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Bull, Captain John Edward Newell (1806 - 1901)

Resident Commissioner

Captain John Edward Newell Bull was transferred from England to Sydney with his regiment in 1842. Appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands, he commenced duty as Resident Commissioner on the Bendigo goldfields in October 1852. When Chief Commissioner W.H. Wright transferred his headquarters to Melbourne in March 1853, Captain Bull assumed control of the Mount Alexander goldfields, and for a while continued general supervision over the Bendigo fields as well. As the resident commissioner he had a heavy responsibility because of the vast area his district covered. It included the goldfields at Mount Franklin, Yandoit, the Loddon, Fryer's Creek, Tarrengower and, at times, Avoca, Dunolly and Maryborough also came under his jurisdiction. Despite the enormity of his task, his 'tact and sense of justice' won him the respect of diggers and townspeople alike; the miners on these fields were perhaps more law-abiding than those in any other district because of his sensitive and fair attitude toward them. Bull’s administrative style is credited as the reason the riots in Ballarat did not spread to Castlemaine: he attended, and was actually cheered at, meetings of the local branch of the Gold Fields Reform League. His reference to the gold licence system as 'this unfortunate tax – unfortunate it is for all of us' met with a particularly warm response from the diggers. When the goldfields administration was reorganised in 1855, he was appointed Warden of the Castlemaine district, a position he held until his retirement in 1869.

Bull played a vigorous role in the town’s development throughout his 44 years in Castlemaine. He was instrumental in establishing the Castlemaine Hospital, the Mechanics' Institute and the first National school. An active member of the Anglican Church, and a trustee of the Savings Bank from its establishment in 1855 until 1895, Bull also presided over a number of cultural, business and political organisations.

Keir Reeves

Captain John Edward Newell Bull (1806-1901), n.d.; Castlemaine Art Gallery and Museum. Details