Australian Wildflowers and Flags
Richard Whistler, Farmer of Winkfield, Berkshire
Richard Whistler, baptised on 27 December 1835 at Old Basing, Hampshire, was one of eight sons of George Whistler, a tenant farmer of the Hampshire Downs (1). In his early childhood, Richard’s home was Down Grange Farm, Basingstoke. By the 1860s Richard’s cousin John Portsmouth was established as the resident farmer at Down Grange Farm (2).
In the 1851 census the Whistler family were living at Viables Farm, Basingstoke, a farm of 860 acres. In about 1857 the family moved to Litchfield Grange Farm in the parish of Ashe, west of Basingstoke (3).
On 24 October 1861 Richard Whistler married Sarah Mills Vines at the parish church in Sarah’s home village of Sherfield-on-Loddon (4). Sarah was the grand-daughter of David Vines, a cheesemonger of Reading, Berkshire. Her uncle Joshua Vines had emigrated to Australia in 1855 (5). Sarah’s father Edward Vines was a miller of Sherfield-on-Loddon.
In 1838 Edward Vines had prepared an estimate of the weekly amount of corn being ground at the Basingstoke windmill operated by William Whistler, the uncle of Richard. A valuation of the business was needed as the construction of a railway line to Basingstoke required the purchase of part of William Whistler’s land. Edward Vines had a reputation as a ‘mealman of long standing & of the highest respectability’ (6).
As a newlywed couple Richard and Sarah lived with the Whistler family at Litchfield Grange Farm, Ashe, where their first three daughters, Mary Jane, Rosa and Annie, were born. In about 1870 Richard Whistler took up the tenancy of Lower Farm, Winkfield Park, which belonged to the Foliejon Park estate near Windsor Great Park. Family tradition says that his children often glimpsed Queen Victoria riding in a carriage through the park and they painted scenes of the River Thames nearby.
On 31 October 1887 Richard Whistler, aged 51, was buried at St Mary’s Church, Winkfield (7). He was mourned by his wife Sarah and their seven daughters and two sons (Frank and Charles). Three years later, in 1890, Sarah and her children boarded the steamship SS Britannia for the voyage to Australia where they settled in Melbourne.
Annie Whistler Dorrington, Australian Artist
In 1892 Sarah’s daughter Annie Whistler married Charles Dorrington at St Alban’s Church in Armadale, Melbourne. In 1895 the Dorringtons moved to Perth in Western Australia where Annie became an accomplished artist specializing in paintings of Western Australian wildflowers. Her watercolours were exhibited in the Western Australian pavilion at the Paris (1900) and Glasgow (1902) international exhibitions as well as the St Louis International Exposition (1904) in Missouri, United States of America, and the Franco-British Exhibition, London (1908) (8).
In 1901 a competition was announced to design a flag for the new federation of Australia. Annie Whistler Dorrington was selected as one of the five winners from among the almost 33,000 designs that were submitted to the competition. She received a prize of £40, a substantial amount at this time (9).
Annie had no children. She died at Perth in 1926 at the age of 60 and was buried in Karrakatta Cemetery, near Perth. After her husband Charles Dorrington died in 1935 a collection of her work was given to the Art Gallery of Western Australia (10). In 1999 renewed interest in her life led to the unveiling of a monument in Karrakatta Cemetery to commemorate her contribution to Australia’s heritage.
In about 1920 Annie’s six unmarried sisters and their mother Sarah Whistler moved to Belmont, a Victorian mansion in the Glen Iris district of Melbourne. The family history claims that Sarah discouraged her daughters from marrying. Several of the Whistler sisters lived at Belmont until the house was demolished in 1955 (11).
Carolyn Boulton, ‘Waving the Flag’ , Berkshire Family Historian, June 2002.
(4) The record of the wedding in Sherfield on 24 October 1861 gave the details as Richard Whistler, bachelor, farmer, residence: Ashe, father: George Whistler, yeoman, and Sarah Mills Vines, spinster, residence: Sherfield, father: Edward Vines, miller; witnesses: Edward Vines, Sophia Mills Vines, John Charles Vines (photocopy from marriage register ordered from the Hampshire Record Office, Winchester).
(9) Webpage: Australian Flag Design .
(11) Information about the Whistler family in Melbourne is in "From the Malvern Archives", Stonnington History News, Newsletter No. 32, Feb/Mar 2001. Some Whistler family photographs and other records were found at the webpages of Stonnington Library, Stonnington in Greater Melbourne, Australia.