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My Rieusset Family History - A brief overview

 I believe that 'my Rieusset Family' originated in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region in Southern  France.

The name, possibly of Roman Latin origin, was originally officially cited as early as 1069 as Rivis Siccus which literally meant "Dry Creek" (Brook or Stream)

Rivis Siccus was a meagre village south of the Brian River Basin. (see the map below)

The small village agricultural community who lived on the harvest and the breeding of cattle, managed to survive due to its position as a crossing point.

However, they had known long time water problems, hence the name.

Later Fremch documents from around 1626 onwards spell the name as Rieussec as well as Rieusset for villages around the Languedoc region.

 

 

My Rieusset ancestors were Huguenots or French Protestants persecuted for their religious beliefs by the Catholic hierarchy who held considerable power at the time. Many were put to the sword or burned at the stake as heretics. Although edicts of toleration were proclaimed they continued to labour under many disabilities. They were excluded from civil office and political employment and thus devoted themselves to industrial pursuits. They were acknowledged to be the best agriculturists, winegrowers, merchants, artisans and manufacturers in France. In the south around Languedoc, by diligence, skill and labour they subdued the stubborn soil, with the cantons and valleys inhabited by the Protestants celebrated for their richness in vegetation as the best cultivated and most productive.

 

 

   

From my research, visiting and talking to some great French Rieussets, it appears that my family could have come from the Brissac / Coupiac area where there is an 11th Century Chateau and a Rieusset House (right above, behind the trees)

     

This is me at the original Rieussec Village. - There are several small villages and houses around the Languedoc Region bearing the name Rieussec, all are beside dry creeks.

 

     

Between Vagnas and Salavas is an old Rieusset house built beside the Roman Road.

At dawn one January morning in 1703 Jean Cavalier with 800 Protestant Camisards fought a pitched battle with 700 Catholic Regional Militia under the Baron de Lagorce at the Rieusset location. The Camisards won the day, but soon after were wiped out by a 2000 strong Catholic army brought by General Jullien from  nearby Barjac.

              

  A large number of Rieussets still live in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region, some in Brissac and others spread from Nimes to Narbonne.

 

However, I believe my ancestors fled in the 17th century from France to Ireland.

Following the English Revolution of 1688 and three years of civil war in Ireland, the Irish Parliament granted naturalization to such Protestant refugees as should settle in Ireland. The records detail a small number of Rieusset families in Dublin.

Two brothers Peter and John Rieusset moved from Dublin and settled in the then British Colony, North Carolina. Later David, a son of John Rieusset settled in Jamaica and I believe invited other Rieussets to move to Jamaica. Another Peter, son of Andrew Rieusset, born in Languedoc and John Rieusset, son of John Rieusset applied and were granted English Naturalization around 1705-1708

Settling later in London, Peter Rieusset became well known as a Huguenot artisan and craftsman.

 

Peter Rieusset worked for Ralph, the 1st Duke of Montagu between 1697 and 1708 on his three residences, Firstly Montagu House in Great Russell Street in the Bloomsbury district of London, which later became the first home of the British Museum. Then Peter worked at Ditton Park, Datchet in Buckinghamshire and for several years at Boughton House, near Geddington, 3 miles north of Kettering in Northamptonshire.

 

Montagu House, Bloomsbury                                                                                                    Ditton Park, Buckinghamshire

Just over 300 Years later descendants of Ralph Montagu and Peter Rieusset meet in Sydney

In January 2017 I attended a Huguenot Society talk in Sydney by Richard Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott, 10th Duke of Buccleuch and 12th Duke of Queensberry  KBE DL FSA FRSE. Richard is a direct descendant of Ralph Montagu and thus by descent of Mary, Queen of Scots. He is the current owner of Boughton House. Richard eloquently spoke about the influences of the Huguenot artisans, frequently mentioning Peter Rieusset and acknowledging me in the audience as being a relative of a great Huguenot artisan in the construction of Boughton House. My proven descendency from Peter Rieusset depends on a 'Cloudy Link' which bears no direct proof, but is quite likely without too much doubt.

 

 

                 Boughton House                                           With His Grace Richard Scott           Peter Rieusset's Parquet Floor in a Boughton State Room

 The use of the ‘Parquet de Versailles’ flooring in many of the State rooms at Boughton house was quite new to England. In addition to supplying and laying the parquet floors, Peter Rieusset supplied countless other joinery items from garden rakes, chests, desks to a billiard table. His huge 300 year old billiard table at Boughton House has been restored to full working order.

 

A Peter Rieusset Junior married  Maria Teresia Haedy in London in 1782. Maria was the daughter of Christopher and Anna Maria Haedy. Christopher ran a Glass manufacturing business at 287 the Strand (now the site of Australia House) and was quoted as claiming "He was the German who was the first that brought the art of cutting and engraving glass from Germany". He probably came from Bohemia (Steinschaenau) present day Kamenicky Senov, Czech Republic.

