Eureka Rediscovered: Twenty Years On

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Eureka Rediscovered: Twenty Years On

By Jack Harvey, November 2013

The site of the Eureka Stockade

In the twenty years that have passed since the publication of my book 'Eureka Rediscovered: In search of the site of the historic stockade' (1994), I have been asked many times whether any of the evidence that has emerged since that time has affected my conclusion about the location of the stockade. First, a bit of background for those who came in late. For some twenty years prior to the publication of my book, a small number of vociferous enthusiasts had been vigorously promoting a long established local tradition that the actual site of the stockade was some distance west of the stockade monument – some said as far as half a kilometre. In the early 1990s, with plans under way to establish a museum or interpretative centre at Eureka – the forerunner of today’s M.A.D.E. (Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka), the issue assumed greater practical importance than before. As a local resident, I got the bug, and spent most of my leisure time over a 15-month period in 1993-1994 researching the issue and documenting my findings. I examined all the items of primary evidence (accounts and illustrations of eyewitnesses, contemporary survey notes and maps, transcripts of official proceedings etc.) that were known to exist in 1994, together with a vast array of secondary evidence – recollections published long after 1854, newspaper accounts of annual celebrations, documents about the establishment of the Eureka Stockade Reserve and the monument, later paintings and engravings, accounts and analyses of professional and amateur historians and surveyors, family traditions, and so on. I presented and dissected this body of evidence in close to one hundred pages of text, with accompanying images, maps and plans, and a series of 1994 photographs that I commissioned for the book. In something of an anticlimax, I came out in favour of ‘the bleeding obvious’, concluding that: “… the Eureka Stockade lay in the immediate vicinity of the present monument … there is a high probability that the stockade encompassed the point on which the monument stands.” So what more have I learned since 1994, and has it changed my opinion in any way? As far as I am aware, there have been just four further developments that bear on one aspect or another of the book. I’ll deal with them in chronological order. The first was a map discovered in the Public Record Office in 1995 by Mr Andrew Webster of Frankston. The map was prepared by surveyor John Taylor and dated 18 April 1856. I had argued in my book that, although Eureka Street had generally been the main road out of Ballarat to Melbourne in 1854, at least one other alternative route existed through Ballarat East, and this was also referred to by some as the Melbourne Road. Recognising this ambiguity was important for resolving some apparent contradictions in the testimonies recorded in the transcripts of the trials of the stockaders. The Taylor map showed a road or track labelled ‘Present road to Melbourne’ along the line of York Street, perhaps because the Eureka Street road was blocked by mining activity in April 1856. This provided further direct corroborative evidence in support of my argument that the meaning of the term Melbourne Road could not be assumed uncritically. The second ‘find’ was a series of paintings, discovered in 1996 and subsequently purchased by the Art Gallery of Ballarat, by a Eureka Stockade eyewitness Charles Doudiet. Although simplified and naive in style, and pared down to the essential thematic details, the rendering of the attack on the stockade matches the features of the monument site in every detail, and is totally consistent with the well-known painting ‘The Eureka Stockade’ by S.D.S. Huyghue (also in the Art Gallery of Ballarat) that I analysed at great length in my book. The Doudiet painting has since been reproduced on a plaque mounted on a large rock adjacent to M.A.D.E., close to the likely viewpoint of the artist.

Charles A. Doudiet, Eureka Slaughter 3rd December, 1854, watercolour, pen and ink on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery with the assistance of many donors, 1996.

