With Portland celebrating its 180th birthday tomorrow (November 19), my Trove Tuesday post this week is an article published in the Portland Guardian of October 15, 1934 prior to that year’s centenary celebrations. Superintendent Clugston of the police department offered some timely advice for those attending the week-long celebration. My favourite “don’ts” are “Don’t hurry or rush about”, “Don’t drive your car or other vehicle in a careless or improper manner and extend courtesy and consideration for all other road users” and “Don’t Guess”.
It’s time to re-join The Vagabond on his tour of Picturesque Victoria. Last time we caught up with him, he was touring the town of Portland. In this installment, he ventures out to the countryside surrounding the town and he was not disappointed. I would have to agree with him that the landscape around the town “is the most picturesque and varied scenery” seen along the Victorian coastline.
With an old Portland citizen, the Vagabond headed toward Narrawong and Heywood. Looking out to sea he caught a view of Julia Percy Island and Lawrence Rocks.
The Vagabond reflected on the early settlement of the district and likened the countryside around him to an English country lane.
Out of Portland , the Vagabond and the “Ancient Citizen” met the colony’s first road, built by the Hentys. Although the colony was only within the first 50 years of settlement, change was upon it. The railways had been costly to the hotels along the roadways as noted by The Vagabond as he passed two empty hotels.
After a stop in Portland, The Vagabond set off again for the rugged coastline of Nelson Bay. The secretary of the Portland Jubilee committee accompanied him, one of many gentleman offering endless hospitality to the acclaimed writer, hopeful for a good word about their town.
As they left Portland, heading West, the travelling party passed “Burswood” the former home of Edward Henty and they admired the unique flora along the roadside.
Before long they had reached Nelson Bay and the wrath of the seas below came a little closer than was comfortable. “Below the waves circle one after another – placid and quiet in the outer rings, increasing in speed and fury until they dash in a foaming surf on the rocks and sands at the base of the cliff”
Ahead The Vagabond could see his destination, the Cape Nelson lighthouse.
After climbing the 115 steps to the balcony near the top of the lighthouse, The Vagabond looked out to sea at the passing vessels, while the lighthouse keeper, Mr Fisher,told him lighthouse tales.
From the lighthouse, the horse’s heads turned toward Cape Bridgewater. The Vagabond quipped that the Banks of Portland would not be offering customers overdrafts on that day because all the managers were travelling with him.
The Vagabond stopped to marvel at the Bat’s Ridge cave. He advised visitors to the caves to take their own candles, magnesium wire and string.
A little further on and the group arrived at serene Bridgewater Bay and its small settlement.
Continuing westward they came to Cape Bridgewater and the Blowholes.
Join The Vagabond on his next installment of Picturesque Victoria, continuing along the south-west coastline. What did he see that he described as “fearfully sublime” and “grandly weird”? Find out next time.
This week’s Trove Tuesday post began as a story about Magic Lanterns, the early version of the film projector, and the problems they were causing in Portland in 1914. But a reference in the article to “celluloid collars” changed the post slightly to include another unexpected fire risk to mostly men and boys of the early 20th century.
The first article comes from the Portland Guardian of October 14, 1914. A cheap toy Magic Lantern, or more precisely the lens of the lantern, was the curse of the mother’s of Portland boys. The lenses, probably removed for the purpose of mischief by the boys, were burning holes in their pockets. The whistle-blower on the events, warned that if one were placed in a celluloid collar, disaster would prevail.
That got me thinking, why were celluloid collars such a risk. While I assumed that being made from the same material as film, they would be flammable (thanks to a recent episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries for that realisation), but was the danger really that great? A Trove search found that yes they were a danger, and sometimes in the most innocent ways. One headline I found was “Killed by Collar of Fire” , another “Dangers of Celluloid”. I’ve read many accounts of the risks to ladies wearing full skirts around open fires and even sparks from buggy wheels catching an overhanging skirt, but celluloid collars, it seems, were the male equivalent.
