Many years ago, from the top deck of the bus on my way to school, I used to see the Thames marshes where the river broadens east of central London. Not surprisingly then I wallowed in this book’s perspective on the history and geography of the tidal River Thames like a “pig in mud”. I also learned about a field of human activity totally new to me. I discovered “mudlarking” has a long history. People have looked for things in the muddy foreshore for generations. Once it was a way to make a living for people on the fringes of society. Today it is the recreation of a determined few. Twice every day, as the tides sweep upstream and down churning, moulding and changing everything in their path over time, the “longest archaeological site in England” is refreshed and revealed. Lara Maiklem has been a “mudlarker” for decades and has investigated many locations. She relates the items she has found to the history of the river from the upstream tidal limit near genteel inner suburban Teddington lock area to the broad and bleak estuary off Southend-On-Sea. Near Westminster she found small pieces of a unique lead type from the days when printing was “typeset”, and printers recycled type. They placed letters in order in small boxes on shelves, the capital letters were put in boxes at the top shelf or “case” and other letters on the lower, hence the origins of the phrases “upper case” and “lower case”. On the foreshore near what was once the site of the Globe Theatre at Bankside south of the City of London, she found fragments of round pottery containers with slots in them in which people entering the theatre placed their entrance money. These “boxes” were then taken round to the “box office” by the ticket sellers. Maiklem also describes finds like the tiny links once used to hold chain mail together and made at the Tower of London. They were probably sluiced out of the royal military workshops in medieval times and can be found on the muddy foreshore outside—provided the mudlarker peers very closely. Sugar loaf moulds probably discarded from the kitchens at Greenwich palace in Tudor times are among the other objects she has found. The book is a beautifully written pen picture and is thoroughly recommended.
- Thank you to the almost 400 visitors to this blog in 2019. My best wishes to you all for Christmas and the New Year.
Lara Maiklem, “Mudlarking”, Bloomsbury Circus, 2019
This engraving [from Wikipedia] by Claes Visscher shows Old London Bridge in 1616. In the book reviewed the author explains how the bridge caused silting upstream and to get through the bridge arches meant shooting rapids. The water upstream also used to freeze in winter and there were regular ice fairs. ‘Finds’ like coins the tides reveal on today’s foreshore could date from that time.
This List which can be found on Trove [ https://trove.nla.gov.au/list?id=134604 ] is of items about C. J. [‘Jack’] De Garis’s ventures into property at Corio north of Geelong in the 1920s. As Item 1 in this List – the entry about him in the Australian Dictionary of Biography – describes, De Garis had a colourful life and background. As Item 2 shows, in the 1920s, Geelong [with its sea and rail access] became the site for Ford car assembly business. Its workers would need land on which to build homes. De Garis had been involved with several land development ventures elsewhere and duly became involved in a failed venture called the “Corio Garden Suburb” in the area just to the north of the factory site [Item 3]. In an article [Item 4] widely reprinted in different states, De Garis explained his continuing interest in the land north of Geelong as follows: “…1300 acres of ground at Corio, near Geelong which had been held by [his now defunct] Subdivisions Company, had been acquired by a number of interlocking syndicates, known as the “Ford Syndicate.” This syndicate had reaped the benefit of the expenditure in publicity and other things incurred by the company. He said he had discovered that 660 acres of land near the Geelong Grammar School and 321 acres on the other side of the estate, near the railway line, and both close to the Ford site, had been “overlooked,” and he had succeeded in obtaining options on both blocks by a number of independent land deals which he had made he had succeeded in raising sufficient money to pay deposits on the land…” Because of mounting debts, De Garis killed himself in August 1926.
However, the story has echoed down the years. The subdivided blocks of the “New Corio Estate” were sold in the 1970s. As is written in a 2013 news item – Item 16 in this List: “…The New Corio Independent Land Owners Group, set up last year, has been campaigning to overturn bans on building due to zoning restrictions. The estate comprises some 600 blocks of which many were sold around the 1970s by door-to-door salesmen to migrants unaware the land had not been zoned for residential buildings. Prices ran as high as $7000 at the time. The subdivision – situated on the east and west sides of Corio’s Shell Parade and next to Geelong Grammar School – was declared old and inappropriate by the State Ministry of Planning 30 years ago.” The area appears on street plans even though the local authority [now the City of Greater Geelong] says that the area is unsuitable for urban development. Some blocks are being bought by the Council from descendants of the original purchasers. The area is now designated grassland for conservation.
