LITHGOW – Industrial Heritage
As early as the 1840s, coal was being extracted and Lithgow was fuelling the new colony.
In 1869 the railway line was completed across the Blue Mountains and this resulted in even more rapid development of the Lithgow Valley.
In the 1870s a number of ironworks companies were established along with a copper smelter, the first meat freezing works in NSW, the brickworks, and the soon to be famous Lithgow Pottery.
Lithgow became the centre of a massive coal mining district and eventually this lead to the establishment of Australia’s first commercially viable steel mill. The ruins of this mill are open for inspection at “Blast Furnace Park” which celebrates Lithgow’s important industrial heritage.
The first modern blast furnace in Australia was built in 1907 and steel was produced in Lithgow until 1928. The presence of steel was a factor in establishing a national Small Arms Factory in Lithgow which was the first modern manufacturing plant in Australia. This factory, still operating, outlasted the steelworks and has equipped the Australian army with weapons for over ninety years.
Lithgow has an extraordinary industrial heritage and there are still many opportunities to explore that heritage.
State Mine Heritage Park
The poppet head towering above the first State government-owned coal mine signifies the struggle to bring the black diamond (coal) to the surface. The museum’s collection houses fascinating relics and stories of working life in the early coal mines.
The Park’s newest attraction is the Spectra Vision presentation Fire in the Mine, a modern-day adaptation of the Peppers Ghost illusion technique. Within the old bathhouse of the State Mine, the Spectra Vision display projects a moving image of Marion Curry, the wife of a miner, who moves through the display and shares her poignant stories of the dangers faced by miners in their everyday work.
After exploring the museum be sure to have a look in the restoration shed at the railway locomotives and rolling stock under various stages of repair.
State Mine Heritage Park
State Mine Gully Rd Lithgow NSW 2790
Ph 02 6353 1513
Open 12.00pm-4.00pm Saturday and Sunday. Group tours at any time by appointment.
Blast Furnace Park and Lake Pillans Wetlands
The towering remains of Australia’s first modern blast furnace provide a fascinating insight into the workings of the furnace and into the social life of Lithgow at the time.
Lithgow was the birthplace of the Australian iron and steel industry. Constructed in 1913, the Lithgow Blast Furnace, at its peak, produced 105,000 tonnes of pig iron produced primarily for use by the Trans-Australia Railway.
The many signs around the site provide information on Lithgow’s earliest industrial heritage. Wander along the path to Lake Pillans and enjoy some birdwatching or a quiet picnic.
Lake Pillans Wetlands were built originally to store cooling water for the adjacent Blast Furnace and now provide a charming area full of birdlife, shady trees and boardwalks around the water’s edge.
The Black Rose of Lithgow
To celebrate the first smelting of iron, the Lithgow Black Rose was made in 1876 by Joseph Hallam from the first iron produced. More black roses were made as ornaments for coffins in the 1800s and you can see examples of this fine craftsmanship on display at Eskbank House Museum
Blast Furnace Park
Inch Street, Lithgow
The Lithgow Valley Pottery started operations in the 1870s and was responsible for a wide range of domestic and industrial ceramic ware from butter dishes and jugs to toilet bowls! A collection of Lithgow Pottery can be seen at Eskbank House Museum.
More information Environment NSW
Lithgow History Ave is a representation of the important milestones in the history of Lithgow captured in sculpture. There are 30 pieces of works along Inch Street, each of which is an opportunity to learn more about the history of Lithgow.
The Lithgow History Avenue Project is the result of a partnership between Lithgow City Council and Glencore Coal Community Social Involvement Program.
Local metal artist Phil Spark was engaged in 2012 to develop and implement the public art concept for History Avenue. His works now stretch from the top of Inch Street, past the Eskbank Station and Eskbank House to the entrance of Blast Furnace Park.
‘Industrious Lithgow’ is acknowledged in the sites marked by the sculptures. Some, such as the Blast Furnace and the collieries, link to an energetic industrialism that is now past. Others, such as the Workman’s Club, the Greyhound Racing Track, and Eskbank House, remain part of Lithgow’s social, cultural and sporting present.
As walk through Lithgow History Avenue, or browsing a site will bring alive the history of Lithgow for all to enjoy.
Sculptures along History Avenue
Sculptures along History Avenue with the year marked and the event featured:
1813 Crossing of the Blue Mountains
1836 Charles Darwin Visits Wallerowang Homestead
1842 Thomas and Mary Brown Move into Eskbank House
1851 Gold Discovered near Bathurst
1851 The Great Exhibition opens in London
1868 Coal Mined Commercially in Lithgow
1870 Eskbank Station Opens
1875 Iron Making Begins at Thomas Brown’s property “Eskbank”
1875 Lithgow Public School Opens
1878 Rickard J Inch opens the first Brewery in Lithgow
1879 First Pots Made by James Silcock at the Lithgow Pottery
1880 First Chilled Meat sent to England from Lithgow by Thomas Mort
1880 Ned Kelly Hanged
1887 Joseph Cook arrives in Lithgow
1887 Lithgow Workmen’s Club Formed
1891 Lithgow Co-Operative Society Formed
1901 Queen Victoria Dies
1901 First steel pour in Australia at Eskbank
1907 Railway to Newnes completed
1910 Lithgow Trades Hall Picture Palace opens
1910 Ten Tunnels Deviation of Zig Zag completed
1911 Lithgow Riot
1912 Small Arms Factory Begins Production
1913 Joseph Cook becomes Prime Minister of Australia
1915 Gallipoli Landings
1921 Steel Works Owner George Hoskins buys land at Port Kembla
1928 Lithgow Greyhound Racing Club Founded
1928 Hoskins Church Completed
1929 Demolition of Blast Furnace Begun
Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum
The Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum holds the largest collection of small arms in Australia.
In 1912, the Government built the Small Arms Factory in Lithgow to produce weapons and small arms. The factory was the first modern manufacturing facility in Australia. The Museum presents a visual journey into the social and engineering history of this renowned facility.
Sewing machines, mixmaster parts, and golf clubs!
It is not well known that the Small Arms Factory not only manufactured a range of weaponry but was also responsible for making other metal components for many household items. This is the first Pinnock sewing machine made at the factory.
Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum
Methven St , Lithgow, 2km west of Lithgow PO
Ph 02 6351 4452
Open Tues to Thurs 9.30am to 2pm, Weekends, public & school holidays 10am to 4pm. Groups by appointment.