Candelabra a reminder of a bushranger past

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 31st October, 2014

An impressive sterling silver candelabra centrepiece presented by Australian colonists to David and Amelia Campbell for repelling bushrangers attacking their property on November 19, 1863 is a major highlight of Mossgreen’s Australian & Colonial Antique & Historical auction from 1pm Thursday November 6 at 926-930 High Street, Armadale.

The base has been inscribed with the words “Presented by the Colonists of Australia to Mr & Mrs D.G. Campbell in admiration of their gallant conduct in repelling the attack of the Bushrangers upon GOIMBLA N.S.W. on the night of 19th November 1863”.

Located near Forbes, the Campbells successfully defended their property against the notorious bushranger Ben Hall and his gang.

With his wife’s assistance, Campbell killed John O’Meally before Ben Hall and John Gilbert fled.

The attack was seen as a turning point in the gang’s fortunes because it strongly tipped public opinion against them – since shooting a t a woman was deemed completely unacceptable.

The candelabra is the only known bushranger related presentation made to a woman.

The centrepiece was made about 1862 by London silversmith Thomas Smily and is 72cm high. It has been part of a private museum collection and is accompanied in the auction by several other items including two reproduction portraits of the Campbells, a reproduction picture of the moment Campbell shot O’Meally and several historic firearms.  

Another historic sterling silver item in the auction is a presentation desk from Australian Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton to W. Knightsmith given after his Nimrod Expedition in 1907.

Adorned with two mineral specimens collected by Shackleton’s team on the first successful ascent of Mt Erebus, the set is engraved with the words “Rare Basalt with Olivine Crystal from Slopes of Mt Erebus, Antarctica. W. Knightsmith from E.H. Shackleton as a slight token of appreciation 24th Sept, 1909”.

The auction contains a wide variety of items including a comprehensive collection of stockwhip handles, walking sticks and walking stick handles.

One of the more unusual items is a rare lamp from Australia’s free settler history. The “Candle Lanthorne” was made available to free settlers for their voyage to Australia because compartment lighting was very dim.

The brass label on the lamp is inscribed: “Price Patent Candle Company Ltd, Government Emigrant Ship Lanthorne No 3610, Registered July, 1854.”

The last known example to sell at auction (Mossgreen June 3 this year) fetched $6710 including buyers’ premium.

Another fascinating inclusion is the “Destiny” gold nugget from Ballarat – one of the most significant gold finds in recent years. The nugget was previously displayed at Sovereign Hill Gold Museum where it was valued at more than $500,000.

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