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Bendigo History

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Last Update
19th of November 2017


Royal Princess Theatre
Private Collection.
Interior of the Royal Princess Theatre, opened 1874. Seating 2000, its stage facilities were considered comparable to the best in London’s Drury Lane. More than a dozen touring companies played seasons at the theatre in the year of 1894. Demolished in the mid-1960’s.

Over the years from the early old mining days there have been many on-going developments that make Bendigo the thriving provincial centre with its current population in excess of 90,000 (Victorian Government estimate, 2002) for the city and the surrounding City of Greater Bendigo of 3000 square kilometres. Over the years it has been the Municipal District of Sandhurst (1855), a Borough (1863), a City (1871) and in 1994, through amalgamation with three surrounding municipalities, the City of Greater Bendigo.

The Bendigo Advertiser first appeared in December 1853 and in 2003 celebrated its sesquicentenary as a local provincial newspaper. The current Bendigo Art Gallery was opened in 1890 and is now a leading Australian provincial gallery. Other activities and institutions, many of them having their origins and foundations in the earlier days have continued on to give Bendigo its special and varied appeal, not only to its residents, but to its many Australian and international visitors.

Knitting mills, clothing manufacturers, railway workshops, rubber manufacturers, ordnance production and others have come (and in some cases, gone) and influenced the active commercial scene of Bendigo and surrounds. The expansion of retail commerce in the Bendigo area has seen the opening of larger national retail outlets. Recent retail developments have been the building of Lansell Plaza (Kangaroo Flat), Strath Village in Strathdale, closing part of Hargreaves Street to form Hargreaves Mall and the establishment of the Market Place shopping centre in the neighborhood of the railway station. The City of Greater Bendigo ‘Employment by Industry’ document reports that in 2001 the following were the three largest categories of employment in the area:

Retail Trade 18.0% of total people employed
Health and Community Services 13.3% of total people employed
Manufacturing 12.7% of people employed

Mining employment in 2001 represented 0.4% of total people employed.

Cultural and recreational activities have been prominent over the years and continue to draw visitors to the city. In the gold mining days the Shamrock Hotel boasted the largest music hall outside London, the Caledonian and Highland Games were conducted and the Bendigo Jockey Club was established in 1854 and continues to this day, featuring the annual ‘Bendigo Cup’. Theatre has been prominent from the Theatre Royal, (January 1854) through to today’s arts centre – the Capital Theatre. Even a Conservatorium of Music was in existence for some time in the early days. What is now known as Passive Recreation was acknowledged with the provision of the White Hills Botanic Gardens (1856), the Camp Reserve becoming Rosalind Park (1862) and Lake Weeroona being established in 1878 - these recreation locales being on-going to this day.

Annual events had their foundations laid by the Easter Fair and Gala Parade starting in 1871 and nowadays, in addition there is the annual “Swap Meet” for automotive enthusiasts, the “Heritage Uncorked” wine and food festival, the Bendigo International Madison cycling event. Well-established facilities cater for some of the many conventions now run away from capital city environments. A Visitors Information Centre provides information on these and the many other cultural and recreational activities that remain prominent in the life of Bendigo and its citizenry.

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