The Fiander Connection with Cheltenham

Letterhead for Mary Ann Fiander’s drapery business at Cheltenham.

Courtesy:Zoe Ratcliffe

On 23 June 1887, a young, newly married English couple, Charles Joseph and Mary Ann Fiander, arrived in Melbourne on board the steam ship, Chimborazo.

Born on 8 August 1864 at Mile End in the East End of London, Charles Joseph Fiander was the son of Charles Fiander, a blacksmith and his wife Ann (nee Beard). By the time he turned fourteen both his parents had died, leaving him and his siblings in the care of other family members. In 1880 at the age of fifteen, Charles was apprenticed to an engraver in Whitechapel, and for five years and eight months, he learnt his trade. Like his father, Charles worked with metal but it was more commemorative and decorative work, used to engrave memorial brasses mounted in churches. It may have appealed to Charles's artistic nature. His descendants know that he had an artistic streak. Some of his artwork survives and is still in their possession, including small landscape pictures, still life drawings and a few anatomical and cartoon-like sketches. 1

Mary Ann Fiander in 1905 with her sons, left to right, Frederick , Francis, Charles, Ernest and Louis.
Zoe Ratcliffe

On 12 April 1887, at the age of twenty-two, Charles married seventeen year old Mary Ann Pimm in the parish church of Huish Episcope in Somerset. Mary was born on 7 August 1869 in Langton Matravers, Dorset, the daughter of John Pimm, a farmer, and his wife Frances Bartlett (nee Hallett), who were living at Huish Episcope at the time of her marriage. A month after they were married, Charles and Mary boarded the Chimborazo, bound for Melbourne. They first settled in Richmond where two sons, Charles Comyns and Ernest John, were born.2 In 1891, the family rented a house and farm of ten acres on Dalgetty Road, Beaumaris.3 Three more sons were born at Beaumaris, Frederick (Fred) Pimm, Louis Godfrey and Francis (Frank) Joseph. 4

Charles ran his engraving business in Richmond and later on Bourke Street in the city. A public example of his work can still be seen in Melbourne at the St Paul's Anglican Cathedral. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1891, within four years of Charles's arrival in Melbourne. There are many memorial brasses lining the aisles of the nave, 5 and Charles Fiander may have worked on a number of them 6, although only one has been definitely attributed to him. At the back of the nave, in the eastern aisle, is the memorial to George Joseph Guillaume who died in April 1892. This elaborate brass, with its traditional manuscript style and decorated borders, has the name "C J Fiander" engraved in small letters in the bottom right hand corner.7

In August 1894, Charles Fiander was suddenly taken ill with meningitis and died soon afterwards at the age of only thirty. He was buried in the Cheltenham Cemetery on 23 August, the day he died, with the vicar of St Matthew's Church of England at Cheltenham, Reverend Alfred Caffin, conducting the burial service.8 Nearly seven years later, a plaque in memory of him was unveiled in the St Matthew's Church at the end of the choir stall. Made of "burnished brass on a polished black marble base", the decorative art metal work is Charles's own work, although it was not originally intended for use as his own memorial. 9 It can still be seen in Cheltenham today in what is now the old parish church of St Matthew's.

Three examples of Charles's engraving work have remained in the family. Perhaps the most striking piece is an engraving of half a chessboard, boldly decorated with leaves, grapes and flowers. It was said that he had intended to complete the other half of the chessboard, but for his death.10 Two scrapbooks containing pictures of memorial brass engravings, which may have been a catalogue of ideas for Charles Joseph's own use and for potential customers to view, also still survive. These items as well as his pictures and drawings leave a remarkable family legacy of a man whose life was cut so suddenly and tragically short.

Mary Fiander, who gave birth to her youngest son nine days after her husband's death, was left a widow at the age of twenty-five, with five sons under the age of seven to support. On 27 October, a local newspaper reported that the Mentone Wattle Club had given an "entertainment" in the Mechanics Hall, Cheltenham to raise money for Mrs Fiander, a widow "in reduced circumstances", at which over £7 were raised on her behalf.11 But Mary endeavoured to make her own living to support her children. By 1896, she had opened a drapery and general outfitter shop on Charman Road, Cheltenham, providing millinery, dressmaking and later practical tailoring, and stocking clothing and footwear with special lines in men's and boys' clothing, an expedient choice for a woman with five sons. In 1900, she opened a second branch of her drapery business on Main Street, Mordialloc, with the new shop being run by her younger brother, John Burnham Pimm, who had also settled in Victoria. 12

While the Fiander boys were growing up, they had a working mother and they took on responsibilities at a young age. A family story tells of one of their chores which was taking it in turns to leave school at lunch time or the afternoon recess and go home to put their tea on, so it would be cooked in time for their evening meal. The family lived in Cheltenham and attended the St Matthew's Church of England, where the Fiander boys sang in the choir. 13

Local newspapers of the time also reveal that Mary Fiander supported and participated in community activities, including sitting on the working committee of the Cheltenham Mechanic's Institute bazaar organised in 1896 to raise money for the institute, and co-running a stall at the bazaar selling "dress and underclothing". She also collected for the Queen's Shilling Fund in 1897, and participated in a working bee at the St Matthew's Church to prepare the church grounds for the opening of the new chancel in 1905. 14

Early on Thursday morning, 21 February 1901, Mary shut up her Cheltenham shop on Charman Road to join many others in the district at the Market Gardeners' and Fruit Growers' annual picnic. The picnic was held in the Geelong Botanical Gardens, and presumably her five boys went with her. A holiday had been proclaimed in the Moorabbin Shire that day for what must have been a significant event, given that fruit and vegetable growing was a major industry in the shire. At midday two passers-by noticed smoke coming from the kitchen of the shop and raised the alarm. The fire was quickly put out with a deluge of water. The ceiling and walls were damaged but fortunately this was covered by insurance. Two days later, Mary Fiander and her brother published a public notice in a local newspaper thanking those who had so "swiftly and efficiently" extinguished the fire, preventing it from destroying the Charman Road block of wooden shops. 15

The Fiander boys are also to be found mentioned in local newspapers. They must have provided plenty of potential members for local sporting teams. Local newspaper sport reports mention Fianders playing cricket and football. One newspaper report in October 1903 listed three Fianders as part of the Cheltenham Juniors cricket team to play at Cheltenham one Saturday, two in the team and a third down as an emergency player. However, "C. Fiander" appears most often in reports, playing cricket for Cheltenham, which is likely to have been Charles, the eldest of the five Fiander boys.16 Other activities they can be found participating in are the celebration of the first anniversary of the Cheltenham Division of the Junior Sons and Daughters of Temperance Hope society, an organisation which provided medical attendance and medicines to its contributing members, as well as financial support in times of sickness and death. At the concert held in December 1904, Louis (aged twelve) and Frank (aged ten) sang a duet entitled "The Merry Boys". Also, in a September 1907 newspaper was a report of a very successful invitation night by the Boy's Club to the Girl's Guild in the St Matthew's Sunday School Hall, at which, as part of the entertainments, seventeen year old Ernest Fiander gave a humorous recitation. 17

Mary Fiander ran her drapery business in Cheltenham for eleven years and became well known in the district, but in 1908, both her drapery shops were declared insolvent and the stock sold off to pay creditors.18 She left Cheltenham soon afterwards, and moved closer to Melbourne. In 1915, she married Frederick Cranch Tricks, a widower and Melbourne stock and share broker, and they lived at Frederick Tricks' home in Armadale. Having raised and supported her children for years on her own 19, Mary then secured her future in a more traditional way for a woman of her time.

But her earlier venture into the clothing industry in Cheltenham, as a young widow and mother, began a family vocation. Four of her sons would follow her lead and earn a living in the clothing or footwear industries. Her two eldest sons left Melbourne for Sydney, where Charles became the proprietor of a clothing manufacturing business, while Ernest ran a shoe store. Her third son, Fred stayed based in Melbourne and worked as a commercial traveller, selling clothing in country towns in Victoria and New South Wales. Her youngest son, Frank established a clothing manufacturing business in Flinders Lane, operating first in partnership under the name Fiander & Blewett Pty Ltd, as a manufacturer of mantles, costumes and frocks, and later as F J Fiander Pty Ltd. 20

While her departure from Cheltenham appears to have ended her family's residence there, Mary's connection with the district was not forgotten. When her fourth son, Louis, was killed during the Lone Pine battle at Gallipoli in August 1915, she arranged for a memorial brass in his memory to be mounted in the St Matthews Church in Cheltenham, under the one for his father, Charles Fiander. Louis was initially reported as missing after the Lone Pine battle and it was not until nearly a year later, that it was concluded that he must have been killed in action during the battle. He is commemorated on the Lone Pine memorial at Gallipoli, but has no known grave.21

Grave of Charles Joseph and Mary Ann Fiander in the Pioneers Cheltenham Cemetery, 2009.

Zoe Ratcliffe

After Frederick Tricks' death in 1928, Mary continued to live in Melbourne until her death in St Kilda, on Christmas Day 1946, aged seventy-seven. She was buried in the Old Cheltenham Cemetery with her first husband, Charles Fiander. The grave’s headstone also remembers their son Louis, killed at Lone Pine. Although she died as Mary Ann Tricks, there is nothing on the headstone to indicate this; she is described only as the wife of Charles Joseph Fiander.22

Ultimately all the descendants of Charles Joseph and Mary Ann Fiander left Melbourne. Their sons, Charles and Ernest, lived the rest of their lives in Sydney. In 1926, following the death of their third son, Fred, his widow, Beatrice, and his two young daughters, Naomi and Shirley, left Melbourne and settled in Adelaide. Naomi and Shirley Fiander were the only grandchildren of Charles Joseph and Mary Ann Fiander, and most of their descendants still live in Adelaide to this day. Frank Fiander too, after winding up his clothing business in 1953, left Melbourne and retired to Queensland. 23

New Organ at St Matthew’s Anglican Church Cheltenham, dedicated in memory of Mrs Mary Ann Tricks formerly Mary Fiander. From left: J McKnight, Claude Simpson, Mrs N Ratcliffe and Miss S D Fiander grand-daughters of Mary Fiander, and Rev George Lucas, vicar. 1964.

Another lasting legacy of Charles and Mary Fiander's family in Melbourne can be found not at Cheltenham, but at Syndal. In about 1905, Mary bought at least twenty-five acres of land, east of Melbourne, in the area later known as Syndal, on what was then a rural property. After her death, most of her estate was inherited by Frank, her only son to outlive her. By then the Glen Waverley railway line had been extended across the property, with the Syndal railway station built on the land. Frank subdivided the land and the subdivisions were auctioned for housing and shops as part of the new suburb of Syndal. Frank must have named the streets for the new development. These streets still bear the names of Fiander Avenue, Pimm Court, Tricks Court and Shirley Avenue. There was also a Mary Street on the original plans, named after his mother, but now known as Matthew Street. 24

When Frank died in Queensland in 1958, his will included a legacy to the St Matthew's Church in Cheltenham, for a memorial to his mother. He requested that the memorial be of a permanent nature and not used for repairs or painting. The church purchased an organ, made by the organ builders Davis & Laurie Pty Ltd of Moorabbin, and on 31 May 1964, Mary's granddaughters, Naomi and Shirley travelled from Adelaide, to attend the organ’s dedication service in memory of their grandmother.25 It is the same church with the memorial brass which remembers Mary's husband, Charles Joseph Fiander. While the Fiander connection with Cheltenham was relatively brief, it is an important place in their story, especially for Mary Ann Fiander, who despite being left a young widow facing uncertainty, built a future there for herself and her children.

  • 1. Z Ratcliffe, Voices Heard Here: A Family History, self-published, Adelaide, 2013, pp. 77‐78.
  • 2. Ratcliffe, pp. 79, 80.
  • 3. Rate books, City of Moorabbin, 1891, microfilm copy, VPRS 2348, 1862-1900 [copy of VPRS 583], Public Record Office of Victoria, accessed online from
  • 4. Ratcliffe, p. 80.
  • 5. Ratcliffe, p. 80.
  • 6. Broadford Courier and Reedy Creek Times, 23 February 1894, p. 3.
  • 7. Ratcliffe, p. 80.
  • 8. Charles Joseph Fiander death certificate, Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria, registration no. 8957/1894.
  • 9. Brighton Southern Cross, 8 June 1901, p. 3.
  • 10. Ratcliffe, p. 80.
  • 11. Caulfield and Elsternwick Leader, 27 October 1894, p. 4.
  • 12. Ratcliffe, p. 86; Brighton Southern Cross, 20 October 1900, p. 4.
  • 13. Ratcliffe, p. 86.
  • 14. Brighton Southern Cross, 21 March 1896, p. 3; Brighton Southern Cross, 21 November 1896, p. 3; Brighton Southern Cross, 27 March 1897, p. 3; Brighton Southern Cross, 2 September 1905, p. 4.
  • 15. Brighton Southern Cross, 23 February 1901, pp. 2, 3; Brighton Southern Cross, 16 February 1901, pp. 2, 3.
  • 16. Brighton Southern Cross, 13 July 1907, p. 2; Brighton Southern Cross, 24 October 1903, p. 1; for C. Fiander playing cricket: various newspaper references including Brighton Southern Cross, 13 April 1907, p. 2.
  • 17. Brighton Southern Cross, 10 December 1904, p. 3; Brighton Southern Cross, 21 September 1907, p. 4.
  • 18. Victorian Government Gazette, 11 March 1908, p. 1624, accessed online from; Coburg Leader, 7 March 1908, p. 3.
  • 19. Ratcliffe, pp. 87‐88.
  • 20. Ratcliffe, pp. 86, 88‐89, 94.
  • 21. Ratcliffe, pp. 92‐93.
  • 22. Ratcliffe, pp. 119, 129.
  • 23. Ratcliffe, pp. 89, 109, 115, 130.
  • 24. Ratcliffe, pp. 87, 129‐130, 131.
  • 25. Ratcliffe, p. 130; Service for Dedication of Organ, program, St Matthew's Church of England Cheltenham, 31 May 1964, in possession of the author; Moorabbin News, 4 June 1964, p. 8.
26 May 2021
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