A Skip Back in TimeA Skip Back in Time
The Sovereign Hill SchoolsThe Sovereign Hill Schools
The Red Hill National School St. Peter’s Denominational School
The Ragged School St.Alipius Diggings School
The following pages contain
• An introduction to our programme
• Where we fit in VELS
• Background information on the Victorian education system of the 1850s
• Information sheets on life in the 1850s
• Fact sheets on gold, money and length
• A timeline of important world events of the 1850s
• Suggested Post excursion activities and worksheets for your students
For more information please contact
Sovereign Hill Schools
Sovereign Hill, Ballarat, Vic. 3350
Fax 5331 5145
We do hope you enjoy your two days at one of our historical schools.
THE SOVEREIGN HILL SCHOOLS
AN ADVENTURE FROM THE PAST IN A SCHOOL OF THE FUTURE
An adventure ... a two-day adventure ... that is how we like to look upon the programmes
offered by our three 1850s goldfields’ schools, The Red Hill National School, St Peter’s
Denominational School, the Ragged School and St.Alipius Diggings School. The
Sovereign Hill Schools offer a unique learning experience, which is exciting, challenging,
and rewarding for students and teachers alike.
Students attend the schools for two days of costumed role-play, which highlights the vast
differences between schooling on the Victorian Goldfields of the 1850s and education
Students are taught from the Irish National System of Education, which was used in mid-
19th century Australian schools. They use slates, sandboards, dip pens, copybooks and
facsimile editions of original textbooks. Sitting on wooden benches at long desks, the
students must observe the manners and demeanour of young Victorian ladies and
gentlemen. Visiting teachers are also costumed and given a role to play - much to the
delight of the children.
As well as time spent in the classroom, we take the children (in ordered lines) to visit
various businesses and places of interest in the Sovereign Hill Township and diggings.
Visits to the wheelwrights, the bakery, the blacksmith and the Chinese Temple all help to
demonstrate the social conditions that existed on the 1850s goldfields.
During their walk students also learn about goldfields’ life by meeting and interacting
with costumed staff and volunteers who role-play 1850s characters. Sometimes in the
classroom, their day may be interrupted by a doctor inspecting students for lice, by an
angry next-door neighbour or a businessman on the lookout for a suitable employee.
The Sovereign Hill Schools’ experience, and the suggested post-excursion activities meet
the following VELS Strands and Learning Standards.
LEVEL 4 Civics and Citizenship
As students work towards the achievement of Level 4 standards in Civics and
Citizenship, they learn about the origins and establishment of the Australian
nation at Federation. They examine the nature of the Australian federal
system of governance that developed. They consider the effects of Australian
federation on the democratic rights of different groups of people such as
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people, women and non-British
Students learn about the three levels of government in Australia and
investigate examples of the functions and services of these governments such
as currency, defence, education, health, parks and libraries. They examine
other features of Australian democracy; for example, the role of government in
representing the people, the key tasks of a member of parliament or councillor,
how parliament makes laws and the importance of voting. They learn about
the values of democracy, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
They consider the experiences of diverse cultural groups, including ATSI
communities, and their contributions to Australian identity. They consider the
values important in a multicultural society such as respect and tolerance.
Level 4 Communication
As students work towards the achievement of Level 4 standards in
Communication, they use their understanding of communication conventions
to communicate effectively with peers and to respond appropriately when they
are part of an audience; for example, by waiting for the communication of
others to be completed before responding. They practise listening attentively
to identify and communicate main points to others. They refl ect on the
implicit messages received through body language and begin to understand
that verbal and non-verbal messages do not always correspond. They practise
sending consistent messages during their interactions.
Level 3 History
As students work towards the achievement of Level 3 standards in the
Humanities, they apply the concepts of time, continuity and change through
a study of the history and traditions of Australians. They examine stories,
artefacts and other evidence from the past and present to learn about
Australian society and its origins, such as the history of national symbols,
including the flag, and key commemorations and celebrations such as Anzac
Day and Labour Day. They examine the histories of the cultural groups
represented in their classroom, community and nation. They learn to sequence
some key events on a timeline and write simple explanations of events.
Students investigate the human and physical characteristics of their local area
and other parts of Victoria and consider features of their local community that
have changed over time. They learn about settlement patterns, major land
uses, communication networks, and the location and variety of national parks
in Victoria. They begin to make some simple comparisons between local and
other Victorian environments: natural features, climate, land use and types of
human activities. Students develop awareness and understanding of the effects
of people’s interactions with their environment and the ways in which these
affect their lives. Students begin to visualise and describe location and direction
using simple alphanumeric grids and compass points. They learn to use atlas
maps and a globe to locate and name the states and territories of Australia.
Level 3 Design
As students work towards the achievement of Level 3 standards in Design,
Creativity and Technology, they begin to provide input into the development
of design briefs. They generate ideas from a variety of sources, and recognise
that their designs have to meet a range of different requirements. They learn
to make realistic plans for achieving their aims and recognise that they are
constrained by the availability of resources. They clarify ideas when asked, and
use words, labelled sketches and models to communicate the details of their
Students learn to describe ideas and concepts about design, materials/
ingredients and technological systems in simple terms. For example, how
and why a drawing is annotated; how materials/ingredients are classified; the
systems components that are combined to create movement, such as gears
and pulleys; what characteristics and properties make materials/ingredients
suitable for a particular design or proposed product and how these can be
combined in innovative ways to create solutions. In transforming novel ideas
into products or simple systems, they are encouraged to take risks.
Students investigate what products and simple technological systems can do,
how they meet people’s needs, how they are used and/or work, what they look
like and why they look the way they do. They learn what evaluation criteria
are and, with guidance, develop simple evaluation criteria and use these to
make decisions about, and assess, design ideas. With assistance, they learn to
plan basic steps in production. They develop skills in the use of a variety of
simple production techniques, such as cutting, mixing, shaping, joining and
assembling and a range of materials/ingredients to produce products, such as
a healthy breakfast cereal and its packaging and simple systems; for example,
a puppet with moving parts (levers) or a pulley arrangement to lift a weight.
