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Title: The City of Sydney Author: John Arthur Barry * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1600981h.html Language: English Date first posted: October 2016 Most recent update: October 2016 This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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Author of Steve Brown’s Bunyip, In the Great Deep, The Luck of the Native Born, A Son of the Sea, Against the Tides of Fate, &c., &c.
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Chapter I - The Founding of the City
Chapter II - Weakly Infancy
Chapter III - The Harbor—Macquarie’s Buildings
Chapter IV - Early Social Life
Chapter V - Sydney in the Twenties
Chapter VI - Sydney in the Twenties—(Continued)
Chapter VII - The Early Thirties
Chapter VIII - The Later Thirties
Chapter IX - The Early Forties
Chapter X - In the Forties
Chapter XI - In the Forties—(Continued)
Chapter XII - Sporting in the Forties
Chapter XIII - Some Early Suburbs & Islands
Chapter XIV - Sydney in the Fifties
Chapter XV - The Fifties and Sixties
Chapter XVI - The Sixties and Seventies—(Conclusion)
The Rocks Resumptions
“SYDNEY PAST AND PRESENT” was first published serially in the “Town and Country Journal,” and the great interest taken by the public in the subject was shown not only by the large demand for copies of the paper, but also by the frequent enquiries received by the Editor as to whether the illustrations and letterpress would be published in book form. THE NEW SOUTH WALES BOOKSTALL COMPANY aware of this demand, purchased the book rights of the letterpress and pictures, and the public have now an opportunity of acquiring in a connected form, this record of the oldest Australasian city.
During the first publication of the articles several letters were received correcting obvious errors of the Press, and less obvious ones of the author, who has in some cases made alterations in the text suggested by these letters.
Some of the illustrations, for which no good proof of authenticity could be obtained, have been omitted, and some good views of the Rocks, first published in the “Sydney Mail,” added by permission of the proprietors of that newspaper. In the case of some of the illustrations it is difficult to ascertain the authorship. But to the skilful pencil of the late Mr. John Rae, Sydney owes a great number of the best old-time pictures of the City—between the later thirties and the early fifties. And many of the blocks in this book have been reproduced from copies of these drawings. Most of the Modern Sydney pictures came from the studios of Messrs. Kerry & Co., photographers, George Street, Sydney.
Of course the ideal book on the subject should contain complete sets of pictures of the City at different periods, accompanied by letterpress supplying an accurate description to correspond with them. But the lack of historical material in a new country, such as ours, renders this impossible. This book, however, represents what, after a good deal of search and study among old records, could be found possible to use in reasonable and convenient form.
THE founder of Sydney was Captain Arthur Phillip, who, in 1788, discovered that Port Jackson, in place of being the mere open bay that Cook, years earlier, had taken it for, was in reality one of the finest harbors in the world, with space in its waters for a score of navies; on its shores for as many cities.
In 1770 Captain Cook had discovered Botany Bay, and recommended it to the Government as a good site for a colony. But it was not until eighteen years later that, wanting a site for a convict settlement, the authorities of the day bethought themselves of Botany Bay, and sent Captain Arthur Phillip in charge of eleven ships, since known as the “First Fleet,” to establish himself on its shores. But Phillip didn’t care about Botany. Water, he said, was scarce, the soil comparatively poor; and unable to endorse Cook’s glowing eulogy, the captain decided to go further afield and explore the coast to the northward. This he did in three open boats. More out of curiosity than otherwise, they turned in between the Heads to have a look at Cook’s “open bay, in which there appeared to be good anchorage.” And thus was discovered the wonderful harbor and the site of the future capital of the colony.
After first landing at Manly Beach (so named because of the courage shown by the natives), a spot for the settlement was eventually selected on the banks of a small fresh water stream that fell into a cove on the southern side of the harbour.
Soon the whole fleet came round, and brought up in the little bay, which was promptly named Sydney Cove, in compliment to the secretary of State. “In it,” to use Phillips’ own words, “ships can anchor so close to the shore that at a very small expense quays may be made at which the largest ships may unload. This cove… is about a Quarter of a mile across at the entrance, and half a mile in length.” And here did the old Sirius and her consorts anchor in that space of water, surrounded by the site of what is known to us now as Circular Quay. Low hills, scrub-grown, ran down to the water’s edge, and represented the position of the future capital of a little more than a century later, when ocean steamers by the score should line the wharves of the cove, and the highest developments of science, commerce, and art have combined to form the great city behind and around it.
But to return. A space having been cleared in the scrub large enough the military and the convicts to camp upon, on the 26th day of January a company came ashore near the spot where, in Macquarie Place, now stands the Obelisk, the stone from which all the roads in the colony take their distance and measurement. The national flag was hoisted, the marines saluted and fired three volleys, and the Governor, surrounded by his officers, proposed the healths of “The King and the Royal Family” and “Success to the New Colony.” Later, on the 7th of February, there took place another ceremony no less impressive, when the colonists, numbering 1030, were all assembled, the convicts seated in a half circle, the marines paraded in front of them, and the officers grouped in the centre. Then Collins, the Judge Advocate, read the Governor’s commission, and the commission of the other officers, also the Act establishing the colony, and other formal documents. Then the marines fired three volleys, and the first Governor of New South Wales, after thanking his officers and soldiers for their behaviour so far, addressed the convicts, promising rewards to those who conducted themselves well; unsparing severity to offenders. After his speech the colonists dispersed, whilst Phillip and his principal officers partook of a cold repast already laid out in a marquee. During the proceedings, at intervals, the band played, and after the commissions were read, “God Save the King” was performed.
And thus was consummated the founding of the colony. The residence of the Governor, what he quaintly calls his “Canvas House,” and the tents of the officers, were pitched on the east side of the little creek (presently known as the Tank Stream), with the flag staff reared in front of them, and close to were planted the various fruit trees procured at Rio Janeiro and the Cape of Good Hope.
The marines and the convicts in their charge were housed in huts on the west side of the cove. Phillip writes to his patron, Lord Sydney: “I have the honor to enclose your Lordship the intended plan for the town. The Lieutenant-Governor has already begun a small house, which forms one corner of the parade, and I am building a small cottage on the east side of the cove, where I shall remain for the present with part of the convicts and an officer’s guard. The convicts are distributed in huts, which are built only for immediate shelter. On the point of land (now Dawes Point) which forms the west side of the cove, an observatory is building, under the direction of Lieutenant Dawes, who is charged by the Board of Longitude with observing the expected comet. We now make very good bricks, and the stone is good, but do not find either lime stone or chalk… The principal streets are placed so as to admit a free circulation of air, and are 200ft. wide.”
And in such wise was the founding of the city of Sydney. Unfortunately, succeeding Governors altered those wisely-laid out streets of Phillip’s, with the result of giving us the miserable lanes of the present day. All this, however, was the work of much time and labour, and for long only the principal officers could boast of being lodged in wooden huts; for the rest, it was still canvas. The hard gum timber blunted and broke the shoddy tools of the workmen, who, in addition, were anything but mechanics. Also, there were continual complications and troubles to retard the progress of the infant colony and its capital. Phillip writes: “I am very sorry to say that not only a great part of the clothing, particularly the women’s, is very bad, but most of the axes, spades, and shovels, the worst that ever were seen. The provision is as good. Of the seeds and corn sent from England part has been destroyed by the weevil; the rest is in good order.”
Most pathetic and forlorn must have appeared to us, could we of this latter day have seen it then, the little settlement on the shores of the Cove, with its few scattered buildings, most of them “formed of rough boards nailed to a few upright posts shabbily covered with bark,” and situated mainly on the hill lying to the north-west of the Cove. Stumps of trees studded the hardly indicated streets; no wharves, even of the rudest description, had yet been formed; except around the mouth of the Tank Stream the scrub grew thick to the water’s edge, and loomed grey and monotonous on every inland hill, on every harbor headland. And to those of us who, passing to and fro the Cove of to-day, and threading the busy streets of the great city behind it, ever cast a thought to the scene it must have presented in those early months, years, even, the whole thing should appear little less than a miracle.
But, despite all hardships, trials, and sufferings, the stout heart of the brave founder never failed him, his patience, nor his absolute faith ever wavered. He, however, was the sole exception. Let us see, for instance, what the Lieutenant-Governor, Ross, has to say about the business. Writing to Under-Secretary Nepean, he wails:
“Take my word for it, there is not a man in this place (he should have excepted his superior) but wishes to return home, and indeed they have no less than cause, for, I believe, there never was a set of people so much upon the parrish as this garrison is, and what little we want, even to a single nail, we must not send to the Commissary for it, but must apply to his Excellency for it; and when we do he alwayes sayes there is but little come out, and it is but little we get… If you want a true description of the country, it is only to be found amongst many of the private letters sent home; however, I will, in confidence, venture to assure you that this country will never answer to settle in, for, although I think corn will grow here, yet I am convinced that if ever it is able to maintain the people here, it cannot be in less time than probably a hundred years hence. I, therefore, think it will be cheaper to feed the convicts on turtle and venison at the London Tavern than be at the expense of sending them here.”
This was written only six months after landing. And early though this was to show the white feather, the dreariness of the outlook and the weary hopelessness of the life might have excused a much stronger man than Ross was for weakening under the strain. There, however, can be no excuse for his incessant grumbling, and attempt to put every possible obstacle in the Governor’s way, instead of doing what he could to help him through his many and constant troubles.
As time passed, bricks were made, stones hewn, timber shaped, and houses built, in spite of difficulties which had at first sight appeared almost insurmountable. The winter rains made matters terribly uncomfortable for both bond and free; but the hardships thus engendered acted as a spur to them to provide efficient shelter from the elements.
Thus, in the winter of 1788. we find the settlers busily employed in carrying out the details of Phillip’s plan, long since dispatched to Lord Sydney. Barracks for marines were erected; houses for the Governor and the Lieutenant-Governor; the hospital was roofed with shingles, and the Observatory begun at the future Dawes Point. This last building, however, was scarcely finished before it was found to be too small, not only for its principal object, but to accommodate the lieutenant’s family. So the masons and other workmen set about building another Observatory in the same spot. On the other hand, the barracks, when finished, proved far too large for the military alone, and, therefore, was partially used as a store. The greatest inconvenience was felt throughout these operations for lack of men with any practical knowledge of building and the other trades necessary to make any progress with the erection of the city.
In October, 1789, came about a rather momentous event, no less than the launching of the first boat built in the colony. This craft was intended for the transport of stores from the newly-formed farm at Rose Hill, close to where Parramatta now stands. The boat was a huge and unwieldy specimen of the builder’s art. The convicts called it satirically the “Rose Hill Packet.” Then, learning by much hard experience how difficult it was to shift her, they altered that fancy name to the more appropriate one of “The Lump.” A magazine was about this time erected near the Observatory, and a house built for the Judge Advocate. The roadways—bogs in wet weather, and dust-heaps in dry, were made a little more passable towards Christmas time. Also a guard-house was built on the east side of the cove, close to the bridge, that had been thrown over the Tank Stream.
In the beginning of 1790 a flagstaff was erected at the South Head, by means of which the arrival of ships could be signalled to the infant Sydney. And from there during the terrible year of ‘90 many anxious eyes swept the desolate ocean for signs of that relief so eagerly expected. Food was giving out and necessaries of every description, and famine stared the embryo colony in the face. For nearly two years the colonists had been isolated. Apparently the Home Government had forgotten their very existence, notwithstanding many appeals from Phillip. And but for that same Phillip it is quite possible that not only would there be no Sydney to-day, but that Australia would be under French or Dutch rule instead of British. If Ross, for instance, had been in Phillip’s place the chances are twenty to one that on his lachrymose representations all attempt at colonisation would have been abandoned. But, fortunately for us, and for England, too, Phillip, the naval sea-captain, was the man of all men fitted for the occasion.
Famine was upon him and his charges, and night and day the seamen of the Sirius kept watch at the new flagstaff in hopes of being able to signal to the town the approach of those supply-ships that everybody believed with the most implicit faith must be long ere this well on their way from England.
But the events of this memorable year of 1790 are history, and Sydney, owing to disease and famine, grew little or nothing in size during it.
A fresh storehouse was finished, and a landing place formed at the head of the Cove; and, the bad year once passed, the young settlement seems to have steadily, if slowly, grown and spread, first along the foreshores and the course of the Tank Stream, until, cradled though it had been in despair and famine, and handicapped by the quality of its inhabitants, it presently began to be apparent to everyone that there was forming on the shores of the cove the nucleus of a city. In 1792 Phillip left the colony and went home to England, more secure than ever in the belief, which, indeed, had never deserted him, that the prosperity of the settlement was thoroughly assured.
One incident of ‘91 should be noted, in that the first convict settler, who had made a declaration that he was able to support himself on a farm he had occupied for fifteen months, received a grant of 140 acres of land. At the present day many of our settlers would be only too proud to be able to declare a similar fact.
In 1792 flour was 9d. per lb.; potatoes were 3d. per lb. A sheep cost £10 10s; a milch goat, £8 8s; breeding sows, each £7 7s to £10 10s; laying fowls, 10s. By these figures it may be seen what terrific value was attached to live stock of any description in these early days.
Tea was a luxury, indeed, at 8s to 16s per lb. Sugar was comparatively cheap at 1s 6d per lb. Spirits at 12s to 20s per gallon were cheaper than at present, and porter at 1s per quart was within the reach of most people. At this time, and for a score of years afterwards, it must be remembered that spirits, chiefly rum, were the ordinary currency of the colony. When Hunter arrived, in 1795, the whole population, with the exception of 179, was dependent on the public stores for rations.
Briefly, the events of his five years’ term embraced the first use of the printing press, the discovery of the lost herd of cattle, and the forming of the settlement of Newcastle, on the Hunter River.
So far as Sydney itself was concerned, the only building of importance seems to have been that of the first school. Here 300 children were taught, and, after service each Sunday, catechised by the Rev. Mr. Johnson. Various windmills, too, were erected to grind the settlers’ corn. This was done gratuitously by the government. In 1800 Captain Hunter was superseded by Captain King.
During the latter’s term the Female Orphan School, of which more anon, was founded; the first issue of copper coin took place. A notable incident was the establishment by a prisoner, Geo. Howe, of the first Australian newspaper, known as the “Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser.’’ This was in 1803, and original files of this ancient newspaper are now so scarce as to be very valuable. The editorial address accompanying the first issue runs:
“Innumerable as the obstacles were which threatened to oppose our Undertaking, yet we are happy to affirm that they are not unsurmountable, however difficult the task before us. The utility of a paper in the colony, as it must open a source of solid information will we hope be universally felt and acknowledged. We have courted the assistance of the Ingenious and Intelligent. We open no channel to Political discussion or Personal Animadversion. Information is our only purpose; that accomplished, we shall consider that we have done our duty in exertion to merit the Approbation of the Public and so secure a liberal patronage to the ‘Sydney Gazette.’ ”
FOR many years Sydney does not appear to have made much headway. Even in 1816-17 Woolloomooloo was a dense scrub, in which it was very easy to get bushed, whilst tea (sometimes wrongly called ti) tree grew freely throughout the city in streets and open places. Thatched houses and mud huts formed the majority of the buildings. Where the Town Hall now stands was a public cemetery, although not the earliest, for a burying-ground had been earlier made further north; the Cathedral grounds of to-day were a favourite camp for drovers and cattle dealers; and everywhere roamed the aborigine.
George-street (named after the reigning monarch) started from Dawes Point, and ran along the western side of the Cove. The only public wharf was that already referred to, and known as King’s. There, all the merchandise of the colony was landed. Near the wharf, the now almost neglected Tank Stream flowed into the Cove. Houses were scarce and scattered. Where the Mariners’ Church stands there was one of the few weatherboard cottages. On the other side of the Cove were situated the Government boatsheds.
The roads were still mere bush tracks of dust or mud, according to the weather. For some inscrutable reason other, an orphanage had been built at the corner of Bridge-street. Apparently the authorities expected a prolific crop of orphans. These, however, proved so scarce that in a few years the building was abandoned, and the land subdivided, and sold. Out of this re-arrangement Queen’s Place was formed. There was a bank—the Australia—at the corner of George and Essex streets. And here took place the first Australian bank robbery. The thieves tunnelled from a drain in an adjacent paddock until they reached the strong room, and, forcing that, got away in safety with much plunder.
Where the Bank of Australia now stands were the Government stores, whence rations were served out to the convicts. Across Bridge-street the Tank Stream flowed sluggishly, spanned by its thick-set bridge of a pattern seen over country brooks in England. The origin of the word “Tank” may not be generally known. It seems that a butcher at that time had his shop in Hunter-street, and his land extended back to the stream. On one side of his property were a number of excavations, or tanks, cut out of the solid rock, and in these the soldier’s wives washed clothes. Other accounts, however, say that out of these “tanks” the town derived its water supply. The two stories, even in those days, could hardly be compatible. Probably the latter is correct.
On the site of our present General Post Office stood a small house in a fruit garden, whilst near by was a clump of detached cottages and some fenced-in paddocks. At the corner of George and Barrack streets was in 1817, a cow-yard, which fronted George-street for a considerable distance. In the cottage next to the milkman’s lived a turner, and next him stood a three-roomed public-house.
The above is a facsimile of the copper plate which was discovered in March, 1899, when excavating a telephone tunnel near the corner of Philip and Bridge streets. Collins, the contemporary historian of the First Fleet, describes the laying of the foundation of the first Government House, and relates how this plate was then deposited. Collins prints the inscription, which last year saw the light for the first time for 111 years.