This post introduces a new List I have made on Trove entitled: “The Opening Year of the Geelong to Queenscliff Railway, 1879” The List includes articles on the opening day and the first year of operation of the Geelong to Queenscliff Railway in 1879. The opening day was a gala occasion with the Governor and various politicians [who were in the middle of a political stoush] welcomed by the citizens who had built two arches of tree fronds. The narrow-gauge line was built in less than a year across fairly level sandy terrain for reasons of defence against a potential Russian attack and also to encourage farming and other business in the district. By the end of the year excursionists from the gold mining district of Ballarat were already able to enjoy a holiday by the sea. One article recalls that in March 1879 a house caught fire and: “…The family were retiring for the night, and it was with some difficulty that the children were rescued from the burning house. The detachment of Victorian Artillery under Corporal Mullens, and some of the navvies from the railway works deserve great credit for their prompt assistance in rescuing life and property…”. However, the railway was never heavily used. Part of it remains in use as the wonderful Bellarine Railway a heritage tourism railway which connects Drysdale and Queenscliff, a monument to the endeavours of heritage railway enthusiasts over decades. There is also the Bellarine Rail Trail, a walking track from South Geelong Station diverging from the current railway line beside the Geelong racecourse along the route of the old railway to Drysdale. This section recalls the description in an article widely reprinted in newspapers across the Australian Colonies at the time: “…the train, a lengthy one, having about 3OO visitors of all sexes moved slowly out of the [Geelong] station through the long tunnel on the Colac line, and after travelling about a couple of miles branched off from it, taking a north-easterly direction…”
Item 3 in the List
In the First World War the engineer, tradesman, technician, and inventor in civilian life had to transfer skills and experience to unfamiliar military challenges. Geelong’s Gordon Technical College contributed many staff and current and former students to the war effort in a range of technical fields. Captain Edward John Howells had been a student of engineering drawing and had later taught in the same area. He had also had a senior position in the Commonwealth Patent Office in Melbourne. He was badly wounded serving as an Australian Engineer on the front line at Anzac in 1915 and returned to Australia. By 1918 his engineering skills were needed again, and he was commander of a pontoon bridging team which played a key role in the strategic crossing of the Jordan River in Palestine and he won the Military Cross. Howells’ story originally came to the attention of myself and my colleague Dale Kent, Records Manager, at The Gordon [the Gordon Institute of TAFE] in Geelong, when Dale received an enquiry from E. J. Howell’s grandson, Mr Rod Stewart of San Francisco, USA. Rod had done extensive family history research and had found news items in the Trove online database which referred to E. J. Howells’ time as both a student and a staff member with the Gordon. Rod wanted to know more about the courses the Gordon offered in Howells’ time. Rod had visited Palestine in 2008 in part seeking to retrace his grandfather’s footsteps in WW1 and he visited the site where D Train made its important contribution in 1918, see http://rodsdispatchesmiddeeast.blogspot.com.au. Rod’s blog is linked to the Australian War Memorial website at www.awm.gov.au/blog/2008/04/17/dispatch-from-a-grandson. Rod has also donated material to the RSL Library in Melbourne.
I have now made a Trove List of items related to Howells’s life and career which documents and brings to light his worthwhile contributions.
Ted Howells drives a bus manufactured at the Vulcan Foundry, Geelong, circa 1910 (R. Stewart).
Here is one more post before this blog takes its mid-year break. As Geelong grows and changes, quite a few old industrial premises are being demolished. In Lonsdale Street, South Geelong, for example, workshops and offices no longer needed by Barwon Water, our regional water supply authority, are being taken down. On the early Plan for the Parish of Corio [it can be downloaded from the Public Record Office of Victoria website but, warning, it takes a while], I saw that a small narrow block of land at the westerly end of the area being cleared had long ago been the location of the Geelong Butter Factory [as shown in the ‘dead centre’ of the map extract in the featured image above]. I started looking for resources online. There are quite a few newspaper articles but little other researched material. I decided the story would interest others and should be the subject for a List on the Trove website, the web address of which is shown in the references below.
In the introduction I wrote that the newspaper articles and websites contained are: “resources for the history of the Geelong and District Butter and Cheese Factory which was located from c. 1892 to c. 1910 in an unpretentious corrugated iron building on a tiny triangular block in Lonsdale Street, South Geelong right next to the South Geelong Railway station. The company was formed after public meeting of dairy farmers in 1892, and erected a small, corrugated iron building housing the churning and refrigerating machinery which received cream by daily train from creameries at Ceres, Inverleigh, Lara, Moorabool and Mount Moriac. Butter was sold both in the Colony of Victoria and in England under the “Fern leaf” brand, and early shipments earned good prices in London. There are regular articles describing the business’s annual general meetings in the Geelong Advertiser newspaper. A regular lament was insufficient supply of milk from a district in which only a few areas have regular high rainfall needed for sustained milk production. By 1909, the business was in liquidation and was closed. Prominent in its affairs had been local businessman and politician, H. F. Richardson who owned the “Exchange” where AGMs were held. Another cooperative butter factory was to start in Geelong in 1937. Much later the Lonsdale Street block was home to a greengrocer’s, and then it was the workshop of Barwon Asset Solutions prior to demolition in mid-2019.”
