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Gold Discovery

There is another gold field opened ... near Mount Alexander; about £200 sterling was collected by a party of four men during the last week; there can be no doubt as to the truth of this, the gold having been seen on the spot; it is principally collected from quarts [sic]; nuggets of a large size are also found on removal of the soil; there is nothing now thought of here but gold, and should the veins continue to yield the same quality, we may expect to see all Melbourne here.[1]

Agitation Hill, Castlemaine

Meeting Held on 09 May 1853

Centred in Lyttleton Street, Agitation Hill was opposite the Camp and was the site were diggers and shopkeepers gathered hold protest meetings about the injustices of the Commissioner and the Camp officials and soldiers.

The monster meeting on Agitation Hill took place after a police raid on 09 May 1853 where men, women and children were evicted. Newspapers reported on a Monster Meeting at Castlemaine in consequence of the wanton and unjustifiable destruction, by the police of Castlemaine, of sundry tents and domiciles suspected at being disorderly places, a determined spirit of opposition has declared itself to their proceedings. At an early hour on Monday morning, the 9th inst., (being the day on which the prosecution was instituted against Richard McMahon, and others), several placards were posted in the most conspicuous localities of the township. The following is a copy of one of these documents:—

DIGGERS! – Avenge your wrongs and demand your rights, or otherwise you will live and die all slaves.

By 4pm that day around one thousand people assembled on Agitation Hill, a location in view of the government camp.[2]

MONSTER MEETING AT CASTLEMAINE. In consequence of the wanton and unjustifiable destruction, by the police of Castlemaine, of sundry tents and domiciles suspected at being disorderly places, a determined spirit of opposition has declared itself to their proceedings. At an early hour on Monday morning, the 9th inst., (being the day on which the prosecution was instituted against Richard McMahon, and others), several placards were posted in the most conspicuous localities of the township. The following is a copy of one of these documents:— "Men of Castlemaine! "Meet this afternoon upon the hill behind the Baptist Chapel, to discuss matters relative to the Government proceedings of Saturday last. The chair to be taken at 4 p. m. The Deputy Sheriff will attend." About noon a preliminary meeting took place at Mr. Hitchcock's the auctioneer, where several gentlemen of station, wealth, and influence attended to make the necessary arrangements for the subsequent meeting. Certain resolutions were then drawn up, and submitted for approval. They will be found inserted in the proper place. At about half-past 4 o'clock, upwards of 800 people of all classes had congregated upon the selected ground: the sheriff arriving shortly after, active proceedings were commenced. The numerical force of the meeting was immensely increased before the speeches were concluded. Mr. Hitchcock addressed the populace. They were assembled together, he said, to redress a grievous wrong existing on the gold fields, and he trusted that good order, decorum and regularity would be observed. He would propose that the Reverend W.V. Jackson, Baptist minister, preside over the meeting. A long array of resolutions were unanimously adopted at the meeting, which, if eventually adopted by the authorities, will bring about a "root-and-branch" reform in the "digging administration" in "less than no time." Some time ago, a meeting was held by the diggers at Castlemaine, to take into consideration the necessity of petitioning government to erect a bridge across the creek at Castlemaine. No notice was taken of that petition until this morning, when a commissioner waited upon one of the people's representatives (Mr. Hitchcock) and requested that he and his brother representatives should see that a bridge was built, and that government would defray all expenses. Here now is the first conclusion to the diggers' demands. Government are evidently afraid. Dispatches are being sent off to Melbourne in quick succession and a crisis is considered near at hand. The Commissioners are even now assembled discussing the following estimates, and men are busily employed by the Castlemaine authorities re-building the destroyed domiciles. Five o'clock. "To F. Kingdom, Esq., Under-sheriff at Castlemaine. "We the undersigned, being elected as the Commissioners on behalf of the people of Castlemaine, do now in accordance with our duty, represent, that having received the report of the estimated damages, in the cases committed by the police, on Saturday the 1st May, Mr. McMahons, Adams, Phillips, Nevilles, from the committee appointed for the enquiry, (and whose names are here annexed) we have carefully considered them, and as far as practicable investigated the damages, losses, &c., and we now certify that, in our judgement, the compensation estimated by them, and now before us is just and reasonable, and therefore immediately due to the respective sufferers, viz., to Edward Adams, eating house keeper, £150 Richard McMahon, eating house keeper £900. —Neville, refreshment, &c tent, £190 —Phillips, chemist, &c, £160 Total, £1,000. The accompanying estimate for damages is therefore now submitted by us to the government and with the most loyal feelings we recommend that the parties be immediately compensated agreeable to this claim, that each may return to his respective business, and that no opportunity or occasion be given to the public for any expression of disloyalty; should any delay on the part of the government take place the damage will be seriously increased, and we fear that the excitement of the people in con-sequence thereof, be added to, so as to be dangerous to the safety of individuals, to the public peace, and to the present government.[3]

