Benden Sherritt Hassell Compensation Case
The Eureka Riots were the culmination of many months of unrest. The dissatisfaction of the miners and storekeepers over the costs of licenses, the right of representation in parliament, and the unjust administration of the government system led to a highly volatile situation.
Another catalyst to the Eureka Affair was the murdering of Scobie near the Eureka Lead and the subsequent release of Bentley, who was accused of the young Scots murder. It was seen by the populace as another injustice not to be tolerated.
The goldfields population was comprised of many nationalities. All lived under a British legal system in Australia. They were displeased with the unjust and confusing laws on the goldfields. They were hounded by the police, and not given a moment’s peace. Many had fled troubles in Europe and Ireland. They had seen the result of oppressive tyrants and governments. Many had been chartists and reformists in their homelands and did not want to be repressed in their chosen new land.
Arrival of the 12th Regiment
On 11 November 1854, at a huge meeting on Ballarat’s Bakery Hill, the Ballarat Reform League was formed. Many Chartists were involved in the formation of resolutions, such as the abolition of the miners’ and storekeepers’ licenses, the privilege of manhood suffrage, parliamentary reform, and the reform of law on the goldfields.
On 28 November 1854 a detachment of the 12th Regiment entered Ballarat between nine and ten o’clock at night and marched through the Eureka Diggings accompanied by some transport waggons. An incident ensued which resulted in injuries to the Drummer Boy, John Egan; the publican, Benden Hassell; and the carter, George Young. This is the incident which is described below.
On 29 November 1854 a ‘Monster Meeting’ was held on Bakery Hill. A flag, representing the Southern Cross, with white stars on a dark blue background, was flown on ‘a very splendid pole, eighty feet in length’. The diggers took the ‘Oath of the Southern Cross’. They knelt, and with heads uncovered pointed to the banner and said,
“We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.”
Only four days later, in the early hours of the sabbath, some of these miners lost their lives to their cause. This was the culmination of the unrest and ill-feeling.
This was Eureka.
28 NOVEMBER 1854
“The onslaught upon the troops appears to have been unprovoked and savage, and it excited general disgust in the minds of the colonists everywhere out of Ballarat.” Walter Bramwell Withers in his History of Ballarat was referring to an incident on the 28 November, 1854. The publican of the London Hotel, Benden Sherritt Hassell was shot in the leg. During the same fracas the drummer boy of the 12th Regiment, John Egan, was shot in the thigh and George Young, who owned the waggons, was also injured. Raffaello Carboni described it as a “cowardly attack” by the miners. They had thrown stones and bottles at the troops on their way into Ballarat between nine and ten o’clock on this dark November evening and allegedly had fired shots into the crowd.
Assistant surgeon of the 12th Regiment, George Arden reported, that “as soon as we got into the diggings a mob of diggers collected and assailed us with cries of Joe! Joe!” “We were pelted with large stones and bottles. … One of the carts was capsized, the driver and two men were severely injured, the men were turned out and ordered to load. We found two men missing and a party went back to find them. They were laying [sic] off the road badly wounded. When the soldiers turned out and loaded the crowd dispersed. … We were shortly after joined by the 40th men from the Camp. During the disturbance several shots were fired by the diggers, but the military never returned the fire. … Our Drummer boy was shot in the leg.”
Lance Corporal George Sharpe, also of the 12th Regiment corroborating the evidence of the assistant surgeon said, “ I was with the third cart from the rear when the mob attacked us, with stones, sticks and bottles. I heard some shots fired by the diggers; some shots were fired at us. I am quite certain that none of the soldiers fired a shot. I never heard any Officer ask the road to the camp. The drivers appeared to know the way.”
One of the main arguments for compensation for Mr Benden Hassell was that the drivers asked him the way to the camp. This subsequently was the reason that he was shot in the leg, because he was in the middle of the road, and in the firing line. It was argued therefore that it was the government who should be responsible for compensating him for his injuries. However the witnesses deposed that the shots were fired by the insurgents and that the military had loaded, but not fired a shot.
The reasons for the Military proceeding through a hostile area late on a dark night were dubious. They had left Melbourne at 5 o’clock on the previous evening, and arrived at the Ballarat Diggings “around 9 or 10 o’clock” the next night. This was usually a three day march, so the troops arriving at the Eureka Lead were “jaded” and “marching very slowly.”
