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Jane Cannan's delicate sketches of mid-nineteenth century houses are collected in Australia's National Library and the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, but who was she? From a cosmopolitan background, and growing up in England's literary Lake District, Jane escaped a tedious life of provincial spinsterhood by marrying a younger Scotsman with a posting to Australia. His firm, Morewood & Rogers, was one of several exporting ingenious prefabricated iron buildings to Britain's colonies. Jane's lively letters describe her journey to Melbourne by sailing ship, her reactions to seeing a city grow amid the turbulence of the gold-rush, the pressure on young men from 'distressed' middle-class backgrounds to make their fortunes in boom and bust times, and her experience of life in a tiny corrugated iron house. Jane's drawings record contemporary buildings and vistas, capture a stalgia for picturesque, rustic cottages during a time of upheaval, and anticipate the new world of suburbia.
Crescy Cannan has a long interest in environmentalism and has published on social history and community issues. Descended from Jane Cannan and with Australian family ties, she has spent four years locating her drawings and papers and deciphering the tiny scrawl of the letters. She lives in Devon and is working on wildlife gardens in France and England.