The Reverend Mr V.W. Jackson had seen the police raid calling it ‘the disgraceful proceedings ... on Saturday last.’, and acted as the meeting chair. Addressing the meeting he said:

I appear before you under circumstances perhaps very different from those under which I entered the colony; for on Saturday night I had the threat held out to me of being locked up. . . . I would put it to the meeting, if I was a minister of the gospel, and had been thus assailed and insulted because I presumed to sympathize with an unfortunate sufferer, what might the people not expect this year twelve months?[4]

Local auctioneer William Hitchcock proposed the following motion:

... the whole of the district is so tyrannised over and disturbed, that this meeting declares its solemn belief that we are on the eve of a general revolution.[5]

The next speaker, Mr Gill, expressed:

That a handful of men, to whom, in their official capacity, the civilians of the population are emboldened to look for protection, should pull down a house about a man’s ears on the information of a perjured scoundrel, instigated by an unscrupulous authority, unworthy the name of Christian – [Laughter and cheers] – for selling fermented liquors where no liquors were retailed, and the witness swore falsely, – was this conduct that which Englishmen ever submitted to? [‘No’.] Then why should they submit to such tyrannised treatment here? [‘Never, never,’ and ‘Down with the camp.’] It is time that these affairs should be brought to a crisis. It is time that the people should form an unanimous organisation, and proclaim their intention to demand a reformed Government, and a different system . . . than has hitherto oppressed the Australian Colonies. [Cheering.][6]

Castlemaine's highly respected medico, Dr W.F. Preshaw, announced:

I support the foregoing resolution with all my heart and soul and strength, and wealth and influence. [Great cheerings.] I support the foregoing resolution with inexplicable pleasure, and I do so as an out-and-out Tory and conservative; but as an out-and-out radical if necessary... . [Loud cheering.][7]

The followed Mr McEwan of the Bank of New South Wales:

Measures ought to be taken, and that immediately, for the suppression of such great and intolerable grievances as the people now complain of. [Hear, hear.] It becomes all to respond to this public requirement, and to be unanimous in demanding an alleviation of these great grievances. It is an unexampled and intolerable tyranny on the part of the Government to treat the people as they do. ... [Loud cheering.][8]

Mr Jones, Campbell's Creek auctioneer followed: I am well known by you all as being one of the oldest hands on the grounds. ... The tyranny of the Government has been such that, unless people take steps to intercept a despotic invasion of their constitutional rights, the relentless and unscrupulous authorities would take further liberties. [Loud cheering.] The local population consists of an extraordinary amalgamation from every country in Europe and throughout the colonies; it now becomes an obligation with the residents on the diggings to be unanimous and not trampled on. [Hear, hear.][9]

Firebrand Richard Southee was the last speaker:

If the Government dares to oppress the public much longer, a warrantable retribution will speedily follow. And what would be the character of that retribution? Why a revolution would ensue, sanguinary and exterminating. I have at every period of my existence been forward to support authority, when legitimately exercised, but I am also antagonistic to any infringement of the people’s rights. ... The people are determined to have satisfaction, and if the Government persists in their oppression, the public of Castlemaine are unanimously determined to oppose the authorities, crumble them to the dust as useless worms, and chivalrously demand their individual liberties. [Tremendous cheering.][10]

