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Sir William John Clarke Memorial
Sir William John Clarke Memorial

Photographs supplied by Kent Watson

The portrait statue with sculptures commemorates Sir William John Clarke (1831 - 1897), a prominent colonist who contributed greatly to all facets of life in Victoria.

Sir William was one of Victoria’s top stud-breeders, but was also heavily involved in other areas such as the Freemasons, the Legislative Council and the Colonial Bank of Australia. Clarke was a great benefactor and freely gave large sums of money to charitable institutes.

He gave generously to the building funds for St Paul’s Cathedral and Trinity College, and supported several other causes. He was actively involved in many areas of public life and was the first Australian to be made baronet. He died in 1897, stepping from a tramcar in Collins Street.

Following Clarke’s death, a public meeting was held to determine how best to memorialise him. The monument, it was thought, must be ‘of heroic size’ and yet in keeping with Clarke’s modesty. Mackennal sculpted the marble in London in consultation with Clarke’s son-in-law and with the final approval of Lady Janet Clarke.

The memorial, erected by public subscription, to perpetuate the memory of the late Sir William Clarke, was unveiled on the 22nd ultimo by His Excellency, The State Governor, Sir George Sydenham Clark. Rain fell during the whole of the ceremony, to witness which a large number of people had assembled. The Mayor of Melbourne invited his Excellency to perform the ceremony of unveiling a memorial to one of the truest and noblest citizens the State of Victoria had known. It was appropriate that this memorial should be the work of Mr. Bertram Mackennal, who had commenced his career in Melbourne and gained one of the highest positions in art.

His Excellency the Governor said he felt proud and pleased to have the honour of unveiling the memorial of the late Sir William Clarke, who had rendered great and noble service to the State of Victoria. It was a very old custom — and one which he hoped would never fall into decay — of perpetuating in marble or bronze the great services of great citizens. The services of the late Sir William Clarke were many and varied, but there were none perhaps which appealed more strongly to the community than his assistance to the cause of charity. (Hear, hear.) In the present day one found more and more the growing influence and power of wealth. It was in one sense a danger to the community, but they had to remember that wealth has its possibilities for good. In this sense they could not help recalling the will of the late Cecil Rhodes. Sir William Clarke had in like degree devoted his wealth to the good of the people of Victoria, had used it generously and wisely, and earned the gratitude of the people. (Hear, hear.)

The ceremony of unveiling was then performed, and Mr. FizGibbon, on behalf of the subscribers, handed over the memorial to the care of the Mayor and City Council of Melbourne, which trust Sir Samuel Gillott accepted. Sir Alexander Peacock, in moving a vote of thanks to the Governor, said that as a Minister of the Crown he had for some time occupied a room looking over that entrance to the gardens, which was Sir William Clarke's favourite walk. Many people in Melbourne would look on the memorial and remember that on that very spot they had received the assistance of a true humanitarian who did good so quietly that none knew the tenth of it. (Cheers.)
Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW ),
2 August 1902.



Address:Spring Street, Treasury Buildings, East Melbourne, 3002
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.813679
Long: 144.974351
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Sculpture
Monument Theme:People
Artist:Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Tuesday 22nd July, 1902
Front Inscription

To the Hon. Sir William John Clarke, Bart., L.L.D., M.L.C.,

Victoria`s tribute

Source: MA,VMR,ADB
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au