Ballarat Flood 1869

From Hotels of Ballarat

There was a large flood in Ballarat on 16 October 1869, which flooded large areas of Bridge Street and Main Road in Ballarat East.

The heavy rainfall caused flooding across the district:

Ballarat East and some of the suburbs of the town were on Saturday visited by the most destructive inundations that have happened since the place has been settled. In years gone by there have been floods that devastated the flats and destroyed life, but no former flood had caused the destruction of so much property as the disaster of Saturday...The Yarrowee soon became too small for the increasing volume of water coming down the Black Hill Flat fed by the gullies on either side...the floods spreading out eastward, overflowed houses, streets, and gardens over the whole area north and south of the railway, from Peel street on the east to Grenville street on the west. Peel street was a river, and Scott's Parade was a lake...flooding the whole Market Reserve. Checked in its course by the buildings in its track, it swelled and burst suddenly, by all the avenues available, into the back yards of the houses on the north side of Bridge street, rising in a few minutes several feet high, over topping floors, chairs, beds, tables, counters, and covering with sludge and drift everything that it did not sweep utterly away. The southern side of the street soon had the same fate,—indeed, it was almost simultaneous...the flood poured with increased volume and momentum down to the White Flat. Dana street bridge was saved by the flood excavating extra passages on either side. At the White Flat bridge, where all the waters from the whole upper valleys had to pass, the flood overflowed Grant street and Albert street, and threatened the bridge, over which the waters began to roll before undermining the road way on the west side...[1]

Bridge Street[edit | edit source]

The damage by flood water to business in Ballarat East was considerable:

DAMAGE BY THE FLOOD. Bridge street and its vicinity, as may well be imagined, being the centre of the business population of Ballarat East, as well as the central point of the flood-current, sustained more damage than any other part of the town. The damage done at the coffee mills of Mr Joseph Jones, Grenville street north, was very considerable. The most of his valuable stock was on the ground floor, and was exposed to the action of the first brunt of the flood.

Messrs Morris and Sleight, undertakers, had just a few weeks ago taken up as a business site a shop close at hand, next door to Messrs Bryce and Chalmers, and the water came in there about three feet, sweeping away and destroying a large lot of goods, which are estimated by Mr Sleight to be worth between £100 and £200. The water did not do so much damage as might have been expected on the premises of Messrs Bryce and Chalmers. A lot of sugar and flour, with some pepper and other perishable goods that came within the range of the flood, was destroyed; but a quantity of the more valuable goods was got up on high positions before the water got to that altitude. The estimate of damage given us by Mr Bryce is £100. Mr Dodds, of the Buck's Head hotel, was also another victim, but it is hard to say what he has lost yet, as it is mostly in his cellar that the damage has been done. His hotel was flooded, and much inconvenience caused by the water. We imagine that the damage in the premises of Mr J. K. Baird, painter and oil and color merchant, will be found to be considerable.

A rumor was current of loss of life having occurred here, but so far as we can learn there is no foundation for the story. The water was in the toy shop of Mr Little about two feet or two feet and a half in depth, but this did not do much damage so far as we could ascertain. In the premises of Messrs Bolam and Hewat, drapers, Mr Barnett, tobacconist, Mr Brandt, boot and shoe importer, Mr C. Holmes, Mr G. Heath, Mr Longstaff, chemist, Mr J. Fitzgerald, draper, and Mr Munro, bootmaker, with Mr A. H. King's ironmongery shop, and the Temperance hotel, standing, as they do, upon high ground, when compared with other houses in the street, the damage done was not considerable, all of them, however, being covered inside with about two feet of water.

Messrs T. Lang and Co. were losers to the amount of about £150, as not only did the water flood some of their back houses but it also covered over a nursery which they have at the rear of their premises and alongside the storm-water channel. In this they had a large number of valuable plants and flowers in green-houses and frames. The waters came in from Market street, and were only slightly impeded by the sustaining wall forming one side of the storm-water channel. On the other side of the storm-water channel, the Bridge House was flooded with about two or two and a half feet of water, but as the goods in low positions were all got out of danger, the damage caused was not considerable. The Western hotel, Mr Hutchinson's shoe shop, and Mrs Galt's hat-shop were visited by the flood, fortunately without damage. The cellar of the British Queen hotel, in which Mr Whitehouse has a large stock, was flooded, and Mr Whitehouse fears the damage caused will be found to be considerable.

Mr Bennett's, Messrs Twentyman and Stamper's shop, and Mr M'Connell's, were flooded, but without any damage being done, except to their back premises, which were open to the whole fury of the current. The first place at which we saw the damage of a serious nature was at the boot shop of Mr J. Whitelaw, who has had a very large amount of goods floated away. Not thinking of so great a rise of water, he placed most of the valuable things on the tables and on the counter in the shop, and went out to render assistance where it was likely to be needed, but on returning found that the water had covered the tables and counters and had overturned the goods, most of which were floating about. The place would certainly have been swamped out if it had not been for the fact of the doors at the back being good, ones and stemming back the current.

