Researching the Miner’s Right Collection

Intern Lucy Hughes uncovers the stories behind our Miner’s Rights

Interning at the Gold Museum has been an inspiring experience. It has enabled me to use what I have learnt at university in a practical work environment.

It is fascinating to research the history behind a Miner’s Right as it gains a story that otherwise may remain untouched.

Miner's Right, 1865 (Gold Museum collection, 70.5512)

Miner’s Right, 1865 (Gold Museum collection, 70.5512)

Since 1855, the Victorian government has managed gold prospecting through a licensing system known as the Miner’s Right. These certificates grant prospectors permission to search for gold in Victoria.

The Gold Museum holds over 300 Miner’s Rights which is the largest collection in the state. This collection has been recognised as significant by the Victorian Heritage Register.

There were challenges with researching this collection. Information on miners is not always found or it is hard to distinguish between people that have the potential to connect to the right.

One piece of information can begin to uncover the story of the rights and its owner. The Public Records Office of Victoria and Trove have been useful in discovering information about the miners behind the certificates.

Miner's Right, 1901 (Gold Museum collection, 05.1199)

Miner’s Right, 1901 (Gold Museum collection, 05.1199)

Theophilus Williams

Theophilus Williams came to Australia from Bristol, England. Theophilius was the director of various mining companies and went on to become the Mayor of Ballarat East. He managed both the ‘Great Redan Extended Company’ and the Llanberris Company, 1865 and 1872 respectively.[1]

Andrew Cant

Andrew Cant was originally from Scotland. He was originally a plumber in Melbourne and relocated to Ballarat where he re-established his plumbing business. Andrew also held managerial positions within various mining companies. [2]

The story of Theophilus Williams and Andrew Cant highlight the importance of researching the Miner’s Right collection; otherwise these stories may have become lost in history.

Written by Lucy Hughes, Bachelor of Arts (History) student at Deakin University.


[1] ‘The Mayor of Ballarat East’, The Ballarat Star, September 1, 1894

[2] ‘Obituary’, The Ballarat Courier, September 20, 1915

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