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Simmons Reef Reservoir c. 1908 before it burst its banks in 1909. (From a glass negative. Photographer  W.Smith.) courtesy late Edgar Williams and the BDHS. ©

The Simmons Reef Reservoir embankment burst on Thursday, 19th August about 1.30pm.  All the morning there had been a tremendous thunderstorm, and the rain came down without the slightest intermission. Roads and gutters were all in flood.  The bywash could not take away all the water, which overflowed the earth bank, and the torrent soon tore a hole and rushed down the Lerderderg River.  The river was running a banker before the reservoir burst, consequently the sudden rush of water was disastrous.  An immense lot of damage was done; no fewer than five big bridges being swept away, viz., Simmons Reef to Barrys Reef; Gribble’s;(Sports Ground)  Kyneton;(old road to Kyneton, on road to Shaw’s Lake),  Mineral Springs; and Stobie’s Bridge, Golden Point (used to be in front of Old Royal Mail Hotel).  The only one that stood the flood was the new one at Red Hill – (erected by Mr.J.J. Nelson-Muntz, late Engineer to the Ballan Shire council, on the main road to Barry’s Reef and Trentham).  The old bridge, which was never removed, was taken clean away.  The new bridge being a truss bridge, at a good height, of course has a big waterway, or the immense logs floated down the stream would doubtless have destroyed it.

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Damage to Trentham to Blackwood Road bridge in Blackwood. not sure of the date.  courtesy of the BDHS. © 

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The only bridge that stood the flood was the new one at Red Hill – (erected by Mr.J.J. Nelson-Muntz, late Engineer to the Ballan Shire council, on the main road to Barry’s Reef and Trentham).  The old bridge, which was never removed, was taken clean away.  The new bridge being a truss bridge, at a good height, of course has a big waterway, or the immense logs floated down the stream would doubtless have destroyed it.

Photo of old and new Trentham to Blackwood Road bridge, before the old bridge was washed away in flood in 1909, just after the new bridge was built. courtesy of the BDHS. ©

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No. 15. One of a series of photos taken by W.H.Smith with the W.S. initials bottom right of old and new Trentham to Blackwood Road bridge,– from a glass negative. C.1908. courtesy of the BDHS. ©

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No.16. The new Trentham to Blackwood Road Bridge, Blackwood from a glass negative by W.Smith, Photographer, that I had made into post cards.   c.1908. Courtesy of Margot Hitchcock and the  B.D.H.S.  ©

Mr W. Gribble’s orchard, close at hand, suffered severely, taking the brunt of the burst. (orchard on the left before the Sports Ground).  It was covered by fully seven feet of water, and the fences were washed away in all directions.  Fortunately the dwelling house is on an eminence.  The water reached the verandah steps.  The black current bushes are covered with silt.  Panels of fencing and big logs are dropped all over the place.  Mr Gribble estimated the damage of £200.  A lot of fencing and fruit trees have been washed away.  His case, and others, should receive special compensation from the Government.

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Photograph by George Hill which had written under original photo –  ‘Bridge between Barry’s Reef and Simmons Reef near Dead Man’s Hill’ and Povey’s grave, this bridge was washed away..  Man with dog – Charlie Hill.(Courtesy of the late Edgar Williams.)

The Recreation Reserve near Gribble’s acted as a safety valve to greater damage down the river.  The cricket pavilion, containing three rooms, the dressing room erected last Christmas at the bottom end of the ground, and all other buildings, disappeared at one blow right down the river. There was fully six feet of water on the reserve, and big logs, three feet through were deposited thereon.  Ten goats, owned by Mrs. Speary, had taken shelter in the pavilion, and they were all drowned but one.  When the water and logs battered the place to pieces some of the goats were floating on the seats. But the swiftly moving water made it impossible for them to retain their foothold. There were a lot of articles in the middle room, and some of them have been recovered.  The cricket matting was recovered after the water had subsided, one piece twisted around a stump near the Kyneton Bridge.  The box in which the cricket club kept their tools has not been seen.  The Sports committee are also losers to some extent – coils of wire, rubberoid for refreshment room, copper and stand and miscellaneous articles, being stored there.

