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EDWARD CROOKE, VICTORIAN PASTORALIST (1810-1873)

Three stampless entires were sent to the above in 1856-1858 at Gippsland, Holey Plains (the first two incorrectly addressed to ‘Holy Plains, which denoted’), Victoria. The first was sent p(er) ‘Eclipse’ and was endorsed ‘6d to pay’, having been sent from Hobart (Figure 1).

 

 

The reverse had a frameless oval PORT ALBERT/ [CROWN]/ JU 7/ 1856/ VICTORIA and similar SALE/ [crown]/ JU 18/ 1856/ VICTORIA (Figure 2).

 

 

The second cover from the same correspondent also was endorsed ‘6' and there was an additional line in the address ‘outside bag Dandenong’, the reverse (not shown) had the identical SALE/ [crown]/ OC 23/ 1857/ VICTORIA (Figure 3).

 

 

The third was sent from Lucknow Victoria, endorsed ‘4d’, and with a boxed rectangular with rounded corners ‘PAID AT/ LUCKNOW’ (Figure 4).

 

 

The reverse showed an unframed LUCKNOW/ OC - 7/ 58/ VICTORIA postmark as well as an unclear LUCKNOW oval postmark (Figure 5).

 

 

The present day Holey Plains State Park was formally part of a squatting run taken up in the 1840's by the Crooke family, whose homestead is to the north of the park. It is situated in East Gippsland and covers an area of 10,460 hectares of mostly open forests and woodlands. The park, proclaimed in 1977, protects an extremely high diversity of flora and abundant wildlife. The property was named "Holey Plains" because the alluvial land along the Latrobe River has many yabby holes, unlike the sandy country that makes up the park. The closest town of size is Rosedale on Highway 1, proceeding east to Melbourne.

Edward Crooke was born on 24 May 1810 in Liverpool, England, a son of Nicholas, a tea dealer, and his wife Anne Jolley. He was educated at Seaforth vicarage, and in 1835 he decided to join his elder brother at Canton, China but found a deteriorating business so he decided to sail to Sydney in the Adelaide, arriving in February 1837. In May he moved to Queanbeyan N.S.W. where he had an arrangement with 2 pastoralists using their land to raise sheep.

Cut off from easy access to the Sydney and Melbourne markets, he reached an agreement with Walter Curlewis of the Holey Plains on the La Trobe River near Rosedale. Crooke stocked the run, and used it as a depot for shipping stock from Port Albert to Van Diemen's Land. In 1845 Crooke bought the rights of this 13,000-acre (5261 ha) run and in 1848 of a heifer station, Benambra, on the Mitta Mitta. In the 1850s he added Tongio Mungie, Bindi and the 78,000-acre (31,565 ha) Lucknow on the Mitchell River to his holdings in the Omeo district.

At first Crooke was chiefly concerned with raising fat cattle and he persevered with his efforts to have the road to the Melbourne market improved. With others in January 1863 he bought the Rebecca for the New Zealand trade. Next month, carrying seventy prime bullocks from Port Albert, she was wrecked off Clarke Island in Bass Strait. By then Crooke's interest had switched to horses and, encouraged by his brother in Calcutta, he became an important supplier for the Indian market. By the 1870s there were 1400 horses at Lucknow station and 500 at the Holey Plains.

Crooke sold his rights to many properties in 1859, partly because gold diggers in Omeo stole his cattle and partly to raise funds to buy more freehold, for in 1855 his brother had warned him: 'I doubt your rights in the lands you squat on will not have full justice administered'. In 1853 he had secured freehold of the 640-acre (259 ha) homestead block of the Holey Plains. By 1868 much of Lucknow had been selected and it was with great difficulty that Crooke was able to buy the blocks he wanted.

Although he opened up large areas of Gippsland, Crooke played little part in its non-pastoral development, although he was gazetted as a justice of the peace in 1852. In the early 1860's, fearing the introduction of pleuro-pneumonia to Gippsland, and he strongly advocated banning cattle imports. In 1870 he and his family moved to Melbourne, and he died at his home Rockley, South Yarra on 7 November 1873, survived by his wife, Maria Matilda Jamison (whom he had married in 1860) and his four daughters and one son, Edward Jolley Crooke who became a Victorian MLC from 1893-1921.

This paper on Edward Crooke was derived from his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

 
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