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Bingara
Small and interesting historic gold mining town
Bingara is an attractive old gold and diamond-mining town of 1250 people, situated 295 m above sea-level in the Gwydir River Valley. Surrounded by cypress-covered mountains it is a popular with anglers and fossickers. Gold, sapphires and tourmalines are still occasionally uncovered in the river and local creeks.

Bingara is 150 km north of Tamworth along the Fossickers Way and 562 km north of Sydney. The district produces fine wool, beef cattle and mixed farming. Pigs, poultry, wheat, sorghum and timber also contribute to the local economy.

One of the town's endearing traditions is for the young to pick the fruit from a row of orange trees along one of the town's streets and give it to the elderly and to hospital patients.

The first European to visit the future townsite was explorer Allan Cunningham en route to the Darling Downs in 1827. He named the Gwydir River after his benefactor Lord Gwydir. The first squatter in the area was George Hall who established the 'Bingera' run c. 1834. The name was an indigenous one said to mean 'creek' or 'shallow crossing'.

Prior to white settlement the district was occupied by members of the Kamilaroi tribe. Although there were murderous clashes between the whites and the Aborigines in the district, the Bingara area was quite free of conflict as there were very few indigenous people in the immediate area. Nonetheless, Myall Creek, about 20 km north-east of the present townsite, became the scene of a particularly gruesome massacre. In 1838 eleven white men rounded up and murdered at least 28 Aboriginal men, women and children. The murderers later claimed that the Aborigines had been involved in cattle rustling but there was no evidence to this effect. Indeed they had been a peaceable group who had had good relations with the locals.

The members of the posse eventually confessed, asserting, that they thought killing Aborigines was not illegal. They believed they were acting heroically and with community support and public response to their punishment indicated that this was indeed the case. Eleven were initially tried and acquitted by the jury. Seven were retried and hung; this being the first time whites had been punished for such crimes.

The town of Bingara was founded c.1840. Settlement initially occurred on both sides of the river though the northern bank was later abandoned. The townsite was surveyed in 1852.

Gold was discovered in the area in 1851 with the prosperous Upper Bingera goldfields (30 km from the town) established the following year.

The Bingera townsite was surveyed in 1852 with the first inn licenced in 1853 and the first store established in 1854. However, Upper Bingera initially developed far more rapidly with 1 905 persons recorded in 1861 while there were only 90 residents at Bingera itself. A large proportion of the prospectors were Chinese.

Bingera received its first post office, lock-up and public school in 1862. The All Nations Gold Mine gave a boost to the town when it was established at the southern end of Bingera in 1868. Named for the multicultural spectrum of workers on-site, it operated intermittently until 1907 and permanently closed after a final bout from 1938 to 1948.

The settlement was further consolidated when diamonds were found 11 km west of Bingera in 1873. By the 1890s the field was Australia's largest. It operated intermittently between 1872 and 1909. The Star of the South (37 000 carats) was found here.

Consequently the population gradually climbed from less than 90 in 1871 to 738 in 1891. With the growth came more substantial buildings. The first Catholic Church was built in 1872 and the first Anglican Church in 1875.

Wheat and timber-getting began to increase in importance. A flour mill and sawmill were both established in 1881 and a bridge over the Gwydir River was built in 1884-86.

Bingara became a municipality in 1889, at which time the spelling changed from 'Bingera' to 'Bingara' to avoid postal confusion with Bingera in Queensland.

Although the population peaked at over 1600 in 1911 the gold had begun to peter out by the end of the 19th century and the mines had already begun to close, although agriculture, grazing and timbergetting in the district sustained the role of the town as a service centre.

The gold days are now memorialised in the Gold Rush Festival held at Eastertime when the Easterfish competition is also conducted.

Things to see:   [Top of page]

Information Centre
The Bingara Tourist Information Centre is located in Maitland St, opposite the council chambers, and is open from 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. daily, tel: (02) 6724 0066. They can furnish maps of the district outlining attractions, as well as information about local farm stays and precise details on any of the information below.

 

Salter's Hotel Museum
The town's local history museum, at 16 Maitland St, is Salter's Hotel, thought to be the town's first tavern and certainly the oldest surviving structure in town. It was built in 1860 of pit-sawn and hand-adzed slabs on a log floor and retains its original roof of imported puddling iron. The museum possesses a working smithy and a small school, as well as gems, minerals, photographs, bric-a-brac and furniture.

 

Heritage Buildings
The brick courthouse and lock-up keeper's residence were erected in 1879. The courthouse has some interesting decorative elements. Other heritage buildings include the 1882 police station and residence, the Royal Mail Booking Office (1882) - next to the ambulance station in Maitland St - the Anglican Church (1889), the primary school (1899), St Andrews Presbyterian (now Uniting) Church (1904) on Cunningham St, St Mary's Catholic Church (1907) and the Imperial Hotel (built as the Gwydir prior to 1889.

 

All Nations Stamper Battery
The All Nations Gold Mine, at the southern end of town, was established around 1860 and was the last gold mine to close (in 1948). It developed into a large underground mine, operating at four levels in two shafts (the deepest being 100 m). It is situated at the top of Hill St. All that remains is the ten-headed stamper battery.

 

Murray Cod Hatchery
Tours of the Murray Cod Hatchery can be organised but by appointment only, tel: (02) 6724 1726. It is run by the Bingara Anglers' Club and supplies fingerlings to the local dams and rivers. Head out of town along the Narrabri Road then take the first right past the showgrounds into Bandalong St.

 

Rocky Creek
37 km south-west along the road to Narrabri is the locality of Rocky Creek. Rocky Creek Gorge and 'Glacial Area' is a site of some geological interest. More generally it is a good picnic spot where you can swim in the creek in summertime amidst huge conglomerate boulders. It is also a good spot for bush exploration. A leaflet is available from the visitors' centre.

 

Sawn Rocks
70 km south-west of town are Sawn Rocks, a series of interesting pipe-shaped volcanic rock formations.

 

Three Creeks Gold Mine
15 km south of town is the turnoff on the left on to a 22-km loop road which, after 10 km, passes the Three Creeks Tourist Gold Mine and Fossicking Site. There is also a working gold mine. Bushwalks and tours of old mine shafts are carried out by the owner. There is also bush camping, panning and fossicking and a small museum of mining-related artefacts.

 

Batterham Lookout
The Batterham Lookout (259 m) is located on the outskirts of town just off the Keera Rd. The approach is very steep and a 4WD is advisable. There are picnic-barbecue facilities and excellent views of the town and river valley.

 

Copeton Dam
52 km east is Copeton Dam, thrice the size of Sydney Harbour with a large recreation area on the western shore. There are camp and caravan sites, a kiosk, an amenities block, cabins, on-site vans, fuel sales, boat hire, a six-hole golf course, tennis courts, sailing, windsurfing, power boating, water skiing, fishing, walking tracks, two adventure playgrounds, waterslides and plenty of wildlife. Access can be gained by driving east along the Keera Rd for 41 km then turning off to the left.

 

Fishing
Aside from Copeton Dam, the Gwydir and Horton Rivers are another good source of catfish, yellowbelly and Murray cod. Camping can be enjoyed along the Gwydir for up to 8 km from town. The Easterfish angling festival is held at Eastertime each year.

 

Fossicking
Gold, jasper, garnets, sapphires, petrified wood, fossils and tourmalines are still occasionally uncovered in the district. Cadagai Tours organise weekend schools for neophyte fossickers with instruction in metal detecting. The Three Creeks Gold Mine mentioned above is another fossicking site.

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Bingara