24 Chapman Street

24 Chapman Street
North Melbourne VIC 3051
source: Doug Ramsay
Also known as
Previous Address
Constructed
Style
Architect
Builder

Timelapse Building Images

2004

source: Melbourne Council archive

1983

photographer, Graeme Butler

Land Details

Building Details

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Subsequent Building Alterations

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Architectural Features

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Heritage Significance and Listings

Heritage Listings and Explanatory Notes

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Social History

Elizabeth Mason Ramsay/Fidler (aka “Polly”)

She was the eldest daughter of Andrew & Marion Ramsay, married Joseph Fidler in 1868 and they lived at 24 Chapman St., Nth. Melbourne. She died there in 1900. Her history is attached together with-

  • Photos of 24 Chapman St.
  • Photo of old house at 20 Chapman St.
  • Story about her Son, Albert Theodore Fidler with photo of father-in-laws business in Spencer St.

source: Doug Ramsay


ELIZABETH MASON RAMSAY (1845 – 1900) and  JOSEPH FIDLER (1835 )

According to the  March 1851 Scotland Census, Elizabeth Mason Ramsay, the eldest child of Andrew and Marion Ramsay, was born in Bellhouse, Lanarkshire, Scotland about 1845. At the time of the census, the family resided at 17 Thread Street, in the Civil Parish of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire. It appears that she was named after her father’s mother, Elizabeth Mason. Her brothers John Brown Ramsay (1847) and Robert (1849) were also born in Scotland.

As previously mentioned, life was tough there around this time. Following the discovery of gold in Australia in July 1851, gold fever swept the world and the family must have decided to emigrate there in search of a new life. They departed on a sailing ship from Liverpool in April 1852 – Elizabeth was aged 6 or 7 and her mother Marion was pregnant again.

Conditions on these ships were appalling and the ships’ masters were generally more concerned with making money, rather than the welfare of the passengers, many of whom perished during the voyage. We have seen a replica of a ship’s cabin, which was quite small and had say 6 separate bunks (3 each side) approx 1.5 metres wide and covered by a thin mattress. In the centre of the cabin was a small stove for cooking purposes. A bunk was allocated to each family – it was terribly cramped and there was no privacy. To a young girl, the voyage must have been a nightmare, made even worse                  when her mother gave birth while at sea and the child (Andrew) did not survive. They arrived in Melbourne in July, 1852 and even though it was winter, it must have been a great relief to leave the ship. The young city was a crazy place, full of immigrants on their way to the goldfields.

In attempting to piece together the history of this first generation of this branch of the Ramsay family, born either in Scotland or Australia, I have encountered the same problem. In total, there were 10 surviving children. Subsequent generations do not seem to have any information about their particular ancestor, or are even aware that he/she is part of a very large family. As an example, my father Roy Ramsay was the youngest born (1913) of the second generation – at birth, he had 20 first cousins alive, nine deceased. He passed away in 1990 and I can never recall him, my grandmother or mother ever mentioning he had any first cousins at all. We have since wondered if was because his father, Walter Mitchell Ramsay, the youngest of the first generation, married a Catholic – coming from Presbyterian stock, this was not done. Alternatively, over the years, they lost touch with each other and were too busy getting on with their own lives, given that they lived through two World Wars and the Depression. It seems to be the same with each branch of the family. The fact that Elizabeth, or Polly as she was known, was the eldest of the first generation has made the task more difficult. Including her parents, there are now seven generations in this line of the family. I have therefore had to rely on factual information gathered to provide some idea of the events that shaped Elizabeth’s life.

Initially, Andrew and Marion, the three young children born in Scotland and Alexander Brown Ramsay, the first child born in Australia on 21/5/1853, settled in Emerald Hill – it was later named South Melbourne. The situation then was that education was not compulsory, nor was it free. Given the family’s financial position, it is reasonable to assume that Polly’s education was completed at home by her parents as both could read and write. The family remained there for the next 13 years, during which time several more children were born – Marion 1855, another Andrew 1857 (did not survive), Mary 1859, Agnes 1862 and Janet 1864.

With ten people living at home, it must have been very crowded. At this time, Polly was around 20 and she would have worked full-time helping her mother take care of the family, including the education of the younger children. The father Andrew was the main breadwinner and later evidence suggests that John (18) may also have become a flour miller. Either way, times must have been tough with such a large family to support and the limited amenities available in that stage of Melbourne’s development.

Tragedy struck when the third child Robert died at the age of 17 on the 26th May, 1866. At this point, the family appears to have moved to 29 Abbotsford Street, West Melbourne, where another son James was born in 1867. It must have been around this time that Polly met Joseph Fidler, who was also a flour miller by trade. It would be reasonable to assume that he worked with her father. The couple were married at the home of the bride on the 16th January, 1868. In 1869, their first child John Fidler was born. Soon after the marriage, Polly’s entire family moved to Talbot up near Maryborough, except for John who appears to have gone to Ballarat.

