Just out of town lies a 1907 brewery wedged into the side of a hill that portrays the history of Sandstone in one single location. It's a natural cave with a man-sized vent through the roof where the brewing water was pumped. Below the beer was brewed and kept in the naturally cool environment of the cavern before being loaded out of the arched cave mouth to wagons or thirsty prospectors. The whole setup is indicative of the ingenuity and inventiveness of the type of pioneers who approached a new and harsh landscape with a willingness to adapt to the prevailing conditions. The place is the old Sandstone Brewery which serviced the West Australian town and the inhabitants until the gold and opportunities ran out.
The history of the settlement is little different than that of many gold rush towns in the Murchison region. A discovery in 1894 which was followed by a boom of 6000 - 8000 residents. 1907 saw a thriving metropolis with four hotels, two banks, a government battery, police station, four butchers and a host of cafes and stores. A dam had been built and the railway arrived in 1910. Within ten years with the gold dwindling and the war in Europe underway, Sandstone could claim a mere 200 residents.
On our last visit to sandstone we encountered an 80 year old prospector who had lived in the town longer than most of us have been alive. He was engaged in a serious conversation with the 20 something Irish barmaid who was fulfilling her visa requirements. In Australia eligible tourists can extend their visa for an additional year by working in a rural or outback location for 3 months. It was a Saturday night and they were heading out the next day to go prospecting (her one day off work). The old boy had obviously latched onto a reliable finger of gold ore years before and they were going out to chip away at it. Tools consisted of a generator, small jackhammer and a bucket. He guaranteed her enough gold to pay rent, party, smoke and eat for a month, citing the fact that he had been working this vein for years and it was his retirement fund. When he needed a beer he went and retrieved a bucket of rubble - he just needed someone to do the heavy lifting. And this is the essence of Sandstone - a pinch of luck and plenty of hard digging.
Sandstone was given it's name because of the local geology and the area has many rock formations and 'breakaways' the most interesting being London Bridge, just out of town and not far from the old brewery.
The wide open flats make for big, intensely blue skies accompanied by stunning sunsets which contrast against the red landscape.
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