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A Discovery in the Fireplace

 

that's me cleaning out the inside of the fireplace, since I was the only one that could fit, and I found the fireback in there

that’s me cleaning out the inside of the fireplace, since I was the only one that could fit, and I found the fireback in there

somehow we got it out - this is as it was in 1986 when we discovered it

somehow we got it out – this is as it was in 1986 when we discovered it

a ose up of the details: J.G. Ramsay, Mt Barker & Clare"

a close up of the details:  J.G. Ramsay, Mt Barker & Clare”

as it is today, 2016

as it is today, 2016

DESCRIPTION: a solid cast iron fireback, meauring probably a metre wide, and 80cm high – something like that anyway, with leaves and grapevines in the top corners, a saddled up horse in the middle, and J.G. Ramsay, Mt Barker & Clare written on it.
DATE:
unknown, but approx 1860s
CURRENT OWNER OF THE ITEM:
 Alan Phillips
STORY/ABOUT:
Ahh the joys of growing up in an old house … there is history literally all around you. Inside and out. This fireback was discovered in the back of a bricked up fireplace in the house my parents bought at Gumeracha, South Australia. When the time came to get a proper slow combustion fireplace installed, that required knocking out the bricks to rediscover the original fireplace, and it was then that the incredible find was made of the cast iron fireback was made.

Weighing a tonne … ok that’s a slight exaggeration. I admit I’ve never actually weighted it as I’m not sure how to, but I’d love to know what it does just for interest sake – my guess is something like 60-80kg. What I do know is that it requires at 2-3 guys to carry it, as it truly is THAT heavy.

Anyway the inscription on it says J.G. Ramsay, Mount Barker and Clare. After doing some digging on Trove I found that J.G. (James Garden) Ramsay was heavily into politics, and into selling agricultural machinery, branching out into numerous areas of the state and interstate, and became one of the biggest around. I have found a detailed description of his factory at Mount Barker, which does mention that he made “fire-plates” as well as fireirons and all sorts of machinery. You can read this article from The South Australian Register, dated 21 July 1868 here on Trove.

I’m not sure when main part of the house at Gumeracha was built, but it was easily before 1900. You can read more about this house (“Springvale”) here. The Randell’s owned the land from when Gumeracha was founded, then Green’s were in the house and may have built it (still yet to be determined), then the Butler’s, and then my family the Phillips’!

advert in the Norther Argus, 27 August 1869

advert in the Norther Argus, 27 August 1869

advert in The West Australian, 8 October 1880

advert in The West Australian, 8 October 1880

 You can read about the life and death of the Hon J.G. Ramsay in the long obituary titled “Fatal Accident in a Railway Carriage” in the Brisbane Courier, 21 January 1890 on Trove.

And of course Wikipedia has an article on James Garden Ramsay too, you can check that out here.

 

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