Local Identity: George Lansell

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BY Danielle Rosewall

 

George Lansell, a name that almost all Bendigonians would know well, certainly put Bendigo on the map in the gold rush era and we thank him for that. Owner of the mansion known as Fortuna Villa, what do we really know about George Lansell?

He was born on the 24th August, 1823 at Margate, Kent, England. Eldest son of Thomas Lansell and wife Elizabeth Budds, Lansell migrated to Australia with his brother in 1853, arriving in Port Adelaide and then making his way to Echuca.

Unsuccessful in acquiring work there, he moved to Bendigo where he set up a business as a butcher and chandler. Taking an interest in Gold, he invested the money he made from his business in various mining companies.

By the mid 1860s, Lansell had become one of Bendigo’s wealthiest men and was known as the Quartz King. In 1871 Lansell purchased Fortuna Villa and as his wealth grew so did the Villa, with the building expanding constantly during his time there.

Lansell’s first wife Bedelia died suddenly in 1879, and although well loved and admired, Lansell returned home to England out of grief. While in London he married Edith Bassford, an English girl whom he had met in Bendigo some years earlier. The pair had three children.

Lansell received a petition from 2,628 men asking for him to return as Bendigo struggled economically, and they saw Lansell’s presence and leadership as an important boost for the region. He returned that year with his new family and took up residence in Fortuna Villa once again.

George Lansell died of old age on the 18th of March 1906, and his wife Edith continued on the extensions of Fortuna Villa long after his death.

Shortly after his death the Bendigo and Eaglehawk Mine Managers Association held a meeting to discuss an appropriate memorial for the man who had played an important part in the development of Bendigo’s gold resources, whose mines worked on and gave employment to many men. The George Lansell memorial was unveiled on December 9th 1908, before a crowd of 2,000 people. This memorial, along with his home Fortuna Villa, is still seen here in Bendigo today.

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