Escort Rock is located 4.5km north east of Eugowra (towards Orange) on the Escort Way. It is an eerily quiet spot with the imposing rocky outcrops giving visitors a good idea of why it might have been chosen as the robbery site.
Escort Rock is the site of Australia’s biggest and most famous gold robbery when Frank Gardiner’s gang held up the gold escort coach, travelling from the Lachlan goldfields at Forbes to Orange on 15 June 1862.
The coach carried a driver, the police escort of four and a large amount of gold, cash and other mail.
Frank Gardiner’s gang of bushrangers – Ben Hall among them – lay in wait behind large granite boulders after they had blocked the road with commandeered bullock wagons. This forced the coach to slow, as it passed between a gully and the rocky outcrop. The gang fired on the coach as it passed, wounding two of the police. The bushrangers ransacked the coach and made off with 2,719 ounces of gold and £3,700 in cash (a haul worth more than $5m in today’s values).
Meanwhile, the coach driver John Fagan and the police made their way to nearby Eugowra homestead. The owner, Hanbury Clements, hurried to Forbes to alert the authorities. A detachment of police and an Aboriginal tracker set off next morning and surprised the bushrangers at their Wheogo Hill hideout.
After a long chase, Gardiner released an exhausted packhorse to avoid capture and a considerable amount of gold was recovered. More gold and notes were recovered when police apprehended gang member Harry Manns some time later, west of Forbes. The remainder of the haul has never been accounted for.
Eventually all the bushrangers were either arrested or killed. Hall, Gilbert and O’Meally were shot, Manns was hanged and the rest were gaoled for varying terms. Charters became a crown witness and was pardoned. After 10 years in gaol and because of a change in public opinion, Gardiner was released and exiled. He died in San Francisco in 1904.
The site has extensive interpretive signage and an historic plaque (the rock itself is on private property but easily visible from the viewing area). A parking area, picnic tables and toilets are nearby. The adjacent town of Eugowra has a museum and street murals which form an integral part of the overall Escort Rock experience.