Wednesday, 29 November 2017


In Windsor's historic St Matthew’s Anglican cemetery is a monument to Edward James Mellish a young man who lost his life in a shipwreck at the turn of the twentieth century. Who was he and what were the circumstances of his death? 

Edward Mellish plaque on the Upton family vault in St Matthew's Anglican Cemetery
Photo: M. Nichols, 2017

According to the newspapers of the day, a British schooner called the “Sakata” was on a voyage from Anapolis in Brazil, to Havana in ballast in December 1905.  The “Sakata” was a three-masted schooner and “was struck by a terrific wave during a heavy gale” and turned her on “her beam ends, and before the crew had time to cut away the masts to right her she capsized, throwing Captain Donlon and the whole of the crew into the water.”

Some of the crew were able to climb to safety on the “upturned vessel, but owing to cold and exposure they gradually lost consciousness” and eventually vanished into the ocean. Out of the seven members of the crew, there was only one survivor, John F. Williams, one of the mates. He was on the brink of death when rescued by the crew of the “Helen Thomas” and was almost unconsciousness. He had kept alive for four days, by nibbling on his oilskin jacket.  

Sadly a local resident, Edward James Mellish drowned in the accident. Edward was the son of Edward Mellish 1850-1913 and Susannah nee Upton 1850-1885. Edward junior left Riverstone a number of years ago and sought work on “Sakata” a trading boat. Edward was twenty years and six months old when died and apparently had a “fine physique and splendid disposition.” 

The Windsor and Richmond Gazette article 21 September 1907 stated that Edward’s sister, Mrs Ethel Lorger, received afterwards, an article about the accident which was titled, “Loss of the Sakata and Crew.”  Apparently, there was not a lot of information about the accident however after the event the following letter appeared in the newspaper:  
Having read your inquiry in the Halifax paper in regards to your son Edward, I am taking the liberty of writing you, as ''Ned ' was a personal friend of mine while he was at this port. I spent the evening with him the night he left on that fated voyage on the schooner “Sakata”. Strange to say he asked me to write to you if he did not return, and I had forgotten the address until I came across the piece in the paper by chance. There is no doubt in my mind that poor Ned was lost as the only one who was saved was the mate, and his name is Williams, from St John, New Brunswick, I saw a letter that was written. To the lady that Ned boarded with while he was in town. It was from the mate after he came back to St John. He told how the vessel was struck by a squall and capsized, and he managed to climb on the bottom, and was rescued after much suffering, and obliged to eat a portion of his oilskins to keep alive. It was all so sudden that all the rest must have gone down immediately, except one poor fellow, he saw struggling in the water, but he could not help him, and finally he threw up his bands and was seen no more. It was Ned's watch below at the time of the accident, so you can imagine what kind of a chance he would have. The lady Ned boarded with was Mrs Lear Hardwick, who has since left here and gone to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The schooner Skata loaded lumber at the port, shipped by Pickels and Mills, and not Parsboro as stated in the clipping enclosed but was in Pars. And hoping these few lines will be of some assistance to you, I will come to a close, and kindly accept my sincere sympathy for the loss of your son as well as a very dear friend to me. I remain, yours truly, Herbert H. Hearne, Annapol, Royal, Nova Scotia, Canada. 
The circumstances of his death are few and far between however following the sad death of Edward, the family erected a monument on his mother’s family grave, the Upton’s. The vault is situated in St Matthew’s historic cemetery, Windsor to commemorate Edward, who lost his life on the other side of the world.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

"A malicious conspiracy to defraud"

In November 1837 a conspiracy to defraud Wilberforce farmer, Michael Power of £500 took place. Benjamin Hodghen, a settler and also a constable, along with his daughter Mrs Ann Payton, widow, both of Windsor collaborated with Elizabeth, Michael’s wife, to defraud Michael Power. But then Elizabeth was also swindled. The individuals were all caught and the case was heard by the Supreme Court in February 1838. Many inhabitants from Windsor and Wilberforce attended the hearing.
The Australian 23 February 1838, p. 2. 

