Tag Archives: 1850s lifestyles

Household Arts of the 1850s: A personal experience part 3.

The Woman of the Hill part 3.

Jenni enjoying a lighter moment from her stay

Jenni enjoying a lighter moment from her stay

Our intrepid volunteer, Jenni Fithall, has completed her three days and two nights living in one of the cottages at Sovereign Hill Outdoor Museum.  During her stay approximately 3800 visitors, including about 1500 school children  came to Sovereign Hill. Many of these visitors and children visited Jenni in her cottage, so apart from living as a woman of the 1850s, Jenni also had to contend with a multitude of questions, photo opportunities and a constant stream of people walking through her little two room cottage. Continue reading

Household Arts of the 1850s: a personal experience part 2; the first night

Woman of the Hill 2

Jenni doing the dishes and talking to visitors

Jenni doing the dishes and talking to visitors

The first night of intrepid volunteer Jenni Fithall’s experiment with colonial living is over and we (two of the Education officers) called in to check up on her.

Sovereign Hill:

Morning Jenni, how did you sleep?


Terribly! The rooster started crowing at about 3.30 am, and all the rest joined in. They would stop for about 20 minutes, and I would drift off to sleep. Then they would start again. It was nice laying in bed watching the glow from the fire.


Any other excitement overnight?


Well I had a bath. It took for ever to warm up enough water for it. I set the bath up in here (Kitchen/Dining room). I now know why they (Colonial people) only bathed once a week, it was so much work, and that’s only for one person!


We notice there’s a lot of flies around, do you need another fly strip? (The one hanging from the ceiling, is covered with flies, and there is still a swarm flying around the room).


No I have a spare one. Marion (Education officer) and I put one up about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, but last night the ceiling was black with flies. (They are really bad, no wonder disease was rife in these communities)

Jenni is cooking her breakfast, some sliced potato and an egg over the fire. She has some other food cooked from yesterday covered with tea towels, at least it is quiet as the Museum is not open to visitors yet.


Do you expect many visitors today?


Oh yes, there was a constant flow of people coming in yesterday. And there are plenty of school children staying at the museum so I expect I will be very busy talking to visitors and completing all my chores.

If you would like your students to experience a little of Jenni’s experience, try our a woman’s work is never done education session.

For more information about women on the Goldfields, you could try the Gold museum Blog about Eliza Perrin or our earlier Blogs.

If you would like to see what Jenni went through, we have made several videos about her time at Sovereign Hill, and the links are detailed below.

Woman of the Hill part 1

Woman of the Hill part 2

Woman of the Hill part 3

Woman of the Hill making butter

Woman of the Hill, the final interview

There was so much information about this experiment, that we created a new page on our website. All the videos and links to Blogposts are here.

What was eaten on the Goldfields?

Food on the Goldfields

Butchers Shambles, by S. T. Gill. Ballarat Gold Museum Collection 86_628

Butchers Shambles, by S. T. Gill.
Image: Gold Museum Collection 86_628

What types of foods were eaten during the gold rush? What utensils were used to cook with? What was life like for a cook in the gold rush? What things did they cook on? Was it hard for a cook? Did the children or men ever help the women? These were the questions sent to us by a year 9 girl recently. These are very good questions and we’re not sure we can answer all of them here. But evidence of the eating and cooking habits of diggers can be found in their letters home, diaries, newspapers and in some of the paintings and sketches from this time.

It is generally believed that the first diggers on the goldfields lived on Mutton and Damper (Old sheep and camp bread) at first. This could be true, as it would take time to grow vegetables, and at first diggers were not allowed to plant gardens. Sheep would have been plentiful, as Squatters had already established large holdings of land, with huge herds of sheep. This all makes sense, but are we being too general, and can we find evidence of this being the case? Continue reading

Household Arts of the 1850’s: A personal experience

Woman of the Hill

Ever wondered what it would be like to have lived during the 19th Century? Would you like to experience it for yourself? Well you don’t have to, because we have someone to do it for you. Jenni Fithall is a volunteer at Sovereign Hill Museum, Ballarat. She belongs to the “Friends of Sovereign Hill” (FOSH), a group that helps to bring the Museum to life for visitors.

Sovereign Hill Volunteer Jenni Fithall, who will be living in one of our cottages for 3 days in March 2013

Sovereign Hill Volunteer Jenni Fithall, who will be living in one of our cottages for 3 days in March 2013

Jenni has decided to try living in one of the cottages on Speedwell St for two nights and three days in March. Our Education Officers recently interviewed Jenni, to find out how she felt about her upcoming adventure. Continue reading

A Colonial Christmas in Ballarat

Christmas Celebrations in the 1850s

A drawing of Christmas celebrations during the gold rush.  - National Library of Australia

A drawing of Christmas celebrations on the diggings – from the National Library of Australia

Christmas in Ballarat during the gold rush was very different than it is today.  They didn’t have all the glitzy decorations that adorn our modern streets and houses.  Despite this, they worked hard to create a joyous atmosphere that could remind them of Christmas back home.  Although, as this newspaper article highlights, they don’t seem to be missing the cold winter days…

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Gold Rush Babes: Children’s fashion in the 1850s

Children’s Clothing during the Gold Rush

Children’s clothing would depend largely on the wealth of their parents.  Those children fortunate enough to be born into wealthy families would have comfortable, high quality and fashionable clothing.  Poor children would have to make do with basic clothes that would be worn until they fell apart.  Social expectations of the time dictated that children, like men and women, should be modestly and neatly (as much as possible) attired at all times.

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Household Arts of the 1850s: Sweeping, Beating and Scrubbing

The Household Arts: Sweeping, Beating and Scrubbing

Keeping the floors clean in the 1850s was a never-ending challenge!  On the golfields, the early arrivals had to contend with the most basic of dwellings: tents and timbers huts, most of which had dirt floors.  Some enterprising families and businesses would use crushed quartz for flooring as it was found to be a good way to avoid flea infestations.  Even in the later years of the gold rush, many diggers would still live in huts and tents, allowing them to save their money and move on quickly as new leads were discovered.

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Household Arts of the 1850s: Ironing

The Household Arts: Ironing

This is another in a series of posts about the Household Arts during the 19th century.  You can also read our first post about Laundry and our second about drying clothes here.  If you have a topic you’d like us to cover, please leave a comment or contact us!

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Books for Teaching History: Playing Beatie Bow

Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park

Playing-Beatie-Bow-CoverPlaying Beatie Bow has been read in schools for the past 30 years or so.  While it may be beginning to look dated to children today and the language can be challenging, it is still a rich historical fiction full of insights into Australia during the Victorian era.

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Household Arts in the 1850s: Laundry (Drying)

Hanging Clothes out to Dry in the 1850s

Melanie wrote to ask to ask what people used for clothes lines and pins in the 1850s, so we thought we’d share some information and photos about clothes drying methods from years gone by.

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