Quartz Roasting Pits Complex

The Quartz Roasting Pits Complex is located 10 km north of Hill End, it straddles Fighting Ground Creek. The complex comprises a pair of kilns set into the side of the valley, a battery building which housed ore crushing machinery on the floor of the valley, a dam and the remains of two houses where the manager and various workers lived while the site was in operation. Assorted smaller features are scattered throughout the surrounding bush. Portions 12 and 13 were Gazetted on 13th July 1973, which comprised of 1.618 hectares. Part of Portion 32 was Gazetted on 1st September 1978, which comprised of 2.592 hectares.

The Hill End Quartz Roasting Pits Complex was established by the Colonial gold Mining Company in 1855 to provide gold extraction facilities for those working claims on the Tambaroora and Hill End goldfields. The Quartz Roasting Pits Complex is one of the oldest goldrush sites in Australia and represents one of the first attempts to process gold bearing ore. It also represents an unusual technological solution to the problems initially experienced in extracting payable gold from the quartz reefs, in its development of the earliest form of quartz firing technology in Australia. It closed 18 months after it was established.

The Colonial Gold Mining Company was floated in London in July 1852. The capital of the company was to be £200,000 divided into £2 shares, one third of which were to be reserved for British shareholders. Over 160 Australian shareholders invested in the company and with the Great Nugget Vein Company as their subsidiary, they secured a mining lease at Meroo. By 1853 they had begun reef mining operations at Louisa Creek, near Hargraves. They erected a large engine capable of crushing ’40 tons of quartz per diem’ and employing 120 men to work in the mine and the crushing works. In mid 1854 a decision was made to begin a similar operation near the Dirt Holes Mine on Fighting Ground Creek, due to the general atmosphere of optimism on the fields and the belief in a ‘river of gold’ from Hargraves to Hawkins Hill sparked by a report made on the geology of the area in 1852.

Construction at Tambaroora commenced under the direction of the Company’s Superintendent Mr. Alfred James Spence. The use of a stamper battery at Tambaroora may have been promoted by the constant and costly wearing of the ball crushers at Louisa Creek.

The location at fighting Ground Creek was chosen for the ‘superior facilities it offered for the construction of dams.’ The aim was to purchase ore from local mines so that claims in the area could be worked and processed at minimum cost.

In mid 1854 the Company bought the Dirt Holes mine from Messrs Austen and Cole, who had little luck extracting the tiny particles of gold from the quartz.

By mid February 1855 construction of the Roasting Pits Complex was complete.

There were reports of negligible gold yields from the Dirt Holes mine. Royalties of 3 ½ % collected by the Gold Commissioner in the period 1853-6 show that until the end of April 1855, the Dirt Holes mines returned £8/14/-. There were no returns shown for June, July and August while September to December the return was only £1/7/10. The figures into 1856 continue the trend of poor returns. The British shareholders held a meeting at the London Tavern and decided to cut their losses, and the Company folded.

In 1869 George Dewdney took up four 2 acre (0.91 hectares) blocks of land (Portions 12, 13, 14 and 15) as Improvement lots. These were able to be taken up as selections which could be converted to freehold if conditions of improvement, such as fencing, clearing, erection of a building and cultivation were met.

The next information available about the area is the creation of a consolidated property, Homestead Selection 34.1, held by Arthur Stewart Walker of Hill End in August 1934. It is not certain whether all of the small portions held by Dewdney were taken over by Walker. He certainly assumed ownership of Lots 12 and 13. The property was known variously as ‘Alpha’, ‘Alpha Station’ or ‘Alpha Farm’. The homestead was on the eastern edge of the property; the Roasting Pits becoming part of it ‘Fighting Ground’ paddock. The property was 4288 acres (1735 hectares) in extent.

The Manager’s House was used as a shearing shed during the time of Alpha Station. This would imply that it was standing in some form or other into at least the 1930s.

Hill End Historic Site was gazetted in 1967, as one of the first suite of historic sites proclaimed under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1967.

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