Alan Atkinson’s Elizabeth and John awarded the Australian History Prize
The 2023 NSW Premier’s History Awards, with $85,000 in prize money, were announced at the State Library of NSW on Thursday, 7 September.
The winner of the Australian History Prize was Alan Atkinson’s Elizabeth and John: The Macarthurs of Elizabeth Farm. The Judges said that Atkinson had ‘produced a landmark book that will refresh early colonial studies and stand as a model for comparative biography, sensitive research and beautiful writing.’
The NSW Community and Regional History Prize was awarded to He Belonged to Wagga: The Great War, the AIF and returned soldiers in an Australian country town by Ian Hodges.
The first episode of The Australian Wars was awarded the Digital History Prize. The series can be watched on SBS On Demand.
The Anzac Memorial Trustees Military History Prize went to Soldiers and Aliens: Men in the Australian Army’s Employment Companies during World War II by June Factor.
The RAHS congratulates all the winning and shortlisted entries.
Playing Their Part: Official Book Launch at Government House
MRS LINDA HURLEY AND MR DENNIS WILSON LAUNCHING ‘PLAYING THEIR PART: VICE-REGAL CONSORTS OF NSW’ AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE, SYDNEY ON 23 FEBRUARY 2022 [PHOTO CREDIT: GOVERNMENT HOUSE SYDNEY]
Playing Their Part: Vice-Regal Consorts of NSW, 1788-2019 (published 2020) was officially launched at Government House, Sydney on Wednesday 23 February 2022.
The book was launched by Mr Dennis Wilson (consort to Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW) alongside Mrs Linda Hurley (consort to His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC [Retd], Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia).
In attendance were some of the 22 authors who contributed biographical profiles for the vice-regal women and one man that comprise the book, and the volunteer editors of the book, RAHS President Carol Liston AO, Joy Hughes and Christine Wright.
Amongst the luminaries in attendance were the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley, the Honourable TF Bathurst AC, Chief Justice and Lieutenant-Governor of NSW, Lady Suzanne Martin, widow of Sir David Martin, 34th Governor of NSW, and the State Library of NSW’s Dr John Vallance.
The audience (which was restricted due to COVID protocols) were treated to two interesting speeches, followed by afternoon tea. Mr Wilson discussed his admiration for Eliza Kent (consort to Governor John Hunter) and Mrs Hurley outlined how her curiosity inspired her to approach the RAHS to find out more about past vice-regal women. She also spoke in admiration of her favourite consort, Anna Josepha King (wife of the third Governor of NSW, Philip Gidley King).
To close the proceedings, Mrs Hurley treated the audience to a musical rendition of her own making, which celebrated the lives of the past consorts.
Two hundred years ago, in June 1821, Australia’s first learned society was launched in Sydney. Named the Philosophical Society of Australasia – because ‘natural philosophy’ was the prevalent term for science at that time – the group comprised seven prominent men who shared the goal of establishing a museum of natural history.
PORTRAIT OF JUDGE BARRON FIELD, PAINTED IN THE EARLY 1820S, WHEN HE WAS A FOUNDER OF THE PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY OF AUSTRALASIA [MITCHELL LIBRARY, STATE LIBRARY OF NEW SOUTH WALES]
The founders were Judge Barron Field, Dr Henry Grattan Douglass, Colonial Secretary Frederick Goulburn, surveyor John Oxley, merchant Edward Wollstonecraft, Captain John Irvine and Hawkesbury landowner John Bowman. They elected as their president Sir Thomas Brisbane, the Governor, who was a passionate astronomer.
Although the Philosophical Society only held a few meetings, it began a lineage of scholarly fellowships that solidified in 1866 when Queen Victoria formally signed assent to The Royal Society of New South Wales (RSNSW). It was incorporated by an Act of the NSW Parliament passed in 1881.
In 2021 and 2022, the RSNSW is highlighting the history of NSW intellectual societies with an exhibition, Nexus, in the Jean Garling Room of the State Library of NSW. It can be visited (during limited hours) after the library reopens.
The RSNSW also has compiled Australia’s first author-alphabetical and chronological bibliography of key science papers published between 1821 and Australia’s Federation in January 1901. This list cites chapters from Barron Field’s 1822 science anthology, Geographical Memoirs of New South Wales, and includes hotlinks to online facsimiles of 635 papers by 171 authors that were published in 35 editions of the RSNSW’s annual Journal and Proceedings.
