"Adelaide is a thoroughly modern town, with all the merits and all the defects attaching to novelty. It does not possess the spirit of enterprise to so adventurous a degree as Melbourne, but neither does it approach to the languor of Sydney." - R. Twopeny, 1883

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Russell Street Babies

I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the women I wrote about in my thesis (THREE YEARS AGO!) and I’ve decided to write about four of them here. The information in this post is available online, from Trove, Genealogy SA, and an essay by Patricia Sumerling that was published by the Professional Historians Association (South Australia). I also used Margaret Barbalet’s “The Adelaide Children’s Hospital” for background. I haven’t referenced every individual article, but I have noted when I used Sumerling’s essay or the Genealogy SA database. A list of references is at the end.

Alice Ann Lemm lived in Russell Street, Adelaide near Tidmarsh’s Soap Factory. Russell Street still exists and runs between Wright Street and Gilbert Street. The soap factory was on Sturt Street, with frontages on Norman and Russell Streets, so I can only guess Alice’s house was near the corner. She probably lived in a small terraced single-storey house, similar to the ones in this photo of Sturt Street from 1877.

The fact that ‘near Tidmarsh’s soap factory’ was mentioned in the newspaper articles about Alice Lemm is very interesting. In 1878, it was referred to as ‘J. Tidmarsh & Co.’s stink factory’. In 1883, a person identifying him-or-herself as ‘Citizen’ wrote a letter to the “The South Australian Advertiser” stating:

“I beg to state that while I was residing in King William-street south (from 1875 to 1882) I and my family have continually been annoyed and sickened by the horrible stinks arising from that soap factory whenever the wind blew from that direction. Generally when after a spell of hot weather a cool change set in we were obliged to keep all our doors and windows shut on account of the smell, and could not get our rooms cooled like other people who lived farther away…My idea is that it emanates from every part of the factory, and not only from the fluid running into the sewer. My chief reason for leaving my residence in King William-street was the obnoxious smell from that soap factory, and I think it would be a blessing for the whole of South Adelaide if the factory could be stopped and re-established a long way out of town.”

A house so noticeably close to the factory would have been cheap to rent, and I can’t imagine the living conditions would have been too pleasant. Alice shared the house with four babies, one of whom was her own and the other three were the children of women Alice had met in the Lying-in ward of the Destitute Asylum whilst confined with her own baby.

Her three charges were named Edward James Satchell, William Frederick Garten Thomas and Annie Harris. She had also cared for the child of a woman called Hannah Saunders, but Hannah took her baby away after only two weeks. Edward and William both died in November 1879 – Edward was sixteen weeks and William was seven months.

When Edward died, a death certificate was given and his body was buried without an examination. According to the Genealogy SA database, an Edward Satchell died in 1879 and his relative was given as his father, James Wallace Tormey. Following Edward’s death, the City Coroner (Mr. Ward) made further enquiries and he and Detective Hammill found Alice living with the three other children, all of whom were extremely emaciated. Two were “lying on a deal box in an empty room with nothing but rags to lay on and cover them, and their lower extremities were very cold”. The Local Board of Health was notified to the situation, and the Coroner believed that two of the remaining three children were not likely to live. These two children were probably Alice’s child and Annie Harris, as witnesses at the inquest into William’s death said he was the strongest-looking of the three. Alice was also reported to the police by neighbours, who reported hearing the babies ‘roaring’ and that they were dirty and thin.

Grace Thomas, William’s mother, planned to take William to the Destitute Asylum for medical treatment but he died the day before. Dr. John Scott Wilson, junior house surgeon at the Adelaide Hospital, saw William before he died and gave a death certificate when asked for one, giving the cause of death as marasmus (a severe protein deficiency). William’s relative was listed as his mother, Grace Thomas. However, William could not be buried until the coroner had been consulted because another child in Alice’s care had also recently died.

The coronial inquest, held at the Old Queen’s Arms Hotel, found that William had been with Alice for two months and she was engaged as a ‘dry nurse’. He was fed bread, Neave’s food (a formula for babies and invalids) and a mixture of milk, water and sugar. After Edward’s death, Alice had asked William’s mother, Grace Thomas, to care for William herself but Grace pleaded with Alice to keep him for another week. Grace took charge of William a week before he died and had made arrangements to go to the Destitute Asylum with him.

Patricia Sumerling’s essay, “The West End of Adelaide”, mentions that three children died within a space of ten weeks. The Genealogy SA databases show an Annie Harris, daughter of John Bowden, and an Edith Alice Lemm, daughter of Alice Lemm, both dying in 1880.  

In January 1880, Susan Harris was charged in the Adelaide Police Court with “abandoning her infant, whereby its health was permanently injured”. Following the inquest into William’s death, Susan gave Annie to a Mrs. Ashton and promised to pay her 10s a week. Susan then went to Lacepede Bay and did not pay Mrs. Ashton anything, so Annie was ‘sentenced’ to the Industrial School for three months, while charges were laid against Susan. Annie was “in a very emaciated condition, and it is doubtful whether [she] will live.” On Wednesday, 25 February 1880, a certificate stating that the Attorney-General was of the opinion that there was no case against Susan Harris was filed in the Supreme Court. 

Alice Lemm, Grace Thomas, Theresa Satchell and Susan Harris were all ‘confined’ in the Lying-in ward of the Destitute Asylum and were typical of its younger inhabitants. Alice, Susan and Grace were all recent migrants (Theresa might have been too, but it wasn’t mentioned in the reports). Alice was a domestic servant in Adelaide before she fell pregnant. Susan Harris also lived with her, but it appears that she must have worked and Alice cared for the babies. Grace worked as a general servant at the Buck’s Head Hotel in North Terrace. Theresa was also a domestic servant and was unable to find work with her son, which is why she gave him to Alice.  84% (449 out of 533) of unmarried mothers of children born in the Destitute Asylum between 1873 and 1883 were domestic servants.

An article that appeared in the Chronicle on 7 July 1883 pointed out that domestic servants rarely had any other home in the colony besides the one in which they worked. If they ‘offend[ed] against morals’, their options were extremely limited. With no job and no ‘parental roof’, the Destitute Asylum was the only place for them. This appears to have been the case with Alice, Grace, Theresa and Susan.

The ‘Alice Lemm case’ was spoken about in Parliament and it, along with other ‘baby farming’ cases (although Alice Lemm was not, strictly, a ‘baby farmer’) that occurred around the same time, led to the establishment of the State Children’s Department and the changes to the Destitute Persons’ Act that made unmarried mothers remain at the Destitute Asylum until their babies were six months old.


‘An Alleged Nuisance’, Advertiser, 25 January 1883, p. 5
Barbalet, Margaret. The Adelaide Children’s Hospital 1876-1976. Adelaide: The Adelaide Children’s Hospital, 1975.
‘Coroner’s Inquests: A Case of Baby Farming’, Advertiser, 26 November 1879, p. 6
‘Death of an Infant’, Register, 7 November 1879, p. 4
‘Maternity of Children: Destitute Asylum’, Chronicle, 7 July 1883, p. 5

'Nolle Prosequi', Chronicle and Weekly Mail, 28 February 1880, p. 11

[No title], Register, 13 January 1880, p. 1
Sumerling, Patricia, “Adelaide’s West-End”. In William Shakespeare’s Adelaide 1860-1930, ed. Brian Dickey, 27-41. Adelaide: Association of Professional Historians Inc., 1992. [Available online: http://www.sahistorians.org.au/175/documents/patricia-sumerling-the-west-end-of-adelaide.shtml]

‘Suspicious Death of an Infant’, Register, 26 November 1879, p. 6

Friday, 20 December 2013

Fish Don't Wear Clothes

Yesterday was the third-hottest day on record in Adelaide. I, thankfully, was inside and thanks to the wonders of air conditioning, I wasn't uncomfortable!

I've been looking at Trove to see how the hot weather was reported on in the newspapers eighty-two years ago, and I found this beautiful piece!

It was published in the Port Pirie 'Recorder' on Monday 18 January 1932, page 3.

So, lesson for the day from 1932, if you wear skimpy bathers, note that you might get ogled by a man in a suit and bowler hat. On a beach.


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Miss Estelle

On 16 December 1911, Tormore House School (now Walford) celebrated its annual speech day at the Adelaide Town Hall. Amongst the prizes awarded that night was one for 'physiology diagrams' for Estelle Bowen, Sixth Class.

Now, you're probably thinking, 'um, History Girl? This is a bit different from your other posts - what does this have to do with anything?' [And that is the last time I'll write in the third person!] Well, Estelle Bowen, who was apparently very good at drawing physiology diagrams, grew up to be Stella Bowen, the common-law wife of author Ford Madox Ford.

I decided to do a post about Stella Bowen for a couple of reasons: 1, I think she's a very interesting person; 2, Parade's End (based on Ford's novels) was recently turned into a mini-series and the character of Valentine Wannop - awesome name! - was (reportedly) based on Stella; 3, Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby was released recently and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were in Stella's circle of friends.

I think Stella is honestly one of the coolest people to ever come out of Adelaide, yet she's not particularly well-known. She left Adelaide in 1914 (yes, at the very beginning of the then-Great War) to study art in London, using money from her parents' estate. She was friends with actors, writers, artists and bohemians. Soon after she met Ford, they moved to Sussex and lived on a farm before moving to Paris and livin' it up bohemian writer/artist French style. The recent(ish) Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, is about the bohemian Paris of the 1920s with the Fitzgeralds and Hemingway among others, but I don't believe Ford or Stella are in it (probably because they were English/Australian and not so well-known in America?).

Stella Bowen was born Esther Gwendolyn Bowen on 16 May 1893. Her father, a surveyor, died when she was three and her mother died several years later, when Stella was twenty. Her parents, Thomas and Esther Eliza (nee Perry) married at St Giles' Church, Oxford on 2 February 1892 and settled in North Adelaide. From 1897-1913, Stella lived at 59 Mills Terrace, North Adelaide, which is still a private residence and it has a blue plaque commemorating it as her home out the front. A link to a pdf file published by the Adelaide City Council about the house can be found HERE. A quote from the pdf, quoted from (what I believe is) Stella's autobiography is:

 I was born in the sort of house that must inevitably end its days as a boarding house. It was sizeable, rather gloomy, at a sufficiently good but not fashionable address, detached, with two little lawns and a summer house in front and a backyard behind containing clothes line, a stable and a coach house, a see-saw and a swing. Being in Australia, it had a front verandah with balcony above, and its roof was largely smothered in Banksia roses, bougainvillea and other greenery. There was a trellis of vines covering the path from the front to the back and figs, apricots, lemons and oranges grew around the backyard. There was a pampas-grass in the garden, and an aspidistra in the drawing-room. There were no modern conveniences. The nicest thing about it was the view. Being placed high on the edge of the town's oldest suburb, it looked down over low-lying park lands where cattle grazed...

She was, as I wrote before, educated at Tormore House School - which then had campuses in North Adelaide and Unley Park - and was known in Adelaide as 'Estelle' (presumably to differentiate between her and her mother, who was also called Esther). A report about Tormore House from 1909 can be found HERE - Stella was thirteen in 1909.  During that year, young Estelle won prizes for French history and botanical diagrams. Interesting note: one of the senior students of that year was Paquita Delprat, who later married Sir Douglas Mawson.

Following her mother's death, Stella left Tormore and Adelaide behind her and set sail for London, to study at the Westminster School of Art. Her departure from Adelaide was mentioned in the Chronicle's 'Social Notes' (on page 56!):

Miss Estelle Bowen sailed for England by the Marmora on Thursday, February 25.

Stella's actual departure was probably far more interesting than that. She was a young, unmarried woman and we can guess that social propriety (and probably her mother) prevented her from leaving her home until after her mother's death. Mirabel Osler, who was the daughter of Stella's friend Phyllis Reid, wrote about Stella in her autobiography The Rain Tree. Stella described Adelaide as 'a queer little backwater of intellectual timidity'. She was only meant to be away from Australia for a year, but 'never used the return half ticket'.

Her post-Adelaide life with Ford is fairly well-documented - there are numerous biographies of Ford Madox Ford and Jean Rhys (author of, among others, The Wide Sargasso Sea and one of Ford's best known mistresses), and Stella wrote her own autobiography (which is now out of print). Since the television production of Parade's End, I've noticed a lot of articles about Ford and, in particular, his relationship with Stella. But I'm not going to write about that. I'm going to write about Miss Estelle Bowen, the daughter of (the late) Mr. and Mrs. T. Bowen of North Adelaide. Miss Estelle attended parties and wore pretty dresses, which were described in great detail in the Adelaide newspapers. She and her mother went on holiday, which was announced in the Adelaide newspapers. And, oh yeah, she was an artist.

On 17 May 1911Miss Estelle Bowen looked well in a white satin frock made with a silk net tunic, finished with a rouleaux of satin, and border of handsome old Honiton lace; the same 'lace was introduced on the bodice and silk cord girdle; broad white satin band in the hair at a 'charmingly arranged and altogether delightful dance' at the North Adelaide Institute, hosted by Miss Davies Thomas. Her mother, Mrs. T. Bowen, was also in attendance and wore 'grey silk with black Maltese lace tunic and bodice finishings'.

At "one of the most sumptuous and well arranged dances of the season...given by Mr. and Mrs. William Pope at their residence, 'Mount House,' Strangways-tce, North Adelaide, on Wednesday, August 9 [1911]", Miss Estelle Bowen wore a pretty frock of apricot satin over which was mounted a lovely- Mechlin lace tunic. As in May, her mother also attended and I think she was wearing the same dress as before ("grey silk with Maltese lace tunic")! At this party, another guest was Dr. Helen Mayo. Helen Mayo was one of the first (I believe the second?) female medical graduates from the University of Adelaide and she became one of the best-known authorities on babies' health. She wore black crepe-de-chine with lace effects.

On 23 August 1911, Miss Estelle Bowen wore yellow crepe-de-chine with folds of brown velvet on the corsage on a night out at a 'Two-Step Dance' at Miss Kathleen Kyffin Thomas' house at Brougham Place. The billiard room was used for dancing, and a dainty supper was served in the dining room. How sweet! Kathleen Kyffin Thomas was her cousin and Brougham Place and Mills Terrace are a little over a kilometre apart - a 20 minute walk, according to Google Maps.