The site of the old markets was enclosed by a strong four-railed fence, and here were a number of sheds for the display of produce brought in by the settlers. North of the market stood a wooden pillory, large enough to hold a couple of offenders. Prisoners sentenced to floggings were brought to this place, tied to a cart-tail, and publicly whipped in view of the crowd of marketing women.
On the site of the present Cathedral, in a “wattle and daub” cottage, lived a drover. In this cottage he was one day found dead, and, dying intestate, the property—thought little of at the time—reverted to the Crown, and eventually was secured by the Church of England authorities, to whom Governor Macquarie made a grant of it. Later, he laid the foundation stone of the present Cathedral. As one stocks would not suffice, there were, in conspicuous places about the city, four more.
As long before as 1796, Sydney’s first theatre had been opened. Certainly it could not have been much of a building, costing, as it did, only £100. The first play performed in it was Dr. Young’s tragedy, “The Revenge,” a piece long since dead and forgotten, but which, in the latter part of the 17th century, had no small reputation as a public favourite. But it is the prologue of the old play that, first mouthed in the first Australian theatre, made the occasion so memorable, and for ever rescued from oblivion the title, at least, of Young’s play. And although the passage alluded to above is one of the stock quotations of the language, it may not be out of place to here give the four famous opening lines—
“From distant climes, o’er widespread seas we come,
Though not with much eclat or beat of drum
True patriots we, for, be it understood,
We left our country for our country’s good”
The tariff of admission was not extravagant, or does not seem so to us, seeing that a seat in the gallery, the fashionable part of the house in those days cost only one shilling cash, or its equivalent in spirits, flour, meat, or other necessaries. This, however, so it is said, was not actually the first entertainment of its kind in the colony, inasmuch as a performance of Farquhar’s “The Recruiting Office,” has been traced back to June 4, 1789—the birthday of George III.—“on which date some prisoners were graciously permitted to show their loyalty to their Sovereign by acting this play”—The 1796 theatre came to a bad ending. Whether truly or not, it was said that owing to its establishment crime increased to such an extent that the Governor ordered it to be pulled down; and for some years Thespian entertainments were not heard of except as private indulgences. Authorities are divided as to the authorship of the prologue, although it has been generally attributed to the notorious convict, George Barrington. This claim is, however, strongly contested by the late Mr. Samuel Bennett, in his valuable work, “The History of New South Wales,” in which the author considers it highly probable that the lines were written by Lieutenant-Colonel Collins, and that the fathering them upon Barrington was merely by way of joke. Be this as it may, the prologue, apart from the single verse given, is an extremely clever bit of work, teeming with sly allusions to the former proclivities of the actors.
The open Haymarket space of to-day was in these years, 1817-20, occupied by the Government brickyards. Hence the Brickfield Hill of our own time. In the meantime, the site of the present Town Hall had been occupied by a public pound, which, when the ground was presently required for other purposes, was removed to that upon which the brick fields stood. Also, upon the Haymarket, was situated the first toll-bar. A paddock extended from here right through to Hay-street, whilst a creek ran out into a large pond, that took up most of Ultimo. It was known as Dickson’s Pond, and was a common resort of the citizens when they felt like going for an afternoon’s duck shooting.
There were few other streets, and these mostly nameless, besides the ones already mentioned. Bush tracks, to be made into thoroughfares later on, abounded. Before Governor Macquarie appeared on the scene, there were indeed no “streets.” The sparsely built upon and straggling ways were known as “rows.” But in Macquarie’s time these were altered. Thus “Pitt’s Row” became Pitt-street. “Soldiers’ Row” Park-street, “Back Soldiers’ Row” Kent-street, etc. Market-street was merely a boggy lane; Woolloomooloo a farm, and Hyde Park a racecourse. Tribes of blacks roamed about Botany, North Shore, and Manly, and camped around and in the infant city itself.
The Botanic Gardens, Farm Cove, and most of the bay shores and headlands were all primitive bush. On the banks of the little creek in the Gardens, then a sparkling stream, now a sluggish pond, bridged, and with its course obstructed, was a favourite corroboree-ground of the natives. The present University grounds were known as Grose’s Farm; but the other suburbs, Newtown, Marrickville, Leichhardt, Glebe and Forest Lodge, were all thick bush, with, perhaps, here and there, the small cleared patch of some enterprising settler.
The barracks lay between George, Clarence, Margaret, and Barrack streets, and are remarkable only as the scene of the first step towards Bligh’s deposition by Major Johnson, and the New South Wales Corps of notorious memory:
“The drums beat to arms; the New South Wales Corps—most of them men primed with rum—formed in the barrack square, and with fixed bayonets, colours flying, and band playing, marched to Government House, led by Johnson. The Government House guard waited to prime and load, then joined their drunken comrades, and the house was surrounded.” The rest is matter of common history.
Prominence has purposely been given to the foregoing picture of Sydney, in order, if possible, to place before the reader some idea of what changes had taken place since Phillip left it—practically a city of great distances, and but little else. In 1809 Macquarie had arrived, and, as we have seen, took to the work of improving and extending Sydney with a ready and willing mind. Grose and Hunter had done little in this way, lacking opportunity and time. The former was only in office two years; and Hunter had his hands too full with the squabblings of the New South Wales Corps to admit of leisure for much else.
His term of office though, was notable for one happening, i.e., the first civil action of any magnitude was tried in Sydney The facts are worth stating:—“A soldier of the New South Wales Corps shot a hog, belonging to a Mr. Boston, for trespass. The owner of the hog used abusive language to the soldier. At the instance, so Boston alleged, of two of his officers, the soldier beat him with a musket. For this Boston claimed £500 damages. The trial lasted two days, and the court (a military one) gave a verdict against two of the defendants, with damages 20s each. The Governor, on appeal, confirmed the verdict. Thus, as a contemporary writer gleefully observes, “Though it was sought to make the Government a sort of military despotism, yet the seeds of civil freedom were sown, and would, in due season, bud and blossom,” a prediction, as we who now read, can amply testify, thoroughly borne out.
Let us see, now what Macquarie thought of his charge. He writes in his first dispatch:
“I found the colony barely emerging from infantile imbecility, suffering from various privations and disabilities; the country impenetrable beyond forty miles from Sydney; agriculture in a yet languishing state; commerce in its early dawn; revenue unknown; threatened with famine, distracted by faction; the public buildings in a state of dilapidation; the few roads and bridges almost impassable; the population in general depressed by poverty; no credit, public, or private; the morals of the great mass of the population in the lowest state of debasement, and religious worship almost entirely neglected.”
Truly a terrible indictment this to draw up against any people! And though it was, probably, in great measure true, there is all the more credit due to our ancestors for having survived such a state of things, and made us what we are.
Nor must it be imagined that, for all the pessimistic declaration just quoted, the lieges were entirely without their pleasures and recreations. There was, for instance, racing in Hyde Park, lasting three days, and conducted after the Newmarket fashion, followed by an ordinary and two balls. The principal prize was a “Lady’s Cup,” presented to the winner by Mrs. Macquarie. “The subscribers’ ball,” says “The New South Wales Gazette,” “took place on Tuesday and Thursday night, and was honored by the presence of his Excellency the Governor and his lady, his honor the Lieutenant-Governor and his lady, the Judge Advocate and lady, the magistrates and other officers, civil and military, and all the beauty and fashion of the colony… A supper followed the ball… After the cloth was removed the rosy deity asserted his pre-eminence, and with the zealous aid of Momus and Apollo, chased pale Cynthia down into the Western World; the blazing orb of day announced his near approach, and the God of the chariot reluctantly forsook his company. Bacchus dropped his head; Momus could no longer animate.” All of which, put in modern phrase, means simply a very wet night indeed, and no one with much less than three bottles under his belt at daylight.
In the earlier days of the colony Divine service was performed in the open air, soon after sunrise, and under the most shady trees procurable. In 1793, a temporary church had been built at the back of the huts on the eastern side of the Cove, near the corner of what are now Hunter and Castlereagh streets. It was erected at the sole expense of the Rev. Mr. Johnson, already mentioned, of strong posts, wattles, and plaster, and thus enjoyed the distinction of being the first Christian Church in Australasia. In 1798 it was burnt down. Then the brick store built in the premier year of the colony was utilised as a church. The same store, which appears to have been the very first house in the colony worthy of the name, stood a little behind the site of the present Bank of Australasia.
The first part of old St. Phillips’ (since replaced by the present fine Gothic structure) to be built was the clock-tower. This was finished in 1797; but in 1806 it fell down. Formerly of brick, it was rebuilt of stone the same year. The church itself was begun in 1800; but not until nine years later did the Rev. W. Cooper officiate therein for the first time. It was finished about a year afterwards, and a handsome altar service of solid silver was presented to it by his Majesty King George III. St. Phillip’s was consecrated by the Rev. Samuel Marsden, a gentleman of varied attainments and pursuits. On the last Sunday in December, 1809, Lachlan Macquarie, not long landed, attended service at the new church.
Marsden, of whom the early chronicles have much to say, was, in addition to a clergyman, a magistrate, landowner, and stockbreeder. Thus in the very next number of the “Gazette” to the one announcing the consecration of St. Phillip’s, appears his name in conjunction with two other settlers, offering a reward of £1 sterling, or a gallon of spirits, for all skins of native dogs.
And now, 90 years later, we are still offering from £1 to £5 for dingo scalps!
With the advent of Macquarie, Sydney began to shufle off something of the squalor and dinginess of those earlier days at which we have glanced. We have seen Phillip living in his four-roomed tent; then, later, in the hut dignified by the name of “Government House,” and surrounded by tenements, to which even it was a palace; we have seen the little settlement born in much travail to the accompaniments of hunger and hardships of every description, and the clanking of chains; the miseries alike of bond and free throughout the desperate struggle for existence during years that might well have depressed the stoutest hearts, dismayed the most sanguine souls. Then came the twelve years of Macquarie’s blended rule of despotism and benevolence; clear views and narrow, stubborn ones. You have read his first dispatch sent home when the first appalling impression of Sydney and its surroundings were hot upon him. Now read what posterity has to say of him:—
“He found New South Wales a gaol, and he left it a colony; he found Sydney a village, and he left it a city; he found a population of idle prisoners, paupers, and paid officials, and he left a large, free community, thriving in the produce of flocks and the labour of convicts.”
To Macquarie’s work as a builder there will be much occasion to refer.
FINE a harbour as Port Jackson was, the early days, as may be supposed saw few opportunities for the use of it as such. The comings and goings of ships were confined to those of a few transports with convicts, and of provision vessels at long intervals from England or the Cape. Later, trade was opened with the East Indies and with the United States.
Passages were of great length. For instance, one ship, the Ceres, took nearly six months to come out. A curious incident happened on the trip. Touching at Amsterdam Island she took off four men, two English and two French, who had apparently been marooned from a brig called the Emilia. For no less three years had these unfortunates lived in that desolate spot, subsisting mostly on seal flesh. About 1794 a little trade with India begins; for we read that “the snow Experiment, from Bengal, and the sloop Otto, from North America, anchored in the Cove”—the last named five months and three days out from Boston. Trust Jonathan to discover a chance for trade, no matter how distant the scene of operations! His notions, too, we may be very sure were welcome enough to the citizens, and his bargains profitable to himself.
As time passed, however, the duties of the signalman at South Head became less and less of a sinecure, and on occasions there was almost what might be called a rush of ships. Many of these oversea arrivals had curious stories to relate, some of the weather, others of their cargoes. Amongst the last Mr. Michael Hogan, who brought “the Marquis Cornwallis from Ireland, with 233 male and female convicts of that country,” seems to have had a very rough experience.
“We understand,” says the report, “from Mr. Hogan that there had been a conspiracy to take the ship from him. This was, however, happily defeated. Nevertheless, the commander felt it his duty to punish many of the ringleaders very severely; in fact, when they arrived in Sydney they were carried from the ship to the hospital.” That is all. But reading between the lines one can imagine unpleasant things.
Emboldened, perhaps, by the cruise of the Experiment, a sister snow, the Susan, presently arrived—231 days from Rhode Island. She took her time, and touched nowhere. She was laden with spirits, broadcloth, and a variety of useful articles. A desperately long and lonely journey for a small vessel of, likely enough, not 300 tons.
One vessel, the Britannia in these years—1794-1798—is constantly mentioned as bringing stores and live stock to the infant colony from Calcutta, Madras, and Capetown. Perhaps she may be looked upon as entitled to the distinction of the first “regular trader” to Sydney.
Of course we had nothing much to export, as yet. Nor was our first shipment, when we did imagine we had found something worth sending away, much of a success. Somebody, it appears, had made a big lot of grindstones out of the coarser sort of freestone. These were sent to the Isle of France, and deposited there with an agent for disposal. But one morning a slave, rushing into his master’s room, exclaimed, “Massa, massa, oh my gad, grindstone all run away!” It had rained in tropical fashion during the night, and demolished the stack of Australian grindstones, floating some of them out of the yard, and about the streets, and washing the more porous ones into mere sand. This story is, however, probably apocryphal.
But although these sporadic exits and entrances of wandering ships made Sydney, even in those far-off days, a port, journalistic recognition of the fact did not come until the printing of the first newspaper, in 1803. In it—
“Notice is hereby given that the ship Castle of Good Hope will positively sail for India on Sunday, the 13th current; and Captain M’Askell requests that all claims may be given in to him by the 10th.”
Then again, the editor, to make the most of his one ship, expatiates as follows:—
“The Castle of Good Hope is the largest ship that has ever entered this port, and measures about 1000 tons. During the passage she lost twelve cows and one horse, fell in with no other vessel, and met with no accident. Her passing through Bass’s Straits instead of going round Van Dieman’s Land considerably shortened her passage, and saved many cows.”
In a day or two, however, the paper is enabled to chronicle the arrival of a “whaler, the Greenwich, with 1700 tons of spermaceti oil, procured mostly off the north-east coast of New Zealand.”
And ever as the months pass, so does “ship news” require more space for both deep-sea and coasting—the last under the title “Boats.” “Came in from the Hawkesbury on Saturday last, the 19th instant, the William and Mary, W. Miller, owner, laden with wheat,” and so on, and so on. Deep-sea ships lay at anchor in the Cove, the small fry came up to the “Sydney Wharf.” “On Sunday morning last came five boats from Kissing Point with fruit, poultry, vegetables, and potatoes.”
Whalers seem to have put in pretty regularly to refit and re-victual; heaving down on some soft spot on the shores of the Cove for caulking of seams and patching of copper after the long cruise. In the thirties, whaling became a very flourishing industry indeed, attracting many men and ships from England and Scotland. But we shall have occasion to glance now and again at the state of the port during the progress of this chronicle.
On February 15, 1811, the second year of the reign of Macquarie, was born the first Australian by an Australian mother. His name was Arthur Devlin, his birthplace Liverpool, on the banks of George’s River in the County of Cumberland, New South Wales. His subsequent career is of interest from his having been one of the first whaleboat’s crew which claimed the championship of the colony. His companions were James and George Chapman, William Howard, Andrew Melville, and George Mulhall. The first race took place in 1830, and was from Dawes’ Battery round Shark Island, and back to the starting place. At that time the port was full of whalers, and competition was therefore keen. But these six young Australians, all standing over six feet, were too much for any of the other boats, and won easily.
Early in 1895 a contractor working on a piece of vacant ground in North Sydney, used as a market garden twenty years ago, unearthed three tombstones. And to these stones hangs a story that is part of the story of our city, and must be here briefly told.
The inscriptions, then, on these tombstones commemorated the deaths of the surgeon, the chief officer, and the master of the ship Surrey, all of whom died on the ship’s first passage to Sydney—a very terrible one, indeed. Early in the month of July, 1814, the ship Brexhornebury, while off Shoalhaven, fell in with a big vessel lying-to, her sails in confusion, and signals of distress flying. She proved to be the Surrey, transport, from Spithead, with 200 male and 139 female convicts on board. There was also a detachment of 25 soldiers. Contagious fever had broken out on board, not only among the convicts, but also among the officers and crew. The captain informed the master of the Brexhornebury that 28 of the male convicts, two soldiers, the chief officer, and two seamen had died; that he and the remainder of his officers and crew were still suffering; and he implored help to take his fever-stricken ship into Port Jackson.
Naturally there was no disposition to eagerly board the Surrey, and the boat’s crew lay on their oars, and doubtfully surveyed the floating pesthouse and the scared and disease-marked faces that peered wistfully over her bulwarks.
At length a man, turning to the captain of the Brexhornebury, said, “I can navigate. I’ll go on board and take her in.” This unknown hero did so, and brought the Surrey to Sydney with her captain, Paterson, dying, and the other officer little better. Most unfortunately, there is no mention of that man’s name. It was worthy of mention.
The Surrey got into port on July 27, and was anchored in a convenient position “near the North Shore.” But not until April 31 was the camp, in which her people had lived in tents, broken up, and the ship brought round to the Cove.
This old “Surrey” or, as the early records call her, the “Surry,” was one of the oldest traders, or, rather, transports, to Sydney, making between 1814 and 1840, no less than eighteen voyages; and she must have been almost identified with and looked upon by the citizens as part of their history. The tombstones, it may be mentioned did not distinguish the site of the burial, but were merely memorials placed there by sorrowing friends and shipmates at a much later period.
Of interest, as showing at what an early age men in those days reached positions of sea-responsibility, it is recorded that Captain Paterson and Surgeon Brooks were only 24 years old; while Chief Officer Crawford was but 28. Where the last resting places of the captain and the surgeon were really situated there seems no evidence. The chief officer was probably buried at sea.
