Election Reflections – The Count

The UK’s first past the post (FPTP) voting system has several key problems. It can be ‘dangerous’ to vote for your most favoured candidate you since by doing so you may hand victory to a candidate you really don’t like. For example, in the UK if you vote for a UKIP candidate, your vote might let a Labour candidate win whilst you’d rather be represented by a Conservative. With preference voting, as used to elect Victoria’s lower house, you could vote UKIP:1, Con:2, your vote going to a candidate you can live with, if not the one you prefer. Informed voters understand this and so may change the way they vote (tactical voting), thus the number of votes cast for each party is not necessarily a true reflection of popular opinion. FPTP may mean that a third or less of those voting voted for the successful candidate.

FPTP vote counting is quick and easy. In UK each constituency’s count is done in one place behind locked doors. After a few hours (in most cases) a moment of theatre follows where the Returning Officer and candidates mount the stage to hear “I, John Smith, being the Returning Officer for xxxx do hereby declare that the number of votes cast for each candidate was ….”, speeches from the victor and other candidates following.

Here interim results are released as the count progresses, from which TV pundits predict the result. At some point Antony Green, the ABC’s election guru, will often ‘call’ a seat/the election for a particular candidate/party even though many votes remain uncounted. Unlike UK, postal votes only need to be posted by the close of poll and will be counted if received with six days, so in a few closely contested seats it took more than a week for the result to be finalised.

Election Reflections – Background

Saturday November 26th 2022, 17 days ago, was state election day here in Victoria. Australia’s system of government borrows from the UK and USA as well as being influenced by our own history – we have federal (national) and state governments and local councils. State government responsibilities include schools, hospitals, roads, railways and public transport.

The Victorian parliament, comprising two houses, is elected for fixed four-year terms. The upper house (Legislative Council) consists of 40 members, five each from eight large electoral areas, elected by proportional representation. It’s rare for any one party to have a majority in the Council so to get legislation passed the government of the day must get the agreement of the opposition or a certain number of cross benchers.

The lower house, the Legislative Assembly, consists of 88 members, each representing one constituency. Unlike the UK which uses first past the post voting, members are elected using alternative voting. The ballot paper lists all the candidates and their party affiliations. For the vote to be valid the voter needs to preference all candidates: 1 for the most favoured candidate, 2 for the next and so on. Failure to number all the candidates renders the vote invalid. Virtually everyone on the electoral roll is required to turn up and vote (or be fined) but there’s nothing to stop anyone putting a spoiled paper in the ballot box, alternatively making a ‘donkey vote’ – numbering the candidates 1, 2, 3 … regardless of who they represent.

At the polling stations party workers hand out ‘how to vote’ cards, obviously each one showing their candidate as number one. When I first moved here I was naïve enough to think that the list order was determined by candidate merit but it’s all down to pure self-interest: at this election the Libs (Conservative in UK parlance) were second preferencing the Greens with whom they have next to nothing in common whilst advocating ‘put Labor last’, even behind some very unsavoury right-wing candidates. Pure cynicism.

At count time all the first preferences are counted. If one candidate has more than 50% they are elected, no further counting being necessary. Otherwise the candidate with the lowest number of first preferences is eliminated and the second preferences replace the discarded first preferences. If a recount now produces a candidate with more than 50%, they are elected. If not, the elimination and recount procedure is repeated until a successful candidate emerges. A better system?

Return of the Cruise Ships

Coral Princess approaches Station Pier

Coral Princess approaches Station Pier, 15th Sept 2022

For those of us in Melbourne who love looking at and travelling on cruise ships it’s been a long time since the 2019-2020 season was brought to a premature end by Covid on March 19th 2020. Then nothing for two and a half years until we had a visit from the Coral Princess on September 15th. She was welcomed with fire hoses as media helicopters overhead reported her arrival. But then nothing ….

Carnival Spendor and Pacific Adventure at Station Pier

Carnival Spendor and Pacific Adventure at Station Pier, 1st Nov 2022

… until this week – the first Tuesday in November being Melbourne Cup day – when the cruise ship season proper restarted, the Pacific Adventure, Pacific Encounter and Carnival Splendor bringing in thousands of visitors to watch the big race – just sad for our visitors that the weather was so cold, wet and generally unwelcoming. But that’s Melbourne for you – we’re now forecast to have temperatures in the mid-20s all this coming week.

Grand Princess leaving Melbourne

Grand Princess leaving Melbourne, 4th Nov 2022

Of particular interest to me, last Friday morning (Nov 4th) the Grand Princess arrived from Sydney. She’ll be based here all season, running thirteen cruises from Melbourne, the most important of which is the one I’ll be on in January, my first cruise since 2020. That evening I watched her sail for Port Chalmers, Dunedin, the first post-Covid cruise originating from Melbourne. After circumnavigating New Zealand she’ll be back here on Nov 17th. Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, which will also be homeported here all season arrives next Sunday Nov 13th. I’ll be there to see her.

Melbourne’s cruise terminal is Station Pier, Port Melbourne. From its opening in 1854 it was linked to Flinders Street Station 3mi/4.5km away, by Australia’s first railway, replaced in 1987 by tram 109. During WW2 huge numbers of troops passed through Station Pier. After WW2 it was the arrival point for emigrants to Victoria: between 1949 and 1966, an average of 61,000 passengers arrived every year, peaking at 110,802 in 1960.

Spirit of Tasmania I and Seabourn Odyssey at Station Pier

Spirit of Tasmania I and Seabourn Odyssey at Station Pier, 22nd Feb 2010

With the development of aviation this trade disappeared and the pier saw fewer and fewer visitors, the main source of traffic being the daily ferries to Tasmania. On 23 October 2022, TT-Line moved its Victorian terminal from Station Pier to a new terminal just outside Geelong, leaving Station Pier as a dedicated cruise ship terminal.

One of my regrets is that cruise ships can’t come up river and dock in Victoria Harbour below my balcony. Why not? Because the 1990s Bolte Bridge was constructed with a clearance of 25m, far too low for today’s cruise ships (the Queen Elizabeth, now classed as a mid-sized ship rises 56.6m above the waterline). But cruising was very much a minority interest then. The Melbourne 2004-05 cruise season (the first for which PoM statistics are recorded) saw just 16 ship visits with 34,839 passengers and crew. Ten years later this had grown to 75 and 242,854 respectively. This season we’ll see more than a hundred ship visits with 120 visits provisionally booked for 2023-4. Hopefully our shortly-to-be-elected new state government will work with all interested parties to ensure that continuing growth is catered for and our visitors enjoy their time here.

Box Hill Cemetery visit

Instead of the usual talk, our October 2022 Box Hill Historical Society meeting took the form of a tour of Box Hill Cemetery (map). After the tour I did a bit of exploring on my own.

Box Hill cemetery first burial

Box Hill cemetery first burial

This story starts in 1872 when twelve acres of reserve to the east of Box Hill was set aside for use as a cemetery. The first burial, of three week old Jessie Lavinia Smith, took place on 30 August 1873.

In 1886 land between the cemetery and the recently extended railway line from Box Hill to Lilydale was annexed as an extension to the cemetery. Then in 1935 a further twelve acres was purchased by the Box Hill Council, bringing the cemetery to its present size of ~12.5 hectares (30.8 acres).

Box Hill cemetery columbarium (1929)

Columbarium (1929)

Box Hill cemetery pavilion (1923)

Pavilion (1923)

Notable structures within the cemetery are the pavilion, built in 1923 to mark the cemetery’s 50th year, and the 1929 columbarium built as a repository for the cremated remains.

In total around 50,000 people are interred at Box Hill. Here are a few of them:

Three businessmen who cared about the less fortunate

Sidney Myer

Grave of Sidney Myer, d.1934

Grave of Sidney Myer, d.1934

The most notable grave is that of Sidney Myer, founder of the department store chain and one of my great heroes. He was born Simcha Baevski in present day Belarus in 1878, coming to Melbourne in 1890. He died suddenly on 5 September 1934, aged just 56.

The Argus summed him up thus: He [Sidney Myer] came to Australia unknown and almost penniless. His life has closed with his name and his deeds known far and wide and with the largest general store in the southern hemisphere as a monument to his business ability.

