James Bentley

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Charles A. Doudiet, watercolour on paper, 1854, watercolour, on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery with the assistance of many donors, 1996.
Walter E. Pidgeon, Illustration from The Eureka Stockade by Raffaello Carboni, Sunnybrook Press, 1942, offset print.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Billings, 1993 Conserved with a generous donation from the Chisholm family, 2014.


James Francis Bentley was born in 1818 at Surrey, England. He arrived in Australia after being convicted of forgery[1] and transported to Tasmania where he served a 10 year sentence, before being released in 1851. He migrated to Melbourne immediately after his release, where he worked as a confectioner and gold buyer in Melbourne. Eventually the lure of gold overcame him and he headed for the goldfields.[2]

James Bentley married Catherine Sherwin of Collingwood, Melbourne in 1852.[3]

According to James Bentley's death certificate James and Catherine had the following children:

Francis 20 (b. 1853) (known as Tom died 1915)
Louisa 19 (died 1922)
Matilda 16 (b. 1857)
Christopher 14 (b. c.1859)
Albert 13 (b. 1861) Thought to have died in 1861)
Ada 11 (b. c.1862)
Ernest 8 (b. c.1865)[4]

James Bentley suicided by overdosing on laudanum at Carlton on 10 April 1873, Catherine stating at the inquest ‘My husband has never been of quite right mind since he lost his property at the Ballarat Riots. He has never recovered form the effects of it. Six years later, listed on the marriage certificate as Irene Ormsby Bentley, Catherine married Andrew Haines Mayo from America. They had no children. Catherine Bentley died in 1906, and It is not known what happened to her, although there is a record of an Andrew Mayo dying in 1912 at Warragul.[5]

James Bentley was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery on the 12 April 1873. The undertaker was a S. Keeble.[6]

S.T. Gill, Site of Bentley's Hotel - Eureka Ballaarat, 1855, lithograph, Art Gallery of Ballarat Collection, Purchased, 1977.

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

In Ballarat he was known as the builder and owner of Eureka Hotel, notorious for harbouring unsavoury types. The hotel opened on July 1854. Bentley also had a store with Mackay in 1853 situated near Main Rd, near the Commissioner's Camp.

The Eureka Hotel was burnt down on 17 October 1854, after the death of James Scobie. Bentley was accused of murdering the Scottish miner. [7]

On 18 November 1854, James Bentley, Thomas Farrell and William Hance were convicted of the manslaughter of James Scobie, a Scottish miner who had been found dead near James Bentley’s Eureka Hotel on 7 October 1854. Bentley, and his employees Farrell and Hance, had been tried and acquitted previously for this murder, but due to the outcry on the Ballarat Diggings, the insinuation of police corruption, and the subsequent riot and burning of the Eureka Hotel on 17 October 1854, there had been cause for a new trial. [8]

Post 1854 Experiences

The newspapers reported that: Mr Bentley, of Eureka notoriety, has, we learn from the Bendigo Advertiser, commenced an action for libel against the police magistrate at Sandhurst, Mr McLauchlan. It appears that Bentley applied for a license for a public-house, and Mr. McLauchlan, in refusing it, made some remarks relative to the character of the applicant, which were far from complimentary.[9]

In the News

Claims for Losses at the Eureka Hotel

Samuel Thomas Gill, Detail of Musicians from Subscription Ball, 1854, watercolour and gum arabic on paper.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, Purchased 1961.
The following is a list of the claims made to the Government for compensation in connection with the burning of Bentley's Hotel, on the 17th October, 1854. The total amount is £40,418 ls 2d, of which only £150 is recommended by the select committee to be paid, - viz., 30/ to Messrs D. & W. Wallace, and £120 to Mr Michael Walsh. A sum of £150 is also recommended to be given to Dr Carr, who is at present in the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum; but this amount is on account of a claim for professional services

to the wounded after the outbreak on the 3rd of December, and cannot properly be said to have come under the cognizance of the committee.

List of Claims for Compensation for Losses Sustained through the Ballarat Riot, on 7th October, 1854
George Waterson, clothing and working tools, £22 ; Augustus Miell, gold, bank notes, musical instruments and music books, goldrings, and two boxes of clothing, £87 ; D. and W. Wallace, tents and clothing, £30. Samuel Waldock, livery stable keeper, saddles, harness, carts, hay, corn, horses, &c. &c, £766; Henry Harris, merchandise stored in the yard of Bentley's Hotel, £45 ls.; E. F. West, clothing, musical instruments, and music books, £53 ; Chas. Smith, clothing and working tools, £20; Michael Walsh, tent, household goods, clothing of self and family, and injury sustained by his wife, £175 10s.; Chas. Dyte, merchandise stored in the building attached to the hotel, £416 ls; G. C. Smith, two boxes and their contents, which were stored in the hotel, stated value, £343 18s ; Isaac Rigby, chest of tools and clothing, £20 ; total, £1977 10s.
List of Creditors on Bentley's Estate
The Bank of New South Wales, overdrawn banking account, £2,000 : the Union Bank, dishonored, bills, £1,600 ; Thomas Bath, Ballarat, dishonored bill, £192 10s; F. B Beaver, Esq., M.L.A., goods sold and delivered, £2,492 8s 5d; Mark Folk and Isaac Lazarus, goods sold and delivered. £106 11s ; John Ettershank, Stephen Holgate, William Eaglestone, dishonored bills, £87 2s6d; John Rutherford, James Tingeman, goods sold and delivered, £516 16s 8d; John McGuinnes, goods sold and delivered, £96 2s 4d; Charles Morgan, goods sold and delivered, £26 3s 3d ; Patricias Wm Welch, goods sold and delivered, £506 7s ; Dr Carr, for professional services, £124. Total, £7,648 1s 2d.
Servants' Wages, and Moneys due on Building Contracts
Patrick Hanlon, carpenter's contract work, £95; Michael McDermott, do. £125; Donald Ross, do, £150; J. Donnelly, do, £98 ; Roderick Ross, do, £160; Charles Smith, baker, balance for wages, about £110; George Waterson, balance for wages, £22, and £92 10s; Isaac Rigby, money due on contract for building, £200. Total, £1,042 10s.
Bentley's Claim

"Claim by J. F. Bentley and wife, for the sum of £29,750, it being the ascertained value of the hotel, outbuildings, and stock in-trade, all of which were destroyed in the riot.[10]

The states that James Francis Bentley, pickle maker, of Little Bourke St., had attempted to commit suicide on the Steps of Parliament House. The report went on to say that this was the same Bentley who had been involved in the riots at Eureka.[11]

Mr Humffray also presented a Petition from James Francis Bentley, late of the Eureka Hotel, Ballaarat, and of Catherine Bentley, his wife, praying the Assembly to tale into its compassionate consideration the destitute condition to which the petitioners have been rendered through the destruction of property by lawless violence, and would cause inquiry to be made into the whole of the circumstances and determine as to what extent if restitution of property or compensation for its loss they are justly entitled.[12]

See also

Catherine Bentley

Compensation Claim for the Burning of Bentley's Eureka Hotel

Eureka Hotel

James Scobie

Scobie's Murder

For Forms, Evidence and Depositions in relation to the James Scobie trial click the following link Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 5527 Official Forms, Evidence and Depositions, October 1854

Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Gervasoni, Clare and Ford, Tina, Eureka Stockade centre Hall of Debate Kit, 1998.
  2. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  3. Gervasoni, Clare and Ford, Tina, Eureka Stockade centre Hall of Debate Kit, 1998.
  4. Research by Joan Gray, and forwarded to Eurekapedia on 08 July 2015. Joan Gray notes 'His daughter Ada corrected the record from Christopher to James on James's name of the deceased in the column stating her name Ada Hoffmeister which was her married name.'
  5. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  6. Research by Joan Gray, and forwarded to Eurekapedia on 08 July 2015.
  7. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  8. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  9. Transcribed by Chrissy Stancliffe from the Ballarat Star, 28 November 1882, page 2.
  10. Ballarat Star, 09 June 1858
  11. Australasian. Feb 1871
  12. Victorian Votes & Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 11 December 1856.

External links

Cite this page - http://www.eurekapedia.org/index.php?title=Special:CiteThisPage&page=James_Bentley&id=18086