Yearly Archives: 2014

Alcohol on the Goldfields

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

“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.

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Archiving our audio files

We are in the process of updating our website, and have decided to transfer our archive of audio and video files from the website to our blog. This project is going to take quite a long time to complete.

You will be able to monitor our progress as we go. We have created three new pages which we will continually add to over the next few months. Access to these pages is via the teaching resources tab near the top of the home page (As per the screenshot).

Screenshot of home page

Screenshot of home page

To begin with we have been transferring the files in the order they were loaded on the old website. If there are any files that you have lost access to, please email us and we will prioritise your request.

A Note for Teachers

These files have been created to make primary sources of information more accessible to students.

  • They are deliberately short.
  • The audio files are designed to make difficult historic text come to life for students
  • The text is provided so students can read along
  • We have tried to model good referencing techniques

Thank you for your patience as we work our way through this transfer.

Books for Teaching History – The Phoenix Foundry: Locomotive Builders of Ballarat. The History of a Ballarat Engineering Company.

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 Phoenix foundry bookone 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.

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Weird and wonderful goldfields history. Part 2

 Weird People

Diver_smallIn this blog we continue our research behind the weird and wonderful activities created for our school holiday program. The last blog focussed on our animal stories, this post is about the people of the goldfields and the weird but true stories of their lives on the Ballarat goldfields.

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Weird and wonderful goldfields history. Part one.


TigerDuring the Christmas school holiday period this year Sovereign Hill has focussed on some of the strange but true stories of the Ballarat gold rush period. These have included stories about a deep sea diver, zebra, tiger and diggers dressed as women.  As entertaining as these weird and wonderful stories have been, we must remember that as a museum it is our responsibility to be as accurate in our portrayal of goldfields’ history as possible.

ZebraFor that reason all of these activities had to have some basis in fact, and this makes the stories even better. In this Blog we will explore two of these activities and the amazing true stories that they are based on.

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