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(Photo: Sofala, a painting by Russell Drysdale - courtesy Galleries of NSW and Victoria) 

THE little town might have been going down down, but it was certainly not out yet.

  By the 1871 census the total population of the town was 644 of whom 81 (bout 12.5 percent) were Chinese. While mining was still central to the success of the town, the miners were covering a greater area and finding smaller deposits. 

The intervening years were not so good for Sofala it was time to turn to more up-to0-date te4chnology to get thr gld out of the ground. Between 1899 and 1914 dredges were brought to the valley. Their success was limited. At one point (it only lasted for two years) the Sofala Gold Dredging Co. treated 18,000 cubic yards of wash which yielded 84 ounces of gold. 

So, Sofala moved into the 20th century, it became a town of constant decline as the gold either ran out or became increasingly hard to extract. By 1948 all gold mining in the district finished. It had lasted for 92 years. 

The history of the town in the twentieth century is one of constant decline as the gold either runs out or becomes increasingly hard to extract. In 1948 all gold mining in the district finished. It had lasted for 92 years. 

The boom era became a memory, but Sofala was not going to lie rotting in the sun. As the 1900s progressed there was the need for Australians to capitalise on their history. Sofala became one of those place,s steeped in colourful history. It needed no major facelift to attract visitors.  

Suddenly it was one of the havens for our artists, people such as Russell Drysdale and Paul Haefliger was bringing the town to the rest of Australia. Artist and critic, Haefliger said of Drysdale's painting of Sofala – see above - in the Sydney Morning Herald, Jan 23, 1948. 
"Russell Drysdale's beautifully modulated 'Sofala' deserves the [Wynne] Prize. In the heat of a late afternoon, the stifling air red with dust; the main road empty of life, he conveys a difficult and lonely existence, where man constantly battles the elements."
*The Wynne Competition is for landscape paintings.

One is drawn into the painting and if you have a vivid imagination like the writer, you're sitting on the veranda at the Royal, sipping a cooling, cleansing ale and letting the rest of the world go by.

Just a quick 45 klick trip from Bathurst and you're back to the past.  Sofala has some pretty nifty tourist tempters, such as:

The Old Bank of New South Wales building in the main street .
With its interesting lacework and its weatherboard construction, The Old General Store in Denison Street is one of the town's most notable buildings. It was built in the 1860s to meet the needs of the local miners. 

Royal Hotel 
Over the road from the General Store is the Royal Hotel which was established in 1862. The first Royal Hotel in Sofala opened on 7 October 1851. 

Post Office 
Now a private residence the Post Office was built in 1879 and continued operating until 1989. It is a gracious two-storey building which has been turned into an interesting home. 

Gas Hotel 

This hotel dates from late 1851 and, because the foundations are timber stumps which have sunk over time, the building looks as though it was knocked together in a hurry by a miner or carpenter who had overloaded on libations.

Court House 
This building has changed function three times. It was built in 1874 as a court house. By 1934 it had become the local hospital and in the early 1960s it became the Community Health Centre. 

Hylands Hotel 
Built on the site of the Globe Hotel (one of the town's original pubs) it still has the original shingles and cellar. It is now a private residence. 

For those who want to remain in the car, the Sofala Souvenir Shop has a 'self-drive' tour which covers a number of interesting destinations around Sofala. 

Upper Turon 
This drive includes the Church of England cemetery (with graves dating from 1851), the old Sofala school (1881), the original hospital (1860s), the original diggings, the privately-owned Western Goldfields Museum, the Chinese settlement, Ration Hill and Pennyweight Creek. The instructions are clear and there is a good map. 

Lower Turon 
On the same sheet are clear instructions for those interested in exploring the Lower Turon. This drive includes Spring Creek, the remains of the 'Queenslander Battery', a picnic spot where you can still pan for gold and the unusual Wallaby Rocks - a good place for swimming. Again the map and the instructions are easy to follow. 

 Now, with your appetite whetted it's not too far to the next point of call, close to Sofala, historic Hill End. A place, we'll be visiting shortly.


Published: Jun 21, 2008 3:43pm by al1801.

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