Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Dangers of cigarette smoking - Trove Tuesday

In the 21st century we are very aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes, however it is interesting to find in the digitised newspapers on Trove the many accounts of how dangerous the practise was. 

In the 1895 it was recorded in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette that an "eleven-year-old named Gilespie has gone hopelessly insane, at Warren, through excessive cigarette-smoking."

A few weeks later the topic was raised again, in the Gazette, this time discussing the situation in Windsor. Obviously smoking amongst teenage boys, was prevalent in the Hawkesbury.  

"Juvenile smokers are to be found by the score in Windsor, and on any night an observant person may see specimens of the mature infant idling at street corners, or swaggering along the street with cigarettes between their is asserted upon the very best scientific authority that cigarette-smoking is the worst and most distinctly injurious form of tobacco indulgence. This applies to adults as well as to children; but, of course men, stronger of nerve and more hardy of tissue, are better able to withstand the assaults of nicotine. Upon the young however, the habit of smoking in any form has the most pernicious influence. It is a danger, physically and morally. It stunts his growth, undermines his nervous system and incuicates in him selfish and slavish habits; it injures the sight, and when indulged to excess, it impairs and even destroys the intellect. Smoking injures the sight without question...In the streets of our town mere boys have frequently accosted passers by for matches wherewith to light their 'bumpers'. A firm snubbing would meet exigencies of this kind, and perhaps act as a slight deterrent. Consistent discouragement on the part of parents would mitigate the evil. Not only mothers and fathers, but all sensible people who have the interests of the juvenile population at heart, should do their utmost to put down this detestable and injurious habit of cigarette smoking among young boys."

THE SEDUCTIVE CIGARETTE pictured from the West Gippsland Gazette 21 Jan 1902, p. 8

Many of the articles refer to the appalling effect upon the nervous system and how smoking will stunt growth. 

An impressive warning from over a century ago ~ why didn't the community pay any attention?

Monday, 26 August 2013

Felton Mathew's Diary

Primary sources, such as diaries, are valuable historical sources. They provide helpful insights into a particular period in the past. Diaries are useful in adding substance to our research. One interesting diary is that of Felton Mathew 1801-1847.

Felton, a surveyor, arrived in NSW in 1829 to take up a position as Assistant Surveyor of Roads & Bridges. Shortly after his arrival he was joined by his cousin, Sarah Louise Mathew c1805-1890 and they were married on the 21 January 1832 in Sydney. The Mathew's resided in Windsor however Felton spent most of his time attending to his field work to the north and northwest of Sydney. His wife Sarah accompanied him on several of these expeditions and wrote most of entries in a series of diaries. Felton accompanied Captain Hobson to NZ as the acting surveyor general and kept a diary. The diary records key events relating to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. He also chose the site of Auckland as the proposed capital. Felton died en route to England in Peru on the 26 November 1847. 

The original diaries (total of 6) are held by the National Library of Australia  The diaries have been transcribed in the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society and some excerpts were transcribed by Bruce Jones and were originally available to access on his web site which is no longer accessible. Fortunately the website was archived on Pandora on the National Library of Australia website. One volume, covering the NZ period in the 1840s, is held by the Museum of New Zealand

Here are a few samples from the diary:

Wednesday 20th [20 JAN 1830]
Left the Finger post and arrived at Wiseman's on the Hawkesbury. The leading features of the country are the same as in yesterday's march – ranges upon ranges of barren & unprofitable rock without an acre of land available for agricultural purposes. Approaching "Wiseman's" there are some pretty & romantic peeps of the Hawkesbury, winding through the valley; and there is the first good land I have seen in the Colony. It consists of prime but not extensive tracts of alluvial land; but it bears a miserably small proportion to the ranges of useless rock, which here rise perpendicularly to an immense height, clothed with timber & brush from base to summit & giving an irregularly wild & romantic affect to the Scenery. 

Saturday 23rd [23 JAN 1830]
Heavy rain at intervals throughout the day which has prevented our working in the field. Accompanied by McLeod & Larmer, crossed the River to Wiseman's to procure some corn &c – – Shot (at one shot) two birds of the Cockatoo Species – one of them ash-colour tinged with yellow about the head – throat canary colour – breast a dusky brown back & wings raven – tail consisting of twelve feathers two upper ones raven – 10 others the same colour, banded about the middle with broad bands of bright crimson-edged yellow … They were both of the same size & measured from tip to tip of the wings 3 feet 3 ins. & from beak to tail 19 ins.

Wisemans  Ferry Inn. Taken M. Nichols 2013.

