Posted on Leave a comment

Frederick Strange, View of Launceston from Sandhill c.1858

Frederick Strange - View of Hobart Town circa 1850

An important Freshly Discovered Colonial work of art by a notable Convict Artist.

This small but detailed watercolour was recently discovered in a Geelong residence. It is no surprise that it turns out to be an important piece of colonial art: it comes directly from the collection of Clifford Craig, the great early collector of Australiana.

Frederick Strange was born in 1807, and claimed to be a ‘portrait and house painter’ from Nottingham, according to records from 1837 when he was arrested for robbery in Colchester. This involved the theft of a number of items from a number of shops, including silver spoons and a gold pocket watch which he was wearing when arrested.

The name ‘Frederick Strange’ may well have been an alias given to the court at this time. Sentenced to Transportation for Life to Van Diemans Land, he was sent on board the ‘Neptune’ late 1837, and arrived in Hobart in early 1838. He was initially ‘unassigned’ – most other convicts were given work in the local region – but an article in the Colonial Times in 1840 shows he was ‘assigned to Mr Woodcock Graves’.

Note: this evidence has apparently been overlooked by previous researches: we have discovered a report in an 1840 Tasmanian paper that adds a fascinating context for the early years of Frederick Strange in Tasmania.

John Woodcock Graves had arrived in Hobart in 1833, and set up a business which advertised itself as able to ‘repair, paint, and varnish carriages, undertake Portrait Miniature and Heraldic painting in Oil and Water, as well as undertake House, Sign and Ornamental Painting’. Strange being assigned to this business was logical, considering his claimed background in England.
However…. things were not good at the Graves establishment.
In the early 1840’s, John W Graves spent some time in the Debtors Goal and Hospital for the Insane at New Norfolk.
This is probably directly related to the 1840 Colonial Times report (above), where despite Strange’s good behaviour & hard work, he claimed Graves was irrational – “so outrageous that the man (ie Strange) is in fear for his life….” .

Colonial Times, Tasmania 1840

Frederick Strange appeared to claim the protection of the Government, he being assigned to Mr. Woodcock Graves.
It appeared from his statement that he is an artist, and that he has, ever since he has been assigned to Mr. Graves, been the principal support to the family, and entirely so at the time Mr Graves was away at Sydney; and although he had been at all times unremitting in his endeavours for the family, his master was in the habit of beating him, and has latterly become so outrageous , that the man is in fear of his life; his worship very properly returned him to Government.

Colonial Times, Hobart, 1 December 1840

Soon after Frederick Strange had been ‘returned’, John Woodcock Graves was sent to the “Debtors Goal and Hospital for the Insane at New Norfolk” – for ‘insanity, although probably also edging on the status of ‘Debtor’ if Strange’s claims of being the one who did all the work in the business was true. Frederick Strange is recorded in 1841 as being employed as a ‘Government messenger’, and granted a ‘pass’ of freedom the same year. He set himself up for a respectable life in Launceston as a portrait painter and art teacher.

In a newspaper report in June 1843, he describes himself as ‘…a prisoner of the Crown, employed as a watchman at the Female House of Correction…’ . This article is an interesting read, describing a moment of drama he found himself mixed up in one day in Launceston:

The irony is remarkable: In England, Frederick Strange had been convicted for theft, the key item identified as a pocket watch; transported to Tasmania, he was then witness to the opportunistic theft of four pocket watches, by soldiers no less, and gave chase, so when the shop assistant caught up with them, Frederick Strange was standing there with them in his hands… having picked them up after the thieves ran straight towards him and threw them on the ground just three yards away!
The soldiers were sentenced to ‘transportation for life’ – and one made the enigmatic remark “I am much obliged to you, and would be happy to do the same for you.” Perhaps there is more to this story than meets the eye…?

Frederick Strange received his ‘ticket of leave’ in 1845, and a conditional pardon in 1849. Throughout the 1850’s he was actively painting and exhibiting his works, while always looking for commissions. He seems to have found favour amongst the Scottish community, and a small number of his portraits survive. His advert in 1855 advertised ‘Lessons given in Landscape Drawing, Portraits painted in oil, or taken by Daguerreotype’.

The inclusion of ‘dagerotype photography’ in his business is interesting. No ‘known’Strange’ photographic images have been discovered, and in some ways it is at complete odds to his profession, as a topographical artist. His images were intended to record the landscapes of his time – but the emergence of absolutely accurate photographs of the same scenes, which took a fraction of the time to produce that a detailed watercolour took to paint, would have rapidly taken away from his painting business. Perhaps the colour factor, which meant a much more pleasing image on the wall, was the one thing that still appealed to his customers.

However, within a few years of the 1855 advert, Frederick Strange lost interest in his painting, and is listed as a ‘Grocer’. He died in 1873, but nothing is attributed to these last years of his eventful life.

Frederick Strange (1807-1873) – View of Launceston, c.1858. Watercolour and pencil on paper – 35.7×21.9cm. Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

Launceston, 1860 :oil painting by Frederick Strange,
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales


The interest in convict artists developed in the first half of the 20th century. For Frederick Strange, the key researcher who ‘re-discovered’ him was Clifford Craig. Coming from Melbourne to practice as a doctor in Hobart in the 1920’s, where he fell in love with the early colonial history.

Together with his wife Edith, (who was the driving force behind the establishment of the National Trust of Australia in the 1960’s), the Craigs accumulated a collection of colonial furniture that came to be considered one of the best of its kind in Australia. Having amassed an extensive assortment of early ‘Tasmaniana’, comprising documents, books, maps and prints, they sold 2350 items at a three-day auction at Launceston in 1975.

Prior to this he co-published Early Colonial Furniture in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land in 1972.

In 1963 he wrote (along with Isabella Mead) the first in-depth examination of Frederic Strange, ‘Frederick Strange – Artist – c.1807-1873’ , published in the Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania.

He lists the known Strange works at the end of his article – 35 in total, all in public collections except for the final two, which are ‘… privately owned in Hobart but no details are available’….

This painting doesn’t appear on his 1963 list, and may well have been one of the two works in Hobart, or an example he found in subsequent years.  It was inherited by his son, and the last artwork kept by him as he downsized, before coming to Moorabool Antiques.

View-of-Hobart-Frederick-Strange c.1850

The watercolour came to Geelong when he retired there in the 1980’s, and has been in the Craig family ever since.

View-of-Hobart-Frederick-Strange c.1850


It’s an interesting exercise to compare the present-day view with Strange’s watercolour.

Left ImageRight Image

Slide the line to see a then / now comparison.

We can pinpoint the location Strange sketched from as being along the route now known as ‘Normanstun Road’.
The identity of this suggested location is supported considering the magnificent cart-load of flour sacks passing by: it is the route from the flour mill built at the mouth of the Cataract Gorge in the 1840’s.

This Frederick Strange watercolour compares well with the watercolour View of Launceston sold by Bonhams, 22nd April 2023 (click to see). The size is almost identical, being 20.5×32.5 compared to our 21.9×35.7cm.

Launceston from the South – late 1850’s – Stevens Collection, Melbourne

The other work by Strange that must be noted is in the Stevens Collection, Melbourne, and was exhibited in the 2017 Exhibition “The Enigmatic Mr Strange”, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. This is another view of Launceston, from almost the same position, with the same post-in-rail fence and even apparently the same cart being pulled by a four-horse team – although the cargo on our example is much more neatly loaded!

View-of-Launceston-Frederick-Strange c.1858
Frederick Strange – View of Launceston, circa 1858 – Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

Resources on Frederick Strange:

Frederick Strange Death Notice
Frederick Strange’s death notice, 1873

An interesting local Geelong connection : Convict artist paints another Convict, with both of them finding success and freedom in Australia”

Posted on Leave a comment

Fresh Finds for February……

Welcome to our first February stock release, full of interesting items.

There’s some furniture, including the superb miniature chest of drawers seen above: it’s an ‘apprentice’ piece, so-called as an apprentice could show their skills by producing a miniature masterpiece. This example is Australian, made from solid cedar, absolutely original and a prime piece of Australiana.

A cedar bed from the 1840’s originates in Tasmania, and has very heavy original ‘gumtree’ side rails and splats.

1905 Thonet Catalogue

There’s a fine quality English linen press, with a mark identifying the maker as C.J. Freeman – Furniture Manufactory – Norwich. The beautiful timber is carefully selected maple.

A couple of bentwood chairs are interesting, appearing in the 1905 Thonet catalogue.

Have a browse through our latest uploads….


Posted on Leave a comment

Australia Day Special

No matter what your opinion regarding the 26th January, those who live in Australia have a lot to celebrate.  The Ancient Past was when the first settlers came, over expanses of water, up to 60,000 years ago.  Isolated, they developed their own unique culture which is now rightfully called ‘the oldest continual culture on earth’.  Their ability to sustain themselves in the often harsh Australian landscapes can only be admired …. 

When the next phase of settlers came, the Europeans, they died of thirst and hunger, in places where the Aboriginal ‘First Nation’ peoples were perfectly at home.

The inevitable influx of fortune-seeking Europeans from the initial First Fleet of 1788 spread across the land, and formed another unique culture: Australian.  While initially English, there were large numbers of Scots and Irish settlers, seeking to escape the harsh social realities in their homelands. Soon, people from all corners of the globe were arriving, drawn by the potential for success and safety Australia’s fledgling nation offered. After the World Wars of the 20th century, and other humanitarian crisis which resulted in refugee influxes, Australia welcomed more & more diversity to its shores. 

Surveyors planning a railway in Queensland, circa 1890

The result of this is Australia as we see it today:  Original ancient Aboriginal culture, with British social stability and institutions, enhanced by Greeks, Italians, Germans, Scandinavians, and Asian arrivals, each with their own cultural background to add to the mix.  Australians are no longer exclusively any of these cultures – especially after a generation or two of children have grown up in this ‘new’ culture.  

Rather, Australia is a splendid mix of ‘people of the world’ – hopefully the best aspects of each culture. 

So let’s not get bogged down in invasions, or cultural clashes – Australian culture dictates everyone has a fair chance. Say G’day, and celebrate us for what we are – and dream of what we could be – 

Happy Australian Day !

Fresh Australiana

Coming Soon…. more Australiana.

Posted on Leave a comment

First Fresh Stock release for 2024

Welcome to our first Fresh Stock for 2024. We have a fine selection of interesting items for you to browse, including Sterling, Old Sheffield Plate, Australian Pottery, and a whole range of ‘Green’ ceramics…..

The exceptional piece this time is a plate, which bears an original Exhibition label from 1876. With the place it was exhibited, and the name of the artist, we were able to discover a fascinating ‘back-story’ – with close links to Charles Dickens and an Australian High Court judge from 100 years ago…..

Ellen Ross ‘china painting “HOWELL & JAMES” of Regent Street, exhibition label 1876


Posted on Leave a comment

Introducing…. artist A. E. Jobson 1868-1955

A E Jobson pastel - with restorations

An interesting recent discovery by Moorabool was this small pastel scene of an Australian beach.
Signed ‘A. E. Jobson’, it is an interesting chalk sketch, done on a coarse textured grey toned paper.

Looking for the artist proved to be pointless; they are not recorded anywhere, and seem to belong to the class of ‘talented amateur’. We believe we have a likely candidate, a local Melbourne author who used the name ‘A.E.Jobson’.

AE Jobson Signature
AE Jobson’s Signature

As with many artistic people, it seems that Jobson could draw as well as write. It was writing which came to dominate, as they found success when they began publishing their short stories.

A report in the ‘Queensland Times’ sheds some light:

they have obtained the ‘sole rights’ to a ‘remarkable clever series of stories’ which they promise are just like Sherlock Holmes….

The first story to be published is interesting. Titled ‘The Hercules Cameo’, it is a story about a carved cameo of Hercules – purchased at Christies for 3000 Guineas – stolen by a German prince, and recovered by a private eye named Russel Howard. Hobson clearly had an active interest in the art world.

Over the next few years, we traced 12 newspaper stories published by A.E. Jobson:

Over the next few years, we traced 12 newspaper stories published by A.E. Jobson:

  • 1: The Hercules Cameo
  • 2: The Seventh Burglary
  • 3: The Removal of the Millionaire
  • 4: The Case of Lord Ponderry
  • 5: The Scheming Lady
  • 6: The Two Wax Candles
  • 7: The Lady with the Pince-Nez
  • 8: The Modern Highwayman
  • 9: The Prince’s Letter
  • 10: The Man Who Stole the Child
  • 11: The Fire Insurance Matter
  • 12: The Open Shaft

But who was A. E. Jobson?

These ‘AE Jobson’ stories, and at least one published book, never give the name of the author beyond the initials. There is a distinct possibility that this was intentional, to hide the author’s true identity. The ‘Queensland Times’ article of 1909 does refer to ‘him’, but they were not necessarily aware of exactly who was writing the stories, being rather a long way away. This is something often seen in the world of literature. Clearly, some research is needed!

Searching the available records, two candidates appear with the right initials and in the right context, an Arthur Earnest Jobson, Banker in Sydney, and Adelaide Ellen Hobson, daughter-in-law to prominent Victorian businessman, John Jobson JP.
Nothing came of researching Arthur the banker, but Adelaide was a different matter.

John Jobson, Williamstown, c. 1895- father-in-law to Adelaide Ellen Jobson

Adelaide Ellen Jobson was born at Port Adelaide, 1868, the eldest in her family. Her father, Stedman, died in 1887. Three years later, she married Charles Jobson, son of John Jobson, JP, businessman, Williamstown Football Club president, & Mayor of Williamstown (Victoria) in 1885.  

The pastel has a certain ‘family’ feel to it: there are 6 children represented, plus a few adults. 

The scene could well be Port Phillip Bay, somewhere near Spotswood where a day’s outing with the family would be likely-  with Williamstown’s ‘back beach’ being a prime candidate. 

Williamstown back-beach, 1906 postcard

We propose Adelaide Ellen Jobson was a very creative lady, who raised a family of five, but longed to write and paint to express herself; when her oldest children were entering their teens, she would have had more time to dedicate to writing, and so her first few stories were submitted to the papers for publication. Over the next decade, she produced quite a number of fictional books. A quick read – as they are all rather short stories, suitable for a newspaper – certainly shows an active mind, and perhaps we can see a female perspective: one story, written in 1916, is an interesting study. 

It begins “Samson Greene was an artist, and it happened on one day in September, or it may have been in early October, that he was in Bathurst. Anyway, when he rose in the morning the sun was shining briskly upon everything.”   

The character Samson is something of an old-fashioned gentleman artist, but by the end of the story, he is helplessly in love with a girl he ‘accidentally’ met while out painting – except the whole thing is a set-up by the girl, who has set a trap for him which he falls for, hook line & sinker!  It has a definite twinge of ‘Barbara Cartland’ to it, and attributing it to a female author makes perfect sense. 

Adelaide Jobson, Beach at Williamstown, c. 1910
Adelaide Jobson, Beach at Williamstown, c. 1910

Her other artistic enterprise was pastel art. This small work documents a lazy day at the beach very well, with family members relaxing and children playing. She had five children between 1892-1909, so if this piece was dated to around 1910-15, the children shown could well be her own. The location is not distinct, but the general layout of the water/land conforms to the local area they grew up in; Williamstown has a beach with beautiful white sand like this, and the distant higher ground could be the far side of Port Phillip Bay, a scene still the same today. 

Martha Walter oil painting, beach scene
American artist Martha Walter, beach scene from the same period in oils.

An interesting comparison can be made with American artist Martha Walter. She was active in the early 20th century, the same date as the work we are examining, and the similarity is unmistakable. Rather than a direct influence, it is probably just a result of the shared ‘beach culture’ seen in America and Australia – the gathering of families, the bathing suits – combined with an impressionist style which was the international vogue at the time.
The price is certainly different, with Walter’s work bringing many thousands for even minor paintings!

Adelaide Ellen Jobson could have been a notable artist, but her success as a published author, and no doubt also her dedication to her large family, restricted her opportunities. She’s a talented amateur, previously unrecorded.

We’d love to hear anything else you may have to add to this very brief répertoire!

Posted on Leave a comment

A Phar Lap Australian Silver Charm

Sterling medallion commemorating Phar Lap win, 1930 Melbourne Cup

This rare piece of Australiana was produced in Melbourne by a local jeweller in solid Sterling Silver to commemorate the legendary ride of J.E. Pike on ‘Phar Lap’ where he won the Melbourne Cup in 1930 by 3 lengths.

J.E.Pike-Phar Lap Medallion 1930 Melbourne Cup Sterling Silver
J.E.Pike’s ‘Phar Lap’ Medallion, commemorating the 1930 Melbourne Cup win, Australian Sterling Silver

Sterling silver medallion with horse & jockey on front framed within a stirrup, engraved on reverse Phar Lap / Winner 1930 / Melb.Cup / J.E.Pike” , also marked with sculptor’s name ‘Hafner’, and hallmarked ‘925’ & printing press.

Phar Lap wins 1930 Melbourne Cup
Phar Lap wins 1930 Melbourne Cup by 3 lengths… the making of an Australian legend. The silver medallion was made to commemorate this feat.

The shape is reminiscent of religious pendants made to wear as ‘charms’ – however, the design of this piece has a major flaw that would not make it durable. All other charms have a suspension loop cast into the top: this plaque has a very thin wire loop soldered onto the back. This suggests it is just for short-term use – perhaps so you could pin it to a jacket lapel when you were attending the Melbourne Cup….?

It is certainly a rarity, with just one other example being traced on the market.

J.E.Pike-Phar Lap Medallion 1930 Melbourne Cup Sterling Silver Stirrup Commemorative
J.E.Pike-Phar Lap Medallion 1930 Melbourne Cup Sterling Silver Stirrup Commemorative
Emil Hafner mark on Sterling Silver Phar Lap Medallion
Emil Hafner mark on Sterling Silver Phar Lap Medallion

The sculptor’s name ‘Hafner’ gives us the context & date for the piece.
Emil Hafner (1917-2021) was a post-war immigrant artisan from Czechoslovakia. His speciality was die-casting, and he was responsible for a large number of medals, coins, and commemoratives produced in Melbourne in the second half of the 20th century.
Emil Hefner graduated in 1948 at the Art and Trade College in Czechoslovakia. Between 1948 and 1952 he worked as a gun-engraver and die-sinking in Germany and later England. After migrating, he continued his work in Australia with ‘K.G. Luke’ and later with the ‘House of Hawke’, as well as teaching part-time at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) for nine years. He subsequently established his own company, Hafner Mint Manufacturing.
This silver medallion, commemorating the 1930 win of Phar Lap, would logically have been made in 1980 – celebrating 50 years since the event.

