Mrs Holmested’s goat

This story is really about one town’s relationship with goats that began with The Great Goat Slaughter of 1854. I told a version of this story live on West Bremer Radio.

The 1850s was a time of great excitement in Ipswich, or Limestone as it was called then. This back in colonial days when Queensland was yet to separate from New South Wales.

For example, during the Crimean War, when news arrived in Ipswich of Sebastopol falling to the British in 1855, there was huge rejoicing particularly at the livery stables at the corner of Brisbane and East streets. That’s where a massive crowd gathered to celebrate. The Russian czar at the time was Alexander II who was the grandfather of the last czar of Russia. An effigy of the czar was hung from the limb of an iron bark tree in the yard, set on fire, and blown-up to resounding cheers.

Czar Alexander II

But it was a year earlier in 1854 when excitement centred on a bloodbath in the streets of Ipswich itself.

The town had been infested with goats, they took over every nook and cranny. The very atmosphere of Ipswich was polluted and the place simply stunk of goats.

And so in 1854 a decree went forth that all unclaimed goats in Ipswich were to be slaughtered. Hundreds were rounded-up in the pound between Hill and Thorn streets. The police did the yarding and all the killing, and there was literally blood in the streets of Ipswich.

Although the pound keeper’s union was quite strong back then, no union official dared to interfere, such was the foul stench that had taken over.

The awful smell and fear of goats remained with Ipswich residents for years and Ipswich pound keepers were given the job of continuing to slaughter any unregistered goats.

Ipswich in the 1850s

And so it was in 1880, Mrs Margaret Holmested was forced to defend her goat from the pound keeper Mr Thomas Beverley.

Mr Beverley had a violent track record himself, having faced a number of assault charges including one involving a number of pigs, and another for assaulting the local mad Irishman called Dick Skinnerty.

But Mrs Holmested was also no shrinking violet. She had previously been fined for drunkenness in the streets and charged with threatening to wring the head off another woman. She had also been charged with cruelly beating her niece by the name of Fanny Long.

Although the bruises on Fanny were not very serious, witnesses said that the chastisement by her aunt had been improper and unfair. The result was that Mrs Holmested was placed on a £20 bond and banned from smacking Fanny for six months.

Her husband Arthur Holmested might have come in for similar treatment and run away. That’s because Mrs Holmested advertised on the front page of The Queenslander newspaper that if he didn’t return home within three months, then she intended to marry again. I’m not sure if the husband ever went home, but Mrs Holmested never did remarry.

The Queenslander front page 1874

Anyway, back to her goat. When the Ipswich pound keeper Thomas Beverley tried to grab Mrs Holmested’s goat, she set upon him with all the force she had shown against her niece and her husband.

The pound keeper was successfully repelled so severely, that Mrs Holmested was charged with assault. But during the scuffle, the pound keeper had failed to produce his authority from the Ipswich council, and so the assault case was dismissed by the court. The unfortunate pound keeper was ordered to pay costs of £1 and 10 shillings.

The goat belonging to Mrs Holmested survived, but hundreds of its relatives had already been slaughtered in The Great Goat Slaughter of 1854 and ever since.


Photo credits:
Goats scavenging in Eagle Street Longreach 1954 – Geoffrey Luck, University of Queensland.
Czar Alexander II – Wikipedia Commons.
Cribb and Foote London Stores Bell Street Ipswich 1850-60s – Whitehead Studios via Picture Ipswich.
Arthur Thomas Holmested advertisement – The Queenslander, Brisbane, 17th October 1874 page 1.


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