Eyre Evans Kenny and the Coach photograph
An old photograph
A few years ago we discovered a photograph of a horse drawn coach with an old large building in the background. It was and still is held by descendants of Eyre Evans Kenny, my great great grandfather.
Eyre Evans Kenny (1783-1861) was a Lt Colonel in the British 80th Regiment and after he retired from the army, Eyre and his family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1842. Eyre Evans Kenny’s son Herbert (1849-1927) wrote on the back of the photograph a story to his son Jack Kenny (1895-1946), probably about the time Jack enlisted in World War One in March 1915.
Included is the following – “Your grandfather can be seen inside the coach indistinctly. There are four on the box seat besides the driver – all officers who commanded during the Peninsular War under the Duke of Wellington. I cannot recollect their names but the second from the left is the Duke of Cambridge, but I do not think he served in the Peninsular War, although he was Commander in chief for many years when your cousin succeeded him, under new regulations. Your cousin was afterwards succeeded by Lord Roberts for the following five years.”
The building looks as if it would be situated in England. If it is correct that Eyre Evans Kenny is inside the coach then this photograph must have been taken prior to his departure to Melbourne, that is prior to 27 August 1842. And the earliest date it could have been taken is late 1839 when cameras were first used in England.
Assuming that the Duke of Cambridge is sitting on top of the coach, this raises further questions. The first Duke of Cambridge, Prince Adolphus Frederick, died in 1850 and it was his son the second Duke, Prince George, who was Commander-in-Chief from 1887 to 1895, followed by Viscount Wolsely, then Lord Roberts in 1901. Therefore, is the younger man on the left front, Prince George? Surely this man is too young to have served in the Peninsular War 1807-1814.
Another question is why would the Duke of Cambridge be sitting outside the coach with Eyre Evans Kenny sitting inside? Keeping in mind the period when the photograph may have been taken, 1839-1842, there were two known major events in the life of Eyre Evans Kenny during this period. First was the marriage of his eldest daughter Caroline on 17 February 1842 to Charles Spencer Owen at the Old Church, St Pancras, London. Second was his second marriage by licence to Frances Anne Gray on 5 March 1842 at Edgbaston, Warwickshire.
From the Census taken on 6 June 1841 the Kenny family were living at Lee Crescent in Birmingham. Also from the Census returns Eyre Evans Kenny’s future wife Francis Anne Gray was living at Wellington Road, Edgbaston as a governess. Her father and family were living at Ryland Road, Birmingham.
We have searched lots of images of old English buildings on the internet, especially around Warwickshire. Also there are no buildings like the one in the photograph, in Victoria, especially built before 1861 when Eyre Evans Kenny died.
In early August 2021 we sent an email to the Warwickshire Museum asking if they could identify the building. They passed it on to the Warwickshire County Record Office.
We got a very prompt reply from Amanda Williams, Archivist at the Record Office, including the following.
“It wasn’t a building anyone here immediately recognised, so I started by looking for 19th century country houses around the Birmingham area, and this drew a blank, but on inspecting the image further I noticed a figure in uniform to the left of the frame. Thinking this was a soldier, and because my colleague had picked up on the army connection of the family I started looking at any old photographs I could find of army barracks around Warwickshire and Birmingham. Many of these barracks have been demolished, and most photographs only show one block, so again, I drew a blank.
But another colleague tried Google identification – and she’s found your building. (It is) the Governor’s House, Pavilion Point, Tasmania. It was built in the 19th century, and the same photograph you have appears on their website here.”
Not only that, on the Governor’s website it identifies that the photograph was taken in 1868 during the visit to Tasmania by the second Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred.
The death certificate for Eyre Evans Kenny states that he lived in Tasmania for three years. This appears to have happened in the early 1850s. On 21 April 1852 Eyre Evans Junior started school at the Hutchins School in Hobart. His father’s address was given as Macquarie Street, Hobart. The 1856-57 Melbourne Electoral Roll has Eyre senior back in Melbourne. See Eyre Evans story here.
So why did Herbert write the story above? Had he been told the story by his father? Herbert was only 11 years old when his father died. Maybe the story was told to him by his mother. Or maybe Herbert made up the story to impress his son Jack who was about to go off to war. We will probably never know.
Rosslyn and Grahame Thom (August 2021)