News & Events

Chimneys restored to former glory at Rushall Park

February 24, 2021

If the chimneys at Rushall Park could tell tales, one of the most interesting would be the story of Jessica Deakin who was the first occupant of the Charles Young cottage in Coppin Avenue.

Jessica Deakin was born in 1828 and arrived in the colony in 1853 as an unassisted passenger on board the Ballengiech.  She came to live at Rushall Park in September 1902, initially in the Benson Cottage before being transferred to the George Young cottage. She lived in the village until 1915 when she died in Nurse Thomas’ Home in Malvern Road, Armadale; and was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery.  She was eighty-seven years old.  Her headstone reads Jessica Deacon, although her death certificate reads Deakin.

Her story has been unearthed during the recent restoration of many of Rushall Park’s landmark chimneys to their former glory and ensure their survival for future generations. Funding to repair the chimneys and coping stone arcades has come from Perpetual Trust’s impact program.

Born Jessica Ratsey, she lived on the Isle of Wight and was part of a large family headed by her father sailmaker, Restall and mother, Jane.

She was 13 when her life changed for ever. Jane had recently given birth to a daughter, Restella and her father was away at sea. Jane had been noticed as having an ‘unusually healthy’ appearance by Queen Victoria on a visit to the Isle of Wight. The Queen had just given birth to her eldest daughter, Victoria, The Princess Royal, and was looking for a wet nurse for the Royal Infant, and believed that Jane was admirably qualified.

Jane Ratsey answered the call and her name appears in the 1841 Census as part of the Household of Queen Victoria.  Jessica remained in the Isle of Wight with her siblings and was looked after by her maternal grandmother Hanna Harrington. Ten years later, according to the 1851 census, Jane left the Royal Household and returned to the Isle of Wight where she worked as a school teacher. She lived with Jessica, then aged 21.  Two years later, Jessica arrived in Victoria and shortly afterwards married William Deakin and had a child, Jessica Jane.

Public records and OCAV archives reveal little about Jessica or why she moved from the Benson Cottage into the George Young Cottage but it may be that she was friends with the family as she left the Association a framed portrait of Mr Young. She also bequeathed her pots and pans and other kitchen items to Matron ‘Wynoladth’ (sic) for the new Rushall Park hospital.

Josephine Katite may be a long way from Kenya, where she was born and lived until 2005 but the experience of looking after her elderly grandparents is very much with her every day in her work at Liscombe House.

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