A Day in Ballarat

Not far from Creswick is Ballarat, Victoria’s third largest city. We spent another day there after our earlier day around the small towns in the Central Goldfields Region.

Over the weekend, hot weather was forecast with temperatures above 40C (104F). Ballarat is generally a few degrees cooler than surrounding areas but at that extreme level of heat, a few degrees is really insignificant. However, it was quite comfortable in our air conditioned car with just an occasional step out to take photos.

Within months of Victoria becoming a separate from the colony of New South Wales in 1851, gold was discovered near Ballarat, sparking the Victorian gold rush. Ballarat subsequently became a thriving boomtown that for a time rivalled Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, in terms of wealth and cultural influence.

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Lydiard Street, Ballarat

Ballarat has enjoyed a rich and prosperous heritage thanks to the Gold Rush. Following on from the Klondike and Californian gold rushes, news that the Ballarat region was home to the richest alluvial goldfield in the world resulted in a population explosion as people came from all over the world seeking to make a fortune. By 1855, Ballarat had grown to a city with a population of 100,000 people.

From the late 1860s to the early 20th century, Ballarat made a successful transition from a gold rush town to an industrial-age city. The ramshackle tents and timber buildings gradually made way for permanent buildings, many impressive structures of solid stone and brick were built from wealth generated by early mining.

These days, long after the gold has run out, the city retains much of its rich gold heritage in the form of opulent buildings, fountains, and tourist attractions which celebrate the city’s history. Notable buildings include Ballarat’s Town Hall (built between 1870 and 1872), Her Majesty’s Theatre (1875) and Craig’s Hotel which was built in several stages between 1853 and 1891.

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Ballarat Town Hall

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Craigs Hotel

In and around the city are a number of memorials and monuments that reflect significant parts of our history.

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Memorial arch and Avenue of Honour

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First World War Memorials

The Avenue of Honour is a grand boulevard in Ballarat which commemorates local soldiers who fought in the First World War. It commences 4 kilometres west of the city centre,  where a 17 metre high cement and brick arch was built over the roadway in 1920. From here, the boulevard extends 22 kilometres westwards, lined with over 3,000 trees, each with a bronze memorial plaque listing the name of a soldier.

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Eureka Memorial

The Eureka Centre is situated close to the site of the 1854 Eureka Stockade Rebellion where miners and officials engaged in a bloody battle over miner’s rights. It culminated in the Battle of the Eureka Stockade, which was fought between the rebels and the colonial forces of Victoria on 3 December 1854 at Eureka Lead and named after a stockade structure built by miners in the lead-up to the conflict.

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Southern Cross Flag

The Eureka Rebellion is controversially identified with the birth of democracy in Australia and interpreted by many as a political revolt. A dedicated museum the Eureka Centre Ballarat has as its centrepiece a flag which the miners designed and swore allegiance to before the battle.

Near the Botanic Gardens is a memorial to Australian Prisoners of War. Here, the names of  more than 36,000 Australian men and women are recorded. They were held captive as prisoners by the enemy during the Boer War, World War 1, World War 2 and the Korean War. This memorial honours them. There were no Australian Prisoners of War in the Vietnam War.

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Prisoner of War Memorial Wall

The journey begins on a long pathway designed to create a strong visual perspective that emphasises the great distance Australians travelled to war.

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Obelisks near te name of my friend Col Hamley

A group of obelisks form a silent line of guardians watching over these prisoners of war for ever. The fallen stone honours all those men and women who died as prisoners of war.

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Adam Lindsay Gordon’s Cottage

The Australian poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon lived in this cottage. It was originally built behind Craigs Hotel.  His only daughter died while he was in Ballarat and although a daredevil on a horse and an accomplished rider, he led a tragic life. His poetry with its rolling rhythm survives him. The cottage was moved to the Botanical Gardens in the 1930’s and since the early 1990’s has been the home of the Crafts Council of Ballarat.

A far less formal memorial, but a deeply personal one for many, has been established along the fence of St Patricks Roman Catholic Cathedral. Roman Catholicism was a strong denomination in this region right back to the gold rush days.  Very sadly, a large number of the priests in this diocese were paedophiles and in a protest against their activities, people in the community have tied ribbons along the entire length of the cathedral fence.

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St Patrick Cathedral Fence

A much more pleasant part of Ballarat is the area around Lake Wendouree, a man-made lake covering 200 hectares, located a couple of kilometres west of the town centre. The lake hosted rowing events during the 1956 Olympic Games. The lake’s reed beds and islands are an important oasis for bird life.  The Botanical Gardens are situated near the western side of the lake and feature a floral conservatory, fernery, lawns and an avenue of bronze busts of all the Australian prime ministers.

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Ballarat Botanical Gardens

A vintage electric tramway operates along Wendouree Parade between the Botanical Gardens and lake foreshore.

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An Original Ballarat Electric Tram

One thought on “A Day in Ballarat”

  1. So enjoyed the history of this area. I like seeing the picture and then reading about the site. Larry and I, here in the USA, commented he was a bit jealous of your ability to travel. But, seriously, we are very happy for you folks and your country in the way you seemed to have contained the virus. We pray no virulent strain will hit us all. Those of you reading this will understand when I write that America seems to have lost its trust and unity. The future looms over us all. Wow! Don’t want to end this on a gloomy note, so I will move on to a safer subject—the weather! This week has been mild for late January in the Smoky Mountains — 40’s to 50’s, but a cold front is moving in this week.. At night Larry sits by the fire he made from wood he cut himself. I sit by the gas logs in another room. We can meet in the kitchen for a snack!

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