Eureka Stockade:Lieutenant Governor Hotham's report on the burning of the Eureka Hotel on the Ballarat Gold Field

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Eureka Stockade:Lieutenant Governor Hotham's report on the burning of the Eureka Hotel on the Ballarat Gold Field is associated with Toorak House, Melbourne located at these coordinates -37.839153, 145.018115

The despatch below represents a part of Lieutenant Governor Hotham's narrative of the period between his initial visits to the goldfields, in August and September 1854, through to the findings of the Gold Fields Commission of Enquiry in March 1855.

Record Citation: VPRS 1085/P0, Duplicate Despatches from the Governor to the Secretary of State, Unit 8, Duplicate Despatch no. 148
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Agency: VA 466 Governor (including Lieutenant Governor 1851-1855 and Governor's Office)
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Date: 1854/11/18
Record Type: Despatch
Event Type: Riot
Language: en
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Image Transcript Margin Notes Body of Transcript

Despatch No. 148

Reporting the burning of the Eureka Hotel on the Ballaarat Gold Field

Toorac – near Melbourne 18th November 1854

The Right Honorable Sir George Grey Bart, K.C.B.


I do myself the honor to inform you that on the night of the 6th of October last, James Scobie, was found murdered on the gold field of Ballaarat. As he had been last seen coming from the Eureka Hotel, suspicion fell upon the landlord, James Bentley, his wife, and John Farrell, all of whom had formerly been convicts in Van Diemen's Land, and they were accordingly taken up, and brought before the bench of magistrates at Ballaarat.

The Magistrates after hearing the evidence and examining witnesses, pronounced the prisoners not guilty of the charges preferred against them, and they were accordingly released.

This decision gave great dissatisfaction to the entire digging community of Ballaarat; they denounced the presiding magistrate, Mr Dewes – accused him of being connected by interest with Bentley, and broadly asserted that he had been bought over.

Infuriated with rage, a vast assemblage of diggers was soon on the ground, and notwithstanding the exertions of the magistrates, police and a small party of military, they set fire to the hotel, sacked it, and burnt it to the ground, and with infinite difficulty the prisoners obtained safety in the camp, and escaped the summary capital punishment to which it was intended to subject them.

The knowledge of strength which they now had acquired, and the indecision and oscillation of the authorities, in allowing the riot to get head, caused the diggers to hold mass meetings, use the most threatening language to the officers of the gold field, and led them to fear that an attack would be made on the government buildings, and that they in turn might be destroyed.

On obtaining official information of these proceedings, I lost no time in making such dispositions as I concluded would enable the authorities to maintain the integrity of the law; and within four days 450 military and police were on the ground, commanded by an officer in whom I had confidence, and who was instructed to enforce order and quiet, support the civil authority in the arrest of the ringleaders and to use force, whenever legally called upon to do so, without regard to the consequences which might ensue.

These dispositions and the knowledge that the military were instructed to act, checked all further movement on the part of the diggers. Four of the supposed ringleaders were arrested, and very heavy bail taken for their appearance to stand their trial.

Gradually the irritation subsided, and the diggers returned to their ordinary labour, but the law Officers of the Crown, being of opinion that sufficient evidence did exist to criminate Bentley, his wife, and Farrell, they were again arrested, and are now in prison, awaiting their trial at the approachiing assize.

The movement being now quelled, it behoved me to investigate the charges which poured in from all quarters, of general corruption on the part of the authorities of the Ballaarat gold field, and accordingly I appointed a board of enquiry composed of officers of standing and ability, and directed them to proceed to Ballaarat, and ascertain if there was any foundation for these charges.

The board report that the Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr Dewes, had obtained loans of money from various individuals resident at Ballaarat, and state 'that such acts cannot be too severely inadverted upon as tending to subvert public confidence in the integrity, and impartiallity, of the Bench'.

They also report Sergeant Major Milne of the police force as guilty of receiving bribes, but with these exceptions, they are unanimous in declaring that the conduct of the officers on the Ballaarat gold field, has been honorable, and correct.

I have directed that Mr Dewes' name be erased from the Commission of the Peace, and have requested the Attorney General to inform me whether Sergeant Major Milne can be prosecuted for receiving money illegally. In the meantime I have directed the law officers to prepare a bill, rendering any district which may be proclaimed by the Lieutenant Governor 'disturbed', liable to defray by assessment all extraordinary charges which may arise either from violence, or an increase of force.

I have the honor to be Sir, Your obedient humble Servant Chas. Hotham

Charles Hotham has been tagged on these pages:

  1. Catherine Bentley
  2. Charles Hotham
  3. Eureka Stockade:Bentley predicts the destruction of his hotel
  4. Eureka Stockade:Catholics protest over the treatment of Smyth's servant
  5. Eureka Stockade:Lieutenant Governor Hotham comments on the Report of the Commission appointed to enquire into the management of the Gold Fields of Victoria
  6. Eureka Stockade:Lieutenant Governor Hotham's report on a serious riot and collision at the Ballarat Gold Field
  7. Eureka Stockade:Lieutenant Governor Hotham's report on the burning of the Eureka Hotel on the Ballarat Gold Field
  8. Eureka Stockade:Minutes from the Executive Council
  9. Eureka Stockade:Peter Lalor's Narrative
  10. Eureka Stockade:Petition from Ballarat residents re Scobie murder
  11. John Foster
Facts about "Eureka Stockade:Lieutenant Governor Hotham's report on the burning of the Eureka Hotel on the Ballarat Gold Field"RDF feed
Has agency url +
Has coordinates37° 50' 21" S, 145° 1' 5" ELatitude: -37.839153
Longitude: 145.018115
+Google maps
Has date18 November 1854 +
Has event typeRiot +
Has form nameTranscribed Record Form +
Has languageen +
Has person nameJames Scobie +, James Bentley +, John Farrell + and Charles Hotham +
Has record agencyVA 466 Governor (including Lieutenant Governor 1851-1855 and Governor's Office) +
Has record citationVPRS 1085/P0, Duplicate Despatches from the Governor to the Secretary of State, Unit 8, Duplicate Despatch no. 148 +
Has record typeDespatch +
Has record url +
Has related resource +
Has rights +
Latitude-37.839 +
Located inToorak House, Melbourne +
Longitude145.018 +
Page has default formThis property is a special property in this wiki.Transcribed Record Form +
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