Production techniques could include cutting with a saw or knife, weighing
with scales, measuring with a jug, fi ling with a fi le or rasp, sandpapering,
whisking and hand sewing with a needle and thread. Materials could include
paper and cardboard, food ingredients, fabrics, wood, plants and soil or other
growing media. They learn to use tools and equipment safely and hygienically,
and with some accuracy, to alter and combine materials/ingredients and put
together components to make a simple system with moving parts.
Students are encouraged to give and receive feedback about their own and
others’ products and simple systems (for example, a toy with moving parts),
considering whether design solutions work and if they are appropriate for their
purpose. They learn to keep simple records and refl ect on the steps they took
to design and make their own products and simple systems, including noting
any problems encountered and changes made to accommodate these.
Level 3 English
As students work towards the achievement of Level 3 standards in English,
they speak, listen, read and write with some critical awareness, using a
growing variety of text types and show some appreciation of the role of formal
discourses in English.
Students read an increasing range of texts including imaginative texts such
as chapter books, junior novels and poems, as well as informative texts, in
print and electronic form. Texts typically have varied sentence patterns,
written language structures and some specialised topic-related or literary
vocabulary, and ideas and information extending beyond students’ immediate
experience. Students use a range of strategies to interpret the main ideas and
purpose of texts – for example, interpreting figurative language or linking
information from headings – and explore characters’ qualities, motives and
actions. Through discussion, students develop their understanding of why
interpretations of a text may vary, and how the choice of subject matter is
influenced by context, the author’s purpose, and the intended audience. They
read more critically and learn about the use of some simple symbolic meanings
and stereotypes in texts.
Students develop confidence in writing a range of imaginative and informative
texts, including simple narratives and descriptions, and texts that explain,
inform and express a point of view. They draw on their knowledge of texts and
language and learn to use a variety of sentences in appropriate grammatical
order, using suitable vocabulary for the subject matter including nouns, verbs,
adjectives and adverbs, and punctuating appropriately to support meaning
including exclamation marks and quotation marks. They learn to spell most
one- and two-syllable words with regular spelling patterns (for example,
growing, found, might), frequently used words which have less regular spelling
patterns (for example, because, there, friends), and some other words of more
than one syllable (for example, yesterday, afternoon, money). They make
plausible attempts at spelling new and more difficult words. They experiment
with combining verbal and visual elements to enhance the texts they produce.
Students develop strategies for writing to assist in planning and organising
ideas prior to writing, and adapt their writing to suit their audience and
purpose. They learn to use a range of resources, including information and
communications technology, to revise written work and check spelling.
Students recognise that speaking and listening provide opportunities to
exchange information, to share and explore ideas, and to express opinions and
listen to the opinions of others. They participate in discussions, conversations
and presentations in small and large groups, learning to vary their speaking
and listening to suit the context, purpose and audience. In spontaneous,
planned and rehearsed situations they learn how to project their voice
adequately for an audience and to use appropriate spoken language features
such as sequence and past tense when recounting an event. When speaking,
they recognise the need to rephrase statements to clarify meaning and
Students develop skills in listening attentively during class and group
discussions, and to factual spoken texts such as audio, fi lm and invited
presentations. They practise identifying the topic, retelling information
accurately, asking clarifying questions, volunteering information and justifying
Health and Physical Education
As students work towards the achievement of Level 3 standards in Health and
Physical Education, they practise and use complex manipulative and locomotor
skills in a range of movement environments (indoor, outdoor and aquatic).
They practise and develop competency in a range of complex motor skills
such as leaping, dodging, the over-arm throw, dribbling and striking balls, cart
wheeling and handstanding. In aquatic environments they practise a range of
movements such as: propelling the body on the front and back using freestyle,
backstroke, breaststroke and survival backstroke for 10 to 20 metres; and a
land-based rescue. They discuss the performance criteria of motor skills and
practise observing a partner’s performance. Through modified major games
(for example, games with modified rules, equipment, playing field, length of
game or numbers on a team such as modified netball), and athletics activities
(for example, discus, shot put and modified versions of jumps), students begin
to apply their skills in sport-specific settings. During gymnastics or dance
sessions students learn, reproduce and choreograph more complex movement
sequences. Students participate in a range of activities that promote healthrelated
fitness components of cardio-respiratory fitness, flexibility and strength
and explore the link between health-related fitness and lifestyle activities.
As students work towards the achievement of Level 4 standards in
Interpersonal Development, they develop skills and behaviours for connecting
with a variety of groups, including peer and community groups. Students
participate in a range of classroom activities where they explore the similarities
and differences in the values and beliefs of a range of individuals and groups.
They begin to reflect on what this may mean for themselves when building
and maintaining relationships with a diverse range of people. They explore and
discuss behaviours which demonstrate sensitivity to cultural differences in their
interactions with others.
Red Hill National School – A History
The Red Hill National School began in a tent under the title of Warrenheip Gully School.
Unfortunately, canvas was expensive on the diggings, and in September 1854 the
schoolmaster reported that “some ruffians had attempted to carry off the school tent”,
probably to use on their own claims. The tent was unsatisfactory as it was stifling in
summer and when the wind blew the noise of the canvas made it difficult to hear.
The canvas tent was soon replaced by a simple wooden building with a shingle roof,
situated on Main Road right in the heart of mining activity. Many problems were faced
by schoolmasters on the goldfields including cold, leaking buildings, measles epidemics,
shortages of slates and irregular attendances as families moved, literally overnight, from
one goldfield to another.
