State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 31 April 1983

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Edward William Jeffreys and his Collection of Country Views

Edward William Jeffreys was born on 22 October 1817, the eldest son of Henry Jeffreys and his wife Juliana, nee Towers. The Jeffreys family had been landed proprietors owning estates in England and Wales but these had been lost by the early years of the nineteenth century. Henry Jeffreys had served as a surgeon with the Third Regiment of Foot Guards, later known as the Scots Guards, from the expedition to Copenhagen in 1807, through the Peninsula War, to the peace in 1814. In the following year he established a fashionable medical practice in London and married Juliana Towers, sister of a fellow officer, at St. George's, Hanover Square, in July of the same year.
Henry Jeffreys was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons but developed what was then known as rheumatic gout in 1828 and was forced to relinquish his practice. He and his wife, together with their five children and servants, spent eighteen months travelling in their own carriage on the Continent, hoping to find a cure for his illness. This was to no avail and he died aged fifty-one at Bath in 1831.
Edward Jeffreys was educated at Bath Grammar School and, leaving there in 1835, was apprenticed to William Tierney Clark to learn civil engineering. Clark was a noted authority on suspension bridges and designed one to cross the Neva River at St. Petersburg, now Petrograd, in Russia. He built those at Hammersmith, Marlow and Shoreham in England but his most famous work was the suspension bridge over the Danube, linking Buda with Pesth.
In 1839 William Clark set out in his private carriage, accompanied by Edward Jeffreys, to supervise the commencement of this project. They made their way to Hungary via the Rhine and Danube valleys. Mr. Loftus Bland, an Irish barrister, went with Clark and Jeffreys but he does not appear to have been connected with the bridge undertaking. This scheme had been promoted by Count Szechenyi, a Hungarian nobleman, who entertained the party at his Zinkendorf Castle. They found the Hungarians very similar to English county gentry, particularly in their fondness for hunting and shooting and their habit of employing English grooms. On this journey Edward Jeffreys, who had learned to draw and sketch well, made a number of sketches of the bridge site, together with some on other subjects. His drawings were always in monochrome as he was colour-blind.
After three years with William Clark, Edward Jeffreys was qualified as a civil engineer and spent another year with him on a salary of eighty pounds per annum. He returned to Bristol for his grandfather's funeral in 1839 and then realised that he had studied the wrong branch of engineering as railway construction, about which he knew nothing, was by far the most important work at that time.
While at Bristol friends told him of the wonderful prospects for woolgrowers in New South Wales and gave him a small book which detailed the likely profits from the natural increase of sheep flocks in that colony. Edward Jeffreys found all this most encouraging and, provided by his mother with a small capital, took a passage for Sydney in the Royal George which sailed from Gravesend in August 1840. Edward Jeffreys was well supplied with letters of introduction including one from Lord John Russell, Secretary of State for the Colonies, to Governor Sir George Gipps and, upon presenting this, was asked to dinner at Government House next day.
After spending about a fortnight in Sydney, Edward Jeffreys sailed for Melbourne, his original destination, in the 500-ton steamship Clonmel and arrived on 5 December 1840. This vessel was wrecked on the Ninety Mile Beach on her next voyage.
Early in 1841 Edward Jeffreys bought Five Mile Creek Station, near the present town of Woodend and about seventy kilometres from Melbourne. This run had been first taken up in late 1838 or early 1839 by a man named Thompson, probably John Thompson, formerly of Hobart. Edward Jeffreys’ purchase consisted of about 1000 sheep, a few cattle and the grazing rights to a run of some 8000 hectares of virgin country, held under an annual license fee of ten pounds payable to the Government. There was a rough hut, built of split wooden slabs and roofed with sheets of bark, and this became his home.
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After his departure from England in 1840, Edward's mother, Juliana, decided that the whole family should settle in Port Phillip, as Victoria was then known. Her third son, Frederick Augustus Jeffreys, born 28 August 1820, sold his commission as an ensign in the 19th. Regiment and arrived unexpectedly at Five Mile Creek Station after Edward had been there only about two months.
Soon afterwards Edward and Frederick Jeffreys were joined by their brother Henry Charles, born 21 December 1818, who had served on the Eastern Mediterranean Station in H.M.S. Princess Charlotte and left the Royal Navy when that warship was paid off. The youngest of the brothers, Herbert Castelman Jeffreys, born 22 August 1824, left Rugby School where he had been in Dr. Arnold's house and, after a short time learning farming in Wiltshire, arrived on the station at the beginning of 1842.
The Jeffreys brothers found that their dwelling hut at Five Mile Creek Station attracted an unusually large number of travellers as it was situated on the track to the sheep runs further north and so they shifted it to a more private location a few kilometres further down the same creek and closer to its confluence with the Campaspe River. The diary of Robert Williams Pohlman, a squatter at Glenhope and later a Victorian judge, establishes that the Jeffreys brothers moved their hut between 6–16 March 1841. They renamed the station Kyneton, after the village of Kington (pron. Kyneton) which is on the Welsh Border near Hergest Court, a property owned in earlier times by their family. Each of the four brothers had been given two thousand pounds by their mother and they pooled their shares in an equal partnership, which worked amicably and successfully for many years without any formal agreement. The close and affectionate family relationship is borne out by the four having but one bank account, in the name of Jeffreys Brothers, upon which each could draw as he wished.
In 1843 they heard that their mother was coming out to join them at Kyneton and Edward said that they “built a pretty verandahed cottage, at that time a superior residence for the bush, which took us all in. We had hitherto lived in an ordinary slab hut.”
Juliana Jeffreys had lost her only daughter, Emily, from scarlet fever in London during 1834. Although she was fifty-five years old, Juliana felt there was nothing to detain her in England, so she left her comfortable home in London, quitting the fashionable society that centred on the Guards Regiments and St. James's Palace, and went to live with her sons in the Australian bush. Margaret, wife of Dr. David Thomas, arrived at Melbourne in June 1839 and, in her recollections, said, “My friend, old Mrs. Jeffreys, often paid me a visit. She was a very handsome woman, about sixty, had been quite a beauty, was well connected and had mixed in the best society at home. She was quite a lady of the old school, rouged regularly and had most agreeable manners. She was fond of talking and made herself most agreeable.”
The family that possessed a combined capital of some eight thousand pounds in 1842 was indeed in a very strong position and, provided reasonable prudence was exercised, the financial crisis of 1843 was unlikely to cause it any great anxiety. The Jeffreys brothers lived quietly, worked hard on their station and weathered the difficult times. In 1846, after the depression had passed away, the four brothers joined the Melbourne Club. In the same'year they added the adjoining 5200 hectare Trio Station to their Kyneton holding.
In 1847 they took up some 26,000 hectares at Terrick Terrick Plains, in Northern Victoria between the Campaspe and Loddon Rivers. This country was poorly watered and was used as a winter run. Each year when the autumn rains fell the Jeffreys’ shepherds drove the flocks from Kyneton and Trio to Terrick Terrick Plains and grazed them there until the spring. Then the sheep were taken back to Kyneton where they were washed, shorn and pastured during the summer months.
Juliana Jeffreys went to England in 1847, returning in 1848 and Edward arrived in Britain shortly before her departure, having left Melbourne in the Slains Castle, 504 tons on 7 February 1848. The ship's cargo included 95 bales of the Jeffreys brothers’ wool. Edward left Melbourne with the declared intention of finding a wife in Britain. Previous to his departure for Australia in 1840, he had been virtually engaged to a girl in England and this lasted for about seven years. However, Juliana Jeffreys thought that she would not make a suitable wife for her son and, some time before Edward left for England, she wrote to the girl explaining in kind and accurate terms the future hardships in store for her in the Australian bush. Predictably the girl broke off her engagement. Edward visited an old family friend in County Louth, Ireland and there met his future wife, Letitia Dorothea McCreight. They were married on 21 December 1848 and, after a three and a half month honeymoon on the Continent, sailed for Melbourne in September 1849. On their return they made their home at Kyneton Station. Soon afterwards Frederick visited England for nearly two years. He returned to Kyneton and died there, unmarried, on 24 March 1853. He is buried in the Kyneton Municipal Cemetery and was thirty-two years old when he died. The youngest brother, Herbert Castelman Jeffreys, married Sarah Macdonald at Sydney on 15 November 1853.
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Edward William Jeffreys

