The Beginnings

An average quality self portrait by yours truly

I believe it to be commonly understood that all great stories start with a great beginning and I believe at this very moment I am doing that understanding no great justice at all. Now see, I would understand this to be more of an introduction, calling it a beginning seems rather generous on my behalf so I feel it more appropriate now to welcome you to the introduction of a story, a story that I believe holds no great importance to anyone except a few select individuals all related to me, so it’s a rather selfish creation but a creation none the less.

The story I’m about to tell you is a small journey through personal history. It will be my attempts to detail a family journey from Milan to Perth, Australia eventually leading to my life today. It is a story of many people, mostly dead and of relation to yours truly. Who is yours truly? I’m glad you questioned for it wouldn’t be my selfish creation without a paragraph detailing myself.

I am Isabella and I am 19, a rough indication of what I look like is to your left there. I live alone in a city I am not familiar with, go to a university I picked at random and barely attend due to overwhelming social fears and study a degree I’m not too sure I’m right for anymore. Whilst I wish I could paint a more charming headstrong character to guide you through this detailing of history to match with the hardworking members of my family, I simply can’t.

I am part of a family that has come across oceans and barriers to come out the other side and have accomplished many great and important things which one day I wish to join but for now this will be my contribution, a small junior designed website that includes the background of a few of my many family members.

What I hope you will gain from reading this apart from pointless aspects of knowledge is similar to what I learnt, how vast and deep history is and how someone seemingly unimportant can have so much behind them. And maybe also a few facts about some members of parliament you may recall. Anything else you learn is a personal bonus.

And with that, to the real beginning.

Lewis Steffanoni (1835 - 1880)

Holburn, London, England (1800s)

So here is where we really begin, with a man called Lewis Steffanoni. Born on the 14th of May 1835 in Holborn, Lewis was the son of Luigi Guiseppe Steffanoni. Luigi, an Italian nobleman originally from Milan, was an upholsterer and this trade was passed down to Lewis.

Lewis worked at the family business in Holborn. The business, which was catered to middle and upper class citizens, made coats of arms and specialised in gold bullion embroidery. This is the intricate stitching found on many formal uniforms at the time. Lewis also made badges and flags for the Royal English Navy.

In 1852 Lewis made the decision to migrate to Australia. He reached Sydney on the 9th of November. He travelled first class aboard the City of Poonah with with forty-eight needlewomen in steerage.

A Place within China

Life in Australia


Early Years

This article published in the Herald detailed all the transparencies made by artists that worshipped the Royal Family including those created by Steffanoni.

Upon first arrival in Sydney Lewis lived in Mr Murphy's boarding house at The Rocks. In current times, The Rocks is a neighbourhood of historic laneways in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Lewis was quick to start running his own business where he produced testimonials and gold and silver embroidery among other things. He also worked as a clerk in the advertising department at the Sydney Morning Herald.

In 1863, the wedding of the Prince of Wales was celebrated in Sydney. Steffanoni painted transparencies across the five front windows of the Herald Building. It included portraits of the royal couple and Britannia, these were backlit by candle and flame. This was documented in issue of the Sydney Morning Herald published on the 12th of June 1863 of Page 3 titled 'The Illuminations'.


Weddings and Family

From left to right: Lewis Steffanoni, Sarah Anne Reading, Lewis 'Junior' Steffanoni

On the 15th of April 1869 at Pitt Street Congregational Church, Steffanoni married Sarah Anne Reading who was originally from Warwick in England. Reading was actually the niece of John Fairfax. Fairfax is the name behind the currently known Fairfax Media, however any related family is no longer involved with the company.

Readings' widowed mother took Lewis into partnership with their family business which became 'Reading Son and Steffanoni'. The firm made regalia, flags, badges, vestments and trappings for regiments, yacht clubs and Masonic and ecclesiastical organizations, as well as governors' uniforms and numerous elaborate illuminated addresses. In the book 'The Great Synagogue: A History of Sydney's Big Shule' by Raymond Apple he references 'Reading Son and Steffanoni' as one of the first embroidery businesses on Market Street, further noting the families English origins.

Before his death in 1880, Lewis and Sarah would have five children, one being their son, Lewis Reading Steffanoni (endearingly referred to as Lewis Junior).

