CASTLEMAINE and CHEWTON and BARKERS CREEK and CAMPBELLS CREEK and FRYERSTOWN and IRISHTOWN and VAUGHAN and GLENLYON and TARILTA and GLENLUCE and PORCUPINE RIDGE and GOLDEN POINT and GUILDFORD and MOONLIGHT FLAT and FARADAY and YAPEEN, Mount Alexander Shir
What is significant? The Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park envelopes a goldfield which was the catalyst for the Victorian gold rush of the early 1850s. In that tumultuous decade Victorian gold transformed the demographic, social, political and economic complexion of Australia. The gold won from Mount Alexander (later renamed Castlemaine) and other early rushes such as Ballarat and Bendigo mainly found its way to England as bullion where it helped bankroll a spectacular period of world trade, industrial and commercial expansion.
Following the flush of discovery in July 1851, Mount Alexander all but depopulated other Australian goldfields; by mid-1852 it was renowned as a world significant goldfield. The Mount Alexander rush drew large numbers of gold seekers from Britain, Europe and America and was the first Victoria goldfield on which Chinese miners converged in large numbers, in 1854. The Mount Alexander rush helped established a pattern of international and local migration for future Australian and international gold rushes.
Of the major 1850s goldfields, Mount Alexander alone remained a primarily surface field, and for this reason has uniquely preserved the early alluvial landscape. Ballarat and Bendigo were transformed into great cities by even richer underground mines which obliterated their gold rush workings.
At the core of the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is an area of land, approximately 50 km by 10 km, containing auriferous quartz reefs, gullies, flats and hills which encompasses the goldfield known historically as the Mount Alexander Diggings. Inextricably linked to the historic gold locations is an abundance of mining relics relating to the early 1850s Mount Alexander gold rush. They form subtle landscapes comprising shallow alluvial diggings, tracks, burial grounds, huts and fireplaces, puddling machines, sluices and tail races, quartz roasting kilns and early quartz mining & battery sites. Interlacing the gold rush features is physical evidence of successive periods of mining which lead up to the present day.
Despite the transformation of the natural environment evidence of Aboriginal occupation such as rock wells and stone tools is also present. This outstanding archaeological palimpsest is now part of a regenerating Box-Ironbark forest which is in its own right an artefact of gold mining and later forestry. The place names of the park's gold mining locations are significant markers of ethnicity, experiences and events of the Mount Alexander rush. Adjoining the park are the townships born of the gold rush, Barkers Creek, Castlemaine, Chewton, Fryerstown, Vaughan, Campbells Creek and Guildford.
How is it significant? The Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is of historical, scientific, archaeological and aesthetic (landscape) significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant? The Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is historically significant as an authentic and intact early 1850s goldfield. It was the catalyst for the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s, which was a profoundly significant event in the shaping of Australia. In that tumultuous decade Victorian gold transformed the demographic, social, political and economic complexion of Australia.
The Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is scientifically significant because it envelopes an extraordinary mass of geological, geomorphologic and cultural features relating to initial and subsequent periods of gold mining from 1851 to the present day. Its uniqueness lies in the authentic nature of the gold rush material evidence as compared to other contemporary goldfields, its association with the momentous Mount Alexander rush, and the intactness and diversity of the preserved mining sequence over a period of 150 years. The integrity of the 1850s gold-rush landscape in the section south of Vaughan is particularly exceptional. The park also has some of the earliest remaining gold reef mining sites in Australia. Many of the alluvial and reef mining sites are associated with remnants of housing, which are significant both as evidence of historical occupation of the goldfield and as archaeological resources likely to contain evidence which will cast greater light on ethnicity, mining and domestic life. The land and its regenerating Box-Ironbark forest is important scientific evidence in its own right in demonstrating a spectacular event of transformation of the pre-gold rush environment.
The Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is a mysterious and picturesque landscape of environmental transformation and regeneration and is culturally significant as the embodiment of the Mount Alexander rush, the commencement of the Victorian gold rush proper. The overall quality and range of surviving sources of information (archaeological, environmental and historical) when combined speaks eloquently of the history of the Mount Alexander rush of Victoria's first great concentration and mixing of ethnic and regional groups. Mount Alexander and its central Victorian contemporaries, Bendigo and Ballarat, were responsible for energising society in the early 1850s with results that transformed Australia.