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Wilhelmina Logan Stanger-Leaves was the daughter of Thomas and Jane Ranken and was born in Ayr, Scotland, in 1826 and died in Sydney in 1919. She was married in Scotland in 1850 to George Graham Stewart of Bombay, but it seems that her husband died not long after their marriage. By 1859 she, known in the family as Willie, was living with her mother Mrs Thomas Ranken at Kyle, near Marulan, NSW, on the property of her uncle Arthur Ranken. In 1868, she married Alfred Stanger-Leaves (1822-1895) a company manager, and it was also his second marriage. His first wife Maria died in 1865 having borne Arthur seven children who were aged 17, 16, 14, 11, 9, 7 and 6 when he married Wilhelmina and she immediately became ‘mother’. The ceremony for Alfred and Wilhelmina was conducted by the Presbyterian Rev William Ross at Marulan, NSW, on Wilhelmina’s uncle’s property Lockyersleigh. Wilhelmina had no children from either of her marriages.
Alfred had arrived in NSW in 1842 and was involved in various ways in the mining industry, principally in a copper mining and smelting operating on the Island of Kawan, New Zealand, around 1846 until 1851. The ore was mined and smelted on the island and shipped to London via Sydney, and he also exported a minor amount of gold to England. He and his first wife Maria and child returned to England in 1852, returning to Sydney in 1854.
On the amalgamation of the Australasian, Colonial and General Fire and Life Insurance and Annuity Company with the Liverpool, London and Global Insurance Company in August 1854, and the resignation of the resident secretary Robert Styles, Alfred was appointed its secretary. He held this position until 1880 when he resigned and was appointed to the board of directors in which position he continued until his death in 1895. At one time, he was also a director of the Colonial Sugar-refining Company (1870-1880, 1882-1883). In 1892, Alfred built The Rift at Bowral on a property of 20 acres which was described as having been erected by Alfred ‘regardless of cost, and with mature judgement and excellent taste”. Alfred had become a wealthy man and on his death in 1895 his estate was valued at £52,000 ($7.88M current value) with shares in excess of £23,000 ($3.50M current value).
Wilhelmina’s marriage to Alfred granted her a social standing that she would use to good effect in promoting her philanthropic interests. She appears to have had the contacts and social standing required to persuade the wife of various Governors to be present or to chair meetings or open a garden party for causes in which she was involved. The name ‘Stanger-Leathes’ sounded somewhat pretentious and perhaps went down well in ‘fashionable’ circles. It was derived from Alfred’s family background for when his ancestor Thomas Leathes died in England in 1806 his estate, consisting mainly in Lake Thirlmere in Cumberland, was entailed away to his cousin Thomas Stanger who changed his name to include that of his beneficiary and so the family became known as Stanger Leathes. It would appear, however, from two anecdotes in the Bulletin, that Alfred, at least, much preferred to simply use Leathes. Firstly, according to the Bulletin:
The late Edward Deas-Thomson, before his knighthood, was a director at Sydney of the Liverpool and London and Global Insurance Co., [sic] at which Alfred Stanger-Leathes was secretary. At a board meeting one day, Mr Thomson said “Mr Leathes ___ “ “I beg your pardon. Mr Thomson, my name is Stanger-Leathes” “And mine,” quoth the ex-Imperialist, “is Deas-Thomson.’
The Sydney Female Refuge Society (SFRS) is an important and major example of philanthropy which falls on at least three points of the philanthropic spectrum being philanthropy as improvement, as relief and as spiritual engagement (See What is Philanthropy?). The SFRS was formed on August 21, 1848, with the Motto ‘GO, AND SIN NO MORE’. Its formation, which was probably patterned on similar overseas institutions such as the Magdalene Society of Edinburgh, arose out of the concern
that some hundreds of unhappy females were crowding the streets and lanes of the populous city, the disgrace of their sex, the common pest of Society, and a reproach to the religion we profess, but which had not led us to attempt anything for their improvement.
The SFRS objectives were
the reclaiming of unfortunate and abandoned Females, by providing them with a place of Refuge in the first instance, and, after a period of probation, restoring them to their friends, or obtaining suitable employment for them.
The three aspects of this philanthropy are clearly seen in its objectives. Prostitutes and women who found themselves pregnant and abandoned were given a place of refuge (relief), restoration to friends, but importantly where at all possible also to God (spiritual), and they were also given employment such as washing and needlework, and positions with families found for them (improvement).
The labour of the residents of the refuge was rated according to market value. A small proportion was deducted as a weekly charge for board with the balance, contingent upon good conduct, being handed over to them on quitting the institution. In contrast to its Scottish equivalent, there was no uniform, but simple appropriate clothing was provided by the Institution as necessary. Nor did the SFRS, unlike its Scottish equivalent, shave the heads of the inmates to discourage absconding and the daily work schedule was less than the ten hours in the Scottish Asylums. Strict privacy was to be maintained with the names of the inmates not passing beyond the committee and the matron and not being divulged to anyone unless they had a legal right to know. The SFRS conformed to a common model among nineteenth century charities with a separate ‘ladies visiting committee’ and a ‘gentleman’s committee’ of management.