Deep Lead, a former gold mining township, adjoins Illawarra, and they together comprise a rural/residential area 8 km north-west of Stawell.
Gold was discovered in July 1857, about midway between Deep Lead and Stawell and within a year mining occurred over nearly all the distance between the two centres. ‘Deep Lead’ described the run of gold gravel which was uncovered at considerable depth and running generally north-south. It was one of Victoria’s richest alluvial fields. Until 1859 Deep Lead rivalled Stawell as the likely administrative centre for the Stawell district, having an estimated population of 12,000 people in 1858. By the 1860s the best of the gold had been taken out, and a community of Chinese fossickers worked the area. Several became long term residents, and one ran the Junction Hotel. His son later moved to Kowloon, where Grampians Road commemorates his return.
Deep Lead schools were opened in 1857 and 1858 by Catholic and Presbyterian churches, and a Common School was built in 1862. The brick Common School was built in 1876-77, and became a local conservation project after having closed in 1963. The Deep Lead or Pleasant Creek hospital was opened in 1861. The outline of Deep Lead’s history has consisted of a few boom years, a century of quiescent fossicking and farm activity, and rural/residential development in 1980s. The quiescent period was interspersed with gold cyaniding during the 1890s, a eucalyptus distillery (1921-40s) and the building of a gold memorial in 1937. The railway station (1878) was closed in 1981.
Deep Lead was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:
Deep Lead is sheltered by the Grampians range about 10 km westwards, and between the two there is Lake Lonsdale. The lake was dammed in 1903 as part of the Wimmera water supply system.
Deep Lead’s census populations have been:
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*included 167 men on railway relief camp during the Depression
Robert Kingston, Good country for a grant: a history of the Stawell Shire, Stawell 1989
Cliff and Carmel Loats, Deep Lead and back: reminiscences and facts, Lead Progress Association, 1993