Did you know that Bendigo used to be called Sandhurst? And then changed its name back to Bendigo? While you could make a quick check of Wikipedia it does not tell you the story behind the change of name. Now that the Bendigo Advertiser is digitised on Trove, spanning 1855 to 1918, you can learn all kinds of fascinating details about the history of this famous Victorian city, including the controversial change of name that occurred over 100 years ago.

An article in the Bendigo Advertiser, advising of the poll to change the name of the city.

Bendigo Advertiser, 27 April 1891, page 2

Using QueryPic, a free, online tool developed by the clever folks at the Wragge Labs Emporium, we can see clearly the effects of the name change. QueryPic searches the digitised newspapers for keywords and then provides a visual display, like the graph below, of the search results over time. It then links those results to the online articles.

A graph illustrating the time of the name change from Bendigo to Sandhurst.From the above graph you can see when Sandhurst changed its name back to Bendigo. The change occurred when the blue (Sandhurst) line drops below the red (Bendigo) line in 1891. When you view QueryPic online each point on the graph is a link to articles with that keyword for that year.

Having originally begun as Bendigo, a name spawned from Bendigo Creek, it adopted the official name of Sandhurst, named after a military college in England in 1854 (1). It was changed back to Bendigo in 1891 following a plebiscite when all the residents voted, with 1,515 in favour and only 267 against.

Map from the 1850s showing town allotments of Sandhurst.

Township of Sandhurst, portion B, Bendigo Creek

The name Bendigo, which was named after a shepherd (ibid) was always in popular use from the 1850s and the Advertiser itself was a strong supporter of the change back to Bendigo. It argued that Bendigo was a ‘strong and manly name as befits a mining community,’ and that was more likely to attract further British investment in the goldfields.

This 1896 map shows the streets of Bendigo

New map of Bendigo & district, 1896?

The Library has many online resources, such as maps, pamphlets and pictures related to the history Bendigo, which include resources on Sandhurst.

1. Place names of Victoria by Les Blake.

Written by Chris Wade, Newspaper Librarian


This article has 23 comments

  1. was interested in the naming of Bendigo and your reasons for it being originally Sandhurst after the military college in England. However I have several german relatives who settled in Bendigo and their records show that they were from a town in Germany near Hamburg called Sande- Lohbrugge. I wonder if this is coincidence. The family name is Harders.

  2. What a great way to use data such as newspaper headlines to look at the transition from one city name to another.

  3. My GGG Grandfather who died in 1876 is listed as dying at Bendigo Creek. In the probate one of his children are listed as living in Sandhurst, so this article is quite helpful.

  4. I was born in Bendigo and l have always been interested in history.
    However, a number of different web sources states that the town name “Bendigo” was named after a man called Ben Digo who was a miner and a boxer who lived there at the time.
    The creek is thus synonymous with this man.
    Perhaps the investigators of this article overlooked this, instead focusing through the old Advertiser archives looking only for search results on both “Sandhurst” and “Bendigo” to see which of the two town names show up more often than the other without having to read through every articles of diversity where both town names appear.
    The origin of the name “Sandhurst” although is indeed correct here.

  5. Pingback: Read all about it: our newspapers tell your story – State Library Victoria

  6. James Lerk, February 06, 2018

    Bendigo Creek was the first name for this locality, it became Bendigo upon the European discovery of gold, then gazetted as Castleton before being officially re-gazetted as Sandhurst. As stated above, in 1891 it reverted back to Bendigo through a poll of ratepayers.

    • Thanks James for your custodianship of Bendigo history for so many decades and for your kindness to us Sandbach descendants when we visited many years ago

  7. My Family (Harrison’s) lived in Bendigo. I am looking for Marriage between Briget Harrison and Thomas McMillin also information on Florance Ivy Patching (Born McMillin1896. D1947.
    Thank you,
    Dawn Z.

  8. Hi I am trying to find if my ancestor Henry Rayner and where his property was. His papers said his father died at his place in sandhurst. So I am hoping it is Bendigo that they mean. Any help would be great thankyou
    Michele Gili

    • Hi Michele,
      Thanks for reading the blog. A librarian will look further into your enquiry and be in touch soon.

  9. I have been trying to find information about my great grandfather William Farrah Stansfield born Sandhurst 1860. He later moved to W.A. And became district Secretary of the area outside Geraldton called Grenough.he has a street named after him. My email add is [email protected]. Thanks Patricia

  10. Dianne Woodstock

    Thank you so much for this post. I am researching for a friend and there is a strong link to Sandhurst – now I realise why I had dead ends!

  11. Hi, I am researching my Great Grandmother Elizabeth Askew who was born in Sandhurst in 1868. Her mothers name was Eliza Rogers not sure of father, all records show John Askew but he died in 1865, 3 yrs before she was born. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Hi Heather, Thanks for reading our blog.
      I will log your questions with our reference service and one of our librarians will be in touch.

  12. Hello. I am doing research about my great grandfather who was born in 1867 in Sandhurst, Victoria. His name was Alfred Stent. Thank you for any help you could give me !

    • Hi Kate,
      Thanks for reading our blog.
      I will log your questions with our reference service and one of our librarians will be in touch.

  13. Tejbir Singh Sandhu

    Hi Paul,
    My GGF Mehar Singh Sandhu (or name may be spelled Mahar Singh) is believed to migrated as few of early Sikh settlers from India around 1890 and lived near Melbourne area or might be Sandhurst area in early 1900s. He is believed to be married locally in Australia and his estate was sold and transferred to our family in India in 1920s or later. Any help in tracing records will be highly appreciated.

    • Hi Tejbir,
      Thanks for reading our blog.
      I will log your questions with our reference service and one of our librarians will be in touch.

  14. I was curious about where the name of the Shepard ‘Bendigo’ originally came from. I’m currently learning Spanish and found out that bendigo means ‘I bless’. I’m wondering if it’s coincidence or if the shepherd was of Spanish descent.

    • Hi Luke,
      Thanks for reading the blog. Your question has been lodged with our Ask A Librarian service and a staff member will be in touch.



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