During the twelve years of Macquarie’s rule he made roads, erected public buildings, and constantly travelled about the colony, distributing grants to deserving settlers, planning townships, and pardoning industrious prisoners. Fifteen months after the discovery of the long-sought-for-passage across the Blue Mountains by Wentworth, Lawson, and Blaxland, the Governor had, by placing nearly every convict in the colony at the work, formed a good road to the western plains. And along this he presently, accompanied by his wife and suite, journeyed, and founded the town of Bathurst.
But Sydney was the chief centre of this indefatigable man’s exertions. And he did nothing by halves. For instance, seeing that the old markets, close to the wharf, were most unsuitable for the purpose, he issued a proclamation that he intended to at once remove them to “that piece of open ground, part of which was lately used by Messrs. Blaxland as a stockyard, bounded by George-street on the east, York-street on the west, Market-street on the north, and the burying-ground on the south, and, henceforth, to be called Market Square.” If the shade of Macquarie ever revisits Sydney, what, one wonders, does it think of the great pile that now stands on part of the same ground? Does it envy the questionable achievement, and feel regret at not having been able to stand sponsor for yet another “Macquarie” effort; for he, too, often built well but not wisely.
Presently he erected a wharf at Cockle Bay (now Darling Harbor) for the reception of sea-borne goods, and, more particularly, grain and corn. And there have been wharves on that spot ever since for that especial purpose. He it was, too, who built a market house “surrounded by a cupola and lantern, and with a front portico supported by Grecian pillars.” Many of us remember this imposing structure as the late Central Police Court, dingy, dirty, and quite unfitted for such business. But in those days it was deemed a really superb building.
Years ago, in the time of Governor Hunter, a half-moon battery had been erected by the ship’s company of the Supply, and armed with some of the tender’s guns. This promontory was then called Point Bennilong, from the fact that, on the site of the battery now known to us as Fort Macquarie, Governor Phillip had built a house for Bennilong, the native who accompanied him to England, and afterwards returned with Hunter. In a plan of Sydney presented by the Hon. P. G. King to the Legislative Council, dated 1820, Fort Macquarie is shown, but mentioned as carrying sixteen guns. In that year, the point on which it stood was separated by a narrow stream from the mainland, and it was necessary to cross a drawbridge before entering the fort. Later on, the moat was filled in, some land reclaimed from the sea, and an outer wall built. Little, however, seems to be known of its history, because the earlier Governors devoted more attention to fortifying Dawes’ Point, and the fort, named after Phillip, which occupied the site of the present Observatory. This defence commanded the harbour; and with the battery on George’s Head, erected in 1803, and the one on old Bennilong Point, was considered sufficient for the defence of Sydney.
Probably the ever-restless Macquarie took the old Fort in hand, and did something for it, besides endowing it with his own patronymic. It is of interest to remember that at the time of the Crimean war this battery was provided with additional guns; during the latter end of 1870 it was strengthened by the addition of five 42 pounders. The last occasion upon which it was used was in March, 1871, when the guns were manned by fifty men, and the fort took a share in the spectacle known as the “defence of Sydney.” It has now totally disappeared to make room for a nondescript land of castellated barn, intended to serve as a tram terminus. In triumphs of grotesque uncouthness the architects of Macquarie’s and those of our own time seem thoroughly at one.
No less indefatigable as a former of streets than as a builder, did Macquarie prove himself. Already it has been told how he cut George-Street out of a thick scrub between the markets and the Cove; cleared and named many others, and by his exertions did much towards making the city out of the village. It must be remembered, however, that, unlike his less fortunate predecessors, he had the British Treasury at his back, and unlimited muscle at instant command. Plenty of land he also had to give away. And that he was liberal with it the story of Burwood House amply proves.
Mr. Alexander Riley was an enterprising gentleman, who, wishing to go in for scientific farming on a large scale, applied for and received a grant of no less than 1000 acres, extending from Parramatta to the Liverpool Road, and embracing much of the present boroughs of Croydon, Burwood and Strathfield. Here, with the aid of a small army of assigned servants, he fenced the whole of the estate, cleared half, subdivided it into paddocks, and laid down English grasses, besides building Burwood House. At this day the ancient mansion presents much the same appearance as it did in 1820, and its preservation speaks well for the endurance of the native timbers, and the excellence of early workmanship. Of course, as time passed, it was bit by bit shorn of its surrounding grounds and the last we hear of it was when, in 1885, Messrs. Hardie and Gorman sold the house, with 200ft frontage to Burwood Park Road, for £3550. Let us hope that whoever owns the eighty-year old house will deal gently with it, and not pull it down to build suburban red brick villas on its site.
We have seen the building of the first permanent church—old St. Phillip’s.—Now, in 1819, was laid the foundation-stone of the second —St. James. Says an old writer:—“The spire surmounting the brick tower at the west end not only takes away from the heaviness of the edifice but also forms a conspicuous object from every part of the city and its neighbourhood.” This spire, it may be remembered, was renovated some years ago, and the interior of the building materially enlarged. Still, in all essentials, the church remains as it was in the days of Macquarie.
In the same year was finished and occupied the Hyde Park Barracks, used as the principal convict depot of the colony. All these prisoners on their arrival were forwarded here, and after being duly registered were open for assignment to the free inhabitants as servants. The Supreme Court was begun in 1820, but not completed for another eight years. Three years previously had arrived our first judge, Mr. Baron Field; also an Auxiliary Bible Society had been established; there was a free school, prisons, Churches, and a racecourse; but there were as yet, no free press and no trial by jury to complete the civilising of the city.
Before leaving Macquarie and his works, in stone and mortar, reference must be made to one of them, if only for the curious means by which he got it built, and the curious means the builders took of paying themselves.
The then colonial architect had been told to prepare plans for a general hospital. This he did, but on such a costly and lavish scale—a centre building and two detached wings to be erected of cut stone, with a covered portico completely surrounding each of the three piles —that Macquarie, although sorely tempted, considered the expense doubtfully, and for a while hung back. But only for a while. And, presently, he made an agreement with three well-known citizens by which these gentlemen contracted to erect the building in its entirety on condition of receiving a certain quantity of rum from the King’s store, and of having the sole right to purchase, and to land free of duty, all the ardent spirits that should be imported into the colony during a certain term of years, The “Rum Hospital,” as it was called at the time, was eventually completed in accordance with these conditions. The wages of those so employed were as was usual in those days, paid for half in cash and half in “property,” i.e., in tea, sugar, ardent spirits, wine, clothing, etc., or any other article the contractors happened to have in their store, and, which, of course, was charged to the labourer at an enormous percentage above its true value. And to make a clean sweep, the contractors erected several public houses in the vicinity of the works, at which the emancipist and convict labourers might spend their wages. Says Dr. Lang: “In the year 1824 the Rum Hospital was calculated to be worth £20,000. I am confident that a good building could now (1834) be erected for £10,000. The quality of Bengal rum received by the contractors was 60,000 gallons, worth at that time the whole estimated cost of the building. The monopoly was for three years, afterwards extended to three-and-a-half years, and as the contractors could purchase spirits at three shillings (a gallon) and retail them at forty, the right was supposed to be at least £100.000.”
And in this extraordinary fashion did Sydney get her first general hospital.
Surely never any charitable institution founded under such, to say the least of it, disreputable circumstances! Still though Macquarie’s contemporaries raged bitterly against him doubtless, out of the evil that attended its birth came eventually much good and comfort to the suffering. It served its purpose, even as does the beautiful building that now stands on the site of the “Rum Hospital” a portion of which, the southern wing, still remains with us in the shape of the Mint.
WRITING of Sydney in about 1821-2, a visitor remarks: “This town covers a considerable extent of ground, and would, at first sight, induce the belief of a much greater population than it actually contains. This is attributable to two circumstances—the largeness of the leases, which, in most instances, possess sufficient space for a garden; and the smallness of the houses erected on them, which, in general, do not exceed one story. From these two causes it happens that the town does not contain above seven thousand souls. There are in the whole upwards of a thousand houses; and although they are, for the most part, small, and of mean appearance, there are many public buildings, as well as houses of individuals, that would not disgrace this great metropolis (London). Of the former class, the General Hospital and the Barracks are, perhaps, the most conspicuous; of the latter are the houses of Messrs. Lord, Riley, Howe, Underwood, and Nichols. Land in this town,” the writer goes on to say, “is in many places worth £1000 per acre, and is daily increasing in value, rents are, in consequence, exorbitantly high. It is very far from being a commodious house that can be had for a hundred a year unfurnished.”
He visited the market, already described, and was rather pleased with it, finding it well supplied with grain, vegetables, poultry, butter, eggs and fruit. It was held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
The Bank of New South Wales, he thinks, “promises to be of great and permanent benefit to the colony in general.” Its capital at that time was £20,000, divided into two hundred shares, and its paper was now the circulating medium of the colony.
Education was spreading, and the schoolmaster was going, comparatively, far afield. “There are in this town,” says a historian of these early twenties, “and other parts of the colony, several good private seminaries for the board and education of the children of opulent parents. The best is in the district of Castlereagh, which is about forty miles distant, and is kept by the clergyman of that district, the Rev. Henry Fulton, a person peculiarly qualified both from his character and acquirements for conducting so responsible and important an undertaking. The boys in this seminary receive a regular classical education, and the terms are as reasonable as those of similar establishments in this country” (England).
Compare this “seminary” business with the first school, already mentioned, of the Rev. Mr. Johnson, and it will be acknowledged that we were making rapid advances indeed. Here, bearing on the same subject, is an extract from the “Sydney Gazette” of the day:—
“Sydney Academy, No. 93, Phillip-street.—Wanted a Drawing and a Dancing master; persons properly qualified, and who can give satisfactory testimonials as to character and abilities, will meet with liberal encouragement by applying as above. Likewise, wanted a good laundress.”
And also: “Boarding and day-school for young ladies by Mrs. Hickey, Bent-street Sydney; opened for a limited number, where they will be instructed in English Grammar, writing, geography, and the French language. Terms: Under ten years, board and tuition, including English grammar and plain work, per annum £20.”
Then, for the opposite sex: “To parents, guardians etc.—Mr. Cuffe begs leave respectfully to acquaint his friends and the public that he has removed his day and evening schools from his late residence in Pitt-street to Macquarie-street where every attention is paid to the education of youth in all its branches, by himself, and able assistants, terms as usual. N.B.—A Sunday-school will be spiritually and morally attended to.”
All this sounds very fine; but it must be kept in mind that the city proper was as yet scarcely more than a collection of huts, with, dotted amongst them, the comparatively huge buildings of Macquarie’s regime: that the waters of the Cove still washed up to where the Paragon Hotel now stands, and that the gallows, upon which men were hung in batches, was a prominent feature of the city.
The first place of execution, by the way, was, as nearly as can be gathered, near Hyde Park, not far from where St. James’s Church now stands. But, although accounts differ in this matter, it seems pretty certain that the site of the original gallows afterwards formed part of a garden, taking in the ground upon which is erected the Supreme Court; and, probably, this garden ran up to the corner of our King street. However, this may be, the gallows, in 1804, began a series of journeys; close to the corner of Park and Castlereagh streets, occupied in 1848, as it is now, by the Barley Mow Hotel; thence it was taken to some part of Sussex-street, where, in the same year, stood Barker’s Mills: then it was moved to a piece of ground near Strawberry Hills; then to the back of the Military Barracks; from there, in the beginning of the twenties, this much-travelled machine found a resting place on the summit of a cliff in Princes-street, at the rear of the gaol in Lower George-street. Its final journey was to the front of the new gaol at Darlinghurst, where it performed its first duty on two men convicted of murder, in October, 1841.
Innumerable arguments have taken place about this matter of the precise situation of the original gibbet. But by what can be learnt from careful research, the above is as nearly as possible its early history.
A dominating feature of the Sydney landscape, to which reference has already been made, was the windmills crowning some of the most prominent heights, and forming, as will be seen in the old prints, a not unpicturesque element in the scene.
Steam, for the purpose of grinding com, was not utilised until about 1828. Says the “Gazette” of 1819: “Mr. John Blaxland begs leave to inform the public that he has erected a mill for the grinding of grain, the stones of which are the production of the colony; and that he will grind wheat at 1s per bushel. Any person found taking stones from his Luddenham Estate will be prosecuted.”
The last intimation shows that the editor of the “Gazette” had to suffer imposition as well as his modern prototypes, it being, to all intents and purposes, a separate advertisement. But, then, Mr. Blaxland was a person of weight in the community, whilst the poor newspaper man of those days had to tramp round the country for many miles, and in all weathers, humbly soliciting payment of two, and even three, years’ overdue subscriptions.
Although the readers of this book should be able to form for themselves, aided by the pictures, a fairly accurate idea of Sydney at the various ages of its growth already touched upon, yet, to give effect to these, something must be said of the men and women, our forbears, who had their being, and lived their lives under so much less happier auspices than do we the present day.
But contemporary historians have not given us, in this respect, very much to go upon. Their time was too greatly taken up by chronicling political squabbles, and the gradual expansion of the colony outside the capital, to afford any leisure for more in a glimpse now and again into the social life of Sydney itself.
Says an early visitor, writing just about the advent of Governor Brisbane:
“Society is upon a much better footing throughout the colony in general than might naturally be imagined, considering the ingredients of which it is composed. In Sydney the civil and military officers with their families, form a circle at once select and extended, without including the highly numerous respectable families of merchants and settlers who reside there. Unfortunately, however, the town is not free from those divisions which are so prevalent in all small communities. Scandal appears to be the favourite amusement to which idlers resort to kill time and prevent ennui; and, consequently, the same families are eternally changing from friendship to hostility, and from hostility back again to friendship.”
These conditions, it may be remarked, will still hold good at present of many other towns, besides Sydney some eighty years ago.
Continues our author: “Of the number of respectable persons some estimate may be formed if we refer to the parties which are given on particular days at the Government House.” Even now many people gauge respectability by much the same test. And notice that word “respectable.” It occurs throughout the old chronicles, and is pregnant with meaning. To be respectable in those days was apparently to be “pure merino,” with no taint even of the emancipist, let alone of the actual convict, about you. And that such spotless ones among the flock were very far from being numerous is shown by the fact that at one of these Government House festivals, in 1822, there were about 160 “respectable” ladies and gentlemen.
Writing a year or two later, the author, already quoted above, remarks rather significantly: “There are at present no public amusements in this colony. Many years since there was a theatre, and more latterly annual races. But it was found that the society was not sufficiently mature for such establishments.” Reading here between the lines, one seems to have unpleasant visions of what our early “general public” was like. Later on, as we shall see, they matured, and, presumably, improved.
From all that can be gathered, and that is but little, our folk of the early years led lives, that, if busy, were none the less monotonous, void of social amusements, except, perhaps, at long intervals, a supper and ball at Government House, or some public celebration like that of the Anniversary Dinner. Of their home life, there has been no word-painter, and of it we know little or nothing.
This function, the Anniversary Dinner, merits rather more than passing notice. The first one on record seems to have been on January 26, 1817, and was held by Isaac Nichols, Postmaster of Sydney, at his house in Lower George-street, at the head of the Cove, to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the foundation of the colony. There are forty select, and presumably thoroughly “respectable” guests, who sit down to table at five in the afternoon, and retire at ten that night.—There are loyal toasts proposed after the cloth is removed; and the “Muse of Mr. Jenkins,” who is the chairman, has composed a song, which is sung to the tune of “Rule Britannia.” A verse or so will suffice to give the reader an idea of this, undoubtedly the first Australian patriotic song:—
When first Australia rose to fame,
And Seamen brave explored her shore
Neptune with joy beheld their aim.
And thus express’d the wish he bore.
Rise, Australia! - with peace and plenty crown’d
Thy name shall one day be renown’d.
Then Commerce, too, shall on thee smile,
Adventurous barks thy ports shall crowd;
While pleas’d, well pleas’d, the Parent Isle
Shall of her distant sons be proud.
Rise, Australia! with peace and plenty crown’d,
Thy name shall one day be renown’d.
And who shall say that “Mr. Jenkins” did not make a very fine forecast indeed, and one fulfilled to the very letter?
Next year the celebration became official, taking place at Government House, while in the evening Mrs. Macquarie gave a ball. Mr. Howe, the editor of the “Gazette” was graciously allowed the privilege of a look round during the evening—not being “respectable” that, of course, was as much as he could expect—and he appears to have been very much taken with a portrait of Admiral Phillip, which was suspended at one end of the room, encircled with wreaths and banners, and an inscription running:—“In commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the colony of New South Wales established by Arthur Phillip, whose virtues and talent entitle him to the grateful remembrance of this country, and to whose arduous exertions the present prosperous state of the colony may chiefly be ascribed.” Which goes to show that contemporary recognition of the first Australian pioneer was stronger than that of succeeding generations; and, indeed, until quite recently, in our own day. The artist was a Mr. Greenaway, the Colonial Architect; and it would be of interest to know if that old portrait is still in existence.
The thirty-second anniversary (1820) was celebrated by a public dinner at Hankinson’s rooms, in George-street, which was attended by “sixty or seventy respectable persons.” But on this occasion there was no enthusiasm to speak of, owing to the fact of the guests being over-charged. The tickets for the dinner cost 40s—“without any kind of refined articles, such as jellies or blanc manges, and the elegance of a tip-top tavern table, such as could be had in London for a quarter of the money.”
