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Sacred Heart Cathedral
Alexandra Fountain, Bendigo
Sacred Heart Cathedral
Alexandra Fountain, Bendigo

Bendigo History

Every corner you turn in Bendigo reveals another living treasure; another vivid reminder of the city’s glorious and heady past – whether it is the outrageous opulence of a boomtown hotel, or the simple piety of a wooden church. The best 19th century cities combine grant scale and fine detail and there are few better than Bendigo.

Many of Victoria’s cities and towns owe their origins to the gold rushes of the 19th century and Bendigo is one of them. Gold was no temporary lure to this city located right in the centre of Victoria – its attractions were more than just skin deep. In fact there was very little gold on the surface at all. Most of it was far underground in rich quartz reefs stretching out over 3,600 hectares around the city.

The gold rush began in 1851 when the first diggers rushed to the Bendigo fields and continued until 1954 when the last winch on the city’s last gold mine raised its last bucket of ore. In recent years mining for gold has re-commenced deep under Bendigo and continues today. During the city’s first golden century, Bendigo became a melting pot with its own unique ethnic character – the Irish at St Killians, the Cornish at Long Gully and the Germans at Ironbark Gully. These groups were just some of the many communities that helped to build Bendigo.

German architects W C Vahland and Robert Getzschmann, along with Bendigo born William Beebe, were responsible for many of the city’s finest buildings. One of the most enduring and distinctive contributions was made by the Chinese. Bendigo’s Chinese heritage is well represented to this day, with the Historic Joss House and the Golden Dragon Museum and Classical Chinese Gardens.

The influence of the gold rush can be felt in the very fabric of the city. Bendigo owes its broad and regular boulevards to the ambitious town plan prepared in 1854. Other streets follow the paths beaten by fossickers as they followed gullies and leads in search of gold. The city’s ostentatious public buildings and gardens attest to the flamboyance of the gold rush era. So do the richly decorated privates homes.

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