Main Births etc

Victoria, Australia

Castlemaine from burke and wills memorial lookout.jpg
View over central Castlemaine from the Burke and Wills Memorial Lookout

Population: 6,797 (2006)[1]
Established: 1851
Postcode: 3450
Coordinates: 37°3′49″S 144°13′2″E / -37.06361, 144.21722Coordinates: 37°3′49″S 144°13′2″E / -37.06361, 144.21722
Elevation: 310.9 m (1,020 ft)
LGA: Shire of Mount Alexander
State District: Bendigo West
Federal Division: Bendigo
Mean Max Temp Mean Min Temp Annual Rainfall
20.2 °C
68 °F
6.7 °C
44 °F
558.4 mm
22 in

Castlemaine ( /ˈkæsəlmn/[2]) is a small city[3] in Victoria, Australia, in the goldfields region of Victoria about 120 kilometres northwest by road from Melbourne and about 40 kilometres from the major provincial centre of Bendigo. It is the administrative and economic centre of the Shire of Mount Alexander. The population at the 2011 Census was 9124 (including surrounding areas of Chewton and Campbells Creek).[1]

It was named by the chief goldfield commissioner, Captain W. Wright, in honour of his Irish uncle, Viscount Castlemaine.

Castlemaine began as a gold rush boomtown in 1851 and developed into a major regional centre, being officially proclaimed a City on 4 December 1965, although since declining in population.[4]

It is home to many cultural institutions including the Theare Royal, the oldest continuously operating theatre in mainland Australia.



The first European settlers named it Forest Creek and as the population grew it became known as Mount Alexander. The old name is still present in some place names in Victoria including the Shire of Mount Alexander and the former main road leading to it from Melbourne - Mount Alexander Road and several local institutions such the hospital and sports clubs.

In 1854, Chief goldfield commissioner, Captain W. Wright, renamed the settlement to Castlemaine in honour of his Irish uncle, Viscount Castlemaine.

Indigenous background[]

Castlemaine exists on the traditional lands of the Dja Dja Wurrung people, also known as the Jaara people. They were regarded by other tribes as being a superior people, not only because of their rich hunting grounds but because from their area came a greenstone rock for their stone axes. Early Europeans described the Dja Dja Wrung as a strong, physically well-developed people and not belligerent. Nevertheless the early years of European settlement in the Mount Alexander area were bloodied by many clashes between intruder and dispossessed.

European settlement[]

Major Mitchell passed through the region in 1836. Following his discovery, the first squatters arrived in 1837 to establish vast sheep runs.

Discovery of gold[]

On 20 July 1851 gold was discovered near present-day Castlemaine (Mt Alexander Goldfields) at Specimen Gully in today's Castlemaine suburb of Barkers Creek. The gold was discovered by Christopher Thomas Peters, a shepherd and hut-keeper on the Barker's Creek, in the service of Dr William Barker on his Mount Alexander run. When the gold was shown in the men's quarters Peters was ridiculed for finding fool's gold, and the gold was thrown away. Barker did not want his workmen to abandone his sheep, but in August they did just that. John Worley, George Robinson and Robert Keen, also in the employ of Barker as shepherds and a bullock driver, immediately teamed with Peters in working the deposits by panning in Specimen Gully where the gold had been found, which they did in relative privacy during the next month. When Barker sacked them and ran them off for trespass, Worley, on behalf of the party "to prevent them getting in trouble", mailed a letter to The Argus (Melbourne) dated 1 September 1851 announcing this new goldfield with the precise location of their workings. This letter was published on 8 September 1851.[5] "With this obsure notice, rendered still more so by the journalist as 'Western Port', were ushered to the world the inexaustible treasures of Mount Alexander"[6] also to become known as the Forest Creek diggings. Within a month there were about 8,000 diggers working the alluvial beds of the creeks near the present day town of Castlemaine, and particularly Forest Creek which runs through the suburb today known as Chewton where the first small village was established. By the end of the year there were about 25,000 on the field.[7][8]

Gold rush: a city develops[]

A view of the first small village to develop on the Mount Alexander goldfields at Chewton (then known as Forest Creek) near Castlemaine in 1852 painted by Samuel Thomas Gill

Another view of the Mount Alexander goldfields in 1852, painted by ST Gill

The first small village developed at Chewton, today a suburb of Castlemaine, which included the Commissioners tent, stores, an office for The Argus newspaper, and an office for the Mount Alexander goldfields own newspaper the Daily Mail.

On 28 January 1852, William Henry Wright was one of nearly 200 men who were assigned or affirmed as Territorial Magistrates for Victoria. Not long after, he took control of the Mount Alexander diggings and set up a government camp[9] on Forest Street near the junction of Barker and Forest Creeks (today's Camp Reserve). This was to be the new township of Castlemaine. The first reference in a newspaper to the township is found in the "Geelong Advertiser" of 13 March 1852 with the following notice:

New police magistrate.- The Lieutenant Governor has appointed John Fletcher, Esq., J.P., to be Police Magistrate at Castlemaine; but where Castlemaine is situated we cannot tell.[10]

A court house was established on what is today known as Goldsmith Cresent, Castlemaine near to the new government camp. Stores were also established nearby.

The first official Post Office at Castlemaine, named "Forrest Creek", opened on 1 March 1852. (Renamed the Castlemaine Post Office on 1 January 1854.)[11] The first official Post Office was established after "The Argus" (Melbourne) correspondent at Forest Creek had an article published in November 1851 that put the case forward for a Post Office to be established somewhere between the Forest Creek goldfield and Kyneton. At the same time (November 1851) he described the Forest Creek diggings as having many businesses like stores and licensed hawkers and "at least 8000 persons on the two creeks (Forest and Barker)".[12] The need pointed out in "The Argus" in November 1851 had resulted in an unofficial Post Office being established on the diggings at Chewton (Forest Creek) in December 1851, a Post Office then described as being "on the most central part of the diggings".[13]

On 15 February 1853 town lots were offered for sale. By that time the first Castlemaine District Hospital had been opened, the jail had been built, and Castlemaine was moving from ‘tent’ town to Bricks and Mortar.[9]

A local government was formed on 23 April 1855 and was later to become the City of Castlemaine.[14]

The Theatre Royal opened in 1856 to provide entertainment for the gold diggers, with the first performance being provided by the world renowned Lola Montes and her celebrated Spider Dance.

In 1859, the historic Castlemaine Football Club was established. Evidence makes it the second oldest football club in Australia and one of the oldest football clubs in the world.

After the gold rush[]

Barker Street, Castlemaine in 1908

Before 1880 the residences numbered over 2000, and there was a population in the township of 7,500.[9]

After gold mining gradually ceased a number of other secondary industries sprang up. These included breweries, iron foundries and a woollen mill. Thompson's foundry (now trading as Flowserve) was one of Castlemaine's largest employers.


Castlemaine is nestled in a valley. The urban area extends to several suburban areas, north toward Barkers Creek, west to McKenzie Hill, east to Moonlight Flat and Chewton and south to Campbells Creek.


Shire of Mount Alexander meets at Castlemaine Town Hall

In local government, the Castlemaine region is covered by the Shire of Mount Alexander. The council was created in 1995 as an amalgamation of a number of other municipalities in the region with the council chambers located at the Castlemaine Town Hall in central Castlemaine. Castlemaine is represented by the Castlemaine Ward.

In state politics, Castlemaine is located in the Legislative Assembly districts of Bendigo West currently held by the Australian Labor Party.[15]

In federal politics, Castlemaine is located in a single House of Representatives division – the Division of Bendigo. The Division of Bendigo has been an Australian Labor Party seat since 1998.


Castlemaine's largest industry is in manufacturing, particularly foods manufacturing and tourism.

The biggest employer is KR Castlemaine (formerly the Castlemaine Bacon Company, established 1905), producing smallgoods with over 900 employees.[16]

Cultural and heritage tourism is another large industry in Castlemaine, with the historic art gallery being a major drawcard.