The Melbourne Argus reported that “a portion of the military force despatched from town on Monday had arrived, [at Ballarat] and that in passing through the diggings the soldiers were pelted with broken glass and other missiles by some diggers. The military received this manifestation of feeling in the best possible temper, and did not attempt to irritate the mob by indulging in gestures or movements which might be interpreted to mean other than a friendly inclination to them.” … “a poor drummer was shot through the leg – are these deeds which will enlist the sympathy of an intelligent people? Is the maiming of a drummer boy a worthy triumph for a large mass of a British population who wish to occupy a creditable position in the eyes of the world? Surely not!”
Nothing was written about the injury to Benden Sherritt Hassell, although he also was shot during the same incident as the drummer boy and George Young, the carter. Hassell and his partner, Robert Monckton, were co-owners of the London Hotel. Later some of the wounded sheltered at the London Hotel after the Eureka massacre.
Benden Hassell applied to the government for compensation in 1855, stating that “at night on the 28th of November, 1854, a detachment of soldiers with military stores arrived on Ballaarat, and as they were passing over that part of the diggings known as the Eureka – along the road leading by the London Hotel, the Officer in command enquired … the way to the Government Camp, on Ballaarat, and he [Mr. Hassell] went out into the road and gave the Officer the information desired … As he [Mr. Hassall] was returning into the Hotel after pointing out the way to the Officer he was shot in the leg.”
Timothy Doyle, surgeon on the Eureka Lead gave evidence that Mr. Benden Hassell was under his care “for a period of four months, labouring under the effect of a gun shot wound of the left leg, …, which severely incapacitated him from following his usual business; from the severe nature of this wound” he had not recovered. … “That the bullet” had “ not yet been extracted from the limb; and from present appearances it is very probable that Mr. Hassall will have to undergo a severe surgical operation before there is any chance of his recovering [if at all], the active use of the wounded limb, or be freed from frequent attacks of excruciating pain.”
Mr. Hassall was “well known as a peaceable and loyal British subject, and in no way countenanced or aided in any manner the unfortunate disturbances which took place on the Eureka, either at the time he received the wound or on any subsequent occasion.”
Four hundred and eighty-six men signed the petition urging the government to consider compensation for such a worthy case. The Board, however, in determining the judgement, made a suggestion that a “small donation from each of the individuals” who had signed the petition would “demonstrate their sympathy with the petitioner [Hassall] in a much more intelligible form, and more advantageous to his interests”.
What happened to Hassell and Monckton?
Benden Hassell and Robert Monckton owned the London Hotel from 1854 to 1856. On field surveyor Eugene Bellair’s notes in November 1854, the intended London Hotel is close to the Eureka Lead. In 1856 the pair became flour millers and the Argus reported that they were ready “to commence the erection of a large and complete mill” at the swamp. This was Yuille’s Swamp which is now known as Lake Wendouree.
They are described, in 1857, as “millers, etc at the swamp”. Flour mills were located on the swamp because of the necessity for a steady supply of water for this industry. The Hassell and Monckton Flour Mill was on the corner of Webster Street and Wendouree Parade in Ballarat known in recent years as the State Electricity Commission site.
In 1859 the mill chimney was blown down in a gale, and according to the Star and Miner newspaper the new chimney, being 98 feet high was the tallest in the district.
In September, 1864, according to the Star, “Messrs Hassell and Monckton have disposed of their mill on the Wendouree Parade to Mr Fry, of Ascot, for the sum of £4,500”. Mr Fry was to take possession of the mill in two months time.
Messers Hassell and Monckton returned to England in 1865.
- The Claim for Compensation of Mr. B.S. Hassell was delivered on 21st February 1856 by Mr. J.B. Humffray.
- To His Excellency Sir Charles Hotham, K.C.B., governor and Captain-General of the Colony of Victoria.
- The humble Memorial of Miners, Storekeepers, and others on behalf of Mr. Benden Sherral Hassall, Storekeeper, Eureka, Ballaarat, Sheweth –
- That the said Benden Sherral Hassell resided on the Eureka, Ballaarat, on the 28th of November, 1854.
- That at night of the day beforementioned, a detachment of soldiers with military stores arrived on Ballaarat, and as they were passing over that part of the diggings known as the Eureka – along the road leading by the “London” Hotel, the Officer in command enquired of the said Mr. Hassall the way to the Government Camp, on Ballaarat, and Mr. Hassell went out into the road and gave the Officer the information desired.
