Ballarat flood 1863

From Hotels of Ballarat

The Ballarat flood of June 1863 caused widespread flooding through the city and surrounding areas. A number of hotels had their cellars and ground floor rooms flooded with not just flood water, but also sludge from the many mines in the town area.

History[edit | edit source]

The Geelong Advertiser carried a full report on the flooding in Ballarat. After several days of rain, a heavy downpour on Saturday 6 June 1863, saw the rivers and creeks break their banks:

INUNDATIONS IN BALLARAT AND ITS VICINITY. Rain fell almost continuously though not very heavily during the whole of Friday, the weather gradually becoming more and more tempestuous during the earlier hours of Saturday morning. At about daybreak the rain fell almost as "whole water," continuing with unabated violence to about eight o'clock, previous to which time, however, the various creeks and sludge channels did not display any very remarkable signs of being swollen. Shortly after that hour however, the heavy rain fall began to find its way from all quarters into the low lying portions of Ballarat. The Yarrowee steadily rose over its banks. The sludge channels, three parts full of hardened sludge, and choked at their outlets, refused to discharge anything like their complement of water. Concurrent, with this access of fluid, a riddance of which was something scarcely to be looked for, there were a hundred other sources in the shape of pitched channels for most unwelcome supplies, all lending to the rapid accumulation of perhaps the largest body of water which ever found its way into the main thoroughfare of Ballarat East.

In Bridge street the flood rose within the shops to the height of eighteen inches—an elevation greater than had been attained by winter floods on any previous occasion. This result was mainly attributable to the non-completion of that portion of the Yarrowee sludge channel extending from Mair-street bridge to the back of the Geelong Hotel, tenders for which were accepted by the Government so long ago as last summer. The channel instead of being formed so as to cause the waters to flow straight through the Main-road bridge, has been constructed in zig-zag fashion. The result was that the whole force of the stream was directed, not through the bridge, but on to the back portion of the premises of Messrs Lang and Co, Palmer, and Co, and other residents in the locality. The extreme corner of Messrs Lang's nursery was washed away, beside causing considerable loss in valuable plants torn up and carried down the stream. The residents to the eastward, as far as the Fountain Head Hotel, were flooded out by an access of water finding its way through the railway culverts erected over what is known as the Blind Creek, between the Yarrowee and Peel street. This water, being a portion of the Yarrowee, should have had an outlet through the culverts in Grenville street, had they been nearly large enough. As it was, the diverted waters came rushing through the Blind Creek culverts with wonderful impetuosity, flooding all the low lying ground below the railway embankment and Wills-street, entering the wooden tenements therein erected, and making a clean sweep over the raised carriage-road; the culvert beneath which being of little or no service. The water extended for several hundred yards along the roadway at the lowest point of depression and surmounted the crown there of nearly two feet.

Under these circumstances it will not be a matter for surprise that the water descended upon the Eastern Market reserve like a cataract finding its way in numerous wide and foaming streams towards the rear of the premises in Bridge street— and thence through them to the general accumulation between the lines of houses. The damage done in this way must have been very great. The principal sufferers were Messrs Drury and Wright, a portion of whose extensive stock of ironmongery was immersed in water, and consequently rusted and rendered unsaleable. Some time ago Messrs Drury and Wright took steps to raise the floor of their premises, and now find that the expense that they went to was simply thrown away. Mr Patterson's new brick building had about three feet of water in it. His business premises adjoining were completely immersed, the water being as high, or nearly so, as the counter; while the footpath and street in front of his door were from eighteen inches to two feet under water. Mr Walker's confectionery and pie shop was also flooded, as also were a few other places of business lower down. The confectionery shop of Messrs Grant and Son had a large stream running under and through the house. The floors of the adjoining establishments were also entirely covered. The water rushed through the premises of Messrs Twentyman and Stamper, at a depth of 18 inches. In the adjoining shops of Mr Bennett, Mr Munro, and Mr Palmer, the water was from a foot to eighteen inches in depth.

On the opposite side of the street alt of the houses and shops were flooded between the auction mart of Messrs Broadbent and Morgan and the seed shop of Messrs Nichols and Co. The Diggers' Arms was rendered almost untenable, as the water in the yard rose above the level of the floor of the building. Some of the residents in this locality attempted to keep out the water by erecting embankments of puddling clay across the doorways, but despite their efforts, they found the water would, in the majority of instances, find its way in. In this part of the street the flood was 18 inches higher than it ever was before. Planks were torn from the footwalk, and floated about in every direction, whilst pedestrians found all means of communication with the other portions of the town cut off, unless they availed themselves of the services of the Buninyong cars, for which convenience a fare of sixpence each person was charged. The females here about were kept close prisoners in their houses, standing on their counters, or taking refuge in the upper portions of their buildings, until the waters subsided. Fears were at one time entertained for the safety of the bridge over the Yarrowee in Bridge-street, as the waters had just reached the timbers of the roadway, and caused the whole fabric to vibrate from one end to the other.

