Pennyweight Flat Cemetery Market Building Pennyweight Flat Cemetery Forest Creek Diggings Garfield Wheel Wattle Gully Mine Escott Grave Chewton Town Hall

An 1850s cemetery looks out over the broad valley of Forest Creek, the site of the great 1852 gold rush.

Access:     By car Period:    1850s
Time:    Allow 20-30 minutes there Stories:    Hard times

A frightening lack of clean drinking water was responsible for many deaths on the diggings, particularly of young children.

Fatal accidents were commonplace, too: a mine shaft would cave in, smothering its occupant, or a digger on a stroll after dark would fall into a water-filled hole and drown.

Lawlessness and disappointment added murder and suicide to the common causes of death on the diggings.
Many diggers went nameless to their graves: some were known to their mates, just as `Bob' or `Dick'; others died unknown by any name.

The first recorded deaths on the Mount Alexander Diggings were of two small children, who perished of dysentery in November 1851.

The rocky nature of the ground at Pennyweight Flat, for instance, meant that burials were shallow, with just lumps of sandstone mounded on top.

Situated on a hill top, the cemetery made life unpleasant for those who mined and lived on the flat below.
A ‘medical gentleman’ quoted by the Mount Alexander Mail in 1855 called the cemetery ‘a nuisance’ and stated that ‘the stench of death arising therefrom [is] intolerable’.

The last burial at Pennyweight Flat Cemetery took place in 1857. Just five years later, the place wore the air of abandonment still felt today.

The pot-holed, treeless landscape above is typical of the river valleys of the diggings throughout the 1850s: the broad expanse of the Forest Creek valley below Pennyweight Flat Cemetery would have looked much like this. (Later, sluicing and reclamation removed most traces of this activity.) This rare photograph, by Richard Daintree. looks towards the township of Chewton from further up the the valley of Forest Creek, about 2 km south-east of Pennyweight Flat. The church in the top left of the photograph still stands (though it is no longer a church), on the south side of the road about 400 metres east of Chewton Town Hall.

There should have been many more people in the photograph, even on a Sunday when digging stopped, but moving subjects may not have registered because of the long exposure time (these were very early days for the science of photography).

Though a number of photographers made their way to the Diggings, few photographs of this period have survived.

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