Some Horsham children were lucky that the celluloid collar they were playing with didn’t cause more damage.
The photo below is of a Magic Lantern, but not a toy that the Portland boys had. For the purpose of the demonstration, the photo of the Magic Lantern was taken in daylight, but darkness was necessary to view the projected images.
The first installment of The Vagabond’s Picturesque Victoria in Western Victoria, introduced Portland of 1884 and reflected on the history of the area. The second installment sees the Vagabond, still in Portland and, on a tour of the town. He admires the Portland Botanic Gardens, soaks up the atmosphere of the Portland North cemetery and visits the inmates of the Portland Benevolent Asylum.
The first stop was St. Stephens Church, undergoing an extension at the time. The Vagabond noted the church’s opulence, much of it built from Henty money and a memorial stained glass window giving thanks for their generosity had been installed.
The Vagabond mentioned the left hand end of the church was boarded up for extensions and the ivy that gave the church an aged appearance. The image below would have been how the church looked in 1884, before the extension began and the church today (above)
Next, the Botanic gardens, the “pride of Portland”.
Local residents enjoyed strawberries growing at the back of the gardens but anyone trying to scale the garden’s fence faced ferocious dogs chained at intervals around the perimeter.
The time he spent imbedded at the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum, must have deepened The Vagabonds’ compassion for the unfortunates residing in such institutions. His visit to the Portland Benevolent society gives a most interesting insight into the life of the residents.
Nineteen men and one woman, residents at the time of the Vagabond’s visit, were eating supper of bread and butter and tea. Many were early arrivals to the colony and most had worked for the Henty family …”poor old fellows, they are remnants of a much despised class, not by any means all bad, good mates to each other, who bore the heat and burden of the early days of colonial life”
The Old Portland Cemetery had the same effect on the Vagabond as it did on me, even though we visited almost 130 years apart…”I love the place” he declared.
In 1884, if one was to remove the churches and public buildings from Portland, there would be little left, according to the Vagabond. There were ploughed paddocks in the city centre and cows grazing in the streets.
Fishing was the main trade in Portland when he visited, but The Vagabond could foresee a day when Portland would resemble Scarborough, England. He noted the relaxed feel of the town where ladies could visit and not feel they had to change up to four times a day, they even could wear their “oldest gowns”.
The photo below is of Portland’s beach around the 1940s. While villas weren’t lining the cliff tops as the Vagabond predicted, I think he would have been happy that his prophecy had eventuated in part.
With introductions out of the way in an earlier post, let’s join The Vagabond’s tour through the Western District for his Picturesque Victoria series. “The Cradle of Victoria No. 1” was the first of two articles about his first port of call, Portland.
Prior to reaching Portland, The Vagabond had travelled through parts of eastern Victoria and along the Murray River to Mildura. He then headed south, arriving in Portland in November 1884, just in time for the Henty Jubilee on November 19, celebrating 50 years since Edward Henty settled at Portland, then widely considered as the first permanent European settler at Portland. Overlooked was that whaler and sealer William Dutton who was feeling pretty settled in his hut in the years before 1834, growing potatoes between whaling trips…but that’s another story.
The article begins with an extensive history of Portland, from the first Europeans to sight land, up until the 1830s. He discusses the Portuguese, with a reference to the Mahogany ship, thought buried under the sands of a beach between Port Fairy and Warrnambool.
The Vagabond then turned his attention to the early 1830s and the arrival of the Hentys. He tells a story that I never tire of, that of the meeting between Edward Henty and Major Thomas Mitchell. The Vagabonds descriptive style makes his account my favourite to date.
Please excuse my photo of a sketch hanging at Portland’s History House depicting the meeting.
The last section of The Vagabond’s article describes Portland in 1884, starting with the transport available from Melbourne to Portland. We can take something from this for our family history research. We record our ancestors movements between towns or states, but it is easy to overlook how they may have made the trip or the time it took. While they seem to teleport on paper, there were more practical methods available.
