A long cover with a manuscript “On Public Service” addressed “To Captain Freeling R.E., Surveyor General, Adelaide” has a fine black strike of an oval “POST OFFICE/ MT BARKER” with a manuscript March 1850 in its centre, plus a red “Crown over ‘FREE’ in a circle/1850” plus a black unframed arrival cds “G.P.O./ Crown/ MA (fleuron) 1/ 50/ SOUTH AUSTRALIA” postmark (Figure 1).
Arthur Henry Freeling was born in London 26 July 1820 to John Clayton Freeling and his wife Mary. His grandfather Sir Francis Freeling was secretary to the General Post Office for 30 years. Arthur was educated at Harrow and at the age of 17 joined the Royal Engineers as a second Lieutenant. Soon after marriage to Charlotte Augusta, a daughter of Sir Henry Rivers on 18 November 1848, he sailed for South Australia (with the rank of Captain) to succeed Colonel E.C. Frome as Surveyor-general and Colonial Engineer, arriving in January 1849.
This was not his first experience in the Colonies, for as a first Lieutenant in 1839 he was posted to Upper Canada where he subsequently served as adjutant to Colonel W. Holloway in 1843-4. He wrote a diary, which is kept in the National Archives of Canada, and he is best known for writing an entry in January 1843 which is the earliest known reference linking skating to “hockey”. The last 2 lines of this page reads: “Began to skate this year, improved quickly and had great fun at hockey on the ice.”
His diary of 1839 to 1844 shows interesting glimpses into the social life of Montreal, York (Toronto) and Kingston, with descriptions of Niagara Falls and Bytown (Ottawa). He was recalled to serve in England in 1844, where he supervised the building of large barracks. Somewhat surprisingly, the archivist at the National Archives of Canada was not aware of his identity with his South Australian persona.
The Freeling name is well known in South Australia but the web is sparse with data on the man himself. The most obvious association of his name is with the town of Freeling which was originally surveyed by Robert Stephenson in March 1869 and who bestowed its name. The town became a focal point for the Barossa Valley and it was a major link for people travelling from Gawler to Kapunda and onwards to the northern regions of South Australia.
As a career officer in the Royal Engineers for 40 years, Arthur rose to the honorary rank of Major-general before his retirement in 1877. He held the positions of Surveyor-general and Colonial engineer of S.A. from 1849 to 1861 and held additional positions as a member of the Central Board of Main Roads (1850-61) and as an appointed and later elected Member of the Legislative Council (1855-59).
In August 1859 he resigned from the Legislative Council because of his ‘numerous avocations’ which interfered with fulfilling his parliamentary duties, and in 1861 he resigned as Surveyor-general in favour of G.W. Goyder. Soon afterwards he returned to England, at which time numerous presentations and addresses testified both to ‘the urbanity and impartiality’ with which he had maintained the confidence of the public, and made many personal friends.
On the death of his cousin on 12 March 1871, he succeeded as the fifth baronet to the family estates in Sussex, and lived quietly, never to be ‘prominently before the public, either at home or in the colonies’, though he maintained an interest in Australia as a resident fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute. He died at his home in Chelsea on 26 March 1885, survived by his wife, a son Harry who succeeded to the baronetcy, and a daughter. He left an estate valued at £9,000. His obituary (produced on reception of ‘our English telegrams this morning’) appeared in the Adelaide Observer on 4 April 1885. His picture in regimental dress is shown in Figure 2.
The history of the Corps of Royal Engineers covers over nine hundred years and cannot be rivalled by any other Arm or Service. The Corps can claim direct descent from the military engineers brought to England by William the Conqueror, with an unbroken record of service to the Crown since then. Its motto is ‘Ubique’, awarded by King William IV in 1832, signifying that it has taken part in every battle fought by the British Army in all parts of the world.
I acknowledge the help of Tonia Eldridge, Research Librarian at the State Library of South Australia, for providing the information in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, p. 220 as well as the obituary in the Adelaide Observer. Permission was obtained from the State Library of S.A. to reproduce Figure 2. The archivist at the National Archives of Canada was helpful for the Canadian content of Freeling’s life.
This paper was published in the N.S.W. Philatelist, February 2005, Volume 27, (whole number 101), pages 10-11.
Addendum: This 1849 outer was addressed to the Dept. (or Depy.) Surveyor General for the third person who occupied the position, E.C. Frome left South Australia in 1849, and A.H. Freeling may not have arrived by May 1849. The address continues as Lands office, Adelaide. There were multiple markings on the front, but the back showed it had been previosly owned byRigo de Righi. Top left there is a manuscript ‘Paid Urgent’, an unframed arrival postmark G.P.O./ [CROWN]/ 25/ (18)49/ SOUTH AUSTRALIA, top right a red manuscript ‘Pd: 4’, bottom left a fine strike of an oval POST OFFICE/ 24 May 49 (manuscript)/ MT BARKER; and lower right , a red handstamp applied at Adelaide, large CROWN/PAID (Figure 3).