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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.
unknown, but approx 1860s
 Alan Phillips
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.


Life Before the Internet!

Alona on sheet iron sled


DESCRIPTION: playing outdoors was a big part of my childhood. And here’s photo of me sliding down the hill on a sheet of iron (sled style)
April 1976
STORY/ABOUT: My grandpa Hannaford had property between Cudlee Creek and Lobethal, in the Adelaide Hills, and I remember one particular paddock has several large walnut trees on it. Now and then there was a family outing to “help pick the walnuts”.
Being young I stayed out of the grown-ups way, and to keep myself amused I had a sheet of corruguated iron (I don’t know where it came from), and simply slid down the hill …. best game ever I reckon! But do you think you’d be allowed to do that today?

The Holiday To-Do List

holiday list

DESCRIPTION: this is a to-do list I wrote when I was 6, which was a list of activities that I’d do when my friend Faye came over
DATE: December 1979
CURRENT OWNER OF THE ITEM: Anthea Phillips (nee Hannaford)
STORY/ABOUT: I discovered this little gem in a pile of old paperwork that my mum has kept. You know the type of paperwork that has old school reports, the cards you make for your parents when you’re in primary school, the drawings that need interpretation and so on. Just as well my dad wrote translation notes on it – otherwise it may not have made sense. Still I love it, and wanted to share.

A Memorable Moment

Ron Phillips on TV

Ron Phillips on TV


DESCRIPTION: This is actually the image from a slide that was taken by Alan Phillips
DATE: early to mid 1960s
STORY/ABOUT: My grandpa (Ron Phillips) was interviewed at his workplace (the farm at Cudlee Creek) as a past Magarey Medal winner for a TV show. When it aired, my grandpa and his family went to another family members place to watch it as they didn’t have a TV. The photo (actually slide) was taken by my dad (Alan Phillips) on his very first camera.

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