Castlemaine Post Office

Barker Street was named after William Barker, another pioneer pastoralist who's run included part of the land which is now Castlemaine. The whole eastern side of Barker Street, between Templeton Street and Lyttleton Street, has been classified by the National Trust. Adjacent the solicitors' offices is the library, built in 1857 as a mechanics' institute with additions in 1861, 1872 and 1893. Next to it is the Faulder Watson Hall which opened in 1895 and adjacent is the old telegraph office (1857). On the Lyttleton Street corner is the decorative Classical Revival post office (1873–75). It is in the form of an Italian palazzo with a central clock tower, five arched bays and strongly contrasting colouration. This structure replaced a wooden post office which was built on this same spot in 1859 when the service was transferred from the gold commissioner's camp. Over the road is the Cumberland Hotel (1884).[17]

Parks and open space[]

Castlemaine has its own botanical gardens, established in 1860, which are on the Victorian Heritage Register.[18] The gardens feature many exotic tree species and structures dating to the Victorian era.

The Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is the first of its kind in Australia. It embraces gold rush relics and bushland. Home to rare and threatened species of both flora and fauna it offers opportunities for bush walking, bird watching, wildlife monitoring and study while providing a bush setting for the township.[19]

Art gallery and museum[]

The art deco Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum, built in 1931

Founded in 1913, the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum has acquired a collection of Australian art works and historical items from the district's past. The 1931 art deco building is noted for its elegant design and is heritage listed. The building has been extended a number of times.[20]

The gallery has always specialised in Australian art.[21] Its particular strength is in major works of the late 19th century (considered by many to have been the golden period of Australian painting) and the Edwardian era. Traditional landscape painting is a feature of the collection. More contemporary artists are also well represented.

Earlier artists include Louis Buvelot, Fred McCubbin, Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Walter Withers, David Davies, Rupert Bunny, Max Meldrum, John Russell, Hugh Ramsay, Clarice Beckett, Arthur Lindsay and John Longstaff.

Modernists include Margaret Preston, Roland Wakelin, Russell Drysdale, Fred Williams, John Brack, Albert Tucker, John Perceval, Clifton Pugh, Lloyd Rees and Roger Kemp. More contemporary painters include Rick Amor, John Dent, Ray Crooke, Peter Benjamin Graham, Robert Jacks, Jeffrey Smart, Ian Armstrong, Paul Cavell and Brian Dunlop. The gallery collects photographic images of Australian artists by Australian photographers and has built up a collection by photographers as Max Dupain, David Moore, Richard Beck and Olive Cotton.

The museum houses a collection of historical artworks, journals, photographs, costumes and items specifically relating to the history of the Mount Alexander district.

Culture, community and sport[]

The Theatre Royal claims to be the oldest continuously operating theatre in mainland Australia. It hosts films (including several world and Australian premieres), concerts and functions.

Wesley Hill Community Market[]

The Wesley Hill Community Market operates every Saturday from 7.30am to 1pm. It is located at 149 Pyrenees Highway, Castlemaine, and has over 70 stalls selling a range of merchandise, local products and farmers' products.

Castlemaine State Festival[]

For the past thirty years Castlemaine has biennially been the home of the Castlemaine State Festival, one of Victoria's notable regional arts events. The festival, now usually held in late March, offers over 130 events, many of which are free, with a particular emphasis on outdoor events, visual arts, music and theatre. It has also attracted internationally and nationally renowned performers, including the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.


Australian rules football is popular, with the Castlemaine Football Club competing in the Bendigo Football League.[22] The club is acknowledged as being the second oldest in Australia.

Castlemaine is also the self-proclaimed Hot Rod centre of Australia with many small businesses catering to this popular form of motor sport at a national level. Examples of the cars can be seen on show days and rod runs throughout the year. There are plans for a permanent Hot Rod centre with many community facilities currently being developed.

On Wesley Hill, just out of Castlemaine, the Castlemaine sporting complex is situated, which hosts a range of sports from basketball and netball to badminton. Tennis is played on the local courts.

Castlemaine has many cricketing teams in their league.

Golfers play at the Castlemaine Golf Club on Newstead Road[23] or at the course of the Mount Alexander Golf Club on Wimble Street.[24]

The area is also renowned for its mountain bike trails.

In popular culture[]

Castlemaine XXXX was named after it. HMAS Castlemaine was also named after it.