The JProc papers especially illuminate the culture of research, thrusts of discovery, and relations among leading scientists during the New South Wales colony’s gold boom decades.
By far the most prolific essayist was the Sydney Observatory-based astronomer and meteorologist Henry Chamberlain Russell, who published 91 papers in volumes 3-35, including annual rainfall maps and monthly weather observations taken atop Observatory Hill. He also analysed floods of the Darling River and Lake George, how rain evaporated from paddocks, and telescope views of astronomical phenomena, including double stars and Transits of Venus, Mars and Saturn.
DRAWING OF SYDNEY OBSERVATORY, SKETCHED IN 1858 [MUSEUM OF APPLIED ARTS AND SCIENCES]
Another prominent writer was the University of Sydney’s Professor of Geology and Mineralogy, Archibald Liversidge, who wrote four papers on NSW minerals and meteorites in the annual Transactions of the RSNSW, before he began to edit the publication in 1875 and changed its title to Journal and Proceedings. Liversidge also served as the society’s Honorary Secretary from 1874 to 1884, and he designed the Seal required for its NSW Government Act of Incorporation in 1881.
English pastor and geologist William Branwhite Clarke published 15 papers in the journal between 1867 and 1878. These included the RSNSW’s Inaugural Address, in which he argued that science, with its focus on factual evidence, was superior to the philosophy promoted by preceding NSW intellectual societies. He later published six Anniversary Addresses and research reports on minerals in north Queensland, fossils of kangaroos and extinct birds, ocean depth soundings, and some effects of forests on Australia’s climate.
During Liversidge’s term as the journal editor, English science educator William Adam Dixon wrote a series of worthy articles on chemistry, mineralogy and palaeontology: highlighting islands of sea-bird guano, NSW deposits of silver, nickel, cobalt and coal, and chemical aspects of orchids, ferns and native coastal species. Other writers on Australian fossils, rocks, minerals, shells, fish, fauna, plants and forests included William James Barkas, Robert Etheridge Junior, Australian Museum curator Johann Ludwig Gerard Krefft, Royal Mint assayer Carl Leibius, botanist Charles Moore and priest-geologist Julian Edmund Tenison-Woods.
KANGAROOS SKETCHED BY GERARD KREFFT, FIRST CURATOR OF THE AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM [MITCHELL LIBRARY, STATE LIBRARY OF NEW SOUTH WALES]
Liversidge also encouraged articles about Aboriginal knowledge and culture. He published Peter MacPherson on Aboriginal astronomy, language, oven-mounds and stone implements; Peter Beveridge on Aboriginal people of the Murray-Darling basin, and ‘Notes’ by John Fraser and James Manning. These followed Transactions articles on Polynesian and New Guinea populations, reported by Scottish educator John Dunmore Lang.
Despite the RSNSW’s stated objectives to further knowledge in Science, Philosophy, Art and Literature, no articles on philosophy or literature, and only a few on arts and crafts, were published in the first 20 years of the journal. These included several papers by Ludovico Wolfgang Hart on ‘the rise and progress of photography’ as a matter of importance to Australian education; John Plummer on art instruction; Italian pianist Jules Meilhan on the transformative power of classical music; Emerich Reuter Roth on rational construction of chairs and desks, and William Henry Warren on the strength and elasticity of ironbark timber for construction projects.
As the gold boom boosted Australia’s population and prosperity, Liversidge introduced some farsighted concepts for public welfare, infrastructure and economic development. Frederick Norton Manning, director of the asylum at Gladesville, illuminated journal readers on ‘causes and prevention of insanity’, while Alfred Roberts discussed ‘pauperism’ and hospital accommodation. Engineers James Manning, Charles Mayes, John Smith and A. Pepys Wood wrote on how to improve the colony’s water supply and sanitation. NSW Auditor-General Christopher Rolleston assessed crime statistics and new post office, banking, credit and insurance systems.
Several RSNSW writers presciently highlighted nascent technologies that would underpin modernity through the 20th century. Edward Charles Cracknell highlighted international advances with the ‘electric telegraph’; George Denton Hirst focused on new optical lenses made by Carl Jeiss (Zeiss) in Germany, and Lawrence Hargrave presented his prescient ideas and designs for ‘flying-machines’.
