Susanna Gale

This blog post takes me out of my comfort zone (era wise) as I know very little about the mid 18th century and I’ve never written about an artwork before. But in many ways it is also right in my wheelhouse, exploring the lives of women in history to bring them out of the shadows. But before I introduce you to Susanna Gale, I need to go back to the beginning.

One of my favourite places in Melbourne is the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s an amazing bluestone building with the ambience of the ancient cathedrals. It’s also home to Leonard French’s stained glass ceiling- the largest in the world. It is Melbourne tradition to lie on your back on the carpet and look up at it when you visit the gallery. You can see the view below.

Anyway, as soon as we were allowed out again after lockdown the NGV was high on my list of places to visit. I started with the medieval section, best place to see reliquaries in Melbourne, and then headed for Tiepolo’s magnificent (if incredibly historically inaccurate in just about every conceivable way) Banquet of Cleopatra. It’s one of the NGV’s stalwarts and it’s nice to visit.

On my way, I noticed a new hang from the last time I’d been in the gallery, including one painting that literally stopped me in my tracks. Joshua Reynolds’ portrait of Miss Susanna Gale. Reynolds is a master painter, which is one of the reasons it stood out, but I was also enthralled by her, by Susanna. And I wanted to know more. The information on the picture didn’t tell me much other than her name, the artist and the fact it was painted in c. 1763-1764 so I did some digging. I write fiction too and originally I was intending to just use the research for a short story. I am currently working on a story about Susanna, memories, a rose and Debussy, but she captivated me enough that I thought she deserved her own post. So in all the finest traditions of Historical Ragbag here she is.

So who was Susanna and how did her painting come to be at the National Gallery of Victoria?

Let’s start with Susanna, as she is the subject of the painting and the point of this post. Susanna was an heiress, the daughter of Francis Gale and Susannah Hall. Francis Gale was a wealthy British sugar planter from Jamaica. Susannah Hall was an heiress in her own right, her father James Hall was a silver mine owner also from Jamaica. You can see what is thought to be a painting of Francis Gale below. It dates to 1763 and interestingly was also painted by Reynolds. It is held by the National Trust in the UK at Montacute House.

Reynolds, Joshua; Colonel Isaac Gale (thought to actually be Francis Gale); National Trust, Montacute House; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/colonel-isaac-gale-101861

I want to pause here to examine something that must immediately come to mind when we’re looking at British commerce in areas like Jamaica in this era, especially sugar plantations: slavery. When I started writing this post, I only had the supposition about the time and place. I have since found the Gales listed in the database of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery. When Francis Gale died in 1775 his probate indicated that he owned 45 people: 28 men, 17 women and 8 children. In all honesty when I found this, I wondered whether I should continue writing about Susanna at all, as she definitely profited directly from slavery. When I thought about it though, I decided to continue because history should be explored in all its complexities and dark places, and her life should be acknowledged in all its parts. There is scant information about Susanna, but her family’s past is part of the tapestry of her life.

So as an heiress Susanna came to London to finish her education. And this is the moment when Reynolds painted her. She’s fourteen or fifteen in this painting, but for me it’s her face that is most intriguing. She looks like she’s poised on the edge of taking steps into a new world, a child trying to be an adult. That is certainly how she is styled, her clothing and posture very much reflect a contrast to her youthful face, there are reasons for this which I will return to later. She didn’t stay in England for long. The painting dates to 1764 at the latest and we know she married a man called Sabine Turner by 1765. There is very little known about Sabine, they were married in Jamaica but he failed to make any mark. Sabine was dead by 1766. We don’t know what Susanna did in the immediate aftermath of his death, but in 1769 she married the promising navy captain Alan Gardener in Jamaica. This proved to be a good match for Susanna as Alan would go on to become Vice-Admiral Lord Alan Gardner, he was a contemporary of Nelson’s and almost as well known in his own time. The title of Baron Gardner was created for him. You can see his portrait below.

Vice-Admiral Lord Alan Gardner (1742-1809) *oil on canvas *76 x 73.5 cm *1780-1809

As usual there is a Wikipedia article about her husband and his accomplishments, but very little about Susanna after their marriage. We know they had ten children, nine sons and one daughter, and that Susanna became Lady Gardner. Of those children, the eldest Alan inherited his father’s titles and followed him into the navy, the second Francis-Farrington became an admiral in the navy, the third William-Henry became a major general, the fourth Henry-Cossley died young, the fifth Herbert didn’t do anything remarkable, the sixth Edward was a resident at the Court of the Rajah in Nepal, the seventh Valentine died young, the eighth also Valentine was a captain in the Royal Navy, the ninth Samuel-Martin didn’t do anything remarkable and the tenth and only daughter Susannah-Hall married well.

With such a large family and with so many in the military we can presume that Susanna’s life was much taken up with bearing, raising and in fact burying her children, she outlived at least five of her children and her husband. Lord Alan died in 1808 and Susanna lived until 1823. As the wife of the Baron Gardner she would have had property to help manage, especially with her husband away at sea often. From this scant information we can extrapolate a life similar to most of her station in this era. But we can add no detail. Looking at the painting, it’s hard to imagine the girl depicted as a twice widowed mother of a dynasty, a military wife, and an old woman with scores of grand-children. She is captured on the cusp of a life she couldn’t have known. Which brings us neatly back to the painting itself. It is the reason Susanna is remembered at all. Which comes back to the central question, what is it doing in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne Australia, a world away from its origins?

Unlike the details of Susanna’s life, this is a question that can actually be answered. But before I do, I want to talk a little about the composition of the painting and how it came to be painted. I preface this with the disclaimer that I am not an art historian, so please forgive any errors.

When Susanna came to London, Joshua Reynolds was the painter de jour, especially of portraits. He painted up to 150 sitters a year. With this in mind he had a streamlined process of generally three sittings of about an hour and a half each time. This would be sufficient to complete the face then as Reynolds described it in 1777 “the rest is done without troubling the sitter”. Everything else was modelled by his servants and pupils, from clothes to the hands. This might have been efficient, but does mean that you do see similarities between portraits. The best comparison in the case of Susanna’s painting is Reynolds’ portrait of Mrs Thomas Riddle painted in 1763. You can see it below and the parallels are obvious even to a completely untrained eye.

Reynolds was also drawing on a long artistic tradition, especially the work of van Dyck and specifically his painting of Elena Grimaldi, from 1623. You can see it below.

Susanna is cast into a role demarcated by more than century of artistic tradition, and I’d like to return to her specific portrait. Interestingly, the painting at the NGV is not the only version. It is the original, but there is a copy held by the National Trust in the UK in Clarendon Park. It was painted after 1763, but before the original was cut down. You can see it below.

Reynolds, Joshua; Susanna Gale (1749-1823), Lady Gardner; National Trust, Clandon Park; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/susanna-gale-17491823-lady-gardner-216831

The really interesting bit about this is ‘before the original was cut down’. The painting was taken to sea by Lord Alan on several of his voyages (I like the thought of him wanting the portrait of his wife with him-maybe it’s an indicator of a happy marriage?) and it was damaged so much that the dimensions had to be reduced. It also suffered some kind of injury when it was in transit on the Midland Railway, necessitating restoration. Close examination of the painting in 1956 by the NGV noted evidence of the painting having many skilfully mended cuts and tears especially across the top. It had also been relined and possibly re-stretched. So the painting has not lived a comfortable life gathering dust on the wall of the family mansion. And this brings us back to the question of how did it end up in Melbourne?

Once Lord Alan died Susanna gave the painting to her daughter Susannah Cornwall and when she died in 1853 it passed down to her descendant Reverend Alan Gardener Cornwall. The painting remained in the family until 1872 when it was sold and came into the possession of banker Bertram Currie you can see him below.

