The History of the Brighton Historical Society
The Brighton Historical Society was founded on the 2nd October, 1963.
The catalyst for the formation of the society was the publication of Weston Bates book, A History of Brighton, and a sellout musical recital in memory of the famous composer, Percy Grainger, who was born in Brighton.
Following the interest in the Grainger afternoon and Weston Bate's book, the Brighton Library put out an exercise book inviting signatures of parties interested in forming an historical society. Surprisingly the book was filled completely in less than a fortnight. The inaugural meeting of the BHS was held in the supper room at the Brighton Town Hall on the 2nd October, 1963. It was a resounding success and a steering committee was formed. 58 people joined and membership was £1 per person.
The very first BHS public event was a Bring Your Treasures Night. People were invited to bring along small antiques, bric-a-brac, etc and local antique dealers spoke on each item. Some of these things, such as items from the Thomas Wilson Estate, were handed over to the Society and became the nucleus of our collection. Thomas Wilson lived all of his life in Brighton, was a councillor for over 50 years and the Mayor of Brighton seven times.
Another popular event held in April, 1964 was The Schools of Early Brighton. Thirteen speakers were asked to speak on the Brighton schools they attended; it was a popular topic that drew many new members and an article about it featured in the Australian Women's Weekly.
In 1964, the Society organised an open day and hundreds turned up to go through a Brighton icon, the famous house, St Ninian's, situated on the seafront and once owned by Captain George Ward Cole. The house, with its famous Singapore teak wing, became a fashionable rendezvous for the important people who shaped Melbourne's history. Summer garden parties were often held and Victoria's first royal visitor, the Duke of Edinburgh, put the seal of fame on St Ninian's when he visited in 1867.
In 1967 we held an After 5 cocktail party to launch the Sidney Nolan Exhibition. Sidney had been a student at Brighton Technical School, and he and his family loaned paintings for exhibition in the Town Hall. The exhibition was filmed and was included in an ABC program called This Spinning, Dreaming Thing about Nolan. More than 3,000 people saw the exhibition and it put the BHS on the map in a huge way.
The BHS initiated an appeal to do with Adam Lindsay Gordon, the famed poet and horseman, who lived the last 13 months of his life at 10 Lewis Street, Brighton. It was from this house in 1870, that Gordon left with his rifle on his way to the foreshore where he committed suicide. His body was recovered and laid out at the stables of the Marine Hotel. When 10 Lewis Street was dismantled, a gentleman of great foresight, Cyril Goode, rescued and numbered every brick. Mr Goode handed over this valuable resource to the BHS with the idea in mind that AGL's cottage be restored to its original condition. A committee was formed and an appeal launched. People such as Barry Humphries came on board to raise funds for the cause. Designs were drawn up, but there was one hitch, no-one could agree on where to re-assemble the cottage. There wasn't one single site people did not oppose. The thousands raised were refunded and re¬distributed and the cottage disappeared along with the idea.
In April of 1973 Brighton Treasures on Display was held in the chapel of another of our famous houses, Chevy Chase. This was opened by none other than the Premier, Sir Rupert Hamer, and included amongst the exhibition were the works (on loan) of Nolan, Heysen, the Boyd family, Cumbrae Stewart and Tom Roberts.
In 1998 the BHS moved to its present position in the Brighton Town Hall, once the site of the children's library.
In September, 2009 we remembered the great Sir Thomas Bent by re-creating his funeral 100 years after his death. A horse-drawn hearse followed by mourners made its way to Bent's graveside at the Brighton Cemetery where Weston Bate delivered a eulogy.
The BHS continues to hold many exciting exhibitions and events. Please click What's On to find out what's happening in the Society.