However, education in the 1850s was seen as the key to personal improvement and
advancement. Many local gentlemen acted as Patrons for the Red Hill National School as
they realized that while a digger might find gold and become instantly wealthy, the real
key to achieving a better life was a sound education. In the nineteenth century this meant
a solid grounding in spelling, grammar and mental arithmetic as well as a basic
understanding of history and geography.
In September 1856 the Red Hill National School was hit by Ballarat’s unpredictable
climate when a gale blew down the school. This time the local citizens decided to build a
more solid schoolhouse. James Oddie, a leading citizen who had become very wealthy
through mining, was chairman of the Local Patrons for the Red Hill National School and
he described the school they planned to build
“…the building is to be 18 feet by 30, all of colonial timber, with 2 windows
in front and 2 at the back and roofed with shingles to cost £80 and to be up
in 5 days from the date the contract was signed…”
Despite difficulties raising the £80 and complaints by newspaper editors that schools and
the hospital were short of funds when “thousands of pounds were spent every week in
casinos, grog shanties and hotel bars”, the new school was opened in late 1856.
In this school children sat at long wooden benches with no backs in front of long wooden
desks. They worked out their mathematical problems on slate boards and learnt
copperplate writing using dip pens and ink.
St Peter’s School - A Brief History
Two boards of education, the National School Board and the Denominational Board,
operated in Victoria in the 1850s. The National system provided a broad general
education but owed no allegiance to any church.
The Denominational schools on the Ballarat goldfields were strong and at least a dozen
emerged in the 1850s, indicating the size and influence of church going communities in
the young developing township. The official denomination was Church of England, this
being the religion of the mother country (Britain) and therefore adopted as the official
religion in the Australian colonies.
St Peter’s Church of England School in
Ballarat West was one of these early
denominational schools. Its first school
building was erected near Yuille’s swamp
(later enlarged to create Lake Wendouree)
in 1858. It served as a church as well as a
school and commenced with an enrolment
of 35 children.
During the next few years, the growing congregation put pressures on the building in its
dual capacity as church and school. In 1860, the Rev. John Potter approached the
Denominational Board for a grant to assist in the building of the first official school
house, stating that it would continue to be used as a place of worship. The grant was
eventually made and combined with money raised by public subscription to erect a
suitable building at a cost of £200. We believe this building was erected near the corner
of Mair and Pleasant Streets and the original plans for this building were used to
construct the building at Sovereign Hill.
Constructed of humble weatherboard, the architect was H.R. Caselli, who later designed
the Ballarat Town Hall, the Ballarat City Fire Station and several other local churches.
In June 1862, The Common Schools Act abolished the Denominational and National
Boards. St Peter’s Church of England School became Pleasant Street Common School
No. 695. In 1872, the State was made responsible for free, secular and compulsory
education and in 1874 St Peter’s/Pleasant Street Common School became Pleasant Street
State School No. 695.
In 1877, a new school for 404 children was built on the same site next to the old school
and extended along Pleasant Street from Mair Street to the lake.
The old school house and Church Reserve were sold to the government. The money from
the sale of these buildings was used to build a schoolroom close to the new St Peter’s
Church, which had been built in 1865 in Sturt Street, by then the main thoroughfare of
the city. This St Peter’s Church still stands in Sturt Street, Ballarat today.
Ragged Schools – A Brief History
EDUCATION IN BRITAIN IN THE 1850S AND 1860S
Education in Britain, and therefore Australia, was neither free nor compulsory in the
1850s and 1860s and many forms of schooling existed. Parents chose schools for their
children based on their class, social status and ability to pay the fees. No national
curriculum existed. In some rural areas Dame Schools existed where very young children
learnt crafts such as lace making and straw plaiting while the mistress in charge read to
them. Thus the sale of the completed products paid their fees while they gained a meagre
education. Many children only obtained a minimal education by attending fee-paying
Sunday Schools while they worked on the other six days of the week. Upper class
children were educated at home, through a governess while they were young and then
through the teaching of a private, usually live-in, tutor until the boys, at least, were old
enough for boarding school.
RAGGED SCHOOLS IN BRITAIN
There is some debate about the origins of ragged schooling, but the work of four men is
often cited - John Pound (1766-1838), Sheriff Watson of Aberdeen, Thomas Cranfield
and Thomas Guthrie (1780-1873). John Pound was a cobbler in Portsmouth who began to
use his shop in 1818 as a base for educational activity for local poor children neglected
by other institutions. His curriculum included the usual ‘three R’s’ plus religious
instruction and nature study, and various practical tasks like cobbling, cooking, toy
making and mending clothes. The big difference between Ragged Schools and Sunday
Schools was that Ragged Schools were free.
The movement spread throughout Britain culminating in the Ragged Schools Union
founded in 1844 under the guidance of Lord Shaftesbury, and supported by Thomas
Barnado, Mary Carpenter and writers like Charles Dickens. Supporters of Ragged
Schools believed education was the solution to a number of social evils such as laziness,
unemployment and stealing which slum children seemed to develop. It is estimated that
around 300,000 children went through the London Ragged Schools alone between the
early 1840s and 1881. Many of these poor children were lured off the streets by the offer
of hot food and safe housing. Ragged schools gradually disappeared after the 1870
Education Act made education more accessible.
John Pound, the Portsmouth cobbler and founder of
Ragged Schools in England.
RAGGED SCHOOLS IN AUSTRALIA
Here the Ragged School system followed the British
model. By 1854 there were Ragged Schools in Hobart, Sydney and Melbourne. Ragged
school children in Australia came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were the children
of paupers or the criminal classes. Others were orphans or children of the long-term
unemployed. Also prostitutes’ children, children of poorly paid dock workers and of the
chronically ill were all in need and could be found in the less savoury suburbs of
Melbourne and other major towns and ports. All were excluded from attending the
normal schools because of their inability to pay the fees and their lack of suitable clothing
- their “raggedness”. In Melbourne the Ragged School teaching program stated
The children are all taught to read and write. The girls are taught to sew and are
taught to make and mend garments for themselves. Habits of order, cleanliness
and industry are cultivated, while the primary object of the schools, viz, the
instruction of the children in the word of God, is always kept in view.
