John Joseph Briggs

Melbourne 1820-1875: A Diary by John Joseph Briggs, edited by Philip Heath, was published in 2005.

It is of 246 pages, with coloured endpapers and a colour section, and generously illustrated throughout, not only from the original manuscript, but supplemented with many extra illustrations and information from other sources.

The diary is unusual in that was written consciously for posterity, and generally avoids introspection and reference to Briggs’ own life.

Briggs paints a picture of a proudly self-reliant Melbourne, gradually being brought up to date with new arrivals in the parish such as a brewery (1851), a steam thrashing machine (1851), Gasworks (1853), Christmas trees (1853-4), and the new railway (1867-8). Tales of misery and gruesome accidents pepper the pages, serving as a reminder that for the Victorians death was always close at hand. Fortunately, the darker tales are balanced by many accounts of bright and lively celebrations, such as were held at the end of the Crimean War.

The diary is available from local shops, Ebay and from Derbyshire Libraries.