When he died in 1896 it was inherited by his son Laurence Currie. Laurence died in 1934 and the painting was purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria from Christies as part of the Felton Bequest. The Felton Bequest was set up by Alfred Felton who was a successful Melbourne businessman. You can see his portrait below.

Felton began collecting art from the late 1880s onwards, he lived with his art collection at the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda. He donated paintings to the gallery during his life time, but it was his will that really shaped the gallery’s collection. The bequest continues to this day and is responsible for purchasing 80% of the NGV’s finest artworks that are valued at over 2 billion.

The will was drawn up in 1900 with trustees of a committee of five to administer the funds. The income was divided equally between donations to charity and to purchase art works for the NGV. The committee was able to appoint art advisors in Europe and around the world and the only stipulations for purchasing was that the works had “to have an artistic and educational value and to be calculated to raise or improve public taste” The overseas advisors were key to the purchasing of art under the bequest and Randall Davies was appointed the London advisor in c.1928. He presided over the bequest until 1934, and one of his final recommendations was Joshua Reynolds’ Miss Gale which was bought for 3500 pounds. The Argus newspaper at the time printed a photo of the newly hung portrait.

The Argus reported:

Referring to the picture and its history, Sir Charles Holmes, the English painter and critic, says that it bears no trace of the two accidents which overtook it-once, when Admiral Gardner took it to sea with him, and once in a railway smash. At Christies, while under a darkened varnish, the picture still left a delightful impression of dignity combined with youthful grace. After cleaning, the picture revealed an unexpected richness and glow of colour in the rose-red dress and russet background, coupled with a freedom of brushwork, anticipating the magnificent ease and breadth of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s maturity “I cannot help feeling,” Sir Charles Holmes says, “that on this occasion Sir Joshua had in mind some work by his great rival Gainsborough, an inspiration reflected in the free brushwork, the transparent colour, and, above all, in the sensitive refinement, the gentle distinction, with which the young lady is invested other works by Reynolds maybe more profound, more imposing, but I know of very few indeed that would be so desirable a possession”

She was hung on Tuesday the 7th of August 1934 and has remained at the NGV ever since.

So that brings us to the end of both Susanna’s story and the story of how a Joshua Reynolds portrait of a Jamaican British heiress painted in 1763-64 came to be hanging on the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria in 2021 to enthral me. I’ll leave you again with the painting, and if you’re ever in Melbourne, maybe go and visit her.

References:

Images:

Leonard French Ceiling: Ellen Coates

Banquet of Cleopatra National Gallery of Victoria: https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/4409/

Susanna Gale National Gallery of Victoria https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/collection/work/4299/

Francis Gale National Trust UK https://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/597959

Admiral Lord Alan Gardner https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Vice-Admiral_Lord_Alan_Gardner_%281742-1809%29%2C_by_William_Beechey.jpg

Mrs Thomas Riddell https://www.wikiart.org/en/joshua-reynolds/mrs-thomas-riddell

Elena Grimaldi National Gallery of Art https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.1231.html

Susanna Gale National Trust UK https://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1441498

Bertram Currie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bertram_Wodehouse_Currie.jpg

Alfred Felton https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Felton#/media/File:Longstaff_felton1.jpg

Susana Gale The Argus https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/rendition/nla.news-article10975964.3.html?followup=47ff0cf3a10a59d0cdb69e5d3a63ed02

General references:

Felton Bequest:

https://www.eqt.com.au/philanthropy/the-alfred-felton-bequest

The Felton Bequest National Gallery of Victoria by Ursula Hoff

Mr Felton’s Bequest by John Poynter

Miss Susanna Gale painting:

The National Gallery of Victoria by Ursula Hoff

Painting and Sculpture Before 1800: In the international collections of the National Gallery of Victoria by National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria: Painting drawing sculpture by Ursula Hoff

A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds Volume I by Graves and Cronin https://archive.org/details/historyofworksof01grav

The Quarterly Bulletin of the National Gallery of Victoria Vol.10 No.3 1956 https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/The-Quarterly-Bulletin-of-the-National-Gallery-of-Victoria-vol-10-No-3-1956.pdf

Work of the Week https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/work-of-the-week-miss-susanna-gale-c-1763-1764/

Works of Art Loaned by the NGV: https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/10561634/works-of-art-loaned-by-the-ngv-national-gallery-of-victoria

Quadrant: Grand European Paintings of NGV https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2012/12/grand-european-paintings-of-the-ngv/

Bertram Currie: https://www.natwestgroup.com/heritage/people/bertram-wodehouse-currie.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertram_Wodehouse_Currie

The Argus reporting on Susanna Gale portrait: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/10975964?searchTerm=%22miss%20gale%22#

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/10986282?searchTerm=%22susanna%20gale%22

Susanna Gale and Family:

Lord Alan Gardner https://morethannelson.com/officer/alan-gardner-1st-baron-gardner/

Gale Families https://web.archive.org/web/20131213052300/http://gale-gaylefamilies.com/gale-gayle-families-of-the-west-indies.html

Debrett’s Complete Peerage of the United Kingdom and Ireland https://books.google.com.au/books?id=Ru4UAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA323&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

Baron Gardner https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baron_Gardner

Susanna Gale http://artothings.blogspot.com/2008/06/miss-susanna-gale.html

Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery: Francis Gale https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/inventory/view/3468

Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery: Susanna Hyde Turner then Gardner (nee Gale) https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146637755

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Flinders Street Station Ballroom

This is going to be a slightly different post to usual, as it will not be straight history. I will cover some of the history of the ballroom above Flinders Street Station in Melbourne, Victoria, but I will be telling the story of how I experienced it for the first time (I’ve been trying to get inside for about ten years) as the exhibition space for Patricia Piccinini’s Miracle Constantly Repeated. So this piece will be part history, part personal narrative, and part art exploration. It also ties nicely back to a post I wrote some years ago about art interpreting historical spaces.

But back to the Ballroom. The Flinders Street Ballroom is one of those almost mythical places in cities, that everyone has heard of, and most people have never seen. The sort of place that pops up in newspaper articles every few years or so, with new ideas for its future, or stories of its past. These are the sort of places that strike at the heart of a city’s imagination, kind of like secret tunnels. But unlike most supposed secret tunnels, the Flinders Street Ballroom is very real.

Flinders Street Station has had trains running from roughly the same location since the 1850s, it’s the main station in Melbourne, and ‘meeting under the clocks’ remains a tradition to this day. The current buildings, you can see in the photos below, were the result of a design competition and were completed in 1910.

The Ballroom was not part of the original plan and was added during construction because of the creation of the Victorian Railway Institute. The VRI was founded in 1910 with the aim of promoting the intellectual, social and physical well-being of the members- who were largely railway staff. They still exist actually, though they have expanded beyond railway workers. The ballroom was originally the VRI’s lecture hall, and the other rooms housed, a gym with a boxing ring, a lending library which took books to members by train, and education classes at night. It was a similar concept to Mechanics’ Institutes, you can read more about MIs here. You can see members of the VRI in the then lecture hall in the photo below from the State Library of Victoria.

Much of the original lecture hall can still be seen today in the remaining fabric of the Ballroom. And you can see the activities of the VRI still reflected in the surrounding rooms. The message you can see scrawled on the wall in the final photo below, though, is thought to date to the late 1960s, once the upper floors had already begun to fall into disrepair.

By the early 1900s the lecture hall had become a ballroom, you can see an image of it all decked out in bunting from roughly the 1930s from Victorian Railways Corporation records, held at PROV, below.

By the 1950s, the dances there were so popular a mezzanine had to be added to accomodate more people. The balls always finished by midnight so everyone could catch the last train home.

