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WC Piguenit

WC Piguenit.jpg

Photo: William Charles Piguenit 1836-1914, Photographer Granville A. Wood

William Charles Piguenit was born in Hobart on August 27, 1836. His father, Frederick Le Geyt Piguenit, had been transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1830. Frederick's fiancee, Mary Ann Igglesden, followed him and they married in Hobart in 1833. Mary Ann set up a school for young ladies where she taught "French, music and drawing". In 1850 William became a draftsman with the Tasmanian Lands & Survey Department. He left the public service in 1873 to devote his time more fully to painting and his oils and watercolours of Tasmanian landscapes soon brought favourable reviews. After moving to NSW in 1880 Piguenit's subjects included the Darling, Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers as well as the Lane Cove River close to his Hunters Hill home. By the end of the century he was regarded as the leading Australian born landscape painter. Piguenit died on July 17, 1914 and was buried in the Field of Mars Cemetery.

Agnes Louisa Piguenit and Alfred Randall

When Agnes Louisa Piguenit married her cousin Alfred Randall they moved from Tasmania to New South Wales where Alfred took up a position as a surveyor with the Department of Railways. They were based at Dubbo but, according to family accounts, Agnes found life in a tent by the railway unsuitable. Alfred Randall offered to build a home for the family in Sydney. Agnes' eldest brother, Augustus Frederick, had died in Hobart in 1859 leaving a widow and two young children. Agnes' sister Emma Mary had married John Gidley Fleming in 1862. Her remaining family were her parents, Frederick and Mary Ann, her brother William Charles, and her sister Harriet Victoria. They arrived in Sydney in early 1880, together with Agnes' niece Mary Ida Piguenit. 

The family lived first in Warren Road Marrickville in a house which they called Saintonge after the French province from which the Piguenit family originated. It was from this house that Harriet married surveyor Gerald Halligan in November 1881. By 1883 the Halligans and Piguenits had moved to Hunters Hill where Alfred Randall bought land from Numa Joubert. He paid for part of Joubert's Figtree Farm estate, and built a large stone house in Avenue Road. 

Saintonge, Hunters Hill

Photo: Saintonge, Avenue Road Hunters Hill, 1885. William Charles Piguenit standing, Agnes Randall, Harriet Halligan and Alfred Randall seated

While this house was being built the families lived for a time in Paraza and Eugowra in De Milhau Road. The Piguenits then moved to a house in Joubert Street called Swiss Cottage (possibly Cliff Cottage) and the Halligans moved to Dacre Villa in Mary Street. In 1887 Gerald Halligan bought a house called Riversleigh in Ferry Street and this remained the Halligan home for many years. 

By 1885 the Piguenit family had moved into the house built by Alfred Randall in Avenue Road. They named it Saintonge. 

It was at Saintonge that Frederick Piguenit died in 1886 and his widow Mary Ann in 1892. They were buried at St. Anne's, Ryde. William Piguenit wrote to a cousin in London following his mother's death. He told her that Ryde was "a quiet little village about four miles from here which everyone tells me is, with its ivy clad church and quaint old buildings, much like an English village." 

Around 1896 Alfred Randall built a smaller house next to Saintonge. This was a stone cottage with a separate studio for William. The house was given a Tasmanian Aboriginal name, Kaoota, and the family lived there for the next few years. 

The big house Saintonge was let but attracted few tenants and the Randalls and Piguenits moved back there around 1902. At that time Randall built a third house, further along Avenue Road. This house was also given a Tasmanian Aboriginal name, Lenah. 

Alfred Randall died at Saintonge in 1912 and William Piguenit in 1914. Agnes Randall and her niece Mary Ida moved to Lenah. Piguenit's sister Emma Mary Fleming took over Saintonge and members of the Fleming family remained in residence until 1974.

Harriet Victoria Halligan (1844 - 1919)

Harriet Victoria Piguenit was born on August 14, 1844 in Campbell Street Hobart, youngest daughter of Frederick Le Geyt and Mary Ann Piguenit. Like her brother William, Harriet was a painter, and is presumed to have taken her first art lessons from her mother. She painted wildflowers, mainly in oils, and regularly exhibited her work from at least 1876. Harriet married hydrographer and engineer Gerald Harnett HALLIGAN on November 3, 1881 at Marrickville. She continued to exhibit flower paintings with the Art Society of New South Wales and in international exhibitions. In 1892 she won a medal at the Colombian World's Fair in New York. 

She died at Hunters Hill on October 5, 1919 and was buried beside her brother in the Field of Mars Cemetery at Ryde. The verse on her gravestone concludes with the words "she loved all lovely things, and from them now her living spirit sings".

Alfred Randall (1831 - 1912)

Alfred Randall was born in Bristol, Somerset, on February 13, 1831. He was a nephew of Mary Ann Piguenit and migrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1853. In 1854 he became a draftsman in the Lands & Survey Department where his cousin William Piguenit was also employed. He was later Director of Water Works for Hobart Town. Around 1878 Randall married his cousin Agnes Louisa PIGUENIT and began a new career as surveyor for the New South Wales Department of Railways. His artistic achievements included illuminated addresses, and a volume of chromo-lithographs of some of W.C. Piguenit's Tasmanian landscapes. 

Alfred Randall died at Hunters Hill on January 15, 1912. Agnes wrote to a cousin with the news of her husband's death, explaining that her brother William felt the loss of Alfred's companionship very much "for they had spent so much of their lives together."

Written by Megan Martin, former Local Studies Librarian, Ryde Library Services, based on Joan Kerr's Dictionary of Australian artists: painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870 (1992), March 1993. The heritage of Hunters Hill (1982) & family information and photographs supplied by Mrs. Marjorie FitzGerald.


Last updated on 21 January 2016