Hargraves’ first RSNSW JProc articles were published in 1885 and 1886; 17 years before American inventors Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the world’s first successful motorised aeroplane in December 1903. Yet Hargrave was only one example of how many young, well-educated British immigrants pioneered worldwide advances after they settled in Sydney in the mid 19th century. The Royal Society of New South Wales, via its annual Transactions, then Journal and Proceedings, was a vital conduit for their intellectual pursuits.
MODEL OF ONE OF LAWRENCE HARGRAVE’S LATE 19TH CENTURY ‘FLYING-MACHINES’ [STATE LIBRARY OF NEW SOUTH WALES]
For broader detail about the early years of the RSNSW and work of colonial scientists, read The Long Enlightenment: Australian Science from its Beginnings to the Mid-20th Century, by Emeritus Professor Dr Robert Clancy FRSN (Halstead Press, 2021).
On 14 May 1855, the Royal Mint in Sydney was first opened to the public. The discovery of gold in 1851 created the immediate need for such a vital institution due to the increased economic growth in the colony of New South Wales.
SYDNEY MINT & INFIRMARY [RAHS PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION]
The building itself – housed in the southern wing of the General Hospital and Dispensary – was already undergoing a conversion. The Hospital, built in 1811, was three buildings grouped together and by 1850 had undergone several repairs and upgrades. So much so that the function of law courts was already taking place well before the Mint gained approval in 1853. Owing to its poor construction, outbreaks of dysentery in its hospital rooms were frequent, earning it the grim moniker of ‘Sydney Slaughterhouse’.
The southern wing of the hospital was designated to be the site of the Mint and two men oversaw its design and construction. The initial plans of the building were inspired by the Crystal Palace of London, which the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint, Captain E H Ward had seen in 1851. Owing to Captain Wards commitments in England to secure its construction, Joseph Trickett, Superintendent of the Coining Factory adapted Wards plans and oversaw construction. The initial years of the Royal Mint were frenetic – the influx of gold saw 14,000 ounces in one week during October in 1855. As well as a colourful episode in 1869 where bushranger Captain Moonlite ‘fenced’ his 129 ounces of gold into £503, the Royal Mint continued to be a hub of activity.
It could not entirely shake the shadow of redevelopment, however. Despite narrowly avoiding demolition in 1906, the Sydney Mint closed in 1926 with its declining profits and outdated infrastructure finally ringing the death knell. The building itself continued to be known as the Mint and in 1997 it was transferred to the Historic Houses Trust where after a significant conservation and redevelopment project it stands today as an important and significant historical site in metropolitan Sydney.
Anzac Memorial Hyde Park, Sydney 1940 [RAHS Photograph Collection]
On 24 November 1934, sixteen years after the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, the Anzac Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park first opened its doors. An estimated one-hundred-thousand spectators attended the ceremony. Eighty-five years later it remains an iconic national monument, commemorating the “ENDURANCE, COURAGE AND SACRIFICE” of Australia’s fallen soldiers in the First World War. 
For all its timeless splendour, however, the road to the Memorial’s opening was not an easy one. Interest in the construction of a war memorial in Sydney was sparked as early as 1916 but it was not until 1923, with the passage of the Anzac Memorial (Building) Act, that real plans began to be made. It would take another decade for the completed building to be unveiled. The delays stemmed from a number of reasons: financial restraints, debate over design, and indecision over location. In 1929, to resolve the indecision, the Anzac Memorial Trustees announced a design competition, of which the winner would receive two-hundred and fifty pounds and the title of architect for the new Anzac Memorial. 
Australian architect Bruce Dellit’s Art Deco design was victorious. It was simple yet evocative, current yet laden with historical and cultural symbolism. In collaboration with English sculptor Rayner Hoff, Dellit set about bringing his vision of the Memorial to a reality. However, the pair encountered some difficulty. When the monument opened in 1934, though spectacular, it lacked a few key elements of Dellit’s design. The Trustees also vetoed several of Hoff’s proposed statues. Some of these design changes were remedied in time for the centenary of the Armistice in 2018. 
The Anzac Memorial we see today is as close to Dellit’s original vision as possible. Though an imposing structure, it remains a space of private mourning and reflection. The sweeping stairs into the Hall of Memory invite the visitor to gaze up into the Dome of Stars or down into the Well of Contemplation and upon Hoff’s confronting brass sculpture, Sacrifice. An inscription set at the western entrance to the Hall of Silence implores visitors to “Let Silent Contemplation be Your Offering” – an apt request for the remembrance of those whose own voices have been silenced for more than a hundred years. 