By the 1970s the rooms began to fall into disuse, the last dance in the ballroom was held in 1983. It wasn’t until 1985 that the public use of the ballroom and surrounding rooms pretty much ceased completely. Every ten years or so another announcement of refurbishment pops up, there’s been ideas of locating the Melbourne City Library on the third floor (an idea I’d be in favour of as they badly need the space), of reopening the Ballroom as a ballroom, or running a school up there, along with many other concepts, none of which have come to fruition. The Andrews Government began restoring the whole Flinders Street Complex in 2015, including removing 10 tonnes of pigeon poo from the dome. The Ballroom is part of this redevelopment, but what it will be used for in the future remains very much up in the air. You can see some of development of the Ballroom (and the rest of the station) in the video below.

While the future of the use of the Ballroom remains uncertain, it has been open to the public occasionally. Either for Open House Melbourne (which ran on a ballot system which I was sadly never lucky enough to be successful in) or for artists to work in. This included the recent Rising Festival, which is where my journey into the Ballroom begins, and where we step away a little from the history and into the world of art.

As I said at the beginning, I’ve been trying to get into the Ballroom for about ten years, it’s just one of the those places that light up my imagination, and my desire to explore odd historical places (kind of the point of this blog). So when it was announced that Rising would be opening the Ballroom, I couldn’t get a ticket fast enough. Then, as has been a familiar story across the world, COVID reared its head again, forcing Melbourne into a two week lockdown, and effectively cancelling the festival, which was devastating to all involved. There was one bright light though. Miracle Constantly Repeated was being held inside in a space that wasn’t being used for anything else, so Rising managed to extend its run. And lucky enough for me restrictions lifted the day before I had my ticket. So I was one of the first groups to experience Patricia Piccinini’s extraordinary installation, in the endlessly fascinating Flinders’ Street Ballroom and surrounding rooms. For me the exploration of both the installation and the third floor rooms was a linear experience, so I thought I’d recreate it. There is just so much layered history in the rooms, that you’ll find a lot of pressed metal photography, and small corners where the origins of the stripped back rooms are poking their heads through. I hope you find it interesting, and it can give you a taste of the transcendental experience of the combination of the installations and the palpable sense of History that hangs over it all.

My journey began with the entrance to the stairs that lead you above.

I really didn’t have a clear idea of what I would find as I began the three story climb, even the stairs show a building that has lived a complex life.

Until ultimately you reach the top, and a corridor that seems to run into the horizon.

Piccinini’s installations are in the rooms along the corridor in both directions, culminating in the the full installation in the Ballroom, which really has to be seen to be believed.

As I wandered amongst their wonder, I was also exploring the building, finding the small places where time (and builders) had pulled back layers. But also looking at Melbourne literally from a new perspective.

There is also a lot of very lovely pressed metal, walls and ceilings, and I may have got slightly too excited about it, so I thought that rather than including them along the journey, I’d just do an overview.

Piccinini’s works is an exploration of nature and the urban environment, of a hybridisation between inanimate object and nature, with objects taking on natural characteristics, or nature adapting to more mechanisation, of chimeras’s who fit in both worlds and how humans find a place. But it is more than this too, she looks at elevating the notion of kindness and caring, for other humans and for the environment, of evolution and change. She creates odd creatures, that challenge how we see ourselves, she creates forests of flowering organs that tell stories of the future and the past, of rituals and ecology. She also has what has to be my favourite line for an exhibition description that “big sculptures don’t just have to be about important men in hats on horseback”.

It’s one of those exhibitions that you really need to see in person to appreciate, especially the way she has worked with the building. Everything I’ve said and will say is my own interpretation, based on the guides provided. You could view her work and experience something totally different, and that’s what I love most about art. We are seeing the expressions of someone else’s thoughts, but the pieces become our own as well, as we view them through the lens of all our own beliefs, and concepts of the world. I’m not going to include the whole installation, because if you have the chance you really should go and see it, but this should give you an idea.

You begin your journey with Diorama, an art with historic links that blurs the line between realism and the artificial.

We then move through to Sapling, where the concept of a tree’s personhood and sentience is explored.

In the same room as Sapling are the Shoeforms, which epitomise Piccinini’s concept of naturalised technology.

In a room further along you’ll find The Couple based around the central conceit of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, in this case what would have happened if Frankenstein loved the creature he created. It’s essentially a meditation on the importance of empathy and caring. I especially loved that Piccinini created the whole room around her ‘couple’ and how it felt incredibly lived in, with the aesthetic of the old building.

The following room was my favourite, ballroom aside. Celestial Field is mesmerising, the human and natural border are collapsing as flowers, like organs, grow and hang from the ceiling and in the middle is The Balance- the naturalisation of mechanisation, as two mechanical forms reach for each other.

I also shot a short video, just to give a real feel for the atmosphere Piccinini creates.

We move along to No Fear of Depths the aforementioned large sculpture of caring.

Probably my favourite of Piccinini’s individual works came next ‘The Supporter’ the idea of a natural environemnt growing out of an urban one, and a sybiotic relationship where humans, nature and the urban world, all sort of hold eachother together.

And finally we culminate in the Ballroom, which honestly I’m not going to try to describe, as the pictures speak for themselves.

As truly miraculous as Piccinini’s A Miricale Constantly Repeated is, the small parts of the building that speak with her work, the old bones that you can see, the small stories- which is kind of what this blog is about- matter to me as much, so I wanted to finish with those.

References:

http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/places/result_detail/752

https://www.vri.org.au/about

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/flinders-street-station-ballroom

https://www.flindersstreetstation.com.au/third-floor.php

http://wiki.prov.vic.gov.au/index.php/File:12903-P0001-000364-085.jpg#filelinks

https://www.development.vic.gov.au/projects/flinders-street-station?page=overview

http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/permalink/f/cjahgv/SLV_VOYAGER1795533

https://miracle.rising.melbourne/the-ideas-behind-a-miracle-constantly-repeated

All the photos and videos are mine- unless attributed elsewhere in the post.

There are still tickets left to A Miracle Constantly Repeated- if you’re in Melbourne, I highly recommend you go

https://rising.melbourne/festival-program/patricia-piccinini

Victorian History Quiz: Easy to Evil

This month I decided to do a quiz, as I haven’t done one for a while. I have also updated two old posts with some new photos and a video. The updated Tower Hill Cemeteries post can be found here and the updated Port Fairy and Cape Schanck can be found here

But to return to the quiz.

The rules are simple. There are sixteen questions in four categories: Easy, Medium, Hard, Evil. You will see a question then a photo clue, the answer is underneath the photo. Good luck and keep track of your score so you can see how you do at the end.

Have fun.

Easy

  1. What is the name of the capital of Victoria?

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A. Melbourne

 

2. Where was the best known book by Joan Lindsay set (hint it features a character called Miranda)

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A. Hanging Rock

 

3. What is the name of the main station in Melbourne? (this is very very easy if you look closely at the photo)

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A. Flinders Street Station.

 

4. What is the name of the island best known for its parade of little penguins

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A.Phillip Island

 

 

Medium

5. What was the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne built for?

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A. The 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition

 

 

6. Who was one of the founders of the State Library of Victoria, the the library of the University of Melbourne, the Supreme Court Library and was the judge who condemned Ned Kelly to death.

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A. Sir Redmond Barry

 

7. Where in Melbourne can you find 12000 unknown bodies?

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A.Under Queen Victoria Market.

 

8. What attraction was once known as the sow and piglets?

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A. The Twelve Apostles.

 

 

 

Hard

9. When was the State Library of Victoria established?

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A.1854

 

10. What and where is the photo below?

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A. The ceiling of the ANZ gothic bank in Collins Street Melbourne

 

11. What is the structure below called and what was it used for?

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A. Coop’s Shot tower and creating lead shot.

 

 

12. When was the Shrine opened?

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A. 1934

 

 

Evil

13. What decade was the Scenic Railway at Luna Park opened and which company designed it?

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A. 1910s (1912) and it is designed by L A Thompson Scenic Railway Company of New York.

 

 

 

14. What is the name of the mansion built in what is now Somers for Frederick Grimwade in 1895?

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A. Coolart

 

 

15. Who is the cairn on Arthur’s Seat dedicated to and why?

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A. Matthew Flinders because he stood on the mount in 1802

 

16. Who designed the Forum Theatre

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A. John Eberson and Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson

 

So that is the end. How did you do?

1-4: Well you’ve got some basics down pat. Good start.

5-8: You know more than basics, well on your way.

9-12: Good work, beginning to build a wealth of obscure facts.

13-15: Incredible effort. You may know more about Victoria than is sensible 🙂

16: Are you sure you didn’t write the quiz?

 

The photos are all mine

 

The Gothic Bank and Its Museum

This post is the first in a series I’m hoping to write about small museums and libraries, their histories and collections. They will predominantly be in Melbourne and surrounds, but I’ll add the odd international one too. These sorts of posts give me the excuse to explore my city and my state. To find new ways to look at the places I’ve probably driven or walked past hundreds of times and to explore the fascinating small pieces of history that they hold.

I am beginning with the Gothic Bank in Melbourne and the banking museum that is underneath the building.

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The banking museum itself is under the gothic bank in a space that was used for many years by Australia Post. It was first opened in May 1985. It was part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of a Royal Charter which was granted to the Bank of Australasia, which was one of the banks from which ANZ originates. The museum was significantly refurbished in 2007, when ANZ redesigned the layout of the exhibits and updated the content.

While I was unable to take any pictures inside the museum it is a fascinating little institution. It tells the story of banking in Australia, beginning with the indigenous economy and going right up until the 21st century. I actually learnt a lot that I didn’t know.

For example:

From 1817 until 1910 Australian banks issued the bank notes. In 1910 the Commonwealth took over with the introduction of the Australian Note Act.

In World War I close to half the staff of the Union and Australian banks volunteered. Women were employed to fill the vacancies but they weren’t allowed to handle cash or deal with the customers.

The museum is open from 10-4 (traditional bankers hours) on weekdays and entry is free.

Now while the museum itself is interesting it is the building that it stands in that for me was more fascinating. As a medievalist living in Melbourne, I don’t get many chances to see medieval architecture and while the bank and its interior is Victorian Gothic, rather than the real thing, it is still very lovely.

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The bank was a collaboration between banker Sir George Verdon and architect William Wardell. Verdon was appointed General Manager of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank (which is now part of ANZ) in 1872. In 1881 he invited 3 architects to submit designs for a new headquarters in Australia. Wardell was successful. Work began in 1883 and the final cost was just over 77 000 pounds.

I especially like the attention to detail

IMG_1926IMG_1922And the gargoyles.

IMG_1932All buildings should have at least one gargoyle.

As magnificent as the exterior is, it is the interior that really shines

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IMG_1953The columns and brackets are cast iron which were made in a foundry in Carlton. They were covered with canvas, fixed with white lead and cement and had five coats of oil paint. The ceiling was hand painted and gilded. In the centre of each panel are the shields and arms of England, Scotland and Australia as well as the arms of the bank and the arms of the main cities in which it operated.

The sky light is a later addition and the banking room was expanded in the 1920s to include the entrance to the former stock exchange building.

The gothic bank does not stand alone. The stock exchange building was added in 1891 with architect William Pitt winning a design competition in 1888. The vestibule of the stock exchange, most of the actual work went on upstairs, is an impressive 20m by 15m. It contains six Harcourt granite columns which weigh between 16 and 20 tonnes. They are capped by white Tasmanian marble. They were transported all the way from Bendigo by teams of 30 horses. It is unsurprisingly known as the cathedral room.

IMG_1939The details on the walls are truly impressive

IMG_1943The beautiful tiled floor is not original but it was based on the original colours and patterns.

IMG_1940There is also a magnificent stained glass window. Up the very top you can see a miner ‘panning off’ which is meant to represent the origins of the wealth of Victoria. The central figure is a woman representing ‘labour’. The window also depicts the coats of arms of both Britain and Australia and symbols of the four divisions of the globe.

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There is also other decorative stained glass work.

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The other building constructed at the same time as the stock exchange is the Melbourne Safe Deposit. It was also designed by William Pitt and was completed by 1890. It is six stories above the ground, but there is a vault beneath it which holds 3000 safes. The floor was concrete which was laid directly onto rock. The walls were 1m thick. The actual strong room was raised off the floor and was built of wrought iron boiler plate and it was lined with un-drillable steel. The whole thing weighed nearly 200 tons. It was the first safe deposit building in Australia. It is still in use today. It is not open to the public sadly, but it is pretty incredible from the outside.

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In 1989 ANZ found itself with three significant and beautiful gothic buildings. More than 20 million was committed to restoring the old buildings and a linking atrium was built.

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At the same time a modern ANZ headquarters was being built and it retains elements of the gothic style to mirror the original buildings and to bring them all in together as one complex. IMG_1957

The gothic bank and its museum are a truly beautiful and fascinating building that are well worth a visit. I’m just pleased that this is the sort of thing I can go at look at in Melbourne. Exploring these sorts of buildings is why it can be so incredible to really look at your own city, to find the places that you’ve never noticed. To find the small corners of history that each city holds.

References:

Site visit 2018

ANZ’s Gothic Bank: A commitment to preservation (booklet)

The photos are mine.

Mechanics’ Institutes

Mechanics’ Institutes are something that most people will be vaguely familiar with. They’ll have some idea of halls in country towns, possibly something to do with cars? But the concept of Mechanics’ Institutes is much more than this. This post is not intended to be an exhaustive history of Mechanics’ Institutes, but rather an introduction to the concept and the ideals, a little of their origin and a brief run through some examples of Mechanics’ Institutes that still exist today in Victoria, Australia.

To begin with, the term mechanics in this case has nothing to do with cars. In the sense that it was used in the early 1800s it simply meant ‘worker’. Sort of the equivalent of blue collar workers today.  The basic concept of a Mechanics’ Institute is usually a member owned and run group, set up by the community that provides self educational opportunities.  These opportunities were normally through lectures, entertainments and often through the provision of a lending library. These were institutions that were run for members, providing free, or largely free, educational opportunities at a time when formal education was for the wealthy and the clergy. The lectures were usually run in the evenings to allow workers to attend. These were not government run institutions, they were started by local communities and had no centralised control, which makes their prevalence and ongoing existence even more remarkable.

The first Mechanics’ Institute was begun in Glasgow in c.1800 with Dr George Birkbeck of the Andersonian Institute in Scotland when he gave a series of lectures to local workers. The lectures proved to be very popular and the Edinburgh School of Arts was formed in 1821 and the London Mechanics’ Institute in 1823.

The movement spread quickly to Britain’s colonies and they were extremely prevalent in Australia, which is where I’m going to be focusing. The first Mechanics’ Institute in Australia formed in Hobart 1827, but it wasn’t long before they reached Victoria. It is worth pausing here to note that these institutions weren’t always known as Mechanics’ Institutes. They usually were in Victoria, but in New South Wales School of Arts is the more common name. They have many other names though, from Athenaeum through to Temperance hall, through to Agricultural Institute. They all held to the same principle of the provision of opportunities for self education.

The first Mechanics’ Institute in Victoria Australia was the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institute, which was founded in 1839 and is now known as the Melbourne Athenaeum (the name was changed in 1872). Ultimately there were over 1000 Mechanics’ Institutes in Victoria at their peak, which is truly remarkable given that there was not a centralised organisation setting them up, though many did receive government funding. Most of these were in country towns and most held: a hall, a library, reading rooms, facilities for games and programs for educational activities. More than 500 remain physically, with the halls used by the local community. There are only a handful though that continue to operate as Mechanics’ Institutes. 12 are still operating from their original buildings, 10 have their original library collections, and four others  exist on other sites with their collections. Roughly 6 are still operating as a lending library service. There is even one that is still incorporated with its own act of parliament.

With this number of Mechanics’ Institutes there is no way I am going to cover them all, but I have visited quite a few and I thought I’d go through and provide a few photos and a bit of history on each of them. I am using the remarkable book These Walls Speak Volumes for the majority of the history for these sites, so if you want to know more get your hands on a copy. It covers all the Mechanics’ Institutes in Victoria. The below list is alphabetical and is only based on Institutes I have been to and have photos of.

Ballan Mechanics Institute. 

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Ballan Mechanics’ Institute. The institute was established in 1860, though the current building dates to 1887. The ‘new’ building was erected in 1887 because the previous 1860 site was not central enough. In 1894 the Mechanics’ Institute had 1680 books.  The building was fully renovated in 1922. Today the building is used as the local council library as well as being used by many community groups.

Berwick Mechanics’ Institute and Free Library. 

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Berwick Mechanics’ Institute and Free Library was founded in 1862, though the current building dates to the 1980s. Berwick didn’t have a substantial hall the way other Mechanics’ Institutes did, but they still hosted events. After the early 1900s the focus shifted to the library, a function it maintains to this day. In the 1980s Lady Casey provided funding for the construction of the new building which was completed in 1982 and the pre existing 500 year lease was extended. Berwick  holds the private library of Lord and Lady Casey as well as some of their art and an extensive general collection. It operates as a public library.  You can search their collection here. 

Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute Hall.

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Briagolong Mechanics’ Institute Hall was established in 1874 and still stands in its original building.  The hall was the first part built with the reading room and kitchen added in 1879, the third addition, including the stage, was opened in 1887. There were further additions as time went on including a 1999 addition which houses the Briagolong Community House. The library ran from 1874 for 90 years. The fact that a significant part of the original library collection survives intact is because the doors to the library were locked for some time and the books just left in there. You can see some of the remaining collection, which is housed in what was for a time the billiard room, in the photos above.

Bunyip Public Hall

bunyipThe Mechanics’ Institute dates to 1905, but the current building was built in 1942. The hall was used for everything from ANZAC celebrations to rollerskating. The hall burnt down in 1940 but it was rebuilt, as you can see it today, by 1942. The new building is built in greek revival style and is under the ownership of the council. Today it is used for everything from tai chi to playgroups.

Glengarry Mechanics’ Institute

Glengarry1Glengarry2The Institute was established in 1886 and the current building dates to the 1920s. Glengarry began as a library and was much used with hundreds of people visiting the library every year in the 1800s. When the new hall was opened in 1920, it was moved across the road, it was used as a library, a picture theatre, and by many local organisations. The hall had reached a fairly degraded state, on the outside, by 2013 and funding was raised to restore the outside including the hall roof which was in a perilous state. It is still used extensively by the community today.

Longwarry Public Hall

longwarryThe Longwarry Public hall, formerly Longwarry Mechanics’ Institute and Free Library, was established in 1886, and the first building built in 1889, though the current building dates mainly to the 1950s. Longwarry operated as a free library and lecture hall as well as being the home of the local brass band and health centre in the 1800s and early 1900s. The hall burnt down in the 1950s and the hall you see today was constructed, it was opened in 1953 with additions in the 1960s. In 2009 it was significantly upgraded including a new roof. It is still used by many community groups and an old time dance has been running every Monday evening and every fourth Saturday since, roughly, 1900.

Malmsbury Mechanics’ Institute

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Founded in 1862, the current building dates to 1876. This is the original Malmsbury building though. Due to various factors, including lack of funds and council involvement, the building wasn’t completed till 1876 despite the institute being founded years earlier. Malmsbury was still functioning as a Mechanics’ Institute in 1919, including a library, but by World War II the building had largely fallen into disuse and for a while it was used as a bank branch. The Shire now owns the building and it is the home of the historical society, as well as various community events.

Meeniyan  Hall

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Meeniyan Hall, formerly Meeniyan Mechanics’ Institute, was established in 1892, but the current building dates to 1939. The hall was never a library and it was mainly used for visiting entertainers and for music lessons. The building burnt down in 1938, but a new hall was built and opened in 1939. It was used for local dances in 1960s often holding as many as 600 people. It is currently used for a wide variety of community programs, including the inaugural Meeniyan Garlic Festival in 2017. The hall was the home of the Garlic institute and you can see the crowds attracted in the photo above.

Melbourne

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The earliest Mechanics’ Institute in Melbourne. The Melbourne Mechanics’ Institute was founded in 1839 and the current building dates to 1886. The original library, and collection of scientific specimens, was housed in rented accommodation. A permanent hall was built in 1842, but the programs offered including: entertainments, political and business meetings, social gatherings and church services proved to be so popular that it was decided that a bigger building was needed. The funds weren’t found until the 1870s and in 1872 the new facilities were opened, including a 100 foot long hall and significant space for the library upstairs. At the same time it was decided to change the name to the Melbourne Athenaeum. In 1886 the building was significantly remodelled, including the facade, which you can see today. In the early 1900s it was determined that a theatre was needed and the Athenaeum Theatre, built inside the old hall, was completed in 1924. The theatre is still very much in use today by acts from all over the world and is one of Melbourne’s most popular venues. The library is also still in existence and runs as a subscription library. You can search their collection here.

Port Fairy Library and Lecture Hall

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IMG_0463Founded in 1860 and the current building dates to 1865. A library was functioning in Belfast, as it was then known, as early as 1856 but an institute wasn’t officially formed until 1860. In 1864 land was granted by James Atkinson to build a library for Belfast and it has remained in the same position since it was opened in 1865. The Lecture Hall next door was also opened at roughly the same time. The library is now used as the public library, after 120 years of independent operation it joined the Corangamite Shire libraries in 1981. The lecture hall is used by lots of community groups including the local theatre group and the spring festival.

Prahran Mechanics’ Institute. 

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The Prahran Mechanics Institute was founded in 1854 though the building they currently reside in, a converted 1960s fabric factory, was not their home until 2015. The original building was in Chapel Street and is still owned by the institute, though it is rented out as shops.

The PMI started as a lending library and as an institute for education and lectures. Due to a dispute with the the Secretary/Librarian in the mid 1800s (he wouldn’t vacate the building and the roof of the institute was removed to force him to leave) and the neglect of another secretary/librarian in the late 1800s the PMI building was rebuilt onsite in 1900. However there was not enough space, so in 1915 they moved to High Street in Prahran, also starting the Prahran Technical School (this building can be seen in the photo above). In the 1980s a decision was made to move away from being simply a general collection library to being a library which specialised in Victorian history.

This specialisation continues today with the PMI holding a collection of over 30 000 books and being dedicated to preserving the history of Victoria. In 2009 space was desperately need for the rapidly expanding collection. So the PMI sought to end the 99 year peppercorn lease which allowed to Minister for Education to use the buildings that formerly held the Prahran Technical School, which was now being used by Swinburne University. The Minster agreed to relinquish the lease if the PMI sold their High Street building to Swinburne University. They did and moved around the corner to St Edmonds Road into a more modern building with the extensive space that the collection needed (you can see the exterior and interior of the new building in the photos above). The PMI is still functioning under its original rules and incorporation and is the only Mechanics’ Institute in Victoria which has its own Act of Parliament for its incorporation. It is run by a committee with four professional staff running the library. You can check out their catalogue here

Rosedale Mechanics’ Institute Hall

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The Rosedale Mechanics’ Institute was established in 1863 and the current building dates to 1874. Rosedale began operating in 1868 in rented premises and the original form of the current building was built in 1874 after being designed by William Allen. Rosedale was originally called The Mechanics’ Institute and Library and Scientific Association. It contained a surprisingly large hall, a stage, a supper room, several meeting rooms and a library. The stage was removed at some point and an extension with toilets added in roughly the 1950s. The hall was also extended fairly early in the process, you can see the addition in the photo above, and much later a floating ceiling was added. The hall used to house the public library, but it was moved. It is now home to the op shop and is used by community groups.

