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Poverty Point

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414 Main Road, Golden Point VIC 3350

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Features

  • Site of Ballarat's first gold discovery
  • Information sign
  • Commemorative monument
  • Picnic table
  • Bench seating
  • Walking/cycling track
Poverty Point is the site of Ballarat's first gold discovery, commemorated by a small but scenic park along the Canadian Creek. Situated close to Ballarat's famous Sovereign Hill, this park features a hillside monument (erected in 1941), bench seating, a picnic table, and an information sign.

Not long after the exciting discoveries at Clunes and Buninyong, gold was discovered on Yuille's Ballarat Station in August of 1851. John Dunlop and James Regan discovered gold at Poverty Point between the 20th and 24th of August, followed closely by Tom Brown's discovery less than a mile away at Golden Point. 

Section of map of the pastoral holdings of the Port Phillip District, showing Yuille's Ballarat station. Source: Trove

Dunlop and Regan had been in a party of five who were digging at nearby Hiscocks (the diggings at Buninyong) for a few weeks - with little luck. Regan headed to Clunes for a few days where James Esmond was working, before heading back towards Hiscocks where Dunlop had stayed with their equipment. With the small amount of experience he had gained over these few weeks, Regan found a likely spot to try for gold on his way back, finding gold at Ballarat! Hurrying to fetch Dunlop, the pair returned with their equipment and got to work. 

Monuments and information sign at Hiscocks, the area where gold was first discovered in Buninyong and where Dunlop and Regan gained a few weeks experience digging for gold.

Dunlop and Regan were discovered at work by none other than Alfred Clarke of the Geelong Advertiser. Regan said he would rather have seen the devil himself! Clarke published the news of this latest goldfield on the 5th of September, and a great rush began.

"A prolific Gold Field has been discovered about seven miles from Buninyong, at the 'embouchure' of the Buninyong gulley, on Yuille's Station. This gulley runs its serpentine course from the 'green hill' through ranges covered with stringy bark, alternating in flats, and gathers into its channel many tributary rivulets, which swell its course, at the 'site' fixed upon as the 'diggins' into the magnitude of a river, which sweeps in devious windings round the bases of the undulating hills, now discovered for the first time to be richly charged with the universally prized metal." - Geelong Advertiser, 5th September 1851

The whole area around Poverty Gully and Golden Point turned out to be mind-blowingly rich, with mining claims being described as "jewellers shops" containing table-tops of gold! The site of the renowned Blacksmith's Hole is located just a few blocks away from Poverty Point. 

The information sign which stands alongside the parking area at Poverty Point displays the following text: 

The question of who discovered the Ballarat goldfield has been debated since 1851. Confusion about dates and precise locations have clouded the issue ever since. James Esmond's discovery at Clunes in July 1851, and Thomas Hiscock's near Buninyong in early August, had attracted hundreds of men, who crossed the Ballarat Flat on their way between these two finds. At least three separate parties claimed to have been the first discoverers. 

The Ballarat Historical Society, after much careful research, decided that the honour should go to John Dunlop and James Regan, who found gold in late August 1851 on what was to become Golden Point. Within a week of the discovery, other prospectors had flocked to Golden Point, and the riches unearthed 'set the colony on fire from end to end'. Victoria's first real goldrush had begun. Experienced miners came and tried further up the slopes. One party dug 60lb (20kg) of gold from a shaft only six feet (1.8m) deep.

The Ballarat district was the original territory of the Watha Wurrung people and the valley of the Yarrowee was one of their favourite camping sites. But by 1851, their nomadic lifestyle had already been altered by more than a decade of white pastoral settlement. The gold discoveries of 1851 were to end what remained of that lifestyle forever. 

The Historical Society in 1941 erected a monument to Dunlop and Regan across the foot bridge and up the rise to the right. 

A detailed description of the early workings at Golden Point was provided by R. Brough Smyth in his 1869 book 'The Gold Fields and Mineral Districts of Victoria':

The gold was, in the first instance, obtained from the surface, and was followed to a depth of eight feet ; the bottom was pipe-clay, over which was a layer of light green clay, very tenacious, and thickly studded with gold. Higher up the hill, a stratum off red conglomerate was found overlying the green clay, which was in places very rich, as much as 14 lbs. weight having been washed from a tin dishful of the dirt. 

The thickness of washdirt in the deeper claims varied rom two to five feet, but in some of the shallow claims the whole of the earth, from the surface to the bottom, was taken out and washed. This latter mode of working was termed "paddocking." Where shafts were sunk they were mostly round or oval, the washdirt was taken off the bottom of the shaft, and from the sides as far as could be reached from the shaft by means of a pick and shovel, but no drives were at first put in. After a time single drives were cut in different directions from the shaft, leaving the blocks of earth between the drives (called "pillars") as supports, there being no timber supports used ; thus only a small portion of the claim was, in the earliest days, worked out by the first parties. In many instances the layer of cement, when met with in sinking, was mistaken for bottom, or was looked upon as a substances not to be sunk through, and the claims were abandoned. 

Many of these shafts were subsequently taken possession of by other parties, but in consequence of the earth about the upper part of the shaft being unsound, it was found necessary to support it by some means. Mr. Beilby, about the end of the year 1852, conceived the idea of employing saplings for this purpose, and he procured a quantity (about our inches in diameter) from the neighboring hills, cut them into lengths to suit the size of the shaft, fitted the ends and sides together by means of grooves or notches, and placed them in the shaft much in the same manner as slabs are now used in shallow workings. 

The depth of sinking at this part of the hill was about twenty-five feet, and wet. Having secured the top of the shaft, they attempted to sink through the cement by means of hammer and gads, but were not able to make much progress, in consequence of the hardness of the cement and the quantity of water, and having nothing but a nail-can to bale with, they were compelled at length to abandon it. 

In January, 1853, a shaft near the head of the Red Streak Lead was slabbed with sheets of bark placed perpendicularly against the sides of the shaft, and fixed in position by means of sapling frames. In March, 1853, a party commenced sinking at the foot of the Golden Point, towards the Gravel Pits Flat, and used split slabs as supports ; these were the first split slabs used ; the sunk through the cement by means of blasting, which operation as at that time regarded as a great novelty. 

About this date the first engine arrived, and was erected at the foot of Golden Point, for the purpose of washing everything on a face to the depth off twelve or fourteen feet, by means of sluice and cradle; but the enterprize was abandoned after a short trial, and the engine removed. 

Source: The Gold Fields and Mineral Districts of Victoria, R. Brough Smyth, 1869.




 

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