The town was home to Victoria's first registered gold discovery made by James Esmond. His discovery, first published in the Geelong Advertiser on 7 July 1851 triggered the first gold rush in Victoria. The township was established a few years later and subsequent gold mining, predominantly driven by the Port Phillip and Colonial Mining Company saw the town's population rising to well over 6,000 residents in the late 1880s. Clunes post office opened as early as 1 October 1857 and in 1874 Clunes was connected to the Victorian railway network. Clunes station was opened in the same year.
In 1873 mine employers attempted to introduce Saturday afternoon and Sunday shifts. The miners refused to sign the new terms outlined in their contract renewals and went on strike. Some days into the action the miners organised the Clunes Miners' Association and what were to become known as the Clunes Riots, successfully resisting the use of foreign labour as strikebreakers. The Clunes Miners' Association is one of the earliest antecedents of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.
From the 1850s through to 1893, when gold mining eventually came to an end, Clunes was an important gold production location in Victoria. During this period gold in excess of 1.2 million ounces was produced at Clunes. Surrounded by grassland, meadows and pastures, the town has preserved many of its elegant historic buildings until today and is recognised as one of the architecturally most intact gold towns in Victoria.
The idea of transforming Clunes into a European-style booktown was first conceived and developed by Councillor Tim Hayes, Linda Newitt, Graeme Johnston and Tess Brady. Clunes held its first 'Booktown for a Day' event on 20 May 2007. Over 50 booksellers from around Australia set up shop for the day in the town's heritage buildings. Renamed to 'Back to Booktown' a year later and to 'Clunes Booktown Festival' in 2012, the township now holds the event each year on the first weekend in May. With more than 60 booksellers, millions of books and 15,000 visitors, it has become the largest collection of books in any regional centre of Australia and the major Victorian regional book event.
This post is part of the Scenic Weekends meme,
and also part of the inSPIREd Sunday meme.