Thursday, September 20, 2012

Special Collections Fossickings 12: Mysteries solved and unsolved

Page from Victorian Lady's Sketchbook, Pencraig
Last week we reported that while in north Queensland our artist produced two landscapes featuring the property “Pencraig” (the same name attached to one of the English sketches) referring to its owner as “AB” or “Albert”. What is the link between the English and Queensland Pencraigs? Could NB, the artist, be related to AB of Bowen’s Pencraig?

Albert’s surname can be deduced from entries in The Queenslander between 1893 and 1905 concerning members of the Brook family, “of Pencraig, Bowen”. Mrs A Brook, mentioned in 1893, must surely have been Albert’s wife. Bowen cemetery records list Albert Brook (1835-1900), husband of Ellen Marion and father of Edith and William, both of whom died in infancy in 1870 and 1871.

But what is the link between the Pencraigs? Where had Albert come from? A marriage notice in the Melbourne Argus provides the answer. On 15 March 1866 Ellen Marion Langdon, of Bellarine, married Albert Brook, younger son of Thomas Brook of Pen Craig Court, Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire. A family history website confirms this as Albert’s home at least until 1851.

Clearly Albert came to Australia as a young man, marrying Ellen, daughter of a Victorian pastoralist, and moving to Queensland. Bowen would have been starkly different from the lush Herefordshire countryside and the loss of their children must have been a cruel blow. But the fact that their social activities were reported in The Queenslander indicates they were of some social standing in the district.

Page from Victorian Lady's Sketchbook, Plants from Java
As for our artist – after such a long journey the visit lasted little more than a month. The last dated paintings are of exotic flowers and fruits dated September 1892, in Java. We might guess that these were made on the journey home. Sadly the identity of “NB” remains a mystery – if only those pages could talk!

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