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Uniting Church, Carngham

Carngham is a small community about 25kms west of Ballarat.

History[edit | edit source]

The name Carngham is believed to be an aboriginal word meaning camping place[1], kurnum.[2] The first European settlement was a squatter's run in 1838, known as Carngham.[1]

The first gold rush to Carngham was over by April 1858 when the following description was written:

Carngham, then, I may begin by acknowledging is rather a melancholy place to see. Like all great new rushes which have passed their culminating point, the aspect of it is depressing ; and it has not only passed the culminating point, but has proceeded a considerable way down the steep hill of decay. A few months ago there was a population of some eight thousand persons; now there are not more than two thousand I should say ; and the many wide gaps in the row of dwellings which was once continuous tell of wholesale desertion. Of the diggings there is little news to tell. The rush to near the slaughtering yards, which was chronicled in the Times lately, was the last spurt of prosperity that the place has seen, and that proved a disappointment. I visited the spot, and found only one claim being wrought — namely, the prospecting claim, and I could not learn whether success rewarded even this party. The unlucky store keeper who had joined the rush, and set up his tabernacle under a wide-spreading gum tree in the neighborhood, looked most woe-begone, and I dare say has drawn his tent-pegs by this time.

In Mr Russell's paddock — the 57 acre paddock, which so much has been said and written about — there are many indications of industry if not of prosperity. A few of the original ticket-holders remain, and are working away at their claims, but the land is being let off on lease as fast as the proprietor can find occupiers for it, and a good deal of it has been taken up at the high rent of £35 per acre for three years. One party has nine acres on those terms, with the intention of working the whole ground ; another (of Chinamen) have taken three acres; and other parties have taken smaller areas. It is expected that all the ground will soon be taken up in this way. The piece of ground formerly belonging to Mr Preston, but recently purchased by Mr Russell, is the busiest portion of the Carngham gold-field. There such activity is to be seen as remind the visitor of Ballaarat, and revives his spirits, which have been gradually drooping under the depressing influence of Carngham generally. On the Government road too, some animation is manifested. Much of it is dug into holes and hills and rendered utterly useless for the purpose for which it is destined, but the holes contain water and to it the miners bring their wash stuff from a long distance (for the district has been accursed with drought all the summer), and this tends to enliven the scene.

As for the town itself, it is not difficult to describe. It consists of one street, nearly a mile in length, and as sinuous as the Mainroad of Ballaarat, twisting out and in apparently in very wantonness, for its most abrupt turns are where there is no apparent reason why the straight line should be abandoned. The buildings are, some of them, wholly of wood, and some of them wholly of cloth ; but generally these two materials have been combined in their construction, and in every possible proportion, only that cloth in the great majority of instance has the best of it by a long way. There are three hotels — and not exactly hotels either, for they have not been licensed, in consequence of being upon the road, I was told — and of those one does its best to push trade by the meretricious aid of a troupe of serenaders, while another relies principally upon a bagatelle board, and the third rests its claim to public support upon the substantial ground that it has more weatherboard and less calico than its rivals. Stores there are, of course, of every description — the Manchester, the Glasgow, and the Universal store, the Economic Boot and Shoe Mart, the Diggers' Bakery, &c., such as are to be seen at every diggings ; but there was this unwholesome feature — that a large number of them are ticketed "for sale, cheap," and it seemed as if the appearance of a stranger excited a feeling of expectancy in the minds of the proprietors, as if they thought it just possible that he had come to purchase a bakery, or a general store or restaurant. Among the tents wholly deserted, places of public amusement were most numerous. A large building, describing itself in large letters as the Charlie Napier Casino, bore its reverses but poorly, and the ghosts of colored posters which kept possession of its walls seemed to mock at its misfortunes. Many dilapidated tenements which the owners in their hasty retreat had not thought worth carrying away, exhibited over their doors the legends '"bagatelle", "skittles," "American bowls," &c., while graphic representations of those games, which a few months ago saw glistening in all the freshness of new paint, have been nearly obliterated by time and the weather.

