• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!



Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Time Travellers in Essendon, Flemington and the Keilor Plains



Continued from  Early-Libraries-In-Essendon-and-Flemington

See also Early-Libraries-In-Essendon-and-Flemington part 3


Early Libraries in Essendon and Flemington. Part 2


by Lenore Frost



Image courtesy of Pixabay.


Throughout the 1930s Depression, compulsory retirement of municipal workers reaching the age of 65 began to be discussed by municipal councils, generally with reference to widespread unemployment, and the intention to provide work for younger unemployed men.  The Collingwood Council discussed it in late 1930,[53] and it slowly spread to other suburban councils. It was not until 1938 that the Essendon Council made a resolution to compulsorily retire their older workers, after considering a superannuation scheme for them.[54]  By this time Sarah Windsor was eighty-eight years old and had been in the Council’s employ for over 54 years.[55]  


With her retirement imminent, newspaper  interviews with this venerable lady gives us a last opportunity to have a browse through  the shelves.


“Mrs. Windsor's manner and her under-standing of the tastes of customers have endeared her to the thousands of people who have visited the library. "The tastes of readers have changed considerably," she said yesterday. "Many readers keep abreast of the times both in general literature and in novels, but a few of the older ones still ask me when Mrs. Henry Wood is going to write a new novel! [56] There is little demand for classics”.


"Children always ask for Mary Grant Bruce and Ethel Turner's books and also for 'The Little Black Princess,' but they no longer seem to read fairy tales. The boys never tire of Jules Verne."[57]


"Far fewer really good books are read by the young people of today," she continues.  "They seem to go in so much for the light literature - film magazines, detective magazines, and pictorial magazines".[58]


“Mrs. S. Windsor, who has been city librarian at Essendon since March 1, 1882, has asked the council to release her from her duties after the Easter holidays”.[59]


A number of elderly council staff were farewelled with presentations from the Mayor Cr L T Thompson – Murray Pullar, the city surveyor, and John Oliver, the city curator, along with eight members of the ‘outdoor staff’ were presented with wrist watches, rugs, and a cheque as a retiring allowance.  Mrs Windsor was to continue as librarian until a new one was appointed.[60]   


On 12 March 1940, The Age announced:


Essendon Library Closed


Essendon council last night decided to close the municipal library. The decision followed a recommendation by the finance committee. The council also adopted its recommendation that the resignation of the librarian (Miss M. Dillon) be accepted, and that no more appointments to the position be made. The mayor, Cr. Lewellin, asked that his vote should be recorded against the proposal.


Cr. Divers said some of the books were bound in the days of Queen Anne, if someone could name one good book in Essendon municipal library he would eat it. "We have seven people who patronise the library regularly. They come down for a sleep every Tuesday, and they get it", he said.[61]


Queen Anne, who reigned over us from 1702 to 1714.  The present library would be only

too pleased to have books bound in her time.   Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria,



Outraged citizens swung into action, with local resident Gordon Hartnett and the Chief Librarian of the Public Library in Melbourne, Ernest Pitt, protesting strongly at a later Council meeting.


“The public gallery of the Essendon council chamber was crowded last night when a deputation waited on the council, and urged that the decision of the council to close the council's free lending library should be rescinded. The library has existed in the town hall, Moonee Ponds, for many years. Mr G Hartnett said the deputation represented thousands of ratepayers who considered that it would be a most undemocratic and retrograde step if the library were closed. E R Pitt, chief librarian of the Melbourne Public Library, said he regretted the decision of the council. He had inspected the library, and he did not think it was worthy of Essendon, it might be that it was better than none at all. He suggested that Essendon should embark on a ten-year programme, starting with £700 per year and increasing by £200, each year. At the end of ten years they would be spending £2500 per annum. There were very good reasons why the council should start with such a scheme, and there was a possibility that the council might even make a charge for lending works of fiction. Cr. Thompson said he would not advocate spending money on a library when the streets and footpaths were in such need of attention. Cr. Newing said he was appalled at the condition of the city. While the roads were in such a disreputable and muddy condition as existed at present, he would not vote for a large expenditure on a library. During a long debate only four councillors spoke in favor of retaining the library. The mayor (Cr. Lewellin) thanked the deputation, which withdrew without any motion for the rescinding of the resolution having been moved.”[62]


It was only five years since it was reported, “The Essendon City Council has decided to apply to the Carnegie Corporation of New York for a grant of £1,500 to establish a Carnegie library at Essendon”.[63]  The grant had evidently not been forthcoming, but the application does support Cr Divers’ contention that the library stock was run-down and poorly patronised, with which Ernest Pitt agreed. Nevertheless, the closure of the library would be felt in a community that would be asked to work hard in the war effort, particularly women staying at home with families while their husbands were away or working long hours, and little money to spare for entertainment. It was a petty cost-cutting decision.


