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Image Ophir gold diggings in 1851 - asset 3

TLF ID R3316

This is a hand-coloured lithograph made by Thomas Balcombe (1810-61), measuring 27 cm x 47.5 cm, and based on a sketch made on the spot by J Korff. It depicts gold diggings at the confluence of Summer Hill Creek and Lewis Ponds Creek at Ophir in New South Wales. A horseman is shown approaching miners standing near the creek, and they are greeting each other by waving their hats. Three flimsy tents are pitched in the foreground. The land in the foreground and the hills in the background appear to have been cleared of bush. On the far side of the creek there is a line of men panning for gold. Brown forms, which are alongside the creek, appear to be shelters - perhaps humpies or tents.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset gives an accurate idea of what part of the Ophir site looked like in 1851, as it has been endorsed as 'a faithful sketch' by 'E.H' (possibly Edward Hargraves) on the print, underneath the title.
  • It shows the site of Australia's first payable gold discovery in 1851 - claims of gold traces in the area were made two years before, and further traces were found by Edward Hargraves and John Lister in February 1851; in April of that year, Lister, together with William and James Tom, recovered 113 grams of gold over three days, including a single 55-gram nugget; Hargraves took credit for the find, receiving prizes exceeding £12,500 from the NSW and Victorian governments and £250 a year for life.
  • It illustrates the Ophir site very soon after the discovery of gold - within weeks of the announcement there were 400 miners in the field and, when the rush peaked in the middle of 1851, there were perhaps as many as 2,000 miners, many working without licences; the town of Ophir quickly sprang up, soon followed by another at Tinkers Point.
  • It shows gold diggings that were 15 kilometres from the small village of Orange and 50 kilometres from Bathurst - all provisions had to be carried in, and most intending miners made their way on foot; the journey was long and arduous.
  • It shows tents that the miners used for shelter - as gold mining was an itinerant occupation, miners found tents easy to transport, and quick to take down and erect when they moved to a new location.
  • It is an example of a lithograph by Thomas Balcombe, a popular artist in NSW and best known for his animal and sporting subjects, which were often reproduced in the local press in the middle years of the 19th century - lithography, invented in 1798 but not in general use until the 1820s, entails drawing an image onto a stone or metal plate, using a greasy ink or crayon that repels water yet absorbs ink; the image is printed onto paper from the plate, which can be re-inked many times without wear; tinted or coloured lithographs are time-consuming, with each colour printed from a separate plate.
Year level

3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Other details

  • 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: Thomas Balcombe
  • Description: Author
  • Person: J Korff
  • 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:
Access profile
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements