Trove Tuesday – Wangaratta 1863 – Part 5

Following on from the last Trove Tuesday we continue reading an account of Wangaratta published in the Ovens & Murray Advertiser (O&MA) in January 1863.

The progress of the town, although gradual, is very marked, and those buildings in course of erection are all brick, of which material the town principally consists. The antiquated structures of bark and slab have, by happy degrees, yielded to the ravages of time, and been replaced by more durable specimens of architecture ; a conspicuous instance being the lock-up, a commodious erection, secure and well ventilated ; spoken of in the highest terms by many of its ‘ habitues,’ and recently substituted for a combination of green hide, bark, slabs, nails, and iron hoop ; a structure which, having acted as kitchen to a former resident, was promoted to do duty as a lock-up for some six years, and was one time actually proclaimed a Gaol.

Reading this part of the article one can see how inadequate the protection of residents of the Wangaratta district from criminals was until the early 1860s. Certainly the authorities thought initially that a bark shack was adequate, as prisoners were also handcuffed or chained up inside this ‘lockup’. As the goldfields around Beechworth expanded things changed dramatically. More travellers came through Wangaratta, and the town prospered and grew in line with the burgeoning economy, requiring a way of containing more prisoners in more than a humpy. Wangaratta was also proclaimed the site of a Court of Petty Sessions in 1851. Accommodation for attendees of the court from all areas around the town had to be provided and tenders were called for the same year.

Tender  lockup, The Argus, 22 May 1851

Like the story of the various Court House buildings, the police lockup was a story of false starts. Tenders were called for a lockup several times. In May 1855 F. Ryley was awarded the contract to erect a lockup and in 1857 another tender was awarded to E. Chambers to erect an iron lockup. In August 1858 another contract was awarded to Smith, Banks and Cranston, to build a lockup at a cost of £170. Still the lockup didn’t get built or the one already in existence was beyond capacity and tenders were again called in December 1859. The newspaper report of 1863 indicates that the town wasn’t successful in getting an adequate lockup until around 1862.

The location of the hide, slab and bark lockup building is not known. Having been a kitchen at one time, it must have been closely connected with an early house. The lockup could have been on the same block as the police camp on the corner of Murphy and Faithfull Streets, or at the Police Office. The Police Office was originally on a peculiar triangular piece of land (later absorbed into the market and still later the King George Memorial Gardens) on the corner of Ovens and Templeton Streets. It had a direct line of sight to the punt over the Ovens River, to the market reserve, and to William Henry Clark’s Hope Inn. Police could see who was coming and going in and out of the town, and in and out of my ancestor’s pub!

Wangaratta, 1857 by Surveyor Wedge

Wangaratta, 1857 by Surveyor Wedge

Not surprisingly, the early bark lockup featured in several adventures, or rather misadventures in the town, not the least of which occurred in 1855.

The man Macnamara, whose capture I reported in my last communication, …  effected his escape out of the lock-up here on the same night of his incarceration. It is not known at what hour he made his unceremonious exit ; but thus much is known, that about half-past five o’clock on Thursday morning last, as Mr. Cook was proceeding to his work at Mr. Millard’s new building [Royal Victoria Hotel], his attention, when passing the lock-up was attracted to a hole in the roof of that substantial and truly architectural edifice. Mr. Cook fancying the hole had been recently made, and that some foul play had been at work during the night, naturally inquired of Lieutenant Hare’s* servant, a Chinaman, who happened to be close by, whether there were any prisoners in the lock-up, and, if so, how many ? The celestial gentleman replied ” three,” but on his going to the window of the cage to ascertain if the birds were all there, he to his utter astonishment found that one (Macnamara) had flown. Rose, the lock-up keeper, who was comfortably enveloped in the arms of the drowsy god, was at once aroused, and in less than half an hour Lieutenant Hare and all his subordinates were fully accoutered and seen wending their way in different directions in pursuit of the fugitive. … From what I can learn, he had been securely hand cuffed to a chain in the usual way, and this, I presume, was supposed by the Government at Wangaratta to be quantum sufficit for his safe keeping. Should this be the case, I for one beg to differ with them, and at the same time to tell them that when such characters as Macnamarra are in their custody, and when the interest of their paymasters, the people, is so deeply involved they should invariably place a sentinel on the lock-up, knowing as they do that it is a most miserable and dilapidated fabric, and quite unfit for the retention of the most harmless prisoner.

*Lieutenant Hare was Francis Augustus Hare who became a Superintendent of police and was involved in the capture of bushranger Harry Power in 1870 and the Kelly gang at Glenrowan in 1880. Hare’s involvement with Kelly’s capture was symbolic rather than practical as he was wounded in wrist in the first volley fired by Ned Kelly. This 1855 incident would also have looked rather embarrassing on his record. This image of Hare is courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

The lockup building however, wasn’t the only thing amiss with law and order in the district. The police themselves were sometimes a problem to the residents as shown by this report of January 1853.

This morning the Lock-up-house-keeper of  Wangaratta was charged by the Chief Constable of that place with having been intoxicated while on duty last Tuesday night and with allowing a prisoner in his charge at the time to be drunk also, and at large on the station. The case was heard by Mr. Smyth, Resident Commissioner and Mr. Harper, Police Magistrate. The prisoner was sentenced to forfeit the wages due to sum £4 8s, and to be discharged from his office. Mr Smyth stated in court, that he had received a serious charge of drunkenness and misbehaviour against several of the Wangaratta Constables including the Lock-up-keeper from Lieutenant Christian of the mounted patrol, and that … the matter would be strictly investigated. The establishment of the new police of the Colony will, it is to be expected, bring the constables of the different townships on the road into a better state of discipline. The presence of the expected resident Police Magistrate at Wangaratta will (if a suitable man be appointed) be of great service to the travelling public.

Tenders were also called annually for people to provide rations for both prisoners and police horses. This is a good way of finding your ancestors in early records as this information, if not published in newspapers, was always published in the Government Gazette available online.

1856 politics Wangaratta style

The political and social alignments of the early residents of Wangaratta have long fascinated me. Who socialised or was in business with whom, was an indicator of town and sometimes family dynamics. While there were clearly divisions in Wangaratta, they were often not as rigid as we might imagine when viewing the mid 19th century though our 21st century lens. An example of this is that townsfolk of all persuasions contributed to various church funds and attended the ceremony for the laying of foundation stones for what we may now think of as a rival church. In a developing ‘settler society’ everyone was aware that the prosperity of the town, and therefore of their own business, depended on strong town growth. Non developing or small towns were often overshadowed by more highly developed places and diversity was the key to successful growth. As illustrated in my Trove Tuesday posts about Wangaratta, published in 1863 in the Ovens & Murray Advertiser, there was a lot at stake and township rivalry was rife. Having a sympathetic and active representative in Melbourne was a key ingredient for town success.

The post today is about an appeal in September 1856 by residents of the Eastern Province for James Stewart to stand for election to the Legislative Council in the first Victorian Parliament which met on the 21st November 1856. Stewart was elected to the Eastern Province of Victoria which covered around 40 percent of the colony. He remained one of the members until his untimely death in August 1863.

Victorian Legislative Council provinces 1856

While in office Stewart rubbed shoulders with the likes of Stephen and James Henty, pioneers of Portland, and John Pascoe Fawkner.

John Pascoe Fawkner, oil on canvas by John Kemp 1877, courtesy of State Library of Victoria

James Henty, daguerrotype c1855, courtesy State Library of Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Pascoe Fawkner did not, however, impress some Wangaratta residents, particularly the outspoken and firey Irishman, Michael Cusack. In 1858 the Hon. Benjamin Williams (also representing the Eastern Province) travelled to Wangaratta to nominate for his expired seat. Standing against Williams for nomination was William Pearson. Both men made speeches to a small, unruly crowd from the first floor balcony of Meldrum’s Wangaratta Hotel. At stake was a Land Bill which the people hoped would force squatters off their huge leases and open up land for sale or selection in smaller holdings. Michael Cusack supported Williams against Pearson, who he claimed was a stooge of Gippsland squatters. Alexander Tone attempted to speak in support of the liberal minded Williams but was prevented by John Goodman the returning officer, who ruled that speeches were only allowed by the candidates, their nominators and seconders.  

Mr. MICHAEL CUSACK endeavoured to point out to the Returning Officer that there was a precedent for the course taken by Mr. Tone, and we understood Mr. Cusack to say that it was permitted at the nomination of the billygoat Fawkner.

These types of public declarations of political loyalty were quite common (as were the hilarious insults) and many candidates were reluctant to stand unless they could be assured of significant support. A show of hands in the above nomination gave Williams 44 votes and Pearson only one vote.

In a local history context political petitions are useful research tools to locate people, particularly if the subscribers were not actually enrolled to vote. Below is a transcription of the published request for James Stewart to stand for election in 1856. I cross referenced the names with the 1856 electoral roll and have listed in square parentheses the full name and occupation of the Wangaratta petitioners, as recorded on the electoral roll.

1856 'Election Notices.', 'Election Notices', The Argus, 6th September, 1856, p. 6

‘Election Notices’, The Argus, 6th September, 1856, p. 6

Election Notices.
TO JAMES STEWART, Esq., of Melbourne. Sir,-We the undersigned Electors of the Eastern Province respectfully request you to represent us in the Legislative Council.
From your long residence in this colony, your unvarying assiduity in business matters, and your general intelligence as to public affairs, we feel convinced that we shall have every reason to be satisfied with our choice of yourself to fill this important post.

Jacob Vincent [farmer]
Thos Millard [Thomas Millard, publican, Royal Victoria Hotel]
W. Clark * [William Henry Clark, publican, Commercial Hotel]
W. A. Dobbyn [William Augustus Dobbyn, surgeon]
James Meldrum *? [publican, Wangaratta Hotel]
Edward Lucas [storekeeper, store in Reid St]
Michael Cusack * [auctioneer]
Patrick Flanigan [carrier]
John Foord [builder, house in Baker St]
John Moore * [farmer]
John Crisp * [yeoman, Royal Hotel, tenant W. Murdoch, Wangaratta]
Andrew Swan [blacksmith]
Jackson Orr [carrier]
James Woodland (his mark), [carrier], Witness – W. J. Disher
Edmund Batchelor [Edward Batchelor, farmer]
Thos. Wells [Thomas Wells, not on 1856 electoral roll]
Thomas Clark * [publican, Violet Town]
Richard Clarke * [publican, Benalla]

The 1856 electoral roll for Victoria is available on-line on a subscription basis. Men (only) qualified to be placed on the electoral roll if they met certain criteria, the most common of which was that they owned freehold land. Most of the 74 men recorded on this petition came from the Wangaratta, Beechworth, and Seymour electoral divisions. A few men in the Wangaratta division were registered to vote but did not sign the petition. These were: Samuel Evans, storekeeper; George Gray, squatter; Edward Green, squatter ; Thomas Learmont, storekeeper in Murphy St; William Middleton, farmer; Edward Sainthill Pearse, chemist in Murphy St; Cooper Searle, officiating minster, Church of England. I wonder if this indicates that they held opposing views to the majority who did sign the petition to Stewart or if they just weren’t around when the petition was circulated.

Men who are related to me are indicated by an * in the above article are. I have included Thomas Clark from Violet Town and Richard Clarke [sic] from Benalla as they are brothers of my great great great grandfather William Henry Clark. I need to do further research to confirm if James Meldrum’s wife Mary Leacy is related to me via her mother.

