Beaconsfield in the West Tamar region of northern Tasmania is home to one of the best attractions in the state. Think Tasmania paid a visit to the Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre – with two junior researchers in tow. What we discovered was a gold mine… of opportunities to play with history!
Well known as the site of the 2006 rock fall that trapped gold miners underground for an agonizing fortnight, Beaconsfield has a rich and diverse heritage. The museum shows that timber milling, apple orchards and agriculture, along with gold mining, played a big part in shaping the district.
Prior to its naming as Beaconsfield in 1879, the settlement was called Cabbage Tree Hill and then Brandy Creek when gold prospectors descended to seek their fortunes. 40kms from Launceston, the small town sits on the western bank of the Tamar River in the heart of the Tamar Valley Wine Region.
Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre
After a chat with the very helpful manager Tim, we set off on our self-discovery tour. Armed with a map of the museum and a challenge to locate animals hidden in the exhibits, our first stop was the telephone room. Here you learn at least two things…
- this is an inter-active museum, where you can touch and play with some of the specially marked exhibits
- touring the whole site will probably take much longer than the recommended hour and a half
This section is named in honour of Tom Diprose – the man responsible for many of the restored engines, motors and machinery on display. With more wheels and handles to turn, including one that results in a very loud noise, some of the heritage equipment remains in working order. In the corner of the room is the beginnings of an exciting, secret development due for unveiling in February 2011. I wonder…
Life & Times of Beaconsfield
On the ground floor is a section dedicated to the Beaconsfield mine rescue of Brant Webb & Todd Russell in 2006. In the upper level of the heritage centre you will find a series of displays about life during the early years of the gold mining town. With 700 men employed by gold mining during the 1870’s, and having money to spend, the town came alive with cinemas, hotels, shops and dance halls.
Besides the movies and sport, everyday requirements such as schools and hospitals are covered. You can reminisce over writing with an ink pad on a wooden desk; or be thankful for the advances in medical science throughout Tasmania’s history.
The rest of the Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre revolves around mining in northern Tasmania. In the Boiler House there’s a model of an iron ore mine (including a voice-over). Unfortunately for the investors, the level of chromium deposits in the iron ore was too high, making the mine virtually worthless. Staggering to think they had the knowledge and equipment to undertake the work, but had to send the samples to England by sea to test the failed product. The technology was also quickly rendered obsolete, so there was no retiring in luxury – to their wooden huts!
We didn’t even notice the snake (see photo) near the model hut. Must have been distracted by the huge working water wheel that sets off a massive stamping machine nearby, which was used for crushing the ore.
The outside sections of the Heritage Centre include ruins from the original mine. You can wander through the native garden and discover shaft relics in a downstairs room. Next to the miner’s hut (which according to Tim would have been the height of luxury compared to the more common canvas tents) you can try your hand at panning for gold in the troughs of water. Then you can sit a while and watch the activity at the present day Beaconsfield Gold Mine from the safety of the viewing platform.
There’s a little reward for kids on the animal hunt who return their pencil to the souvenir shop. But I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you what it is. You’ll have to visit the Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre and make your own discoveries.
We vote it five GOLD stars!!
The writer was a guest of the Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre.
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