In total and in keeping with the Ramsay tradition of having a large family, Polly and Joseph had ten children, as follows:

1869 – John Fidler– records indicate that he never married and he died at South Melbourne in 1928, aged 59.
1871 – Andrew Mitchell Ramsay Fidler – he died young in West Melbourne (presumably at home) in 1892, aged just 21. His three Christian names are the same as the name of the Minister who married his parents – see reference to this in the story relating to his grandparents, Andrew and Marion Ramsay.
1873 – Marion Jane Fidler – she later married Garrett Victor James Russell and there is a separate section about this couple.
1875 – Josephine Fidler – poor child only lived for five weeks.
1876 – Elizabeth Josephine Fidler – did not marry and passed away in 1900 at the age of 24.
1878 – Fanny Mary Fidler – she later married William George Iffland – covered in a separate section.
1880 – Joseph Robert Fidler – later moved to S.A. and married Annie Caroline Anderson – covered in a separate section.
1882 – Agnes Grace Fidler – she never married and was the third child to die young – passed away at Hawthorn in 1910, aged 27.
1886 – Matthew Fidler – he married Irene Stichell Sutherland in 1915. In that same year, they had a son Donald Joseph Fidler, who married Afanon Bell in 1941. Donald joined the Army in WW2 and was lost at sea in 1942 – see notes under his name in the Genealogy Report.
1888 – Albert Theodore Fidler – the last child – covered in a separate section.

Although we are not certain exactly where Joseph and Polly lived after they were first married, we do know that they lived at 24 Chapman Street, North Melbourne when the last child Albert was born. Except for Fanny Mary (who was born in Wangaratta – goodness knows the story behind this), the children all seem to have been born in the same area, which indicates they may have been there all along. The property is still standing, which is a bonus as many similar old houses in the North Melbourne area have been demolished. It is a very small single fronted brick terraced house, part of a block of four units. The foundation stones comprise large bluestone blocks quarried locally, which indicate that the building is an original, similar to the old weatherboard house next door.

Some time in 1881, in the middle of having all these babies, Polly’s parents and family returned to the area from Talbot. During the ten years they were away in Talbot, her youngest brother, Walter Mitchell Ramsay, was born in 1871 and her brother Alexander married in 1880. Her other brother John was married in Ballarat in 1873. Within four years of the family’s return, Polly’s father Andrew died in May, 1885. Her mother Marion then appears to have moved to 137 Flemington Road, North Melbourne, which is also still standing and is almost directly behind the 24 Chapman Street house. She remained there until she died in 1895.

On the 28th June, 1900 Polly’s daughter Elizabeth passed away, aged only 24. No doubt this was a shock to Polly as exactly five months later to the day, on the 28th November, 1900 Elizabeth died at the age of 55. Both are buried at Melbourne General Cemetery, together with many of their kinfolk.

JOSEPH FIDLER

Joseph is a bit of a mystery man. Their marriage certificate states that he was born in Snittlegarth, Cumberland, England – he was 33 when married in 1868, which means he was born around 1833, some 12 years before Polly. I am unable to locate Snittlegarth on any map, but Cumberland is on the English west coast below the Scottish border. Given that Joseph’s father was a farmer, Snittlegarth may well have been a district and not a township. When he arrived in Australia is also unknown as he does not appear in the Victorian shipping immigration records. Later information obtained indicates that he may have landed in NSW.

Port Arlington Flour Mill c. 1870 – this mill was steam powered and there were hundreds of similar mills throughout the State in the latter half of the 1800’s. There were also numerous mills around Carlton and Flemington where Andrew Ramsay, his son Alexander Ramsay and Joseph Fidler were employed.

At the time of their marriage, Joseph gave his occupation as “miller” and usual place of residence as Heathcote, a former gold mining town. The couple seem to have remained in the North Melbourne area during their marriage and the births of their numerous children. A search of the BDM records has failed to indicate that Joseph had any other kinfolk here. Initially, I could not find any evidence of when or where he died – he just seemed to have disappeared and is not buried at Melbourne General Cemetery where his wife and previously deceased children are buried.

However, in April 2012 I received a letter from Carol Kelsh in South Australia, a descendant of Joseph. She had discovered that he was accidentally drowned at Cumberoona Station, near Bowna NSW on the 30th March 1898.

After a Magistorial enquiry, he was buried at Bowna Cemetery on the shores of Lake Hume – the actual village was submerged beneath the water when the lake was formed.

The Death Certificate shows that Joseph spent 37 years in Victoria and 5 years in NSW – it would be reasonable to assume he was in NSW first as there is no evidence to suggest that any of his family ever lived in that State.

By Doug Ramsay

source: Doug Ramsay


Albert Theodore Fidler (1888 – 1964) and  Henrietta Drehmann (1887 – 1970)

Albert, the fifth son and last child of Elizabeth and Joseph Fidler, was born at 24 Chapman Street, North Melbourne on the 8th November, 1888. The original house is one of four terraced houses and is still standing. It is very tiny and when Albert was born, there were eight older children in the family, ranging from 2 to 19. By today’s standards, how they all fitted in is amazing.

