Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Taphophile Tragics - On being bold

A couple of weeks back, I told you a snippet of the story of James Barnet, the Colonial Architect of the second half of the 19th century, with many buildings to his name all around our state, with his main claim to fame being the imposing General Post Office which dominates Martin Place in the heart of Sydney. Today, I give you Edmund Blacket, Barnet's predecessor as Colonial Architect, and a direct contrast in human being.

I commenced this research from the viewpoint of Blacket being the superior architect. Now, however, I am simply confused. As is often the case with prickly characters (Barnet), and pillars of the community (Blacket) who 'was widely respected and admired for honesty, diligence, accuracy, fortitude and propriety', I transposed his personal characteristics to his professional output. I considered Blacket the superior architect, because he was held in the highest regard as a person. I misled myself perhaps. I think, now, that this is the classic divide of conservatism vs progressivism, Barnet vs Blacket.

But enough of the polemic. Who was Blacket, and why should we continue to honour his work, and his memory?

He was born in London in 1817, and died in the suburb of Petersham in 1883. His wife predeceased him, leaving him with eight children. I find their names delightful: Edith, Alice, Arthur, Marion, Owen, Hilda, Cyril and Horace. Yesterday, I gave you a quick tour of the Old Balmain Cemetery. This was where Blacket, and his wife Sara, were first interred. When this cemetery was closed, and eventually made into a park, the remains of Edmund and Sara were two of the very few exhumed and removed. They were 'claimed' by St Andrews Cathedral in the very heart of the city of Sydney, and one of Blacket's creations. It is not a triumph (I gather), that being reserved for some of his smaller Anglican churches, and for the Great Hall of the University of Sydney. However, I spotlight it today, because that is where his ashes rest. The Blacket headstone stands at the rear (although it could also be the front) of St Stephens (another Blacket work) Newtown, also known as Camperdown Cemetery.

The list of Blacket's ecclesiastical output is prodigious, as is the list of Barnet's civic and government output. Over the coming months I will endeavour to compare and contrast, in an adhoc series, in an attempt to pay homage to two very fine colonial Sydneians.

Now to the photographs: the first is the ceiling of St Andrews; then two portraits of Blacket, one with his five oldest children (thanks to David Speers); the niche wherein rest his ashes, which is near the western doorway; then an interior and exterior shot of St Andrews; and, finally, the headstone out at Camperdown Cemetery.

11 comments:

AL said...

That ceiling of St Andrews is beautiful. I also love those old names. My grandparents had some of those mentioned.

Carole M. said...

great commentary as always; you do such super research and narrative

Jim said...

Great history lesson for me.

Mark said...

Don't think there are any Blacket buildings in the Clarence Valley. His headstone was one I sought out on my visit to Camperdown but I didn't realise it was sans body!

Gemma Wiseman said...

Thought I knew that name Blackett! The Great Hall at Sydney Uni - my old stamping ground! Love this insight into an early architect! Interesting how the children's faces in the portrait seem to be so grim around Dad! Like a "must do" portrait!

Joan Elizabeth said...

I was standing at the western doorway of the Cathedral on Sunday and noticed that plaque for the first time! Much as I love the Cathedral for its worship and warm Christian fellowship I find there, I don't think the building is a great piece of architecture.

Nicola Carpenter said...

Like Gemma I thought the children's faces looked very strained in that picture. But back then they would have had to hold very still for an extended length of time for the photograph to be taken. Something guaranteed to put a miserable face on any child.

Fantastic post and what a ceiling!

Herding Cats

Deb said...

Beautiful ceiling, glad it has been kept in good repair. The children's names are all very traditional, some like Edith and Alice are still popular, Horace, Hilda, and Cyril less so!

hamilton said...

That family portrait has the children in a very odd pose. It is almost as if they were trying to surround their father, but none of them look comfortable!

Francisca said...

You sure put a lot of effort and skill into these posts, Julie. Another fascinating piece of history. With stunning photos. I'll look forward to the continuing series on Barnet vs Blacket. I don't think I'd assume the better person was the better craftsman, though, any more than I'd judge a surgeon's dexterity with the knife from her bedside manner.

Gemma Wiseman said...

I'm back! I had to thank you for all your effort finding out more about the poor Rev James Caldwell! His life story is so close to unbelievable! His faith must have been so tried and tested! Maybe that was why he was so respected as a minister for so long! He shared a rough life with others!