Thomas BATH (1820-1901)

Publican
Ballarat School of Mines Life Governor, Council member and benefactor

The publication 'Ballarat and Vicinity' wrote on Thomas Bath, 'Here lives Mr. Thos. Bath, one of our oldest and most respected colonists. Born at St Clements near Truro, Cornwall, he entered a seafaring life in 1846. He landed at Geelong in 1849, and moved to Buninyong in 1851. In 1854 Bath obtained Ballarat's first publican's licence, and opened the Ballarat Hotel (now Craig's Hotel), selling it to Walter Craig in 1857, and leaving to pursue farming at Learmonth.' Thomas Bath was a member of the Ballarat School of Mines (SMB) Council from 1889 until his death at Ballarat on 29 July 1901.

The SMB Annual Report of 1901 highlighted the importance of Thomas Bath to SMB: 'It is with sincere regret that the Council have to record the great loss sustained by the school during the last year, in the death of Mr. Thomas Bath, J.P., who worthily filled the position of a Councillor of the School from the 9th September, 1889, until the day of his death, which took place on the 29th of July last. Mr Bath always took a great interest in the school's progress and during his lifetime rendered it on more than one occasion material financial aid. Further evidence of the keen interest taken by Mr Bath in the School's welfare is afforded by the fact that on his death he left a substantial sum, the exact amount of which is not yet known, to be devoted to the School's requirements.'

The 'substantial sum' was used to build an engineering laboratory. SMB Council minutes of 8 November 1901 record that:- Plans for [the] proposed building were submitted ... and ... it was resolved that a temporary building for an engineering laboratory be put up.' This laboratory, as an existing building, is first mentioned in SMB President's Annual Report of 1901, presented on 28 February 1902, reporting 'the erection of a building 67 ft long by 33 ft wide' This report also lists all the equipment that would be accommodated in the engineering laboratory, including the experimental steam engine and boiler. The experimental Davey-Paxman steam engine arrived in Ballarat towards the end of 1902. The engineering laboratory was opened on 14 August 1903 by His Excellency Sir Sydenham Clarke. This engineering laboratory remained in use till about 1945. By 1944 preparations were under way at SMB to expand existing facilities, to be ready for the influx of returned soldiers. A new heat engines laboratory was built, this time of brick construction, replacing the previous corrugated-iron shed. The steam engine was moved to the Mt Helen Campus in where it remains today.

This biography researched by Clare Gervasoni, March 2006. Experimental steam engine researched by Zig Plavina, February 2001

Image caption (LHS): Davey-Paxman Experimental Steam Engine, purchased by SMB from the Thomas Bath Bequest. (Reg. No. 1338)

Image caption (RHS): Plaque acknowledging the Thomas Bath bequest.