Peter Ellis

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Signature of Peter Ellis on Recognizance as Witness to Prisoner Henry Reid during the Eureka Treason Trials, Eureka Stockade:Depositions VPRS 5527/P Unit 2, Item 5, Public Record Office Victoria
St Just, Cornwall, 2016. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection
Boscaswell, near St Just, Cornwall, 2016. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection
"Treason Trial Map", PROV, VPRS5527
State Trial Prisoners, Mount Alexander Mail, 02 March 1855.
State Prisoners from The Revolt at Eureka’ by R. Wenban. Schools Publishing House, 1959.


Peter ELLIS was baptised at St Just Cornwall on 10 November 1816. He married his cousin Nancy Fanny Robyns on 24 August 1841 at St Just, Cornwall. They resided at Boscaswell Row in 1851, according to the Census of Cornwall, with their close relatives.

Peter's father, Thomas Ellis, had married Mary Davey whose parents were Michael Davey and Margaret Wearne. His grandfather's parents being John Ellis and Elizabeth Penrose, meant that the party on the Eureka goldfields comprised a tight knit family unit. Joseph Penrose, John Penaluna, James Wearne and Peter Ellis were possibly related as well as being a gold seeking party on the Eureka Lead.[1]

James Wearne and Peter Ellis who gave evidence at the Eureka Treason Trials were second cousins, having the same great grandparents, Richard Wearne and Mary Giles.

1851 Census for the parish of Pendeen, Cornwall, England

127 Boscaswell Row -

Peter and Nancy Ellis and 3 eldest surviving children, Peter 7 years, a scholar, Nanny 3 years and Mary Jane 1 year.
Peter was described as a 'tin and copper miner'.

129 Boscaswell Row -

Thomas and Mary Ellis and John (unmarried son, whose occupation was a 'cord winder'. Thomas was described as a miner in a tin mine.

131 Boscaswell Row -

Elizabeth Warren, widow (nee Davey)aged 64 years
Richard her son aged 23, a miner in a tin mine, and Peggy her daughter aged 20 a Mantua Maker.
A Mantua Maker is a sewer of women's apparel. The word is derived from French.

134 Boscaswell Row -

Thomas Ellis aged 36, miner and brother of Peter Ellis.
Thomas his son aged 12, Mary aged 9, Nanny aged 7 and William aged 2. Living with them is Nanny Ellis a house servant.
Between 1849 and 1851 Thomas Ellis' wife Elizabeth had died.

143 Trewellar -

Ann Robyns, widow (nee Ellis)

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

A witness at the State Treason Trials, Peter Ellis was with a group of Cornishmen, near Eureka, when the battle occurred. They were also neighbours and relatives of his from Boscaswell Row, near St Just, Cornwall.

Witnesses deposing against Charles Brown, Thomas Barry, Michael Tuohy, Henry Read and James Campbell were: George King, John King, Samuel Furnell, John Dougherty, Michael Lawler, Joseph Penrose, John White, John Penaluna, Eugene Bellairs, James Wearne, James Gaunt, Peter Ellis, John Sullivan, James Clerk, Joseph Raynor, Henry Bedwell, William Richardson.

DEPOSITIONS OF WITNESSES No.96 (M.) (11 and 12 Vic., c.42)

Colony of Victoria. Ballarat

To Wit- The examination of George King, Samuel Furnell, John White, Eugene Bellairs, James Gaunt, John Sullivan, Joseph Raynor, William Richardson, John King, John Dougherty, Joseph Penrose, John Penaluna, James Wearne, Peter Ellis,

James Clark, John Bedwell[2]

Peter Ellis gave evidence for the defence of Henry Read.

This deponent Peter Ellis on his oath saith I was at my tent near Read's on the morning of the 3rd instant. I saw him taken a little way from the Catholic Chapel. I was not quite dressed and got up because I heard the firing. I think Read had on cord trousers and a blue shirt.

Peter Ellis Sworn Before me at Ballarat this 11th December 1854. E. Sturt PM[3]

James Wearne, a Cornishman and relative of Ellis also gave evidence.