Mrs Elizabeth Power was the wife of Michael Power, a farmer of Wilberforce. He apparently ill-treated his wife. So when he was absent from home one day, she broke open a box belonging to her husband and removed £500. She then made away with the money. During the court case, Michael reported that the couple “were always very comfortable; scolding is nothing between man and wife”. He also admitted that he “often struck her, but that is nothing between man and wife.”  The case was reported in details in the newspapers of the time. It reports:
The husband, on discovering his loss, applied for and obtained a warrant from Samuel North, Esq, to apprehend his wife for absconding, and she was taken into custody, but the money was not found upon her person. On the following morning Hodghen, the chief constable of Windsor, took Mrs Power out of the Watch-house, and brought her to his house to breakfast with him, and having sounded her as to whether she had the money, she, after some hesitation, took him to the house where it had been left, and brought it away tied up in a small bag. She then returned to Hodghen's house, where she deposited the money in Hodghen's hat in presence of his wife and daughter, having previously promised him that if he would not deceive her, she would make him a handsome present. On being taken before the magistrate, the money not being forthcoming, Mrs Power was discharged from custody, upon which she returned to Hodghen's house, where she resided about a week. 
Suspicion having been excited that Hodghen had the money, a search warrant was obtained against his house, which was executed in his absence by constables Cobcroft and Armfield, who explored everything in the premises with the exception of a writing desk, and a clock which was locked up and of which they were informed Hodghen had the key. It was subsequently alleged that the money was planted in the clock, Hogdhen afterwards gave Mrs Power £84, as her share of the spoil, and she went to Sydney with a view of proceeding to Van Diemen's Land, where she had a daughter. On the road however, she fell in with her husband, who took the money away from her. She then returned to Hodghen's house, where she demanded a further share of the spoil, and Mrs Payton (Hodghen's daughter, who with the mother had taken an active part in the transaction) and a man named Dennis Dwyer, (who refused, when giving his evidence, to answer whether any criminal intercourse had taken place between him and Mrs Power) then accompanied Mrs Power to Sydney, where a passage to Van Diemen's Land was negotiated for her. Upon being pressed to embark, however, Mrs Power found that only £5 had been given by Hodghen to his daughter to deliver to her, which she complained was not sufficient to carry her halfway on her journey. 

Elizabeth Power refused to go, despite Mrs Payton trying to persuade her, and Elizabeth eventually made a statement before Mr North, the Police Magistrate at Windsor.
On the part of the defence, Mr Foster contended that the present information must fail, inasmuch as it was clear from the evidence, that there had been no conspiracy entered into to obtain the money, which had been previously taken by the wife, and voluntarily handed over to Hodghen. In consequence of this, the learned gentleman contended, that the two first counts in the information, could not be supported. Mr. Foster also contended that the third count was defective—for that a general description of the offence, without specifying the means taken to complete it, was insufficient in law. The learned judge reserved the objections, should there be any necessity for their after consideration. In his charge to the Jury, the Chief Justice recommended them to dismiss the two first counts from their consideration, and to apply themselves wholly to the third, on which, he was of opinion, it was competent for them, if they believed the evidence, to convict the defendants. The Jury, after upwards of half an hour's consideration, returned a verdict of Guilty, upon which the defendants were remanded from their bail until Friday (this day) when they are to be brought up for the judgment of the Court.

Several days later, Benjamin Hodghen was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to two years in Newcastle Gaol, and was required to pay a fine of £500. His daughter Ann Payton, was sentenced to two years in Newcastle Gaol. It doesn’t appear that a conviction was recorded for Elizabeth. Did she return to live with her husband? One wonders what her story was.

You can read the story in full in The Australian 23 February 1838, p. 2.

This article was first published in the Hawkesbury Crier December 2016 pp. 14-15

Friday, 9 June 2017

Who was William Shackfield Newton 1837-1912?

Rev W. S. Newton performed hundreds of baptisms, marriages and funerals for over a decade, for families belonging to the St. John’s Church of England at Wilberforce, St Thomas’ Church of England, Sackville and on the other side of the Hawkesbury River, in the St. James Church of England at Pitt Town, but who was he?

William Shackfield Newton was born in 1837 Ormskirk Lancashire the son of John Newton, a Methodist minister and his wife Hannah. He attended school at Stourbridge and he appears to have taken an interest in the ministry, as a young man and was admitted to Christ’s College at Cambridge. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1860 and later in 1869 his Master of Arts.(1) 

He was ordained a deacon in 1860 at Llandaff, near Cardiff in the south of Wales, and then priest the following year. He was appointed the curate at Canton, Glamorgan in Wales in 1860 and was there for two years. He was at Cheptow between 1862 and 1865 and the Brierley Hills from 1865 until 1871.  

His wife Catherine Pugh Morris, who he married in 1862, hailed from Montgomery Wales. Their first born was Edward Rowley Morris Newton who was born in 1865 in Stourbridge, Worcestershire. Daughter Eleanor Jones was born in 1867 also in Stourbridge. Joan was born in Concord in 1878. 

William with Catherine, Edward and Eleanor migrated to Australia in 1871. William was appointed to the Macleay River parish until 1873, followed by Gulgong until 1878. He had a change of occupation in the late 1870s and was the Headmaster of the Collegiate School at Croydon from 1878 until 1889 then Principal of St. Philip’s Grammar School, Sydney from 1892 for four years. He returned to the church with a post at St Matthew’s at Botany in the inner city before being appointed Rector in May 1897 to the incumbency at Pitt Town.

St Johns Anglican Church, Wilberforce

At this stage Pitt Town and Wilberforce still came under the same Parish despite being on opposite sides of the Hawkesbury River. It was a bit of a journey via horseback or cart via Windsor but a much quicker journey via the punt across the river.

Shortly after the arrival of the Newton family in Pitt Town, Eleanor Jones Newton married Henry ‘Harry’ Glanville on 12 June 1897 at St James Pitt Town. William presided over his daughter’s marriage.  Henry was a 37 year old farmer from Wogamia, Shoalhaven. 

The local newspapers provide an insight into some of the daily events of the Newton family in the Hawkesbury. 

In September 1897, Rev Newton, was able to obtain a donation of ornamental shrubs from the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. The plants were used to “beautify the ground attached” to the old St. James' Schoolhouse. Members of the church including older parishioners and residents were invited to attend. Horticulturalist, Mr Phillips, the laid out the plants and the first tree was planted by senior church-warden James Dunstan. Trees were then planted by wardens, Sunday school teachers plus members of the congregation. Rev Newton and daughter Joan also planted trees. Mr T Hillhouse Taylor, the gentleman assisting Mr Newton in his ministerial duties, also planted a tree. The oldest person to plant a tree was Mrs Sarah Horton, aged 96. The tree planting was followed by refreshments.(2)  

In 1903 Rev Newton attended the special ceremony of laying a corner stone at St. Paul's Church in Riverstone.

Early in January 1904, it was reported in the local newspaper that Rev. W. S. Newton had lost his pony. Apparently it “found its way back to Campbelltown, where it was bred. Mr. John Smallwood brought it back to its owner last week.” (3) 

Also in 1904, Rev Newton was reported as being in a “low state, suffering from pneumonia.” Mr. J. Barnett filled in and took the services At Pitt Town while the rector was unwell. He eventually went to Nowra to recuperate and gradually gained his strength.(4)  

On New Year’s Eve (1904) Mrs. Newton was presented a gift from the local parishioners. Mrs. B. Hall given a “handsome and valuable tea-service” while her husband and daughter were also presented with a matching cup and saucer. The gifts were subscribed for by the local parishioners. For entertainment, a gramophone was lent for the event and Miss Sarah Wilbow sang a song, followed by refreshments and games until midnight, followed by a service.(5) 

The following year, Rev Newton and one his daughters had an accident. A motor cycle spooked their horse, and the harness and vehicle destroyed. Their injuries were much more serious than originally thought and “Mrs. Glanville, from Nowra, a daughter of Mr. Newton” stayed “at the rectory to nurse the patients."(9) The local congregation collected donations which totalled about £10, which went towards a new whip and harness. The new items were presented at a social event at the Church Hall. The remainder of the money £4 went towards repairing the sulky. While the rector was convalescing, Mr Martin acted as the lay preacher.(6)

He was with this parish in the Hawkesbury until 1911 when he became unwell and retired. After leaving Windsor, the Rev. W. S. Newton carried on his spiritual work amongst the prisoners sent from Darlinghurst to the Long Bay Gaol. He was remembered by the “down and out for his great but old-fashioned virtue called kindness.” (7)

Windsor and Richmond Gazette 21 December 1912, p. 4. 