Business success led Myer to be one of Melbourne’s greatest benefactors and so it’s not too surprising that 100,000 people turned out for his funeral. Through the Myer Foundation his generosity continues to this day.

I am not a politician; I do not seek publicity, nor have I any ulterior motive whatsoever, except my love for Australia and the Australian people.” – Sidney Myer

Why was he buried at Box Hill, rather than an arguably more prestigious place such as Melbourne General Cemetery, particularly since his home was in Toorak? Very possibly because Box Hill could offer such a large site. It’s also the grave site of his widow, Merlyn (1900-1982) and the ashes of his son Kenneth (1921-1992) and wife Yasuko who were killed in a light aircraft crash In Alaska.

William Angliss

Angliss family grave

Angliss family grave

A second prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist is William Angliss (1865-1957). He came to Australia in from England 1884, opened his own butchers shop in Carlton in 1886, then moved into exporting frozen meat. By the early 1930s it was claimed that his was the largest personally controlled meat enterprise in the British Empire.

After selling out to Vesteys in 1934 Angliss pursued other business interests and by 1950 was reputedly the wealthiest man in Australia. From 1912 to 1952, he was a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria, his contribution to public life being recognised by a knighthood in 1939.

Sir William died on 15 June 1957. In his will he left £1 million for the creation of two charitable funds: one in Victoria and one in Queensland, which are administered by the William Angliss Charitable Fund, and he is also commemorated by the William Angliss Institute located in the Melbourne CBD which provides training and vocational education in hospitality and tourism.

Robert Campbell Edwards

Robert Campbell Edwards was born in Ireland in 1862. His father died in a farm accident when he was eight months old. In 1877 his mother decided to follow other family members who had already emigrated to Australia and after a long and trying voyage they arrived in Melbourne in 1878. After working for a tea importer he decided to set up on his own. Over thirty years he built up a large real estate portfolio.

In 1895, perhaps remembering his family’s struggles, and being concerned about the number of homeless boys around Melbourne’s streets, Robert established the Burwood Boys’ Home for destitute boys. The home was founded on the principle that: ‘No truly destitute boy is to be refused admission or turned away.’

When the superintendent of the home objected to the policy of taking in completely desperate cases, Robert replied that this is exactly the sort of boy for which the Burwood Boys Home had been established. From 1972 the home took in girls, operating as the Burwood Children’s Home, closing in 1986 when such institutional care was no longer required. The concern for less fortunate continues under the Campbell Edwards Trust.

Now to the graves of two younger women.

Georgine Gadsden

Georgine Gadsden (1920-1943)

Georgine Gadsden (1920-1943)

Georgine Gadsden (1920-43) was the granddaughter of Jabez Gadsden, founder of the packaging company J.Gadsden Pty Ltd. Her father, Norman Gadsden, served with the Australian Flying Corps in WW1 before rejoining the family business. Her mother, Dorothy, was an operatic singer.

Aged just 23, Georgine met a tragic death on Mt Bogong, Victoria’s highest mountain (6,516 ft/1,986m). The Australian Alpine Club website tells her story,  summarised here:

On August 2 1943, a party of three skiers (Georgine Gadsden, John McRae and Edward Welch) departed Bivouac Hut on the Staircase Spur (4,900ft/1,493m) bound for Summit Hut (6,410ft/ 1,954m) where they planned to spend the night, with the Cleve Cole Memorial Hut being their ultimate destination. Between them they carried sufficient food to last about five days Snow was falling but the party did not consider conditions unduly severe.

On August 5 it was still snowing but with a moderating wind a second group set off for the Summit Hut. Five hours after leaving the Bivouac Hut, they came across the three frozen bodies of the members of the first party lying in the snow, just 80 metres from the almost completely buried Summit Hut. Edward Welch was lying face down. About two metres further up the slope was John McRae’s body. Georgine Gadsden’s body was a further two metres up the slope.

The Gadsden Memorial marks the site of the tragedy.

Once you know this sad story you understand why Georgine’s grave, now ageing, is topped with two crossed skis.

Nellie Catherine Wales, d.1948

Nellie Catherine Wales, d.1948

Nellie Catherine Wales

And now for a mystery. This striking memorial commemorates Nellie Catherine Wales who died in 1948 aged 49. The rain-washed marble waterfall hides its 70+ years well.

