Silverton was once a thriving mining town. In 1885 silver was discovered by 2 men drilling a well. When word filtered out about the find the hordes began to arrive in search of riches. Many walking the 500+ kilometres from Adelaide pushing a wheelbarrow with the equipment for digging and, more importantly, water bags holding as much water as they could carry. This is hot, unforgiving desert country. It would be a soul-destroying trek. But the prospectors kept coming. Soon mining claims where opening up everywhere. Sadly not all prospectors hit pay dirt and then, with no money left and unable to return home, their only option would be to work in the larger mining conglomerates.
A steady stream of prospectors flocked to the area and by 1887 a town of tents and shanties grew. By the 1890s Silverton had become a permanent settlement
The mid 1890s were the glory days of Silverton. The area produced 6,000 tons of ore. Burke Street and surrounds became the venue for businesses, The population peeked at 3000 in the mid 1890’s. Businesses lined the main street. There were medical practitioners, solicitors, a hospital, pubs, breweries, churches even a stock exchange Back then it would’ve been a hive of activity The school opened in 1884 and the Lion Brewery was established in 1885. Silverton became a Municipal Council in 1886.
A Municipal Council was formed and held its inaugural meeting in January 1887 in the Silverton Municipal Chambers, which still exists today.This is it today. It is a real stretch of the imagination to picture how it would’ve been in the 1890’s.
So what went wrong? The answer is not a disaster or the decline in the ore body. It was the discovery of the world’s richest ore body at nearby Broken Hill, which quickly eclipsed anything in the Silverton area.
People left Silverton for richer pickings in Broken Hill. Silverton buildings were dismantled and businesses moved to Broken Hill.
Silverton is now almost a ghost town with a population of approximately 50. It now survives as a tourist destination. Visitors are attracted to the history of the town and the buildings that have survived as well as the incredible surrounding landscape.
Having read the history of this town and heard of the artists who now live here I was one of those tourists interested to see it for myself.
First stop the iconic Silverton Pub…
The area was also discovered by filmmakers and was the location for many films The pub, apart from being a watering hole for the film crews, became a popular film location and the Mad Max 2 car can be seen outside. It has been used in films as diverse as Wake in Fright, Mad Max 2, A Town Like Alice, Hostage, Razorback, Journey into Darkness, Dirty Deeds, The Craic and Golden Soak. The original town pub was opened in 1884. It burnt down in 1918 and was replaced by the current building which previously housed the town’s postal service. It is a pub with character and a wry sense of humour typical of outback Australia. Fortified with a cuppa and an ice-cream we go looking for the art galleries. This art adorned corrugated building has to be an artists den/studio. So we go to investigate.
Jack sidled past Ned Kelly and goes inside. John Dynon turns to greet us with a smile, then carries on painting. What a collection of eclectic objects. Go here to see his paintings. I am fascinated with his almost cartoon-like style and buy some postcards.
The next gallery looks interesting. But is closed…
The Butchers shop is also closed…Along another street, this looks promising the open sign is up…Artistic dunnies seem to be in style and we pass it only to find this studio is also closed and the old blue heeler didn’t even open his eyes…Frustration is setting in. Silverton is living up to its reputation as a ghost town. We only see another couple of, obvious, tourist cars cruising around. So when we see this church we decide it is time we did some sketching before heading back to Broken Hill.