Daughter Eleanor Glanville died in November 1912 aged 40. She had a 13 year old son. The death of Eleanor greatly affected William and within the month, he passed away. Rev William Shackfield Newton passed away at Randwick on 18 December 1912. His funeral was held at St. James Pitt Town and he was buried in the Anglican Cemetery, Pitt Town. Catherine died in 1919 at Randwick and she was buried with her husband at Pitt Town. (8) 
Newton headstone from Pitt Town Cemetery

1. Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students ..., Volume 2 by John Venn
8. (1932, November 25). Windsor and Richmond Gazette, p. 18.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

The nineteen radicals

Only small numbers of convicts arrived from Scotland to the penal colony as Scotland's legal system had less capital offences and punishments in comparison to elsewhere. A number of convicts arrived in Sydney in 1821 as a result of discontent in Scotland and one of these went on to have a connection to the Hawkesbury.

Following the French Revolution, unemployment, cost of living and unjust working conditions in Scotland led to workers seeking reform. In 1820 a group of activists planned a rebellion during an industrial uprising at Bonnymuir however it was short-lived.

A number of men were captured, with 22 convicted and 19 of these charged with treason and sentenced to death. William Crawford was freed while John Baird and Andrew Hardie, were executed in September 1820, just a week after another rebel, James Wilson was hanged and beheaded. The nineteen had their sentences commuted to transportation and they became known as the Scottish Radicals. They were:

John Anderson
John Barr
14 years
William Clackson
14 years
James Clelland
Andrew Dawson
Robert Gray
Alexander Hart
14 years
Alexander Johnston
14 years
Alexander Latimer
14 years
Thomas McCulloch
14 years
Thomas McFarlane
John McMillan
Benjamin Moir
14 years
Allan Murchie
Thomas Pike or Pink
Muslin Slinger
14 years
William Smith
14 years
David Thompson
14 years
Andrew White
14 years
James Wright
14 years

One of the radicals sentenced at Stirling was weaver, John Anderson, the son of John Anderson and Janet Stean, born in the 1790s at Camelon near Falkirk in Stirling. His crime was pasting up political posters. He pleaded guilty and his sentence was Life.

The activists were taken to Edinburgh and were kept on a prison hulk until they departed on the ‘Speke’ arriving in Sydney in May 1821.

Ebenezer Chucrh and graveyard. Photo: M. Nichols

The indent describes John as short of stature, he stood 5’ 3½” high with brown hair and hazel eyes. Shortly after John's arrival he was employed by Simeon Lord (1771-1840), emancipated convict and entrepreneur. He was employed by Lord until 1823 when he found employment as a teacher at Ebenezer Church, on the Hawkesbury River. Whilst growing up, John had been given a reasonable education at the local parish school, he could read and wrote a refined copperplate. 

Classes were conducted for local children shortly after the sandstone church, constructed by the Coromandel settlers in 1809, opened. Lessons were conducted in one half of the church. A separate residence was built adjacent to the church, for the schoolmaster. 

Another of the radicals, Thomas McCulloch wrote a letter to his wife in 1821 encouraging her to apply as a free settler. He wrote, “This is a fine country, and will grow anything that will grow in any other country, and in general have three crops a year.” 

In the mid-1830s William IV granted absolute pardon to the rebels, John's pardon was published in the Sydney Gazette 3 November 1836.