After the Education Act of 1872 introducing free, compulsory, secular education there
was less need for children to attend these specialized schools and they began to close.
As early as 1848 the Reverend Thomas Hastie opened a boarding school for children of
the surrounding district in Buninyong. When Thomas Hiscock discovered gold near
Buninyong in August 1851 this immediately transformed the small inland settlement.
It was not long before even greater riches were discovered seven miles to the north at
Golden Point and soon newspapers reported “thousands” of diggers at work. After an
initial decline the population grew rapidly and by August 1852 there were 2000 people,
by October 3500 and by November 4200. Ballarat was a scene of excitement and chaos
as new discoveries of gold lured even more people to the diggings.
Life on the goldfields was dangerous. Mining accidents were common and, as the
population grew, the overcrowding created unsanitary conditions where diseases spread
rapidly. This, combined with the extremely basic medical knowledge of the 1850s, meant
that the death rate soared. Pneumonia, dysentery, scarlet fever, cholera and typhoid
claimed many lives and left a growing population of orphans to fend for themselves on
the diggings. For these children life on the diggings was precarious, dangerous and harsh.
St.Alipius A History
Our story is a story of people, rather than buildings and dates, although it is important
that we acknowledge these. It is the story of a people who have been brought together in
faith and love.
St. Alipius Parish School has its beginnings in the Ballarat “Gold Rush” that started in
August 1851. As thousands of people made their way to the diggings and a town quickly
took shape, Father Patrick Dunne celebrated the first Mass for the Catholic miners in
In late 1852 a second priest Father Matthew Downing arrived and named his Parish after
St. Alipius and the Bishop of the time, James Alipius Goold.
In February 1853 Father Downing moved to the present St. Alipius site and erected a
church made of slabs with a canvas roof. A school was also built and classes began on
By 1865 there were 177 on the roll.
In 1881 the Sisters of Mercy arrived to take charge of St. Alipius girl’s school and in
1883 a new school was built on the present St. Alipius site.
Members of the Christian Brothers arrived in 1888 to assume responsibility of the boy’s
school in what is now the old parish hall in Hopetoun Street.
1909 saw additions to the St. Alipius girl’s School building and in 1911 a new boys’
school was build in Victoria Street. Boys were educated there until 1976 when classes
went co-educational and moved to the present St. Alipius School site.
In 1959 new additions altered the look and the size of the school significantly. Roll call
had mounted to 500 pupils.
1977 saw the first lay principal appointed to the school with both boys and girls in the
one school for the first time in nearly 100 years. The old boys’ School is now our Parish
Of Behaviour at School
1. Behave to your teachers with humility and to your schoolfellows with respect.
2. Do not run into the school, but advance decently to the door.
3. When you enter, take off your hat, make your bow or curtsy, and walk straight
to your seat.
4. Never talk in the school; for it interrupts yourself and others.
5. If you have anything to say to the master, wait till he is at leisure and then
speak with modesty and plainness.
6. Observe nothing at school but your book and never neglect that.
7. Never quarrel in school; for it shows idleness and a bad temper.
8. When the master speaks to you, rise up to hear him and look him in the face
when he speaks with modesty and attention.
9. Begin not to answer before he has done speaking; then bow respectfully and
answer him with humility.
10. When the school hours are over, go out as you came in, quietly, softly and
11. When you are out of school, go home without noise or delay; do not run or
loiter, but do this as all things else, with discretion.
12. Do not speak at home or abroad of what has been done at school, but make
yourself perfect in your task.
(Vyse’s Young Gentlemen and Ladies Guide, 1846)
This list, outlining how students were expected to behave at school, was published in
Have your students discuss the list then as a class create a list of expected behaviour in
your school today.
Perhaps you could display the list as a poster in your classroom.
1835 Port Phillip founded
1836 Queen Victoria inherits the British throne
1840 Queen Victoria marries Prince Albert
1840 First camera developed
1840 Penny postal service introduced in Britain
1846 Beginning of Irish potato famine
1846 Ether first used as an anaesthetic
1848 Gold discovered in California
1850s Industrial Revolution at its peak
1851 Gold discovered in New South Wales
1851 Victoria becomes a separate colony
1851 Gold discovered in Victoria at Ballaarat and other areas
1851 Great Exhibition in London, initiated by Prince Albert
1851 Singer invents a sewing machine
1853 Vaccination against smallpox made compulsory
1854 First railway built in Australia from Melbourne to Port Melbourne
1854 Cobb & Co coaches began taking passengers to the Australian goldfields
1854 Crimean War breaks out between Britain (and France) and Russia
1854 Eureka Rebellion 3rd
1858 First oil well drilled in U.S.A.
1860 Burke and Wills perish trying to cross Australia from North to South
1861 American Civil War breaks out
1861 Ballarat to Geelong railway opens linking Ballaarat and Melbourne by rail
1861 Prince Albert dies of Typhoid
The Great Irish Potato Famine –1846
Bridget O’Donnel and her children
Illustrated London News,
December 22, 1849
Potatoes were introduced to Ireland from
the Americas during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries and grew so well in
the Irish climate they quickly became the
principal food of the Irish poor.
By the 1840s, the potato was the most
extensively cultivated crop in Ireland. It
accounted for one third of the tilled land
and three million Irish ate almost nothing
else. An adult rural labourer ate as much as
14 pounds (lbs.) of potatoes a day.
However, Potato Blight (Phytophtora
Infestans) a deadly and invisible fungal
disease that turned potatoes to black slime,
hit the Irish potato crop in August 1846
virtually whipping it out overnight. By
October there was panic in Ireland. As
crops failed, families began to starve and
then, unable to pay their rent, they were
evicted from their homes.