Third came the report submitted in June 1998 to the City of Ballarat by consulant Archaeologist Dr Vincent Clark, regarding excavations for the new Eureka Stockade Centre during 1996-1997. With regard to the site of the stockade, Dr Clark outlined how the evidence of the exavations corroborated many of the crucial points in my book regarding topography, and concluded that ‘… the better understanding of the topography of the area in the 1850s, taken together with the other evidence, suggests that a location close to the site of the Eureka monument was probable.’ Finally came the discovery in 2004, and subsequent purchase by the Art Gallery of Ballarat, of a pencil sketch ‘The Site of the Eureka Stockade’ made by S.D.S Huyghue in 1855. This sketch includes all of the basic topographical elements of Huyghue’s long-known 1882 painting ‘The Eureka Stockade’, in which he imaginatively depicted the battle. Its general topography, and its depiction of the heavily worked ground in the foreground, also bear a striking resembalance to the Doudiet painting. Thus this sketch provides a primary evidential foundation for Huyghue’s much later painting, and a consistent link with the painting by the eyewitness Doudiet. In summary, all four of these developments have strongly corroborated various aspects of the arguments in my book, and confirmed my confidence in the correctness of my original conclusion.

The site of Bentley’s Eureka Hotel

Another of the Doudiet paintings also provided corroborative evidence regarding the site of James Bentley’s Eureka Hotel, an important feature in the Eureka story (a replica of the hotel is put to the torch nightly at Sovereign Hill). Because some eyewitnesses of the stockade clash watched from near the burnt-out remains of Bentley’s Hotel, the issue of the site of the hotel had a bearing on the site of the stockade, and so I also dealt with this in the book. I reached the conclusion that Bentley’s Hotel was not located on the north-east corner of the intersection of Eureka and Otway Sts, where a 1928 Ballarat Historical Society marker stands, nor on the north-west corner of the same intersection where a sign was erected much more recently (possibly for the 140th anniversary Eureka celebrations in 1994). I concluded that the hotel stood about 150 metres further east along the north side of Eureka Street, on the top of the rise which used to be known as “Specimen Hill”, near the intersection of Queen Street. One of the lines of evidence for this opinion was two sketches by the eminent goldfields artist Samuel Thomas Gill. One of these depicted a view eastward along the road (Eureka Street) towards the stockade site. The position of Mt Warrenheip and the curves in the road make it easy to identify the vantage point as the corner of Eureka and Queen Streets. This sketch also depicted a shop on the south side of the road with a sign “BOWMAN BUTCHER” and a leg of meat hanging at the entrance. The other Gill sketch depicted the road (Eureka St) running level then downhill, with the charred stumps of the hotel on the north side, and the Ballarat Flat and Black Hill in the background. It appeared to me that Gill had made these two sketches from close to the same spot, one facing east straight along the road towards Warrenheip, and the other facing at an angle across the road but in the other direction towards the centre of Ballarat (i.e.north-west). Hence the two sketches taken together indicated that the hotel site was close to the corner of Eureka and Queen Streets. When I first saw “Eureka Riot 17th October 1854”, Doudiet’s depiction of the burning of Bentley’s hotel, I was amazed and delighted to see that my conjecture about the relationship of the two Gill sketches and my conclusion about the site of the hotel had been corroborated in the most direct fashion. The orientation of the hotel and the topography make it clear that the vantage point of this painting is south-west of the hotel i.e facing north-east. The burning hotel stands on the top of a low rise. To the right, on the opposite side of the road on ground sloping away from the hotel towards the east, stands an open structure with roof but no walls, within which hang two legs of meat. Thus the Doudiet painting includes elements from both the Gill sketches, confirming their spatial proximity, and it also confirms the topography.

Charles A. Doudiet, Eureka Riot 17th Octobe, 1854, watercolour, on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery with the assistance of many donors, 1996.

As a footnote, during the preparations for the 150th anniversary Eureka celebrations in 2004, a new set of plaques was laid in footpaths to identify key points along the route of the diggers’ march from Bakery Hill to the Stockade site. In the light of my research, and in recognition of the validity of my conclusions, there is now a third but less obvious “Eureka Hotel” sign, embedded in the bitumenised footpath on the north side of Eureka Street, a short distance west of Queen St.

Copyright © Jack Harvey 27/11/2013 – 19/12/2018 Published on Eurekapedia with permission.

Note: Both of the S.T. Gill sketches are reproduced in Harvey, J. (1994) Eureka Rediscovered, which is available in bookstores and libraries. The Huyghue sketch and painting and the Doudiet paintings are in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ballarat.