See Emil Hafner’s pieces in Museums Victoria Collection here >

J.E.Pike-Phar Lap Medallion 1930 Melbourne Cup Sterling Silver Printing Press Hallmark
Phar Lap Medallion with .925 designating ‘Sterling’ silver standard, and ‘Printing Press’ Hallmark for the silversmith. Note an apparent border for another hallmark protruding from the side of the printing press mark.
Posted on Leave a comment

Curated -Australiana

Neville Cayley Junior Cockatoos
Curated Collections
Australiana Curated Collection

Australia has a vast range of items unique to this ‘Great Southern Land’…. from the First Nation’s fascinating art & artifacts, to the inevitable Exploration and Colonisation by Europe, with depictions of the startling unique animals and landscapes so very foreign to European eyes. The items from our earliest colonial days show attempts to understand and illustrate Australia’s uniqueness.
Materials used were expensive if imported the daunting distance from Europe – so local resources were soon exploited, the prime being the ‘Australian Red Cedar’, a fine furniture timber that has a unique quality much loved by Australiana collectors.
The mid-19th century brought about the biggest change, when Gold was found throughout the country, attracting huge numbers of migrants. While mostly British, they came from all over the world, bringing with them endless new ideas and crafting techniques – for example, Chinese craftsmen, attracted by the gold initially, soon settled and became furniture makers – using their traditional techniques and tools to create English-style furniture.
The gold resources were vast, and Australia rapidly became wealthy. During the last quarter of the 19th century, this wealth was often shown in luxury houses, full of luxury goods, with Melbourne being the ‘wealthiest place on earth’ for some time in the 1880’s.
Gradually in the 19th century, an understanding and maturity emerges, with landscape and wildlife artists producing realistic depictions, with artists developing their own distinct styles unique to Australia. Home-grown industries like Australian Pottery created yet another unique – and collectable – aspect of ‘Australiana’.

We hope you enjoy our offerings, and please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Posted on Leave a comment

Australian Portraits: A ‘unique’ Sir Henry Parkes profile, + Miniature of Lady Parkes as a young girl.

Sir Henry Parkes & Lady Eleanor Parkes

Australia became a Nation in 1901, but it was a long process that made this possible. The six far-flung colonies had each developed in their separate ways, and it was the perseverance of Sir Henry Parkes that brought them together. He deserves the title ‘The Father of Federation’.

An amusing Australian adaptation…. Charles Dickens as Sir Henry Parkes!

Moorabool has recently discovered two items that relate to Sir Henry Parkes and his wife, Lady Parkes.
The first is a cast-iron plaque showing a portrait of a bearded gentleman. Mounted onto a turned cowrie pine back, it is typical of the Victorian plaques of notable people, made in large numbers to adorn public buildings like halls and libraries. This example is identified around the edge as ‘SIR Henry Parkes’.

Brass ‘Dickens’ plaque

HOWEVER…. it’s actually a terrific example of Aussie ingenuity.
You see, this is not intended as a portrait of Sir Henry Parkes – rather, it was cast in Britain in the 1860’s-70’s as the literary giant, Charles Dickens – who sported a similar magnificent beard and wild hair. Imported into Australia, and perhaps displayed on a library wall somewhere, when Sir Henry Parkes rose to fame in the latter 19th century, an enterprising scholar has added the inscription to make it the ‘Father of Federation’!

Henry Parkes, Fancy Goods & Toy Seller

Did you know the ‘Father of Federation’ spent a lot of his time retailing ‘fancy goods’ in Sydney? His adverts make fascinating reading, giving a glimpse into the parlours and nurseries of Sydney in the mid-19th century.

Here’s a sample – from the stock of Moorabool Antiques, 170 years later! His shop must have been a present-day Antique Collector’s Aladdin’s Cave….

Adverts for Parkes, 1840’s-50’s

Sir Henry Parkes would have felt quite at home at Moorabool Antiques…. he was a business man and craftsman, learning the trade of ivory-turning before migrating to Australia in 1839. He opened a shop in Hunter Street, Sydney, where he sold ivory products he made, as well as a broad range of imported decorative & useful items:

“Bohemian Glass, Vases of rich and various patterns, handsome China ornaments, PORCELAIN FIGURES From one inch stature, and comprising a hundred varieties. Also, FIGURES IN BISCUIT CHINA. Children’s China, dinner, dessert, tea, and coffee Services. CHINA PUNCH BOWLS, Vases, flower-pots, pomatum jars, match cups, mugs, cream ewers, plates, teapots, etc. ROSEWOOD DRESSING CASES, work-boxes, fancy baskets, FANCY SMALL WARES: TORTOlSESHELL, enammelled and fine leather ladies’ companions, alabaster and enamelled jewel boxes, tortoiseshell and sandlewood card caes, fine leather and enamelled netting boxes, alabaster and silk paper weights, enamelled letter cases and toilet stands, tortoiseshell and leather cigar cases…….”

Another advert from 1846 is fascinating, as it is solely advertising Pacific Tribal Artifacts:

“ISLAND CURIOSITIES – To Gentlemen proceeding to Europe – A variety of bows and arrows, clubs, spears, battle axes, canoe paddles, stone adzes and other South Sea Island weapons &ect.”

Sounds familiar…. you’ll find exactly the same at Moorabool Antiques today – but now they’re Antique!