Some of these good people had probably been glad enough, in the starvation years, of a feed of hominy, and now they are growling because mine host had not provided blanc manges and jellies! And, by the way, it is remarkable that now we find this function left chiefly to the emancipists, who, apparently, have been admitted to call themselves “respectable.” This was, of course, Macquarie’s doing; for only a month or two after landing he had shown very clearly where his sympathies lay by making a convict a magistrate. Certainly, the person in question had been transported for some petty offence at the age of 16. But the affair, nevertheless, gave a tremendous shock to the untainted members of the community.
In 1821. the thirty-third anniversary was perhaps the most successful of any so far. It took place at Gansdell’s Rooms, Hyde Park, when 101 emancipists sat down to a great spread. Dr. Redfern was president, Simeon Lord was vice-president, and there were eight stewards. It is particularly noted by the chronicler of the affair that both dinner and wines were excellent.
Succeeding celebrations all partook of the same non-political and partially representative character until 1825, of which more anon.
Major-General Sir Thomas Brisbane, K.C.B., was now Governor of New South Wales—the second of our military Governors. For the city, in the way of adding to or beautifying it, Brisbane did little or nothing. Indeed, during the whole of his four years stay, he was more or less in hot water. In the first place, he, with a stroke of his pen, altered the financial policy of the colony. and with such disastrous results that wheat rose to £1 per bushel. Wheat, when he arrived, was practically the currency of the country, and was exchangeable at the Government store for vouchers representing an average rate of 10s per bushel. These receipts were as good as cash in Sydney. Brisbane suddenly changed this circulating medium from sterling to colonial currency, with the result of raising the pound sterling 25 per cent above the pound currency; the effect on the small farmers, already many of them deeply in debt to Sydney merchants, may be imagined. Before this, however, he had fallen out with the Scotch Presbyterians. And this was the more curious, inasmuch as Brisbane was himself a Scot, and a Presbyterian to boot.
Dr. Lang arrived in 1823, and at once set about getting a church built, collecting, in a few days, upwards of £700 for that purpose. A memorial was now addressed to the Governor, praying for Government monetary aid for the undertaking. To this a sharp and insulting reply was sent, refusing the wished-for help. The committee, indignant, applied for redress to the Home Government, who severely reprimanded Brisbane, and ordered him to advance not one-third of the cost of the erection, but also to pay the officiating minister a salary of £300 per annum, “regretting,” at the same time “that his Excellency put to their probation members of the Church of Scotland in the colony—the Established Church of one of the most enlightened and virtuous portions of the Empire.”
Thus Brisbane got his snub, and the Scots their church. Later on the Governor, however, showed himself anything but a small minded man; for, perceiving that he had been quite in the wrong, he replaced his name on the list of subscribers, off which, in anger, he had caused to be taken. Nay, more, he laid the foundation-stone of the Church in July, 1924. Such is the story of St. Andrew’s, or, as we, at this day, more generally know it, the “Scots Church.” Standing at the south end of Church Hill, it is practically unchanged; looking as stiff, sturdy, uncompromising, and rugged as the man through whose enterprise it was built.
Dr. LANG never forgave Brisbane for the slight put upon the Sydney Presbyterians by comparing them to their disadvantage with the Roman Catholics. Thus, when the Governor instituted yearly and half-yearly races in the capital, Lang calls him the “patron saint of Australian jockey-ship.” The Scot divine says bitterly: “There are the Sydney and the Parramatta races… There are the Windsor races, and the Liverpool and the Campbelltown races. There are races at Maitland and Patrick’s Plains; two different stations on Hunter’s River; at Bathurst, beyond the mountains; and at Goulburn Plains, 200 miles from Sydney, in the district of Argyle. In short, ‘the march of improvement’ is much too weak a phrase for the meridian of New South Wales; we must, therefore, speak of the ‘race of improvement,’ for the three appropriate and never-failing accompaniments of advancing civilisation in that colony are a racecourse, a publichouse, and a gaol.”
This was unfair and unjust. But Dr. Lang was at times both. Later he wrote:—“When I ask what Sir Thomas Brisbane did for New South Wales, I pause in vain for a reply. When I ask what memorial he left behind him to endear his memory to the country and to perpetuate his fame, a hundred fingers point to the ‘Brisbane Cup.’ ”
But Brisbane did more than this, for he established a fine Observatory at Parramatta. Also, before he left, he launched a thunderbolt at the exclusives of Sydney by actually dining with “the elite of the emanpists.” During his regime, too, was, in 1824, established our first Executive Council; and there arrived our first Chief Justice, Francis Forbes (afterwards Sir Francis); Saxe Bannister, the Attorney-General; John Stephen, father of the late Chief Justice (Sir Alfred Stephen), as Solicitor-General and Commissioner of the Court of Requests; John Mackness, as Sheriff; and T. E. Miller, as Registrar. The first trial by jury was empanelled in a civil cause in February, ‘25. Noteworthy, too, was the establishment of the first independent newspaper, the “Australian,” which was published by Messrs. Wardell and Wentworth.
It will thus be seen that if, during this period, there was little increase in the growth of the city, there were a good many events of importance that were most intimately connected with its present welfare and its future history.
Recurring to the establishment by the Governor of the periodical race meetings so contemned by Lang, it may be of interest to know how the boundaries of the old-time course ran.
The grand-stand, then, in 1821, and the winning-post stood at the top of what is now Market-street; the course took a sweep to the right in the direction of Hyde Park Barracks, thence past the site of St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Sydney Grammar School, passing in front of Lyons Terrace, obliquely to the top of Bathurst street, then along what is now Elizabeth-street, to the corner of Park-street, and thence to the winning post. When first formed, the length of the course was one mile and a quarter, but it was afterwards shortened to a mile and six yards.
The first race took place about 1810, when the 73rd Regiment arrived under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Maurice O’Connell (the late Sir Maurice O’Connell), and the first prize was won by a horse named “Chance,” the property of Captain Ritchie; the Colonel’s mare, “Carlo,” won the second; and one belonging to D’Arcy Wentworth, the third. But shortly after Governor Brisbane’s arrival houses began to spring up so quickly around this quarter that the course was removed to what was known as the Sandy Racecourse, about four miles to the southwards, towards Botany Bay.
One curious event of 1824 was the seizing of a vessel, while at anchor in Sydney Cove, by a King’s ship, acting on behalf of the East India Company. This company, it appeared, claimed the exclusive right of trading in Eastern waters. Now, the colonial Government had chartered a ship—the Almorah—and had sent her to Batavia whence she returned with a valuable cargo of rice, tea, sugar, etc. Presently some of the Sydney merchants, jealous of official meddling with their prerogatives as traders and importers, laid an information against the Almorah with the captain of an English man-of- war, then lying in the harbor; and she was seized in open defiance of the Government, and sent off with her cargo as a prize to India, on a charge of infringing the Company’s charter. The mere fact, it was alleged, of her having tea on board was sufficient excuse for this arbitrary proceeding.
Of course there had been bushrangers in the colony before Brisbane’s time, but not any calling for special mention until the Donohoe gang, who flourished in 1825, and the three following years, instituted a very reign of terror in Sydney and its immediate neighborhood. Donohoe’s gang contained a dozen ruffians; but his chief companions were Walmsley, Webber, and Underwood—all transported convicts except the last, who was native-born. After a time, however, his mates discovered that he had been keeping a diary of their proceedings. Disgusted with this literary effort, they effectually stopped all chance of publication by deliberately murdering the unfortunate author. He had, so it was alleged, joined the gang from mere love of adventure.
For four years these men set the police at defiance, notwithstanding that a reward of £100 was offered for the ringleaders. Between Sydney and Parramatta they murdered and robbed, and fought the police with an impunity that says little for the constitution of the “force” of those days. So great did the terror of the band become that travel’ers joined together for protection. Says a newspaper of the time, speaking of Donohoe and his depredations: “Some half dozen constables or so, we believe, have been packed off up the Parramatta and Liverpool roads, but have returned to town as usual, safe and sound and empty-handed… Some effective measures should be taken, and that speedily, to suppress this alarming evil.”
The dress of the three leaders has been described, and shows that they wanted for little, in that respect at least. “Donohoe: Black hat, superfine blue cloth coat, lined with silk, surtout fashion, plaited shirt (good quality), laced boots, and snuff-coloured trousers.” He seems to have been the dandy of the trio. His two aides, however,—Walmlsey and Webber—were almost equally well-dressed.
At last the residents, harassed beyond endurance, rose in their own protection and gave battle to the bushrangers at Raby, now Bringelly. Here Donohoe was shot. But most of the others managed to escape through the thick scrub. Later on, Walmsley and Webber were captured on the Western road. Walmsley turned king’s evidence against Webber, who was presently hanged. Through the informer others of the gang were at intervals captured, and the long reign of “Bold Jack Donohoe” and his banditti was over.
But during Brisbane’s official term dozens of men seem to have taken to the bush, and had more or less long and successful careers, ending in death by the gallows or the bullet. The Bathurst district was especially prolific of bushrangers; but, compared with the bloodthirsty Donohoe gang, the majority of them appear to have been mere station-hut robbers and petty pilferers of that kind. Nor did we ever produce anything equal to the terrible Tasmanian outlaws. But whilst for robbery under arms they most surely swung, at times, a merciful judge, for simple thieving, might only send them to Norfolk Island, “to be worked in chains during their lives.”
In 1825 were first established the Mounted Police, drawn chiefly from the infantry regiments serving in Sydney. At the beginning, they consisted of only two officers and thirteen troopers. Nor was it until fourteen years later that the force could make anything like a respectable show with nine officers, a sergeant-major, and 156 non-commissioned officers and men, with 136 horses; twenty of the corps being footmen.
The officers were magistrates, and the body was subject to military law and discipline. They were armed with carbine, sword, and horse-pistols, and were uniformed as light dragoons. The headquarter division, consisting of the commandant, the adjutant, and some score of men, was stationed in Sydney. As a service, it was an excessively rough, hard, and perilous one, and not by any means so popular as it is now.
The Anniversary Dinner of 1825 demands especial notice, because of its entirely different features to those that came before it. They were merely loyal and sentimental functions. This particular one, however, was in the highest degree political as well. The chair was taken by an eloquent young Australian, who had just returned from a visit to England, full of wide and liberal ideas, eager, too, to give the benefit of them to his native land. His name was William Charles Wentworth; and he was the practical champion of constitutional government, as opposed to that military despotism so familiar to his early youth.
Tickets, on this occasion, were only 5 dollars each; the feast was held at Mrs. Hill’s tavern, Hyde Park. A military band was in attendance, and some of the toasts indicate the progress that the colony was making towards reform and freedom: “To the memory of Governor Phillip, the Founder of the Colony,” “The Memory of Major-General Macquarie, Our Late Revered and Lamented Governor.” There were also toasted: “Sir James Mackintosh and the other Advocates of Australia in the British Senate,” “Trial by Jury,” “The Freedom of the Press,” “A House of Assembly.”
The vice-president was Dr. Redfern, and amongst the stewards was Robert Campbell, son of the first real Sydney business man, known even to this day as “Merchant” Campbell.
Architecturally, except in the matter of private houses, Sydney during Brisbane’s term, as has been remarked, had little more to shew than when Macquarie left—a Governor who should have been buried in the centre of the city with the one word, “Circumspice,” cut for an epitaph on his tomb. Still, the political and social happenings of Brisbane’s years, few though they were, had more effect on the future of the capital and the colony than all the building of Macquarie, and are so bound up in the early history of our city as to render ignoring any notice of them, however slight, impossible.
Between Governor Brisbane’s relinquishing the rule of the colony and the arrival of his successor, another military man, Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Darling, K.C.B., there was only an interregnum of eighteen days, during which the administration was in the hands of Colonel (afterwards General) Stewart, of Bathurst, an honor which formed the one boast of that officer’s existence, and the standing joke of the district during the remainder of his life.
One of the chief advantages gained by Sydney and the colony during Darling’s reign seems to have been the establishment of a general Post Office; and for this purpose he set aside the piece of land in George-street then occupied by a police station. The quarters of the force were removed to the Market House (old Central Police Station), while sheds for market purposes were erected at its rear.
Readers will remember mention of Mr. Isaac Nichols, “Postmaster of Sydney,” in whose house took place the first-recorded Anniversary dinner. Well, this is the person who is said to have built the first post office in our city, using it, at the same time, as a residence. The house was only pulled down about 11 or 12 years ago, and was situated in Lower George-street, near the Queen’s wharf, Circular Quay; it was numbered 144. Behind it in those days, was a store; and directly in front of this was a wharf, on the banks of the Tank Stream, at which small coasters used to discharge goods. The house, supposed to have been built about 1800, was substantially constructed of brick, made, probably, in the old Government brickyards. When Nichols died, in 1819, the post office was removed to where the present great building stands the police, who occupied it, being, as already stated, established in the Market House.
At his death, Nichols’s post office changed hands, and became the Australia Hotel. For years prior to its being demolished it had been occupied, like so many other houses in this, the oldest quarter of Sydney, by Chinese merchants. Almost opposite to the site of the original post office there was, some years ago a butcher’s shop, once the residence of Mr. Thomas Moore, superintendent of dockyards. Further south is a structure believed to be the oldest residence in Australia. It was built by a Mr. Cubitt, at the corner of George-street and Brown Bear lane, and was of stone, and two stories high. Later on it was known as the Cat and Fiddle Hotel, and an additional story of brick was added. This old bit of history is now occupied by Chinese.
Needless to say that in Postmaster Nichols’s time there were no pillar-boxes and no postmen. People had to travel from all parts of the settlement to post or receive letters at the old house in Lower George-street. And it may be remarked of this street that not only does it give us a capital idea of what that quarter of the city looked like over half a century ago, so little has it changed, but, into the bargain, is almost a perfect facsimile of scores of streets in English country towns. Our first builders were nothing if not conservative, and they reproduced, as nearly as possible, in the new country the unsuitable conditions of architecture they had left behind in the old one. As to the new post office, it still, so far as looks went, remained allover a police station, until improved almost out of knowledge in 1847-8.
In the second year of Sir Ralph Darling’s reign an event happened that shook Sydney society, both exclusive and otherwise, to its very foundations; and, as being part of the history of the city, may be here briefly touched upon.
Sudds and Thompson were two private soldiers in the 57th Regiment doing duty in Sydney. Sudds was a steady man, who had saved some money; Thompson was a scamp. But both wished to remain in the colony, instead of returning home with the regiment.—As to procure their discharge was out of the question, Sudds proposed to his mate that they should gain the coveted paper by becoming convicts. This being agreed upon, they went to a shop and stole some cloth; were, as they intended, caught and tried; and sentenced to be transported to one of the auxiliary penal settlements for seven years. Then the Governor stepped in, took the two prisoners out of the hands of the civil power, and condemned them to work in chains on the roads for the full term of their sentence, and afterwards to be returned to service in the ranks.
On a day appointed, the Sydney garrison was assembled, and formed into a hollow square. The culprits were brought out, their uniforms stripped off, and replaced by the convict dress; iron-spiked collars, and heavy chains, made expressly to the Governor’s orders, were riveted around their necks and to their legs, and then they were drummed out of the regiment to the tune of “The Rogue’s March.” Sudds was in very bad health at the time, and his illness, aggravated by the disgrace and the long exposure in the hot sun, together with the utter downfall of his hopes, plunged him into such a fit of hopeless despondency that he died a few days afterwards. Thompson became insane.
Then the fun began. The “Gazette” defended, the “Australian” attacked, the conduct of the Governor; sides were taken, and Sydney was convulsed. Indeed, Darling may be said never to have heard the last of this extraordinary case of despotic military interference and uncalled for cruelty on his part.
In 1827 there were no less than four newspapers in Sydney—the good, old conservative “Gazette” the organ of the Government; the “Monitor,” a fighter; the “Gleaner;” and the “Australian.” And these three last were all arrainged against the “Gazette” and the Government. So sore did the authorities feel about these constant attacks that they presently imposed a duty consisting of fourpence upon any sheet, half-sheet, or piece of paper whereof any newspaper (within the meaning of the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act) should consist.
Howe, the editor of the “Gazette,” confident of Government support, only protested mildly against this imposition, but the others fulminated to such good purpose that the Act never came into force. Indeed, the Chief Justice refused to certify to its being a proper one. But for that, perhaps, the “Monitor” and its two contemporaries might, after all, have had to do as they threatened, and appear as magazines, to evade the duty, or to suspend altogether.
Bent-street owes a prominent old landmark to this era, i.e., the Free Public Library, originally known as the Australian Library. The originator of this institution was Thomas de la Condamine, private secretary to Governor Darling, aided by the Revs. W. Cowper and Hill, and many of the most influential merchants. The first meeting was held at the Sydney Hotel, when Alderman M’Leay was elected President. This was on February 3, 1826. By the judicious arrangement of the committee, aided by a liberal subscription list, donations from the Governor and from Archdeacon Scott, together with a bequest of books from T. Campbell, the library was opened on October 1, 1827, at No. 1, Terry’s Buildings, Pitt-street, or somewhere about the site of Messrs. Batt, Rodd, and Purves’s auction rooms. These premises were held jointly with the newly-established Sydney Dispensary, whose officer also served as a temporary librarian from 1 to 4 p.m. daily. Shortly afterwards the Governor granted for its use some valuable allotments of land. Two of these were situated in Hyde Park, between where now are St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Sydney Grammar School. There were also two other pieces above Rushcutter’s Bay. These were sold, later on, in about ‘41, by public auction, and realised £3384.
Sir Richard Burke, however, cancelled the ground in Hyde Park, notwithstanding many protests on the part of the committee and others. Finally, Sir George Gipps granted the site of the present edifice, of which the president (Alexander Macleay) laid the foundation-stone in 1843. It took three years in building, the cost being over £5000. Eventually it was purchased by the Government, and declared free for the use of the people. Additions have since been made, but substantially it is the same as it was in the twenties.
Darling’s reign has been known as one of libels, because the press seemed during the whole administration perpetually in hot water. Even the “Gazette” was bitter by the prevailing epidemic, and was criminally prosecuted for an alleged libel on the first, and retiring, Attorney-General of the colony, Saxe Bannister, Esquire. The paper, however, won its case. But Hall, of the “Monitor,” (“who had deserved especially well of the colony in having reared a numerous and virtuous family”), Wentworth and Wardell, of the “Australian,” and the others, were always more or less in trouble. The liberty of the press was certainly established but the fact was that the authorities had not as yet thoroughly realised what such a matter meant; nor had the editors, on their side, made a moderate use of their liberty. Hence the friction.
But for Darling, in 1826, the colony would have been bankrupt. Some idiots spread a rumour that the bank of New South Wales was about to stop payment. The inevitable scare followed, and only that the Governor helped the bank from the Treasury-chest, disaster would probably have taken place. Mrs. Darling, the wife of the Governor, established a Female School of Industry, not far from St. James’ Church. Major Goulburn, the first Colonial Secretary, after whom the well-known Sydney street was named, returned to England. “He was,” remarked his biographer, “a man of uncontaminated spirit, marked integrity, and indefatigable zeal. He was succeeded by the Hon. Alexander Macleay who, with his wife and family, arrived in the Marquis of Hastings.”
IN April, 1826, Mr. Howe informes us in his “Gazette,” that Mr. Iceley’s thoroughbred mare, imported ex Columbia, dropped a fine bay foal; this being the first blood horse born on Australian soil. And, by the way, it should be said, that the original Howe (George) had now been dead some years, and that Robert, his son, ran the paper in these, comparatively, good, new days. The filial eulogium is worth reproducing:
“Mr. George Howe, the Institutor, Printer, and Publisher of the ‘Sydney Gazette’ and ‘New South Wales Advertiser,’ as well as the Compiler and Publisher of the New South Wales Pocket Almanack, yielded up, on the 11th of May, all his arduous labours at the visitation of death. He has the undisputed honor of being the primary Editor of Australia, and his memory will run coeval with New South Wales; having succeeded in rearing up and establishing, amidst hosts of difficulties, that humble but important structure, the “Sydney Gazette” and thus attained the genuine Printer’s greatest ambition—even in death—a typographical monument, in which, though silent in the tomb, he will ever proclaim himself to us the Progenitor of Printing! We hope that the reprint of our paternal and beloved Typographist will (in the technical phraseology of Franklin) appear once more in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the Author.”
Poor old man, from what can be gathered, despite his son’s tall talk, he had, on the whole, a very hard, dreary, and squalid time of it. Snubbed by one faction, kicked by another, and swindled by both.
Late in October, 26, there arrived the Waterwich, the first seventy-four to enter an Australian port. She was in command of Commander Sir James Brisbane, brother of the late Governor, and was bound from Trincomalee to South America. Fine and high and imposing she must have bulked to the eyes of the citizens.
During Darling’s time, too, we find the second recurrence of that “novel and severe distemper,” influenza, or “catarrh,” as they called it then, with which we of to-day are so unpleasantly familiar. It prevailed “throughout the colony, and gave rise to much distress.” Its first visitation was in 1820, when “it by the violence and fury of the attack, consigned many people to the grave.”
Next year whooping cough was introduced by the ship Morley, and the disease killed so many children, and became so virulent that the schooner Alligator had to be formed into a quarantine station. Later on the transport Bussorah Merchant introduced a slight epidemic of smallpox. Otherwise the health of the city and the colony kept throughout fairly good.
In the time of Governor Darling was produced the first Australian ghost story, which merits notice because from out a commonplace and brutal murder was evolved a romance which has not only had, in diversly embroidered aspects, an almost world-wide reputation, but is very firmly believed in by many persons at the present day.
The commonly accepted story, in its bare outline, is that Worrall and Fisher were two well-to-do farmers of Campbelltown. Suddenly Fisher disappeared. Worrall, pretending to be in his confidence, hinted that he had gone to England to escape prosecution for forgery, and so wished his departure kept secret. By and bye, he produced a letter empowering him to sell the farm and belongings of the absent man; also a power of attorney. Then he advertised all Fisher’s property for sale. But the very day before this came off (note the “psychological moment”), an old man saw Fisher, or his ghost, sitting on a fence. The vision according to the best etiquette in such matters, appeared three times. Rumors spread; the place was searched, blood marks and footsteps were found, the last leading towards a water-hole, in which the decomposed body was discovered by a blackfellow, and identified as that of the missing man. Suspicion naturally turned to Worrall, as being the last person seen in Fisher’s company, and as being in possession of his property. Worrall was apprehended, tried, and executed, making, at the last moment, a full confession of his guilt.
The true facts of the case were that Worrall murdered Fisher, and, coolly taking possession of his farm and effects, tried to sell them piecemeal, saying that he had documents that gave him power to do so. In one or two instances he forged receipts, in Fisher’s name, for the purchase of stock, etc. It was a long premeditated crime, to get hold of his victim’s property, which was worth some thousands of pounds, in land, houses, and horses.
Worrall, in the actual matter of fact version, never advertised the farm for sale; no talk of any ghost appeared in the proceedings at the trial. Both Fisher and Worrall were ex-convicts, and both bore but indifferent characters. The crime was an ordinary, brutal, clumsy murder. Nor were there any of the sensational effects recorded by romancists attending either its discovery or the expiation of it.
Actually the most striking and dramatic incident of the whole case was furnished by the blackfellow, Gilbert, employed as tracker, when, skimming the top of the pool with a leaf, he tasted it, and exclaimed that it was “the fat of a white man!” But Worrall did not, in spite of the story writers, throw the body of the victim into the pool at all. He merely hid it in some rushes close by. Then, growing uneasy, he removed it, and buried it a few yards away. Of course, the juices of the decomposing body may have drained into the pool. But, probably, Gilbert was only “gammoning” and he, or his fellows, had already seen indications of the grave. However, here condensed, are the false and the true stories of “Fisher’s Ghost;” but to convince many folk that the first version, ghost and all, is not the correct one, would be a very hard task.
Let us now take a glance at the Sydney of 1826-28. George-street was, of course, the main, and, indeed, the only thoroughfare of importance, and extended, with many and frequent gaps, for about a mile and a half along the hollow through the centre of which once ran the Tank Stream—now a trickling rill being gradually civilised out of existence. “The town,” writes an historian of that day, “occupies the whole of the hollow, creeping up the gradual ascent on each side. The ridge on the left is successively crowned by the lofty-looking buildings of the horse barracks, the colonial hospital, the convict barracks, and a fine Gothic Catholic chapel; beyond these lies the promenade of Hyde Park, flanked towards the town by a row of pretty cottages, and towards the country by a high brick-walled garden appertaining to the Goverment. On the ridge to the right of the Cove, rows above rows of neat white cottages present themselves, overlooked by the commanding position of Fort Phillip, with its signal post and telegraphic appendages (these last probably the semaphore by means of which communication was maintained with the Governor when absent at Parramatta). Following this, we behold, in succession, the military hospital and windmill, St. James’s Church, the Gothic Presbyterian Kirk (Dr. Lang’s), and, beyond these, the military barracks, forming three-fourths of a large square (now Wynyard), and opening to George-street, with an extensive green plot in the centre for purposes of parade. The portion of the town to the right is best known as the Rocks… This is considered the St. Giles, and the division of the town to the left the St. James, portion of Sydney, most of the superior citizens inhabiting the latter, and the lower classes chiefly the former—though The Rocks can undoubtedly boast of many handsome houses, with highly respectable inmates. A few hundred yards from the head of the Cove, towards the left, stands the Governor’s house, with its beautiful domain in front. On the right shore of the Cove,” continues our author, “you first see the mansion of Mr. R. Campbell, one of our oldest and most respectable merchants, with its garden full of flowers and fruit trees, and wharf and storehouse next the beach; next, you observe the town house of Captain Piper; then the Government dockyard, against the surrounding walls whereof are built the working sheds and storehouses, with its boat landings and little wet docks scooped out of the adjoining shore; then came the high buildings composing the commissary stores, beyond which is the wooden Government wharf jutting out into the harbor; and, further on, the landing warehouses of the various merchants connected with our imports and export trade, a low wall there terminating the Cove, to prevent its being filled up by the alluvial deposits from the rivulet.”
The above is, perhaps, the best description extant of Circular Quay and its surroundings some seventy odd years ago.
The land near the Cove was the most valuable of any, and there the houses were built adjoining each other; further along they straggled in rows of detached cottages, whitewashed, and generally one-storey in height; a verandah in front, enclosed with a paling fence, and standing each in its own garden. There are still a few of these ancient residences to be found, but not in George street. The streets were wide because their boundaries were as yet so slightly defined; they were unpaved and unlit, and troops of homeless cows and goats roamed them by night and by day.
Even then, in its second youth, Sydney must have presented a pre-eminently English aspect, for one visitor says that but for the cages of bright-coloured birds exposed for sale (look at Lower George-street now) and the gangs of convicts marching to and fro in single file in their yellow or grey jackets, and canvas overalls, “daubed with broad arrows, P.B.’s, C.B.’s and various numerals m black white, and red, with perhaps the gaol gang straggling by sulkily in their jingling leg-chains,” he might easily have imagined himself “at home.” He, however, forgets the climate.
The “Gothic Catholic Chapel,” mentioned above, is, of course, St. Mary’s or rather was the forerunner of the present great cathedral of that name, not built until many years later, and even now incomplete. Writing in 1834, Dr. Lang says: “The Roman Catholic Chapel is an ambitious edifice, built of hewn stone in the form of a cross, and occuping a very prominent situation when viewed from the water.” The foundation had been laid by Macquarie in October, 1821; and the Rev. J. J. Therry was the person to whose exertions much of the success of its erection was due.
But to return to our city of ‘26-28. Goulburn-street was then absolutely houseless; and for this reason was often quoted to strangers by the jokers of the town as remarkable for no burglary ever having taken place in it.
There were six places of worship: St. Phillips’, St. George’s, the Scots’ Kirk, a Methodist chapel, and St. Mary’s; there was a male orphan school endowed by the State; and a benevolent asylum supported by private charity. There were two steam flour mills, three water mills, and numerous windmills which could turn a bushel of wheat into flour in a little over ten minutes. Sydney now, too, produced its own spirits; a Mr. Cooper having started a distillery about a mile along the Parramatta-road, a continuation of George-street. Also, a Mr. Underwood established another upon the South Head road. Thus, the citizens were amply supplied with home-made “tanglefoot” or, as the papers of the day termed it, “a pure spirit manufactured from the good grain of the colony.”
The “Australia” (once the first post office and home of Nichols) and the “Royal” hotels in George-street, and Hill’s Tavern, close to Hyde Park, were said to be as good houses as those in any English town of the same size. But there were many low pot-houses and “publics” scattered broadcast about the place. Lodgings were very reasonable, the most respectable ones seldom exceeding a pound per week, and averaging fifteen shillings each for a double room—“the landlady making all your purchases, and cooking and serving up all your meals for this sum.” At most street corners were fruit stands, from which noisy sellers bawled their wares—a feature of our city still in full swing. The town was divided into six police districts, each with a lockup and a night watch attached. As to its water supply, Sydney appears to have been still dependent on the Tank Stream excavations, but these, in a dry season, being found inadequate, the authorities were casting about for some other source of supply. Let us hope that the soldier’s wives, who, as already mentioned, a writer alleges, in 1816, washed clothes in the tanks, had discontinued the habit.
Even now amusements were very few indeed: the news of the world was six months old when it arrived, and then only brought broken and garbled accounts. Personal scandal still formed the most prominent feature of “society” talk. Certainly, Mr. James Underwood (by the way, the builder of the first vessel launched in Sydney) was said to be erecting a theatre, but of this undertaking little else is to be learned. Indeed, in these days the gaol was turned into a theatre, “a Temple of Thespis, the debtor’s room afforded the arena, and persons of the highest standing in the town were not ashamed to witness the crude representations of these dramatic enthusiasts.” Not till 1833 did Sydney possess a regular bona fide theatre, the “Theatre Royal,” opened by Mr. Barrett Levy, the licensee of the Royal Hotel in George-street, who had some time subsequently fitted up the saloon of that establishment for the exhibition of the legitimate drama.
The fair sex kept up the fashions as well as they could, natheless laboring under many disadvantages. “The moment a lady blooming fresh from England is known to be tripping along a Sydney street you will see our prying fair, singly or in groups, popping eagerly to take notes of the cut of her gown, the figure of her bonnet, and the pattern and colour of the scarf, or shawl, she displays upon her shoulders, that they may forthwith post off to put themselves in the ‘dear fashion’ too.”
Nor did our grandmothers grudge the cash to pay for their newest modes; for one person who kept a ladies’ “fashionable repository,” we are told, departed home with a nice little fortune of £12,000, all acquired in less than six years.
It may be worth noticing that in the first three months of 1826 eight hundred people, exclusive of those committed to the Criminal Court, had passed before the Sydney Bench. But on March 12, in the same year, to the amazement of the magistrates, there was not a solitary case. This unprecedented incident so staggered the court that, fearing the citizens were becoming downhearted, it issued no less than 76 spirit licences that same morning. As to the more detailed topography of the city, accounts differ materially; the earlier ones, written mostly by people on the spot, deal in generalities as to the locality, and their authors, thoughtless for posterity, seem to imagine that everybody would be always as wise as themselves respecting matters of such common knowledge. Which practice still obtains. We know for certain, however, such facts as that where Petty’s hotel now stands was in these years Captain Rossi’s garden (Rossi was then police magistrate); that cattle were slaughtered at Dawes—then Slaughter-house—Point; that people used to get their fire-wood in the neighbourhood of Cooper’s distillery, already spoken of; that where the big shop of David Jones and Company now stands was a cowyard; a butcher’s premises held the site of Kidman’s. In York-street stood a stocks, and the youngsters’ great amusement was to pelt the unfortunates both there and in the pillories with rotten eggs and vegetables from the market.
Until Busby brought water in from the Lachlan swamp, by means of a drain to Hyde Park, whence the citizens carted or carried it, the tanks formed the sole supply—useless in a drought. Surry Hills was mostly all open country, dotted sparsely with market gardens, and a few large private residences. Between Woolloomooloo and Darlinghurst lay a deep scrub-covered valley, through which a creek ran, and emptied itself into the bay. Children used to frequent Flagstaff Hill, where our Observatory now stands, to cut the bushes with which it was overgrown; out of these they made brooms. Broadly, the city boundaries were, in these days:—On the north, the harbor; on the south, the long low ridge of the Surry Hills; on the west, the “beautiful lagoon of clear and extensive salt water running two miles inland north and south” (Darling Harbor); and on the east, the deep valley already mentioned. Our limitations at this time were narrow, indeed! Still, from the last period in which we had a glance at it, the place had grown wonderfully, showing with every year that in modern parlance it had decidedly “come to stay.”
In 1830 was laid, by the Chief Justice of New South Wales, the foundation-stone of the Sydney College (now our present Sydney Grammar School). Inserted in the stone was a brass plate, with an inscription, reading: “This foundation stone of the Sydney College—an institution founded for the vigorous and pious promotion of polite literature, and the liberal arts among the youth of Australia—was laid by Francis Forbes, Chief Justice of New South Wales, on an auspicious day, viz., the 26th of January, in the year of our Lord 1830, in the happy reign of George IV., Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling being Governor of New South Wales.”
It was erected on a portion of over an acre and a half of land, the gift of Sir Thomas Brisbane, in 1825, to an institution known then as the Sydney Free Grammar School, conducted in a private house, but discontinued in the succeeding year. This land was “very eligibly situated near the racecourse,” and the foundation ceremony was attended by, besides the general public, over eighty of the trustees, who walked in procession from the Royal Hotel to the site of the building. As in our day, so in theirs, our worthy forbears probably seldom neglected the rite of “wetting the stone.” The “saloon” of the “Royal,” however, it should be in all fairness mentioned, was their usual meeting place, being rented from Mr. Levy for that purpose. The Chief Justice made a speech at the ceremony, and Dr. Lang “improved the occasion.” The function ended “with the acclamations of all present, in testimony of their joy on so interesting and auspicious an occasion.”
The first president was the Hon. Francis Forbes, with Messrs. Sam. Torry and George Allen as treasurer and secretary respectively. And on the first committee appear such well-known names as those of Sir John Jamieson, Dr. Lang, Messrs. Sydney and Francis Stephen, J. E. Manning, W. Bland, D. Cooper, S. Lord, and others, all intimately connected with the past and present history of the city.
The architect was Edward Allen, who took rank as a “benefactor” through foregoing a third of his professional fees—£125—for the benefit of the institution. The requisite sum for the erection of the college was to be raised by the sale of 200 shares of £50 each, “50 additional shares to be left open for the convenience of residents in the East Indies or elsewhere beyond seas, until the first day of January, A.D. 1833.”
In a progress payment college account, during 1830, appears an item, “Paid Mr. Iredale for spades, picks, etc., £1 4s 2d;” a memento, this, of the founding of the present house of Lassetter and Company. Amongst the shareholders occur the name of John Tawell (the convict Quaker, transported for forgery); Mrs. Reiby (at one time supposed to be Margaret Catchpole), W. C. Wentworth (late one of the committee), Robert Howe (editor of the “Sydney Gazette”), Robert Campbell (the first merchant), and many others of note and notoriety.
