Thomas Saunders (Senior)
1806 - 1859
Thomas and Jane Saunders with their three children and Jane's daughter Ellen, from a previous marriage, arrived at Port Phillip in the sailing ship "Wallace" in 1844. They had come from "Wellground" in Oxfordshire, England. After disembarking, they went as independent migrants to settle in the Moonee Ponds area, where Thomas Senior, commenced farming. Here three more children were born.
In 1850 the family moved to a 20 acre property at Pentridge. Thomas purchased more land adjacent Moreland Road, where they grew hay and other produce for the Melbourne Markets.
Early in 1850, 800 acres was selected at Mickleham and name "Risborough Park".
The land on which the Mickleham School is situated on was originally part of "Risborough Park". This land was purchased for the school for ₤10 from Thomas' son William, who was living at "Risborough Park" at the time.
(The Saunders family from whom the land for the school had been purchased for £10 from, had also been pioneer farmers at Pentridge at the time other families such as the Langford Sidebottoms and were also active in the Wesleyan Church. They had moved to Mickleham at about the same time as Robert and occupied land that was next door to Robert Langford Sidebottom's property. It is believed that there was a number of Wesleyan families that may have moved from Pentridge to Mickleham at around this same time).
Thomas Junior. became the bread winner when Thomas Senior died a sudden death aged 52 in 1859.
Thomas Saunders (Junior)
1836 - 1918
Thomas was 7 years old when he stepped onto Australian soil. At the age of 14 years he became a scholar, then a teacher, and subsequently secretary and librarian in the Wesleyan Sunday School, Brunswick.
His gift in song was rare. He was an uncompromising Temperance advocate and was one of the founders of the Unity Tent of Rechabites in Coburg.
He married in 1864, Maria Ruth Lade, elder daughter of Stephen Lade and Eliza Freind of Hythe, Kent, England and for the next fifteen years they farmed in the Coburg area; where Thomas took an active part in church and civic affairs, being a Coburn Councillor for several years, while looking after his own and his late father's properties. He had an inventive mind and being very adept with his hands could make almost anything in wood or iron. He was an able writer and fluent speaker and most knowledgeable in our flora and fauna.
In 1879 Thomas and Ruth with seven of their ten children moved to "Risborough Park". The first and last three were born there, the others at Coburg. After moving to the 'old house' at "Risborough Park", Thomas and Ruth planned their dream home surrounded by spacious gardens and parkland. He quarried bluestone for the foundations, personally selected his timber from the Comet Sawmills, Wandong, and with the help of his sons built the home.
He greased every nail and saw to it that every one was properly driven, and no timber was split. After 80 years, there was not a crack in the plaster walls.
An inscription in the linen press in a daughter's handwriting reads:
"Father started house in 1881.
September 4th 1891, we took up our abode.
May 7th 1912, sold to J. Doyle.
T. Saunders, architect, builder of Risborough Park, Mickleham".
After selling "Risborough Park" Thomas and Ruth retired to a 10 acre farmlet "Mayfield" at Doreen. Returning from a preaching appointment at Arthur's Creek on Christmas Eve 1916, Thomas was thrown from his buggy and received injuries from which he never recovered.
He died on the 29th November 1918, his remains being taken past "Risborough Park" for internment in the Bulla Cemetery.
The lasting monuments to Thomas Saunders remain in the minute books of the churches, municipality and other organisations to which he took and active interest. Much of what has been written of Thomas must also be said of Ruth, for she stood behind his ideals with encouragement. Ruth died at "Mayfield", April 29th, 1926. She was buried beside Thomas in the Bulla Cemetery, after also having passed "Risborough Park".
When developers demolished Risborough Park in 1988 prior to subdivision of the property, it was found to be in perfect order. The timber was sound, doors and windows opened and shut and there were no cracks in the plaster.