But the scene was not altogether wanting in the elements of the picturesque. The very irregularity of the lines of tents redeems it from utter meanness, or at least tends to conceal that quality, and several large trees whose foliage overhangs the road, prevent its being altogether common-place. And after nightfall the scene was really attractive — nay, almost beautiful. All the sordid and vulgar objects which by day obtruded themselves upon the observation were concealed by the darkness, while the fires by the diggers' tents that dotted the hill side opposite illuminated the scene fitfully and at intervals, and produced a picture, which, with a little help from the imagination, became positively beautiful. But the time came when the hotels, whether of canvas or boards, would shut up for the night, and I retired to that one whose attraction lies in its substantiality. There I had the luck to secure a room entirely to myself, except that there was another lodger in it and myriads of insects ; but I will not with draw the veil from the horrors of that night. At six in the morning I was driven forth into the cool morning air, with much loss of blood, and though I bear no malice, I would remark, while on the subject, that the Liverpool Anti-Vermin Office, of the operations of which news hast just reached the colony, might do worse than establish a branch at Carngham. What I experienced at my hotel, I would have experienced in most houses in the place, I was subsequently informed, which I mention in fairness to the most substantially built house of entertainment, and to make out the stronger case for the Liverpool, &c. office. On escaping from my enemies I had the good luck to hear that there was a place about two miles distant, called the township, which was a pretty place to see, and boasted a comfortable inn. Thither I proceeded straight, and after walking a mile, I found that I had left the diggings behind me, and was in the midst of pretty Australian scenery. Another mile brought me to the inn, which turned out to be all that it had been described to me and more. It is a two storey brick house and, the landlord told me, fourteen years old ; it might easily be forty, so old fashioned does it look with its diminutive doors and windows. Here clean water and towels almost reconciled me to life, and a comfort able breakfast of real country fare, laid out upon an irreproachable table cloth, completed the operation. The little parlor in which it was served was a perfect gem with its two little windows, a third-rate fuchsia in the one, and a third-rate Hydrangea in the other, planted in pots so delightfully antique, that if they were among the personal effects of the very earliest settlers, they must have been old fashioned then.[3]

This description of Carngham was written in April 1878:

This locality (writes our Smythesdale correspondent), situated on the road to Skipton, by Mount Emu, I believe was first so denominated by Mr Philip Russell, after settling down to squatting pursuits in the district. The township is not of vast extent, and the district is partly agricultural, partly pastoral, and partly mining. Whilst the name of Carngham is given to the district generally, the appellation is incorrect, and leads to many blunders and occasionally to disappointments. According to the public acceptation of the term, Carngham would embrace Preston’s Hill and Snake Valley, but each are diametrically opposed to the other. The three localities, though covered by a radius of about three miles, are within the shire of Ripon, and have their own aspirations, political and otherwise; and though united, they are still divided “like the kings of Brentford on one throne.” Each place has its own postmaster and post office, the latter being, as is invariably the case where disunion prevails, a local store. A post and telegraph office would long ago have been erected at one place or the other, but in public, meeting or otherwise the inhabitants could not agree as to the site. Old Carngham had its advocates, Preston Hill clamored for the honor as being central, whilst the Snake Valleyites, who possess the court house and police station, advocated the Camp as the most suitable site; and thus, whilst they could not agree, other localities reaped the reward, consequent on the strife and disunion that prevailed amongst the contentionists. When I speak of Carngham I use the term in its accepted sense. It reminds one of the Manx coat pf arms. It has three legs and no body; these contentious legs are kicking inferentially and everlastingly against each other.
The first, old Carngham, lays claim in virtue of its antiquity. Preston Hill to its central position, and, Snake Valley because it is the largest and most populous of either place. A man may live in Preston Hill or Snake Valley and find a letter addressed to him to Carngham returned to the dead letter office, or vice versa. Carngham proper has a good brick hotel, commanding a rising position in the town; whilst a short distance off is the home-station, of Mr Philip Russell. Here in the early gold-digging days “piles" were made, and the richest of the land being private property, the miners made what was then considered easy terms with the lord of the soil. Now these terms would be considered excessive. Preston Hill, so called after a gentlemen of that name, is situated on a piece of rising ground, which commands a good view of Snake Valley winding away to the left; a long, dull good mile and a half of road, intersected here and therewith stores, shops, public houses, and other buildings, such as are usually seen in country hamlets. The English Church in this locality is presided over by the Rev. Mr Yeatman, the Presbyterian by the Rev. Mr Campbell, who are both residents. There is lso a Roman Catholic and a Wesleyan Church, but no resident ministers. There is good State school, some time ago enlarged, in the district, and the police court and camp are also located here. A Court of Petty Sessions is held weekly, Messrs Russell, Forrest, and Hopper generally presiding. There are a few neat villa residences at Snake Valley, and despite its mining decadence it yet has the gilt of respectability gleaming through its decayed exterior, and there are vivid hopes that the recent discoveries in quartz, particularly along the line of the old Britannia Reef, will resuscitate the drooping spirits of those who have stuck to the locality through thick and thin. Snake Valley! What reptile visions does it not bring, before our minds! Asking an old friend one day how or why it was called the Valley of Snakes, he informed, me that in the early days "it was an awful sight to see the reptiles crawling along amongst the timber and long grass by the creek side that runs through the valley.’’ Accepting the explanation, I expressed the opinion that the sooner such names as Tinpot Gully, Murderer’s Hill, Derwent Jack — who, by the bye, was a drunken sailor — and Snake Valley, were changed by the Government the better would it be for society, as it would at least be an indication that we were making strides in civilized nomenclature.[4]

