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S. BENJAMIN, TEMPLE HOUSE, HOBART TASMANIA

Two covers destined for Tattersalls came up on Ebay auctions, both addressed to S. Benjamin Esq. at Temple House, Hobart. Both showed the presence of a filing hole and one showed the tell-tale lilac label, usually applied by Tattersalls on receipt. The first showed two 2d Victoria stamps cancelled by two barred numerals ‘836' of Whitfield, Victoria with an additional framed WHITFIELD/ OC 20/ 05/ VICTORIA, and there was a transit mark of Ballarat on the reverse, not shown (Figure 1).

 

 

 

The second cover’s addressee was partially obscured, but the recipient was the same person at the same address and the two 1d NSW ‘Shield’ stamps were postmarked with three faint Sydney postmarks on the front (and reverse not shown), dated 1906 (Figure 2).

 

 

 

Neither of these covers had much merit, but the addressee and Temple House were of potential interest, although both were difficult to research on the internet. “Temple House, originally known as Argyle House, stands on the north-east corner of the intersection of Argyle and Liverpool streets in the centre of Hobart....It is a reminder of the prominence of the mercantile family who lived there for one hundred years. This is the Solomon/Benjamin family whose fortunes are so closely interwoven with the history of the Tasmanian Jewish community.”

It was claimed that Temple House cost £500 to construct, and it is only one of four such Georgian townhouses which survive anywhere in Australia. It was built on land shown on a 1825 map of Hobart Town located to J. Solomon and subsequent maps show the site as ‘Solomon’s Store’ or Solomon’s Shop’. In an 1832 map of Sullivan’s Cove Hobart by Goodridge, it appears as a substantial U-shaped building (at the intersection of Argyle/Liverpool Streets, both hi-lighted in pink, and the building is shown with a red arrow) (Figure 3).

 

 

 

It was built as a residence and business premises by Judah and Joseph Solomon as a partnership. After the partnership was dissolved in 1841, it was owned by Judah until he died in 1856, when it was bequeathed to his son, Isaac. In 1863, it was bought by Isaac’s half-brother Joseph, who lived there until he died childless in 1894. He in turn bequeathed it to his nephew Samuel Benjamin, who remained there with his family until 1921.

In 1921, the property was bought by the Young Men’s Christian Association which built several modern extensions in the grounds, but in 1964 the Tasmanian Government purchased the property and between 1991 and 1994 the various extensions were removed and the Temple House was carefully restored to the grandeur of its heyday in the 1840s.

I will now fast forward to the recipient of both letters, Samuel Benjamin who was the son of Judah Solomon’s daughter, Lydia and her first husband, Henry Samuel Benjamin, who had accompanied Ester Solomon to Hobart Town in 1832. Samuel Benjamin was born in Hamilton, Tasmania on 21 July 1839 and he had learned business practice under the guidance of the Solomons at Temple House from 1852 until their mercantile interests wound up. He had then gone into a shoe manufacturing business with other members of the Solomon family, first in Melbourne and later in Sydney. There he married Fannie Benjamin (no relative), and they raised a son and two daughters.

Samuel Benjamin had an adventurous business career overseas, but on the death of his uncle, he returned to Hobart from America with his family to take up residence at Temple House, and enjoy his generous inheritance. The house became the residence of the extended Benjamin family, shared until 1918 with his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Samuel Benjamin and his wife remained at Temple House until 1921, when it was sold to the YMCA. From 1921 they lived at 334 Argyle Street, where Samuel died on 5 March 1926. The Temple House is now listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register.

This paper could never have been written without the help of Margaret Harman, Heritage Collections, State Library of Tasmania, Hobart who supplied a paper written by Anne Rand “Temple House and the Judah Solomon family”, Chapter 3 in the book “A few from afar: Jewish Lives in Tasmania from 1804" edited by Peter & Ann Elias, pages 21-26.

Addendum (October 2011):  Over the past 4 years I must have seen some 15 covers addressed to Mr. S. Benjamin, and the majority were addressed to him as Alderman Benjamin. Three examples of these are seen as follows:

The blue 2d N.S.W. stamp has a very fine cancel of WERRIS CK TO SYDNEY/ T.P.O./ (18)93;  a registered cover with a red 1d and a pair of a blue 2d N.S.W. stamps;  and a registered cover has an oval REGISTERED/ (       ) TAMWORTH, N.S.W. cancel.  All 3 covers are addressed to him at Temple House , Hobart, Tasmania (Figures 4-6).

David McNamee in his 'Catalogue and Handbook of Tattersall's Covers, 2006, page 30' provides additional information about Alderman Benjamin, and his many addresses used, which is seen in Figure 7.

 
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