A view of the main engine house and shaft of the Bendigo mine in the late 19th century. -Otago Witness
Central Otago's golden celebrations will continue next month
as the 150th anniversary of Bendigo, one of the "most
significant" gold rush areas, is marked.
The celebrations will start on December 1 with an informal
"pack run" along the 14km kanuka trail, which Otago
Goldfields Heritage Trust secretary Terry Davis described as
a "hidden gem".
"The trail goes through kanuka forest and over classic rocky
Bendigo hills. There is no other landscape quite like it
anywhere," he said.
Following that, the recently relocated Bendigo Gold Light
Co's dredge bucket ladder will be formally opened in a
ceremony that will also recognise stabilisation work done on
the old bakehouse.
Trust president Martin Anderson said although the bucket
ladder had been moved several months ago, they thought a
winter function to mark the occasion might have been too
The ceremony and following pot-luck lunch, open to everyone,
would be the highlight of the weekend, but there would also
be guided walks and four-wheel-drive tours to explore
remnants of a mining life which "had a major impact on the
landscape", he said.
"Bendigo has got to be right up there as one of the most
significant gold rush areas."
The walks will be accompanied by Department of Conservation
staff and Otago gold rush scholar Lloyd Carpenter.
Mr Carpenter said Bendigo was an area rich in gold, but many
mining companies barely broke even and the only one to find
"decent" gold was the Cromwell Quartz Mining Co, which was
formed by two of the first men on the scene, Thomas Logan and
The company began operating in 1868 and in the first four
weeks crushed 100 tonnes of quartz to find 228oz of gold.
Their following four weeks were even more profitable.
Miners flocked to the area but unfortunately, that first
claim was the only one that got decent gold - a "geological
freak", Mr Carpenter said.
By February of 1870, the population of the town had reached
500 and by the middle of that year, there were 52 claims
Of those, only 18 were quartz claims.
The Cromwell company worked until it lost the gold seam in
From the 1930s until 1942, the area was subjected to a "last
gasp" gold rush that saw several stamper batteries and
companies in action.
Mr Carpenter said Bendigo was the most profitable quartz
mining area in Central Otago with "tens of thousands" of
ounces of gold smashed out of the rock.
Other events for the weekend include a stone wall building
demonstration and talk and a "picnic in the vines", with
tastings and winery tour.
A Cromwell genealogy group will also provide a display
showing family histories of the area.