Rush to Victoria

Melbourne had been deserted by the rush north to the New South Wales diggings. The Victorian government was concerned that the colony's economy would suffer with the loss of population to New South Wales. The Gold Discovery Committee was established on June 9, 1851 and agreed that a reward would be offered to diggers who might discover payable gold in Victoria. It was only a few months after the rush to Ophir in NSW, in September 1851 that diggers descended upon Ballarat and surrounding areas. Ballarat was a particularly rich field.

McLaren's boxing saloon, main road Ballarat by S.T. Gill

McLaren's Boxing Saloon main road Ballarat, by Samuel Thomas Gill
Watercolour, PXA 1983/7

Lieutenant Governor La Trobe visited the area one month after the rush began and witnessed a team of five men dig out 136 ounces of gold in one day and another 120 ounces on the following day. The richness of these finds equated to around 10 years' wages to an average Englishman.

Forty miles north of Ballarat lay the Mt Alexander gold fields, richer still than Ballarat. The gold lay just under the surface. The shallowness meant that diggers could just scrape back soil to discover gold nuggets.

Arrival of the first gold escort, William Street, Melbourne, 1852, Atkinson and Atkinson
Coloured lithograph, XV*GOLD/1

Diggers avoided travelling with their newly found gold. The roads were too dangerous with bushrangers threatening to steal any valuables. Gold was deposited with the Commissioners on the goldfields. It was then transported to Sydney and Melbourne on the gold escorts; special two-wheeled carts with four horses and followed by a mounted escort. They would travel at a gallop, changing horses every two hours at specific stations on the journey.

View the image gallery of artworks by Samuel Thomas Gill

Samuel Thomas Gill

 

Read about the licensing system and the diggers rebellion at Ballarat

Image slice of Eureka Stockade by J.B. Henderson   

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Eureka! The Rush for Gold

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