News & Events

Pioneering woman silk grower moves into Rushall Park

May 2, 2019

Ann Timbrell is not a well-known name today but back in the 1860s she was a pioneering silk grower in Victoria. She fell on hard times after her husband died, and moved into Rushall Park.

Ann was never short with words. She did not suffer fools gladly as evidenced in her1866 book, A Treatise on Sericulture in Queensland, when she wrote that “a clever quiet girl of ten is not only as fit but fitter to manage silkworms than a man.”

Ann was no slouch when it came to silk culture. She was was awarded the first Government premium for silk growing in 1864. She also possessed 13 certificates and medals’ awarded at various exhibitions in connection with the sericulture industry. These included the Dublin Exhibition of 1865. She was competent in every sense, arguing vociferously in treatises about the benefits on silk growing.

Nevertheless, her persuasive style fell on deaf ears when, despite winning the Board of Agriculture’s competition for silk growing, Ann’s application for a land grant to continue her work failed. Without the grant, Ann’s was greatly reduced, leaving her with little money for her old age.

After her husband journalist Andrew Timbrell died in 1881, Ann applied to the Old Colonists. Two and a half years later, her application was finally successful not least because of the support she received from Baron Ferdinand von Mueller and lawyer Sir Redmond Barry.

After moving in, she was paid a visit by Mary Gaunt, a writer for The Argus. In the 1893 article Old Colonists’ Homes, we learn that Ann Timbrell maintained her interest in silk growing, with three thriving mulberry trees in her garden.

“Ah, my dear, I took an interest in it before you were born; but the people were in a hurry to get rich then. They couldn’t wait, they couldn’t have patience to grow the trees and then rear the silk worms. They were all in such a hurry then.”

Her advice to anyone interested in silk was simple: “Get your food, then you can feed your worms.”

Ann Timbrell died aged 83 in Rushall Park.

Image from page 16 of “The culture of the mulberry silkworm” (1903).

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