Discovery of Gold - A Brief History
In 1837, under pressure of a bad drought, Thomas Learmonth and a group of squatters explored the area to the north of their settlement near Geelong in search of better watered regions. On this journey they reached and climbed Mt. Bonan Yowing (now Buninyong) and were thus the first to see the Ballarat area. In March 1838, two squatters, Yuille and Anderson, settled with their flocks on the banks of an area known as Black Swamp, now Lake Wendouree.
During the next 13 years, shepherds and their flocks roamed in the area with Buninyong becoming the service township for the settlers. The peace and tranquillity of the district was shattered soon after the discovery of gold in the area in August 1851.
The discovery precipitated a great rush to the area which in turn resulted in the rapid growth of the new town of Ballarat. By the end of September, nearly a 1000 miners were digging for gold on the Ballarat field - By 1853, there were more than 20,000 miners of many nationalities working on the field.
In that same year, 10,000,000 grams of gold were transported under police escort to the Melbourne Treasury. Probably as much again was never recorded but sold secretly and illegally. Over the next four (4) years, more than 77,700,000 grams reached Melbourne under escort. On June 10th 1858, the great Welcome Nugget was found. It weighed 68,956 grams and contained an estimated 68,272 grams of pure gold.
In the 1860's, when the shallow alluvial deposits began to run out, companies were formed to exploit the deep quartz lodes. Many proved to be extraordinarily rich. From one shaft of the Band of Hope and Albion Consols mine, 9.7 tonnes of gold were extracted. At its peak, in 1868, the Ballarat goldfield supported 300 companies and the population of the settlement was estimated at 64,000.
In 1870, wild speculation caused a recession of the mining industry and dozens of companies failed. The recession ended as more stable industries replaced gold mining. Mixed farming and pastoral activities around the City required service industries and shopping facilities. Workers from the mines were absorbed into businesses and industries.
Ballarat's last mine closed down in 1918. The total recorded yield from the Ballarat Goldfield amounted to 20,592,000 Troy ounces (Ballarat Historical Society Publication No. 1) and based on a gold price of $A500 per ounce the total value would be around $10,000,000,000. A remarkable figure when it is realised that a large amount of the gold discovered in the district was never recorded.Ballarat was the scene of Australia's most famous civic insurrection. On 3 December 1854 at Eureka, miners clashed with police and detachments of the 12th and 40th regiments. In all, 28 men were killed and a large number wounded.
Ballarat was proclaimed a township in 1852, created a municipality in 1855, a borough in 1863, and was proclaimed a City on 9 September 1870.
Note: 31.1034 grams = 1 ounce
Gold Related Attractions and Businesses in the Region