I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published April 4th 2021
Goldfields History Aplenty
The township of Creswick in Victoria's central goldfields has known both boom times and tragedy.
Located 18-kilometres north of Ballarat, the district was first settled in 1842 when the three Creswick brothers took up a parcel of land along a picturesque little creek.
Creswick's broad, tree-lined main street is typical of Victoria's wealthy, gold-rush era towns. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Gold was discovered in 1852 and by 1855, just one year after the town of Creswick had been surveyed, the population peaked at a staggering 30,000.
Creswick sits on a volcanic plain where ancient gold-bearing rivers were covered in molten lava, creating deep leads or reefs of gold crisscrossing the region deep underground.
At the onset of the Victorian gold rush, the diggers fairly quickly accounted for all the alluvial gold on one of the richest alluvial goldfields found anywhere in the world. So much so that by the early 1870s attention had turned to the deep leads and the intense and very expensive deep lead mining processes necessary to extract the gold.
Creswick is an easy 90-minute drive northwest of Melbourne in the heart of Victoria's Central Goldfields region. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
This involved sinking deep shafts to below the level of the buried river beds, the deep leads. Tunnels were then driven under the lead and shafts, known as 'rises' were dug into the roof of the tunnel and up into the gold-bearing gravel of the river beds.
Creswick's deep-lead mining industry was at its peak around 1880 and it's been estimated that 37 major mines in the district recovered 1,697,500 ounces of gold, the equivalent of about 550 metric tonnes.
Creswick was the birthplace of Australia's 14th Prime Minister John Curtin. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
But along with the success and great wealth, Creswick also experienced great tragedy. At 5.30 AM on Tuesday, December 12th 1882, disaster struck the town. With hundreds of miners at work deep underground, millions of litres of water burst through the face of a drive emanating from the New Australian Mines number 2 shaft.
Some of the diggers displayed great courage racing back into danger to warn their mates, 29 of whom were in grave danger and struggling in the rapidly rising water. Two managed to swim to safety but 27 others were forced to take refuge in the highest chamber in the mine, where they were forced to cling to timbers on the ceiling, barely managing to keep their heads above water.
On the surface, all available pumps were employed, extracting thousands of litres of water from the mine every minute but it still took two days for rescuers to reach the trapped men. By then, 22 of them were dead.
The next day 15,000 mourners attended their mass funeral. The people of Creswick erected a memorial to the dead in 1909. You'll find it in the Creswick cemetery, where all but 3 of the 22 are buried.
Creswick's Old Gold Bank circa 1860 is testament to the incredible wealth found here. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Creswick was also the birthplace of former Prime Minister John Curtin. Born John Joseph Ambrose Curtin on the 8th January 1885, the son of a local policeman, Curtin became Australia's 14th Prime Minister on 7th October 1941. The wartime role took a great toll on his health, culminating in a major heart attack in November 1944. He died in office on 5th July 1945.
Creswick Post Office circa 1862 was built to service a vibrant community of between 25 and 30,000 people at its peak. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Today, Creswick is a picturesque little tourist town steeped in goldfields history & heritage, boasting a large number of period houses and other buildings, some great little cafes, restaurants & pubs along with a variety of other attractions. In short, it's a great little place to visit.
Top-5 Things to Do in Creswick
1 Follow the Buried Rivers of Gold Heritage Trail
2 Check out the Creswick Museum
3 Play a round of Golf at the RACV Resort
4 Visit nearby Andersons Mill
5 Enjoy a day out in Creswick Regional Park
Creswick Town Hall circa 1876 is a magnificent National Trust classified building and home to the Creswick Museum. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
What's happening in Creswick?
Creswick Market is held on the first and third Saturday of the month between 9 AM and 1 PM. Held at the Crewswick Neighbourhood Centre, 21 Victoria Street, this is an indoor/outdoor event with disabled parking available on site.
The Dirty Pig & Whistle Charity Cycling Event will be held to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters Australia over the weekend of Saturday & Sunday the 15th & 16th May 2021. Starting and finishing at Hammond Park, the event will comprise of 2 courses, the Full Course of 78-Kilometres and the Short Corse of 38-Kilometres.
Creswick Woollen Mill is a family business established in 1947 and supplying fine woollen fabric o Melbourne's textile merchants. Today the mill is the last coloured woollen spinning mill in Australia with more than 50 similar producers having closed in the face of competition from cheap overseas imports in recent years.
Located in Railway Parade, Creswick the Mill Store is open 7-days between 10 AM and 4 PM with guided tours of the mill available on Saturday, Sunday and Monday between 10 AM and 1 PM. Prior booking is essential and can be made by telephoning the mill on (03) 5345 2202.
The American Hotel circa 1858 was the centre of Creswick's social scene during the glory days of the gold-rush and at one time housed the local Cobb & Co depot. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
For more information on Creswick and its attractions, check the website at www.creswick.net or drop into the Creswick Visitor Information Centre at 41 – 43 Albert Street, telephone (03) 5345 1114.
Getting There …..
Creswick is 123-Kilometres northwest of Melbourne, about a 90-minute drive via the National Highway M8.