                                  

                                  287 Strand, London                                                                        1781 Haedy advertisment                                              A Haedy Chandelier at Uppark House, South Harding,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Petersfield, West Sussex                                

 

In April 1854, my Great-grandfather Augustus (Augustine) Benedict Rieusset, became the forth son of William and Hannah (nee Hobbs) twelve children. He was born in the home of his father's cousins, Elizabeth, Ann, Louisa and Christopher Haedy (the younger). The large 5 acre property, aptly named Steinschaenau at Southwood near Ramsgate, ran half the length of Queen Bertha Road and bordered Norman Road. The spinster Haedy sisters and their brother were daughters of Christopher Haedy Junior, lawyer and steward to the seventh Duke of Bedford. They were staunch Catholics and  attended St Augustine’s Church, designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and run by Benedictine monks. Hence it comes as no surprise that my great-grandfather was christened Augustus Benedict, but preferred to use the Anglicized 'Augustine'. He later reported that he spent his first 17 years living in Ramsgate (with the Haedy Sisters) and studying at St Augustine's College and Monastery from 1862 until 1870. The Haedy and Pugin families were friends , thus Augustine naturally studied Augustus Welby and Edward Welby Pugin's history and architecture, considering St Augustine's Church as “The best specimen of the Gothic Revival in England because of the purity of its style".

It comes as no surprise that he later moved to London to study architecture. Typically, in that period, the route into the profession was via an articled apprenticeship with an established architect, possibly supplemented with evening classes at the Architectural Association. He was elected a member of the Architectural Association in January 1875 and moved to live in Bolton, not far from Liverpool.

Augustine Benedict's older sister Mary Ann Rieusset married James Downey in Ramsgate's St Augustine's Church in 1870 and eight years later (September 1878) Augustine Benedict married James Downey's sister Jane Downey in Pugin’s Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church in Liverpool. James and Jane Downey's brother John Cuthbert Downey was one of the founding Benedictine monks of the Ramsgate Monastery and St Augustine's Church. He later moved to New Zealand where he built and ran the St Benedict's Church at Newton, Auckland for many years. The Downey children's influence had no doubt come from their mother Maria's brother who became the extremely well known Benedictine Abbott Henry Gregory who was the senior Catholic Vicar General in Australia under Archbishop Bede Polding from 1842 until 1861. Polding had been a close friend of the Gregory family as he grew up and was educated in and around Cheltenham in England.

 

After working in Liverpool as an architect Augustine Benedict sailed on the Cosco with his wife, Jane and two sons, Christopher and Benedict, to Australia in 1883, settling first in Melbourne where he was later elected as the President of the Victorian Architectural and Engineering Association. He designed several fine villas and houses as well as a proposed Stock Exchange building and his entry entitled ‘Fire’ was originally considered the winner of a competition, but later rejected, for the new Melbourne Fire Brigade Headquarters.

                

            

                                                                           The Stock Exchange design                                                                                                                  'Fire'

 

In 1895, due to the depression, he relocated with his enlarged family to Perth, Western Australia,  where after a short period with the Public Works Department he set up his own private Architectural business. After the death of Louisa Haedy in 1899, Augustine inherited the Steinschaenau Estate in Ramsgate. He sailed to England in 1901 and sold the property, returning to Perth quite a wealthy man.

He designed many fine public buildings including the 1902 King’s Hall in Rokeby Road, Subiaco. The hall became the social centre of the area as a venue for concerts, balls and important events including the reception that marked the end of World War 1. It later became a clothing store and now houses a small shopping centre. He presently specialized in designing both Catholic and Anglican Churches as well as the Perth St. Patrick's Boys School, which was later included into the Royal Perth Hospital. In Subiaco there are several fine houses of similar design to his Caulfield Villa.

          

                                                                      King's Hall, now a shopping centre in Rokeby Road, Subiaco                                        St Patrick's School, at the corner of Wellington and Lord Streets, Perth, 1907

 

                              

          St. Anne's Catholic Church,  Hehir Street, Belmont, W. A.              All Saints Anglican Church, Donnybrook, W. A.                       St Bridgits Catholic Church, Bridgetown W.A.

                                          (Sketch by M. Mclean)

Daniel Hehir, a building contractor and close friend of Augustine Benedict Rieusset, had also relocated to Perth on the same ship in 1895.  He was accompanied by his wife Anne and his nephew Edward and niece Elizabeth Hehir. Daniel bred race horses and later operated the Crystal Palace Skating Rink. He owned a large property in Belmont on the southern side of the Swan River. St Anne's Church in Hehir Street, Belmont designed by Augustine Benedict Rieusset was quite possible named after Daniel Hehir's wife Anne.

Augustine Benedict’s son Ben Rieusset and Elizabeth Hehir became close friends and married in Perth in 1906.

My father Benedict Daniel Francis Rieusset was born in 1908 in Subiaco, W.A. Although named after his father and Daniel Hehir, he was always known as Frank Rieusset to save confusion. In  1927 he moved to Melbourne to work in the newspaper industry with his father. Dad became the Melbourne representative for the Hobart Mercury and eventually in 1954 moved with us, his family, to Hobart to become the Advertising Manager with The Mercury newspaper.

I continue to live in Hobart and have had a wide variety of employment and research interests.