In July 1862, Carngham residents were upset at a plan to move the police camp and court house to the diggings at Snake Valley:

CARNGHAM POLICE CAMP. A public meeting was held at the United States Hotel, Preston's Hill, Carngham, on Tuesday evening, to consider the policy of removing the Court House and Police quarters from their present position. Mr Alexander Henderson opened the proceedings by reading the advertisement in Saturday's Star calling the meeting, and moved that Mr Galton take the chair. The proposition was seconded and carried. The Chairman remarked that be was sorry to see so few in attendance, but supposed this was owing to the unpropitious state of the weather, and the wretched condition of the roads in the district. The object of the meeting having been laid before those present by Mr Henderson, he would not occupy their time by any farther remark. Trusting however that a calm and deliberate hearing would be given to the speakers he would call, Mr Sheward to move the first resolution, which was to the effect- "That the Carngham Police Camp is at present situated in a position to suit the convenience of the district, especially as the digging population appears to approach that site in pursuance of their calling." Mr Porteous seconded the resolution, which was carried unanimously. Mr Smyth said it was a gross injustice to the inhabitants of Carngham to take from them privileges they had enjoyed for so many years. The land in the township was bought at almost fabulous prices, and that on the consideration that they were to enjoy the benefits which other townships enjoyed. If the digging community required a police camp, why not apply for one for itself, and not endeavor to remove that which was already granted to the inhabitants of the township and neighborhood. He believed that if the camp should be removed to Snake Valley at present, in another twelve months they would have to get up another petition for its removal after the shifting population. With these remarks he would move that under existing circumstances it would be highly impolitic to move the police camp from its present position to Snake Valley until the permanent settlement of the population determines a more convenient site. The resolution was seconded by Mr Henderson, and carried. Mr Laidlaw remarked that the Government had enough unnecessary expenditure when deficient finances were taken into consideration without being called upon again to expend money in removing the camp from where it should-be, to a place where it was not wanted. He felt great pleasure in moving-" That the petition he held in his band be adopted, and a committee be appointed to procure the same to be as numerously signed as possible by the residents and afterwards to select a deputation, not exceeding three in number, to present the same to the Chief Secretary." Mr Lockley seconded the resolution which was carried. The petition was read to the meeting by Mr Laidlaw and adopted. A vote of thanks to the Chairman being proposed by Mr Smyth and seconded by Mr Laidlaw was carried with acclamation, and the meeting separated.[5]

Flood[edit | edit source]

In October 1863, heavy rain caused flooding in the local area:

At Carngham great fears were entertained for the Government Reservoir. The embankments, which have been recently raised by three feet, were overflowed, jeopardising the Snake Valley Bridge, over which the "water was all but washing. Thirty men were immediately set to work to clear away obstructions, and by their efforts all danger was removed.[6]

Hotels[edit | edit source]

List of hotels in Carngham

People[edit | edit source]

People living and working in Carngham

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Carngham, Victorian Places, Monash University, 2015,
  3. 1858 'CARNGHAM.', The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), 7 April, p. 6. , viewed 29 Sep 2017,
  4. 1878 'CARNGHAM.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 26 April, p. 3. , viewed 15 Sep 2017,
  5. 1862 'CARNGHAM POLICE CAMP.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 31 July, p. 4. , viewed 15 Sep 2017,
  6. 1863 'SOCIAL.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 23 October, p. 1. (SUPPLEMENT TO THE STAR), viewed 30 Nov 2017,