Black Hill

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Aerial view of Black Hill in 2013 [1]

Black Hill is a hill in Ballarat East, approximately 1.7 kilometres northeast of Ballarat Town Hall, adjacent to the Yarrowee River. "From the top of this hill a superb panoramic view of Ballarat and surrounding district rewards excursionists who climb it."[2] It is the site of an open-cut mine that left the hill "with sandstone walls above rows of tunnels running in every direction."[3] The "precinct at Black Hill contains the sites of a number of mines which operated at Black Hill and remnants of their plant and works can still be located in the area today, one of the few places in Ballarat city where extensive evidence remains. Efforts to replant the area and to complete beautification schemes associated with the site becoming a public recreation area, now called Black Hill Public Park Reserve, have not eliminated the evidence of gold mining completely. The lookout offers 180 degree views of the surrounding area with its striking cliffs and gullies."[4] Black Hill is listed on the Ballarat Treasures Register[5].


Origin of the name

The Ballarat Heritage Precincts Statements Of Significance 2006 states that "Black Hill was originally known as 'Bowdun' by the Watha Wurrung people and was described as 'Black Hill' by William Urquart the government surveyor who surveyed the region in 1851."[6] However, according to Bate (1978), "Urquhart found Aboriginal names for landscape features, and this speaks of the district surveyor's feeling for the original state of the land. He named the swamp 'Wendouree', the river 'Yarrowee' and gave 'Bowdun' to Black Hill."[7] According to Barbara Cooper, "when Europeans first came to the region, the hill was densely covered in forest and Urquhart, the Government Surveyor, called it Bowdun on the first official map in 1851 with a subtitle name of Black Hill."[8]

"The hill to the north-east of Ballarat, a glaringly white eminence, was named in the early days Black Hill, owing to the sombre looking crown of vegetation it had."[2]

"Nineteenth century Ballarat historian William Withers has argued that Black Hill takes its name from its physical geography, and not its association with Aboriginal (Black) people. He asserts its name was derived from its densely timbered panoply." [9]


Before contact

Before the gold rush

During the gold rush - association between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people

"David Cahir, in the course of his doctoral research into the history of Aboriginal people and gold in Victoria, 1850-1900 , has uncovered some oral history that claims that Aboriginal people looked after some of the children of miners during the [Eureka] rebellion, in caves at Black Hill... This has not been able to be corroborated by any written source [however]... child-minding and caring for non-Aboriginal children is occasionally referenced in the primary literature."[9]

"Dr George Wakefield, in a letter to his father dated 1 May 1856… confirmed that in 1856 Aboriginal people were living with miners at Black Hill, so although the child-minding account is not able to be corroborated, an Aboriginal association with the hill is confirmed."[9]

Gold mining

"Black Hill forms part of the auriferous quartz ranges in the Ballarat region. The post-contact history of Black Hill was characterised by gold mining over three different eras. Shallow alluvial mining occurred in 1851 – 1852, followed by the working of deep alluvial lead form 1853 – 1875 and finally the development and working of quartz reefs in the underlying bedrock in 1854-1918."[6]

"Thomas Dunn panned for gold on Black Hill on 24 August 1851 but moved onto Golden Point after only finding a few specks. By 1853, the hill had shallow holes all over where diggers tried to find alluvial gold."[8]

"Black Hill was a difficult area to mine, as the area had no water supply to wash dirt and remove the gold. Miners had to bag the dirt, roll the bags down the hill and wash it in the Yarrowee Creek. By 1853/54 a windmill was erected to supply power to drive a four-head battery."[6]

"In early 1854 Dr Otway installed a four head battery driven by a windmill on the summit of the hill and began to process quartz. The battery was moved to the bottom of the hill in 1855 and enlarged as well as adding a Chilean mill. The battery was changed to steam power. Dr. Otway's battery was probably the first to be operated in Australia and started quartz reef mining in Ballarat."[8]

By that time [1853-54] the quartz lodes at the Black Hill had been tested. Dr. Otway, with whom was Mr. Osborne, was the first adventurer there, and he erected a windmill as a motive power for reducing the stone. After that he procured Chilian mills, but neither process was successful. Mr. George Milner Stephen followed Dr. Otway, and with similar results. The Port Phillip Company then came upon the scene, operating both at Black Hill and on the ranges at Dead Horse, but with small success. That company soon found better fortune at the Clunes reefs, from which it drew for many years a large annual revenue.[10]

At the foot of this hill was erected the first crushing battery put up in Ballarat.[2]

"In 1855 the battery was relocated to the bottom of the hill and converted to run on steam power. It is thought that this battery was the first to be erected in Australia. Changes in technology also wrought changes to the landscape. From the late 1850s to early 1900s the landscape was pitted with shafts, mullock heaps, debris, tramway trestle bridges over the Yarrowee Creek and almost bare of vegetation. South of the Yarrowee Creek contained water reservoirs and mullock heaps on land now bounded by Princes, Morres and Newman Streets. Six companies were working the area by 1860.""[6]

"The Port Phillip Company took over the site from Dr Otway and then the Penrose Company but neither were particularly successful. In 1859 the Black Hill Quartz Crushing Company purchased the plant and claims. This small company had 6 shareholders who invested to increase the battery power to twenty-four heads. This new venture soon struck payable gold and were treating about 240 tons of ore a week to extract about an average 6 dwt of gold per ton. There were 6 companies operating on Black Hill during 1860 including the Crocodile, Independent, Chisholm's and two private companies as well as Black Hill Quartz."[8]

