Travelling Australia - Journal 2015c




June 2015
Broken Hill - Silverton


Silverton is now a nearly deserted township about 20 kilometres from Broken Hill (population is recorded as about 60). Although it is now mostly overlooked, Silverton was a mining settlement before Broken Hill existed and played an important part in the mining industry in western New South Wales.

The first settlers in the Barrier Range region were pastoralists grazing large flocks of sheep. Frequently workers would find deposits of silver and several small, dispersed, mines were begun. Eventually the small township of Umberumberka grew up around the mine of that name. By the early 1880s Umberumberka had developed an offshoot on an area of flat ground centrally placed to support the activities on various outlying mining claims. In 1883 the residents asked for a post office to be built in their town with the name Silverton and the town was surveyed that year. Growth was rapid; by the end of 1883 the population was 500 and by the end of 1884 had reached 1,745.

Silverton grew as a business centre in 1883 and 1884 with banks, stock and station agents, various trades, hotels, solicitors and insurance agents establishing themselves. Silverton hospital opened in 1884 and there were three medical practices operating by 1886. Silverton was proclaimed a township in 1885 and Silverton Municipal Council was gazetted in 1886; the inaugural meeting of the Council was held in January 1886 and the newly built municipal chambers opened in 1889.

For the first years of mining around Silverton silver ore was carried in waggons hauled by bullocks, camels and other animals to the railhead at Terowie outside Adelaide several hundred kilometres away across inhospitable terrain. A train line from Silverton to Cockburn (on the NSW/SA border) and then to Port Pirie opened in 1888 for freight and passengers; this line then carried silver-ore to Port Pirie for export to Europe for processing.

Despite the optimism surrounding Silverton's expansion, it was not to last. In 1885, while Silverton was still growing and remained the recognised silver mining centre, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was formed to exploit a large and rich silver ore deposit on Mount Gipps sheep station which quickly became Broken Hill. Many experienced miners left Silverton and moved to Broken Hill; families are said to have transported their wood and iron cottages to Broken Hill.

The theory has been expressed that the Silverton ore deposits were rich but not particularly large and would not have lasted long anyway but opening-up the Broken Hill mines provided life-long employment for skilled miners, engineers and administrators who had been attracted to Silverton.

As Broken Hill grew Silverton declined. The Umberumberka mine, which had become a mainstay of Silverton, closed in 1892. The population declined to 600 by 1899. Also in 1899 the furniture in the Municipal Chambers was sold by auction to meet debts. Silverton ceased being a municipality in 1907. By then the train line built to carry ore to Port Pirie had been extended to Broken Hill and trains carrying the ore making Broken Hill wealthy passed through declining Silverton enroute to Port Pirie.

Silverton remains a collection of mostly stone buildings. Some are deserted remnants of busier times, others cater to visitors and tourists. The town sometimes find temporary fame as a movie set when barren scenery is required.

June 2015 - Broken Hill - Silverton, page 2

council chamber

Silverton Council Chamber opened in 1889; the last council meeting appears to have been held in about 1895.


St Carthage Catholic Church in Silverton built when the town's future looked sure but now abandoned.

art gallery

Old stone buildings left in Silverton have been put to many uses; this one is an art gallery attracting tourist buses.

June 2015 - Broken Hill - Silverton, page 3

art gallery

One of the original buildings put to modern use serving visitors and advertising effectively. The scones, jam and cream served with the coffee were delicious.

art gallery

Camel grazing on the outskirts of Silverton.