International builder John Young.
Foreward: Shirley Jurmann (nee Louttit) has put together the most complete of profiles on the life of builder, John Young. In order to provide the scope & appreciation it warrants – I have set the exploits & achievements of Young, against a series of ‘back drops’ and ‘scenarios’ of the times – the like of which will never be seen again! (Norm Moore)
The discovery of gold at Bathurst, in 1851, brought swift change to the pace of development in NSW,resulting in rapid decline of manpower for Victoria. But there was a royalty to be paid, and ‘golden bonanzas’ were worked in secret for a long time.(maybe from 1840) Even wealthy station owners were oblivious to reasons why some of their field hands wore boots & britches with ‘qualities’ - equal to their own.
A monthly ‘expedition’ to town for replenishment of supplies was an ‘important affair’ to the owner of a station - it meant the entrainment of the whole his workforce in order to “show off” his whereabouts It was customary for the ‘boss’ to allow staff the joy of an hour or two of freedom after the loading of supplies, and for him - a visit to his favourite club.
A pre-arranged signal between the field hands would send one scurrying down a laneway to knock on the back door of a Jeweler’s shop. The door would partly open and a hand thrust forward- the ‘golden contents’ of a snot soaked handkerchief shaken into it, and the door quickly closed - a few minutes later - the ‘procedure’ was reversed. This ‘arrangement’ helped the poor- but denied the government its tax – “a calamity was surely in the making”!
Despite the offer of a 200 guinea reward by a Melbourne ‘Mayoral committee’ –nothing ‘official’ was found until two prospectors – “oblivious of this” - rode into Geelong and produced a horse’s feed bag holding 60 lbs weight of gold nuggets! (2011-12 val. $1.440 m)
The news of this changed the very fabric of Melbourne society - for it was not yet a city, and the ‘rush’ to NSW had already left it without a major part of its critical workforce. Many of the remaining male population deserted toward Bendigo & Ballarat overnight, leaving the town under reign of “Petticoat Government”. (An integral part to Melbourne’s history)
Above: Ballarat painted by Eugene von Guerard in1853-4 -from a sketch of earlier times
The Government of Victoria could now see their state ‘moving’ but lacked finance to tend the very basics of infrastructure. The so called ‘Settlements’ (if there was one) where major gold strikes occurred were connected via a bridle trail or rutted dray track but never a bridge over a creek. Many in the thousands that joined the rush, lacked experience in dealing with such conditions and when flooding occurred found their carts bogged to axles, horses to their bellies and suffocating in mud.
It was enough for some who had lost everything, and they returned to Melbourne where there was another type of ‘rush’; that of building a city, and an abundance of jobs from which to choose. There too, was still a chance for a little fossicking for left lying in the cracks, crevices & gutters of streets were nuggets and ounces of gold dust scattered and ‘abandoned ‘by the odd drunken prospector. (It is known that the gutters were swept & panned- N. M.)
Above: Canvas Town, between Princess Bridge and South Melbourne, 1852 Source: State Library of Victoria
However, this is not just about a gold rush which, from this point,1851 thru to 1854, has been amply documented by numerous and highly credentialed Historians & Authors. By then, Colonial Authorities had ‘sorted’ their financial problems with a system of tax laws, including the ‘atrocity’ of that placed on miners culminating in the tragedy of the Eureka Stockade at Ballarat in 1854.
Ballarat, where John Young was to erect some of his buildings now bore some semblance to a township. The ease of picking gold nuggets from the roots of grass had gone but school kids could still grab a nugget or two for pocket money from rain washed mullock piles, some “former residents” of ancient river beds now worked by miners to depths of 200 feet.
Above: Sourced from History of Ballarat http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks13/1304971h.html
Hard rock mining was underway and nearby Bendigo had 105 head of stamps (21 banks) pounding the gold laden quarts day & night with the sound heard at 30 miles distance. Gold amalgam was cleared from mill plates with square mouth shovels and stamp box screens constantly removed to clear apertures and the amalgam in stamp boxes, now hardened into a solder like substance, chiselled from shoes & dies.
Gold was arriving in Melbourne at a rate of ”ounces by the million” and “tons by the dozen”. From 1851-1896, 61 million troy ounces (1,900 tonnes) of gold was recovered. More than 2 tonnes a week was flowing into the Melbourne Treasury. The greatest yearly return recorded was 3 million plus troy ounces (95 tonnes) in 1856. It was in these times John Young arrived in Ballarat and sought to go about his trade.
