28 February, 2012

Country Towns 4: Fryerstown - Maldon - Castelmaine

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Having read an article in The Age, Patsy and I were prompted to visit this small town, or should I say hamlet - a little cluster of houses in the country. Fryerstown is about 10 km directly south of Castlemaine. As I write the TV news bulletins are reporting that north central region of Victoria has been subjected to some flooding in the past few days. Last week when we were there the weather was fine and warm, and the creeks were noticeably dry.

Fryerstown takes its name from a Peter Fryer who was a squatter but who left this region prior to the discovery of gold. His homestead used to be on the banks of a creek which was named after him. We also thought of Fryer on our adventurous drive across country from Taradale to Fryerstown when a wrong turn resulted in our travelling along the rocky Fryers Ridge Track; recommended for 4 wheel drive vehicles!

G.O Brown in his Reminiscences of Fryerstown (1983) records that in the 1850s Fryerstown could boast a population of several thousand. To add to its prestige it had between 25 and 30 hotels, backed by five breweries where the mining fraternity could quench its thirst. An equal number of stores and general merchandise were in operation in the region.

Fryerstown could now be classed as a ghost town as it only has about 100 permanent residents today.

Our accommodation was at the charming Sage Cottage where we enjoyed a comfortable and peaceful stay for 4 nights.

Before reaching Fryerstown we stopped to look at the site of the Duke of Cornwell Mine where stands the ruin of the Cornish Engine House which drove a crushing battery and pump. Its substantial building belies the complete failure of the venture, even though it is located next to the Rowe Bros. famous Mosquito mine.

The Burke and Wills Mechanics Institute (1863) is one of only a few buildings which are a reminder of the gold rush days.

Our stay of three full days at Fryerstown enabled us to travel short distances to visit Maldon on the Monday and Castlemaine on the Wednesday. Tuesday was a rest day at Sage Cottage. I relaxed by reading a book and Patsy was content to write some letters to her friends.

The National Trust declared Maldon to be Australia's first Notable Town in 1966. 

"The town itself was once a thriving metropolis. Maldon's reputation as a picturesque historic town, known for its intact 19th century commercial center is well established. One of the most important late 19th and early 20th century townscapes in Victoria, Maldon began as a gold rush town in 1854 with the discovery of alluvial gold at the base of Mt Tarrangower. It developed as an industrial mining town during the later years of the 1800s. As one of Victoria's richest quartz mining centres, various mines at various times recorded the highest returns in the State. Mining declined in the first years of the 20th century, the last mine of the era closed in 1926, and the town's population and fortunes similarly declined."

Maldon was rather quiet on the day of our visit. The town comes to life with an influx of visitors from Thursday to Sunday.  We enjoyed doing a tour of the shops and the nearby streets.

Patsy and I have a reasonable knowledge of Castlemaine as we have visited it on several occasions. After lunch at the Cumberland Hotel ( in October 1955 I stayed in this hotel when Ormond Juniors made their annual footy trip to Castlemaine), we visited the Catholic Church and then visited Buda, a 19th century historic home and garden.

"Buda is primarily the artistic creation of Ernest Leviny (1818-1905), a Hungarian émigré, silversmith and jeweller, trained in Vienna and Paris and noted for his contribution to the development of a unique Australian artistic style, combining indigenous Australian motifs with classical allegories.
In 1863, he purchased Delhi Villa (which had been built around 1861) from Reverend James Smith, a Baptist missionary returned from India. Leviny developed Delhi Villa as a family home for his wife and eight children. Later in life he renamed it Buda. On the death of their father in 1905, the Leviny sisters re-decorated Buda house and garden in the style of the emerging Australian Arts and craft Movement." 

Patsy and I were most impressed with the artistic talents of the Leviny family, particularly the display showing the silversmith skills of Ernest Leviny.

For more information on Buda go to:


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