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Image Forest Creek, Mount Alexander, 1852

TLF ID R3038

This is a hand-coloured lithographic print prepared by John Allen in 1852 from a drawing by George French Angas. The lithograph, with text, measures 26 cm x 35.5 cm and shows Forest Creek at the Mount Alexander gold diggings in central Victoria.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows an alluvial gold field - alluvial gold is found near the surface; usually it has been eroded from gold-bearing quartz reefs and deposited over the years in creeks and waterways especially at points, such as bends in the creek, where the flow of water slows.
  • It illustrates one of the richest alluvial gold fields ever discovered - first identified in November 1851, the Mount Alexander gold field caused a sensation and is generally credited with triggering, in April 1852, one of the greatest mass migrations in history, when six ships carrying about 8 tons (a little over 8 tonnes) of Mount Alexander gold arrived in London; in 1852 alone, 370,000 people emigrated to Australia.
  • It depicts the gold field at about the time that rich discoveries were still being made - for example, a party of eight arrived at Mount Alexander early in 1852 when diggers were relatively few; by the time they headed back to South Australia at the end of April, they had about 45 pounds (just over 20 kilograms) of gold; another party of five, after arriving in late 1851 and sinking seven holes over four months, made no less than £985 each (the equivalent of nine years' wages).
  • It shows the field as people trekking up from Melbourne would have seen it - it has been estimated that one-third of the adult male population of Melbourne rushed to Mount Alexander; arriving some months later, the intending gold miner William Howitt described it as '... hundreds on hundreds of tents ... clapped down in the most dusty and miserable of places; and all the ground was perforated with holes, round or square, some deeper, some shallower, some dry, some full of water'.
  • It provides examples of some of the tools of the gold miner - shovels, wheelbarrows, picks, dippers, tubs, pans and cradles; miners washed clay through the cradle to separate gold and stones from larger rocks and silt, then used the pan for the more delicate process of separating the gold from the remaining gravel, with the heavier gold becoming trapped in ridges around the bottom of the pan.
  • It shows two crudely constructed shaft mines, one with a windlass - once the surface gold was exhausted, miners had to dig into the earth along the banks of the creek or in places where they hoped the creek had once flowed; the largest nugget found at Mount Alexander was discovered in 1855 by 'new chums' who had arrived on the diggings the day before and had been directed to a hole (a shaft mine) believed to be exhausted; they found a huge nugget shaped like 'a large damper'.
  • It depicts a gold field from which most miners left disappointed - one miner wrote: 'The idea of walking up to Mount Alexander in a couple of days, and shovelling up a few sack-bags full of gold, and going home again, is very charming, and quite as true as the romance of Aladdin's lamp ... We are not the only ones who have had hardship, accidents, and sickness to encounter. Hundreds have already gone back again, cursing those who sent such one-sided statements of the gold fields'.
  • It is an example of a sketch made by George French Angas (1822-86) - Angas, who had studied under Waterhouse Hawkins, a natural history artist, arrived in Adelaide in 1844 and pursued dual careers as an artist and a naturalist.
Year level

5; 6; 7; 8; 9

Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: George French Angas
  • Description: Author
  • Person: John Allan
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: George French Angas
  • Description: Author
  • Person: John Allan
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements