THERE WOULD BE NO SORRENTO WITHOUT Sidney Smith CRISPO of "Eastbourne" Rosebud West, Victoria Australia.
I'm so sick and tired of the Commonwealth and State Governments blaming each other for the deficiencies in health, education and so on. People have being saying for years that we should get rid of State Governments but if notice had been taken of that song "Amalgamate the Colonies" in 1898, there wouldn't have been any State Parliaments. Where the hell was Manners-Sutton, anyway?
Sidney Smith Crispo was a pioneer of the areas of the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, now known as Blairgowrie and Rosebud West.He was the son of John Crispo R.N. and may have been named after Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, the man that Napoleon claimed to have cost him his destiny. Sidney Smith Crispo's name was often written as Sydney.
S.S.Crispo was on the staff of the Victorian Naval Survey. He may have arrived in Victoria on the same survey ship as William Edwards in 1855.
In 1871 he was a squatter near Benalla but it is likely that he moved to the Rosebud West area soon after, having obtained a grant of 282 acres which he named "Eastbourne". As a naval officer, he would have been aware of coastal towns such as Eastbourne on England's south coast.
Sidney was a most innovative man.One of his ideas was to amalgamate rather than to federate the colonies, which, if adopted,would have prevented the wasteful duplication that is a major criticism of the Australian political system. He was a prolific writer of letters to the editor and was much involved in the community.
Sidney died at the home of Edward Williams to whom he had recently sold "Eastbourne". He died on 13-10-1899 at the age of 71. I suspect that he was unmarried and his estate was administered by T.F.Bride, curator of deceased estates (The Mornington Standard 1-3-1900.)
There were Crispos in New South Wales who might have been related to him.
A squabble between lime merchant, W.A.Blair and Charles Gavan Duffy about who had first applied for a piece of land in the parish of Nepean could not be resolved so Sidney suggested to James Grant that it be declared a village site.
Detail from my DROMANA, ROSEBUD AND MILES AROUND ON TROVE.
CRISPO ON TROVE. (A=Argus, M.S.= Mornington Standard.)
SIDNEY SMITH CRISPO : FOUNDER OF SORRENTO?
Sidney’s error regarding the origin of Dromana’s name appears in a letter he wrote concerning his own involvement in Sorrento’s early days. I will reproduce it verbatim.
M.S. 1-6-1899 PAGE 3. MR COPPIN AND SORRENTO. To the editor. Sir.-In your issue of the 18th May, Mr Coppin is called the discoverer of Sorrento. This is a mistake. When the Hon. James Grant was Minister of Lands and Survey, Mr Charles Gavan Duffy and Mr Blair, lime merchant, each applied for the site of Sorrento, no doubt on account of the limestone in the ground, but by some oversight it could not be discovered who had made the first application and a long dispute arose, appearing in the press at the time. But as both applicants had much land, I wrote to Mr Grant and suggested the site should be cut up into small lots and be put up at 4 pounds an acre so as to give other people a chance to get land. This was done, and a Government Township surveyed, and a jetty built. Mr Kerferd and Mr Anderson, Commissioner of Trade and Customs; were the first to build houses, and then I believe followed the Sorrento Hotel. who (sic) built next I do not know, but old Sorrento residents may be able to supply the information. Some considerable time later Mr George Coppin got a company to promote journeys to the Back Beach, but at that time the cost of steamboat fares was one pound, and I wrote to Mr Coppin suggesting that his company should run a steamer at reduced fares, after trying to get the fares reduced without result. Mr Coppin’s company, after a time, bought the Golden Crown, and reduced the fares to 3 shillings and sixpence. This made the place go ahead quickly and great credit is due to Mr Coppin and his Coy. Mr Duffy suggested the name Sorrento as he had been travelling in Italy and named it after a town there. Long before Sorrento was founded I tried to start a town for summer resort, three miles east of Sorrento but no lots were sold at that time. After Sorrento started I sold many lots. Canterbury never became a town, being eclipsed by Sorrento. Some place Mr Duffy and some Mr Coppin as the founder of Sorrento but no one has placed Mr Grant or myself in that position. Dromana was named after a town in Italy where Signor Crispi has a large house. I used to think it an aboriginal name until an Italian put me right. S.S.Crispo, Rye.
As has been pointed out before, there seems to be no Dromana in Italy. Sidney was writing from Eastbourne and as the locality name of Rosebud West had not come into use, he used Rye, although at this time that was hardly a thriving metropolis as the VICE REGAL STORY shows.
WAS SIDNEY RIGHT? Was Sydney right in his claimed involvement in the gazetting of a township at Sorrento, suggesting the price at which blocks should be sold, suggesting to Coppin that his company run its own steamer to reduce fares and so on? I think he was. One thing for sure was that George Coppin (and Gavan Duffy) went through the papers with a fine tooth comb and responded immediately to any attempt to discredit them. If he had strayed from the truth, I’m sure they would have pointed this out. See The Argus 10-1-1876 page 6 in regard to Coppin’s battle with Robert Anderson of Cape Schanck over the proposed Borough of Sorrento and The Argus 10-12-1872 page 6 concerning Duffy’s response to an insinuation that he had misappropriated trees from the Botanical Gardens for his own garden at Sorrento. Unless Sidney had collected hundreds of newspaper cuttings to concoct a web of lies nearly 30 years later, (showing amazing foresight!), his recollection of detail was amazingly accurate.
The dispute over the first lodger of an application (Blair or Duffy) for the site of the township would have started in the 1860’s. (See DUMMIES.) Both seem to have acquired their first grants in 1863, Blair a Rye Suburban block (bounded by the beach road, Elgin Ave, Melbourne Rd and Brae Ct) and Duffy at Melway 156K 4-5. They acquired the majority of their land in 1867 and 1869-72 respectively. At the time, Sidney was still working for Her Majesty’s Coastal Survey and would have known James Grant personally, so his suggestions would have been seriously considered.
The village lots were offered at the upset price (reserve) of four pounds per acre, and the larger suburban lots at three pounds per acre. (The Argus 28-12-1869 advertising auction on 14th January.)
DUMMIES. (The Argus, page 6 of the issues of 8,9,11 and 15 January, 1869.) Peter Wilson devoted a chapter of “On the Road to Rosebud” to a petition objecting to a fence being built to enclose the police paddock (west of White Cliff.) Investigations showed that few of the signatories actually opposed the fence. The Fords and Purves had exerted pressure of some sort or the other to obtain their signatures. The fence was not built, probably because the parish of Nepean was soon after surveyed and alienated. Famed Irish land rights agitator, Charles Gavan Duffy, emigrated to Victoria and was thrust immediately into the forefront of politics, as detailed in “Lime Land Leisure”.
Charles and his son, John, took up a run but the Ford and Purves bullocks often trespassed to enjoy free grazing (as they had on the police paddock.) When the land was opened up for selection, the Duffys wanted as much of the run as they were entitled to, but also wanted more agreeable neighbours than the aforementioned two and the manager of the Victorian Lime and Cement Company, William Allison Blair. Not surprisingly their choice of neighbours had very Irish names: Murphy, Casey and Cain.
Sidney Smith Crispo seems to believe that the dispute between Duffy and Blair was a matter of who had lodged an application first, and this may have happened in regard to the actual site of Sorrento Township. However, it is likely that this was a continuation of a battle that had commenced in 1869, when Blair had accused C.G.Duffy of employing the Cains as dummies and Duffy had responded by accusing Blair of using the Swans for the same purpose. The Special Land Commission found the charges against Duffy not to be proven and that the Swans genuinely wanted the land for which they had applied. A rebuke for Blair was implied.
Some points found from evidence are: James Swan and his son David were illiterate, oversaw fencing of Blair’s land, met him at Dromana when he came to the peninsula and hosted him at their home. John Clarke, a labourer of Nepean, who said that Joseph Cain was a shareholder of Blair’s company, was probably “Lugger Jack” Clark; Jack lived in Sorrento’s first limestone house (built in about 1850 by Henry Cadby Wells) which became known as Clark’s Cottage and later skippered craft and ran the Mornington (now Koonya) Hotel. His address was given as Nepean as there was no Sorrento until Crispo suggested it! W.A.Blair was the manager of the Victorian Lime and Cement Company Limited, and was probably one of its five shareholders.
Sidney claimed that he had tried to sell Canterbury lots without success but things changed as soon as Sorrento took off. When checking the rate records on page 69 to see when the lots started selling, I made a discovery. I had earlier speculated that Sidney had bought Cockburn’s grant on the Canterbury Jetty Rd / beach road corner. Sometime in 1873, he appears to have bought it because that block and his own grants total 137 acres. By 1876, as far as the rate records can be relied upon, Sidney had sold a total of 30 acres. Some of the buyers (listed near the bottom of page 69) had probably travelled down on Coppin’s Golden Crown.
Sidney claimed that he advised Coppin to run a steamer at reduced fares and the price went down from a pound to three shillings and sixpence. This slight deviation from the text of the report of the first half-yearly meeting of the Sorrento and Queenscliff Steam Navigation Co. at its office at 33 Flinders St West (Argus 3-8-1875 page 6) shows that Sidney was relying on memory, not a cutting. Part of the text is quoted in italics. The steamer “Golden Crown” was purchased for the purposes of reducing the fares between Melbourne, Queenscliff and Sorrento from 20/- ( a pound) return to seven shillings and sixpence and offer healthy recreation for the people. No doubt profit was a consideration as well! Sidney was obviously remembering the one way fare, reduced outside peak summer periods. Return fares to Sorrento were 20/- on the Challenge. (The Argus 26-2-1870 page 1.)
Mr Kerferd or Anderson probably placed the advertisement (Argus 16-2-1870 page 3) calling tenders for the construction of a wooden house about 40x28 feet and containing 6 rooms &c. This would not have been the first house in Sorrento Village however.
Frankston pioneer, Henry Cadby Wells, whose daughter had been the first white child to be born near the Heads at the start of the decade (1840’s) while he was lime burning with Robert Rowley, returned in 1849 with his own boat to commence a successful but ill-fated cray-fishing venture with Robert. In about 1850, he built a limestone cottage on the site of the Koonya Hotel. Later occupied for yonks by the family of “Lugger Jack” Clark, who ran the Mornington Hotel, it was known as Clark’s Cottage. (The Wells Story website; Family, Connections, Sorrento and Portsea by Jennifer Nixon.)
on 2011-08-05 02:21:03
Itellya is researching local history on the Mornington Peninsula and is willing to help family historians with information about the area between Somerville and Blairgowrie. He has extensive information about Henry Gomm of Somerville, Joseph Porta (Victoria's first bellows manufacturer) and Captain Adams of Rosebud.