Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Beware The Red Coats!

A visit to Sovereign Hill would be remiss without gaining an understanding of the physical hardship and struggle the quest to find their fortune was for the miners who descended on Ballarat and surrounding areas during the gold rush of the 1850s.

The battles between the authorities and the miners are an important part of Australia's history, and the birth of the Eureka rebellion and flag. The tension between the Red Coat Soldiers of the British Army served with the duty of upholding order and taxes on the minefields, and the rise of miner's rights to land and objection to the steep costs of miners licenses and taxes is the deeper undercurrent of a visit - with the Eureka Stockade site and Visitor's Centre not far away from Sovereign Hill which focuses on the ensuing battle.

At 1.30pm everyday at Sovereign Hill a parade of Red Coat Soldiers do their rounds of the streets, complete with their guns and stern faces. They are strong and loud, and boom out their authority, and I dare you not to feel a rush of fear from them! Even modern day, they ooze their power, one can only imagine what this force was like for a miner out of his depth, or too poor to pay the mining license for his site.

Visitors can take tours of both the Gold Mine and also the Red Hill Mine, to gain a real sense of the conditions underground for the miners working on these sites. These tours run at regular intervals, and are additional to the entry fee for the park on the day.

The other area that brings home the conditions for the miners is a walk through the tent section of Red Hill Road of the park - particularly if you score a cold Ballarat Winter's day!

These basic calico living quarters are so small, and thin, and hardly wind and frost proof! All the wares of the 1850s living are on display in each tent, letting you imagine what life was like while trying to seek your fortune on these lands. I am surprised anyone survived these conditions, let alone the wrath of the Red Coats!

This is a post in a series to show off Ballarat's premier tourist attraction, for which I was provided a pass to enter Sovereign Hill for the day. The thoughts in this post, however, are entirely my own.

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