From Steffanoni to Court (1871 - 1936)

Falling lucky in the lucky country

Rita, Lewis Reading Steffanonis' daughter, with her husband Charles.

Lewis Reading Steffanoni would marry Ethel May Jones who together had two children, one being their daughter, Rita Maud Steffanoni in 1911.

In the following year of 1912, Charles Court (around the age of 7 months at the time) would emigrate with his family from England to live in Perth. Charles would meet Rita and eventually marry on the 3rd of June 1936. The couple would have five sons together, Victor born 13 November 1938, Barrymore ("Barry") born 23 March 1941, Kenneth ("Ken") born 11 December 1943, Richard born 27 September 1947 and Geoffrey born 29 May 1949.

I find it important to note that their five sons are the men I am proud to call my Uncles and have spent many a christmas dinner in their company. However I said at the start I wouldn't make this all about me so back to happy family. The marriage between Rita and Charles created a family that made a mark. Steffanoni and Court left their impression in Australia history books with Charles eventually becoming the 21st Premier of Western Australia followed by his son Richard, however more on that down the track.

I know would like to take this opportunity for a graphic break. There have been many a person mentioned so far and many marriages and births to keep up with so below you will find a timeline which hopefully simplifies the journey through history so far and what will be coming next.

Sir Charles Court


Born on the 29th of September 1911, Sir Charles Court would later in life be the husband of Rita Maud Steffanoni, Lewis Steffanonis granddaughter.

Originally from Crawley, Sussex, England, Charles and his family emigrated to Perth, Western Australia when he was just 7 months old. They arrived at Fremantle Port on the 1st May 1912.

After leaving school at 15, Charles wanted to pursue law but his family had insufficient funds so he studied accountancy part time instead at Perth Technical College.

In 1933 Charles began practising as an accountant and 50 years later would be named Australian Chartered Accountant of the Year. In 1940 he enlisted in the army and in 1942 he was in the Australian Imperial Force. In 1945 he was appinted Lieutenant Colonel.


Charles and Rita

This dedication was made to the couple in the Western Mail in 1936 to celebrate the union between Court and Steffanoni.

Sir Charles would live a life worthy of much recognition which he duely recieved before his death in 2007. In 2011, a statue was unveiled in the Perth CBD to commemorate his 100th birthday.The photo above and to the left shows yours truly to the left at age 13 with my Mum celebrating the opening of his statue where family celebrated his life and achievements. Other worthy awards included recieving a knighthood upon retirement, recieving the Centenary of Federation medal and appointed Companion of the Order of Australia.

Upon his death, former prime minister, John Howard described Sir Charles as a ‘strong and effective leader premier, a great Liberal and fine Australian’.

I met Sir Charles many a times as a young child, spending many christmases at his home with the rest of my family. His five sons would also attend but they were more familiar to me as 'Uncle Ken' or 'Big Geoffrey' (this came about due to his extremely tall genes). Sir Charles was kind, gentle and spent much of his time with me educating me on history even though I hadn't even turned 9 years old. I never met his first wife Rita as she passed away in 1992 but still do spend much time with Steffanoni's, many being apart of family gatherings and my all to familiar cousins. Below is a photo of the family I have been referencing. Sir Charles is circled in purple and my own mum in red. You can also see Rita Steffanoni to Sir Charles' right and his son Geoffrey on the left edge, thought that was necessary just so I could highlight how tall he is!


The Ending


And alas, with a family deeply rooted in Perth Australia for now, I can present, the finale to a rather short winded project. When I began tracing back my roots I never expected to find what I did. I would like to thank my tall Uncle Geoffrey for encouraging my research into the Steffanonis, a side of my family I often saw at barbequeues but knew not much more of.

It's hard to wrap my head around the idea of how different my life had been if the Steffanonis had stayed in Milan or the Courts in London. By chance their journeys to Australia bought lives together and created a small part of history that I am proud to be apart of. The stories of my family history that previously went in one ear out the other at dinner parties now have much more significance to me. Reading and researching through archives of citizens, deaths and births has given me an insight into the pure depth of history and I encourage many to do the same.

I am thankful for the journeys my relatives made and thankful for the life they have given me today.