During the gold rush in the 1800’s small Victorian towns boomed
The goldfields region of north-central Victoria extends from Buninyong in the south, to Inglewood and Wedderburn in the north, west to Stawell and east to Kilmore and Heathcote. It encompasses the major cities of Ballarat, Bendigo and Castlemaine, smaller centres like Maldon, Daylesford, Creswick & Clunes and countless other sites where significant gold strikes were made during the Victorian Gold rush between 1851 and the mid 1860s.
Prior to the discovery of gold the Port Phillip district of New South Wales was a sleepy backwater populated mostly by squatters and sheep. In 1840 Melbourne and surrounding districts boasted a population of just 10,000 people.
By mid 1851 though almost three times that number celebrated separation from New South Wales and the birth of the colony of Victoria. But the population dwindled slowly as men trekked north to Bathurst in the wake of reported gold strikes there.
In an attempt to stem the migration Victorian authorities offered a reward to anyone finding a workable gold deposit in the Colony.
In June 1851 a young Irish prospector named James Esmond struck gold at Clunes. His wasn’t the first gold discovered in the colony but it was the first significant find.
At about the same time the local blacksmith at Buninyong, Thomas Hiscock, made a strike only a stone’s throw from his forge. Just weeks later two men named Dunlop and Reagan were camped on a creek north of Buninyong, at a place known to the local aboriginals as BALLAARAT. They made three separate finds that would kick-start the greatest gold rush the world has ever seen and change the face of Australia forever.