Walk follows life of world-famous inventor

May 10, 2021 BY

Game-changer: The portable radio was Henry Sutton’s last invention, unveiled four years before he died. Photo: SUPPLIED

PUT on your walking shoes and discover all about world-famous inventor Henry Sutton this Heritage Festival, and beyond.

Born in Ballarat in 1855, Sutton had a passion for science from childhood, later inventing the first feasible version of the television called the telephane, the first portable radio, and the Sutton storage battery, which could be recharged.

Lorayne Branch, his great-granddaughter, has developed the Henry Sutton History Walk booklet, listing locations around the city that are of relevance to his life of innovation, and can be visited at any time.

“People can go up to 36A Main Road, Bakery Hill where most of his early inventions were developed in the first Sutton’s Music Store, and visit the Ballarat and Old Ballarat City fire stations where he installed the first telephone system between the two stations,” she said.

“He was instrumental in the Ballarat Observatory, taking a very historic photograph of the opening. He was co-founder of the first astronomy club in Ballarat.

“At the FedUni TAFE building on Grant Street, you can see a giant mural of him and a timeline of his inventions.”

The much larger old Sutton family music store on Sturt Street, now the Piano Bar, is a location Alexander Graham Bell visited, meeting Henry and inspecting the ways in which he networked his telephone system.

“If you go to the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute, you can see where he sat day after day as a child, reading and learning everything on science.

“There are photographs he took in England on display in the Heritage Reading Room, and there’s the Sutton Room named after him there,” Ms Branch said.

“The old Unicorn Hotel is where Henry set up the first electric light display, and around the corner is a fun location, where the first tin can telephone experiment took place across Lydiard Street, from the top floors of the bank buildings.”

The Sutton telephone technology was first displayed at Craig’s Royal Hotel, before the first call was made from Ballarat to Melbourne.

At the Ballarat Tramway Museum, the double-decker Sutton’s horse-drawn tram can be viewed, baring advertising that represents the family business Henry served throughout his life.

Ms Branch said her great-grandfather believed everyone deserved access to revolutionary science, and his ideas were so pioneering that “technology always had to catch up” to him.

Henry was world-famous by the age of 26 years old, and she hopes other young people are inspired by his initiatives.

“It’s important for people to know that they too can be as productive as Henry, and better the world.

“One person’s small steps can make a lot of difference to Ballarat, Melbourne, Australia and the world,” Ms Branch said.

The guiding booklet and podcasts can be downloaded at henrysutton.com.au.