Somewhat of a ghost town today, Mathinna was once the scene of an important gold strike. After gold was discovered at Mangana, Mathinna was for a time was the third largest town in Tasmania.
Where Is it?: Mathinna is 95 km east of Launceston, 175 km north east of Hobart, 25 km north of Fingal.
The Mathinna goldfield started, like many others, with the discovery of alluvial gold in Black Horse Gully. The area contains one of Tasmania's largest gold mines, the New Golden Gate, which had a total (historical) production of over 260,000 ounces (8 tonnes) of gold. The area is riddled with abandoned mines, prospects and old workings, and is mostly crown land, meaning fairly easy access. Unlike other areas in Tasmania, the bush is fairly open and easy to walk through, though the grades of the hills are steep.
After the discovery of gold in Mangana in 1852, prospectors fanned out looking for alluvial gold in nearby areas. The whole country between Mangana and Mt Arthur was being talked about as prospective for gold, and it wasn't long before gold was being found at Black Boy Plains and Reedy Marsh, as the area was known early on. The name Mathinna was not officially used until 1872.
As the 1890s gold rush to Tasmania’s north-east gained momentum, Mathinna grew to be one of the island’s largest towns. Among the prospectors was farmer William James Mullins. On 20 June 1913 Mullins left home to check possum traps and never returned. His remains were discovered in a wooden funeral pyre two weeks later, but his killer was never found and his death remains a mystery. Rocked by the murder and with the gold rush over, Mathinna began to empty. Today, only about 200 people remain.
Mathinna Goldfield report, 1892
About the name
Today it is the name Mathinna that seems to have more significance than the history of the town itself. Mathinna was an Aboriginal girl born at Wybalenna on Flinders Island in 1835 who became caught up in the devastating way of life forced onto her people by the white man. At Wybalenna the vivacious Mathinna caught the eye and heart, of Lady Jane Franklin, the wife of Tasmanian Governor and explorer, Sir John Franklin, who decided to adopt her. Befriended by the Governor of Van Diemens Land, Sir John Franklin and his wife Lady Jane, only to be abandoned two years later, Mathinna and her story epitomise the sad fate of the Tasmania Aboriginal people.
Mathinna Falls Forest Reserve, like Evercreech Forest Reserve, is one of many attractive spots to break your journey on the A4 between the Midland Highway and the east coast. An easy 30 minute return walk along a well graded track leads to the base of the Mathinna Falls.
Mining Villages of the Fingal Valley
Mangana (10 km north west) became the first gold mining site in the Fingal Municipality and indeed, in Australia, when alluvial gold was discovered there in 1852 by Keeling Richardson, a shepherd on Tullochgorum. Originally called The Nook, the name was taken from the Aboriginal word for the South Esk River, Mangana Lienta. The Launceston Examiner officially recorded as the first discovery of gold in the State, on the 18 February 1852. Rumours of gold discoveries had been circulating for some time. Indeed only four months previously, the Hobart Courier reported a meeting held to organise a reward for the discovery of gold in the colony, and particular areas of north-eastern Tasmania were being recommended as promising to would-be prospectors.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, Mangana. Two Catholic churches were built at Mangana; the first, St Basil’s, was opened in 1869 by Father Michael Beechinor. The present church, which is still open, was built in 1912.
A minor gold rush to The Nook resulted, and soon 500 prospectors were panning the creeks and digging tunnels and shafts. The Government, still perhaps paranoid about losing workers or a deteriorating law and order situation, quickly moved to regulate the diggings. On the 5th of April, the Governor William Denison issued a proclamation making it illegal to look for gold without due authorisation. Nevertheless, most of the gullies surrounding the township were eventually worked for gold, with Majors, Calders, Sharkeys, and Sailors gullies being the main producers. Estimates vary, but it seems that something in the order of 5,000–15,000 ounces of alluvial gold were produced, and most of that in Majors Gully.
By 1856 attention was turning to reef mining, and a promising discovery on Specimen Hill, just above the original township. In 1859 the Sovereign mine opened, the first hard-rock gold mine in Tasmania. Within a few short years of the Mangana discovery, many of the main Tasmanian gold fields, except for those on the west coast, had been found, and the industry mining for hard-rock gold, and eventually for silver and tin, would bring to Tasmania an unprecedented (and still unrepeated) period of economic prosperity.
The township of Mangana gradually declined as one by one the mines closed, and none is operational today. A few of the town's original buildings remain, its present population is around 30.
Mangana Goldfield report, 1907
Grants Creek, running behind the township, is one of the many watercourses in the areas where miners panned for alluvial gold. One property alongside the creek has two existing shafts. There is still gold to be recovered from the existing mine both on this property and in the surrounding area. If you want to fossick aroung Mangana, it’s not an easy task. Much of the land is private property, having been sold before the Government implemented a policy of not selling mineral lands, so you’ll need to organise permission to access. There are numerous titles, and it can be difficult to know who owns what. On top of this, the most productive gullies on the northeast side of town are inside a current mining lease, and pretty much all the rest in a current exploration licence.
New Golden Gate Mine, Mathinna. Tasmania's second-largest gold mine, it produced over 7 tonnes of gold between 1888 and 1932.
Soon after gold was found at Mangana, a second and larger find was discovered 20 or so kilometers north at Mathinna. This find led to the opening of the Golden Gate mine, which once established, became the second largest gold producing mine in Tasmania after the Tasmanian mine at Beaconsfield. The town too grew and with around 300 men per shift working at the Golden Gate in the latter part of the 1800s, Mathinna was, for a time, the third largest town in Tasmania.
A scattering of old weatherboard and corrugated iron buildings is all that remains of the one-time boom town of Rossarden. Nestled at the foot of Ben Lomond, Rossarden was buzzing as late as the 1960's, when the Aberfoyle mine was working to full capacity. The mine, which opened in 1931 produced wolfram - another name for tungsten - operated until February 1982, when its closure sounded the death knell for the town. In its heyday, Aberfoyle was the biggest tin mine in Tasmania; at its peak in the 1950s, it employed an average of 230 men. When it closed, the mine tried to sell its former employees their home for a dollar, but few took up the offer and the town s population fell from 500 to just 90. Within a month, what was not sold was demolished and carted away.
Story's Falls is a cascading waterfall situated on Story's creek, near Rossarden. The waterfall works it way down from Stacks Bluff, part of the Ben Lomond plateau, and meanders it's way down the side of the mountain. The falls can be reached along Story's Creek Road, which is off the Avoca-Rossarden Road. From Story's Creek Road, you can see part of the waterfall from the bridge that crosses Story's Creek.
Photo: Story's Falls