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Beechworth

Beechworth is a well-preserved historical town located in the north-east of Victoria, Australia, famous for its major growth during the gold rush days of the mid-1850s.

Details

  • Area:165.492 km2
  • Elevation:547 m
  • Population:3,859
  • Local Government Area:Indigo Shire Council

Description

Beechworth is a well-preserved historical town located in the north-east of Victoria, Australia, famous for its major growth during the gold rush days of the mid-1850s. At the 2016 census, Beechworth had a population of 3,859. Beechworth's many historical buildings are well preserved and the town has re-invented itself and evolved into a popular tourist destination and growing wine-producing centre. # History Beechworth Parish and Township plans were prepared, named and certified by George D Smythe after he had left the family estate near Liverpool in 1828, then again near Launceston in 1838. Originally used for grazing by the settler David Reid, the area was also sometimes known as Mayday Hills until 1853. The Post Office opened on 1 May 1853 as Spring Creek and was renamed Beechworth on 1 January 1854.One Indigenous name for the area of unknown origin and language is Baarmutha. ## Gold Between 1852 and 1857, Beechworth was a gold producing region and centre of government; but its power, wealth and influence were short lived. According to Carole Woods, an early party of prospectors retrieved a pan of gold from the area weighing 14 pounds (6.4 kg). Another lucky party cleared some 50 pounds (23 kg) of gold in a week. And so began a rush into this remote region. During the first election campaign in 1855, one candidate, Daniel Cameron, rode a horse shod with solid gold horseshoes. The extravagance of this event is still commemorated as the logo for Beechworth is a golden horseshoe. At the time, Beechworth was far removed from the centre of colonial administration in Melbourne both in distance and time taken to travel. The local debates around the potential railway into Beechworth encompassed a broad gauge (5 ft 3 in / 1,600 mm) option or a narrow gauge (2 ft 6 in / 762 mm) system, between Wangaratta and Beechworth and these debates and options appeared in the Ovens and Murray Advertiser newspaper. Ironically, in the 1890s a narrow gauge system did eventuate nearby, running from Wangaratta to Whitfield. Finally a broad gauge railway arrived at Beechworth in September 1876, but by that stage the town and its gold production was waning. The rail line was closed in 1977 and dismantled, after 101 years of service. During its boom times, Beechworth town boasted a range of industries including, a tannery, jewellers, boot makers, a brewery, blacksmiths, livestock sale yards. It had schools, a convent, hotels, a prison with imposing stone walls, a hospital, a mental hospital, court house, police barracks, stage coach companies and a powder magazine. In its golden days, men and women arrived from the United States, United Kingdom and China. At its peak, Beechworth town had over 3,100 residents. Surrounding areas and mining camps sprang up as thousands of miners rushed into areas such as Spring Creek, Reedy Creek, Silver Creek, the Nine Mile Creek and the Woolshed increasing the population on the Ovens to around 22,000. The Chinese were not allowed to live in Beechworth town and resided on the outskirts. Numerous controls, regulations and licence checks were enforced on the Chinese miners (see: Woods; also McWaters; also O'Brien; and Cronin). Beechworth Cemetery has a large preserved section of early Chinese miners/pioneers. The presence of the Chinese goldminers around Beechworth and throughout Victoria's north-eastern region created social unrest and these are recorded in O'Brien's; Woods'; and Cronin's works below. ## Recent years The Beechworth Magistrates' Court closed on 1 January 1990. ## Notable figures Like many Australian country towns associated with the early goldfields, Beechworth had its share of colourful characters and villains. Among the infamous during the 1870s was the one-time Livery Stable owner, later the 'Dog Officer', at some other time the 'Pound Officer' and another time shire revenue officer, John Phelan. Phelan was a continual litigant, correspondent to the newspapers and advertiser. His official and officious escapades were mockingly reported in the local paper. ### Robert O'Hara Burke Robert O'Hara Burke, leader of the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition was stationed in Beechworth as Senior Inspector of Police from 1854 to 1857. Policeman John Sadleir, one of the Kelly Gang pursuers, was also stationed in Beechworth during its early days.