A grand gala day was held in Moss Vale on Wednesday, October 13, 1897, for the unveiling of a drinking fountain to commemorate the record reign of Queen Victoria.
In 1896 Queen Victoria surpassed George III as the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Her Majesty requested that any special celebrations be delayed until 1897, to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee.
As noted in a Sydney Morning Herald article by John Huxley in 2012, the Queen’s jubilee was celebrated throughout NSW and the other Australian colonies with bonfires and fireworks, gardens were dedicated, dinners held, and streets re-named.
In suburbs and towns from Ryde to Moss Vale, North Sydney to Lismore, residents subscribed to drinking fountains. Victoria was emblematic of Empire.
At the time, Moss Vale had long replaced Berrima as the district’s main legal and administrative centre, and also had a vice-regal distinction, being where successive NSW governors alighted at the station for Hillview, their summer residence at Sutton Forest.
Moss Vale’s jubilee celebrations were covered the next day in the SMH.
“The ceremony of unveiling the drinking fountain erected by public subscription to commemorate the record reign was carried out yesterday by Mrs Christopher Bennett in the presence of a large gathering of residents and visitors. The fountain is built chiefly of trachyte, with a small portion of Gabo Inland Red Granite. The central portion is a polished trachyte column, and is surmounted by three light electric lamps. The whole forms a very neat structure.”
A history of the fountain was provided in this column in 2011, and the series may be found online by entering ‘Moss Vale jubilee fountain’ in your search engine. As it made little mention of Christopher and Violet Bennett, this current series will provide an overview of their life and local contributions.
Cristopher Bennett was a wealthy Sydney newspaper proprietor and they holidayed locally from the 1880s, built a summer residence at Sutton Forest and were generous benefactors. They are both mentioned in the Bowral Free Press coverage of the unveiling day, extracts of which commence here:
“Mrs Christopher Bennett was chosen by the committee to unveil the fountain in recognition of the esteem in which she and her husband are held by the residents. We understand that the claims of Mr E Goodridge as Mayor, and Mr William McCourt as member, were not unconsidered, but that Mrs Bennett was chosen for the reasons just stated, and the choice seemed to be a popular one.
“There was a large gathering of ladies and gentlemen, including a number from Bowral. An archway of flags was made across the street, and the band played from the balcony of the Royal Hotel. Mr E Goodridge, Mayor of Moss Vale, said he had much pleasure in introducing Mrs Bennett as the lady selected by the committee to unveil the fountain, which would no doubt be a great boon to the people during the summer months.
“Mrs Bennett then untied the cord that held the drapery around the fountain and declared it open. The band struck up the National Anthem, and three cheers were given for the Queen at the call of the Mayor.
“Mr I S Ponder, as honorary treasurer, advised that £63 had been subscribed by the public and about £48 had resulted from the ‘record reign’ sports, making a total of £111. Certain expenses reduced the balance to £98. The erection of the fountain cost £100, and it would take about £13 to lay on the electric light, etc. Thus they now required about £15 to place the fountain out of debt, which they hoped to make up by the concert that evening. The committee's desire was to hand over the fountain free of debt to the council.
“Mr J A Badgery regarded the fountain as a fine and substantial piece of work, the material being chiefly from this district, and the contractors were local men. It would no doubt prove a grand thing for the weary traveller. There had been a good deal of talk lately about microbes in water, microbes in milk, microbes in meat; but they need have no fear of the water supplied at that fountain; and if ever a dangerous microbe should be encountered, he would advise them to consult, not the doctor (laughter), but Goodridge's whisky opposite.”
- Berrima District Historical & Family History Society – compiled by PD Morton. Part 1 of a 4-part series. To be continued.