Bendigo is a major regional city in the state of Victoria, Australia, located very close to the geographical centre of the state and approximately 150 kilometres (93 mi) north west of the state capital Melbourne. It is the second largest inland city and fourth most populous city in the state. The estimated urban population is approximately 90,000.It is the administrative centre for theCity of Greater Bendigo which encompasses both the urban area and outlying towns spanning an area of approximately 3,000 square kilometres (1,158 sq mi) and over 100,000 people. Inhabitants of Bendigo are known as Bendigonians.
Originally taking its name from the Bendigo Creek, the name became official in 1891. Shortly afterwards, the term "Bendigonians" was coined to describe its residents.
Bendigo is one of the most significant Victorian era boomtowns in Australia. Gold was discovered in 1851 at The Rocks on Bendigo Creek and the Bendigo Valley was found to be a rich alluvial field where gold could easily be extracted. News of the finds intensified the Victorian gold rush bringing an influx of migrants to the city from around the world within a year and transforming it from astation to a major settlement in the newly proclaimed Colony of Victoria.
Bendigo is notable for its Victorian architectural heritage and gold mining history. Since 1851 over 22 million ounces of gold have been extracted from its goldmines, making it the highest producing goldfield in Australia in the 19th century and the largest gold mining economy in eastern Australia. It is the largest finance centre in Victoria outside of Melbourne as home to Australia's only provincially headquartered retail bank, the Bendigo Bank, and the Bendigo Stock Exchange (BSX).
The current name dates to the Victorian Gold Rush as a shortened form of Bendigo Creek goldfields, simply "Bendigo Creek" or "Bendigo's Valley". The creek was named after a famous local boxer and shepherd who had earned the nickname Bendigo in reference to the Nottingham prize-fighter William Abednego Thompson, generally known as “Bendigo Thompson”.
Its first official name was Castleton after the mining town Castleton, Derbyshire, England. Sandhurst, after the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, became the official designation for the settlement in 1854 although the nickname of "Bendigo" remained popular.
After a plebiscite in 1891 the city was renamed to the more popular "Bendigo", although the name Sandhurst has a legacy and is still used by a number of organisations such as the Sandhurst Football Club. The Roman Catholic diocese based in Bendigo is named the Diocese of Sandhurst.
Prehistory and European discovery
Before European settlement the area was occupied by the clans of the Dja Dja Wrung people. They were regarded by other tribes as being a superior people, not only because of their rich hunting grounds but because from their area came a greenstone rock for their stone axes. Early Europeans described the Dja Dja Wrung as a strong, physically well-developed people and not belligerent. Nevertheless the early years of European settlement in the Mount Alexander area were bloodied by many clashes between intruder and dispossessed.
Major Mitchell passed through in 1836. Following his discovery, the first squatters arrived in 1840 to establish vast sheep runs. Bendigo Creek was part of the Mount Alexander or Ravenswood sheep run.
As a legacy of the gold boom Bendigo has many ornate buildings built in a late Victorian colonial style. Many buildings are on the Victorian Heritage Register and registered by the National Trust of Australia. Prominent buildings include the Bendigo Town Hall (1859, 1883–85), the Old Post Office, the Law Courts (1892–96), the Shamrock Hotel (1897), the Institute of Technology and the Memorial Military Museum (1921) all in the Second Empire-style.
Bendigo's Sacred Heart Cathedral, a large sandstone church, is the third largest cathedral in Australia and one of the largest cathedrals in the Southern Hemisphere. The main building was completed between 1896 and 1908 and the spire between 1954 and 1977.
Fortuna Villa is a large surviving Victorian mansion, built for Christopher Ballerstedt and later owned by George Lansell.
Many other examples of Bendigo's classical architecture rank amongst the finest classical commercial buildings in Australia and include the Colonial Bank building (1887) and the former Masonic Hall (1873–74) which is now a performing arts centre.
Bendigo's Joss house, a historic temple, was built in the 1860s by Chinese miners and is the only surviving building of its kind in regional Victoria which continues to be used as a place of worship.
The historic Bendigo Tram Sheds and Power Station (1903) now house Bendigo's tramway museum.
The Queen Elizabeth Oval still retains its ornate 1901 grandstand.
Parks and gardens
The Charing Cross road junction features the large ornate Alexandra fountain (1881) and is built on top of a wide bridge which spans the viaduct. The park elevates toward Camp Hill, which features a historic school and former mine poppet head.
Further from the city is Lake Weroona, a large ornamental lake, adjacent to the Bendigo Botanical Gardens first opened in 1869.
The gardens are home to many native species of animal including brushtailed and ring-tailed possums, ducks, coots, purple swamphens, microbats (small insect eating bats) the grey-headed flying fox, several species of lizard, owls and the tawny frogmouth.
Tourism is a major component of the Bendigo economy, generating over A$364 million in 2008/09. Bendigo is popular with heritage tourists and cultural tourists with the focus of tourism on the city's gold rush history. Prominent attractions include the Central Deborah Gold Mine, Golden Dragon Museum and the Bendigo Tramways (all three of which are managed by The Bendigo Trust, a council-intertwined organisation dedicated to preserving Bendigo's heritage).
One of the major revolutions in gold mining (during the Victorian gold rush) came when fields like Bendigo but also Ballarat, Ararat and the goldfields close to Mount Alexander turned out to have large gold deposits below the superficial alluvial deposits that had been (partially) mined out. Gold at Bendigo was found in quartz reef systems, hosted within highly deformed mudstones and sandstones or were washed away into channels of ancient rivers. Tunnels as deep as 2000 or even 3000 feet (600 to 900 metres) (Stawell) were possible.
Until overtaken in the 1880s by the Western Australia goldfields, Bendigo was the most productive Australian gold area, with a total production of over 20 million ounces (622 t). There is a large amount of gold still in the Bendigo goldfields, estimated to be at least as much again as what has been removed. The decline in mining was partly due to the depth of mines and the presence of water in the deep mines. With modern technology, Bendigo Mining NL has resumed mining and is currently winning gold at approximately 40,000 ounces (1 tonne) a year.
Culture and events
The Bendigo Art Gallery is one of Australia’s oldest and largest regional art galleries. In March 2012, it hosted a royal visit from Princess Charlene of Monaco, at the opening of an exhibition about Grace Kelly.
The Capital Theatre is located next to the art gallery in View Street and hosts performing arts and live music.
The city hosts the Bendigo National Swap Meet for car parts every year in early November. It is regarded as the biggest in the southern hemisphere and attracts people from all over Australia and the world.
The city hosts the Victorian leg of the annual Groovin' the Moo music festival. It is held at the Bendigo Showgrounds and is usually held in late April or early May. The festival regularly sells out and brings many big Australian and international acts to the city. It also attracts thousands of people from around Victoria to the city for the weekend.
The Bendigo Easter Festival is held each year and attracts tens of thousands of tourists to the city over the Easter long weekend. Attractions include parades, exhibitions and a street carnival.
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