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Kidston State Battery & Township

  • 600506
  • Georgetown Mining District, Kidston

General

Classification
State Heritage
Register status
Entered
Date entered
21 October 1992
Type
Mining and mineral processing: Mining camp/settlement
Themes
2.2 Exploiting, utilising and transforming the land: Exploiting natural resources
6.1 Building settlements, towns, cities and dwellings: Establishing settlements and towns
6.4 Building settlements, towns, cities and dwellings: Dwellings
Construction periods
1907–1950, Kidston State Battery & Township (1907 - 1950)
unknown, Kidston State Battery & Township - Battery Shed
unknown, Kidston State Battery & Township - Battery Cottage
unknown, Kidston State Battery & Township - Courthouse and Station Office
unknown, Kidston State Battery & Township - House
unknown, Kidston State Battery & Township - Lock-Up
unknown, Kidston State Battery & Township - Cottage
unknown, Kidston State Battery & Township - Hotel and Outhouse
unknown, Kidston State Battery & Township - Group of Three Houses
unknown, Kidston State Battery & Township - Component
Historical period
1900–1914 Early 20th century

Location

Address
Georgetown Mining District, Kidston
LGA
Etheridge Shire Council
Coordinates
-18.87764515, 144.1670889

Map

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Significance

Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

The Kidston State Battery (including the manager's house and pump) is significant because of the role it played in supporting and extending the life of gold mining in North Queensland after what became the second last major alluvial gold rush in Queensland's history (the Oaks Rush of 1907). Its development and maintenance as a State battery from 1922 to 1950 is significant as demonstrated government support for regional employment and industrial development.

Kidston Township is significant through its association with the Oaks gold rush of 1907, the second last major alluvial rush in Queensland's history. Kidston, through the operation of the State Battery, supported the continuation of gold mining on the Etheridge field until the mid-20th century.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

The survival of a 15-head battery is rare in North Queensland and only the Venus State Battery at Charters Towers has more stamps (20) surviving. The combination of the battery manager's house and pump in relation to the battery and the surviving buildings in the township contribute added significance to the complex and its rarity.

The Stuart & McKenzie 5-head stamp battery manufactured by the Union Foundry, Croydon, is the only surviving stamp battery from this local company to be recorded in North Queensland.

Though now reduced in components and form, Kidston is a rare survivor of a once-common pattern of Queensland settlement.

Criterion CThe place has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Queensland’s history.

Because little subsequent development has disturbed early parts of the settlement, which once had houses and tent dwellings, the potential exists to conduct archaeological survey work to detail the history of the township's development.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

The Kidston State Battery demonstrates standard technology of the period and the high degree of self-sufficiency common to most isolated and remote mining operations in North Queensland.

Kidston Township demonstrates the characteristics of a small but persistent goldfield town. Some of its built characteristics reflect its 20th century origins and distinguish it from earlier counterparts with evolved vernacular building forms. The earliest grave (1908) is in the township while later burials are in the cemetery north of the town.

History

The Kidston State Battery and Township, located beside the Copperfield River in North Queensland, about 50 km south of Einasleigh and approximately 283 km eastnortheast of Townsville, comprises the Kidston township established in 1907 and the State Battery (stamper, manager’s house and pump), which commenced operations in 1922.

Payable gold was discovered on the Copperfield River in September 1907 leading to the Oaks Rush as the field was initially known.  The Oaks Goldfield was declared in April 1908 and had a peak population of 1700 by June 1908.

The township of Kidston developed on the west bank of the Copperfield River. The mining warden noted in August 1908 that tents were being replaced by wood and iron buildings. By the dry season of 1909 the population had fallen dramatically to about 100 alluvial miners using dry blowers, but reefers had started work on the quartz veins. W Brown's Pioneer mill with five heads was erected in May 1909 and W Suhle and Archbold's large Enterprise mill of five 1000 lb (453 kg) stamps was transferred from Georgetown and was operating by April 1910.

Kidston was unusual for a North Queensland goldfield in that the citizens at first successfully excluded public houses and grog shops. However, despite the temperance movement there were two hotels by 1909 and Kidston developed the usual rowdiness of a bush mining town. There were two halls, a school and police station. A Kidston citizen's band was formed in 1912. Union activity was more evident and Kidston became more radical than other gold-mining towns in the Etheridge.

