Richard Hutchinson Rennie arrived in Buninyong in the mid 1850's.  Almost immediately he took up his trade of brick laying and building.  He was involved in the building of the original Church of England church in Buninyong, which was completed in 1856 and which is still standing.

He met Jane Riches (nee Stanbury) in Buninyong.  Jane was to become Richard's second wife, and he was to be her second husband.  They came together around 1858-59.

Jane already had three children from her previous marriage to Robert Riches (Early Church records - Church of England Geelong No.547/1853).  Their children were

  • James Samuel Riches - born 1 July 1854, died 1898
  • John Riches - born 3 Feb. 1856, died 26 June 1862
  • Fanny Riches - born 17 Oct. 1857, died 1 July 1928.
See family tree of Richard Rennie and Jane Stanbury

Jane Rennie (nee Stanbury) c1890

The death registrations of Richard (Buninyong Death Registration 12166/1906) and of Jane (Cheltenham Death Registration 5046/1912) indicate that they had nine children.

They are listed as:

Fanny (#)
Jane Alexander(*)
Annie Adelaide

(#) Fanny Rennie is actually Fanny Riches, daughter of Jane's first husband Robert Riches.

(*)  Often spelt Jane Alexandra.  However she was usually called Lillie.


The dates of birth of some of the children of Richard and Jane Rennie have proved difficult to track down. Only three of the eight births appear to have been registered, and estimates of birth dates made from information on death registrations is sometimes inaccurate.

However a most fortunate circumstance occurred which provided in one hit all of the missing birth dates of their children.

One of the great grandchildren of Richard Rennie had in her possession (in 1979) a very worn sheet of paper with a list of names on it, only one of which she could identify - her grandfather.  Each name was followed by a date.  It turned out that this was a list of the children of Richard and Jane, together with their birth dates.  Three of the dates correlated accurately with those birth dates that were registered. It has been determined that the names and dates are probably in Albert Rennie's handwriting. The information on the sheet of paper is shown on the right.

See the sheet of paper


Further information about the birth dates was found in a birthday book that belonged to Jane Alexander Rennie.  Some of these confirmed the dates on the previously mentioned paper list.  However some of them are contradicted by birth dates that were actually registered. For example Fannie's birthdate was in 1857, not 1858 as recorded in the birthday book, and Alfred's birth date was in 1859, not 1860. The dates in the birthday book are shown on the right. 

Richard Rennie was not mentioned in the birthday book list. Fannie's birth date is different by one year to her registered birth date.  Albert's and Annie's birth dates disagrees with the previous list by one day, neither sets of dates can be fully confirmed.

It is thought that the information was written in the birthday book in 1909 by Jane Alexander Rennie. 



The dates of birth listed on the sheet of paper are as follows:
  • Fannie Rennie - 17 October, 1857.
  • Alfred Rennie - 12 November, 1859.
  • Edwin Rennie - 30 November, 1861.
  • Jane Alexander - 29 September, 1863.
  • John Rennie - 30 July, 1865.
  • Frank Rennie - 30 July, 1865.
  • Albert Rennie - 2 September, 1867.
  • Richard Rennie - 26 January, 1870. (See correction below*.)
  • Annie Adelaide Rennie - 28 November, 1872 (From information on Annie Adelaide's Death Registration this should read 1871.)
  • *For Richard Rennie there was a correction made on the paper and two dates, 1879 and 1870 appear.  Also it is believed by some of his descendants that January 28 may be the correct date for Richard's birth.


    The dates in Jane Alexander Rennie's  birthday book are:

    • Fannie O'Regan (nee Riches) - Born Buninyong Colony of  Victoria - 17 October 1858*.
    • Alfred Rennie - Born Buninyong Victoria - 12 November 1860*.
    • Edwin Rennie - Born Buninyong - 30 Nov. 1861.
    • Lilly Jane Rennie - Born Buninyong Victoria - 29 Sept. 1863.
    • Frank Rennie - John Rennie - Born Buninyong Colony of Victoria - 30 July 1865.
    • Albert Rennie - Born Buninyong Colony of Victoria - 3 Sept 1867.
    • Annie Adelaid(sic) Rennie - Born Buninyong 29 Nov. 1871.
    *known to be incorrect.

    Main Rennie family grave in Buninyong


    Richard and Jane were not married until December 5, 1888 by which time both of their previous spouses were 'reported' to have died.  Their marriage registration (Northcote Marriage Registration 6755/1888)  indicates that Richard's first wife Ann Rennie (nee Elstob) died in 1875.  Actually she died in 1890.

    It also indicated that Jane's first husband Robert Riches died in 1886.  However it has been difficult to confirm this. There is a record of a Robert Riches of the correct age dying in the Benevolent Asylum, City of Ballarat in 1899.

    See marriage registration of Richard and Jane (big file)

    Richard and Jane's first child was registered as Alfred Rennie (Buninyong Birth Registration No.2633/1859) and as Alfred Stanbury. Both registrations were given the same registration number. The former registration states that Richard and Jane were 'not married'.  The register was signed by Richard himself as the informant.

    Their second child Edwin Rennie was only registered under the surname Edwin Stanbury (Buninyong Birth Registration 20399/1861).  About four weeks after the initial registration, reference to Richard Rennie as the father were crossed out and the register corrected so that Edwin Rennie became Edwin Stanbury.  The word 'illegitimate' was added to the register.

    The birth registration of their third child Jane Alexander Rennie, also signed by Richard, (Buninyong Birth Registration No.19212/1863) again states that Richard and Jane were not married.

    As far as has been ascertained, no other births were registered after this.

    Information on the death registration of Richard Hutchinson Rennie which indicates that he was married to Jane at the age of 37 must be incorrect.  No such marriage was registered in the period 1854 - 1858. They were not married until 1888.

    See family tree of Richard Rennie and Jane Stanbury

    Annotation inside a copy of the New Testament given by Richard Hutchinson Rennie to Richard Edward Rennie (his grandson), probably during his visit to Western Australia. A similar gift was made to, at least, one other grandson.

    In numerous references from 1859 up to 1898 Richard Hutchinson Rennie was variously referred to as 'bricklayer, of Buninyong' or 'builder, of Buninyong'.  After 1899 he was sometimes referred to as 'contractor'.

    The funeral notice in the Ballarat Star Monday (October 22, 1906) describes him as 'builder and contractor, of Buninyong, formerly of Ballarat'.

    An article in the Country News section of the Ballarat Star (October 22, 1906) titled 'Death Of An Old Resident' describes him as 'a builder and contractor of the first order, and has left behind him many monuments of his skill and labour'.

    A later article in the Fremantle Gazette (August 8, 1936) describes him as 'a well known builder and contractor of Victoria'.

    In 1894 he attained the position of President of the Ballarat Builders Association (it was claimed he was then in his 77th year).  He held that position for one year and was presented with an engraved gold medallion for his services.

    When Jane arrived in Victoria she was initially described as a 'domestic servant'.  Raising nine children would have been a full time occupation.  Nevertheless she was very able with the needle, and there survives a large crocheted antimacassar of fine quality.  It is illustrated with 'David playing a harp' and is dated 1863.


    Richard Hutchinson Rennie was elected to the Buninyong Borough Council in 1870.

    In July 1873 he retired from the council, but on the 4th August 1873 he again nominated himself as a candidate for election as a councillor.

    In the election which was held on Tuesday the 12th August 1873 he was re-elected to the council for another term: polling 117/540 votes.

    The council minutes books indicate that he was on leave from the council from June 1876 for two months.  He was not referred to again in the minutes at the end of this leave, nor at the end of his term as councillor on July 11 that year.

    One notable minute indicates Richard moved in council for a day of eight hours to be inaugurated for council employees. It wasn't passed at that stage.

    In July 1876 he retired from the council. But on July 31st he again nominated himself as a candidate for election only to withdraw his nomination on the 1st August.

    He nominated himself again for election as a councillor on the 2nd August 1881. In the election held on the 11th August 1881 he failed to gather enough support to be re-elected polling only 80/529 votes.

    The article in the Ballarat Star (October 22, 1906)  said 'he took a lively interest in the town and its progress, and was for seven years a councillor'.


    Next on the list is Mr Rennie, who three years ago was returned at the head of the poll, and taking a retrospect view of his career as a councillor we confess we fail to see that he has committed any grave offence to warrant him being rejected when he has again proffered his services. It is not usual to dismiss an old and valued servant when he has conscientiously fulfilled his duties for a new and untried one, therefore we see no reason why Mr Rennie should not again be elected.
    (Buninyong Telegraph - Monday 11th August 1873)

    Mr Rennie was next on the list, and he said it was a matter of congratulation to him to know that he still had the confidence of the ratepayers. He had served them for three years honestly, faithfully, and straightforwardly and he thought to the purpose. He would follow in the same path for the next three years, for their interests were identical. He was glad to see Mr Hedrick at the top of the poll, for he deserved it, and if he (Rennie) served them for fourteen years he should like to see himself in the same position. (Applause) He thanked them for returning him.
    (Response to being re-elected. Buninyong Telegraph - Wednesday 13th August 1873)

    At the Borough Council meeting on Tuesday evening Crs Fowler and Rennie fell foul of each other, and some sharp words were interchanged between them. It appears that the works lately carried out at Coleman's spring have been done by day labour, the Public Works Committee having so decided-and the accounts were laid on the table at last meeting for payment. Cr Rennie, who has been absent for some time up country, remarked that he understood that it was the general practice to call for tenders for such works and considered it should be so in the present case. Cr Fowler thought it was out of place for Cr Rennie to say one word on the matter, for he was absent at the time and therefore had no right to object to what was done during his absence. As to the work in question he was of opinion that it was done cheaper by day labour than it would be if it had been tendered for. Cr Rennie replied that he had perfect right, but when this storm in a tea pot began to assume larger dimensions the Mayor called both councillors to order, and quiet again ruled supreme at the council table.
    (Buninyong Telegraph - Friday 12th March 1875)


    The Ballarat Star in 1906 stated that Richard 'took an interest and was successful in mining, being one of the ten who made some thousands out of the famous Dezosa mine at Scotchmans'.

    On the 17th May 1880 the Desoza Freehold Gold Mining Company began its operations in Buninyong. Richard was elected by the shareholders of the company as the Vice-Chairman of the board of directors, a position he held for six years until the company was wound up on the 9th May 1886.

    The Dezosa mine was on the Hard Hills about two miles roughly south west of Buninyong and adjoining what is called Yarrowee or Scotchmans Lead. Once this was a populated mining area but now only a few houses remain.  There is nothing now to mark the location of the old mine.  The former mining heaps have been cleared away.  The mine shaft is in the corner of a paddock.

    Several of Richard's descendants can recall hearing that he did very well out of the mine and at one time brought home a large gold nugget.

    In December 1882 a disaster occurred at the Australasian No.2 mine at Creswick when the mine flooded killing 22 men. Of the 22 victims 17 were married men, leaving 17 widows, 69 orphans and 5 other families destitute. In response to the plight of these people, a public meeting of residents was called by the Mayor of Buninyong and was held in the council chambers on Saturday the 16th December 1882. At the meeting it was resolved to create a fund for the pledging of donations going toward the relief of widows and children. It was also agreed to elect a committee to carry out the resolutions passed at the meeting. Richard was elected as a committee member and pledged £1 to the relief fund. The total amount collected by the fund being £100.9s.
    (Source unkown at time of publication.)


    It appears that Richard built most of the substantial buildings in Buninyong.

    An article in the Ballarat Star (October 22, 1906) states that the first contract he had was to build in 1856 the old Church of England Church in Scott St. In 1906 it was being used as a Sunday School, and was still used as a hall in the 1980s by the Holy Trinity Church next door. 

    Amongst the other buildings erected by him are the Scots Church, Learmonth St. in 1860, (now part of the Uniting Church) and the National Bank building, cr. Learmonth St. and Warrenheip St in 1860.

    He erected the brick, stone and plaster work on the magnificent Crown Hotel, cr. Learmonth St. and Warrenheip St. in 1884-5.  This hotel dates back to 1842 and is the oldest hotel in the Ballarat district.  An older construction built in 1860 was destroyed by fire in December 1884.

    He had the contract to carry out the brick and stone work on the new Presbyterian Manse in Scott Street, which was built in 1885.

    The new Town Hall and in Learmonth St., which contained the Court House and Council Chambers, was built by Richard c1886.  Its beautiful wooden beam interior is now filled with many historic photographs of Buninyong and its residents. It was built of locally produced bricks, the foundation stone being laid on 30th August 1886 by D.M. Davies M.L.A.

    His work in the construction of Buninyong's State School No.1270 in 1873 is described in a booklet titled Historical Sketch of Buninyong's Schools Before 1873 and How State School No.1270 Began (published in 1973 to celebrate its centenary).  Although Richard is named as William Rennie, the correspondence clearly indicates that it was built by Richard, he being the only Rennie who was both a Builder and a Councillor at this time.

    The building of the school was recommended in March 1873 and was tendered for by Richard in November 1873 at nearly 3000 pounds.  Work started in December 1873 and the building, with accommodation for 500 pupils, was completed at the end of 1874 and was formally opened on Friday 29th August, the final cost being £3150.

    He also built many private residences in Buninyong.  Most of the following recollections were gathered in 1979.

    Mr J. Whykes of Buninyong recalled that Richard also built Whykes' Butcher Shop in c1864 for 960 pounds, as well as Grocer Whykes' residence and Dr Longden's residence and "most brick buildings in Buninyong".

    He apparently built in Ballarat as well.  Doris Mansell (his grand daughter) recalled that he built quite a lot of big buildings in Ballarat; banks, churches, etc.  "He did remarkably well there."

    Dorothy Austin (nee Rennie) indicated that he worked, together with his son Alfred, on the Humphrey St Railway Station and the Arch of Victory in Ballarat.  Messrs. Rennie and Kellet of Ballarat were contractors for the masonry and brickwork of the Church of Holy Trinity, Carngham in 1875.

    An article on Alfred Rennie in the book Ballarat and Vicinity (1894), states 'His father, Mr. Richard Rennie, is well known as the largest contractor in Ballarat, and for some time previous to Mr. (Alfred) Rennie's occupation of his present premises he was connected with his father in the contracting business.

    Sir Arthur Nicholson of Ballarat suggested  that the Ballarat Builders Association would have met at the Buckshead Hotel on the south-east corner of Bridge St. and Grenville St.  Sub-contracting and tendering would have been carried out on the street corner outside the Buckshead Hotel and orders and payments would have been made there too.

    Alfred John Rennie recalled that there was a Rennie tradition; "Never put a skillion roof on anything". 

    Old Church of England Church 1856

    National Bank Buninyong 1860

    Scots Church Buninyong 1860

    Church of the Holy Trinity Carngham 1875

    Crown Hotel Buninyong 1884-5

    Town Hall Buninyong 1886

    Clifton Villa Buninyong


    The Postal Directory of 1862 gives their address as Buninyong.  The 1869 directory gives it as Scott St. Buninyong.  Postal Directories of 1875, 1882, 1888/9, 1896/7 and 1906/7 all give the address as Learmonth St. Buninyong.

    In the 1980's the original house in Learmonth St was still standing.  It was a sturdy weather board house with shingles on the roof, later covered with iron.  The rooms, then occupied by a number of chickens, were quite small and the ceiling was quite low.