By the winter of 1846-7, a form of public
welfare was in operation in Ireland. Relief
was made subject to arduous and
humiliating conditions in prison-like
institutions known as workhouses.
Families were broken up as men, women,
girls and boys were housed separately and
subjected to authoritarian discipline.
Epidemic diseases were rife.
By 1850 one million Irish - many of them
children - had died of hunger.
Eventually it became clear to the
landowners that it was cheaper to provide
emigration for the poor, than to keep them
in workhouses. Between 1846 and 1850
one and a half million Irish emigrated to
either North America or Australia. Not all
survived. The overcrowding and disease on
board sailing vessels meant that up to a
third of the passengers died on the journey
to the New World.
This was the largest single population
movement of the nineteenth century.
Leaving Britain - leaving home
During the 1850s thousands of gold seekers and their families left Britain from ports such
as Liverpool and Plymouth. They boarded sailing ships for the hazardous voyage they
knew would last three or four months.
Here is how a young Englishman described part of his voyage in 1855:
Tis now ten o’clock and the wind is a frightful gale. …Mountains of water the
waves assume, surrounding us on each side - North, South, East and West, …The
wind increases and whistles through the rigging to a tune that none can
remember but those who hear it….1
On another voyage in 1864 a young woman, Mary Anne Bedford, wrote in her journal:
… last night we had an awful thunderstorm, which I shall ever remember. There
was a report that the vessel was on fire and I shall never forget the sight –
mothers clinging to their children – some running about almost frantic. We
thought we should go down any minute…The screaming and the noise was fearful
until the captain came down to tell us all was right.2
Imagine you are on an immigrant ship bound for Melbourne in 1855. Write a journal
entry after you have been at sea for one month. Clearly explain who you are, where you
are and include your observations, your fears and your hopes for the future.
Charlwood, D. The Long Farewell, Burgewood Books, Melbourne. 1981 p4
The most popular ships on the Australia route in between 1845 and 1875 were the
clippers. These ships carried a huge spread of sails and were able to catch even the
In 1852 the clipper Marco Polo sailed from England to Melbourne in 68 days setting a
new record. For every fast ship there were ten or twelve slower ones and many journeys
to the goldfields took over 100 days.
Clippers had wooden hulls and relied entirely on the wind. In the area off the West
African coast known as The Doldrums they could become becalmed and barely move for
days or even weeks as passengers suffered in stifling heat.
As well as the clippers, new composite ships were being designed with metal hulls and
auxiliary steam engines to assist the sails in calm weather. These ships could steer
through The Doldrums past the unfortunate becalmed clippers. Probably the most famous
of these combination steam and sail ships was the iron hulled Great Britain. Built in 1843
the Great Britain carried 20,000 people on 34 voyages to Australia between 1852 and
1877. Her average passage to Australia was 62 days and on most journeys passengers
saw no land until they reached Cape Otway.
Design a poster advertising passage to the Australian goldfields aboard the Marco Polo.
A Safe Passage
Phoebe Emmeline Macpherson sailed from Liverpool in 1853, with her family, bound for
the rich goldfields of Ballaarat, Australia. She was eleven years old. Sailing with her
were her parents, four sisters and two brothers.
Phoebe and her older sister Eliza Jane were very excited as their vessel, The Royal
George, sailed past the crowded docks of the Mersey River and headed for the open sea.
Unfortunately, their excitement soon turned to seasickness, as they experienced the
unfamiliar pitching and rolling of the wooden vessel. It was some days before they were
able to eat small amounts of salt pork, ship’s biscuits and a little fresh water.
The captain had decided to take the Great Circle Route to Melbourne, as this provided the
fastest passage. It followed the arc of a circle and took the ship a long way south into
very high latitudes where the winds blew strongly. It also sometimes took vessels
perilously close to dazzling but dangerous icebergs.
Captain Finlay used his chronometer to measure their longitude, but the latitude was
calculated using a sextant, which relied on being able to sight the sun or the stars.
Fortunately, Captain Finlay was a skilled mariner who had safely bought three other ships
loaded with hopeful immigrants to the Antipodes.
Sailing in the “Roaring 40s” they
encountered enormous seas. The spars
howled like deep organ pipes. The boiling
sea was covered with foam, spray filled the
air and visibility was poor. Phoebe, Eliza
and the other 324 passengers were confined
below decks, with the hatches battened
down. It was terribly crowded; the air was
stale and filled with the perpetual crying of
young children. Everyone was frightened.
After seven days the storm finally stopped, and once again the families could take some
fresh air on deck. But the long three months of the journey so far, had taken their toll.
Four young children and two babies had died and one seaman had been washed
overboard by a gigantic wave. All had to be buried at sea – a sad and lonely experience.
Now that the weather had improved, some of the sailors had time to teach the young boys
a few of their hobbies. Rope fancy work was popular and so was intricate scrimshaw
carving. One “old salt” by the name of Dawson had painted a beautiful design on the lid
of his sea chest. Inside this sea chest he had a small supply of fascinating items – pocket
knives, watch chains, buckles, needles and thimbles which he was hoping to sell for a
good profit in Melbourne Town.
Two weeks later a cry of joy and relief was heard from the watch as the light beaming
from the lighthouse on Cape Otway was sighted in the distance. The weather was fair and
the remaining journey to Melbourne was busy with packing and mounting excitement at
what lay ahead. They had survived the sea passage. Now the journey to the goldfields
would really begin – perhaps a fortune would be made.
STUDENT ACTIVITY PAGE
READ A Safe Passage and answer these questions.