A large hospital and geriatric centre (Castlemaine Health formerly Mount Alexander Hospital) and a correctional facility is located on the eastern outskirts at Wesley Hill.


Castlemaine Railway Station

Castlemaine is at the junction of several main roads including the Pyrenees Highway running west connecting it to Maryborough and east toward Elphinstone, the Midland Highway running north connecting it to Bendigo and south connecting it to Daylesford and Maldon-Castlemaine Road, running north west toward Maldon.

Rail services operate out of the Castlemaine railway station which is on the Bendigo railway line. V/Line operates VLocity services to Melbourne's Southern Cross Station, the fastest weekday express taking 65 minutes. Travel to Bendigo by train takes a minimum of 18 minutes. The Victorian Goldfields Railway also operates a tourist railway, running old steam and diesel engines from Castlemaine station along the route to Maldon via Muckleford.

Castlemaine Bus Lines provides suburban bus services to Chewton and Campbells Creek as well as intercity services to Maldon and Bendigo. The local taxi service is run by Castlemaine Taxis.


The main newspaper is known as the Castlemaine Mail which began as the Mount Alexander Mail in 1854.

Notable residents[]

Bust of Harry Lawson, Premier of Victoria 1918–1923

  • Ron Barassi - Australian rules footballer from Guildford within the shire
  • Robert O'Hara Burke – leader of the Burke and Wills expedition, stationed in Castlemaine as police superintendent from 1858 to 1859[25]
  • Frank LaverTest cricketer
  • Sir Harry LawsonPremier of Victoria
  • Dustin Martin - Australian Rules footballer for Richmond, picked 3rd overall in 2009 AFL Draft
  • Frank McEncroe - creator of the Chiko Roll
  • Steven Oliver – former Carlton footballer and candidate in the 2010 Victorian state election
  • Sir James PattersonPremier of Victoria
  • Frank Tate - Victoria's first Director of Education, a position he held for 26 years

See also[]

  • HM Prison Loddon


  1. ^ a b Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Community Profile Series : Castlemaine". 2006 Census of Population and Housing. Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  2. ^ Macquarie Dictionary, Fourth Edition (2005). Melbourne, The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. ISBN 1-876429-14-3
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Domestic Intelligence – New Goldfield". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia): p. 2. 8 September 1851. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "Council paper.". The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) (NSW: National Library of Australia): p. 2. 28 March 1854. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  7. ^ The Monster Meeting Of Diggers 1851 - The Story
  8. ^ Ballarat Reform League - Chewton
  9. ^ a b c State of Victoria Early Postal Cancels (and History) Illustrated, Section II: 1851 to 1853
  10. ^ Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Vic. : 1851 - 1856) 13 March 1852 Page 2
  11. ^ Premier Postal History, Post Office List,, retrieved 2008-04-11 
  12. ^ "Forest Creek Diggings, Mount Alexander". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia): p. 2. 12 November 1851. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  13. ^ "Meeting Of The Diggers At Mount Alexander". The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) (Melbourne, Vic.: National Library of Australia): p. 2. 18 December 1851. Retrieved 5 May 2013. 
  14. ^ Victorian Municipal Directory, Brunswick: Arnall & Jackson, 1992, pp. 332  Accessed at State Library of Victoria, La Trobe Reading Room.
  15. ^ "State Election 2006 Results: Electorate swings". Victorian Electoral Commission website. Archived from the original on 30 November 2007. Retrieved 16 December 2007. 
  16. ^ Is Don. Is good for Castlemaine Bendigo Advertiser. 31 Jul 2008
  17. ^ "Castlemaine". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 September 2008. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park web page, Parks Victoria, December 2010,, retrieved 2012-01-15 
  20. ^ Castlemaine Art Gallery & Historical Museum
  21. ^
  22. ^ Full Points Footy, Castlemaine,, retrieved 2008-07-25 
  23. ^ Golf Select, Castlemaine,, retrieved 2009-05-11 
  24. ^ Golf Select, Mount Alexander,, retrieved 2009-05-11 
  25. ^ Phoenix, Dave (2011). Following Burke and Wills across Victoria : a touring guide. Phoenix. ISBN 978-0-646-56419-7. 

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