The mystery: my Google and Trove searches didn’t produce any information about her, not even a death or funeral notice. Is there, as with Georgine Gadsden’s grave, a story to be told? All I have been able to find out is that Nellie was the daughter of Alexander Wright Wales (1859-1939) who from humble beginnings became a prosperous quarry owner and local politician. Later on, family money endowed  Alexander Wright Wales scholarships at Scotch College. Nellie’s brother George (1885-1962) was Lord Mayor of Melbourne 1934-37.

E.J.B.Forrester and 66 others

E.J.B.Forrester war grave, 1942

E.J.B.Forrester war grave, 1942

And, lastly, war graves: within the cemetery there are 67 war graves. The headstone shown here is similar to those used in many Commonwealth war cemeteries.

If you’re interested in joining a future cemetery tour check out the Box Hill Historical Society web site

The Book(let) I wish I’d written

Two months ago I wrote about my eight years working as a Building Control Officer (Building Inspector) in what had been the Malden and Coombe Borough Council area in S.W.London. Over that time I really got to know the area and its history. It was always fascinating to look at the archived plans and peruse old maps – many of the old hand-tinted plans drawn on linen were real works of art. It wasn’t really part of our jobs but we regularly got phone calls from estate agents asking when a property they were to sell had been built, our pre-computer era card index quickly providing the answer. If I’d thought about it, I could have spent my lunch hours compiling ‘Malden and Coombe, Street by Street’, giving a potted history of each street. Too late now! But since I left RBK in 1984 lots of other information has become available. Here’s some:

New Malden’s early development owed much to the railway: New Malden station opened in 1846, with the remaining section of the Kingston loop line from New Malden to Kingston following in 1869. Then just before WW2 the Chessington branch opened, with Malden Manor station serving the new estates south of the A3 Kingston bypass (opened 1927). Although outside the municipality, Motspur Park (1925) and Worcester Park (1859) stations also serve the SE area.

Semi-Detached London New Malden was transformed by inter-war suburbanisation as described in Alan Jackson’s excellent book ‘Semi-Detached London’. Although published in 1973, copies are readily obtainable through AbeBooks. The Medical Officer of Health’s reports available on the Wellcome Library website show the M&C population growing from 7,199 in 1903 to 15,366 in 1923 to 39,930 in 1939. 

Various developers were at work in the area during this period including R.Lancaster, New Ideal Homesteads, Lavender and Farrell, E & L Berg, Crouch and Gleesons, but the biggest of them all was Wates, whose built their distinctive chalets and more conventional Tudor-style semis by the hundred – check out their Wilverley Park estate brochure here.

Whilst preparing this page I found a vast collection of OS maps digitised by the National Library of Scotland. Check out these extracts from the 1911 and 1933 OS maps, the latter showing part of the Wilverley Park estate. The kink in Malden Road provides a reference point. In the 1933 map you also see the A3 clipping the top corner.

New Malden OS extracts 1911 and 1933

New Malden OS extracts 1911 and 1933 reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

What’s interesting to me is that I’m now seeing this story being replayed to the north of Melbourne, with consent being given for fields to be turned into new housing states at a rate that is hard to believe.

More resources on Malden history:

Maldens and Coombe Heritage Society web site

Village Voice and Worcester Park Life – each issue contains a very good history feature

Alan Godfrey maps: Sy0713: Coombe and Norbiton 1911; Sy1301: New Malden 1911

Portland mini-break

Map of SW Victoria

Map of SW Victoria

With nothing on my travel calendar until next year’s cruises, it was time for another mini break. This time I headed west to Portland, on the coast 350km from Melbourne.

What is now Portland was for thousands of years the home of the Gunditjmara people, then from around 1800 it became a whaling port. In 1834, the year before Melbourne was founded, the Hentys, a sheep-farming family originally from Sussex, moved across from Tasmania and Portland became the first European settlement in Victoria. By 1845 their holdings extended over 70,000 acres.