Aside from bullock wagon, dray or foot, one could travel overland from Melbourne on the train, or take the coastal route on a steamer. The train trip from Melbourne, with stops at Geelong, Ballarat, Ararat and Hamilton, cost 45s. The trip was 13 hours. The ticket price of the steamer was “ridiculously low” according to The Vagabond, with a cabin priced at 12s 6d for passage only. Food was extra. The trip was 24 hours with stops at Warrnambool and Port Fairy. This was his transport of choice but he does suggest that those with a weaker stomach than his own may suffer “mal de mer”
While in Portland, The Vagabond, stayed at Richmond House, the Henty’s first home turned guest house. The following sketch, from 1884, the same year The Vagabond visited Portland, shows Richmond House at the top centre.
The Vagabond concludes:
This is another beautifully written article by The Vagabond and if you follow the link, you can read the article in full – “Picturesque Victoria – The Cradle of Victoria No. 1
The Vagabond was good enough to include his sources:
In my next Vagabond post, he will still be rocking around Portland, with a tour of the town he thought had an “atmosphere of bygone days”.
It’s been 18 months since our Portland visit and I’m still trying to find a moment to share some photos. Recently I got around to writing the Portland Botanical Gardens post that had sat in my drafts for months with just photos waiting to be fleshed out. It’s the fleshing out that is my downfall as you will see soon see.
While in Portland, I stole myself away and took the Portland Historic Buildings walking tour. Incredibly for a town of its size, there are more than 200 buildings in the Portland CBD that date back to the 1800s. It was on that self-guided tour that I found “Claremont” at 65 Julia Street, just along from the St Stephen’s Church.
I had only intended to share the photos of “Claremont” and give a small amount of information about the former residents, but as usual, once I got searching at Trove I couldn’t leave it at that. There was very little information about “Claremont” elsewhere online, save for an entry on the Victorian Heritage Database that only gave the person who had the house built and an early resident, information I had from the walking tour guide. But it was Trove that took the story of “Claremont” an extra step. Or two.
Stephen George Henty had “Claremont” built in 1852. He rented the property to his brother Francis, but Francis only used “Claremont” as his seaside residence while his country residence was “Merino Downs Station” and his city residence was “Field Place” at Kew in Melbourne.
As “Claremont” was not a permanent home there was not much to be found about it in the papers until 1889 when Francis Henty passed away at “Field Place“. He left “Claremont” and the furniture to his daughter Caroline Henty (1849-1914). As he was able to bequeath “Claremont“, formally owned by his brother , it is likely that Stephen Henty left the house to Francis at the time of his own death in 1872. I have not been able to find information about Stephen Henty’s estate at either PROV or Trove.
The three daughters of Francis Henty also inherited “Merino Downs”.
In 1900, the sisters registered a Deed of Partition and “Merino Downs” was split into three separate properties, “Merino Downs”, “Talisker” and “Wurt Wurt Koort” with each sisters retaining a property each. Caroline took charge of “Talisker Estate“ .
Caroline was quite a catch and a year after her father’s passing she married Alexander Magnus McLeod (1846-1910), not a bad catch himself. With Caroline and Alexander living at the “Talisker Estate”, Alexander’s spinster sisters Catherine (1845-1919) and Constance (1859-1934) and, at times, his bachelor brother Wallace (1855-1919) took up residence at “Claremont“.
The McLeods were the children of John Norman Mcleod and Agnes Patterson. John owned “Castlemaddie” at Tyrendarra and “Maretimo” at Portland. Incidentally, John purchased “Castlemaddie” and while he was waiting for the sale to go through, he had “Maretimo” built. Constance was born at “Maretimo” in 1859.
While I can’t find when Alexander McLeod’s siblings went to live at “Claremont“, at least one Miss McLeod was in residence in 1902, although she was heading off for a summer holiday.Another possible guide was the death of the McLeod sister’s mother Agnes Patterson in 1901. Her obituary stated she had moved into town from “Castlemaddie” and passed away in Julia Street.