Sydney Gazette 3 November 1836

In 1834 John’s sister, Mrs Christiana Stephenson arrived from Scotland and joined him at the Hawkesbury. With his sister acting as housekeeper, several students were able to board at the school. Apparently, the “chapel was partitioned and at one end had an upper floor where Mrs Stephenson and the girls were quartered.” . It was recorded that Anderson was a “burning and shining light of scholarship on the Hawkesbury for many years” and some of his pupils went on to fill important positions.

When he was in his early sixties, John married Lucy Watson at Ebenezer in 1854. Lucy was the daughter of shipwright James Watson and was apparently a much younger woman.

Anderson had a reasonable knowledge of music and acted as Ebenezer’s precentor, the person who led the congregation in its singing at the church.  After devoting himself to teaching at Ebenezer for over thirty years at Ebenezer, Anderson retired in July 1855. A well-liked member of the community, he was held in high regard and he was given a presentation and a purse of twenty-eight sovereigns as part of his retirement.

Family Notices from The Sydney Morning Herald 7 August 1858

John Anderson died at Ebenezer aged 65 years on 16 July 1858 and his death notice proudly states his participation in the Bonnymuir political uprising. John is buried in the churchyard where his wife erected a fitting headstone to his memory. More recently a monument was constructed at Bonnymuir in Scotland in memory of those who fought for their democratic right.

Anderson grave at Ebenezer. Photo: Jonathan Auld 2016

Margaret & Alastair Macfarlane, The Scottish radicals : tried and transported to Australia for treason in 1820, p. 21 (Stevenage, Hertfordshire : Spa Books, 1981)
A. J. Gray, 'Anderson, John (1790–1858)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University 
NSW BDM - ANDERSON  JOHN 5763/1858 Parents listed as JOHN & JANET. Registered at WINDSOR  

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Sundial at Wilberforce

On the northernmost wall of Wilberforce’s St. John’s Anglican Church is a vertical sundial with the initials J.W. and the date 1859. Who was J.W. and what was the significance of the year?

The vertical sundial carved by John Wenban. Photo: M. Nichols

A sundial tells the time of day from the position of the sun, and the one at Wilberforce was carved by John Wenban, the local schoolmaster, to commemorate the consecration of St. John’s Church by the Bishop of Sydney, Mr Barker. 

Wheelwright John Wenban was from Hawkhurst, Kent, and accompanied by wife Mary and six children migrated to Australia in 1838. The couple had seven children but eight months prior to departure, their infant son Walter died. The family travelled on-board the immigrant ship the “Maitland” which recorded over thirty deaths throughout the voyage, mainly from typhus and scarlet fever. Heavily pregnant throughout the journey, Mary delivered her eighth child, Emily, five weeks after landing. Two more daughters were born in Wilberforce.

On arrival John was employed by Mr McDonald at Pitt Town and then later moved his family to Wilberforce.  In 1842, he was appointed as the Schoolmaster of the Parochial School at Wilberforce, replacing William Gow, the first schoolmaster and Parish Clerk. Classes were conducted at the Wilberforce Schoolhouse, built in 1819 at the request of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, and operated as a school during the week and a church on Sundays. As well as occupying the position of schoolmaster, John was appointed Parish Clerk. He also was a musician, providing music to accompany hymns for church services.  The organ was not purchased until the 1870s. 

In 1846 a committee was established to plan a new church in Wilberforce. The public were asked to make donations towards the cost of the building. John Wenban donated £3/3/- to the building fund. Money was raised and plans were drawn by architect Edmund Blacket, however it was 1856 before the foundation stone was laid. The exact date the church was completed is not known but it was consecrated in 1859. 