A vote followed and agreement was made to appoint three People’s Commissioners to present the meeting’s grievances to the Governor in person. The situation at Castlemaine was defused, in large part through the deft handling of the Chief Gold Commissioner. Inspector Christian was moved on. But antagonisms between the goldfields population and the ‘Campites’ continued to fester over the months ahead, in Castlemaine and throughout the golfields including Beechworth, and Bendigo, and at Ballarat and the Eureka diggings.[11]

Meeting Held on 28 July 1853 Concerning the Goldfields Petition

Castlemaine, 22nd July, 1853.
Agreeable to notice, a public meeting was convened on Agitation Hill, Castlemaine, on Friday the 22nd July, at ten o'clock, a.m. In consequence of the placards containing the above notice, which were posted about the diggings on the previous afternoon, having been, almost without exception, torn down from their respective places, by some malicious person or persons, the notice of the meeting was not generally given. At the appointed hour some twenty or thirty individuals had assembled, but messengers being sent round with bells to announce the meeting at eleven o'clock, some two or three hundred people were present, and at the close the numbers had augmented to about five hundred. On the dray were the three delegates from Bendigo — Messrs. Jones, Brown, and Thomson, Mr. Hitchcock, and the Rev. Mr. Jackson.
Proposed by Capt. BROWN, seconded by Mr. Jones, and carried unanimously, that Mr. M. Thornhill take the chair.
The CHAIRMAN opened the meeting by commenting upon the late police proceedings against the two People's Commissioners, and the consequent drawback on the part of the Castlemaine committee, in obtaining signatures for the petition. He (the speaker) said that the present meeting was called to give a finishing stroke to the petition, as the delegates from the Bendigo, (introducing Captain Brown, Mr. Thomson, and Dr. Jones,) were on their way to Melbourne, to present the petition to His Excellency the Governor. The petition from the Bendigo was a monster one, being forty feet long, and very neatly got up, on a strip of calico, containing seven thousand signatures. As their present object was to get all the signatures possible in a short time, they would first hear the speakers, and afterwards the petition should be opened and read to them for the information of all those who were not already aware of its purport. The first speaker he would introduce to them would be Dr. D.G. Jones, one of the deputation from the Bendigo.
D.G. Jones, Esq., surgeon, then rose to address the meeting, and was recoiled with cheers. He said he was sorry to see such a small number around him. The delegates arrived at Castlemaine yesterday afternoon, and finding that no steps had been taken by the committee at Castlemaine in carrying out their instructions, owing to their continual attendance at the police office, since the holding of the last meeting, they proceeded to take steps for calling the present meeting, and had accordingly had placards posted about the diggings on the previous evening; but what was their surprise to find this morning that some malicious person or persons had carefully torn down every one of those posters, (Cries of Shame.) Whoever had done so were no friends to the cause. They had their enemies at Castlemaine. The meetings held at Bendigo were attended by not hundreds, nor thousands, but tens of thousands and the petition which they had brought down was signed by some seven thousand men, chiefly diggers and storekeepers. This was not a quarter of the number of signatures which could have boen obtained at Bendigo, had sufficient time been allowed. If Balaarat (sic) and the Ovens goldfields had joined Bendigo, M'Ivor, and Forest Creek, and time been allowed, no doubt the number of signatures would have amounted to eighty or a hundred thousand. The spirit evinced at Bendigo throughout the agitation speaks plainly for itself, that the digging population will have their rights. (Hear, hear, and cheers). As far as his (the speaker's) opinion goes this next license will be the last paid under the thirty shillings regulation; at the same time they are most anxious to have the matter settled amicably with the Government. (Hear, hear.) He hoped the Governor would meet their petition in a satisfactory manner, or else the best interests of the colony would be at stake. He called upon all those in the assembly who have not already attached their names to the petition to come forward and do so without delay. The speaker sat down amidst loud cheers.
The Chairman then rose and called upon Mr. Wm. Hitchcock, to address the meeting.
