Rushworth (including Whroo)
Fascinating old goldmining town.
Rushworth is an old goldmining town which
retains much of its original character through
its many early buildings. It is located 166 km
north of Melbourne via Murchison and 145 m above
sea-level. Today there are about 1000 residents.
Rushworth became a stopping place in the
early 1850s for those travelling between the
Bendigo and Beechworth diggings. Gold was
discovered near the future townsite in August
1853 when some diggers, camping overnight, were
shown some 'pretty' stones by local Aborigines
who then led them to their point of origin. The
first settlement was established 1.5 km east of
present-day Rushworth. It was known as
'Nuggetty', owing to the numerous large nuggets
found. There were soon hundreds of tents and
slab huts, stores, wine shanties, dams, puddling
machines and crushing machines.
Alluvial gold was then found in plentiful
supply right throughout the area and underground
shafts were sunk to a depth of 270 metres,
locating gold reefs 2.5 metres thick. 26 mines
were operating at its peak and there were
allegedly 40 000 people living in the district.
Poet Richard Horne, a friend of Charles
Dickens, was made one of the two gold
commissioners overseeing the rush and he gave
the town its name. One theory is that he took
the English idea of ending a town's name with
'-worth' and jokingly coined the term
'Rushworth' (i.e., a worth-while rush) or that
he named it after two fellow passengers from the
ship that brought him to Australia. Horne and
fellow-commissioner Willoughby successfully
quelled potential riots over the expensive
The area which is now High St (the main road)
began developing in 1853. A survey of the site
was conducted in 1854 and by 1858 there was a
police camp, a wooden courthouse, five hotels,
two breweries, a school, seven large stores, 20
tradesmen's shops and two banks; all at the
southern end of High St.
The first local newspaper, the Waranga Echo,
started in 1868 although the mining began to
wind down in the 1870s. However, the town
continued to prosper as timbergetting became a
major local industry with at least seven
sawmills operating at one stage. Now only
Risstroms Sawmill remains.
The town declined during the Great Depression
but has survived. Mixed farming is now carried
on under irrigation.
21 km west of town is the locality of
Colbinabbin where novelist Joseph Furphy had a
selection from 1868 to 1873, although he later
described it as 'the worst selection in Rodney
Shire' and soon headed off to the Riverina area
Things to see:
High Street Heritage Walk
In 1983 High St (the main thoroughfare) and its
adjacent streets were declared an Urban
Conservation Area by the National Trust. High St
began its life in 1853, at the outset of the
goldrush. Until the railway arrived in 1890, the
southern end of the street was the focal point
of local business and so many of the older
buildings are clustered there.
Start your investigation of High St at the
Hyde St intersection. On the south-eastern
corner is an old steam traction engine whistle
post (1906). This sign warned steam engines
which were hauling logs from Rushworth Forest to
the local sawmill to sound their whistle. On the
hill is St Paul's Anglican Church, a Gothic
Revival structure built in 1869-70. Diagonally
opposite the whistle post is the town's second
courthouse (1870s). Head north along High St. At
the Horne St corner is the Waranga Shire Hall
(1869). Turn left into Horne St and on the left
is the old fire brigade hall (1890s).
Return to High St, continuing northwards. On
the right-hand side is the town's oldest
building; a private residence which started its
life in 1854 as the Imperial Hotel. Just past it
are the first CBC Bank, the second CBC Bank
(1883) and Cracknell's Bakery - all now private
residences. On the other side of the road is the
Criterion Hotel (1856). The first school was
established on its south side in 1858.
Continue along High St. To the left is the
Glasgow Building (1858). In the middle of High
St, in the central plantation, are the band
rotunda (1888) with the base added to store fire
equipment in 1901. The Rushworth Brass Band have
been operating locally since 1874 and they are
still in action. The Fire Tower dates from 1900
and the RSL Memorial Clock from 1923. There are
picnic-barbecue facilities and an information
On the western side of High St, between Wigg
and Parker Sts, are a series of old shops. At
High and Parker is the former office of the
Chronicle newspaper (1888).
At the intersection of High and Parker Sts,
adjacent the site of the early Wiggs Brewery
(1854-1898), is the Rushworth Museum, located in
the former mechanics institute, erected in 1913
to replace the original 1861 structure. It
contains items pertaining to local history and
is open on Tuesdays from 2.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m.
At High St and Moora Rd is the post office
(1885). On the other side of the road is the old
Presbyterian Church (1858-59). Head west along
Moora Rd, taking in the Rushworth Hotel (built
in 1878 as the Cricketers Arms) and the first
Catholic Church, situated at Moora and School St
(1861). Duck across the road to the Masonic hall
(1894), at the corner of Moora and Esmonde St.
