Yesterday Today | Promising diggings while damming

Dam Good: Bathurst’s Winburndale Dam was an impressive achievement when it was opened on October 7, 1933, between World War One and World War Two.
Dam Good: Bathurst’s Winburndale Dam was an impressive achievement when it was opened on October 7, 1933, between World War One and World War Two.

Bathurst’s Winburndale Dam was an impressive achievement when it was opened on October 7, 1933, between World War One and World War Two.

Some of those in attendance on the day were The Hon. B.S.B. Stevens, Premier of New South Wales; Alderman M.J. Griffin, Mayor of Bathurst; Mr. J.K. Middlemiss, Bathurst Town Clerk; Mr. G. Whitfield, Bathurst City Council Engineer and Mr. G. Chivers, Mayor of Lithgow.

Ironically some of the workmen who fabricated the cement dam had found alluvial gold in the creek reinforcing the fact that the area had been once well looked over in search of the precious metal.

On October 14 1851, it was recounted that “very promising diggings have been discovered in the lower portion of the Winburdale Creek, about five miles below Brucedale, the residence of Mr. W.H. Suttor.

There are about a dozen people at work, who are procuring a course description of gold in considerable quantities. Mr. Suttor, who has recently visited the place informs us that the men producing more finds for every bucket of earth and had no doubt that gold would be procured there in great quantity as at the Turon”.

Then it was reported on October 14, 1851, that the Winburndale miners had heard about the party who were engaged working near a large swamp oak which grew over the surface of a rock, all the roots of which they severed, but left the tree standing.

The first breeze that came blew the tree down in the midst of a party working close by, and nearly killed an old man. Dr. Bayes was called in, who pronounced the thigh broken. He splinted it in the best way he could, but the poor man growing worse, and so he was forwarded to the Bathurst hospital. Another accident occurred on the creek, in which a man has had his leg so badly smashed by the falling of a rock, that it was deemed necessary to amputate the limb, which was accomplished by two medical gentlemen on the spot.

By January 1860 there were some large amounts of gold being found in Winburndale Creek. One party of four diggers had made £75 per man in just eighteen days. Many of the locals felt that there was no doubt that plenty still remained in the area however due to the shortage fresh supplies of rain most sites had suspended working them, temporarily.

Reports that were coming in from the area said that many of those who have been working in the bed of the creek had done remarkably well. Banks and shops in Bathurst were also doing a fine trade either buying the gold or exchanging the yellow metal for supplies and equipment.

Joseph Foot was one man doing a bit of prospecting and washing payable amounts of gold on his land in 1859. Another man who lived on Winburndale Creek was George Churches in 1860, but afterwards moved to Raglan to live.

He joined the Bathurst Show Society and regularly exhibited his garden vegetables. He was well known for his ploughing ability and could plough a straight line for 100 yards and thus entered and won ploughing competitions in the 1880s. He later retired to Peel to live with his son Herbert Wallace Churches at Peel House where he passed away in 1909.

There were others who formed a company to mine the gold. The Winburndale Sluicing Company was one such company though by November 1876 it was up for sale. Their property of a large area of gold producing land, along with a long and elaborate gold race which was capable of carrying a good sluice head of water was being disposed of at a forthcoming auction sale.

In January 1903 there was another gold discovery at Winburndale. It turned out to be a family who had been fossicking on the Creek on Government ground. Then they bottomed a shaft and recovered gold valued at about £45. They and others, some 30 to 45, have since been working and making good wages.

Alan McRae is with the Bathurst District Historical Society