Hill End Quartz Roasting Pits Complex

We homeschool our younger two and have found the best way to learn is through life, through exploring, and through talking, through reading out loud to them. David shares {and I} what he knows, and teaches our boys the way they can remember – discussing what we see as we go.

Hill End Quartz Roasting Pits Complex ::

Hill End Quartz Roasting Pits Complex

Hill End Quartz Roasting Pits Complex

History of the complex::

“The remains were constructed of locally quarried stone between 1854 – 1855. the complex comprised quartz roasting pits, crushing battery, reservoir, huts and other buildings for the resident workers.

Built for the Colonial Gold Company and operated from 1855, by expert Cornish immigrant miners, this ambitious complex was intended to crush gold-bearing ore from the Colonial Gold Company’s Dirt Holes mine and other workings in the region. However poor gold returns, reckless expenditure and mismanagement at Hargraves suddenly forced the Colonial Gold Company to fold. Barely a year after operations began this major crushing plant was closed, its machinery sold and the site abandoned.

As the site of residence and employment for  thirty mechanics and laborers this places would have teemed with activity, chatter and chimney smoke as the men went about their business. Few reminders of their so called substantial huts can be found today though a lonely brick chimney seen in the distance to the right of the dam wall are thought to be remains of the Mine Managers House.

Originally the expensive machinery would have been covered with a protective roof of bark or corrugated iron supported on a wooden frame. While the frame has disappeared its position can be determined by the post holes which survive in various parts of the ruins.

Surviving among the ruins much unchanged is the spectacular double kiln in which the most unusual practice of pit- roasting quartz gravel took place before the gold bearing ore was passed through the battery stamper. This significant structure is the earliest surviving evidence of quartz roasting technology used in Australia.

Between 1856-1967 the site little activity other than cattle grazing and some minor gold fossicking among the quartz tailings heaps. Since 1967 the complex has been repaired excavated by archaeologists and partly reconstructed under the guidance of the National Parks and wildlife service.

Dam ::

Men of any knowledge of Steam Machinery could depend on obtaining employment at the Quartz workings (NSW Gold Commissioner 1861)  Quartz crushing operations were dependent upon a reliable source of water to fill the boiler, lubricate the stamper battery, drench roasted ore and wash the gold and quartz through the long toms.

To keep up a constant water supply fighting ground creek below was dammed with an earth wall forming the large reservoir which is still active.  Whenever water was required it was released from the reservoir and ran down a sloping trough or flume to the battery building. Traces of the flume have vanished but the dam wall survives just across the creek despite having been breached by the steam

Roasting Pits ::

The benefits to be derived from the friability of the quartz after calcination are very evident much lighter stamps will suffice to reduce it….it is also obvious that grinding machinery of every kind will perform its office more efficiently and perfectly (Alfred G.Lock, Gold its Occurrence and Extraction, 1882)

This extraordinary Kiln structure was built into the hillside and accessed by the earthen ramp underfoot. Quartz gravel was poured into the kilns along with alternate layers of firewood and roasted or calcinated. A constant supply of roasted quartz was maintained by firing one pit as the other was cooling and being emptied.

In theory, kiln roasting weakened the ore before crushing in the battery and assisted in separating gold from other minerals trapped in the quartz. In practice, however roasting may have hindered the gold extraction process, perhaps playing a role in the plants sudden closure. After roasting, hot ore was probably shoveled through the openings in the kiln bases into waiting hand-carts on rails or perhaps into open troughs suspended on wooden trestles down the slope to the battery plant.

while no evidence of trestles remain, two mounds of roasted quartz gravel which formed during ore loading survive in front of the kiln apertures. As a further preparation for crushing, newly roasted gravel may have been drenched with water from the nearby dam, either in the hand-cart trough or as it was being fed into the battery.

Battery Plant Complex ::

The ruined building toward the eroded creek banks was once the bustling centre of the quartz crushing complex. When completed in 1855 its various rooms housed a spectacular assortment of hissing, spinning and thumping machinery attended by a gang of skilled mechanics.

The Boiler fed a primitive beam engine anchored to the stone platform which propelled the twelve iron stamper heads located in the large battery room. Roasted quartz, perhaps conveyed from the kilns tt battery along a sloping trestle bridge, was crushed by the stampers and with a good supply of water, passed through a series of troughs or Long Toms which caught the gold.

The chimney to the rear of the ruins may have been linked to a fireplace, perhaps for drying or further processing of gold

Boiler ::

Nestled in its long chamber, the Cornish boiler once belched steam and smoke into the stone lined flue running up the slope. The boiler would have assembled at a foundry from heavy wrought iron sheets joined by iron rivets hammered into shape, then transported to the site and built into the structure.

Engine ::

The Engine is of sixteen horsepower, performing about forty revolutions per minute, and the quartz is crushed by stampers placed perpendicularly in a wooden frame (Bathurst Free Press, February 17, 1855)

At the heart of the battery plant was the engine. Originally located on top of the solid stone platform, the iron beam engine towered over the complex.  It consisted of pivoting horizontal beam about 5 metres long suspended on a four column A-Frame

A steam-fed cylinder set into stonework near the boiler, rocked the beam up and down with a connecting rod. In turn, the rocking beam spun a vertically mounted flywheel measuring about 4 metres in diameter which once sat in the curved niche visible in the north face of the platform. The fly-wheel drove the stamper battery, pumps and other machinery by a series of belts and cogs.

Battery and Long Toms ::

Each stamper and there are twelve in number, weighing two hundredweight each raised and falls fifty-five times per minute. The quartz is reduced as fine as powder. A temporary trial of the engine and machinery was made last week.

It worked exceedingly well and gave great satisfaction. When working in full order, it will crush from twelve to eighteen tons of quartz in twenty four hours (Bathurst Free Press February 17, 1855)

After the compact quartz gravel had been roasted in the kilns it was fed into the stamper battery with a good supply of lubricating water. Positioned along the western wall of the enclosure, the battery consisted of a row of twelve iron stampers on vertical rods supported in a wooden frame

The stamper rods were lifted by cams attached to a rotating horizontal bar at the top of the frame which was spun by the beam engine flywheel. Once raised the heavy stampers fell under their own weight, pulverizing the quartz gravel.

Next the gold bearing quartz powder passed into a series of sieves and rippled wooden troughs called Long Toms which caught the heavy particles of gold, but allowed lighter material to pass the length of the trough and drain into the creek bed. Up to four Toms ranging from 3.5-5 metres long would have serviced the battery, probably passing through the large opening to the east of the enclosure. The fireplace and chimney ruins in the northern part of the structure suggest this area may have been used to sort, dry, refine and assay gold.

Please Be Respectful of Our Past ::

Aboriginal Tools, mining detritus, and evidence of other human occupation are typically found in eroded landscapes. Unfortunately some items have been scavenged. Please respect your elders and do not disturb them so the evidence is visible for generations to come. Remember someones rubbish can be our history. Also the holes that seem safe can have soft edges and shafts drop for a very long way”

exploring and learning


David and Kyle


Big roasting pits


Quartz Roasting Pits


Kyle even played tag with his Bigger Brother ~ Hill End Quartz Roasting Pits Complex had so much history, so much real life education to teach our sons. A place where once it would have been busy and if it had been managed right would have been profitable.

Do You Believe In Life Education?



New Life on the Road

Here Are Our Previous Hill End Blog Posts ::

Watson Bay to Hill End

Hill End Glendora Campground

Merlins Lookout Hill End

Information Centre and Museum Hill End

Golden Gully Hill End

Hill End New South Wales

Gold Mining Hill End

Hill End Quartz Roasting Pits Complex

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