Monday, 30 June 2014

Richard Grice 1858-1911

On page 31 of the third edition of the book Early days of Berwick and it's surrounding districts is this short reference to Richard Grice and a tablet which was erected in his honour in Berwick Boulevard (or High Street Berwick as we know it today.)

The plaque is no longer there, it was removed when the public toilet was built in High Street. One of the long term City of Casey officers made  a few enquires for me and found that the plaque was stored safely at a Council depot. They sent me a photograph of it, see below.

Who was Richard Grice? Here's what I have found out about him. Richard Grice was born in 1858 in Collingwood. His parents were Richard Grice (1813-1882) and Ann Lavinia Hibberson (1822-1905).  Richard Grice senior, had arrived in Victoria in 1839, being ‘amply supplied with funds by his family’. He and his business partner, Benjamin Heape, set up in business together. Grice was soon a leading pastoralist and his land holdings included the Mount Alexander run near Castlemaine. In August 1844 he married Ann Lavinia Hibberson and they eventually settled in Melbourne. Heape returned to England and Grice set up partnership with Theodotus Sumner.  Later, Sumner’s daughter Annie married Grice’s son James and the firm became known as Grice, Sumner and Co. As a matter of interest, Alice Sumner, another daughter of Theodotus, married Charles Snodgrass Ryan and they became the parents of Maie Casey (Lady Casey). The firm Grice, Sumner and Co was one of the oldest mercantile houses in Australia and held large tracts of land in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. Grice senior, died in Fitzroy in 1882 and left an estate valued at £320, 000 - a substantial amount of money.

Richard senior and Ann had twelve children, but there were only seven living when he passed away in 1882. One son, John, was given a Knighthood and was Vice Chancellor of Melbourne University and had substantial business interests. Another brother, James, was a foundation member of the Victorian Amateur Turf Club and Chairman on a number of occasions. As you can see, the Grice family was well connected and part of the Establishment.

This brings us to Richard Junior, the man whose name is on the plaque that was previously located in High Street, Berwick.  Richard married Louisa Jane Currie (1858-1908) in 1884. Louisa was the daughter of John Lang Currie. Currie, described as a ‘pioneer squatter’, had arrived in Victoria in 1841 and when he died in 1898 he left an Estate valued at over £517,000. He left his daughter, Louisa Grice, £30,000 of which she had already received £7,000. Given that the average wage in the manufacturing industry at the time was around £130.00 per annum, that’s serious money.

Richard purchased 710 acres in the Shire of Cranbourne in 1884 and in 1887 he purchased 234 acres in the Shire of Berwick. It was on the Cranbourne property that they built the wonderful house, Eyrecourt most likely in 1887 or 1888.   When the house was built the property was known as Eirruc (Currie spelt backwards, perhaps indicating that some of Louisa’s family money paid for the Estate).

Eirruc or Eyrecourt by Charlie Hammond
State Library of Victoria

This is Eirruc, later known as Eyrecourt, built by Richard and Louisa Grice. This illustration is from the Sketchbook of Charlie Hammond, held at the State Library of Victoria. The sketchbook contains both photographs and illustrations of various houses in Victoria. The book has been digitised by the State Library of Victoria and can be seen here. This house is on the City of Casey Heritage Study - to see the full citation click here. They have it listed as Eyre Court, so you will need to type this into the search box.

The Grices sold off parcels of land  from around 1906 and the Eyrecourt homestead (at 211 Grices Road, Clyde North)  in 1908. Grice did retain some Berwick property as he was living there when he died on September 6, 1911. His Probate Record lists all his assets and, amongst other property, Grice had 66 acres in the Shire of Cranbourne; a weatherboard house, Wonalta,  described as  seven rooms, plus kitchen, bathroom, scullery and outbuildings on three acres in Berwick; a block of land on Station Street (Gloucester Avenue) and another block on Elgin Street in Berwick.

Richard was described as a pastoralist or grazier and, like his brother James, had an interest in horse racing. They owned Hova who won the Newmarket Handicap in 1894 and was ‘beaten by a neck’ in the 1895 Melbourne Cup by Acracia. They also owned Crysalite who won the Australian Hurdle Race in 1899. Grice was also a member of the Victorian Racing Club, the Melbourne Hounds and the Mornington Farmers Society. He was a Shire of Cranbourne Councillor from 1894 until 1903 and Shire President 1898-99.

Richard and Jane had three children - John Alan born 1885; Henrietta May born 1889 and Annie Elinor Julia born 1894. This is what I could find out about Richard’s children.
John - The Ancestry database has the New South Wales Electoral Rolls from 1930 and John is listed in 1930 at Corowa, but he is not listed in the Victorian Rolls before 1930, so I assume that he was in New South Wales for most of his life.  I haven’t been able to find out if he was married or had children and there is no wife listed with him in the Electoral Rolls. John died in 1932 in Corowa.

Henrietta May - I found her in the Victorian Electoral Rolls in 1914 at Mount Elephant at Derinallum. Her grandfather, John Lang Currie, owned Larra at the foot of Mount Elephant and when he died in 1898 it was taken over by his son, John Lang Currie junior, so I assume she was living with her Uncle and cousins. According to the social columns of many Australian newspapers, May (as she seemed to be called) married Auburn (sometimes written as Aubyn) Wilson in London in May 1915. There are a few other reports about her staying with her sister in London at this time. She died on February 28, 1922 in England.

Annie Elinor Julia married Lieutenant Percy Robert Murdoch Collins in London in May 1915. Sadly, he was killed in action near Ypres in France on June 25, 1917 and Annie died on December 8, 1918 in London. Percy was the son of Henry and Isabella Collins of Frankston and in October 1925 a stained glass window in St Paul’s Anglican Church in Frankston was dedicated to the memory of Percy and Annie.

Richard and Jane are buried at the Berwick Cemetery. In 1912 the plaque was erected to the memory of Richard Grice in High Street in Berwick. It was erected by the Berwick Town Improvement Association. It was decided at a meeting in June 1912 to erect the plaque (see article from Berwick Shire News dated June 19, 1912 next page)  but I haven’t been able to find the exact date the plaque was placed in High Street.

Berwick Shire News June 19, 1912

Ancestry Family History database. Available at Casey Cardinia Library Corporation.
Australian Dictionary of Biography - on-line at This provided information about Richard Grice senior and John Lang Currie.
Berwick Shire News and Pakenham Gazette
Berwick Shire and Cranbourne Shire Rate Books
Early days of Berwick and its surrounding districts (Berwick Pakenham Historical Society 1979)
The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson (Cranbourne Shire, 1968)
Richard Grice’s will and probate papers available on the Public Records Office of Victoria website
Trove Digitised Newspapers  Information about Richard’s brothers and Percy and Annie Collins came from various newspaper reports accessed on Trove.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The name "Eyrecourt" is likely to have been given to the house by a subsequent purchaser, Kevin Luke Kinsella. His mother used the same name for her house in Hawthorn. Eyrecourt was close to where his mother and her family came from in Ireland, known as Tynagh/Tyne in County Galway in Ireland. She was Jane Jennings before her marriage. Jane and her older brother George Jennings were early pioneers in Stawell. Jane and her niece Jane (George's daughter) married two brothers Luke and Thomas Kinsella.