Corbetts Flat

Corbetts flat history

The great alpine road

During the first decade of the Victorian gold rushes, when the first Europeans began to cross the Divide on their quest for gold, some saw the opportunity that this once isolated and rugged landscape held.  Polly Corbett was one of those unique females that saw a business opportunity in providing accommodation, food and perhaps a little sly grog to passing traffic between the North East and Gippsland goldfields.

Long after Polly’s shanty fell into ruins quartz reef mines were opened and discovered in the area.

The Biplane mine was one of the bigger mines which was at its peak during the 1920s.  The mine had a significant mining camp as well as a massive 15-head stamp battery situated on the East branch of the Ovens River down in the Black Hole.

One of the Country Roads Board shelters was also built nearby in the 1920s, serving as a refuge to early motorists.  

Biplane Mine camp, 1920s.  Harrietville Historical Society collection

The Biplane mine was discovered in 1917 on a continuation of an earlier line of reef known as the Majestic.  A syndicated was formed and tunnels and shafts dug to access the reefExtensive surface infrastructure was erected including tramway, water races and a Pelton wheel driven battery erected.  A small army of men were employed to undertake these works lived in the mine camp above the mine which included 18 huts of various descriptions.

Corbett’s Shanty, c1864.  Illustrated Andrew Swift

Polly Corbett established a shanty at this location during the period of gold rushes to the Upper Dargo and Crooked River diggings during the 1860s.  A neat little timber hut with a stone chimney was erected to provide refreshment to the passing mining traffic.  Unlike Mother Morrell’s St Bernard Hospice, Corbett’s shanty appears to have only been trading for a few short years.  Very little else is known of the very early alpine establishment.  

Corbett’s Flat and the Biplane Reef.  Detail from the Harrietville Goldfield Map, Geological Society, 1912.

Hundreds of gold-bearing reefs were discovered in the ranges around Harrietville and Mt Hotham.  Detail from the Harrietville Goldfield map shows some of the workings in vicinity of Corbett’s Flat.