In February 1912, she and her mother returned from a trip to Melbourne. I can only assume that they left earlier in the year(!)

On a Saturday night in October 1913, she was noticed in the audience at Brewster Jones's recital. Sadly, we don't know what she was wearing that night...

Although it appears that she was noticed more in Adelaide for her dress sense, she was an artist and was exhibited in Adelaide before moving to London. She was a featured artist in the fourteenth annual Federal Art Exhibition, shown at the Institute, North Terrace (the old building on the corner of North Terrace and Kintore Avenue), in November 1911 - when she was eighteen. I don't know how many paintings of hers were exhibited and I can't find if any of them sold.

After fleeing the 'little backwater', and adopting the ever-so-slightly cooler name Stella, she was rarely mentioned in the Adelaide press. In 1927, she was one of four Australian artists featured at the autumn exhibition at the Paris Salon. When her autobiography, "Drawn from Life", was published in 1941, a favourable review appeared in the Chronicle, which mentioned Stella and Ford's daughter and their 'partnership', "which ended without any bitterness". In 1944, she was appointed an official war artist by the Australian War Memorial and this brought her back to the general Adelaide consciousness, despite living in London at the time.

Stella Bowen died on 30 October 1947 in London. A brief obituary (and photo) was published in The Advertiser on 26 November 1947. Despite not having lived in Adelaide since the beginning of the First World War, she was described as "S.A. War Artist". An earlier article from 1944 describes her as the second South Australian woman to be appointed as a war artist - the first being Nora Heysen, daughter of Hans Heysen (as in, tunnels). Two years after her death, her daughter (Julia, with Ford) visited Adelaide as 'Mrs. Roland Loewe' with her husband (that would be Mr. Roland Loewe) and their son, Julian. Mr. Loewe planned to settle in Australia, but I'm not sure if they ever did.

PS: I've had this post in draft for a couple of months, but I've been umming and ahhing about putting it here because there aren't any pictures. I don't like using images on the blog that I haven't taken myself, due to copyright, but this post is about an artist and it feels odd not including some art. So, HERE is a link to some online images of her art from an exhibition at the Australian War Memorial.

I have a single photo for you. When Stella was eighteen, she exhibited paintings (or just one painting - I'm not sure!) at the Federal Art Exhibition at 'the Institute'. Here's a window I think looks cool (and a random photo I happen to have on my computer!) - I doubt it's changed much from Stella's time.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

20 Things You Might Not Know About Adelaide...

HERE's an AdelaideNow article (so I guess it would be in "The Advertiser" too) about Queen Adelaide, the city's namesake. At the end of the article, there's a list of 20 obscure things about Adelaide - I knew a few of them, but not all! You learn something new everyday...

Friday, 3 May 2013

The Ghrimes Girls

This is a bit of a different post. I've got a couple of posts in draft that require a bit more research and fixing, so this is a post because, frankly, I just felt like writing one. No pictures with this post, I'm afraid, but there might be a supplementary post with some pictures later.

When I was about 10 or 11, I read the "Tea Tree Gully Sketchbook" by Ian Auhl. It was in my nanna's bookcase and it was small with a bright green cover. I was interested in history when I was that young, but I preferred historical fiction to actual history. Anyway, I got to the page on the Greenwith Methodist (now Uniting) Church and I found something - that even at that age - I thought was pretty interesting. I haven't read this book in years, but I still remember it really well: there was a small paragraph at the end of the page that said the church used to be the Upper Dry Creek School, the teacher was Mrs. Elizabeth Ghrimes, and she had three daughters who died in a diphtheria epidemic and were buried at the Golden Grove Cemetery (across the road from the nearby Golden Grove Presbyterian - also now Uniting - Church). I got my dad to take me to the Golden Grove Cemetery and I found their grave - Marian, Charlotte and Louisa all died within a few days of each other and were buried together. There was a little fence around it that, in a strange way, made it feel almost cosy - like they were protected. Their grave is one of the oldest in the cemetery.

Obviously, I found their story very sad. Charlotte and Louisa were younger than I was and Marian was the same age as me at the time. This was when my interest in 'real' history began to grow. I wanted to know about these girls, who they were, where they lived, what they did. This is in an era before Trove, and before I had any sort of workable research skills. I put their name into a couple of search engines a few times in my teens but nothing came up. I now know that one of their brother's descendants has done some genealogical research into their mother, but all that is known about the girls is that they died young. And that's probably all I'm going to find out.

I've not been able to find anything about the 'diphtheria epidemic', but all three died from diphtheria within a few weeks in December 1862. Diphtheria was prevalent throughout South Australia in the early 1860s (and before and after) and there were cases of diphtheria in December 1862 in Meadows. Cases of diphtheria actually decreased in the last half of 1862, when the girls died from it. Saying that, a quick review of death notices from that time shows an enormous amount of people - especially young children - who succumbed to diphtheria.

