Where did the Bakery Hill monster meetings take place?

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Sign on St Paul's Sunday school Hall, Victoria Street, Bakery Hill erected by the Ballarat Historical Society
Samuel Thomas Gill, Deep Sinking, Bakery Hill, Ballarat - 1853, handcoloured lithograph.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ronald Wrigley Estate, 1979.

Jack Harvey, November 19, 2018

First prepared, August 1977

Minor revisions, November 23, 2013

Extensions pertaining to the Doudiet illustration, November 19, 2018

In 1977, a much younger Jack Harvey was a member of the Bakery Hill Action Group, who were successful (with a little bit of help from their friends!) in persuading McDonald’s not to demolish the group of historic buildings that they occupy to this day. One of the lines of argument was that, as Bakery Hill was the site of the mass meetings of miners that preceded the Eureka Stockade affair, it represented resistance to 19th century British colonial oppression and should not be surrendered to a symbol of 20th century American cultural and commercial hegemony. This in turn led to counter suggestions that the site in question was not really Bakery Hill at all, and more specifically to the question of just where the mass meetings took place. Almost 20 years before he took up the cudgels regarding the site of the Eureka Stockade, Jack prepared the first draft of this article. He has since made minor amendments and incorporated additional material about more recently discovered evidence.

The word ‘hill’ generally conjures up a picture of a (more or less) rounded protuberance, with a highest point from which the ground falls away on all sides.

Bakery Hill, Ballarat is not like that at all. Rather, it is the western end of a long east-west tongue or ridge, which extends from the bottom of Woodman’s Hill in the east to the Ballarat Flat in the west, bounded on the north by the long slope down to Yarrowee Creek and on the south by the steeper escarpment above Specimen Vale Creek. Victoria St runs along the top of this ridge, which appears level for most of its length, although it does in fact slope down gently towards the west. Travelling west in Victoria St, this slope becomes more apparent near King St, and more so again between East St and Humffray St, the steepest section being from just east of Humffray St to the Flat, at the conjunction of Bridge Mall and Main Road.

It is clear that this landform has no ‘top’ — no single highest point on which to bestow the name Bakery Hill. But the word ‘hill’ is also used in other ways. It may refer to an escarpment, where land rises from a flat plain to a ridge or plateau, it may describe the more level area at the top of the escarpment, or it may be applied to particular roads or tracks that climb the slope. In the case of Bakery Hill, all three usages have occurred.

The evidence of the earliest maps is that in the 1850s, when settlement was spreading eastwards from the Ballarat Flat onto higher ground, ‘Bakery Hill’ referred to an area of the escarpment where two intersecting tracks rose from Main St. After the government survey of July 1857, one of these became the new Melbourne Road, or Victoria St (Eureka St had previously been the main Melbourne Road), and the other was named Humffray St. A number of government survey maps of the period 1856-1860 show ‘Bakery Hill’ in the region of the intersection of Victoria Street and Humffray Street.

Charles Schulze

According to the anecdotal oral evidence of his 86-year-old grandson in 1977, Dresden-born Charles Gottlieb Schultz, together with his business partner Henry Boning, ran a bakery next door to the National School in Humffray St Nth (opposite the present Bakery Hill post office) during 1852-1856, after which he became a farmer at Waubra, where he is buried.

On the earliest of the maps (prepared by John Taylor & dated 18 April 1856; Roll Plan 99, PRO) Humffray St was not so named; from its intersection with Main Rd in the south to a point beyond modern Mair St to the north, it was labelled simply as ‘Bakery Hill’. The same is true of a map dated 6 July 1857 (Surveyor General’s Office, City of Ballarat). This map shows John Bauldison’s Ballarat Bakery situated on the east side of ‘Bakery Hill’, 30 m south of the Victoria St track. On this map, the narrow east-west thoroughfare leading up the hill was simply labelled ‘Road to Melbourne’, and it was shown in a cutting that extended from Main Road up to the intersection with ‘Bakery Hill’ and beyond. A map prepared by John Phillips in August 1857 (Roll Plan 9A, PROV) showed Victoria St as ‘Bakery Hill new road’.

