- A Potted History
Trust (Victoria) classification for the Wandiligong Valley
describes it as a "small valley of great charm"
where the "buildings achieve an excellent affinity with
the landscape", "a pleasant mosaic of patterns,
forms and colours woven carefully together to achieve a satisfying
on this page may take you from this site for explanatory information.
has more information about activities in our beautiful valley.
is an aboriginal name whose actual meaning has been lost. It
may mean "place of the echidnas", "meeting of
the waters", "spirit place" or "little bushman".
we know almost nothing of the original owners of the land, the
Theddora-Mittung Group of the Jaithamathang tribe of the lower
Ovens, Kiewa and King Valleys. There is an aboriginal site near
Myrtleford which has revealed at least 10,000 years of Aboriginal
regularly gathered on the High Plains and Mount Buffalo during
moth feasting season. The Growlers Creek racecourse was
placed on an area of cleared and flattened ground which was
a possible site for corroborees.
Hume and William Hovell visited the Ovens Valley in 1824
and agreed (apparently an uncommon occurrence) that the valley
had great scenic beauty and pastoral potential. Hovell's words
were " there are fine hills and grasslands ... as pretty
a spot and as valuable as any I have seen since leaving home"
and Hume's "the honeysuckle and grass trees are growing
here well - we find the land to be good. "
Wondillegong run No. 129 of 28,000 acres or 11,200 hectares,
was licensed to William Forlonge in 1847. The run passed through
several owners until the license was aquired by Joseph Dunphy.
He tried to buy part of the lease but because of its nearness
to gold bearing land this was refused. The land was auctioned
in Bright in 1865.
Dunphy family operated businesses including the Post Office
and influenced business and civic life in Wandiligong for over
100 years. You will pass Dunphy's Hill on the way into the township,
this is where the Dunphys butcher's shop was located.
Wandiligong buildings listed on this
Creek (now Wandiligong) was the site of a small gold rush, the
creek being panned from about the mid 1850s for alluvial gold
and later by tunnelling into the quartz reefs. The population
grew from 200-300 in 1858 to 1385 (including Bright) in 1861.
Chinese were not counted but estimated to be about 500.
The valley would
have been a noisy place then with dredges and batteries, woodcutters
in the hills getting timber for the mines, blasting and wagons
carrying ore to the batteries which worked all day and all night, except Sundays.
The miners came from
all over the world. The names of some of the mines demonstrate
nostalgia for home "English and Welsh", "Bulgarian",
"Kildare" and "Londonderry" and others their
feelings about their luck or otherwise "Forlorn Hope",
"Mongrel", "Never Too Late."
See Wandiligong mines
listed on this map.
were unsafe and many miners contracted disease however they
made money and enjoyed their free time.
This great influx
of people meant that businesses to supply them could flourish
and along the main road there were hotels, wine shanties, bakers,
doctor, chemist, blacksmiths, butchers, carpenters and saddlers
and of course, to keep law and order, a Police Station.
The first of Wandiligong's
Brass Bands was formed in about 1864. It had a short life but
a drum and Fife Band was formed in 1866. Improvisation was needed
for instruments and their drum was made from a fuse barrell
and goat skins. In 1874 another Brass Band was formed and it
travelled around the district providing entertainment for the
miners and their families. There was a Glee Club (a type of
singing club usually for men) and a Horticultural Society. The
first Public Library was opened in 1870 - the present building
dates from 1878.
The Alpine Park was
created in 1877 and used for community entertainment. Wandiligong
had its Friendly Societies and Lodges, the Manchester Unity
Hall which stands to-day was built in 1874.
There are three remaining
churches from those built during Wandiligong's gold rush period.
The Uniting (previously Methodist) is still being used, the
Catholic Church, St Peter's is now privately owned its last
service, a baptism held in 1962 and the Holy Trinity Anglican
Church, opened in 1865 and last officially used in 1965, was
rescued by the Wandiligong Preservation Society, thank goodness!
