Yerranderie was once a bustling silver mining town in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia but as the industry declined, so did the town. The final nail in the coffin was in 1959 when the Warragamba Dam cut the town off from Sydney. By that stage, it was already practically abandoned anyway.
French explorer Francis Luis Barrallier was the first European to visit the area when he walked from Nattai to Yerranderie in 1802. He documented his exploration in the book Expedition into the Interior of New South Wales. Silver was discovered in the area in the 1870s but at that time, the price of silver was so low that it was not deemed to be commercially viable this changed by 1898 when John Vigar Bartless began a small mining operation. A road across the Burragorang Valley from Camden made it possible for mining machinery to get Yerranderie and commercial production began in 1899.
As the operation grew, so did the town. A post office was built in 1907 and this was joined by a school, three churches, a hotel, police station, courthouse and even a silent movie theatre. By 1914, 2,000 people lived in Yerranderie. A total of 5,381,000 ounces of silver, 9,951 ounces of gold and over 12,000 tons of lead had been extracted by then.
Many of the miners left during World War I to join the war effort of the British Empire of which Australia was a dominion. Many of them did not return. In 1919 to 1920, Yerranderie was caught up in what was, at the time, the world’s longest strike. It lasted for 18 months. The issue was not even related to any issues at Yerranderie but as members of the same union as those in Broken Hill, they were obligated to also strike. The mining industry collapsed in 1927 and this was followed by an industrial lockout in 1928. Mining at the site was deemed to be no longer viable and the mine was closed.
The population had reduced significantly by the time Aubin Rene Lhuede bought the entire town in 1947. His father had emigrated from Brittany and made money from the mining industry. He sold it to his daughter Valerie Anne Lheude in 1956. Just 3 years later, the Sydney Water Board built the Warragamba Dam which created Lake Burragorang, cutting off the town’s direct access to Sydney. Valerie Anne Lheude sued the Sydney Water Board and received £3,000 in compensation.
When Valerie Anne Lhuede bought the town she began to develop it as a tourist destination and a guest house, shops and miner’s cottages were open to the public. She utilised the location in the Blue Mountains, near to Kanangra-Boyd National Park to attract guests interested in exploring the area. As a conservationist, her aim was to retain as many of the town’s original features as possible.
Today, the town itself features 2 separate areas with the historic site 1 km away from the township and airstrip. Mineshafts and artefacts dating back to Yerranderie’s storied past as a mining town abound. It is now only reached by a dirt road from Oberon, 70km away.
In March 2011, Valerie Anne Lhuede donated Yerranderie to the National Parks and Wildlife Service on condition that it be conserved as a historic site.