Jany 27th–28th [27- 28 JAN 1830]
Finished Smith's and began measuring Rose's Farm Finished Rose's Farm – and returned to the Camp – from the difficulties I met with in measuring these two Farms, I was deterred from commencing Grono's which is of the same description and much more extensive:– fearing that if I remained to finish it, I should not reach the camp by the time the bullocks returned from Sydney, and should thereby occasion a delay which is contrary to the spirit of my instructions. Such would certainly have been the case – for the bullocks returned this night to our camp.

The following are excerpts compiled by Sarah Mathew, and are written in the first person of her husband, Felton and are called "Stray Leaves from the Journal of a Wanderer in Australia."

Janry 18th 1830 
We are now approaching the Hawkesbury and have had occasional peeps of this beautiful stream, and the fertile flats on its banks. We are not 50 miles from Sydney, yet we have travelled a country as wild, and a solitude as profound as if no human beings existed in these desolate Forests; or the enterprize and industry of the white man had never reached these shores. But now the scene changes, descending by a rocky and precipitous pass, and emerging from the Forest, the river appears some 50 feet below, winding round a point comparatively low, and the Farm and Inn called Wiseman's, judiciously placed in the bend of the river, on a fine alluvial flat, all in rich cultivation, affords quite a relief to the eye and mind, almost wearied with the monotony of chaotic rock and primeval Forest. But the whole scene is magnificent. ... The scenery is so magnificent, so wild; the actors in the scene such a contrast: the wide and rapid river, The heavy flat Ferry boat with our baggage is slowly crossing, and the gambols of the unwilling bullocks resisting the efforts of the men to coax them into the large Punt which is to be towed over by the boat are sufficiently ludicrous. Some of them are very refractory, and the shouting of the men, awakening echoes among the rocks, and disturbing the quiet solitude, altogether forms a picture as novel as striking to one as I stand on the bank of the river watching the scene. Our camp is now pitched in a romantic sequestered Glen on the Northern bank of the River. Open to the water, but shut in on all other sides by the same towering masses of rock and wood, which as the Glen rapidly narrows allmost meet at the head, leaving only a narrow rocky bed for a mountain torrent. The weather has been dull for some days, and the rain is now descending merrily. My tent being new is not yet water tight so I calculate on being rather damp ere morning. However it is much needed and wished for, and will do more good in an hour, than I shall in a year.

Note: spelling and grammar has been left, as is.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

A Fatal Excursion ~ Trove Tuesday

Right from the very beginning convicts tried to escape from the Colony. They believed by heading off into the bush, they could walk to China. These ventures were mostly doomed as the escapees lacked the skills to survive in bush and were ill-prepared. The following melancholy tale was brought to mind after listening to a talk last week about the various escape attempts made by the inhabitants, unaware of their environment or their locality on a map. Early newspapers provide informative accounts of some of these attempts and although it might seem astounding to us in the 21st century, in the late 1790s and early 1800s, little was known about the geography of this continent, particularly the interior, and China could have been just a short stroll through the bush.

The following remarkable account of this 'Fatal Excursion' was published in the Sydney Gazette 26 June 1803 with details provided by John Place, apparently the only survivor. Place, "who now lies in a very weak state in Parramatta Hospital" tells "of an attempt made by him and three of his fellow prisoners, to escape from this Colony." The article continues:

"John PLACE declares that he, John COX, William KNIGHT and John PHILLIPS, all late of the Glatton (prisoners), formed a resolution on the road from Castle Hill to Hawkesbury, to attempt their escape. They formed this determination in consequence of having heard people say [moral below] on board the Glatton, and while at work at Castle Hill, that they could get to China, by which means they would obtain their liberty again; being all married men (excepting one) they were very anxious to return to their families. On the 7th May (three days after their arrival at Hawkesbury) they left Cornwallis-place, resolved  to pass the Mountains, and took with them only their week's rations, which they received on Saturday and consumed on the Wednesday following. After travelling for 17 days, in hopes of passing the Mountains, and despairing of accomplishing the object on which they set out, they resolved (if possible) to return. After they had eaten their provisions they found nothing to subsist on but wild-currants and sweet-tea leaves, and had been oppressed with hunger for 12 days. Before they set off to return, John Phillips left them to gather some berries, and they saw him no more; they heard him call several times, but could render him no assistance they being so reduced by hunger, and conclude he perished. Being asked in what direction they went, Place says, that they travelled the whole of the seventeen days with the sun on their right shoulder, and found great difficulty in ascending some of the Mountains, and also attempted to return by the direction of the sun. After travelling for upwards of Twenty-days, all (except Phillips) reached within five miles of Richmond-Hill, when William Knight, unable to proceed any further, lay down, where Place says he must have died. On the same day, Place and Cox made the river above Richmond Hill, and in attempting to cross the Fall the current carried them down. One was carried to one side of the river, and the other to the opposite side, with difficulty pulling themselves ashore by the branches of the trees. Cox had only his shirt and shoes on, Place saw him lain along the bank, where, being very weak, and the night extremely cold, he supposes he died. Place also lay down, despairing of life, and was found on the day following by a man, who with some of the natives was in quest of kangaroos : he was then too weak to walk alone, but was led by the natives to the nearest hut, where he remained all night; in the morning he was taken to Hawkesbury, and thence sent to the Hospital at Parramatta. 

