Royal Reels: Gambling


Occasionally, the finding of one interesting cover leads to the discovery of related covers. This paper involves a Stanley Wyman and the Victorian Goldfields between the years of 1854 and 1856. The first cover seen at an auction site was addressed to Stanley Wyman Esq, Gold Office Camp, Creswick’s Creek and in the same manuscript, “Stamped” was written in the top left corner. The description accompanying the cover was as follows:  Dec 1 1856 Cover from Ballarat Half Length 1d & 3d, both 4 margins tied by BN ‘5’ & with appropriate back-stamp (Figure 1).

Search of the internet revealed 2 other relevant covers at additional auction sites the first addressed: Mr. Stanley Wyman, Commissioners Camp, Creswick Creek. It was described as: 1856 letter wrapper with Half Length 1d (SG 26b, 3 huge margins) and 3d (SG 31d, 4 margins) tied by bold numeral ‘1’ cancel. Backstamped Melbourne Mar 31, & Crown “Creswick AP 2 (Figure 2).

The third cover was addressed to Stanley Wyman Esq, Gold Office, Commissioners Camp, Ballaarat. There were 2 postmarks: MELBOURNE/ Crown/ AU 10/ 1854/VICTORIA and the two 2d brown Queen on Throne stamps were tied by the ‘1 overV’ “Barred Oval” of Melbourne. One stamp was missing. There was a backstamp of Ballarat/crown oval cancel (Figure 3).

An enormous amount of information is available on the internet about the Victorian Gold Rush for this period of 1854 to 1856. The surname Wyman revealed only 2 internet ‘hits’ at Casterton, Victoria but neither were relevant. Finally a librarian at the State Library of Victoria identified Stanley Wyman, a 20 year old clerk who was found in the Inward Passenger Lists to Victoria for September 1852 travelling on the ship ‘John Taylor’ from England. He probably was born in England ca.1829 and he died at Brighton, Melbourne in 1912, aged 83 years. His father Francis was born ca.1794 and he also died at Brighton, Melbourne in 1881, at the age of 87 years. His mother was Sarah Blackett Stanley, and no other information was found on her.

Two of the covers were addressed to either Creswick’s Creek or Creswick Creek, both in 1856. The site of Creswick’s Creek in 1857 is shown at the State Library of Victoria’s site, which portrays a rather faint copy of the Government Camp, Creswicks Creek (Figure 4).

Creswick is a former gold-mining township 20 km north of Ballarat. It was named after the Creswick Creek pastoral run (1842), taken up by the brothers Henry, Charles and John Creswick. In 1852 gold was discovered in Creswick Creek and a goldfields Commissioner was appointed in December 1852. His Commissioner’s Camp later became the site of the Botanical Gardens. Upwards of 25,000 miners were estimated to be in the Creswick area at peak mining times, however the census for 1861 only recorded a population 4,714, for the easily won alluvial gold quickly petered out, and had been replaced by lead mining.

The cover shown above in Figure 3 is addressed to Wyman at Ballaarat, the original name given by the indigenous occupants of the area who called it ‘Balla-arat’, a ‘good watering place’. The first gold found at Ballarat was in August 1851 and by mid-October there were 2,000 diggers prospecting the area. Ballarat had begun to emerge as a service centre for the gold diggings.

The Gold Commissioner’s Camps were formed at several digging sites and licences were issued (to gold miners, storekeepers and auctioneers). Other functions of these camps were the controlling of gold escorts to Melbourne, provision of church and hospital facilities, and maintenance of law and order. The Camps were the bane of district residents, storekeepers and miners who were forced to use and pay for the official services. A superb painting of a Commissioner’s Camp at Castlemaine in 1852 is shown in Figure 5.

The discontent with the escalating costs of the licences was a potent cause for the Eureka Stockade uprising in 1854. But that’s a story for another time!

An example of a Miner’s Right to work the goldfields cost 5 shillings and is shown in Figure 6.

I wish to acknowledge the assistance of Heidi Hosking, Librarian at the State Library of Victoria for Figure 4, and to the University of Melbourne, Art Museum for Figure 5. Joan Endacott of Daylesford, Victoria supplied additional information on Stanley and his parents.

Addendum:  An additional cover was addressed to Stanley Wyman, Acting Gold Receiver, Creswick was of the same time period as the other covers (Figure 7).

Categories: Mining