Open-cut mining

"The timber has all been stripped from it, and the radical operations of the Black Hill Gold Mining Co. have riven the hill in twain and turned it from black to white."[2]

"Open cut mining commenced in earnest in the late 1850s by the Black Hill Quartz Crushing Company, later the Black Hill Company Limited. Open cut mining became the sole method of mining until 1864. In 1861, a new sixty-head battery was installed and the Black Hill Company was processing 100 tons of quartz per week. The company purchased the surrounding claims and held about 40 acres, encompassing much of the hill and land to the south of Yarrowee Creek."[6]

By 1869, according to Harrie Wood:

The width of ground containing these quartz veins is at the surface more than 300 feet from east to west, and the ground actually taken out by the company is about 240 feet wide at the surface, narrowing to 150 feet at a depth of 100 feet down. The length so excavated is about 650 foot from south to north... Up to the 31st December, 1864, the quartz was got by open working like a stone quarry or railway cutting, the whole of the ground being thrown down, the quartz picked out and sent to the mill, and the sandstone rock run out and tipped on the west side of the hill.
Up to December, 1864, while getting quartz wholly from the open cutting (the mill working twenty-four hours per day), the total number of tons crushed was 147,639, yielding 16,34402s. 16 dwts. 13 grs., the average yield per ton being 2 dwts. 5 grs.
During 1865, while getting the quartz partly from open cutting and partly through shafts, the mill working about twelve hours per day, the total number of tons crushed was 27,209, yielding 3,249 ozs. 19 dwts., the average yield per (on being 2 dwts. 9 grs.
From the 1st January, 1866, to the 30th September, the quartz was obtained wholly by mining, the mill working about eight hours per day. The number of tons crushed was 15,270, yielding 3,207 ozs., the average yield per ton being 4 dwts. 4 grs.[11]

"Open cut mining continued with tunnels extending more than half a mile long and the distinctive cliff began appearing from about 1863. Between 1862 and 1870, the company produced 1019 kg of gold. The processing site included a large steam-driven battery which would have been located opposite the present Newman Street footbridge, a transport railway and foundry."[6]

Post-mining commercial uses

Creation of parkland

"By 1907 mining operations decreased and the area became popular as a public recreation facility. Reservation of land to form the reserve began in 1907 and the last reservation occurred in 1983. A brickworks and the Davey’s Paint Factory also co-located on the Hill and as they ceased operations, became incorporated into the public reserve.

"Revegetation activities occurred at various sites in the reserve. On Arbor Day in 1913, boys from state schools planted trees to make the hill 'a more sheltered and attractive lookout'. The Black Hill Progress Association was formed in 1917 with the aim of the beautification of the locality. On Arbor Day 1917, boys from Humffray Street, Black Hill and Queen Street State Schools planted over 1,000 pines in avenues. A lookout was also erected and paths formed from the streets to the reserve and lookout. Further tree planting occurred to the 1980s by various community groups and the Council. The reserve also benefited from sustenance and relief work between 1927 and 1932, constructing pathways, planting trees and fencing. The tourist roadway was constructed in 1940 to provide a scenic look to the Reserve. [6]

See also

Black Hill Chronology

Black Hill - the White Cliffs of Ballarat

Black Hill Flat

Gold Mining Companies

Black Hill Co.

Black Hill Gold Mining Co.

Eureka Jennings Co.

North Queen Gold Mine


William Bradford


Black Hill Brick Company

Hoffman Brickworks (not sure if this is the correct name)

Other commercial uses

Davey’s Paint Factory

Black Hill Color and Oxide Company



  1. 'Claims of major illegal asbestos dumping in Black Hill', The Courier, 1 Jun 2013 5 am 10 Sep 2003 1:20pm [1] (accessed 28/8/2013)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Guide to Ballarat, F.W. Niven & Co, Ballarat, 1890, p.49
  3. Bate, Weston. Lucky City: The First Generation of Ballarat 1851–1901 (1978) p.89
  4. City of Ballarat Heritage Study (Stage 2) April 2003: Thematic History
  5. Ballarat Treasures Register [2] (accessed 30/8/2013)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 City of Ballarat, Ballarat Heritage Precincts Statements Of Significance 2006 [3] (accessed 30/8/2013)
  7. Bate, Weston. (1978). Lucky City: The First Generation at Ballarat 1851-1901. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Cooper, B. 'Black Hill - the White Cliffs of Ballarat', Ballarat Historian, v4 n7 (1990)[4]
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Clark, Ian D., Another Side of Eureka – the Aboriginal presence on the Ballarat goldfields in 1854 – Were Aboriginal people involved in the Eureka rebellion? [5] (accessed 30/8/2013)
  10. Withers, William Bramwell (1887). The History of Ballarat : from the first pastoral settlement to the present time (2nd ed). F.W. Niven & Co, Ballarat Vic
  11. Smyth, Robert Brough, The gold fields and mineral districts of Victoria, 1869[6] (accessed 31/10/14

Further reading

Cahir, Fred (David). (2012). "Black gold : Aboriginal people on the goldfields of Victoria, 1850-1870". Acton, ACT: ANU E Press.

External links

Neil Huybregts 11:20, 30 August 2013 (EST)
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