A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now

 

a-sense-of-place

Invitation to A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now, opening by Carol Roberts on Saturday, 15 October 2016, Margaret Whitlam Galleries, Female Orphan School, Western Sydney University (Parramatta Campus).

Usually, people who live in or near historic towns are well aware of the significance of place in relation to their connectivity and self-identity. They might not phrase their sense of place in formal terms, but nevertheless they know they belong and this is one aspect that jumps out at you repeatedly during conversations with artist Greg Hansell – his sense of place is ‘hard-wired’.[i]

He engages this sense of place and records history as he sees it, often depicting heritage buildings that ‘are second to midnight’ (that is, at risk of disappearing forever, either through development or lack of maintenance).[ii]

Brought up on his parents’ wheat and sheep properties near Goulburn and then Wagga Wagga, Greg Hansell considers he had a fairly unpretentious, very conservative, rural childhood. An award-winning artist, he is currently Fellow, Council member, teacher and Art School Director at the Royal Art Society of New South Wales. He crushes rocks and clays to make his own pigments and, with no added binders, creates earth pastels with colour permanence of the highest rating. But his rural background is ‘hard-wired’[iii] and his methods of recording history relate to his country upbringing, his move to the Hawkesbury area and his subsequent career as an artist. His sense of place attachment and understanding of the environment surrounding place are evident in his paintings. His representations of history – his writing down of historic detail – reflect the intangible alongside the tangible heritage. His conceptual experience in relation to sense of place flows through his paintings and through his life and influences the way he delivers public history through his artwork.

I have run several historical tours based on Greg’s artistic representation of heritage sites in the Hawkesbury and we are collaborating on a book that will showcase the artist’s depictions of the Hawkesbury area. I have discovered that to hang around with Greg Hansell and visit the heritage sites depicted in his paintings encourages people to look for new perspectives and ways of interpreting place. That is what the artist aims to do.[iv] He reveals the ‘layers of life’ that revolve around a building where he ‘can exaggerate or highlight things in the architecture, such as the brick coursework and crookedness of the building…where the building has slumped over the years and become tired’.[v]

homage-to-bricklayers-various_a

There is a term, ‘liminality’, that means drawing or inviting the viewer in to a snapshot of the past and Hansell explains that in relation to the term liminality, he ‘almost takes the viewer by the hand’ and guides them through the paintings to discover objects from the past like upturned milk crates, old bits of cars, pieces of rusting iron or farm tools.[vi]

It has been said of Greg Hansell that, ‘as he lives and works in a place he loves and doing what he chooses, Hansell is really one of the lucky ones’.[vii] His footprints are well and truly in the Hawkesbury, but he also immerses himself in the work of other artists who have inspired him on his journey. His new exhibition is a three-part exhibition, showing works from his past, works from the present and works hanging in his house: in other words, works by people who have inspired him.

I will be opening the next exhibition, A Sense of Place: the artist Greg Hansell’s record of history now, on Saturday, 15 October in the Margaret Whitlam Galleries at the Female Orphan School, Building EZ, Western Sydney University (Parramatta Campus), off Victoria Road, Rydalmere, at 2.00pm. Parking is available at $8 per day. The exhibition will continue until 20 January 2017.

copyright Carol Roberts 2016

[Image, part of Hansell’s Homage to bricklayers various, earth pastel]

[i] Gary E. Holmes, James R. Patterson and Janice E. Stalling, ‘Sense of place: issues in counselling and development’, Journal of Humanistic Counselling, Education and Development, Fall, 2003, Vol. 42, Issue 2, p. 239, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.une.edu.au/docview/212448339?accountid=17227, accessed 29 September 2012; Greg Hansell, oral history interviews with Carol Roberts, 5 November 2008 and 18 February 2011.

[ii] Greg Hansell, pers com, 5 September 2012; Carol Roberts, ‘From the ground up: exploring the use of oral history in tourism’, She said: He said: Reading, Writing and Recording History, Journal No. 36, 2014, Oral History Association of Australia, pp. 23-30.

[iii] Hansell, 5 November 2008.

[iv] Jan Dungey, ‘Where arts, imagination and environment meet’, in Heritage Interpretation, Volume 1: The Natural and Built Environment, David L. Uzzell, ed, London, 1989, p. 241.

[v] Greg Hansell, pers com, 5 September 2012.

[vi] Greg Hansell, ‘Australian landscapes: techniques in pastel’, Australian Artist, Chatswood, New South Wales, undated, pp. 20-23.

[vii] Greg Hansell: Survey catalogue, 30 October – 6 December 2009, Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, Windsor, pp. 4-5.