Mr. William Hitchcock was received with hearty cheers. He said he would not detain the meet-ing with a long speech, but to begin he would make an attack upon the camp. (Laughter.) If there was any man in the assembly that had the interests of the camp at heart, he would call upon him to retire, for he would not be spared. (Laughter.) He would call upon the meeting to witness that all throughout the agitation of this movement he was in favor of using moral force to gain the battle. The anti-corn-law movement was accomplished by moral force. He was a soldier, and fought many battles in behalf of that movement, and was thoroughly satisfied that nothing could be done by any other than moral force. If they could convince the Government of the necessity of the step, they would have the licenses reduced. He (the speaker) would go the whole hog, and allocate the total aboli-tion of the license-tax. No man ought to be taxed for his work. He was warm in the cause, and more deter-mined to stand by them than ever. He had arrived at a period of life when he was capable of discerning, and he had fixed his mind that so long as God spared his life, that life should be devoted to his country s cause. (Cheering.) What little he was worth, so long as it should last, was at his country's disposal. He was just going to the camp to hand in to the bank a subscription of a hundred guineas in aid of a testimonial to the Rev. Mr. Jackson. (Cheers.) He would make no allusion to the late prosecutions of Mr. Jackson and himself, for it was a trumped up affair to quiet them, but he (the speaker) was determined that no govemment should control his thoughts, and he would make bold to say so. (Hear, hear.) They had no local press on these diggings, and he was determined that this deficiency should last no longer. He did not intend that this press should be in opposition to the Argus, but merely to advocate the rights of the people, put down the tyrannical system of government, and facilitate the proceedings on the part of the people. The expense and delay attendant on the calling of public meetings is also another con-sideration in favor of a local press. He would take immediate steps for the establishment of a press on these diggings. (Great cheering.) He was determined to come amongst them on this occasion, if it was merely to show a determination that he would not be cowed. (Cheers.)
The Chairman then rose to call upon Mr. Thomson, one of the delegates, to address the meeting.
Mr. THOMSON said since they (the delegates) were at the last meeting at Castlemaine, they had held several meetings at Bendigo. A monster meeting was held on Saturday last, at which 15,000 men were assembled. Although they had received the co-operation of the M'Ivor and Forest Creek, no doubt, when the reports of their movements reached Balaarat and the Ovens, they (the Bendigo diggers) would receive their co-operation also. (Hear hear.) Various reports were current from time to time as to their proceedings at the Bendigo, one of the most recent being that the American flag was hoisted over the British. In fact, he now held a document in his hand. The truth of which was vouched for by one of the gentlemen at the camp, and which was to the effect that the American flag was hoisted above the British, and that placards were posted about calling upon the diggers to attend the inciting, and not forgot to bring their revolvers. (Laughter.) As to the placards, he was not aware that any such thing was posted about; revolvers were not dreamt of. The report of the American flag being hoisted above the British, must have originated from the fact of the flags of various nations of the various people attending the meeting being carried in the procession. Some allusion had been made to accomplish our purpose by means of moral force. Moral force was to allow the weaker part to be the bully. A man who is confident of what he can do, will keep in abeyance; a man who talks of fighting is gene-rally found to be the very one who would rather keep from doing so. This doctrine will be of no use at the Bendigo. (Hear, hear.) If the Government will listen to reason before it is too late, then they could make known their greivances through the public press. (Hear, hear.) He had something in the back-ground which he would give them as an illustration of moral force. Where would be the moral force, if a policeman came up and arrested any one of them in the Queen's name, and in case of refusal, to bring the bayonet or bludgeon to bear upon them? Who heard of moral force carrying the day against tens of thousands of men, armed and ready! He would advise them to take no notice of any rumors they may hear of fighting; for they did not intend fighting, from the fact that there was nothing to fight against. (Cheers.) They felt quite satisfied on that point. A certain gentleman at Castlemaine had boldly declared that if he was allowed to pick out the troopers, with a horse-whip each, he should thrash the whole of the diggers at Bendigo. All the forces in all the colonies could not grapple with the digging population if they had sufficient cause (Hear, hear.) As to the