Burke & Wills ExpeditionPrint Page Print this page

Inscription 3 : 23-April-2015
Inscription 3 : 23-April-2015

Photographs supplied by Kent Watson / Sandra Brown

The monument was erected in memory of Robert O'Hara Burke, William John Wills, and Charles Gray, members of the first Victorian Exploring Expedition, who with John King were the flrst men who crossed the continent of Australia from south to north in 1861. Burke, Wills and Gray along with Ludwig Becker perished during the return journey with John King the only survivor.

Castlemaine built Victoria`s first memorial to Burke and Wills, an obelisk erected on top of a small hill in the town after initially wanting to bury Burke at the Castlemaine cemetery. The citizens raised £450 from public subscription and donations and a foundation stone was laid on 1st July 1862 - a year after the death of Burke and a day declared a public holiday by the Castlemaine Municipal Council. A manuscript was placed in the foundation stone giving details of the memorial and the names of those who were associated with the erection of the memorial.

The big procession (more than 2000 people) that marched to the hill on 1st July 1862 for the inauguration of the monument included the Deutscher Verein of Castlemaine, though the Germans were unhappy that Ludwig Becker`s name would not be on the monument alongside those of Burke, Wills, Gray and King. The President of the Verein, Theodor Mueller, claimed that when Becker arrived in Valhalla, he would meet that other "true bold German", Ludwig Leichhardt.  Becker was an artist and was necessary to record the discoveries the expedition hoped to make. His brilliant renderings of landscapes, people and wildlife remain the outstanding treasure of an otherwise failed venture.

The granite obelisk was completed in 1863, but not before the workers of Castlemaine and Fryers Creek had threatened to erect a taller monument commemorating Charlie Gray, if Gray`s name was not included on the original memorial.

The inauguration of the Burke Memorial at Castlemaine appears to be a very splendid affair. Mr Colles introduced by Captain Harrison, laid the stone, beneath which was deposited the following inscription :- " This foundation stone of a monument erected by public subscription to the memory of Robert O'Hara Burke, William John Wills, and Charles Gray, members of the first Victorian Exploring Expedition, who with John King (now living and at this ceremony present) were the flrst men who ever crossed the great continent of Australia, traversing the country from the City of Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria, was laid in this town of Castlemaine by Richard Colles, Esquire Deputy Sheriff for the district of Castlemaine, on this first day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, in the twenty-sixth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria, and on this first anniversary of the death of Robert O'Hara Burke leader of the Expedition —a man dearly beloved by the inhabitants of this district to the end that their names may be had in everlasting remembrance. His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, Captain General and Governor-in- Chief of the colony of Victoria and Vice Admiral of the same. " 
Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle (NSW), 12 July 1862. 


Address:Mostyn & Well Streets, Castlemaine, 3450
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.066695
Long: 144.226144
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Landscape


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Tuesday 1st July, 1862
Front Inscription

  The Victorian
Exploring Expedition
The First To Cross
Continent Of Australia

Left Side Inscription

Robert O`Hara Burke
  Of Castlemaine
Died At Coopers Creek
    1st JULY 1861

Back Inscription

Public Subscription
      A D 1862

Right Side Inscription

King  Survivor


Source: MA,VMR
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au