Heritage Listing for the Town of Guildford, Western Australia

Seal of Guildford Municipality, Old Guildford Municipal Chambers, 1937

The Heritage Council of Western Australia is currently considering whether to list, or register, the old town of Guildford, at the head of Western Australia’s Swan Valley.

Old Guildford Court House

Submissions on the proposed listing closed on 19 October 2018.  I support the listing, and made a submission addressing a number of areas concerning the historical values of the place that I believe would strengthen the assessments of historical significance and the overall statement of significance in the event that the proposed listing is ultimately successful.

Guildford Post Office

The submission had to be prepared within a short period of time, and around other work at the same time, and could have been better developed.  However, I believe it covers enough points with enough substance to assist the Heritage Council in reaching a conclusion that will support a State heritage listing.

Guildford Town Wharf (recreation of original structures)

I have been asked on several occasions for copies of my submission, and so am making it publicly available here as a download.  The only part of the submission not included here is the covering form that includes personal details that have no bearing on the issues of heritage values and significance.

Comment attached to Submission on Registration by Dr Bruce Baskerville on

 

 

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Monarchies, Decolonisation and Royal Legacies in the Asia-Pacific | An Excellent Conference

Chinese monarchists and revolutionaries lobby Chinese leaders in Sydney for support c1908. Image source.

The 6 and 7 of December 2017 were marked by the third annual conference on monarchies at the University of Sydney.  I have attended all three, and each year they have just gotten better and more assured, like a good red!

There were 13 scheduled papers, with three additional papers and a final roundtable discussion, plus a conference dinner all of which made for a packed and stimulating two days.  Geographically, the papers touched upon almost all points in an area roughly bounded by India, China, Japan, Australasia, Samoa and Hawaii, with a particular focus in two sessions on Indonesia and the Netherlands East Indies.  The dynasties were indigenous, such as Norodom (Cambodia), Hamengkubuwono (Yogyakarta), Tupou (Tonga) and Yamato (Japan), as well as colonial Hanover, later Windsor (India, New South Wales) and Orange-Nassau (Netherlands New Guinea).

Juliana, Queen of the Netherlands, portrait on 10 Guilder note, Netherlands New Guinea. Image Source.

Several themes emerged from the papers, each responding in some way to the conference title ‘Monarchies, Decolonisation and Royal Legacies in the Asia Pacific’.  Papers also touched upon sources and raised further issues for future research.

Some general observations are useful at this point.  The distinctions between settler and plantation colonies were not as sharp as I expected (or as Imperial historiography had lead me to believe).  There seems to be as much overlap and continuity as there is difference.  The symbolism of monarchies and crowns was treated seriously in all the papers, rather than regarded as something ‘soft’ or curious and not really suited to thoughtful study.  Female royals such as queens and vicereines seem much more evident in Asia Pacific royal history than in Australian history, although I suspect that may be a historiographical rather than historical affect?  The new technologies that came with colonialism produced records, especially visual records such as photographs, that are increasingly available for research.  This was also evident in earlier conferences where speakers touched upon, for example, the rapidly developing technologies that shortened long-distance travel and brought royals and subjects into closer contact.

Themes

The major storylines (for me) arising from the papers fall into five main themes: historiographical biases, change and continuity, power relationships, religious relationships and symbolism.  I touch upon each below, in a fairly generalised way that I hope will not identify anyone’s specific work or reveal new and innovative ideas and projects they are working on before they are ready for publication.

Victoria, Empress of India, 1876-1901  Image source.

Historiographical exclusions

Many speakers referred to the absence, or very limited, attention given to imperial and indigenous monarchies during the huge transitions across the Asia Pacific between the 1940s and 1970s.  Nationalist historians, writing as colonial powers withdrew from or abandoned erstwhile territories, largely ignored monarchical and viceroyal forms and practices.  This has deeper implications, for example in settler societies such as New South Wales a failure to notice the contribution of locally-resident Chinese intellectuals, within the framework of common British subjecthood, to wider debates about citizenship.  Another effect has been the largely invisible exclusion of viceroyal histories from Australian nationalist histories.

Historiographical biases have occasionally been raised in earlier conferences, but were this year a more persistent theme, all the more remarkable for being identified across so many areas.  This has much potential to receive more attention in the future as ‘national’ historiographies are re-examined by newer, younger eyes not so bounded by twentieth-century borders.

Elizabeth II, Queen of Ceylon, 1952-1972 Image source.

 

Change and continuity

Many papers explicitly or implicitly challenged ideas of monarchies as timeless and unchanging structures.  The active insertion by several speakers of temporal dimensions into the study of sovereigns and reigns reinforced perhaps counter-intuitive ideas of royal identities being retained through change, not stasis.

Crowns are engaged in continual processes of re-making and re-imagining, some more effectively than others.  This can be seen through the co-option of western trappings of monarchy, especially in Pacific island kingdoms, or the presentation of royals as exemplars of middle class respectability.  Another lens was articulated through arguments over whether royal change was a return to original, purer forms of monarchy or a transformation into new democratic institutions; whether ancient rituals were being reinstated in older forms stripped on later accretions, or were rituals being commodified for consumption by newly-wealthy consumer cultures.

A third perspective, or perhaps group of inter-related perspectives, could be heard in arguments over whether the retention of indigenous monarchies at the end of a colonial period was intended to keep old elites within the new nation-states, even if, in retrospect, this often turned out to be transitional rather than permanent.  This view segues into the divisibility of the British crown and the creation of the ‘tropical dominions’, the very diverse uses of the royal prerogative by viceroyals and, I think, an emergence of viceroyalty as a distinct ‘type’ of monarchy.  Some of these papers hark back to Miles Taylor’s key note at the first conference in which he identified the viceroyal use of royal prerogatives as an area in need of research, an area the third conference presages as likely to grow in the future.

Standard of the Governor General of India, 1947-1950. Image source.

Relationships and power

This is a theme that might seem rather ‘standard’ in any study of monarchy, but when discussions move to models of monarchical authority within imperial contexts, such as a centre-periphery model versus network models, and questions of how types of monarchies reflect conceptions of power and state, some assumptions can be challenged.  The primacy of metropolitan centres may be unquestioned from a European perspective, but from an Asia Pacific perspective they have to be questioned.  Imperial subjects, whether indigenous or settler, lived within more polycentred societies in which viceroyalty and indigenous aristocracies may be just a splendid, and more tangible, than far-away Europe.

One fascinating entrée into this theme came through art history, with the active competition between indigenous and colonial artists for painting or photographic royal and viceroyal portraits, in which subjects are depicted in both indigenous and imperial costumes.  This seems to challenge ideas of a simple one-way Western re-imagining of indigenous monarchies through Orientalist lens.

Another avenue came through papers in which monarchs or dynasties form alliances with non-elite or minority groups that, again, seems counter-intuitive.  Tentative links between these alliances and the role of petition cultures in colonial societies, both settler and plantation, are suggested, as were symbolic and competitive relationships between royals and political classes.  This in turn leads to considering the complexities of the intergenerational transmission of titles and roles in indigenous dynasties and power structures, complexities that could be misunderstood by colonial powers, or could be very well understood and manipulated to imperial ends.  Scholars need to distinguish between positions taken today by leadership/elite groups and local/family/clan groups within indigenous communities about historical and contemporary monarchies, and avoid conflating these dynamics.

A final thought in power relationships arose in discussing ways the decolonising of museums, and repatriation of cultural materials, brings indigenous/monarchical relationships to the fore, and can reveal long histories of educating imperial royals about indigenous people, strongly suggesting the need to better consider indigenous agency in indigenous/crown relationships, especially when mediated through imperial art and museum collecting practices.

Prince William receives gifts from Aboriginal elders in Central Australia, 2014. Image source.

Prince William offered in 2014 to help find and repatriate Pemulwuy’s remains from a British museum. Image source.

Relationships and religion

Another timely theme was the complex relationships between crowns and religions.  One area this was explored was in the transitions from one dominant religion to another, such as from Hindu to Muslim in Java.  Another was the role of Christianity (or perhaps more specifically particular Christian denominations) in shaping and developing new court forms drawing on both indigenous and European practices, such as in Tonga.  A third area touched upon contemporary royals as defenders of civil society against political and religious fundamentalism. This was a disparate theme, but one which I suspect carries a lot of promise for future research.

The Sultan of Johore defends his secular kingdom in 2016. Image source.

Symbolism

It seemed to me that papers from scholars working mainly in Asian rather than European studies were more conscious of distinctions and relationships between symbolic and worldly or temporal power, and less likely to regard the symbolic as being of lesser significance.

Distinctions between symbolic and temporal or worldly roles and authority helped to draw-out considerations of the symbolic powers indigenous monarchs retained when colonial administrations took over day-to-day decision making.  Another was the many ways in which indigenous monarchies and aristocracies were incorporated into imperial honours systems, which seems to have been more widespread than just the British Empire.  The phrase “Ornamentalist community of interest” may be a way to go beyond Cannadine’s original thesis.  The importance of understanding dynastic or internal quarrels over symbolic authority as more than personal desires or vanity was also touched upon.

New technologies also have a role to play, illustrated by the use of photography in connecting indigenous and imperial monarchs and visually revealing one to the other, and pointed to ideas of how cosmopolitanism can be accommodated with ideas of imperial subjecthood.

Bharani Thirunal Lakshmi, the Senior Rani of Travancore, wearing the insignia of a Companion of the Order of the Crown of India.  Image source.

The Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexandra, wearing the insignia of a Companion of the Order of the Crown of India.  Image source.

The Order of the Crown of India was established by the Empress Victoria in 1878, and membership was only open to royal, aristocratic and viceroyal British and Indian women.  Its better-known Australian members were Lady Caroline Denison (vicereine, Van Diemen’s Land, Norfolk Island and New South Wales, 1847-1860) and the Duchess of Gloucester (vicereine, Australia 1944-1947).

Sources

Moving on from the themes evident across papers, some speakers also drew attention to sources beyond political or administrative archives.  Art, especially portraiture, was one such source, and within (although not entirely) art history, being attentive to styles of clothing and dress, and to the accoutrements and backgrounds framing the subject of a painting can suggest avenues for research beyond the paper archive.  Photographs, and their provenance, were also skilfully deployed in some papers, and offered one way of gaining perspectives from a subject’s point of view on royal, viceroyal and aristocratic institutions and personalities.  Obtaining such perspectives was a point of discussion on several occasions.

A closer reading of the forms and rituals of courts, whether royal, viceroyal or aristocratic, were highlighted by several papers, as was the architecture and landscapes of viceroyal residences.  The evolution of these forms and styles has some element of organic response, some element of intention and design, but commonly they have a capacity to be read for underlying power and spiritual/religious relationships, and changes and adaptations in those relationships, and to understand the formation of new symbolic relationships between sovereigns and subjects in colonial environments.

Queen Salote Tupou III of Tonga, r. 1918-1965. Image source.

Future research issues

By the end of the conference, I think several discrete areas for future research were clearly evident.  The first of these is the language and vocabularies of ‘monarchy’.  These need to be better understood, even if only to provide some common ground for shared conversation.  Asian Pacific monarchical structures are not the same as European, and European monarchies had to be adapted to Asia Pacific societies which, in some cases, had in turn to adapt to imperial ideas of monarchy.  I think these are better approached as iterative and mutable processes that require particular vocabularies.  Many indigenous titles and hierarchies are not easily translatable into English or European languages, and these more nuanced understandings need to be comprehended by scholars today who do not need to ‘simplify’ such structures for imperial audiences.  Royalty, viceroyalty, aristocracy, nobility, gentry and commonalty are not all the same, and better understandings of historical and contemporary vocabularies will help avoid their conflation if multiple power and symbolic relationships are to be understood.

The second area of research lies in power and symbolic relationships.  One is understanding the ways indirect rule created or reinforced new monarchies and dynasties who can be understood, not as subservient to imposed empire, but as classes in transition.  There is a need to ask who is involved in these processes, and why.  Polycentric power structures and systems need to be identified and comprehended, especially if these are counterpoints to singular imperial hierarchies in which all roads lead to a European metropole.  A related area is to ask how viceroys and colonial administrations understood the popular power and authority (or claims to such authority) by indigenous monarchs and rulers, and vice versa.

As the colonial era transitioned into the era of the nation-state during the mid-20th century, I think it is worth considering the strategic choosing of sides by indigenous monarchs, such as Cambodia, Yogyakarta and Hyderabad, even Japan.  Not all indigenous monarchies failed to survive the transition, so what strategic, long term thinking did they employ, how were they able to transform themselves, and why did some fail where others succeeded?  What was the role of relationships between newly professionalising colonial administrations and local aristocrats in preparing (or not) for such transitions.  Finally, it would be useful to ask who rejected royal forms of government in new post-colonial states, and who benefited from such rejection?

Her Royal Highness Princess Mangkubumi, Crown Princes of Yogyakarta.  Image source.

Spatial and material issues

The third area for research, I think, lies in spatial and material history.  Palaces, Residencies, Government Houses – such imperial or royal sacred spaces become desacralised when monarchs are overthrown and dynasties terminated, but which is cause and consequence, and how iterative is such a process?  How much reliability can be given to statements/ or inferences by political classes and curators that post-royal or viceroyal estates are ‘opened up’ as popular museums?  Can narratives of museumising spaces/places be read and questioned as analogies or metaphors for reconceptualising a crown or dynasty as historical and past?  In order to deal with such matters, it is necessary to consider the cultural imaginaries provoked and maintained through the architecture and landscapes of such residences.  I make a special plea, here, for greater attention to ‘built heraldry’ in viceroyal settings.  There is some relevant literature on European and Brazilian examples, but they can’t be applied uncritically to the Asia Pacific – which leads back, in a way, to questions of language and vocabulary.

Government House Sydney. Image B. Baskerville.

Finally …

I hope this conference report will convey some sense of the scope of contemporary, ‘right now’, work on royal histories from Australasian (in the older, looser sense of ‘south of Asia’ or ‘southeastern Asia’) or perhaps ‘Tenggara’ perspectives.  These perspectives have some resonances with similar work in Europe but also have some distinctive Austral-Asian characteristics.  However, this report may imply a coherence and specific research program that does not really exist.  As far as I know, none of the conference speakers focuses exclusively on royal history or court studies, and they come from a diverse range of disciplinary fields.  Compared to similar studies in Europe the field is in its infancy, but it also has its own particularities that are beginning to develop (see programs below).  Professor Robert Aldrich and Dr Cindy McCreery, both of the University of Sydney’s History Department, are the leaders in this development, and I look forward too much more original and innovative work to appear in the future.  Roll on ‘Monarchies Conference No 4’!

Conference Programs: No 1 Crowns and Colonies: Monarchies and Colonial Empire, 2014, No 2 Royals on Tour: The Politics and Pageantry of Royal Tours, 2015, No 3 Monarchies, Decolonisation and Royal Legacies in the Asia-Pacific, 2017.

Bootenal Spring 2017 | Not the history wars

I recently went to Bootenal Spring.  Bootenal Spring is a little oasis of tranquillity on the windswept Greenough Flats in Western Australia, about 20 kilometres south of Geraldton.  The spring is a few hundred metres off the highway, down a dusty lane, shimmering in the heat-haze and barely noticeable unless being sought.  Water permanently pools and flows into the lower Greenough River, through the sandhills into its broad estuary and, sometimes, even breaks through the sand bar into the Indian Ocean.  In 1957 Randolph Stow recalled the district:

My childhood was seashells and sandalwood, windmills | and yachts in the southerly, ploughshares and keels | fostered by hills and by waves on the breakwater | sunflowers and ant-orchids, surfboards and wheels | gulls and green parakeets, sandhills and haystacks, and | brief subtle things that a child does not realise …[1]

The place names are fairly recent.  Shipwrecked adventurer Lieutenant George Grey traversed the area in 1839, re-naming Bootanoo (the river and its marshy flats) after one of his scientific patrons.[2]  In 1849 a military detachment named their landing place Gerald’s Town for their vice-regal commander.[3]  A few years later when pastoralists staked their claims over the land their station hands adapted the local names to their tongue.  Boolungu, the place where the pelicans rested, became Bootenal.  In time, the settlers forgot these origins and developed their own folk-etymologies.  Bootenal’s story became one of an old man stuck in the mud having to pulled-out ‘boots’n’all’.  In the seeming naivety of that rustic humour lies history’s secret denial.

Boolungu, the pelican place, with its permanent fresh water, attracted the old people and the incomers alike.  Possessing Boolungu/Bootenal, or being possessed by it, brought them into contact and conflict, with consequences that reverberate to this day.  Those stories are now told in a series of eleven plaques that chart a ramble around the Spring.  The titles of the eleven plaques, like chapters, sketch out the storylines: Bimarra the Rainbow Serpent, Early visits by white men, Surveying the Greenough Front Flats, Bush tucker, Precious water, Introduction of sheep and cattle, Subjugation, Retaliation, Incarceration, Pensioner Guards and Decimation of the Aboriginal population.  The story’s plot twists and turns like the path, voices speaking from all sides to the attentive rambler.  It’s a bit wild, a bit confronting, it asks for comprehension.

Some of the plaques tell stories of the Bootenal Thicket massacre in 1854.  Each plaque contains a quote, some from historical documents, some from oral histories.  They were prepared by local historians and elders of the local Naaguja people.  They don’t try to tell a coherent or total story, but instead give the walker different perspectives across time.  Their demand is that you reflect … even remember.

And indeed I shall anchor, one day – some summer morning | of sunflowers and bougainvillea and arid wind … and when you ask me where I have been, I shall say | I do not remember | And when you ask me what I have seen, I shall say | I remember nothing | And if they should ever tempt me to speak again | I shall smile, and refrain.[4]

       

 

I was at Bootenal Spring at the same time the reactions to Stan Grant’s commentary on the Captain Cook statue in Sydney were in the news.[5]  Bootenal’s plaques had been installed on National Sorry Day in 2011, 157 years after the massacre.  Local people, some descended from the settlers, wanted the conflict to be recognised in local history, and for the place to be “treasured and respected”.[6]  The use of quotes was a deliberate method to allow visitors to interpret the stories, and be provoked to engage in their own discussions, rather than present them with a single and, paradoxically, contestable ‘truth’.  No “discovered this territory” in these plaques.

In this part of Western Australia, eastern Australia is something of a foreign country, a feeling made ever more stark sitting by the Spring that day and comparing in my mind its monuments with those in Sydney’s Hyde Park.  Perhaps the real monument at Bootenal Spring is the landscape itself, named and named again, an ancient weathered palimpsest inscribed and re-inscribed many times but always powerfully evocative, so much more than fens on a notoriously arid coast.

The loved land will not pass away | World has no life but transformation | Nothing made selfless can decay | The loved land will not pass away.[7]


The day I visited Bootenal Spring it was peaceful and calm, the first spring day of the season. The landscape was vivid with purple and crimson samphire, green winter grass and a deep blue sky reflected in the water.  Pelicans preened on the river bank.  The quiet was broken only by the staccato cries of stilts on the muddy flats, bees humming around the wattle blossoms and ravens morosely calling from the sighing sheoaks.  Their call remains a leitmotif of the Greenough Flats of my boyhood, taking me back in time.

And the crow’s voice in the empty halls of summer | joins sun and rain, joins dust and bees; proclaiming | crows are eternal, white cockatoos are eternal: | the old names go on.[8]

I knew the Spring as a boy that every once-in-a-while was visited with my grandmother.  I always felt there was something about it, but never really knew its stories.  I followed her example of throwing a handful of sand or sedges into the water, but without knowing why.  Now, one of the plaques tells me this acknowledges the rainbow serpent and ensures my protection. Perhaps that’s what nana was trying to show me all those years ago: just sit, sense the place, no speaking or words, let the country tell its stories to you?

I still felt that same disorientation that fine spring day I had felt as a boy.  Family history had in more recent years revealed to me the probable involvement of a settler-ancestor in the terrible history of Bootenal Spring.  A growing awareness that at least one of my ‘old colonist’ forebears was involved in the killings in 1854 now clouds everything, and I am struggling to write this post.  Every keystroke becomes ever more complicated.  Another plaque tells me a convict depot was built by the Spring in 1857, and through it another ancestor entangles with Bootenal – a teenage thief from the slums of Manchester who later married a widowed daughter of the old colonist of 1854.  Towering palms monumentalise the now-lost depot.

Forever to remain – the condemnation | pronounced on graver felons – was for our fathers | coming in freedom, a discipline, a promise | always retractable | That is not our case | the sons: who ran as children wild | in an un-fenced, new-named inheritance … learning at last that country claims its station | as men do theirs, and skylines lock around us | surer than walls: forever to remain.[9]

Inscribing history directly in the landscape in the form of monuments has been going on for a long time, as has disrespecting or questioning those monuments.  There were once stone-circled dancing grounds on the stony hills east of the spring, but the settlers barely recognised them as monuments.  There are headstones in the old Greenough cemetery memorialising men “murdered by natives”, but around them the ceaseless winds reminisce on the avenging of those deaths. Bootenal Spring’s eleven plaques were defaced soon after their installation with the slogan “get over it”.[10]  On the day I was there I could see plaques with scratched attempts at disfiguration.  This is a conversation as old as the colony, even older, and it’s rarely easy listening.

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: | Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ | Nothing beside remains. Round the decay | Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare |The lone and level sands stretch far away.[11]

Only the ruined monument survives in Shelley’s imagined sandy wastes, but by its survival it allows new stories to be told of that place, new histories to illuminate a way ahead from a troubled present.  Old histories are not lost.  Palimpsest it may be, but its layers do not silence its meanings.

Conflict over colonial monuments is not new, even if some of the media have only just stumbled across it.  Influenced by events in America, noisy commentators here indulge in another battle in the History Wars.  The pictures of Captain Cook get larger and more colourful in the newspapers, the demands to accept his greatness, and counter-insistence on ‘many Cooks’, grow ever-more strident.[12]  But, is this really more of the History Wars?  Frank Bongiorno labelled this outbreak the Statue Wars, more a measure of our Americanisation and global political contentions than any understanding of colonial history or historical contingency.[13]  He characterised it as a question of how should the past be represented in public commemoration, a test of our capacity to carry more than one idea in our head at a time.  Peter Read has asked whether land can hold memories of events, lingering in sites of evil or old magic, forming a tangible link between the dispossessed and the possessors.[14]  In that sensory link, in the plaques, are the old people of Boolungu able to return to the Spring, to repossess their country?  I’m sure their descendants can.  Bootenal Spring and its rambling walk converse with Bongiorno and Read, with the local people who placed the plaques on Sorry Day.  They are not the overblown political rhetoric and media hype of the pseudo-history wars.

Perhaps more contemplation, less shouting; more historiography, less ideology; more building of bridges rather than burning them charts pathways ahead.  But, even so a melancholy pervades me …

The dark women go down to the haunted pool | They speak to the children, the spirits, the yet-unborn … I have robbed from the starving woman, I have gone down | to the pool of children and stolen … A woman is a river … implacable, enduring.[15]

This post is incomplete.  Sandhills, sandalwood, southerly winds, emblems of childhood long gone.  But … I don’t know how to end.  Bougainvillea, orchids, sunflowers, crows, samphire, pelicans, sheoaks illume a transformative landscape.  Massacre, subjugation, retaliation, incarceration, decimation, evil signal one of the founding stories that needs to be honoured.  They are its war memorials on the Greenough Flats.

The story of Bootenal Spring can never be finished.  In my mind’s eye I keep rambling along that track around the Spring, listening to the plaques, reading the country, no matter where I go, destined forever to remain.

 

I pay respect to the Elders past, present and future for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes, they are the traditional owners and First People of Bootanoo and Boolungu, of Greenough River and Bootenal Spring.


All Stow quotes from John Kinsella (ed) The Land’s Meaning: New selected poems Randolph Stow, Fremantle Press, Fremantle 2012

All photographs by mrbbaskerville, 25 August 2017; Clarkson headstone 25 August 2006

[1] Randolph Stow, ‘Seashells and Sandalwood’, 1957

[2] George Bellas Greenough FRS FGS (1778-1855), a founder and president of the Geological Society of London

[3] Captain Charles FitzGerald (1791-1887), Governor of Western Australia 1848-1855.  Gerald’s Town quickly became Geraldton.

[4] Randolph Stow, ‘Landfall’, 1969

[5] Stan Grant, ‘It is a ‘damaging myth’ that Captain Cook discovered Australia’, ABC News Online, 23 August 2017 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-23/stan-grant:-damaging-myth-captain-cook-discovered-australia/8833536

[6] Peta Kingdon, ‘Plaques point to the past’, The West Australian, 3 June 2011

[7] Randolph Stow, ‘Variations on themes of the Tao Teh Ching, VII’, 1966

[8] Randolph Stow, ‘At Sandalwood’, btw 1956-1962

[9] Randolph Stow, ‘Stations, II, 4, The Man’, 1965

[10] Mike Rosel, ‘The Coast of Ghosts’, RACV Magazine, May 2013: 36

[11] Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Ozymandias’, 1818

[12] Trent Dalton, ‘The Origins of an Epic Endeavour: Cook Rediscovered’, Weekend Australian 2 September 2017: 20-21, plus more material in that issue; Martin McKenzie-Murray, ‘History rebuffs’, The Saturday Paper, 2 September 2017: 3 (with the unconscious irony of an Academy Travel advertisement illustrated by an image of a Christopher Columbus statue on page 27)

[13] Frank Bongiorno, ‘The Statue Wars’, Inside Story, 4 September 2017

[14] Peter Read, quoted in Margaret Hair, ‘Invisible Country.’, M/C Journal, Vol 8, No 6, 2005, http://journal.mediaculture.org.au/0512/09-hair.php

[15] Randolph Stow, ‘Stations, I, 2, The Woman’, 1965

The Centenary of the House of Windsor, 1917 – 2017

The 2017 Australian Historical Association (AHA) Conference was held in Newcastle, New South Wales between 3 – 7 July.  It was held just before the centenary of the proclamation of the House of Windsor, and the paper I presented at the conference is posted here on the precise anniversary of that date, 17 July 1917.  It is a marker of the centenary and its continuing significance in the histories of Australia, the Australian States, the other old dominions, India, the United Kingdom, the contemporary Commonwealth, the Crown and the dynasty itself.

The post consists of two parts: an introduction with the conference abstracts and so on, followed by the paper proper with the images displayed in the presentation, and citations for all quotes.

Click on the images for a larger, more readable version.

INTRODUCTION (Conference papers)

Slide 1

Title

Allegiances beyond Borders: South Australia’s journey from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor

Summary of Abstract

Appealing for royal support during a crisis is an old tradition, but what happens when the king is cast as part of the problem?  Can new traditions, new entanglements emerge?

17 July 1917: The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha metamorphosed into the House of Windsor.  German Süd Australien was dead, new/old histories and entangled genealogies were inscribed on palimpsest landscapes, and then…?

Abstract

A century ago this month the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty in Britain became the Windsors.  This was much more than a mere name change.  It capped a series of ‘de-Germanising’ or ‘de-Europeanising’ tactics by George V during the Great War to strategically reposition his dynasty and its future as fundamentally British.  The change drew upon, and consciously projected, stories and traditions of a mythologised ancient past of ‘Anglo’ and ‘Celtic’ mixing or fusing to create a new and uniquely ‘Briton’ dynasty with shared genealogical and emotional links to every British community in the world.

South Australia was one of those British communities, and the dynastic strategy both mirrored and was interlinked with responses to a vicious anti-German campaign in the State.  Between 1.5 and 4 per cent of South Australians shared some degree of German heritage, and the campaign to demonise, exclude and contain them between 1915 and 1918 was visceral and relentless.  It was also, measured by its own objectives, perhaps the most successful such campaign in the Empire.  Like the dynastic name change, the mass ‘toponymic cleansing’ of German place names in South Australia reached its fruition in 1917.

But, like the king, the opponents of South Australia’s anti-Germanists drew upon a mythologised traditionalism of what they called ‘admixture’ in response to anti-German ‘racialism’.  Both sides invoked the dynasty and its supposed histories in support of their claims and counter-claims. Eventually, a re-imagined and newly-traditional royal family emerged, transformed for the cultural needs of modern South Australia.

Author

Bruce Baskerville has an interest in the ways old institutions, such as crowns, are transported, adapted, re-formed and re-imagined in new realms, especially settler societies.  His recent University of Sydney PhD thesis is titled The Chrysalid Crown: An un-national history of the Crown in Australia 1808-1986.

The Session

Place: Newcastle City Hall, Hunter Room 1, Friday 7 July 2017, 11:00-12:30 session.

Session Chair: Prof Dane Kennedy, George Washington University, and opening keynote speaker on ‘Colonial Cosmopolitanism: Mobility, Cross-Cultural Networks and the Struggle for Postcolonial Sovereignty’.

Panel Theme: Royal Exile, Travel and Transformation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Speakers: Prof Robert Aldrich, Dr Cindy McCreery and Dr Bruce Baskerville.

 

THE PRESENTATION (largely as spoken)

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the place where we meet, pay respects to elders past and present, and welcome Aboriginal people to this session.

Slide 2 | Spot the difference

JULY 1917 OR JULY 2017?

This paper is extracted and summarised from part of one chapter in a thesis, so because of the time available many details are passed over.  Please don’t hesitate to ask me in the Q&A.

In this paper I will tell a story about allegiance, and how it can dramatically change while appearing to be unchanging, how an ostensible disentangling was really a new entangling, presented as recovering an older, truer history.

Along the way, the Crown and dynasty were transformed, as were the people of South Australia and, perhaps more significantly, the emotional bonds between settler subjects and their king-emperor.

Looking at Slide 2, which is counter-factual story and which is journalism?  There are enough clues to tell them apart, but a century ago in 1917, the first was still a viable projection of a likely (but rapidly receding) future, while the second, by changing the references to Islam to Germans, would have sounded very much like every-day press commentary in Adelaide.

The settings are Balmoral, London and Melbourne, but replace them with the Barossa, Kaiserstuhl and Adelaide, and timelines and places become indistinct and mixed-up.

Let’s try and untangle a few knots.

Slide 3 | ‘A Good Riddance’

IMAGINING A BRITANNIC DYNASTY

A century ago this month the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty in Britain became the Windsors.  This anniversary on 15 July marks more than a mere name change.  It capped a series of ‘de-Germanising’ or ‘de-Europeanising’ tactics by George V during the Great War to strategically reposition his dynasty and its future as fundamentally British.  The change drew upon, and consciously projected, stories and traditions of a mythologised ancient past of antique peoples mixing or fusing to create a new and uniquely post-Roman ‘Briton’ dynasty with deep emotional links to every British community in the world.

In mid-1917 the Australian newspapers reported vague announcements about the King changing the dynastic name to the House of Britain, “a title that would embrace the dominions”.  Then, on 19 July, the papers across Australia reported

“The King signed a proclamation, announcing that he had adopted the family name of Windsor, and had relinquished all German titles and dignities”.[1]

Australian High Commissioner and former Labor Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, and the South African High Commissioner were present when the king signed the proclamation. The dominions had been at the very heart of this decision.

The new name was reported to be “entirely English in its history”, which would “give gratification throughout the Empire”.[2]  Over the next few months, the nature of this ‘English’ history was spelled-out in the press.  Emphasis was placed on a royal lineage stretching over several dynasties to before the Norman conquest.  The change of name was presented as the workings of ancient and venerable ‘tradition’.

The characteristics of the tradition had four main inter-related elements: Windsor was ‘English’ in its historical associations, it was a ‘natural’ choice for a dynastic name, the new dynastic rules were ‘democratising’, and it would be welcomed throughout the Empire.  Paradoxically, this ‘tradition’ relied upon innovation to invoke a reimagining among the King’s subjects of the Crown itself.

 The change involved a sacralising component with its principal sacred site being Windsor Castle where, in its inner sanctum of the Chapel of St George chivalric rituals were performed beneath the armorial banners of the Knights of the Garter.  Press descriptions sought to invoke a mythical or even magical past for Windsor Castle, from the seat of King Arthur to being Charles I’s prison before his regicide.  Evoking the name Windsor was a key legitimating device.

Windsor was a ‘natural choice’ because it cleansed alien (non-British) influences and emphasized the ‘national character’ of the dynasty. Shed of its recent (Hanoverian and Saxe-Coburg) German influences, the name Windsor emphasized a return to the more ‘democratic’ traditions of the ancient past.  Princely status was to be limited to the immediate family of the king, and was welcomed as if something ‘Australian’ had become part of royalty.

It also allowed the related dynasties of continental royalty, a recent accretion, to be abandoned.  Marrying into European dynasties, said to avoid taking sides during the English civil wars, was no longer necessary. Royal children would now take British spouses from within the Empire.

Slide 4 | Windsor Castle, viewed from a train

The ancient royal pedigree stretched back to Cerdic of Wessex and Malcolm Canmore of Scotland, a pedigree Anglo and Celtic reflected in the British communities of the Empire. It was, reported the press, this

“… intimate association through that ancestry with the history and growth of the British nation that King George wishes to impress upon both his own family and the peoples of the Empire”.[3]

This was a powerful narrative about a tradition in which king and people had a shared ancestry that was emotional, spiritual and ideological.  It was a continuity with a past deeper than any historical research could verify.  This ‘natural’ continuity was cast, not as medieval, but as part of an enduring national character.  Having invented this continuity and its character, innovation masked as a restoration underpinned the abandonment of extended dynastic relationships.  The novelty of the dominions and the metropole equally sharing the imperial centre further extended the ‘tradition’ of a shared dynasty and common genealogy.

The 200 years of German influence since George I had assumed the throne in 1714 were thus swept aside as a mere detour from ancient tradition embodied in a venerable, mystical, unbroken lineage of sovereigns that linked old pre-Conquest Windsor with every modern imperial city and eventually every household and every subject in the remotest corner of the Empire.

Through this romanticised tradition the ‘intimate association’ between the King and every single subject, direct, emotional and unmediated, could be imagined.  The press across Australia reinforced the ‘tradition’ by providing the visual representations for audiences who would never actually see Windsor Castle.  This was a dynasty to which all true Britons could be loyal, and the new technologies of cheap mass printing and photography would make it accessible to all.

So, how was this change experienced in war-time South Australia?

Slide 5 | Kaiserstuhl

THE GERMAN THRONE IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

South Australia was one of those British communities ‘intimately associated’ with the king.  The dynastic strategy both mirrored and was interlinked with responses to a vicious anti-German campaign in the State.  Between 1.5 and 4 per cent of South Australians shared some degree of German heritage, and the campaign to demonise, exclude and contain them between 1915 and 1918 was visceral and relentless.[4] Like the dynastic name change, the mass ‘toponymic cleansing’ of German place names in South Australia reached its fruition in 1917.

Anti-Germanism in an organized sense in Australia began early in the war. The All-British League formed in Port Adelaide in February 1915 is an example of one of the more virulent anti-German organizations.

The League’s core objectives were:

“First, to advocate forever the shutting out of all foreigners from Government and municipal posts; secondly, to prevent foreigners from becoming members of Parliament or justices of the peace; and thirdly, to jealously guard against the ascendancy of any language over English in the curriculum of State-aided schools.”[5]

‘Foreigner’ essentially meant German, and over the next four years the League campaigned relentlessly to have Germans (by which it meant anyone of German birth, or German parentage or grand-parentage, wherever they were born) removed from the South Australia Parliament and magistracy, municipal councils and public employment, to remove the franchise from all Germans in local, State and Federal elections, for all German or Lutheran schools to be closed or taken over by the State and to have all German-language publications suppressed.  It wanted all land owned by Germans to be compulsorily acquired and used for returned soldier settlements.  It demanded that all German-origin place names be replaced by British or ‘Australian native’ names.  By 1918 it was advocating the wholesale deportation of all Germans.

The League’s campaigns were visceral, bigoted, jingoistic and highly public, and they found strong support in The Mail newspaper. League branches were established throughout the state and its activities were widely covered in the South Australian press.[6]  It had a spectacular success with cleansing the map of South Australia of German place names. In May 1916, The Mail published a map of South Australia showing German toponyms, followed a week later by a hysterical article urging their removal under the headline “Deutschland Über Süd Australien”.[7]  For The Mail, German names and the ‘gutteral language’ were becoming “outrageously offensive”, and the premier example was Kaisterstuhl, or the Emperor’s Seat, near Tanunda.  This place name showed the ‘characteristic audacity’ of Germanic thinking “in applying such an appellation to a portion of a British range of hills”.[8]  Another example was Sedan, named by German settlers to commemorate the Prussian victory over Napoleon III, a victory they still secretly celebrated every year.  Any traveller to South Australia, claimed The Mail, would think that the Kaiser, not King George, was ruler of the land.  A “few drab, unimaginative, anaemic and ductile individuals” might object[9], but in support of its quest The Mail quoted Henry de Halsalle, author of the sensationalist best-seller Degenerate Germany (surely one of the most appalling books ever printed), who had written:

“Germany is beyond question the most vice-ridden country in Europe.  She is as libidinous as the American negro, and vastly more diseased”.[10]

Any German who objected to changing the names was inherently disloyal, claimed The Mail, and should be immediately interned.

On the other hand, The Register cautioned against purity in regard to place names, noting that it was not always simple to decide which was a ‘British’ name: “One need not go beyond the Royal Family to illustrate the ease with which confusion may arise” wrote the editor.[11] However, rather than direct opposition it could only advance some gentle derision:

“It would be small consolation to a permanently disabled soldier a year or two hereafter to reflect that, even if he were not sufficiently fed and cared for, at any rate “Kaiserstuhl”, of which probably he had never previously heard, had been turned into some other less offensive specimen of nomenclature”.[12]

In early August 1916 the South Australian Parliament passed a unanimous resolution to remove all place names of an ‘enemy origin’.  The offending Kaisterstuhl was highlighted, as was the imagined probability that, if the Germans won the war, they would undoubtedly rename King William Street as Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse.[13] The League’s fear was not of German invasion, but of a German victory over Britain resulting in Australia being claimed by the Germans as a war prize.  The parliamentary debate was single-sided and at least 96 German-language place names were removed under the Nomenclature Act 1917. It was the largest mass toponymic cleansing of a landscape in Australia during the war.  The League’s campaign had captured the whole South Australian parliament, and it freely dragged the German ancestry of the royal family into public controversy.

Coupled with a more general equating of royal dynasticism with an insidious Deutschtum (or cultural infiltration) that had already set aside a site for the Kaiser’s new Australian throne near Tanunda, the storm was embroiling ideas about the Crown and dynasty within a larger conflict of ideas about Britishness in Australia. Britishness, not so much as a nationality, but as an ideal or a set of values, perhaps encapsulated in a revealing conflict between ideas of racial purity and miscegenation.

Slide 6 | Pirie Street Wesleyan Church

ADMIXTURE VERSUS RACIALISM

Like the king, the opponents of South Australia’s anti-Germanists drew upon a mythologised traditionalism of what they called ‘admixture’ in response to anti-German ‘racialism’.  They invoked the dynasty and its supposed histories in support of their claims.  The League was not without its opponents.

A letter writer to the Advertiser, styled ‘A Woman’ put their principle arguments forward a few months after the League’s formation.  She argued that old traditions of

“personal honour, domestic fidelity, commercial integrity, political probity, reverence for the law, chivalry towards woman and the Anglo-Saxon love of truth”

would send a cold shiver up the spines of the League.[14]  One of The League’s objectives, she argued, was to cultivate ‘race-hatred’, an objective that made vice-regal patronage of the League unacceptable.  The King’s representatives should not be taking sides and supporting ‘racialist distinctions’ between members of the community.  A Woman argued there were ‘enormous’ numbers of intermarriages between Briton and non-Briton in South Australia, including many leading citizens.  Further, she said, the League’s own rules would exclude the King and royal household from membership because of their ‘mixed descent’.  The League’s arguments, she concluded “are more fitting for a back-lane harangue, but most unsuitable for [exhibiting] British fairplay”.[15]

Responses to A Woman show two opposing streams of thought.  Captain Cromarty, secretary of the League, wrote that a Briton would never raise the issue of the King’s ineligibility for League membership and that mixed marriage was a menace.[16] Another critic invited A Woman to join the League, but was sure she wouldn’t because the King and the royal household would be absent: “Membership is an honour reserved for people of British parentage, and there are some privileges that even the King cannot enjoy”.[17]  Still another critic answered that the League had no fear of being disloyal to the British throne, as distinct from the German-blooded King.[18]

A Woman’s supporters, such as the influential Methodist preacher the Reverend Henry Howard, on the other hand, stated that the League’s rules were so ‘narrow and un-British’ that he would never join, would prevent “our own Governor’s Lady, the Prince of Wales, the Mother-Queen and even the King himself” from joining.[19]  Those with an ‘admixture of foreign blood’, he added, had ‘a splendid record of citizenship’.

A Woman, or ‘those of her lineage’, was castigated for not only being rude, ill-mannered, and a complainer, but also for ‘no doubt’ being connected with German Australians, likely the wife of a ‘moneyed German’, a carping pro-German, and perhaps harshest of all, an accusation that A Woman was actually a man, born of pro-German parents in Adelaide.[20]

Another response to the shared genealogy of the British and German royal families was evident in the Catholic media.  “The present reigning house in England, the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha … is a German house”, stated Sydney’s The Catholic Press unequivocally, and so from a ‘racial descent’ point of view it was entirely accurate to say that the Kaiser is half English.[21] This inversion of the claims that the British royals were partly German to a claim that the German royals were partly English, and both were racially impure, added another tension.  Various ‘histories’ of the royal surnames of Wettin, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Hanover and Guelph, all indicating shared Germanic origins of the two royal houses, became common fare in some Catholic newspapers, especially in apparent responses to children’s letters. They presented a history that emphasized Orange subversion in Ireland supported by Germanic elements in the English royal family, the head of the Church of England being required to be a Protestant descendant of German Hanoverians, the extended dynastic network that turned royalty into assets of ‘Deutschtum’, and Lutheranism and Anglicanism being essentially the same (non-Catholic) denomination.

By the end of 1917 a further layering of this ‘history’ had evolved that positioned Ireland as the only truly non-German nation or race in the British Empire.[22] In this narrative the Welsh, the Scots and especially the English had for centuries been ‘enthusiastic’ for all things Germanic.  Only the Irish had supported the French in the Franco-Prussian War, it was claimed, while the Scots had been happy to be flattered by the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas wearing kilts and adopting Highland ways, and the Welsh kept the Prince of Wales Germanic motto of Ich Dien.

The racial inferiority of the royal family implied by the All-British League in South Australia was further complicated by a layer, also couched in a language of racial distinction and hierarchy, of Irish separateness promoted through the Catholic press in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in which the royal family served as a metaphor for a Germanic and inherently repressive ‘English’ (i.e. German) state.

The king’s re-naming of the royal house cut through, although did not entirely dispel, these rancorous debates.

Slide 7 | George V knights Monash

SOUTH AUSTRALIA’S WINDSORS

The new Royal House of Windsor actively attached itself to the dominions.  King George personally invested General John Monash (Victorian-born son of Prussian-Jewish parents) as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on the battlefield at Amiens in 12 August 1918. The King’s use of the ‘ancient’ ritual of battlefield investitures was within the new context of a direct and ‘intimate’ relationship between the King and his dominion subjects.