On 9 January 1863, the girls' brother Wallace ("Lacy") broke his leg (this is why I love the old newspapers - being able to pinpoint an event down to the day like that). He was playing with young horses at a neighbour's property "when he was thrown down by them and had his leg broken." Elizabeth, their mother, was not told for "a day or two" because she was suffering from diphtheria and was "altogether prostrate from [the deaths of her children] and her sudden and severe calamities". The paper states that two of the girls had died within the fortnight before the accident. If I remember correctly, one of the girls - I think Charlotte - died on Christmas Eve. The newspaper also wrote that Mrs. Ghrimes was beloved by her pupils and respected by everyone in the district.

I don't know where the girls were born but the genealogy websites have told me that their parents, Elizabeth and Robert, were English and arrived in Australia in 1849. A newspaper report tells me that they arrived in South Australia on 27 October 1849 and travelled on the "Senator", a 619 tonne barque. They were not travelling with any servants or children.

Their mother was a teacher in a small country town, so I can only assume they (or at least Marian and Charlotte, who were eleven and seven) went to her school. Elizabeth Ghrimes applied for a teaching licence in 1859 and she was already a teacher at 'Upper Dry Creek', so she must have had a few students already. The girls would have been eight, four and one in 1859. In March 1860, Mrs. Ghrimes requested government aid for her school and the Reverend J. A. Boake wrote to the Education Board asking for this. He stated that the school was very good and "he had received excellent character [references?] from the inhabitants."

In 1861, a year before the girls died, the school was inspected. The report reads: "This school is under the management of a competent teacher. The pupils, although drawn from a purely agricultural neighbourhood and often required for service at home, have made good progress. The school-room is very defective." The foundation stone of the Greenwith Church wasn't laid until 1863, so were using another school room. Mrs. Ghrimes was encouraged to find an alternative building by an Inspector of Schools, but there was a bit of a controversy when she took up the Greenwith Church. It was close to another school at Golden Grove run by Miss Cate, who complained to the Inspector of Schools that there shouldn't be two schools so close to each other. In 1869, nineteen families petitioned to Board to keep Mrs. Ghrimes as a licensed teacher, but she doesn't appear to have been inspected after 1869, indicating to me that she left teaching at this time. As I understand it, there was never an official schoolroom at Upper Dry Creek/Greenwith, but there was a schoolroom and teacher's residence at Golden Grove. Golden Grove was preferred as the local school because it was older and was built for the purposes of a school. The Board of Education wanted a male teacher to teach the boys, who were getting too big for a female teacher to manage!

Marian, at least, must have been taught in the "very defective" schoolroom and I really wish I knew where it was. On 20 September 1861, the school students were examined and it was written about in the "South Australian Register":

"The scholars were tested in reading, spelling, English and sacred history, general geography, writing, and the principles of English grammar. Specimens of drawing and needlework were minutely inspected by the company, and at the conclusion prizes were distributed to the most meritorious pupils. Mr. Kerr [the examiner] congratulated the parents for the neat and very imposing appearance of their children, and also Mrs. Ghrimes for the highly praiseworthy manner in which she seemed to have performed her duties during the past year...The happiness of the evening was kept up to a late hour by music and many recreative [sic] amusements."

Through Trove, I've since learned that Elizabeth Ghrimes was a widow by 1872 and she took up 177 acres on Section 105, Golden Grove. Each acre cost 1 pound, so the whole property would've cost her 177 pounds, which is quite a large amount of money. My next step is to look at old maps with the sections marked on them to see if I can find where she would have lived. I know sections in the 2000s are in present-day Golden Grove, near the Golden Grove Village. Since the Greenwith Church (which is actually in Golden Grove) is nearer present-day Greenwith and the original Golden Grove property is probably about 1km from the church, I think the earlier sections would be in that area.

And that's all I have. I understand that there wouldn't be that much information out there about three girls who died young, and I've been fortunate to find the little information I have. There's a lot of information available about pioneer families of the Tea Tree Gully area, but the Ghrimes family don't seem to fall under this category. There aren't any streets named after them, nor no known property owned by them. The only place I've been able to visit that I've known for certain they've been too is the cemetery. The church was their mother's workplace for many years, but it pre-dates the girls.

