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Victoria Hill Mining Reserve

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24-32 Happy Valley Road (off Marong Road), Ironbark VIC 3550

Explore other locations around this area using our interactive map

Features

  • Historic mining reserve
  • Impressive poppet head lookout
  • Mining ruins and relics
  • Detailed information signs
  • Walking tracks
  • Barbecue, picnic and toilet facilities located just outside the reserve
  • Open 9am - sunset (Daylight Savings Time)
  • Open 9am - 5pm (Eastern Standard Time)
Take a walk through the Victoria Hill Mining Reserve and explore the site of Victoria's deepest gold mine. In the year 1908, the Victoria Quartz Co Mine had the world's deepest shaft at 1,365 metres. By 1910 the shaft had reached a depth of 1,406 metres! Many successful mines operated at Victoria Hill, one of the richest areas in the Bendigo goldfield.

Walking tracks take you on a journey through the area, taking you past fascinating ruins and relics. Lots of detailed information signs provide the site's history along the way.

A huge poppet head has been converted into a lookout platform, a dominant feature of the reserve. Carefully climb the steps to the lookout and take in the beautiful views over Bendigo. See how many other poppet heads you can spot around the town!

Picnic/barbecue facilities and toilets are located just outside Victoria Hill Mining Reserve, in the Albert Richardson Reserve (bushfire memorial) on Marong Road. 

Some of the many information signs throughout the Victoria Hill Mining Reserve display the following text: 

Welcome to Victoria Hill

Victoria Hill was one of the richest areas on the Bendigo Goldfield. It had many successful mines, including Lansell's '180' and the Victoria Quartz, once the deepest gold mine in the world.

Today, on a walk through the site, you can see the remains of several phases of mining activity - from an open-cut mine of the 1850s to a quartz-crushing battery used in the 1930s. There are also mullock heaps, a poppet head, and the foundations of massive winding engines. On-site signs explain these features.

As you walk through the site, think about the thousands of miners who, over a period of 80 years, worked the rich reefs beneath Victoria Hill. 

The Bendigo goldfield

Bendigo was one of the world's richest goldfields. Between 1857 and 1954, 829 mining companies produced up to 22 million ounces of gold. This represented a quarter of all gold mined in Victoria in that period and about one-tenth of the total yield from within Australia.

The rich New Chum Reef passed through the centre of Victoria Hill. In 1871, the Bendigo Goldfield Registry described the area as 'far-famed and world-renowned Victoria Hill' the 'backbone' of the township of Bendigo.

Discovering gold at Bendigo

In 1851, Bendigo was part of an extensive squatting run known as Ravenswood. News of the discovery of gold at Ballarat and Castlemaine reached Ravenswood in the winter of 1851. No doubt, gold was the topic of much conversation in the shepherd's hut near Bendigo Creek. 'Happy' Jack Kennedy, the overseer on the Ravenswood run, his wife Margaret and a resident shepherd soon found payable gold. 

Gold diggers

By Christmas 1851, there were 600 diggers at Golden Point, the site of Bendigo's first gold rush. When this area was worked out, the diggers rushed the surrounding gullies - Peg Leg, Adelaide, New Chum, California - and by the winter of 1852, they had pushed the field northwards to the Whipstick Forest and Eastwards to Epsom. 

During this period, gold was won by washing shallow (or alluvial) gravels and clays. News of rich finds brought thousands of hopeful immigrants to Victoria's goldfields. Bendigo attracted more than its share:

Men of almost every nationally, men of position and means mixed with adventures, honest toilers, worshippers, all bent on the same object - the acculation of the precious metal.

By 1854, these diggers had won over 1.1 million ounces of gold.

Quartz mining

From 1853, some miners turned their attention to the huge outcrops of gold-bearing quartz which promised wealth to those with strength and determination. Using hammers or picks to smash the gold free of the quartz, they soon recognised the potential of Bendigo's reefs. By 1865, reefing, as it was called, had replaced alluvial mining as the main focus of activity on the goldfield.

Victoria Hill

Between 1853 and 1861, sixteen claims were established on Victoria Hill. One miner wrote of the excitement in Bendigo as these claims tapped new richer reefs:

Victoria Hill is passing belief and inviting incredulity; it is like an eastern tale, within so small an area there should have been extracted a plethora of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. 

To learn more about the history of Victoria Hill and the miners who worked the rich gold-bearing reefs, follow the path to Christopher Ballerstedt's open-cut mine.

Ballerstedt's open-cut mine (1854 - 1871)

You are about to walk through Ballerstedt's open-cut mine. German-born and a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo and the Californian gold rushes, Christopher Ballerstedt bought his claim from two black Americans in 1854.

After working the reef in this open-cut, Ballerstedt sank a shaft on his claim. At 300 feet (90 metres), he struck a rich reef. He celebrated his success with a Champagne luncheon attended by the Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Barkly, 'amidst the blaze of twelve hundred wax candles, and the coruscations of the gold-bespangled walls of this auriferous cavern.' He swore that his mine would yield a ton of gold, and by 1860, he found gold worth £243,000.

