Benden Hassell

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Reinforcements - Troops Arriving from Melbourne, This image shows the Camp at Ballarat West, know Camp Street. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection.


Robert Monckton and Benden S. Hassell became flour millers in 1856 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.

Bendan Hassell and Robert Monckton returned to England in 1865[1] after selling their flour mill on Wendouree Parade to Mr Fry of Ascot for £4,500.

When they returned to England they were both quite rich men.[2]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Pre-Eureka Incident - 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 gunshot 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. Hassell 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”.[3]

Post 1854 Experiences

Benden S. Hassell gave evidence before Peter Lalor on 5 March 1856.[4]

17 December 1862 Benden S Hassell wrote to the Chairman of the Municipal Council of Ballarat resigning from the Council.

Sir, Having business to ?act in a remote part of the Colony I am under the necessity of resigning my seat in your Council as it is more than probable that I shall not return during the present municipal years.

I am yours respectfully Benden S Hassell.

Benden Hassell was quite rough and unpolished person. Upon return to England as a wealthy man Benden Hassell lived in the genteel society of Surrey Hills where no doubt he was known as a coarse adventurer with newly acquired fortune.[5]


Benden Hassell married the sister of Robert Monckton.[6]

1 child - Reggie who married a Monckton cousin. Their daughter was born mentally and physically handicapped.[7]

See also

Benden Sherritt Hassell Compensation Case

J.B. Humffray

Robert Monckton


In its issue of 15th February the Crowborough and Uckfield Weekly” Sussex, England), publishes a “tribute by an old friend” to Mr B.S. Hassell, a Ballarat pioneer, from which the following extracts are taken: — Mr Hassell passed away last week at his residence, aged 91 years. He was a landowner in the parish, where the family are vary much respected. In attaining the great age of 91. Mr Hassell had outlived all his older friends, but always having a youthful mind, even to his later years, He cultivated and enjoyed the society of those younger than himself. A few years afterwards leaving school, he went to seek his fortune in Australia, before the discovery of gold. There he joined the two brothers Robert and William Monckton, of Brenohley, Kent. These three enterprising young men traded successfully in partnership at Ballarat from about 1850 to 1866, during which time the subject of (this tribute, among many public appointments,- became a magistrate, a direetor of the local bank, and governor of tile Ihospital. But on being asked to form a company for supplying the town with water, lie said he thought that by doing so a monopoly would be made of a service and supply wliich should he free. During this period gold was discovered, and in the exciting times which followed Mr Hassell, in discharging his duty as a magistrate on the occasion of a riot, nearly lost his life, being shot by a stray bullet, which struck him down, but fortunately, did not enter a vital part. He returned to England in 1867, and was made a member of the Old Colonists’ Association, his contemporaries regarding 'him as one of the founders of the colony of Victoria. After living for a year or two at The Rocks Buxted, he purchased Cupel Grange, in Kent, near the old home of the brothers Monckton. whose partner he had beetn in Australia and a sister of whom he had by that time married. This lady died in 1912, leaving, besides her husband, two sons, both of whom happily survive their father. One is Colonel Hassell, who at the commencement of the war, was sent to America with a Remount Commission, and whose important work there was a slioilt time back recognised by the bestowal of the C.M.G. In the early years after his return to England the late Mr Hassell did not enjoy good health and having become acquainted with the two dietetic reformers. Professors Newman and Mayor, he followed the example of the latter, in becoming a strict vegetarian, which he remained for close on 50 years. Supplementing these details, the Rev. H. W. H. Adeney, formerly of St. Peter’s Church, Ballarat, writes.:— Mr B. S. Hassell built the mill with the fine chimney shalin on the lake side (now the electric power-house). When I went to Ballarat in 1862 I found that Messrs Hassell and Monckton, together with F. M. Claxton, Dr Whitson and others had assisted the Rev. John Potter in erecting the wooden building used as St. Peter's Church and school upon the silte, now occupied by the Pleasant street State school. Mr Hassell laid the foundation stone of St. Peter’s Church. Sturt street, in 1865, and sold the mill to Mr James Fry in 1867. I saw him in his renovated manor house in the beautiful county of Sussex during a visit to in 1904-5. He was then wonderfully well and strong for his age, and was full of enquiries about Ballarat and many mutual friends there. He was as genial, kind, and quaint as ever; much given to rhyming, almost every morning at breakfast time pinning some fresh stanzas too the mantlepiece. With Mrs Hassell (a very dear lady, who has predeceased him) and his two sons, Colonel Hassell and Mr Reginald Hassell who managed his estates, he was leading a very quiet and happy life, greatly enjoying the sunshine on his terrace and a game of whist every evening. At Christmas time Tanners’ Manor- was a centre of hospitality and entertainment for the villagers and eliildren of the hood, and much kind thought was ex pended on devising something new- for their amusememt. each season.[8]

Further Reading

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


  1. Information from Descendant Christopher Monkton, 14 March 2017.
  2. Information from Descendant Christopher Monkton, 14 March 2017.
  3., accessed 21 September 2016.
  4. Ballaarat Outbreak Petition, Government Printer, Melbourne, 14 March 1856.
  5. Information from Descendant Christopher Monkton, 14 March 2017.
  6. Information from Descendant Christopher Monkton, 14 March 2017.
  7. Information from Descendant Christopher Monkton, 14 March 2017.
  8. Ballarat Star, 12 May 1919.

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