- That as Mr. Hassell was returning into the Hotel after pointing out the way to the Officer, he was shot in the leg.
- The following is a copy of the surgeon’s certificate :-
- “Ballaarat, 17th July, 1855
- “This is to certify that Mr. Benden Hassell was under my care for a period of four months, labouring under the effect of a gun shot wound of left leg, received on the 28th of November, 1854, which completely incapacitated him from following his usual business; from the severe nature of this wound he has not as yet perfectly recovered, and I furthermore consider he will never recover perfect use and strength of same limb.
- Timothy Doyle,
- That the bullet has not yet been extracted from the limb; and from present appearances, it is very probable that Mr. Hassall will have to undergo a severe surgical operation before there is any chance of his recovering (if at all), the active use of the wounded limb, or be freed from frequent attacks of excruciating pain.
- That Mr. Hassall has suffered considerable pecuniary loss through his not being able to attend to the disposal of a large stock of goods, and which, in consequence of their being kept so long were much depreciated in value.
- That Mr. Hassall is well known as being a peaceable and loyal British subject, and in no way countenanced or aided in any manner the unfortunate disturbance which took place on the Eureka, either at the time he received the wound or on any subsequent occasion.
- That Mr. Hassall is unable distinctly to say whether he was shot by one of the insurgents or one of the soldiers.
- That your Memorialists respectfully urge that your Excellency will be pleased to take this special case of Mr. Hassall’s into your consideration, and award such compensation as your Excellency may be advised as just, under the peculiarly hard circumstances by which Mr. Hassall has suffered so much in pocket and been maimed in body for life.
- And your Memorialists will ever pray &c
- (Here follow 486 signatures)
- Report of Board, with Copy of Evidence.
- Police Office, 22nd October, 1855
- In reporting upon the Petition of Mr. B.S.Hassall for compensation for a wound received during the disturbances at Ballaarat, the Board have the honor to transmit the evidence taken: that of the assistant Surgeon of the 12th Regiment, as also of a non-commissioned Officer, who was in company with the detachment of the 12th Regiment when proceeding through Ballaarat, on the night of the 28th November last.
- By the evidence it appears impossible that the petitioner received his wound from the military; and the Board cannot see anything which would justify their recommending any compensation whatever from the Government.
- But if the Board may be permitted to make a suggestion, a small donation from each of the individuals who have interested themselves – as shewn by the numerous signatures to the Memorial, would demonstrate their sympathy with the petitioner in a much more intelligible form, and more advantageous to his interests.
- I have &c, (Signed)E. P. STURT, Chairman of the Board of Enquiry 
Benden Sherritt Hassell Petition Signatories
An Alphabetical List of Signatures has been transcribed by Dorothy Wickham from this long petition which is held at the Public Record Office Victoria. Over 1000 people signed the petition. Some people were semi literate, while others scrawled their signatures so that some names were extremely difficult to decipher. It is suggested that if there is any doubt about the spelling of a name, that the original source be consulted.
