Susannah Masfield

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Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Post 1854 Experiences

In the News

FAMOUS DAYS RECALLED. - In referring to the ninetieth birth-day of Mrs. Susannah Mansfield, which occurred on October 17, our Darwin correspondent stated that she was the oldest woman in the Northern Territory, having lived there for 30 years. This in itself is interesting, in view of the statement we so often hear that the climatic conditions of the North are not favourable to longevity; but we are interested chiefly in Mrs. Mansfield's recollections, linked up, as they are, with some remarkable people and some famous events in our history. From her father, who had fought at Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington, she heard accounts of that great battle. He had come out to Tasmania in charge of some convicts, and it was there that Mrs. Mansfield was born. Later, she lived for many years on the Victorian mining fields, and, as a child, she remembers the riot at Eureka in December of 1854 and the finding of the "Blanche Barclay" (or "Barkly") nugget in 1857. She was present when Sir Charles Hotham, Governor of Victoria in 1854-55, was welcomed at the goldfields; and she knew William John Wills, the explorer, when he was a young man. And, to add piquancy to her reminiscences, she recalls the horse-whipping of an editor in the street by that most extraordinary woman, Lola Montez, the actress. There are older people than Mrs. Mansfield, no doubt, who were born in this country and are still living in it, but there can be very few with more colourful recollections.
Picture the little girl-she was then but 11-as a spectator of the occurrences at the Eureka Stockade! It occupied about an acre in East Ballarat, and as a result of the public burning of mining licences it was taken by storm on the morning of Sunday, December 3, 1854, by a party of troops and police. There were not many armed miners in this so-called stockade, but they made a determined resistance, led by Peter Lalor, a civil engineer, who had come out from Ireland in 1852, and with some shipmates had taken up claims on the Eureka lead. Lalor, who was wounded in the fight and lost his left arm, was afterwards to play an important part in the political life of this country. In 1855, representation was given to the goldfields, and Peter Lalor was elected without opposition to the Victorian Legislature, subsequently filling various important Ministerial positions. This is but one of the romances associated with the political history of Australia. The name of Lola Montez recalls a romantic period in our stage history. In one of her vivacious letters from India, the Hon. Emily Eden gives a description of this dashing, blue-eyed, black-haired adventuress, then known as "little Mrs. James," wife of a subaltern, and afterwards known as Lola Montez, friend and adviser of King Ludwig of Bavaria. In one delightful account we read how King Ludwig, "in his love for the arts," lost his throne In the Bavarian revolution of 1848 through his infatuation for this "Spanish dancer, who was really of "Scottish origin, and the duels fought "on whose behalf gave her so much "notoriety that she was practically excelled everywhere, until in 1846 the "King was attracted by her dancing." In January, 1856, she appeared at the Victoria Theatre in Sydney, and Brewer, in his "History of the Drama and Music In New South Wales," records that she played in a drama that had been specially written for her-"Lola Montez in Bavaria." As an actress she was not a success, but the "Spider Dance," by which she had captivated the Bavarian monarch, was a great draw. Dr. Lang, who travelled on the same steamer as the notorious Lola from Sydney to Melbourne, described her as "a very interesting woman." Much more important, however, were the visits of the Starks, Gustavus Brooke, Hoskins, Madame Anna Bishop, Madame Carandini, Sara Flower, and other theatrical celebrities of that period.
Many others were attracted by the gold discoveries and the possibilities of this new country, among them being Adam Lindsay Gordon, James Lionel Michael, and Henry Kingsley, all of whom have left their impress upon the literature of this country. The open- ing up of steam communication hastened our material development. Mrs. Humphry Ward (who was born in Tasmania, a granddaughter of Dr. Arnold, of Rugby, and was later to establish a brilliant reputation with "Robert Elsmere" and other famous novels) has recorded that the voyage occupied three months when, as a child of five, in 1856 she was taken to England. Tasmania was not even then connected by telegraph with the mainland-indeed, it was only in 1851, the year of her birth, that the telegraph was first used in New South Wales-and cable communication was still many years off. Nobody dreamed of wireless, and if there were any who dreamed of airships we may be quite sure they were considered fit subjects for the lunatic asylum. When, in 1830, the Liverpool to Manchester railway was opened, there were people who said it was "flying in the face of the Almighty"; and-has not Dean Ramsay told us of the old Scotch lady who protested against steamships as violating the decrees of Providence by going against wind and tide? This present year of grace marks a centenary-the centenary of the hansom cab-which provides another illustration of the wonderful advance that has been made, for with the coming of the motor car the horse-and-cab has almost disappeared. What wonders the lady of ninety has witnessed in her life-time! Since the days when she saw Eureka and knew Wills, the great explorer who crossed the Australian continent with Burke in 1860-61 and perished so tragically at Cooper's Creek, what marvelous progress this country has made![1]

See also

Further Reading

Dorothy Wickham, Women in 'Ballarat' 1851-1871: A Case Study in Agency, PhD. School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Ballarat, March 2008.

Dorothy Wickham, Blood, Sweat and Tears: Women of Eureka in Journal of Australian Colonial History, 10, No, 1, 2008, pp. 99-115.

Dorothy Wickham, Women of the Diggings: Ballarat 1854, BHSPublishing, 2009.,_Sweat_and_Tears:_Women_at_Eureka

Clare Wright, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, Text Publishing, 2013.

Dorothy Wickham, Not just a Pretty Face: Women on the Goldfields, in Pay Dirt: Ballarat & Other Gold Towns, BHSPublishing, 2019, pp. 25-36.


  1. Sydney Morning Herald, 28 October 1933.

External links

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Caption, Reference.