When he died in 1869, Ballerstedt was known as the 'father of quartz reefing', his success having encouraged others to explore the region's deep reefs.

As you walk through the open-cut, look for the white or brown lines of quartz in the pink, brown or grey sedimentary rock. The quartz contained rich deposits of gold. 

Victoria Quartz Co Mine (1877 - 1913)

At the turn of the century, this was the site of one of the premier mines on the Bendigo goldfield. In 1908, it boasted the world's deepest shaft - 4,478 feet (1,365 metres). The shaft reached a depth of 4,613 feet (1,406 metres) in 1910.

In 1857 eight small claims in this area had been merged to form the Victoria Reef Quartz Mining Co. Another merger in 1877 led to the formation of the Victoria Quartz Co. 

For the next three decades, the mine produced consistent profits. In 1910, water burst into the claim, flooding the shaft and halting operations. The company baled water for six months then handed the mine over to the tributers who worked the upper levels for the share of the profits.

The mine closed in 1913, having produced over 48,000 ounces of gold and paid dividends of £99,600.

Victoria Quartz Co Mine (1877 - 1913)

At the turn of the century, this was the site of one of the premier mines on the Bendigo goldfield - the Victoria Quartz.

The poppet head is the fourth to be erected on this site. Between 1900 and 1920, it stood as Koch's Pioneer mine in Bendigo. During the 1920s it was re-erected at Mt Buninyong, near Ballarat, and was used as a fire observation tower and a telecommunications tower. In 1955, it was re-erected at Victoria Hill. 

Poppet heads were used to haul men and equipment up and down the shaft. At this time the shaft was divided into three compartments - one for the miner's cage, another for the baling tanks, and the third known as the ladder shaft for communication and ventilation. 

Quartz Mining

Bendigo's gold was locked in quart reefs below the earth's surface. Miners dug shafts and tunnels to reach the reefs. At first they used hand-tools, then rock drills powered by compressed air to bore holes into the rock. These holes were rammed with explosives. After blasting, the rock was hauled to the surface. The worthless rock (or mullock) was dumped in massive heaps near the mine; the gold-bearing rock was taken to a crusher or stamp battery. 

The miners removed about 5,400 tons of rock for every 500 feet (152 metres) of tunnel or shaft. Mining at that depth needed sophisticated equipment: baling tanks to remove underground water from the shafts and powerful winding machinery to haul the gold-bearing rock to the surface. 

A miners working life

Below ground conditions were harsh and sometimes dangerous. Sanitary facilities were primitive or non-existent. Water seeped through cracks in the rock making conditions incredibly humid. Miners worked a ten-hour shift in the air that was thick with the fumes of candles, the smell of human bodies, and the haze of smoke and dust from blasting and drilling.

Poor ventilation and unsanitary conditions contributed to the spread of tuberculosis and phthisis, or 'miners' complaint. During the 1880s, deaths from respiratory conditions were 50 per cent higher in Bendigo than elsewhere in Victoria. 

Lansell's '180' Mine (1861 - 1907)

These brick and granite foundations, originally housed inside a two-storey timber engine house, supported massive winding drums which hauled men and equipment up and down the mine shaft. Look for the smooth mark worn into the brickwork by the winding drum.

George Lansell purchased this mine from Theodore Ballerstedt for £30,000 in 1871. He called his claim the '180' because it occupied 180 yards on the rich New Chum Reef. Between 1888 and 1899, the mine was reputed to have won gold to the value of £1,000,000.

In 1895, the shaft was down to 3,179 feet (968 metres), the deepest mine in Australia. When it closed to 1907, the mine yielded over 77,000 ounces of gold. 

Revival

During the depression of the 1930s, the price of gold almost doubled. This and the high rate of unemployment led to a revival of mining throughout Victoria. In 1934-35, the Bendigo goldfield produced a third of Victoria's total yield.

Between 1933 and 1949, this twenty-head battery crushed quartz for several companies including the Little 180 Mine, the New Chum Syncline and the Bendigo Crushing Company. It was manufactured by Thompson's of Castlemaine in 1933.

The stamps were lifted and dropped, pulverising the quartz into sand-sized particles. After crushing, the sand passed over a series of tables - a mercury-coated plate table that amalgamated the gold and ripple-board tables that trapped most of the gold or heavy minerals. A mine could operate successfully if it produced one third of an ounce of gold for every tonne of quartz brought to the crusher. 

In 1949 the battery fell silent, ending 30 years of mining on Victoria Hill. Over the next decade, rising wages, falling profits, and a shortage of skilled labour and materials tested the last of Bendigo's mining companies. The closure of the North Deborah in 1954 saw the end of 101 years of continuous quartz mining on the Bendigo goldfield. 


DID YOU KNOW...

  • 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.
  • There are hundreds of fantastic barbecue areas throughout the Victorian Goldfields. Some are in parks/playgrounds, others are scattered throughout the bush. Many barbecue areas are located alongside amazing attractions and walks, so go out for a barbecue and get exploring!
  • There are many great places throughout the Goldfields that offer gorgeous, panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
 

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