The Beechworth Gold Rush
In February 1852 gold was discovered at Spring Creek, Beechworth. Within eleven months of this discovery, over 8000 hopeful prospectors had descended on the region, transforming the remote and rugged area into a thriving regional centre.
The wealth from the Gold Rush built Beechworth and the nationally significant buildings that still stand. By 1857 more than 20,000 people lived in Beechworth, and with this influx the town prospered with the building of numerous churches, banks, schools, shops and hotels along with a prison and hospital.
Gold mining camps were established further afield, as gold was discovered along the water supplies in Woolshed, Stanley, Wooragee, Eldorado and Rutherglen. The primary technique used in sourcing the gold was a method known as hydraulic sluicing, requiring large quantities of water and impressive structural engineering feats. Later, this method was replaced by dredging, which was pioneered at Woolshed Creek in the early 1890s. In the following 60 years, sand and gravel pumps and bucket dredges worked extensively in the area.
People from all over the globe made the treacherous journey to Beechworth in search of wealth and prosperity, from the USA, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Chinese miners were predominant on the goldfield during the 1860s and continued to form a large part of the population until the gold ran out around the turn of the century. Many culturally significant sites can be seen around Beechworth, including the Chinese Burning Towers at the Beechworth Cemetery or at The Burke Museum where impressive Chinese artefacts are on display.
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 today with the annual Golden Horseshoe Festival.
Beechworth is Victoria’s best-preserved gold mining town, with 32 of its buildings listed by the National Trust.