Since Elizabeth was also suffering from diphtheria, no doubt caught from her daughters, I wonder who organised the girls' funeral and burial. I haven't been able to find a funeral notice for any of them. I don't know where the funeral would've been held, as there were no churches in the area. I wonder who took care of Wallace after his sisters died and his mother was ill. I wonder who took care of Elizabeth. Wallace's broken leg was set by Dr. Bosch - did he provide medical care to the girls too? Did he take care of Wallace? When I research, I often ask more questions than I'm able to answer and this family is difficult because, basically, they were an ordinary country family. I think they lived hard lives and are admirable - Elizabeth ran a school with four small children; the youngest was still a baby when she started teaching and I'm sure there weren't childcare facilities for her. (More questions: who cared for Charlotte and Louisa when their mother was teaching? Did she bring them with her?) I have a picture of them in my head, of three little girls running through the long grass near what is now Golden Grove Road, their mother standing outside the school ringing an old-fashioned school bell and calling them in for lessons. It's sentimental and romantic, but it's what I feel.

Thanks for reading.


Tea Tree Gully Historical Society
Marian, Charlotte and Louisa Ghrimes' gravesite
Elizabeth K. Grimes [Ghrimes?] Inspectors' Reports

"South Australian Register", 31 October 1849, p. 3
"South Australian Register", 4 April 1850, p. 2
"South Australian Weekly Chronicle", 16 July 1859, p. 3
"South Australian Weekly Chronicle", 11 February 1860, p. 7
"South Australian Register", 6 March 1860, p. 3
"South Australian Register", 12 October 1861, p. 2
"South Australian Register", 15 January 1863, p. 3
"South Australian Register", 6 March 1863, p. 3
"South Australian Weekly Chronicle", 16 July 1864, p. 3
"South Australian Weekly Chronicle", 3 December 1864, p. 4
"South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail", 5 June 1869, p. 14
"South Australian Advertiser", 1 March 1872, p. 7

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Heatwave, 1908 style

Anyone in South Australia at the moment will be aware of the weird weather we've been having! It's been as hot as 45 and as cold as 14!!! But anyway, whenever I think it's way too hot to do anything, I'm grateful for air conditioning and cold water on tap and that, as a 21st century woman, it's socially acceptable for me to go out in public with my knees on display! In January 1908, SA had a record of six days over forty degrees, which is still a record. This is a time before air conditioning, before proper refrigeration, and when men would've been outside in suits and women in long dresses and corsets.
Now, I saw the new 'Slip Slop Slap' ad the other day ("slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, slide on sunnies, seek shade"), which is in a wonderful contrast to how 1908 women were advised to avoid sunburn. Back then, slipping on a shirt and slapping on a hat weren't a problem, as it was unseemly to walk the streets topless and hatless, but ladies also carried parasols or wore veils. Of course, even with all those clothes, sunburn still occurred and ladies needed to break out the rose-water and tincture of benzoin.
Here is how sunburn was dealt with in 1908, taken from an article in Mount Gambier's "Border Watch", 4 January 1908:

To avoid sunburn, it is well to walk on grassy sides of the path when out in the country, as reflected light from the glaring white road injures the skin. Similarly as regards the light from sea and river, which burns no matter how sheltered the face may be from the direct rays of the sun. 
Another important point is the colour of the parasol and veil. These should be dark coloured to keep away sunburn effectually. 
As for remedies for sunburn: lemon juice in rose-water is as good as any, though parsley which has been well boiled gives a juice to which some ladies attribute marvellous powers. 
Tansy put in a teapot with a little hot buttermilk and allowed to infuse for an hour was our grandmother's remedy, and it still holds high repute. 
A good emollient cream to rub gently on the face and the superfluity gently taken away with a piece of white silk can be made up as follows: an ounce each of rose-water and Vaseline, half an ounce of lanoline; and 20 drops of tincture of benzoin beaten into a cream.

I now leave you with a poem, "Hot Weather Rhymes", by Mark Thomson (note the different spelling of 'cola'). Until the last stanza, it's quite a sweet poem about ice cream and cold drinks, but it takes a slightly sadder and morbid turn. It was published in the "Chronicle" on 8 February 1908:

When the sun's burning beam
Flares down from the sky,
The penny ice cream
Is a good thing to buy.

The sweet ginger pop, 
And the cool Kola beer
In the little 'luck shop'
Are easy to clear. 

Whatever is wet
And has been on the ice
That the small boy can get. 
He drinks in a trice. 

At the gaudy street stall
The youngsters are thick,
For ices they call, 
And swallow them quick. 

It's a wonder to me
They don't all of them die. 
And to cooler realms flee
Up there in the sky. 


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Saddling Paddock

The Theatre Royal in Hindley Street was the first place in South Australia to show a ‘moving picture’, way back in 1896! It was a beautiful, imposing, multi-storey Victorian building that played host to, among others, Sarah Bernhardt, Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. In 1962, it was demolished to make way for a carpark. The carpark is still standing. It’s near the police station.