Portland Harbour

Portland Harbour (note B-double truck unloading in the background). The heaps of what looks like sand are woodchips

Through the nineteenth century the township grew, helped by the arrival of the railway in 1877. The now freight-only line (the last passenger train to Portland ran in 1981) was converted from broad gauge to standard gauge in 1995. Harbour trade was limited until the construction of a massive new breakwater during the 1950s. In 1952 when construction began, 21 vessels called at Portland to transfer 45,000 tonnes of petroleum products and 6,513 tonnes of food. By 1960 trade had reached 200,000 tonnes.

Today trade has grown to 7.6 million tonnes per year primarily comprising woodchips which are exported to China and Japan. They arrive on a seemingly non-stop procession of B-double trucks. It takes around 1,000 truckloads of chips to fill a ship. The trucks are driven on to ramps which then tilt them to about 45 degrees, the chips then falling out under gravity – watching the trucks unloading engaged me for a good while, as did watching a ship laden with wind turbine parts being brought into the harbour assisted by the harbour tugs.

Portland cable tram

Portland cable tram

But there’s more to Portland than the port. The town is home to dozens of well-preserved 19C buildings. One key attraction is the Portland Cable Tram, opened in 2002 – it’s not actually a cable tram; propulsion is by means of a diesel engine. The two grip cars are replicas of ones that ran in Melbourne until 1940. The two saloon cars in service began life in Melbourne in 1886.

The tram runs from the depot which houses an interesting museum, past the Botanic Gardens and port, along the foreshore past the Maritime Discovery Centre on to the 25 metre-high water tower which also serves as a lookout and museum to World War II. It then reverses to return to the depot. Amazingly, given that Portland is a town of only 10,000 people, the tram is operated seven days a week by a team of 60 volunteers.

Portland Powerhouse Motor Museum

Portland Powerhouse Motor Museum

Also run by volunteers and open every day is the Powerhouse Motor  and Car Museum. I’ve been to many classic car museums but the interest never wanes. Lots to see: the cars themselves, vintage signs, a collection of stationary farm engines, a diesel tractor, penny farthings, pedal cars, old tools, model cars and much else. My visit fortuitously coincided with a short but heavy storm.

History House (the 1863 Town Hall)

History House (the 1863 Town Hall)

I’ve already mentioned the Maritime Museum which also houses the visitor centre. History House (the original town hall) tells the story of the area and is but one of several dozen mid-Victorian stone buildings.

I stayed at the much more recent Comfort Inn which did me well, dining each night at the 1856 Mac’s Hotel which I can thoroughly recommend for reasonably price bistro-style meals.

All in all a good if short break.

More about the port
Map from Freeworldmap.net


How I became a Building Inspector and why I left

Note: many of the UK public still refer to a ‘building inspector’ though since the 1970s their formal title has been ‘building control officer’.

After leaving university I joined Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (RBK) as a maintenance surveyor. Initially I joined a team responsible for school building maintenance, then moved on to maintenance of social services buildings. I worked alongside some great people who nearly fifty years on I still fondly remember. But our overall boss was quite the worst person I have ever worked under. Being torn to shreds (usually with no justification) in front of your workmates was a regular occurrence. And yet – Stockholm syndrome at work? – when he called me in and told me that to broaden my experience I was to be seconded to Building Control for three months I was apprehensive about moving into the unknown.

How wrong I was! The atmosphere was so different. After my first day over dinner – I was still living with my parents – my mum observed: “I’ve never heard you talk about work with such enthusiasm; I think you’ll end up staying there”. How right she was! At the end of my secondment my temporary boss, Ken Beer, Borough Planning Officer, offered me a permanent position, along with a salary increment. I said that I would be more than happy to take the job with no increment but he insisted. When I told my old boss about the offer he exploded with rage, accusing me of ingratitude, underhand behaviour, disloyalty and the rest, adding that he would be going to see the Borough Engineer (my ultimate boss) to have my move stopped.

Back from his meeting he called me in and told me that despite his efforts my transfer could not be prevented: to his chagrin there was apparently a provision in the ‘Purple Book’ (local authority employment terms and conditions) that stated that your existing manager could block an intra-LA transfer BUT only if it didn’t involve a salary increase. That was why Ken Beer had insisted on me having the increment.

