A portrait of George Higinbotham (1826-1892), politician and Chief Justice of Victoria, has been uncovered in the Old Council Chamber at the Trades Hall in Carlton. His is one of four portraits incorporated into the frieze high up on the walls in the original 1884 decorative scheme, which is to be largely restored as part of the conservation and refurbishment works we are undertaking at the building complex.
[ photo: Lovell Chen ]
Press articles published at the time describe a richly decorated interior scheme in light green with hand painted friezes, all realised by renowned decorators C.S. Paterson Brothers of Little Collins Street. Investigative work has also revealed extensive stencil work, a Greek key pattern around the ceiling and painted medallions of female figures in the corners. Four life-size busts on pedestals “kept the Trades Hall Council … always in the presence” of Moses Wilson Gray (1813-1875, liberal politician and judge), Charles Jardine Don (1820-1866, politician and a leader of the eight-hour day movement), Benjamin Douglass (council president) and George Higinbotham (again!).
The frieze included portraits of four men, three of which may be recoverable. Joining Justice Higinbotham were Sir Charles Darling (1809-1870, governor of Victoria), George Stephenson (1871-1848, Briitish railway pioneer) and Samuel Plimsoll (1824-1898, British politician and social reformer). Higinbotham was obviously influential, as he was also present at the opening proceedings and spoke to the invited dignitaries and unionists. He was a keen supporter of the working man and entreated his audience to realise Wilson Gray’s dream of establishing the great principles of “liberty, equality … and fraternity and friendship”.
The finishes investigative work is being carried in conjuction with specialists from the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (GCCMC) at the University of Melbourne.