Hill End is a village situated on the Central Tablelands of NSW, 76kms north of Bathurst and 72kms south of Mudgee. It is all that remains of the once famous Tambaroora Goldfields.
Prior to the Australian goldrush, which commenced in May 1851, the Hill End district had been a sheep and cattle run, leased by William Cummings of Peel. Only weeks after the rush to Ophir, hardy prospectors battled their way up the precipitous Oakey Creek onto flat and open country and were finding good gold at the Dirt Holes and the “Tambaroura” as well as Bald Hill, now known as Hill End. By December 1851 prospectors from the north had unearthed rich auriferous alluvial deposits in Golden Gully. The miners flocked there. In the winter of 1852 it was the most populous goldfield in New South Wales and the thriving town of Tambaroora had been born.
In this first decade of alluvial mining the fortunes of Tambaroora and the much smaller village of Hill End, 5kms to the south, fluctuated with the weather. When there were prolonged spells without rain, many miners moved to the river valleys or joined the frequent rushes and so the businesses followed them.
As the alluvial gold became scarce, the miners increasingly prospected for gold bearing reefs. A profitable reef had been briefly worked at Bald Hill as early as 1854, another at Tambaroora in 1859, but the most significant find was the line of reef discovered on the crest of Hawkins Hill in 1858. As the 1860s progressed, more discoveries were made further down this hill, until by 1868, a compact line of highly promising mines operated, about 800 metres in a north-south line, the result of years of slow blasting by persevering and indigent miners. Between 1869 and 1872 great hopes were raised by these mines, the most famous of which was the ‘Star of Hope’. Krohmann’s, Paxton’s and the Northumberland also led the way. The sensational blasting at 1871 became the catalyst for the opening of the Sydney Stock Exchange in 1872. On the 19th October 1872 the greatest mass of gold ever extracted was taken from the ‘Star of Hope’.
The bubble burst in 1873 and investors fled. Many had been duped, not understanding the slow nature of reef mining, expecting quick returns. Leases lay idle over the great part of the 14km Tambaroora Goldfield. The Golden Era of 1869-72 was never repeated. Hill End’s population of 7000 in 1872 had dwindled to fewer than 1000 by the turn of the century. Tambaroora’s reefs were never as rich as those of Hill End and it too suffered gradual decline.
Official records suggest that close to 700,000oz of gold were won from this goldfield, fairly evenly distributed between the loose, alluvial gold washed from the creeks and gullies, and the matrix gold from the mines.
The New South Wales Government, in 1967, declared Hill End an Historic Site, to be administered by the National Parks and Wildlife Service- an event which signalled that we as a people were recognizing our individual identity and proudly reaching back into history. Hill End was chosen as an Historic Site to exemplify the gold rush era for a variety of reasons. Great artists had made it their home and were capturing all its moods. Histories of the village were being published. The priceless Holtermann Collection of photographs gave historians an impressive, factual detailed study of the village in its great moment of glory: 1872. And finally, unlike Gulgong, (which was also considered) Hill End had no anachronistic modern buildings.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has selectively renovated old buildings and has leased them for commercial and domestic purposes. It has established a Visitors Centre, formerly the 1873 Hill End Hospital, and has encouraged tourism, which today is Hill End’s most important industry. Small mining companies have also taken out leases and, from time to time, continue the search for gold. Hill End has had a number of names. First it was Bald Hill; then (briefly) Forbes, after the first village survey; and finally Hill End. The Hill End Common was gazetted in 1870, then approximately 26,000 acres. As the gold town declined, the Common was reduced and today is around 6,000 acres. It forms a rugged natural backdrop overlooking and complimenting the Historic Site.