On January 19, 1835, the college was opened with Mr. W. T. Cape as its headmaster, and some cash and shares in hand, an omen of prosperity and good management that, as all of us well know, was not transitory, but has continued throughout the history of the colony to the present day.
WE have seen what took place at some of the anniversary dinners, and how they gradually assumed a patriotic aspect; the emancipists, who formed the guests, talking more “reform” than social business. Wentworth, “the apostle of liberty,” and Darling could not hit it at all; the Governor looking upon a patriot as little better than a rebel. So that Wentworth had to keep pretty quiet, not even attending the great dinner of 1831—the forty-third anniversary. The promoters said they were not going to talk politics at all. Indeed, they called themselves “The Australian Society to Promote the Growth and Consumption of Colonial Produce and Manufacture;” a sort of Chamber of Commerce, established some time before by the principal men of business in Sydney. These gentlemen invited their friends to dinner at Morris’s Crown and Anchor Hotel in George-street. Tickets were 10s.
At sunrise on the 26th the Royal Standard was hoisted at Dawes Point, and the guns there and at Fort Macquarie, at noon, fired a salute of forty-three (one for each year), the two batteries firing alternately. At dinner, no less than 130 guests assembled, with Samuel Terry (then, perhaps the richest man in the colony), as president; and Daniel Cooper (the knight’s uncle) in the vice-chair. They toasted Macquarie as usual; “Currency Lads and Lasses” (the name given to the Australian-born men and women); “The Judges and the Bar,” and “William Charles Wentworth,” whose name was the subject for a tremendous outburst of cheering. Then, all at once, the meeting seems to have lost its head or, at least the younger members of it did, and violent oratory took the place of trade talk; Darling was arraigned as a tyrant; and sedition ousted commerce. Hall, the proprietor of the “Monitor,” who was present, was held up as an example of one of Darling’s victims, prosecuted time after time, imprisoned, stripped of his property, deprived of his church pew, even, for simply criticising the Government policy in his newspaper. Nicolls and other young orators fairly carried the assembly with them; and their elders, grave and reverend merchants, who had come to talk a little shop, found themselves, before they knew where they were, cheering the speakers, and volubly talking treason—or what in those days, was held to be very much akin to it. It was a memorable dinner.
Gradually the press was beginning to be a power in the land. The Howes, were gone, and men like Wentworth, Nicholls, and Hall had replaced them. Robert Howe of the “Gazette,” was dead—drowned whilst fishing off Pinchgut with his infant son. The latter was, however, rescued by a sailor. Some kind hand writes of Howe: “That he was eccentric cannot be denied, but his were errors of the head, not of the heart. As an affectionate husband and father—a kind and considerate master—he was second to none. His hand was ever open to relieve the distressed; and of his charities few knew the extent. May his errors be forgotten, and the recollection of his many redeeming qualities be at once his excuse and his epitaph.”
During the last year of Darling’s reign also died another old identity, in the person of Boongaree, king of one of the principal coast tribes in the neighbourhood of Port Jackson. Governors King, Hunter, Bligh, Macquarie and Brisbane had been his patrons and protectors. Indeed, he seems to have been a favourite with everybody. Macquarie had given him land for himself and his tribe to camp upon between Milson’s Point and George’s Head; and every King’s Birthday when the Governor put it on his new uniform Boongaree got the old one; and, minus the trousers and boots, which nothing could induce him to wear, he used to parade Sydney in great state. He was a splendid mimic—as so many of his countrymen in their wild state are still—and could, with wonderful accuracy, depict the gestures and peculiarities of the various Governors and high officials whom he had served under.
Boongaree died in November, 1830, and he was buried on Garden Island, and, finding there very good company in Major John Owens and Judge-Advocate Bent, who, together with Captain Logan, late Commandant at Moreton Bay, and mysteriously murdered there, had been brought and placed in his friend Bent’s tomb.
The island then looked very different. Its two hummocks—one to the north and one to the south—have now been levelled and built upon, and the whole place turned into a depot for naval stores belonging to the Imperial Goverment. But in those days it must have seemed an ideally peaceful place of sepulchre. Since Phillip tried to grow cabbages there, little had been done to the island; but, some thirty years before Boongaree was buried, a redoubt, carrying a few guns, had been erected fronting the harbour fairway.
When the island was made an Imperial naval depot the bodies were removed to the burial ground of St. Thomas’s church at North Sydney, where, at this day, the curious can inspect the cenotaph that covers their remains.
Queen Gooseberry, the consort of Boongaree, survived her lord and master some years. She, however, was buried over on the North Shore; but the body was afterwards removed to the Devonshire-street Cemetery, Redfern, where, until the recent removals, her tomb was still to be seen. A Sydney gentleman is in possession of the brass cup, holding about a pint, in which the old lady used to receive her state allowance of rum. Altogether, we may take it that the pair had a very good time under the rule of the white invader. Says a newspaper of the time: The well-known aboriginal Chief, Boongaree, died, after a lingering illness, at Garden Island. The facetiousness of the native Chief, and the superiority of his mental endowments over those of the generality of his race, obtained for him a more than ordinary share of regard from the whole inhabitants of the colony, which was testified to by frequent donations suited to his condition, not only from private individuals, but from the authorities.”
On May 14, 1831, the first steamer arrived from England. Her name was the Sophia Jane, Biddulph master (he was once a lieutenant in the Royal Navy). She came via the Cape of Good Hope, carrying passengers and cargo. This was the first steamer to enter Port Jackson, although a couple of months earlier a small steamer had been launched on the waters of the harbor. She was called the Surprise, and made her trial trip from Sydney Cove to Parramatta in four hours. Henry Gilbert Smith, one of the directors of the Commercial Bank, was her owner, and she was brought out from England in sections to his order, put together at Neutral Bay, and launched there on March 31, 1831. Captain Devlin, already referred to as the first to be born in the colony of Australian parents, was her commander; and the late Hon. George Thornton one of the passengers on her trial trip. She does not, however, for some reason or other, seem to have been a success, and was presently sold to a Hobart Town firm. A few particulars about the Sophia Jane may be of interest, seeing that she was our first steam coaster, as well as our first tug.
Originally, she was built for the English coasting trade, and was bought by a Sydney firm, for £8000, to run between that port and Newcastle. She had accommodation for 53 passengers in three classes; was 126ft in length, 26ft in beam, and drew 6ft of water. Her tonnage was 256; her engines of 50 horse-power, and her draught of water only 6ft. Her top speed was eight knots an hour; and she towed the first ship ever taken in that manner from her anchorage in Port Jackson out to sea. This vessel was the Lady Harewood (Storehouse master), which arrived in Sydney on March 4, 1831, from England with prisoners, and left again on June 12 in the same year, bound to London. Apparently, she was left to find her own way in—so far at least as a tow was concerned.
This year of ‘31 seems to have been prolific in steamer records, for in October there was launched on the Williams River the first one actually built in Australia. Her builder was J. H. Grose, of Parramatta, and she, too, was placed in the Newcastle-Sydney trade.
The Sophia Jane must have been as much a revelation to the citizens of her day as were the great liners of the P. and O. and Orient to those of our own. Perhaps, too, she was “thrown open to inspection,” much after the same manner as each new ship is to us, and the Currency lads and lasses paid their money, and roamed over, and explored, and wondered and praised as we do when some fresh marvel of constructive sea-science appears in our harbor. Eventually, the historic vessel was broken up by Mr. Chowne, of Pyrmont, who had seen her launched in England. Mr. Chowne used some of her timbers to build a craft called, appropriately enough, the “O.P.S.,” because constructed from old pieces of ships.
During 1831, appeared the first number of the “Sydney Herald.” The paper was started by Messrs. Stevens and Stokes, as a weekly, with the motto, “Bound to no party; of no sect am I.” This declaration, however, was dropped when the paper fell into the hands of the late Mr. James Fairfax.
Towards the end of the year, Governor Darling left the colony, “after having consistently,” as one writer puts it, “during the whole of his office, attempted to throttle the aspiration of a young people, after the freedom due to them.” Lang, on the other hand, has much to say that is good of him.
Another military governor soon took hold on the reins of office in the person of Major-General Richard Bourke, one of whose first public visits was made to the distillery of Mr. James Underwood, near to South Head road, which he minutely inspected, and doubtless liberally tested the produce of.
The new Governor, also, early showed himself a liberal patron of the drama. We have already seen how Mr. Levy had given performances in the saloon of his Royal Hotel. And here, on December 26, 1832, “money was publicly taken at the doors,” Douglas Jerrold’s “Black-Eyed Susan” was the play; whilst Moncrieff’s “Monsieur Tonson” was selected for the farce. Encouraged by the success of his venture, Mr. Levy built the Theatre Royal, and opened it in the latter part of 1833, with the best company that he could get together. Mr. Meredith was the first manager. The new theatre, it should be noted, stood just at the back of the hotel, and held about 900 people. A preliminary “At Home” was held under the special patronage of the Governor. This entertainment consisted of thirteen sketches, nine songs, (no encores allowed), and selections by the band of the 17th regiment. Half an hour interval was allowed for the audience to “liquefy their palates,” much, we may be sure, to the profit of the adjacent “Royal.” Such was the house-warming of our first actual and legitimate theatre. In October, it opened with “The Miller and His Men,” and “The Irishman in London.” The admission was 5s per head, and people thought themselves lucky to get a seat at that. The press had little to say as to the merits of the performance. Knowles being the only actor singled out for mention. Perhaps critics were blessedly scarce in those days, and wisely preferred to let alone what they were not quite certain about.
With Bourke’s advent, the press began to hold up its head again. A contemporary of the “Sydney Gazette,” on July 3, 1832, remarks mysteriously: “Gazette afflicted with cholera morbus,” also suffered much from “sore eyes” during the latter part of the year. But in November (under Bourke’s beneficent rule) we find, “Sydney Gazette,” which had been in a declining state, pronounced out of danger. “Cholera” and “sore eyes” quite gone. Jokes, these, that if falling rather dulled on our ears three generations later, were, you may depend on it, thoroughly appreciated and chuckled over by their makers and readers.
Besides the “Government Gazette,” published weekly, there were now (1834), the “Sydney Gazette,” published three times a week, and the “Herald” and “Monitor,” twice a week. The “Australian” had been discontinued for some time; but it presently started again as a weekly. There was, too, a paper called the “Currency Lad,” owned and edited by a native born, and for that reason very popular, indeed, with young Australia. But it soon died; its friends averred for lack of a proper press, its enemies for lack of principle. The first serial publication in Sydney was “The New South Wales Magazine,” edited by the Rev. Ralph Mansfield, an ex-Wesleyan missionary, and the successor of Howe in the management of the “Sydney Gazette,” and Dr. John Shlotsky, M.D., a Bavarian. Fancy the courage of those men in trying to run a magazine sixty-seven years ago! Mansfield, by the way, in addition to his other avocations, was the leading one of the four booksellers then in Sydney. What would not a bibliophile now give for the privilege of a free run amongst their original stock?
A curious incident happened in the earlier part of Bourke’s rule, and one that scared the citizens not a little. A brig called the Anne Jamieson lay alongside the King’s wharf discharging her London cargo. All her gunpowder was supposed to have been removed to the magazine on the North Shore. Nevertheless, she blew up with a tremendous explosion, and eight people were killed. The casks containing the powder had, it appears, leaked freely during the voyage, and their contents had spread among the bar and rod iron, of which her cargo was, in a great measure, composed. Thus, when discharging, the friction set up by drawing these out ignited the powder. The vessel was totally destroyed; “Indeed,” as the old chronicler remarks, “a melancholy occasion.”
Old Dr. Lang, about this time, complains about the “grossieretes” (bad manners) frequently in evidence amongst the audience at the Theatre Royal, and, inferentially, thanks God that he has never attended a performance there. But he was always girding at something. In the language of our present “Currency lads,” he would have been termed “a hard old case.” He lived in Jamieson-street, not far from his church, and cynically studied the manners of the citizens, retaining always a deadly antipathy to emancipists; fostering free emigration (he imported Scotch masons to build his church, and encouraged thousands of immigrants to settle in the colony,) and showing, in spite of all his aggressiveness a fine pride in the city, for which, despite his many faults and foibles, he did much. Listen to his description of how the people take their pleasure:—
About 4 o’clock in the afternoon, before dinner in the haut ton circles, but some after it among people of inferior station, all the coach-house doors in Sydney fly open simultaneously, and the company begin to take their places for the afternoon drive on the South Head road (formed by Macquarie, and running out to the lighthouse erected by him). In half an hour, the streets are comparatively deserted; by far the greater portion of the well-dressed part of the population being out of town. In the meantime, the long line of equipages—from the ponderous coach of the member of council, moving leisurely and proudly along, or the lively barouche of Mr. Whalebone, the shipowner, to the one-horse shay, in which the landlord of the Tinker’s Arms drives out his blowzy dame to take the hair arter dinner doubles Hyde Park corner, and arrives on the Corso; while ever and anon some young bachelor merchant or military officer, eager to display his skill in horsemanship, dashes briskly forward along the cavalcade at full gallop.”
And in your mind’s eye, you can see the grim old doctor shake his head in censure of what he deems foolish ostentation, and waste of time, as he takes his solitary way to “contemplate the wonderful works of God in the romantic walks of the Government Domain… along the margin of beautifully romantic walks, traced with the utmost taste.”
It was during the passage of the Stirling Castle, the vessel that brought Lang and his fifty Scots masons out, that the idea of the Sydney School of Arts was first mooted, although the doctor himself, seems, just then, to have had little to do with it, leaving the matter in the hands of a fellow-minister, the Rev. Henry Carmichael. This gentleman organised, throughout the voyage, classes among his fellow-passengers, for their better education, and enlightenment; thus these hard headed Scots wrestled for months with the mysteries of algebra, Euclid, logarithms, and the higher mathematics, besides Scriptural theses and several ologies. Not only was this course of study pursued at the time, but rules and an agreement sketched for its prosecution and continuance when Australia should be reached.
But on arrival there was so much else to be thought about and done, that but for Mr. Carmichael’s tireless efforts, and the liberal encouragement of Sir Richard Bourke, the scheme would have come to naught. As it was, it flourished and took root. The story of its actual inception is most interesting. A Mr. John Riddell Fenwick, left a written statement with the then president, Mr. Dalgarno, in 1887, to the following effect :
“In the reign of William IV., year 1833, January 19, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, three men and a boy ascended Church Hill for the purpose of forming and founding the first School of Arts in all the Australian colonies: the union being represented in the persons of Mr. John Reilly saddler, Pitt-street, formerly George-street, a native of Ireland, shrewd, sharp, and clear sighted; Mr. William Hipkiss, botanist, native of England; and Mr. David Taylor, a builder, and a native of Scotland… They entered a brick building (probably the old Surveyor-General’s Office), situated half way between Dr. Lang’s church and the windmill, by a side door into a long, narrow room at one end of which was a window, with twelve squares of 12 x 10 glass. A small bedroom table was placed end-on to the window. Three empty brandy cases were put near the table for seats. Pen, ink, paper, and a copy of the rules of an English School of Arts were put on the table. Mr. Reilly was chosen chairman, Mr. Hipkiss secretary, and Mr. Taylor treasurer. A strange noise being heard outside the building, the boy went to ascertain the cause. He returned and informed Mr. Reilly that it was made by 200 men in irons, escorted by a detachment of the 17th Regiment. Then, said Mr. Reilly, ‘the work we are engaged in to-day will assist to unrivet those chains, and allow those people to become men again, and not as now, beasts of burden.’ Then, looking at the boy, he said, ‘You will, no doubt, in the course of nature, be alive after we have passed away. Promise me that you will always mention who were the founders of the Sydney School of Arts.’ Which promise I now fulfil, and wish this statement to be read at the annual meeting.”
Mr. Dalgamo added that Messrs. Reilly, Hipkiss, and Taylor had all passed away, leaving only the boy, who accompanied them, to live to see the magnitude of the present School of Arts. Also, on the president’s motion, Mr. Fenwick, was made an honorary life member of the institution.
In the following March of 1833, more formal proceedings were taken and a public meeting held. Among the speakers were such men as Mr. Carmichael, Mr. Edward Deas-Thompson, the Rev. Ralph Mansfield, Mr. Charles Windeyer, and Dr. Lang. In 1835, it was removed to its present site, having then on its roll 112 members. Not, however, until 1859 did Sir W. Denison lay the foundation-stone of the building of our day. Unfortunately, no official record was kept of the proceedings of which Mr. Fenwick writes; but it was probably only a preliminary meeting on the part of the three representatives, informal, and hardly to be spoken of as a “founding” but still the first in Australia with such an object in view.
In the thirties there was as yet no street connecting Sydney Cove with Darling Harbor. And this fact led to the making of the Argyle Cut. “The Rocks” at this time was looked upon as a rising suburb, and Miller’s Point had become quite fashionable. Fears were on that account expressed that such an enterprise as cutting through the dividing ridge would harm the locality by introducing an undesirable class of residents. But those people whose interests lay around the shores of Darling Harbour (late Cockle Bay) persevered, and agitated a long time for either a tunnel or a cut. The Surveyor-General reported upon it, and there was as much discussion and argument about the affair as there is to-day respecting the North Shore Bridge. Finally the cut plan was adopted, the estimate for that being only £895, as against £7000 for a tunnel. Prisoners were lent by the Government, and the job was to be finished in twenty-one months from the beginning of October, 1832. Later on, the contractors made an offer to build an arch to carry a roadway over the whole affair for an extra £1500. But funds had run out; and nothing was done for a long time other than to throw a little bridge across the excavation. There seems to have been about sixteen or seventeen promoters to the affair, with a capital of some £2000. Intermittently, gangs of convicts toiled and sweated at elaborating the rude gorge left by the original contractors, until, when transportation ceased, they were withdrawn to make way for free labour.