He did not know his grandfather, Andrew Ramsay who had died several years earlier in 1885. However, his grandmother Marion Ramsay lived almost directly behind their Chapman St. home, at 137 Flemington Road – this property is also still standing. Marion passed away 1895 when Albert was six – he would also have known my grandfather, Walter Mitchell Ramsay (Elizabeth’s youngest brother), who was 17 when Albert was born and lived with his mother Marion until 1895. He also had several other cousins, the Purves children, who were born around the same time and lived nearby in Flemington. In addition, Elizabeth had other brothers and sisters nearby, so there was quite a large Ramsay connected family in the area but apparently no other Fidler relatives.

We can presume that Albert grew up in the North Melbourne area and he became an Accountant. The next major event that took place was his marriage to a local girl Henrietta Drehmann, the daughter of Bernard Christian Theodore Drehmann and Fanny Brown. The wedding took place at St. John’s C.O.E., Melbourne on the 16th July, 1913. The Drehmanns ran a” Wine & Spirit” business at the top of Spencer Street, Melbourne and one would assume that there was no shortage of the “good stuff” after the ceremony.

Their first child, John Theodore Fidler, was born at 11 Dinsdale St., Albert Park on the 23rd of September, 1914 soon after the outbreak of WW1. This was a significant event as his two sons, John Graeme and Robert, were the only two third generation children to carry on the Fidler name. John Theodore had a cousin, Donald Joseph Fidler, but he was killed in the S/W Pacific area in WW2. Their second child Edna was born on the 20th June, 1918 at William St., Essendon, so the family had shifted to Essendon by then.

Another piece of information we have obtained is that Albert was best man at his elder brother Joseph’s wedding to Annie Anderson in Adelaide on the 8th May, 1916 – his occupation then was still given as “Accountant”. At some stage after this, Albert changed his profession and became a Commercial Traveller for Seppelt’s Wines, perhaps linked in some way to his father-in-law’s business connections. He remained in this occupation until he retired to his house on the Nepean Highway near Truemans Road, Tootgarook.

Albert later moved back to Melbourne and passed away at his home in Robb Street, Preston on the 20th June, 1964 followed by Henrietta in 1970. Both were cremated at Fawkner cemetery.

John Theodore Fidler and Hilda May Bowden

John (Jack), the only son of Albert and Henrietta, was born at Albert Park on September 23rd, 1914. Four years later his younger sister Edna was born on the 20th June, 1918. Jack started his education at Middle Park Primary School and completed it at West Melbourne Tech. He left school at 14 and commenced his career as an engineer at Boddingtons. During WW2, he worked at the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory at Fishermen’s Bend, but just prior to that Jack married Hilda May Bowden from East Camberwell on the 25th March, 1939. The couple moved to 42 Graham Street, Pascoe Vale and during the war, their two sons were born – John Graeme Fidler on the 2nd March, 1941 and Robert on the 28th March, 1943.

After the war, Jack went to work for Mindrill, an engineering firm in Preston and soon after that, their daughter Lorraine was born on the 5th July, 1951. Jack finished his working life at Mindrill, spanning a period of 30 years. He lost his wife Hilda in 1974 after 35 very happy years and in 1993, he too passed away leaving his children and grand-children with many happy memories.

But it is young John and his wife Gaye that I wish to focus on here. In 1996, he and Gaye were in Tasmania, staying at Wrest Point Casino, Hobart with eight other life-long friends. On the 28th April, just before returning home to Melbourne, the group had decided to go to Port Arthur for lunch – a fateful decision and one that had dire consequences. Most people in Australia then would remember that day, the day when the crazed killer Martin Bryant ran amok at Port Arthur, taking the lives of 35 people and wounding several others. John, Gaye and their friends were caught up in the middle of this nightmare. Their involvement forms part of their immediate family history and through association and bloodline, forms part of our wider family heritage.

The noted newspaper columnist and radio commentator, Neil Mitchell has written a book titled “Second Chance”, which is a collection of inspirational tales of survivors who found cheating death enhanced life, published by Pan Macmillan in1999. Contained in the book is a segment “Gaye Fidler – Hunted, Haunted but Happy”. John, Gaye and Neil Mitchell have all consented to have this segment included in our Ramsay/Fidler family tree publication and on behalf of all our family members who read it, our most heartfelt appreciation. It certainly reinforces how temporary, but precious life is.

I should also like to thank Fay McPherson, a close friend and wife of my second cousin Gerry McPherson, who typed up Gaye’s story for inclusion in our publication. This account of the Port Arthur tragedy had such a profound effect on her that she had to have three attempts at typing the document.

By Doug Ramsay.

source: Doug Ramsay


John Fidler is the great grandson of Elizabeth Ramsay. He and his wife survived the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 – on his return from Tasmania, he sought the help of the then premier of Victoria Jeff Kennett, who together with John became a driving force in working with the Prime Minister John Howard to introduce the current gun laws in Australia. So there is some history attached to 24 Chapman St.

source: Doug Ramsay


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