134. Silverton

Quote from a very helpful publication “This Month in Broken Hill”: “ Silverton is essentially an abandoned settlement. It was the largest township to exist in the Barrier Ranges before the discovery of the Broken Hill field in 1883…” Silver was first discovered in the area in 1876… but all early mines had ceased operation by 1896. By the end of 1884 there were 1,745 inhabitants with a district population of 4,000. But once Broken Hill was extablished, the population of Silverton declined.

Everyone said we MUST go and visit. So we did.

There are only a few houses left in the main street, Including a rather impressive if small “Municipal Council Chambers” ((formed in 1886) and a few private houses. The Council ceased operation in 1899.

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The ruins of other houses are visible here and there. The current population is about 60.

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The Silverton Museum on the site of the old Silverton Gaol is chock-full of interesting local memorabilia.

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Outside was a mine cage used for transporting men to the underground mine. A complex series of bells signalled at which shaft level the cage had arrived.

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Quite a coincidence – the first police officer in Silverton had earlier been involved in hunting down Ned Kelly…. (see my fascination for Ned in earlier blogs).

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There were some interesting early characters. Home-brew, anyone?

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A nice photo of an early mail coach to Wilcannia.

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Dame Mary Gilmore (Mary Jane Cameron) was one of the early teachers at the Silverton Public School from October 1887 to December 1889.  As an Australian schoolgirl I learned several of her poems, particularly  “I love a sunburnt country…”

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Her portrait by William Dobell was a very controversial entrant in the (Australian) Archibald Portrait Prize in 1957, so I was delighted to find this description/explanation of the portrait:

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Here it is, from the NSW Art Gallery website. Certainly controversial at the time. I remember seeing it with my parents.

Dame Mary Gilmore

Various rooms in the old gaol were devoted to specific topics, for example family history. The stained glass window came from a church.

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Other  rooms notably the original holding cells had examples of clothing – i was most impressed by the light and delicate cotton clothing which looked like it had been starched and ironed only that morning.

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This photo of five sisters caught my eye – think of dressing them all!

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Part of a hairdressing establishment within the womens’ quarters of the old gaol.

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Around a corner was an old pub, the Silverton Hotel, where a couple of donkeys lazed around  … inside was quite a collection of toilet humour notices, the sort that are funny seen individually but en masse are quite overwhelming. The same brochure I quoted earlier says “The town provides an intense cultural tourism experience for visitors” . Hmmm !

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Just out of town we visited a photographic studio. Extremely good photos, a pleasure to view. The photographer also showed me around her garden, a real oasis. She was one of those rare people who I can immediately lipread almost 100%, so I didn’t want to leave!  She also breeds horses. A lonely life but she seemed to flourish.

On the road back to Wilcannia we crossed a bone-dry river bed. Yet there had been rain recently, there was plenty of green grass along the roadsides.

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We returned to our camp at Broken Hill and next day set off back to Cobar via Wilcannia, with a detour and overnight stay at White Cliffs.

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2 thoughts on “134. Silverton

  1. What a very interesting town and you seem to be having great weather. Still very mild in ChCh although Rained last night. What an extraordinary neck on that portrait of the lady! I do enjoy reading of your travels.

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