Lower down the Main Road nearly the whole of the shops from the ironmongery establishment, of Mr Hepburn to the Eastern Hotel were flooded. One of the principal sufferers was Mr Robinson, of the Duchess of Kent Hotel, against whose premises the whole force of the torrent that found its way over the small culvert in that locality, expended it self. The cellar was completely filled, and the water rose about a foot above the floor. The road here presented the appearance of a lake, the water being from a foot to eighteen inches above the footpaths, the planking of which was displaced. The lower portion of the Star Hotel was also inundated, but a few of the shops lower down escaped owing to the precautions taken some time ago to raise the floors. The Cornwall Arms and the Great Britain Hotel were also flooded by the water rising in the cellars above the floors.

On the opposite side of the street, Councillor Howe was the greatest sufferer, as a portion of his stock of ironmongery got immersed, the water rising considerably above the shop floor. The site of the old Star hotel and the large space of ground thereabout were completely inundated. The new buildings in course of erection on the scene of the last fire had the mortar washed away from the lower part of the brickwork, but the damage sustained in this respect was inconsiderable. Here as in Bridge street, Buninyong cars were plying for hire, and doing a "roaring trade." The planks were torn from the footwalks. The two culverts that intersect the Main road were choked with sand and rubbish; and when the flood subsided, it left be hind thick. slimy deposit of sand and sludge, which, near the Royal Mail Hotel, was from two to three inches thick on the footpath.

The waters began to subside about twelve o'clock, when the flooded-out residents set to with right good-will to rid them of the nasty deposits. For hours nothing was to be seen or heard but the pumping and mopping of water, the scraping of sludge, and the fumigating and general regulating of shops, stores and goods. In the afternoon the great majority of the houses presented as neat an appearance as they did before the flood, and a stranger visiting the lower portions of the town could scarcely discover traces of the morning's visitation.

On the White Flat the Clydesdale Company was flooded out by reason of their works being situated in the original bed of the creek. A portion of the roadway of Albert-street recently formed by the Western Council, was washed away. The waters from the Jail Reserve forced a passage across the roadway that entirely cat off the passage of vehicles. A portion of Eyre-street in the West was also flooded but not to any great extent, by the convergence of water from different streets. The embankment adjoining the bridge over the Gnarr Creek suffered to some extent, in consequence of the bridge not being in a line with the bed of the creek. The result was that the waters rushed with force against the lower part of the embankment, which it sapped. A slip of earth that reached to the footwalk then took place as also a subsidence of considerable extent in both footwalk and roadway. There was a slip of earth also in the railway embankment, but not of much consequence, though we understand that some of the rails settled down slightly. The nursery of Messrs R. U. Nichols and Co, near the Cricket Ground, was completely flooded, owing it is said to the diversion of the water that way by the erection of a culvert across Rowe-street. Trees, plants, and bulbous roots were washed away, and the injury occasioned is considerable. All of the low lying ground in the vicinity of the Recreation Reserve or Cricket Ground was flooded, and the bridge carried away. The country between Golden Point and the Main road, on to the Wesleyan reserve, presented the appearance of an immense late dotted with tops, which looked like solitary islands.

The engineer of the Water Commission visited the Gong Gong reservoir, and the new dam in course of erection at Harry Beale's swamp, on Saturday. He reports that at the former place six inches of water were running over the bywash to a width of 30 feet, and there was some 32 feet of water in the dam. The floods had not injured the works on Harry Beale's Swamp. The whole country thereabouts was more or less under water. A rumour was current that a man had been drowned somewhere about Ballarat, but the report could not be traced to any reliable source. Before night set in the Eastern Council had the planking of the foot-walks replaced, and. save the sludge on the streets, there was very little to indicate that any thing unusual had taken place. However, some days must elapse before the cellars can be freed from the water and rubbish of which they have been the receptacle.[1]

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References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1863 'INUNDATIONS IN BALLARAT AND ITS VICINITY.', Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1929), 9 June, p. 3. , viewed 02 Mar 2017,