A forgotten piece of Geelong’s history revealing that Newtown was a centre of the 1850s gold rush has been accidentally uncovered by an amateur historian.
Newtown’s Chris Ganly discovered that seven mining companies sank a dozen shafts up to 30 metres deep and tunnelled 70m under Mercer’s Hill in search of an elusive gold mine.
He reveals the hunt in his book Gold on Mercer’s Hill.
While trying to uncover the story Mr Ganly found that it had been largely lost in the pages of history, he said.
“One Saturday afternoon when speaking with my neighbour I was somewhat surprised to learn that gold had apparently been prospected for in a nearby street, Prospect Road,” he said.
“That one conversation sparked my interest to discover what had taken place; where and what, if anything, was left behind.
“When I started out on the research I didn’t intend to write a book but one thing led to another and before I knew it I had something of a story that I thought others might be interested in and enjoy.”
Mr Ganly said the seven companies and prospecting operations raised capital of up to £2000 to search for gold under the Newtown hill between 1851 and 1878.
“Despite all the indications of the futility and the failures of the past, each new endeavour attacked the hill with gusto and each one ended in complete failure,” he said.
“The story is largely unknown and has not been described in any detail to date. It’s a fascinating tale of optimism and hope and then inevitable failure.”
Mr Ganly follows the story from the first recorded “discovery” of Newtown gold in 1851 at the height of the Victorian rush.
The story proceeds through to the last organised attempt of the formally registered Chilwell Gold Mining Company in 1879.
The book recounts the exploits of each mining attempt and follows the suburb’s development into a leafy residential area.
Gold on Mercer’s Hill is available at Newtown’s Paton Books and from Amazon.com.
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