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Reconstructed Gold Puddler

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Nagambie-Rushworth Road, Whroo VIC 3612

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Features

  • Reconstructed gold puddler
  • Picnic table
  • Fire pit with barbecue plate
  • Information signs
  • Dam
This reconstructed gold puddler sits along Main Gully within the Whroo Historic Area, not far from the massive Balaclava Mine. This puddler was originally owned by William Puckey, and was first restored by Charles Bell and later by the Rushworth Lions Club. The puddler sits alongside a dam and is accompanied by a picnic table, small fire pit with barbecue plate, and a couple of information signs. Free camping is available nearby at Greens Campground. 

Puddling machines, or "puddlers" were pioneered on the Victorian goldfields in 1854. This technology was developed as an affordable way of processing gold-bearing clay on a large scale. Puddling machines are a very significant development in the history of Victorian gold mining, as they are the only technology or method developed entirely on the Victorian Goldfields

The characteristic clay earth of the goldfields region posed a problem to the 19th century miners - gold was trapped within the hard lumps of clay and in order to retrieve it, these lumps needed to be effectively broken up. 

A circular trough in the ground, lined with wood, was filled with clay and water. A horse circled the trough and dragged a harrow through the clay mixture, breaking up the lumps and turning it into a runny sludge. The gold released from the clay would sink to the bottom, and the watery clay would be drained off from the top. The residue at the bottom of the trough would then be cleaned up with a cradle/pan to collect the gold.

The remains of these puddling machines can be found scattered in abundance throughout the bushland of the Victorian Goldfields. Most now appear as little more than ring-shaped depressions in the ground (there are many such remains of gold puddling machines around Whroo), but are still a fascinating testament to the region's prosperous gold digging days.

You can also check out another reconstructed gold puddler over at the Hard Hill Tourist Reserve in Wedderburn.

Information signs alongside the Whroo puddler display the following text: 

Gold mining at Whroo

At the Whroo goldfields, gold was first mined from the surface deposits of gravel and silt found in shallow gullies around Whroo using portable tub and cradle equipment. A miner would rock the cradle, washing and sifting out the lighter materials until only gold was left. 

Diggers to the goldfields seeing their fortune needed basic equipment to find that elusive gold. Items such as a pick, shovel and tin dish were basic tools. If a miner could afford some better equipment he could buy a cradle or build a puddling machine or own a steam powered crushing battery which consisted of stamping feet and shaking tables.

Mining companies owned stamping batteries which consisted of large stamping feet and shaking tables, that would crush the quartz, separating the gold. As well as crushing their own quartz, the companies would charge miners 1 pound sterling per ton to crush the quartz from their mines. 1863 records show that three crushers owned by Renison, Lewis and Law & Darroch operated at Whroo. 

Whroo and Rushworth miners were constantly plagued by problems with water - either through shaft flooding or in summer, miners did not have enough water to drink or to was gold from alluvial diggings. Diggers at Whroo had to walk 10kms to a lagoon to wash their dirt. Water was carted 20kms from the Goulburn River and the Waranga Lagoon to Whroo. 

Puddling machine

Later, puddling became the main method for working the alluvial fields and were often owned by cooperatives. Large quantities of gold bearing clay were taken from the gullies and mixed with water in the puddlers. A single horse would drag harrows around the circular trench to break up the clay and allow the heavier gold to settle to the bottom of the trench. 

Today, Whroo has one of its many puddling machines restored. Originally owned by William Puckey, this horse driven puddling machine is situated near that owned by James Cooper, shown on the 1857 survey map. Over the years Charles Bell and Rushworth Lions Club have been responsible for its restoration. 

1863 records indicate that there were 17 puddling machines at Whroo. The Chinese operate four puddling machines around Rushworth and eight around Whroo. 

Cyanide vats

Later techniques such as cyaniding were utilised as a more efficient chemical means of extracting gold by leaching mine tailings. This technique was introduce to the gold fields later in the 19th Century. This method proved to be successful in extracting gold from tailings left from the stamping batteries.  




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