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Image 'Cradling, Forrest Creek', 1853

TLF ID R3179

This is an 1853 hand-coloured lithographic print, entitled 'Cradling. Forrest Creek'. It was made by Samuel Thomas Gill (1818-80) from a sketch done on the spot as he watched gold miners cradle for gold at Forest Creek (as it was more commonly spelled), in Victoria. One miner scoops water into the cradle, while the other rocks the cradle back and forth to sluice the water over the mud and gravel they have previously placed in it. A pan and shovel lie in the foreground, while in the background other miners are working. There are two indistinct dwellings in the background - one is a slab hut with a smoking chimney and the other appears to be a canvas tent stretched over a wooden frame with a limp flag hanging from a pole. The print measures 15.8 cm x 19.5 cm and was one of the plates in the publication 'Sketches of the Victoria gold diggings and diggers as they are'.



Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows men on the incredibly rich Mount Alexander gold field, near Castlemaine in Victoria, searching for alluvial gold, which had been washed from reefs upstream and deposited over the years on the beds of waterways - once the 'free' gold had been collected from the stream beds, miners would carve away the banks to expose gold trapped there over the millennia.
  • It shows miners using a rocker, or Californian cradle, carefully sluicing dirt and gravel through different sized meshes to separate gold and stones from larger rocks and silt - they would then use the pan for the more delicate process of separating the gold from the remaining gravel, with the heavier gold becoming trapped in ridges around the bottom of the pan; the cradle was introduced to Australia by Edmund Hargraves (1816-91), the man credited with the first discovery of gold in Australia; using such cradles enabled a miner to process much more soil than if confined to a pan.
  • It shows an example of the temporary accommodation used by the miners, which was usually a canvas tent stretched over a wooden frame - most miners led a very temporary existence, always ready to pack up and move on to a more promising place.
  • It shows a tent, above which flies an official-looking flag, denoting that this tent probably belongs to the Gold Commissioner, who was responsible for administering the gold field and who had power through the Victorian Gold Fields Act (1852) to settle disputes and collect various taxes - the competence and integrity of Gold Commissioners varied greatly and miners were complaining as early as 1853 that Commissioners were often 'men of little experience in mining operations ... who have used their powers rather harshly, and often partially, in not listening fully and fairly to the complaints of both parties'.
  • It shows miners working at Forest Creek which, two years before, had been the focus of a rally of over 3,000 miners to protest against the doubling of the licence fee to £3 - although Governor La Trobe (1801-75) changed his mind, leaving the fee at 30 shillings, miners remained bitter over the licence system and its rigid enforcement, leading to the Eureka Stockade rebellion of 1854.
  • It shows a miner wearing thigh-high boots in an effort to keep dry and warm while he worked in the water - a plentiful supply of water was necessary to flush away unwanted silt and expose the gold.
  • It is an example of the work of Samuel Thomas Gill, famous for his sketches and lithographs of the Victorian gold fields and other Australian subjects - he sketched from life and his works are prized for their attention to everyday detail and the clear impressions they give of life on the gold fields.
Year level

4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

Contributors
  • Author
  • Name: H H Collins and Company
  • Organization: H H Collins and Company
  • Description: Author
  • Person: Samuel Thomas Gill
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL: http://www.nla.gov.au
  • Name: H H Collins and Company
  • Organization: H H Collins and Company
  • Description: Author
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Samuel Thomas Gill
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL: www.esa.edu.au
Access profile
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
Rights
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements