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Australians in Britain: The Twentieth-Century Experience



Accessing the Australasian expatriate community in London through the pages of its newspaper, the British Australasian, this chapter charts the shifting composition and interests of each over a 40-year period. Established in 1884, the British Australasian operated initially as a markets paper yet gradually broadened its outlook to incorporate the more diverse tastes of an increasingly eclectic readership. Under the guiding hand of three principal editors the newspaper transformed its offices into a social centre and lobbied for greater recognition of its correspondents’ needs. Competing national agendas ultimately prompted a minor crisis, however – a moment revealing much about the contingencies of life in one’s ‘home away from home’.

Continuing an established tradition, Australians still delight in ‘falling towards England’.1 Upon arrival, most newcomers head straight for London, where strategically placed newsstands dispense a number of community-focused magazines such as In London, the latest publication to target affluent young Aussies, Kiwis and South Africans. In London blends travel advice, shopping tips, sports reports and job listings with notices of forthcoming social events. As well as providing space for the articulation of nationalistic sentiment, the magazine suggests a shared Southern Hemispheric identity that Angela Woollacott observes as the raison d’être for one of its rivals, TNT Magazine.2 Both publications seek – and simultaneously foster – a transnational market, a market whose patrons hail from multiple locations to experience (whether willingly or not) a new collective identity forged in the crucible of ‘the Big Smoke’.

In 1884, long before the advent of the ‘gap year’, Walkabout pubs or Contiki’s ‘Grand Tour’, another publication went on sale, claiming attention from and for a different yet familiar market-based and London-oriented group: British Australasians. Its pages reveal much about the place of Australians – and Australasians – in ‘the British world’. Cast at its inception as ‘A Newspaper for Merchants, Shareholders, Land Selectors, and Emigrants, And all interested in the Magnitude and Growth of British Interests in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and the Western Pacific’, the British Australasian came to represent a still broader coalition of interested parties. Leafing through the first 40 years of its archive we encounter the constituent individuals and institutions of an ever-shifting expatriate community during a period of sustained imperial power and emergent nationalism.

The mid 1880s proved a propitious time to start a newspaper in London for Australasians – so much so, in fact, that two such titles commenced publication in 1884. On 2 October the first issue of a new tabloid weekly, the British Australasian, rolled off the press. It was devised and financially supported by R.H. Inglis Palgrave (an eminent London banker and sometime editor of the Economist) and Robert Lucas Nash, a financial journalist, sub-editor of the Economist and the British Australasian’s inaugural editor. The Anglo-New Zealander and Australian Times (edited by a London-based Argus employee, Charles Short) had first appeared two months earlier. Revealingly, the terms of the latter title were soon reversed to Australian Times and Anglo-New Zealander, ‘reflecting the preponderance of Australian interests on this side’. In 1888 the two newspapers merged, an absorption that left a lasting imprint on the British Australasian.

Both newspapers began circulation during a period of massive capital transfer from Britain to the Antipodes. A high point in a boom decade occurred in 1884, when £20.8 million was invested in Australia.3 A succession of good seasons in the colonies had increased pastoral wealth, and new developments in refrigerated shipping during the early 1880s allowed Australasian exporters to access hitherto untapped British markets with their fruit, frozen lamb and other perishable goods. The mining surge that was driven by the discovery of silver deposits at Broken Hill as well as the findings in Western Australia encouraged London investors to finance new ventures. The fragments of empire seemed to be drawing together: steamships criss-crossed the globe with ever-increasing speed and frequency, while Sydney and Melbourne were at last connected by rail in 1883.4 The creation of the Imperial Federation League in Britain in 1884 further sought to cement the unity of the colonies and the Mother Country.5 The British Australasian followed the League’s progress, publishing its manifesto, supporting its campaigns and reporting on its push for both a Colonial and Indian Exhibition and a Colonial Conference (events that would later bring large numbers of overseas visitors to London during the summer months of 1886 and 1887). Even the high cost of the cable service – 6 shillings and 7 pence per word for press messages between Sydney and London in 1886 – tended to favour the utility of the newspaper, which functioned as a storehouse for information travelling along what might be termed (to alter Henry Parkes’s famous phrase) ‘the copper threads of kinship’.6 Ashes cricket tests, the New Guinea crisis of 1883 and the Sudanese military intervention in 1885 are further examples of events that garnered increased attention – if not understanding – for colonial affairs and good copy for Nash’s newspaper.

And Nash was clearly the right man for the job. At its inception the British Australasian was primarily a markets paper; Nash had cut his journalistic teeth on the Economist and in preparing an 1869 monograph, Money Market Events.7 Although English by birth, Nash’s interest in Australasian finance and economic development was clear – he would later publish books on the infrastructure of New South Wales and The Banking Institutions of Australasia.8 The latter is doubly significant, as it details the histories of the 20 Australasian banks with branches in London in 1890 and was issued from the British Australasian’s own press. The air of confidence that pervades the work is also in evidence throughout Nash’s newspaper editorship.

Early editions carry articles on ‘Practical Federation’ (which Nash eagerly advocated), ‘The Great Land Companies’ and the raising of £500,000 in London for the construction of Melbourne’s tram network.9 Room was also found for the occasional sports result or banquet report, but under Nash’s eight-year guidance, and especially until 1888, the British Australasian was concerned principally with movements: movements of money, movements of share prices, movements of ships between ports and the great political transitions wished for: Australian federation and the super federation of empire. In his first pieces, Nash condemned the ‘superficial knowledge possessed here’ and ‘the driblets of news doled out to English readers’ regarding Australasian topics. Such criticism was not unusual. When Alfred Deakin visited the Colonial Conference in 1887 he famously attacked the ‘absolute innocence’ of the British in colonial matters, telling his British hosts that the paltry attention given by their newspapers to Australasia was ‘a missing link in the unity of the Empire’.10 Like Deakin, Nash clearly intended to foster mutual understanding and forge fresh bonds.

Who was reading Nash’s newspaper? British investors and potential migrants may well have been interested, and so too those with access to Australia’s great public libraries or overseas sales points. Passengers making the long voyage south aboard steamers also read the British Australasian, with the paper stating in 1906 that 2000 copies of each edition were reserved for this purpose. Undoubtedly though, the vast majority of Nash’s readers were in Britain. Ros Pesman estimates that by the 1890s around 10,000 people were arriving in the United Kingdom from Australia annually; Andrew Hassam proposes that 200,000 arrived from Australia and New Zealand between 1876 and the century’s end.11 Accurate figures are difficult to obtain, although recent analysis reveals 15,295 individuals recorded as born in Australia in the 1901 Census of England and Wales. Travelling via the United States to Britain in the jubilee year of 1887, James Francis Hogan encountered a range of seafarers. Some were ‘scions of noble and gentle houses’ returning after a tour of the colonies; others were just setting out, graduates exchanging the learning of the university for the university of knowledge through travel. Others still had been ‘doing the colonies’ for manufacturing orders, and Hogan’s party was completed by a youthful female artist and ‘not a few young colonists’ hoping to catch sight of the Queen on their first trip ‘home’.12 One wonders how representative this company was.

From 1888 until 1912 the British Australasian published its own list of ‘Australasians in Europe’, both settlers and sojourners. This information enlightens as well as omits, but a few suggestive trends emerge from a slice analysis based on a comparison of five different weeks across five different years (see Table 7.1). Note the increasing proportion of married and unmarried women (sufficient, perhaps, to prompt the initiation of a ladies’ column in the newspaper in July 1905); the relative steadiness of numbers of dependants and percentage of New Zealanders in Britain; and the significant, though fluctuating, presence of Australasians in Scotland, the overwhelming majority of whom gave their postal address as the Australasian Club in Edinburgh. Established around 1877, some 21 years before its English namesake, Edinburgh’s Australasian Club was one of the longest established Australasian societies in Britain yet probably the least mentioned by historians.

At best these figures represent a slim sample of those in Europe. Most likely these were individuals subscribing to the newspaper, which in any case reduced the column inches devoted to its Australian address book over time. Further clouding the picture, in 1911 Valerie Desmond even suggested that one’s lack of material progress in the capital could affect one’s chances of inclusion in the British Australasian’s list. ‘When frequent changes of address’, she stated, ‘make it too plain that the C.Y.A. [Clever Young Australian] is bilking his landlady, and the change of locality is from humble to worse – well it discreetly draws the curtain. The “British Australasian” is a most genteel publication’.13 Perhaps more insightful was the editor’s admission that ‘only a very small proportion’ of ‘the many thousands’ of Australasians in Europe featured in the directory.14 By March 1912 the list had gone, ‘owing to the ever-increasing numbers of visitors’.15 Further statistical analysis of census data is clearly needed to establish whether the broad trends deducible from these catalogues are typical. What can be said with greater surety is that the preponderance of names on the British Australasian’s lists are representatives of ‘the travelling class’, the privileged portion of society possessing the material wherewithal and time to make the long trip possible, and who closely associated first-hand experience of Britain with social prestige.16

Table 7.1 Residency patterns of the ‘Australasians in Europe’ listed in the British Australasian, 1888–1912

Note: The first list, published in the 4 July 1888 issue, forms the basis of the figures in the 1888 column. Thereafter the issue closest in date to 4 July was consulted, until the very last list, on 15 February 1912. Due to the fact that many respondents named their place of origin as ‘Australia’ or ‘New Zealand’, I have not calculated totals for individual states.

Responses to correspondents provide further insights into the British Australasian’s readership. In March 1901, for example, readers were informed that South Australian lamb could be purchased at the Smithfield Market, but that the editor was not aware of any restaurants in London specialising in colonial fare. The paper had earlier dispensed financial advice, reassuring ‘T.G.’ from Newcastle that the National Bank of Australasia was ‘an admirably managed institution’ and ‘W.B.H.’ that he was sure to find success with investments and employment in the Western Australian goldfields.17 Correspondents were even advised about which Australian stocks to buy and sell.18

By the time that the queries from T.G. and W.B.H. were answered, Philip Mennell had become editor-proprietor. Nash had left, confidence intact, for the Sydney Daily Telegraph at the end of 1892, before the bank collapses of the following year. Mennell was the second of four editors to oversee the British Australasian during the period considered here. His British birth belies his Australian experience as a journalist, first on the Bairnsdale Advertiser and later with the Melbourne Age. His assurances about the promise of Western Australia should not surprise us: in the year before his appointment Mennell found time, aside from completing his Dictionary of Australasian Bibliography (one of the earliest works of its kind and noteworthy as a federalising project), to publish The Coming Colony, a panegyric to Western Australia, ‘the Cinderella State’ or, as he would later term it, ‘an El Dorado in a Sahara’.19 Perhaps buoyed by the success of his own investments there, Mennell tirelessly promoted in the pages of his newspaper the transfer of both people and capital to his favoured state.

Mennell reoriented the British Australasian to embrace a greater spread of subjects. The financial pages, shipping reports and federation comment remained, but space was now found for society news, concise book reviews, correspondence and a theatres column. Such developments arguably paralleled an increasing diversity of interests among Mennell’s readers: the Australasian community in London could now be defined by more than finance alone. Following the absorption in 1888 of the Australian Times and Anglo-New Zealander, the new-look British Australasian retained some elements of its former rival, most particularly the ‘Colonial Gossip’ column and advertisements for Westminster tailors and city boarding houses. From its turn-of-the-century home in the London Wool Exchange (a testament to the continued importance of Australasian pastoral production on the stock market), the British Australasian was slowly transformed.20 In 1884 the paper had declared that its interests were economic; under Mennell’s hand, artists, sightseers and society ladies began to find their tastes catered for too.

A sign of the increased confidence and surety of ground of the British Australasian can be seen in its willingness to agitate for reforms on behalf of its readers. In 1893, for example, readers were asked to write in on the subject of ‘The best method of increasing the efficiency of the Agent-Generals’ Offices’. Competition winner, Arthur Clayden, received praise for his centralising arguments:


A large central building should be erected, easy of access and known throughout the United Kingdom ... Here the inquirer should find every requisite particular to guide his steps. Passing through a pair of folding doors opening on to the street, he should find himself in a large hall, in which each of the seven colonies would be represented by its officials.

Such an establishment, the winning essayist concluded, would host ‘descriptive and educational lectures’ and come under the remit of a high commissioner.21 A version of Clayden’s vision would begin to take shape on the Strand 20 years later with the establishment of Australia House.22 The British Australasian took up other causes, too: free trade between the Australian states; Imperial Preference ‘as a kick towards the goal of Imperial Free Trade’; an end to the double income tax for Australasians in Britain; Australasian women’s loss of political status under British suffrage laws; and emigration, with frequent demands for a parity of effort with Canada on the issue of attracting British migrants to Australia.23

Echoing the newspaper’s heightened assertiveness, the late 1890s and early 1900s bore witness to a surge in the number of formal associations for Australasians in London. The Australasian Club, Australian League, Colonial Club, London branch of the Australian Chamber of Commerce, and other societies all date from this period, and the British Australasian assiduously reported their meetings, thus facilitating a process of cultural consolidation. Angela Woollacott identifies the Austral Club (founded in 1902) as of particular significance in this regard. Initiated by two feminists, it proved a boon to professional and creative women of independent means in the imperial capital, providing a place to meet or read papers and a stage on which to perform recitals.24 Weekly ‘At Home’ events were a regular feature, and at its Dover Street venue, the British Australasian informs us, artists such as Melbourne’s Elsie Berry made their first singing appearances in London.25

Moreover, in the early 1900s the newspaper’s offices were themselves a thriving social centre. The British Australasian had long welcomed visitors to peruse its book collection and purchase overseas newspapers and during E.C. Buley’s three-year stint at the editor’s desk from 1905 the range of services offered at what became known as ‘The Rendezvous’ proliferated. By 1892, 31 newspaper titles could be purchased from the Fleet Street offices.26 Initially located in Finsbury Circus (cable address ‘Kangarooby’) and later in High Holborn, The Rendezvous was a bookshop and information centre combined, with free advice dispensed on ‘where to stay, where to shop, what to see and how to see it’, personal mail stored and facilities provided for letter writing.27 Described by one visitor as ‘a little bit of our own country, set down in the middle of London’, it also provided an opportunity for expatriate artists and authors such as Martin Boyd, Will Dyson, Will Ogilvie, Vance Palmer and Katharine Susannah Prichard to meet.28 Luggage storage and ticketing facilities were added when Charles Chomley filled the editor’s position in 1908. From 1918 onwards Australia House began to assume some of these roles, but a later description of the Australian High Commission building could have been applied with equal accuracy to The Rendezvous: it was indeed a ‘national “foyer”’.29 The British Australasian’s bookshop first moved into Australia House in 1922, and a newspaper stall later operated on the ground floor.30 The newspaper itself followed by 1933.31 The resources offered at the newspaper’s offices before its move to Australia House are indicative of three trends: more visitors in London, a coalescence of the community there, and the rising proportion of tourists (further evidenced by a new motoring column).

Under Charles Chomley’s editorship, the British Australasian took on a more artistic flavour. Special summer numbers featured illustrations, poetry, short stories and interviews with representatives of the Australasian arts community in London.32 Chomley also arranged for artworks to be exhibited at The Rendezvous, where by January 1910 one could find 56 paintings, 26 drawings and 6 works of statuary by artists including Tom Roberts, Norman Lindsay and Harold Parker.33 Chomley’s prior engagement in Melbourne as editor of Arena highlighted his interest in the arts, society gossip, female suffrage and politics, themes he would infuse into the British Australasian after investing in the concern and assuming the role of editor-proprietor.34

