Chambers of the Black Hand

Jules - Discover Australia with Travelling Family Circus
Travelling Family Circus
What an amazing, extraordinary treasure we found hiding under the barren landscape of Lightning Ridge.

Art & Treasure, Lightning Ridge NSW

While I don’t suffer from taphophobia (the irrational fear of being buried alive), I have had many nightmares of similar things – like being trapped underground. Why am I mentioning my fears to you? Well… On our recent trip to Lightning Ridge, I learnt that being brave (not to mention very curious) pays off. I can’t say I’m at ease with the idea of making my way underground to walk through caves and mines. The mere thought of it makes me hyperventilate, but the boys – big and small, were so excited to go to Chambers of the Black Hand. I really didn’t have the heart to say no, either to myself or to them.

I am so glad that I didn’t give in to my fears… It took a lot of slow calm breathing – but I did it!  Let’s not forget to give a shout out to my two little boys too;  Aiden and Saxon both have Acrophobia (fear of heights) and while they have had help to conquer this fear, instead of taking the lift down, these little guys decided – if Mummy can conquer her fears, so could they. So, stairs it was! All 130 of them, according to Aiden.

Well, what an amazing, extraordinary treasure we found hiding under the barren landscape of Lightning Ridge. Who knew?!!! Chambers of the Black Hand is a phenomenal collection of sculptures and frescoes that pay homage to some of the most famous artists, historical periods, religious icons and modern popular characters known and loved by generations. From Da Vinci’s Last Supper, giant golden Buddhas, Aboriginal and Egyptian art, to modern Disney Star Wars and Marvel superheroes, artist Ron Canlin has captured the hearts of young and old with the fruits of his artistic talent with over 700 artworks on display. What you would probably find most surprising, is that Ron carves all of his Artworks with kitchen utensils! He doesn’t go far without his trusty butter knife!

When you go to Chambers of the Black Hand in Lightning Ridge, you will most likely meet Ron. He’s usually on the premises sculpting something new and exciting. We met him while we were there and if you have seen our show;  Chambers of the Black Hand, Lightning Ridge (above), you will see that Ron is a very warm and friendly guy who loves to talk about his interesting passion and amazing achievement that spans over 20 years.

Chambers of the Black Hand has been a working opal mine over the last 100+ years. Unfortunately for Ron, the mine didn’t yield more than around $27,000 in the 25 years that he has owned it. That’s a lot of dirt shifted for not a lot of return! But, hard work pays off and today, his greatest challenge is digging out new rooms and deciding what to create next. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, he doesn’t use a dessert spoon to dig the rooms out – he uses a jack hammer!

Chambers of the Black Hand Gallery has been dug just above the old opal mine, twelve metres underground. There are 2 tours to choose from. At the entrance to the gallery you will find the only underground Opal shop in Lightning Ridge. You can visit the shop for free. To go and wander around the gallery and visit the theatrettes, it will cost $35 per adult and children 8 years and over are $5 each. To go on a personal guided tour of the opal mine down on the next level, at 20 metres under ground, it is an extra $10 per adult. We did the full tour and it was not only interesting, it was entertaining! Dave is hilarious and he sure knows his stuff.

We really enjoyed our visit to Chambers of the Black Hand. It definitely was one of the greatest highlights of our visit to Lightning Ridge. Check it out or put it on your bucket list because (as entertaining as our shows are!), it is definitely something you need to see and experience in person. Being the only chick in the circus, I was disappointed the Opal shop was closed by the time we made our way back to the beginning – because I was after my “souvenir piece” of lightning Ridge opal jewelry. That said, one of the most important details you need to remember is to turn up on time! We were on time but we were there til the bitter end filming… sorry Cody. Everyone say hi to Cody, he is great with the kids and full of great stories! All the staff are so friendly and easy to chat to.

Make sure you check their website for details because visiting hours are seasonal. We went at the end of the summer season so the Chambers close on the dot of midday to escape the heat of the afternoon. Don’t fear if you feel you missed out on seeing everything, as they have a policy allowing you to return the next day on the same ticket. Just let them know.


If Ron asked you for a suggestion for his next carving – what would you like to see him make?

We reckon we would love to see a whole room dedicated to the first landing on the moon, complete with Neil Armstrong, craters carved into the floor and stars all over the ceiling, with Earth in the distance! What do you think?

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