C. Abraham; Haynes Adamson ; James Alein; A.E. Alexander; R. Alexander; James Allan; Nicholas Allan; George Allen; J.H. Alley; Alfred Aradocks?; William Arstal; William Asginth; George Backers; George Bachus?; Baer?O; William Bairdon; Nathan Baker; John Balderston; V. C. Ballot; Isaac Baratt; William Barbour;William Barly; M. Barrass; William Barrclow; Thomas Bath;Matthew Batten; Finlay Beath; Darius Beaton; D. B. Beauval; P Berae; H. S. Berger; John Bier; James Birgers; James Black; Thomas Black; John Blackburn; James Blackie; William Blazence?; John Blyth; Thomas Bolitho; John? Bolnkon?; G. R. Bord; Alden P Borres?; James Bourke; William Bourke; John Bourne; T Boyce; John Boyd; Charles Boyell; Richard Boyne; James Brash; Edward Brooks; Lawrence Brooks; William Brooks; David Brough; James Brown; James Brown; James Brown; Robert S Brown; Simon Brown; William Brown; William Brownfourley; A. C. Brunig; M Bruning; Richmond Bruton; Hugh Bruwn; James Buchanan; Isaac Burrell; William But; Robert Byers; James Cadds; Robert Cairns; Thomas Cairns; Samuel Calman; John Cambordger; Allan Cameron; C Cameron; James Cameron; Edward Camm; Daniel Campbell; E Campbell; James Campbell; John Campbell; Frederic Camson?; Francis Carr; Henry Caugherty; John Cavanagh; Thomas Chambers; Ebenezer Chapman; James Chapman; John Chapman; William Charlstone; W. B. Child?; George Chinery; S Clane?; James Clark; Samuel Clemence; Patrick Coady; Alfred Cobley; John Coleman; George Comfrey; B Cooper; William Cooper; Thomas Coster; Thomas Coulson; Craser? & Co; James Crichton; Ismael Croft; James Croikett; Crossley & Co; William Cruickshank; William Cullis; Ralph Cuthbertson; John Daly; John Dalzell; James Darby; Daniel Dark; Charles Dassett; George Davis; Charles De'burgur; Alexander Dean; Thomas Decueur; Thomas Denham; H Detert?; Joseph Diall; Charles Digger; Thomas Dignum; Richard Dillon; T A Dobson; John Docan; James Doig; Isaac Doncaster; Wm? Dougald; James Dougherty; John Dougherty; James Douglas; Robert Dow; James Down; Jerrome Doyle; William Doyle; Angus Duncan; Robert Duncan; Ambrose Dunn; John Dunston; Robert Eckford; Andrew Edwards; Edward Edwards; William Edwards; James Egan; [Benjamin Eggleton]]; M Elliot; William Eoons?; James Ettersley; George Evans; Henry Evans; [[Wright Evans &]]; Joseph Even; Thomas Every?; Daniel Fahey; Edward Farmer; John Fearon; Thomas Featherstone; John Fenton; Thomas Fenton; James Ferguson; Edwin Field; Edward Fisher; William Fisher; John Fletcher; E. F. Flood; Martin Flynn; John Foin?; James Foll?; Charles Fox; Richard Fox; William Foy; James Frame; Alexander Fraser; John Freiman; Edwin Fry; James Gamble; Samuel Gardner; Phillip Gay; Richard Gibbs; John Gibson; William Gibson; James Gillespie; Peter Gilmour; Charles Glarrell?; William Gondge?; Alexander Gordon; Samuel Gordon; William Gordon; Edward Gough; William Graham; I Granville; Tyson Green; William Green; Robert Grey; Thomas Griffin; William Griffiths; John Groves; Samuel Haigh; Armstrong Hall; Josiah Hall; Thomas Hamilton; John Hammer; Phillip Hammer; Michael Hanley; William Hargreave; Alexander Harman; Charles Harman; Nathaniel Harris; William Harris; William Hart; Lowther Haynes; John Heayser?; Robert Henderson; James Henrey?; B? Henword; Thomas Hepburn; Joseph Hewitt; C? Hickey; Richard Hicks; Joseph Highmore; Williamson; Hiles & Williamson; John Hill; Hilling & Greig; William Hoare; Norris; Hogg; John Holland; John Hollis; John Hope; William Howell; William Howly; D M Hu?Etto V S; Thomas Hughs; J.B. Humffray; Frederick Humffray; William Hunter; Turner Hunter &; W Hutton; Richard Hynes; James Hynim?; William Irons; Samuel Irwin JP; Abraham Jacobs; John James; W James; Graham Jardine; John Jenkin; Matthew Johnson; Samuel Johnson; William Johnson; Henry Johnsone; Archibald Johnston; Layns Jolly &; C Jones; Ishmael Jones; John Jones; Richard Jones; George Jonson; Christian Jordan; B Kellor; Michael Kennedy; John Kennedy; John Kennedy; John Kennedy; William Kennedy; William Kewley; John Kruse; Andrew Landler; H. D. Lane; Richard Laney; Thomas Lang; Richard Large; Samuel Laundrey; Jolly Layns &; Alfred Lester; Alexander Lewis; James Lewis]]; John Leylon; S Linch; Robert