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This impressive casket and mallet were designed by Walter Burley Griffin for presentation to HRH the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone of Canberra on 21 June 1920. Although Griffin’s role as Federal Capital Director was terminated on 31 December 1920, the casket and mallet serve as a reminder of his association with the development of Canberra, a record of his achievements as a designer and as an indication of his knowledge and regard for Australian flora, an interest he shared with his wife Marion.

Both the mallet and casket are made entirely of Australian timbers. The mallet is of blackwood carved with a design of Banksia integrifolia and the casket of ‘pink myrtle beech’ (now Nothofagus cunninghamii) with the base and lid of blackbean. The six panels on the sides of the casket represent the states and each is veneered with 21 thin strips of different timbers indigenous to each state. These are in turn decorated with gold, seven-pointed star studs – seven on each state panel. The central panel to the front of the casket is carved with the Australian coat of arms.

Following his visit to Australia the Prince of Wales returned to London with the casket and mallet. Many years later it was discovered in a cupboard at St James’s Palace and was presented to the Australian government in 1949. They are now held in the Parliament House Art Collection.

Text: Summarised from “Walter Burley Griffin’s ‘Other’ Canberra Legacy” by Anne Watson published in Australiana November 1997, Vol 19 No.4 pages 99–102,112 (see full article here).     18 June 2022

Image: Walter Burley Griffin (1871–1937), mallet and coat of arms maker N. Redding, casket manufacturer H. Goldman Manufacturing Co. Mallet and casket used by Prince of Wales when laying foundation stone on Capital Hill in 1920, circa 1920, Gifts Collection, Parliament House Art Collection, Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra, ACT