Victoria Institute Free Library, Post Office
Town Hall (now museum)
|Albert Street, Creswick|
Creswick’s broad, elegantly curved main street is studded with buildings which give strong visual clues to their heritage. While not as elaborate as the ornate architecture of its southerly neighbour Ballarat, the town’s historic dwellings, churches and fine public buildings owe their existence to the region’s common benefactor - gold.
In 1839 Captain John Hepburn settled at nearby Smeaton and his run extended as far as Creswick. Three years later, brothers John, Henry and Charles Creswick took up an area on Creswick Creek; although they soon departed for other parts of Victoria, the name Creswick’s Creek remained. Gold was discovered in the creek area in September 1851: some historians believe it could be earlier - perhaps pre-dating that of Clunes, officially recognised as the find which sparked the colony’s Gold Rush.
Shallow workings initially yielded rich rewards, but Creswick was not an overnight boom town. In 1853 there were only a dozen shops and a hundred tents occupied on the flats near the Gold Commissioner’s camp above present-day Park Lake. The first town survey was made in 1854. A second rush occurred in 1856-7, when deep workings were opened up and then again in 1872 with the opening of the Carter and Brawns mine at nearby Springmount.
Creswick had by this time become a municipality with post office, hospital, banks, courthouse, police station and numerous cottages and residences “an attractive sample of the colonial style of the decade,” wrote Monsignor McInerney at the time.
The New Australasian No 2 Mine, just north of Creswick, is the site of the country’s worst goldmine disaster. In 1882, twenty-seven men were trapped when the mine flooded; the rescue party worked frantically for three days pumping water at the rate of 227,000 litres per hour before a rescue team could enter. Only five men were saved. Deep lead mining ceased in the early 1900s as gold yields dropped dramatically and water problems made mining uneconomical.
In its prosperous colonial days Creswick boasted some 14 hostelries. The general dinginess of the White Swan in Melbourne Road earned it the nickname of the Dirty Duck. The American Hotel, opposite the existing post office, was owned by Thomas Anthony, one of a small group of Americans in Victoria in the 1850s associated with transport - including Freeman Cobb, founder of Cobb & Co coaches. Adjacent to the post office is the gold bullion room where gold was stored before its journey to Melbourne by armed escort.
Creswick Town Hall, built in 1876, has a heavily ornamented facade typical of Gold Rush decades.. Inside, a bluestone winding staircase with cast iron balustrade leads to the first floor chambers and offices. Thanks to the efforts of Creswick councillors and local historian Jack Sewell, the disused building has been retained as the Historical Museum. The council chamber still has the original meeting table, worn leather chairs, and photographs of early councillors and citizens of note, including Prime Minister John Curtin who was born in Creswick in 1885. The museum is open on Sunday afternoons.
Just outside Creswick is Saw
Pit Gully, established in 1888 as the first State Nursery.
Conifers were planted to re-establish the forests which had been
destroyed by extensive mining. The old Nursery office, built in
1912, is a curious turreted rotunda design and worth a visit;
there are picnic facilities and an interpretation trail around
Although deep mining in the Creswick area may have started as early as 1856 and the New Australian No 2 mine disaster occurred in 1882, smaller scale mining and fossicking continued, as illustrated by this picture by Percy Lindsay of mining in the Creswick area in 1893.
"In Miners and cradle, Creswick c1893 Percy Lindsay from Creswick presents the physical labour of cradle mining: the backbreaking trawling and sifting of the earth in search of gold. The industrious miners wheel their barrows of earth up and over the heavily worked land."
One picture of early life is provided in an article A CARING COMMUNITY - CRESWICK HOSPITAL 1863-1883 by Dorothy Wickham. "There were doctors in the area from the time of first goldrush to Creswick's Creek in 1852. The earliest doctors practised in tents or the local hotel. In 1859 an advertisement was placed in the local newspaper "To Medical Men of Creswick". The medical men of Creswick were requested to attend a meeting at the Prince of Wales Hotel for the "purpose of trying to purify the profession in the neighborhood from illegal and disreputable practitioners and also to adopt a regular scale of fees." The hospital opened at the end of 1863 and dealt with illnesses and accidents to both miners and pioneers - but not pregnant woment or young children.
Getting there: Creswick is 130km north-west of Melbourne on the Midland Highway, about ninety minutes drive from the city.