Monday, 7 April 2008

Captain Robert Gardiner

Captain Robert Gardiner is one of the earliest European settlers in the Berwick area. Gardiner took up a pastoral lease, in 1837, south of Berwick where Edrington is located. By 1853, he is listed on the Parish Plan of Berwick as owning over 1350 hectares (3300 acres). Gardiner named his property Melville Park, after his father Melville William Gardiner. The Gardiner family had a connection to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the United Kingdom and this influenced the naming of town of Berwick.

Captain Robert Gardiner in 1885.
Image: State Library of South Australia Image B 16732.

Gardiner was born in Scotland in 1812. He first came to Tasmania, where he was involved in the whaling industry. Gardiner married his first wife Susan Foley (sometimes listed as Folley) in 1834 in Hobart and they had the following children - Elizabeth Mary (born in Hobart in 1840), Robert Melville (Hobart 1850),  Abraham (Hobart 1852), Susan Phillis (Hobart 1854), Ada Jessie (Bollinda, Victoria 1859). Susan, the daughter of James and Mary (nee Sherburd) Foley died in 1865. Robert married Sarah Anne Gardiner in 1866. She was born in Hobart in 1829 and was the daughter of James and Sophia (nee Meredith) Lloyd and the widow of James Gardiner, whom she had married in 1848 in Hobart.  She died in 1894.*

 In 1854 he leased Bolinda Vale and Redrock estates (in the Sunbury/ Romsey area) from William John Turner Clarke. It was whilst he was at Bolinda Vale that Gardiner encountered the Burke and Wills expedition. Burke and Wills had left Royal Park on the 20th of August, 1860. The entourage consisted of 18 people, 24 camels, 23 horses and seven wagons and it was anticipated that they would cover 32 kms (20 miles) a day. Their third camp was at Bolinda Vale on August 22nd and according to the diary of Ludwig Becker, the Naturalist on the Expedition, Gardiner ‘provided hospitality for the party and fodder for the animals without charge'. In January 1868 Gardiner took up the lease of the Mount Schank Station in Mount Gambier at the cost of 10,000 pounds per annum. Mount Schank, as with Bolinda Vale, was owned W.J.T Clarke.
Gardiner played a large role in the civic life of Mt Gambier and donated a very fine pipe organ to the St Andrews Presbyterian Church in 1884 and the same year donated the money for a fountain in the Cave Gardens. This fountain (pictured) is said to be the first large marble fountain made in 'the colonies' and was made in Melbourne.

Memorial Fountain, Mount Gambier, 1925 - donated by Captain Robert Gardiner in 1884.
Image: State Library of South Australia B 43969/7

A little known fact about Captain Robert Gardiner is that he is the great grandfather of the ballet dancer Sir Robert Helpmann. Sir Robert’s mother was Mary Gardiner, a granddaughter of Captain Robert.

It appears, from the date of the donations of the organ and fountain, that Captain Gardiner maintained his interest in Mount Gambier after he left the area as he built a very grand house, Mintaro, for himself in Lancefield in 1882. It was designed by James Gall and has been described as the ‘other Government House’. It is pictured below. Gardiner died in South Yarra in 1889.

A country mansion: Captain Gardiner's new house, Lancefield Road. The Architect was James Gall.
The Australasian sketcher April 9, 1881. 
State Library of Victoria Image A/S09/04/81/117

* Some of this information about the family comes from Early Settlers of the Casey-Cardinia District, published by the Narre Warren & District Family History Group.


Anonymous said...

Just some errors, Captain Gardiner had 6 children.

From the Mary Helpman book of 1967, a John Currie was cited, I derive from that family line.

Have full birth certificates off all family children of the Captain.

And the Captain remarried in 1866, at the house of John Currie East Melbourne. From that document Captain Gardiner did not use a William as the middle name of his father on that document.

Plus others that will not be gone into here.

But overall good to see the other material that people come up with from conscientious research.

Heather said...

Thank you for your comment and your interest in our blog - Heather