This image from the Kerry Collection of Glass plate negatives has the original description “Ophir Bluff, Where Gold was First Found in Australia”. Ophir is located 29 km north-east of Orange in New South Wales and was the location of the first payable gold found in Australia. Its discovery in April 1851 triggered the great Goldrushes of the 1850s.
The name Ophir is a reference to a legendary land of gold or pure gold referred to in the Old Testament. This ambitious title did not hold true for this particular site as the rush started in July 1851 when the find was published and was largely over by the end of 1852 when richer fields were found in the Bathurst area. A planned town at Ophir never developed and the area is now a reserve where prospectors can still try their luck. The Museum also has in its collection a gold washing cradle which was used at the Ophir Goldfields.
It is not clear when this photograph was taken but it is certainly not at the height of the “rush” and is likely to be some years later. The image shows a mine shaft in the centre with a track leading down to a possible smelting or processing plant with timber stacked against the side. There are a few people, including a group standing next to a cart and horses, looking up at the mine shaft. These could be potential investors or possibly just tourists visiting for the day. There is some mullock from the mine but the area is well covered with trees – generally Goldfields were quickly devoid of trees as a result of clearing for mines, building materials and fuel for steam boilers to power stamper batteries.
Post by Lynne McNairn
Photography by Kerry & Co.
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