A monument in time | ourballarat winter 2022

The beautiful Ballarat Botanical Gardens feature a collection of significant heritage trees and world-renowned tuberous Begonias. The gardens are also home to an impressive collection of statues.

Ballarat Botanical Gardens Parks and Nursery Curator Peter Marquand with the statue of Sir William Wallace

The Ballarat Botanical Gardens is an oasis right in the heart of our city. The gardens were first reserved for a public garden in 1857.

Today, these 40 hectares of leafy gardens and avenues located opposite Lake Wendouree are renowned as one of Australia’s most attractive cool climate gardens. The gardens also have a remarkable history, none more so apparent than the significant collection of late 19th Century statues.

Ballarat Botanical Gardens Parks and Nursery Curator Peter Marquand says this large collection of artwork makes our gardens unique.

“Our statue collection is testimony to the wealth of Ballarat at the time of the gold rush, when the gardens were being developed,” Peter says.

“These statues were the generous gifts of those who wanted to give back to the city where they made their wealth.

“It is an amazing collection of statues that our community and visitors to the gardens really appreciate.”

Statue conservation

Skilled conservators are engaged to carry out repair and maintenance works on the collection each year as part of the City of Ballarat’s annual gardens maintenance budget.

As the marble is porous, the roots of lichen, moss and algae can cause staining and grey spotting while the weather also impacts the statues.

Earlier this year, International Conservation Services carried out repairs and stabilisation works on the Stoddart Collection’s statue of Spring, which was damaged in the October 2021 storm.

The works stabilised previous repairs, including steel pins which connect parts of the statue, and involved specialised marble fillers and the rectification of intricate flowers.

The Stoddart Collection

A goldfields miner turned local stockbroker, Thomas Stoddart bought 12 white marble statues during a visit to Carrara in Italy in 1882 and gifted them to the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.

Stoddart arranged for them to be shipped to Victoria and placed on pedestals of Sicilian marble and on bases of Victorian granite.

The Carrara marble statues are all figures from classical mythology – Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Hercules, Pomona, Bacchante, Hebe, Flora Farnese, Leda, Mercury and Flora.

The statues were unveiled in the gardens on Queen Victoria’s birthday, 24 May 1884. Stoddart’s intention was for the statues to adorn and add interest to the gardens.

Today, scattered throughout the gardens, they do exactly that.

The Thomson Collection

In 1888, a second collection of statues was purchased using a bequest from James Thomson.

Five marble statues by Australian sculptor Charles Francis Summers were purchased along with the Statuary Pavilion to house them. The towering centrepeice, Flight from Pompeii, represents people fleeing the city of Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.

Italian sculptor Benzoni sculpted a smaller version and had begun the early stages of a larger version when he died. Sculptor Charles Francis Summer took over and completed the work.

Renowned for its top-lit central lantern and curved roof, the historical pavilion was specifically designed by Ballarat architect T.E. Molloy to showcase its five statues in natural light while protecting them from the elements.

Sir William Wallace

Trustees used the rest of the Thomson bequest to commission Percival Ball to create a marble sculpture of Scottish hero Sir William Wallace.

The statue, a tribute to Thomson’s Scottish ancestry, greets visitors at the entrance to the gardens. Wallace is depicted standing on Abbey Craig at Stirling in 1297, waiting for the British to cross Stirling Bridge.

Marble lions

David Ham MLC donated the two marble lions which rest just inside the entrance gates, known as the Morey Gates, in 1893. The lions are characteristic of grand entrances in 19th Century landscapes.

Discover our statues

Take a walking tour and learn more about our statues using the digital Garden Explorer Tool

City of Ballarat Council Plan Alignment

The projects, initiatives, and ideas in this article align with the following goals of the City of Ballarat Council Plan 2021-2025:

Goal 4
A city that conserves and enhances our natural and built assets