Peter Bowden aka Peter St Albans

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What a fascinating journey of questions, doubts, research and discovery!

Dr Andrew Lemon presented the Don Grant lecture at the Family History Feast almost a year ago, but it was only last weekend that I finally had time to listen to this fascinating presentation and give it the attention it deserved.

To precis it here would not do justice to Andrew’s presentation – to appreciate it to the fullest you should download the podcast from the State Library of Victoria’s website.

It is the story of Peter Bowden, also known as Peter St Albans – an alias acquired from his association with James Wilson and the St Albans stud at Whittington in Geelong.

I must confess that when I had listened to and absorbed the presentation in its entirety I hastened to my Geelong and District web site to see if I had also fallen into the trap of repeating the “story” behind Peter St Albans’ origins!  Thankfully I hadn’t.  The local references I have found certainly support Andrew’s research and hopefully there may be a few that are “new” and can be passed on to support Andrew’s conclusions.

It was pleasing to find references in two local publications that adhered to the facts and did not expand to include the “popular story”.

Brownhill’s The History of Geelong and Corio Bay published in 1955 …

The rider of Briseis in the Melbourne Cup [1876] was Peter Bowden, who was popularly known, because of his association with the St Albans stables, as Peter St Albans.  He died at the home of his father-in-law, William Ryan, at Breakwater, Geelong, in July 1898.  Remarkable testimony of the popularity of the jockey was given at the funeral to the Eastern Cemetery, which was attended by sporting men from Melbourne, Ballarat and other places besides Geelong.  There were 50 vehicles in the funeral procession. [p.524]

In Painters of the past: colonial art and Geelong, published by the Geelong Art Gallery in 1991 …

Frederick Woodhouse 1820-1909 [ … ] In his painting of Briseis, Woodhouse included portraits of the horse’s jockeys, Tom Hales (seated) and Peter Bowden, better known as Peter St Albans.  Hales was Briseis’ usual jockey but, on being placed on Feu d’Artifice in the Cup, was replaced by St Albans, who rode Briseis to victory with Hales coming in second. [p.50]

Give yourself a treat and listen to the podcast!

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