State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 80 Spring 2007


Madeleine Say
A Royal Duke in Melbourne:
S.T. Gill's 1867 Drawings

Two Superb drawings by S. T. Gill (1818–1880) were recently donated to the State Library by the descendants of David Ralph Drape (1821–1882). Exact contemporaries, the two men came from England to Australia, where they experienced colonial society during the gold rushes and finally settled in Melbourne during the 1860s.
Family history relates that Drape and Gill had first crossed paths on the Mt Alexander (Castlemaine) diggings. Whatever the case, these two drawings came into Drape's possession many years later in the 1870s. Family history also relates that Drape bought the drawings from Gill at the Mitre Tavern, in Bank Place.1 Contemporary witness accounts tell how Gill would frequently go into this hotel with a roll of sketches under his arm and barter them for two shillings and sixpence or five shillings, immediately using the funds to buy a drink.2
Drape chose well. The drawings, though completed late in Gill's life, are excellent examples of his work. They exemplify his skilful draughtsmanship and lively amusing view of colonial life.

The Royal Visit

The two works almost certainly depict scenes on the occasion of the first visit by a member of the British Royal Family to Australia. The visitor was 23 year-old Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria. He had joined the Royal Navy at fourteen and in 1866 was appointed to the command of the HMS Galatea. The prince, upon whom the title Duke of Edinburgh had recently been conferred, was directed by the Lords of the Admiralty to take the Galatea on a world tour, visiting South America, South Africa, China, India, Australia and New Zealand.3 The journey was presumably a public relations exercise, with visits to various British colonial ports or important trading partners.
News of the royal visit took four weeks to reach Australia, and the prince had already set out on his voyage. Owing to the vagaries of shipping communications, there was some confusion about exactly when the Galatea was expected in the Australian colonies.4 Meanwhile, the colonies strove to outdo each other in preparing for the royal visit. When the Galatea reached Melbourne in November 1867, the city was over-decorated with bunting, decorative arches and illuminations, and an exhausting program of events had been devised for the prince and his party5 The account of the visit compiled by architect and colonial administrator, J. G. Knight, shows how seriously some of the citizens of the colony, still only 17 years-old, took the whole affair.6
S. T. Gill himself profited from the royal visit. He is credited with design or execution of a transparency for one of the most impressive of the city's decorations, a job which had been advertised as paying ‘first class wages’ when it was canvassed in the Argus.7 Transparencies were illuminated pictures, and many were used to decorate the city for the royal visit. Gill's was displayed on the façade of the Southern Insurance Company's offices in Queen Street. The design depicted Alfred as King Neptune's protégé, surrounded with fabulous marine creatures and demigods. The scene of the transparency in situ on the building façade, being viewed by an admiring crowd, was reproduced in the Illustrated Melbourne Post.8
In so heated an atmosphere not all went according to plan: decorations on the Protestant Hall, showing William of Orange smiting the Catholic armies of King James, stirred sectarian violence; and the ‘Free Public Banquet’ was abandoned when a combination of hot weather and a rowdy crowd led to a public riot.9
The royal party also did not help either, engaging in openly ‘fast’ behaviour, such as visiting the Stephen Street brothels, drinking and gambling.10 The Melbourne press could not openly criticize the prince during his visit. The Age had the grace to wait one day after the departure of the Galatea from Williamstown. They then published an editorial critical of the royal party's behaviour and the response of the colonists to the royal tour. The prince was seen to have been led astray by those who surrounded him in the colony.
We would ask the wise and experienced gentlemen of the Reception Committee whether they would like their sons at the age of twenty-three to be exposed to the dissipation and the temptation to which they have treated the Queen's son during his six weeks' stay.11
As for the prince's companions, Lord Newry and the Honourable Elliot Yorke, ‘Neither has elevated the youthful aristocracy of England in the estimation of colonists, and the Prince had been much better destitute of their company’.12 They were young men far from home, and it is not surprising they reacted to the colonial hubris which devised a stiff program of official engagements in an Australian summer.

