THERE WOULD BE NO SORRENTO WITHOUT Sidney Smith CRISPO of "Eastbourne" Rosebud West, Victoria Australia. :: Genealogy
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THERE WOULD BE NO SORRENTO WITHOUT Sidney Smith CRISPO of "Eastbourne" Rosebud West, Victoria Australia.

Journal by itellya

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.
CRISPO ON TROVE. (A=Argus, M.S.= Mornington Standard.)
Sidneys error regarding the origin of Dromanas name appears in a letter he wrote concerning his own involvement in Sorrentos 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 Coppins 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, Im sure they would have pointed this out. See The Argus 10-1-1876 page 6 in regard to Coppins battle with Robert Anderson of Cape Schanck over the proposed Borough of Sorrento and The Argus 10-12-1872 page 6 concerning Duffys 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 1860s. (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 Majestys 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 Blairs 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 Blairs company, was probably Lugger Jack Clark; Jack lived in Sorrentos first limestone house (built in about 1850 by Henry Cadby Wells) which became known as Clarks 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 Cockburns 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 Coppins 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 (1840s) 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 Clarks Cottage. (The Wells Story website; Family, Connections, Sorrento and Portsea by Jennifer Nixon.)

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by itellya Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
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.

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by itellya on 2011-08-14 08:09:45

There is extensive information about S.S.Crispo on trove. Blairgowrie was not originally called Canterbury.The name that Crispo first used was Manners-Sutton, in honour of Victoria's Governor from 1866 until 1873. His Excellency became the 3rd Viscount Canterbury in 1869 and Sidney applied the new name sometime after 1870. The first owners of land in his Canterbury (listed in wikipedia)are recorded in the ratebook of 1878.Sidney claimed to have suggested the creation of Sorrento Village and its success led to his subdivision gaining popularity.He also said that he suggested to Coppin that he run a steamer to Sorrento so that fares could be reduced from the 20 shillings charged on The Challenge.

by itellya on 2011-11-05 13:59:38

Sidney may have arrived in Victoria in 1855. This assumption is based on another assumption that Edward Williams was his best friend.It was in 1855 that Edward Williams arrived on a vessel that was to conduct a survey of Port Phillip Bay. This would have been the start of the Victorian Coastal Survey,in which Sidney was the "writer" until it was wound up in 1878.
Edward was one of the crew who visited the Burrells at Arthur's Seat when the ship arrived and there met a servant, Mary Campbell, who had come out three years earlier with the family of Robert Cairns, a Boneo pioneer.Edward married Mary and bought Eastbourne (Village Glen site)from Sidney shortly before the latter's death in 1899 (at Edward Williams' Eastbourne.)

by itellya on 2012-02-02 10:07:51

by 888shelley on 2012-02-13 00:28:03

William Pascoe Crook was on the 'Duff' and set up the first European settlement at Sullivan Bay.Found this info and docs on

by itellya on 2013-02-17 07:00:02

I believe I have found something written by Sidney Smith Crispo. If you enter KING ARTHUR OF AUSTRALIA on trove, the article, published in 1856 and reproduced in other colonies into the next year will be at the top of the list. It was referred to as being amusing; so was Sidney's suggestion that Eastbourne at Rosebud West become the national capital, named Federanium. The writer has an intimate knowledge of Canada and Australia and uses the political course of Canada as an example of what Australia should do, just as Sidney did with his song AMALGAMATE THE COLONIES.

The article shows the sort of "50 years ahead of his time" ("weird" to his detractors) thinking that characterised Sidney. If Sidney did write the article,it would be evidence that he did arrive in Port Phillip Bay from Sydney on a survey ship that was to chart the bay, with his friend, Edward Williams, in 1855.

If Sidney did write this fanciful piece,why would he not sign it S.S.Crispo? He was a public servant employed by the colony of Victoria and one man who would have been offended was the Governor. Public servants are not usually encouraged to criticise the Government even today, and the scathing criticism of Governors would have been taken as a personal slight.

by gpearce on 2013-09-21 01:09:23

On the 3rd of May 1860, Sir Henry Barkly, the Governor of Victoria recommended to the Legislative Assembly that the Government enter into an agreement with the Imperial Government for the Marine Survey of the Victorian Coast, under the direction of the British Admiralty, and for the colony to share in half of the cost of the survey. The resolution was agreed to on the 11th of May 1860, and the Admiralty appointed Commander Henry Cox R.N., to take charge of the Victorian survey.

The widely travelled and highly experienced Commander Cox had immediately recognised there would be problems in trying to utilize local manpower and could ill afford the time required to train them for his requirements, so he opted to bring his assistants with him. The survey was originally estimated to take approximately 6 years to complete (it actually took 20 years)and therefore many of the team members elected to bring their families with them. The commander brought his wife and two daughters as well as his brother in-law, Sydney Crispo, who was a petty officer in the Royal Navy.

The survey team embarked in the ship Owen Glendower at Plymouth on the 10th of September 1860 and arrived safely in Melbourne three months later in December 1860. Right from the very start the survey was plagued with a number of problems, which forced a number of delays in the prosecution of the survey.

The inshore survey work was executed primarily from small boats and the cutter Loelia, whereas the deeper parts were sounded using the steamships Victoria and Pharos. Unfortunately Cox, could only use the larger vessels on occasions when they were not committed to other duties in the Colony. This severely hampered his operation and was to cause him a considerable amount of angst throughout the time he was in charge of the survey. Furthermore his relationship with the Surveyor General and other Government officials began to deteriorate. To further inflame an already tenuous situation, Cox decide to move operations eastward to Western Port, despite the perceived need to extend the survey to the west, he also threatened to lay-up the Loelia after Western Port, because she was totally inadequate for surveying work in Bass Strait.

Probably in an effort to contain the deepening rift that was occurring between Cox and the Victorian Government, an order in council was issued by the Admiralty which forced the early retirement of the commander in May 1866.

In July 1866 Cox returned to England with his family, but most of the other team members elected to stay on and continue with the survey under the guidance of Commander Wilkinson R.N., who was Cox's replacement. Sydney Crispo, remained with the Victorian Coastal Survey team until it reached conclusion in 1879, under the command of Staff Commander Henry Stanley R.N. Sydney Crispo (spelt with a "y" is the 1860 Owen Glendower passenger list) not known to have ever returned to his native England and died a bachelor at Rosebud West, Victoria in 1899 at the age of 71 years.

by itellya on 2013-09-24 11:01:45

Fantastic, gpearce! I hadn't come across the relationship of Cox to Crispo. This disproves my theory that Crispo had arrived on the same survey ship as Edward Williams in 1855.

by gpearce on 2013-09-25 05:57:47

Glad to be of assistance as your information regarding Sidney Crispo was of great use to me.

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