With my month’s notice served I went back to Building Control where I was to stay for eight years. RBK had been formed in 1965 as a merger of three local councils: Kingston, Surbiton and Malden and Coombe (M&C). Building Control might now occupy one office, but worked as three largely autonomous teams, as if amalgamation had never happened. Each had a District BCO, Assistant BCO and a trainee. Overseeing these was Peter Fuller, Principal Building Control Officer, who exercised a benevolent oversight over the office, largely leaving each District BCO to run their section as they thought fit. I started as M&C assistant, moving up to District BCO a year or two later. Each of us three had a very different approach: Paul went by the book, insisting on plans being correct in every detail; Peter, older than us, relied on his ability to get things right on site (which he invariably managed) and my approach was somewhere in between.

Several happy years passed during which I decided that I could see myself being M&C District BCO for the rest of my working life. I got to know my patch intimately and took a great interest in its history. Then the time came for Peter Fuller to retire. His replacement had a very different, hands on, approach to management. Before too long he said that things could not continue as before, observing (with some justification) that when someone submitted a plan, they were submitting it to RBK and for the response to be quite different depending on where within the borough the site was, was unacceptable. He produced a document setting out exactly how we were to do our jobs.

Us three District BCOs were self starters, each used to running our own shows, and under this new regime the job satisfaction disappeared. Within a relatively short period we all left. In my case it was to embark on nearly forty years of self employment. I joined RBK with the expectation that I’d spend my working life in public service. Instead, my ten years there were just the warm-up act!

Chapel Next The Green – Into Print

Chapel Next the Green cover

Chapel Next the Green cover

As described last time, I started with the idea of a simple update to a 25-year-old church history  and ended up doing much more. Reading church minute books led to investigating denominational records, the site history, local newspapers and much else. Now it was time to turn my copious notes into a book we could afford to print and which people would find interesting. Having unpicked the story of the dissolution of the church in 1879 and its re-formation in 1882, I suggested a Centenary weekend whose highlight would be the release of my finished history. Now I had a deadline to work to.

In 1979 I was one of the first people to get a home computer, a Commodore PET. I bought a word processing program, name long forgotten, written in BASIC, so customisable. It allowed text to be edited, saved to and retrieved from cassette tape. Output was limited to a monospace font with full space justification. Very limited – the superscript references to footnotes were written in by hand using a Rotring pen – but what a step change from repeatedly retyping manuscripts. Over many weeks I typed up my notes creating the first rough draft.

Centre spread pictures of ministers

Centre spread pictures of ministers

I approached a printer near my office, Emberbrook Print, and explained what I had in mind – a saddle-stitched (stapled) A5 book. Just their sort of job. The church agreed to underwrite the print cost on the basis that selling the print run would return this. This all led to settling on a 72-page book (including covers). The extra cost of the four-page centre photo section was met by a former member. After allowing for prelims, pictures and footnotes, each section would, on average, be limited to around two pages, 800 words. Impossible given the extent of my notes!

For several years my best friends Brian and Margaret Pearce had made me welcome for coffee on Sunday evenings. Now these turned into editorial meetings. Brian, when not working as a college librarian was a writer and poet, and Margaret acted as a fearless editor of his work. Just what I needed! I took the decision to divide my account up by pastorate. A few people criticised this, as placing too much emphasis on the part ministers play in the life of a church, but I hope that my text has the balance right. Over several months, each Sunday morning I handed over a dot-matrix printout of the latest section, vastly over-long yet containing nothing that could be left out (or so I thought). The same evening over coffee I was presented with my edited text, English and punctuation corrected as necessary by Brian, large chunks marked for deletion in red by Margaret. A healthy discussion followed! With some sections this process was repeated several times.

Finally the text was complete but eight lines over length! On a beautifully edited text finding any content that could be removed was hard work, but we managed it. In the meantime a friend’s father, Edmund Heller, took professional photographs of the inside and outside of the church building and my good friend Arthur Burgess organised copies of the obit pictures of former ministers originally printed in Congregation Yearbooks.

Sample of body text

Body text (note the handwritten superscripts!)

