The Henry Lawson Festival

Every Year
June long weekend


Grand Parade
Poetry Competitions
Literary Awards
Photo competition
Street Markets
Readings from Lawson
Theatre Restaurant
Historical Walks
Performance Poetry Workshop
Horse Racing
Stagecoach Rides
Heritage Photos
Pioneers Museum
Poets Morning Tea
Arts Spectacular
Performances in the Prince of Wales Opera House
Writing workshops
Art workshops
Demonstrations of days gone by.
The Pilgrimage Drive
Grenfell to Gulgong
horse drawn vehicles
May 25 to June 7
For more information

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Gulgong History P.1

gulgong golden historygulgong history oldmanPhoto courtesy of Gulgong Pioneers Museum




Gulgong is one of the few towns in NSW that has retained the magic of its old style gold rush days, and is now heritage listed.
Its history was first built on gold, and today,  the history itself is gold, with tourism to the Pioneers’ Museum and other historical venues a major economy booster.
Gold of another kind exists side by side with historical authenticity today, with many renowned artists, potters and musicians settling in Gulgong for its genuine sense of community and village lifestyle.
Gulgong has always been a place of eccentrics, that is, those who seek reality and honesty in the character of human life and those who dare to be different.
Settlers came the Gulgong region from the 1820s, but it was the gold rush of the 1870s, after Tom Saunders found 14oz of gold on Red Hill, that swelled the population into a booming settlement, reaching 20,000 people by 1872.
Nationalities of all kinds and all social levels rubbed shoulders on the goldfield, and there was no truer melting pot and formation of the authentic Australian character. And that still remains in Gulgong.
The first major gold discovery in NSW was not far away, at Ophir (now Summerhill) near Orange in 1851. And by July that year Dr Kerr had found his hundred-weight nugget at Hargraves, near Mudgee.
Gulgong was gazetted as a goldfield in 1866 with small finds, but when Tom Saunders, one of Richard Rouse’s shepherds, discovered gold at Red Hill (now an education centre in the town) the Gulgong Gold Rush began. Five Hundred miners flocked to the town in six weeks and by 1872 there were 20,000. The town became a municipality in 1876. But by 1881, the rush was over and the population was down to 1212 and the economy based on wheat and wool.
Other gold mining sites in the region include Yarrabin, Mudgee, Eurunderee, Kaludabah, Lawson’s Creek, Havilah, Cullenbone, Slasher’s Flat, Grattai, Avisford, Maitland Bar, Hargraves, Hill End, Ulan, Pipeclay and Windeyer.
The Gulgong gold rush spread to its outer areas: Adams Lead, Black Lead, Canadian Lead, Home Rule, Pipeclay, Eureka, Coming Event, Star, Perseverance, Nil Desperandum, Gambler’s Retreat, Eurunderee, Two Mile Flat, and the Happy Valley, many names that can still be seen on road signs in the Gulgong area.
At Canadian Lead in 1872, there were 4 boarding houses, two stores, a public house and a hay and corn store being built.
That same year, at Home Rule, the Shamrock Theatre was a gold rush building complete with scenery, chandeliers and seating for 700 people.
Many of the hotels, theatres and shops were dismantled and moved as the gold rush moved on to another area. Bark humpies were abandoned and new ones built in the new goldfield.
Gulgong streets wound around the canvas gold miner tents perched beside their claims, hence the above picture of one hotel being built ‘crooked’ to accommodate a little twist in the then Queen Street, now Mayne Street. Many of the makeshift buildings were lined with hessian and newspapers. The first hospital was built of bark, as were churches, public houses, shops and the school.
It is said 15,000kg of gold was found in the Gulgong goldfields between 1870 and 1880.
Although the town began to dwindle as the rush went further afield, much of what the people left behind still stands, and the town has been classified by the National Trust since 1975.

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Sources for Gulgong’s Golden History

Gulgong’s Pioneers Museum
The Mudgee Guardian  January  25, 2001
Centenary of Federation feature  by Diane Simmonds, plus unpublished research.

Gulgong Pioneers Museum.
Ruth Davis and Barry Baldwin for their book: ‘Diary of a Goldfield’.
Marjorie Lenehan, 'Rouse, Richard (1843 - 1906)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, (click for link) 

gulgong history train
 The Commercial Hotel in Gulgong was built in the gold rush days of Gulgong and has a bend in the middle to accommodate the roadways winding around the early gold dwellings.


Photo of a church and feed store in Gulgong started with Robert Simcoe in the 1800s