12 February 1851: the Australian gold rush

On this day. in 1851 gold prospector Edward Hargraves discovered a grain of gold in New South Wales, and sparked Australia’s first gold rush.

On this day in 1851, Edward Hargraves discovered a grain of gold' in New South Wales, and started Australia's first gold rush. It was to last the best part of 30 years and come to be described as the founding of a nation.

Hargraves was a seasoned gold prospector. He was born in Gosport, Hampshire and educated at Brighton Grammar School. He spent many years in the California goldfields looking for his fortune. Ultimately, he was unsuccessful, but when he arrived in New South Wales he had already become familiar with where to look for gold. Indeed, the geological features of New South Wales reminded him of the Californian fields, with its quartz outcrops and gullies.

In February 1851, Hargraves and a friend, John Lister, set out to Lewis Ponds Creek. While searching along its banks, they found gold. He named the place of the discovery Ophir. He is quoted as saying, "Once I was in the creek bed I somehow felt surrounded by gold".

Unsurprisingly, they were keen to keep the place a secret. Hargraves travelled to Sydney to meet the Colonial Secretary in March to inform him of the discovery and lay claim to it. It was soon recognised, and Hargraves was appointed the “Commissioner of Lands”. He was also given a £10,000 reward from the New South Wales government on top of a life pension and £5,000 reward from the Victorian government. However, because of a dispute with his partners, some of the reward was withheld.

Three months later on 14 May the find was proclaimed and within days the first Australian gold rush started with over 100 prospectors rushing to find their share of the gold. In a month the number had risen to over 2,000, with thousands more to arrive later. The gold rush was not in vain for many – in 1852, 850,000 ounces were mined in the area.

Hargraves settled in Australia and bought a 640-acre farm in 1856. He lived on it till his death in 1891.

Recommended

Bunzl: boring is good for business
Share tips

Bunzl: boring is good for business

Food-service distribution company Bunzl is not a terribly exciting business, but it looks cheap and could be a great investment, says Rupert Hargreave…
30 Jun 2022
Vietnam makes its mark on the global stage
Emerging markets

Vietnam makes its mark on the global stage

Electronics manufacturers are moving into Vietnam, partly in response to manufacturing delays caused by lockdowns in China. The country’s textile indu…
30 Jun 2022
Oil shortage starts to curb demand
Oil

Oil shortage starts to curb demand

The price of Brent crude oil is up by 475% since its March 2020 low. And when oil prices rise, people start to reduce consumption, leading to increas…
30 Jun 2022
Metals prices wobble on slowdown fears
Industrial metals

Metals prices wobble on slowdown fears

The S&P GSCI index of 24 major raw materials has fallen back 9% since mid-June on growing fears of a recession, and copper has hit a 16-month low aft…
30 Jun 2022

Most Popular

Prepare your portfolio for recession
Investment strategy

Prepare your portfolio for recession

A recession is looking increasingly likely. Add in a bear market and soaring inflation, and things are going to get very complicated for investors, sa…
27 Jun 2022
Market crash: have we hit bottom or is there worse to come?
Stockmarkets

Market crash: have we hit bottom or is there worse to come?

For a little while, markets looked like they were about to embark on a full-on crash. And that could still happen, says Dominic Frisby. Today, he look…
27 Jun 2022
What the end of the 1970s bear market can teach today’s investors
Stockmarkets

What the end of the 1970s bear market can teach today’s investors

The 1970s saw the worst bear market Britain has ever seen, with stocks tumbling 70%. Things have changed a lot since then, says Max King. But there ar…
28 Jun 2022