The Ritchie Family and Business Archive

This guide introduces researchers to the collections held by the University of Melbourne Archives relating to early nineteenth century Victorian grazier families, in particular the Ritchie family.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that University of Melbourne Collections may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons, or culturally sensitive content (more information).

In the mid-19th century, the sons of many British families set out to take up opportunities in distant lands as prospectors and settlers. One such prospector was James Ritchie who was born in Peebleshire, Scotland who first came to Australia in 1841. Diaries, letterbooks, genealogical documents and watercolours by various families members, in particular James Ritchie (1812-1857) who founded the Ritchie pastoral dynasty and his brother Daniel (1816-1865), provide insight into nineteenth century life and how the family built and expanded its business.

The UMA holds a number of collections of significance to the Victorian pastoralist story. Successive generations of Ritchie family members have contributed to their prosperous pastoral interests through the establishment of their business RB Ritchie & Sons Pty Ltd, which specialised in merino stud. Extensive record series provide a window into the world of Western District agricultural and business practice during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as the transportation of convicts to colonial Australia and British suppression of the slave trade. This guide will also explore how diaries, genealogical records, correspondence and artwork can provide insight into what life was like for Victorian settlers and their descendants.

A full list of the Ritchie collections can be found by searching for ‘Ritchie’ using the ‘creator’s name’ search in the Archives catalogue. Researchers can also use the Browse function by selecting “Graziers” or “Farmers” in the creator’s activity or occupation drop down menu.

Other UMA collections containing significant records of European settlement in Victoria include the Armytage Family, centred around the Western District and later, South Yarra, and the Strathfieldsaye Estate in Gippsland.