The second ‘Parkes’ item is a very personal portrait miniature. Purchased in original frame and untitled, an investigation of the backing discovered two inscriptions: firstly, it is a hand-coloured photographic portrait, with a printed back stating it is ‘Photographed at Bachelder’s, 41 Collins Street E, Melbourne’.
Second, it has an inscription declaring it depicts ‘Lady Parkes as Young Girl’.

It suddenly becomes an important part of the story of Australia.

Portrait of Lady Parkes as a Young Girl
Portrait of ‘Lady Parkes as Young Girl’

The frame and mount are original, with the backing paper replaced with opening to show back of photo.

'Botterill Artist'.

The inscription on the back reads ‘PHOTOGRAPHED AT BATCHELDER’S 41 COLLINS ST E., MELBOURNE’, over which is inscribed in pencil ‘Botterill / Artist’.

The three ‘Lady Parkes’

Who was the subject?

Clarinda Parkes, 1880s

Lady Clarinda 1813-1888

There were three ‘Lady Parkes’, as Sir Henry always seems to have needed a companion – especially in his old age, where he had terrible luck with his partners.

His first wife, Lady Clarinda Parkes, was a Birmingham Dressmaker & Sunday-School teacher who married 21-year old Henry Parkes in Birmingham in 1836, when he was just ‘Mr Parkes’, son of a farmer and a novice businessman (which didn’t prosper for him). She came out to Australia with him, having their first child just 2 days before they landed, the first of 12. She had little public interaction, even when he became a notable in New South Wales government. She died in Sydney in 1888, aged 75 – and as this image we are considering is of a young ‘Mrs Parkes’, and is taken by a Melbourne photographer, it cannot be Clarinda who is depicted. She had 12 children, 6 of whom were still alive in 1888.

Eleanor Parkes, n.d.

Lady Eleanor 1857-1895

The second ‘Lady Parkes’ was Lady Eleanor Parkes, a Sydney resident who married Sir Henry a few months after his first wife had died, in 1889. She took a keen interest in Politics, particularly social matters such as the plight of the ‘waifs’, the homeless youth of the time. She travelled with her husband as his political position grew, and appears to have been actively interested and supportive of his policies. She died from cancer in 1895, and they had five children.

Lady Julia 1872-1919

The third ‘Lady Parkes’ was Lady Julia Parkes, an Irish migrant born in 1872, employed as Nanny & House-keeper in the Parkes household, where she nursed the weakening Lady Eleanor. She married the 79 year old Sir Henry in 1895 – just months after the death of Eleanor. This was the shortest marriage, as Sir Henry died just 6 months later, in April 1896.

Setting out the three ‘Lady Parkes’ as above makes him look awfully unlucky – and afraid of being lonely….
But unlike Henry VIII, he wasn’t desperately seeking an heir – he’d already fathered a dozen children. Rather, he sought someone of the opposite sex to make his home ‘homely’, a companion for his old age and protector of his children.

So which of the three is the portrait at Moorabool?

Clarinda, the first Mrs Parkes, who married him when he was just a lad of 21, was apparently the love-of-his-life for the next five decades – but it was only months after she died (after a long illness) that Eleanor was married to Henry. As a contemporary commentator said in the papers, ‘…the community was startled by a report which was published, that Sir HENRY PARKES had just been married”…. The shock wasn’t just that ‘….she is considerably younger than her husband’ – 32, when he was 74 – but also the fact they had been an item while his elderly wife was ailing, and in fact already had two children together! So the untold story was that Sir Henry Parkes had married his mistress after his wife had died. His political opponents and the papers made the most of the situation….

This relationship was contentious – his daughters were reported to have left the house in disgust, his servants all quit before he returned with his bride, and the doors of Parliament were closed to him due to his ‘indiscretion’.

Lady-Eleanor-Parkes aged 14, by John Botterill, 1870

It was justified in the press:

The facts of the matter are, we learn, that the aged statesman, feeling the loneliness of his life when State cares, gave him a brief respite, determined some short time ago—for he is not a man to dilly-dally in such an important matter—that his final days should be soothed and made happy by a second partner of his joys and sorrows. …..

However, the plan of being soothed by Eleanor came crashing down when she became ill and soon died, in 1895.

Sir Henry Parkes continued his career of scandal by marrying his housekeeper, Julia, only three months after Eleanor passed away! Julia was an Irish migrant, and had been employed as the housekeeper / nanny in the Parkes household. She nursed the ailing Lady Eleanor, and it is said that Eleanor herself requested that Julia marry the elderly Sir Henry Parkes. Although somewhat scandalous, this made sense in the Victorian world: there were five young children in the household, and Henry had died penniless and in debt. Julia fulfilled his wish – she dedicated the rest of her life to this step-family, never re-marrying and going to great lengths to provide them with a stable upbringing. She was a remarkable woman.

The Image: both a Photograph and a hand-painted Miniature.