By June 1860, on a map lithographed by W. Collis, (Office of Lands and Survey; City of Ballarat) the old ‘Bakery Hill’ had become Humffray St, the modern Bridge St from Grenville St to Peel St was shown as Main St, the next section from Peel St to Humffray St had become ‘Bakery Hill’, and beyond Humffray St it became ‘Melbourne Road’. The cutting was no longer indicated; it is unlikely to have been very deep, and was presumably filled in when the newly surveyed road was constructed.

Another map, from an 1858 geological survey, designated as Bakery Hill the whole area of rising ground bounded by Main St, Humffray St, Victoria St, (which is called Bakery Hill New Road) and extending to the vicinity of the modern Barkly St. It also showed the Bakery Hill Lead, one of the rich ‘deep leads’ (ancient creek beds buried under later alluvial deposits) of Ballarat East, which crosses under Humffray St around 100 m north of Victoria St, and joins the Gravel Pits Lead near the intersection of Peel St and Bridge St.

There is also evidence that the term Bakery Hill was from the earliest days applied to the higher more level ground along Victoria St from East St to Princes St and beyond. Raffaello Carboni, in his eyewitness account of the Eureka rebellion, referred to the ‘Prince Albert Hotel, Bakery Hill’ and the ’Catholic Church, Bakery Hill’. According to a map of the Melbourne Road (i.e. Victoria St) dated 7 September 1857 (Crown Lands Office; City of Ballarat), the Prince Albert Hotel stood just to the south of Victoria St, in what is now Princes St, while the church was a little further east, near the present St Alipius church.

An elderly resident has recalled (Ballarat Courier June 20, 1977) that in the early years of the twentieth century, a group of shops between East St and Princes St, where the Sunshine Biscuit factory later stood, were known as the Bakery Hill shops.

A Mines Department map of 1923 placed Bakery Hill further east again, in Victoria St between King St and Otway St, while on map dated 21 October 1861 prepared by J. Brache (City of Ballarat) ‘Bakery Hill’ was printed, apparently in a cartographically convenient vacant area of the map, well north of Victoria St, where the East Ballarat loco sheds now stand. On this map, and on the 6 July 1857 map, a ‘Bakery Hill Hotel’ is shown on the west side of Humffray St about 30 m north of Victoria St, where Curtis St now intersects.

Clearly, ‘Bakery Hill’ has been used from the earliest days to refer to both the steep slope up from Main St, and the flatter land above, as far east as King St and beyond. Where then, was Lalor’s stump, the site of the ‘monster meetings’ of the miners on Bakery Hill? Three things are clear from Carboni’s account: that the ‘old spot’ was west of the Catholic Church, that it was large enough in area to accommodate the crowd of ten thousand (fifteen thousand according to the Ballarat Times of the day) who gathered there at the ‘monster meeting’ on November 29th; and that it was still in use as a meeting place as late as September 29, 1855.

The Taylor survey map indicates that buildings were well established more or less along the lines of Victoria St and Humffray St before April 1856. In 1857, Victoria St (the Bakery Hill New Road) was a narrow track, with buildings scattered in some places several deep on either side. However, an area that does not seem to have been occupied is the area behind the buildings on the south side of Victoria St, between Humffray St and East St, to the rear of the present St Paul’s church. This includes the high ground at the westernmost end of the ridge, with commanding views over the Ballarat Flat towards Golden Point and the Camp Hill, and the south-west facing slope down towards Main Rd. It was then, and remains today, clearly visible from the busiest, most populous mining areas of the time, and was extremely close to the commercial hub of Main Rd. In short, it was an ideal public meeting place.

I concluded in 1977 that it was on this spot that Peter Lalor and his comrades gathered, that the ‘Southern Cross’ was hoisted in open defiance of the authority encamped on the opposite hill, that the divisions were formed, and that the march to Eureka began.

