Situated in a low forested glade, this ramshackle collection of structures is probably unique in Victoria. Although erected in fairly recent times, it demonstrates superbly the small gold mining practices of the past. The engine and crusher originated from an old mine at Stanley and survive from earlier times. The roughly hewn timber and iron structures epitomise the aesthetics of rough bush buildings.
(David Bannear 1994)
Gold was discovered in Cunningham's Gully in 1858. Reefs were opened in the vicinity from the mid-1860s, the first of them being McLean's Reef, discovered by alluvial miners in McLean's Gully. A water-powered battery was erected in Cunningham's Gully by Dean & Co. in 1868, to crush for their King, Annandale, Solway reefs. The Murmungee–Bowman's Forest reefs were briefly the major gold producers on the Beechworth field. Operations at that time were short-lived, though, due in part to the scarcity of water in the locality, and the battery was removed in 1871. When the Bowman's Forest reefs were revived in the mid-1880s, a steam-driven battery was erected at Murmungee by George Biddington. Development of the reefs was again limited to surface scratchings, where rich stone was easily procured. The mining registrar wrote of the reefs in 1887 that 'up to the present none of them have developed into good permanent reefs'.
There were small parties working on reefs about Murmungee early this century. One of them, Wells and party, erected a small battery on their prospecting claim on McLean's Reef in 1915. The party was still prospecting in 1917. The fate of the 1915 battery is not known, but according to information cited by the National Trust, the existing plant was erected in 1939 and the mine, known as the Weone, worked (unprofitably) until the late 'forties by Walter Wells and his son Max. They crushed stone, not just from the Weone, but from various quartz shows in the vicinity. The shallow workings evident near the battery today suggest that the Murmungee quartz workings never progressed much beyond the surface scratchings noted in the mid-1880s. In the early 1980s, the local branch of the National Trust proposed that the waterwheel and other remaining plant be re-sited to Beechworth, after the theft of several components from the Cunningham Gully site. The plant is still owned by Max Wells.
References:Department of Mines Annual Report, 1906, 1915, 1917, Flett, p. 68, LCC, p. 87, Recommendation N8, National Trust of Australia (Victoria) file no. 3276
Australian Heritage Commission, file no. 004531 2/08/230/0011/02
Mining Surveyors' Reports (Beechworth Subdivision), March & June 1866, December 1867, March–December 1868, December 1870, March–September 1885
Associated People: Tenant WALTER C WELLS