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Burke & Wills Memorial, Wills Street,
Castlemaine, Victoria 3450.

Castlemaine Memorial

AD 1862

Castlemaine was the first towns to decide to build a monument. Initially they wanted to bury Burke at the Castlemaine cemetery.

By May 1862, the citizens of Castlemaine had raised £450 for a memorial from public subscription and donations and on the anniversary of Burke's death, 1 July 1862, a public holiday was declared. A procession of over 2,000, including John King, John Macadam and Frederick Standish, marched from town to a hill to the east of town where a ceremony was performed and a foundation stone laid by the Sheriff of Castlemaine, Richard Colles.

The granite obelisk was completed in July 1863, but not before the workers of Castlemaine and Fryers Creek had threatened to erect a taller monument commemorating Charlie Gray, if Gray's name was not included on the original memorial.

Thursday 3 July 1862, page 7.

Inauguration of the Burke Memorial
(Abridged from the Mount Alexander Mail)

As in our last issue we anticipated, never was a more perfect success in any public movement than the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the Burke Memorial yesterday. Every locality in the district contributed its quota of sight-seers and well-wishers, and amongst the crowd that then assembled were many old and true friends of the leader of the glorious but ill-fated band.

The time announced was ten o'clock, and at that hour several of the public bodies who intended to take part in the procession had put in an appearance. Others soon followed, and long before everything was ready for a start an immense concourse had assembled. The place of rendezvous was the Market-square, where a line was formed. About forty of the police, under the command of Superintendent Reid, having as his subordinates Sergt. Major Daly, and Sergt Robinson, were marshalled, a portion being detached for duty to the site of the monument end their fine soldierly appearance was moa creditable. The volunteers, horse and foot mustered in force, about 100 foot (including the band), and thirty five horse taking part in the ceremony. The Newstead and Tarrengower contingents contributed liberally to the numbers of the latter, and it was a matter of remark that many members of the mounted corps resident in Castlemaine, and who were personally known to Burke, should have strangely absented themselves on such an occasion. The Maldon and Newstead contingents arrived almost simultaneously, the former leading by about a hundred yards as they galloped up Mostyn street. The weather was threatening, and slight showers fell during the proceedings; but it was anything but unfavourable, though the cold, for Australia, was intense. On being marshalled in the Market-square, prior to being formed into the order of procession, the police were placed on the right, the foot volunteer next, the cavalry being drawn up in the load. Next to the volunteers came the various public bodies, but, intervening was a medley of clergymen, magistrates, and councillors. The Oddfellows and Forresters obeyed the call with alacrity, and there were no less than three Oddfellows lodges - viz., the Castlemaine, the Prince of Wales, and the Chewton lodge - represented. The school children mustered truly in squadrons, and a more enthusiastic number of young Burkites could scarcely have been tot together. The only relative of poor Burke, Mr Wynne, of the district-surveyors office, was present, and walked most fittingly with John King, the survivor of the Expedition, who had ‘behaved nobly,' as Burke himself, in his last note bore witness to. Although King has been represented as perfectly recovered from his dreadful sufferings, such is evidently not the case, for he was frequently and painfully affected, and his nervous system requires some long rest from excitement before complete recovery.

The Chief Commissioner of Police, Captain Standish, attended, and the Hons. F Robertson and George Rolfe also were present, as representatives of the Legislative Council. On the part of the Assembly, Dr Macadam and Mr A J Smith, members for Castlemaine, and Mr J Ramsay, member for Maldon, were present, as well as an ex-member, Mr Casey, recently instated for Sandhurst, All the officials of the district, including three police magistrates – viz,. Captain Harrison, Castlemaine; Mr T D S Heron, Fryer's Creek and Taradale; and Mr B C Mackenzie, of Maldon - also paid this last mark of respect. The police told off to keep order at the site were under the command of Inspector Culkin, of Maldon, Sergeant Robinson, Constable Lloyd, and other police assisting, and during the whole proceedings the most perfect order was kept. At a quarter past eleven precisely the procession set out, and though the sun had been obscured for some time previously, he shone out in full splendour for a few minutes, as though signifying a happy omen to the day's proceedings. The heads of the cavalry were turned up Barker-street, and, followed by the other members, they moved thence down Lyttelton-street, down Hargreaves-street, again round Forest-street, from there bore up Urquhart-street, and finally moved up Mostyn-street east to the site of the memorial. This, we may state, is on the ridge or crest of a hill between Castlemaine and Moonlight Flat, but it is certainly not the best that might have been selected. All preparations being at length completed, the procession set out. After traversing the route, the dragoons formed round the enclosed area, and did good service in keeping back the crowd from the space where the completion of the ceremony was to be performed. The first to enter this area were the clergy, followed closely by the other leading bodies of the procession, some, however, who could not gain admission, forming on the outside. The volunteers and police lined the ropes; and R Colles, Esq., the deputy sheriff, who was to lay the stone, took his place on the north.

The secretary to the committee, Mr Christophers, then stated that an illuminated inscription, as below, would be deposited in a bottle ready prepared; together with all the current coins of the realm, and the local papers and publications, as well as a narrative, or rather diary, kept by Mr Wills on the weary march. This was produced, and was excellently executed on parchment, by Mr H Perkins, Mr Blackburne, railway engineer, assisting in illuminating it. It was a splendid . example of Castlemaine caligraphy, and reflected great credit on its authors. It was laid on the stone, and signed by all the chief persons present, John King; who was greatly affected, first affixing his signature. After this process, which occupied some time, had been conducted, the trowel to be used on the occasion, enclosed in a case, was laid upon the stone.