None can read the above account without pitying the ignorance, and commiserating the sufferings of these deluded prisoners; and it is fervently to be hoped that the inconceivable hardships they have endured from hunger and cold, with the almost constant prospect of death before their eyes, will deter all other prisoners from either advising any of their companions, or from making a similar attempt themselves. It is well known, that those are not the only unfortunate men who have perished in this wild attempt, many others have never returned to relate the hardships they underwent, and must therefore have perished under every accumulation of misery by their rashness and folly. 

Place who appears to be the only survivor, resigned himself to despair and death, and was when found, within a few hours of eternity. He seems to have been preserved by a particular providence, to give the above awful admonition to all others who now do or shall in future, entertain any idea of regaining their liberty by a similar act, in which nothing but inevitable death must be the final event."

In December 1803 John Place was mentioned once more in the Sydney Gazette and again a few months later.  He absconded, along with two others (Edward Hill and Dick the Waggoner) trying to escape from the colony. They left the Hawkesbury hoping to cross the Mountains, but after about a month away returned Hill gave himself up at the Hawkesbury whilst Place went to Sydney. At the time of the article appearing in the newspaper, Dick was still at large. The journalist, as well as the officials, were dumbfounded that he had tried to escape a second time, they wrote: "From this circumstance it would be reasonable to conclude, that no man in existence had the hardihood to make a second experiment of this nature - a consideration, which together with undebilitated appearance of the prisoner, seemed strongly to sanction a supposition that the major part of his relation had been fabricated, and that he had concealed himself in a remote employ. The Bench, after serious consideration sentenced him to receive 500 Lashes."  

Convict arrow from the monument at Wisemans Ferry. Taken M. Nichols

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

With intent to ravish … Trove Tuesday

Newspapers are an amazing source of information and researchers looking for details about Australia and Australians, need look no further than Trove. Stories ranging from the tragic to the unfortunate, fill page after page and articles may be packed with humour or passion. The following is a sad sample for Trove Tuesday.

Brickmaker, Joseph Elliott had a hankering for Matilda Langton of Windsor. However his advances were not welcome, Matilda was married.

Elliott visited the Langton house on Sunday morning, 20 November 1859, whilst her husband, Henry, was at church and assaulted her. Mrs Langton reported the episode to the authorities and Elliott was placed in custody. Details of the incident were reported in the Sydney Morning Herald following the court hearing. The article stated that:

Joseph Elliott "assaulted Mrs. Langton, with intent to ravish her. Mr. Coley and Mr. Walker appeared in defence of the prisoner. The evidence of Mrs. Langton went to shew that whilst her husband was at church on Sunday" morning "the prisoner with his son (a young man) walked into her house, put his arms round her neck, kissed her, and attempted improper liberties with her."

Mrs Langton was not happy with the situation so "she took up a stick and beat him; he wrested the stick out of her hand, and struck her over the arm severely with it" - Elliott then called her inappropriate names. 

Joseph Elliott's son, was also present. After being sworn in, he stated, that "he saw no improper liberties taken, further than the kissing; his father was tipsy at the time."  The Bench after deliberation declined to commit, and it was unfortunate that Matilda did not have any witnesses. The defendant was found guilty of an aggravated assault and sentenced him to three months imprisonment with hard labour in the gaol at Windsor.

One can only imagine the despondency that Matilda may have felt. The inhabitants would have known that she had been ravished from the court case and the newspaper reports. What did her husband think about the situation?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The street names of Hobartville

Driving through the streets of Hobartville, a subdivision of Richmond, one may note some of the unusual street names including Grand Flaneur, Tim Whiffler, Tarragon and Sardonyx.