It presented, however, an opening for the canny small-business person.  Although circulating libraries had been scattered about the district for many years, the numbers of additional libraries which sprang up in 1940 were notable.  They had a mainly unobstructed opportunity for the next nearly 30 years while the Council refused to concede the need for a free public library.  In 1967 Essendon became one of the last municipalities in metropolitan Melbourne to provide a public library.[64]


Flemington Institute, 1863-1872


The seeds of discontent between the southern and northern parts of the Borough were already evident when the leading sparks of the community determined to follow modern trends and establish a mechanics institute in the Borough.  The institute applied to the Borough Council annually for a very small grant of money to help with the purchase of books, but even as early as 1863, an Essendon councillor made a display of meanness:


“A letter was read from the secretary to the Flemington Institute, applying for a donation the borough fund to assist them in the purchase of books, &c. Councillor Eastwood proposed that the sum of £5 be granted to the institute for the above purpose. Councillor McNamara moved an amendment that the sum be 1s. The amendment not finding a seconder, the original motion was carried.”[65]


McNamara’s proposed amendment could only be perceived as insulting to those in the Flemington ward.

In 1867 the request was denied altogether. “A Member of the Institute” put pen to paper in a letter to The Age, and pointed out a few home truths:


Sir, — For some years past the Flemington Institute has been in the receipt of an annual donation of £5 from the borough funds; but this year the vote has been withheld, on the ground that the Institute has not done any good. Such is not the case, as a glance at its past history will amply testify. The real ground of objection, if properly stated, is that the institute is not placed in the Moonee Ponds division of the borough.[66]


He went on to say that


“The blame rests with the inhabitants of that district to a very great extent, for when the institute was about to be formed, an appeal was made to all the residents of the borough which was not responded to by the upper division in a manner which would justify the locating of the library in any other than its present position”.


This extract from an 1896 Board of Works plan shows the site of the National School, just north of

Little Princes' Street, and Hatton's store, opposite which the Mechanics' library was said by Quinton

to be situated.  My thanks to Alex Bragiola for his assistance with this.


Pam Baragwanath and Ken James in their encyclopaedic listing of mechanics institutes in Victoria, These Walls Speak Volumes, put the date of the beginning of the Flemington Institute as 1862.[67]  The ‘present position’ is a little difficult to determine, but most likely in Mt Alexander Rd, Flemington in the vicinity of the National School where regular lectures were held.  It is entirely possible that in the early days of the Institute, the books were held in a bookcase within the National School, but we have no positive information about it.


Thomas Quinton, in his memoirs written in about 1911, recalled, Those old buildings you see opposite the late T W Hatton’s, they also stand as a memento of the past.  If you will notice, one Building has an arched doorway.  This let me tell you was the local Mechanics Institute & Library.  After many years I believe the remains of that library found their way to the present library at the Town Hall.


T W Hatton’s butcher’s shop was on the east side of Mt Alexander Rd, only a couple of doors north of the Flemington Inn.[68]  At this time, this was a busy commercial section of Mt Alexander Rd, though in the early 1860s the traffic to the goldfields had begun to decline.


The Mayor of the Borough of Essendon and Flemington, Richard Leake, took the role of President and Chairman of the Institute at the regular lecture nights.  Leake, a civil servant in the Chief Secretary's Office, lived in a house in Little Princes St, quite close to the National School where the meetings were held in the early years.[69] 


At the May meeting in 1864 Leake gave a brief history of the Institute so far.  He reported that the Institute had begun in May 1863.  Numbers of members was not mentioned, but the number of library books was 480 and the library opened from 7.30 am to 10 pm twice weekly. “The receipts amounted to £61 17s., and the expenditure to £31 10, leaving a balance of £30 7s., but of this £28 had been expended in books, leaving a balance of but £2 in the hands of the treasure”.[70]


Baragwanath and James, using Parliamentary Papers outlining Grants to Mechanics Institutes and Free and Public Libraries, 1862-1871, put the number of books at 700 in 1864, almost twice the number Richard Leake stated in the same year, though by 1871 only 415 books were reported in the Parliamentary Papers.