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Blackwood Cricket Club members outside the cricket pavilion C. 1895. courtesy of the late Wally Sweet, and the  B.D.H.S.  ©

More than half the fence around the reserve was carried away, and the playing ground is covered with sand and debris.  It is indeed a scene of desolation and it will take years before the reserve is such a bright little natural sports ground among the ranges as theretofore .

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Blackwood Cricket Ground showing Pavilion. courtesy of the BDHS. ©

Mr W. Broads’ orchard is greatly damaged; the lower portion of the fence, and a considerable number of trees, being washed away.

Mr. J. Terrill is also a considerable looser; all the fences of his paddock along the river has disappeared.

Portion of a vegetable garden owned by Mr. Williams was washed away, with fence, and a big tree left among the cabbages.

Hayden’s battery was covered, but fortunately nothing floated away.  The wheel (which is on the outside) was lifted off its sockets, but not broken.

Mr. H.H. Cann’s cyanide vats, about 200 yards from the reservoir embankment were all swept away and the sand he had been treating.

Mr. Cocciardi of Golden Point, is a very heavy looser; his big fluming and other portions of his race, besides a bridge below Golden Point having gone. He estimates it will take £100 to repair damages.

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Damage to Golden Point Bridge over Jacksons Gully. 1909.  courtesy of the BDHS. ©

Messrs. J. and A. Skinner and E. Hansford went out daringly before the reservoir broke to view the bywash. They saw the water rise five feet in a few minutes, and became alarmed, and it is fortunate for them they did, as it was they had to wade through water up to their knees, and just reached the other side when the embankment burst.  Mr J Skinner’s dog attempted to follow them across the bank, but was swept over; the animal, however, managed to regain dry ground.  The small jetty at the outlet valve turned a complete somersault, and disappeared in a flash.  The huge iron valves, and several of the pipes, were carried a long distance.

Great excitement prevailed amongst all the residents when it was known the embankment would probably give way.  Valuables, clothes, etc., were removed to higher ground.

In the evening, men had great difficulty in getting home from work.  Some of them having to walk miles to get to the Red Hill Bridge before they could cross the river, owing to so many usual crossing places having disappeared.  Some families were completely isolated.  Fortunately the disaster happened in daylight, after fair warning.

The bridge across Back Creek, at Simmons Reef, suffered damage, and is at present unfit for traffic.  The heavy rain burst the dams at the Easter Monday Mine, carrying away all the sand.  The flood, in coming to the bridge, washed away the bank on the north side, with the result that two out of three legs are swinging in the air.  It also wrecked Mr. A. Byres’ fluming across the Whipstick creek.

The shire Engineer, (Mr. Riddle) and Cr. Walters (President, who lives at Red Hill) visited the scene at once, on Friday, and have been very active ever since.  They decided to replace the Mineral Spring Bridge at once.  The erection of the others will depend on what assistance the Government will feel disposed to give.  In some cases the awkwardness of the situation is inconceivable. However temporary structures are being erected; trees being felled across the river at convenient spots; and everyone is making the best of a bad job.  Five inches of rain fell on Thursday and Friday.

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Mineral Springs Bridge. From a glass negative by G.A. Hammond.  Courtesy of the late Wally Sweet and the B.D.H.S. ©

No doubt, Mr Holden M.L.A. and our other Parliamentary representatives will do their best for us.  One feature of the case has to be remembered, and it is that the reservoir bank was known to be old, and a new bank has been designed on a different site.

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Waterfall at Bywash Simmons Reef  before the Reservoir burst in 1909.  courtesy of the BDHS. ©damaged Reservoir Simmons Reef-3

Damage done at Bywash of Simmons Reef Reservoir. 1909.  courtesy of the BDHS. ©