High School and Dunlop Hill
The aforementioned School St leads from Moora Rd
to Heily St where you will see the town's high
Nearby is McDonald St which will start you on
your way up Dunlop Hill where there are fine
wildflowers in spring.
Growlers Hill Lookout Tower
The fire authority's lookout tower at Growlers
Hill (once mined for gold) offers views over the
town, the Waranga Reservoir, the Rushworth
Forest and the Goulburn Valley. Head west along
Parker St then turn right into Reed St.
The town's old Methodist Church (1869) is
located along the Murchison Rd which runs off
Jones's Eucalyptus Distillery
A distillery, just south of Rushworth, extracts
eucalyptus oil from blue mallee gum. Visitors
are welcome but ring first as opening hours are
irregular, tel: (03) 5856 1280. Head south on
the Whroo Rd (an extension of High St) and turn
off into Parramatta Gully Rd.
Rushworth State Forest
Rushworth State Forest is a 24 300-hectare
reserve to the immediate south of town via Whroo
Rd. It consists of red ironbark, yellow gum and
grey box eucalypts with a profusion of
wildflowers and orchids after autumn and spring
rains. Fauna includes 100 bird species,
echidnae, possums, kangaroos, wallabies,
wallaroos and the rat-sized marsupial known as
the tuan. It is a fine area for bushwalking,
forest drives and nature studies and picnicking.
The creeks of the forest were scoured for gold
in the 19th century and some optimists still do
7 km south of Rushworth, along Whroo Rd, is
Whroo Historic Reserve (65 hectares) which
represents the remnants of what was once a
thriving goldmining town of 1000 people and 139
buildings (all removed or demolished). All that
remains to mark the building sites are
peppercorn trees, wells and grassy clearings.
The Whroo goldfield began in 1853 in a gully
near Balaclava Hill which itself became the site
of a gold strike in 1854. The find was made on
the same day as the Battle of Balaclava in the
Crimean War (hence its name). It proved to be an
extremely rich source with 15-cm gold veins
crisscrossing through the quartz. In all it
produced over a million pounds worth of gold.
Visitors can still see the 25-metre deep
open-cut mine on the hill. To the south of the
hill is the site of the mine owner's homestead.
Four large pine trees remain from his 4-acre
garden. A row of sugar gums marks the site of a
mechanics institute where balls were held on
moonlit nights (owing to the lack of
electricity) from 1859 to 1955.
Also south of the hill is the evocative Whroo
Cemetery and a signposted walking track that
leads from the cemetery to an Aboriginal
waterhole. It is presumably the source of the
town's name as local Aborigines called the area
'wooroo' which is thought to mean 'waterhole'.
Other relics include cyanide vats and a
puddling machine which are adjacent each other
to the south-west of the hill.
There are other signposted walking tracks and
a signposted camping site with toilets and
picnic tables but no water. It is a good area
for bushwalking, cycling, horse riding and
forest drives. For further information enquire
at the mud-brick building at the reserve which
sells Devonshire teas or ring (03) 5856 1434.
Waranga Basin is to the immediate north-east of
town. It was designed by John Dethbridge, who
invented the Dethbridge water wheel, and was
completed in 1916. The water derives from the
Goulburn Weir and is relayed to the Goulburn
Valley and across the north of the state to the
Mallee. It is a haven for water sports,
including boating, fishing, sailing, swimming
and waterskiing. There are picnic areas,
barbecue facilities, toilets, boat ramps a
caravan park and camping areas.
The main access road is the Tatura Rd. It
takes you past the Waranga-Mallee channel which
transports the water 290 km via gravity feed to
Just off the Tatura Rd is the 7-km Waranga
Basin Embankment Wall, erected in 1908 by man
and horsepower. There is a shady picnic and
swimming area nearby. The outlet canal here
follows the course of a 64-km diversion channel
which was hand-dug in 1885 from the Goulburn
River at Murchison to the Murray River at
Echuca. This brought water to the Goulburn
Valley, thereby enabling the development of the
valley's dairy and orchard industries.
There is also a caravan park and holiday camp
(offering bunk-style accommodation) with a
boat-ramp, kiosk, childrens' playground and
picnic reserve. They are off the Tatura Rd, 4.5
km from town, tel: (03) 5856 1243. There is
another picnic area 13 km from Rushworth.
The Inlet Channels are signposted off the
Murchison Rd. Turn left under the Railway
Geodetic Bridge to the new inlet and follow the
shore of the lake to the old inlet channel.