In 1838, an old writer says: “Between the north end of Kent-street, and where it crosses to Church Hill, a deep cut has been made through the west side of the hill on which Fort Phillip stands, this part being called “The Quarries.” At the southern extremity of the street several cottages and substantial dwelling-houses have been erected, most of them having small gardens attached, together with a beautifully diversified landscape view of the water and shores of Darling Harbor.”
Gradually, however, the place fell into disrepute, haunted as it was by gangs of thieves, and worse characters still, whose depredations made it unsafe both by day and by night. Indeed, in our own time there are lots of folk who would rather, if possible, avoid taking a walk through the Argyle Cut towards the small hours; so difficult is it to live down a bad reputation acquired in early life. There are people living now who well remember the first bridge, a ramshackle, ricketty affair. But the second was looked upon as a very fine piece of work indeed; it was lit by a big kerosene lamp for the guidance of late wayfarers across the chasm. Before the whole work was finished it must have cost something like £30,000, including the three present massive bridges—worthy specimens of old-time masonry that will, unless the resumption scheme destroys them, last for many generations yet to come.
Just a word as to how Sydney folk amused themselves out of doors since we last glanced at them taking their scant pleasures sadly enough. Some authorities, notably Lang, as we have seen, alluded to the racing and drinking propensities of the people in Brisbane’s time, making mention, too, of not a little gambling in out-of-the-way corners. Probably, even then, there were “two-up” schools in sequestered nooks, and our grandfathers, as likely as not, were proficient at the old-time equivalent for “heading ‘em.”
But as far back as 1810 we have records that they indulged in wilder species of recreation than these. In that year, for instance, at Parramatta there was what we should now call a “carnival,” the principal attractions of a two days’ sport being cock-fighting and bull-baiting. They hunted, too, and the description of the first run is worth reading: “Having cast off by the Government hut on the Nepean, and drawn the cover around there for a native dog unsuccessfully, we tried the forest ground for a kangaroo, which we soon found. It went off in excellent style along the sands by the river side, and crossed the cow-pasture plains (Camden), running a circle of about two miles, then recrossed, taking a direction for Mr. Campbell’s stock-yard, and thence to the back of the Badge Allen Hill to the head of the Boonobohen Creek, where he was headed. Thence he took the main range of the hills between Badge Allen and Badge Allenbingiee in a straight direction for Mr. Throsby’s farm where the hounds ran into him, and he was killed after a grand run of about two hours. The weight of the animal was upwards of 120lbs.”
Evidently an “old man” with a very fine turn of speed; either that or his pursuers did not press him as closely as they might have done.
Pugilism was the rage in England in those days, but little seems to have taken place in that line out here, the first record of anything of the kind being in 1814, when John Berringer met Charles Sefton, about half a mile from the racecourse (Hyde Park), and fought for two and a half hours. Sefton is said to have been the “cleverest” of the pair. But Berringer won the “mill” after very hard fighting, by reason of his greater reach and height.
Boat racing was always a favourite pastime. Mention, in referring to Devlin, has already been made of the whale-boat race in 1830. But long before that there was a trial of speed from Bradley’s Head into the Cove, over a course of 3½ miles. The competitors were Captain Piper, naval officer of the port; Captain Lawle, of the Batavia, Captain Johnson, of the Guildford, and Captain Bell, of the Minerva—all vessels lying in the harbour. The winner was Captain Piper. In 1827, the first actual regatta took place. Its inception seems to have been due altogether to the Hon. Captain Rous (afterwards the well-known sporting admiral), who entered two boats of his own in the pulling match—the Mercury and the Centipede—and won the first and second events with them. The course was some 4 miles; time, 23min. This event was followed by a sailing race, for a purse of 50dol., put together by the officers of H. M. ships Rainbow and Success, added to a sweepstakes of 5dol. each. The course was from abreast of Farm Cove, round the Sow and Pigs, and back to the starting place. Lieutenant Preston proved the winner with his boat “Black Swan,” coming in a mile and a half ahead. Then, to finish up with, there was a race for watermen, the prize 50dol. No boat was to exceed 19ft in the keel, but could pull any number of oars. The course was round Pinchgut. There were seven starters, but four cried enough after the first heat. Finally, Black Boy, owner James Shears, took the lead and won, beating Native Youth and Bungaree by lengths.
Such is a brief record of the first regatta that ever took place in our waters, the herald of our great institution of the present day, when scores of graceful fliers spread their white wings and speed to and fro the great steamer doing duty as flagship, and moored perhaps in just the same spot as that in which the bluff-bowed old whaler or merchantman served a similar purpose over three score and ten years ago.
Wherever the Anglo-Saxon sets his foot he plays cricket, and Australia was no exception to the axiom. The first game that any account can be found of took place on January 1, 1827, when the members of the Australia Cricket Club played together, and had a dinner in the evening. Windsor had been challenged, but for some reason or other refused to come to the scratch. But in 1830 there was a great match between eleven Australians and an equal number of the 57th regiment, the former winning by 24 runs. In March they met again, the soldiers very confident, and played for ten guineas a side. And again the Australians won; this time by 32 runs.
In the late thirties and early forties there was plenty of sport—horse-racing, boating, cricket, etc.,—and the well-to-do citizen could, if he were so inclined, witness or partake in one or the other of these pastimes every day in the week, and go to the play in the evening to finish off with. For strength and agility in athletic exercises our country folk were pre-eminent, especially those settled about the Hawkesbury, known even then as “Cornstalks.” One newspaper, in 1831, gives a list of 32 names of persons each of whom stood over six feet in height. Among the number was Kable, the champion boxer of that time; he stood 6ft 3½in. Even at the present day the Hawkesbury “natives” are noted for their stature. A hardy and energetic race they were, too, these men, made so by their environments, and perhaps less given to “letting things slide” than are some of their latter-day prototypes, who depend upon husbandry and stock-keeping for a livelihood.
Nor were the early-day horses a whit inferior to their masters in strength and stamina. As an instance of this, we are told that a mare, whose foal had just been weaned, and a filly, 2½ years old, were run up out of a clover field, and ridden a distance of 42 miles in two hours and fifty minutes, including several stoppages on the road. The journey was for a doctor; neither of the horses were shod; the going was rough; and the animals had never been fed on hay or corn. Yet neither of them were the worse for the trip.
During the six years of Bourke’s beneficent rule—he governed constitutionally without a constitution—much of importance took place connected with the growth of our city, both physically and politically. The Cove was still, at low tide, little better than a mud flat, littered by boatbuilders’ ricketty sheds, and temporarily and rudely constructed little wharves. It is said that the water then flowed right up to where the Custom House now stands, and that on the site of the Paragon Hotel a small vessel had been built and launched; and another one several hundred yards up Pitt-street. Also, that the Tank Stream was still navigable for small boats as far as Bridge-street. The Stream, respecting which so many arguments have been held, is now said to have had its source somewhere about the spot in Hyde Park where there is still to be seen a pond or two—one is near the corner of Liverpool and Elizabeth streets—little noticed by the general public; thence, according to the best authorities, it followed a course between George and Pitt streets through Martin Place to Hunter-street thence by Hamilton-lane, crossing Bridge-street to Pitt-street, and so into the harbor close to the present North Shore Ferry Co.’s premises. But at the best, its true course is a matter of more or less surmise. The brightest of old memories vary.
Be this as it may, the Legislative Council, in 1834 began to think of resuming and reclaiming the foreshores around the Cove, and the construction of Circular Quay was mooted. It was suggested that a civil engineer should be imported on a five years’ engagement, at a salary of £800 per annum. But the plan seems to have lapsed, and we hear nothing more of it just then. However, a good deal was done towards improving Darling Harbor. Bathing in its waters would appear to have been strictly prohibited, for we read that a certain Lieutenant Finch, of the 17th Regiment, was fined 5s for indulging in such a luxury. Most people, at the present time, would not take a dip in it if paid that sum to do so.
Here, by the way, is a curious advertisement from a London “Times” of 1834; “Any lieutenants in the Royal Navy under the age of 45, and with large families, may obtain free passages to Sydney, New South Wales. Application should be made to ‘C.T.,’ R.N., Post Office, Hythe, Kent.” Certain of the sumptuary laws of the city in these years of the middle thirties and early forties were decidedly curious. Yet are we not slowly drifting back in legislation to those benighted times? For instance, on Sunday, shops, excepting those of butchers, bakers, fishmongers, and greengrocers, were to be closed; these only kept open till 10 a.m.; bakers might trade only on that day between 1 and 2 o’clock in the afternoon; apothecaries at any hour. Constables might apprehend anybody who could not give a satisfactory account of themselves between sundown and 8 o’clock the next morning. The Surveyor-General (Sir Thomas Mitchell) was directed to align and set out the carriage and footways, and mark them by posts; also to place the names of streets on house walls, and fix numbers on the doors, which the tenant was bound to paint in at the end of a fortnight, or else pay a fine of 10s weekly. Footways were also to be levelled, and steps taken away from the path. The town surveyor, too, was adjured to be on the alert to prevent people accumulating gravel or earth before their houses “without giving notice,” in which case he was to remove it as rubbish.
At this date there were two posts a day. Every letter or “packet,” weighing less than half an ounce was charged for transit from one post office to the other, in distance not exceding 15 miles, the sum of 4d; over 15 miles, 5d; above 170 miles, 10d; for 300 miles, 1s. Letters sent by ship around the costal ports cost 4d; American letters cost 3d each. The mails, it may be remarked, were anything but regular, being forwarded when coach, vessel, or steam packet pleased to arrive or depart. Society, too, or rather the different parts of it, was being gradually merged into a more component whole, although the terms “Stirling” and “Currency”—to distinguish between the English and the Colonial born—were yet in use, and the “Pure Merinos” still prided themselves on being able to trace a stainless descent, and gave themselves airs on that account. Recently arrived convicts were still known as “Canaries,” because of their yellow uniforms, and people used any other colour for decoration than yellow. Yellow paint, indeed, was unsaleable. But the word “convict” was dying out, and giving place to “Government men.” Some years before this an emancipist had even obtained a verdict for libel, with £50 damages against a person who had called him “A d—d convict.”
In 1828-9 there were sailing out of the port four vessels, constantly employed in the whale fishery; six others in sealing. There were two regular “packets” between Sydney and Newcastle; one between Sydney and Hobart Town; others to Port Dalrymple; and a number of small craft trading to the Hawkesbury, Illawarra and other places.
But about the end of Governor Bourke’s term of office there were no less than 60 square-rigged whalers claiming Sydney as their port; 12 steamers sailed up and down the coast. Fifty-six vessels arrived from Great Britian, 94 from British colonies, 17 foreign, and 5 from American, giving altogether an aggregate of 67,360 tons. Decidedly, matters were looking up. Emigration, too, was ever on the increase, as may be judged from the fact that, in 1838, more than £12,000 was realised by the sales of stores from the emigrant ships. We drank chiefly rum—and plenty of it. The revenue from its importations totalled £189,450; and the amount of drink to 8 gallons per head per annum. But pew rents in the churches brought in only £6 15s 9d. In the same year, as showing how well the Government managed to make both ends meet, they had in hand £364,545 2s 7d, against an outlay of £240,673 11s 8½d—they don’t bother about odd halfpennies now a days. But the old-fashioned bookkeeping was nothing if not exact.
In ‘36-’37 the population of Sydney was 19,729 people, made up by 6794 free men, 2205 boys, 4744 free women, and 2209 girls; 2932 male convicts and 586 female ones. In the city there were five banks, seven or eight churches or chapels, a couple of insurance companies, three breweries, and two distilleries. And still the blacks, in puris naturalibus, camped in the streets and on open pieces of ground. In this connection a schoolmaster makes an amusingly equivocal report upon an aboriginal pupil who had been sent to him. Says the padagogue: “He shows as much sign of intellect as many of his school-fellows.”
“Police and gaols” was a big item in the budget, totalling no less than £52,344. “Miscellanies,” put shortly, came to £77,585. People were not nearly so inquisitive then as they are now. Fancy a Treasurer calmly presenting such a statement to the tender mercies of “the House” in this year of grace! Luckily, perhaps, for some folk who figured in “Miscellanies,” there was no “Opposition”—at least, no legislative “Opposition;” and no matter what Wentworth, et ces autres known as the Patriotic Association, might think or say, the power to act was as yet denied them.
The year 1837 was rendered memorable among other matters by the establishment of a new party, consisting entirely of the native-born; and this party it was that took in hand the celebration of the 49th anniversary. They called themselves the “United Australians.” Their representative was one Richard Driver, who, at the time, kept a public house—the “Three Tuns”—at the corner of King and Elizabeth streets. He was, too, the father of a smart lad, who became later on pretty widely known, both as a lawyer and in the world of politics, eventually entering Parliament, and joining Parkes’s Cabinet, in 1877. Driver’s house was the meeting-place of the new party, who determined to celebrate the anniversary by a “National Dinner” at the Royal Hotel. William Charles Wentworth was to take the chair, and their fellow-countrymen from all parts of the colony were invited to attend. The festival duly came off, as did the usual speeches and toasts; although the new association does not appear to have introduced any particularly fresh features, except perhaps in the way of a little less harmony—for folk at these gatherings were not any more wont to think alike on all political subjects than they are now.
On October 27, 1837, great news arrived in Sydney. This was nothing less than the death of William IV., and the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne of the United Kingdom. A “Gazette Extraordinary,” with a deep mourning border, was at once published announcing the fact, and excitement ran high throughout the city. By public notice the next day Sir Richard Bourke directed that 72 minute guns should be fired from the Dawes Point battery at noon; that the Royal Standard and the Union Jack should be hoisted half-mast high at the same hour; also, all the ships in harbor were to observe similar signs of mourning with their flags, whilst the bells of St. James’s and St. Phillip’s were to be tolled for one hour at sunset that day and an hour at sunrise on the next. All civil officers were to put on mourning, together with everybody else whose situation and circumstances would enable them to do so.
Another notice proclaimed that “the High and Mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria had become “our only lawful and rightful Liege Lady Victoria, by the grace of God, etc.” To assist in the Declaration of Allegiance all the high officials of the colony, the clergy, magistrates, military and naval officers, and the principal inhabitants, repaired to Government House at midday.
Towards the appointed time Sydney, dressed in its darkest raiment, wended its way towards the old two-storeyed irregular mansion, with its wide verandah, and “one good room.” There the 50th Regiment, with detachments of the 4th and 80th, was already drawn up. Followed by all the notabilities, the Governor, in the full uniform of a Major-General, led the way to a table on which was lying the proclamation of her Majesty’s accession, waiting for signature. Sir Richard was the first to sign, followed by the others in their turn. The fourteenth was “Thomas X Tomra,” aboriginal native chief, who thus attached his mark on the part of the Australian native race. In all there were 126 names, and when the signing was over the Governor, standing on the front door-step, called for three cheers for the Queen, himself giving the time.
Then the troops fired a general salute, the Royal Standard was mast-headed and saluted with 24 guns; more volleys from the troops; more cheering and playing by bands of “God Save the Queen” ended not the least of the memorable events that old Government House had witnessed since Johnson and his drunken soldiers routed Bligh out of his hiding-place in one of its rooms.
Presently the High Sheriff (Thomas Macquoid), who had, ere this, read the Proclamation to the crowd, marshalled a procession that was to pass from Government House down Bridge-street and up George-street to the police office—the first ceremony of the kind in Sydney that there is any record of.
As in our day is the general rule, so now the procession was headed by a detachment of mounted police; then came the band and a division of the 50th Regiment, together “with a number of the inhabitants of Sydney.” Members of the bar, the magistrates of the colony, commissariat officers, the clergy, the judges, followed in order named. Then came Thomas Thomra, A.N.C., the members of the Legislative and Executive Councils, and detachments of the three regiments. Bands played, flags waved everywhere as the procession marched gaily along towards the dingy old “Central,” where the Proclamation was again to be read by the High Sheriff. And where, one wonders, is that most historical document? Sold for waste paper, or still preserved in some cellar for bubonic rats to nest in? Somebody might do worse than hunt it up, and have reproductions made for the benefit of those of our generation curious in such matters. It runs: —
“Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to His mercy our late Sovereign Lord King William the Fourth, of blessed and glorious memory, by whose decease the Imperial Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and all other His late Majesty’s dominions, is solely and rightfully come to the high and Mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria, saving the rights of any Issue of His late Majesty King William the Fourth, which may be born of His late Majesty’s Consort:
“We, the Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of the Territory of New South Wales and its Dependencies, the Chief Justice, the Members of the Executive Council, the Puisne Judges of the Supreme Court, the members of the Legislative Council, the Clergy, Magistrates, Civil Officers of the Government, and the Naval and Military Officers of her Majesty’s Service, with numbers of other principal inhabitants of the Colony,
“Do now hereby, with one full voice and consent of tongue and heart, Publish and Proclaim that the High and Mighty Princess Alexandrina Victoria is now, by the Death of our late Sovereign, of happy and glorious memory, become our only lawful and rightful Liege Lady Victoria, by the grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, saving as aforesaid, Supreme Lady of the Territory of New South Wales and its Dependencies, to Whom, saving as aforesaid, We do acknowledge all Faith and Constant Obedience, with all hearty and humble affection, beseeching God, by Whom Kings and Queens do Reign, to bless the Royal Princess Victoria with long and happy years to Reign over us.
