Daily Archives: September 16, 2014

How illuminating!

Some time ago, I wrote a post wondering what was meant by the ‘illuminations’ described at Anniversary Day celebrations during the nineteenth century.  I was delighted to find an illumination at the museum at Hobart.  It was created to celebrate the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1868.

Illuminations were painted onto glazed linen and then lit from behind by lamps and candles.


As the panel beside it shows, existing transparencies seem to be relatively rare. It’s the only remaining one of  three that were exhibited from the Survey Office that was then in Davey Street Hobart.


The Mercury newspaper of 18 January 1868 had a long article describing the illuminations.  Fortunately the weather cleared sufficiently on the eve of Prince Albert’s departure to the illuminations to proceed, after being postponed on the previous nights.



After two postponements the general illumination of the city in honor of the arrival of H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh took place last night, on the very eve of the illustrious visitor’s departure from our shores. ‘The display, though not such a success as   could have been wished on the one hand, was on the other by no means a failure. The weather was neither perfectly propitious, nor positively unfavorable, but it was at all events a great improvement upon any we have been fortunate enough to enjoy since the day succeeding that of the Royal Duke’s landing. During the early part of the day apprehensions were generally entertained that a continuous full of rain was about to set in, but those fears were removed long before dusk. Nevertheless up to the time of the actual commencement of the illumination, a fresh and very cold wind blew from the south-west, and rendered the watching of the display a matter of some discomfort…

Then followed some criticism of the gas supply, which was obviously insufficient.  Putting carping aside, the article then went on to describe the crowd:

The concourse of people in the streets was quite as large, if not larger, than could have reasonably been expected. The leading streets were in all parts and during the entire time of the continuance of the festivities well filled with curious spectators of all ages and conditions, and at certain points of special attractiveness they were occasionally thronged to inconvenience. Nevertheless there was nowhere any formidable crush, and the demeanor of the crowd was throughout conspicuous for good humor and unselfishness.

Finally, a lengthy description of the illuminations, including those at the Survey Office:

The Survey Office exhibited three large transparencies. That on the right wing was a portrait 8 feet by 6 of Prince Alfred in naval uniform leaning on a ship’s capstan. At the base a ribbon was gracefully entwined, and on it was inscribed the motto ” Welcome to Tasmania “. The entire was encircled in a wreath of laurel On the left wing was a full length portrait of Her Majesty the Queen in Royal robes, surrounded   with a wreath of laurel. This picture was of the same dimensions as that previously described. In the centre of the building was placed a transparency 8 feet by 12, the subject being Tasmania welcoming M R.H Prince Alfred. Her Majesty was represented standing in the centre of the picture on a raised dais in the act of introducing the Prince to a female figure symbolical of Tasmania, and Tasmania as  receiving with extended hand the Royal guest, who in his turn was greeting her with a like display of courtesy. Immediately behind the Prince was seen a sketch of the Galatea in the distance, and lower down were grouped cannons, mortars, cables and other appurtenances of a   ship of war. Behind Tasmania are barrels of oil, bales of wool, and other specimens of the products of the island, and underneath them a cornucopia. A ribbon supported by winged figures above the heads of the central group was inscribed with the words “Tasmania’s Reception,” and a corresponding ribbon at the foot of the picture bore the continuing words ” To tho Royal Duke.” The painting was executed by Mr Frank Dunnett of the Survey Department

Personally, I don’t think that Mr Dunnett should give up his day job- oops, painting and sketch-making was his day job.  The Design and Art Australian Online database provides a biographical sketch, describing  him as

 a painter, lithographer and surveyor. As a chronic asthmatic he was advised to leave Britain and so in about 1856 he migrated to Australia. Dunnett moved to Tasmania and found employment with the Hobart Town Survey Office. In 1866 he exhibited at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition and was awarded a highly commended certificate for a sketch.

Good old Hobart.  They gave Prince Albert a far better reception than he was to receive in Clontarf a few months later….