Monday, 14 May 2012

Charters Towers

When Hugh Mosman and a party of prospectors stopped to water their horses on Christmas Eve, 1871, they found that all that glittered was indeed gold.  That was the beginning of Queensland's Charters Towers.  An Indigenous boy named Jupiter found the first gold as he bent down to take a drink from a stream.  The party then collected 45kg of gold from the surface of the Washington Reef.

View of Charters Towers, taken from Towers Hill, 2012. Image: T. Fielding
 The city of Charters Towers was born out of the frantic rush for gold that ensued.  In 1899 the city was home to 30,000 people and was the second largest city in Queensland.  Known locally as 'The World', possibly for its cosmopolitan population than for anything else, it boasted 90 hotels, 7 newspapers and a stock exchange.  A staggering 193,000kg of gold was produced between 1872 and 1911.

Despite the fact that just over 140 years have passed since the first gold was discovered there, reminders of her glory days are all around. 

Stock Exchange Arcade, Mosman Street, Charters Towers, 2012.  Image: T. Fielding.
 Nowhere is this more evident than in the city's heritage buildings.  The Stock Exchage Arcade is a notable feature of the streetscape, due in part to its impressive arched awning and glazed roof.  Built for Alexander Malcolm, a Scottish miner, in 1887 as a shopping arcade, its original name was the Royal Arcade.  It came into use as a stock exchange in 1890 and each day there were three 'calls'.  The evening call was held in the arcade gallery and was open to the public.  Most of the population turned out for the Saturday evening call.  The building has retained much of its original character and is a stunning piece of north Queensland architecture.

Stock Exchange Arcade, 2012. Image: T. Fielding

Sunday, 6 May 2012


There’s still plenty to see in north Queensland’s old gold mining towns. Ravenswood, situated approximately 130kms south-west of Townsville is one of those towns.  With the discovery of gold in 1868, Ravenswood became a significant inland town and within the first ten years 214,000 ounces of gold came out of Ravenswood.  By the mid 1870s there were 2,000 people on the Ravenswood field and the railway had reached the town by 1884.  Hugh Mosman’s historic claim at Charters Towers, another significant gold mining town, was registered in Ravenswood in 1872.

Ravenswood, c. 1908, Image: John Oxley Library
Ravenswood’s boom years were over by about 1910 and World War I only contributed to the decline, but the town is still home to some wonderful old buildings, including the Railway and Imperial hotels, Post Office, Court House and St. Patrick’s Church. 

View of Ravenswood, 2009, Image: T. Fielding

There’s still a number of towering brick chimney’s scattered amongst mullock heaps, old mine poppet heads and rusting machinery peppering the landscape that hark back to the town’s boom days.

The Railway Hotel was built in 1902 by John Moran from 340,000 locally made bricks.
It is one of only two hotels remaining today, out of 42 during Ravenswood's heyday.

Railway Hotel, Ravenswood, Image: T. Fielding

The Imperial Hotel is the other hotel.  Built by Jim Delaney in 1902 from the proceeds of a mining venture at Donnybrook, Delaney died quite young and left his wife Anne to raise three daughters.  The hotel remained in the family for many years and the Delaney daughters are buried in the Ravenswood cemetery. 

Imperial Hotel, Ravenswood, Image: T. Fielding