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The gold discoveries of 1852 increased greatly the value of the Jeffreys brothers’ extensive pastoral holdings and, probably, the fact that two of them had married decided them to dissolve their partnership. Trio and Terrick Terrick Plains Stations were sold. Edward and his wife made their home at Kyneton Station and he took this and about 40,000 hectares of pastoral lease in the Serpentine Creek and Aberfoyle runs in Northern Victoria as the remainder of his share. Henry and Herbert were in partnership on Burnewang Station which had been bought in December 1852. This was some 45,000 hectares of pastoral leasehold on the lower Campaspe River. They bought Boomanoomana and Kilnyana Stations north of the Murray River and in Eastern Riverina and, in 1853, Herbert was living at Boomanoomana although he appears to have returned to Burnewang with his wife and mother during Henry's absence in England in 1854. Henry and Herbert dissolved partnership in 1856, Henry taking Burnewang and Herbert Boomanoomana and Kilnyana. Juliana Jeffreys spent most of her time with Herbert.
Letitia Jeffreys, Edward's wife, was unusually highly educated for a woman of her time; she was a talented classicist and her training had been almost entirely bookish, leaving her ill prepared for bush life. She dreaded the drives over rough tracks to Melbourne in a vehicle drawn by half-wild horses, particularly when approaching one of her numerous confinements. Although Letitia had loathed the long voyage to Australia in 1849, she pined for the refinements of educated society in Britain and was irritated constantly by the rigours of bush life. When she asked her husband if she might have the earth floor of the verandah at Kyneton homestead covered with boards in order that the children might not soil their clothes so much, she was always told that it had been good enough for his mother etc.