Penrose was arrested after the Eureka Stockade but released due to lack of evidence.[4]

Penrose gave evidence.[5]

And this deponent Joseph Penrose on his oath saith I am a digger. I reside near the Roman Catholic Chapel. On Sunday morning I heard someone ::going past sped? up and saw the Soldiers. - I called Read up to see ?? and met some troopers. They searched us for arms and we went to ?? trooper ::afterwards arrested us both and we were brought to the camp.

His mark. Joseph X Penrose Sworn Before me at Ballarat this 8th December 1854. E. Sturt PM

There is also the Deposition of James Wearne, one of the party of Cornishmen to which Joseph Penrose belonged. According to PROV, Depositions such as those contained in these documents, served as a record of the initial hearing. Local magistrates heard the charge against the person arrested. The accused had an opportunity to respond to the charges.

No. 83, O. 1., 11 and 12 Vic., c.42.


Be it remembered that on the 8th day of December in the year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and fifty four James Wearne of Ballarat in ::the Colony of Victoria, Gold Miner, personally came before me one of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said Colony, and acknowledged ::himself to owe to our Sovereign Lady the Queen the sum of one hundred pounds, of good and lawful money of Great Britain, to be made and levied of ::his goods and chattels, lands and tenements, to the use of our said Lady the Queen, her Heirs ad Successors, if he the said James Wearne shall ::fail in the condition endorsed.
Taken and acknowledged the day and year first above mentioned at Ballarat in the said Colony before me (Signed) E. P. Sturt
The Condition of the written Recognizance is such, That Whereas Michael Tuhey [sic], Henry Read & James Campbell were this day charged before me ::a Justice of the Peace within mentioned for that they the said Michael Tuhey [sic], Henry Read & James Campbell on the third day of ::December 1854 at Ballarat in the Colony afresaid, did feloniously, willfully & traitorously fire at attack & kill certain troops of our Sovereign ::Lady the Queen
if therefore he* the said
James Wearne shall appear at the Gaol Delia? to be holden at Melbourne in and for the Colony of Victoria on the fifteenth day of January A.D., ::1855, and there give such evidence as he* knoweth upon an Information to be then and there preferred against the said Michael Tuhey, Henry Read & ::James Campbell for the offence aforesaid, to the Jurors who shall pass upon the trial of the said Michael Tuhey, Henry Read & James Campbell then ::the said Recognizance to be void or else to stand in full force and virtue.

Handwritten evidence. 18

And this deponent James Wearne on his oath saith
On the third Instant I heard the firing at Eureka. I got up and my two mates -
I saw Read, Penneluna and Penrose go towards the Bakery Hill. - I saw a small disturbance. Some troopers came down and asked some questions ::and they took Penrose and Read away in custody.
Sworn before me at Ballarat this 8 December 1854
Signed James Wearne[6]

Post 1854 Experiences


Peter Ellis married his cousin Nancy Robyns. Peter and Nancy's common grandparents were Peter Ellis and Ann Tonkin of St Just, Cornwall. Peter and Nancy produced the following issue: Peter born 1843, Nancy born 2 November 1845, Nancy born 10 January 1848, died 1922 Ballarat, Mary Jane born 17 January 1850 died July 1936 Sebastopol, Peggy born 31 Jan 1852, Thomas born 1858 and died 1859, Thomas born 26 January 1859 died 31 July 1921, William born 19 October 1861 Wombat Hill, Daylesford, died 7 December 1897 Hopetoun, and John Gillies Waite Ellis born 28 September 1865.[7]

See also

Further Reading

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


  1. Dorothy Wickham, family history
  2. VPRS 5527 Unit 2, Item 5, p. 33
  3. VPRS 5527/P, Unit 2, Item 5, p. 52
  4. The Argus, 11 December 1854.
  5. VPRS 5527/P Unit 2, Item 5 57 pages
  6. Dorothy Wickham, Trials and Tribulations: The Cornish and Eureka IN Agan Kernow: Stories of Our Cornwall, Editor Ken Peake, Cornish Association of Victoria, 2022, pages 90-95; VPRS 5527/P Unit 2, Item 5 - contains 57 pages
  7. Dorothy Wickham, family history

External links