Furniture & Antiques

A Heritage Destination on Ballarat Heritage Weekend – Come Visit Us!!

Ballarat Heritage Weekend is upon us already and what a weekend it is shaping up to be, Saturday is set to pull out all the stops and bring us some sunshine in May!!

Since 2006 Heritage Weekend in Ballarat has proven to be a roaring success, drawing people from near and far to come to our little patch of the world and explore this town so steeped in history, its glorious buildings and all that Ballarat and Surrounds has to offer.

The program this year boasts an absolute jam packed itinerary from ‘Beers through the Years’ exhibition to the Official Dr Blake Ballarat Tours right through to Live Music and the ‘Beard and Stache’ competition.

The weekend really draws on the rich heritage of this regional town and all it has to offer. So in keeping with that theme we thought we would share a little heritage of our own – our shop. Now at first glance that statement may seem a little cheeky, however our gorgeous location has a rich history of its own. Let me take you for a stroll through a window in time to our little shops wonderful heritage.

Smythesdale a Rich Heritage Location

Just a short 15 minute drive from Ballarat CBD is the historic country gold mining town of Smythesdale. ‘Gold was discovered in the Woady Yaloak River at Smythesdale in 1852, which became the centre of the gold rush from the 1850’s to the 1880’s. Smythesdale was the law administration centre for the Ballarat gold-fields at this time. The historic police precinct with its original lock up, stables, court house and original gallows from the old Ballarat Gaol can still be explored.’ (quote from the Heritage Open Spaces Brochure)

Rustic Boutique & the Old Union Bank

As you drive down the main street of Smythesdale you will see that it boasts some fabulous heritage buildings from the 1860’s still intact. From the impressive court house to the mechanics institute hall right through to our little shop at 42 Brooke Street, SMYTHEDALE.

brooke Street

Rustic Boutique is a small local business with a shop front currently situated inside the beautiful heritage walls of the 1860’s union bank of Smythesdale, Victoria. Our small boutique store is a haven of bespoke up-cycled furniture and décor as well as being home to a range of beautifully curated vintage and antique items, home décor, home wares, unique gifts and DIY products.

So in celebration of heritage and history let me share with you the very interesting history of this building that has been lovingly restored to its full heritage glory.

Union Bank

Introducing Joseph Findlay Clapperton & the Union Bank of Smythesdale

In 1854 Joseph Findlay Clapperton, 18 years of age, arrived in Victoria from Scotland. His father William was a 6th generation draper who worked in the firm Clapperton & Findlay in Glasgow, Scotland.

Joseph had been sent to Melbourne to assist in the management of the firm of Crombie, Clapperton and Findlay who advertised their business as ‘ General Drapers, Silk Mercers, Millinery, Dressmaking, Curtains, Table Linens and Ladies Underclothing’ among other things. In 1858 he married Louisa Bell and they had 2 daughters and 3 sons together.

The firm was eventually sold in 1859, after which Joseph joined the Union Bank in Melbourne and was soon appointed the manager of the Smythesdale branch (pictured above) in 1860. By 1865 Joseph had been elected to the Smythesdale Borough Council and was a member of the Smythesdale Mechanics Institute (the original building 44 Brooke Street, next door to the union bank), Prince of Wales Lodge, Volunteer Rifle Club, and the Fire Brigade. Joseph obviously enjoyed a very busy schedule and juggled a variety of duties within the local Smythesdale community, even acting as judge of the Grenville Turf Club meetings. He was also a share holder in a number of mines in the Smythesdale district, his name can be found on the shareholder list of the Roxborough GMC where he is described as being a ‘gentleman’.

According to the record, there were 2 banks operating in Smythesdale in the 1860’s, the Union Bank and the Bank of Australasia. Thomas Ulick Bourke was the manager of the Australasia Bank, he and Joseph took it in turns to travel out to the Woady Yaloak diggings and buy up gold from the miners and deliver cash to the mines. Sadly on the 10th of May 1867 two local men (George Searle and Joseph Ballan) who knew the bank gold run followed Thomas Bourke and shot him at Derwent Jacks stealing the gold. Both men were eventually found out and were arrested and tried for the murder of Thomas Bourke. Both were sentenced to death by hanging and as far as I understand were the first pair to be hung on the Ballarat Gallows (the restored remains of the gallows can be found at Smythesdale).

After managing several branches of the Union Bank in Victoria he was sent on to New Zealand where he worked with the Union Bank till his retirement. Joseph Findlay Clapperton died in September 1902 aged 66.

union bank 1

Source Unknown – The Union Bank of Smythesdale & the Mechanics Hall est late 1800’s

The Union Bank eventually was closed and the building has been sold a number of times. It has been home to a number of shops including antique & collectables store, a mower shop and even a residence.

In 2015 our lovely landlord and owner/operator of the building/business next door (Ruth Howlette Collectables) and long time local purchased the Old Union Bank and had it meticulously and lovingly restored and repaired. Sticking close to the heritage bones of the building they worked hard to restore the old Union Bank to its rustic glory, restoring the full ceiling height, exposing the original brick work and embracing its aged patina. As soon as we spotted the old Union Bank building we fell in love with it. With the restoration works, the building became an absolute visual treasure and when we found out its precious history we were even more proud to have secured such a wonderful location. In November 2015 we were fortunate enough to officially open our first retail store inside the walls of this very old and beautiful building.

Here is a picture of the Bank and what is hoped to be Joseph Findlay Clapperton and his family beside the Union Bank.

union bank 2

Union Bank 1860 – Possibly Joseph Findlay Clapperton & Family

brooke street 1

As pictured, the beautiful big tree that still stands beside the Union Bank building today and is heritage listed.

So if you are in Ballarat this weekend or any weekend really (open Thurs – Sun 10.30am – 4.30pm) why not come out to Smythesdale for a drive and explore this towns wonderful history. Have a meal at the Courthouse Hotel or have a hot drink and light lunch in the cafe (Throo The Gate Cafe) located behind our shop front. Explore the old wares of ’44 Brooke Street’ and don’t forget to pop in to the old Union Bank now known as ‘Rustic Boutique’ and have a look at this wonderful old building and explore our little shop. From vintage wares to home wares to gift wares and DIY products our store is a little haven of treasures.

To explore pictures of a shop click HERE

If you would like to find out more about Ballarat Heritage Weekend click HERE

A big thank you to the local Heritage Association of Smythesdale for providing us with the above information about this lovely town and our much loved Union Bank history.

Happy Herritage Weekend

Adriana x


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