Mr M A Felton

In late August 1897, Paddington Council took the decision to create a new salaried position of municipal librarian. The salary voted was £78 per annum. 1

The following month it was reported in the press that at Council’s meeting on 6 September the aldermen ‘had been occupied the whole of the evening’ with the 136 applications received. 2 The minutes of the meeting record that after reading all applications, Council dealt with the selection as a ballot, with aldermen progressively short-listing prospects in lots of decreasing number - from 16 preferred candidates to 12, 8, 4 and 2 until finally arriving from the narrowed field, to one. Resuming into a committee-of-the-whole, the Council announced the successful candidate as Mr M A Felton.3

English-born but Sydney raised, Maurice Appelbee Felton was in 1897 already a resident of Paddington, who lived at Glen Cot, on the northern side of Glen Street on the Deep Dene estate. Issues of the Sands Sydney Directory show that Felton had moved to the suburb from Balmain, in 1895. Comparison between current and historic records shows that the house then known as Glen Cot is present-day No 12 Glen Street.

Felton was described as an accountant in the 1897 edition of Sands Sydney Directory, the year he took up the appointment of Librarian at Paddington. His past career had spanned ventures and employment in both Queensland and New South Wales, and had included clerical work and auditing as well as partnership in an importing firm. A period spent as the Examiner of Accounts at the City Council, from 1880 to 1886, had ended badly, with Felton taking the full weight of culpability for a fraud against the Council in which – as was noted by the City’s Clerk and the Public Auditor at the time - Council’s internal examiner was less well-placed to detect and intercept the scheme than other officers of the City. 4 Felton had nevertheless been terminated from his position. He had continued for some time, however, as the Auditor for the Borough of Burwood, and had gone on to serve with the Civil Service Co-operative Society of NSW Ltd as Secretary and Accountant.

In leaping from these positions into library management, Felton showed a flexibility characteristic to his family. His father, Dr Maurice Appleby Felton, had arrived in Australia as an experienced surgeon, but had developed a greater reputation in Sydney as a portrait painter, his works today represented in a number of landmark Australian collections. Maurice Appelbee, the son, also poured much creative energy into amateur musical and theatrical performance as an outlet from administrative affairs.

It would seem that Felton, in managing Paddington's library, built on the steady beginnings delivered by his predecessor and won the confidence of the Council. A Mayoral Miute of February 1898 remarked that, 'The public library and reading rooms had been placed under a different system of management, and it was now unrivalled among suburban libraries.' 5

Felton arrived in the position as financial conditions across the colonies were poised to slowly ease, when it was began to be noted that, despite the difficulties of continuing high unemployment and empty rental accommodation translating into high levels of arrears in rate payments and hence Council income, the Library and Town Hall had nevertheless generated revenue for the municipality. A Mayoral Report of early 1899 showed increasingly expansive thinking among the aldermen, reporting on improvements made to the Library, commenting on user satisfaction 'liberally expressed', and the fact that an increase in subscriptions had been tolerated.6 It was no doubt gratifying for Council, and to Maurice Felton, to see reported in the press at this time that visiting aldermen from North Sydney, where the provision of a public library was under consideration, had been 'much impressed' with what they saw at Paddington. 7

1 Paddington.' The Sydney Morning Herald 28 August, 1897 p. 10.

2 The Australian Star 7.9.1897, p. 3.

3 PMC Minutes 6 September 1897 p. 409

4 The City Council and the Examiner of Accounts." The Sydney Morning Herald 16 November 1886 p. 5.

5 "Paddington." The Sydney Morning Herald 5 February 1898 p. 10.

6 "Paddington Municipal Council." The Sydney Morning Herald 31 January 1899 p. 7.

7 "Municipal Matters." Evening News 27 February 1899 p. 3.