Image 'Diggers licensing, Forest Creek, 1852'

TLF ID R3053

This is a black-and-white print that shows diggers (miners) at Forest Creek on the Mount Alexander diggings in Victoria lining up before the Gold Commissioner's tent to pay a licence fee. A policeman stands guard next to the tent while, in the foreground on the left, two policemen can be seen speaking to a digger. The print, which measures 15 cm x 24.8 cm, is from a sketch by Samuel Thomas Gill and is one of the plates in Gill's book 'The diggers and diggings of Victoria as they were in 1852' published in 1855.



Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset provides a scene from one of the richest alluvial gold fields ever discovered - first identified in November 1851, the Mount Alexander field caused a sensation and is generally credited with triggering one of the greatest mass migrations in history in April 1852 when six ships carrying 8 tons (a little over 8 tonnes) of Mount Alexander gold arrived in London; in 1852 alone, 370,000 people immigrated to Australia.
  • It shows an aspect of the Forest Creek gold field - during 1851 and 1852 the Forest Creek gold field yielded, on average, 652 kilograms of gold a week; at the peak of the gold rush the population at Forest Creek reached 40,000 people.
  • It indicates that diggers paid a licence fee to mine for gold - a monthly fee of 30 shillings (which was equal to the average weekly wage) for each claim was levied by the Victorian Government; opposition to the hated fee culminated in the rebellion by miners at the Eureka Stockade in 1854 and the fee was replaced by a much cheaper Miner's Right.
  • It shows the Gold Commissioner's tent - each major gold field was regulated by a government-appointed Gold Commissioner, who, aided by a detachment of police, collected the licence fee and kept law and order; the Victorian Government claimed that the licence fee was needed to finance the activities of the Commissioners and other services on the gold fields.
  • It shows police on the gold fields - the police, referred to as troopers or traps, wore a blue woollen uniform of trousers and military-style tunic; these police were widely regarded as corrupt and indeed the Victorian Government was forced to recruit ex-convicts when 80 per cent of the police force resigned to join the gold rush.
  • It may depict two policemen asking a digger to produce his mining licence - diggers found without a licence were fined up to £5 (equal to around $840 today), half of which went to the arresting officer; this incentive meant that gold field police often hounded miners at the expense of their other duties.
  • It provides an example of the type of outfit worn by diggers in this period - this outfit usually consisted of a serge or flannel shirt, moleskin trousers, belt, sturdy boots and cabbage tree hat (broad-brimmed hat).
  • It shows an aspect of a gold field settlement - diggers lived in makeshift huts and canvas tents; the townships of tents that sprang up also included businesses such as butchers, grocers, sly grog shops and a blacksmith's forge to fix picks and shovels; some tradespeople built semi-permanent structures such as the wooden building depicted on the left of the print.
  • It is an example of the work of Samuel Thomas Gill - the English-born Gill (1818-1880) was a draughtsman, watercolour painter and lithographer; Gill arrived on the Victorian gold fields in 1852 but soon abandoned the quest for gold in favour of drawing and painting all aspects of life on the gold fields.
Year level

3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • history;
  • studies of society and environment
Strand
  • History/Historical knowledge and understandings
  • Studies of society and environment/Time, continuity and change

Other details

Contributors
  • Content provider
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: National Library of Australia
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of National Library of Australia
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 1855
  • Name: Samuel Thomas Gill
  • Remarks: artist
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 1855
  • Organisation: James J Blundell and Co
  • Remarks: publisher
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 30 Aug 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning resource type
  • Image
Browsers
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer - minimum version: 8.0 (MS-Windows) - maximum version: 9.0 (MS-Windows)
  • Firefox - minimum version: (MS-Windows)
  • Safari - minimum version: 5.1 (MacOS)
Operating systems
  • MacOS - minimum version: 10.6
  • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
Rights
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements