Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Born in Canterbury Kent, UK on 20 April 1843, died on 11 July 1923 at Malvern, Victoria.
Ambrose was born in Canterbury Kent (registered in the Blean district) on 20th April 1843 to Ambrose and Myra nee Long. His father was of Wiltshire stock, as most of the Neates are, so Ambrose Charles was taken back to Derry Hill in Wiltshire the following year for his christening.
Ambrose senior was a horticulturalist who was sponsored out to Australia by the Arnold brothers, also ex-Canterbury and friends, who had set up an orchard and/or vineyard in the Barrabool Hills. Ambrose arrived in December 1852 on the Persian.
His son, Ambrose Charles, followed his parents out the following year, in the company of a relative. They went to Sydney first, apparently on the Chandernagore, then onto Victoria on the Jane or The Jane - there were 2 ships with similar names operating at the same time.
After a bad year or more with phylloxera (?) and/or drought, Ambrose senior took his family to Tasmania where he worked for Charles Hollinsdale, before returning to Victoria on the Sea Nymph.
Ambrose Charles initially worked for a chemist but soon followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a seedsman in the employ of Messrs Smith & Adamson, the forerunners of Adamson & Co which later became Brunnings. Around the same time, Ambrose senior became a manager and gardener with Smith & Adamson. He laid out the gardens of Bishop Perry (in East Melbourne?) before Perry's departure in 1869.
Ambrose junior received a letter from Joseph Harris, M.P. for South Yarra, stating that Baron Von Mueller wanted an office boy and messenger at the Botanic Gardens in South Yarra. Ambrose commenced work in September 1858 and remained there until his retirement in 1903. At various stages he progressed beyond being the office/messenger boy and became the Chief Clerk, Accountant and Secretary (of the Botanic Gardens). At the time of William Guilfoyle's absence in Europe in 1890, Ambrose acted in his position as Director/Curator of the Botanic(al) Gardens.
Aside from his office-based work, Ambrose was also an horticulturalist, trained by his father, a collector of specimens and seeds, and a writer of articles on matters botanical.
Some of his articles published in the Dept of Ag's Year Books & Bulletin, mentioned in a letter written to William Guilfoyle in 1891 when he asked for payment for the higher duties he performed in 1890, are:-
"Floriculture, an Auxiliary of Moral & Social Education " - Located in The Bankers' Magazine of Australia, July 1897 - Herbarium Library of Botanic Gardens
"Garden Notes, Queries & Comments"
"Plants from Many Lands, their History & Culture"
He also wrote "Colonial Notes" for the English Gardeners' Chronicle.
Ambrose also compiled a hand-written book labelled "Botanic Gardens Melb. 1846-1873. Old notes and other, with précis" which was written "to assist the then director ..... and updated by Mr. Neate in later years"
Note that Ambrose was successful in his claim for HDs and was awarded £30/-/- for his efforts over nine months.
The Victorian Government Blue Book of 1902 records that Ambrose had been in the employ of the Dept. of Ag and the Botanic Gardens for 44 years, was in receipt of a salary of £300/-/- per annum and held a C4 classification - page 63, entry 18.
Ambrose retired the following year, aged 60, and died twenty years later on 11 July 1923 at Malvern. At this stage the cause of his death is unknown. It will be safe to assume he died of heart disease/failure or bronchitis/pneumonia, given his age and his essentially un-hazardous but possibly mostly sedentary occupation.
Later in his time at the Botanic Gardens, he occupied the Lodge there, where 6 of his children were either born or it was the usual residence of the parents. (He had 8 in all by his second wife, Maria Amanda Edwards, and none by his first wife).
In 1877, Ambrose lived at 304 Wellington Road, Collingwood.
In 1879, when he re-married, he was living at Nicholson Street, Collingwood.
By 1880, he was living at 5 Powell Street, South Yarra. In 1883 he was living at 131 Albert Road, Emerald Hill (South Melbourne) and in 1891 at Anderson Street, South Yarra - the Lodge at the Gardens.
After leaving the Gardens, Ambrose and his family lived in various rented homes in Caulfield's Normanby Road and Malvern's Kardella Street, Nott Street, Wheatland Road, High Street and McKinley Avenue.
When the Gardens' office was re-modelled in 1935, the archives were mostly burned. The office, however, received a donation of material relating to Ambrose in 1995 from Ambrose's grandson, John Doyle of Kallista. This material includes professional letters received, horticultural information, articles from magazines written by Ambrose, picture albums of plants, pressed specimens.
In 1906, he also answered enquiries made by Mr. William Guilfoyle, the Director, re the establishment of the Gardens, making a detailed report of the original Gardens' Superintendents/Curators dating from 1846. He met with and interviewed the descendants of some of the employees of the Gardens and went to immense trouble to answer his former employer's enquiry.
Personal Correspondence with Heather Johnson (Miss) &
Susan Walter (Mrs)
The source of much of this information is a book produced by one of Ambrose's grandsons, Malcolm John Edwards Brown, in 1999. It is entitled "A Strange and Distant Land". The book should be available in the National Library for your consultation and there are several photos of Ambrose Charles Neate in the text.
The book is essentially a family history and is not well referenced/sourced, but very useful nonetheless in providing clues as to where to find information on Ambrose's professional life, where they survive.
1) the National Library & State Library of Victoria for the Government Gazettes, Blue Books, List of Employees in the Civil/Public Service
2) the Melbourne Botanic Gardens office
3) the Herbarium, Melbourne
4) newspapers, particularly the Argus
5) Malcolm Brown himself - holder of letters, photographs etc
6) John & Elisabeth Doyle - holders of letters, photographs etc