Finding the Viscount Canterbury

From Australia’s Jewish Past:

Finding the Viscount Canterbury


First published in J-Wire March 25, 2021

In January 1870 Harriet Schlossman purchased, for £2, a mining right for Claim No 163, Lot 12, Lower Paddock on the Berlin Goldfield, near Rheola Victoria, on behalf of her husband, Solomon Schlossman and son-in-law John Davis.

Schlossman hired Frank Gallagher, a local miner, to work the claim. Gallagher was paid £1 a week plus 50% of any gold found. Gallagher, in turn, hired Dominick Rendisch as his sidekick, at a rate of 12 shillings and half Gallagher’s share.

Schlossman and Davis ran a public house on the goldfields. Gallagher and Rendisch worked the claim for them for several months, but in early May 1870, after finding nothing of note, Rendisch quit. Reluctantly Gallagher terminated his agreement with Schlossman, leaving he and Davis to work the claim themselves. On May 31, 1870, with the help of two Chinese labourers, Schlossman and Davis raised a gold nugget out of their claim weighing one thousand, one hundred and twenty-one ounces and fifteen pennyweights. They named it The Viscount Canterbury, after the governor, but told no-one of their amazing discovery. Family legend has it that Harriet slept with the nugget under her pillow until the men finally deposited it at The Bank of New South Wales at Inglewood on June 2nd.

hand coloured photograph of Finding the Viscount Canterbury
Finding the “Viscount Canterbury Nugget”, [weighing 94lbs] in John’s paddock, May 31st, 1870 / hand coloured photograph. SLNSW

Schlossman and Davis received an advance from the bank of four pounds one shilling per ounce, amounting to four thousand five hundred and forty-three pounds one shilling and ninepence. However, when the gold was smelted, it resulted in a loss of forty ounces so the men had to refund the bank the sum of sixty pounds, six shillings and tuppence!

A month later, Rendisch sued Schlossman, Davis and Gallagher for a quarter share. But in his deposition to the court, Frank Gallagher affirmed that he had relinquished any claim to further finds in Claim No 163 on May 2nd 1870, and that any claim Rendisch attested to being owed was dependent upon his own, and so null and void. The case was dismissed.

Davis and Schlossman split their share 50/50. John eventually moved to Echuca with his wife Caroline and their young family. They ran a vegetable shop, then a fish shop, as their family grew. Solomon Schlossman settled in Sandhurst (Bendigo) with Harriet and ran several pubs in the town. He invested in more mining ventures but in 1879 was declared bankrupt.

From Australia's Jewish Past is written by Ruth Lilian OAM for AJHS and published weekly in J-Wire. ​