Image Australian gold diggings, c1855

TLF ID R3034

This is an oil painting measuring 70.5 cm x 90.3 cm, painted about 1855 by Edwin Stocqueler (1829-1895), showing men working on the Bendigo gold field in Victoria. The men are panning, puddling and cradling for gold on both sides of a stream in a tent-dotted valley. The valley is stark, with only a few trees remaining. The edges of the stream are muddied and polluted.



Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows men searching for alluvial gold, that is, gold that has been washed from reefs upstream and deposited over the years on the beds of waterways - once the 'free' gold had been collected from the stream beds, miners would carve away the banks to expose gold trapped there over the millennia.
  • It shows rocker cradles, puddling tubs and pans, the main tools of the alluvial gold miner - miners carefully washed silt through the rocking cradle to separate gold and stones from larger rocks and silt, then used the puddling tub and pan for the more delicate process of separating the gold from the remaining gravel, with the heavier gold becoming trapped in ridges around the bottom of the pan.
  • It shows men working on the Bendigo gold field where, in the ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851, 5.8 million ounces (about 180,000 kg) were discovered - Bendigo (or Sandhurst as it was then known), became the second-largest gold field in Australia and, at over 360 square kilometres, by far the largest in Victoria, with a population in June 1852 of over 40,000.
  • It illustrates the damage and pollution caused to land near the stream as discarded rocks, soil and other debris were spread over the land on either side of the waterway - in later years, as gold became harder to find and miners had to move more soil to retrieve it, such debris (called tailings) covered huge areas.
  • It shows a gold field with some trees remaining - as mining progressed, the wooded areas were cleared so that miners could get at the gold; wood was also needed for fuel, buildings and, later, pit props in the mines when it became necessary to search deep underground for gold.
  • It shows the temporary tent accommodation used by the miners, which was usually a canvas tent stretched over a wooden frame - most miners led a very temporary existence, always ready to pack up and move on to a more promising place.
  • It shows a view of a gold field in which all the people are men - the 1854 census of a Victorian gold field showed that there were 4,023 women compared to 12,660 men and that only 5 per cent of the women were unmarried; Canvas Town in Melbourne's Emerald Hill (now known as South Melbourne) was populated largely by destitute women left behind to tend the children when their husbands left for the gold fields.
  • It shows a painting by Edwin Stocqueler, an English painter whose detailed work in the Victorian gold fields provides specific details of daily life on the diggings and, unconsciously, the environmental consequences of alluvial gold mining - Stocqueler worked in watercolour, oil and pencil and was present on the Bendigo gold field during the mid-1850s.
Year level

5; 6; 7; 8; 9

Learning area
  • History
Strand
  • History/Historical knowledge and understanding

    Other details

    Contributors
    • Content provider
    • Copyright holder
    • Organisation: National Library of Australia
    • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of National Library of Australia
    • Author
    • Name: Edwin Stocqueler
    • Remarks: artist
    • Publisher
    • Date of contribution: 30 Aug 2013
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au/
    Access profile
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    Learning resource type
    • Image
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    Rights
    • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements