Thursday, December 1, 2011


Back in the early 1870s, an English travelling photographer set out to photograph every town in New South Wales.
His name was Henry Beaufoy Merlin (aka Murlin) and he lived up to his namesake in the magical way he portrayed his subjects.
In 1872 he was commissioned by wealthy goldminer and merchant, Bernard Otto Holtermann, to document the goldrush town of Gulgong.
At that time Gulgong was just three years old but already a boomtown with numerous hotels, several theatres, a circulating library, coffee rooms, a Chinese boarding house, and a 'shaving, shampooing and hairdressing salon'.
This wonderful collection of glass plate photographs is held by the State Library of NSW and I am hoping to obtain permission to publish some of them on this blog.
The photographs of the housing stock clearly demonstrate the socio-economic pecking order that existed in Gulgong from its earliest days.
Ethel Governor (nee Page) said she lived in a 'house' with her parents and siblings there.
This was a step above living in a tent which some families did, particular labourers like her father.
The lowest form of housing was a bark hut followed by a slab hut made out of rough hewn pieces of trunks of trees.
Next came the weatherboard with the house made entirely from wooden planks.
If the owners of bark or slab huts came into the money, and did not want to move, they could have a weatherboard facade placed around their original homes.
The next step up was having a house built on pillars which raised the floor and helped keep snakes out and cool the inside in summer.
The poshest house in Gulgong was on pillars, rendered, and with a shingled roof and verandah.
Fences also appear to have been status symbols with a picket one the most desirable.