Captain Harrison, PM., taking it in his hand, addressing R Colles, Esq., said that he had been requested by the committee to present the trowel which he held in his hand, and to request at the same time that he (Mr Colles) would officiate in laying the foundation stone to the memory of the men who fell whilst in the prosecution of their duty. The committee had two reasons for making the request, and wishing Mr Colles to lay the stone. The first was, that Mr Colles had, from the earliest formation of the committee, taken the most active measures on behalf of the object in view. And he might state that they had a far higher reason for desiring Mr Colles to lay the stone. It was because he was Burke's greatest friend in the district the one on whom poor Burke placed the most reliance ; and as a proof, in order to show his esteem, left the name in the wilderness to a lofty mountain, which would henceforth bear the name of Mount Colles. On such grounds had the committee thought Mr Colles was the fittest person to take a leading part in this ceremonial, and for that reason Mr Colles was called on to perform the ceremony, and lay the foundation stone. (Hear, hear,)

Mr R Colles, having received the trowel from Captain Harrison, requested Mr Christophers, the secretary of the Memorial Committee, to read the manuscript to be deposited in the stone. It was as follows:-

This foundation stone of a monument erected by public subscription to the memory of Robert O'Hara Burke, William John Wills, and Charles Gray, members of the first Victorian Exploring Expedition, who, with John King (now living, and at this ceremony present) were the first men who ever crossed the great continent of Australia, traversing the country from the city of Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria, was laid in this town of Castlemaine by Richard Colles, Esq., deputy sheriff for the district of Castlemaine, on this first day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty two, in the twenty-sixth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria, and on this first anniversary of the death of Robert O'Hara Burke, leader of the expedition – a man dearly beloved by the inhabitants of this district - to the end that their names may be had in everlasting remembrance. His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Captain General and Governor in Chief of the colony of Victoria, and Vice-Admiral of the same, &co.' Then followed the names of the Municipal Council of Castlemaine and officers, the names of the executive committee for erecting the monument, and the names of the architect and builders. At the bottom a space was left for signatures on the spot, and this was filled up with the autographs of about forty persons, inducing those of the committee, ministers of religion, chairmen of municipal councils, magistrates, the heads of the Oddfellows lodges, volunteer captains, and others. The first signature was that of, ‘John King, the survivor,' who, as we have   above remarked, was much affected while writing his name.

Mr Christophers stated that besides this manuscript, there were in the bottle a Castlemaine Almanack, a diary of the Burke and Wills Exploration, two photographic views of Castlemaine, a copy of the Mail and of the News of the previous day, a copy of the Advertiser of that day; also the following coins - a Sydney half-sovereign, a half crown, florin, shilling, sixpence, fourpenny-piece, threepenny-piece, a penny of Queen Victoria, a Castlemaine token issued by Butterworth and Co., and a Melbourne token of this year's date.

At the request of Mr Christophers, King then deposited the bottle in the place reserved for it, and the stone was lowered to its place.

Mr Colles pronounced the stone to be well and properly laid, but said he was utterly unable to address the assemblage. He invited Mr Froomers to say a few words on the occasion. Mr Froomers complied with the request, and addressed the assemblage at some length.

A soiree was held in the evening, at the Mechanics. It was very numerously attended.


Monday 20 July 1863, page 6.

The Explorer's Monument - Castlemaine
(From the Mount Alexander Mail, 18 July)

This obelisk, which has been erected at a cost of nearly £1,000, and which Is a lasting proof of the high esteem in which the people of Castlemaine hold the memories of the brave Burke and Wills and their companions, is just undergoing the final operation, viz, the cutting of the inscriptions on the four sides of the base. The inscriptions strike us as being very appropriate, and they have one very special merit, that they are both complete in themselves and form portions of a continued sentence.

The following are the inscriptions ;-

No. 1 - East face
Erected by public subscription, A.D. 1802.
No. 2 - North face
To commemorate the Victorian Exploring Expedition - the first to cross the Continent of Australia.
No. 3 - West face
Robert O'Hara Burke, of Castlemaine, leader, died at
Cooper's Creek, July 1, 1861.
No. 4 - South
Melbourne to Carpentaria - Burks,
Wills, Gray, King (survivor).

Mr Spenser was tho architect, and he has performed his part well. The cutting of the inscription was, however, entrusted to Mr Redfearn, of Campbell's Creek, and it is due to him to say that he has performed his task in a most artistic and satisfactory manner. The engraving (or cutting) of the inscription, together with the facing of the four sides of the base, will cost about £30. We congratulate the committee on having thus brought their honourable labours so nearly to a successful close.


Heritage Listing

The Burke and Wills Memorial at Castlemaine was been entered on the Register of the National Estate in 1999 as being of historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria. The Castlemaine Burke and Wills memorial obelisk is of outstanding historical significance as the first monument erected in Victoria to honour the achievements of Burke and Wills.

Legal status: Identified through state processes. The place is entered in the State heritage register. The Australian Heritage Commission had formally recognised the standards of historic assessment of the relevant state or territory heritage body and acknowledged that the place has National Estate historic values.

Place ID: 102327
Place File No: 2/06/092/0063
Victorian Heritage Register citation: H1814

Police Station Plaque, Old Police Station, Hargarve Street , Castlemaine , Victoria 3450.

When Burke was stationed in Castlemaine (1858-1860), the Police Station was at the Gold Commissioners Camp Reserve and Burke lived nearby at 31 Gyngell Street . The police station moved into the present town centre in 1859 and occupied the red brick building nest to the fire station on Templeton Road . The building with the plaque was built in 1855 as the State Savings Bank and became the police station in 1921.



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© 2020, Dave Phoenix