Lady Parkes as a Young Girl
“Lady Eleanor Parkes as a Young Girl”

This very engaging image is actually an albumen silver carte-de-visite, the traditional way of providing images for family & friends; however, while most would be placed into specially made albums with spaces the exact size of the image, this example is intact in it’s original Victorian frame, and behind glass. This is essential, as the fine painted surface, applied over the photographic image, is very vulnerable. The effect is superb, to the degree that when this was sold as a portrait of an unknown girl, it was also described as a ‘portrait miniature’ rather than a hand-coloured photograph.

The work is produced in the Batchelder studio, 41 Collins Street East, Melbourne. This was established by the well-known American Batchelder brothers, who had come to the Australian goldfields directly from the Californian goldfields with the sole purpose of setting up a photographic business. While they had left by the stage this photo was taken, the studio name remained associated with the address for several decades.

41 Collins St E- premises of Batchelder & Co, upstairs.

Batchelder’s was regarded as a premium establishment, and many of the images of notable members of Melbourne society of the period were the product of the studio. In 1867, an advert reminds the public that Batchelder’s has now been going for 11 years – ie since 1856 – and has stored over 25,000 negatives in case you would like a re-print!

The image is signed in pencil to the back, ‘Botterill / Artist’. This is a very interesting detail: the ‘artist’ was John Botterill, described as miniaturist, portrait painter and professional photographer. He was active in Melbourne in the mid 1850’s joined the organising committee for the 1853 Victorian Fine Arts Society’s exhibition, to which he contributed eight works including a miniature self-portrait. In 1859, he is working as a ‘visiting master’ at  Woodford House, a school for Young Ladies in Park Street. In 1861, he joined Batchelder’s Photographic Portrait Rooms in Collins Street East, ‘engaged … to paint miniatures and portraits in oil, watercolour or mezzotint – these deserve what they are receiving, a wide reputation’. He also gained knowledge of photography from somewhere, so probably learnt ‘on the job’ in the busy studio. In 1866, he became one of the partners of the firm alongside Dunn & Wilson, and in 1867 the firm won a medal at the Intercolonial Exhibition for their tinted photographs. This was the work of Botterill, as the advertising from that year emphasises:

“…the PORTRAITS… painted by Mr J. Botterill, artist…. on view in the Fine Art Department , (at the) Exhibition, and to state that Mr Botterill is still at Batchelder and Co’s, 41 Collins St East..”

The use of ‘is still at‘ is curious, and perhaps reveals problems in the company. They parted ways at around this time. In his 1869 adverts, Botterill declares:
“J. BOTTERILL. Portrait
Painter and Photographer, REMOVED from
Batchelder’s to 19 Collins Street East”
He continues at this address for several years, before opening in Elizabeth Street for his final years. He died in 1881.

Lady Parkes as a Young Girl
“Lady Parkes as a Young Girl” – but which one?

Who is ‘Lady Parkes’?

The subject of this photo would be hard to place if it didn’t have the inscription, added to the backing of the original. Sir William Parkes had 3 wives, but we can identify who this one is by the fact the photography studio was in Melbourne. His first, Clarinda, was born in England in 1813 and far too old when they migrated to Sydney in 1839. The third, Julia was born in 1872 – probably after this photo was taken – so she’s not possible. The  second, Eleanor, was born in 1857, so is the right age for a Melbourne photograph in the late 1860’s, early 70’s.

John Botterill signature, Melbourne Artist c.1870
John Botterill’s signature, Portrait of Eleanor Dixon/Lady Parkes 1870

John Botterill signed this piece, on a Batchelder-branded photograph. Note there is no ‘partnership’ described, as was the case 1866-68. Having the partnership details removed would suggest it belongs to a transitional period – the photograph taken at 41 Collins Street East, with the painting done by Botterill a few doors down at his studio, 19 Collins Street East. There was still a strong connection, as after Botterill died in 1881, the Batchelder studio advertises that they have added the archive of Botterill’s negatives to their own extensive archive.

The final dating evidence is the arrival of Eleanor Dixon, the future Lady Parkes, in Melbourne as a migrant. She was from Wooler, Northumberland, one of five children, her father listed as a ‘Master Shoemaker’. He died in 1869, and several months later, Eleanor’s elder brother was married and promptly left for Australia. Eleanor and three siblings followed in 1870, accompanied by their mother.

Lady Eleanor Parkes as a girl, c.1870

1870 becomes the most probable date for the portrait. Eleanor would have been 12 or 13, an appropriate age for the girl in the photo, who still has her hair ‘out’, indicating she was not yet considered an adult. Around her neck is a black ribbon with large gold locket: this is typical Victorian mourning jewellery, and no doubt had a portrait of her late father in it.