Fortnightly lectures were a key feature of the activities of the Institute.  Reported as having spoken during the life of the Institute were James Smith, on “The Romance of the Stage” (May 1864)[71]; Hon. T. T. A'Beckett, M.L.C., whose subject was: "England in the Time of Shakespeare" (June 1864)[72];  and Richard Leake, president of the Institute, the subject being "Home", (June 1864).[73]


James Smith, who became a regular speaker at the Institute, was a journalist, variously with The Age, The Argus and the Melbourne Punch.  At the time he was appearing at the Flemington Institute, he was the Victorian Parliamentary librarian.


The doings of the Institute were seldom reported over the next few years, but in 1867 references were made to “Penny Readings” being held by the Institute at the Town Hall (ie, on the corner of Mt Alexander Rd and Waratah St). By this time a number of the names of presenters recurred at the meetings – James Smith, Richard Leake, J Edwards MLA, Whiteman MLA, suggesting it was difficult to attract fresh speakers.


The Penny Readings seemed to have been a variety performance involving prose, recitations, and musical interludes.  Humorous extracts from popular writers.  Fundraising “entertainments” could also include women, as did this one in aid of the local school in 1867:


“The entertainment given by the Flemington Institute, at the Town-hall three, on Friday evening, in aid of the building fund of the new school, was a great success. The hall was crowded. The programme was well arranged, the reading, singing, and recitations of the performers calling forth great applause. Mr James Smith was much applauded in his reading " The Yankee Love Story ; " some excellent songs were given by Mr and Mrs Symonds and Miss Hall. Mr J Edwards reading of "Mrs. Caudle's Lecture," was well received; but the gem of the evening was Mr. Whiteman's " Sairey Gamp," for which he was encored three times. The instrumental part of the entertainment was in the hands of Mrs J Symonds and Mr Whitby.”[74]


After 1867 the Flemington Institute faded into obscurity. Baragwanath and James put the demise of the Institute as 1872.[75]    From Thomas Quinton’s remarks, some part of the Flemington Institute Library may have been preserved and included in the Flemington and Kensington Free Library and Mechanics’ Institute which was re-formed in 1882 in Racecourse Road.  This may be the “old library” referred to  at the time of the establishment of the Flemington and Kensington Free Library and Mechanics' Institute.  For more about this library, move on to Part 3.


Continue to Early-Libraries-In-Essendon-and-Flemington Part 3


[53] COLLINGWOOD MUNICIPAL EMPLOYES. (1930, December 6). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article203283251.

[54] SUPERANNUATION PLANS. (1938, March 15). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 6. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11172938.

[55] Librarian for 56 Years. (1938, April 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 7. Retrieved October 11, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11178314.

[56] Mrs Henry Wood, as mentioned earlier, wrote a book in 1860, recommended for the Flemington-Kensington library by Edward Dale Puckle in 1888.

[57] Librarian for 56 Years. (1938, April 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 7. Retrieved October 11, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11178314.

[58] Essendon Gazette, Thursday April 1938.

[59] PERSONAL. (1938, March 31). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 10. Retrieved October 11, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11154587.

[60] PRESENTATIONS AT ESSENDON. (1938, May 7). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 2. Retrieved October 11, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11157081.

[61] Essendon Library Closed. (1940, March 12). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved October 11, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article204421445.

[62] Essendon Library. (1940, May 7). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved October 14, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206774555.

[63] GENERAL. (1934, May 24). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 1. Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10939702.

[64] Two: Assessment of Community & Administrative Facilities: Funeral Parlours, Kindergartens, Exhibition Building, Masonic Centre,  Municipal Libraries and Council Offices. Prepared for Heritage Victoria by Built Heritage Pty Ltd. Croydon, 31 May 2010.

[65] SUBURBAN COUNCILS. (1863, November 12). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 7. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5738991

[66] ESSENDON AND FLEMINGTON COUNCIL AND THE INSTITUTE. (1867, February 18). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155033986

[67] Pam Baragwanath and Ken James.  These Walls Speak Volumes: a history of Mechanics’ Institutes in Victoria. The authors, 2015, p 231.

[68] Sands and McDougall Melbourne Directory, 1872.

[69] Thank you Alex Bragiola for this information.

[70] WEDNESDAY, MAY 18, 1864. (1864, May 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5748934

[71] WEDNESDAY, MAY 18, 1864. (1864, May 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5748934

[72] WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1,1864. (1864, June 1). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5749302

[73] FRIDAY, JUNE 17, 1864. (1864, June 17). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5749764

[74] MONDAY, JUNE 3, 1867. (1867, June 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5768609

[75] Pam Baragwanath and Ken James, p 231.



Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.