PROV – Parish Plan, Corio (Imperial) – http://access.prov.vic.gov.au
Trove List – “Geelong Butter Factory” – https://trove.nla.gov.au/list?id=131224
Extracted from Geelong, Parish of Corio, Parish Plan [see above]
When I was researching the history of my house and the neighbourhood, the Geelong Heritage Centre referred me to a page on the website of the State Library of Victoria which allows the researcher to access the digitised Sands and McDougall Directories. It took a while to learn, but a click of my mouse led me to the land use of local properties over decades. I ended up with the table below which shows for fifteen local properties that had changed land use, corner shops and industry had almost gone and the locality is more residential:
||Butcher [C. McKenna]
||Butcher [C. McKenna]
|South Geelong Police Station
||South Geelong Police Station
||Residential [6 units]
|Butcher [William Rogers]
||Residential [2 houses]
|Grocer [Eustace Martin]
||Grocer [Miss A. M. Little]
||* Page missing from scan
||Massage & Health
|Confectioner and grocer [Harry Cox]
||Confectioner and grocer [Harry Cox]
||Fast food & convenience store
|Atlantic Union Oil Co. [Oil Depot]
||Atlantic Union Oil Co. [Oil Depot]
||Esso [Bulk Fuel Depot]
||Station Car Park
|Briquette Depot [State Electricity Commission
||Briquette Depot [State Electricity Commission
||Briquette Depot [State Electricity Commission
||Part-Station Car Park and part-residential [28 town houses]
||Part -Station Car Park
|Foundry [J. Dyson & Co. Pty. Ltd]
||Foundry [J. Dyson & Co. Pty. Ltd]
||Foundry [J. Dyson & Co. Pty. Ltd]
||Residential [6 houses]
|Robert W. Hill [Engineering]
||Robert W. Hill [Engineering]
||Robert W. Hill [Engineering]
|Grocer [ J. O’Halloran]
||Grocer [ Miss M. Diamond]
||Grocer [ Mrs. B. Holden]
|Grocer [Thos. Hindson]
||Grocer [J. A. McGregor]
||Grocer [R & N Trevorrow]
|Station Master’s House
||Station Master’s House
||Station Master’s House
||Child Care Centre
The Yarra Street milk bar continues to serve our local area.
Not far from our house is the car park for commuters from South Geelong Station. From 1928 till demolition in 1990, part of the site was sheds for the Victorian State Electricity Commission’s [SEC] Geelong briquette depot. The Melbourne Museum’s SEC Collection web page, the second item on my new Trove List, Briquettes and Geelong, https://trove.nla.gov.au/list?id=126043 , has plenty of images of briquette production and retail sales and is a good place to start with this topic. The SEC no longer exists [ it was broken into bits in the 1990s to create an “electricity market”], and briquettes, from the 1930s to 1970s a mainstay for industries and domestic heating and kitchens, are now scarcely used, replaced in part by natural gas. The SEC was formed in 1919 to exploit Victoria’s brown coal and hydro power resources and to cut reliance on black coal shipped from New South Wales. A power station was built at Yallourn in the Latrobe Valley and a hydro-electricity generation complex in the Kiewa Valley and networks of high voltage transmission lines were built across the State. Brown coal would be uneconomic to transport it in its natural form, being naturally wet and requiring a sharp reduction in its high moisture content before it will burn. Using technology derived from Germany, a briquetting plant was built at Yallourn. Wet coal was brought by conveyor from the open cut mine and dried by a blast of hot air. What followed is described lyrically in the first history of the SEC written in 1949: “…And now comes the amazing transformation. The mould, very slightly tapered away from the press plunger, is filled with the requisite quantity of warm, powdered brown coal. The plunger exerts upon it a pressure of 250 tons. And the contents of the mould are pressed out, no longer a brown powder, but a solid, hard, shiny briquette. No binding agent is used. The heat of the coal, the slight moisture content, and the pressure are sufficient”. Geelong’s power station was fired for many years with briquettes transported via South Geelong. Small-scale electricity generating plants were superseded as SEC power was connected to the remotest communities. The SEC also ran trams in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
The South Geelong briquette depot, circa 1990, just before demolition. Source: Public Records Office of Victoria, GVRDO5767, Briquette depot – Railway Siding – South Geelong, 2 Files: VPRS 18094/P0016/9 and VPRS 18094/P0016/30.
Page 138, SEC (1949), Three Decades: the story of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria…to 1948, Hutchinson