Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 2, 1932-1936

Gold at Guildford

H.E.B. Gull

[Read before the Society, July 27, 1934.]

Gull, H.E.B. 1934, 'Gold at Guildford', Early Days: Volume 2, Part 15: 36-40.

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In the year 1882 the first section of the Eastern Railway, as it was then called, was completed as far as Guildford. The next section was from Guildford to Chidlow’s Well. When the survey was made, we, the residents of Guildford, awoke to the fact that our beloved reserve, Stirling Square (a ten-acre block), was about to be mutilated, cut in two by the railway line. Such desecration was enough to raise the dead, let alone the living. We went to the Commissioner of Railways in an influential deputation. The Commissioner, Mr. I. H. Thomas, an autocrat of the first water, turned a deaf ear to our petition. He was adamant. We were more so. It was “war to the knife.”

I am writing of the Crown Colony era, when every head was in his own opinion a tin god; they were secure in their position, and cared nothing for public opinion—autocrats every one of them.

Exasperated by our reception at the hands of the Commissioner of Railways, we petitioned His Excellency the Governor and found him sympathetic. He promised us that he would personally make an inspection of the surveyed route. This he did, with the result that the line did not run through Stirling Square. But Mr. Thomas had his revenge for he brought the line right down the centre of James-street absorbing the 12ft. of “macadam” and thereby throwing the traffic on to either side, with the result that the tracks soon became a quagmire and vehicles of all sorts were bogged to the axles.

The Government then had to come to the rescue. They arranged with the railway contractors, Messrs. Wright and Keane, to construct a road on both sides of the railway line through James-street. Material was brought down from the Darling Range and upset from the truck on either side until the quagmire was filled up. Then gravel was poured over the stone, which was Greenmount quartz. It was, as a road, a disgraceful piece of work. Big knobs of stone protruded through

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the layer of gravel making travel over it very rough. However, it was better far than bog.

Many years later the Guildford Municipal Council decided to increase the width of the footpath. This caused the uprooting of a strip of the road some 4ft. wide, and the quartz taken from it was used for patching up holes in different streets in the town.

A young cousin of mine was living with me and attending the Guildford Grammar School. When riding home on his bicycle one day he observed a dray just ahead of him crush some of this quartz that had been used in mending a hole. His quick eye detected something bright in the wheel track. Jumping off his bicycle he picked it up to find it was a piece of flat “gold.”

Arriving home he told me of the incident and showed me the gold. My brother was there at the time with his horse and sulky. Taking the lad with us we drove to the spot indicated by the boy, which was just in front of the Court House. Getting down on my hands and knees, I blew the dust away from the spot, and discovered several coarse colours. Our next move was to discover where the material came from.

Meeting the Mayor, I asked him if he knew where the stone came from. I told him of the discovery of gold and requested him to keep the knowledge severely to himself. He took us along to the foreman who was superintending operations of putting down the kerbing of the widened footpath. “Where did the material in front of the Court House come from?” he asked. The foreman replied, “From the strip of quartz we took up along James-street.” His Worship the Mayor then said, “Well, Mr. Gull’s boy found gold in it.”

Is there any more electric word in the English dictionary? Immediately the council’s employees ceased their legitimate work and had turned prospectors, napping stone on the little “dumps.” Nor were these operations confined to them alone. Tradesmen from the various shops became electrified and appeared on the kerb armed with anything from a tack hammer to an axe, napping stone.

Leaving this excited little band, I made my way to the city and unearthed one of the contractors for the railway and, incidentally, for the road, Mr. James W.

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Wright. I told him the story., and asked him .if he could locate the spot from which the material came. He said that he had all his books and was sure he could. I arranged to meet him at the Guildford railway station on the arrival of the first train in the morning, with my buggy and pair. Sure enough, he was there and so was I. Under Wright’s guidance, I drove to Greenmount, Leaving the carriage and horses on top of the hill, we made our way to the railway line to a point where a siding had been put in. This led us to a quartz quarry—a mountain of stone, from which the stone had been quarried. On a level back to a face some 35ft. sheer down, Wright said, according to his books 100 trucks of quartz were quarried and dumped into James-street. Without further delay we pegged a claim of 24 acres. We were none too soon as others arrived upon the scene, having tracked us. They pegged on to our claim.

We put some men on and wasted some money but never raised a colour. The material of which the whole hill is composed is a white sugary quartz devoid of any mineral, identically the same as most of that in the Guildford street. But the quartz carrying the gold was of a different quality. I was shown several specimens found by the residents carrying nice gold, but nothing sensational and all of the same quality—a hard glassy quartz. My humble opinion is that there was a vein or veins carrying gold and running across the foot of the hill, which has been taken off on a face and that the vein is now under foot. A costeen should have been put in across the foot. This was never done; it was winter time and the country was oozing with water.

The sequel to this story only confirms my idea, that we located the right place from which the gold-bearing ore was obtained.

Here is the sequel. There lived in Guildford a very worthy family by the name of Iles. One day a young fellow whom I knew very well said to me, "Do you think there is any truth in what Robert Iles says—that he knows where there is gold? He was talking in this strain a few days ago, but when I tried to draw him later he knew nothing. There is only one man in the town that he would be likely to tell, and that man is yourself. You are his ‘White-haired boy.’”

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I decided to go to see the old chap. I found him working in his garden and immediately broached the subject: “I am told you say you know where there is gold, Iles; is there any truth in what you say?” After a little gentle persuasion he told me the following story:—

"When the contractors were constructing the line to Chidlow’s Well, I conceived the idea of getting the contractors to bring me down some trucks of stone to build a house. I saw Mr. Wright and he agreed to truck it down and tip it out opposite my grant, provided I did the quarrying and made the dump at a convenient spot for the train to stop and pick up the stone. The place selected was where an embankment ran along the side of a steep hill. We collected our stone from the hill higher up than the embankment and, noticing some scattered lumps of quartz down below the line, we collected a ton or two, my idea being to lay out my flower beds with white quartz edgings, and also to make a rockery. It was when breaking this quartz after I got home, that I found gold. The first piece was about the size of an egg. It had pieces of gold as big as a pea, standing out all over it; the other piece was larger but not nearly as rich. This is some years ago. I had the piece of rich stone in a tin on the kitchen mantelpiece. I haven’t seen it lately but it should be there now. I’ll go in and have a look. Wait a minute, Sir.”

He returned in about 20 minutes and said he couldn’t find it; that his wife must have passed it out in one of her spring cleanings.

Much disappointed, I asked, "What of the other pieces ?”

He did not reply and seemed to be thinking hard. Presently he said, “Hold hard, Sir, I think I remember.”

He disappeared into a little building. Presently he came out and said, “I believe I’ve got it,” and handed me a rather flat piece of stone, so covered with red dust that it looked like a piece of brick. I put it under the tap. It was a piece of quartz about 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches long by 2 inches in width, and showing nice coarse gold on both sides. He gave me the sample. Later on I lent this to one of the men we had working for us, with strict instructions to take great care of it.

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The wretch stole it. He said that he had lost it, but I am convinced that was not true.

Iles showed us the spot where he had collected the quartz. Some pieces were still to be seen in the valley but not a sign of any up the side of the hill above the railway, proving that it was not local. On rooting in the embankment, after getting through the gravel covering, I found the embankment was composed principally of Greenmount quartz, proving that the contractors had constructed the embankment from the quartz quarry; thus proving to my satisfaction that the gold in the Guildford street and that found by Mr. Robert lies came from one and the same place.

Will that vein or veins ever be discovered?


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