Sketch from Major
Mitchell's expedition book, 1836 (see below)
the land encompassing Talbot formed part of the native territory of the
Jajawurrung tribe (also called Djadja Wurrung). The
population before the arrival of the British was estimated to
be between 900 and 1800. By the 1841 census however,
population had dropped to 282, with the drastic decline due to
combination of 'white man's disease' (principally smallpox) and
massacres by early white settlers.
public outrage in London at reports of the carnage, the Government
established a Protectorate scheme. The Jajawurrung tribe came
under the care of Edward Parker. By 1840 there were 170 men,
women and children registered within Parker's protectorate at Mt
Franklin. The protectorate covered 62 sq miles and was meant
be self-sufficient, so the Aborigines were put to work on the station
In 1850 the Protectorate
system was abolished, but Edward Parker continued to care for them.
Some in the tribe established their own small farms,
operating successfully until the gold rush when they were over-run by
incomers. By 1855 the population was down to 100; by the
1864 Census it was just 23. Later in 1864 when the remaining
Jajawurrung people were transferred to a sanctuary in Coranderrik (near
Healesville), the group numbered just 10.
- 1840's: Arrival of the first European
1836 Major Thomas Mitchell, the colony’s
Surveyor-General, passed through the then-uncharted region in search of
new grazing land. He was reported to have been the first white man seen
by the Jajawurrung tribe. Mitchell was so entranced by the
pastures he found
that he christened the area “Australia Felix” (Latin for "fortunate
Picture of Major Mitchell
thanks to Pictures Collection,
State Library of Victoria
A full account of Major Mitchell's
be found in his book -
image to view
Major Mitchell’s high praise did not go
first grazier settler to move in was 21 year-old Donald Cameron in
1839, who named his property Clunes after his birthplace in Scotland.
In June 1841, he was joined by Alexander McCallum, at a nearby 257 sq
km pastoral property encompassing the area later to become
The first reported gold find in
Victoria comes from near Talbot
1849 report from the Melbourne Argus,
thanks to NZ Public Library "Papers Past"
project. Click image to read entire article.
Throughout the 1840’s there had been rumours of gold
found in the area, but
the evidence was suppressed. The authorities sought to keep the region
as a quiet pastoral district, and feared that a gold rush could spark
chaos and lawlessness among the largely convict population.
January 1849, an ex-convict called Thomas Chapman found a 38 ounce gold
nugget in Daisy Creek (7 km from Talbot) while working as a shepherd.
He sold it to a jeweller in Melbourne named Charles
Brentani in early 1849.
This was the first confirmed finding of gold
in Victoria and it created quite a stir, kicking off a minor rush to
the region. By
late February 1849 thirty to forty trespassers were reported to have
Thomas’s former hut seeking gold before being disbanded by a party of
police sent from Melbourne. Meanwhile, Thomas fled to Sydney, fearing
trouble after his unauthorised sale of the gold that, according to the
law of the time, had been the property of the Crown.
By 1851 the California gold rush was in full swing, and
colony found itself struggling to compete for settlers. So, the rules
were changed to allow ownership of gold found to pass to the finder,
provided they had paid a fee to dig (the infamous “miners licence”) –
and the Australian gold rush was on.
The first major rush in the area
around current day Talbot occurred in December 1852 when gold was found
in Daisy Hill, near what is now Amherst Cemetery (2km west of Talbot).
News quickly spread and within a few weeks hundreds of miners from the
nearby Castlemaine goldfields had arrived to try their luck.
major gold find was in 1854 at Kangaroo Flat along Back Creek (1km out
of Talbot). By November 1855 it was reported around 6,000 miners had
taken up residence in what became known as Back Creek. But, as the gold
dwindled, so too did the population and by end-1857 only a few houses
In 1859, a group of miners from Norway and Sweden led
Hallen decided to look in an area just outside of Back Creek,
previously thought barren of gold as it was un-forested. Their gamble
was rewarded, and as the news spread miners once again flooded into the
Within 4 months of the Hallan Party’s first shaft being dug, there were
50,000 people in the Back Creek region.
To cater for this influx,
streets were improvised in the area of the diggings – starting with
what became known as “Scandinavian Crescent” along the edge of the
actual diggings themselves. It remains to this day and is now
street of Talbot. Today with its wide streets and sweeping
curve it looks quaintly graceful. During the 1860's however,
the Crescent was an open cut mine of 15 metres deep, 45 metres wide and
650 metres long!
By late 1859,
the Census reported that there were around 15,000 people on the
Scandinavian field with 5 banks, up to 49 drinking establishments, a
brewery, and numerous stores and businesses scattered along six
Talbot outskirts in 1861 from the JB Edwards collection.
