Joseph Jenkins, a Welshman, stayed at Maldon for ten years tending to the gutters which are now a historic feature of our town.
The three Australian faces of Joseph Jenkins: Swagman, rural labourer and man of letters.
“The story of Joseph Jenkins is one of the more curious tales of our history. A meticulous diarist, he comes to Australia from his homeland of Wales in 1868, and spends 25 years here as a swagman, street-sweeper, miner, farmhand and poet.”
Joseph obtained regular employment in 1884 as a cleaner of streets and drains in the town of Maldon, a few miles north from Castlemaine.
He remained here working until he reached the age of 76 and became homesick for Wales. Having saved the fare, he departed Maldon by rail on 23 November 1894, and embarked on the ss Ophir which docked at Tilbury docks on 5 January 1895.
Joseph Jenkins Plaque at Maldon Railway Station
In 1994 a water drinking fountain and a plaque were erected at Maldon railway station to recognise the centenary of Joseph Jenkins’s departure and his unique record of the life of a rural worker in Victoria.
This is the Maldon Athenaeum Library. The site has operated since 1863, however much of the building currently seen was built in the mid to late 1930s as the original building was mostly destroyed by a fire.
The building currently houses the Maldon Athenaeum Library and rooms are also the home of the Maldon RSL.
From the Maldon Athenaeum Library website:
The Maldon Athenaeum Library is located at No. 97 High Street, adjacent to the Post Office, and across the street from the historic Holy Trinity Anglican Church.
The Library is housed in the second building to be erected on the site (the first, dating from 1863 having been destroyed by fire in 1932).
The site originally was the location of the Mechanics Institute established in 1863. The Athenaeum Hall at the rear of the library was built as a billiards saloon at some stage before 1905. During the 1920’s through to the 1930’s the noise and behaviour of patrons caused some concern. On Sunday, 30th July 1935 a fire broke out destroying part of the building.
The general Maldon community was behind the rebuilding of the Athenaeum and before a year had elapsed funds had been speedily raised locally to erect the present brick building. The Athenaeum never stopped operating as temporary rooms were made available until the new building was completed. The present building is “owned” by the people of Maldon and administered by a Committee of Management under the umbrella of the State Government’s Department of Sustainability & Environment. The land is Crown Land.
The local RSL has used the Hall as a clubroom for many years and shares it with the Library and other local groups.
There was a period of gentle stagnation when the population of Maldon dwindled after WW2 but a handful of far-sighted people kept the Library open when all other Mechanics’ Institutes in country towns were closing their doors. Thanks to these few, the Maldon Athenaeum is now only one of six Mechanics’ Institutes still operating as a library.