Stratford Mechanics’ Institute.

stratfordStratford2The Stratford Mechanics’ Institute was founded in 1866 and the current building was constructed in 1888. When it was originally founded Stratford lapsed very quickly and another attempt to form a Mechanics’ Institute was tried in 1874, which didn’t work either. However, by 1882 a committee was formed and the library was set up in the shire hall and books bought. By 1888 they’d built the existing hall. In the 1950s a spectacularly ugly addition was built on the beautiful 1800s facade. It mainly housed toilets. In the early 2000s, through fundraising and government grants, the hall was restored to its former 1800s glory. It is run by an active committee and is the home to many local events, including the parts of the Stratford Shakespeare festival.

Toongabbie Mechanics’ Institute.

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Toongabbie Mechanics’ Institute was established in 1883 and the building you see today was also constructed in 1883. It was a fascinating example of a two story weatherboard construction from this period. The second story was a 1890s rear extension. The hall contains a stage, where many local performances were held, and was home to a library. There are also a number of smaller rooms in the two story extension. It was used as the local Court of Petty Sessions and as a bank. By 1983 the building was in extremely poor condition and it had been suggested that burning it down was the best option. Thankfully the local community rallied and with government funding it was saved. Now it is used for everything from weddings, to school concerts, to old time dances.

Trafalgar Public Hall

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The Trafalgar Public Hall, formerly the Trafalgar Mechanics’ Institute and Free Library, was founded in 1889, though the current building dates to 1935.  The original hall operated as free library and it was rebuilt in 1908 when it became the home of the Naracan Shire. The hall became the focus of the community with traveling shows performing there and it was used as a library and a dance hall. The hall and all its contents were destroyed in a massive fire in 1934 and a new hall was finished by 1935. The new hall contained a bio cabin for the showing of movies. There was also a library, but by 1957 this had become a kiosk, and by 1964 a ladies toilet. The hall was used for everything from badminton to school concerts and is now the home of the local amateur dramatic society as well a number of other community uses including weddings and family reunions.

 

So that’s the end of my collection of Mechanics’ Institute photos and information. As I stated, this is by no means anywhere near all the Mechanics’ Institutes in Victoria and they can be found in other states as well as all over the United Kingdom and in Canada and America. As a concept they are a fascinating example of communities helping themselves and coming together. Even if many of the institutes themselves don’t survive today the halls are still very much at the heart of the community.

References.

Site visits, 2017, 2016 and 2015.

http://www.pmi.net.au/home/timeline/

http://www.pmi.net.au/home/mihistory/

http://home.vicnet.net.au/~mivic/

http://www.melbourneathenaeum.org.au/

http://www.berwickmilibrary.org.au/

These Walls Speak Volumes: A history of Mechanics’ Institutes in Victoria by Pam Baragwanath and Ken James ISBN: 9780992308780 you can borrow it from the Prahran Mechanics’ Institute Victorian History Library here library.pmi.net.au/fullRecord.jsp?recno=23726

 

The photos are all mine.

 

Disclaimer: I work at the PMI Victorian History Library.

Victorian History Crossword

NB: If it looks like you’ve seen this crossword before, you have. I put it up yesterday but there was a technical error so I had to take it down. There should be no problems with this version. The questions and answers are all the same as yesterday’s, the lay out is just a little different.

Have a shot, see how you go.  Click this link for a printable version of the crossword grid. Crossword Puzzle

Crossword Puzzle Maker_ Final Puzzle

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Cemeteries: St Kilda Cemetery

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This is the second in my series of posts about cemeteries. The first was about Melbourne General Cemetery and can be found here. This time I’ll be discussing St Kilda Cemetery. St Kilda is a suburb in southern Melbourne and its cemetery is an an excellent example of Melbourne’s inner suburban cemeteries.

I’ve always found cemeteries interesting as a lens through which to view a city, or a town, and I’ve always found the history they so neatly incapsulate fascinating. St Kilda has a personal connection for me as well because there is a plot there in which several of my ancestors are buried. One of them, Robert Henry Woodward, was originally buried in Melbourne General Cemetery. The family believes, however, that he was moved to St Kilda to be with his wife Letitia at a later date. His grave at Melbourne General Cemetery is certainly unmarked.

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The Woodward Graves.

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Robert Henry Woodward and Letitia Woodward

IMG_9755The site of Robert Henry Woodward’s original grave at Melbourne General Cemetery

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What the Woodward grave looked like in the 1970s. My extended family and I are in the process of restoring it somewhat.

Robert Henry was one of my first ancestors to come to Australia in the 1850s, and Letitia was born here in 1824 when her father was stationed in Sydney. So I was interested to see where they were buried.

The cemetery itself also has a fascinating history. It was first laid out in 1851 by an assistant of Robert Hoddle, best known for laying out the grid of Melbourne’s CBD. It opened in 1855 and the brick wall enclosing it was added in c. 1883.

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The walls of the Cemetery

The cemetery covers 18 acres and contains approximately 53 000 burials. St Kilda has been a desirable place to live for over a hundred years and as urban sprawl in Melbourne has increased there have been several attempts to have the cemetery closed. Fortunately none have been successful. The cemetery is laid out in religious denominations as can be seen in the map below.

St Kilda Map-V3_DPMG - FINAL

Although in comparison to  Melbourne General Cemetery St Kilda is quite small, it is still large for a suburban cemetery. It certainly feels vast when you step inside, as you can see from the photos below.

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St Kilda also houses many beautiful funerary monuments. A number of which can be seen below.

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Urns

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Religious Figures

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Angels

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Crosses

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Scrolls

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Ornate fences.

There are also memorials to a number of well known people in St Kilda Cemetery.

I don’t feel it is necessary to go into the history of each of them, but I would like to discuss one in particular. Ferdinand Von Mueller, best known in Melbourne as the Director of the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens from 1857-1873.

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Von Mueller

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mueller-sir-ferdinand-jakob-heinrich-von-4266

His memorial can be seen below.

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Von Mueller was born in 1825 in Rostock in Mecklenburg-Schwerin in what is now Germany. He trained as a pharmacist, but specialised in botany as part of his degree. He came to Australia in 1847 with his two remaining sisters, seeking a warmer climate for his sister’s health. He began his time in Australia in Adelaide, where he investigated the local flora as well as working as a pharmacist. He came to Melbourne in 1852 when Governor Latrobe appointed him Government Botanist. In Melbourne Von Mueller began collecting specimens of the local indigenous flora. He was instrumental in cataloguing Victorian and in fact Australian flora, adding new genera and greatly expanding exisiting knowledge. He travelled a great deal within Australia and was at the heart of bringing together isolated information from disparate sources on indigenous flora.

When he was appointed director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens in 1857 he immediately arranged to have the herbarium built, added his own extensive collection of specimens and began collecting seeds and plants from all over Australia as well as internationally. In the herbarium he built what is now one of Australia’s most important dried plant, algae and fungi collections. Under his stewardship the gardens began to build towards the magnificence which you see today. They can be seen in the photos below.

Botanic Gardens Melbourne
Native mexico

Cork oak, Quercus suber

Botanic Gardens Melbourne

Part of the Children's Garden next to

Children’s garden Melbourne Botanic Gardens

Herb Garden, Botanic Gardens MelbourneHerb Garden Melbourne Botanic Gardens.

Along with the Melbourne Botanic Gardens Von Mueller played a role in the establishment of some of Victoria’s numerous rural botanic gardens. For example when the gardens in Hamilton were established in 1870 Von Mueller supplied 450 shrubs and trees, providing the start of planting for the garden. The tree below is possibly one of the ones he sent.

