Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Birth and death on the goldfields, 1855-56

"The Harp of the Valley", by William Stewart Ross in  Illustrated Handbook of Victoria, Australia. British Library HMNTS 10492.f.22

While George was busy with concerts in Beechworth, Susan was delivered of a boy, on 14 April 1855 at Wangaratta. They named the babe Edward George.   Susan registered the child at Beechworth on 23 May 1855.  She signed with her mark.   As usual when Susan was the informant, the surname was rendered as "Griffiths", but George always used the spelling "Griffith".

Ten months later, on, 24 Feb 1856, the infant died of cholera infantum,  also referred to as 'summer diarrhea', a contamination exacerbated by swarms of flies, and the insanitary conditions on goldfields.  The death was certified by Thomas Crawford.  The Ovens Directory 1857 described Crawford as MD, JP, and residing in Camp St, Beechworth.

The baby boy was buried at the Beechworth Cemetery, which had been surveyed in February 1854 and divided into rectangular denominational compartments. In I856 a Cemetery Trust was formed and the cemetery was in operation in January the same year.

The Minister Thomas Dowell of the Church of England presided, and the witnesses were William Haydon and Octavius Folkard.  These two gentlemen were involved in a courtcase against each other in the Beechworth Police Court on 30 March 1857, but the case was dismissed as neither party appeared.  Octavius Folkard later obtained a Refreshment License for Indigo in 1859.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Salle de Valentino, 1855 - UPDATED

Late Beechworth Assembly Rooms.
Grand Promenade Concert
and Ball,
ON MONDAY, 16TH APRIL,and every other evening during the week, except Saturdays,
on which occasion a
Free and Easy
will be held.
 Programme :
Polka- 'Grand Sultan.' 
Quadrille- from 'Lucrezia Borgia.'
Song- 'Far, far upon the sea.'   
Song - 'When swallows homeward fly,'
Waltz- 'Georgette.'
Duett- 'Am I not fondly thine own.'
Descriptive- Russian War Galop.


Quadrille- 'Exhibition.'
Song- 'The Fortunate Man.'
Polka- 'Beechworth' (first time), composed by Mr. G. Griffith.
Song- 'The Marseillaise.'
Galop- 'Mount Etna.'
Finale- 'God Save the Queen.'

Advertising. (1855, April 14). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 - 1866; 1914 -1918), p. 5. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from

 In this advertisement for a Grand Promenade Concert and Ball, George features in the program with his own composition, performed for the first time, a polka called Beechworth.  No other trace of this piece of music exists - missing like so many other pieces of colonial music. 

The "Salle de Valentino" or Valentino Room, was the Assembly Hall attached to the Beechworth Hotel a few months earlier.  It may have taken it's name from a similar venue in Melbourne, operating from 1854, which Robyn Annear described as "a vast canvas dancehall with resident polka band" in her book on Whelan the Wrecker.  This Salle had borrowed its name, from an entertainment venue in London.

This is the only reference so far located suggesting that George Griffith composed music, but we will live in hope.

UPDATED  This concert in Beechworth, to be held on Monday 16 April, was scheduled only two days after the birth of Edward George Griffith in Wangaratta. Various advertisements indicate that George was working in Beechworth in 1855, which suggests that Susan was staying in Wangaratta awaiting the birth of her child.  When the baby was registered by Susan in Beechworth a month later, she did not record any attendants at the birth neither doctor nor midwife.  However, on that score I am familiar with another Registrar who declined to record the names of midwives, and it may be that the information was provided but not recorded. 

Dancing, Dancing, Dancing! 1855 UPDATED

The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum  Inventory no: 2003-5001/2/24008. Beechworth, circa 1857, by Walter Woodbury. The hotel appears to be the Commercial Hotel in Ford St, Beechworth

Dancing! Dancing! Dancing!
M LANGFORD, proprietor of the 
Beechworth Hotel
, begs to inform 
the inhabitants of Beechworth and 

its vicinity, that he has rented the 
above rooms, with an intention of 
making it into a Dancing and Musical 
Saloon, which will be opened on
It is being fitted up in the best possible 

style, Messrs. Griffiths and Co.
(Harp and Violin players) are engaged 
as musicians, and the lovers of really
good music, singing, and dancing, 
will have an opportunity afforded 
them unequalled in the district.
Doors open every evening, from 

half past 6 to 12 p.m.
N.B.-There will be an entrance from 

the Assembly Rooms to the Billiard 
Room, which will enable persons    
who are fond of this game likewise
to amuse themselves.
Beechworth, March 30, 1855.
Advertising. (1855, March 31). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 - 1866; 1914 -1918), p. 3. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from

"Messrs Griffiths and Co, Harp and Violin Players" probably included George Zeplin.  A five and a half hour evening gig would certainly leave George (both Georges) with plenty of daylight hours to work a claim.