During 1917 and 1918, at least two strands of dominion loyalty and settler Britishness were in open conflict, represented in the nationalist League and the less-organised traditionalists.  The populist, anti-German, jingoistic, tabloid press darling All British League was able to influence state politicians of all shades, from both the conservative and labour movements, with its head office in working class Port Adelaide and branches in working and middle class suburbs and country towns.  Its vision of Britishness was bigoted and proudly discriminatory, and quite prepared to reject a conjectural membership by the King on the basis of his German ancestry.

The League’s nationalism, through the medium of shared support for the White Australia Policy, segued into a left wing, pro-Catholic strand in the labour movement.  But, it never took on the League’s virulent anti-Germanism just as the League never accepted Catholicism as an authentic voice of Irishness.  Both, however, cast the dynasty as inherently ‘German’ in character.

The more-subtle strand was the dynastic loyalism of the ‘traditionalist’ that emphasized the ancientness of institutions and mythic and legendary origins. This provided a strong continuity over time that maintained social cohesion and allowed for evolutionary change.  Crude nationalism was an anathema, and ideas of ‘admixture’, or mixed marriages, were advanced as a continuation of historical traditions that had grown out of centuries of such mixing.  It was exemplified by the writings of A Woman and the Reverend Henry Howard.  The invention of the House of Windsor with its sacred imaginings appealed to their spiritual and esoteric leanings.  WJ Hudson wrote in 1988

“[In the 1930s] Australians … focused, not on the bond between dominion and king, but on ‘the individual relationship of the citizen to the King.’”[23]

That Australians could have such a focus is explicable by the invention of the House of Windsor that produced the enthralling affect described by Hudson.

A month after the change, the King instituted the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Its creation was welcomed across the Empire, clearly linking the new royal house and the dominions, with its first recipients including Australians, Canadians and South Africans, as well as trades unionists and nurses.

Slide 8 | Rhapsodic public greetings of the Prince of Wales, heir to the new dynasty, in Adelaide, 1920

The traditionalists focus on history and culture rather than politics emphasized the ‘intimate’, direct relationship between sovereign and subject.  This meant participating in a timeless mystical bond, connecting through the mists of ancientness to a time when people of different origins were coming together and forming a new people.  These relationships were evident in the rituals and ceremonies of orders of chivalry and the sacred place of Windsor Castle with its own magical origins.  These ‘conjoinings’ created, and continued to create, British peoples and communities around the globe that were historical and natural, that were enduring and would continue into the future.  This was a Britishness that placed the King in the heart of every subject, and it could be imagined, vice-versa.

The League’s anti-Germanism left deep scars, evident in 1920 during the Prince of Wales’ tour of South Australia.  There were complaints that the prince’s emblem displayed the German words Ich Dien, and snide questions of whether his great-grandfather (Prince Albert) was a ‘good German’. The Catholic Southern Cross noted that as “King George V of Windsor (late Saxe-Coburg Gotha)” was celebrating his 55th birthday, the English continued to pursue a policy of “Prussianism’ in Ireland”, and the Prince chose to visit Adelaide on 12 July, “the festival of hate on which the ‘loyal’ Orange lodges … are accustomed to vilify Catholics”.[24]  The traditionalists’ recognition of multi-ethnic ‘conjoinings’ as an element in the forming of new Britons/Britains needs to be set against these war-time shadows, but as the slide shows ‘Windsorness’ had its victories.

The German contribution to communal or national identities in Australia was effectively silenced for several generations (and, I think, remains one of Australian history’s characteristic ‘silences’).  But, the traditionalists beliefs suggest there were counter-narratives to ideas of racial purity and White Australia that invites further research.

Slide 9 | George V’s funeral hatchment, Adelaide 1936 (thanks to Richard d’Apice for bringing this image to my attention)

The dominions were not passive recipients of these changes.  Through the war effort they affirmed their status as equal but separate bodies politic within the empire.  But the body natural of the one king was also transformed, transfused with mythic ancient Briton-ness and re-born as wholly British.  There would be no more membership of the once great, now wrecked, European royal and imperial dynastic network.  It was a naturalization and modernisation shaped by the times, and by it the Windsor’s avoided the fate of the continental imperial dynasties.

Settler Britons in the dominions, like South Australia, through their own often conflicting imaginings of loyalty, dynasticism and Britishness eased the way for the Crown to evolve and change while all the time appearing to be maintaining, even recovering, continuity and tradition.  The dominions helped save the Crown during the Great War.  After 1918, a British sovereign would no longer be a mere European dynast, instead she would be the living embodiment of the greatest and only truly imperial Crown left on the planet.  A truly Briton king had been born on 15 July 1917, and only he was fit to wrought a victorious new throne atop the ruins of the Kaiserstuhl in South Australia.

Slide 10 | Windsor triumphant, Saxony vanquished

[1] ‘House of Windsor | Royalty’s New Name’, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July 1917, page 7.  Some 40 different newspapers carried this same story, some in abridged or extended versions, around Australia.  The official notice was in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No 121, 2 August 1917, page 1

[2] ‘House of Windsor | Royalty’s New Name’, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July 1917, page 7

[3] ‘Royal Names and Titles’, Gippsland Mercury, 24 July 1917, page 3

[4] Figures from Commonwealth of Australia, Census 1911 http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/free.nsf/0/0354DDBB061331F2CA2578390011E1AF/$File/1911%20Census%20-%20Volume%20II%20-%20Part%20II%20Birthplaces.pdf

Peter Monteath cites a figure of 10% in ‘German South Australia on the Eve of the War’, in Melanie Oppenheimer at al, South Australia on the Eve of War, Wakefield Press, Mile End 2017: page 161.

[5] ‘The All-British League | Important Additional Aims | Stirring Address by Mr Owen Smyth’, The Daily Herald (Adelaide), 4 March 1915, page 6

[6] The League was established in a meeting at Port Adelaide on 15 January 1915.  By the end of 1915 it had 18 branches, by the end of 1916 24 branches, by the end of 1917 34 branches, and by the end of 1918 40 branches.  None were operational by 1920.  It also had a rifle club, which members were encouraged to join.  It claimed to have ‘well over 5,000 members’ in March 1917 (about 1.2% of the South Australian population).  Database of branches compiled by author.

[7] Deutschland Ueber Sued Australien | Work for the Government Christener’, The Mail, 27 May 1916, page 10; ‘Deutschland Über Süd Australien | How does the Government regard German names?’, The Mail, 3 June 1916, page 10

[8] ‘German Names Must Go | British Spirit and Sentiment Thoroughly Aroused | Pseudo-Patriots Vigorously Condemned’, The Mail, 17 June 1916, page 10

[9] ‘German Names Must Go | British Spirit and Sentiment Thoroughly Aroused | Pseudo-Patriots Vigorously Condemned’, The Mail, 17 June 1916, page 10

[10] Degenerate Germany, T. Werner Laurie, London 1916.  Online edition available here https://archive.org/details/degenerategerman00halsuoft , accessed 5 October 2014.  De Halsalle is a shadowy figure, described variously as an intelligence officer and a journalist, author of several moralistic tracts on the allegedly sordid behaviour of German women, actors, homosexuals and others he classed as degenerate; he also railed against using the term Anglo-Saxon as being a Germanic term.

[11] ‘German Names’, The Register, 12 July 1916, page 6

[12] ‘German Names’, The Register, 12 July 1916, page 6

[13] ‘German Names Doomed | Parliament Orders Change | Legislators’ Unanimous Vote | “The Mail” Thanked | “No More Loyalty In Germans Than In A Fly”, The Mail, 5 August 1916, page 10

[14] ‘All British League | To the Editor’, The Advertiser, 18 June 1915, page 10

[15] ‘All British League | To the Editor’, The Advertiser, 18 June 1915, page 10

[16] ‘All British League | To the Editor’, The Advertiser, 18 June 1915, page 10

[17] ‘All British League | From W R Butler’, The Register, 21 June 1915, page 3

[18] ‘All British League | From Once Too Tolerant’, The Register, 21 June 1915, page 5

[19] ‘All British League | From the Rev. Henry Howard’, The Register, 19 June 1915, page 13.  The Governor’s wife, Lady Marie Galwey, was the daughter of a Bavarian countess

[20] ‘All British League | From GLJ’, The Register, 24 June 1915, page 5

[21] ‘The Kaiser’s English Blood’, The Catholic Press (Sydney), 29 June 1916, page 4

[22] ‘Irish always Anti-German | Historical facts’, The Catholic Press, 13 December 1917, page 12

[23] WJ Hudson and Martin Sharp, Australian Independence: Colony to Reluctant Kingdom, Melbourne University Press, Carlton 1988: pages 4 and x

[24] letter to the editor from ‘Nothing German’, The Mail, 17 July 1920, page 5; ‘Some Pertinent Answers to Correspondents’, Southern Cross, 25 June 1920, page 18

Doctorate Awarded for The Chrysalid Crown

I’m not sure if I believe this yet.  A few days ago the University of Sydney advised me I have now satisfied the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Arts & Social Sciences).  I don’t think I will really believe it until that day arrives when I am in the Great Hall, suitably robed in the black and scarlet gown and hood, being conferred with the degree by the Chancellor of the University.

The Town Band welcomes the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Katoomba 17 April 2014. Photo author.

The Town Band welcomes the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, 17 April 2014. Photo mrbbaskerville.

My thesis is titled The Chrysalid Crown: An un-national history of the Crown in Australian 1808-1986.  Click on the title to view a copy.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the crowd, Katoomba, 17 April 2014. Photo author.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge somewhere in the crowd, Katoomba, 17 April 2014. Photo mrbbaskerville.

This is the abstract of the thesis, recorded in the university library system, if you don’t have the time to while away on 80,000 words plus appendices.

This thesis set out to answer a deceptively simple question: why did the 1999 referendum to abolish the Australian Crowns fail?   It focuses on the evolving civic personalities, communal identities and popular representations of the Crown in Australia, and how those representations and agents changed over 180 years.  Capacities for the Crown’s continuing mutability, especially its divisibility, are at the heart of these imaginings.  The answer to the question lies partly in emotions, in passion and the heart rather than in reason and the mind, along with a complex historical mix of other factors.  Each chapter focuses on a single event or artefact: a usurpation of vice-regal authority, a proposal for a cadet kingdom of Australia, a mystic royal response to anti-German persecution, a State’s attempt to secede under the Crown and the invention of a chivalric order.  The thesis posits a complex, iterative and changing network of social relationships rather than a simple metropole-periphery binary or hierarchy.  It disaggregates ideas of crown, Britishness, empire, nation and Australianess, and concludes on the eve of the 1988 bicentennial celebrations when the Crown in Australia appeared splendid, popular, modern, federal, natural and regenerative.  They were characteristics that, with hindsight, girded an Australian institution at once ancient and contemporary for the challenges of the 1990s when it stared-down what appeared to be an existential threat from Australian republicanism.

Waiting for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Katoomba, 17 April 2014. Photo mrbbaskerville.

Waiting for the Duchess of Cambridge to pass by, Katoomba, 17 April 2014. Photo mrbbaskerville.

The Duke of Cambridge preparing to leave Katoomba, 17 April 2014. Photo mrbbaskerville

The Duke of Cambridge preparing to leave Katoomba, 17 April 2014. Photo mrbbaskerville.

Something to remember the Cambridge's visit to Katoomba, 17 April 2014. Photo mrbbaskerville.

Something to remember the Cambridge’s visit to Katoomba, 17 April 2014. Photo mrbbaskerville.

Save Historic 38 Moreton Terrace, Dongara, Western Australia

NEWS JUST IN | The Irwin Shire Council voted 8-0 on 28 March 2017 not to de-list 38 Moreton Terrace from the Shire heritage list.  Thirteen public submissions were received, all opposing the de-listing, and the Council’s own Heritage Committee recommended Council reject the de-listing request.  The one submission in support of de-listing referred to the Shire’s “oppression”, “tyranny” and “officialism” over an “old residence from the 1950s” where “nothing of real importance happened”.  The minutes of the Council meeting can be viewed here , and the submissions and reports can be viewed here (see Attachment P103). 

Thanks to all who made submissions and otherwise fought the good fight

No 38 Moreton Terrace is a significant heritage-listed building in the main street of the little town of Dongara, on the Batavia Coast of Western Australia.  The local Irwin Shire Council has received a request to de-list the building – that is, remove it from the local heritage list.

38 Moreton Terrace, corner of Moreton Terrace and Point Leander Drive. Image L Baskerville 11 December 2016

38 Moreton Terrace, corner of Moreton Terrace and Point Leander Drive. Image L Baskerville 11 December 2016

Council was receiving public submissions on the de-listing until 19 December 2016, and will consider the request and the submissions made for and against de-listing at its meeting on 28 February 2017.

I made a submission opposing the de-listing, and set out my arguments in a lengthy seventeen-page assessment of the heritage values of the place.  Both the submission proper (a one-page letter) and the seventeen-page attachment (the more interesting document) are attached to this post and can be downloaded and shared.

38 Moreton Terrace, West Wing. Image L Baskerville 11 December 2016

38 Moreton Terrace, West Wing. Image L Baskerville 11 December 2016

Why do I think 38 Moreton Terrace is of heritage significance?  Because, at its simplest, this magnificent old rubble limestone pile, like a good book, can be read and bring to life stories of independent women running their own businesses, of the great hopes and dreams of Edwardian Westralia that were crushed and broken in the Great War, of the old landed gentry and their not-always happy relationships with ‘coloured’ labour, of the 20th century’s great transition from horse power to motor power, of the demise of coastal shipping and the rise of seaside tourism, and so very much more.  These are stories that might be unexpected in a remote beachside village, but which because of that have an added poignancy and capacity to speak to a whole continent.  And, I have to admit, I also think it is significant because I grew up playing in and around this romantic and mysterious old building in a childhood that still seems idyllic, an old building that still survives while so much has been lost to mammon.

But, don’t take my word for it – please read the submission and attachment, and make up your own mind.

38 Moreton Terrace, back of West Wing (left) and South Wing (right). Image L Baskerville 11 December 2016

38 Moreton Terrace, back of West Wing (left) and South Wing (right). Image L Baskerville 11 December 2016

I am sure the Irwin Shire councillors would appreciate hearing from anyone who opposes the de-listing, and wants to see 38 Moreton Terrace in particular, and the heritage assets of the Irwinish people and the Irwin shire generally, conserved and passed on to coming generations. Councillors and Shire planning officers contact details can be found here http://www.irwin.wa.gov.au/Contact-Us.aspx .

Two useful websites to explore are the Shire of Irwin http://www.irwin.wa.gov.au and the Irwin District Historical Society http://www.irwinhistory.org.au .

Black Swan (wrongly painted white), in pediment above shop front, corner of Moreton Terrace and Point Leander Drive. Image B Baskerville, 23 August 2007

Black Swan (wrongly painted white), in pediment above shop front, corner of Moreton Terrace and Point Leander Drive. Image B Baskerville, 23 August 2007

Heritage is not about nostalgia, it is our legacy to the future.  Once it is gone, we can’t get it back.  Please help the Irwin Shire Council reach the right decision on 28 February 2017.

Save 38 Moreton Terrace – Submission Letter

Save 38 Moreton Terrace – Submission Heritage Assessment and History

 

Commons of Colonial New South Wales

This paper was first presented at the Annual Conference of Affiliated Societies of the Royal Australian Historical Society in Ultimo, 8-9 October 1994, with the theme of ‘Knowing Places, Understanding Spaces’ on Sunday Morning, 9 October, 10-10.30am.  It was subsequently published in Knowing Places, Understanding Spaces: Conference Proceedings, RAHS, Sydney 1994: pages 58-66.

 Given the sudden rise of interest in the history of commons, I have re-published the paper here to make it easily accessible.  Readers are advised to take into account the extensive technological changes since 1994, especially the availability online of digitized archives and finding aids, the vast increase in historical materials available through database aggregators such as Trove (neither of which were available in 1994), and the endless re-naming of government agencies and changing of agency locations.

Introduction

This year [1994] marks the 190th anniversary of the gazetting of the first commons in New South Wales.  It is my intention with this paper to bring these places named ‘commons’ to your attention, to outline a brief history of commons generally in New South Wales up to federation, and to suggest some ways to go about researching the history of your local commons.  Now is an opportune time to begin writing histories of those places named ‘commons’, and to try and assess what such histories could have to contribute to the debates of our time.

Definition of a ‘Common’

So, what is a common?  A dictionary definition will tell us that it is

…the undivided land belonging to the members of a local community as a whole … (and also that it is) the profit which a [person] has in the land or waters of another; [such] as that of pasturing cattle, of fishing, of digging turf, or of wood for fire or repairs.[1]

The English ‘historical ecologist’ Oliver Rackham has traced the historical development of commons in England from early medieval times.[2]  By the early thirteenth century the ‘wildwood’ landscape had largely disappeared from England, and had been replaced by an intricate mosaic of land-use patterns combining urban, rural and ‘waste’, or un-used, places.  Various sorts of ‘protected areas’ were developed to manage particular natural resources such as pasture grasses, building timber, firewood, game animals and wild foods.  These areas were usually named forests, parks or commons.  Over time, local land uses would change and this would be reflected in the landscapes of commons.  For example, some wood-pasture commons in northern England became treeless when grazing came to a region; while on the other hand in eastern England during the sixteenth century, a decline in pastoralism was associated with an increase in the tree cover on commons.

A historian of the law of English commons, G.D. Gadsden, in his magisterial work on the subject, can tell us that the first law relating to commons was made in 1235 to prevent unilateral enclosures of common land by the lords of manors, and that early civil actions such as one in 1480 laid down a principal that a commoner who grazed stock on common land was liable for their trespass upon adjacent, unfenced land.[3]  Three hundred years later, the Inclosure Act of 1773 was made to regulate the management of commons and their enclosure.  This was the first in a series of laws for this purpose, with other major enactments following in the Inclosure (Consolidation) Act of 1801, the Inclosure Act of 1845 and the Metropolitan Commons Act of 1866.[4]  Gadsden makes the point that within this web of central authority, local commons continued to be managed by local manorial courts according to local customs.  There were also several distinct classes of common land that have their own distinct rules.  This regional and functional diversity of commons has, in the past and still today, ensured that certain tensions exist in England between local custom and the standard legal model of a common that Gadsden describes as an ‘English Elizabethan lowland manor’.[5]

By the time of the 1866 Act in England, however, a body of colonial law had begun to evolve that defined, and was specifically directed towards, the commons of New South Wales.  The landscape diversity and changability, as well as the tensions between local usages and central authorities that Rackham and Gadsden described in England, seems to have been partly true of New South Wales by that time.  Although genealogically speaking, the commons of New South Wales are derived from the commons of England, it is worthwhile noting that commons can also be found in places as diverse as France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, the Philippines and Japan, as well as most of the Australian states and territories and many other former British colonies including parts of the United States.[6]  In each place commons have been shaped by local needs and customs.

A Brief Overview of the Historical Development of Commons in New South Wales up to Federation

It may be possible to argue that the first common in New South Wales consisted of the fringes of the settlement in Sydney Cove from which building materials, foodstuffs and living spaces were extracted; or that early reserves such as the Crown Reserve of 161 hectares in the vicinity of Petersham Hill, set aside by Governor Phillip in 1789, constitute commons.[7]  However, the first officially created commons were a series of six areas set aside by Governor King in 1804.  These were the Nelson, Richmond Hill and Phillip Commons, in the Hawkesbury district, and the Prospect Hill & Toongabbee, Baulkham Hills & Northern Districts and Field of Mars & Eastern Farms Commons to the north and west of Sydney.[8]

Early in 1805, the Judge Advocate published an “Epitome of the existing Laws respecting Commons, for the information of all concerned”, as well as the names of three trustees locally elected to manage each common.[9]  The ‘Epitome’ derived from the laws “…used in that part of Great Britain called England”.  It named the Governor as the universal lord of the manor in New South Wales, recognised the feeding of “beasts of the plough, or such as manure the ground” as a ‘universal right’, a “Right of Common … inseparably incident to the Grant of Lands”, authorised the Governor to enclose commons “provided he leaves … sufficient for such as are entitled to it”, and stated that the interests of the Governor, as lord, and of local residents, as commoners, was to be regarded as mutual, with each able to sue the other for damages.  It then set out nine rules regarding the depasturing of stock, digging pits and trenches, and allowing commoners to graze beasts “on the King’s highway”.  The notice also provided for the appointment of trustees able to make local regulations for their commons.

Only a few new commons seem to have been made over the next fifty years: Sydney Common in 1811, Wallambine or St. Alban’s Common in the 1820s and the Wollombi Common about the same time.[10]  Possibly in line with the general trend in England of enclosing and dissolving commons some of the New South Wales commons also began to disappear.  The Prospect Hill & Toongabbee and Baulkham Hills & Northern Districts commons were initially made for a limited period of 14 years, and in 1818 they ceased to exist.[11]  In the 1820s much of Sydney Common was enclosed within the new water reserve over the Lachlan Swamps, and in 1840 the north-western corner was enclosed for the building of Victoria Barracks and nearby housing in Paddington.[12]  The ‘Epitome’ appears to have remained the main legal instrument for the regulation of commons.  Even the Wallambine and Wollembi Commons referred to before were only surveyed, but not actually gazetted until many years later.[13]  This may also be the case for other commons made at other places during this period.

In 1847, the Commons Regulation Act was passed, the first such piece of legislation in the colony.[14]  This Act was intended to overcome certain deficiencies in the law of the ‘Epitome’, and established trustees as bodies corporate, confirmed their right to make regulations and enforce them by fines, grant leases and distrain stock.  The purposes of commons was defined as “…the use of the settlers and cultivators and other inhabitants of [the] parish or district…” (s. 1), and commoners, as inhabitants of such parishes or districts, were to have the same ‘rights and remedies’ as commoners in England.

