons. 

The diggers lived mostly in tents, some in log and bark huts. Their furniture generally consisted of a bunk made of forked sticks and saplings. For chairs and tables small logs, boxes and stumps sufficed. Their cooking utensils were generally a billy or two, a pot, a frying pan and a pannikin; and the cooking was usually done in the open. The blazing wood of hundreds of fires on' a winter night, with diggers perched around chatting and singing, was an extraordinary sight. I n the shallow ground the dirt was raised by means of a tripod made of three pieces of wood fixed together, with a block and pulley on the top; but where the ground was deeper the windlass was in use. 

Mr. Edward O'Farrell, one of the earliest diggers, who later became a well-known hotelkeeper in Maryborough and chairman of the Mining Board, with his mates, was among the first on the rush. He stated that on arrival at White Hills they saw about forty men at work on a flat close to a blind creek, now known as Four Mile Creek. Water was being procured from the Bet Bet and Deep Creeks. The sinking was hard and the ground rich. One party was picking out nuggets of from one to ten ounces. Further on, towards the site of Maryborough, men were working, the sinking being from 16 to 24 ft. in hard cement, the wash being from 4 to 6 ft. thick, full of splendid nuggets on a pipeclay bottom. Further up the lead the gold was found in shallow ground, and the rush became greatly intensified all along the lead, gold being found in nearly every hole. Within three months of the first discovery there were between 20,000 and 30,000 men on the field. The depth there was: from 4 to 10 ft. As much as one shovelful of dirt yielded nearly 20 oz., and the average: of the wash was from 24 to 36 oz. to the load. Near the Government headquarters at Commissioner's Flat the lead was 15 chains wide, and the sinking from 55 to 60 ft., the wash being from 2 to 5 ft. thick, and yielding from 4 to 10 oz. to the load. The surfacing was. also good.

Two diggers who worked on Blackman's Lead quickly got 690 oz. from their claim. They afterward s worked on the Main Lead, got the wash at 14 ft., yielding as much as 10 oz. to the bucket, the average being 11 oz. to the load. After working it cut they took up another claim on Blackman's. This was the richer of the two leads. They got 3 ft. of wash and coarse gold with nuggets from 2 to 12 oz., and afterwards discovered a beautiful nugget, shaped like a pear, which turned the scale at 11 lb. 3 oz., and was valued a t £400. The average of this claim was 14 oz. to the load. The gold of the leads was generally coarse, and the total length was about eight miles. Where they junctioned it was expected the' leads would be richer, but such was not the case, and for nearly half a mile towards Commissioner's Flat it was somewhat poorer. In June, 1855, a nugget weighing 1034 oz. was found in the Blackman's Lead, at a depth of five feet, and was sold for £3250. Another was found in the Main Lead at White Hills in 1856 at. a depth of 12 ft., and weighed 236 oz. In January, 1858, another nugget was found in Blackman's Lead at a depth of 6 ft, weighing 537 oz. 

At the latter part of 1854 it was decided to change the name of the goldfleld. Various names were suggested, but it was left to Commissioner Daly to decide, and he named it Maryborough, in honor of his native town in Ireland. I n 1855 the population of the goldfleld and its environs was estimated at 53,000. Rich gold having been discovered in the adjacent gullies and outlying places, thousands of diggers were attracted to the Alma field (which was discovered by W. Fierce and T. Ritchie, to whom the Government paid rewards of £150 each) and to Chinaman's Flat (now Bowenvale), Adelaide Lead and Havelock. There was trouble at the Alma through the jumping of claims, and rioting ensued. This was soon quelled, the jumpers faring badly. It was known as the Tipperary riot. At these places rich gold was found. 

In April, 1855, Mr. Taylor, a Government surveyor, arrived and surveyed the site for a town, on the slopes of Simson Range (now Bristol Hill) of an area of about 2250 acres - nearly four square miles. The first crown lands sale was held in October, 1856. At that time the main part of the field was a long, irregular thoroughfare nearly two miles long, now known as High Street, consisting mainly of tents and log and slab tenements. Some were places of business, and, the Government having granted liquor licences, many were tap rooms. Skittle alleys and other places of amusement were in evidence, and the sly-grog shanties, where diggers were often drugged and robbed, were still in evidence, despite the efforts of the police to suppress them. 