Kidston settled into systematic mining and was not directly effected by World War I or the closure of the Chillagoe smelters from March 1914 until January 1920. Water supply problems were alleviated in 1915 when a government dam was built on Butchers Creek. A period of high gold prices (1920-24) may have influenced the decision to build the Kidston State Battery, but the gradual decline of the field and the inadequacy of existing crushing equipment also added pressure. In May 1920, the Government Geologist, Dr H I Jensen, recommended that a modern battery be constructed at Kidston. By September the Union Battery at Percyville was being dismantled and the machinery moved to Kidston, while other machinery was obtained from the Big Reef (Castleton). Between 11 and 18 men were employed establishing a sawmill, supplying the timber and constructing the battery, which commenced operations in May 1922.

In 1915 TJ Ryan's Labor government had won office in wartime Queensland on the strength of promises to improve living standards – principally by addressing the problems of high commodity prices, price-fixing and the emergence of monopolies. The Labor party in general and Ryan and his Treasurer, EG Theodore, in particular, advocated public ownership of key economic activities, in competition with private enterprise, but at fair prices. They argued that by operating at a reduced profit margin the cost of goods and services provided by State-run enterprises would be reduced, and that the flow-on effect would be to reduce and stabilise prices for similar goods and services provided by the private sector. Labor politicians regarded State enterprise as 'State capitalism' rather than 'State socialism'.[1]

In the period 1915-25 the Queensland Government, as part of this broad, pragmatic Labor platform that advocated State intervention in the private sector to protect individuals against capitalist exploitation, instituted or acquired a diversity of business enterprises. These included the Kidston State Battery, a State Insurance Office, a Public Curator's Office, the Golden Casket State Lottery, sawmills and joinery works, mining and fishing ventures, a hotel, a sugar mill, cold stores, plant nurseries, cattle stations and a network of butcher's shops, the process being formalised with the passing of the State Enterprises Act 1918. [2]

During the 1920s, the Oaks Goldfield reached a stage where the large, low grade deposits were becoming too poor to work in bulk. Consequently, most miners developed smaller, richer reefs that produced low tonnages of ore, but were insufficient to keep the battery fully engaged.

In 1923 the battery treated 57 parcels of ore totalling 2611 tons yielding 880 oz of gold. In 1924 a number of improvements were made to the battery but owing to wet weather, which cut off the battery from the mines, 781 fewer tons of ore were treated but the output rose to 1391 oz of gold. The battery operated from January to November 1925 treating 27 parcels of lower grade ore totalling 1601 tons producing 760 oz of gold. Mining quartz in bulk was unprofitable so only small rich leaders could afford to be worked. In 1926 only nine parcels of ore were treated - 500 tons yielding 456oz of gold. The battery was only working intermittently during the year owing to the lack of supplies.

In 1929 the battery operated efficiently for 78 days. It treated 14 parcels of ore totalling 428 tons in 1930 with a yield of 231.5 oz of gold. Crushing was only done intermittently. Two additional berdan pans were added in 1930. The introduction of motor transport to the field in 1931 enabled larger amounts of ore to be hauled in to the battery. Water for the battery had to be obtained by sinking in the riverbed. 350 tons of stone were crushed for a yield of 156 oz of gold. The school closed in 1930, but 15 buildings still remained in the township.

The battery operated from January to June 1932, when it stopped for lack of water. 2310 tons of low grade (4.5 dwts per ton) stone were crushed for a yield of 491 oz of gold. The battery operated almost continuously in 1933. A box race brought water to the battery from the Copperfield River. Although 4,420 tons of ore were treated it was of a much lower quality (surface loam) than previously, being only of 3 dwt average per ton. There were many machinery breakdowns in the battery in 1934. Considerable repairs were necessary including replacement of the Ackroyd wood producer gas generator by a No.6 Hornsby producer gas generator to operate on either coke or charcoal. 5677 tons of stone (much of it surface loam) were crushed for a yield of 756 oz of gold (3 dwts per ton).

The cam shaft of the battery broke and the box drain for water from the river was insufficient in 1935, closing it down for repairs. The Hornsby engine was installed in February. 4560 tons of stone were treated for a yield of 663 oz of gold. The battery operated 4,094 hours in 1936 producing 980 oz of gold from 6,951 tons of stone. G Price at the Town View open cut had 750 tons treated at the Kidston battery for a yield of 55.77 oz of gold. The box water race from Copperfield River worked well as did the new Hornsby gas producer. 57 parcels were dealt with during the year. 66 parcels of ore were treated in 1938. In 1940 8020 tons of ore from 22 mines were crushed in 3648 hours of running time for 1201 oz of gold.

The Kidston Battery did not operate during 1942 as miners had left the district and there was no ore available. It was decided to close down the battery for the duration of the war and a caretaker was placed in charge of the battery. There was movement in 1946 to reopen the battery which attracted some prospectors back to the Oaks field. The battery was reopened in 1947 with Alf Hooley as manager and 1,238 tons of stone were treated for a yield of 94 oz of gold. Most of the stone treated was bulk samples obtained by H Dickinson from the surrounding hills. Crushing ceased early in 1949 and the battery did not operate after 1950.