Since 1977, two illustrations with direct relevance to this question have come to light. The first is a photograph from the Town of Ballarat East: Mayor’s Report, 1914 (Ballarat Library), looking east along Victoria St from the intersection of Humffray St, with an X drawn in the foreground in the middle of Victoria St, and the handwritten annotation DIGGERS MASS MEETING MET HERE WHEN MINERS RIGHTS WERE BURNT. I give this ‘treasure map’ no credence at all regarding the exact location. Apart from the uncertain provenance of this secondary ‘evidence’ (and the inaccuracy of the term ‘Miner’s Right’ — a later form of document, different to the Miner’s Licences that were burnt in 1854), the primary evidence that I have cited suggests that the spot indicated was probably on a narrow track, or even in a cutting, from the earliest days of the goldfield.

Charles A. Doudiet, Swearing allegiance to the 'Southern Cross’, 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.

However the second item, the painting ‘Swearing allegiance to the Southern Cross: December 1st 1854’ by the eyewitness Charles Doudiet (Ballarat Fine Art Gallery collection) discovered in 1996, is primary evidence, and it not only lends strong support to my 1977 conclusion, it provides extra detail which enables the spot depicted to be more precisely located.

It does not purport to be a detailed photorealistic depiction. It is sketchy and naïve in execution, and obviously simplified, stylised and pared down to the essential thematic features. Nevertheless, it provides some important topographical clues:

1. The meeting is taking place on sloping ground.

2. The slope continues upward beyond the extent of the crowd.

3. The shadows are cast at an angle to the slope (across and down), towards the left of the painting.

4. The sky is depicted as brighter on the right than the left of the painting (consistent with point 3).

5. The lengths of the shadows are similar to the heights of the objects, implying a sun elevation of around 45%.

6. The government camp is depicted over the shoulder of the hill across the flat land to the left.

7. The line from the stump and flagpole to the flagpole at the government camp is depicted as running across the slope of the meeting area (i.e. along the contour). The fact that the perspective is telescopically foreshortened, so that the proximity of the camp to the meeting site is exaggerated, does not affect the directional information.

Two important supplementary points are:

8. The direction from the Bakery Hill site to the site of the government camp (say, the centre of the block bounded by Camp, Mair, Lydiard and Sturt Sts) is approximately 25 degrees N of W.

9. In his book ‘Lucky City’, Weston Bate made reference to a gathering on Bakery Hill at 9am on December 1st.

Points 7 & 8 together imply that:

10. The alignment of the slope (at right angles to the contours) is from approximately 25 degrees W of S (down the slope) to 25 degrees E of N (up the slope).

Points 3 & 10 together imply that:

11. The azimuth (horizontal direction) of the sun is E of N by considerably more than 25 degrees.

Points 5 & 11 imply an early to mid-morning meeting time, which is consistent with Point 9.

Points 1, 2 & 10 are consistent with a location on the south-western slope at the western end of the Bakery Hill ridge. This is the undeveloped area behind the buildings on the NE side of Main Road between Humffray St and Barkly St.

Three further points:

12. The lone building depicted to the right of the government camp appears to be closer than the camp, on the same hill as the meeting. This may be a stylistic flourish, or it may be a faithful depiction of the first building in what is now Humffray St Sth. The first known map of this area depicts many buildings (including a Church of England), but it dates from April 1856. Sixteen months is a long time in a boom town.

13. The scattering of tents and/or buildings in the background, at the top of the slope, is consistent with a sketchy representation of haphazard settlement on the south side of what is now Victoria St, as depicted in the earliest maps.

14. The Old Gravel Pits deep lead passed through this area in a NE-SW direction, crossing Main Road approximately midway between Humffray and Barkly Sts. I am unsure of the chronology of the deep leads, but if the lead had been discovered and worked by December 1954 then presumably the monster meetings would not have straddled the workings on the lead, whether still active or abandoned. Prima facie, the area as depicted would appear to be on the NW side rather than the south east side of the lead, where the contours of the western end of the ridge curve northward, providing a closer and clearer view of the government camp than would be the case from further east. There is no indication of disturbed ground in the painting, but this is consistent with the general absence of realistic minutiae.

Copyright © 2018 Jack Harvey

Reproduced with permission of Jack Harvey, 20 November 2018.

Also See

Bakery Hill


Charles Doudiet

Charles Schulze