Ballarat flood 1859

From Hotels of Ballarat

The Ballarat flood in November 1859, damaged properties along Main Road.

History[edit | edit source]

The flood occurred on a Saturday night following several days of heavy rain. At the height of the floods water in Main Road was over one metre deep:

GREAT FLOOD AT BALLARAT. On Saturday night we were again visited with a thunderstorm of greater, magnitude, and of longer duration than that of the two preceding evenings. The thunder was loud and long continued. The rain came down in torrents, and the bed of every creek soon became a foaming torrent. The roads and streets in the lower parts were literally torn to pieces, and at half-past 10 o'clock it was apparent that the main road would be deluged. The rush of water at Rodier's Creek was very, strong, and the little gully was quite unable to withstand the shock, for boards and sticks, sand and sludge, and debris of every description choked up its mouth. Onward came the waters tearing up the planks on the footway, and in a few minutes the ground floor of the Star Hotel (where there were several persons playing bagatelle and attending a concert) was several feet under water. The inhabitants of the Main-road closed their stores against the invader, and in many instances bolsters and bed-ticks were used to keep out the foe. The people attending the Charlie Napier Theatre, on coming into the street, at the termination of the performance, found (those of them who wished to reach the township) that their retreat had been cut off, and many of them with philosophic determination waded knee deep through the water. By 12 o'clock the street from the Hermit's Cave to Tuxen and Co.'s store was completely under water to the extent of three feet, and near the Duchess of Kent Hotel it was more. The footwalks on either side of the road were also impassable, and a knowing "jarvie" wishing to make a "penny" by the event, carried hundreds of persons backwards and forwards all night for the modest charge of sixpence each. From 12 till 2 o'clock in the morning the water had reached its highest point. The Main-road people were all busy baling out water, removing their property, and adopting such means as the exigencies of the case required, and many, of them remained up all night. The principal sufferers by the flood are— Mr. Irwin, of the Star Hotel, who had about £70 worth of pigs nearly drowned ; Mr. Bird, of the Royal Mail Hotel; the Alpaca Store, opposite, the Duchess of Kent Hotel ; Mr. Emery of the Shakespeare Hotel ; the Duchess of Kent Hotel, where the water got into the cellar, and the barrels, containing ales, &e., floated about ; Mr. Cashmore's establishment was also flooded, and all the shops from the Duchess of Kent to the Star Hotel, with, a few exceptions. The Charlie escaped this time, owing to the forethought of Mr. Gibbs, who anticipated something of the kind during the week, and had a man employed for several days erecting an embankment to keep out the water. Several curious incidents took place, and in two instances some "groggy" individuals who attempted to cross the waters, missed their footing, and one of them was seen floundering in the channel. On Sunday morning, at an early hour, large numbers of persons were busy at work clearing the sludge out of their premises, and from off the footway before their doors. In the Duchess of Kent hotel there was an alluvial deposit about six inches in depth, and in fact it was the same in every place the water found ccess to. The Main-road itself was covered over with a coating of from six inches to a foot of sludge, and the water channels and gratings were completely choked. The old houses opposite to the Duchess of Kent hotel were half covered with water, and presented the appearance of a dismasted ship at sea. It has been said that "Nero fiddled whilst Rome was burning," and day after day we hear something or other about the sludge channel, or deputations, or communications to the Government on the subject, and the public have been as often assured that the thing would be done at once, and that in a few months at least the water channel would be cut, but now unless the new Government does something, we find that only a few preliminary steps have been taken in the matter, as if to lull the voice of the public on the subject. It is true that a few months ago the road engineer had the bridge of Rodier's Creek raised a little, but the planks on the footway were allowed to retain their old level, and the work at best was but a makeshift ; the people on the Main-road declare that now when the water flows over the culvert it cannot find an out let, and consequently it must remain as an ornament on the principal thoroughfare of Ballaarat. We have no doubt, now that the floods are over, and the fine weather setting in, but that the Government will get the work done at once, especially as the summer months are upon us, when floods are of rather rare occurrence. We have not heard the value of the amount of property destroyed, but it must have been very great.[1]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1859 'GREAT FLOOD AT BALLARAT.', South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1858 - 1867), 12 November, p. 5. , viewed 15 Sep 2018,