Author: Tara Oldfield
Looking for some spare paper for your child to draw on or play cut and paste? Look no further than this... 1901 rate book?
A useful source for family and property researchers, rate books typically contain details such as name, address, occupation of occupier and/or owner, property valuations and brief descriptions of properties.
However, while digitising rate books in our collection last week, volunteers happened upon a Bulleen rate book from 1901. Aside from the beautiful photo of koalas on the front, it at first seemed like any ordinary rate book you'd find in our collection. The inside cover was stamped with an Arnell & Jackson Printers badge and a few pages in were the estimate of receipts and expenditure log. But then, glued between the assessment pages; a cartoon 'The Nark' by Percy Leason, a stunning nature sketch entitled 'Winter' and even a colour photograph of a church gate!
Further in is a 1934 photo of the Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory, a painting of pink and blue hydrangeas, and a picture of a forest of trees. While the book contains numerous blank pages at the back, it is the pages containing rate information that have been pasted over with these pictures.
The pictures all look like they have been compiled by someone who loves art and drawing, not to mention, nature. I assume here that they may have been cut and pasted into the book by a child, however our collection management staff have noted the neatness of each page - perfectly straight, and only one image per sheet, not glued one on top of the other as you might otherwise expect. Whatever the case, it appears someone in the 1930s deemed the record unworthy of keeping, allowing it to be used as a scrapbook.
The rest of the book provides the usual information of name, occupation, and description of rateable property alongside amounts paid.
This record serves as an example of how archival research can provide many unexpected surprises!
Researching rate books
Check out our guide to Rate Records for tips on how to research the collection here.