Chomley’s house in Ladbroke Gardens became, as Brenda Niall notes, another social centre for Antipodeans, with its owner’s restless temper and radical ideas encouraging a climate there in which anything could be discussed.35 Chomley could certainly debate: in 1905 he published Australian Pros and Cons: A Guide to the Principal Questions of the Day, Giving the Best Arguments on Both Sides.36 Socialism, protection, old-age pensions, vegetarianism: such were the topics carefully considered, with the author just about managing to restrain his passion for free trade in a chapter on the practicalities of protectionism.37 Niall also notes that it was Frances Fitzgerald Elmes, a journalist and novelist, who ‘supplied the professionalism’ of the British Australasian. Her death from influenza in 1919 must surely have shaken Chomley, for Frances, so the gossipers whispered, had borne him two children.38 Elmes’s dedication contrasted sharply with the conditions under which the newspaper was often produced. At the Chomley residence family members took turns at the dining-room table with scissors and paste, and daughters Isla and Francie assisted with the social columns and the reviews of books, concerts and plays that were now so regular a feature.39 Others who worked on the British Australasian during this period included writer Alice Grant Rosman, Spencer Brodney (an assistant-editor and probable theatre critic), Penleigh and Martin Boyd, and Margaret Agnese Baxter (an author of the ladies’ column).40 By the late summer of 1914 Chomley’s newspaper was firmly established as a key component of the Australasian community in London, and Chomley would remain in the editor’s chair until his death in October 1942.

The advent of war brought new readers and gave the paper added importance. Some aspects of the British Australasian’s role during the First World War had been foreshadowed during the Sudan intervention and then later the South African War at the turn of the century. In 1885 telegrams carried news of the Australian contingent to readers; 15 years later the newspaper followed in detail the progress of the New South Wales Lancers, printed casualty lists and advertised ‘the Bushmen’s fund’.41 A sense of greater immediacy and urgency is apparent in the case of the 1914–18 conflict. ‘Phyllis’, the writer of the ladies’ column, described the flight across Europe of sojourning Australasians at the war’s outset.42 The newspaper then charted the swift establishment of the Australian and New Zealand War Contingent Associations and the Australasian Women’s War Club, an organisation that gathered at the British Australasian’s offices.43 Time and again readers were reminded of their ‘soft berths’ in London and asked to make financial contributions.44

Prior to the landings at Anzac Cove, Chomley and his staff followed the movements of the thousands of Australasian troops serving in British regiments. After the landings the casualty lists printed in the newspaper ran to many pages. Later in 1915, Chomley arranged for his paper to be sold to soldiers at half price, an offer greatly appreciated by among others Captain Charles Bean, who wrote in to say that the British Australasian’s arrival was eagerly anticipated at Gallipoli for it contained ‘the only news we get of the wounded who go to England’.45 The position of Anzacs in England, whether wounded or on leave, became a campaigning cause for the newspaper, which agitated for the establishment of separate Anzac hospitals and for greater allowances and more beds to be provided for soldiers on furlough in the capital.46 It also sought Australian government allowances for wives of soldiers serving in Europe, a demand eventually met in August 1918.47 Advice on the suitable use of time on leave was also issued, and in 1916 a handbook followed – The Colonials’ Guide to London: For Anzac, Canadian and other Overseas Visitors – sponsored by the British Australasian and carrying its advertising.48

The Colonials’ Guide was, in part, a response to the perceived rowdiness of Australasian – now ‘Anzac’ – soldiers when in London. Established routines of the expatriate community had been radically challenged by the influx of tens of thousands of troops and accompanying family members into Britain. The British Australasian reflected the degree of anxiety. While Buley, scripting the ‘Overlander’ column during the war, chided Anzac soldiers for their rough treatment of female peace demonstrators in Trafalgar Square (‘it is un-Australian and un-soldierly’, he wrote, ‘to pelt women with yellow ochre’), ‘Phyllis’ criticised antipodean women for their ‘slap-dash, second-rate slanginess’ in conversation with troops.49 By mid-1916 Buley was insisting that new arrivals ‘follow more closely the Anzac traditions’: respect in one’s appearance and wise selection of one’s acquaintances.50

By and large, it seems the influx was welcomed: the pages of the newspaper record private acts of generosity, like the weekly tea parties arranged for wounded Australians by Mrs Rita Fiske and the welcome extended to strangers by Miss Dorothy Brunton and her mother at their London flat, the Digger’s Rest, where an inscription over the door ran ‘Abandon rank all ye that enter here’.51 In the later war years and afterwards the newspaper regularly listed weddings between overseas troops and local civilians.52 But class patterns underwent disruption nevertheless, and at least one reader fretted over the impact upon English perceptions of Australia. Identifying herself an Australian while revealing her own prejudices, Muriel Witmoth wrote in to the British Australasian:


English people are inclined to think of them [the soldiers] merely as Australians, and forget that in Australia, as in every other country, there are various grades in the social scale, and as one should not expect the little delicate refinements of life from a Limehouse dock labourer, so one should not expect it from a Yarra bank labourer or an outback woodsman.53

Here in Brunton’s letter the ‘travelling class’ senses its ‘other’.

‘Australasian’, a term employed with caution in this chapter, had a long-since-forgotten meaning in Britain – and most especially London – of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is worth noting in this regard that a combined ‘Australasian’ team, featuring athletes from Australia and New Zealand, carried off the Davis Cup in 1907 at Wimbledon and competed at Wembley in the 1908 Olympic Games with a specially designed flag. In the minds of the British, ‘Australasians’ (a description which sometimes embraced, as our ‘Australasians in Europe’ list indicates, white colonists from Fiji and New Guinea) were commonly imagined as a unified mass. This possibly accounts for British Australasian’s own title. In a sense the word merely expressed the financial realities and federalising dreams of the period. The Bank of Australasia, for instance, was London based; the Bank of New Zealand, in 1890, had five branches in the Australian states, one in Great Britain and two in Fiji.54 On a few fleeting occasions at the end of the nineteenth century the possibility of New Zealand joining the Australian states in Federation was also raised, and it should be remembered, too, that at the Inter-colonial Convention of 1883 both New Zealand and Fiji sent representatives to Sydney to discuss the New Guinea question.55 As a self-description ‘Australasian’ appeared to present few problems to visiting colonists in late-nineteenth-century London. The 60 gentlemen, for instance, who enrolled in the Australasian Club at its inauguration in 1898, attended smoking concerts thereafter and dined at the Ship and Turtle Tavern in Leadenhall Street, certainly seemed happy with the term, and none was British.56 Except, of course, that they all were, at least in terms of racial sentiment. There was not necessarily any contradiction in being both British and Australian or New Zealander, or even British and Australasian, at this time.

For its part the British Australasian managed to employ both the ‘Australasian’ of its title and ‘Australian’ in a thoroughly slipshod manner. ‘Anglo-Australians’, as a case in point, were told that the British Australasian was essential reading for them, and on one occasion a woman was described as both an Australian and a New Zealander in consecutive sentences.57 As Andrew Hassam notes, ‘Anglo-Australian’ was one of a number of terms, including ‘Anglo-Colonial’, ‘Australian Briton’ and ‘United Kingdom colonist’, used to label Australians (and New Zealanders). He relates this plurality to difficulties in defining the degree of Britishness of those outside Britain.58 The issue was confused further on 6 July 1905 when a hyphen was inserted in the newspaper’s title: a coupling that created a new adjective and suggested a type, just at the instant in the paper’s history when stirrings of Australian nationalism were in evidence, particularly in the summer specials.

Two of those specials present a revealing insight into the contradictions and complexities of Australasia in Britain. There are several possible readings of Will Dyson’s front cover to the British Australasian’s summer numbers of 1910 and 1914 (see Figure 7.1).59 Here we see a stockman – or perhaps a station owner – with stockwhip and cork hat, standing before London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. The posture suggests virility, insouciance, arrogance almost. The figure is master of all he surveys. Or is he? Is it rather that the subject is detached entirely from the scene in the background to which his back his turned, the grey lifeless London with its rolling fog? The flora in the top corners of the composition evokes abundance, the background sterility. Is the figure we see even located in London? Perhaps this image is the visual manifestation of lines from Henry Lawson’s 1900 poem, ‘The Rush to London’:


It may be carelessly you spoke

Of never more returning,

But sometimes in the London smoke,

You’ll smell the gum leaves burning;

And think of how the grassy plain,

Beyond the fog is flowing ...60

Is Dyson’s British Australasian homesick? Or could it be that the figure is entrapped within Paul Carter’s ‘mirror-logic of empire’, able only to discover a true identity once authenticated overseas, and perceiving this identity as Dyson and the newspaper’s Australasian readers would have: coming back to them, second hand?61 How many readers, one wonders, might have glimpsed their reflections in this image?

The stirrings of nationalism, in this instance New Zealand nationalism, ultimately forced a name change upon the British Australasian. In February 1924, after complaints from the High Commissioner for New Zealand, Sir James Allen, the title was altered to the British Australian and New Zealander.62 Allen felt that the New Zealand component was frequently forgotten in the word ‘Australasia’, a claim backed up by the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, not to mention the British Australasian itself. Chomley bemoaned the lack of an adequate term to define his readership, but acquiesced with the request.63 The ‘Australasian’ community had split semantically in two, though of course it had never really existed as a unified whole, a little like the British host society in which the newspaper was based.

Figure 7.1 The Stockman and St Paul’s: Will Dyson’s cover for the British Australasian, summer 1910

Source: British Australasian, 30 June 1910, summer supplement, p. 1. Courtesy of the Newspapers Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Yet the British Australasian reminds us of something essential: that to rediscover Australia in Britain we need sometimes to think of Australasia in Britain and remember the New Zealand contribution. Until quite recently, after all, it was not such a long walk from Australia House to New Zealand House down the road, a location possibly even within earshot of a fully voiced ‘cooee’. In the offices of the British Australasian, a succession of industrious editors charted the rise and fall of the Australasian ideal, and captured the flavour of an increasingly diverse expatriate scene. For settlers and sojourners alike the newspaper functioned as social glue, aiding the establishment of new relationships and keeping readers up to date with developments across the seas. In their British ‘home from home’ many found the newspaper essential reading. Similarly, for the historian the British Australasian is an indispensable guide to the period: an access point into the expatriate community that the newspaper helped bond, and an overview of the key locations in which the community coalesced.



The British Australasian, 2 October 1884–27 June 1888.

British Australasian, Australian Times and Anglo-New Zealander, 4 July 1888–15 September 1892.

British Australasian, Australian Mail and Anglo-New Zealander, 22 September 1892–22 December 1892.

British Australasian and Australian Mail, 29 December 1892–6 July 1893.

British Australasian and New Zealand Mail, 13 July 1893–29 June 1905.

British-Australasian, 6 July 1905–14 February 1924.

British Australian and New Zealander, 21 February 1924–1947.

Australia and New Zealand Weekly, 1948–1965.


1     James, 1985.

2     Woollacott, 2001, 15.

3     Vamplew, 1987, 186.

4     See The British Australian (hereafter BA), 5 May 1887, 412; BA, 1 December 1892, 1370.

5     See Paul, 2004, 64–77.

6     Potter, 2003, 196.

7     Nash, 1869, Money Market Events, and the Value of Securities Dealt in on the Stock Exchange in the Year 1868.

8     Nash, 1890. The Banking Institutions of Australasia: A Reprint of Articles Published in the British Australasian, Australian Times and Anglo-New-Zealander.

9     BA, 2 October 1884, 1; 30 October 1884, 30.

10    BA, 12 May 1887, 433.

11    Pesman, 1996, 23; Hassam 2000, 3.

12    Hogan, 1889, 6, 7.

13    Desmond, 1911, The Awful Australian, 95.

14    BA, 3 November 1910, 34.

15    BA, 22 February 1912, 27.

16    See White, 2005, 89-90; White, 1986, 44; Pesman, 1996, 23.

17    BA, 30 November 1893, 1403; 7 December 1893, 1438.

18    BA, 13 June 1901, 977.

19    Mennell, 1892, The Coming Colony, Practical Notes on Western Australia; BA, 25 July 1901, 1253-1257.

20    From the Strand, the paper moved around the City to Fleet Street, the Wool Exchange in Coleman Street, Finsbury Circus and High Holborn.

21    BA, 7 December 1893, 1430.

22    See BA, 15 June 1911, 20; 22 June 1911, 19. See also Pryke, 2006.

23    See BA, 8 March 1888, 212; 6 July 1905, 6; 25 May 1911, 3; 6 July 1905, 12; 9 January 1908, 3. See also Chomley, 1904, Protection in Canada and Australasia.

24    Woollacott, 2001,102–103.

25    BA, 6 January 1910, 16.

26    See BA, 7 January 1892, 5.

27    See BA, 18 June 1908, 27.

28    BA, 5 July 1906, 8; Niall, 1990, 93.

29    Quoted in Woollacott, 2001, 76.

30    Woollacott, 2001, 77; Australian High Commission, 1929, The Australian’s Guide Book to London, 53.

31    Woollacott, 2001, 77.

32    BA, 24 July 1913, Summer special (includes poems by Barbara Baynton, Will Ogilvie, a short story by Katharine Susannah Prichard and illustrations by Ruby Lind); BA, 30 July 1914, Summer special (includes poems by Alice Grant Rosman and features on Australian art and theatre).

33    BA, 6 January 1910, 11.

34    See de Serville, 1979, 642–643.

35    Niall, 2002, 126.

36    Chomley, 1905, Australian Pros and Cons: A Guide to the Principal Questions of the Day, Giving the Best Arguments on Both Sides.

37    Chomley, 1904, Protection in Canada and Australasia.

38    Niall, 1990, 74–76.

39    Niall, 1990, 72.

40    Edgar, 1988, 454; BA, 11 March 1915; Niall, 1990, 72; Boyd, 1965, 116; Matters, 1913, Australasians Who Count in London, 11.

41    See BA, 14 May 1885, 465; BA, 12 October 1899, 1561–1563; 25 January 1900, 143; 1 February 1900, 259.

42    BA, 6 August 1914, 18.

43    See BA, 20 August 1914; BA, 7 January 1915, 16.

44    BA, 10 September 1914, 9.

45    BA, 28 October 1915, 3.

46    See BA, 1 July 1915, 3.

47    BA, 4 November 1915, 9; BA, 8 August 1918, 3.

48    Manders, 1916, The Colonials’ Guide to London: For Anzac, Canadian and Other Overseas Visitors. See also BA, 4 November 1915, 14.

49    BA, 13 April 1916, 5; BA, 31 August 1916, 21.

50    BA, 27 July 1916, 5. See also White, 1987, 63–77.

51    See BA, November 1915, 26; 22 May 1919, 12.

52    See BA, 5 June 1919, 12 (192 such weddings in a week).

53    BA, 17 January 1918, 7.

54    Nash, Robert Lucas. 1890. The Banking Institutions of Australasia: A Reprint of Articles Published in the British Australasian, Australian Times and Anglo-New-Zealander, 6.

55    See Sinclair, 1987, 90–103.

56    See BA, 9 June 1898, 1176; BA, 16 June 1898, 1305; BA, 27 October 1898, 1944–1996.

57    BA, 6 July 1905, 12.

58    Hassam, 2000, 16.

59    BA, 30 June 1910, Summer Supplement, 1; BA, 30 July 1914, Summer Supplement, 1.

60    Lawson, 1967, 386.

61    Cited in Hassam, 2000, 42. See White, 2001, 109–127.

62    BA, 14 February 1924, 4.

63    BA, 14 February 1924, 4.


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Cite this chapter as: Sleight, Simon. 2009. ‘Reading the British Australasian community in London, 1884–1924’. Australians in Britain: The Twentieth-Century Experience, edited by Bridge, Carl; Crawford, Robert; Dunstan, David. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 7.1 to 7.14.


Australians in Britain: The Twentieth-Century Experience

   by Carl Bridge