Now to the final stage. To keep the price down, the book was to be offset printed from camera-ready copy. This was produced on a Qume daisywheel printer, hired at vast expense from a firm in Old Street, carbon ribbon onto coated paper. I took a week off to produce the page masters. The body text was relatively straightforward, but each page took about ten minutes to print – I watched patiently as the WP program fathomed out each line’s justification. The double column appendices were harder work: the sheet was loaded into the printer and its position carefully marked with a process blue (invisible to a litho camera) pencil before printing the left-hand column. Then it was a question of reloading the paper, lining up the marks and printing the right-hand column. Any previously-missed  error on the output meant another ten minute wait but eventually I had a set of page masters.

The front cover uses an enlarged extract from the 1863 OS map. The cover text was supplied by Emberbrook in the form of Letraset-style strips (one per line) which removed the need to manually space letters.

Page masters delivered, I waited with a mixture of expectancy and apprehension. I need not have worried: I was (and still am) very pleased with the result, though of course it reflects the technology available to me at the time. For the centenary weekend we invited back all those former members we had contact with and it was a great occasion, with Rev Richard Hall, URC Thames North Moderator preaching at our Sunday morning service. I was touched that with the book being just hours old, he quoted from it in his sermon.

Will a future church history ever be published in book form? 2035 will mark the 200th anniversary of the formation of the church. But the reality is that it’s much easier to assemble a body of knowledge as a series of web pages which can be updated as new information becomes available and which are readily searchable.

Twickenham United Reformed Church website history pages

Chapel Next The Green – Research

Chapel Next the Green cover

Chapel Next the Green cover

Forty years ago my history of the Twickenham Congregational Church (Twickenham United Reformed Church from 1972), Chapel Next the Green was published. This post and the one that will follow are about the researching and production of the history respectively, not the history itself. For this refer to the book itself or the church website.

I always had an interest in local history and having grown up in the church I had heard all sorts of stories of its past. Back in 1951 the then church secretary, Reg Peirce, had put together a history to mark what was though to be the church’s triple jubilee (150 years).

Some time in the 1970s I thought that it was time for an updated history and the church meeting agreed to me producing this. I had no background in historical research – at the time I was a council building inspector – and my original plan was to do a relatively quick update to Reg’s history. But I’d started on a journey which would last a good few years.

My starting point was with the church archives, such as they were. These included copies of leaflets, reports and other items of interest (including a programme for the 1902 Centenary Bazaar) and, most importantly, Church Meeting and Deacons Meeting minute books starting with the re-formation of the church in 1882 after a very testing few years. I soon realised I would need to read through these minutes twice: on the first read you get the facts, but because you don’t know what will happen next it’s hard to tell what is or isn’t significant. Needless to say, all this reading and note taking took an extended period.

By now I had a picture of church life from 1882. My next step was to visit the United Reformed Church History Society’s library. Congregation Yearbooks furnished obituaries of the church’s ministers back to the 1850s and sundry other information.

But now I had a problem. Reg’s history (probably based on Andrew Mearns’ 1889 London Congregational Church Directory: “1800 Church formed by B.H.Kluht assisted by Lady Shaw and Dr Leifchild“) left me puzzled. Debrett’s Peerage had failed to provide a suitable Lady Shaw. There was no Rev Kluht active at that time – only one who wasn’t born until 1816. And I’d also found that First Cross Road where the church stands was a result of the 1818 Enclosure Award; before this it was part of Twickenham Common.

Lady Shaw's School registered as a place of public worship

Lady Shaw’s School registered as a place of public worship

And then the penny dropped. What if Reg’s history was wrong? Yearbooks from 1862-1884 stated that the church was founded in 1838. All fell into place: Lady Shaw became such on her 1834 marriage to Sir Robert Shaw at Twickenham Parish Church. Benjamin Kluht came to the church as its first minister in 1840. During his seven year pastorate the first chapel was built on land at the rear of Sir Robert and Lady Shaw’s garden.

Then as I widened my research I found the December 1835 certificate of registration of Lady Shaw’s school room as a place of worship which can be taken as the birth date of the church. Now it all made sense.