Burnewang

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Juliana Jeffreys

Letitia Dorothea Jeffreys

Bacchus's Marsh, from the Melbourne side

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Eventually Letitia managed to persuade her husand that they were sufficiently rich to live in England and in 1855, with their three surviving children, a nurse and a goat to supply milk, they left for Britain in a sailing ship going round Cape Horn. They arrived safely, after a freezing cold voyage on which the children suffered greatly from broken chilblains.
In 1857 Edward Jeffreys left his family in England and returned to Victoria by the overland route in order to dispose of his stations. Serpentine Creek and Aberfoyle were sold on four year terms to Messrs. Carmichael and Russell and, as most of his former pastoral lease at Kyneton had been sold in freehold by the Government, he retained only some 500 hectares which he had bought around his homestead. This property had been re-named Cheveley Estate, to avoid confusion with the township of Kyneton which had grown up some kilometres north of the station. Cheveley was let to a tenant until it was sold on five-year terms in November 1870. The conclusion of this business kept Edward away from his family for seven months. When he left Melbourne for England this was to be his last sight of Australia, the country that had made his fortune and been his home for more than fifteen years.
After his return some years were spent in continuous Continental travel, despite Letitia's frequent pregnancies; from ten confinements she reared seven children. Whilst on these journeys Edward spent much of his time in leisurely sketching and painting. At last they returned to London where they took a house at Rutland Gate, kept a carriage and pair with liveried servants and lived the kind of life for which Letitia had always longed.
Henry Jeffreys, the bachelor owner of Burnewang Station, again visited England in 1863 before selling out and retiring to London finally in 1874. He lived in Chambers at 12 Park Lane, where he renewed his English friendships, attended fashionable race meetings and enjoyed taking his nieces, Edward's daughters, to operas at Covent Garden. Friends described him as a kind, cheerful and friendly man who, like his mother, was very fond of conversation. He died at his chambers on 31 May 1886 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery.
Juliana Jeffreys, with Herbert, his wife and daughter, went to England in 1857, returned to New South Wales at the end of 1859 or the beginning of 1860 and, after Herbert sold his Boomanoomana and Kilnyana Stations, retired to Britain in the spring of 1864. He bought Culmhead House near Taunton and his son was born there late in 1864.
Juliana Jeffreys, mother of the four pioneer settlers who had left the comforts of London to join them in their new life, died at Torquay, England on 28 October 1872 and was buried in that cemetery. She was predeceased by her third son, Frederick Augustus who died at Kyneton almost twenty years previously, but lived to see three of her sons make their fortunes in the Australian colonies. Her graciousness and geniality have been remarked upon by more than one of her Port Phillip contemporaries. She was eighty-four years old.
Although Edward Jeffreys had accumulated a substantial fortune in Victoria before retiring to England, he made some ill-advised investments. By far the most unfortunate of these was in heavy purchases of Mexican Bonds issued by the puppet Emperor, the Austrian Archduke Maximilian, for whom he had an intense and inexplicable admiration. As a result Edward's financial crisis came to a head in 1866, a year before Maximilian was executed by a firing squad.
Edward was forced to adopt the most rigid economy in living expenses and took his family to Dinan in Brittany, as there costs were lower than in England. No longer were there ponies, gardeners, governesses or nurses. They had but one young French girl who helped in the house and Edward and Letitia taught the children. There was then quite an English colony at Dinan; one of the children's friends was Herbert Kitchener, later famous as Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 forced Edward Jeffreys to bring his family back to
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Kyneton

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England where, after a short stay with his brother Herbert at Culmhead House, they went to live at Torquay (England). While there Edward gathered all his children to a window to look at a sight which he told them they would probably never see again; all the British Home Fleet under full sail.
In about 1872 Edward Jeffreys and his family went to live in a tall, narrow terrace house at 9 Cavendish Street, Bath where, with care, they managed to live on his greatly reduced income. Although invariably cheerful, he is said to have been a man who spoke little and thought much. In 1880 he told his daughter Mary, who was then fifteen, that she would live to see a gradual social revolution in England which would squeeze the upper class out of existence, and that it would be done by taxation, not by violence.
Before Edward Jeffreys died aged eighty-two at Bath on 5 July 1899, he told his children that his earliest recollection was of being held up to a window as a three-year-old, to watch the coronation procession of George IV in 1820 and seeing his father come into the nursery in uniform, brandishing a sword. Edward's widow Letitia died in the same house at Bath in 1920, aged ninety-five.
In about 1875 Herbert, the youngest of the Jeffreys brothers, sold Culmhead House and, in 1877, took his wife and family back to New South Wales where he bought Murrumbidgery Station on the Macquarie River at the eastern edge of Dubbo township. This does not seem to have been successful and by 1883 he and his wife were living at Cuppacumbalong Station near Queanbeyan which was owned by Leopold De Salis, brother-in-law to Mrs. Herbert Jeffreys. De Salis had come out to Sydney in the Royal George in 1840, on the same voyage that brought Edward Jeffreys to Australia. Sarah, Mrs. Herbert Jeffreys, died at Cuppacumbalong on 3 February 1883 and Herbert at the same place on 23 May 1886. They are buried in the private cemetery a short distance from Cuppacumbalong Station homestead.
Although Edward Jeffreys devoted much of his leisure time to sketching and was, in consequence, very prolific, the whereabouts of his works is largely unknown and the collection of Country Views in the La Trobe Collection of the State Library of Victoria may well be the largest group of them that is still in existence.
J.O. RANDELL

Kyneton, Mount Macedon