The Later Work of S. T. Gill

As Gill had shown in his depiction of social life on the goldfields and in gold-rich Melbourne, he was a master at capturing human foibles on display in a charged atmosphere. Known as a quiet observant man, Gill was never cruelly satirical but celebrated the humanity of his subjects as well as their peccadillos.
Gill was a prolific artist, and the full extent of his output is not fully documented. A comprehensive list of the works known to be in public collections, compiled by Keith Bowden in 1971, makes only one reference to a work depicting the 1867 Royal visit. This is worth quoting in full: ‘The arrival of the Duke of Edinburgh in Melbourne in November 1867, stirred the citizens into life and there was great rejoicing. One of Gill's water-colours
featured the Duke returning from the races in an open carriage.’13
This most probably refers to a work known only from an illustration published in the Herald on 4 November 1970 under the headline ‘Lines of History: Gill sketch lay gathering dust in an attic.’14 The illustration shows a detailed watercolour of a smart carriage with military outriders outside the Royal Artilery [sic] Hotel. The sketch is recognisable as Gill's style. It is titled in his hand, Duke of Edinburgh Return from the Course Nov 30th 1867, and includes his monogram.
The 1970 newspaper article describes the drawing as being pasted into a scrapbook containing ‘newspaper cuttings, photos, labels and lithographs — and several other Gill sketches from the goldfields and Sydney.’ The scrapbook belonged to a ‘Melbourne Collector’.15 Its existence was known to Library staff, and obviously seen by Keith Bowden, but it was not until 1990 that the Library was finally able to purchase the scrapbook.16 Alas, there were a number of blank pages, the 1867 sketch was no longer in the volume, and its current whereabouts remains unknown.
Gill's inscription on the missing sketch gives the clear indication that the subject depicted was the ‘Special Race Meeting’ held at Flemington on Saturday 30 November. The drawing owned by David Drape, Duke of Edinburgh: arrival at the course, depicts the prince's arrival in an open-topped carriage accompanied by the Governor, Sir John Manners-Sutton, almost exactly as J. G. Knight's contemporary account describes:
At about twelve o'clock the outriders of the vice-regal carriage and the glittering accoutrements of the constabulary escort, were seen in the distance. In a few minutes the cavalcade drew up in front of the grand stand, where a gate was thrown open for the entrance of the distinguished visitor, who was accompanied by his Excellency the Governor and two officers of his personal suite.17
Knight goes on to describe the decorations and the luncheon in great detail, but also assures us that
the Duke walked, talked, and betted like one of the crowd, and there is reason to believe enjoyed immensely the racing that followed. […] Shortly after the last race his Royal Highness entered his carriage with the Governor, and was driven away amid loud and hearty cheers.18
The lost sketch clearly showed the same royal party, and their constabulary escort, travelling down a Melbourne street at a smart pace. Gill has clearly labelled one of the buildings in the background as the Royal Artilery [sic] Hotel. [See illustration on page 106] In misspelling the name, one can only question if Gill was making a sly reference to a local joke: hotel profits of the royal visit, or the misfortune of the illiterate publican or sign writer.
The 1868 Melbourne Directory lists two Royal Artillery Hotels in Melbourne. One on the corner of Elizabeth and Queensberry Streets, the other on the corner of Bourke and Stephen Streets, near the Eastern Market. The hotel in Elizabeth Street was in business under this name for many years, and would appear to be the one shown in Gill's drawing. The

S.T. Gill, artist. [Duke of Edinburgh: arival at the course] 1867. Pen, brush and wash over pencil traces. H2007.54/2. LaTrobe Picture Collection.

S.T. Gill, artist. [A procession of horse-drawn carriages turning at speed from Elizabeth street into Bourke Street, Melbourne, Vic.] 1867. Pen, brush and wash over pencil traces. H2007.54/1. LaTrobe Picture Collection.

