Collingwood Notables Database
Mildred Snowden was the daughter of solicitor Arthur Snowden (later Sir Arthur) and was born at the family home in St Helier’s Street Abbotsford. In later life she wrote reminiscences of her childhood and youth, giving us a rare insight into domestic and social life of the times.
The Snowden house sat on a block of about two acres with land running down to the Yarra. Mildred and her sister Mary Kate, two years her junior, led a privileged life compared to many Collingwood children. They shopped in the city with their mother, sending the bills to Mr Snowden’s office and travelling home in a cab. There were maids, a gardener, a washerwoman and a ‘useful boy’, as well as a governess for the young ladies. Despite this, Mildred wrote that they often felt ‘ordinary, compared to other rich families – muslin dresses, not silks and satins.’ However she describes in detail the variety of dresses and shoes they wore.
Mildred recalled their neighbours and friends. Mr and Mrs Saddler were some of ‘the oldest residents of Abbotsford and highly esteemed’. They were friendly with the Crespin family who also lived in St Helier’s Street (G G Crespin was a Collingwood councillor in the 1860s, along with Snowden). There was ‘nearly always a baby … it was great fun to see baby bathed and take it round in the perambulator’.
They visited the nuns at the Convent of the Good Shepherd over the road. Mildred also mentions the Abbotsford Common School ‘a large bluestone building in Regent Street’ (now Nicholson Street). Church services were held here before St Philip’s Church was built in Hoddle Street, as well as ‘penny readings, tea meetings and political meetings’. Mrs Drake the headmistress was equally obliging in producing new babies for the girls to admire. The Snowden girls, however, once they had outgrown their governesses, attended Mr and Mrs Sampson’s School for Young Gentlewomen in Fitzroy. They then studied more music and singing, travelled to England and the continent, and returned to a gay round of parties and concerts.
The Snowdens were closely involved with St Philip’s and all its activities, and Mildred’s father and uncle were both vestrymen. Mildred married a solicitor from a prominent Northcote family; Demaine worked in her father’s firm and of course the wedding was at St Philip’s. There were nine bridesmaids and the reception was held at the family home where the lovely garden with tennis court was admired. By this date Snowden had assigned the name St Helier’s to his house as the original St Helier’s, built by the Currs, had been demolished.
In 1892 Mary Kate (often called Polly) also married a solicitor but neither daughter lived the ‘happy ever after’ life that they would have expected. Robert Demaine died in 1898, leaving Mildred with five young children, while Mary Kate’s husband Robert Rennick committed suicide the following year. Mary Kate and her son continued to live with her father at St Helier’s until her own death in 1919, while Mildred lived with a Snowden aunt and uncle at Monomeath in Canterbury. Both women were frequently mentioned in the social pages, especially after their father became Lord Mayor, and also involved themselves with charitable work such as the Collingwood Crèche and The Girls Leisure Hour Club.
After Mary Kate’s death, stained glass windows honouring her memory were installed at St Philip’s. They can now be seen at the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement.
|Birth Date||Birth Place|
|Spouse Name||Date of Marriage||Children|
|Robert Alfred Demaine (1856-1898)||23 November 1882 St Philip’s.||Four sons (one died in infancy) and two daughters|
|Home Street||Home City||Status of Building|
|St Helier's Street||Abbotsford||Demolished|
|St Philip's Anglican, Hoddle Street Abbotsford|
|Death Date||Death Place||Cemetery|
|31 July 1941||Canterbury||MGC|
The Argus; Reminiscences and family papers (SLV MS 10748); Cummings, Bitter roots, sweet fruit; In those days: Collingwood remembered.