Where and what did diggers drink?
This blog was inspired by a speech given by our CEO, Dr Jeremy Johnson in April 2010 at the University of Ballarat Beer Awards. The speech was based on research done by Sovereign Hill’s Senior Historian, Dr Jan Croggon. The speech was recorded and an audio file is available at the end of this blog.
The problem of alcohol and young men
“Diggers of low degree”, S. T. Gill. Gold Museum Collection
The colonial government of Victoria was incredibly worried about alcohol on the goldfields. The population of Victoria before 1860 was mainly young men, and the authorities were concerned that over indulgence in alcohol could lead to a breakdown in law and order in the colony. For that reason an act was passed to prohibit alcohol from being sold on the goldfields. This act allowed for harsh penalties if you were caught manufacturing or selling liquor. A first offence carried a £50 fine, whereas threatening with a pistol might only incur a fine of £5. The Act was policed by plain clothes men, who were given half of the £50 fine for a first offence, and then, because a second offence brought months of hard labour, and no profit for the police, they resorted to blackmail, taking £5 whenever they felt like it.
The Phoenix Foundry: Locomotive Builders of Ballarat. The History of a Ballarat Engineering Company. By Bob BUTRIMS & Dave MACARTNEY.
Here at Sovereign Hill we are in an enviable position as we are able to portray the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Australia. Our museum contains the best collection of working steam engines in Victoria on permanent public display. Because of this we have developed several online education resources and face to face programs designed to support teachers and students studying this period of Australian history. We are continually searching for more material to help our understandings of this subject. Recently we discovered a new book focusing on one of the key foundries which grew from the gold rush period of Ballarat’s history. Marion Littlejohn, one of our Education Officers, has reviewed this book, which we feel would be a useful addition to any year 9 reference library for Depth Study 1 – the Industrial Revolution.
From Left; Oscar Zhang, Charles Zhang and Bill Moy From the CACSB standing in front of the Chinese Temple at Sovereign Hill
On the 15th of December 2013, Charles Zhang and his son Oscar will begin to retrace the footsteps of the Chinese prospectors, who travelled from Robe in South Australia to the Victorian Goldfields. The re-enactment is planned to take 15 days, with Charles and Oscar travelling approximately 35 kilometres per day. Before they leave Ballarat on their way to Robe, Charles, Oscar and Bill Moy visited the Chinese Temple at Sovereign Hill to ask for permission and good fortune from their ancestors during their adventure. Their walk from Robe to Ballarat will also end at Sovereign Hill on Saturday the 28th of December. Charles Oscar and Bill are all members of the Chinese Australian Cultural Society of Ballarat (CACSB). Interestingly they represent different generations of Chinese immigrating to Ballarat. Bill’s Ancestors came to Ballarat during the Gold Rush. Charles and Oscar represent more recent arrivals to our city.
The Aim of the walk is to follow the route taken by the Chinese miners. Oscar and Charles will commemorate the contribution made by the Chinese gold diggers on the Central Victoria Goldfields, while promoting rural Australian towns and cities.
Pot for Incense burning with Jade talismans and a coin given to Charles with links to the Avoca Goldfileds. These will be carried on the journey.
Regular details, stories & photos will be posted on the Chinese Australian Cultural Society Ballarat website: www.chineseballarat.org.au and Ballarat Community Radio Station 99.9 Voice FM: www.voicefm.com.au. We will also attempt to keep this post updated with information about the progress of the walk.
Chinese coin from Avoca
So keep coming back to follow our intrepid adventurers on their special voyage.
The Chinese were forced to travel overland from South Australia, due to an immigration tax imposed on them by the Victorian Colonial Government. The Government were concerned by the numbers of Chinese travelling to the goldfields, and tried using taxes to stop immigration from China. You can read more about this at Heritage Australia and our previous blog: Racism and Taxes: Life for the Chinese on the Goldfields
Exploration/Law and Order
This Blog may contain images and names of deceased people, it may also contain words and descriptive terms that may be offensive to Indigenous Australians.
Bushmans Hut by S. T. Gill. Gold Museum Collection.
Often the perceptions that are held of Aboriginal people during the Gold Rush period of Australian history were that; Aboriginal people were marginalised and only involved on the periphery of mining areas, that they did not understand what was happening and, the experience of Aboriginal people was very negative. Now a new book is casting a whole different perspective on Aboriginal involvement in Goldfields history. “Black Gold” by Dr Fred Cahir of the University of Ballarat provides a wider view of the contributions made by Aboriginal people during the Gold Rush era of Australian history. Dr Cahir gives specific examples to show the contribution to goldfields life by Aboriginal people, in exploration, and Law and Order in Goldfields society. Continue reading
Apothecaries: medicines and food
Interior of Apothecary at Sovereign Hill. Gold Museum Collection
In a previous post we talked about doctors on the goldfields, and the early hospitals in Ballarat. But there were many other medical people on the goldfields. Among them were the Apothecaries, who could make up medicines, from the ingredients available at the time. Most of these ingredients were based on plant and animal extracts, and could also be used as foodstuffs. Their role is now mainly performed by Pharmacists, but an Apothecary did so much more. They also performed surgery, midwifery and gave medical advice. In this Blog we will explore the secretive world of the Apothecary, and how they contributed to the lives of people on the goldfields and the wider world.