Lady-Eleanor-Parkes aged 14, by John Botterill, 1870

We can imagine the scene: the newly arrived family caught up in the bustle & thrill of Marvellous Melbourne in the post-Gold rush boomtown, celebrating their new life with a very fine portrait. She engages the viewer with a very frank, inquisitive look. There’s a pink rose on her dress, and she is presented as a true ‘English Rose’, her hair spilling wildly out over her lace-trimmed dress, not yet constrained on top of the head in an adult style. For the young Eleanor, the future was as golden as the mounts of this image; anything was possible – and indeed, for a few years in the 1890’s she achieved something remarkable, marrying one of the most powerful men of the age, the ‘Father of Federation’.

On the theme of a ‘Golden Future’, there’s a wonderful image of Lady Eleanor Parkes on tour with Sir Henry: they were visiting the offices of Bushman’s Mine in around 1890; sitting to the right with her son is Eleanor, beside a very strong table on which sits a big lump of gold castings. The label at the front reveals its weight to be 1,347oz – and named “The Lady Parkes” in her honour!

Bushman’s Mine, Parkes: a 1,347oz ingot titled “The Lady Parkes”, with its namesake sitting to the side! Sir Henry is unmistakable on the other side with his wild white hair & beard.
1895 newsprint photo of Lady Eleanor Parkes
©Paul Rosenberg, Moorabool Antiques, Geelong.    Please contact if you wish to reproduce any part of this documentation.   Images from various online sources, mostly TROVE-accessed archives. 

Further Info on John Botterill & the Batchelder & Co Studio.

Left ImageRight Image
The 1866 partnership names appear on the lower image; the circa 1870 card back on the portrait of Lady Eleanor Parkes has had this removed, reflecting the updated state of the company.
1851 John Botterill miniature, English Market 2010’s
Posted on Leave a comment

A Krakatoa Curio

Victorian image of Krakatoa, c. 1883

This curious oil painting (on a sheet of milk-glass) has been sitting in the Moorabool ‘archives’ for a generation, a puzzle. It’s apparently night-time with a full moon, depicting shipping of the late 19th century, and a distinctive massive rocky protrusion. What on earth does this depict?

Is this Krakatoa?
Is this Krakatoa?

A little brain-storming and searching the internet comes to an interesting conclusion: this is Krakatoa, the mighty volcano of south-east Asia, shown in its pre-1883 eruption appearance.

Mid-19th century appearance of Krakatoa

Why has someone depicted Krakatoa?
It’s the infamous volcano in Indonesia that still grabs headlines, violently active and a very real threat.

Victorian image of Krakatoa, c. 1883
Possibly a sidewheel paddle steamer, not unusual in the region – it was the route from Singapore to Australia.

The shipping depicted in this image is the clue: it was inconveniently placed right in the centre of the Sunda Strait, the most direct route from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean.

A traveller has been passing by some time in the 1870’s or early 1880’s, and witnessed the awesome sight of the brooding volcano up-close. Was this at night, with dark shadows of ships on an indigo sea, a full moon peeping though the clouds? That’s the initial impression.

But another possibility is the dramatic result of the eruption: the sky was as dark as night for days. This would be a scene with the sun barely piercing the clouds of ash…. Of course the flaw with this idea is the bulk of the volcano is still there in the pre-eruption configuration. If this was the intention of the artist – to show the day turned to night by the eruption – then it could not have been an eyewitness impression, but rather the imagination of a Victorian amateur artist.

The air grew steadily darker and darker, and at 10:30 a.m. we were in total darkness, just the same as on a very dark night. 

Captain Lindeman, Batavian steamship “Gouverneur-General Loudon“, August 28th 1883

The intense blackness above and around us, broken only by the incessant glare of varied kinds of lightning and the continued explosive roars of Krakatoa, made our situation a truly awful one.

Captain W.J. Watson, Irish merchant ship “Charles Bal

Either way, it’s a fascinating depiction of the major event in the natural world for the Victorian era.

Victorian image of Krakatoa, c. 1883
“… just the same as on a very dark night”
Posted on Leave a comment

Fresh Stock – Furniture, Metalwork, Australiana, and more!

French Chandelier at Moorabool Antiques, Geelong

Welcome to the latest Fresh Stock on

This week there’s a good selection to browse, from a ‘Madam Vestris’ figure to a French Chandelier.

Spode Ironstone Imari Service c. 1815
Spode Ironstone Imari Service c. 1815 & Doulton Burslem with Georges Leonce designs, c. 1885


Our ‘Australian’ additions include some more interesting artworks, some silver, and other interesting items with an Australian connection.

Brass & Bronze

Brass and Bronze are basically the same thing; alloys of other metals, including copper, tin, zinc, and lead – mixed at different ratios to produce metals for different purposes.

Marine Art Preview

Our ‘Spring Special’ this year will involve a rolling exhibition of Marine Art & Artefacts.

Australia is a nation built on ships & shipping, and so it is not surprising to find a rich heritage of Ship Art. We’re currently preparing a whole feet of fascinating ship pictures – often with fascinating stories of what they achieved, and what their fate was…..

Edith Holmes sailing ship
‘Edith Holmes’ Australian sailing ship, late 19th century