UPDATE- Richard Patterson in Nobblers and Lushingtons places the Assembly Rooms next to the first Beechworth Hotel in Ford St.  Michael Langford had been the licensee of the El Dorado (later Exhange Hotel), where George's association with Langford began.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wilkie's Music Saloon, Melbourne


The advertisement in which George Griffith announced his presence in Beechworth in 1855 alluded to previous employment in "Wilkie's Music Saloon".  Investigation in Trove for 1855 reveals this business to be located at 15 Collins St East, Melbourne.  This was on the north side of Collins Street, just around the corner from Elizabeth Street, and appears to have later become the site of Block Arcade.  In 1862 Wilkie formed a partnership with John Campbell Webster.  In 1863 the business was joined by George Leavis Allan.   The business became Wilkie, Webster & Allan in 1869 until 1876, at which time Allen became the sole proprietor, and then Allan & Co in when his son came into the business.  (  A Guide to Dating Music Published in Sydney and Melbourne 1800 to 1899, by Prue Neidorf, 1999.)

 Wilkie's Music Saloon offered retail sales of musical instruments, sheet music, instrument repairs, sales of concert tickets.  Portable instruments were popular in the goldrush, for obvious reasons, and in 1853 advertised:

GOOD Wages and constant work for a person un-
derstanding tuning and repairing accordeons, at
Joseph Wilkie's, Music and Pianoforte Saloon, 15,
Collins street.

Advertising. (1853, July 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 -
1957), p. 1. Retrieved April 23, 2014, from
 It is not clear where George learned the skills of instrument repair and piano tuning to which he later turned his hand, but perhaps he learnt some of it with Joseph Wilkie in Melbourne.  No trace can be found of George in Melbourne in this period, so it is impossible to be certain how long he had been employed there.  Joseph Wilkie himself had come to Melbourne in 1850 via Adelaide.  As we don't know when George arrived in Victoria, it is possible he was with Wilkie even at this stage.

Wilkie's business became very well known and influential in Melbourne - Joseph himself was later elected to the Legislative Council.  When the firm moved to a new three storey building erected nearby in 1877 by Allen & Co, Wilkie's name was still incorporated on the fascia of the building, above the first floor.

Melbourne : Ebenezer and David Syme  December 27, 1876.  Published in The illustrated

Around 1988, some 130-odd years later, the family renewed the contact with this old pre-gold-rush music business when George's gt gt granddaughter was employed by Brash's, which had taken over Allan & Co.

Read more about Joseph Wilkie on Austral Harmony.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Professor on the goldfields,1855

"On stone by A J Stopps from a Daguerreotype by Acley and Rochletz.   Post Office, Beechworth 1856."   The original photographers appeared in the 1857 Ovens Directory, business rivals of Walter Woodbury - "Ackley & Rochlitz, Daguerrean Artists, Ford St, Beechworth".  This postcard copy of the lithographed daguerreotype was included in the family photo collection.

Advertising. (1855, March 3). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 - 1866; 1914 -1918), p. 6. Retrieved April 25, 2014, from

With the above advertisement George Griffith introduced himself and his talents and services to the diverse and growing community in the Ovens goldfields.  He was aged 31; his wife Susan was still only 17 and on the verge of delivering her first child - which arrived on 14 April 1855, a fortnight after the ad.

George announced multiple skills - a teacher of pianoforte, violin, harp, with a general wave in the direction of other instruments.  He could repair multiple instruments, and he could perform at private and public functions.

George also helpfully indicated his place of employment prior to coming to the Ovens goldfields - with Wilkie's Music Saloon in Melbourne.

It is difficult to imagine Susan travelling along badly made roads from Melbourne to Beechworth in an advanced state of pregnancy, which makes it seem likely that they had been in the area for a few weeks at least, or had travelled from somewhere closer.   George perhaps had been wearing himself out digging for gold, and erecting some form of home for himself and his young wife and coming child.  The advertisement signals a more focussed approach to earning a living. 

Woolshed Diggings,1857

This image of the Woolshed Creek Diggings, Ovens, was taken by Walter Woodbury.  The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum, in whose collection this image resides,  dates the image to 1855, but I am inclined to think that this and other photos taken around the Ovens district were taken in 1857 when Woodbury had a studio in Beechworth.

The Royal Historical Society of Victoria has a panorama of Melbourne in its collection, taken by Woodbury in 1855 from the top of West Melbourne Gas Works.  See the Victorian Historical Journal, Volume 81 No 2 (Nov 2010) for an article examining the provenance of that panorama.

Both Woodbury and Griffith were listed in the 1857 Ovens Directory, Griffith being described as a "Professor of Music, Woolshed", and Woodberry as "Daguerrean Artists Ford St, Beechworth".