reports which had reached Forest Creek that the American flag was hoisted over the British at the Bendigo, he would rather, for his part, be under the British rule before any nation in the world, and next to that he should claim America, as there was much or a similarity between the two countries. They may rest assured that if any flag was hoisted on the Bendigo in preference to the British, it should not be the American: they would have a flag of their own. (Hear, hear.) If they should ever hear that a newly-invented flag was fluttering at the mast-head at Bendigo, they might rest assured that that flag should stay there. (Hear, hear, and cheers.) They were content to remain a colony so long as the Government treated them as became the Government of a British colony. (Hear, hear.) They would not tolerate abuse and dog-like treatment. The maladministrators of the law were those that injured the Government. Those were the greatest enemies to the Government. (Hear, hear.) They must have equal rights and equal laws, or otherwise the Government would not stand four and twenty hours. He would have them take no notice of any reports they might hear of the movements at the Bendigo, unless authenticated by notices from the committee at that place, as they should be made aware at the earliest opportunity of His Excellency's answer, and their future movements. (Cheers.)
The Chairman next called upon the Rev. Mr. Jackson to address the meeting.
Mr. JACKSON, on rising, was received with cheers. He said he addressed them as friends, having the one common interest at heart. They were all aware that after the holding of the last meeting, himself and Mr. Hitchcock were arrested under warrant, on a charge of assault; and after enduring a night in the watchhouse, with a guard of two constables, for fear of his making his escape, he now stood committed to take his trial on a charge of assault, at the next Court of Quarter Sessions, which would be held on the 22nd of September next, although nineteen witnesses were heard on the trial, six for the complaint, and thirteen for the defence, and the evidence of the whole of those witnesses was to the effect that no assault had been committed. (Shame.) They were all aware of what had become of Captain Harrison, after the active part he had taken in the £3-license movement. Another young man, who had been residing on Campbell's Creek, was also silently walked down to Melbourne, and there let loose with a strict injunction not to proceed to the gold-fields any more, as no license should be granted him. (Shame, shame.) These were two individuals who had already felt the dis-pleasure of the Government for taking active parts in public movements, and he was the third. He was a marked man, and all his friends were marked. The great question to decide was, whether they would be trampled upon or not. (Hear, hear.) He was in favor of the reduction of the license, and would heartily co-operate with Bendigo in the movement. For the present, they would ask for the license-fee to be reduced. A certain little lawyer, belonging to Castlemaine, had made his blasts that with five picked men, and a horse-whip each, he would clear the Bendigo. (Groans.) He took as much notice or this as he did of the man himself. (Hear, hear.) He (the speaker) was always ready to stand up in the public cause, and would maintain their rights to the last. He would conclude, by calling upon all those who had not already signed the petition to come forward and do so. (Cheers.)
The Chairman next called upon Captain Brown, one of the delegates, to address the meeting.
Captain BROWN who was loudly cheered spoke at some length in his usual eloquent and witty style, strongly urging the meeting to work the cause in a systematic manner, and called upon those who had not signed the petition to do so immediately. After which, Mr. Baker and Mr. Murphy also addressed the meeting.
The Chairman then called upon Dr. Jones to read the petition.
The monster petition was then read, and exhibited at full length on the grass.
The Chairman having again called upon all those who had not signed the petition to come forward and do so.
A vote of thanks was passed to the Chairman, and the meeting dissolved.[12]

Names Associated with Living in Castlemaine

William Aberdeen

Dr Gill

Henry Glenny

Harry Hambrook

William Hitchcock



I.K. Montgomery

Emil Pohl, Victoria Hotel, Castlemaine

E. Potts

W.F. Preshaw

Fr Patrick Smyth

Andrew Turnbull

John Westoby

Also See


Agitation Hill: Where is it? by George Milford
  1. Argus, Wednesday 24 September, 1851
  2. Cornwell Chronicle, 21 May 1853.
  3. Cornwell Chronicle, 21 May 1853.
  4., accessed 08 March 2021.
  5., accessed 08 March 2021.
  6., accessed 08 March 2021.
  7., accessed 08 March 2021.
  8., accessed 08 March 2021.
  9., accessed 08 March 2021.
  10., accessed 08 March 2021.
  11., accessed 08 March 2021.
  12. The Argus, 28 July 1853.