There was also a death of a baby at “Claremont” in 1904. I did try to find a link between Phyllis Mary Crawford and the McLeods or the Hentys, but after a quick look without success, I gave up. The story was getting deep enough.
“Claremont” hosted the St. Stephen’s girls confirmation class in April 1909 as they gave thanks to Catherine and Constance for making their confirmation veils.
The Portland branch of the Australian Women’s National League was established during a meeting at “”Claremont” in January 1911.
Through the years, the McLeod sisters occasionally ran advertisements looking for staff. In 1912, a general servant was required.
In 1914, Caroline McLeod (Henty) passed away. Her probate documents listed “Claremont” and the two acres of land it stood on to the value of £160,000. Her estate was placed in trust for her two daughters Caroline Agnes Henty McLeod ( 1892-1943) and Alexandra Frances Henty McLeod (1894-1943) aged 22 and 20 respectively at the time of their mother’s death. In the meantime the girls’ aunts and uncle continued to live at “Claremont“.
In July 1919, Wallace McLeod passed away aged 64 at “Claremont“.
Two months later his older sister, Catherine was dead.
The death of her brother and sister in such close succession, led Constance to reconsider her future at “Claremont“. On June 9, 1920 she held a auction of furniture.
A week later, her friends gave her a send off in the St Stephen’s Parish Hall.
Constance was going on an extended holiday. She was most likely heading to New Zealand to stay with her sister Jessie, married to Frederick Loisel. Jessie was present at the send off and lived in New Zealand by that time.
In 1934, Constance passed away in New Zealand. She and her sister Jessie had just departed Hamilton, New Zealand bound for Portland for the Portland Century Celebrations, when Constance fell ill and died.
After the deaths of Wallace and Catherine and the departure of Constance, “Claremont” was vacant. In June 1920, the Estate of Caroline Henty, advertised “Claremont” for lease by tender with a term of three years.
There is something about the staircase in the foyer of “Claremont”. I think it is because I can imagine the likes of Mrs Mary-Ann Henty, wife of Francis, or her daughter Caroline, sweeping done the stairs in their crinolines while in summer residence. The State Library of Victoria holds a photograph of Caroline Henty in her crinoline, if you care to imagine further.
Taking up the lease of “Claremont” in 1920 was Caroline Florence McLean , daughter of Hector McLean and Mary Ann Humphries of Casterton. Only a year after her arrival another death occurred at “Claremont“, that of returned WW1 soldier Benjamin Byard. Reading Benjamin’s War Service Record I found that he only made it as far as England when he fell ill with tuberculous. He spent time in hospital in England before returning to Melbourne and was again confined. Once released he travelled to his hometown of Casterton to meet up with friends. It was suggested to him that he visit Portland and he ended up at the home of Caroline McLean.
When I initially found this story, I couldn’t understand how Ben just seem to pitch his tent in “Claremont’s” front yard. It was after finding out more about Caroline that I found her Casterton link and that went a long way to explaining how Ben chose her front yard to pitch his tent.
It was a happier time at “Claremont” in June 1922, when Maud McLean of Casterton, Caroline’s sister, married James Anderson of East Malvern, at St Stephens Church. The wedding breakfast was held at “Claremont”
After seven years at “Claremont” it was time for Caroline to move on. An afternoon tea was held as a send off. One of the attendees was Sarah Wadmore, author of Portland’s Pioneer Women’s Book of Remembrance.
After the departure of Caroline McLean, “Claremont” was put up for sale as a guest house.
By November 1927, “Claremont‘ was a guest house accommodating professionals such as Nurse Frances the Chiropodist.
There were vacancies at “Claremont in June 1929.
While I can’t find who owned “Claremont” at this point, I do know that Janet Kosch took over the registration of the boarding house in 1930. Prior to that there was a Mrs McIntosh and then Norman McIntyre holding the registration.
In 1934, the two acres of land that made up the “Claremont” property were subdivided. Again it is not clear who the vendor was, the Henty estate or a new owner from a possible sale back in 1927.
