Beechworth, Victoria

Beechworth, Victoria

Infobox Australian Place | type = town
name = Beechworth
state = vic

caption = Panorama of Beechworth town centre
lga = Shire of Indigo
postcode = 3747
est =
pop = 3227 (2006)Census 2006 AUS | id = SSC25113 | name = Trentham (State Suburb) | accessdate = 2007-10-01 | quick = on]
elevation= 580
maxtemp = 25.1
mintemp = 11.6
rainfall = 949.4
stategov = Benambra
fedgov = Indi
dist1 = 284
dir1 = NE
location1= Melbourne
dist2 = 39
dir2 = SW
location2= Wodonga
dist3 = 38
dir3 = E
location3= Wangaratta

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 2006 census, Beechworth had a population of 3227.

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.

The town has an Australian Rules football team competing in the Tallangatta & District Football League. Citation | last = Full Points Footy | title = Beechworth | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-25 ]


Originally used for grazing by the settler David Reid, the area was known as Mayday Hills until 1853, when it was renamed Beechworth. The Post Office opened on 1 May 1853 as Spring Creek and was renamed Beechworth on 1 January 1854. Citation
last = Premier Postal History | title = Post Office List | url = | accessdate = 2008-04-11


In its golden heyday from 1852-1857, this was a fabulous gold region and centre of government; but its power, wealth and influence were short lived. At its wildest moments of gold discoveries, Woods related how an early party of prospectors retrieved a pan of gold weighing 14 lb (about 7 kg).(p. 10.) Another lucky party, said Woods, cleared some 50lb (approx. 25 kg) of gold in a week.(p. 16.) 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 (5ft 3ins) option or a narrow gauge (2ft 6ins) 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 railway, the broad gauge, arrived at Beechworth in September 1876 ["The Ovens Valley Goldfields Railways" Eardley, Gifford Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin December, 1968 pp281-294; January, 1969 1-18] , but by that stage the town and its gold production was waning. Unfortunately 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 USA, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and China. At its peak, Beechworth town had over 30,000 residents. [ [ "Gold History" on Inigo Shire website] ] 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. The Chinese were not allowed live in Beechworth town and resided on the outskirts. Numerous controls and enforced regulations and licence checks existed against 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 a variety of the book references below.Fact|date=July 2008

Colourful characters

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. (O'Brien, 'Awaiting Ned Kelly' & Jones, "The Friendship", p. 29.) Phelan was a continual litigant, correspondent to the newspapers and advertiser. His official and officious escapades were mockingly reported in the local paper.(O'Brien)

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 a rich source of primary materials on Beechworth and the surrounding districts golden past. Source materials include newspapers, photos, artefacts, clothings, 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. For family and academic researchers this museum is a gold mine.

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 sympathersiers were held without trial or evidence for over 3 months, by the Chief Commissioner of Police Captain Standish, under the "Outlawry Act". [Jones, pp. 177-178]

George B. Kerferd

George B. Kerferd (1836-1889) a long time 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).


In its golden heyday Beechworth boasted two influential newspapers: "The Ovens and Murray Advertiser" and "The Constitution and Mining Intelligencer". These papers engaged in fierce competition and for a while were daily issues. The papers circulated far and wide throughout the district and the colony of Victoria.(O'Brien) Both papers represented the views of their respective readerships sometimes to the exclusion of all others.(O'Brien) Even today, these old papers are an important historical research tool, as most editions from the early 1850 survive and are micro-filmed and are available at the Burke Museum, and most state and National libraries throughout Australia. These two local papers provide rich primary sources for many historians of Beechworth and its surrounds, plus the Kelly Gang historians.(See: Woods (1985); McMahon (2000); Lane (1978); McQuilton (1979); Jones (1995); McWaters (2002); O'Brien (2005); and Wild & McMahon (2006))

"The Ovens and Murray Advertiser" still survives as a local paper.


Beechworth is a popular tourist destination. Attractions include Ned Kelly themed displays at the old court house, Burke Museum, waterfalls, Gun Powder Magazine, Newtown Bridge (Stone Bridge), Tail Race (Mining Race), Spring Creek Water Falls, Spring Creek Gorge, Beechworth Asylum ghost tours, lakes, historic buildings, goldfields, walks, the Beechworth Bakery, brewery, the Beechworth lolly shop and night tours. The town is one end point of the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail.

Books on Beechworth

Considering the present nature of the town, a surprising range and variety of books exist on Beechworth town, its adjoining goldfield camps, its surrounds and its heady goldfield days. These include numerous histories, a treasure of local histories, theses, material on bushrangers, police, Chinese, riots, the coming and going of the railway and fictional novels set in the district.


