Velvet, Iron, Ashes

A research guide providing options for further research into the themes and personalities featured in our Velvet, Iron, Ashes exhibition.

The Clarke family

William Clarke came from a family with vast farming interests in both Tasmania and Victoria. His first wife Mary died in 1871 and in 1873 he married Janet Snodgrass. On the death of his father in 1874 William Clarke's inheritance made him the largest landowner in Victoria. He and his wife lived lavishly, building a grand mansion, Rupertswood, at Sunbury. The Clarke's also gave generously to various charities.

The Kelly armour

The Clarke family connections to the Kelly gang armour come through Superintendent Francis Hare. In 1857 Hare had married Janet Clarke's widowed aunt. In 1870 Hare captured bushranger Harry Power (to whom a young Ned Kelly had been 'apprenticed'). 

Hare led the pursuit of the Kelly gang and was wounded during the Glenrowan siege. He stayed with the Clarke's at Rupertswood to convalesce. After the Glenrowan siege he had claimed a set of Kelly gang armour and gave it to the Clarkes as a gift for their kindness

The armour was initially displayed at Ruperswood until William Clarke became uneasy and put it in storage. That armour is currently thought to have belonged to Joe Byrne. The original armour of Ned Kelly is held at our Library.

In another neat connection, when Harry Power was eventually released from Pentridge he worked for a time on one of the Clarke's properties.

In 1892 Hare died at Rupertswood under the care of the Clarkes.

The identification of the Kelly armour has been quite a story in itself. These articles give insight into the research undertaken.

Researching the Kellys

Jerilderie letter

  • written by Joe Byrne as dictated by Ned Kelly. Chronicles the careers of Ned Kelly and his gang from 1870 onwards. 

Letter written by Donald Sutherland to his parents in Caithness, Scotland

  • in this letter Sutherland provides an eye-witness account of Ned Kelly' demeanour on the morning of his capture in Glenrowan. Sutherland also mentions his reactions upon viewing the charred remains of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart

The Library holds a vast collection of books on Ned Kelly and the Kelly gang.

Use the refine by options to narrow your search. For example you could narrow your search to:

Ned Kelly's Jerilderie Letter Ian Jones La Trobe Journal No 66 Spring 200 pp33-7

There are a large number of articles on Ned Kelly so it is best to include keywords relating to a specific aspect of his life. For example:

Ned Kelly on film


Ned Kelly has proved a fascinating if elusive character for film makers.  Some of the major attempts at capturing Ned on celluloid are:

The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)

This film, directed by Charles Tait, lays claim to being the first full-length narrative feature film produced anywhere in the world and is recognised as such by the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. The film has not survived in its entirety but fragments have been preserved by the Australian National Film & Sound Archive.

The film’s sympathetic portrayal of the bushrangers drew the ire of authorities who reportedly banned the film in the “Kelly country” of north eastern Victoria. Several years later, in April 1912, the film was banned in Melbourne.

The Glenrowan Affair (1951)

The role of Ned Kelly was played by Bob Chitty, whose previous performances had all been on the football field. Chitty was an Australian Rules hard man who had captained of Carlton's 1945 premiership side.  

H2007.126/40 Mick Jagger as Ned Kelly

The reception for the film in Benalla, where numbers of Kelly descendants attended, was hostile. The reviews were unkind. "Puerile script, deplorable acting and stodgy direction", wrote the Sydney Sun reviewer 

Ned Kelly (1970)

For his 1970 film, notable English director Tony Richardson cast Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger in the lead role, much to the chagrin of locals. The film had a mixed reception. 

Ned Kelly (2003)

This version starred Heath Ledger, again reviews were lukewarm.

The True History of the Kelly Gang (2019)

Yet another take on the Kelly story, this time based on the Peter Carey novel. The film features a scene in the domed reading room at our Library


Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly at bay A/S03/07/80/145


Rupertswood  H2006.34/1

Velvert Iron Ashes

Victoria Gallery

State Library Victoria
10am to 6pm
24 October 2019 - 12 July 2020