The beautiful heritage city of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia is located 120km north west of Melbourne CBD. Ballarat is Victoria’s third largest city after Melbourne and Geelong and is located in The City of Ballarat local government area which covers an area of 739 square kilometres. Other significant settlements at The City of Ballarat LGA are Buninyong, Waubra, Learmonth and Addington. City of Ballarat LGA was formed in 1994 from the amalgamation of the City of Ballarat, Shire of Ballarat, Borough of Sebastopol and parts of the Shire of Bungaree, Shire of Buninyong, Shire of Grenville and Shire of Ripon.
History of Ballarat
Ballarat was inhibited by Wathaurong people before the European arrival. But as the new settlers took over their land, the indigenous people were pushed to further remotest areas until their numbers became negligible.
In August 1837, A party of six mostly Scottish squatters from Corio Bay (Geelong) set on a journey to explore the unknown land situated north west of Melbourne. They were in search for a land for their sheep to graze. The team included Thomas Livingstone Learmonth, Henry Anderson and Surveyor Frederick Robert D’Arcy. Though they sighted the landscape from Mt Buninyong, the exploration team left without any concrete plans for settlement.
In January 1838, the brothers Somerville and Thomas Livingstone Learmonth, J Aitken, William Cross Yuille and Henry Anderson set out on an exploration once again. The fine country they observed what today known as Ballarat was settled the same year. The Learmonth brothers settled at Buninyong. Archibald Buchanan Yuille and his brother William Cross Yuille, squatted a 10,000-acre sheep run which included today’s Ballarat East, West and Sebastopol. This settlement was called as Yuille’s Station and Swamp. What was called Yuille’s Swamp is today’s Lake Wendouree. The first houses were built near Woolshed Creek by William Yuille and Anderson, while Yuille erected a hut near Lake Wendouree in 1838. Archibald Yuille named the area “Ballaarat”. When the Ballarat township was proclaimed in 1852, the name ‘Ballaarat’ two a’s after ‘l’ was adopted. The spelling was changed to Ballarat only in 1994.
The squatter occupation of Victorian towns in the early European settlement days are usually described with the same passion, how elsewhere in the world historians narrate the annexation of territory by Kings and Emperors through wars. We will save our readers from this boring narration except for the important ones.
The Ballarat Star on Tuesday 18 Jan 1870 published an article named History of Ballarat Before Gold Discovery, which explains the meaning of some of the names later adopted by the landscape. It goes as follows,
Ballarat or more precisely Ballaarat, is a native name signifying a camping or resting place. Balla meaning elbow or reclining on elbow. All native names beginning with Balla has similar significance. Buninyong or as natives have it, Bunning – Yowang, means a big hill like a knee. This name was given by the natives to Mount Buninyong, because the Mount when seen from a given point resembled a man lying on his back with his knee drawn up. Warrengeep corrupted to Warrenheip means Emu feathers. The name was given to Mount Warrenheip from the appearance presented by the ferns and other forest growth there. Burrumbeet means muddy water and Woady – Yaloak standing water.
Buninyong was part of Learmonth’s sheep run and took the shape of a settlement even before Ballarat. But the future of Ballarat was about to change. In March 1850, William Campbell of Strathloddon run, who later became a member of Parliament, found gold at Donald Cameron’s Clune station. But he kept it a secret for the fear that the rush of Gold hunters might prove injurious to the squatters, fearing a rush of diggers.
James Esmond discovered Gold at Clunes, which became Victoria’s first Goldfield. On 3rd August 1851, Thomas Hiscock, a blacksmith in Buninyong, discovered Gold in a gully between Buninyong and Sebastopol. The area became known as Hiscock’s Gully. But there was not much gold to be extracted so it was abandoned for other richer goldfields discovered soon after. The quite Ballarat sheep run with its grassy slopes and shadowy glades was swarming with prospecting parties. Everywhere little hillocks of red, yellow and white earth were visible as diggers got to work, and in few weeks the green slopes changed from the primal conditions to the appearance of a fresh and rudely made burial ground. There was disappointment in Clunes as gold was all embedded in quartz. Diggers began to work on streamlets called Yarrowee, afterwards famous as Ballarat diggings. Ballarat Goldfields at the bend of the creek which they called Golden point, each man could easily earn £20 to £40 a day. Before a month had passed Ballarat took rank as the richest goldfield in the world (Sunday Mail / 31st January 1932).
First Survey of Ballarat
In October 1851, Surveyor William Swan Urquhart reached Ballarat and completed a general survey of Golden Point, Black Hill and marked the site of Ballarat including about 40 building allotments. He also marked out 20,000 acres of agricultural lands at the localities of Dowling Forest, Lake Learmonth and Lake Burrumbeet, Miners Rest and Glendaruel. The first post office in Ballarat was opened on 1 November 1851.