Little; R Little; James Lloyd; Thomas Lloyd; James Lolley; James Lynch;Allan Macdonald; H. S. Macfadyen;Thomas Macfarlane;N. G. Mackay; Louis Macke; William Mackey; Alexander Maclaren;Duncan Macrae; James Maguire;John Marshell;Richard MartinRobert Mather; Alexander Mawatt;James May; John May;John Middleton;Daniel Millar;Lander? Millar;John Miller; Moses Millsop; C Milne; George Milne; F. W. H. Minton; John Moir; Robert Monckton; William Monckton; Smith Moody &; James Moore; W. Moore; M Morris; Duncan Mouson; S Moysen; Andrew Muir; David Muir; M.P. Muir; James Muirehouse; Robert Mura; Malvern? Murchison; Henry Murray; Nicoll Murray; Bryan Mcardle; Archibald McCallum; Dow McCallum; O. McCallum; Robert McIndoe; Anthony McClellan; William McCulloch; Thomas McCullog; I.M. McDonagh; Duncan McDonald; David McFadyn; John McFarlan; John McGhie; James McGowan; A. McGrotty; Duncan Mchellde; Robert McIndoe; George & Co McKay; John McKay; Thomas McKenzie; James McKinlay; Tulloch McLaren &; George McLellan; Kenneth McLeod; Allan McNeill; Alexander McPherson; Alex Mcphievll?; John Mcrae; Malcolm McSporran;Joseph Neill; G.W. Newland; G. W. Newland; Charles Newman; James Newman; John Newton; Richard Nicholls; Montague Nolee; Hogg Norris &; John Nutter; Kennedy O'Brien; James O'Brian; John O'Brun; Daniel O'connor; P O'connor; James O'neill; John O'neill; John Odgers; John Palmer; W. Parkin; Joseph Peddle; William Peebles; Adam Pendreigh; John Perry; Adolph Pohl; Charles Pole; ? Pole?; Thomas Pook; P Prahl; Rambinson; Thomas Randall; A B Ranken; David Rattray;Robert Rattray;Charles Read; William Reynolds; David Richards; John Richards; Peter Richards; Richard Richards; William Richards; Peter Rickard; William Rickards; Sinclair Riddock; N N Ritson; John Robertson; John Robertson; Daniel Robinson; William Robinson; John Rocketts; William Rodier; R H Rogers; Joseph Rolf; John Rook; David Ross; Joseph Routh; John Rowan; John Rowlands; William Ruflett; William Russell; A. M. Rutherford; James Ryan; Patrick Ryan; Thomas Ryan; Lars Saffallaz; Ednane Saine; John Sarah; Andreas Sawilawsky; William Seis; John Sharkey; John Shaw; Augustus Sheppard; Henry Sheridan; Robert Shernan; John Shiers; Henry Simmons; William Simson; George Sivadesir; Leonard Slade; Daniel Slattery; Thomas Small; Aquila Smith; Charles Smith; Charles Smith; D.A. Smith; Henry Smith; James Smith; John Smith; T. Smith; Moody Smith &; John Sneddan; Matthew Sneddon; Henry Spring; John Spring; Joseph Stacey; James Stapleton; John Steadman; John Stevens; John Stevens; James Stewart; Edward Stillier; John Strachan; [[[Henry Studge]]; John Sweeny; John Switzer; Alexander Taylor; William Taylor; T. Teegmind; James Thackeray; William Thomas; William Thomas; Robert Thompson; Charles Tilley; Harald Tolstry; Thomas Tranter; McLaren Tulloch &; Robert Tully; James Turnbull; M. Turner; Hunter Turner &; James Turnip; William Turpin; William Tweedie; James Tyree; Thomas Tzren; Francis Usher; M Usher; Joshua Vines; Charles Viny?; James Walker; See Woolard, Wallard;Henry Wallis; Joseph Ward; Joseph Wareing; J.D. Waters; George Watt; Samuel Way; Thomas Webster; Nathaniel Weeks; James Weightman;George Welton; Charles Wheeler; Robert White; W. Whittlesee; Thomas Wilding; Patt Wiley; Noah Williams; Henry Williamson; See Hiles Williamson &; J D Willington; John Willis; John Wilson; W.D. Wilson; Henry Withers; Clowe Wood; Jonah Woolard; James Wray; Alex Wright; Evans Wright & John Wylie; John Wylie; James Young; John Yuille
Dorothy Wickham, Shot in the Dark: A pre-Eureka incident, 1995.
- Information from Descendant Christopher Monkton, 14 March 2017.
- Parliamentary Papers 1855-56, Victoria, Mr. B. S. Hassall, Claim for Compensation with copies of Evidence &c.
- Researched and transcribed by Dorothy Wickham
- Researched and transcribed by Dorothy Wickham from PROV, VPRS 1189, Unit 253, Item R55/13783