1. Why did the Captain wish to make a fast journey?
2. Why was it so hot below decks in the storm?
3. What two instruments did Captain Finlay use to plot his course?
4. What “fascinating items” did sailor Dawson have in his sea chest and why had he
5. Why was everyone so relieved to see the Cape Otway light?
1. Approximately how long did it take to sail from Liverpool to Melbourne?
2. What is a chronometer? What is it used for? What is a gimballed chronometer?
3. At what latitude would sailing ships expect to see icebergs?
4. What is the meaning of the word Antipodes?
5. What is a mariner? Use a dictionary to find what language the word comes from.
Can you find some other allied words?
6. What are the “Roaring 40s”? Where are they?
7. Below is a picture of a piece of scrimshaw. What is scrimshaw?
Using the outline map of the world plot the course taken by The Royal George in 1853
from Liverpool to Melbourne. Add text boxes to record highlights of the journey. You
might like to also add illustrations of what you consider were significant events.
Don’t forget to add a compass rose showing north and south.
Men on foot, with pack, and gun, and huge following dogs; men on horseback, galloping
as for life; men and women and children with loaded carts, rolling, plunging, tearing
along, amid loud shouts and curses; high drays, hugely piled with goods, rolling and
swaying along, drawn by long double teams of bullocks, and attended by huge fellows in
jackboots, huge hats, and smoking faces, and whips that cracked and thundered like
volleys of unceasing musketry, and an eternal din of oaths, shouts and curses.
William Howitt, Tallangetta, The Squatter’s Home, 1857
Men and women….tearing, steering, winding, and streaming on and on, and without end,
up that lately flowering valley, now flowering no longer; for that strange multitude burst
through the sea of golden flowers, tread it down mercilessly, recklessly, drag their carts,
gallop their horses, tramp in their ever coming hundreds and thousands over it. There
they halt; and loud comes the thunder and the crash of fallen trees; out burst fires here,
there, near, far, all along the creek side, and the wood side; kettles are boiling, frying fans
hissing, dogs barking, horses and bullocks turned loose to graze, and as far as the eye can
see rise smokes and gleam fires.
William Howitt, Tallangetta, The Squatter’s Home, 1857
Wherever he turned his wandering eyes
Great wealth did he behold,
And peace and plenty hand in hand,
By the magic power of gold;
Quoth he, “As I am young and strong,
To the diggings I will go,
For I like the sound of the windlass
And the cry “Look out below!”
Charles R. Thatcher, “Look Out Below!”
Thatcher’s Colonial Minstrel, 1857.
The old diggers were a venturesome lot – whence came our hardy, gritty, self-reliant
bushmen. That irresistible magnet, gold, attracting alike the kid-gloved and the horny-
handed, had drawn the strong and adventurous from all parts of the civilized world, a
mixture of many nations that is slowly blending into a race peculiarly Australian.
Edwards S. Sorenson, Life in the Australian Backblocks, 1911
The night too quickly passes
And we are growing old,
So let us fill our glasses
And toast the Days of Gold;
When finds of wondrous treasure
Set all the South ablaze,
And you and I were faithful mates
All through the roaring days!
Henry Lawson, The Roaring Days.
In the Days When the World Was Wide, 1896.
In 1853, the Chinese population of Ballarat was 2.000 with the number increasing by
1857 to 7,542 (almost all young men). By 1858, one quarter of Ballarat’s adult male
population was Chinese. After 1858 the Chinese population gradually declined as the
men moved on to other goldfields or returned to China.
Most came from a small area of Southern China near Canton called Sze Yap, or the Four
Provinces. They travelled to Ballarat – a place they called The New Gold Mountain – to
find gold to send home to help their families. Many were extremely poor and had
borrowed money to pay for the trip. The first gold they found had to be sent home to
repay their debts.
When the Victorian government realised so many Chinese were coming to Victoria and
having success mining, it decided to impose a £10 tax on all Chinese landing in Victoria.
It had already cost the Chinese £10 for their fare; so most Chinese avoided the tax by
landing at Robe in South Australia and walking to the goldfields. This journey of over
250 miles took almost a month and many Chinese arrived on the goldfields sick and
In Ballarat the Chinese were unpopular and were forced to live in separate villages. There
were three villages in Ballarat, Golden Point, Eureka and Clayton Street, which later
became a Lazarette in the 1860s.
The Main Street of these villages was often called Canton Street and this was where the
shops, businesses, eating-houses and gambling dens were found. The village at Golden
Point also had a Temple dedicated to the god Quan Gong. This temple was painted red, as
the Chinese believed red frightened away evil spirits and was therefore, a lucky colour.
On special occasions such as New Year or festivals, a Chinese dragon was paraded
around the village. The dragon had the head of a camel, horns of a deer, eyes of a rabbit,
ears of a cow, neck of a snake, belly of a frog, scales of a carp, claws of a hawk, and the
paws of a tiger. Mirrors were stitched to its back to help frighten off evil spirits who,
Chinese believe, are afraid of their own reflections.
1. On the outline map of Victoria:
• Mark Robe, Ballarat, Ararat, Bendigo, Beechworth and Melbourne
• Label Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, and Bass Strait
• Add a compass rose to show north and south
• Add a dotted line to show what you think would be the best route for the Chinese
to walk from Robe to Ballarat.
• Give your map a title.
2. Sketch a Chinese miner walking to the goldfields in 1855 and carrying his
belongings in two baskets slung from a pole across his shoulders.
3. A scribe is someone who writes letters. Chinese scribes worked with brushes and
special ink. Find some examples of Chinese words. Copy these and write their
English meaning. This web site is a useful resource – it also contains a section
where you can see how your name would be written in Chinese.
4. Research the importance of the following to the Chinese?
The colour red Tortoise Lion Dragon Pomelo Tree Abacus Herbalist
Gold Fact Sheet
Gold is a very rare substance making up only five ten-millionths of the Earth's outer
(Imagine 10 million Smarties in one place and only 5 of them were made of gold!)
