Author: Public Record Office Victoria
2021 update: while the new BRAC website is in production, the digitised petitions are not available online and so links below will not work. View the index here and order records for viewing in the BRAC reading room.
The Bendigo Regional Archives Centre website hosts a series of digitised ‘Petitions of the People’ ranging from 1870 to 1899. These fascinating records can be useful sources of information for family history research, as each scanned petition includes names, signatures and often occupation of each signator. There are currently 273 petitions available to download with more to be added over time.
These 'Petitions of the People' allow a rare insight into life from 1870 to 1899 in Sandhurst/Bendigo, a period when this gold mining town grew into a thriving Victorian city. A signature on a petition may be the only tangible evidence that an ancestor lived in the region, practiced a particular trade or profession or felt strongly about a local issue. If you want to find out if your ancestor appears in any of the petitions you can firstly download the full list of names here.
Once you’ve found the name you’re looking for, check the column on the left for the petition category details, and then simply search within that category.
Petitions related to occupations in Bendigo
Here, we delve deeper into some of the ‘occupation’ category petitions to reveal requested changes to local butchering practices, struggles of the local stonebreakers, hairdressers, and the dairymen:
We the undersigned Butchers residing within The City boundary, respectfully beg that you will allow us to dress our veal at our respective residences – the same being slaughtered and bled at the Abbatoirs before coming onto our premises. As this would be a very great boon to us, especially during summer months, we trust you will look at the matter favourably and grant this request.
We are Gentlemen
Yours most respectfully
October 30th 1873
|Goudge Bros||View Point||Butcher|
|Steepe||Michael||Mc Ivor Rd||Butcher|
Sandhurst January 26th, 1882
To the Mayor & Councillors of the City of Sandhurst
We the undersigned Stonebreakers beg to petition that you would order the continuance of the stone-breaking for street metaling. We have been discharged by order of Mr. Steane, and respectfully request that you will order our reappointment as we are all old and not capable of performing any other kind of work and if deprived of this, we have no other resource than seek aid from the charities.
Your humble servants
Note from BRAC: Judging from the handwriting most of these petitioners could not read and write so they sought help from first signator, P White, to compose and write the petition’s prayer, and write each of their names next to their X marks. This is the only petition in the collection where the majority of petitioners were obviously illiterate. Over a decade later, the Council’s Surveyor reported that he was then employing 29 stone breakers, and commented “I have not refused any man a job at this need of work,” but concluded “it will be impossible to keep them fully employed for the whole year.”
To the Worshipful Mayor and Councillors of the City of Sandhurst
We the undersigned being a majority of the Hairdressers Keeping Hairdressers Shops or Saloons within the City of Sandhurst hereby humbly petition that you will in pursuance of the power given you by Section 45 of “The Factories and Shops Act 1885” make by-laws for the following purposes namely;
For permitting the class of shops known as Hairdressers shops or saloons within the City of Sandhurst on obtaining a license to keep open after the hours mentioned in Section 44 of the said Statute during such hours as shall be specified in such license and that the hour to be specified in such license on which the shops of the above class shall be closed shall be on each and every evening of the week except Saturday and Wednesday eight of the clock and on Saturday evening at the hour of eleven of the clock.
For closing all shops of the above class at the hour of the clock on the Wednesday of each and every week. Provided that on the day immediately preceding any public holiday any such shop may be kept open until the clock in the evening.
12 February 1886
Note from BRAC: here the local Hairdressers were asking the Council to use the powers they had under the new Victorian Factories and Shops Act, to create the necessary local bye-laws to allow Hairdressers to remain open longer than other businesses on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This is the nineteenth century forerunner of the concessions hairdressing salons still have today.
To the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Sandhurst
We the undersigned Dairyman beg to protest against enforcement of Bye-Law No. 23 re market dues on milk as we supply our customers under contract and in our opinion selling milk to casual customers is more of a public convenience than a source of profit to ourselves hoping you will give this matter your favourable consideration.
Find more occupation related petitions here.
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