William Pitt Wilshire – eccentric member of the Pitt Wilshire clan

Photos courtesy State Library of New South Wales (paid for copies and publication rights)

Born and raised in Sydney, William Pitt Wilshire was the eldest son of pioneers James Wilshire and Esther Pitt and a grandson of Robert and Mary Pitt (Matcham). His father, who was Acting Deputy-Commissary for several years, received a number of land grants in the Sydney area and established a large tannery at Brickfield Hill which operated for nearly 60 years.  James also owned land at Kurrajong on Wheeny Creek, adjoining John Howe, Thomas Matcham Pitt, Samuel Leverton and Matthew Everingham.

Although William Pitt Wilshire entered into a number of business ventures, his main interest was art and he ‘achieved some success as an artist’. In 1829, he married Catherine Maria Robertson, daughter of Sir John Robertson, and they had three children (William, Frederick and Maria).  Catherine Wilshire died in 1848 aged 36 and was buried in the St Laurence Chapel in Sydney.  Parish maps indicate that ‘Miss C M Robertson (Mrs Wiltshire)’ owned 640 acres in Kurrajong, adjoining M McMahon, James Davidson (senior and junior), John Davidson, Peter Hornery, Peter Gilligan and William John.

As an artist, William Pitt Wilshire would have appreciated the beauty of the Kurrajong area and several newspaper articles indicate that he spent a great deal of time in Kurrajong after his wife died.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Every family has its stories and our family is no exception. My mother and grandfather were adamant that William Pitt Wilshire was the father of my grandfather, William Matcham Hornery. Although Wilshire never remarried after his wife died, it seems that sometime after 1860 he formed a relationship with Margaret Hornery of Kurrajong and they definitely had one (if not more) children. He was considerably older than Margaret who was 26 when her eldest son (my grandfather) was born in 1870. William Matcham Hornery recorded ‘William Pitt Wilshire, grazier’ as his father when he married my grandmother Charlotte Clarke in 1898 at St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Windsor. Thanks to the results of my recent DNA testing, the indications are that William Pitt Wilshire is my great-grandfather and I am in contact with several members of the Wilshire clan whose DNA results were a high match with mine through William Pitt Wilshire’s brother.

It is not surprising given the connection, that Wilshire called Elvina, Margaret’s eldest daughter (born in 1863), as his witness in a court case in 1877 when he was accused of serious assault against Albert Packer at Kurrajong. Margaret Hornery had married Albert Packer a short time before the assault occurred, so presumably the fight was either about the marriage or the children. I have yet to find out if Wilshire served out his sentence for this assault, but from all accounts he had a fiery temper and it was probably not the first time he had ‘lost it’.

It appears Wilshire took an active interest in the Kurrajong community. From the 1860s he was involved in the push for the establishment of a railway to Kurrajong and on 27 August 1869, he attended a meeting at Benson’s Hotel in Kurrajong and proposed that a committee be formed for the purpose of establishing a public school in Kurrajong, ‘with as little delay as possible and in a central position’.  John Lamrock donated an acre of land and the school was eventually built ‘at the junction of the north and south Kurrajong Roads’.

An avid reader, as well as a regular contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald, Wilshire was a colourful character who was considered slightly eccentric ‘because he sat around the Kurrajong hills sketching’. According to Sam Boughton in the 1860s, W P Wilshire was ‘of superior talent, being a no mean artist’.  His life-long hobby was art and he preferred portrait painting, showing several paintings in the 1857 Fine Art Exhibition and the 1872 New South Wales Academy of Art Exhibition.

Wilshire’s artistic talents were passed on to his granddaughters Ada, Rosie and Hero and descendants who have chosen to follow artistic and musical careers, including his grandson, Harley Wilshire, who in 1892 composed The Hawkesbury Waltz. The artistic gene also passed to his grand-daughters in Kurrajong down to a gggranddaughter, a classical singer.  William Pitt Wilshire died aged 82 on 12 March 1889 in Surry Hills and was buried in Rookwood Cemetery.

copyrightCopyright Carol Roberts 2016

This is an updated edition of my article about William Pitt Wilshire that appeared in Hawkesbury Gazette, Wednesday, 8 June 2011.

References:

Parish Map Preservation Project, Kurrajong Parish Map, 140965, dated 1893, http://parishmaps.lands.nsw.gov.au, accessed 2 May 2011.

Parish Map Preservation Project, Merroo Parish Map, 140270, undated, http://parishmaps.lands.nsw.gov.au, accessed 2 May 2011.

Lake Macquarie Family History Group, St Matthew’s Church of England Windsor NSW Parish Registers 1857 to 1900: a complete transcription, 2004.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, 1 September 1869, p. 5.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, 13 March 1889, p. 14.

Kerr, J. ‘Dictionary of Australian Artists Online: Rosalie Wilshire’, http://www.daao.org.au, accessed 2 May 2011.

McHardy, C. (Ed.), Reminiscences of Richmond: From the Forties Down by ‘Cooramill’, Kurrajong, NSW, 2010.