Its rarity and its physical properties have made it one of the most prized of Earth's natural
• Gold is the only yellow metal.
• Gold melts at 1063° C.
• Gold is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity.
• Gold is highly malleable. Gold can be rolled so thinly light will shine through.
• Gold is a ductile metal, which means it is capable of being drawn into a thread.
• Gold is unaffected by air, heat or moisture – it does not rust.
• Gold is heavy — It is nineteen times heavier than water, and almost twice as
heavy as lead.
• The chemical symbol for gold is Au.
• Gold purity is indicated by the measurement “carats”.
o 24 carats = 100% gold
o 18 carats = 75% gold,
o 9 carats = 38% gold
• Banks and governments keep gold reserves to back up their currency.
• Gold is used in jewellery and teeth.
• Gold is used decoratively.
• Gold is used in some medicine.
• Gold is used to reflect radiated heat e.g. on the Lunar Lander
• Gold is used as a conductor to transfer heat or electricity,
• Gold is used in computer circuitry.
Avoirdupois weight was used for measuring bread, meat, groceries and goods in general
but NOT for silver or gold. Troy weight is used for silver and gold.
16 ounces (ozs.) = 1 pound (lb.)
14 pounds (lbs.) = 1 stone (sto.)
112 pounds (lbs.) = 1 hundred weight (cwt)
20 hundred weight (cwt) = 1 ton (T.)
Victorian students needed to know their 16 times tables. Do you?
Here is a Victorian Arithmetic exercise to try.
1. There are 16 ozs. in 1 lb.
How many ozs. are in 6 lbs. of flour?______________________________
How many ozs. are in 8 lbs of raspberry drops? __________________
2. How many ozs. are in 11 lbs. 5 ozs of sugar.? __________________
3. Add 4 lbs. 14 ozs. and 7 lbs. 12 ozs.
4. A baker made 200 ozs. of biscuits.
How many 1 lb. bags would that make?
How many ozs. would be left over?
5. A grocer bought 7 lbs. of oats. He sold 3 lbs. 10 ozs.
How much was left?
6. How many ozs. are in 3 lbs. 10 ozs.? ________________________
7. A boy ate 8 ozs. of humbugs every week.
How many weeks would it take him to eat 5 lbs.?
Gold is weighed in troy ounces, which are slightly heavier than the
conventional ounce. (1troy ounce = 1.097 avoirdupois ounce)
Length Fact Sheet
12 inches = 1 foot
3 feet = 1 yard
1760 yards = 1 mile
36 inches = 1 yard
440 yards = quarter mile
880 yards = half mile
100 links = 1 chain
10 chains = 1 furlong
8 furlongs = 1 mile
4 inches = 1 hand
22 yards = 1 chain
5.5 yards = 1 rod, pole or perch
4 poles = 1 chain
40 poles = 1 furlong
• The units in common use during the Gold Rushes were inches, feet, yards and
miles. The foot was the length of a man’s foot, an inch the length of three barley
corns placed end to end and a yard the distance from the tip of the king’s nose to
the end of his thumb.
• In 1844 the British government created a standard length for inches, feet and
yards. The government ordered a piece of bronze marked off in official inches,
feet and yards to be set into the cement at Greenwich. This bronze plaque can still
be seen at Greenwich in England.
• The word mile comes from "mille", Latin for thousand, since a mile was
originally a thousand Roman double paces, from left foot to left foot, about 5 feet,
which would make 5000 feet. The mile was 5280 feet or 1760 yards
• A chain is the length of a cricket pitch. It has been used since 1620. It was so-
called because it was measured with a real chain, with real links, made of metal.
• Medieval ploughing was done with oxen, up to 4 pairs at a time. The ploughman
handled the plough. His boy controlled the oxen using a stick, which had to be
long enough to reach all the oxen. This was the rod, pole or perch. It was an
obvious implement to measure the fields, such as 4 poles to the chain. The perch
was used in the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), the pole since the 16th
the rod since 1450. In the 16th century the lawful rod was decreed to be the
combined length of the left feet of 16 men as they left church on a Sunday
• A furlong is a "furrow long" or the length of a mediaeval field. It is used today for
the lengths of some horse races.
• Hands are used to measure horses. You measure from the ground to the withers of
the horse (its shoulder) since it won't keep its head still. 3 hands = 1 foot (which
sounds slightly odd).
• These measurements are all land units. Sailors have their own units.
Imperial measures Fact Sheet
Before the decimalisation of almost everything, Great Britain and her colonies including
Australia, worked in a variety of weights and measures. The currency was also very
different from today. The following tables are intended to try to explain some of the
weights and measures used during the 1850s.
Measurements of Length
12 inches = 1 foot
3 feet = 1 yard 30.5 cm
36 inches = 1 yard 30.5 cm
5½ yards or 16½ feet = 1 rod, perch or pole 5.0292 metres
22 yards or 100 links = 1 chain 20.12 metres
10 chains or 220 yards = 1 furlong 0.2 km
= 1 mile
= 1 mile
= 1 mile
3 miles = 1 league 4.8 km
Measurements of weight
16 oz [ounces] = 1 lb. [pound] approx 500 g
14 lbs. = 1 stone
2 stones = 1 quarter
4 quarters = 1 cwt [hundredweight]
20 cwt. = 1 ton
4 gills = 1 pint 1.8 ml
2 pints = 1 quart 0.9 litre
4 quarts = 1 gallon 3.8 litres
4 gills = 1 pint 1.8 ml
2 pints = 1 quart 0.9 litre
4 quarts = 1 gallon 3.8 litres
2 gallons = 1 peck 9.1 litres
4 pecks = 1 bushel 36.4 litres
Currency Fact Sheet
In these days of decimalisation of currency, it is difficult to understand the currency used
in Britain and Australia during the nineteenth century. Australia changed to decimal
currency in 1966, Great Britain in 1971.
