Hill End is 870m above sea-level and 275 km north-west of Sydney (via Turondale). The roads were made in the 19th century and are still largely unsealed. Access is either via Mudgee (66km) or Bathurst. There are three approaches from Bathurst: via Sofala (78km), Turondale (69km) or along the Bridle track (57 km). The Bridal Track is a scenic route which follows the Macquarie and Turon Rivers but is unsuitable for caravans and coaches, and should not be attempted when wet.
Gold was found in the Bald Hills (one of the former names of Hill End) district, 49 km south of Mudgee in 1851 shortly after it was discovered at Ophir. Bald Hills had only a few hundred residents, a hotel and two stores when it was surveyed and gazetted, mistakenly as ‘Forbes’, in 1860. It was renamed ‘Hillend’ in 1862.
Surface gold was won from Hawkins Hill in 1855 and reef claims were worked along the right bank of Golden Gully from 1859. Between 1870 and 1872 Hawkins Hill yielded very rich deposits at depths of 40-50 meters. The deepest workings on Hawkins Hill went down 240 metres.
In October 1872 the Star of Hope Gold Mining Company uncovered what was, at the time, the worlds largest specimen of reef gold. Although it was a specimen, it became known as ‘Holtermann’s Nugget’, it weighted 286 kg and measured 150 cm by 66cm with an average thickness of 10cm.
By the end of 1872 Hill End had 8,000 people, making it one of New South Wales’s largest inland towns. It had more than a kilometre of shops, five banks, two newspapers, a brewery, twenty seven pubs, over two hundred companies in the field and stamper batteries pounding 24 hours a day.
By 1873 there were four churches, a hospital, a public school and improved roads. Substantial brick, weatherboard and corrugated iron buildings replaced the makeshift wattle-and-daub huts.
During the boom years of 1871 – 1874 about 8,000 people lived in Hill End and Tambaroora. After 1874 mines closed down and prospectors moved to other fields, leaving only isolated mining of old reef workings and alluvial diggings.
By 1874 stores were closing and the population went into a decline, from 8,000 in 1872 to 5,000 in 1874, 4,000 in 1876, 1200 by 1882 and 500 at the turn of the century. In 1945 the population was about 700.
There was a revival of mining when the Reward company began operations in 1908, but closed in the early 1920’s.
Hill End was proclaimed an Historic site in 1967 and placed under the care of the national parks and Wildlife Service, which began preserving and restoring the building on the site. Today (2005) about 130 people live within Hill End.
The buildings that have survived the ravages of time are – Louis Beyers cottage (late 1860s), The Great Western Store (c. 1872), Hosies’s Store (1872), Northey’s Store (1873), The School (1872), The Methodist (now Anglican) Church (1870), St. Paul’s Uniting Church (1872), ‘Craigmoor’ (1875) and the Royal Hotel (1872). The Police Station (c. 1900) and Post Office (c. 1898).
In Beyers Avenue the European trees were planted at the request of Louis Beyers in 1877 and the mid-1880’s, with some extensions made in 1924, Trees that had died were replaced in 2005.
‘The Glint of Gold’ By Kerrin Cook & Daniel Garvey