Charlie Hammond

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“All those moments will be lost in time….. like tears in rain”

– Rutger Hauer: Blade Runner

When I discovered this photo I was drawn to know more about it.  It depicts an image of Berwick which is much different to how life looks there today.  I love the idea that you could be free to ride where there are no roads, and create your own adventure.  Was cycling just a means of getting around, or did this chap share the same enjoyment & passion that we experience today?  This photo was taken by Charlie Hammond, an Englishman, who was born in 1870, and emigrated to Australia.  He was an eccentric traveller, famous artist & photographer who fell in love with & moved to Tecoma in the Dandenong Ranges in 1913, where he spent the remaining years of his life.

(images taken from Charlie Hammond’s Sketch Book, 1980)

Charlie’s artwork became famous and helped to promote the Dandenong Ranges, which at the time was already one of Melbourne’s most popular tourist destinations.  Chalie was a keen cyclist and a member of one of Melbourne’s original cycling groups the “Fernside Bicycle Club”.  They were famous for their blue uniforms and knee breeches! What they wore was very much different to what we wear today!  Above are some of the paintings he did which depicts cycling from a bygone era, and thankfully those Penny Farthings are just a thing of the past.

I tried to find out more about Charlies interests in cycling.  There wasn’t much written, but I did find this story that Charilie told to The Mountain District Free Press on October 4th, 1946:

It was on Hospital Sunday, October 29, 1889 that I had a ride to Ferntree Gully that I shall never forget. I had just landed back from Melbourne after two years at sea and in England. Brother Bert (artist) proposed a ride to the Gully to celebrate the occasion.

It was a glorious morning, not a cloud in the sky as we started off from Melbourne on our horses. Nearing Glen Waverley clouds began to cover the sky, then down came the rain. My thin summer suit was soaked through in a few minutes. We sheltered at the old Mountain View Hotel until the rain eased off, then rode on.

When we neared old Dan Foster’s homestead on the Burwood Road the rain started again, so we made a dash for his stables and rested until the rain stopped. Then hoping that was the last squall, we rode on towards the Gully. When we were nearing the Club Hotel at Lower Ferntree Gully a terrible storm broke over us. It must have been a cloud burst.

In a few minutes the Burwood Road was flooded. In the low parts the water was up to the horses’ girths. It rained for the rest of the day. We returned home by way of the Oakleigh Road with the rain and icy cold gale blowing in our faces all the way. On the Dandenong Road we passed the Fernside Bicycle Club, who had been for a run to the Gully. There were a few high-wheelers among them, but they had to walk as the gale blew them off as soon as they tried to mount. We arrived home half-frozen.

Below is an selfie that Charlie drew depicting his ride.

Charles & Bert pass the Fernside Bicyle Club 1889 (image taken from Charlie Hammond’s Sketch Book, 1980)

We have all experienced horror stories on our bikes.  It is good to look back in time and appreciate that if you think you’ve done it hard, then most likely someone has done it harder.  His story should give us an appreciation for all the things that we take for granted today, especially having a bakery in virtually every town along the way.  Its good to know that cycling has been popular in and around the Dandenong’s for well over a century.  There’s a rich history that you add to every time you head to the hills & experience the Dandenong Ranges.

About Charlie

Charlie was born in London, England in 1870.  His parents came from wealthy merchant families. His father, Rowland was a drunkard and a gambler who often abused his wife Emma and the children when he was drunk. Eventually, Emma’s wealthy brothers arranged for Rowland to go to Australia.

By 1887, Charlie had sailed to Melbourne where he joined up with his brother Bert. Charlie and Bert started an art and photography studio in Melbourne, supplementing their income with farm work in both Australia and New Zealand at various times.  Charlie moved to the Dandenong Ranges in 1913 and built a house with his own hands in Tecoma.  He named it Winscombe, and this would be the place that he called home for the remainder of his life.

Charlie had no children, and after his death, his art fell into the hands of various people, mostly friends and employees.

A special thanks to Kae Lewis who put together a Website on the life and times of Charlie Hammond.



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