July 07, 2018

Broken Hill and its silver lining

Dallas Sherringham explores the far West of NSW

As a young student of Australian history many years ago, one of my favourite books was "The Silver City" by Ion Idriess which told the story of Broken Hill.

I made a couple of flying visits to the city in subsequent years, but it was only recently that I was able to enjoy an extended stay and do some exploring.

First up, a little bit of history. Charles Sturt noted the "broken hill" when he passed through in 1844 but it wasn't until 1883 that boundary rider Charles Rasp found silver ore at the spot. He thought it was tin, but it turned out to be the world's largest silver deposit.

Mining began in earnest with thousands of people pouring in. Unlike many mining towns, substantial houses and public buildings were erected along with parks and gardens and properly surveyed, wide streets.

Today, the city is a living history lesson and was giving a national heritage listing in 2015.

Now, visiting such an historic city meant looking for traditional style accommodation and I chose The Lodge Outback Motel which is within walking distance of the CBD.

The Lodge Outback Motel is in part located in an impressive historic building that has significant heritage value to Broken Hill with its architecture and social history. The main building was one of the first to be built of stone and tin roof for the mining capital's resident GP, Doctor William MacGillivray, his family and staff.

It was built in 1904 in the style of 'South Australian Cottage' in an L-shape with verandahs on two sides and enclosed turret. The architectural style is characterised by its corrugated roofing, double-hung sash windows, stone sills and thick masonry walls to retain the heat in the winter. Inside, each room have individual designed tin-pressed ceiling, crafted by Ernest Wunderlich.

I stayed in a period decorated heritage room and the friendly staff helped me plan an itinerary for exploring the city.

First up was a trip to the top of the famed "Hill" which is topped by mining tailings and affords a wonderful view of the city. Then it was on to the main drag, Argent Street, which has markers featuring historic pictures of what the area was like 100 years ago.

Taking pride of place is the 1889 Palace Hotel which gained fame through Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Broken Hill had a city tramway in its halcyon days, powered by uniquely designed Sydney steam trams which towed dummy passenger cars behind them. Each day they conveyed thousands of miners to work and home again, bouncing along at an impressive rate with white steam and black smoke belching from them.

Broken Hill also had its own railway which linked the city with the South Australian system. Called the Silverton Tramway, it had massive locomotives capable of moving big loads of ore.

Sulphide Street Railway Museum is the original tramway station and features a display of locomotives and rolling stock from the golden, or should I say, silver age.

Then it was off to Pro Hart's gallery in Wyman Street, a "must see" for visitor to the Hill for many years. The most famous of Broken Hill's prolific artists, the gallery features many of his famous works, a theatrette featuring his life story and his original studio. Upstairs is a display of the many forms of art he mastered.

No visit to Broken Hill would be complete without a drive out to Silverton, 20 minutes west. It is known worldwide as the setting for more than 200 feature films including Mad Max. The Silverton Hotel is the heart of the town and I enjoyed afternoon tea by the fire before taking a look at the extensive collection of photos depicting the movie crews and stars.

Finishing off my visit to the Hill was a tour of The Living Desert Sculpture Park 9km north of the city which featured impressive sandstone sculptures.

Broken Hill is cheap to visit, easy to get around and is unique. Every Australian should see The Silver City at least once in their lifetime.

Words and Images by Dallas Sherringham

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au


1 Argent Street features many impressive heritage buildings
2 Historic mining complex on "the Hill"
3 The Lodge is the former home of the city's first doctor
4 Pro Hart's unique Rolls Royce on display at his gallery
5 Silverton Hotel, home base for 200 plus movies

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