My research took me to the Greater London Record Office, the Congregational Library at Caroone House, Dr Williams Library, the Guildhall Library, the Public Record Office and British and Foreign School Society Archive. And I made a visit to the elderly Rev Harold Bickley who had become the church’s minister in 1916. The more I knew the more there was to discover. But given that the aim was to publish an updated history, I had to stop somewhere. The decision was made to have a special weekend marking the centenary of the re-formation of the church on 27th April 1882 and so work switched to assembling all my research into a coherent account. Next month I’ll try and recall how this was done.



Adelaide 2022

Overland loco NR111

Adelaide bound!

Slowly things are getting back to normal. For myself I’m not making any overseas trips this year. It’s a sign of the times that even deciding to take a short trip to Adelaide seemed almost adventurous. I’ve been there several times, firstly in 2009,  then in 2012 and 2013, in 2018 spending a few nights there at the end of a two night cruise from Melbourne, returning on the Overland train and in 2020 – my last pre-Covid interstate trip – spending the day there as part of a cruise.

This time I decided to take the Overland in both directions – for me the train rides would be as much part of the break as the stay in Adelaide. The service now only runs twice a week, Mondays and Fridays from Melbourne, Sundays and Thursdays from Adelaide. Being busy, I decided to go out on the Monday and return on the Thursday, giving me three nights, two full days there.

Mount Elephant from the Overland

Mount Elephant from the Overland

Monday dawned – an 0805 departure from Southern Cross station, just ten minutes walk from home, made for a relaxed start. Comfortably seated, we set off through the industrialised western suburbs. Breakfast served, lunch order (Malaysian curry for me) taken, and then I sat back to enjoy the ride. Past Geelong, having read Marcus Wong’s blog I looked out for Mount Elephant. And unhurriedly the day passed, the last bit of the journey through the Adelaide Hills, like the first but for different reasons, being the most interesting. After sitting for eleven hours I was happy to take a forty minute walk from the Keswick rail terminal into the CBD where the Holiday Inn Express was to be my base.

On the Tuesday, following a walk round the CBD, I went (surprise, not!) back to the National Railway Museum. I wrote about this in 2018 so won’t say much here other than to say that every time I see something new. Then back to the city for a tram ride to Glenelg beach for dinner.

National Motor Museum building, Birdwood SA

National Motor Museum building, Birdwood SA

Wednesday’s plan also involved visiting a museum – the National Motor Museum at Birdwood, about an hour’s drive from Adelaide. During my first four years in Melbourne I didn’t own a car, joining the Flexicar car share scheme instead. When I got my own car I decided to keep my Flexicar membership as an insurance policy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they now operate in Adelaide, so a paperwork-free Corolla Hybrid was mine for the day.

The first Holden, a 1948 48-215

The first Holden, a 1948 48-215

The museum, Australia’s biggest motoring collection with a claimed 400 vehicles on display, didn’t disappoint. As well as cars, there were lots of motorcycles, commercial vehicles and all sorts of motoring-related ephemera.

Given that the museum is in South Australia, a bias towards Holdens wasn’t too surprising. Amongst those on display was the first Australia Holden, a 1948 48-215 and the one millionth Holden, a 1962 EJ.

The millionth Holden - a 1962 EJ

The millionth Holden – a 1962 EJ

It’s extraordinary to look at the displays and see how Holden grew to dominate the Australian car market, from producing its first car in 1948 to holding a 50% market share in 1958, only to see this progressively fall, with Toyota becoming Australia’s leading marque in 2003 and Holden producing their last car in Australia in 2017. The Holden name was used for imported GM cars until 2021, then dropped. All, sadly, a bit reminiscent of BMC’s one-time dominance turning to dust.

Several hours later I’d seen everything – well most things – so went across the road for lunch, then drove down to Hahndorf, a town in the Adelaide Hills established by German emigrants in 1838.

The German Inn, Hahndorf

The German Inn, Hahndorf, originally Sonneman’s Bakery (1863)

I went there in my first visit to Adelaide in 2009, so a revisit was in order. The German heritage is still evident: in particular there’s a shop that sells cuckoo clocks and Christmas decorations.

Then back to Adelaide for dinner and an early night – up at 0530 Thursday for the 0655 train back to Melbourne. Another relaxed day being well looked after by the Overland crew, then back to reality!