Woodbury's Portrait Rooms in Beechworth, 1857, from the Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum

The Woolshed Creek diggings were located to the north west of Beechworth, accessed by a single narrow road.  The creek itself eventually joins up with the Ovens River.

Diggers' Ball, August 1857

"Life  on the goldfields - a digger's ball".   From a sketch by W Lacey.  Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria collection.

THE BALL AT THE EL DORADO. Mr. Winter's ball at the El Dorado hotel last night was a decided success in point of numbers, as well as the means of enjoyment provided for the occasion. An excellent band excited the ladies and gentlemen to endless terpsichorean evolutions, and when eventually exhausted an abundance of suitable refreshments renewed their vigor. After midnight the company sat down to a magnificent supper, laid out with great taste and elegance, and comprising all the delicacies which the district and the season afford. The skill of the artiste in charge of the culinary department was displayed in various marvellous mysteries, which while the pleased the eye gratified the palate in a still greater degree. But M. Camille Reau is a veritable cordon bleu, who has graduated in high places and taken the highest degree in his delightful act. To use the language of the advertisement, which has been fully justified, "all the resources of the establishment" were displayed to the greatest advantage. The spacious accommodation which the El Dorado now possesses for such entertainments added materially to the general comfort and enjoyment.

THE LAND CONVENTION. (1857, August 5). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1857 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved October 14, 2013, from

George Griffith may well have performed at this Diggers' Ball at the Eldorado Hotel.

Eldorado Hotel, August 1857 - UPDATED

Image from the British Library Photostream

El Dorado Concert Room,
On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and
Thursday evening. 
Positively the last week of the present
Will appear in their celebrated characters of
Teddy O'Rourke and his pupil Biddy O'Shanasy.
Pretty Polly Hopkins and Mr Tomkins.   
Also their side splitting deleniations of domestic bliss, entitled 
Will sing a choice selection of most popular 
Will appear in his laughable character of the
and introduce his comic abilities on the Light 
Fantastic Toe.
Also in his unequalled performance on the
Assisted by
And other professionals. 
The Performance on Thursday Evening will
be for the Benefit of
Admission Every evening Free

Advertising. (1857, August 12). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1857 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved October 9, 2013, from

According to various advertisements in the Ovens & Murray Advertiser, the Pendletons seemed to be musical hall variety artists, while Herr Kramer claimed to be a celebrated vocalist from Buda and Pesth, Hungary.

UPDATE  Richard Patterson, in Nobblers and Lushingtons,(pp 30-31) described the El Dorado hotel as a substantial wooden building on the corner of High and Church Streets, Beechworth.  In 1857 the licensee  was Robert Winter, who made extensive alterations throughout, and included the El Dorado Concert  Room.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Tyrolese Minstrels. June 1857

The Tyrolese Minstrels may have looked a little bit like this image which shows a group of the same name in The Illustrated London News, London, Saturday, 6 December 1851, p. 699.

Star Theatre
THE TYROLESE MINSTRELS. These performers made a successful debut in this district at the Star Theatre, attired in their picturesque national costume Madame Haimberger and Miss Kramer attracted the admiring gaze of a crowded audience, while their finished delivery of the mountain airs peculiar to their own homes, astonished and delighted all alike. The musical "Iodelu", which is the refrain of almost all their songs, never fails to hang on the ear and to please the memory long after its sound has ceased. The ladies really deserve the. high encomiums which have been passed upon them elsewhere, and which they most assuredly find echoed by the good folks of the Ovens. It is a great pity that the racy and original words of their songs cannot be understood by the majority of their hearers, as the absence of this understanding deprives the performance of half its merit......
...The entertainment was varied by performances on the harp and violin by Messrs Zeplin and Griffith.

THE Ovens [?] Advertiser. (1857, June 9). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1857 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved October 11, 2013, from

Again George performed in partnership with George Zeplin.  George Frederick Zeplin, a member of a musical family, arrived in Melbourne in October 1852 on the Nepaul aged 20.   The rest of his family, including parents, arrived in 1859 and were immediately employed as Zeplin Family Quadrille Band.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Unpaid Wages, March 1857 UPDATED

Robert O'Hara Burke, circa 1860.  Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Collection
Friday, March 27, 1857
(Before R. O'H. Bourke, Esq., J.P. and J, S. Morphy, Esq., J.P.)

George Zeplin v John Johnson.
A claim for £5 6s 8d, balance of wages, for playing a harp at defendant's house for two weeks and two days at £5 per week. Plaintiff had received £5, and now sued for the balance.
Mrs Griffith was sworn, and stated that she was present when Zeplin agreed with Johnson to play for him at £5 per week each. Would swear positively that the word "each" was mentioned.

