Saturday, 10 October 2015

Day 2 - Broken Hill - Mine Museum (Part 1 of 2)

Our morning started bright and early with much anticipatory energy filling the air.  My Dad cooked us a lovely warm breakfast of fried ham, mushrooms and tomato on toast. We took a drive back into Broken Hill town so I could see the homes where my Grandmother was born as well as the home of her Aunts.

1a Argent Street Broken Hill

This is no 1a Argent Street Broken Hill. In this home some of my extended family. They lived and worked here and it's been beautifully maintained. Sarah and Maria Downes lived here. Aunt Charlotte Downes was a seamstress here.
My Granny (Kathleen Armstrong) as a baby along with her Mom (Bertha), Father (William Armstrong)  and brother (Charles Armstrong) at No 3 Argent Street.

No 3 Argent Street is where my maternal Great-Great-Great Grandmother Downes lived over 100 years ago. Unfortunately I couldn't get a good photo of the home as it now has a fence in front of it. 

Watson Armstrong
Number 3 Argent Street was purchased by Watson Pepper Armstrong and he brought his wife Jane to Broken Hill from Adelaide.  My Grandmother Kathleen Thelma Armstrong was born in this house in 1911. The original floor was made of compact news paper and shone with polish.  After Watson Pepper died my Great Granny made the home into a boarding home (For men with bow-ties only) to generate an income for her family.

Fun Fact:  Argent Street was the first street in Broken Hill.  The name derives from Latin argentum, which derives from the Greek 'Αργυρος, translated as silver or white metal. Silver is one of the precious metals mined in Broken Hill.

Broken Hill Cemetery

Our next stop was at the cemetery.  We found the family grave. I found it really interesting that the cemetery is laid out by denomination.  There are six people buried in this grave. It felt surreal to be standing here and seeing this grave and knowing my ancestors are buried here and that they are part of the founding families of Broken Hill and Australia.


White's Mineral Art & Living Mining Museum

Visiting this great museum was such an amazing experience, this is a living museum. It was opened in April 1991.  Inside was a fascinating experience.  Once we paid our entrance fee we watched a documentary on the mining and beginning of mining in Broken Hill. I loved finding out about the strikes and unrest and realizing that my Grandmother was actually living in Broken Hill during these turbulent times (The Great Strike).  This event led to the 35 hour work week and improved health and safety conditions for all.

Top Row: Phillip Charley (18 years Old Jackaroo - sold his half for $100) George Urquhart (Overseer at Mt Gipps), George Lind (Book Keeper - Sold his shares)
Middle Charles Rasp (German Stratton Hand)
Bottom Row: David James (became rich) George Culloch (Manager at Mt Gipps) and James Poole (Sold his shares)

Here in Australia I have often heard about BHP Billiton. What I did not realise was the BHP stands for Broken Hill Proprietary and was started by seven men (pictured above). The mine began as a silver, lead and zinc mine.  It was incorporated in 1885.

Broken Hill is 132 years old. One of the interesting things about this museum are the pictures.  Each picture is hand crafted out of crushed rock which has been sourced from the local mines.  Some of the historical pictures are made by enlarging historical photographs and using them as a template. There is no glass in front of the artworks as they are very hardy.  You're allowed to touch them to feel the different minerals.

At the end of the video Mr White took us into the passage and switched off the lights and lit a candle which was hand held in an item he called a Spider. He proceeded to show us all the amazing ways in which this candle holder was used in the mines by the employees.  The then presented a talk on the mining methods used over the last 100 years in Broken Hill.  Each of the methods is illustrated in a framed picture made by Mr White.  He started making the pictures in 1971.  He is still making them but says it's becoming harder to source the rock now because mining practices have changed.

The most interesting part of his story was about the Clydesdale horses and how they would tie their feet together and then lift them upside down and lower them into the mine for work. The same method was used to bring them up and out the mine after their rotation of work down below.

After this the lights were put on and we were able to browse and ask questions about the different things we saw.  The inside is built to resemble actual mine shaft heights and environments.

Some of the displays we had a look at:

Actual miner clothing and safety items

Crushed mineral collages of historical buildings in Broken Hill

Nathaniel and Isaac holding mineral rock and seeing how heavy they actually are

Isaac, Nathaniel and Daniel looking at mineral rocks in the show case.

Modern day mine model.

In the mine ...

Mine procedures.

Pictures of mining tools used in Broken Hill and actual implements.

Close up of mining model from the early 1900's

A wheelbarrow from 1800

The mine drill from years ago called a Widow Maker because the dust made the men sick.
Once we had finished looking through the mine we took a look at Mr White's wifes hobby which cosists of a large doll and teddy collection.  She has hand made most of these.

My Dad and I looking over the doll collection.

Nathaniel and Daniel looking at the Teddy Bears Picnic.
I really enjoyed the experience of exploring a little of the history of Broken Hill and the mining industry. In fact I'd love to go back and explore more of the local attractions.

  • This museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  
  • It is a great family experience.  
  • Location: 1 Allendale Street, Broken Hill NSW
  • Phone: 08 8087 2878
At the risk of this post becoming too long I will be sharing the rest of our day in a new post to come.



  1. That was beautifully written Chareen. Brings back memories of our trip and my mother.
    Looking forward to the next part.


I love to hear from you so please leave your comments below ♥

Link Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...