*Griffiths, Tom. "Beechworth: An Australian Country Town and its Past", Greenhouse, North Melbourne, 1987. (solid research piece on a post-gold boom town and its re-invention)
*McQuilton, John. "The Kelly Outbreak 1878-1880", Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1979. (wonderful insight into the Kelly Outbreak in NE Victoria and its geographical causes)
*O'Brien, Antony. "Shenanigans on the Ovens Goldfields: The 1859 Election", Artillery Publishing, Hartwell, 2005. (a solid, controversial piece with good insights into the social conflicts which emerged on the Ovens goldfield during an election year)
*Woods, Carole. "Beechworth: A Titan's Field", Hargreen, North Melbourne, 1985. (a wide ranging solid research piece on Beechworth from its earliest days 1830s to the late 1800s)
*Williams, Jennifer. "Listen to what they say", 2005. (a comprehensive oral history of the town from the early 1900s to the modern era)
*Cronin, Kathryn. "Colonial Casualties: Chinese in Early Victoria", Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1997, (encompasses the Chinese miners of Northeastern Victoria)

Local Histories

*Clarke, Stan. "How Old is Your Grandma", Beechworth, 1987. (on the district's freemasons)
*Harvey, R. C. "Background to Beechworth: From 1852", Albury, 1952. (plus subsequent editions)
*Hawley, G. & Davidson, R. "Beechworth Sketchbook", Rigby, Adelaide, 1972.
*Hyndman, Ian. "Beechworth Cemetery - A stroll through history", Bethel Publications, Beechworth, 1988.
*Hyndman, Ian. "History of Beechworth", Bethel Publications, Beechworth.
*Lane, Leo. "History of the Parish of Beechworth 1854-1978", Parish of Beechworth, 1978. (on the Catholics of the district)
*McMahon, D. M. "The Golden Gum Tree: Hiram Allen Crawford, 1832-1916", Brisbane, 2000. (on an American pioneer in the district, who operated a stage coach company)
*McWaters, Vivine. "Beechworth's Little Canton", Albury, 2002 (on the Chinese goldminers at Spring Creek)
*Shennan, M. Rosalyn. "The 1855 Ovens Election and the Gold Horseshoes", Noble Park, 1990. (on an election event in 1855)
*Shennan, M. Rosalyn. "A Biographical Dictionary of the Pioneers of the Ovens and Townsmen of Beechworth", Noble Park, 1990. (A valuable resource tool for goldfields family researchers)
*Williams, David. "Gold and Granite Grandeur: Living History of Beechworth, Stanley and Eldorado", 1994. (fine drawings of the buildings, churches and forest trees of the area)
*" [ Wild, Christine, G. & McMahon, Denise, H. "Old News Today: Tales of the Upper Murray: newspaper snippets from 1876-1900"] , McClure, Wodonga, 2006 (local newspaper cuttings 1876-1900 with hundreds of family names and events)

Unpublished theses

*O'Brien, Antony. "Awaiting Ned Kelly: Rural Malaise in North-eastern Victoria 1872-73", B.A. (Hons), 1999 (sighted in Burke Museum).
*McCullough, J. "Beechworth After the Gold Rush: A study of its development to 1956", B.A. (Hons), Dept of Geography, Melbourne University, 1971.


*Brown, Max. "Australian Son",1948 (plus subsequent editions) (Social insights and contemporary 1940s photos of Beechworth and its immediate surrounds)
*Finnane, Mark. (Ed.), "The Difficulties of My Position, The Diaries of Prison Governor John Buckley Castieau 1855-1884", National Library of Australia, Canberra, 2004. (insight into Beechworth's colonial society in the 1850s, '60s and '70s) [ISBN 0 642 10793 9]
*Sadleir, John. "Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer", 1913. (includes an insight into the land turmoils surrounding the Kelly Gang)
*Gee, Margaret. "A Long Way from Silver Creek", 2000. (a moving account of growing up in post-war Beechworth)
*Jones, Ian. "Ned Kelly a Short Life", Lothian, Port Melbourne, 1995. (a definitive account of the Kelly story)
*Jones, Ian. "The Friendship that destroyed Ned Kelly: Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt", Lothian, Port Melbourne, 1992.
*Kenneally, J.J. "The Inner History of the Kelly Gang", 1929 (plus many subsequent editions) (This work gives insights into the Beechworth locale, the Beechworth court sessions and colonial policing)

Fictional novel set in part around Beechworth

*" [ O'Brien, Antony. "Bye-Bye Dolly Gray", Artillery Publishing, Hartwell, 2006.] " (local lads go to the Boer War and get into more strife than Ned Kelly)


*O'Toole, Tom. "Secrets of the Beechworth Bakery", Bas, Melbourne, 2001. (a must indulge famous local icon)


*Larsen, Wal. "The MayDay Hills Railway", Wal Larsen, Bright, 1976.

Chinese goldminers in the region

*Kaufman, R. J. "The Chinese on the Upper Ovens Goldfields: 1855-1920", LRGM, Bright, 1997. ISBN 0 646 34017 4
*Groom, Jocelyn. "Chinese Pioneers of the King Valley", Centre for Continuing Education, Wangaratta, 2001. ISBN 0 909760 23 3
*Talbot, Diann. "The Buckland Valley Goldfield", Specialty Press, Albury, 2004 ISBN 0 9757170 0 6
*O'Brien, Antony. "Shenanigans on the Ovens Goldfields", Artillery Publishing, Hartwell, Vic., 2005 (cited above) Chapter 3.


External links

* [ Australian Places - Beechworth]

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