News & Events

Foundation Stones laid for the first two cottages

May 1, 2019

On a rainy afternoon on 1 July 1870, Judge Pohlman, George Coppin and J B Were travelled from Queen Street to North Fitzroy to lay the foundation stones of the first two cottages in what was then known as the Old Colonists’ Almshouses.

Once the foundation stones had been laid, the Reverend Mackie blessed the stones which he declared ‘well and truly laid.’

After the ceremony, three hearty cheers were given for Coppin, Pohlman and Mr McKean MLA – who had granted the land.[1]

Laying Foundation Stones became an important ritual for the Association. While an expensive way of providing for a small number of deserving poor, the expenditure was not just about providing a home. It was also paying tribute to the founders of the colony.

The Foundation Stones’ ceremony occurred just after the Association’s first anniversary meeting at the Menzies Hotel. There Judge Pohlman briefed members that the fencing was complete and plans for two semi-detached cottages[2] had been approved by the council, and tenders accepted at a cost of six hundred and seventy-seven pounds.

In his speech, Pohlman thanked the council for electing him, but suggested ‘…it would be well to elect as Officers some wealthy Old Colonists, as thereby the prosperity of the Association might be increased and its means of doing good enlarged…’.

This sentiment was echoed later by Coppin before Edward Henty was elected to the Office of President.

The designs for the bluestone Founder’s Cottage and neighbouring Association Cottage had been drawn up by architect George R Johnson.

Although no site plan survives, The Illustrated Australian News describes the plan as comprising ‘a large hall in the centre with four semidetached cottages on either side, and as each cottage will hold two persons, the whole set will accommodate 32 people.’

According to The Argus, 1 June 1870 each cottage was designed to have a sitting room 15ft by 13ft, a bedroom 14ft. by 10ft, a kitchen, 14ft. by 10ft. and a pantry, storeroom, and cupboard. Each front garden was to be ornamental with the back garden left free for the occupant to do as they wish.

An endowment from George Coppin for Founder’s Cottage and general funds from the association for Association Cottage paved the way for the first two cottages to be built by Richard Coney.

Since the first two cottages were built, all cottages in Rushall Park have been funded by donations from prominent Victorians. Cottages have been added to the complex in every decade since the 1870s, often designed by well-known architects.

[2]Argus2 July 1870, p.7

Dorothy Clayton has felt very much ‘at home’ since she moved into Braeside Park nine years ago. Now, Dorothy, the village’s volunteer pastoral care worker, tries to ensure that others also feel a sense of belonging in the Berwick village.

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