I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published September 20th 2017
Just 24-kilometres west of Broken Hill, Silverton is a former 'ghost town' now enjoying its renewed popularity with tourists keen to explore its early mining history, resident artists & characters and its prominence as a location for movie and television shoots.
One of Silverton's standout attractions is its unique outback pub. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Today less than 60 people live in Silverton but, in its heyday in the late 1880s, it boasted a population of more than 3000 people drawn to the arid and uninviting landscape of the Barrie Ranges by the promise of great wealth in the wake of the discovery of significant lead and silver deposits.
The first European to venture into the Silverton area was Major Thomas Mitchell, the Surveyor General of New South Wales, in 1841. The first pastoralists started settling in the area in the 1850's and prospectors began showing interest following reports of gold being found in 1867.
Local artists are a prominent feature of the attraction of Silverton to tourists. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
There was no gold but in 1875 two workers drilling a well south of the site of present-day Silverton found significant deposits of silver and within a very short time the rush was on.
With the massive influx of prospectors Silverton township sprang up 2 kilometres south of the present site providing facilities and services for the miners. Initially named Umberumberka it comprised a store, hotel and two boarding houses. In 1884 1222 mineral leases, 937 business permits and 114 miners rights were issued, 6000 tonnes of ore were extracted and sent off to South Australia for processing and a newspaper, the Silverton Age was established.
Ramshackle it may be but parts of present day Silverton are very colourful. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
In 1887 the Town and Country Journal noted "The scum of the country began to be attracted to the new and prosperous field like blowflies to a carcass. Horse-stealers, cattle duffers, mining sharks and rogues of all descriptions rolled up. Robberies, and the jumping of claims and allotments, were things of daily occurrence. It was nothing unusual to see from ten to twenty culprits chained together to a tree at the rear of the police camp - some of the more refractory members having bells fixed onto their backs so that, should they attempt to get away, the police would be warned".
Silverton has featured in movies such as Mad Max 2, A Town Like Alice and countless TV commercials. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Silverton's original gaol was a tumble-down, less than secure structure made from timber and iron. Prisoners were routinely held in leg-irons to prevent their escape and were frequently chained to a large Peppercorn tree.
The sub-standard facility was replaced by a new gaol in 1889. Today it's home to the Silverton Gaol Historical Museum, a vast and eclectic collection of artefacts and memorabilia providing a great insight into the development and history of both Silverton and Broken Hill.
The Gaol is open to the public daily between 9.30 AM and 4 PM. Cost of entry is Adults $2.50, Concession $1.50 and Children under 12 years 50 Cents.
The Mad Max Museum is a major drawcard for movie buffs and was created by an obsessed English fan who traveled half way around the world to Silverton. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Today Silverton is little more than a collection of a few historic buildings, several art galleries, a couple of very interesting museums and a pub but its once vibrant history continues to draw tourists in significant numbers.
It is a must-see attraction for anyone who finds themselves in this remote corner of New South Wales.
You can enjoy a beer in the unique pub, be amazed by some of the fabulous works displayed in the towns galleries and be equally amazed by some of the asking prices, take in the Mad Max Museum, the work of an Englishman obsessed with the movies who travelled halfway around the world to set up the museum. Visit the nearby Daydream Mine and make the effort to take in a spectacular desert sunset at nearby Mundi Mundi lookout.
Australia's first privately owned railway, the Silverton Tramway Company, was established to carry ore from Silverton and Broken Hill to South Australia for processing. Photo: Ian Gill / Footloose PhotoBank
Silverton is a long way from anywhere but well worth a visit.
Silverton is 24 kilometres west of Broken Hill in far west New South Wales. It's 1,170 kilometres west of Sydney, 858 kilometres north of Melbourne and 535 kilometres northeast of Adelaide.