There is a story behind these and some of the other street names, which makes an interesting story. Andrew Town, son of William Town & Mary Ann nee Durham, was in 1840 in Richmond and as a young man, married Emma Susannah Onus in 1863 at St. Peter's Church, Richmond.

On his father’s death in 1868 Andrew inherited property as well as Tarragon a stallion known as one of Australia’s foundation sires. Andrew’s father had raced him for about five years and had won many races including the 1866 Australasian Champion Stakes at Flemington. Tarragon was a good stallion and following his retirement from the track, siring many winners including the 1877 Melbourne Cup winner Assyrian.

Town purchased additional thoroughbreds and began a breeding program and also imported various horses which resulted in better-quality bred stock. With his expanding business, Town purchased the Hobartville Estate on the outskirts of Richmond, in 1877 from the Cox estate.

Hobartville still operates as a horse stud. Photo taken 1996, M. Nichols

Town held yearly sales at Hobartville in the late 1870s, these were spectacular events in a marquee set up in the grounds with special trains between Sydney in Richmond to ferry the crowds. Between 1872-1884 over 700 horses were sold at Hobartville, valued in the vicinity of £95,000. Town also purchased the 1880 Melbourne Cup winner, Grand Flaneur whilst his other celebrated sire was Maribyrnong. The Fawn, was one his mares and bred yearlings which sold for large sums. Her colt Segenhoe by Maribyrnong was sold for 2000 guineas.

In 1872 Andrew Town was one of founding member of the Hawkesbury Race Club and Chairman from 1888-89. He was involved with Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association and President from 1879-1889. Andrew also had a keen interest in harness racing and in 1882 imported in 1882 the Childe Harold for £3935. This horse improved the quality of trotters and laid the foundations for harness racing in Australia. The former Harold Park raceway was named in honour of this famous horse.

Following a drought in the late 1880s and the oncoming economic depression of the 1890s, Andrew Town ran into difficulties which led to his eventual bankruptcy. He died in 1890 aged only 49 and his funeral was held at St. Peter’s Richmond and he is buried in the cemetery across the road. A number of obituaries are  found in the newspapers of the day including the Windsor & Richmond Gazette Evening News and the Sydney Morning Herald. 

The Hobartville estate eventually went to William Alexander Long and George Hill as part of mortgages and securities from Town. Percy Reynolds purchased the property in 1900 and carried on his own family’s tradition of breeding horses and establishing Hobartville as a Hereford cattle stud. The Reynolds family property was Tocal in the Hunter Valley. Percy bred many good performers including Patrobus who won the Melbourne Cup in 1918. Hobartville changed owners many times in the 1960s. In 1966 a large piece of land was subdivided from the main property of Hobartville and many of the blocks were purchased by the Housing Commission on behalf of the RAAF and Army.

The RAAF have long since departed (1990s) and today it is home to numerous families who live on the estate. Many would not be aware that some of the streets of Hobartville, bear the names of some of the famous breeding stock that were once connected to the Hobartville estate.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Aviator Hart flies into Richmond - TROVE TUESDAY

William Ewart Hart (1885-1943), is known as one of Australia's pioneer aviator. Born in Parramatta in 1885, he took a keen interest in the fledgling aviation production as a young man. In 1911 he purchased a Bristol Box-kite and flew solo a few months later, he was only 24. He also held the No. 1 Australian flying licence.

He participated in several ‘first’ in relation to aviation races including NSW first cross-country race from Penrith to Sydney, as well as Australia’s first air race beating the competition from America.

By March 1912 he left Penrith and set himself up on a part of Ham Common. There are numerous newspaper accounts of the strange effects his early flights had on the local community, including the equine& bovine members!! Apparently the cows followed the plane as was moving around the airfield. “Later on, as Bill began to fly around the countryside, several owners instituted claims against him for frightening horses that got killed or crippled when galloping away and at the same time looking up at the contraption in the sky and running in to fences, buildings, or other obstacles.”  

He built a two-seat monoplane on the land (located near the old Methodist cemetery which now forms Richmond Lawn Cemetery) but crashed the plane whilst completing a test flight in early September. Returning to Richmond from Freemans Reach, the engine stalled. Amazingly he survived a fall of over 100’ but sustained terrible injuries. His injuries included a compound fracture of the left leg and a bad wound on the thigh. He received a broken right knee-cap as well as back and head injuries. Hart was taken to Windsor Hospital where he was treated. The newspapers reported it was a wonder he was not killed.

