A cover addressed to the Honble. Charles Sladen Esqre, Geelong, Victoria on June 29, 1859 had a strip of three of the blue NSW Diadems tied to the cover by an indistinct ‘rays’ cancels, which would have been ‘87' of Ipswich NSW, taking into account the reverse. The post office at Ipswich NSW opened in 1846 and it was transferred to Queensland on 1. December 1859 (Figure 1).
In addition to the red sealing wax on the flap, there were 3 different postmarks, the confirmatory IPSWICH/ JU 29/ 1859 (Hopson & Tobin Type 1A), a SYDNEY/ JY 9/ 1859/ A/ N.S.W. and the arrival unframed oval BIRREGURRA/ JY - 15/ 59/ VICTORIA. The vendor stated that ths was the earliest recorded datestamp from the first Birregurra P.O. which opened on 1/10/1859 and was renamed Mount Gellibrand on 15/4/1864. This post office was situated ca.15 km ENE of Colac (Figure 2).
It is hard to understand why the cover went to Birregurra, for it is more than 50 km west of Geelong, and not on an obvious route, by land or sea, from Sydney. The future Sir Charles Sladen KCMG (28 August 1816-22 February 1884) was born in Kent, England, the second son of John Baker Sladen, deputy-Lieutenant of the county. He was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge and he graduated as a B.A (1837), LL.B (Bachelor of Laws) in 1840 and LL.D in 1867. He migrated to Australia in 1841 and arrived at the Port Phillip district in February 1842. He was admitted to the Victorian Bar and practiced as a solicitor in Geelong until 1854, when he took up farming at Winchelsea (which is about halfway between Birregurra and Geelong).
In November 1855 Sladen was nominated to the Victorian Legislative Council, and was appointed acting Treasurer. When Victoria gained responsible government in 1856, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly as Member for Geelong, and became the Treasurer in the ministry of William Haines, a position he held until March 1857. A firm conservative, he lost his seat in the liberal election victory of 1861, but re-entered politics in 1864 again in the Legislative Council. In May of 1864 Sladen was asked by Governor Sir John Manners-Sutton to form a government.
He found himself in a hopeless situation, for as a member of the upper house, the government leader was traditionally selected from the lower House of Assembly. His premiership and chief secretary position lasted from 6 May 1868 only to 11 July1868, and in September he retired from the Legislative Council. Thus ended his short role as the 6th Premier of Victoria!
In 1876 he was again elected to the Council for the Western Provinces and he became the de facto leader of the Council in its conflicts with the Assembly. Sladen retired in 1882 due to poor health and died in Geelong in 1884. There were no children of his marriage to Harriet Amelia Orton who he married in England in 1840. He was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) in 1875. His other claim to fame was that he played cricket for Victoria in 1851-52. A portrait of him from the Victoria Parliament site is seen in Figure 3.
Addendum (August 2009): His classic Victorian homestead ca.1870, on 186 acres fronting the Barwon River, built for him by Davidson & Henderson was recently up for sale on the internet. The home named ‘Birregurra’ is on 186 acres of land, has 2 bathrooms and 8 bedrooms. A second cover was sent to Charles Sladen Esq., Birregurra, Geelong, Victoria, Australia and the 6 U.K. stamps were postmarked with a duplex LONDON S.W./ X/ JU 26/ 60 with an S.W/ 18 obliterator (Figure 4)
Addendum (April 2011): Pam Jennings of Geelong has emailed why the first cover sent to Sladen was sent via Birregurra: Sladen had a country retreat 'Ripple Vale' just 2 miles from Birregurra. The homestead still stands to-day - a very fine English type dwelling'.