Minimum 2 hours
Old Gaol, Botanic Gardens, Buda, Burke and Wills Memorial, Penny Flat, Chewton, Castlemaine
Leaving Fairbank House, go south back through Maldon and take the turnoff to Castlemaine. On the way you are passing through the Muckleford Box-ironbark Forest with its mine sites and springtime profusion of flowers. The ruins of the old Gower school are on the left and there's trails right through the forest. There's a Parks Victoria brochure on the area you can download here. At Muckleford crossroad, you can turn left (north) to see the developments at Muckleford Railway Station if you haven't already seen it via the Victorian Goldfields Railway. Return to the Maldon Castlemaine Road and turn left (east). Past the cross-road, there's a little miner's cottage fronting the road. Behind it, in the paddock, is another little place with a great story.
Apparently, the son of the farmer who owned it was getting married, and the family decided to do up the old stone house until the newlyweds' house was built in Castlemaine. The walls were slate, two thicknesses, so they decided to take out the inside walls to make the place larger. Whilst doing this, they found a cavity alongside the chimney and a sealed terracotta jar in the cavity. This is gold country, and the heavy jar could only have treasure in it. It was decided to give the contents to the newlyweds. On the night before the wedding the family had a big party and the groom-to-be smashed open the jar to find ...nothing. The jar was empty. It was an elaborate joke, passed through five generations.
Castlemaine was named after Viscount Castlemaine by his nephew, the chief goldfields commissioner. The early mining settlement and goldfield was known as Forest Creek or Mount Alexander. Thomas Mitchell, the surveyor, crossed the area in 1836 and a shepherd discovered gold in 1851, which lead eventually to the rush at Maldon, two years later. Over 31 000 people populated the area by 1857 - there's about 8 500 now, but growing, as is Maldon, with the influx of tree-changers. Weather's always better in Maldon, and Castlemaine's 19th century mine managers decamped to the rarefied air of Mt Tarrangower for the air. Many of the miners were Chinese and gold was mined in the area. By the late 19th century there were three major mines in the immediate vicinity: the Garfield Mine on the north side of town, the Francis Ormand Mine opposite the Red Hill Hotel and the Wattle Gully Mine just south of town. The Wattle Gully mine still operates intermittently. The railway was opened in 1862 and slate quarried in the area sent to Melbourne. Castlemaine Woollen Company and Thompson's Foundry were established in 1874 and the town hall built in 1898.
Keep to the Castlemaine Road, joining with the Maryborough Road and cresting the hill to Castlemaine. Just after the Victorian Goldfields Railway bridge, take Ray St which goes straight on (east) when the highway bears southeast, noting the great views from the next hill as the street turns left into Bowden St. Continue along Bowden St where the Old Castlemaine Gaol is located (obviously) on the next hill. The Gaol, leased by the Shire to a training provider received a substantial grant for refurbishment. It is open Monday to Friday with 45-minute guided tours conducted on Wednesdays at 11.00am and 1.30pm. During the week, visitors are able to take a self-guided tour anytime between 10.00am and 3.30pm Phone (03) 5470 5311 for information.
In 1851, the discovery of gold at Golden Point (east of Chewton on Melbourne Road) saw the influx of diggers and as a consequence, the first gaol was erected on nearby Camp Reserve. However, in 1856 its 3.5m fence was blown over in a gale and caused an uproar about security. The new site was selected and the building work undertaken by the new Public Works Department, constructing the gaol from local sandstone and granite. Nine prisoners were executed and buried in unmarked graves at the gaol. In the 1880s, Castlemaine was also used to house the criminally insane before being accommodated in Ararat.
By 1887, the prison was adapted to hold first-time offenders, with a schoolroom, a carpenter's shop, library and chapel added. At the end of the century, women prisoners were moved to the new female quarters at Pentridge. In 1924, the gaol was used as a refomatory school for 90 boys, combined with a prison farm at Muckleford. In 1951, the boys went to new quarters at Langi Kal Kal and the gaol was closed. The gaol saw varying usage over the years and, upon the opening of the Loddon Prison in 1990, the Old Castlemaine Gaol reinvented itself some years later as a tourist facility.
Following Bowden St north, bear right at Cornish St and turn right (east) again at Walker St. The Botanic Gardens, designed by Melbourne's curator at the time, Baron Ferdinand von Mueller (who reputedly also brought blackberries to Victoria) were developed from worked-out diggings from 1860. They are beautiful gardens, classified in the National Register, with important species of trees and restored heritage structures. Feed the ducks on Lake Angusta.
Continue east to the main road, Barker St, turn right (south) then immediately left (east) into Hunter St. Buda Historic Home & Garden at No 42 Hunter St is open from 12 noon until 5pm on Wednesday to Saturday and10 am until 5pm on Sunday and Public Holidays. Phone (03) 5472 1032
It was a private home built in the Indian bungalow (one storey) style by Colonel John Smith, an army officer who had, notably, served in India. He named it 'Delhi Villa'. In 1863 it was purchased by the jeweller and precious metal artist, Ernest Leviny, who joined the gold rush in 1853. He made improvements to the building, renaming it in honour of his birthplace, Budapest in Hungary. It was further extended in 1890.
The house features the Leviny family's collection of silver, art and crafts (including the enamelling, woodcarving, embroidery, photography and paintings of the five unmarried daughters who resided in the house most of their lives and which reflect their Hungarian heritage). There are also works by other distinguished Australian artists, furnishings and domestic effects accumulated over a period of 120 years. The house itself has stucco mouldings, a clerestory for light and bay windows. The excellent heritage gardens cover 1.8 hectares. Given a Category One in the 1980 Study of Historic Gardens, the citation notes that 'more than any other garden in Victoria, this has retained the very elusive character of the nineteenth century'. The ornate aviary was made at Thompson's Foundry. In the 1980s it was bequeathed to the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum.
Return to Barker St and enjoy the beautiful old houses and commercial buildings that grace what was the old Calder Highway, noting the proliferation of iron lace along the verandahs. The east side of Barker St between Templeton St and Lyttleton St is classified. Turn left into Lyttleton St and continue east. On the right, just before the hill to the Burke and Wills monument is a geological feature, an anticlinial fold. It's an inverted 'u' shape and very important in the scheme of things. In the Bendigo goldfields, of which Maldon is the southernmost outcrop, gold collects on the top of the fold and again on the bottom (synclinial fold). Turn right at Wills St to ascend the hill to the obelisk
The Burke and Wills obelisk is a Castlemaine icon. Explorer Robert O'Hara Burke was superintendent of police at Castlemaine from 1858 to 1860. When news of his ill-fated trip and demise was received , the townsfolk erected the obelisk, now useful for atmospheric pictures of the town. Returning back down Wills St, turn left (west) at Mostyn St left again at Urguhart St and again (east) on the Pyrenees Highway (Duke St), noting a couple of Cornish miners' cottages near or on the fence line. Slower traffic in 1860. 800m beyond Patterson Bridge is a turnoff to the left (north) into Murphy St. 500m further on turn left into Colles Rd which leads across Zeal Bridge to Moonlight Flat. The cemetery is 500m along this road, on a little knoll. Probably established in 1851, Pennyweight Flat Children's Cemetery was one of the first on the Forest Creek Goldfields. 200 people were buried here from 1852 to 1857, many of them women and children falling victim to the disease and hardship brought with the privations they endured.
Continue on Colles Road to Happy Valley Road, turning left (south and west) to return to the Pyrenees Highway, turning right (west) to return to the centre of town. Turn right (north) into Hargreaves Street at the Panners' roundabout, then right (west) again past the supermarket into Mostyn St. The Old Castlemaine Market is on the left (parking at rear). It's now the information Centre, open 9 to 5, phone 5471 1795.
Designed by town surveyor William Downe, the Market reflects the influence of Christopher Wren and was built of stone and brick with cement rendering in 1861-1862. At that time it was part of a complex of market buildings gathered about the square. A produce market once housing 22 stalls was held here until 1967. It was also the venue for celebratory balls: in 1862 for the opening of the railway and in 1867 for the visiting Duke of Edinburgh.
Return to Hargreaves St and turn left (north) then left (west) again back into Lyttleton St. Passing several fine municipal buildings to the north, and elegant commercial buildings to the south, cross Barker St and on the hill is the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Museum, one of Australia's five finest provincial galleries, founded in 1913 and featuring major Australian works around the turn of the 20th century. It's open weekdays 10am-5pm and weekends 12pm-5pm. The 1931 art deco building is noted for its elegant design and is Heritage listed. It was further extended and refurbished in 2000, and is noted for its private collections and benefactors, including Dame Nellie Melba. The collection includes paintings by Frederick McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Louis Buvelot, Russell Drysdale, Fred Williams, Margaret Preston and many more recent works. The Historical Museum focuses on items relating to the history of the Mount Alexander Shire, and shares adjoining premises.
A couple of anecdotes. Tom Robert's A Summer Morning Tiff hangs at Ballarat Art Gallery, and The Reconciliation at Castlemaine, depending upon availability. Another is that Bendigo Art Gallery was wealthier than Castlemaine, and procured monumental and sentimental works from fashionable London artists. Thus Bendigo has been trying to catch up ever since. Fashion is fleeting!
One last side trip. At the end of Lyttleton St, turn right (north) into Kennedy St and go as far as the railway station. Opposite is the Midland Hotel, resplendent with the best iron lace in Castlemaine, or anywhere for that matter. It's on a corner, so turn right (east) into Templeton St, then right (south) when you reach Barker St (more lace on the corner) and continue under the railway bridge, turning right (west)into the Pyrenees Highway at the Maldon sign (this is the start of the Vaughan wander). There's a great antique/cast iron complex on the south corner but you should be able to make it back to Fairbank without too many more distractions.
Take a break and relax - because there's many more trips from your comfortably stylish home base.