Corsican pine Botanic Gardens Hamilton

Von Mueller was also one of the first to recognise the importance of the native forests of Victoria and campaigned against indiscriminate clearing. Sadly there began to be complaints about Von Mueller’s management of the gardens in around 1868. There seemed to be the feeling that he was focusing too much on the plants and not enough on the beautification of the gardens. Complaints were along the lines of “‘no foundations exist … neither are statues erected … works of art we can call forth at pleasure, while time lost in forming the plantations cannot be regained”[1] He stoutly defended what he saw as the object of a botanic garden, saying in an 1871 lecture

“that from the early transcendental days of Greece up to the most recent decennia all institutions designated as botanic gardens were mainly or exclusively devoted to the rearing of such plants as were adopted for medicine, for alimentary or industrial purposes; and it would be little short of relapsing into barbarism, were we to alienate any such institutions of ours entirely from their legitimate purpose.”

He continued

“The objects of a botanic garden must necessarily be multifarious, nor need they be, in all instances, precisely the same; they may be essentially modified by particular circumstances and local requirements, yet, in all cases, the objects must be mainly scientific and predominently instructive. As an universal rule, it is primarily the aim of such an institution to bring together with its available means the greatest possible number of select plants from all the different parts of the globe; and this is done to utilise them for easy public inspection, to arrange them in their impressive living forms, for systematic, geographic, medical, technical or economic information, and to render them extensively accessible for original observations and careful records. By these means, not only the knowledge of plants in all its branches is to be advanced through local independent researches, conducted in a real spirit of science, but also phytologic instruction is to be diffused to the widest extent; while simultaneously, by the introduction of novel utilitarian species, local industries are to be extended, or new resources to be originated; and, further, it is an aim to excite thereby a due interest in the general study and ample utilisation of any living forms of vegetation, or of important substances derived there from. All other objects are secondary, or the institution ceases to be a real garden of science.”[2]

Unfortunately he was not successful in his arguments as he was replaced as director in 1873. He remained Government Botanist, but he was so upset by his dismissal from the gardens that it is said that he never set foot in them again. Von Mueller was a dedicated worker, writing over 3000 letters a year, publishing over 800 papers as well as a number of books. By the time he died in 1896 he was largely responsible for the international recognition that was given to Australian scientific endeavour. His work was also of the quality and magnitude that much of it has still not been superseded. He is to me one of the most fascinating people with a memorial in St Kilda cemetery.

St Kilda Cemetery as a repository of history has many more stories to tell apart from Von Mueller’s and the Friends of St Kilda Cemetery do run regular tours. Information can be found here.

St Kilda, like other cemeteries, is a fantastic place not just for its own history but also for the survival of the stories of the people who are buried there. It also creates an area of community space in a tightly urban precinct. It is well worth a visit if you are ever in the area. Cemeteries, like St Kilda, are a vital part of the community.

The photos are all mine apart from the photo of Von Mueller from the Dictionary of Biography and the Botanic Gardens and Hamilton Gardens pictures which were kindly provided by garden writer and photographer Penny Woodward.

For more information on St Kilda Cemetery see:

http://stk.smct.org.au/our-history/

For more on Von Mueller see:

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mueller-sir-ferdinand-jakob-heinrich-von-4266

https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/about-us/our-story

For the entirety of his speech in 1871 in defence of Botanic Gardens see

http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Stout33-t4-body-d9.html

 

[1] http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mueller-sir-ferdinand-jakob-heinrich-von-4266

[2] http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Stout33-t4-body-d9.html

Easy to Evil Australian History Quiz.

This is how the quiz works.

There are twelve questions.

There are three sections: easy, hard, evil.

There are four questions in each section.

You get the question then a photo and the the answer is below the photo.

Keep track of how you do because there is a scoring system at the end.

Enjoy 🙂

EASY

  1. What is the name of the market in Melbourne which is built on a graveyard on the corner of Victoria and Elizabeth street?IMG_1142

Answer: Queen Victoria Market. You get the point if you said Queen Vic, Vic or Victoria Market. For more information on the graveyard click here

 

2.  What is the southern most point of mainland Australia which is named after Thomas who was a friend of Matthew Flinders?

IMGP0304.JPGAnswer: Wilson’s Promontory

 

 

3. When was Federation in Australia?

PA0013 Answer: 1901 . The picture is Tom Robert’s painting of the opening of Australia’s first parliament in May 1901. For more information click here

 

 

4. What year was the Eureaka Stockade

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Answer: 1854. The photo is of the flag of the Southern Cross.

 

HARD

5. Where did Australia’s parliament sit from 1901-1927?

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Answer: Parliament House Melbourne. For more information on the fascinating building click here.

 

 

6. Where was the first shot fired by the British Empire in World War One ?

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Answer: Point Nepean in Victoria. For more information click here

 

 

7. What island did Captain James Cook name after he ‘discovered’ it on June 7th 1770?

IMGP3548.JPGAnswer: Magnetic Island.

 

 

8. What is the name of the beach Harold Holt drowned at and what year did he drown?

PN cheviot 2Answer: Cheviot Beach 1967. For more information click here.

 

 

EVIL

9. What is the name of the boat that sank off the shipwreck coast in Victoria on the 1st of June 1878?

loch ard sunshneAnswer: The Loch Ard. The photo is of Loch Ard Gorge. For more information click here.

 

10.  What is the name of the man who named the Grampian Mountains in Western Victoria and mapped much of the district?

IMG_7551Answer: Major Thomas Mitchell. For more information click here. 

 

 

11. What is the name of the small Victorian town named after the man who was Governor of Victoria from 1926-1931?

IMGP2217.JPGAnswer: Somers. The photo is of Somers’ beach.

 

12. What is the name of the first lighthouse to be erected in South Australia?

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Answer: Cape Willoughby Light House.

 

THE END

So that’s it. How did you do?

1-4: Well you’ve got some basics down pat. Good start.

5-8: Impressive. You know you stuff.

9-12: Incredible effort. You may know more than is sensible:)

12: If you got them all… Sure you didn’t write the quiz?

 

Hope you enjoyed it.

 

The photos are all mine apart from the Tom Roberts painting which can be found at http://www.aph.gov.au/Visit_Parliament/Parliament_House_Art_Collection/Tom_Roberts_Big_Picture and the Eureka Flag which can be found at http://www.artgalleryofballarat.com.au/exhibitions-and-events/collection/australian-collection/the-flag-of-the-southern-cross-(eureka-flag).aspx

 

 

The King’s Champion Part 2

I have written a previous post about my quest to discover the medieval origins of the position of King’s Champion. Rather than rehashing it, you can find it here.

So following the work I did for the previous post, I decided I needed more information than my collection of books and what I’d so far managed to find online could provide. So I headed for the State Library of Victoria. It’s one of my favourite places to do research and if you’re not familiar with it you can see the famous domed reading room in the photos below. I always work in here whenever I can because it has an extensive collection and the most amazing atmosphere. IMG_0695

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In the reading I’d been doing for my previous post many of the 1800s sources on the King’s Champion I’d found had been based on the work of William Dugdale. I decided he would be a good person to begin the next stage of my search with. Primarily to see if he had any references in his work that would let me track back further. I discovered he was a writer in the 1600s who wrote extensively about both baronial families and peerage. I also found that the State Library had a copy of his two volume work The Baronage of England or The Historical Account of the Lives and Most Memorable Actions Of Our English Nobility.  The first volume covers from the Saxons, to the Norman Conquest, to those who had their rise before the reign of Henry III. The second volume covers from the end of Henry III’s reign to the reign of Richard II. It was the first volume I was most interested in as it was this that later writers were referencing when discussing the Marmion family’s heritage.