On the 7th of October 1819, builders under the guidance of convict architect Francis Greenway laid the foundation stone for what was intended to be Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s new courthouse on King Street. A far grander building was planned for George Street as Sydney’s new metropolitan cathedral – It was not to be.
Sent all the way to Sydney from London, Commissioner John Bigge questioned the expense of Macquarie’s proposed cathedral, and suggested a new church be built at the site of the already commenced courthouse instead. All Greenway had to do was add an “ecclesiastical air” to his plans. Five years later, in February 1824, the new St James’ Church was consecrated, and if it looked strangely secular one only had Bigge, and perhaps Macquarie’s budgeting skills, to blame.
St James’ Church, King Street, Sydney, 1894 [RAHS Photograph Collection]
This year marks the bicentenary of the groundbreaking of St James’. Over its two-hundred-year existence, the little Georgian church has enjoyed just as much change and controversy as during its construction. The principal Anglican church in Sydney for fifty years, St James’ found itself at the centre of a scandal when newspaper editor and firebrand Edward Smith Hall was denied his pew close to the pulpit. Governor Ralph Darling confronted a potential assassin on the church’s front steps. The installation of the first Bishop of Australia, William Broughton, took place there in 1836.
The twentieth century saw St James’ caught between the competing interests of the local parish and City of Sydney diocese, as its ministers embraced a more liberal style of worship known as Anglo-Catholicism. Its architecture mimicked its tumultuous existence: the church underwent several periods of extension and restoration between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, accommodating a growing congregation and changing attitudes towards its “gloomy” interior design.
St James’ was heritage listed in 2004. It is the oldest church building in Sydney that has been in continuous use for its original purpose since its consecration. Today, it sits within the historical precinct of Macquarie Street along with the Governor’s other building projects, by virtue of Bigge’s frugal hand. It can be said with utmost certainty that St James’ is more than a place of worship: it is a piece of Sydney’s history, as complex and enduring as the city itself.
 Kenneth Cable, Peter Clarke, and Rosemary Annable, St James’ Church, Sydney: An illustrated history (Sydney: Churchwardens of St James’ Church, 1982), p. 5.
 K. J. Cable, ‘Saint James’ Church, King Street, Sydney, 1819-1894’, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal and Proceedings 50, pt. 4 (October 1964), p. 250; Cable, Clarke, and Annable, St James’ Church, pp. 19-21.
 Cable, Clarke, and Annable, St James’ Church, pp. 38, 41-2.
 Cable, Clarke, and Annable, St James’ Church, p. 34.
The twenty-eight year old Thomas Walker, spiritualist, secularist, free-thought lecturer, journalist and politician, encountered the full force of the law when he presented the last of his series of Thursday evening lectures in the Secular Association’s rooms at 20 Oxford Street in Darlinghurst on 9 April 1885.  The subject of his lecture was Moral and scientific checks to over-population; or large families and poverty.  Walker was an advocate of the views of Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh, who had been prosecuted in England in 1877 for publishing a book by birth control campaigner Charles Knowlton.  To illustrate his lecture Walker used six drawings, which he later testified were taken from diagrams of the male and female anatomy in standard medical works. As he was delivering his lecture—and in a dramatic sequence of events—Sub-Inspector Bremner entered the room and seized the drawings and informed Walker that he would be prosecuted for delivering the lecture. 
Given the colourful nature of the charge against Walker, and no doubt fuelled by the reference to the allegedly obscene diagrams, the press coverage of the case was extensive. This is most fortunate as none of the Water Police Court records relating to Walker’s case have survived. The press reports also document his determination to fight the matter. In preparation for the hearing:
Inspector Bremner, Daily Telegraph, 3 January 1901, p.4.
He had gone to the booksellers, Messrs. Robertson and Turner, and purchased the medical works from which the diagrams used to illustrate his lectures had been taken; and if he were liable to be prosecuted for exhibiting these diagrams to adults for the purpose of illustrating a lecture, then the booksellers who sold the works containing the same diagrams were also liable. Moreover, if he had rendered himself liable to a criminal prosecution, so likewise had the doctors and professors in the universities and colleges rendered themselves liable for having exhibited the same diagrams and others to the students who attended their lectures.
Thomas Walker was duly charged:
That on the 9th April, 1885, six obscene diagrams or representations were kept on the premises, 20 Oxford street, Sydney, as exhibits, such premises being occupied by the defendant, and a warrant was thereupon issued to enter, search for, and seize all such diagrams or representations, &c.; that James Bremner thereupon entered the said premises and seized the said six diagrams, &c.; that the said defendant was there and then the occupier, &c.; and that the said premises wherein the same were found were open to the public on payment of money, contrary to the Act in such case made and provided. 