The late development of the Oaks Goldfield meant that Kidston did not experience the evolution of building styles shown at earlier mining towns, but was able to take advantage of the ready accessibility of corrugated iron, going straight from tent settlement to iron-clad buildings. Other ’imported‘ building materials were also well represented, there being five weatherboard clad buildings surviving compared to eight iron buildings. The presence of an operating sawmill during the construction of the State Battery in 1921-2 may also explain the reason for the unusual number of weatherboard buildings. While iron buildings are common in many inland towns of Australia, there are surprisingly few surviving in great numbers in mining towns of North Queensland. Thus the existence of the group of buildings still making up Kidston is more unusual than might appear at first.

Kidston cemetery is located about 2 km north of the township and contains 25 identifiable graves, including 10 with headstones.[3] The earliest headstone marks the grave of John Joseph Hall, who died on 28 January 1917 at 4 years 3 months. The latest headstone marks the grave of Theodore Lindner, who died in 1939 aged 53 years.

Description

Located on the west bank of the Copperfield River in North Queensland, Kidston State Battery and Township lies approximately 50 kms south of Einasleigh. It includes the remnants of the Kidston State Battery, including its plant, and the Kidston township.

Kidston State Battery

The battery contains three components, the battery shed, an associated battery manager’s house and a water pump. The battery shed is constructed on a bush timber frame with heavy bush timber uprights. The shed is clad in corrugated iron. Components of the crushing plant include timbered ore chutes to two primary crusher pits (one jaw crusher remains insitu), connected by two external ore bucket elevators to the ore bins, self-feeding 3 five-head stamp batteries The two bucket elevators have been removed however their vertical housings form a distinctive external feature. The battery launders are intact but there are no copper amalgam plates. Only one of three slimes tables remain. A gas engine which formed the main power plant has recently been removed. Two berdan pans and a grinding pan remain insitu. A lean-to section alongside the battery building contains a smithy and a small workshop.

Two large elevated iron tanks (riveted fabrication) alongside the battery are fed by pipes connecting with a partly intact twin cylinder pump which is mounted beside the river. A corrugated iron clad cottage above the pump may have been the battery manager's house. The house is in fair condition and contains garden plots and buildings.

Plant

Jaw crusher - no brand visible.

Five-head stamp battery - Maryborough Tooth & Co Vulcan Foundry Queensland (on mortar box), Tooth & Co (on iron standards).

Five-head stamp battery - Stuart & McKenzie Croydon Union Foundry (on mortar box), Tooth & Co (on iron standards).

Five-head stamp battery - (no brand on mortar box), Tooth & Co (on iron standards).

Slimes separation table.

2 Berdan pans.

2 Grinding pans (one insitu).

Gas producer plant (not isitu).

Two-cylinder ram pump - no brand (power unit removed).

Kidston Township

The surveyed portion of the town reserve that lies west of the old Gilberton road contains surface remains of former buildings including stone surfaces, timber stumps and garden areas. The grave (with headstone) of Edward Albert Martel who died in 1908, is also located in this area. The grave pre-dates the 1917 establishment of Kidston cemetery about 2 km north. In 2017, it is understood that Martel's grave has since been covered by waste dumps.

The built portion of the town reserve occupies the eastern side of the old Gilberton road, north of the Kidston State Battery through to the western bank of the Copperfield River. This precinct contains six early buildings which remain roofed, but abandoned and derelict, and surface evidence of at least three other buildings. A recent demountable house was unoccupied at the time of survey. The largest structure in the town is the recent Kidston Gold Mines core store which is housed under an expansive steel skillion roof. The early police station group alongside the core store includes a derelict weatherboard courthouse and station office, an adjacent corrugated iron (c.g.i.) clad house (temporarily occupied), and a weatherboard lock-up and cottage at the rear. About 60 m south of the police station is a c.g.i. clad building with a detached outhouse that may have formerly been a hotel (possibly the Shamrock Hotel). The Battery Manager’s House is located on the bank of the Copperfield River, south of Poverty Gully.

Another group of abandoned buildings, including three timber-frame houses, are located about 250 m south of the battery. This group has a cohesive layout, resembling a homestead. An airstrip, which is not of cultural heritage significance, has been graded over the northern section of the town site.

References


[1] Walkerston State Butcher's Shop (former) QHR 602659.
[2] Walkerston State Butcher's Shop (former) QHR 602659.
[3] Located at co-ordinates 18.51.13 S - 144.10.01 E.

Image gallery

Location

Location of Kidston State Battery & Township within Queensland
Licence
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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