One evening in late November 1859, as the Wenban family was returning home in a spring-cart, an accident transpired. While turning a corner near the Wenban home, one of the wheels hit a pot-hole and John was thrown out. The horse bolted and the cart overturned with two of the children also severely injured. Twenty minutes after the accident, John succumbed to his severely fractured skull. The Sydney Morning Herald  5 Dec 1859 reported the accident,
On Sunday evening last, just after sundown, Mr. John Wenban and family, of Wilberforce, were returning home in a spring-cart. In turning a corner, near his own house, one of the wheels of the cart went into a hole; the vehicle gave a sudden jerk, and Mr. Wenban was thrown out with great violence on the ground. The horse immediately became unmanageable, when the eldest daughter of Mr. Wenban jumped out and caught him by the head, but was unable to hold him. The animal then bolted off, and capsized the vehicle with three of the children underneath. Soon afterwards the horse got away from his harness, but not until two of the children were severely hurt. Mr. Wenban's skull was so severely fractured that he expired in about twenty minutes after the fall. A magisterial inquiry into the cause of death took place before Dr. Day, J P. (in the absence of the coroner) on the following day, when the foregoing facts were elicited - Mr. Wenban had filled the office of Church of England teacher at Wilberforce for several years, and was much respected by the inhabitants, very many of whom sorrowfully followed his remains to their final resting place on Wednesday.

An enquiry was held the following day with Dr Day acting as coroner. Aged only 56, John Wenban was buried in the local cemetery, a sad loss for his large family and the community.

John Wenban’s headstone at Wilberforce Cemetery. Photo: M. Nichols

Mary died on 30 August 1883 in her 77th year at her daughter’s home in Richmond. She was supposedly buried at Wilberforce however there is some dispute about this.

Today the sundial can still be seen on the outside wall of St. John's Church, reminding us of John Wenban’s contribution. 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Alfred Stearn, a man of quiet ways

When able seaman Alfred Charles Stearn arrived in Sydney as part of the crew on the sailing ship “David Brown” in 1877, he liked what he saw and chose to remain. 

Alfred was born in London in 1857 and with his limited education elected to go to sea. After arriving in Sydney he found work in an oyster saloon and regularly visited Windsor in his spare time. He was fond of Windsor and eventually moved to the town, where he established the Windsor Oyster Saloon which also sold prawns several days a week. In 1881, he married Mary Jane Mills in Sydney. Mary was born at Rouse Hill, the daughter of James Mills although she was adopted by James and Cecilia Hough as a baby, when her mother died. At the time of his marriage, Alfred’s occupation was recorded as an oyster and fish salesman. The couple had five children, Alfred James, Elysse Marie and William Oswald with Clara and Erich dying as infants. 

Alfred Stearn’s shop, 74 George Street Windsor.
Detail from postcard, personal collection

Eventually he expanded his business to include a general store situated in George Street where he was able to offer a wide selection of goods and services. During the 1880s he held a hawker's license, allowing him to travel around selling goods. Later, Alfred purchased land in Thompson Square opposite the Macquarie Arms Hotel, and constructed a shop with a residence above. It was two-storey with a cast iron verandah, and the parapet was decorated with a lion. Officially opened in August 1907, the building still stands today at number 74.  In the new store, Alfred continued to conduct his grocery business, as well as selling fancy goods and produce. The business also sold tobacco, fireworks, musical instruments, jewellery, optical glasses and insurance.

Stearn was described as, “Good-hearted and generous natured, he was one of the fine old type of Englishmen, but he loved the country of his adoption.” On every patriotic occasion he flew a selection of flags and was an admirer of the Monarchy and Empire plus a respected member of the local Masonic Lodge.

With a love of music, he often sang in concerts and musicals in Windsor and was a committee member of the Windsor School of Arts.

His death on 14 June 1925 was quick. He “came out to the front of his shop at about 10.30 o'clock where he collapsed and fell on the footpath. He died almost immediately.” His lengthy obituary appeared in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette, partially duplicated below. At the time he was aged 68 years old. Alfred was buried in St. Matthews Anglican cemetery, Windsor. In his memory, flags were flown at half-mast in Thompson Square, as well as at the Fire Station and McQuade Park.  Mary Stearn and her children were staunch Catholics. She died in 1940 aged 76 years and is buried in the Windsor Catholic Cemetery. Her husband Alfred was known as “a man of quiet ways and dealings — inoffensive and unassuming” an honest and respected resident of Windsor, the likes of whom not often seen today.

Obituary from Windsor & Richmond Gazette 10 June 1925, p. 3
Today, Stearn’s shop, 74 George Street Windsor houses Windsor Seafoods.