There were many hotels on Hindley Street at that time – as there are today, of course – and the one nearest the Theatre Royal was the imaginatively named Theatre Royal Hotel. The Theatre Royal Hotel’s front bar was popular with theatre-goers, but it was the back room that provided a special service. This back room was colloquially known as 'the saddling paddock' and it catered for 'fallen women' and men who enjoyed the company of these women. The proprietor of the Theatre Royal Hotel kept the saddling paddock separate from the rest of the hotel and the Theatre Royal, presumably in an attempt to allow the 'respectable' theatre-goers to have their nightcap after a show and then go home. Licensing laws allowed hotels near the theatre to remain open half an hour later than the other hotels in the city to cater for the audience after a show finished. It was during that half hour that the saddling paddock became a ‘hotbed of evil’.

In January 1879, a journalist for “The Register”, who called himself ‘a midnight rambler’ wrote an article about the dark side of Adelaide, spending a night frequenting various hotels in the city. Of the Theatre Royal Hotel and the saddling paddock, he wrote this:

“The first of the resorts of the demi monde we visited was the much-talked of saddling paddock in connection with the Theatre Royal Hotel. It was then only half-past 9 o'clock and the place was not filled as it nearly always is after the opera is over — or the drama, or   whatever there has been on the boards at the Royal. But even at this comparatively early hour it was half-filled with the gay and fair (if I may use such words in their popular and not their literal signification). The room is a small one — perhaps 15 ft. by 20 ft.— and at one end is a counter at which drink is supplied to the women who frequent the place and who are absolutely refused any refreshment whatever in the front bar. This restriction is a two-edged one. While it keeps the front bar decent it concentrates the defilement, and makes access to it more easy and toleration of it more seemly. While the 'saddling paddock’ is not the scene of such conduct as is 'often described as going on there— it being an ordinary bar-room without sitting accommodation — it is undoubtedly the chief rendezvous for what may be termed the fashionable class of fallen women. The word ' fashion' in such a sense seems incongruous, but I let it stand. Probably the inordinate love of dress and idleness may have led to the fall of some of the gaudily dressed women to be found in this back bar-room.   Anyway the girls seen here are a different class from those met later on in our travels. The air stifles one with its sickly perfumes mixed with the inexpressible flavour of an overcrowded and heated bar-room. Some of the women are dressed in satins and silks, and some are ‘plastered with white and raddled with red,' as Thackeray says of the Court beauties of the time of the first gentleman of Europe.'”

The midnight rambler returned to the Theatre Royal Hotel later in the evening, after the show at the Royal had finished. The front bar was crowded with men, about a hundred, who took a nightcap and, the midnight rambler hoped, then went home. The paddock, however, was now ‘crowded with wanton women’ and an old man waited at the door ‘and in a fatherly way keeps out the boys’. Of the women, the midnight rambler wrote: 

“And the women, though they may wear lavender kid gloves with diamond rings outside, are most of them not unknown either at the Hospital or the Gaol, whence many sickening stories come. They are certainly not fit company for sons of respectable members of society, or for those whose past excesses have already led them once into embezzlement and seem likely to utterly ruin them. Even here there are grades among the women as there are ages— from the wretched old hag whom we saw outside strutting with two girls (having murdered two of her own daughters in the past, one dying in a state too awful to picture and the other committing suicide) to the young creatures not more than sixteen or seventeen, just entering on the abominable life, and to the older one whom we just see purchasing her bottles of spirits wherewith to supply herself and her guests after the ' paddock' shall be closed and the Christian Sabbath morning shall have been ushered in. I shall not speak of the hansom cabmen and the part some of them play in this repulsive drama of real life. I shall not even refer to the very few years that these unfortunates live after they have given themselves up to a life on the streets. It is undoubtedly a short life, and it is not a merry one. My object, however, is to state facts, and not to moralize.”

The midnight rambler’s article caused quite a stir, and three letters to the editor about it are particularly interesting. The first, published on 21 January 1879, was from the proprietor of the Theatre Royal Hotel:

“The general inference in the article so far as they regard the Theatre Royal Hotel, is that that hotel is responsible the fallen women being fallen women; whereas, on the contrary, the Theatre Royal Hotel neither has nor had anything whatever to do with their falling. Women in the ‘transit’ state between virtue and vice of that particular kind which your articles so unmistakenly indicate never appear at the Theatre Royal Hotel until they are full-fledged, Therefore, the hotel cannot fairly be blamed with making them so. The chiefs of the police inform me that I am in a measure bound to supply with refreshments any persons in a sober and quiet state who may ask for them. For this end I have arranged different rooms and compartments for different classes of people. The fallen women who may demand admittance to the Theatre Royal Hotel are admitted only to one particular part of the hotel, so as not to offend by any means any person who may visit any part of the theatre itself or other parts of the hotel, thus preventing by a very simple arrangement the possibility of any occupant of the stalls, pit, or gallery who may choose to take refreshments at the bar of my house from seeing any of these fallen women at all unless they themselves have a distinct desire to do so. Of course the dress-circle refreshment rooms are upstairs, and are kept rigidly select as every visitor very well knows. Another reason why I take exception to the general inference of the article is that while the Theatre Royal Hotel is only one of several licensed public-houses in the immediate neighborhood of the theatre who are granted nightly permits to remain open a short time after the Licensed Victuallers Act allows, and who by the way are as regularly and certainly crowded with fallen women as the Theatre Royal Hotel itself, with this difference, that they are not so carefully restricted to a room by themselves, still they are passed over in silence, and the whole wrath of the writer showered down in a culminating volume on the devoted head of the Theatre Royal Hotel.
None of my barmaids are allowed on any pretence whatever to apprcach the room set apart for  those unfortunates alluded to in your article…Still, if they will come, and I have already said I cannot prevent them it is better in my opinion that they should be kept apart by themselves than be allowed to mix amongst respectable people anyhow. No one wishes more sincerely than I do the arrival of the time when the Legislature will grapple with the enormous social evil, which is rotting to the core thousands of our most promising colonial boys; and when the question is fairly dealt with, and settled, satisfactorily no one will be better pleased, than John McDonald, of the Theatre Royal Hotel.”

The editor replied:

“The writers of the articles referred to had no intention of suggesting that fallen women, owe their ruin to frequenting the Theatre Royal Hotel. We have no doubt that Mr. McDonald's statements as to the style in which he conducts that establishment are strictly correct and that it is managed as well as any place can be where' loose women are allowed to obtain refreshments, the question at issue is whether it would not be better in the interests of respectable playgoers to refuse all such accommodation to persons of that class anywhere on the premises connected with the theatre.”

On 25 January 1879, a woman who called herself “A Young Wife” wrote at her horror of learning about the Theatre Royal Hotel’s shady side: 

“Being a young wife I have a natural horror of any pitfalls (recognised by the authorities) into which my husband may be ensnared. I frequently visit in his company the Theatre Royal, and have never up to the present time been uneasy when he has left me in the intervals to partake of refreshment; but now that I am aware of the existence of such a den almost in the theatre itself I shall be disposed to object to his leaving me for the purpose of entering an hotel containing such a hotbed of vice and debauchery.”

On 30 January 1879, a person known as “Observant” wrote five facts about the saddling paddock:

“1. That the ‘Saddling Paddock’ is allowed to remain through official connivance. 2. That there is no reason why the ‘Saddling Paddock’ should be allowed an existence. 3. That the ‘Saddling Paddock’ is altogether too public (i.e., too open to the public). 4. That it is unnecessary; and 5. That it serves no purpose whatever except the purpose of pollution.”

“Observant” acknowledged that people, especially young people, needed entertainment and the theatre (or, as he or she called it, ‘the drama’) was the place to get it. He or she was outraged that ‘noble Shakespeare’s art’ was being defiled by the goings-on of the saddling paddock, so near Adelaide’s major theatre.

I personally find it very interesting that “Observant” claims that the saddling paddock is ‘altogether too public’, yet “A Young Wife” had no idea of its existence, despite being a regular theatre patron. The fact that women weren’t permitted to front bars in any hotel at that time – in fact, I don’t think they were allowed until the 1960s – probably explains this. Her letter also leads me to wonder how long intervals were in 1879 for her to worry about her husband being ‘ensnared’ whilst partaking of refreshments?   

The saddling paddock was still in existence into the 1880s and remained after a change of management in 1884. In June 1884, a ‘special reporter’ for “The Register” took a similar journey to that of the midnight rambler and documented the experiences in an article. Another hotel on Hindley Street, Tattersall’s, now had a room on par with the saddling paddock. The saddling paddock itself was written about as such:

“The saddling paddock at the Theatre Royal, also known by the sweet name of the 'cowyard,' and by other equally choice titles, is of the same class as the Tattersall's room, but there is a vast difference between the appearance of the two places. The paddock is a snug little room, nicely decorated and set off with pictures representing theatrical stars. No special remarks need be made respecting this place, the existence of which has so long been regarded as a reproach to the management of the Theatre Royal. The hope was indulged in lately that the alterations to the building made by the new management would include the abolition of this undesirable institution, but apparently no steps are being taken in that direction.”

Tattersall’s was next to the Theatre Royal (on its right), so I can only assume that the Theatre Royal Hotel was on the other side. Photos of the Theatre Royal and Tattersall’s from 1878 and 1881 can be found HERE and HERE.

The only references after 1884 of ‘saddling paddock’ are of actual saddling paddocks – i.e. with horses, so I can only guess that it closed soon after the June 1884 article was written.

“The Register”, 20 January 1879, p. 6
“The Advertiser” 21 January 1879, p. 6
‘The Register’, 25 January 1879, p. 11
‘The Register’, 30 January 1879, p. 6
“The Register”, 14 June 1884, p. 6