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Clarke Cottage is built becoming the fifth cottage in the village

June 25, 2019

Built in 1880, the Clarke Cottage was endowed by Ernest Clarke in memory of his parents, William and Elizabeth.

William John Turner Clarke (1805-1874), pastoralist and landowner, was born in Somerset, England. His yeoman father died in 1819 and William was placed under the guardianship of his uncle Joseph. Clarke’s working life began as a drover taking cattle from Somerset to Smithfield. Consequently, he became a shrewd judge of livestock, knowledge which would come to serve him well.

At 21 the meat firm he was working with failed and he pledged himself to independence by making money, cautiously investing his savings in cattle and avoiding debt. In May 1829 he married Elizabeth, and a few months later he arrived in Hobart with his wife in the Deveronon 23 December 1829.

Clarke first set up as a butcher and meat contractor to the government in partnership with William Ladds. By 1831 he claimed to be renting 8000 acres and had a second property and acreage in Campbell Town. Over the years, he continued to buy property, and by 185-, had amassed 31,375 near Sunbury near Melbourne.

Known as ‘Big’ Clarke and ‘Moneyed’ Clarke, he was widely feared for his ruthless land hunger, but respected for consummate ability in pursuit of fortune. He stuck to the ‘raising of sheep,’ introducing the Leicester breed of sheep into Australia. The gold rush increased his prosperity; meat sales boomed; money received from his wool clips he lent at high interest to Australian import houses, and in time he acquired the reputation of being the wealthiest man in the country.

In 1870 Clarke made his home in Melbourne at Roseneath, Essendon, where he died in 1874, leaving an estate of some £2,500,000, and about 215,000 acres of freehold throughout Australasia.

In 1880, Clarke Cottage was the fifth cottage built in Rushall Park. It was built by Sir William Clarke (Australia’s first baronet) and Joseph Clarke, and endowed by Ernest Clarke in memory of his parents. George Wharton was the architect. The bluestone cottage still stands and is occupied.

William Clarke, by Samuel Calvert, 1874

State Library of Victoria, IAN28/01/74/8

“Our home has always been a place where family and friends are welcome.  Our cottage at Rushall Park is no different and the community of friends here is important to us and that’s why their work is part of my art box,” Jennifer Barden said.

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