Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover is addressed “To the Right Honourable The Countess of Belmore, Throsby Park, Moss Vale, Bong Bong (New South Wales). The blue ‘TWO PENCE’ stamp of New South Wales is cancelled with the Rays numeral ‘48′ and there is a confirming unframed TARCUTTA/ JA 11/ 1870/ N.S.W. alongside (Figure 1).

The reverse has four postmarks, all unframed, and three of them are entirely or partly legible.  The first transit was ADELONG CROSSING PLE/ JA 11/ 1870/ N.S.W. (PLE  is an abbreviation for Place);   the second transit was YASS/ JA 12/ 1870/ N.S.W;   the third transit was GOULBURN/ JA 12/ 1870/ N.S.W. and the fourth postmark which was very indistinct was more than likely (MOSS VAL)E, for it was the destination, and it was the only postmark that had  a JA 13 date.  The Bong Bong on the last line of the address on the front of the cover is only 3k from Moss Vale.  All five postmarks, front and reverse, had the Type 1A configuration of Hopson & Tobin (Figure 2). 

Throsby Park is a 75-hectare estate on the outskirts of Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands, about 140km south of Sydney. It is the core of a once extensive rural property retaining the original weatherboard cottage (ca.1822) colonial homestead (1834) and a fine 1830s stables. The property’s farm buildings include a dairy, dairyman’s cottage, meat house, piggery and timber-framed hay shed. A picturesque summerhouse constructed of bush timber and lattice looks over a lawn tennis court to the horse yards.

Throsby Park has rich historical associations. It was granted by Governor Macquarie to Dr Charles Throsby (1771-1828) in 1819 and was the earliest land grant outside the County of Cumberland. Throsby was a naval surgeon, magistrate, pastoralist and a member of the first Legislative Council. He explored the Southern Tablelands guided by Aborigines and his reports influenced Macquarie’s decision to open the area to European settlement. Throsby also owned ‘Glenfield’, near Liverpool, another project of the Historic Houses Trust’s Endangered Houses Fund. No photo or drawing of Charles Throsby has been found to date.

Dr Throsby’s nephew, also named Charles (1798-1854), built Throsby Cottage before his marriage to Elizabeth Broughton in 1824. The couple were to have 17 children and many descendants.

The 27-room stone and brick homestead was commenced in 1834, probably to the design of Colonial Architect, Mortimer Lewis. Conceived as a cottage orné or picturesque verandahed bungalow, it is arranged around an inner courtyard with a water tank at its centre. The house is noted for the quality of its Australian red cedar joinery (including the rare front door case with fluted pilasters), hardwood floors and sash windows. Later 19th century alterations include the roofing of the central roof valley to protect against hailstorms and the addition of a bay window as a suntrap for the morning room. A view of Throsby Park, Moss Vale is seen in Figure 3.

Throsby Park homestead was leased during the later 19th century. In 1868 the Earl of Belmore (1835-1913), was Governor of NSW (1868-72) took it as a summer residence for his wife, Lady Belmore found the summers in Sydney oppressive. This established the Southern Highlands as a prestigious holiday resort. In 1872 the homestead was leased to Frederick Barker, Archbishop of Sydney, and remained with other tenants, including the Fairfax family of newspaper publishers to 1891. A photo of the Countess Ann Elizabeth Honoria Belmore is seen in Figure 4.

The fourth earl of Belmore, the future governor of N.S.W., was born on 9 April 1835 in London and baptized as Somerset Richard Lowry-Corry, the eldest son of Armar, third earl of Belmore, and Emily Louise, youngest daughter of William Shepherd of Brabourne, Kent. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge (B.A., 1856; M.A., 1857), became fourth earl in December 1845 and took over extensive and valuable estates in 1883 in County Tyrone and at Castle Coole, the family seat near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland. In 1857 he became a representative peer for Ireland, and on 22 August 1861 at St George’s, Hanover Square, married Anne Elizabeth Honoria, second daughter of Captain John Neilson Gladstone, R.N., and niece of Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. In parliament he served on various committees, including a railways commission and in 1866-67 he was under-secretary for the Home Department and briefly represented the Treasury in the House of Lords.

On 8 January 1868 Belmore became governor of New South Wales. In its first decade responsible government had not advanced to the position where the governor was a mere figurehead. He still had a vital dual role as an imperial officer responsible to the British government and as the Queen’s representative heading the colonial government. Britain had obligations for colonial defence and Pacific trade, while New South Wales, with a population of some 450,000, was steadily adopting democratic politics as the traditional leadership by its government developed. Belmore, a Conservative and free trader, immediately became involved in colonial affairs through finance, but before any decisive results followed, he was embroiled in the attempted assassination of Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria.

On 12 March 1868 at a fête at Clontarf, the prince was shot in the back by Henry O’Farrell. Belmore was some distance away and did not witness the drama in which he was meant to figure, for O’Farrell later claimed he had a bullet for the governor, as well. But Belmore quickly allayed the commotion, made the prince comfortable and arranged for his prompt transfer to Sydney for treatment. Belmore’s cool judgment continued in the Executive Council where he presented the prince’s plea for clemency and evidence from a gaol surgeon on O’Farrell’s mental state. A picture of Earl Belmore is seen in Figure 5.

The information on Lord Belmore was extracted from the much larger entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Categories: Governors, Places, Postmarks