Eliza Perrin

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Samuel Thomas Gill, Refreshment Shanty, Ballarat, 1854, watercolour and gum arabic on paper.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, gift from the Estate of Lady Currie, 1963.


Eliza Hobson was born in Cheshire, England in 1829. In 1851, she married John Perrin in West Yorkshire, just months before he sailed to the goldfields to seek his fortune. A year later, and with her young baby daughter at her side, she decided to join her husband. Upon arrival in Australia after a journey of 147 days, Eliza learned that John was at the Ballarat diggings.[1]

They were eventually reunited, but Eliza found that she could not reply on her husband for support as he was a drunkard and constantly travelling to follow the next gold rush. In order to survive, Eliza went into business in Ballarat with a refreshment house and store. In later years, she and John established a butcher’s shop in Bungaree.[2]

Although they had a difficult relationship, John and Eliza had two more children in the mid-1850s. When their marriage broke down completely in the late 1850s, Eliza was not able to legally separate from him because the Divorce Act had yet to be passed in Australia. She cohabited with John Robson and had four children with him. [3]

Eliza died in 1869, and is buried in the Ballaarat Old Cemetery.[4]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Eliza Perrin was born in 1829 and died in 1869. She was married to John Perrin and kept a refreshment house. Her letters are available and provide interesting insight into goldfields’ life, especially the wives of miners at Ballarat. She was unhappy about her husband squandering money she had worked hard to earn. Eliza Perrin admitted she sold alcohol without a licence but her business posed as a grocery store so that she could escape the notice of the police. She wrote, ‘I am not so much in the Grocery business as the Wine, Spirits, Ale and Porter. It is more like a bar than a store’. She demonstrated considerable fortitude, resistance to conformity in setting up her business. She devised with her ‘own endeavours’ to run a business while her husband was gold digging ‘up the country’ with his brothers. She ‘saved a little money’ and then ‘built a new house’ which cost her between ₤60 and ₤70. She wrote that this was ‘on the main Melbourne and Ballarrat [sic] road 10 miles from Ballarrat [sic]. The letters of January 1859 revealed that Perrin was contemplating buying ‘2 or 3 acres of ground at the back’ of her Refreshment House and Store, rearing poultry, and fencing a garden. Eliza Perrin worked to support herself and her three children. By 1860 she had bought an establishment in Main Road, some acres at the back of it, and an establishment at Black Hill, the Quartz Miners Hotel which took in boarders. She disclosed that she had ‘10 boarders all young men. They hold one claim on the hill about 200 yards from my door’. The Quartz Miners Hotel license was granted by James Langdon PM, B. S. Hassell JP, and Charlie Little JP, on 21 December 1861. Economic independence allowed Perrin to buy properties and she was happy that she had immigrated to Australia writing ‘I am more comfortable now than I have been for years. The children are all at school and the two eldest are good scholars. I fancy myself I am better off than my other sister’.


Eliza had the following issue:

1. Fanny b. 1851;

2. Sidney b. 1855;

3. Joseph b. 1857;

4. Margaret Robson b. 1859;

5. George b. 1862;

6. Elizabeth b. 1866;

7. Anne b. 1867. Died 1867, buried Ballaarat Old Cemetery.

The children were possibly raised by her eldest daughter, Fanny, with the help of George Robson, after Eliza died. [5]

Post 1854 Experiences

See also

John Perrin

Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.

Dorothy Wickham, Women in 'Ballarat' 1851-1871: A Case Study in Agency, PhD. School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Ballarat, March 2008.

Dorothy Wickham, Blood, Sweat and Tears: Women of Eureka in Journal of Australian Colonial History, 10, No, 1, 2008, pp. 99-115.

Dorothy Wickham, Women of the Diggings: Ballarat 1854, BHSPublishing, 2009.


Clare Wright, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, Text Publishing, 2013.

Dorothy Wickham, Not just a Pretty Face: Women on the Goldfields, in Pay Dirt: Ballarat & Other Gold Towns, BHSPublishing, 2019, pp. 25-36.


External links


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