Doing business in 1873

A few weeks ago I was able to peruse early copies of The Dispatch and North Eastern Advertiser. This was the newspaper that John Rowan commenced in the early 1860s as the Wangaratta Dispatch. Rowan had moved on to Wahgunyah where he died in July 1873 but the newspaper had already been purchased by George Searle and Angus McKay in June 1872.

These were the days when office spaces were rare and it was the norm to find (respectable!) businesses based in hotels. Below are just a few of the advertisements from page one of two editions from October 1873 that relate to Wangaratta. There are ads for some of the smaller hotels and interesting businesses and some give clues as to when their businesses were first begun or when they arrived in town.

First up the population needed refreshment. Note that both John Dodsworth and Bridget Jarvis both reminded the community that they had previously been in business in the town. Dodsworth must have been responsible for many of the hangovers in town, having been brewing there since early 1870.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The population needed clothing and hairdressing. Mrs Chandler was possibly the wife of George Chandler whose drapery business became insolvent earlier in 1873. I’m not sure what the locals thought of that. William Meldrum’s store was part of the long history of the Callanders/Coles allotments on Murphy Street. Situated on a block originally purchased from the Crown by James Woodland, Meldrum sold out to Harrison Bros & Kettle around 1890. After fire destroyed the shop in 1909 the four owners who sold out to Callander & Forer. William McGain notes his premises as being next to Meldrum’s in Murphy Street. He also noted that he was near The Dispatch offices in Murphy Street. The newspaper moved around quite a bit with at least two locations in Reid Street after this time. This is perplexing as it must have been a mammoth task to move a printing press.

wang dis 15101873 p1 Woodhead tailor

They needed housing.

wang disp 15101873 p1 no5 Grant

They needed to educate their children.

They needed men to assist them get in or out of trouble.

wang dis 15101873 p1Gray auctioneerwang dis 15101873 p1 Norton & Notcutt solicitors

wang dis 15101873 p1 ToneAnd they needed men to despatch them. Thomas Swan’s business was situated on south western end of Murphy Street. Swan married my relative Elizabeth Cook, a daughter of Christopher Cook, a bricklayer whom we met here and here. I particularly like that to arrange a funeral with William Simpson, a bereaved party had to attend his office situated, albeit temporarily, in the premises of McKeone Bros., bookseller’s. One wonders if coffin selections could be browsed alongside the books.

wang dis 15101873 p1 swan undertakerwang dis 15101873 p1 Simpson undertakerOf course these were not the only businesses in town. They are merely a small selection  from the front page of a few editions of the ‘Dispatch & North Eastern Advertiser’ published in October 1873.

Wareena and the Ned Kelly connection

I don’t usually go in for gratuitous mentions of Ned Kelly but he has left a legacy all around the north east of Victoria and south east of New South Wales so can’t be ignored. Mentions of him pop up in the most unlikely places and today’s mention is in relation to a property known as Wareena.

Wareena is a double storey house at 17 Swan St Wangaratta, opposite Wareena Park. The park includes a football/cricket oval and is home to the Wareena Park Bowls Club and the Wangaratta swimming pool. The position of the house, set well back on the block, makes it quite unobtrusive and perhaps not quite as well known as it should be. The prompt to explore the history of this house was a For Sale notice found on Domain.com.au.

Wareena 13 Swan St From Domain.com.au

Wareena 13 Swan St From Domain.com.au

Wareena, was built in the 1920s probably for Edwin Richard Living and his wife Johanna (nee Tuson). Edwin Living was the manager of the Bank of New South Wales in Murphy Street from 1889 until his retirement in July 1918. After his death in 1936 Edwin’s widow Johanna lived in the house until her own death in1943. Their daughters Sylvia Olver (a bookkeeper) and Constance Nellie (a nurse) continued the family connection with Wareena until at least 1949.

The connection of Edwin Living to Wareena Park, his huge contribution to Wangaratta and how he is linked to Ned Kelly is best told in his obituary.