Salvation Army held open air and cottage meetings and played
outside the hotel and under the oaks near Kaighins Lane. The
local lads would hide in the trees and when the concert was
under way shake the acorns into the band. Stray goats would
rush in after the acorns disrupting the performance. The Salvation
Army Hall was removed in 1916.
course the children had to be educated and the Presbyterians
opened the first school, under a canvas roofed building, in
1860. Later the "Pressy School" moved to the Presbyterian
Church. It became a "Common School" in 1863. The present
handsome school building, State School 275, dates from 1871.
In 1881 there were 300 pupils. There was a Catholic School further
up Morses Creek which in 1871 took the overflow from SS275.
The school building dominates Wandiligong to-day.
There were other
schools even a part-time school in the Public Library which
could, of course, be used for private education. In those days
people were keen to increase their learning.
from "home" was important for immigrants and the Post
Office opened in 1860. In 1884 43,862 letters were posted. In
early days Telegrams were an important method of communication
from 1885 and Wandiligong had its telegraph messenger boys,
including one Percy Gribble who started as a messenger boy in
1911 and later became the Superintendent of Telegraphs in Brisbane.
In Percy's days there were pillar boxes at Maddison's Hotel,
Wallace's Store and, unofficially, Lou Smith's blacksmith's
light" arrived in 1955
Men and women from
Wandiligong went to the Boer War, the Great War and the Second
World War some dying for King and Country. The flag over
the Wandiligong School was at half mast for young Joe Gribble,
killed in France in 1916; the whole district mourned when a
local was killed in action.
At home the war effort
was supported energetically and soldiers always had some form
of public tribute paid to them on leaving or returning.
With the Great Depression
in 1929-1939 people were recruited to "work for the dole"
planting pines in appalling conditions. There were four labour
camps with make shift tents and lean-tos. Imagine how cold it
must have got and how difficult it was to get trees planted
on the steep slopes.
The people of Wandiligong,
especially the Methodist Church ladies organised socials and
home made food for the workers.
Other locals fossicked
for gold or worked crop-picking or on the roads. It was a hard
time for everyone.
declined, the population was 238 by the time of the 1947 census.
Times have changed
and the batteries and dredges are gone, replaced by apple orchards,
chestnuts, hazel nuts, forestry, other agriculture and tourism.
The population has increased since about 1960 and an increased
awareness of the history of the town and its great beauty led
to the push to save the buildings you can see to-day.
The scars of mining
have been hidden by regrowth of vegetation. Many of the trees
planted by the pioneers are magnificent specimens we can enjoy
We can appreciate
the "special landscape value and the harmony achieved
between buildings and the environment" because
of the enthusiasm and effort of the residents of Wandiligong.
There are two marked
walks, Wandiwander and Royal Bridge. These are the subject of
a pamphlet which should be available in the town, "Wandi"
to the locals.
section of Bright Short Walks has a map and further information.
In 2003 the Wandiligong
community put in place a swing bridge to commemorate the contribution
of the Chinese. The bridge spans Morses Creek in the locality
known as The Diggings, and it has been crafted to reflect a
traditional Chinese design. Look out for it!
one hour) starts at the Alpine Park with its reconstructed Pavilion.
Wander past the Manchester Unity Hall (1874), detour to the
school (1877), go past the Public Library (doors opened in 1878),
the Holy Trinity Anglican Church (1865), the Wesleyan Methodist
Uniting Church (1878) and the Post Office (1885). The walk continues
through "The Diggings" along Morses Creek.
Enjoy the birds,
look out for brilliant king parrots, magpies and kookaburras.
Spot tiny fairy wrens and scarlet and yellow robins and appreciate
the magnificent trees.
(about 45 minutes) starts at Royal Bridge, passes the former
Police Station and the Williams United Mine finishing at the
"Mountain View Hotel", unfortunately not the original.
the seasons, blooming wattle, fruit trees and daffodils in Spring,
glorious Autumn leaves, crisp Winter days and usually cloudless
Summer producing brilliant blue skies.
At night time look
at the stars and appreciate the clear skies.
information and some of the pictures were taken from these publications
"A Valley Through Time", published by the Wandiligong
Preservation Society in 1988
"Victoria's Alpine Region", published by Research
Publications Pty Ltd in 1988, edited by Jan Rossington. The
section on Wandiligong was written by Coral Bennett.
"Bright Short Walks", Bright Chamber of Commerce.