(Harvey) The Burke Museum is located in Loch Street and holds primary materials on Beechworth and the surrounding district's past. Source materials include newspapers, photos, artefacts, clothing, paintings, exhibitions, published local histories and unpublished theses on the district and displays dating back to the gold discoveries, early Chinese miners and workings of the 1850s. ### Sir Isaac Isaacs Isaac Isaacs was Australia's first native-born Governor-General, appointed in 1931. The Isaacs family moved to Beechworth to help their son to gain a better quality education, in 1867, first enrolling him in the Common school then in the Beechworth Grammar School. He became dux in his first year. In his second year he was employed part-time as an assistant teacher at the school, and took up after school tutoring of fellow students. In September 1870, when Isaacs was just 15 years old, he passed his examination as a pupil teacher and taught at the school from then until 1873. Isaacs was next employed as an assistant teacher at the Beechworth State School, the successor to the Common school.From 1875 Isaacs moved to Melbourne for work and to undertake law studies. His connection to Beechworth was re-established when he was elected as the member for Bogong in the Victorian Legislative Assembly from May 1892 until May 1893 and between June 1893 and May 1901. Isaacs further represented Beechworth and surrounding areas when he was elected to the first Federal Parliament in 1901 to the seat of Indi. He served until 1906 when he was appointed to the High Court. ### Ned Kelly The outlaw Ned Kelly had many links to Beechworth – he spent time in HM Prison Beechworth and fought a famous boxing bout with Isaiah "Wild" Wright in the back of a local hotel. Aaron Sherritt and Joe Byrne of the Kelly Gang came from the Woolshed goldmining camp, outside of Beechworth town. It was in Beechworth gaol that twenty-one men, suspected Kelly Gang supporters, relatives and other sympathisers were held without trial or evidence for over three months, by the Chief Commissioner of Police Captain Standish, under the Outlawry Act. ### George B. Kerferd George B. Kerferd (1836–1889), a longtime resident of Beechworth, became a Premier of Victoria and was a major participant in ensuring Beechworth had a railway connection to Melbourne. ### John Buckley Castieau Castieau (1831–1885) was the Prison Governor at Beechworth from 1856 to 1869. The prison, famous for its huge granite walls was known as "Castieau's castle". As the Governor of the Melbourne gaol in 1880 he was an official witness to the hanging of Ned Kelly. His diaries were later published (2004) as The Difficulties of My Position. In this book a drawing from the Australian Sketcher, 14 August 1880 shows Castieau sitting with Ned Kelly during his remand (p. 278) and also a photo of his signature as one of the witnesses to the Kelly hanging (p. viii). Castieau was an early member of Melbourne's Garrick Club. ### Sir Albert Edward (Bert) Chadwick Born in 1897 died in 1983. Sportsman, businessman and sports administrator. ### Alfred William Foster Born in 1886, died in 1962. Judge. # Weather Beechworth features an oceanic climate (Cfb) with warm, dry summers and cold, wet winters. As one of the higher towns in Victoria, several light to moderate snowfalls can be expected each year, sometimes falling heavily. # Things to do Beechworth is a popular tourist destination. Attractions include Ned Kelly themed displays at the old court house and Ned Kelly Weekend, which is Australia's most significant recreation of the Kelly legend it commemorates the anniversary of the outlaw's committal hearing held in the historic Beechworth Courthouse from 6 to 11 August 1880. Other popular draws to the area are its many annual festivals, including the famous Golden Horseshoes Festival Easter Parade through centre of town, The Burke Museum, Forests Commission museum, waterfalls, Gun Powder Magazine, Newtown Bridge (Stone Bridge), Tail Race (Mining Race), Spring Creek Water Falls, Spring Creek Gorge, Beechworth Lunatic Asylum ghost tours, lakes, historic buildings, goldfields, walks, the Beechworth Bakery, Beechworth Honey, brewery, the lolly shop and night tours, the restaurants and wineries. The town is one end point of the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail. The music video for famous singer/actor Jason Donovan's 1989 hit "Too Many Broken Hearts" was filmed in Beechworth.

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