The following chart may help to explain it.
Money was divided into pounds (£) shillings (s. or /-) and pennies (d.). Thus, 4 pounds,
eight shillings and fourpence would be written as £4/8/4d. or £4-8-4d.
20 shillings in £1 - a shilling was often called ‘bob’, so ‘ten bob’ was 10/-
12 pennies in 1 shilling 1/-
240 pennies in £1 £1
Pennies were broken down into other coins:
a farthing (a fourth- thing) was ¼ of a penny
a halfpenny (hay-p'ny) was ½ of a penny
three farthings was ¾ of a penny
Other coins of a value less than 1/- were
a threepenny bit (3d) made of silver 4 x 3d. = 1/-
sixpence (silver) - often called a ‘tanner’ 2 x 6d = 1/-
Coins of more than 1/- but less than £1 in value were
a two shilling piece (called a florin) 10 x 2/- = £1
a half-crown ( 2/6d) 8 x 2/6d = £1
a crown (5/-) 4 x 5/- = £1
A £1 coin was called a Sovereign and was made of gold.
Usually a pound was a paper note sometimes called a ‘quid’.
£1/1/- was called a guinea.
Pounds, shillings and pence. (£. s. d.)
12 pennies equal 1 shilling 12d = 1/-
20 shillings equal 1 pound 20/- = £1
Victorian children had to know their 12 times tables to add and subtract money.
Write out and revise your 12 times tables before you begin these exercises.
1. How much would 5 x 2d lollies cost?
2. How much change would you receive from 1/- if you bought 5 x 2d lollies? _____
3. How many pennies are there in 1/6?
4a. How many shillings can you make from 30 pennies?
4b. How many pennies are left?
5. Add 6d + 9d + 5d + 11d =
6. Kevin had 2/- to spend. He gave 8d to his friend. How much did he have left?
7. Sarah saw beautiful hair ribbons in the Criterion Store. They were 4d each.
She bought one yellow one, two blue ones, two purple ones, two red ones and
three green ones. What did they all cost?
8. Mother spent 11d for milk, 1/4 for bread, 6d for sugar and 1/6 for tea. How
much did all her shopping cost?
9. Lollipops cost 2d each. How many could you buy for 1/6?
10. Draw them. Make each one a different colour and make them all look
Following is a selection of activities designed to cater for the different learning styles
students exhibit. Your students could select one of the following as a post visit project.
• In a small group, create and act out a short play that tells the story of a family who
arrives in Melbourne in 1854 and travels to Ballaarat in search of gold. Your
family might be successful and find gold, they may meet with a terrible accident
or tragedy, they may decide gold mining is too fickle and open a business, they
may get caught up with the events surrounding the Eureka uprising, or they might
befriend one of the Chinese villagers. You will need to decide how your play will
end and in which year. Remember your play is a story that has to have a
beginning, a middle and an end
• If you prefer to work alone create a monologue.
It is Ballarat 1872 and you are forty years old. You are speaking to a young
immigrant who has just arrived in Ballarat from England and telling them of
the changes you have seen since you arrived in August 1851, only two weeks
after the first gold was discovered.
• Create a fictional character who has just spent one year in Ballarat during the
1850s. Are you male or female, rich or poor, Australian born or an immigrant,
how old are you, what year is it, what is you story, etc? As this character, write a
journal of your time on the goldfields that contains at least six entries. You might
decide to be a Koorie from the Watha Wurrung clan watching the gold diggings.
After your experience at the Sovereign Hill School you should be able to write
this using a dip pen.
• Create a PowerPoint presentation for grade 4 telling them all about your visit to
Sovereign Hill and what they can look forward to. Don’t forget to create the
soundtrack to go with it. Choose appropriate music and sounds effects.
• Using the cut out dolls supplied, design and make two outfits for each doll - a
good set of clothes suitable for wearing to church and a set of work clothes. Paste
the dolls outlines onto firm cardboard and design a stand so you can display them.
• Design and complete an artwork that expresses the feeling of life in the 1850s. It
could be a collage, a mural, a 3D model or a cartoon strip.
• Read Bridie’s Fire by Kirsty Murray. This novel tells the story of an eleven-year-
old girl orphaned by the Irish Potato Famine of 1846. After a series of misfortunes
Bridie eventually ends up in Melbourne and finally makes her way to the
Write the next chapter of this novel. What happens to Bridie?
• Organize a Colonial Day or afternoon at your school. Prepare the timetable. Select
a story to be read. (Perhaps a Greek or Roman legend) Arrange for everyone to
come in costume. (Don’t be too fussy - Op Shops are ideal sources) Plan how you
will organize lunch and play time, what food is suitable? What games can you
play? (Don’t limit yourself to the games you played at Sovereign Hill – there are
plenty of others.)
• If this is too much, organize and help run an afternoon of Colonial Games.
• Make a list of all the businesses in your town, or the local shopping centre or
mall. Make another list of all the businesses at Sovereign Hill. (Use the map on
the Sovereign Hill web site to help you) Which businesses are the same, which are
different? Perhaps you could present your results as a chart or poster.
• Design a board game similar to snakes and ladders called The Rush. It must
include the challenge of getting to the goldfields, some disasters, some minor bad
luck, some good luck and the winner being the first person who strikes it rich.
Create suitable playing pieces for each player.
• Build a model of a section of the Diggings or a mining structure or building from
• Horses were extremely important during the nineteenth century.
Research the ways horses were used. How are horses used at Sovereign Hill?
What breeds of horses are used? What businesses at Sovereign Hill are
directly related to the use of horses? How many different types of horse drawn
vehicles did you see at Sovereign Hill? What are the equivalent modern
Present your findings in an interesting way. (Poster, Chart, Class talk,
To refresh your memory study the interactive map of Sovereign Hill on the
Sovereign Hill web site (www.sovereignhill.com.au).