A two-hour drive northwest of Melbourne is a historic town where for decades the local language was Welsh rather than English.
Welsh migrants from the now abandoned village of Llanelly arrived in Australia in the 1850s and 1860s, amid a population boom in the south-eastern state of Victoria. News of gold discoveries in the region has brought thousands of newcomers eager to get rich as Victoria and neighboring New South Wales have produced unprecedented amounts of gold. Among the 500,000 “diggers,” as the immigrants who arrived in the explosion of the Gold Rush were called, were prospectors from Britain, the United States, Poland and China.
At its peak in the 1860s, Llanelly had a population of around 20,000, most of whom were Welsh, and this legacy is clear in the Welsh surnames carved on the headstones of the local cemetery. As these miners discovered gold-rich reefs nearby, shops, hotels, banks, and a local school sprang up to meet the needs of the thriving community.
With the decline in gold yields at the end of the 19th century, the townspeople dispersed, causing the once thriving colony to disappear. Today all that remains of the ancient Welsh gold town are crumbling and uninhabited buildings, although the renewed interest in the region’s mining history highlights its little-known heritage.
(Video by Kirsty B Carter and Joe Harrison, text by Yasmin El-Beih)
This video is part of BBC Reel’s Forgotten Places playlist.
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