Royal Artillery Hotel in Bourke Street was only briefly known by this name. In 1868 it was re-licensed as the Melbourne Hotel. It is amusing to note that the 1868 Sands and McDougall Melbourne Directory under the Trade section makes the same typographical mistake; listing the hotel in Bourke Street as the Royal Artilery [sic] Hotel.
The other Drape sketch, titled Coach parties turning into Bourke Street from Elizabeth, depicts the cavalcade of reckless, drunken racegoers and revellers returning to town at breakneck speed. This humorous work is full of incident. Gill's complete mastery of his subject is shown in the drawing. He contrasts the drama in the foreground, where drivers urge on their horses to a full gallop while turning a corner, and a family flees in terror from the dangerous traffic, with the symmetry of the Elizabeth Street facade and the solid bulk of the Post Office building. It is particularly poignant to realise that it was on the steps of this very building that Gill died only ten years later in 1888.

The Legacy of D. R. Drape

As already mentioned, Drape was an exact contemporary of Gill. Born at Greenrow, Cumberland, in 1821, he trained as a decorative artist, and then found employment on restoration projects, mainly of church buildings. In this work he developed skills in architecture, painting and stained glass.19
It is believed that Drape was recruited by the Melbourne Firm of Ferguson and Urie, and encouraged to migrate to Melbourne, while working on the decoration of Carlisle Cathedral. Ferguson and Urie began as a plumbing firm in Melbourne during the 1850s and with the building boom of the 1860s expanded into the painting and decorating trade. The production of quality stained-glass windows confirms the story that the firm imported skilled craftsmen for this work.20
Arriving in Melbourne in 1858, Drape spent four years living at Maldon in Central Victoria. His arrival coincided with the transformation of the Mount Tarrangower goldfields shantytown into one with more permanent buildings. Drape is responsible for a number of key early buildings in the town: the Maldon Hospital, Beehive Chimney and Holy Trinity Church.21
The window of Holy Trinity was most probably manufactured by Ferguson and Urie, though exactly who designed it remains less clear. Two residents of Maldon, Drape and John Lyon, both had experience with the design and manufacture of stained glass. After its installation both men left Maldon to work for Ferguson and Urie. Drape joined the firm in 1863, and Lyon was listed as a partner from 1866. Eventually Lyon moved to Sydney to set up a rival company.22
From this time until his death in 1882, Drape lived in Chapman Street, North Melbourne, then known as Hotham, close to his place of employment. His work is unsigned, and thus not directly credited, but his known work includes the design for the South

Photograph of drawing by S.T. Gill. ‘Duke of Edinburgh. Return from the Course’. Nov. 31st 1867'. Herald (Melbourne), 4 November 1970.

transept window of the Scots' Church in Collins Street, and the East window of the Sacred Heart College in Newtown, near Geelong. Both these windows are beautiful examples of the glassmakers art, with a complex display of biblical scenes: the Sacred Heart College window illustrates the fourteen Stations of the Cross and the symbols of the Passion and the four Evangelists surrounding the Agnus Dei. At the Scots Church the main design is the Last Supper, with decorative panels incorporating religious symbols.23 Elements of both designs can be found in a collection of his sketches held by the La Trobe Australian Manuscript Collection.24
A talented artist, Drape was a foundation member of the Victorian Academy of Arts
in 1870, exhibiting at their first exhibition and remaining on the committee for some years.25 His own work appears to have been traditional, and looked back towards Britain for its inspiration. At the First Exhibition of the V.A.A. his work bore the title, Castle in Northumberland. And at the International Exhibition of 1872–73 he showed a work called ‘A First-Rate’ taking in stores, from a woodcut after J.M.W. Turner'26 Unfortunately his early death, and later natural disasters, led to his collection being dispersed. The donors of these works relate how the two Gill drawings were saved from the devastating bushfires of 1926 and 1939, in which at least one other work of Drape's was destroyed. Known in the family as the ‘Turner’, it was presumably the ‘woodcut after Turner’ used as the inspiration for Drape's 1872 watercolour exhibited at the International Exhibition.27
That the family have kept these two charming drawings for over one hundred years testifies to the affection engendered by Gill's works. It is very easy to imagine the pleasure these drawings would have given David Ralph Drape. His family relate how his Quaker upbringing led to a dislike of pomp and ceremony, and an ability to laugh at self-aggrandisement.28 These two drawings by Gill, full of incident and humour, would have rung especially true for people who lived in Melbourne during the royal visit.


