Henry Richards Caselli-President 1874-1884

The club added again to its fleet this season an eight-oared outrigger boat one of the first clubs in Victoria to have an eight, and an out-rigger sculling boat. The use of eight-oared boats didn’t really become commonplace at regattas until 1877 but this meant both for training and racing the club could now boat eights.

The club had a very busy and successful season winning eight out of the fifteen events competed for. At the Geelong Regatta and Melbourne regatta of 1875 the crew of Messrs. Giles, Crampton, John Stout and Gibbs won the Senior Fours-that being all the senior Fours for the season.


In the Intercolonial race of 1874 held on September 26th on the Parramatta River, NSW, Zachariah Giles stroked the Victorian crew that also had two Ballarat Rowing Club men, Kickham and J. F. Eddington. Mr. Crampton, who competed so brilliantly in the City four in 1873 was also selected in the Victorian crew however due to work commitments he was unable to go. If he had been able to go the Victorian four would have been an all Ballarat crew. The crew placed second place to New South Wales on the Parramatta River. The distance was 3 miles 330 yards and the time 21 minutes 59 seconds. Zachariah Giles was the club’s first State representative rowing in the Victorian crew representing the then Colony of Victoria.

In completing his report at the annual meeting in August, the president Mr. Henry Richards Caselli congratulated the club on its successes but expressed a hope that the incoming committee would ‘assist energetically in seeing that the (club) rules were properly carried out, especially in two respects-first to stop the practise of bathing in summer from the jetties of the club and second to stop any attempt at fishing in any of the boats. This dirty practice does more damage than anything else and cannot be too strongly reprobated’. So even then members had to be regularly reminded of the correct use of equipment and facilities!

The club went into debt this season to improve the old boathouse providing more space for boats and extensively renovating the original Alabama shed.

Captain Cazaly closed his report with yet another spirited challenge for the members, that if they (the men) would get out of their feather beds and put footballs aside they would soon have cups on their sideboards. He said they would have double the number of victories next year and he would never be content until he would see one of the big challenge cups on the table.

*The first recorded use of a sliding seat was in 1871 in America in a race between Tyne (England) and an American crew. The Tyne crew subsequently used a sliding seat in England in the autumn of 1871.The London rowing club adopted them in 1872.In Victoria slides had come into fairly general use by 1874 but fixed seat boats were still used for some time. The second crews in the Public schools used them as late as 1901.)


The Caselli family in the late1860’s. Elizabeth(Lizzie) standing on right and Georgiana Henrietta(Georgi) the eldest daughter on the left . Georgiana(Senior) and Henry Caselli seated.

H. R. Caselli became one of Ballarat’s foremost architects in Ballarat and designed a large proportion of Ballarat’s most notable buildings. Henry Caselli was the son of an Italian gentleman and was born in Falmouth, Cornwall in 1816. At an early age he showed a decided proclivity for the sea and in his teens he was indentured for seven years as a naval architect. His interest in all things aquatic was to continue all his life. He showed great ability and invented a new kind of gun carriage the importance of which was recognised by his employer. The employer promptly sold Caselli’s idea to the German navy and profited handsomely from the deal. The young inventor received nothing. It was due mainly to this manifest unfairness that Caselli left his employment. Henry settled in Depford  and worked in shipyards in and around the Isle of Dogs. He married Georgiana Ford on 23rd of September 1841 at St.Pauls Church, Deptford, London.

In 1852, aged 36 he departed England forever having purchased with a group of friends a ship on which to bring their families to Australia. It was called the GAZELLE. They sailed from Southampton and took five weeks to reach their destination-the Port of Geelong. He, his wife Georgiana who was now forty-nine and two young daughters, Georgiana Henrietta (Georgi) aged seven and Elizabeth (Lizzie) aged four also accompanied him.

When he disembarked at Geelong H. R. Caselli was appointed Lloyd’s surveyor until 1854 when adventure and enterprise and the lure of gold bought him to Ballarat. He worked on the Eureka, Pennyweight and Canadian diggings with moderate success. Showing considerable foresight, Caselli felt that Ballarat would become a thriving centre to which he could contribute more effectively as an architect than a miner. Thus he commenced business as an architect in 1860.

He soon had an extensive business and proved his intuition right being ideally placed for the building boom of 1860-70.He designed so many of our public buildings that still stand today as a testament to the man. Several buildings have unfortunately fallen to the hammer of progress. In Sturt Street alone he designed the interior of the town hall, the Myers (formerly the Mitchell) building, the former fire station at the corner of Raglan Street and Ballarat College. He also designed Bailey’s Mansion (St.John of God Hospital) and his own residence at Webster Street and churches throughout Ballarat and surrounding districts.

He was elected to the City council in 1855 and like Daniel Brophy there was hardly a public institution that he did not take an active part in. He was on the committee of the Ballarat Hospital, Mechanics Institute, Orphan Asylum, Horticultural Society and many others. He was also the chairman of the band of Hope and Albion mine and an active member of the Yacht club where he was judge from its inception until his death in 1884. Of course he was the much beloved president of Ballarat City Rowing Club for 10 years from 1874 to 1884, leading it through some of its most successful times. He was also first Commodore of the yacht club which he was instrumental in forming in 1877.It was whilst acting in his capacity as judge for the Yacht Club that he caught a cold. This subsequently led to an inflammation of the lungs. He had long been susceptible to chest infections having regularly visited Echuca for the warmer weather. Sadly he succumbed and died after two weeks. He died leaving his wife Georgiana and a granddaughter Maude Caselli Carty. Both his daughters died young. He was buried at the Old Cemetery, Ballarat. Georgiana died four years later in 1888 aged 87 and was buried with him.

Kent Villa-the Caselli family home in Webster Street in 2012
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