Author: Tara Oldfield
Now showing at the Post Office Gallery, Pall Mall, Bendigo is an exhibition that showcases the royal visits of Bendigo.
Featuring photographs, photo albums, newspaper clippings and memorabilia, including records from the PROV and Bendigo Regional Archives collections, the exhibition showcases royal visits to the region over time starting with the first British royal visit in 1867 by Prince Alfred Duke of Edinburgh.
The celebrations marking the Prince's visit were marred by tragedy when fireworks caused a processional float to catch fire, killing three young boys. The Galatea Float Tragedy, as the incident is remembered, was not the only disaster to mark this inaugural royal visit. The Prince Alfred Ballroom, especially erected outside the Town Hall for a special reception, was destroyed by fire the night before the event was to take place.
Onto less fiery visits, the exhibition also includes happier stories and visions of ecstatic crowds for Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1954 and Sun Loong’s special performance for Prince Charles and Princess Diana as they waved from the balcony of the Shamrock Hotel in 1983.
Records from the PROV and BRAC collections
On display as part of this exhibition are numerous items from our collection of City of Bendigo correspondence files and committee minutes. A letter from the Queen Elizabeth to the Mayor of Bendigo 1954 states:
"I thank you for the wonderful reception you have given to me and to my husband. I greatly appreciate your references to the late King, and to my mother. From them I have learned much about the early history of this famous City, of the gold it has produced and of its later development as the centre of a region renowned for its primary and secondary industries. We are very glad to have been able to visit Bendigo and our visit here today will live long in our memories. May God bless you all."
Red and blue printed bags celebrating Coronation Day 1902 add colour to the collection on display, as do the bright Coronation Celebration tickets (pictured below). The tickets were valued at one shilling back in 1902, though may be worth a great deal more today!
Also included in the exhibition is a letter from decorators James Pain & Sons to the Town Clerk, 1902, proposing their wares for the upcoming festivities, citing their previous experience in such matters:
"We had the honour of carrying out all the principal displays on the tour of T.R.H. The Prince and Princess of Wales (then the Duke and Duchess of York), which we are pleased to say gave the greatest possible satisfaction, and the vast experience we have had for the last held century in providing displays and illuminations for the Imperial Government and Municipalities of Great Britain and the Colonies enables us to offer you unique selections that cannot be approached."
Judging from the letter, they seem to have had better success than the display organisers of 1867.
Visit the Post Office Gallery
The Post Office Gallery is located at 51-67 Pall Mall in Bendigo. The Renaissance Revival-style building was built during the city’s prosperous gold era and officially opened on 30 September 1887, operating as the city’s post office for over a century until Australia Post moved into a new city facility at the corner of Williamson and Hargreaves streets in 1996.
Now the Post Office Gallery, the historic space hosts regular exhibitions promoting the rich history of the region. They are open every day (except Christmas Day) from 9am to 5pm.
Rule Britannia, the Golden City: royal visits to Bendigo is now showing until 1 September 2019.
Learn more about the Post Office Gallery here.