I ordered both the books from the State Library. They are classified as rare books so I had to view them in the heritage reading room. Rare books is a wide ranging definition. A book can be rare due to age, or fragility, or a lack of copies in existence as well as other reasons. I was expecting an 1800s copy of the work as this is what usually happens. So I was delighted to find that what I’d ordered was actually a printing from 1675. This is one of the things I love about libraries like the State Library of Victoria. They have an amazing range of rare, fragile and obscure items but you don’t have to have any special qualification to access them. They are there for the use of all Victorians. All I needed to access these books was my library card. I was very excited as this is now my record for the earliest book I have ever held. It beat one from the mid 1700s I used for researching William Marshal during my honours year. The title page of Dugdale’s book can be seen below.

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The first volume indeed had the peerage of the Marmion family. It begins by saying that William I gave Robert Marmion the castle of Tamworth. The Domesday Book lists Tamworth castle as being in the hands of the king in 1086. William I died in 1087 so it is just about possible that he gave the castle to Robert Marmion. What is most interesting is the entry regarding the Marmion family and Scrivelsby, the manor which is now tied to the role of King’s Champion. It is only mentioned once and this is not until the narrative reaches Phillip Marmion who died in the 20th year of the reign of Edward I. In this case it is just a passing mention. Scrivelsby is listed as of one of the properties Phillip held by right of Barony on his death. You can see the passage on the page below.

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Dugdale does provide references as to where he is getting his sources. Unfortunately he does it in an abbreviated form, but doesn’t explain what the abbreviations mean. I am yet to work out exactly what the reference for Scrivelsby is referring to, but when I work it out I’ll track it down. The other telling thing about this book is the lack of any kind of reference to the Marmions as hereditary Kings Champions. This doesn’t prove that they weren’t of course, but it might mean that it wasn’t well known or considered especially important.

I also examined the second volume of Dugdale’s work, but there were no further mentions of the Marmions or of the Dymoke family, the family who inherited the title of King’s Champion. What Dugdale does give the reader is what seems to a be a reasonably accurate account of the individual Marmions in England in the Norman and early Plantagenet times. So it seems likely that whether or not they were official King’s Champions, or hereditary Champions of Normandy, that the Marmions were in England roughly from the time of William I. There is also a second Dugdale work that apparently does discuss the role of King’s Champion that I am hoping to track down soon.

Having determined that most likely the Marmions were in England in some form from the time of William I, I decided to try a slightly different track. I’d been looking into the household of the king because the King’s Champion is often mentioned in coronations alongside positions such as the Marshal. From work I’d done on William Marshal I knew that the Marshal is definitely an hereditary position and that it was certainly considered a part of the king’s household. So I decided it was worth having a look through one of the best records of a king’s household from the early Plantagenet period. The Constitutio Domus Regis is a contemporary account probably of the household of Henry I. The exact date is still under debate. It has thankfully been translated by S.D Church. The State Library has a copy which also contains the translation, by Emile Amt, of the Dialogus De Scaccario (the Dialogue of the Exchequer) which dates to the 12th century. I have gone carefully through the Constitutio and am unable to find any mention of the King’s Champion. I also can’t find any kind of regular payment to the King’s Champion listed in the Dialogus. Again this doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist in this time, it may just not have been included in these particular documents. It could also mean that if it did exist then it was much less formal an appointment than say the Marshal, and may have not had a day to day role.

Continuing on a slightly different track I decided that exploring the question from the point of view of the coronation itself was a good idea. Other sources I’d been reading referenced two books

1. The Coronation Book of the Hallowing of the Sovereigns of England.  By Jocelyn T. Perkins published 1902

2.  English Coronation Records  Edited by Leopold  G. Wickham Legg published 1901.

The State Library had copies of both. I began with The Coronation Book. While this text doesn’t provide  any revelatory new information it does cover the position of King’s Champion in later years in detail and provide some lovely little vignettes of the Champion’s role in the coronation.  For example John Dymoke entrance as the champion to Richard II. When he appeared at the coronation on his ‘mighty steed’ he was summarily told that he had come in at the wrong time and told to come back later when it was appropriate.

The Coronation Book  provides extensive discussion of many of the ceremonies that various Champions after the reign on Richard II were involved in. It doesn’t however provide any information as to the the role of the Champion before the reign of Richard II. What it does do though is give some lovely illustrations and photos. Some are non contemporary illustrations of the Champions performing their duties and others are of the Champion’s acroutements. They can all be seen below.

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The Manor of Scrivelsby  which is currently tied to the position of Champion.

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Some of the suits of armour worn by the Champions.

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The cups which are the official payment to the Champion for their service at the coronation.

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Sir Charles Dymoke James II’s Champion

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Henry Dymoke the Deputy Champion.

Henry Dymoke participated in George IV’s coronation because the Champion John Dymoke (Henry’s father) was a cleric and therefore apparently unable to undertake the role. The only other time a Deputy Champion was used was at the coronation of Richard II when the hereditary Champion was Margery Dymoke. Her husband John Dymoke undertook the role by right of his wife as she was a woman and as such unable to be to be Champion. [1]

Margery and John Dymoke actually raise a very interesting point which is briefly discussed in The Coronation Book. The coronation of Richard II is the first record we have of the Champion’s role in the coronation. It is also the period in which the Dymoke family took over from the Marmions as the Champions. The Coronation Book mentions that there was a case in the Court of Claims before Richard II’s coronation. John Dymoke argued his right to be Champion through his wife’s descent from Phillip Marmion and his possession of Scrivelsby. [2] When I found this I realised that this court case would be absolutely key because it would have to include an explanation of the rights of the Marmions to the position of King’s Champion. The Coronation Book  doesn’t really provide that much more detail, but thankfully the second book I listed above, English Coronation Records, does.

English Coronation Records in fact has a transcription and translation of the court case. It’s reasonably long and as such I won’t present it in full here. In summary John Dymoke and Baldwin de Freville both presented their cases to be the King’s Champion. Both of them were claiming the position of Kings Champion due to their descent, through marriage, from Phillip Marmion. Phillip was the last of the main line of Marmions and he died in the reign of Edward I. John held Scrivelsby and Baldwin held Tamworth. There were fierce arguments on both sides. In the end it was decided that as John had presented a better case and crucially because “several nobles and magnates appeared in the said Court and gave evidence before the said Lord Steward, that the said Lord King Edward and the said Lord Prince lately dead frequently asserted, while they lived, and said that aforesaid John ought of right to perform the aforesaid service for the said Manor of Scrivelsby.” [3] This last point is absolutely key because this is the point where the role of Champion is tied irrefutably to Scrivelsby itself rather than the specific family.

So through all this I have still failed to find definitive evidence that the Marmions were the hereditary Champions. It does seem, however, that they were certainly believed to be the hereditary Champions in 1367 at the time of Richard II’s coronation. Baldwin and John were both arguing on hereditary descent from the Marmions not specifically on the possession of their respective manors. Additionally no one in the court seemed to find this claim odd and several nobles seemed to feel that Edward III and Edward the Black Prince had discussed it, so it must have been a position that was known and understood.

I am still not quite finished with this. I’m hoping to track down the other Dugdale book in which he apparently discusses the role of the King’s Champion, as well as deciphering his abbreviation style. I am also going to look into the Marmions specifically, as it seems clear that the role was tied to their family not to the property of Scrivelsby until 1367. I am going to see what I can find out about their role in Normandy where they were supposedly hereditary Champions. If I find anything I’ll post an update.

[1]  The Coronation Book of the Hallowing of the Sovereigns of England.  By Jocelyn T. Perkins published 1902 p.151

[2] The Coronation Book of the Hallowing of the Sovereigns of England.  By Jocelyn T. Perkins published 1902 p.134

[3] English Coronation Records  Edited by Leopold  G. Wickham Legg published 1901. pp. 160-161

The photos are all mine.