Windsor &Richmond Gazette 7 September 1912, p. 4.
Retrieved  from  

Hart eventually recovered although he did not fly again. He joined the AIF in 1916 in the No.1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps. He was an instructor and travelled to Egypt as well as Britain, but was eventually discharged. 

He returned to his occupation as a dentist and initiated new developments within the field of dentistry. He attempted to enlist in WW2 however he was found to be medically unfit.

Hart died in Sydney on 29 July 1943 and his obituary reports the RAAF performed a flyover at his funeral. The year following his death, the newspaper noted a committee located in Parramatta had requested that the Federal Government change the name of the aerodrome at Richmond established in 1925, in his honour. The renaming did not take place and it is still known as RAAF Base Richmond

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Nichols Service Station, Riverstone

The Nichols Service Station was originally established by William ‘Bill’ Robert Nichols (1903-1958) who was born in London and arrived in Sydney when he was 9 years old. The family settled in Richmond about 1917 where Ern operated the Nichols Bakery. On completing his schooling, Bill was apprenticed to Wally Heap, a Motor Engineer in Richmond and also drove hire cars for him. In the early 1920s, Bill started his own Hire Car Service. Around this time, Bill’s future wife Florence Jennings (1905-1988) moved with her family to Riverstone. Bill became interested in Riverstone’s potential, eventually leasing an old stable building opposite the present day Post Office in Garfield Road. This was the first motor repair shop opened in the town. 

Bill moved to a workshop partly occupied by Harry Williams the Blacksmith, on the corner of Garfield Road & Carlton Streets in about 1927. Sometime before 1935 Bill purchased land in the centre of Riverstone directly opposite what was the Olympia Picture Theatre in Garfield Road. The first purpose built service station opened in 1935, with three hand operated petrol pumps of different brands on the kerbside. 

The 1935 Service Station. Located in Garfield Road, Riverstone. 

Early in 1942 Bill enlisted in the AIF and was a mechanic/fitter, serving his time in the north of Australia. During the war years, his father Ern (1875-1967) affectionately known as “Pop” - looked after the business single-handed. Due to post war shortages new parts were almost impossible to purchase so everything had to be fixed and repaired.  

Bill’s eldest son, Geoff (1930-2012) started work at the garage and started his apprenticeship in 1946, attending Ultimo Tech. Ern (1932-2004) the second eldest, commenced in the workshop in 1947 with a pay of £1 per week. The following year he began his apprenticeship and attended Granville Tech. Bill planned to relocate his business and with foresight he eventually purchased land opposite Oxford Street and the Uniting Church. Also in the mid-1950s he obtained the Chrysler Peugeot agency selling a few cars, as well as second hand cars. 

L - R Bill Nichols, son Geoff, father Ern and son Ernie.

In the late 1950s Bill suffered a setback due to illness, so the relocation plan was set aside. Sadly Bill Nichols passed away in 1958, aged only 54 years of age. As a result of Bill’s death, Ern took over the running of the business. Geoff was working in Parramatta. Bill’s widow Flo was also enticed to become involved in the business looking after the accounts. She also worked on the driveway, selling petrol, as did subsequent family members.

The business grew and in the 1960s it was decided to follow Bill’s plan to relocate. The new Nichols Service Station began construction and was designed in consultation with Mobil and was built by W. McNamara Pty Ltd. From the 1960s petrol for the business was purchased from Mervyn Bassingthwaite of Pitt Town. The business opened in 1962 and boasted a modern driveway, lubitorium and pit with two extra workshop bays. 

In 1962 Geoff returned to the business and modern wheel aligning and balancing was installed. The old Tozer house, adjacent to the garage was purchased and demolished in readiness for a new upgrade. 

During the early 1970s extensions for the next stage of the complex were underway. The petrol at this time was purchased through Mobil Oil Australia from the Rose Hill refineries. In 1974 the new extensions to the Service Station were opened with much fanfare in the town. The old garage was converted into workshop areas plus the two extra bays (hoist & fit) provided 8 bays of a modern service centre. There were three working pits, a hoist and four other bays. The huge driveway canopy and shop front with a store room was quite progressive. Larger fuel tanks were also added to the new site and two islands of pumps made available. The people in Riverstone will remember the petrol strikes of the 1970s/1980s when the queues of cars wound down Garfield Road, into Pitt and then Market Street. 

The 50 year celebrations

Nichols Service Station was awarded the contract for the NRMA depot and road service in Riverstone in 1979. During the 1980s many service stations became self-serve, and began selling other items. In 1985 a decision to sell the business transpired and it was sold the following year. It was the end of an era.