The Crabtree Foundation - Australian Chapter

[New secure URL:]


Officers of the Chapter

Orators and Orations

Biographical Sketch


Crabtrove Project


The UCL Chapter (London)

The Italian Chapter (Florence)

Recent News:
- UCL Chapter Orations 1954-2003 now online
- The Vatican Letter
- Crabtree's Australian CV
- Crabtree's Combined UCL-Australian CV

Contact email

2023 Oration The 2023 Dinner and Oration will take place on Wednesday, 15 February at the The Matthaei Room, University House, Professors Walk, Melbourne University (a fitting location when one considers the Parent Body holds its dinner and Oration in the hallowed halls of University College London.)

The Orator for 2023 will be Gwenda Thomas, Librarian and Director of Scholarly Services at the University of Melbourne. The title of her Oration is:

Joseph Crabtree the Intrepid Explorer: a Tale of Ubiquity

Scholar Thomas has had a distinguished career in South African tertiary education, having held senior positions at the University of Cape Town (Executive Director of both Libraries and the Library and Information Studies Centre); Rhodes University in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), as Director of Library Services and in the Department of Library Services at the University of South Africa. She has served on numerous regional and International bodies, published more than twenty papers in a variety of international journals, contributed chapters to books and undertaken extensive Crabtree research. At the dinner she will reveal hitherto unknown material in her oration.

"To the immortal memory"

"Much was known about Joseph Crabtree, poet and polymath, in the nineteenth century; much was forgotten or deliberately obscured in the twentieth century - until 1951. In that year it happened that, at one of Professor Hugh Smith's weekly seminars for scholars of all disciplines or none, two or three of those present discovered a common interest in the life and work of the extraordinary great man, Joseph Crabtree. This interest grew and intensified until Hugh Smith and others at University College London were inspired to set up the Crabtree Foundation at the College."
(from the Prolegomenon to Volume 1 of the Collected Orations of the Crabtree Foundation)

On 17 February 1954 Professor James Sutherland, Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at UCL, delivered the oration entitled "Homage to Crabtree". The meeting was presided over by Professor Hugh Smith, Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at UCL, and twenty-four scholars were present.

This was the inaugural meeting of the Foundation which ever since has been dedicated to researching and publicising the life and work of Joseph Crabtree (1754-1854). Crabtree's achievements had been grievously overlooked, misinterpreted, occasionally traduced and in some cases quite deliberately suppressed, leading to a situation amounting, in Professor Sutherland's words, "almost to a conspiracy of silence". The traduction continues to the present day, as can be seen by the deletion in late 2014 of the Wikipedia entry on Crabtree, which had been compiled by scholars in order to reveal his contributions to the wider community.

Since that inaugural meeting the Foundation has now expanded to over 400 members, or more correctly "Scholars", in the first President's words, "scattered as they are over the face of the world", who have established chapters in Australia, Italy and Southern Africa. Each chapter typically meets annually on the Wednesday closest to Saint Valentine's Day, the day of Crabtree's birth, for a dinner and an oration by a distinguished scholar on some hitherto undiscovered aspect of Crabtree's career and genius. Their findings have established the international scope and diversity of Crabtree's life and achievements.

The Australian Chapter was formed in Melbourne in 1975 at a dinner arranged by the late Professor Arthur Brown to honour Bryan Bennett, a fellow Orator of the Parent Foundation. Also believed to be at the dinner were Richard Belshaw, Keith Bennetts, Don Charlwood, Pat Kilbride and Gordon Taylor; all future Orators. Each year since then the Chapter has celebrated Crabtree's birth with a dinner and oration.

Initially the Chapter met at the Club at Monash University, and in 2010 moved its dinner and oration to the aptly-named Savage Club in the City.

(Website Contact: Dr Jim Breen)