    Across the road from the Rennie house lived Miss O'Caine who was born in the 1890's.  Miss O'Caine had lived in her house all her life.  When asked, in 1979 by Buninyong historian Mr. W. Thorpe, as to who originally lived in the house over the road she replied, after only a few seconds thought, "Rennie".  "They were old people and Mrs. Rennie was not very tall", a fact also provided by Doris Mansell.  Miss O'Caine recognized the name Dick and remembered Mrs. Rennie on the veranda (now removed) of the house.  "The house was beautifully kept.  There were gardens at the front".

    There apparently was a blacksmiths shop near the Rennie residence in Learmonth St.  Miss O'Caine recalled it being run by a son of Mr. Rennie, she thought it was Albert Rennie, who lived in another part of town.  She remembered her brother, as a small boy, spending much time at the shop with Mr. Rennie.

    Doris Mansell recalled that there were mulberry trees in the yard of the house.  There was a "Mr. Moss who had a nursery in Buninyong and he did the gardens in the Rennie house".  She also recalled being told that Richard also lived in Ballarat for a time.  "He had a beautiful home there".  His funeral notice in the Ballarat Star and the Ballarat Courier described him as 'formerly of Ballarat'.


    Remains of the Rennie house in Learmonth Street Buninyong as photographed in 1979. Richard and Jane Rennie lived in this house from the 1870s until about 1906.


    Richard is said to have played the organ at church on Sundays, and around 1900 he presented bibles to many (if not all) of his grand children.  Several of these bibles remain in the family.

    He was a member of the Buninyong Bowling Club for many years and served as a committee member.

    He was a very proud man and when he went to Melbourne he would bring back material for his wife and daughters to make into new clothes.

    However it is also said that he was a very hard father; at times most unkind, especially to his daughters.

    Jane was described by Doris Mansell as a "dear little soul, who had a keen sense of humour".  "A soft gentle sort of person - she was lovely."

    Both Eleanor Rees (nee Rennie) and Betty Rennie referred to Jane as being little (sometimes referred to as "Little Granny").


    Richard H Rennie

    Richard Hutchinson Rennie died on October 20, 1906 at his home in Buninyong after a short illness.  He was said to be aged 87 years (Buninyong Death registration 12166/1906), although 90 years is more likely.

    He was buried in the Buninyong General Cemetery (allotment No. 581) on October 22, 1906.

    The Ballarat Star  reported 'his form will be much missed in the town, which he visited two days before he died, when he appeared to be in his usual health'.

    The Ballarat Courier  reported that he 'had reached the advanced age of 87 years, (and) was one of the oldest residents in the town (Buninyong).  The deceased was one of the oldest members of the local bowling club, and was highly respected'.

    At the time of his death he had the following property:

    Real Estate: Allotments 4,5,6 &7 Town & Parish of Buninyong valued at £300.
    Furniture: Furniture valued at £35.
    Money in Bank: Savings Bank, Ballarat £70 4s 4d.

    After Richard's death it is said that his wife Jane moved to Mentone and lived in a cottage near to where her other son John Rennie had a bakery.  When her son Albert's wife died some time after 1908, he came to live in this cottage and Jane helped to look after his two very young children.

    Jane Rennie died in Mentone on June 15, 1912 at the age of 78 years, after an illness of two weeks.

    She was buried with her husband in the Buninyong General Cemetery on June 17, 1912.  Seven of her children survived her.

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     RENNIE - The friends of the late Mr Richard Rennie, builder and contractor, of Buninyong, formerly of Ballarat, are respectfully invited to follow his remains to the place of interment, the Buninyong Cemetery. The funeral cortège will move from his late residence, Learmonth street, Buninyong, this day (Monday, the 22nd inst.), at 3 o'clock. CHARLES MORRIS, Undertaker and Embalmer, Grenville st, (near Alfred Hall), 186 Sturt st. (near City Fire Brigade), 3 and 5 Mair st. Tel. 270.
    (Funeral notice in the "Ballarat Courier" on Monday the 22nd October 1906)

    Ballarat Star newspaper - Country News
    Oct 22 1906

    Buninyong with Mount Buninyong in background (c1880)