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Image A boxing match in Bendigo, 1853

TLF ID R3178

This is a hand-coloured lithograph, measuring 15.8 cm x 19.5 cm, entitled 'A BENDIGO MILL'. It was made by Samuel Thomas Gill (1818-80) from a sketch he did on the spot as he watched a boxing match in Bendigo, Victoria, and it featured in his publication 'Sketches of the Victoria gold diggings and diggers as they are'. The scene is chaotic as two men, stripped to the waist and bare-knuckled, face up to each other in a boxing match. They are being watched and egged on by a disorganised crowd of interested gold miners standing in a circle around the fighters. Some of the miners still hold the tools of their trade (a spade and a pan), while assorted buckets, barrows and pickaxes litter the foreground. Only a few members of the crowd have been drawn in any detail.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows a bare-knuckle boxing match, popular until the closing years of the 19th century, in which men fought with no covering on their fists for an unlimited number of untimed rounds - fights lasting 60-100 rounds were not uncommon.
  • It shows an all-male crowd at an event on the Bendigo gold fields, 150 kilometres north-west of Melbourne - women were relatively rare on the gold fields and most remained in large towns such as Melbourne, either abandoned there by menfolk who had no intention of returning to them, or unwilling to face the privations of the gold fields.
  • It demonstrates that there was a shortage of organised entertainment on the gold fields, even two years after the discovery of gold in Bendigo in 1851 - the miners worked hard and, when they had the opportunity, played hard.
  • It hints, through the riotous atmosphere, that there was not a strong presence of law and order on the gold fields - police often had to patrol large areas and would not necessarily be on the spot exactly when they were required.
  • It illustrates the amount of mess and pollution around the mining towns and the mines themselves - cleared bush, abandoned tools and equipment, and the soil tailings from sluicing and cradling littered the area.
  • It shows the sort of clothing common among gold miners - boots, heavy moleskin trousers and broad-brimmed hats.
  • It shows the sorts of tools necessary for seeking gold - buckets, barrows, pickaxes, shovels and gold pans.
  • It illustrates an example of changing vocabulary - the word 'mill', meaning a fight, is no longer used in Australian English; 'mill' was 19th-century English slang for a fist fight.
  • It is an example of the work of Samuel Thomas Gill, famous for his sketches and lithographs of the Victorian gold fields and other Australian subjects - he sketched from life and his works are prized for their attention to everyday detail, and the clear impressions they give of life on the gold fields.
Year level

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

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: H H Collins and Company
  • Organization: H H Collins and Company
  • Description: Author
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Samuel Thomas Gill
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements