"Beechworth - another "B" of a town" Top 5 Page for this destination Beechworth by iandsmith

Beechworth Travel Guide: 51 reviews and 134 photos

Beechworth - Kelly's the name

It's a bit hard to avoid the name Kelly in Beechworth. This is the area where Australia's most notorious bushranger roamed with his gang and, like Mozart in Vienna, when you're on a good thing, run with it.
Even in the back streets I couldn't avoid it. I noticed this delightful two storey residence and took a snap then noticed the name on the gate - Kelly.
The town has the cell where Kelly was held for his first offence when he was only 16 and also his final trial for the murder at Glenrowan, now consigned to folklore and 3 movies (one starring Mick Jagger but we'd all like to forget that one).
The reason he would venture into a town like this is pretty much why people move anywhere - money. It is one of the famed gold towns of the 19th century and, along with Ballarat and Bendigo, form a triumvirate of wonderful towns that have preserved their heritage and whose name begins with "B". Though there are many other nice towns of similar heritage, I believe these are the best and any trip to Australia will be incomplete unless you've seen at least one of them.
Originally the area was named Mayday Hills and was grazed by a settler named David Reid. However, after gold was discovered by a shepherd in February 1852, over 8,000 miners were in the area before year's end. In consequence, the town changed from a canvas tent city to a timber settlement with the arrival of miners' families and businesses to support the growing community. The town was renamed Beechworth in 1853 and become a major commercial centre for the Ovens Goldfields. Between 1852 and 1866 four million ounces (115 tonnes) of gold was recovered from the creeks of the area. It was reported that during these early years the population grew to 42, 000 and boasted 61 hotels. A few of these magnificent buildings and many of the abandoned mine workings still remain today, to be visited and explored.

The power and the glory

The legend of bush ranger Harry Power (real name Harry Johnstone) is an especially interesting one. Said to have been well-dressed and usually a 'gentleman' he was not given to violent crime (although the threat was there) and was a 'mature age' bush ranger; in his 50's at the time he was most notorious.
Power had been transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1841 for stealing shoes. In 1855 he is believed to have shot a police trooper and in 1856, while serving time in prison, was accused of the murder of a guard. He reappeared again in February, 1864, charged at Beechworth for horse stealing. In 1869 he escaped from Pentridge and became on of the most notorious and active bush rangers in the Mansfield, Bright, Beechworth and Seymour areas, robbing travellers and mail coaches. He gained a reputation for being a 'good humoured' bush ranger, and had his share of supporters, including the Kelly family. In fact, it is suggested that in 1870 young Ned was recruited as his 'apprentice'. There are rumours, however, that Ned actually gave information on his whereabouts to the police and was subsequently given some reward payments. Harry was transferred to Beechworth where he was tried on three counts of Robbery Under Arms and returned to Pentridge, serving out his full sentence.
He was released in 1885, aged 66. After his release he was employed as a Guide on the old prison hulk Success which he had known as a convict. He moved to Swan Hill where he enjoyed considerable notoriety.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Much history, scenic, good accommodation choices, classic pie shop
  • Cons:Hot in summer
  • In a nutshell:Excellent tourist town
  • Last visit to Beechworth: Oct 2006
  • Intro Updated Nov 12, 2006
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Reviews (20)

Comments (4)

  • craic's Profile Photo
    Feb 9, 2009 at 8:53 AM

    what a beautiful town - what a great pub! - i really hope this place survives the threat of fire!

  • aussirose's Profile Photo
    Jan 10, 2009 at 3:22 PM

    I enjoy the old little museums Ian :o) ....and that Bakery definately sounds like the place to go for a yummy pie! :o) Cheers, Ann.

  • ATXtraveler's Profile Photo
    Mar 7, 2008 at 6:02 PM

    We loved Beechworth

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Oct 11, 2006 at 3:24 PM

    I had not heard of this one before, but it definitely looks to be worth a stop! Glad to see the locals at least managed to save that impressive hospital facade. I'm with you on the B&B's, they are almost always my first choice too.


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