Patience Wearne

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Boscaswell, near St Just, Cornwall, 2016. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection
St Just, Cornwall, 2016. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection


Patience (White) was born at St Just, Cornwall, England. She married James Wearne on 29 June 1847 at Trewellard Methodist Church, Trewellard, Cornwall, and lived at Boscaswell Row, St Just. Her husband, James Wearne, was born on 9 November 1824 to James Wearne and Elizabeth Davey. Patience and James Wearne immigrated with 385 other passengers, to Australia from Plymouth on the vessel William Money. Many suffered from fever and dysentery before the vessel reached Adelaide, South Australia, according to surgeon superintendent A. C. Kemball. The 834 ton vessel also carried coals, boards and window glass. James worked at the Burra Burra mines in South Australia. When James took ill with colonial fever Patience opened an infant school to help with finances. When gold was discovered in Victoria James proceeded to the Bendigo diggings leaving Patience behind. She sold out and travelled to Melbourne on the vessel Reliance with some friends. They settled first at Castlemaine and then at Ballarat, packing their tent and belongings in a dray. Their daughter, Elizabeth, wrote that she was nursing a little puppy some one had given her while she was riding along, and sadly, a jolt sent it off her lap and the wheel went over it. [1]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

By 1854 the Wearne family were living with other Cornish people at Specimen Hill, Ballarat. They had all been neighbours in Cornwall and the party was made up of wives and children. Elizabeth, who was around five years old, remembered the birth of her brother William and an incident when the police rode down the gully to try and find miners working without a licence. She also remembered the Eureka Stockade. Patience Wearne was said to have hidden a digger beneath her skirt after the Eureka battle. James Wearne the husband of Patience said on oath that he heard the firing at Eureka and got up. He saw men from his small mining entourage, Read, Penneluna and Penrose go towards Bakery Hill and he saw Penrose and Read taken away in custody. Peter Ellis gave evidence saying that he was in his tent which was near Read’s, on the morning of 3rd December and saw the prisoners a little way from the Catholic Chapel. James Wearne said he heard firing and saw Read, Penrose and Penneluna go towards Bakery Hill. Henry Read was wearing cord trousers and a blue shirt. John Penneluna had seen Read and Penrose in their tent the night before and was called by Penrose to see the soldiers go past.

Patience Wearne’s husband, James, during the Eureka Treason Trials claimed they lived near Henry Read, and were friends of John Penneluna, Joseph Penrose and Peter Ellis. When Read and Penrose were arrested, the other men in the party went to Melbourne as witnesses, but could not convince the authorities that their mates had nothing to do with the Eureka Affair. After being gaoled for twelve months they were let off. The gold workings proved so successful that the families in the party packed up all their belongings and made the trip back to England. Patience and her family sailed on the Beamah, a small vessel, landing at Liverpool. They reached Penzance, Cornwall safely, and then proceeded to St Just where they were reunited with their parents who had thought they would never see them again. Patience and James visited the first exhibition at the Crystal Palace. After remaining in St Just for some time, the Wearne family returned to Australia on The Herald. A brother, James, died on the voyage and was buried at sea. Patience was left in Melbourne with the children while James looked around the mining districts for a place to settle. With a friend, Brokenshire, James Wearne decided to try Maldon and with seven friends took up a claim called the Great Western. Patience and her family lived in a small two roomed cottage. Children born to her were: Elizabeth b. 14 March 1848 Cornwall, England; Charlotte b. 21 February 1850 Sth Aust. (died May 1851); James b. 14 August 1851 (died February 1852); William c1854 Ballarat; Emily Jane; James Thomas b. Cornwall, England (died at sea); Charlotte, Richard, and Alfred E. Henry b. 1868 Maldon. Patience died of pneumonia and pleurisy on 8 May 1869 and was buried at Maldon. After her death her 21 year old daughter Elizabeth looked after the family. She described her mother as always kind and good and said she treated her like a companion. [2]; [3]

Post 1854 Experiences

See also


Women of Eureka

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.,_Sweat_and_Tears:_Women_at_Eureka

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.


  1. Dorothy Wickham, Women of the Diggings: Ballarat 1854, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2009
  2. VPRS 5527/P Unit 2, Item 5
  3. Dorothy Wickham, Women of the Diggings: Ballarat 1854, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2009

External links