MINING BOOM: Solferino during the height of mining in the Clarence Valley.
MINING BOOM: Solferino during the height of mining in the Clarence Valley. Clarence River Historical Societ

Valley's early fortunes found in long-forgotten town

ONCE a thriving community, there isn't a lot left at Lionsville.

A town that popped up around the thriving mines, with tennis courts, a cricket pitch, race tracks, hotels, a police station and more, Lionsville was a bundle of life while the Clarence Valley's gold rush was booming.

With Solferino, Garibaldi, Lombardi and Mountain Maid mines among those operating in the Upper Clarence, gold was being dug from our land at a fast rate, mostly by an Italian company.

The town, which had about 4000 inhabitants, stood for about 40 years but now it's mostly been reclaimed by the bush.


Panning for gold at Cherry Tree Creek.
Gold panning at Cherry Tree Creek. Clarence River Historical Societ

While the exact number is unknown, hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold was obtained from the Solferino diggings - about 140,000 pounds (at the time) worth was taken from the Garibaldi mine.

It was Paulo Marcolini, an Italian who intended to develop farm holidays on a block at the Washpool on the Yulgilbar property, that became the mining magnate of the Clarence Valley.


Paulo Marcolini
Paulo Marcolini Clarence River Historical Societ

When he first began digging at Solferino, the Italian was disheartened with the promise of the gold reef.

"I had been prospecting for 18 months and one day I knocked a piece of gold off a boulder, looked at it and threw it away as if it was no account," Marcolini wrote.

"The next day, going very disheartened to my work, I saw some stone lying in the gully and picked it up and examined it more closely, saw specks of gold. I went to the place where I had found it and could hardly break the stone asunder, so thickly was it impregnated with gold."


The Lady Jersey Gold Mine, Drake.
The Lady Jersey Gold Mine, Drake.

It was this discovery that brought Lionsville to life.

One of the most important contributions Marcolini made to the mining industry in the 1800s while in the Clarence was the Marcolini Battery.

He came up with the design after settling in Grafton, where he wanted to create a crushing machine that was cheap, portable and effective.