BIG BELL

GPS 27 20 20 S, 117 39 36 E

 

 

 

 

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DESCRIPTION

 

Big Bell was originally called Cooldardy Reef or Paton's Find after Harry Paton who is thought to have been the first person to work the area. The site dates from 1891 which pre-dates Cue by about a year.

Paton and W. Smith registered their claim in 1904 under the name of Paton's Coolardy Reward.

James Chesson and Bill Heydon operated a mine here in 1912 and mining continued until 1926.

The origin of the name is uncertain but a U.K. mining company named Blue Bell Proprietry mined here for some years and their mine was referred to as Little Bell. It is likely that Big Bell was a name given to differentiate the two sites.

The Premier Gold Mining Company announced they would develop Big Bell mine in 1935 and entered into an agreement with the state government to build a railway from Cue.

The town was gazetted in 1936 and mining re-started the following year. Some sources say that the town was originally called Townsend but this soon changed to become the same name as the mine.

The Western Mail described the developing town in 1937:

'Bell townsite was virgin bush - today there are surveyed streets, roads and a railway and dozens of neat residences. The business section is made up of two general stores, a hardware store, two men's outfitters, two combined restaurant and cool-drink shops (including a milk bar), a greengrocery, a billiard saloon, a barber's shop; a newsagency, and an open-air cinema. A modern brick hotel is being constructed at a cost of 25,000 pounds. A power-house has been built and electric lighting and power will be available as soon as the erection of the necessary poles and cables is completed. Excellent water has been found on the townsite and a bore, equipped with storage-tank and diesel-operated pump, supplies the town's present needs. Seven wells are being sunk to ensure future supplies. Big Bell people are fortunate in that the townsite is surveyed on a deep sandy loam. With good water available at reasonable depth Big Bell could be a town of gardens during the cooler months.'

C.W. Melrose was the successful tenderer for the building of the hotel and he had previously built a hotel at Mount Magnet.

300,000 bricks for the hotel were made in an old kiln part way between Cue and Big Bell by R. Hethsketh.

A local school was constructed and it opened in August 1937. Initially enrolment was 18 students but that increased to 50 by about 1941.

A picture house (cinema) was constructed in Big Bell but it was destroyed by fore in April 1938.

By 1954 the population of the town reached a high point of 850 people. In the same year the town was described in a guide book as follows:

'The first impression one obtains of Big Bell townsite is the profusion of ornamental trees surrounding the residences. Trees are not plentiful on the arid plateau and ornamental trees are painstakingly tended. The streets are wide, as are the streets of all goldfields towns. Water from three government water supply wells is reticulated throughout, and electricity is supplied from a modern plant. Residences, though small, are neatly furnished, the majority having a garden and boast at least one small patch of green lawn. The shopping area is modern and caters for all demands. Films are shown three times weekly, there being two changes of programme. Mail services include air and surface several times weekly. Friday is market day, for the perishables arrive on that day from metropolitan area. Churches of various denomination have been built, while the only hotel is large and modern and caters excellently for the travelling public.'

Presumably from this it can be gathered that the picture house had been rebuilt after the fire.

Sadly the mine closed in 1955 and the town that had thrived for almost 20 years no longer had any reason to exist.

Most buildings were demolished or moved and the population shrank to almost zero.

In November 1959 the Woman's Weekly wrote:

'At Big Bell mine billiard-tables still stand in the miners' club, there is an 18-hole golf course and a dried up Olympic swimming-pool. Eddie Hannan keeps himself busy with a flourishing vegetable garden and poultry farm, supplying eggs, vegetables, and fruit to people in the surrounding district.'

Today the ruins of the big old hotel tell of a town that was once vibrant and full of life. Nearby sit the ruins of an old church but there is precious little else left of the town.

Mining towns have always had a precarious existence and Big Bell sits in the desert as a reminder of the fate of so many other towns that have long since vanished.

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OTHER INFORMATION

 

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Examining the ruins, wildflowers.

 

OTHER INFO.

 

Located west of Cue

 

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