At this time (in 1856) the population had decreased to 15,000, and at the time the municipality was created, in 1857, it had dwindled to 12,000. Whilst the rush was at its maximum crime was prevalent. Numbers of Vandemonians on ticket of leave from Tasmania, and criminals from Sydney and other places, had infested the field. One of the most notorious was Black Douglas, a big American negro. He was leader of a gang of ruffians who had been robbing diggers on the Bendigo and other fields, and had evaded capture for a considerable time. He arrived at Simson's Range s and the Alma about 1855 in search of fresh victims. He was soon identified, and a large number of diggers surrounded his camp at the Alma and captured him without a fight. The scoundrel was manacled and escorted to the Maryborough police camp by an escort of excited diggers. Their entry into the town caused great excitement. 

After the shallow ground had been mostly worked out , large numbers of Chinese arrived and spread themselves in camps over the diggings and adjacent gullies. They never searched for fresh finds, but invariably fossicked the old workings. They were numerous on other fields, their number in Victoria in 1857 being 25,424, which had increased in 1859 to nearly 40,000. Shortly after being established in 1854, Cobb & Co. ran a line of coaches to the district, and this was continued till the opening of the railway from Castlemaine in 1874. 

In 1854 the Maryborough Hospital was established in a large tent. The first medical officer was the late Dr. R. H. Dunn, who had served on the medical staff of the British forces in the Crimean war, and who, for about half a century afterwards, was resident and consulting surgeon to the Hospital.

When the rush had somewhat subsided, attention was given to the deep ground and reefing, and with the advent of machinery and the employment of large numbers; of miners, payable gold was soon found. The district developed into one of the leading goldfields of Victoria, and a prosperous Maryborough came into being, a town built on the golden leads of these early days. In 1857 the municipality was created, the first members being D. K. Campbell, general merchant; D. Taylcr, grocer and draper; - Fowler, ironmonger; M. Garland, wine and spirit merchant; - Levy, wine and spirit merchant; - Roberts, draper; and A. McLandress, boot merchant (chairman), and Mr. J. C. Hooper (secretary). In 1859 it was proclaimed the Borough of Maryborough, with Mr. McLandress as Mayor, and Mr. Thos. Gardiner Town Clerk. 

There are few relics of the early days visible. Many of the worked-out claims are to be seen, but the pioneer diggers of 1854 are no more. The most interesting relics are the early burying grounds (which are to be found in the district) before cemeteries were established. As a rule the dead were buried on rising ground, not far from where they died, and it was seldom that any stone or enclosure marked their last resting place. The old cemetery on Bristol Hill (Simson's Range), which was closed in 1858, stands out as the most interesting of all. 

The amount of gold produced from the field and the outlying leads from 1854 to 1859 was enormous, amounting approximately to several million ounces.

In search of wealth, mankind's, desire, 
They seed the track, and crossed the main 
These worthy sons of British sires, 
The Pioneers - the country's gain.
They've bade farewell, and gone far away, 
Where the sere autumn never falls. 
The pioneer men of the gold era days, 
Honor them, honor them all; 
And may the memory never fade 
Of those departed, good and brave- 
Their work is done, their last debt paid;
In peace they rest in. yonder grave. 

More information can be found in the digitised version of the 1933 Opening Souvenir Booklet


  • Bushwalking is an excellent way to get outdoors and exploring nature.
  • There are many great places throughout the Goldfields that offer gorgeous, panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Gold prospecting is the recreational act of searching for natural gold deposits in the ground using tools such as gold detectors, gold pans and gold sluices. The Goldfields region of Victoria is a popular destination for gold prospectors, with many of the world's largest alluvial gold nuggets found in the area!


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