California Gully is a suburb of Bendigo, 4 km north-west of the city centre. It was formed around the California Gully where it intersects the Eaglehawk Road.
Gold was discovered in California Gully in 1852, and it was rushed by miners from the Californian gold diggings. A large influx of Cornish miners occurred in the 1870s, strengthening a Methodist tradition which had established the first school in 1857.
A township formed in Eaglehawk Road, and is identified by the White Horse Hotel and the Uniting (former Methodist) church behind the hotel. Both were built during the early 1870s. California Gully's mines had a long production period, the North Johnson group running from 1861 to 1920. It was on the Eaglehawk tram line which closed in 1973.
In 1883 a large school building was erected on an elevated site west of the town, known as Bell Topper Hill. (The name apparently came about from English miners making a bonfire of their bell topper hats, found to be unsuitable for Australian conditions.)
The school is on the Victorian Heritage Register, along with the former Methodist church. The school replaced a building (1862) in School Street which became a mechanics' institute. The California Gully primary school had 147 pupils in 2014.
California Gully has a number of buildings and sites which retain elements of the goldmining past. There are two reserves with ovals and a shopping centre near the Woolpack Hotel.
In 1968 the Anglican church opened the St Lawrence Court aged care centre in Upper California Gully Road. Three years later a large Stafford Ellinson menswear factory was opened. It lasted until 2002, employing over 300 people. Since then, St Lawrence Court has become the largest local employer.
California Gully's census populations have been:
Ruth Hopkins, Bell Topper: the school on the hill, 1982
Eaglehawk and Bendigo heritage study, Fairfield, Vic, 1993
Noelene Wild, California Gully: the township and the gold mines, Eaglehawk, 2009