Bid to unearth goldfields relic

Sergeant Henry Frood’s great granddaughter Lynne Cooper is pictured at the grave of Daniel and Bridget Nowlan at the Castlemaine Cemetery. The author hopes to track down Nowlan’s descendants.

Bendigo resident and keen historian Lynne Cooper is in the final throes of completing a fascinating new biography on the colourful life of her great grandfather, former Castlemaine Goldfields police sergeant Henry William Frood.

Sergeant Frood served on the goldfields for 32 years from 1857 to 1889 in Castlemaine, Sandhurst, Daylesford, Horsham and Stawell, and was one of two local sergeants to be presented with a special gold medallion by the local Chinese community at the time.

Lynne said her great grandfather’s medallion was passed down to her grandfather and then her father.

“It was enclosed with a worn piece of paper with an English translation that read ‘He treated us as his own children’,” Lynne told the Express.

“After Dad passed away, my mother Moira Frood made the decision to donate the unique piece to the Bendigo’s Golden Dragon Museum in 2003 and it is now in their safe keeping.”

As work on her book comes to a conclusion, Lynne hopes to track down the descendants of fellow police Sergeant Daniel Nowlan and the whereabouts of his medallion.

Lynne said local newspapers, including our sister paper the Mount Alexander Mail (now Castlemaine Mail), had proven a rich source of information while researching content for the book.

“I found countless articles referencing Henry and his attendance at incidents that had happened across the goldfields. From what I can gather, he was a kind, compassionate and considerate man and treated all with respect and care,” Lynne said.

“One such story tells of a tragic accident involving a 17-year-old Chinese servant who was thrown from a cart while running errands for one of the local hotels. As he lay dying in the street, my great grandfather asked one of the nearby hotel owners if they could move the young man inside off the street and away from the gaze of onlookers so he could die in peace. However, the publican refused.

“Another tells of a young mother who walked all the way to Castlemaine from Muckleford carrying the body of her 13-month-old child as she was told Sergeant Frood would ensure the child would receive a proper burial,” she said.

With the assistance of local researchers, Lynne uncovered an article referencing the presentation of the medallions by the Chinese in the Mount Alexander Mail 134 years ago on November 16, 1889.

The article says the medallions were presented in recognition of the ‘great considerateness in endeavouring to suppress crime amongst them, without adopting harsh measures or treatment to accomplish that purpose’. 

“Frood and Nowlan defied the trend of their times in terms of their care of the Chinese,” Lynne said.

“I believe that the Chinese community waited to honour the pair until after their retirement as it would have been inappropriate to do so while they were in active service. It may have looked like they were seeking favouritism,” Lynne said.

“My great grandfather retired to Fitzroy and a Chinese delegation of diggers actually journeyed down to Melbourne to formally present him with the medallion. He must have been extremely surprised and honoured by this gesture. From what we have been able to ascertain, very few medals were awarded in such a way by the Chinese.”

Nowlan lived out his days in Castlemaine and is buried alongside his wife Bridget and their three-year-old daughter Annie at the Castlemaine Cemetery at Campbells Creek. 

Frood died in Melbourne. However, there remains a local connection as his daughter Agnes married John Richard Beckingsale and settled locally where they had five children. Agnes died from complications of the birth of her fifth child, Una. John never remarried. Agnes, John and their children are buried in the Castlemaine cemetery. The Beckingsale family were very well known in the Castlemaine area as wealthy business people.

“I’d love to track down Nowlan’s descendants. They might not even be aware of the impact he had on the local community and the award bestowed on him,” Lynne said.

Her upcoming book is a biography with a splash of fiction thrown in. 

“I have used Henry’s extraordinary life as a base but I have also tried to capture what he would have seen and experienced and how he would have reacted to those harsh and difficult times,” Lynne said.

Stay tuned for details on the launch of the book. In the meantime if you are a descendant of the Nowlan family or know of the whereabouts of Nowlan’s medallion, email Lynne at

Jessie and Henry Frood pictured in the 1860s.
The gold medallion presented to Henry Frood by the Chinese gold diggers.