Mr Johnson, having been sworn, stated that he engaged the plaintiff and his mate for £5 per week, and board, but never dreamt of paying them that amount each.

The magistrates said they had no...........the amount claimed.  

[There appears  to be a fold in the newspaper in the above sentence, and it is not clear just what the magistrates thought.] 
George Griffith v John Johnson. A claim for £5 6s 8d.
This case was exactly similar to the last, and judgment for the amount was taken by consent.

POLICE COURT. (1857, March 28). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1857 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved October 8, 2013, from

George Zeplin was a fruiterer and greengrocer (and evidently a harpist) at Woolshed, per Ovens directory 1857.  John Johnson was a publican at One Mile (about one mile south of the centre of Beechworth).    Henry Johnson was listed in the Ovens Directory as a publican at Woolshed.  According to Nobblers and Lushingtons: a history of the hotels of Beechworth and the Ovens District, by Richard Patterson, Johnston's Hotel was located at Upper Woolshed, where it had been from 1856. In September 1858 the hotel was described as 'the best finished house on the Woolshed'. (Patterson, p 302.)

The most interesting aspect of this post, to me, was George and Susan's brush with fame - the case was heard before Police Magistrate Robert O'Hara Burke, who would later go on to lead the ill-fated Victorian Exploring Expedition in 1860.

In the nineteenth century citizens were probably more familiar with the inside of a Magistrates' Court, which they used to chase wages owed, payments for goods, unpaid rent or board, and so on.

We learn from this that George was employed at £5 a week in a hotel to play what one imagines woud have been popular music.   We don't know what sort of week that entailed - all day for six days, or every evening for six days, five days?  The wage for a carpenter was £1-10-0 per day, a bricklayer could earn £1-5-0 per day, and a labourer between 15 shillings and £1 a day.  So these musicians (had they been paid) would have been earning less than a labourer - or the day was not a full working day.  It is hard to know unless we can shed some more light on it.

At the Ovens goldfields, 1850s.

This photograph by Walter Woodbury, said to have been taken circa 1855, shows the mining settlement at Woolshed Creek, a village of canvas and shingles.  Woodbury set up a studio in Beechworth in 1857, so it is possible that the image dates to this later period.  Source:  The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum. Inventory no: 2003-5001/2/23789

I am now going to wind back the dial on the time machine to 1855 when we will find George and Susan Griffith on the Ovens goldfields of northern Victoria.  I have already mentioned the children born and baptised in Fitzroy between 1865 and 1876, but there was an older group of children born among the tents, bark huts and gold workings in the Ovens Valley.  These were:

Edward George,  born 14 Apr 1855 at Wangaratta  (died 24 Feb 1856 Wangaratta)
Mary Jane           born 10 Aug 1857 at Silver Creek
George                born circa 1859 Indigo                     (died 1859 Indigo)
Ann Catherine    born circa 1861 in NSW
Louisa                 born 2 Jun 1863 at Beechworth

George was listed in the 1857 Ovens Directory as a Professor of Music, Woolshed.  Woolshed Creek was north west of Beechworth.  It had long been a matter of puzzlement to me as to whether George used his musician's hands to dig for gold, and I spent a bit of time researching this in the dark ages of research prior to the widespread use of the WWW.   I was able to find some traces of him, which didn't really resolve the question.   He invariably gave his occupation as 'musician', but it turned out that he did have a Miner's Right.  This information came from the card files of Fay Johnson, who had recorded that in the 1856/57 Electoral Roll - Legislative Assembly - Reid's Creek and Woolshed Division (Ovens District) on page 31, George GRIFFITHS of Woolshed, miner, was included on the roll by virtue of a Miner's Right.

Ros Shennan, another researcher of the Ovens history had recorded an advertisement which was included in a publication called History of the Parish of Beechworth about the Catholic Parish of Beechworth, by Father Leo Lane.  In this ad for St Patrick's Day at St Joseph's Church, Beechworth to be held on 17 March 1858, a Grand High Mass was to be held with orchestral accompaniments provided by Mr G Griffiths, first violin; Mr Welchman, second violin; Mr P Hurley, flute; Mr W Radford, viola; Mr Barlow, cornet; Mr Jenkins, sax tuba, Mr Wright violincello and Herr Esther double bass.

I found this interesting because it placed George's musical skills at the top end of the scale of fiddlers, with the capacity to play complex liturgical pieces, and also as the first violinist - the orchestra leader.

That was about the extent of my findings until last year when I decided to give the Ovens and Murray Advertiser (1855-1866), based in Beechworth  a thorough going over to see what else I could find about the activities of the Griffiths family, and shed more light on what type of music George was performing, and was he combining that with mining.

The next few posts will have a look at those findings.