November 9th, 2009
Perched atop a hill in the gold mining city of Ballarat in Victoria, Sovereign Hill is an award winning outdoor museum cum heritage attraction which first opened in November 1970. Recreating the essence of a 19th century mining town, the open-air museum occupies a sprawling 25 hectare site that is linked to one of the richest alluvial gold rush in the world. Adding to its authenticity are staff members dressed in Victorian-era clothes who are friendly in an unpretentious manner.
Unlike commercially oriented theme parks plastered with sponsor brands, Sovereign Hill charms with realistic portrayal of life in the 19th century devoid of 20th and 21st century logos. Many of the shops also adopt traditional ways of making and retailing heritage goods and services, from blacksmiths to bars and bakeries. What’s especially surprising were the multiple layers of experience which one encounters as a visitor, which whisks one magically away to a different time and place.
Our day began with a bang as a costumed musket-eer shows us how traditional guns were fired.
Wheels were made in the traditional way, using an iron spindle and wooden frame…
…and they were used in these horse drawn stagecoaches which you can ride on for a small fee.
Die-hard jockeys of the Victorian-era can purchase a saddle or horsewhip in this shop.
This is the view inside a foundry where gold-plated decorative items, cutlery and utensils were made. The items are actually hand-made using the machines and tools in the workshop.
Fancy a beard washing bowl anybody?
During the 1850s, the only forms of entertainment in mining fields were wooden bowling alleys like this one, where you have to roll the ball for a looooong distance before it hit the pins. Sorry no Nintendo Wiis or X-Boxes guys.
Candles and soaps were also popular in those days, for reasons of illumination in a pitch-dark mine and hygiene (of course).
These lovely ladies show you how a candle is made. You can choose to make your own too if you wish for between $3 to $4 per candle.
The end products of their labour, resplendent in various colours and shades.
The age-old schools in mining towns then looked quite similar to a chapel. I suppose education was really a God-given privilege then.
Remember what I was saying about hygiene? It does get rather dank and dirty in those musty mines.
Talking about cleverly copywritten posters in “ye olde English”, you can make one of your own at this shop here.
Along the way, I spotted some domestic animals like this proud peacock here.
And a rather slim pig hamming it up in the shade during the hot and sunny day.
This three gentlemen provided much needed entertainment by playing many rollicking and lively folk tunes.
Miners who haven’t paid their license fees must beware of these redcoats marching through the streets.
At the end of a hard day, one can either catch a show at the theatre or enjoy a meal and drinks at the United States Hotel. Yes, guys, there are many similarities between this and the Wild West.
Honestly, there is nothing quite like an ice-cold golden brew to slake one’s thirst after a hard day of digging. Or sightseeing for that matter!
Acknowledgements: This trip was made possible through the kind hospitality of Sovereign Hill and the facilitation of my good friend Tim Richards. Do check out his well written post on Sovereign Hill here.
Tags: ballarat, eureka stockade, sovereign hill, victoria