W.C. Brooker

PRG-1316-3-481During the Covid Shut down I decided to explore some of my uncharted Family history.  My paternal Grandma was Ellen Brooker.  She came from a large family.  There were quite a few Brookers going back to her great grand father William Brooker who arrived in South Australia aboard the Caroline in 1855.  Grandma’s fathers cousin was also a William Brooker, William Charles Brooker, and a Church of Christ minister.  He had married Grandma and Grandpa back in 1932.

I was greatly surprised to discover the State Library has a large collection of material from W.C. Brooker.  According to the archivist there is over 19 meters of shelf space.  Most of this consists of glass plate photographs.  Here is the description of the collection:

“Amateur and commercial films, glass plate negatives and lantern slides taken or collected by Pastor W. C. Brooker, long-serving minister of the Church of Christ in South Australia, most notably in Queenstown, renowned for his use of innovative evangelical methods. Local material in the film collection, which is exclusively 9.5mm Pathe film, features Port Noarlunga locations. The mass produced films include comedy, tourism, natural history and religious titles. Also includes correspondence, certificate from St. John’s Ambulance, newspaper cuttings, biographical information pamphlets and an advertisement designed and printed by Pastor Brooker. Also, letter from William Brooker to British Prime Minister Lloyd George. Also includes a listing of all the glass plate negatives/lantern slides in the group.”

I was intrigued to see what William Brooker had to say to Lloyd George and asked the archivist to show me this document.  After a couple of weeks I received an e-mail on the 6th March 2020.

“Hello James

I am responding to your question about the whereabouts of William Brooker’s letter to Lloyd George. I handed the query to one of our archival team to pursue, and they searched in multiple potential locations – unfortunately with no luck. The item is now designated as missing, and the catalogue record will be updated to reflect this.

I’m sorry we couldn’t help you on this occasion, but ask that you contact us again with future queries.

Yours sincerely, Tonia Bradstreet. Customer Contact Librarian”

Many of the photographs are digitized and include detailed descriptions and are searchable through the State Library Web page.  Uncle Bob tells me that they are lucky to have anything.  After William’s  death the entire collection was dumped on the footpath to be taken by passers-by.  Obviously some unknown person saw their value and donated them to the state library. Here are a few examples of his work,


A young sailor, Roy Clarence Vayne, wearing a cap with the band H.M.A.S. Tingira posing in a studio by leaning against a balustrade with his arms crossed.  HMAS Tingira was a training ship operated by the Royal Australian Navy between 1911 and 1927.


William Charles Brooker developing film in his darkroom.


A group of women with sun umbrellas and a young child sitting on the beach at Largs Bay, with the Largs Pier Hotel behind them.


Queenstown Church of Christ football player having his injured ankle attended to.


Photograph taken from next to site of South Australian Hotel looking across and up the road to Parliament House. There is a car in the foreground.  Note the water damage in the top left hand corner.


Steamer being pulled by a tug, possibly at Port Adelaide, with two large steamships tied to the wharf and two tall masted sailing ships to the right.


Two steam locomotives pulling coaches over a trestle bridge in the Adelaide Hills.  I have no idea where this bridge would be.  Possibly replaced by an embankment and culvert by now.

The photographs cover every aspect of his life from his work place in Rundle street, the family, family outings, his home, the wharves at Port Adelaide, Port Noarlunga, the Adelaide Hills, the church, his car, boating trips, football and tennis players, photographs of Military personnel, from the battle fields, from the Royal visit of the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII visited in 1920) and so on.  The photographic work alone is strongly autobiographical.  It tells the story of the colony in the early 20th Century.

So in answer to Ray’s question, it is just possible that a poor misunderstood hobbyist photographer in the families past might turn out to be highly collectable and appear in the state library for their historical and artistic values.

Here are a few more images to peruse;