Gold Mining Water Race | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Gold Mining Water Race

Item details

Name of item: Gold Mining Water Race
Other name/s: Water Race, Chinese Wall
Type of item: Archaeological-Terrestrial
Group/Collection: Mining and Mineral Processing
Category: Water Race
Location: Lat: -32.7772915984 Long: 149.5165137040
Primary address: Old Hargraves Road, Windeyer, NSW 2850
Parish: Avisford
County: Wellington
Local govt. area: Mid-Western Regional
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Mudgee
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT119 DP756864


Part Lot (below) and Road 60 Wide. Refer HC Plan 1900.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Old Hargraves RoadWindeyerMid-Western RegionalAvisfordWellingtonPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated

Statement of significance:

This site shows significant evidence of Chinese presence in Australia, especially as this wall appears to be wholly attributed to the Chinese. The wall which was built to support a water race for alluvial gold mining in the valley of the Meroo River, is exceptional in its scale, being higher than most similar constructions having been built in very difficult terrain. It was built with only primitive implements, using a wooden bow and plumb bob to accurately provide minimum fails to the water course over a long distance. The wall is in excellent condition, a testimony to the considerable masonry skills of the Chinese builders.
Date significance updated: 06 Jun 00
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: unknown
Builder/Maker: unknown Chinese people (probably from Southern China)
Construction years: 1855-1865
Physical description: This Chinese built aqueduct wall is built near the banks of, and following, the Meroo River. The nearest officially known gold settlement was Deep Crossing, which is on the next bend of the river down stream.

This dry stone wall (part A: see plans) follows the Meroo River water course for approximately 350 metres. The wall ranges in height from a few stones to 3.6 metres in height. A large portion of it being over 1.8 metres in height.

The wall is made of the shale rocks from the site, of flat rectangular shape and of various sizes, laid dry on their large sides. Rocks approximately 600mm x 600mm x 120mm deep are common.

There are long sections of the wall fully intact. After the first 50 metres travelling from the south small breaks occur about every 15 to 20 metres, with a large break, due to a landslip at approximately the 140 metre line. By 230 metres the wall begins to break up generally, and soon after the blackberry infestation generally makes it inaccessible.

At the top of the wall is a water race, which runs past the wall at each end, eventually travelling approximately 1 kilometre in total from its source, up-steam in the Meroo, to its finish at the end of Wall B.

The river flows towards the South, from above the dry stone wall (A), past a central section (B) and past another dry stone wall (C) The central section contains the continued water race dug into the hillside, numerous deep round hole diggings, remains of a possible dwelling and mounds of tailings.

Wall A faces the East, it is almost without biological growth. It looks quite a recent construction. Almost the whole of the top of the wall can be accessed except where the wall turns to face the south east, and the blackberry growth makes it difficult to continue.

Wall (C) however faces predominantly south and is covered in biological growth including mosses and considerable blackberry infestation. This makes the section (C) wall difficult to access from any where except the top, and makes it also hard to measure or record with photographs.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Physical condition is fair to good. Archaeological potential is high.
Date condition updated:04 Jul 00
Further information: There are also considerable additional constructions associated with this site, in the central section, the second wall, across the River and the upper reaches of the race where the water was dammed and redirected from the river.

Comparison with other Chinese built walls, and of other water race constructions, in Australia and overseas, would be valuable.
Former use: Support Wall for Chinese water race for alluvial gold mining


Historical notes: The Chinese built aqueduct wall is believed to have been built around the gold rush days of Windeyer district which started in the late 1850s. There was a considerable Chinese presence in the area reaching as many as 1200 at the peak of the gold rush. There were a number of gold strikes, and the strike nearest to this location was the strike at 'Deep Crossing' . Whether the Chinese were the first or only prospectors in this vicinity is not known, but they often reworked claims that had been already left by Europeans, and this may have been the case here.

The wall is believed to have been built by 12 Chinese men, supported by a cook.

The time it would have taken to build the wall, implies these men were supported by wages or kept in supplies while on the project. They may have been contract workers.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Ethnic influences-Activities associated with common cultural traditions and peoples of shared descent, and with exchanges between such traditions and peoples. Chinese mining practices-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Mining-Activities associated with the identification, extraction, processing and distribution of mineral ores, precious stones and other such inorganic substances. Mining for gold-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Gold was discovered in the district of Windeyer around 1850, and by 1858 there was a considerable Chinese presence in the district. This wall was built between 145 and 130 years ago by Chinese gold miners. They were part of the general Gold Rush phase of Australia.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The wall displays excellent masonry skills. A remarkably long and high wall the area of the face is approx 400sm. It is an dramatic feature in the landscape , yet it blends beautifully with the winding river, and rocky hillside. The wall has remained largely 'undiscovered' probably due to its remoteness and the way it blends with the landscape. It is also not marked on the local topographical maps while most other 'diggings' are.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
A remnant of the Chinese presence in Australia during the gold rush period. It is important in that this wall is attributed solely to the Chinese workers. As the project was obviously a shared venture , over a long period of time, the social significance of the brotherhood and friendship of these 12 Chinese expatriates, and their achievement together with minimal materials and primitive tools is most impressive.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Chinese designers used their considerable ingenuity and skill to collect water from the upper reaches of the Meroo River, where the stream drops quite rapidly. Using a small dam construction to collect the water initially, then a water race. The water was carded thus until the terrain became difficult, steep and rocky. Here the Chinese constructed a shale stone wall to support the race, and so carried the water around the bend in the river.

The tool that was used to measure the level of the water course, and so to carry the water a long distance with a minimal drop, was a wooden bow and plumb bob. Taking the water at this higher level to the area of diggings and sluicing, allowed the workers then to process much more pay-dirt than the more typical method of digging it out and carrying it to the water.
SHR Criteria f)
Wall constructions of this scale (height & length) are rare. This was principally due to the circumstances of the landscape: the steep sides of the hill, the available shal.e rocks, and the rich gold find that made it feasible.
SHR Criteria g)
There are similar, but less imposing walls in other Gold Mining sites. For example in the Palmer River Catchment area (see Eric Rolls Book' The Sojouners' p. 214, and the Stoney Creek aqueduct (p. 215), 1300M long and an average 1M high. The use of an aqueduct a common practice in may gold fields.
Integrity/Intactness: This cast facing wall is remarkably intact. In parts the wall is in immaculate condition looking as if it were built in quite recent decades. Very tall sections show the great skill of the masons Weed and other plant growth on its face is minimal for about 90% of its length; making it almost all accessible.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0144722 Dec 00 16813890

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Windeyer: Tent Town to Village
WrittenB McGowen Typology and techniques of Alluvial Mining
OtherBarbara Hickson and Karl Zhao1999Site Visit and Heritage Data Form
WrittenE Rolls1992The Sojouners
Oral HistoryF Yavion1999Conversation with F Yavion - August 1999
WrittenMoppett, Patsy2014'Gold Mining Water Race, Windeyer, NSW'

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5044742
File number: H00/00230

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