The grocery store of Mr Wane presented as desolate a sight as any to be seen along the whole line of street. He had just a short time before got in a large assortment of various kinds of provisions, and had gone to Geelong to buy some other things, leaving his wife and family behind him. On hearing by telegram of the flood, he got permission to return to Ballarat by the goods train, and arrived in the afternoon. His premises seemed to have suffered more by the crowd that assembled as the flood came up, than they would have suffered by the waters alone, as doors which might very well have resisted the advance of the current had been wilfully broken in or wrenched off their hinges. Thus the house was made an open sewer, and as the goods in the shop were of a light description, they were carried . out into the street through the broken window at the front. Three or four chests of tea, with several half-chests, were thus taken away, and candles in large boxes, with a large quantity of salt, was also swept out. It is to be hoped these goods will be returned to Mr Wane. The gasaliers were wrenched off their couplings, and the gas allowed to escape; doors were kicked in, and a very large amount of unnecessary damage was done by the crowd. The damage was estimated by Mr Wane at about £200.

Mr A. Levin, watch maker, had about three feet of water in his two shops, and estimated the amount of damage done at about £200. Mr S. Slater, fishmonger and dealer in poultry, had all the fish and poultry in his premises washed down the flood, and his house thrown into a very disordered condition by the water. We could not ascertain the amount of damages caused at the Criterion hotel. The cellars were flooded, but as Mr Haysom has only lately gone into that house to live, he had probably not a very large stock. Much damage was however caused to the furniture in the hotel. Mr Coli, watchmaker, did not, we believe, suffer much, except from the water being pretty deep in his shop; but his next door neighbor, Mr E. Wilmot, ironmonger, must have had a great loss. Mr Wilmot had a pretty little garden at the back of his premises, but this is now only the receptacle for articles of all kinds swept out of the market and its neighborhood. Mrs Wilmot and the family had a narrow escape for their lives. These were saved by the plucky exertions of Mr Russell, hay and corn dealer, Humffray street, who took them out by the skylight and along the roofs of the neighboring habitations, and over the verandahs to the street where a cab took them to a place of safety.

Mr Walker, confectioner has also been a heavy sufferer; an inner room which he had filled with butter and fruit being cleaned out completely, and his shop left in comparatively the same condition. Mr Walker's family resided in a house at the back of the shop, and a large quantity of the furniture there has been injured. He estimates his loss at over £300. About £30 or £35 of damage has been caused at the Market hotel, and at the hotel of Mr Benson, near to it, a clean sweep has been made of everything in the place, causing damage to the amount of £200.

A very large amount of damage has been caused in the market, where butchers have not only had a large quantity of meat washed away, but having prepared the usual supply for the Saturday's sales, they have been left with it on their hands. This will cause them a heavy loss. At the back gate of the market, where there must have been a very strong current we saw amongst the traces of the flood a cab and two butchers' carts, besides a log about 3 feet in circumference, and about 18 yards long. Mr Joseph Josephs, clothier and outfitter, is a heavy loser, a large number of trunks of boots and shoes having been washed into the garden at the back of the shop, and some of them having been earned down the current. The shop, so far as the water reached, has been thrown into a state which indicates much loss. Mr Josephs estimates his damage at between £350 and £100. Mr L. Josephs, fishmonger, some doors from the last mentioned shop, had his place completely cleared out; about £150 damage being his estimate.

Mr James O'Meara, of the Limerick Castle hotel, met with a heavy loss both in furniture and goods in his cellar. Mr R. Phillips, tobacconist, had two and a half feet of water in his back premises and four feet in his shop, all the goods he had in his window being carried away in addition to the goods in his shop below the water line. The estimate of the loss here was £200. The shop and goods of Mr F. Atkins have sustained great injury. Mr L. Bursch, outfitter and clothier, estimates his damage at £400, the furniture within his premises being much injured, and the goods in the shop having suffered heavily. Mr X. Gasser is also a sufferer to the extent of about £200. In Mr Jones' boot shop the damage seems to be considerable; but nothing when compared with that of Mr Speilvogel next door, whose goods are everywhere about the rooms of swept by the flood. He had a large stock of new goods which he considers very much damaged. The estimate of his loss, made by Mr Speilvogel, is £1000.

Mr E. A. Baskerville, tobacconist, has been a large loser, having only come lately with a new stock into the premises which he now occupies. The flood washed all his goods from the windows of the shop, and when we went to the back yard attached to his establishment we found it all strewn over with boxes of matches, pipes, cigars, and tobaccos. Several boxes of meerschaum pipes, which had been under water but not floated away, were shown to us, all of them so cracked as to render them completely useless. The estimate of loss was here about £1000, Mr Baskerville saying that he had gone into business with £2000 worth of stock, nearly half of which had been swept away. Mr Heathorn, confectioner, estimates his damage at about £300, but considers that he has had rather a lucky escape. Considerable difficulty was felt here in getting the people of the shop out of danger, Mr George Moore and Mr Burrows assisting to get them out at the back, where the water was so high as to render the rescue extremely dangerous. The partition which separated the shop from the dining-room of Mr Heathorn's establishment was carried away, and a lot of fruit taken off as well.

