Stepping Back in Time and Into Goldrush Gulgong, Central West NSW

It’s time to continue my love affair with the stunning Holtermann Collection – a 3,500-strong collection of glass plate negatives developed (see what I did there?) in the 1870s.

The Holtermann Museum in Gulgong celebrates the images that were captured during Gulgong’s roaring goldrush days in 1872. An extension of this excellent museum is a small brochure that takes you outside the museum’s walls and onto the historic streets.

Grab your camera and join me on the Holtermann Trail…

To describe this path as a trail is possibly a slight exaggeration as it only covers a 200m stretch of Gulgong’s main street, called Mayne St. This short distance is chockful of colonial history and many of the early buildings have been luckily, and lovingly, preserved.

It was hardly ‘roaring’ in the Gulgong CBD the morning I visited. A sleepy Wednesday morning with some local traffic navigating the incredibly narrow main street. Motorists need to be both patient and polite on this street as it simply isn’t wide enough for two cars to pass. The width of the street is definitely better suited to ye olde horse and cart than today’s modern autos.

Starting at the lower end of Mayne Street, I stood under the verandah of the Ten Dollar Town Motel and took a photo (apologies that it is not a good one) mirroring the view up Mayne St towards the (now) Holtermann Museum.

  • The early timber building housing the Little Wonder General Store made way for a more elegant brick construction. Could you find little wonders for sale inside, I wonder? Or is it little wonder that it is no longer standing? More likely it had something to do with the sense of extravagant optimism that bubbled up in any get-rich-quick community.
  • I love a bit of aspiration and embroidery of the facts, and The Greatest Wonder of the World – Importers of Men’s Clothing – Colonial Boot and Shoe Depot – could be found in Gulgong in 1872. This building now houses a similar wonder, the Holtermann Museum.
  • At the intersection of Mayne and Herbert Streets, Gulgong with a view down Herbert St. Were all these men just standing around in the middle of the street waiting for a photograph to be taken? Or is it an example of the earliest form of a photo bomb? Certainly there was little risk of them being run over by any sort of vehicle. The closest danger would have been a stampeding horse and cart.
  • Barker’s Chemist would have done good business in all sorts of miraculous potions, notions, liquids and lotions. Again, more men standing in the street. Perhaps the women were too busy working to have time to stand around? I imagine they would have had to stand very still for quite some time so the photographs didn’t become blurred.
  • The Prince of Wales Opera House is still in operation today hosting music and dramatic performances. In its glory days it was famed for featuring international acts such as opera diva, Dame Nelly Melba. In the old photo it is possible to see the rear of Beaufoy Merlin’s photographic cart pulled up opposite the Opera House. It’s hard to believe that this cart made the journey out of Sydney, over the rough and rugged Blue Mountains, and all around remote Central West NSW carrying loads of glass plate negatives! What could possibly go wrong?

I love that the history and stories of colonial Australia are preserved in these amazing photographs. To think that they were found stacked up in an old garden shed in a Sydney backyard. What a tragedy it would have been to have lost them.

Do you have a favourite before and after photograph?

The Basics

What: Entry fees for the Holtermann Museum are $10 for Adults, $5 for children and concession and family tickets are available.

Mudgee Drug Store Source: Google Arts and Culture
I found this one in my trawling. Barkers Chemist also branded ‘Mudgee Drug Store’. American influence during the gold rush? Source: Google Arts and Culture

Where: 125 Mayne Street, Gulgong. About 4.5 hours drive north-west of Sydney.

When: The Museum is open seven days except for the main public holidays. Allow yourself at least one hour to visit and even longer if you love history and photography.

Why: To be dazzled by the imagery and insight into times long past.

How: You will need a car to get to Gulgong as there is only very limited public transport. Pick up a Holtermann Trail walking map of Gulgong from the Museum, which will then take you to some of the original buildings featured in the exhibition.

Who: Amateur historians, curious children and photographers. The Museum also has a large glass-shelf display of old cameras which is sure to please.

Holtermann Nugget
Mr Holtermann with his nugget – the cash cow that funded the photographic collection. Source: Wikipedia

Related Posts: To see what I keep rabbiting on about, check out my post describing the Holtermann Museum.

Related Blogs: If you enjoy quirky historical photographs, then you are going to love this website.

Read About It: For a broad range of books about photography, both old and new, go straight to Book Depository.

#gulgong #travelinspo #museums #holtermannmuseum #australianhistory #goldrush #history #visitmudgeeregion #photography #holtermanncollection #glassplatenegatives #earlyphotography

20 thoughts on “Stepping Back in Time and Into Goldrush Gulgong, Central West NSW

  1. Oh, what fun to do a ‘before’ and ‘after’ trip like this!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. All photos are excellent before and after well shared ☺️.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for reading and following along. Have a happy day.


      1. It’s my pleasure 😊🙂 stay blessed ❣️💕

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great idea to take these photos to match the locations of the old ones and demonstrate both similarities and differences over time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m afraid my photography skills are not a patch on Mr Beaufoy’s or yours!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love to see the before and after pictures. Not only for the buildings, but for the people’s clothes in the old pictures, somehow makes me think of the differences even more. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The detail in those old photos is simply amazing. I am dazzled by the clarity every time I look at them.


  5. Those glass plate negatives are a treasure trove. They make the past come alive.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Living history, Mel. I love the old photos with their busy population.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No doubt they were very busy (other than lots of standing around in the street) and worked hard, although their pace of life would have been a bit slower than ours, I suspect.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great before and after photos. You would love the old country towns in WA also. We recently visited Kalgoorlie and also the Gwalia mine and ghost town which seem very similar to Gulgong.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the local intel. I haven’t spent much time exploring WA – your distances are SO BIG! It’s on the list now.


  8. I love old photographs and seeing what places used to look like versus what they look like now 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Me too. They really are a fabulous insight into times past. I wonder if, in 100 years, people will look back at our times with equal fondness and interest?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s fun to see the old and new photos of the same places. What’s that saying? The more things change, the more they stay the same…

    Liked by 2 people

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