The City of Bendigo in Victoria Australia is 90 miles northwest of Melbourne.
We have read various theories about how the name Bendigo made its way there. We have now discovered the truth about the matter.
Bendigo Creek was founded as a sheep run in 1840. Then gold was discovered in 1851 which brought rapid growth to the area. This created the impressive city that still stands today, with fine examples of Victorian architecture and tree-lined streets. Gold mining ceased in 1955.
Bendigo became a city in 1871, although the official name was Sandhurst until 1891. A poll of the residents decided to revert to the original name of Bendigo, to ‘honour a local prize-fighter who compared his own prowess to that of the famous English pugilist known as Bendigo’. The name of this prize-fighter was unknown in most historical text.
The modern location in Bendigo is now called Charing Cross.
They were created in 1853 and show Bendigo Creek at the time of the early gold rush.
On the 21st April 1878 the Australian Town and Country Journal published an article titled:
ORIGIN OF THE NAME ‘BENDIGO’
The origin of the name ‘Bendigo’ has, time after time, led to much controversy. Now the origin of the name is thus accounted for.
A few old residents who are yet in existence will remember that Messrs Heap and Grice occupied a station run in the country now forming the Sandhurst district.
On this quotation says the Independent we have been shown an extract from a letter to Dr Pounds from Mr Grice which should put the matter at rest.
Mr Grice writes:
“Tell your friends who want to know the origin of Bendigo, that it was named by Tom Myers, Heap and Grice’s overseer in 1841. Tom himself was a bit of a dab with his fists and a great admirer of the boxer Bendigo: hence the name.”
From ‘Tom Myers’, those well known localities ‘Myers Flat’ and ‘Myers Creek’ take their name.
Image of the actual article in the Australian Town and Country Journal of 1878
Thanks to Google for the image of Bendigo with Myers Street standing proud.
‘Bendigo Creek’ in August 1852, painted by the artist S.T. Gill.
Our research has revealed some fascinating 19th Century history. We have discovered a family with links to the cities of Nottingham, England and Bendigo, Australia.
Thanks to the archives at the University of Nottingham
(Manuscripts and Special Collections) we have had access to papers belonging to
John Lawson (1878-1969). John trained as a pharmaceutical chemist and was asked
by Jesse Boot to join Boots the Chemists as a manager. Lawson lived in West
Bridgford Nottingham. On his death, some of his personal documents were given
to the Boots Company and these were handed to the University of Nottingham. Of
particular interest are letters between two brothers, William and Thomas
Lawson. They provide an insight into the early settlers in Australia.
William Lawson fled England in 1851 after some financial problems, leaving a wife and child behind. Travelling to New Zealand and then to Australia, where he joined the Australian Gold Rush. He appears not to have made his fortune, although he never returned to England.
William wrote occasionally to his brother, promising to return to England (although often asking for money). He marries again and has several children in Australia. His son John (from the marriage in England) even travelled to Australia to find his father. It is not clear whether he did.
Letter from William to Thomas (17th Dec 1851) from York Farm, Christchurch Plains, Canterbury, New Zealand.
He describes his arrival at Port Lyttleton, and his journey
on foot to Christchurch. He initially worked in farming, then as a butcher in
Wellington. He intends to make his fortune and then return to England. He describes
the abundance of wild life and food. He describes the anniversary celebrations
of the first settlers with horse races, Maoris running races, catching pigs,
wrestling and cricket.
He thanks his brother for looking after his wife and having
to leave England to escape his debts. He mentions the lack of women in New
Zealand and wants his wife to come out and join him.
Letter from Thomas to William Lawson (10th Oct 1852).
Thomas asks William why he felt he had to leave England and questions if he is any better off in New Zealand. He hopes he will make money and pay off his creditors. He urges him to wait until he has made some money in Melbourne before bringing his wife out there. He explains the financial arrangements for his wife, who has no desire to join him in Australia.
William describes how he has lived among murderers and states that ‘all the villains in the world I think are here’. He complains that he is miserable because he is lonely, even though he has money. He explains that he did not send any money home or write as he assumed family in England no longer thought of him and so he had tried to forget them. He apologises for this. He states that he intends to stay in Australia with the wealth to be made from gold. He ends by asking if anything ‘disrespectful’ relating to his wife ‘has come under your notice’.
He justifies why he left England and discusses amount of money he could earn in Australia on the gold fields. He wishes Thomas would speak to his wife and promises to send Brother Tarbotton the money he owes him. He hopes to see his mother again and complains of the lack of charity shown to his wife. There is mention that she was forced into the workhouse. He hopes relations between the brothers will improve.
In July 1857 William sent Thomas a number of prints showing buildings and locations in Australia that he had visited.
He reports that they have just sunk a large shaft to search for gold but found nothing. He mentions that he worked at Pall Mall in Sandhurst four years earlier.
Letter from William to Thomas Lawson (13 Mar 1874)
William reports that all the money he made in Victoria has
been lost in mining transactions and he is now working at his trade in
Melbourne. He asks for money to help him come home in three years.
Letter from William to Thomas Lawson (10 Aug 1874)
Thanks him for letter and praises ‘my Ellen’ and remarks on
his children. Promises to send information on them in his next letter. Asks for
loan of £50 so he can get home otherwise he will stay in Australia.
Letter from William to Thomas Lawson (dated 8 Sep 1874)
Sends details of his marriage to ‘Ellen’ and his 6 children,
3 of whom died in infancy.
Letter from William to Thomas Lawson (dated 9 Sep 1874)
Remarks on his work in Victoria and that ‘all esteem him in
Victoria. He insists he has never disgraced his name since leaving home 22
Letter from John Lawson (William’s son) to Thomas Lawson (1876)
John describes that after arrival in Freemantle he discovered there was no work as a mechanic, despite what he had been told. He states that he has taken work carrying coals for P&O Steam Navigation Company. He wishes he had not brought his family out and considers there is little chance of him getting to Melbourne to see his father. States that he has been imprisoned for six months for being on board a steam ship after sunset without a certificate proving he was not a convict. He claims he was only on the ship asking if it could give him passage to Melbourne. He describes working as a navvy creating fish-ponds.
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