Caricature painting from Tichborne Trials

Arts & Culture

New acquisition expands Museum’s Tichborne collection

Published: 08 Jun 2022 4:26pm

With a touch of luck, a lot of perseverance and the support of the Wagga Wagga & District Historical Society, the Museum of the Riverina has been able to acquire a rare object to add to its significant Tichborne collection.

The Last Man on the Tichborne Jury was painted by well-known British caricaturist and illustrator George Cruikshank (1792-1878).

The Great Tichborne Trials of the 1870s made the town of Wagga Wagga famous all around the world.

'The Greatest Imposter in History'

Local butcher Tom Castro claimed he was the long-lost Sir Roger Tichborne, the heir to a fortune in Hampshire, England. His claim led a Civil trial [1871-1872] followed by a Criminal trial [1873-1874] for perjury in the civil matter.

Drawing of 19th Century butchers shop in Wagga

Museum Curator Michelle Maddison said the trials received extensive coverage in newspapers and journals in the United Kingdom and Australia.

“George Cruickshank is one of those names as a satirical cartoonist who is quite well-known for that era,” Ms Maddison said.

“The Museum of the Riverina’s Tichborne collection includes a carte de visite – a type of small photograph – of the painting which had been originally sold as a souvenir during the Tichborne trials.

“We hadn’t realised the original painting still existed and it was only through good fortune that we became aware it was going to be put up for sale.”

Two men and a woman, who is holding a small watercolour artwork
A GREAT FIND: Wagga Wagga & District Historical Society President Geoff Burch, Museum Curator Michelle Maddison and Charles Sturt University Art Historian Dr Sam Bowker with The Last Man on the Tichborne Jury.

That good fortune came in the form of Charles Sturt University Art Historian Dr Sam Bowker, who saw The Last Man on the Tichborne Jury listed in a catalogue from Jarndyce Books, London, for a sale to be held in New York.

“This popped up and I thought ‘there’s no better place for this than Wagga Wagga’,” Dr Bowker said.

“The Tichborne Trials remain a subject of interest for contemporary artists in the Riverina and beyond and it states something of the place of Wagga Wagga in the global community.”

The Museum of the Riverina and the Wagga Wagga & District Historical Society shared the $8,000 cost to secure the rare artwork.

Wagga Wagga & District Historical Society President Geoff Burch said the society was pleased to support the purchase.

“This event (the Tichborne Trials) was unique in making the name Wagga Wagga internationally recognisable,” Mr Burch said.

“Opportunities to acquire Tichborne collectibles are few and far between. They are rare items.”

Tichborne Trials Figurines

The museum holds a significant collection of Tichborne material, including one of the few sets of plaster figurines created during the Tichborne trials and a full set of the Trial at Bar volumes, which belonged to the claimant’s Wagga Wagga based solicitor William Gibbes.

It is also home to the large painting of the trial which belongs to the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery collection and hangs in the Historic Council Chambers.