Sultan MIne, Barrys Reef Blackwood


by Margot Hitchcock, Historian for the Blackwood & District Historical Society. ©


Photo of Barrys Reef showing the mullock heap top middle from the Sultan Mine and Mounters Mine and poppet head in front,  and  mullock heap from the New Sultan mine in foreground. C. 1885 (From and old glass negative courtesy B.D.H.S.) ©

 The Sultan Mine is very much a part of the early deep reef mining in Blackwood’s history.  Barrys Reef became a thriving township in the 1870’s with the opening up of mechanised digging to obtain the gold deposited in the quartz reefs found running north and south through Barrys Reef.  The first reef was worked by two men called Barry and Bawden.  Their claim had a battery on it and the mine was worked by a whip. Several other parties of men were also working in the area such as Candage, Hood, Crook and others.

The chief reefs were Barrys Reef, and Trewhella’s Reef opened about two miles N.W. of Blackwood in 1858.  The prospectors of Trewhella’s Reef were brothers, Benjamin, John, Matthew and Christopher Trewhella and Tobias Uren.  The success of the Trewhella Brothers brought other prospectors to work and in 1868 Messrs. Harris and Fitzgerald, on the Trewhella line further north discovered this reef line which was called ‘Eureka’ Reef.  They worked the claim as a private party and had several crushings yielding three ounces to the ton.  Messrs. Harris and Fitzgerald sold their claim to the public company called the Sultan Mining Company which consisted of 2,500 shares at £5 each.

The Sultan Mining Company commenced operations in 1869 and they had their first crushing in July.  They worked from two shafts, the deepest being about 240 feet and for almost 12 months the returns were excellent.  They obtained over 3,000 ounces of gold with ore yielding well over an ounce to the ton.  The company paid a dividend of £2,500.   After these rewarding returns the yields steadily declined to less than half an ounce to the ton.  By 1872 the company was letting parts of the mine out to parties of tributers.  Things were looking grim with not much gold being found. About this time the company had a change of management and appointed a new mining manger, a Mr. Andrew Robertson.   He immediately ordered cross drives to be put in east and west in direct line with the shoot of gold previously worked.  In this way six more gold-bearing lodes were discovered with the result that the mine by 1873 had again become a dividend paying good money.  In 1874 Mr Robertson ordered a 60 horse power steam engine with a 20 stamp-head battery attached to be erected at a cost of £4,748.  In all over £15,000 was spent on the plant and machinery to make it one of the best equipped in the Colony.

In just three months in 1874 Barrys Reef had 80 new buildings erected with close to 4,000 inhabitants.   The town was now a thriving community and up until 1876 the mine employed over 300 men on three shifts which represented two-thirds if all the quartz miners in the Barrys Reef district.

The large mining village at Barrys Reef was later surveyed as Bayup, but later renamed Barrys Reef.  The people who did not work in the mines also did a good trade with numerous businesses and stores. There were also three slaughter houses supplying the butcher shops, a brewery supplying 10 hotels, a bakery, stores of all description, banks, a post office, shoemaker, hairdresser, Mechanics Hall where regular social functions were held, and a well stocked library and a school in 1877 which had 316 pupils. ©


Enlarged photo of Barrys Reef showing the mullock heap top back  from the Sultan Mine and Mounters Mine and poppet head in front,  and  mullock heap from the New Sultan mine in foreground. C. 1885 (Courtesy Barry Thurgood and B.D.H.S.)  ©

For many years the town did well until a few months before the company collapsed late in 1880.  Before then the mine continually paid good dividends.  In all The Sultan Mine yielded 65,801 ounces of gold valued at £264,000 ($528,000) and paid £58,562 in dividends.  This gave a good return of over £22 per share and made the Sultan one of the most profitable mines from the shareholders point of view in Victoria’s history. ©


Photo of Miners in a cage at the Sultan mine at Barrys Reef. (Courtesy of the late Les Armstrong and the B.D.H.S. C. 1880. ) ©

Most of the gold came from the upper levels of the mine and although the main shaft was sunk to a level of 914 feet, it was not much worked below 750 feet.  The gold at the 700 foot level was so rich that it was called ‘the jeweller’s shop’.  One crushing of 1,969 tons yielded one ounce thirteen pennyweights and four grains of gold per ton.

The boom years were 1876-1876 and after that the yields declined although from 1877 – 1880 they were still profitable with less men employed.  In 1877, 220 men were employed at the mine and in 1878 the numbers had reduced to 96 men.  By the time the company collapsed in 1880, it only employed 70 men.


Main street in Barrys Reef showing McCarthy’s butcher on right and store on left . (From and old glass negative courtesy Margot Hitchcock and B.D.H.S.) ©

The Sultan Mine began in 1869 and closed in 1881.  In 1874 the town had close to 4,000 inhabitants.  With the success of the Sultan Company, two other public companies were floated at Barrys Reef close to the Sultan Company.  They were the North Sultan Co. and the Sultana Co.  These two companies were supported by local people, but they failed not long after without making big profits.  By 1880 the population of Barrys Reef township was less than 2,000 people.  The Sultan company was wound up in December 1880 with a storm of protest from the residents of Barrys Reef.  By its closure about 100 men were out of work.  The gold in the mine was traced to a depth of 750 feet but at this level the country was greatly disturbed.  No gold was found when the shaft was sunk to a depth of 914 feet.   ©


A later photo of Barrys Reef after the Sultan mine closed down, showing Mechanics Institute in foreground with big white roof, and square of pine tree in back where the Barrys Reef School used to be, and Monkey Puzzle tree left middle with St. Stephen’s church on edge of photo.. The Monkey Puzzle tree is all that is left to show where the area was. (Courtesy Margot Hitchcock and B.D.H.S.) ©


Photo pf Monkey Puzzle ( Bunya Bunya pine) tree as it stand today – all that is left of the area to show where the buildings and mines were. ©


Photo showing edge of Monkey Puzzle tree and road leading up to it and part of latest mining in the area. ©

Reference – information on the Sultan mine from ‘Quarterly Mining Registrar’s’ reports, ‘A Short History of the Blackwood Goldfield’ by James Ferguson J.P;‘Ballarat Star’ newspaper report December 18 1880 – Balance Sheet of the Sultan Co., ‘Aspects of Early Blackwood by A.J. Buckingham and M.F.Hitchcock.

Books published by Margot Hitchcock – “Aspects of Early Blackwood”; Some History of Simmons Reef, Blackwood”; & “The Billy Pincombe Tragedy” see others pages on the site.   For help with information on Blackwood ancestors contact Margot Hitchcock.