Catherine Bentley

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S.T. Gill, Site of Bentley's Hotel - Eureka Ballaarat, 1855, lithograph, Art Gallery of Ballarat Collection, Purchased, 1977.
"Deposition Maurice Linquist, p.1, PROV, VPRS5527/P0 Unit 1, Item 70
This Deponent
Maurice Linquist on his oath saith I am auctioneer near Bentley's.
remember the 17th Inst. I lived near there at the time, I know that Mrs Bentley ad Mrs Gadd were in a tent close to mine, but I do not know who brought them there.
I cannot recollect that prisoner helped to take
"Deposition Maurice Linquist , p.2, PROV, VPRS5527/P0 Unit 1, Item 70
the houses out.
Maurice Linquist

The Prisoner Albert Hurd declining to make any statement and is committed for trial at the Supreme Court of Criminal Sessions to be holden at Melbourne on the 15 November next.
November next Sworn before us at Ballarat this 27th October 1854 E P Sturt PM Charles P Hackett PM


Catherine (Sherwin) was born around 1829 in County Sligo, Ireland and came to Australia. Her parents were Amelia and Roderick Sherwin. She married James Bentley on 10 March 1853, St Peter’s Melbourne, and they produced the following family: Henry Francis b. 1853 Melbourne; Louise (died in 1922); Ada Selina (married 1883, Martin August Hoffmeister); Matilda b. 1857 Collingwood (married 1877, Albert Reid); Albert Action b. 1861 Inglewood (died 1861 Inglewood, aged 1 year). [1][2]

Both Catherine and her sister, Mary, were educated and sailed to Australia as free emigrants in 1850, and married soon after their their arrival in the Colony. [3]

Six years after James Bentley's death Catherine Bentley (using the name Irene Ormsby Bentley) married Andrew Haines Mayo from America. They had no children.[4]

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)[5]

Catherine Mayo died on 14 December 1906 at Neerim South, aged 75, and was buried in Neerim South Cemetery. Andrew Mayo died in 1912 at Warragul.[6]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Along with her husband, James Bentley, Catherine was accused of murdering James Scobie outside the Eureka Hotel in October 1854.

When Catherine Bentley was admitted to the Melbourne Gaol (as Catherine Bennett) in 1854 for the murder of James Scobie she said that she was an Irish protestant who had come to Victoria in 1850 on the Lochnagar. Catherine also said that she could read and write well, but was not of superior education. The prison authorities describe her as being of slight build, with a dark complexion, black hair and dark grey eyes. Sir Charles Hotham wrote that he felt she was a former convict. At the murder trial the Argus described Catherine as ‘young and handsome’. Catherine Bentley was acquitted but her husband was gaoled for three years. She claimed that the loss of the hotel and the subsequent trial had left her near destitute. Catherine was forced to take her two children to Maryborough where she ran a refreshment tent. She applied for compensation for the loss of her husband’s property by the burning of the hotel under the title of The Humble Petition of Catherine Bentley late of the Eureka Hotel Ballarat to Sir Charles Hotham 18 Jan 1855 and Maryborough 17 May 1855. The Board did not admit the claim.

Bentley, a broken man, only served half his sentence and was released on 18 March 1856. He turned to alcohol it is assumed to drown his sorrows after his massive hotel burned to ashes, and his future in tatters. After the release of her husband James and Catherine had two further children. The Australasian in February 1871 stated 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 Eureka Stockade riots . His suicide attempt on 10 April 1873 at Carlton, from an overdose of laudanum, was successful. James Bentley was buried in the Boroondara Cemetery, Kew. Catherine stated at the inquest that ‘My husband had never been of quite right mind since he lost his property at the Ballarat Riots. He has never recovered from the effects of it’.

Six years later, on 2 October 1878 at Condell St, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Catherine married Andrew Mayo, from the State of Maine, United States of America. On the marriage certificate her name is recorded as Irene Ormsby Bentley. The couple had no children. Catherine died from apoplexy on 14 December 1906 aged 75 years, and was buried at Neerim South cemetery. She had spent 57 years in Victoria. [7]; [8]; [9]; [10].

Catherine Bentley was one of the sponsors to a baptism at St Alipius Chapel, Ballarat East. Bridget (Lennon) and Patrick Doyle had a son, Edward, baptised at St Alipius on 16 October 1854. The sponsors were James Doyle and Catherine Bentley. This Catherine was possibly the wife of the proprietor of the Eureka Hotel, James Bentley but this cannot be ascertained positively.

Post 1854 Experiences

Same silver coins of George III and IV periods, supposed to be Eureka Stockade relics were recently discovered by a sluicing company near that historic spot, and have been claimed by a Mrs Bentley, aged 73, whose husband was a coin collector in the Eureka days.[11]

See also

James Bentley

Andrew Mayo

For Forms and Depositions relating to the James Scobie murder click the following link [1]

Further Reading

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

Wright, Claire, Labour Pains: Towards a Female Perspective on the birth of Australian Democracy IN Reappraising an Australian Legend, edited by Alan Mayne, Perth, Network Books, 2007.

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. Justin Corfield, Dorothy Wickham, Clare Gervasoni, The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004
  2. Dorothy Wickham, Women of the Diggings: Ballarat 1854, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2009
  3. Wright, Claire, Labour Pains: Towards a Female Perspective on the birth of Australian Democracy IN Reappraising an Australian Legend, edited by Alan Mayne, Perth, Network Books, 2007.
  4. Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
  5. 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.'
  6. Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
  7. Ian McFarlane, Eureka: From the Official Records, Public Record Office Victoria, p. 68, 109
  8. Notes from Lois Keating and Clare Wright
  9. Betty Osborne & Trenear DuBourg, Maryborough: A Social History, Maryborough, 1985, p. 72
  10. Sally Wilde, Forests Old Pastures New: A History of Warragul, Shire of Warragul, 1988, p. 119
  11. Bendigo Advertiser, 18 July 1900/

External links