Moore, W. The Story of Australian Art, Sydney, 1934.

Rees E. (Ted) Baker, Dictionary of Australian Art, 1992.

Roberts, C. ‘William Pitt Wilshire 1807-1889’, Spanning the Centuries of Hawkesbury History – Hawkesbury Personalities, Journal of the Hawkesbury Historical Society, No 3, 2014.

Musical policeman found happiness in Windsor

Easterbrook’s love of music brought him in close contact with another musical family during his time in Windsor, the Clements family.

 

Nathaniel and Elizabeth Easterbrook c1903

One of the most popular policemen at Windsor police station in the early 1900s was Nathaniel Easterbrook, the son of baker Isaac Easterbrook and his wife, Ann. Nathaniel’s father operated one of the early mills in Kurrajong in the early 1860s, before opening a bakery business in Singleton where he died in 1864 leaving his wife to raise eleven children: Thomas, Isaac, Benjamin, Joseph, Abraham, Nathaniel, Elijah, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Sarah and Mary Ann.

Nathaniel married Margaret Boag in Sydney in 1884 and by the time he joined the Police Force in 1890, the couple had two surviving children, Harold and Lila (Clarice had died in Queensland in the previous year). Another daughter, Gladys, was born in Hamilton, near Newcastle, in 1893.

In 1900, Constable Easterbrook transferred from Tumbarumba to Windsor because of his wife’s health but tragically, Margaret died in June 1901 aged 36, just six months after the death of baby Olga. During his time in Windsor, Nathaniel took an active interest in the community. It seems that he was something of a tradesman, as it was reported that ‘Constable Easterbrook has done some good work at the police quarters and gaol. The places have been painted throughout and the wall round the barrack-yard has been coloured. Constable Easterbrook is no novice with the paint brush’. He was also a member of a Masonic Lodge and was described as a ‘tip-top’ musician from ‘a musical family’ who took the opportunity to perform in town bands wherever he was stationed.

Easterbrook’s love of music brought him in close contact with another musical family during his time in Windsor, the Clements family. He was a cousin of Mary Ann Clements, who with her husband Herbert Australia Clements, opened a grocery shop in Windsor in 1892. The Clements family were greatly involved with the Salvation Army in Windsor and it was about this time that Mary Ann and Herbert took in Elizabeth (Lizzie) and John Whyte (aged about 13 and 11) to live with them and their five children. Because of the relationship between the two families, Lizzie would more than likely also have helped care for the three Easterbrook children after the death of their mother.

In 1903, Nathaniel Easterbrook married Lizzie Whyte, who then accompanied her husband on various transfers around the State until he retired in 1922 after more than 28 years’ service. Apart from Windsor, Sergeant Easterbrook served at Petersham, Wagga, Tumbarumba, Parramatta, Ingleburn, Penrith, Lawson, Thirroul and Hay, gaining ‘the esteem of all with whom he came in contact’. He died at his home in Mosman in 1937. Lizzie Easterbrook remained in close contact with her three step-children and after Nathaniel’s death her two step-daughters, Lila and Gladys, took Lizzie out to dinner every year on her wedding anniversary until her death in 1968.

copyrightCopyright Carol Roberts 2016

 

References:

‘News in Brief’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Saturday, 15 December 1900, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper Article 85853325, http://trove.nla.gov.au/, accessed 15 July 2016.

‘Death of Mrs Margaret Easterbrook’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Saturday, 29 June 1901, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper Article 85853651, http://trove.nla.gov.au/, accessed 15 July 2016.

‘Deaths’, Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, 19 June 1901, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper Article 14391971, http://trove.nla.gov.au/, accessed 15 July 2016.

‘News in Brief’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Saturday, 16 February 1901, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper Article 85852314, http://trove.nla.gov.au/, accessed 15 July 2016.

‘A Musical Family’, Nepean Times, Saturday, 30 June 1906, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper Article 110473152, http://trove.nla.gov.au/, accessed 15 July 2016.

‘From Week to Week’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Saturday, 12 September 1903, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper Article 86217929, http://trove.nla.gov.au/, accessed 15 July 2016.

‘Sergeant Nathaniel Easterbrook’, Riverine Grazier, Friday, 20 January 1922, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper Article 140130534, http://trove.nla.gov.au/, accessed 12 July 2016.

‘Deaths’, Sydney Morning Herald, Friday, 18 June 1937, National Library of Australia Trove Newspaper Article 17394645, http://trove.nla.gov.au/, accessed 12 July 2016.

New South Wales Police Gazettes, 22 October 1890 and 22 January 1896.

New South Wales Births, Deaths, Marriages, https://familyhistory.bdm.nsw.gov.au, accessed 11 July 2016.

Clements family information and photograph of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Easterbrook from June Irving and Julie Sinfield, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Herbert Australia and Mary Ann Clements. Research by Carol Roberts.