The death of Mr. Edwin Richard Living, which occurred at his home,Wareena,’ Swan-street, Wangaratta, early on Saturday morning, removed one who has been prominent in the business and public life of Wangaratta during the past 47 years. Mr. Living, who would have reached his 80th year next month, suffered only a brief ill- ness. Born at Castlemaine, he was the son of the late Richard Living. He entered the service of the Bank of New South Wales there in 1873, and was afterwards stationed at Melbourne and Adelaide, and then at Wilcannia. Next he went to Jerilderie, and was there when the Kellys raided the bank. As Ned Kelly was leaving he handed Mr. Living a letter, which he requested should be published. In this letter Ned Kelly is reputed to have told his story, and averred that he had been harassed by the police. From Jerilderie Mr. Living went to Ararat and Malmsbury, and then came to Wangaratta in 1889, and was manager here for nearly 30 years, until he retired in 1918. During his long residence at Wangaratta Mr. Living was prominently associated with many public bodies, and had given excellent public service. He was for a long period a member of the committee of the Wangaratta Agricultural and Pastoral Society, being president for seven years in succession. Mr. Living’s active interest in the Wangaratta Turf Club also extended over a long period, during which time he was a committeeman. He was treasurer of the racecourse trustees for many years. Mr. Living was treasurer of the Borough of Wangaratta and its subsidiary bodies, and on his retirement he was appointed Government nominee on the Wangaratta waterworks trust. He was for many years a member of the committee and for some years president of the Wangaratta Free Library, and was a foundation member of the Bowling Club. Mr. Living took an active part in the establishment of the Wangaratta Woollen Mills, and was a director of the company for a long period. He was also chairman of directors of the Wangaratta Flour Mills Co., to which position he gave much time. Mr. Living was always interested in racing, and during his residence in N.S.W. was part-owner of some race horses. Mr. Living leaves a widow, who is the daughter of the late James Tuson, a pioneer of Ararat, one son, Mr. R. M. Living (of Messrs. Murdoch and Living, solicitors), and two daughters, Miss Sylvia Living (Wangaratta) and Miss Constance Living (Melbourne).

You can see a copy and transcript of Edwin Living’s letter about how Ned Kelly gave him the Jerilderie Letter at the Public Record Office of Victoria.

Corinya – home of the Callander family

Corinya, home of the Callander family, well known in Wangaratta for their Big Store (later Coles) in Murphy Street is up for sale. Images of the house and details including that it has a maid’s bedroom can be found on the Stockdale and Leggo advertisement here.

Corinya – 8 Taylor Street

Located now at 8 Taylor Street in the west end, Corinya was built by solicitor Cornelius Joseph Ahern. Then on 45 acres, it was situated on the boundary of the Borough on the unimaginatively named Boundary Road. In 1913 Ahern sold the property to “the Revd. Fr Byrne for the Roman Catholic Church authorities who intend to use the property for scholastic purposes”. This venture either did not get off the ground or was short lived, as by March 1915 the Callanders were in residence at Corinya. Until the early 1920s the house was the scene of society parties Julia and William Callander held. The staff of Callanders store also enjoyed Christmas Day parties at the house, complete with tennis, billiards and cards tournaments.

Corinya interior

Corinya interior

Callander’s business life began as Callander and Forer in partnership with Charles Forer, the brother of Julia Callander. William Callander was a businessman instrumental in efforts to diversify and increase the economic well being of Wangaratta. He was one of the founding shareholders and directors of the Wangaratta Woollen Mills Limited in 1919 when efforts were afoot to create a mill in the town. Two of Callander’s daughters, Mary Alma and Elena (Lena) Agnes, became famous for dropping advertising leaflets for the Woollen Mills from a biplane. See a wonderful video about this here.

