Sunday, January 02, 2011


Grab a cuppa - this is a big one...
It was 30 years ago (sounds like Sgt Peppers, doesn't it!!!) that we spent some time in Beechworth - an old gold mining town of the early 1880s. We went on a wine discovery trip there in the early 80s.
Today it preserves its rich heritage and is full of businesses trying to make a living from tourism.
Gold discovery brought with it prosperity. The town grew from a tent city to the central hub of the northern hill country of Victoria sitting at the base of the Victorian Alps. Radiating from Beechworth are many other townships worth visiting, Bright, Yackandandah, Milawa and gateway to the Alps.

Beechworth - a great base to visit the surounding areas of wine, food and the Alps.
 Gold was discovered in February 1852 after which 8000 miners flooded the area of “Mayday Hills” before it was named Beechworth. In less than 2 years, 100,000 ounces of the precious metal had been mined in the district. Miner’s shafts still litter the area and tourists are warned of the dangers that can be encountered if not careful.

Beechworth's Post Office

Bank of Victoria, now a museum, cafe and gift shop.

Australia's coat of arms - Kanga and Emu above another old bank, now an antique shop and B&B.

By 1853, the Government laid out the street plans and a town was born. In one more year the population grew to 30,000, public buildings were erected and Beechworth became the centre of the Indigo Shire.

It is in the Beechworth Courthouse that sentence was handed down to infamous bush ranger, Ned Kelly before being sent to Melbourne to be hanged.
The afternoon of our arrival in Beechworth, Sue unfortunately wasn’t well - food poisoning. It happened to me earlier this year when we visited friends in the Loire in France. I still have to continually apologise to Carole and Mikee, our hosts (Hope you’re reading this. Sorry again).

So I decided to take a lone walk with my camera while Sue slept.

Beechworth Goal.

The entrance to one of the towers.

The Shire Hall is now the information centre for tourists.

The historical centre of Beechworth has been preserved and contains the admistration buildings from the 1850s including the Warden's office, Courthouse where infamouse bushranger Ned Kelly was tried and convicted, and the telegraph station among othe administration buildings of the time.

The only part of the Beechworth Hospital remaining is the Facade shown here.

Beechworth is full of magical buildings, small cafes and even a boutique brewery, not to mention the opportunity to purchase the many fine wines from the local district. A real gourmet and craft trail has emerged from the district. The town has basically two main commercial streets that criss-cross each other. The traditional verandas remain and the signage of the shops and businesses take on a theme of the earlier era of the 1880s. Banks were big in that time and so were hotels, of which many remain. The banks are no longer handling money in the sense of savings but still do now in tourism dollars. They have become antique shops, restaurants or museums.

Some of the hotels and I counted maybe five within the two streets, have become a little more upmarket since their 1880s days.

Tanswell's Hotel is one of the earl hotels still remaining from the 1880s. We stayed here in the early 1980s and asked for  a bottle of wine to take back to the room. The owner took us deep down into the cellar to extract a bottle of vintage red at some extraordinarily CHEAP price. Betcha that don't happen these days.
 As I wandered up Camp Street, I found the local boutique brewery and thought it was a good time for a cool beer - a Beechworth Porter, a dark ale, but not quite a stout.

A morning walk the following day took me to a little café with very much a French influence (the owners travel to France regularly) and I enjoyed a coffee with scones, raspberry jam and cream while I read my book in the filtered morning sunshine in their garden. Life is good.

The book I'm reading is a biography of Paul Kelly, an Australian singer songwriter. He's a very interesting fellow with a social conscious.
Check out this youtube of him. He sings of Aboriginal land rights.

A really nice place to relax and read a book over a cup of coffee.

On leaving a had a French thing happen and the bill said Merci.
 After leaving Bouchon Cafe, I wanted to search out the Beechworth cemetary - it has some of its pioneers buried there and a section for the Chinese that inhabited Beechworth during the gold rush days.
I found the cemetary but discovered that I was all alone, not a soul was seen on my walk amongst the graves. Of note was the grave site of James Ingram, Beechworth's Grand Old Man. He arrived in Beechworth in 1855 three years after the gold discovery at the age of 27 after setting foot in Melbourne from Scotland in 1852. He died six weeks before his 100th birthday after achieving much for his adopted local community of Beechworth and Victoria.
As I walked the grave sites, I discovered many that had arrived from other countries to make this area what it is today. Pioneers from the UK, Canada, United States, Germany and of course the Chinese who set up market gardens and laundries as well as searching for gold.
Many of those buried here had fought in wars afar. Their headstones for example read, American Civil War Veteran, Battle of Waterloo Veteran, and Mexican War Veteran.
The Chinese gravesites reminded a little like those from the first world war in France.

Entrance to the Chinese Cemetary - The Chinese burning towers were built in 1857 and were used to burn prayer papers and meals for their dead. They became an integral part of the Beechworth community. There are thought to be 2000 Chinese buried here.

I was amazed at the number of Chinese headstones.
a monument to their contribution to early Victoria.

One of the many restored homes of Beechworth

And another

A renovator's opportunity.

The entrance to our B & B specially decorated for Christmas.

A very nice B and B with great hosts.
  The B & B we stayed in (the Rose House), owned by Lyn and Tony were exceptional hosts and I chatted with Tony after breakfast as he fed the birds in the rear gardens of their homely Victorian timber residence. They’ve owned the business for 26 years and have a full occupancy without advertising. People constantly return as I’m sure we will one day in the future.



  1. Hello Leon - how could we ever forget your visit but, as long as you let people know that you became ill before eating in our house, then all is well. Do hope that Sue is soon feeling better - was it Oysters?!!! Happy New Year and don't forget to visit us soon.
    Carol & Michael

  2. Lovely historic city!
    Leon, do people take off during YOUR summer like they do in Europe (July and August)? Would that be November/December or December/January for you?

  3. Hi Carol and Mikee, No not oysters this time! And Leon was certainly NOT sick from eating at your house! I didn't get to see any of Beechworth this time, although saying I spent the time just in bed is kind. This morning I'm feeling much better though.
    Hope your New Year was a good one.

    Nadege, Yes people do take off here during our summer, which is December/Jan/Feb. The main time for holidays is from late Dec and during Jan as school goes back at the end of Jan, so people are generally back for that. Our hottest time is generally late Jan and early Feb


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