Following the making of this law, commons were subjected to greater attention by the authorities in Sydney.  The survey of the Field of Mars Common in 1848 was followed by the granting of title deeds to its trustees in 1849.[15]  A similar process of surveying and granting began on other established commons, as did a concurrent process of restricting commonage rights outside of commons.  In 1850 the Colonial Secretary published a notice stating that private land owners adjacent to crown land did not have any rights of common over such unalienated lands except within townsites, and in 1852 this was further restricted to towns having a population of less than 1000.[16]  Between 1854 and 1861, the trustees of existing commons at Pitt Town (formerly Nelson), Wallambine, Ham (formerly Richmond Hill), Wilberforce (formerly Phillip) and Field of Mars published annual accounts, from which it is possible to see something of the workings of a common at this time.  For example, between 1853 and 1855, the use of Pitt Town Common changed dramatically from sheep grazing to timber and firewood taking, and the trustees quadrupled their income from £25 to £92.[17]  This formalisation of local commons management and the restricting of commonage rights by the central authorities to places officially named ‘commons’ continued through the 1850s.  It is possible that the use of resources on commons near Sydney was also becoming more exploitative at this time.[18]

The Crown Lands Alienation Act of 1861 allowed this process of consolidation to turn, after 1865, to the rapid expansion of commons in New South Wales.  The first common gazetted under this Act, and also possibly the first common west of the Great Divide, was made at Bathurst in 1865.[19]  Within two years, commons were being created at a rapid rate.  For example, in December 1867 alone, seventeen new commons were gazetted, mainly on the western slopes and the Riverina.[20]  In the Sydney area, control of the remnants of the Sydney Common was vested in the Sydney City Council in 1866, and the city boundaries were extended to encompass the common in 1870.[21]  The Field of Mars Common, after several inquiries, petitions and much bitter argument, was finally resumed by the Crown in 1874 and subdivided, with the proceeds of the sales going towards the construction of a bridge across the Parramatta River.[22]

The final three decades of the nineteenth century were a time of expansion of the commons estate in the colony and of consolidating the management of commons.  Legislatively, a new Commons Regulation Act in 1873 made some changes, notably prohibiting the leasing of commons, and required annual accounts to be published in the Government Gazette.[23]  Further changes to the law of commons were made in 1886, when commoner’s rights were essentially restricted to pasturage and taking fallen timber and firewood, and 1895, when trustees were empowered to restrict access to common lands by carriers, teamsters, travellers and drovers.  All these changes were consolidated in a new Commons Regulation Act in 1898.  This law governed the management of commons in New South Wales until its repeal by the present Commons Management Act of 1989.[24]  Commons continued to be made across the colony under the Crown Land Alienation Act 1861.  They were categorised as permanent, temporary or pasturage commons, with each having their own distinct characteristics and rules.

An example of the general pattern of making post-1865 commons is Wellington Common.  A Permanent Common of 268 hectares was gazetted in December 1867 between Wellington town and the Macquarie River.[25]  In February 1868 a Temporary Common of two parts, one of about 3750 hectares and the other of 1164 hectares, was gazetted adjoining the river, town and Permanent Common.  At the same time the commoners’ boundaries were defined – that is, those “freeholders and householders” mainly living within the “reserve of account of population of the town of Wellington” were recognised as having rights to use the commons.[26]  This was followed by the election, by the commoners, of trustees to manage the commons, with the results being duly gazetted in March 1868.[27]

One of the earliest acts of trustees was to write a set of regulations for the common.  These generally followed a standard model, providing for the running of meetings of trustees, the appointment of a secretary and a herdsman, commoner’s rights of pasturage, travellers rights of pasturage, rules and fees for using the common and for gathering firewood, and prohibiting the dumping of rubbish, polluting of waterways, or leaving open of gates.[28]  Local variations include, for example, the regulations for Ham Common that provided, until 1880, a schedule of fees for commoners engaged in brick-making on the common.[29]

The bureaucrats in the Lands Department in Sydney maintained a framework of control over all the commons through administering the Commons Acts and their regulations.  The authority for any significant local changes came from Sydney rather than the commoners, a point that can be illustrated by the example of just two months in 1899, when the Government Gazette carried one notice calling for trustees of a common, three notices defining commoner’s boundaries, three reserving land for temporary commons, four applying s.25 of the Act to specific commons, nine describing pieces of land ‘withdrawn’ from commons, and 21 appointing trustees.[30]  A total of 41 commons were the subject of official notices in September and October 1899 alone.

A picture can be drawn from all of this in which commons in country areas are considered desirable by local inhabitants and their establishment is readily facilitated by the central government.  The management regulations, both central and local, were designed to ensure that the resources of the commons, usually firewood and pasture grasses, were conserved by regulating times, numbers and places of grazing, and the removal of wood, timber, soil and other materials.  In order for a common to continue its various functions, trustees had to try and strike a balance between the demands of the commoners, both individually and collectively, and the ability of the commons environment to meet those demands.  In effect, local interests in a common negotiated its management arrangements, and presented these as regulations to the government for approval, which endorsed them and provided for their legal enforcement.

The urban commons near Sydney, however, present a different picture.  Those parts of Sydney Common not included within Centennial Park in 1888 were developed for various recreational uses, such as Sydney’s first zoo, leased out to sporting clubs, or developed as parklands.  In 1905, the two remaining sections of Sydney Common were removed from the control of Sydney City Council and placed under the authority of the Chief Secretary.[31]  The Field of Mars Common had been partly sold-off, and parts of it reserved for parks, before the Resumption Act of 1874 was repealed in 1897.[32]  Both commons had been partly privatised through the sale of land for housing, and partly converted into urban parks, and they had both been removed from local control.  Unlike the active preservation of commons in the urban areas of England after 1866, the commons of Sydney were disappearing, often amid much dissent, from the landscape by the turn of the century.  A similar story for the Pitt Town, Wilberforce and Ham Commons in the Hawkesbury District has been told.[33]

There are many things that I have not talked about in this overview that I would have liked to, especially questions about how the landscapes of commons changed over time.  However, you can see that, generally, commons will date from after 1865, that there were plenty of bureaucratic requirements that created records that can now be studied – provided that they have survived; and that commons fulfilled significant cultural and resource needs in many communities.  This is part of the broader context for the making of commons in New South Wales before federation – a context that should be considered when talking about your local commons.

First: Ask a Question

If you are interested in researching the history of your local common or commons, then you need to begin with a question.  A good starting point is to ask “why am I choosing to study the history of our local common?”.  Your answer may be that it is part of a wider inquiry into your local history, or that it is related to a planned commemoration of an important date or event.  It may be that the information is needed for a townscape or heritage study.  Perhaps there are proposals afoot to ‘develop’ the area.  Maybe you just like the place and would like to know more about it.

You then need to ask yourself “how much information will I be happy with?”.  This question is important to consider, because your accessibility to the archives containing commons records, and the nature of those archives, will largely determine just how much information you can get.

Finally, you need to ask yourself “what am I going to do with this history once I have written it?”.  If your Society has a newsletter, try and get it printed in there.  Perhaps your local newspaper may be interested.  Send copies of your work to the major libraries – the State Library, the RAHS Library and the National Library.  Whatever you do, make sure that other people can be informed by your research.  The best knowledge is knowledge that is shared.

What Records are Available for Researching a History of Commons?

The place to begin is at the common.  What is it that you see when you take a look around and try some ‘landscape reading’?  What does the land that is or was your local common look like?  How are the trees, bush and grassland arranged?  Where are the creeks and swamps?  What condition are they in?  Can you make some educated guesses as to why the landscape looks like it does rather than something else?  Where are the boundaries, the gates, the roads and paths?  Why are they where they are and not somewhere else?  Are there any ruins of buildings or other relics of habitation?  How do they relate to the use of the place as a common?

The next thing is to see if anyone else has already written and published something that may be relevant to what you want to know.  Published local histories are a good place to start, although I have found very few that refer to local commons.  Back copies of local historical society journals and newsletters may reveal something.  Local newspapers may also contain some reminiscences or stories that refer to the common, but the accessibility of such materials will depend upon a combination of whether the newspaper has been indexed and how patient you are.  If your common is still managed by trustees, then they may have some records that you can look at.

Having checked upon what has already been done, it is time to sit down in the archives.  The imprimatur of central authority within which local commons existed can be seen reflected in the availability of records for research.  Overwhelmingly, these are to be found within central archives, most notably the State Library and the Archives Office of NSW.  However, it is possible that a wealth of material compiled by local trustees, especially in places where the local shire or municipal council acted as the trustee, can be unearthed in municipal records or archives.  I would be very interested to hear of anyone’s experiences in this matter.

State and Mitchell Libraries, Macquarie Street, Sydney.

Your first port of call should be the Mitchell Library, and its collection of the Government Gazette commencing in 1832.  These are bound in large volumes by year.  In the early years, a whole year is contained in one volume, but by the 1880s, a volume contains a quarter of a year, and by 1899, only two or three months.  Initially, the sheer number of volumes may be off-putting, but there are some short cuts.  There is an index to each year, and usually to each volume.  Page numbering begins with page 1 on the first issue for the year, and then continues consecutively throughout the year to something like page 4897 in the last issue for the year.

Generally, you should look under the heading ‘Land’, which will then have further sub-headings including, sometimes, ‘commons’ or ‘commonages’.  Sometimes, ‘commons’ is a heading in itself.  Under the sub-headings will be a listing of place-names and page numbers.  Sometimes, place-names themselves are main headings – the system of indexing changes every now and then.  Once you have located a reference to your common, simply go to that page in that year’s volume, and you will find (hopefully!) an official notice regarding your common – often it will be in a table of reserves being made by the government that will include water reserves, public schools, and so on.  Such a notice should tell you the place, county, locality, area (in acres), purpose, and papers number.  For example:[34]

Place | County | Locality | Area | Purpose | Papers

Wellington | Wellington | on the Macquarie River nr Wellington | 657 acres | permanent common | 66-13,994

It is important to note the ‘papers’ number, as this is the number of the Lands Department file that deals with your common.  Other information that can be obtained from Government Gazette notices includes extensions or ‘withdrawals’ of land from the common, appointments of trustees, descriptions of commoner’s boundaries, calling of nominations for trustees, and of meetings of commoners, and the acceptance of local regulations.  The financial accounts of common trustees are also published in the Gazette.

Once you have exhausted the Government Gazette, but before leaving the State Library, it is worth having a look through the Consolidated Index to the Proceedings and Printed Papers [of] Parliament.  These commence in 1856, and are particularly useful if your common was the site of some conflict.  For example, in Volume I of the Index, covering the period from 1856 to 1874, under the heading ‘Field of Mars Common’, there are references to petitions, reports from parliamentary committees and inquiries, reports of real estate valuations of the common land, and other interesting documents, all of which can be obtained at the Library.[35]  It is also worth looking under the general heading of ‘Commons’, but you need to bear in mind that your common may have had a fairly mundane existence, and so never have attracted the attention of parliamentary inquiries!  You should also read through the explanatory notes at the beginning of the volume to understand the meanings of the various abbreviations used.