By 1922 Corinya was owned by grazier Osman Valentine Summers and then in 1924 by C.C. Rossiter who sold it on to R. Tyzack. In 1929 it was turned into a hostel for Presbyterian secondary school age boys run by Godfrey and Ellen Spencer. Godfrey was a teacher at the Wangaratta Technical School and Ellen acted as the matron. This must have been a short lived venture as the home was in the hands of the Robbie family by the early 1940s.

The Tippet family and World War One

An interesting piece in the Border Mail about the Tippet family in Wangaratta.

Percy’s spot sheds its full stop on Tippet family tree

A small reserve of land on the corner of Tone Road and Green Street has been named Percy Tippet Reserve in honour of Percy Albert Tippet who died in World War One.

Tippet plaque kindly photographed by Keith Leslie

Tippet plaque kindly photographed by Keith Leslie

Percy, a railway porter, was born in Wangaratta in 1895 to Alfred Tippet and Fanny Kneebone. He enlisted at Richmond signing his surname as Tippett. One of the first to answer the call, Percy enlisted on the 17th August 1914 less than two weeks after the declaration of war. Percy may have been influenced by his year in the junior cadets and one year in the 56th Infantry.

Sadly Percy did not see out much of the war,  being wounded at the Dardenelles in the disastrous attack on the Turks on the first day of the campaign, 25th April 1915 – the original ANZAC day. Percy died from his wounds a few days later aboard the transport ship Seang Choon and was buried at sea. The following image shows troops on a destroyer, having just alighted from the Seang Choon and heading for the catastrophic battle we now commemorate on ANZAC Day. Percy may have been amongst them.

Troops just alighted from the transport ship Seang Choon, in a destroyer heading for the beaches of the Dardenelles. Courtesy Australian War Memorial

The Man Who Wrote His Own Death Certificate

How many of us can claim that the information on a death certificate is as accurate as if the deceased gave the information themselves? The subject of the following post is interesting on a whole host of levels, not the least of which is the fact that he filled out his own death certificate. Many readers will now be wishing it was their ancestor (John Thomas Coates I’m thinking of you!) whilst also wondering how such a thing could occur.

William Edward Barnes was the curator of the Free Library in Murphy Street, Wangaratta from 1902 until 1914. His wife Eliza Ruth (nee Floyd) assisted in the book room of the library. Barnes was also from 1908 until 1916 the Registrar of Births and Deaths. This activity was carried out in a room at the rear of the original library building. When your relatives went to the Registrar to register a birth or death, it was in one of the rooms of the old library building. It was Barnes who shared every joy and tragedy of the townsfolk, and of my ancestors. Near the beginning of his incumbency he registered the death in November 1908 of my great great grandfather William Moore, Clerk of the Wangaratta racecourse and horse trainer. Months before his own death in 1916 Barnes registered the birth of my grandmother Alma Caroline Moore, granddaughter of William Moore and daughter of Caroline Ann Moore. Alma’s birth was a joyous occasion but William had been thrown his horse and met a gruesome and untimely death. Barnes was an essential part of the process that all family historians rely on, and it must have been a very difficult job at times. He could not baulk at hearing about a murder or a stillborn child. He had to congratulate a new father on one hand and then shortly after commiserate with a young widow. He had to hear it all and he had to prevent emotion from clouding his actions as he recorded these important documents, and as he guided informants through the legal process.

Wangaratta free libraryBarnes took his role as Registrar very seriously, as he did his work as curator of the library. After his wife Eliza Ruth (nee Floyd) died in May 1911, 70 year old William seems to have gone down hill. He most likely was both the registrar and the informant for his wife’s death certificate, a truly traumatic thing to go through. He had three surviving children out of five. His only surviving daughter lived at Glenrowan and he had fallen out with his youngest son Edward who lived in Melbourne. It is possible he was also estranged from his oldest surviving son Donald as he enlisted in Sydney in August 1914 shortly after the declaration of what became known as World War One. All of this must have weighed heavily on the aging man and in December of 1914 William resigned as curator of the library explaining that “the duties needed too close attention, and this was affecting his health. He intended to devote his time to carrying out his other duties as registrar of births, deaths and marriages. The resignation was accepted with regret and a minute was placed on the books of the committee of the Free Library “expressing appreciation of the services rendered by Mr. Barnes. Committeemen spoke favourably of the courteous, methodical and painstaking manner in which he had discharged his duties.”

