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Bendigo History

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Last Update
6th of July 2017


Diggers on way to Bendigo
Private Collection.
One of the many lithographed sketches of the artist, S.T.Gill (1818 – 1880). Gill specialized in life on the goldfields and he was observant of detail and humour in its everyday situations.

A Select Committee of Parliament in 1890 heard evidence from many people, including statements that the shepherds in the area, Asquith and Graham, had also been digging for gold prior to the first rush, but on the evidence available to it, the Committee was unable to decide who had made the first discovery of gold on Bendigo.

It is generally agreed that Mrs Margaret Kennedy and Mrs Julia Farrell, wives of workmen on the Ravenswood run, found gold at 'The Rocks' - now an identified location that can be visited at the junction of Bendigo Creek and Maple Street. The discoverers are honored nearby in Golden Square through a steel sculpture to our pioneer women, erected 150 years later in 2001.

The name of the creek that subsequently gave its name to the goldfield and township is widely believed to derive from an employee of the sheep run who was handy with his fists and nicknamed “Bendigo” after the Nottingham prize-fighter William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson (his nickname having been corrupted from the biblical ‘Abednego’). The central area of the field was named Sandhurst in the early 1850s but this was never popular with the original miners. The publicity in Europe in 1851-2 was about the Bendigo goldfields and many overseas investors did not connect Sandhurst with a goldfield. ( In the early 1890s as part of a drive to attract outside capital, pressure was exerted on the City Council to revert to the original name. A poll was held, a large majority favored the change and Bendigo again became the official name of the city).

The first ‘rush’ had taken place in November 1851 when miners at Castlemaine (Forest Creek) heard of the new discovery. Alluvial gold was found in the area of its first discovery (present day Golden Square) and then the miners followed the gold down the creek to what is now Epsom and up the creek to the present suburb of Kangaroo Flat. Further discoveries were soon made in the tributary creeks at Eaglehawk and Diamond Hill.

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