Mrs Kosch was still running the “Claremont” guest house in 1943 when her son visited her and her husband while on leave from service.
In 1948, after 18 years running the “Claremont” guest house, Mrs Kosch retired. She held a furniture sale on April 22, 1948. In 1952 she passed away at Heywood.
“Claremont” continued on as a guest house to at least 1954. In recent years it has been a bed and breakfast and an art gallery, as it was when I visited. It has also been for sale. The listing is seen on this link: http://www.homehound.com.au/65+julia+street+portland+vic+3305/ The verandah has changed and a photo of the original verandah can be seen on this link http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/72863
In at least the first 100 years of existence “Claremont” was many things but never a family home. There were never children raised under its roof or playing in the yard, memories were never kept of a treasured family home. It was always a temporary house, even when the Misses McLeods and Miss McLean where in residence, they were more out than in. Now. at the end of my search, I think the reason I kept digging for information is that I wanted to find “Claremont’ as a home, not a just summer residence or a guest house, but I never did.
The Western District has many historic botanic gardens, most established from the 1850s to the 1870s when it was the thing for a town to do, if nothing else, to keep up with the neighbouring town. For some it was scientific purposes, to acclimatise plants and sometimes animals, as with the Hamilton Botanic Gardens. There is a sense of history walking through each garden and the tall specimen trees such as oaks, redwoods and pines whisper the tales of times past.
The Portland Botanical Gardens, like the rest of the town, ooze history. Each botanic garden is unique in some way and Portland is no different and is unlike other gardens I have visited including Hamilton and Geelong.
Land for the gardens was first marked out in 1851, but it took a few years of public meetings for the gardens to be established. In 1853, the Honourary Secretary remarked on the “advantages of a botanical garden, and the study of botanical science”.
At a public meeting six months later, on February 4, 1854 chaired by James Blair, Stephen Henty proposed that a committee be formed to get the gardens up and running.
Works began in 1858, assisted by Alexander Elliot from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, however a lack of funds was slowing progress.
By November however, the gardens were beginning to take shape and the curator’s cottage was under construction.
In 1859, a letter to the Portland Guardian questioned the practice of allowing horses to graze in the gardens overnight. “Delta” wondered why the committee could keep their horses at the gardens while “the great unwashed are warned at the gate, Dogs not Admitted”
If you visit the Portland Botanical Gardens, look up at the tall trees and think of those that planted them or as you walk the paths consider the hands that carved them. The story behind these features is my favourite story about the gardens.
At a meeting of the Portland Historical Committee in 1932, the secretary told the story of the Chinese prisoners and their work at the Portland Botanical Gardens.
On the wall of the curator’s cottage is a plaque recognising previous curators of the gardens from the kindly William Allitt in 1861 through to Colin Ellingworth, curator from 1982-1987.
At one time both croquet and tennis were played at the gardens and there were often tensions between the two groups and any other group that hoped to share the space.
Croquet won out and is still played today. The tennis courts were converted to rose gardens. The rosary was first proposed in 1930 but it was 1931 before there was further action.
“Wandering Willie’s Wife” visited the Portland Botanical Gardens in 1926 and felt compelled to write a letter to the editor of the Portland Guardian on the subject of a nameless lifeboat on display in the gardens. Could it have been the lifeboat, captained by James Fawthrop, used to rescue survivors from the wreck of the S.S. Admella ? Why wasn’t there a name plaque?
Three years later, “Wandering Willie’s Wife” wrote to the editor again, prompted by the announcement that a “tablet” with the story of the lifeboat Portland would be placed beside the boat.
The lifeboat is now removed from the elements and is housed in the Portland Maritime Discovery Centre.
ABC Southwest broadcast a story about the Portland Botanic Gardens in March 2009. The story, including audio and better photos than my own (excluding the wonderful historic photos I found at Trove) can be found by following the link http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2009/03/26/2525642.htm