Special thanks to Marie Kau and Talbot Museum for sharing
Until this point, the Back Creek area had been classed
as an outgrowth
of the nearby Amherst municipality. But in light of its growing size
and status, in mid-1861 the Amherst council proposed the Back Creek
area be officially denoted a township called “Talbot”.
precise reason for the name choice is unknown, it is thought likely due
to its location in the State County of Talbot, which in turn had been
named after the well-connected Irish aristocratic family who had owned
land in Australia since 1820.
The name change was announced officially
on 17th October 1861 by the Governor, Sir Henry Barkly, on a visit to
the town. The newspaper of the time gave a vivid description
of Procession in Talbot from the JB Edwards collection.
Special thanks to Marie Kau and Talbot Museum for sharing
"The preparations were
conducted on a magnificent
scale... Early in the morning troops of horsemen rode
out… Meanwhile the
Back Creek Athletic Club, the Fire Brigade, German Association and Odd
Fellows had turned out in great force...
realising that His
Excellency would not arrive for two hours, to fill up the space the
Athletic Club and Fire Brigade members enjoyed themselves at leaping
distances or in the less fatiguing amusement of foot-racing, while the
Odd Fellows and Germans adjourned to a neighbouring paddock where to
the music of the bands they danced away right merrily…
children were drawn up on either side of the road along which His
Excellence would pass. It was intended that the children should sing
the National Anthem… but owing to the rapidity with which His
Excellency’s horses were driven, the idea was abandoned and a good
hearty cheer was substituted for it...
flanks of the road seemed
now like an orchard, so plenteously were
the houses decorated with evergreens. A shout from the Crescent ‘He’s
coming’ had scarcely subsided before the procession passed beneath a
triumphal arch…(and) the cheering from a thousand voices gave His
Excellency a hearty welcome.”
postcards of Talbot in its heyday. Special thanks to Anne
Schmidt for sharing
Looking down Camp Street from Scandinavian Crescent
Looking along Scandinavian Crescent, with Camp Street intersection on
By the mid 1860’s as the
rushes moved on, the
population of Talbot
dropped to around 3,000-4,000. By this time there were 16 hotels, a
courthouse, a town hall, soap and candle factories, Cohn Brothers soft
drink manufacturers, flour mills, a theatre, and a gas works.
with the town’s growing stature, the canvas tents and simple wattle and
daub buildings of the gold rush era were replaced by more substantial
brick and bluestone structures, including:
The Post Office, now the
oldest functioning post office in Victoria.
Two Courthouses, one
built in 1860 and converted in 1888 to a Library; and its replacement
built in 1866 and later converted to a Masonic Lodge and then an
The two-storey bluestone Bull &
Mouth Hotel (1866), now converted to Above: Phoenix Hotel in
Scandinavian Crescent, which still
Wikimedia Commons thanks to Epacdon
St Michael’s and All Angels Church (1870), thought to have been
by William Wardell, the architect of St Patrick’s Cathedral
however, Talbot's prosperity did not continue. As the mines closed in
the 1880’s the population dwindled, dropping to 1,300 by the end of the
century. The downward trend continued during WW1 and the
Depression. There was a short-lived revival in 1934 as one of
the mines reopened,
but when it closed in 1940 the town sank back into decline.
Talbot's slow fading continued throughout the rest of
the century. In the June 1954 census, Talbot Shire was
reported as having a population of 803. In 1969 the
Knitting Mill, the town’s last big employer was relocated to
Maryborough, and by the late-1970’s Talbot had become a shadow of its
On 14 January 1985 Talbot and surrounding regions were
hit by bushfire. Over 100 homes and farms were destroyed as the fire
burned across 1000 sq km. Fortunately many of Talbot’s historic
survived, but the terrible casualties and loss of livelihoods resulted
in a further exodus from the town.
taken of Talbot
during the 1970’s by the town's last policeman, Barry Klemm.
shows his young family standing in front of what is now the cafe
at Saddlers cottage. Special thanks to Barry Klemm & family for
In 2000 Talbot seemed on the verge of becoming a ghost
In the 2001 census, it was reported as having a population of
just 330. Things changed however in the early
2000’s when long-time residents were joined by an influx of retirees
and ‘tree-changers’, and through the hard work of volunteers the town
awoke from its long sleep.
Many historical buildings have since been restored and
initiatives to attract visitors founded, including the monthly
now regarded as one of the best in the State.
In 2007 the Weekly Times ran a feature article
heralding Talbot's rebirth: "An old mining town stakes its claim to a
new golden age":
In 2008 the Central Goldfields Council
published the “Talbot
Urban Planning Framework”, as an aid to
the town’s heritage and pave the way for a new wave of growth next
chapter in Talbot's growth in Talbot’s
Key third party sources used to prepare this
information are as follows. If you have any additional
information or corrections, please get
in touch via email.
Goldfield Heritage Books published by Marie Kau,
including "A Historical Sketch of Back Creek and Talbot - 14 January
1862", "The Governor's Visit to Back Creek/Talbot - 17 October 1861"
and "From Back Creek to Talbot - what's in a name"