Walhalla History

Hidden in a deep valley in the Victorian Alps. Walhalla was one of Victorias great gold mining towns in the 19th century.

Gold was discovered by Ned Stringer in 1863. Quickly the word spread and gold seekers flocked to the harsh mountains to find their fortune. In the first few years of the settlement (then known as “Stringers Creek”) conditions were pretty desperate, people came close to starvation and cold winters took their toll.

One of the first mines to become successful was the “Walhalla” mine, which was named by its Scandinavian mine manager after “Walhalla” in Norse mythology – The Valley of the Gods and home to slain heroes. Obviously he felt that “Walhalla” was indeed a gift from the gods. The success of the “Walhalla Mine” attracted even more people to the area to search for gold. “I’m off to the Walhalla” they would say, and it was because of the initial success of the Walhalla Mine that the town’s name was changed to Walhalla within a few years of gold being discovered.

At the height of the gold-era, Walhalla was a bustling frontier town with over 2,500 residents. More than 75 tonnes of gold was removed from Cohen’s Reef which runs deep below the town. The richest mine was the Long Tunnel in the centre of town. Over 50 tonnes of gold was removed from this one mine.

In its heyday, Walhalla was home to 10 hotels, 3 breweries and 7 churches. The Star Hotel, located at the Junction directly opposite the historic Band Rotunda, was Walhalla’s most famous gold-era hotel. It was the terminus for the Cobb & Co. Coach that serviced Walhalla until 1910 when the railway finally arrived in town.

Unfortunately the railway arrived too late for Walhalla. It was meant to bring prosperity, however the mines had all closed by 1915 and the railway provided a cheap and easy form of transport to carry away nearly all of the town’s building and machinery. By the early 1920s only of skeleton of the “gold-era” Walhalla remained and the decline continued until the 1980s.

The original Star Hotel and IOOF Hall were destroyed by fire in December 1951 and Walhalla lost its heart. In the past 20 years, a new appreciation for Australian history has seen Walhalla become a popular tourist attraction with over 100,000 people visiting the town each year. The town’s unique mountain location and picturesque streetscape with exotic trees and cute cottages is an irresistible combination.

Today building are being restored and new replica buildings (like Walhalla’s Star Hotel) are being built to replace building lost over the last century. Walhalla Historic Township’s population currently stands at 12, a far cry from the 2,500 plus that lived in the “Valley of the Gods” 100 years ago.

Walhalla Chinese Gardens

Like many early Victorian goldfields, Walhalla had a thriving and industrious Chinese community, with small groups settled at the southern and northern fringes of the town. Their presence was noted in Walhalla as early as 1865. At the northern end of the valley, on the hillside shown above, it was reported in that year that “a number of China men have a very nice garden … and will have vegetables before anybody else.

The Walhalla Fire Station

A 12-man Walhalla volunteer Fire Brigade was formed in the aftermath of the tragic fire that destroyed the center of the town in 1888. The Fire Station that was built in 1901 to house its equipment straddles Stringer’s Creek because there was no other suitable real estate available in the town.

Post Office

Built in 1886, the Walhalla Post Office was one of the few civic buildings rescued from the ensuing disastrous fire of 1888. Ninety years later, a retired postmistress, Miss Doreeen Hannan, had to spend a night perched on the mail counter with flood waters lapping around her ankles. Restored to its present almost-original condition largely through volunteer effort, with further work, we are hoping that the Post Office will eventually become the Heritage League’s permanent Museum.

The Rotunda

Was built in 1896 as the result of a design competition to accommodate the early town’s many bands, most notable of which was the “Mountaineer Brass Band”.

The Band Rotunda stands at the junction of the Left- and Right-Hand Branches of Stringer’s Creek, where it is still Walhalla’s civic focal point.

The Walhalla Steam Train

On Friday 23 July, 2004, the first steam train to Walhalla since 1944 officially arrived to a gala reception.

The small Henchel steam loco pulled a packed train of invited guests up Stringers Creek Gorge from Thomson to Walhalla (with a little help from the Fowler Diesel pushing).

The steam train will operate to Walhalla on the 1st weekend of the month, starting on the weekend of 31 July/1 August. 2004. The normal timetable will apply. The steam engine will run from May to November. At other times the Fowler Diesel will be operating on Wednesday and on the Weekends.

Stringers Creek

Castlemaine area gold rushes of the early 1850s emptied the towns and cities as able-bodied men and large numbers of migrants rushed to the diggings in pursuit of their fortune. It was estimated, for example, that by early 1852, half the men in South Australia were leaving or had already left for the diggings in western and central Victoria. However, once surface gold in these areas was no longer easy to find, attentions switched to other areas, and further rushes occurred at Omeo in eastern Victoria and on the Goulburn River to Melbourne’s north-east, beginning in 1854.

By January 1860, a fossicker called Edward Gladman had started the Baw Baw diggings on the Tanjil River in west Gippsland. These were followed by exploration of the Upper Thomson and Aberfeldy Rivers. By December of 1862, a party of four prospectors were working their way south down the Thomson River from Fulton’s Creek.

On December 26th, three who had persevered began prospecting up a creek that flowed into the Thomson River from a steep valley to the east, several kilometers south of Fulton’s Creek. They named it Stringer’s Creek in honour of Ned Stringer,the assumed name of Edward Randel, one of the prospectors and a ticket-of-leave man, or former convict.

When they found very encouraging signs of gold at a fork in the creek, Stringer promptly left to register a claim before the mining registrar at Bald Hills on January, 1863 Although he eventually was to receive a £100 reward for his part in discovering the goldfield, Ned Stringer had little opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his find.

Diagnosed as suffering from tuberculosis, he travelled eastward to Sale for treatment in September of 1863, and died at Toongabbie on September during his return trip to Walhalla. The rush that inevitably followed news of this find was slowed to some extent by the goldfield’s remote and inaccessible location, hidden as it was within a very steep and heavily timbered valley. Many other miners soon found their way there.

In February of 1863, one named John Hinchcliffe discovered an immensely rich quartz reef in the hill just above the creek, which he named Cohen’s Reef, after a storekeeper at Bald. The rich quartz vein of Cohen’s Reef is still clearly visible in the roof of the Long Tunnel Extended Mine today.

Poverty Point Bridge

Poverty Point Bridge is located on the Australian Alps Walking track, 8 kilometers from Walhalla.
The Poverty Point Bridge spans a deep gorge on the Thomson River. This bridge was prefabricated by the Westinghouse Foundry and erected in 1901. The 48 meter span originally carried a timber tramway to access untapped the timber reserves on the Mt Erica side of the River. The bridge, which was built for the Long Tunnel Gold Mine, cost £1,496 and has now been redecked for pedestrians. Copies of walking maps to Poverty Point are available at the Hotel reception.