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Castlemaine

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Victoria’s first goldfield of the 1851 gold rush. 

As the location of Victoria’s first goldfield of the 1851 gold rush, Castlemaine virtually exploded into existence.   While the gold has long gone, the township of over 7,000 people remains vibrant as a food production, vacation and tourism town.

The richest alluvial gold field of the 1851 gold rush

The adjacent gold field as Mount Alexander was the richest alluvial gold field in the world at the time of the 1851 gold rush. Castlemaine has several important historical buildings from the gold rush period, as well as the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park which gives an insight into those early days through old house sites, equipment and mine sites.

The town now has an enthusiastic artistic community centered around its Art Gallery and Museum and other local galleries.  It is also developing a reputation for fine wines and fresh country foods.

Gaol and goldfield tours

Self guided and guided tours are available of the old Castlemaine Gaol and the historic gold fields that surround the township.  Details can be obtained from the town Visitor Information Centre.

Castlemaine Art Gallery
By Mattinbgn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Castlemaine Art Gallery and Museum

The heritage listed art deco facade of the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Museum, built in 1931.

Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park
By Mattinbgn (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park

Where some of the original Forest Creek mining occured, now part of the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park

Old Castlemaine Gaol 2013
By WikiWookie (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Old Castlemaine Goal

The Old Castlemaine Goal built in 1861 to house prisoners from Castlemaine and local towns and was in use until 1990.   Available for tours and used as an event facility.

Market House in Castlemaine, Vic
Image: By JOHN LLOYD [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A historic marketplace

The historic Castlemaine Market Building built in 1862. This building was formerly part of a larger market complex built around the town market square and well. The original structure included similar buildings to the east and west which have been demolished, leaving only the northern building.

The market place was built with classical features with a statue of Ceres the Roman goddess of agriculture at the facade peak.  The market served as the distribution point for food products supplying the central Victorian goldfields and was in operation for more than 100 years.  

Castlemaine post office
By Robert Merkel at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A heritage listed post office built in a renaissance style

The heritage listed Castlemaine post office.  Built in 1874, the post office was built based on roman palazzo design (as like the palaces of the wealthy families of the Renaissance) and with a centrally located tower.  This building replaced an earlier bluestone post office built in 1852.
Mount Alexander Diggings
Image: Diggings in the Mount Alexander district of Victoria in 1852, watercolour on paper, 24.5 x 35 cm, by ST Gill.(http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3112373) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Mount Alexander goldfields.

Gold was discovered by a shepherd at the local Barkers Creek in 1851. The settlement in the area was originally called Forest Creek (renamed Castlemaine in 1854), and being adjacent to Mount Alexander, became known as the Mount Alexander gold fields or Forest Creek diggings. It is said that the field was and remains the richest alluvial gold field in world history.   Much of the gold was found within 4 meters of the surface accessible without complex mining equipment and it was not uncommon for a few men to get together and make rich finds.  There were even stories of large nuggets, simply sitting on the surface.

At its peak, 3 tonnes of gold per week were being sent to Melbourne. Within a short time after the opening of the field in late 1851, there were 25,000 miners working the field. It is said the township then had a population greater than Melbourne for a time.