Author(s): Marjorie Theobald
Castlemaine owes its existence to the alluvial gold rushes which began in 1851. To cope with the crisis, Governor La Trobe established four Gold Commissioners' Camps - at Castlemaine, Bendigo, Ballarat and Beechworth. While many centres of mining dwindled to names on the map, these administrative centres developed into permanent towns. Castlemaine was at first a ramshackle village known as the Canvas Town clustered around the Camp. After the first land sales in 1853 the town began to take shape. The first hotels were licensed in 1853, schools came out of tents and into buildings, the churches built substantial places of worship, administrative functions such as the Post Office and the Court House were moved from the Camp to the town. Local initiative built the Hospital, the Gas Works, the Mechanics Institute and the Benevolent Asylum. Several foundries flourished, servicing the mining industry and the construction of the railway line. Castlemaine was declared a municipality in 1855. The first decade is rich in characters and egos. They were astonishingly young, assertive and determined to shape a better way of life. 'The Accidental Town' recreates an era when Castlemaine was poised precariously between a mining camp and a settled town.