Land Title’s Office, Queens Square, Sydney

You may like to go along to the Land Title’s Office and obtain a copy of the Deed of Grant issued to trustees for their common.  However, this will not really tell you much more than the Government Gazette notice stating that the deed had been issued except in the detailed description of the boundaries of the common.

Archives Office of NSW, Globe St., The Rocks/O’Connell St., Kingswood

The first thing to say about the State Archives is that most of the records dealing with commons are housed at the Kingswood Search Rooms.  Initially, it is worth perusing the Concise Guide to the Archive’s holdings, particularly under ‘Lands Department – Miscellaneous Branch’ and ‘Surveyor-General’ to get some idea of the sort of records that they hold.  There are some series dealing with particular commons, but these are very few.[36]  The most useful items are the seven volumes of Dedication Registers, which cover the period from 1842 to 1979.[37]  In addition to the details provided in the Government Gazette, the Register may also provide a reference to a catalogue number of a plan, as well as the date of notification, date of grant and remarks and other references to later resumptions and revocations that will help you determine when and why some parts, or all, of a common were lost.

While all these details can help you work out some broad outlines for a history of your common, the colour to fill in the spaces of such an outline will be more elusive.  Having carefully noted all the papers numbers provided in the gazettals and registers, you may find it difficult to actually track down the files in the archives.  In fact, I have yet to successfully trace a single one of the files that I have searched for!

Other useful series include the Parks Register 1867-1950, which provides similar details and may be useful if your common, or part of it, was converted at some stage to a park.  The Registers of Reserves other than Recreation Reserves, 1883-1977, and the Register of Areas Allocated as State Forests and Forest Reserves, c1915-1917, may also be similarly useful.  Precedent Books 1873-1973 may help provide some explanation of why trustees followed a particular course of action.[38]

The point about these registers is that they provide a summary of the legal details of a common, and the important ‘papers number’, which in turn may give you access to the original files dealing with events on your common.

The State Archives also contains one series of records from the trustees of a common, the Wanganella Commons Trust, covering the period between 1900 and 1970.[39]  Included are herdsman’s books, a commoner’s roll, minute books, letter books, ledgers, cash books, and two maps of the commoner’s boundaries in the 1930s.  Although these seem to be the only such records held by the Archives, they give an indication of what sort of records were made by commons trustees and how useful you may find them – provided that you can locate any such records for your local common.

Local Government Records and Archives

I can only offer a most general comment on these.  It was only after 1919 that local councils were required by law to preserve and protect some of their records.  These were minute books, registers of legal documents, legal documents, registers of correspondence, registers of returning officer’s declarations of elections and of polls, and the declarations of returning officers.  Patient searching of minute books may reveal information regarding your local common, as may registers of legal documents.  Returning officer’s declarations may also cover elections of common trustees.

You should also remember that local councils have been abolished, amalgamated, and resurrected over the years, and their boundaries have often shifted about.  If your common has ever been within the jurisdiction of a different council to the present, you may also need to search through their records.  All this, of course, presupposes that you are lucky enough to have found a council that has an extensive and well-maintained archives.[40]

Conclusions

To conclude this paper, I would like to remind you that the historical development of places named commons in NSW began in 1804.  Greater regulation of commons came after 1847, and a broad expansion of the numbers and sizes of commons began after 1865.  By the time of federation, an extensive network of commons existed throughout NSW except in the metropolitan area, where commons, often after much dissent, were converted to other public and private uses.

The main avenues for researching commons history can be found in the Mitchell Library and the State Archives Office.  These records provide a broad legal and administrative history of particular commons.  Records of common trustees may be found among municipal records.

I would argue that now is an opportune time to begin researching and writing histories of commons because questions of cultural identity, and the legacies of past environmental change, are prominent within public debates today.  Commons history can contribute to these debates in a number of ways:

  • it suggests that there is a significant and interesting element of communalism in the settlement of Australia’s landscapes that has long been hidden beneath a focus on the rugged, individualistic pioneer;
  • it suggests that English institutions, such as commons, parks and forests, were not uncritically copied in the colony, but rather were naturalised and shaped by local needs and conditions;
  • it suggests that some environmental problems have been inherited from the recent rather than more distant past, and that attempts were made in colonial NSW to settle within the limits set by the physical environment;
  • it suggests that commons and common trustees have played a role in the development of institutions for local governance and local resource management, and therefore have a role in local histories that has been overlooked;
  • it suggests several new areas for research, for example, why were the commons of Sydney lost to urban development while those in London were retained as parklands and recreation areas?

So, it’s up to you – if you have become interested in the history of commons in your district, now is the time to begin looking, researching and writing.  I would be very pleased to hear of your results.  Happy hunting!


[1] The Oxford English Dictionary, Volume IX, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1933: 690.

[2] Oliver Rackham, Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape, London 1976

[3] GD Gadsden, The Law of Commons, Sweet & Maxwell, London 1988.  The examples are: Statute of Merton 1235, 20 Henry III, c. 4; and Anon, (1480) Y.B. 20 Edw. IV, fo. 10, pl. 10; 17 CBNS 251, n (references in Gadsden: xxxi, xlii)

[4] Inclosure Act 1773, 13 George III, c. 81; Inclosure (Consolidation) Act 1801, 41 George III, c. 109; Inclosure Act 1845, 8 & 9 Victoria, c. 118; Metropolitan Commons Act 1866, 29 & 30 Victoria, c. 14.

[5] Gadsden: Chapter 1 passim.

[6] for more on the international examples, see: E. Ostrom, Governing the Commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1990, for a sophisticated analysis and argument regarding the role of commons in the contemporary world.

[7] LG Norman, Historical Notes on Newtown, monograph, City of Sydney 1963: 1; JF Campbell, ‘The Early History of Sydney University Grounds’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, XVI (IV): 274-276.

[8] ‘General Order’, Sydney Gazette, 12 August 1804: 1

[9] ‘Judge Advocate’s Office’, Sydney Gazette, 20 January 1805: 1

[10] ‘General Order’, Sydney Gazette,5 October 1811; Helen Proudfoot, ‘The Hawkesbury Commons, 1804-1987’, Heritage Australia, 6(4), Summer 1987: 23-25; Government Gazette, – January 1841: 177

[11] Sydney Gazette 1804, op. cit.; see also Figure 14 in Denis Jeans, A Historical Geography of New South Wales to 1901, Reed Education, Sydney, 1972: 83

[12] For more on the dissolution of Sydney Common see: Ian Black, ‘The Sydney Showgrounds: a case study of heritage issues’, in Mari Metzke (ed), Heritage Conservation: local issues and action: Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Royal Australian Historical Society with Affiliated Societies, Sydney, 6-7 October 1990, RAHS, Sydney, 1990: 28-41

[13] Proudfoot, op. cit.

[14] Commons Regulation Act 1847, 11° Victoriæ, XXXI, assented to 2.10.1847

[15] Lynne McLoughlin, The Middle Lane Cove River: a history and a future, Macquarie University Centre for Environmental and Urban Studies, Monograph No. 1, North Ryde 1985: 29

[16] ‘Crown Lands – Commonage Rights’, Government Gazette, 26 July 1850: 1099; ‘Commonage Right’, Government Gazette, 2 November 1852: 1609.

[17] Government Gazette, 20 January 1854: 164 and 25 January 1856: 241.

[18] for example, see Lynne McLoughlin for a discussion of Field of Mars Common.

[19] Government Gazette, 10 January 1865: 69

[20] Government Gazette, 6 December 1867: 3304

[21] Ian Black: 30-31; Sydney Boundaries Amendment Act 1870, 33° Victoræ, IX, assented to 20 April 1870

[22] Lynne McLoughlin: 31-33; see also Consolidated Index to the Minutes of the Proceedings and Printed Papers [of Parliament], 1856-1874, under ‘Field of Mars Common’, NSW Government Printer, Sydney; and Field of Mars Common Resumption Act 1874, 38° Victoræ, 111, assented to 25 June 1874.

[23] Commons Regulation Act 1873, 36° Victoriæ, XXIII, assented to 25 April 1873.

[24] Commons Regulation Amendment Act 1886, 50 Victoria, 15, assented to 24 September 1886, Commons Regulation Amendment Act 1895, 59 Victoria, 12, assented to 22 November 1895, Commons Regulation Act 1898, No. 15 of 1898, assented to 27 July 1898, Commons Management Act 1989, No. 13 of 1989, assented to 18 April 1989.

[25] Government Gazette, 6 December 1867: 3304

[26] ‘Commons, Wellington’, and ‘Temporary Commonage, Wellington’, Government Gazette, 7 February 1868: 378-379

[27] Government Gazette, 10 March 1868: 637, and 25 May 1869: 1375.

[28] for example, ‘Junee Common Regulations’, Government Gazette 6 October 1899: 7580-7582

[29] Ham Common Rules and Regulations made by the Trustees…, 1872, 1880, Mitchell Library (MS Room, Ah 103).

[30] Index to Government Gazette for September-October 1899, in front of Volume September-October 1899; s.25 of the Commons Regulation Act 1898 restricted pasturage rights for bonâ fide travellers to a designated part of the common sufficiently enclosed by a fence.

[31] Sydney Corporation Amendment Act 1905, No. 39 of 1905.

[32] Field of Mars Resumption Repeal Act 1897, No. 9 of 1897.

[33] Helen Proudfoot.

[34] Government Gazette, 6 December 1867: 3304

[35] Consolidated Index to the Minutes of the Proceedings and Printed Papers (Volumes 1-23), First Session of the First Parliament to Third Session of the Seventh Parliament, 22 May 1856 to 25 June 1874, NSW Legislative Council, Sydney.

[36] Concise Guide to the State Archives of New South Wales, Lands Department – Miscellaneous Branch, A(t)(4) Papers concerning Terragong Swamp, 1855-1919 (City 2/1033-34) 2 boxes; A(t)(6) Papers concerning Field of Mars Common, 1863-1874 (Kingswood 7/6056) 1 vol.; A(t)(7) Papers concerning Ham Common, 1867-1874 (Kingswood 7/6056) 1 vol.

[37] ibid, A(t)(28) Dedication Registers, 1842-1979 (Kingswood 11/22028-34) 7 vols.

[38] ibid, A(t)(29) Parks Registers, 1867-1950 (Kingswood 11/22037-38) 2 vols; A(t)(32) Registers of Reserves other than Recreation Reserves, 1883-1977 (Kingswood 11/22035-36) 2 vols.; A(t)(33) Precedent Books, 1873-1973 (Kingswood 11/21985-95, 3/2938) 12 vols.

[39] ibid, A(t)(43 – 53) Wanganella Commons Trust.

[40] for a discussion of local government records, see Ian Jack and Terry Kass, Local Government Records and the Local Historian, RAHS Technical Information Service, No. 7, February 1987, RAHS Sydney.