Robert Lewis

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Robert Lewis was born at Aherystwith, South Wales in 1911, and arrived in Australia in 1853, and Ballarat in 1854. [1] He first dug for gold at Castlemaine, and was a partner in Roland and Lewis, lemonade, soda water and ginger beer merchants. [2]

Lewis died in 1884 and is buried in the Ballaarat Old Cemetery.[3]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Post 1854 Experiences

Lewis was a member of the Ballarat Council from 1859 to 1863, serving as Chairman in 1862 and Mayor in 1863. During the 1860s Lewis was Vice President of the Ballarat Mechanics' Institute. He was also a member of the Orphan Asylum, Benevolent Asylum, Hospital, Coursing Club and the Horticultural Society. He was residing in Sturt Street, Ballarat in the 1880s.[4]


Councillor Robert Lewis died this morning at half-past twelve. As chairman of the Gas Company he presided yesterday at the half-yearly meeting, and attended the Old Identities' anniversary in the evening, and this morning at 7 o'clock he had a cup of tea in his room at Lester's Hotel. He was found shortly afterwards on the floor in a fit of apoplexy, from which he never rallied consciousness. He was 73 year old, 30 years of which he had spent here in valuable public life as councillor, mayor, and as a constant and devoted committeeman on several of our public charities. The deceased was for years a partner in Rowlands and Lewis well-known firm, and was still manag ing the Ballarat branch. The funeral will be celebrated with the rite due to an arch Mason.[5]

The community was shocked this morning upon the announcement of the sudden death of Mr Robert Lewis late of the well known firm of Rowlands and Lewis cordial manufacturers, which occurred at Lester's Hotel shortly before noon. Last night the deceased gentleman presided at the usual meeting of the Gas Company and afterwards attended the first annual demonstration of the Old Identities Association. He retired to rest at an early hour. About half past 8 this morning he was found lying on the door of his room and though medical aid was obtained within a few minutes he never regained consciousness. He was 70 years of age and an old colonist, his arrival on these diggings dating back to 1852. He took a prominent part in all local institutions. He and a few others called the first meeting to establish a hospital on the goldfield and besides acting on the committee from its inception, he was elected president four times. He was also a member of the Benevolent Asylum committee, and its president for a lengthened period. In 1864 he was returned to the Legislative Assembly tor Ballarat West beating Mr W.M.K. Vale by 140 votes. On the return of Mr W C Smith from England Mr Lewis resigned the seat in his favour. He was also chairman of the Ballarat Gas Company for many years and took an active part in religious matters as superintendent of Christ Church Sunday School. Upon the establishment of local government he was one of the first members of the borough council of Ballarat West and afterwards mayor of the city on three different occasions. He was particularly jealous of the dignity of the office of mayor and his liberality while he held that position was proverbial. He took great interest in musical matters and besides being a member of the Liedertafel was chairman of the Ballarat Eistedford. The funeral will take place on Monday at half past 3 p m immediately after the arrival of the 11 o clock train from Melbourne.[6]

The Late Mr. Robert Lewis.—Referring to the death of Mr. Robert Lewis, reported by our Ballarat correspondent in yesterday's issue, the Courier says Mr. Lewis was a native at Aherystwith, South Wales, and was born in the year 1811. He came to the colony in 1853 and to Ballarat in 1854. A draper by trade, he became early in his colonial career associated with Mr. E. Rowlands, and the name of Rowlands and Lewis, cordial manufacturers, has travelled to England, and some of the firm productions sold in the old country, first by Spiers and Pond, are now numbered among the most popular beverages of their class. Almost from the day he came to Ballarat, Mr. Lewis identified himself with the charitable and public movements of the district, and the interest he took in them when in the prime of life never declined with advancing years. When the wounded men at the Eureka Stockade could not be provided with proper accommodation, and the necessity of having a hospital in the district was apparent, Mr. Lewis was with Messrs, Lynn, H. Forster, Rodier, and others when they started the movement, which eventually brought into existence the handsome and commodious institution in tho corner of Sturt and Drummond streets. In those times people who first went out to the hospital site had to "blaze" the trees to find their way back again. In 1859 tho deceased gentleman commenced a connection with the Municipal Council of Ballarat West, which, save for one break of four years, was interrupted to his death. In 1862 he was elected chairman of the council, and in 1863, while he was still chairman, Ballarat west was proclaimed a " borough,' and he was the first chairman to receive the dignified title of mayor. In February 1864, on Mr.(now Lieutenant-Colonel) Smith retiring from the Assembly Mr. Lewis was elected to represent the constituency of Ballarat West, beating his only opponent, Mr. W. M. K. Vale, by 140 votes. He only remained in Parliament for a period of nine months, however, as he went on a prolonged trip to Britain with Mr. D. Jones. Apropos of this trip, it may be remembered that a false report that he had been lost in the ill fated London on his return journey caused considerable sensation until Mr. Rowlands set the matter right. His name will be found in all the records of the best and wisest public movements made here, and, while occupying a place where nearly all he did could bo plainly seen, he so comported himself as to retain the good will and confidence of his fel low citizens to the last. By his death Ballarat loses one of its oldest public men, the residents a genial follow citizen, and the poor and suffering a sincere friend. The funeral of the deceased gentleman took place yesterday.[7]

Business generally in the city as well as at the exchanges closed at noon to-day, owing to the public funeral of the late Robort Lewis. The deceased gentleman's remains were conveyed first from the City Hall to Christ Church Pro-cathedral, thence to the Masonic Hall, and thence to the Old Cemetery.[8]

In The News

The Nelson Company, Sebastopol, have just unearthed a very interesting curiosity in the shape of a petrified trunk or branch of a tree. The mass, discovered in the alluvium of the gutter over 300 feet below the surface, was several feet in length and about six inches in diameter. This specimen of petrification is very perfect, and was shown to us by Mr Robert Lewis, who is a share- holder in the claim, and who has consented to lay it on one of the tables of the Mechanics' reading room to-day for inspection by members of the Institute. Mr Lewis's' exhibit is as heavy as bluestone, and the fracture similar in grain and color to dense basalt; while the outside of the mass, and one or two little spots in the central portions retain the ligneous fibre and softness. We hope the company will send a lump to the curators of the museum attached to the Melbourne Library and another to the Mechanics' Institute here.[9]
By W.L.
Old Ballaratians scattered all over the Commonwealth, and, indeed, over the English-speaking world, are turning their eyes and their thoughts back to Ballarat. To them has come the call for a home reunion during Easter week. A general committee, with several sub-committees, is making extensive arrangements for a grand reunion extending from Tuesday, April 3, over Monday, April 10, and it is expected that many hundreds will avail themselves of the opportunity of revisiting the scenes of their early life.
Of the people who have left Ballarat during the last 30 years, there are estimated to he about 11,000 abroad. The figure is arrived at by taking the population in that period, the excels of the birth rate over the mortality rate, and the average death rate among those who left the place. Whilst Ballarat people are to be found all over the world, the vast majority of those who have left the city are settled somewhere in the metropolitan area of Victoria. From them the call home is meeting with a splendid response. Intimations have also been received of dwellers far distant returning home for Easter-week. Unfortunately, many brave young men who a few months ago thrilled at the sound of the name of their native city will not even hear the call home. They lie in their eternal sleep in Gallipolian Valleys or on French farms in the vicinity of the Somme. In the midst of its rejoicing, Ballarat will not forget its noble dead, nor its proud sons who are still fighting Freedom's battle.
Drawn generally from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, the men of the early Ballarat days were of a resolute and progressive type. Very few of them went to the goldfields intending to remain there, but the freedom of their environment accorded with their disposition, and they settled down to fashion the bushcountry around them into the beautiful city that Ballarat now is. The late Mr. Duncan Gillies was typical of the first residents of Ballarat. Digger at first, he became a member of the Legislative Assembly for Ballarat West in 1860, but lost his seat in 1868, when he first accepted office as Minister for Lands in the Sladen Ministry. Subsequently he was Premier of Victoria. An earlier pioneer of Ballarat, who also became a legislator, was Mr. Peter Lalor, one of the leaders of the Eureka Stockade riot against the Government authorities in 1854. Mr. J.B. Humffray and he were the first representatives of Ballarat in the old Legislative Council before the Constitution Act came into force. While representing the electorate of Grant in the Legislative Assembly Mr Lalor was elected Speaker of the House. Colonel W. C. Smith, or, as he was more familiarly known during the greater part of his Parliamentary career, "the Major," was another Ballarat man of some note who attained Ministerial rank. The late Mr. W.M.K. Vale, a former Attorney-General, was a Ballarat man of those stirring political times, while the late Sir Henry Cuthbert and the late James Campbell, M.L.C.'s. were typical Ballarat men who also became Ministers of the Crown. Turning to the municipal life of Ballarat - speaking collectively of the city and the town-the services of such men as James Oddie (the first chairman of the municipal council), Dr. James Stewart, Robert Lewis - (of Rowlands and Lewis), Daniel Brophy, John Whiteman Gray, J. Noble Wilson, Frederick M. Claxton, John Hickman, E. Morey, James McDowall, John G. McDonald, Charles C. Shoppee (city), W. B. Rodier. Dr. Clendinning, William Scott, Emanuel Steinfeld, James Russell, James Long, Theophidus Williams, and John Ferguson stand out. They were men of broad minds and high ideals. Ballarat's interests were supreme with them.
Among other men who influenced the life of Ballarat considerably in its earlier years were Mr. John Russell Thomson, whose magnificent bequest of statuary in the pavilion at the botanic gardens has attracted notice in world art centres; Mr. Thomas Stoddart, who made the first gift of statuary to the botanic gardens. Mr David Ham, a member of-the Legislative Council; Judge Rogers, Judge Trench, and Judge Gaunt, Mr. R. Walsh, Q.C., Mr. C.B. Finlayson, Q.C. (formerly Crown prosecutor), Mr. R. M. Serjeant (member of 'the Legislative, Assembly in I860), Mr., Andrew Anderson, Mr. R.T. Vale (a former member of Parliament for Ballarat West, who died recently), Mr. E. J. Bateman, one of the founders of the Ballarat "Star".
Public men of note who are still living include Mr Agar Wynne (who attained Ministerial- rank in both Stale and Commonwealth), Mr. J. Y. McDonald (who within the last few weeks resigned from the Legislative Council), Mr. T. D. Wanliss (formerly n member of the Legislative Council, and now a resident of Scotland), Mr. W. M. Achesoon, Mr. A.M. Greenfield, and Mr. J.M. Bickett.
Among the old Ballaratians residing in various parts of the Commonwealth are men prominent in legislation, law, art, science, and business. Legislators are found in the Minister for Customs (Mr. Jensen), the Victorian Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Hagelthorn), Mr. Membrey (honorary State Minister), Mr. McWhae, M.L.C., and Mr. Menzies, M.L.A. The Chief Justice of Tasmania (Mr. Justice Nicholls), Judge Eagleson, and Judge Wasley are old Ballarat boys, as is Sir Bernard O'Dowd, poet and assistant, State Parliamentary draughtsman. Mr. H. E. Starke, the well known barrister, though born at Creswick, spent his boyhood in Ballarat. The Commonwealth Under Treasurer (Mr. J. R. Collins) is a native of Ballarat. Medical men among old Ballarat boys include Dr. Orr, of Collins street: Dr. T. E. Wills, of Malvern; Dr. H. E. Letcher, of Adelaide; Dr. G. F. Sleeman, of Creswick; Dr. J. H. Sleeman, of Portland; Dr. Gawne of Jeparit; Dr Fred Middleton, of the Ross Sea Antarctic Relief Expedition; and Drs. F. und H. V.- Bennett, of Prahran. Mr. A. A. Buley, formerly principal of Grenville College, where Mr. Justice Nicholls, Judge Eagleson, and Judge Wasley received their secondary education, is now on the staff of the Melbourne High School. Mr.D. Avery, of the Working Men's College-staff; Chief Inspector Fussell, Inspectors T. E. and J. J. Bothroyd and Mr. W. F. Gates (assistant chief inspector), of the Education department; and Mr. A.A. Peverill, chief clerk of the Lands department, are, old Ballarat boys, as well us the mayor of Prahran (Councillor Austin Embling), the Rev. S. Hoban, of the Central Methodist Mission, Sydney, and the Rev. M. Daly, Colac. Mr. William Davidson, formerly inspector - general of public works in Victoria, received his initial instruction in Surveying while a resident oí Ballarat, and the State income tax commissioner (Mr. R. M. Weldon) is a native of the city. Mr. J. F. Kirby, 'of Coleraine, who won the Melbourne Cup with The Parisian in 1911, was captain of the Ballarat Football Club in the seventies. Both Mr. Will Dyson, the artist, and Mr. E. Dyson claim Ballarat as their birthplace. Mr. Watkin Wynne, general manager of the "Daily Telegraph" newspaper in Sydney, in an old Ballaratian. He won the swimming championship of Ballarat in 1876, and the championship of Geelong by defeating Stedmun, on the Barwon River. Mr. Mcphan Ferguson, head of the Engineering firm which bears his name, was in business in Ballarat before he came to Melbourne. Ballarat men are conspicuous among members of the Stock Exchange of Melbourne. They include Messrs. W. J. Roberts (chairman). John McWhae. John S. Reid, Wallace Smith, John Rippon, A. E. and B. Millard, A. H. Tonkin, F. W. Holst, and J. Buchanan. Among other old Ballaratians may he mentioned Messrs- Alfred, Walter, and Frederick Sutton, of Suttons Proprietary Limited; Frederick and Maurice Cohen, of S. Cohen and Sons, hardware merchants; John Bailey, conductor of the Melbourne Choral Society: John West, secretary of the National Union; Hugh V. McKay, of the Sunshine Harvester Works; J.W. Kirton, formerly a member of the Legislative Assembly, and now secretary of the Master Bakers Association; Ex-Inspector Beckmann, of Warrnambool; Messrs. Hans Irvine, formerly member for Grampians in the House of Representatives; S. E. Figgis, secretary of the Colonial Gas Company, and a noted bowler in the Ballarat Cricket Club 33 years ago; Lieut. Colonel Wanniss, who had charge of a battalion in the First Australian Expeditionary Force; Captain D.J. Ham, who served through the Boer war; Major Jackson; and Messrs. J. IH. Dill and D. Murray, legal managers: E. Cocking. J. L. Anderson; James Scobie, the well-known trainer; Mr. H. Niven, (F.W. Niven and and Co.), and Mr. E. A. Bennett (Superintendent of the Homeopathic Hospital).
Miss Mary Gaunt, the novelist; the Lady Mayoress of Melbourne (Lady Hennessy). Ladv Irvine (wife of Sir William Irvine, K.C.). Mr. J.R. Trantham Fryer (Miss Bechervaise), and Mrs. J.J. . Kingsbury (wife of a former Queensland Minister of the Crown, and now a Crown prosecutor) may also be mentioned as old Ballaratians. [10]

See also

Further Reading

Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Bendigo Advertiser, 2 September 1884.
  2. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  3. Bendigo Advertiser, 2 September 1884.
  4. Wickham, D., Gervasoni, C. & Phillipson, W., Eureka Research Directory, Ballarat Heritage Services, 1999.
  5. Bendigo Advertiser, 1 September 1884.
  6. The Argus, 1 September 1884.
  7. Bendigo Advertiser, 2 September 1884.
  8. Bendigo Advertiser, 2 September 1884.
  9. Ballarat Star, 4 November 1861.
  10. The Argus, 3 March 1917

External links

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Caption, Reference.