But Victoria was in a state of utter turmoil. Populations in all areas were doubling & trebling overnight, and although the government’s coffers were filling with ‘golden coinage’ its attitude toward needs of infrastructure was one of frugality.
Only matters of causation (by the ‘Rush)’ were dealt with first – such as the need of a larger police force & lockups, Prisons, (robbery under arms) and asylums for the mentally & criminally insane. There was always a ‘structure’ needed as a means to “The Saving of Souls” (churches) and much of the gold coinage quickly found its way to a source of ‘religious control’.
Above: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat
This is the era where John Young enters our picture and as Shirley Jurmann now explains – where he started to “make his mark” and earn his ‘bread & butter’!
John Young, who took out a seven year lease on the Louttit Quarry at Moruya in 1868, had a varied and interesting life. Among other things, he was an Australian bowler, bowls administrator, builder, employers’ organiser, free trade politician, land speculator, local government councillor, local government head, protectionist politician, quarry operator, marble and granite supplier for many important buildings and monuments around Sydney.
Born at Foot’s Cray, Kent, England in 1827, the son of John Young, builder, he was associated with the building trade from boyhood and was articled to Garland and Christopher, architects and surveyors and attended lectures at King’s College, London. He gained architectural and engineering experience in London and Yorkshire. At 18 years of age he was foreman, cashier and draftsman to Messrs. J. and J. Sykes, contractors. He later went into business for himself. He built many churches, villas and mansions in various parts of England. In 1851 he was superintendent and draftsman for the Crystal Palace under Sir Joseph Paxton.
Above: The Crystal Palace
In 1853 he married Eleanor Southernwood and they eventually had two sons and two daughters and in 1855, he and his wife migrated to Victoria. Here, he constructed many metropolitan churches, the interior of the Bourke Street (Melbourne) Synagogue, the Ballarat gaol and powder magazine - among other buildings. He also erected buildings in Tasmania and New Zealand.
Above: Ballarat Gaol - 13 prisoners were executed in this gaol
Norm Moore; The relative mediocrity of building work available in Victoria at that time proved disappointing to Young – he had the ambition, expertise and dreams required to reach greater heights in the world of building, engineering & architecture. He was capable of building more unique and enduring of structures and became aware of the possibility of such work in NSW.
Above: The Redfern Railway Terminus,1869. Young gained contracts for many substantial works including the old Redfern railway terminus. The first Mortuary Station was built by Messrs. Stoddart & Medway (1865-1867). Young moved to Sydney in 1866 and here he gained contracts for many substantial works including the base of the Captain Cook Statue in Hyde Park, the pillars of the new GPO, sections of St Mary’s Cathedral, the Department of Lands building, the old Redfern railway terminus, the Exhibition Building in Prince Alfred Park and the Garden Palace for the Sydney International Exhibition 1879;
Above: The Exhibition Centre. The Centre housed war museum exhibits from 1925-1936 till they moved to Canberra.
Other contracts included commercial buildings such as Farmer and Co.’s store, Dalton’s Building and the head office of the Australian Joint Stock Bank; engineering works, such as Fig Tree Bridge; and houses such as “The Abbey” and the “Witches Houses” in Johnston Street Annandale.
Above: The Witches Houses at Annandale, Sydney
He became known for his sound work, usually completed ahead of schedule. He adopted the latest technological innovations from overseas such as the overhead travelling crane, the use of arc-lights for night shifts, and reinforced concrete and invented an improved form of scaffolding.
Above: Garden Palace with scaffolding (Left) and GPO under construction (Right)
He invested in quarries in Melbourne and Sydney but of most interest to Moruya is his involvement in the Louttit Quarry. In 1868 he took out a seven year lease on this granite quarry from the Louttit brothers after he obtained a contract in 1866 for work on the new GPO.
He was responsible for carpenters, joiners, slaters, plumbers, painters, glaziers, masons and bricklayers. He began transporting huge granite pieces from this quarry to Sydney. The pillars were imported in one piece and polished in Sydney. Another huge piece was imported for the base of the Captain Cook Statue in Hyde Park. Much smaller stone was also sent to Sydney for various works. He was an early advocate for the eight-hour day and respected his workman. However agitation for higher pay and strikes sometimes made meeting deadlines difficult. John Young stood unsuccessfully for parliament several times between 1873 and 1894. He was at first a supporter of free trade but later became a strong protectionist. He was a councillor on the Sydney Municipal Council from 1876 to 1887. He was Mayor in 1886. He bought land at Annandale as a real estate speculator in 1877 and was responsible for a lot of its development. He was an alderman on the Leichhardt Borough Council from 1879 and was Mayor of that Council in 1879 and again 1884-85. He toured Europe and Asia, returning in 1891 and supported the separation of Annandale Borough Council and was the foundation Mayor from 1894 until 1896. He was a member of the Royal Society of New South Wales from 1879, a commissioner for the exhibitions in Sydney (1879), In Annandale Young lived at his home called “Kentville”. It had been owned by Robert Johnston, son of George Johnston who built it. George had arrived with the First Fleet.
Young carried out major extensions, cultivated a fine garden with a bowling green and facilities for archery, billiards and skittles. Bowling matches were played here against Melbourne (1880) and Amsterdam (1883). He attended the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, London (1886) and the World’s Colombian Exposition, Chicago (1893), was a member of the Board of Technical Education in 1883-89 and sat on the commission into charges against Edward Eddy, chief commissioner of railways. He was foundation president of the New South Wales Bowling Association in 1880-1907. He led an Australian Bowling team to Britain in 1901. He insisted on gentlemanly conduct in bowling activities. In the 1880s he was also president of the Annandale Skittle Club.
Above: Behind “Kentville” he built “The Abbey”. Kentville was also rented to Sir Henry Parkes.
In 1887 he bought a property near Cumnock called “Burrawong”. Three of his children settled here. The property was developed and a fruit cannery established. In 1891 Young wrote a letter to the editor of the “Australian Star” extolling the virtues of colonial marble and granite. It appeared in that newspaper on 8th September of that year. Mr Hoyle, M.L.A. for Redfern, had moved and had carried in the House of Assembly that all marble used for public works should be the product of the colony. In part Young said: “As I am the only person who erected expensive and costly machinery in Sydney for converting marble from the block, quarried the material in this country, and worked it up and polished it for chimney pieces, bases, caps and columns, marble pavements and for other constructive purposes, and opened out the Moruya granite quarries and also quarried, worked and polished all the granite for the first portion of the Post Office building, the pedestal of Captain Cook’s statue, Hyde Park, and many other works I think that probably my experience in reference to those matters may be worth considering by those who desire to promote the industries in which these materials are necessary. In order to get to an understanding of the business it is desirable to relate the particulars connected with some of the works that have already been executed in marble and granite.” About sixteen years earlier he had tendered for, and eventually got the contract for the marble floor of the University Hall using colonial marble.
Above: The Great Hall of Sydney University
Sometime afterwards he obtained the contract for the chimney pieces, pavements and other things for the Chief Secretary’s Office in Bridge Street to be executed in NSW marble. At the same time, he had carried out other granite and marble work. In 1887 he got the contract for the first portion of the Lands Office.
Above: Dept. of Lands building, Sydney
About 1889 tenders were called for the finishing trades. Colonial marble was specified but Mr Young was not asked for a price. He did not think it would have paid any contractor to put up machinery for that purpose only. Young called on the Colonial Architect and told him that if the stock patterns of Belgium were to be used, he could not compete as they were turned out by the thousand, all of them alike. Young then came to the conclusion that it was useless to endeavour to establish a colonial marble industry. He sold off all his machinery. He lost nearly 10,000 pounds in trying to establish an industry suitable to this country. Under a moderate protective duty, there could have been a thriving industry, giving employment to many marble masons, quarrymen and others, and revenue to the State. He went on to describe the qualities and advantages of using colonial marble but it was not worth the while for contractors to set up machinery for just one job.
Above: John Young
Young was a large framed man with a goatee beard. He was very hospitable and courteous, with great ability, energy and practical experience. His first wife died and in 1886 he married divorcee Elizabeth Susan Ovenden nee Russell. He died aged 80 from cancer at his home “Kentville” in 1907 and is buried in the Waverley Cemetery.
Next: The ‘genius’ like talents of Colonial architect , James Johnstone Barnet, his working together with John Young, and the first use of electric light in Sydney.