A Quick View of the Old Town: Ballarat
In January this year I spent four days in Ballarat, my home town. It lies to the west of Melbourne, just about an hour up the road. It grew quickly in the 1850s when gold was discovered, with the result that it possesses some fine examples of Victorian Victorian architecture that would not be out of place in a much bigger city.
The local art gallery is rather good for a regional Australian one, with works by major Australian artists scattered around (Norman Lindsay, Arthur Boyd). When I was there they were showing Orthodox Christian Icons and a series of prints called ‘Radicals, slayers and villains’ which were superbly grotesque and included ‘engravings of memorable decapitations’.
Upstairs in the Oddie Gallery a pianist and flautist were playing, filling the old building with music.
It was really rather good, especially seeing as except for the travelling ‘Eikon’ exhibition there was no entry fee at all.
The gallery is in Lydiard Street, a street which is replete with excellent examples of older (by Australian standards) architecture, such that the Dr Blake mysteries (shown on ABC TV in Australia and perhaps elsewhere) are filmed there. A favourite of mine is the old Mining Exchange, a relic of the gold days and a quintessential Ballarat building. When I was young it was just a shell, with grass growing up from cracks in the floor, and I used to use it for a short cut between city blocks. Since then it has been restored, but mostly stands idle waiting for some genius to figure out what to do with it besides admire it.
We rode the old trams up at the lake, and toured the museum. All very relaxed.
Nostalgia? I don’t know. I don’t want to turn back time. But it is nice to revisit a place and see that there are many good things about it that are not just tricks of the memory.
PS: ‘Victorian Victorian’ is not an error. Ballarat is in the state of Victoria in Australia.