In October 1851, Geelong Advertiser reported that about a thousand cradles at work, within a mile of the Golden Point, at Ballarat. There are about fifty near the Black Hill, about a mile and a half distant, and at the Brown Bill Diggings there are about three or four hundred more; to say nothing of hundreds on the ground not yet set at work. The population within a radius of five miles must be a population of about seven thousand men; The number of licenses taken out is comparatively small, except at Golden Point. The conduct of the authorities is very bad – very arbitrary. The government is without system. There are no published regulations. The law of the Commissioner and his subordinates is neither more nor less than Lynch-law, and the miners are advised to resort to the same in their dealings with each other. The miners have no confidence in the government escort, and as it is only a day’s journey to Geelong, they prefer carrying the gold themselves.
In the early days, it was all men everywhere and no women were seen in the goldfields due to temporary nature of its settings and spotting a woman warranted a sort of joyful celebration among the diggers. Hotelier Thomas Bath’s wife was one of the first woman settlers in Ballarat’s goldfields.
In 1852 Ballarat was proclaimed as a township and first sales of land were held at Geelong on 25th August 1852. Thomas Bath was one of the first purchaser of land for business and he opened the first hotel in Ballarat in July 1853. At that time most of the Government dwellings in Ballarat were of canvas or of slabs with bark roofs.
The 1854 Rebellion of goldminers at Eureka Stockade, is a major historic event of Ballarat. The incidents that lead to the Eureka Stockade are as follows.
A proclamation was issued in Sydney by Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy, Governor General of Australia declared Gold to be the property of the Crown, on 22nd May 1851. On the following day, another Government order was issued prohibiting digging for Gold after 1 June 1851 without a license. The license fee was fixed at 30/ per month. Victoria was separated from New South Wales on 1 July 1851, and the Victorian Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe issued a similar proclamation on 16th August 1851 and again on 18th August with more details on it with a license fee of £1 and 10 shillings to be enforced from the 1st of September that year.
This raised a murmuring among diggers, but they paid the tax with tolerable submissiveness. On 1st December 1851, Colonial Secretaries Office released a provisional regulation increasing the fee to £3. All persons in the Goldfield who are any manner connected with the search for gold as tent keepers, cooks etc were required to take a license with the same terms as diggers, the legislation to take effect from 1st January 1852.
Meetings of diggers were held in gold towns against the doubling of the fee. Agitations were held and by 1853 it became a full-scale event. By 1854, it was fanned into open violence as Government issuing the police to rigorously carry out a digger hunt at least twice a week. At this time a digger named James Scobie was killed in a Brawl at Bentley’s Eureka Hotel at Ballarat East. Murderer Bentley was arrested but the Police Magistrate Dewes acquitted him. This was taken with indignation among the diggers. Few days later, thousands of infuriated diggers destroyed the Bentley hotel. Riot Act was read, and police arrested many diggers in connection with the incident and three of the diggers McIntyre, Fletcher and Westerby were remanded to Melbourne. Diggers met increased harassment by the police, and they responded with more militancy. At the same time Bentley and his associates were rearrested and retried in Melbourne. The jury acquitted Mrs Bentley but Bentley, Farrell and Hance were found guilty of manslaughter of Scobie. After a few days, the three diggers were also sentenced to terms of imprisonment. This resulted in direct confrontation between the police and the diggers at many places. The administration responded with reinforcement of more horse and foot police and the deployment of 12th and 40th regiment. The new developments resulted in an open rebellion by the diggers. On 11th November the diggers formed the Ballarat Reform League and petitioned Lieutenant Governor Charles Hotham to address their grievances.
On 29th November 1854, under the command of Peter Lalor, 12,000 men met on Bakery Hill and hoisted a blue flag bearing four silver stars to represent the southern cross (Eureka Flag) and took oath that they would strike a blow to the oppression. The diggers and the police clashed directly exchanging stones and gunshots. The next few days, the diggers began entrenching themselves with a barrier of slabs and rough earth works creating a stockade preparing for a battle. This gave the rebellion the name Eureka Stockade. On 3rd December 1854, a troop consisting of 100 men on foot, 176 mounted police and detachments of 12th 40th regiment started marching towards the stockade. When the forces reached within 100 yards of the stockade, Lalor ordered his men to fire, and the troops answered with a volley. Fourteen diggers were killed outright, and eight severely wounded diggers died within hours and twenty others injured. The official reports at that time stated that 30 killed (including the Government forces) and 125 taken to custody.
Lalor, though received bullets that shattered his arm managed to escape and had his arm amputated by Dr Doyle at a hut in Warrenheip. The men taken prisoners were tried for high treason but were acquitted in April 1855. But the Eureka uprising didn’t go in vain as the wrongs against the diggers were righted and the leaders of the uprising Donovan, Lalor and Humffray returned to first Parliament in which goldfields were represented.