A short history of sweets
Our current school holiday program, the “Raspberry Drop Rebellion” inspired us to look at our confectioners and the history of sweet making. We already have a blog on raspberry drops and the history of our confectioners, so with the assistance of our Senior Historian Dr Jan Croggon, this blog is focused on the history of sweet making up to the goldfields era.
- Etching of confectionery booth, including “a little boy with his conical bag of sugar plums” by Christoph Weigel, c. 1700
From earliest times, ‘Sweets’ were precious rarities, and status symbols, dating back to 600 years ago, when sugar was a rare and expensive commodity. Sugar was closely associated with medicine, celebrations, and food preservation, and all of these came together in the early 1800s to be identified as ‘confectionery’, and sold in sweet shops.
Sugar sweetened early medicines. Apart from sweetening sugar can also preserve fruits and vegetables. Sugar was supposed to be good for colds, and comfits (nuts or seeds covered in sugar) were considered to aid digestion in the later Middle Ages (around 1400 CE). In later centuries sugar was used to preserve fruit and flowers for the winter months and enhanced the luxury image of confectionery.
From the Elizabethan age (around 1550 CE), through to the 18th century, sugar was a rich indulgence – and then falling sugar prices and technical innovation made ‘sweets’ available to more people, and ‘sugar became a necessity, and sweets a commonplace part of childhood.’ (Mason 1999).
As there has been so much interest in our fashion blogs, we have decided to include another fashion post.
Cutaway diagram showing underclothes
What did women wear under their beautiful dresses? The dressing regime of a lady would be seen as incredibly tiresome by today’s standards. Because the fashions came from Europe, the clothing would have been terribly warm and claustrophobic in the Australian climate. Let’s explore the stages of layering required to achieve the desired result for the fashion of the day.
Invalid Digger by S. T. Gill. Gold Museum Collection
We have had several requests for information on the doctors and medicines available to diggers on the Victorian goldfields. In this first blog post we will focus on the doctors and in the near future there will be another post on the Apothecarys and Pharmacists who delivered medical services during this era.
At the time of the Victorian gold rush, great leaps were being made in the advancement of medicine throughout the world. Some of the new innovations were a little slow to appear in this colony, but others were embraced quickly, as their benefits greatly improved the success of doctors to cure their patients.
Ballarat’s Scottish Heritage
This blog post has been summarised from notes by Sovereign Hill’s senior historian, Dr Jan Croggon on the Scottish in Ballarat. We would like to thank Jan for her contribution and hope she has more to share with us in the future.
Statue of Robert Burns, Scottish poet. Sturt St Ballarat. Gold Museum Collection
Nineteenth century Scotland was at the heart of the massive Industrial Revolution which transformed Britain, and which largely created the population pool which travelled to the Antipodes in search of gold and a new life.
EMIGRATION TO AUSTRALIA
The characteristics of the Scots who emigrated to Ballarat can be understood more clearly if regarded in the light of the world from which they came. Poverty, famine and epidemics in Scotland in the 1820s and 1830s caused the first significant Scottish emigration to Australia. Victoria was the most popular colony in which they settled. Scottish squatters and rural workers established farms, and urban settlers worked as skilled artisans and professionals.
In the Victorian census of 1854, Scots were the third largest group after the English and Irish, with 36,044 people. Within three years a further 17,000 had arrived, many hoping to make their fortunes on the goldfields. Immigration assistance schemes also swelled the number of Scottish arrivals. By 1861 the Scotland-born population of Victoria reached 60,701 – the highest level it would ever reach.
Ballarat and the Industrial Revolution
Pennyweight Gully, near Castlemaine. Photo taken by Marion Littlejohn
Many townships sprang up during the Gold Rush era of Colonial Victoria, but many of these towns withered and died as soon as their gold ran out, to the point that many are now ghost towns. However there are several exceptions to that. Many prosperous Central Victorian towns can trace their beginnings back to the discovery of gold. Towns such as Stawell, Ararat, Maryborough, Castlemaine and St Arnaud were larger at the time gold was being mined, but they still survive decades, even a century after the gold ran out. Ballarat and Bendigo are today major regional centres, and although there are still gold mines in or near both, they do not rely on gold to continue to grow. So what are the things that decided whether a town would grow, survive or die after the gold ran out? We think the answer involves the Industrial Revolution in Australia.
In our previous post on the Industrial revolution in Australia, we discussed how the people coming to the goldfields brought the knowledge and skills of the Industrial Revolution, and very soon were putting this knowledge to practical use in the search for gold. Here at Sovereign Hill we have many examples of these technological advances, and the benefits and/or downfalls of the use of machinery in gold mining. More importantly we also have some examples of steam technology being used for purposes not directly linked to finding gold. It is these other industries that give us the clue as to why Ballarat thrived, but towns nearby (Clunes, Smythesdale, Creswick etc) struggled after the gold mining phase of our history dwindled.