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The Transient Towns

Built for the pursuit of gold

From 1872 until the closure of the South Berry mine in 1914, 10 townships were created to service the deep lead goldfield. Of these, Allendale became one of the most important townships in Australia; its solid prosperity reflecting the wealth of its surrounding industry. As the mines closed and the smaller towns disappeared, Allendale, with its railway station, managed to survive.

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EST. 1879

1881 • 139
1891 • 1,562
1961 • 93

44,000 • Rail Passengers   33,000t • Inward freight

10 • Hotels   
5 • Churches
3 • Schools

Driven by demand

By the mid 1870s a patchwork of interlocking mining titles covered the trending direction of the rich deep leads as they flowed north from their origin at the foot of Spring Hill.

By now there was a confidence in the investment and returns from gold production, however the logistical problem of where to house all the company miners working this expanding goldfield was yet to be solved. 

Enter the “A.V Jennings” of the district, Mr Thomas Joshua Dibdin, a mining investor and popular publican, who systematically secured parcels of freehold land for the purpose of building private townships that followed the ever-increasing mining activity. 


Dibdin’s empire not only put to tender the construction of cottages, but the erection of commercial and civil buildings where the townsfolk could gather to celebrate and bond their new mining community together.

Cookie-cutter cottages

The first purpose-built mining town was Allendale where in the early 1880s Dibdin sold hundreds of cottages all of the same design: unpainted weatherboard with four rooms all lined inside with hessian and paper, an iron roof with one chimney for either an open fire or a stove and a 'dunny' shared between two houses. 


Above: Photo to be sourced

“Dibdin’s Speculation Hotel was originally located near Broomfield Gully and it was decided to hoist the hotel on to junkers and remove it to the new village of Allendale without an actual suspension of business – the contents, including liquors, were to remain on the premises. The operation created great hilarity, and when the building reached Allendale there was a memorable rush of thirsty customers who thronged the bar and its surroundings”.  John Graham

Setting up shop


By late 1882, Allendale’s population had increased rapidly and residents and proprietors were relishing the commercial and social profits that came with being in the centre of a booming gold mining district. 

Being surrounded by the well-established agricultural townships of Smeaton and Kingston, food staples were secure and a reservoir near Spring Hill provided a fresh flowing supply of water into the town.

The social calendar saw performances by local and international troupes held in the concert hall, with guests staying at one of the eight licensed venues or the 30 room Ristori Commercial Hotel.


Race Days, always patronised by the influential ‘clique’ and their thoroughbreds, were greatly anticipated, as were the inter-town and inter-mine rivalries that developed over the years on the football and sports field.

Clementston Tug of War Team, posing after winning 1st at Talbot, 1901.

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Boot makers were kept busy modifying or repairing the miners boots that were affected by the mines acidic water.

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Allendale District Fire Brigade with
hose reel and Shand Mason pump, ~1891. 

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Demand for produce to feed the new mining families provided a golden era for the local farmers. 

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Allendale, 1903

Australian Handbook, 1903

“The town is the principal centre of the Spring Hill alluvial leads, nine mines being in operation. There is direct railway communication with Melbourne, Allendale being a station on the Daylesford Line. 

The principal hotels are the Speculation, Ristori Commercial, Durham Ox, Cosmopolitan and Miners’ Association. The public buildings comprise of post and telegraph office, police station, court-house, electoral registrar’s office and a dramatic hall. A branch of the National Bank of Australasia, a State School (No. 2,420) and a Roman Catholic School, also a Mechanics Institute with 1,890 vols., a brick and tile factory and a museum containing many geological and mineralogical specimens. 

There are places of worship belonging to the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist bodies, and a Salvation Army barracks. There is also a Fire Brigade. A line of coach runs four times daily to Smeaton and Clementston. Population 1,600"

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Above:  Looking down Elizabeth Street, Allendale early 1900s with Collins Speculation Hotel and Allendale District Fire Brigade station and bell tower on the left hand side.


