Arthur Akehurst

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Walter E. Pidgeon, Illustration from The Eureka Stockade by Raffaello Carboni, Sunnybrook Press, 1942, offset print.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased 1994.


Mentioned on Rev. T.J. Linnane's List.[1]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Akehurst was the only Ballarat official tried, and was acquitted on a technicality. In 1854 Akehurst was a clerk of the Ballarat Bench, and participated in the Eureka Stockade battle. Akehurst gave evidence that he had been sworn in as a special constable at Ballarat for 18 months preceding the Eureka battle. Akehurst was found guilty by a Coroner’s jury in Ballarat for killing Henry Powell. A Melbourne jury later acquitted him. Akehurst was Chairman of the Board of Health in 1887.[2]

Akehurst was a witness examined during the report of the Board appointed to enquire into circumstances connected with the riot at Ballarat, and the burning of James Bentley's Eureka Hotel. [3]

Inquest of Henry Powell

The only inquest found was that for Henry Powell who resided at Creswick and was visiting a friend. He was wounded outside the Stockade and died six days later as the result of his injuries. His dying declaration, which was disallowed in the trial of Akehurst, the perpetrator of the deed, states: "I am very unwell but I think I will recover - at least I hope so - On Saturday I came over to Ballaarat for the purpose of visiting Mr. Cox and remaining until Sunday evening. When I arrived at Ballaarat I saw people going about in armed bodies, I came home and changed my trowsers(sic) and went down and looked into the ring. [ The stockade] I then went to bed in the tent where I now am, the tent is the property of Mr Cox. About 5 o'clock the next morning, Sunday, I heard the report of a pistol, I got up and went towards the place where the firing was. I had gone about forty yards when the police came up to me, the Clerk of the Peace, a young man about twenty years of age was with them, he said, in the Queen's name you are my prisoner. I said, very good, he struck me a blow and the troopers rode over me, the blow was struck with something like a sheath knife about three feet and a half long." In his deposition George Pobjoy declared that he "saw a trooper fire at a man who was running away. The man fell and four troopers attacked him, thrusting at him with their swords as he lay on the ground." Henry Powell was unarmed and offered no resistance. Dr. Leman's cook, Joseph Ash testified that he heard one trooper shout: "Ride the b...... down." Powell was the only injured miner taken to the Albion Hotel. Of Powell's injuries, Dr. William Wills gave this information in his evidence. " I am a properly qualified medical practitioner. I was called to see the deceased last Sunday morning December 3rd. I found him on the stretcher on which the coffin now is. I examined the body. The first wound I saw was that on the abdomen. The ball entered just near the floating ribs on the right side, it made its exit above and beyond the navel on the left side. The second wound was through the right shoulder from before backwards. A third ball had gone thru the left arm just above the wrist. He had received a severe sabre cut on the left parietal bone indenting the bone. Two other wounds were on his head, one on the frontal bone another on the upper part of the occipital bone, both penetrating to the bone. There was a wound on the left elbow joint penetrating to the humerus and a wound in the finger on the same hand laying open the tendon of the third finger. Deceased made a statement to Captain Evans in my presence. I visited deceased twice a day during the week and dressed his wounds and attended him generally administering all proper medicines." Despite all efforts, Henry Powell died and later at the trial for his murder, the evidence of his dying statement was not permitted and so Akehurst not only walked free but went on to a notable career in the public service.[4]

Post 1854 Experiences

It will be remembered that some weeks ago Mr. Longmore, in his place in the Assembly, indirectly charged Mr. Akehurst, P.M., with having wantonly caused the death of a man named Powell during the Ballarat riots in 1854. The allegation was contradicted by the Attorney-General in the House, and subsequently a declaration made by a man named A. W. White appeared in our columns, going to prove that the man could not have met his death at the hand of Mr. Akehurst. As corroborative of his statements we append the following declaration, made by Thos. Conboy, who was also present, and took part with the troops in suppressing the disturbance: — "I, Thos. Conboy, Victoria, laborer, do solomny and sincerely declare that in the year 1854 I was in the mounted police force situated at Ballarat. I was present at the Ballarat riots on the 3rd December, 1854, and was on duty at the Eureka Stockade on that day. Amongst others on duty in the mounted police force on that day were A. Warren White, Henry Wright, and Ed. Preece. I did not know a man named Lenese, but he might have been there. I saw the abovenamed parties, with Mr. Akehurst and others of the force, go round to the right of the stockade. I did not accompany them, being ordered to join the reserve. Mr. Akehurst wore no sword that day, nor did I over see him wear one. A day or two afterwards I heard some of the troop charging Ed. Preece and others with attack ing an unarmed man. Preece said, ' How did I know but he was armed and might shoot me.' I did not attend the inquest on Powell, the man killed at the riot, as I was ordered away for despatch duty that day. I heard that there was plenty of evidence to clear Mr. Akehurst. I and White and Preece left the force after the riots and returned to the diggings at Ballarat, and there I heard that Preece was charged with being concerned in the death of Powell. Preece soon afterwards left the diggings, and I have never heard of him since. I have seen the letter signed .'A. Warren White,' inserted in The Age of 27th June last, and he must be mistaken stating that Preece was an old soldier from India. I know Preece well, and he had never been in the army, and at the time of the riots was a young man of about twenty-five years, with fair complox-ion and hair, and not unlike Mr. Akehurst in figure."[5]


On Friday afternoon Mr. Arthur Purssell Akehurst died suddenly at his residence, 'Kianga,' Byron-street, St. Kilda. The deceased gentleman was born in 1836, and took office under the Government in November, 1852. Shortly after wards he became clerk of petty sessions at Ballarat, where his father practised as a solicitor, and in December, 1854, he served under arms with the other officials of the 'camp' against the 'rioters' of the famous Eureka Stockade. Later on, after passing through different grades of the service, he became a police magistrate, in which capacity he was frequently called upon to undertake special work of importance, particularly in reference to the remodelling of different Government departments for economical purposes. In 1890 he was appointed secretary of the Law Department, at a salary of £1000 a year, from which office he retired some four or five years ago. Since then he had led a very retired life.[6]

See also

Further Reading

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


  1. List of names of people who figured in the life of Ballarat before and during the Eureka Rebellion of 3 December 1854, unpublished.
  2. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  3. Report of the Board appointed to Enquire into Circumstances Connected with the Late Disturbance at Ballarat, John Ferres, Government Printer, Melbourne, 21 November 1854.
  4. Dorothy Wickham, Deaths at Eureka, 1995
  5. The Age, 18 July 1874.
  6. Albury Banner, 04 July 1902.

External links


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Caption, Reference.