The Secular Association expressed its indignation at the actions by the police and voted the funds necessary for Walker to defend himself.  The case was heard in the Water Police Court at Circular Quay—today the site of the Justice and Police Museum. The hearing began on Tuesday 21 April 1885 but was adjourned until the following Tuesday on the application of Walker, who was defending himself.  On 28 April Walker appeared before the magistrate, Mr Whittingdale Johnson, D S M. Walker’s objection that his action was not an offence under the Obscene Publications Prevention Act 1880 (43. Vict. No. 24), which ‘in no way contemplated’ the prohibition of pictures for scientific purposes—and as ladies and children were not admitted it was not a public place—was overruled. Sub-Inspector Bremner gave evidence stating that Walker had commended several books to the audience, which were of an obscene nature and that he had repeated the obscene parts of such books in his lecture. 
The hearing continued on Thursday 30 April and Walker called four witnesses in his defence. They included American trained physician Mrs Attwater. She stated that where she studied, women were admitted to all the physiology lectures. Diagrams showing the human organs were exhibited and she had not known of demoralisation to arise from this study. Her evidence was to no avail. At the conclusion of the hearing Magistrate Johnson found that the offence had been fully proved under the Act. He imposed a penalty of £10 and £4 4s in costs, or the alternative of two months imprisonment. Johnson also made an order for the destruction of the diagrams. 
Although the appeal was ‘stood over from term to term’ it was eventually heard by the Full Court—before Chief Justice Martin, Justice Faucett and Justice Innes—on 13 November 1885. Mr. F. Rogers appeared for the Crown, and Walker again conducted his own case.  The Court reserved its judgement until the following day. The Evening News, which had followed the case over the past months, reported the judgement:
The offence was considered obscenity. The drawings were obscene, and so were the lectures they illustrated, but the information was so badly drawn that it did not disclose any offence under the statute, and therefore the conviction must be quashed. This course, however, the Court took with great reluctance … The main point on which the judgment proceeded was the confusion in the use of the words ‘then and there’. It was doubtless intended that these words should apply to the exhibition of the pictures at Walker’s lecture, which was delivered ‘for gain’ but by mistake the words have been applied to the place where the seizure took place, which happened to be a private room not open to the public, and not occupied by Walker. Order of the justice reversed; no order as to costs. 
After an extensive search it appears that the only official records in the NSW State Archives relating to Walker’s appeal to the Supreme Court are the Prothonotary’s Notebooks and the notebooks of Chief Justice Martin, Justice Faucett and Justice Innes. These provide only minimal information. As previously noted, there are numerous newspaper reports, in particular the Evening News, on the Water Police Court hearing and Walker’s Supreme Court appeal. The good news is that there is a full report of the appeal in the NSW Cases at Law on the AUSTLII (The Australasian Legal Information Institute) website.  It records the decision of the Full Court as well as the reasons of the three judges. These reflect much about the attitudes of the day regarding morality, decency, womanly propriety and what constituted obscenity, offering researchers ample material for further investigation. 
 F. B. Smith, ‘Walker, Thomas (1858–1932)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, <http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/walker-thomas-4789/text7975>, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 31 December 2018.  Sydney Morning Herald, 9 April 1885, p.1.  The Queen versus Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, Queens Bench Division, June 18th 1877, <https://archive.org/stream/queenvcharlesbra00brad/queenvcharlesbra00brad_djvu.txt>, accessed online 31 December 2018.  Daily Telegraph, 17 April 1885, p.4.  Evening News, 20 April 1885, p.3.  NSW Cases at Law, Bremner v. Walker, 13 and 14 November 1885, p. 276 <http://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/nsw/NSWLawRp/1885/56.html>, accessed online 31 December 2018.  Daily Telegraph, 17 April 1885, p.4.  Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 23 April 1885, p.2.  Evening News, 29 April 1885, p.6.  Evening News, 1 May 1885, p.6.  Evening News, 14 November 1885, p.5.  Evening News, 16 November 1885, p.6.  AUSTLII is a joint facility of UNSW and UTS Faculties of Law, provides free access to over 770 full text Databases from all Australasian jurisdictions.  NSW Cases at Law, Bremner v. Walker, 13 and 14 November 1885.