Of the 10 towns created to service the goldfield, only Allendale, Broomfield and Smokeytown (as a residential address) remain. The 'lost townships' of Ristori Town, Clementston, Wallace Town, Dibdin Town, Jerusalem, Lawrence and Hollinwood were either shifted on drays, dismantled or abandoned.

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Forgotten histories and newspaper cuttings from the past


In 1875 the Ristori Freehold became one of the first public companies floated in the area and alongside DeMurska they both not only proved beyond doubt the value of the goldfield, but it seems their Directors also shared a cultured taste for company names.

Ristori Town was named after a famous Italian actress Adelaide Ristori, who performed at Ballarat in 1875, and the DeMurska Gold Mining Company was named after Madam Ilma De Murska, the Croatian born opera singer and actress.  



The Ballarat Star, January 1893

“Situated in the centre of the township of Clementston, two miles from the Allendale Railway Station, in the centre of a large population, the Hotel is doing a first-class business, being the only one in the township, and with the store, to which the post-office is attached, can be considerably increased. The auctioneer has no hesitation in stating that in the hands of an enterprising and energetic proprietor a sure fortune could be realised in a very short time, Mrs Clements retiring from business being the only reason for the property being submitted.” 


Established in 1891 to service mines along the Australasia Lead, Hollinwood was an unplanned settlement named by Joe Whitely of Wheeler’s Bridge Road (Creswick Lawrence Road). Hollinwood had a hotel, Methodist Church, Sunday School and a State School which later served as a Post Office. 



The Ballarat Star, February 1907
“Speculators, house removers and traders in cottage and business properties and building materials. T. Sloan will sell by public auction, under definite instructions from Mr TJ Dibdin, of Hawthorn, who has determined to realise upon the whole of his property in the private mining township of Jerusalem and intends to submit in one lot, eighteen acres of freehold land with all the buildings thereon comprising Public Hall, General Store, Butcher shop, and 36 four and five roomed weatherboard cottages, with iron roofs, some partly tenanted.” 



The Ballarat Star, March 1886

“In the township Dibdin, and known as the Hepburn Junction Claim, this township is so well centrally situated for business sites and miners residences, being in the centre of all the well-known mining companies of Smeaton, that the Auctioneer deems it unnecessary to say anything further.““There is a grand opportunity for some enterprising man with money to step in and buy up the building allotments in Dibdin’s paddock and erect miners’ cottages upon them. The demand is so great for them if 50 of them were erected tomorrow they could be all let in a couple of days or less. A four-roomed cottage will bring about five or six shillings per week, and surely that would be a good investment for the outlay.” 


Named after Lawrence Laurenson, a member of Main & Hogben’s party who first discovered gold in Spring Hill Creek, Springmount in 1851 (3km east of Creswick. Lawrence was a small settlement on the northern side of Birch’s Creek (then called Bullarook Creek). The State School, named ‘Jerusalem’, was opened in 1896 because local children had difficulty crossing the creeks to get to the schools at Clementston or Ullina. In 1898 Lawrence boasted two hotels and a post office. By 1916 the township had disappeared, but the school, renamed Lawrence School in 1932, continued until 1950.



Creswick Advertiser, February 1881 

“Tenders will be received by the undersigned, at Wallace’s Hotel, Broomfield, until 4pm on Saturday 26th for building ten (10) Four-roomed HOUSES, 20x20. Tenders to supply all Material and Labour, except Chimneys. Specifications to be seen at Wallace’s Hotel. Deposit £10."

A plan showing the tight layout of Wallace Town. The former Wallace’s Hotel, at the intersection of 'Creswick to Kingston' and 'Creswick to Allendale' roads still stands at the corner of Stag and Creswick Newstead Rd.

All photos: Creswick Museum

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Above: Former Wallace's Hotel, 2020. Photo: Robt Haughie

On the move

Homes were often lifted up and transported from one town to the next. One method used was to raise the house by screw-jacks and then run an immense triangular frame on three low wheels, under the house: 

“The building is then strengthened by transverse bars to prevent its being injured by shaking and is drawn by eight or ten horses. Taking up well nigh the full breadth of the public road, the miner’s castle is then transported.”

The Argus, 1876

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