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Beechworth

Friday, 26 November 2021 6:03 am

The “weather" has finally caught up with us and we are sitting here in Wagga Wagga in our caravan surrounded by huge puddles. The river in the back of the caravan park has flooded and there is not much we can do but sit tight and wait for the deluge to pass. We are on the home stretch and are just deciding whether to make this our last stop before home.

We wished we could have stayed in Beechworth where the showers were subsiding as we were leaving. Unfortunately all caravan sites were booked out already for the next few days!

Beechworth is one of the loveliest old gold towns we know. We travelled through here a few years back and took a tour of the historic jail where once the notorious bushranger Ned Kelly was incarcerated.  

This time we took a more in depth walking tour with one of the local historians who knew a story to tell about virtually every stone in town. This included the deep gutters, so important and very much appreciated this year, during the floods. We learned the gutters had been made from granite to avoid slush from shops and workshops penetrating and getting into well water. 

A special indented stone was placed outside the butcher’s shop just above the hook where carcasses were drained of blood and trimmed of skin and maggots before being filleted for sale.

In the old gold rush days, the miner's diets consisted solely of meat and sweet bakery items, and many began suffering from scurvy. That’s where the wise Chinese came in who knew, a healthy diet needed to include greens and fruit. They started to established vegetable gardens and sold their produce to the local population. Lured by the rich alluvial gold and needs of the mining community, about 7,000 Chinese took up residence in Beechworth at the time. 

The Chinese also brought their culture with them and, to the delight of everyone, conducted a grand, parade every year. They rode into town in their traditional costumes and on decorated wagons. One of their attires must have impressed young Ned Kelly, as it is generally believed, that the idea of his later metal platted armour originated from seeing the Chinese Samurai outfit.

There are multiple locations visited by this most famous and notorious australian bushranger, for example the Imperial Hotel where 19 year old Ned Kelly won a fist fight against one of his followers over a stolen horse. 

Then there is the courthouse where he was commited to stand trial for murder in August 1880. Our walking tour guide could tell a story about every house, bank and hotel, plus a few local legends.


The most well known of them is the legend of the "Golden Horse Shoe”. It says that a local councillor had his horse shod with 24 carat gold shoes and upon his election in 1855, rode into town, stopped at the local hotel and shouted everyone inside a beer. 

So much gold was found in the rivers and creeks of Beechworth, that Queen Victoria insisted on having  a ton of gold shipped to England each year for 60 years, so to speak in lieu of taxes. This was another bone of contention for the Irish who worked hard but stood in constant disadvantage to the protestant English settlers. As a matter of fact, Ned Kelly and his gang had a dream of establishing a North- Eastern Victorian Republic. 

Mining was also done in the deep gorge which runs along the eastern side of town and where huge amounts of water cascade down over the hard granite rocks. 

Four kilometres in the North the Woolshed Falls rage into the depth of the valley. 

I am glad we were there when the rain was only light. Today we probably would have been washed down off the slippery rocks. 


After trying to absorb all the local history, we treated ourselves twice: once with morning tea at the well known "Beechworth Bakery” which now has outlets in many other Victorian towns. At night time we had dinner at the old Imperial Hotel where Ned Kelly had the legendary fist fight in the court yard. The pub is like a museum with Kelly Gang and Gold Rush photographs and newspaper articles all over the walls. A velvet curtained theatre stage adds to the 19th century atmosphere.


We really enjoyed our 4 week trip and can’t wait planning our next one. Thanks for “travelling" with us. 



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Cheers,

Austin Robinson

austin@robos.com.au