The Growth of Ballarat
As diggers exhausted the surface level gold deposits, by 1857 miners had to dig deeper to reach gold deposits which called for small party of co-operative miners. Greater investments required as miners have to blast through successive layers of dense basaltic rock and have to counter heavy flows of water in the rocks and drifts. But this brought some permanency to the settlements. During this period many permanent structures like churches came into existence. Mechanics Institute was built in 1859. Ballarat Borough was proclaimed on 17th December 1857 and Ballarat East borough proclaimed on 5th May 1857. Kirks Reservoir was built in 1857 and in 1862 Ballarat’s first water supply scheme was established when the government acquired Kirk’s Reservoir for £4,000.
The construction of Geelong to Ballarat Railway began in 1858 after the take over of Railways by the Victorian Government. The line was officially opened on 10th April 1862. Melbourne to Ballarat Line was opened in 1889 and until then Geelong to Ballarat line was the only rail route to Ballarat. Until 1862, Ballarat township was centred around the Main Street but due to location of the Railway Station at Lydiard Street, the prominence soon shifted around Lydiard Street. Moreover, most of the structures built at Main Street were of wood or canvas which were prone to fire incidents.
Phoenix Foundry established in 1854 at Ballarat manufactured and delivered their first locomotive on 27 February 1873, for the Victorian Railways. The batch was of locomotive engines were delivered in 1904 by then the company had manufactured 349 locomotive engines. Unfortunately for Ballarat, the railway department started building engines at their Newport facility. Company entered volunteer liquidation in 1905 and was purchased by Cameron and Sutherland in 1906.
Decline of Ballarat
Ballarat’s gold prosperity was on wane and Ballarat’s growth declined from the first decade of 1900’s. That was only the beginning as it worsened during the Great depression. The Electric Supply Company of Victoria which was formed in 1903 as a subsidiary of the British Insulated Wire Company took over the horse tram operations of the Ballarat Tramway Company the same year. It then built the electric tram network which opened in 1903. The East Ballarat Town Council and Ballarat West Town Council was amalgamated in 1921 to become the City of Ballarat.
In 1956, Lake Wendouree became the venue for rowing events for the Summer Olympics. There were seven rowing events for men which were held at Lake Wendouree from 23 to 27 November 1956.
In the late 1990’s like most prominent regional towns in Victoria, Ballarat also started showing an increase in population due to migration.
Tourist information for Ballarat
Ballarat’s main Attraction is Sovereign Hill. Sovereign Hill situated in Ballarat is an outdoor living museum which recreates the conditions of Ballarat’s early Goldfields. Set across 64acres of hillside, Sovereign Hill represents the Gold rush era of 1850’s and succeeded in recreating the crafts and trades existed on those days with live demonstration given at blacksmith’s forge, the candle works, the wheelwright’s plant, the coach builder’s and the confectionery factory. More information can be found here https://tomelbourne.com.au/attractions-ballarat/
Other major attractions
Ballarat Gold Museum: https://tomelbourne.com.au/ballarat-gold-museum/
Ballarat Botanical Gardens: https://tomelbourne.com.au/ballarat-botanical-gardens/
Lake Wendouree: https://tomelbourne.com.au/lake-wendouree/
Events and Attractions of Ballarat – https://tomelbourne.com.au/events-festivals-ballarat/
Must visit attraction of Ballarat – https://tomelbourne.com.au/sovereign-hill/
Accommodation at Ballarat
For hotel accommodation visit the site: https://www.trivago.com.au
Caravan Parks at City of Ballarat LGA
Blackwood Mineral Springs Caravan Park
Address: 41 Golden Point Rd, Blackwood VIC 3458
Phone: (03) 5368 6539
Eureka Stockade Holiday Park
Address: 104 Stawell St S, Ballarat East VIC 3350
Phone: (03) 5331 2281
BIG4 Ballarat Goldfields Holiday Park
Address: 108 Clayton St, Ballarat Central VIC 3350
Phone: (03) 5330 8000
Shady Acres Caravan Park
Address: Shady Acres Caravan Park, 9435 Western Highway, Warrenheip VIC 3352
Phone: (03) 5334 7233
BIG4 Ballarat Windmill Holiday Park
Address: 56 Remembrance Dr, Cardigan VIC 3350
Phone: (03) 5334 1686
Woodmanshill Motel & Caravan Park
Address: 9503 Western Hwy, Ballarat VIC 3352
Phone: (03) 5334 7202
Lake Burrumbeet Caravan Park
Address: 1185 Remembrance Dr, Burrumbeet VIC 3352
Phone: (03) 5344 0583
Address: 263 Scott Parade, Brown Hill VIC 3350
Phone: (03) 5330 8999
Lake Learmonth Caravan Park
Address: 1 Laidlaw St, Learmonth VIC 3352
Phone: 0429 402 149
History of Ballarat by W.B Withers
The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), Tue 18 Jan 1870, Page 1 , HISTORY OF BALLARAT. BALLARAT BEFORE THE GOLD DISCOVERY.
Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) Sat 23 Feb 1918, Page 37 , BALLARAT’S HISTORY
Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Thu 15 Dec 1904, Page 18, The Eureka Stockade.