Marius Sestier and Henry Walter Barnett filmed these scenes at the 1896 Melbourne Cup Carnival, producing one of Australia’s oldest surviving films. It made a significant impact when screened around the country throughout 1896 and 1897. Audiences cheered and clapped when the Cup winner Newhaven appeared on the screen but the many famous faces recognised in the crowd also entranced audiences, a forerunner of today’s social pages.
Over a century later these faces are anonymous but using contemporary newspaper and social page reports to identify the famous faces we discover who’s who at the 1896 Melbourne Cup Carnival.
The 1896 Melbourne Cup Carnival was hailed as the best possible Melbourne Cup to have been filmed first. Colour and vibrancy had returned in the fashion stakes after the past several years of economic depression and punters gained generous wins at the expense of the turf agents when Newhaven won both the Derby and the Cup.
Immediately recognisable on the Lawn near the bandstand are high profile theatrical stars Brough Company leading man George Titheradge in top hat, with company director and leading lady Elizabeth Brough. Will they be watching themselves on the screen at the Cinématographe Lumière soon?
A moment later Titheradge and Brough, who wears the stewed rhubarb pink and green striped gown and French-style hat from the first act of their play Mrs Ponderbury’s Past, are joined by Lily Titheradge, dressed all in white. Only 18 years old, and ‘with a smile like a gleam of sunshine’, Lily has just followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the Brough Company. In conversation with them is Falk studio photographer Henry Walter Barnett, co-producer of these Cinématographe Lumière films with Marius Sestier.
At Tuesday’s Cup Lady Brassey’s gown, shot silk of silver and turquoise, shimmered in the sunlight. The bodice of turquoise chiffon with ivory lace frills was set off by a corselet of grey velvet. Toque with coquillé bows of turquoise chiffon were edged with black velvet ribbon and finished with pink roses. Lord Brassey, just ahead of her, takes the presence of the Cinématographe Lumière in his stride. On her left is the Governor of Western Australia Sir Gerard Smith.
In the traditional Cup colours of black and white is Viscountess Hampden, over Lord Brassey’s right shoulder. Her husband, the NSW Governor, was unable to attend due to an injury. Just to her left shoulder is Lady Smith, her face almost obscured by her fancy parasol.
The always elegant Mrs Freeman-Thomas, daughter of Lord Brassey, did not disappoint in her superb gown of cream and white. She and her husband Captain Freeman-Thomas recently returned from a tour of West Australia.
The Earl of Shaftesbury’s sister Lady Magheramorne, who was regarded as the belle of this year’s vice-regal party, gives a gracious smile to the Cinématographe Lumière. Beside her is Miss Smith, daughter of Lord and Lady Smith.
Oblivious to the camera the Hon. Randolph de Vere Capell, private Secretary to Lord Brassey and brother to Lady Sybil Brassey, sports a sprig of wattle in his lapel. Beside him is Captain Freeman-Thomas, 1st Marquess of Willingdon, aide-de-camp and son-in-law to Lord Brassey.
1896 Melbourne Cup (1896)
Producers: Marius Sestier and Henry Walter Barnett
NFSA title: 6071.
Read Sally Jackson’s blog about researching the 1896 Melbourne Cup.