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Last Updated: 18th Feb 2020

By Peter Andersen

By Peter Andersen
P.O. Box 2418
Victoria 3502
Email: pjandersen50@hotmail.com

In 2004, whilst visiting his son Peter at Murlumbah, Queensland, Bill Harvey called in at Mackay to see his two friends Dawn and Lofty Wesner. At this time Dawn and Lofty were dispersing Betty Clarke’s mineral books. Betty Clarke used to live in Sydney and was a very close friend of the late Albert Chapman (who was regarded by many as being the doyen of Australian mineral collectors whilst he was alive)and his wife Doreen (who also had a very fine miniature mineral collection of her own). Betty and her late husband Jim also had a very fine mineral collection, most of which was dispersed by Joan Hingley (who was once the mineral collection manager of the very extensive mineral collection in the Australian museum) and her husband Harvey Hendly. Betty was now ensconced in a nursing home and it was up to her other friends, Dawn and Lofty Wesner to find homes for all of her mineralogical books and journals. Amongst the books that Bill purchased from Dawn and lofty was a small one that contained various contemporary newspaper reports on the Edward Aldridge Mineral Collection that was then still in Broken Hill, New South Wales.
Edward W. Aldridge was a resident of Broken Hill from the late 1800’s and although he was not a miner, he was captivated by the beautiful specimens of the various lead, copper, silver and zinc bearing mineral specimens that were coming then from the oxidised zone of the various mines that were working the central portion of the main Broken Hill orebody. Aldridge was himself a publican by trade and owned and operated two hotels whilst he lived in Broken Hill. The first was the hotel with the original grand old name of Aldridge’s Grand Hotel (see Figures 1, 2) which he first established in 1888 on the corner of Argent and Chloride Streets. This hotel was a two story building made out of brick and stone and it also had cast iron railings. In fact it was one of the grander Hotels in Broken Hill and all the big wigs of the town used to drink there. Because there was very infrequent visits by miners to this particular Hotel Aldridge had very little opportunity to obtain the fine well crystallised minerals that he coveted so he decided to sell out and purchase a pub that was frequented a lot more by the miners that could bring him the well crystallised minerals that he was after from their daily jobs (personal communication). When Aldridge sold his first hotel it was renamed by the owners as just being the Grand Hotel and it is still operating today in Broken Hill as a private booze palace (Figure 3).
When he sold this hotel, with the inscribed name of “Aldridge’s Grand Hotel”, in 1899 it was because he wanted to purchase the Duke of Cornwall Hotel that was also situated in Argent Street (which was the main drag of Broken Hill) and was only three streets down of this growing town, on the corner of Argent and Kaolin Streets, towards the south from his first hotel. The original Duke of Cornwall Hotel was a single storey building that first opened for trade in December of 1886 on a block of land on the northern corner of Argent Street and Kaolin Streets, and it was facing the then called Duke of Cornwall reserve which is now known as Central Park. The original building of the Duke of Cornwall Hotel (see figure 4) was destroyed by fire in 1887 and the pub was rebuilt as a two storey stone and brick structure (see Figures 5 and 6) in 1888. In 1889 Edward Aldridge became the proprietor of the Duke of Cornwall Hotel after selling his first pub and during his tenure of this pub he established, in 1902, and opened up to the Broken Hill public a noted garden known as “Aldridge’s Garden” (see Figure 7). These gardens were re-opened in 1908 as the museum gardens and zoo. Obviously the museum was the E.W.Aldridge mineral collection which was on display in glass cabinets. By 1932 this had all become a builder’s yard.
It has been said “He (that is Alderidge) used his position (as publican of the Duke of Cornwall Hotel and I have seen references to the Broken Hill mineral specimens from the “Duke of Cornwall’s mineral collection” which is obviously part of the mineral collection that Edward W. Aldridge put together) to accumulate a fabulous collection of minerals from the Broken Hill orebody’s oxidised zone by exchanging minerals for beer, often so local legend has it, “in the same billy that the minerals were presented in!” (1) The wonder is just how many miners suffered heavy metal poisoning as a result of conducting such exchanges. As a consequence of the way Aldridge managed to acquire his specimens it is no wonder that he managed to put together an immense collection of nearly 5000 superb specimens of well crystallised anglesite, azurite, cerussite, chlorargyrite, malachite, smithsonite, stolzite, etc. that Broken Hill has become so well known for amongst mineral collectors of today.
A noted Broken Hill identity, Charles Marsh (after whom the mineral marshite was named) was also involved with this mineral collection in that he classified this collection and published his description of the rarer minerals that he had seen. This description of the rarer copper, lead, silver and zinc minerals was published as an addendum in Jaquets 1894 memoir. In his description of the specimens from the Aldridge mineral collection marsh recorded for the first time the species linarite, wulfenite and yellow orange and wine red stolzite crystals. There is an interesting letter that Marsh wrote and sent to Mr E. J. Pittman (a government geologist based in Sydney who identified and described the new mineral willyamite) as a result of Pittman’s request for representative specimens from the “Barrier Mines”. This letter came to light as a result of the diligent search of archival documents by the noted mineral collector, John Rankin, of Sydney. It is worth reprinting this letter in its entirety as it outlines some of the other ways Aldridge obtained his fabulous collection of Broken Hill mineral specimens.
In the late 1800’s, which was the time at which Aldridge was living in Broken Hill, the quite large central part of the Broken Hill orebody was being mined by a number of newly established mines that included the Broken Hill Proprietary, Block 14, Junction, Block 10, British etc. These mines were just starting to work through the main central portion of the main line of lode and most of this section was in the oxidised zone. This means that the superb oxidised minerals that have established Broken Hill as a premier locality for these types of specimens were quite often being found and saved by the many miners who were quite impressed with the beauty of the various crystallised minerals that they were regularly encounting during their normal working shifts at the mines. The Edward W. Aldridge mineral collection consisted entirely of these superb specimens.
What is now presented is the actual contemporary description of the Aldridge collection of Broken Hill minerals as seen and described by various newspaper reporters of that time for their newspapers.
1. Page 50 of “Minerals of brokenhill”.

The 1892 plans to exhibit the best specimens from the Edward W. Aldridge mineral collection at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 fell through. The Aldridge mineral collection was then packed away and tentative offers of its sale were made to various institutions such as the South Australian Museum. In fact one offer made by Aldridge in 1908 to the south Australian museum was seriously considered by the museum’s Board of Governors but was, in the end, knocked back (Pring, 1997). This was how matters stood until 1909 when a foremost Australian geologist, Professor Sir Edgeworth David (after whom the mineral davidite was named) at the Sydney University, asked his friend, the businessman Sir Hugh Dixon, to put up the funds for the purchase of this superb collection of very fine Broken Hill minerals. This request to purchase this collection that was put to Sir Hugh Dixon was prompted because there had been an approach by an American buyer to purchase this large collection and Sir Edgeworth David wanted to keep this very fine mineral collection in Australia. In 1912 Sir Hugh Dixon provided 7500 pounds (approximately equal to $150000 in today’s currency) to the Sydney University for the purchase of the majority of the Edward W. Aldridge Broken Hill mineral collection. In all 2481 specimens from this collection of superb broken Hill minerals came into the university. The author has no idea where the rest ended up but they have probably well and truly lost their pedigree of origin by now. In the end the Geology School of the Sydney University retained 1240 specimens and the rest were dispersed to other institutions. Current records show that the Australian Museum received 125 mineral specimens, the Mining Museum (now the former Earth Exchange Museum which has since closed) received 19 specimens, the Technological Museum (now the Powerhouse Museum) received 92 specimens and the New South Wales Government received 508 specimens for exhibition purposes that appear to have been sent to London and are now part of the British Museum of Natural History’s mineral collection; these specimens were all once part of the Edward W. Aldridge mineral collection.

I would like to thank William Harvey for allowing me to see this accumulation of late 19th century newspaper reports on the Edward W. Aldridge mineral collection and also for the photocopy that he provided and that has been reproduced in this issue.

Birch, W.D, (editor) 1999 Minerals of brokenhill. Broken Hill City Council in conjunction with Museum Victoria, Victoria, Australia, 289p.
Chalmers, O. and Worner, H. (1982) Collectors and collections. In: Worner, H.K. and Mitchell, R. (Editors) Minerals of Broken Hill. Australian Mining and Smelting Limited, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 33- 35.
Henry, D. (1997) Introduction (in the Broken Hill Special Issue) Australian Journal of Mineralogy, 3 (1) 2-3.
Jaquet, J.B. (1894) Geology of the Broken Hill lode and Barrier Ranges mineral field, New South Wales. Geological Survey of New South Wales Memoir 5.
McNamara, G., Chalmers, O., Birch, W.D. and Plimer, I. (1999) The investigators, the identities and their minerals. In: Birch, W.D, (Editor) Minerals of brokenhill,. Broken Hill City Council in conjunction with Museum Victoria, Victoria, Australia, 36-57.
Pring, A. (1997) The Hall collection-a Broken Hill treasure trove. Australian Journal of Mineralogy, 3 (1) 11-16.
Solomon, R.J. (1988) The Richest Lode Broken Hill 1883-1988. Hale and Ironmonger Pty Limited, 424 pages.
Worner, H.K. and Mitchell, R. (Editors) 1982 Minerals of Broken Hill. Australian Mining and Smelting Limited, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 259p.

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