Personal Communication from Mr Grant Scale, great-great-grandson of D. R. Drape.


Keith Macrae Bowden, Samuel Thomas Gill, Artist, [Maryborough, Vic.], The author, 1971. p. 103.


McKinlay, Brian, The First Royal Tour, 1867–1868, Adelaide, Rigby, 1970, p. 3.


Philip W. Pike. The Royal Presence in Australia: the official royal tours of Australia from 1867 to 1986, Adelaide, Royalty Publishing, 1986, p. 1.


Anita Callaway, Visual Ephemera: theatrical art in nineteenth-century Australia, Sydney, UNSW Press, 2000, p. 38.


John George Knight. Narrative of the visit of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh to the colony of Victoria, Australia, Melbourne, Mason Firth, 1868.
For information on the life and career of Knight see: Sally O'Neill, ‘Knight, John George (1826–1892)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1974.


Callaway, pp. 41–42.


Unknown Artist, ‘Illuminations in Melbourne, Southern Insurance Company, Queen Street’, Illustrated Melbourne Post, 27 November 1867, p. 5.


Knight. p. 99.


Callaway, pp. 103–109.


Editorial, The Age, 6 January 1868, p. 4.




Bowden, p. 99; and see pp. 103–144 for listing of Gill's works held by Australian public collections.


Julia Adams, ‘Lines of History: Gill Sketch lay gathering Dust in an attic’. Herald, 4 November 1970, p. 20.




John Lahey, ‘Library buys a scrapbook of treasures and surprises’, The Age 6 March 1990, p. 3, and ‘Scraps of History’ Herald, 7 March 1990, p.7.


Knight. p. 112.




MS 11107. David Ralph Drape, artist, architect and glass stainer. Biographical notes by Elizabeth M. Bradshaw. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.


Lights of our past: Australian stained glass, Melbourne: RMIT Publishing, 1999. One CD available on workstation 10 in the La Trobe Reading Room.


Drape's work in Maldon is discussed in Miles Lewis, The Essential Maldon, Richmond (Vic), Greenhouse in association with the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), 1983, p. 49; and Lights of our past: Australian stained glass [Electronic resource] Melbourne: RMIT Publishing, 1999.


Lewis, pp. 106–107.


For a full description and images of Drape's work see: Lights of our past: Australian stained glass [Electronic resource] Melbourne: RMIT publishing, 1999.


MS 7707. David Ralph Drape, Designs for Stained glass work. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.


MS 7593. Victorian Artists' Society. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria. Inward correspondence. Letters from David Ralph Drape to the Academy, 19 April 1871–12 June 1877.


Victorian Academy of Arts, First exhibition of the Victorian Academy of Art[s]. 1870: Melbourne Public Library. Cat no 18. And International Exhibition (1873: London, England), The London International Exhibition of 1873: the Victorian Exhibition opened 6th November 1982: official catalogue of exhibits. Melbourne: printed for the Commissioners by Mason, Firth and McCutcheon, 1872. p. 6. Catalogue No. 127.


Personal communication from Mr Grant Scale.


MS 11107. David Ralph Drape, artist, architect and glass stainer. Biographical notes by Elizabeth M. Bradshaw. La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection, State Library of Victoria.