So William had been wearing two hats – that of curator of the Free Library and Registrar of Births and Deaths, both of which required attention to detail and were most fitting for a respectable gentleman in his twilight years. But William had also experienced a colourful past and he had taken part in, and had been an observer of  the life of Wangaratta since at least 1875 – as a photographer. Despite being a photographer in the town for 33 years, very little of his work remains in the public domain, and sadly no self portraits or images of his family.

The following photo is attributed to Barnes but all the other details on the Museum Victoria catalogue are incorrect. State School no.1962 was Docker’s Plains, not Wangaratta. Until late 1877 this school was a Catholic school no. 832 so can’t date before that period (the school number is clear in the on-line version). The clothing of the children dates the image to the late 1870s and Barnes didn’t arrive in Victoria until 1870.

Docker's Plains SS late 1870s.This photo of Bontharambo, the Docker family home, held by the State Library of Victoria is attributed to Barnes (1884-1889) but no further information is available about the image. Perhaps a Bontharambo buff could date the photo by aspects of the building?

Bontharambo by Barnes c1884-1889

Bontharambo by Barnes c1884-1889

Barnes gained his greatest fame, not from schools, wealthy landowners or ordinary people sitting for their portraits, but from the Kelly gang. Barnes took photographs of the police who played significant roles in the capture of Ned Kelly in 1880. In what have become iconic images, Constable Bracken and Sergeant Steele were portrayed variously as conquering heroes – guns to the fore – and also as gentlemen. Sub-Inspector O’Connor who was in charge of the Queensland trackers chose only to be depicted as a gentleman. The main police in the contingent were posed displaying their weaponry in a manner reminiscent of hunters, but fairly typical for the time.

Wangarattta police contingent Kelly gang capture by Barnes 1880

Wangarattta contingent of police at Kelly gang capture 1880 photographed by Barnes

Constable Bracken by Barnes, courtesy State Library of Victoria

Constable Bracken by Barnes, courtesy State Library of Victoria

One of Barnes’ more interesting portraits is that of a youthful Steve Hart, a member of the Kelly gang. After the police shootings at Stringybark Creek in 1878, Barnes remembered Hart as one of his subjects and was able to forward police an image of him, taken in 1877 or 1878.

Steve Hart c1878 by Barnes, courtesy State Library of Victoria

Steve Hart c1878 by Barnes, courtesy State Library of Victoria

Astutely, Barnes registered the Kelly related photographs with the Victorian Patents Office. These important images survive in the collection of the State Library of Victoria because of this action. Although Barnes must have taken a huge number of studio portraits in Wangaratta from around 1875 until he ceased work in 1908, relatively few survive in public collections. These examples are important, not only as relics of the Kelly era, but of Barnes’ professional work.

On the morning of his death on the 15th June 1916 William Edward Barnes made out a will leaving his £28 estate to his estranged son Edward before carefully completing his own death certificate. The only part of the certificate Barnes appeared to leave blank was the date and place of burial and the name of the registrar, although he had recorded his own occupation as “Registrar of births and deaths.” In the column for recording the cause of death he carefully wrote “gun shot wound self inflicted”.

There is so much more to write about the life of William Edward Barnes. He witnessed and recorded some of the most exciting (and undoubtedly frightening) times Wangaratta saw. Sadly his obituary focused on the manner of his death, largely ignoring his contribution to Wangaratta.

If anyone has any images taken by W. E. Barnes, or any other Wangaratta based photographers I would love to hear from you. I am creating a database of early Wangaratta photographers and need information from private collections to fine tune dates.