We have not ascertained the amount of damage caused at Mr Paterson's butchery, but we should not think he is a heavy loser except in having provided butcher's meat for his customers who could not, of course, pay a visit to his shop on Saturday. Mr Buttimer, clothier, next to Messrs Sloman and Sons, had a considerable quantity of his stock floated about, and estimates his damages at about £1000. The water rose about a foot over his counter, on which a large quantity of valuable goods was piled. We could not ascertain the loss sustained by Messrs Sloman and Sons in their furniture warehouse, but from what we have heard it must have been very considerable. There is no upper story to the premises, and the stock of pianos and other furniture on hand was not cleared away when the waters rose. In fact we have been told that pianos and couches were seen to float out into the stream along with other articles of a lighter description. Mr E. Steinfield got some of his pianos up to the upper story of his premises, but after all has been a very large sufferer. Mr O'Loughlin, fruiterer, had much of his stock swept down the stream, and all the rooms of his house filled with three and a half feet of water. He estimates his damage at £100.

Mr D. Rioush's dining rooms were completely cleared out, all the partitions being overthrown, and articles of furniture cast in heaps in comers where they had been left by the waters. His estimate of loss is £100, and £150 that of Mr Reifisch, leather merchant. At Mr H. Tobitt's provision store, a loss of about £70 has been sustained. The water got in at the open fence at the back, without being broken in its force, and washed away a large quantity of provisions. The damage which Mr Written, boot-importer, estimates as having been caused at his place, is £1500, a very large stock of boots having been washed down the stream, but he is not in a position at present to arrive at an accurate calculation as to the loss. At the loan office of Mr E. Meyers some damage was caused, as also by Mr Julian Maxwell, at his colonial wine vaults. A large amount of loss has resulted to Mr R. U. Nicholls, his shop being situated at almost the lowest point of the street, and besides the damage caused there, his nursery lying near the cricket ground has been flooded, causing altogether a loss which he estimates, we believe, at £1000.

Mr Hull, of the Banbury confectionery, would have had the furniture of his house carried away had he not taken timely precautions. As the articles floated one after another out of his house by the back door, he took hold of them from the roof and drew them up there. He thus rendered his loss smaller than it would have been, but the shop and goods have sustained considerable damage. Mr and Mrs Wilson, the tenants of the Cumberland and Durham hotel, now rebuilding, had great difficulty in escaping from their house, and Mrs Wilson and the children had to be handed horizontally through an aperture in the new brick wall, and were safely deposited in a cab that took them to higher ground. The newly excavated cellar is full of water, but the foundations do not appear shaken. Mr J. M. Davis, sail and tent maker, estimates his damage at £100 to £120. Mr A. Scott, jeweller, had much of his goods in a safe, and considered that they were right, but it is thought his loss would amount to about £1000. In the shops of Mr Walker, fruiterer; Mr Edwards, boot importer; Mr R. Draper, upholsterer; Messrs Walker and Morrison, hatters; and Mr T. Taylor, draper; those places being all situated in a low lying part of the street, the damage was considerable. Messrs Biggs and Shoppee, and Mr G. Thompson, glass and china warehousemen, did not suffer much damage in consequence of their stock not being perishable. Mr De Saxe's drugs, which his shop contained, have all been swept away. At the Angel hotel the damage is estimated at £150, the cellar being full of water and the stock sent floating about. Mr R. Alexander, Cheapside House, had a lot of fancy goods washed about his shop, and lost about £150 or £200.

At the North Grant hotel the water was above the bar counter, and over the top of an excellent billiard table. Looking at the lower rooms a very large amount of damage seemed to have been the result of the flood, and we were told that a considerable stock of spirits was floating about in the cellar. The loss here was estimated at £1000, but may not mount up to quite so much. A number of shops lying beyond the North Grant hotel, amongst them Mr A. Anderson's, and Messrs Gibson, Stewart, and Scott's boot and shoe, and Messrs Warne and Rand's drapery shops have not, we believe, suffered much, in consequence of measures for saving their low-lying goods having been taken up in time. The principal loss on the Main road was from Mr Scrase's cellar being flooded, in which were 100 hogs heads of beer, in a "working" state. It was, of course, swept away, causing a loss of perhaps between £300 and £400. The Llanberris quartz mine had to be abandoned early in the day, in consequence of the water going down the air shaft, and flooding the workings. In leaving the mine some of the men had a very narrow escape from being drowned, arriving on the surface just "in the nick of time." The Chinese lost considerably on the low-lying land near the Charlie Napier Brewery and all the shops between Mr Scrase's premises and Barkly street were more or less scenes of comparatively heavy losses.[2]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1869 'DISASTROUS FLOODS AND LOSS OF LIFE AND PROPERTY.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 18 October, p. 1. (SUPPLEMENT TO THE BALLARAT STAR), viewed 03 May 2019,
  2. 1869 'DAMAGE BY THE FLOOD.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 18 October, p. 1. (SUPPLEMENT TO THE BALLARAT STAR), viewed 02 May 2019,