“Given at Government House, Sydney, this twenty-seventh day of October, 1837.
“God Save the Queen!
“(Signed) Richard Bourke,
Sydney in these days was, at the most, only a squalid town; neither trams nor trains; no corporation, no gas lamps, no drainage, no suburbs worth mentioning; stumps in the streets, and convicts in chains grubbing them; Circular Quay a mud flat; and bullock teams camped alongside the old burial ground, the site of the present Town Hall. Everything in embryo. And little the few people who listened to those high-sounding words, with their quaint turnings, guessed how fully in the long years to come, God would grant the request made in that most hearty and loyal prayer delivered in the rude capital of an almost unknown land.
As far back as 1826, the lighting of Sydney with gas, had been under consideration, but nothing came of the matter, although the then Colonial Civil Engineer (Mr. C. Kinghorne) had prepared a report and estimate of the cost, and probable returns of such a scheme. Ten years later, the subject was taken up successfully by the Rev. Ralph Mansfield—already referred to as one-time editor of the “Sydney Gazette”—who eventually became the founder of the present company, which, in September, 1837, obtained its charter for incorporation. But it was four years later ere the new illuminant came even into partial use. At 25s per cubic foot it was a luxury only accessible to the rich. Now, at 4s per cubic foot, it is within the reach of most people.
In 1838, Sir George Gipps appeared on the scene in place of one of the most open-minded, liberal, and popular of all the early Governors of this colony. And what Sydney thought of the new arrival may be gathered from two lines out of a song greatly in vogue during his regime:
“When he eats an orange, he’ll hand you the pips,
‘They’ll grow if you plant ‘em,’ says Governor Gipps.”
In 1838 Sydney had its first land boom—nothing very great, but of interest as a precursor of later, and far more disastrous, ones.
Wool had gone up to over 1s per lb, and money was so plentiful that land, stock, and produce reached unprecedented prices, and speculation, especially in land, grew rampant. The beautiful “estate of Hunter’s Hill,” originally a grant of a thousand acres; also that of Burwood, the story of which has already been told, were put on the market. Then Abraham Polack, the auctioneer of his day, advertised for sale 94 allotments, “a portion of that splendid and unequalled marine estate known as ‘Vaucluse,’ the property of W. C. Wentworth, Esq.” The northern portion, adjoining “the Government village of Watson’s Bay,” was marked out as “a marine village,” which, adhering to the Government plan, was named “the Village of Vaucluse,” consisting of fifty-four allotments of half an acre each, with frontages to correspond, and any amount of streets. A thoroughfare named the “Village-road,” leading to the South Head road, was also surveyed. Thirteen of these areas were bounded on the west by Rose Bay, “immediately opposite the marine villa of Point Piper, the residence of Colonel Gibbes,” and so on, and so on, the auctioneer, expatiating, as does his prototype of to-day, with all the eloquence at his command on the wonderful qualities of the property. “Various spots on this estate, had been for a series of years past considered by the citizens favourite ones for picnic parties. Ship and boat-building can here too be carried on at a vast advantage, as a bold shore and deep water bound a great portion of it, in some places sufficient for a 74-gun ship to float alongside.”
But this scheme, and dozens of others, were years before their time; and ended in such disaster as to ruin many once wealthy citizens; and cripple others to such an extent as to compel them to sell their plate and carriages; some of the latter recognisable, later on, as comprising part of the first “cab stand in Sydney.” The site of this was on the south side of Market-street, opposite the once well-known “Waterloo Warehouse.” But it was not until some years afterwards that a genuine hansom appeared on the streets; and this was imported via Melbourne.
To emphasise the downfall of the boom, and force people to still further economise, there presently came the drought of 1838-39, when flour rose to over £90 per ton.
But the colony was too firmly founded, and its growth of both trade and production already too great, for these happenings to do more than momentarily check its prosperity. Says a visitor about this time: “There is a fine palace in process of building for his Excellency just behind Fort Macquarie. The inhabitants of Sydney have access to the Government Domains, and the splendour of carriages and gaiety of promenading parties to be met with here are equal to anything I have seen in Phoenix Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, or even the Tuilleries.”
Our enthusiastic visitor, like so many others who arrived, expecting to find “Botany Bay” a mere miserable convict settlement, was evidently so astonished at the contrast between the actual picture and the one that had been present in his imagination, that he gave rather too much rein to his fancy. At the time of his visit, Hyde Park was the fashionable rendezvous for carriage people, as well as the favourite cricket ground. It was then of course, treeless, or very nearly so; the grass “tussocky” and untended, intersected by pathways, and rudely fenced. The Roman Catholic Cathedral had been sixteen years in building, and was not finished even then. Behind the old police court, offenders still sat in the stocks, “taking out in timber what they couldn’t pay in cash.” St. James’ was, as it is now, the Government House church, only then the right hand gallery was filled with convicts.
The new “palace” for the Governor had been begun some time before this. The plan was designed in London, by Mr. E. Blore, and its erection entrusted here to Mr. W. Lewis, the Colonial Architect; colonial builders contracted for the different portions of the work, and, to a great extent the materials for it were produced within the colony.
In the beginning of ‘38 was opened the Victoria theatre, in Pitt street, the foundation stone of which had been laid two years previously. It held some 2000 people and one of the proprietors, a Mr. Wyatt, on March 17, (the day of its completion), gave its use gratuitously for a public ball “in commemoration of the patron saint of Ireland.” A few days afterwards regular performances commenced with a good company, whose efforts were attended by signal success. The prices of admission were becoming very moderate—dress circle 4s, upper boxes 2s 6d, pit 1s, and gallery 6d. It will be seen that our theatrical caterers have slightly improved on those rates, to say nothing of the “early door” temptation.
“The character of the performances,” remarks an early historian, “is generally respectable. Although we can seldom attempt the higher walks of tragedy, we have yet made successful hits with domestic dramas, comedies, and farces.” This is the kind of thing they used to go in for: “William Tell,” “Brutus,” “Luke the Labourer,” “The Irish Labourer,” “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” “The Hibernian Father,” “Love, Law, and Physic,” “The Pilot,” “Guy Mannering,” “The Waterman,” etc. Judging from which selection makes one fancy, somehow, that, even in these comparatively enlightened days, there was an individual fulfilling as rigid duties of censorship as in those dark ones when Governor Hunter crushed the drama into nothingness with an iron hand.
The story of the old Royal Hotel is of interest, and may here be briefly told. We have already seen how, in the early thirties, under Barnett Levy, the hotel became a “temple of Thespis;” but when the new theatre was finished, the actors removed, and the Royal took up once more the even tenor of its way as the best house of accommodation in the city. It was managed then by a Mr. Sparkes, and “received the chief share of the patronage of our settlers and squatters, who, on business or pleasure bent; paid their welcome periodical visits to our metropolis.”
Then, one 17th of March, a drunken carter, who had been celebrating the saint’s day by drinking and smoking in an adjoining stable, set fire to some straw, which, spreading to the hotel, in a few hours destroyed the big stack of buildings comprising it. A grand ball was taking place at Government House that night, and many officers rushed out in their gay attire, and helped to extinguish the flames. The damage done by the fire was estimated at £20,000.
Presently the site passed from Mr. Wyatt’s hands into those of Mr. John Terry Hughes, who upon it built a “huge wilderness of stone and wood.” Alderman Fowles (once drawing master at Fort-street School) is very severe on the architect: “With Mr. Hughes’ system of building we are not acquainted; but we presume that he never could have placed upon paper a plan of the immense mass of cumbersomeness which he has piled in George-street. One half of the money wasted thereupon would have sufficed for a building worthy of the finest street in Europe.” Nevertheless, for many years the “Royal” continued to be the favorite resort of “our settlers and squatters” on their visits to Sydney; and even at the present day it well holds its own with more pretentious and modern competitors.
Emigrants from the United Kingdom had for the past few years been pouring into the colony, and some of the statements sworn to by applicants, or their agents, to secure a free passage bear a curious similarity to those made, when at odd times one of our present Governments sees fit to import a shipload or so of “people who will be an acquisition to the colony.”
Thus, one man, stated in his certificate to be a blacksmith, turned out nothing less than a ladies’ shoemaker; whilst another lot, invoiced by the agent as an “agricultural family,” proved to be very much otherwise. Said the brother: “I never was an agricultural labourer; I was a clerk in a shipping office; my brother is a draper; my sister never was in service; she left school to come out here as a bounty immigrant.” Women of the worst character were encouraged to emigrate under the bounty system. One woman, for instance, was induced to pass herself off as her son’s wife, and one berth had been set aside for them on board ship. Fraud, forgery, impersonation, and breach of contract were, in short the characteristics of a system that poured into Sydney and the colony a most useless and undesirable class of settlers. Out of 21,126 who arrived in such fashion, no less than 1395 were found ineligible, and the bounty, £19 per head, refused for them. It will thus be seen that by a most unfortunate miscarriage of a well-meant system of settlement, the original heavy handicap of convict-transportation, now almost at an end, was succeeded by a second invasion of worthless and mischievous, if not actually criminal characters.
In the second year of Gipps’s reign, Sydney folk received a surprise, when on rising one morning they perceived two American men-of-war lying snugly among the shipping. These turned out to be a portion of the United States exploring expedition, under the command of Captain Wilkes. He had, it seems, made the Heads at sunset on the previous evening, and although the night was dark, and he had no pilot, the wind being fair, he, in the Vincennes, of 780 tons, accompanied by the Peacock, of 650 tons, stood boldly in under a press of sail. It seemed a risky thing to do; but he says he knew that he could place absolute reliance on his charts. The “Sow and Pigs” seems to have bothered him for a short time, but he soon fixed the position of the reef; and at 10.30 p.m. dropped anchor in the Cove without anyone having the least idea of his arrival. This really was a very fine piece of work—much finer than the look-out kept by those responsible.
Next day arrived the Porpoise and the Flying Fish, thus making the full strength of the expedition, with whose officers and men the streets of the capital was presently crowded. Later on, Wilkes waited on the Governor, and apologised for entering the harbor so unceremoniously and without the customary salutes. Reading between the lines, it would almost seem as if the Americans, having heard of the defences of the harbor, and the difficulties of its channels, had determined to show the colonists how small a reliance could be placed on such obstacles when United States ships were in question. One can hardly imagine such a thing happening at the present time.
However, the Governor was all hospitality, and lent Wilkes Fort Macquarie for the purposes of an observatory. “I may in this place,” says our American writer gratefully, “acknowledge the open-hearted welcome we met with from all the Government officers, military and civil, as well as from the citizens. The Australian Club was thrown open to us by its committee, and parties, balls, etc., were given in our honor.”
The American commander seems to have been much struck with the prevalence of drunkenness, “which here stalks abroad at noonday. It is not rare at any time, but on holidays its prevalence surpasses everything I have ever witnessed. Even persons of the fair sex (if they may be called so) were there to be seen to be staggering along the most public streets, brawling in the houses, or borne off in charge of the police… The police officers themselves are among the vendors of the intoxicating liquor.”
Of course he alludes to rum; and it is to be feared that in those days we did indulge rather heavily in our then favorite beverage, judging from the eight gallons per head consumed by the population per annum.
In July, 1851, the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company, with a capital of £40,000, founded by Mr. John Eales of Duckenfield in July, 1839, became merged into the A. S. N. Company, with a capital of £320,000. Early next year there arrived their first steamer, the Rose, creating quite a sensation in Sydney, although of only 172 tons. Then, presently, came the Thistle; and, later on, the Shamrock completed the trinity.
Very soon the company began to extend its operations; and the Shamrock was put into the Moreton Bay trade. The fares were £8, £6, and £4: freight, 20s per ton; and wool, 20s per bale. The business, however did not pay, and in a few months’ time was abandoned. The shareholders, it seemed, objected strongly to the directorate allowing their boats to travel to such a dangerous place as Moreton Bay. A steamer was a steamer m those days—a valuable rara avis, and to be taken care of accordingly. We are not quite so particular now, and occasionally send them on far more dangerous adventures than to Moreton Bay, eg., ramming lighthouses, and expeditions inland A curious controversy arose respecting this pioneer trade of the Shamrock. It seems that the articles of association only provided for voyages to the Hunter River and ports adjacent. And the question was argued as to whether Moreton Bay was or was not “adjacent” to the Hunter. Mr. Broadhurst, Q. C., and several nautical experts, were set to work on the question, and the latter, at any rate, gave it as their opinion that Brisbane and Newcastle were adjacent. This clenched the matter, and determined the directors to persevere. Accordingly, we, later, find the Sovereign trading to Moreton Bay. and the Shamrock to Melbourne. The first-named vessel was afterwards wrecked, with the loss of forty-four lives. These developments of our present great coasting service are too intimately bound up with the rise and progress of Sydney to be passed over without, at least, brief mention.
Before leaving the last of our thirties for good, a word must be said respecting the first jubilee, as well as the fiftieth anniversary—both happening in that year—and the native born determined to “keep-them up” in right good fashion. In the first place, they made up their minds that the day should be a public holiday, which it had never been before. Then that there should be a regatta for the masses, as well as a dinner for the classes. They had their way in both instances. There was a regatta, and the committee hired a steamer, and sold tickets to their friends to see the races from it. Also, in the evening, they had a dinner at the Pulteney Hotel, in Bent-street (afterwards the Australian Club House, and now “Richmond House,” used as a boarding establishment). The guests sat down at 7. Tickets were £2 2s, and we may be quite certain that the celebration was worthy of the, for the times, rather high figure.
During ‘37-38, a Parliamentary Committee had given in a strong report, thoroughly adverse to transportation, and the appalling evidence collected by it, respecting the system, had completely swayed English opinion against its continuance; so far, at least, as New South Wales was concerned. In that colony, however, it was feared at first by the large landholders that, having to do without convict labor, spelled ruin. But they had to decide; and were given their choice between assigned servants and self-government. It was preposterous that a convict colony should be permitted to rule itself. That was self-evident. So the choice was soon made; and, in 1840, a British Order-in-Council established Tasmania and Norfolk Island as the only two convict settlements in Australasia. And thus it happened that, in October, 1840, the last convict ship but one, the Eden, let go her anchor in Port Jackson, and though for many years the system left broad traces across the social features of the colony, it practically received its death-blow when the cables of the Eden rushed through her hawse-pipes into the waters of Sydney Harbor. In 1841, we had our first recorded embezzlement by a high official; and it was such a barefaced and impudent robbery and created such a tremendous scandal, that it is worth noticing.
The first Registrar of the Supreme Court had been a certain Colonel Galway Mills, described as a “decayed gentleman, with no knowledge of business.” To make up for this, however, his successor proved to have rather too much.
After becoming a bankrupt, in England, and taking advantage of the Insolvent Act, this gentleman had, in 1828, been appointed Chief Justice of Nova Scotia. This billet he was permitted to exchange for the position of Registrar of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, with the duty of collecting the effects of intestates, and, according to his own story, the privilege of investing the money for his benefit, pending distribution. Then, whilst he entirely neglected all other parts of his work, he, “in defiance of son, brother, father, or other near relatives of the deceased, grasped the whole estate, invested it in his own name, for his own interest, and for ten years kept neither day book, cash book, nor ledger; kept only one account at his bank, rendered no statement for audit to anyone, and paid what balances he pleased to next of kin.” So notorious did this business at last become, that he was asked to pass his accounts, and generally clear up matters. But at this he waxed indignant, and protested that the judges were reacting on his honor by calling for any such statements, “and thus depriving him of the legitimate profits to be derived from the employment of other men’s money, which had induced him to settle in the colony.”
Even now, for a piece of cool effrontery, the above would be hard to beat. Eventually, finding the judges firm in their demand for an audit, he resorted to open fraud, and in two years appropriated £9000. Then he became bankrupt; took the benefit of the act for the second time, and, after a while, paid a dividend of 6d in the £. His victims petitioned the Home Government for compensation, but, without success. It should have been mentioned that, at the audit, he reported himself to be in possession only of £1989 17s 0½d; but the court found that £3085 18s 2d was the amount he ought really to have had in hand. And this, in spite of a violent resistance, they compelled him to disgorge. However, as we have seen, he lost no time in recouping himself. The incident is of interest, as showing how in those years it as not difficult for an English official, even with a shady reputation, to procure a position of high trust out here, and shake the Australian pagoda tree, to such good purpose as did our haughty second registrar. Such instances of peculation, on a large scale, however, must have been rare, or this one would not have attracted the attention it did. A few such gentry would have soon caused a vacuum in the Colonial Treasury.
Our Treasury, by the way, was, in those days, an unpretentious building, the last but one or two of those old-fashioned houses on the left-hand side of Church Hill, going towards York-street, and now the office of the “Freeman’s Journal.” Quiet as it is now, that neighborhood saw stirring times, when the four-horse coach carrying gold came in from the Turon, Abercrombie, or Araluen, and dashed up in fine style with its armed escort of troopers cantering along-side, and others sitting on the box, and in the body of the vehicle. In the early fifties the arrival of a “gold escort,” judging from old pictures, was one of the sights of the capital.
In this year (1841) a census was taken, and with rather surprising results, for it was found that the population of the colony amounted to no less than 130,700—males, 87,200; females, 43,500. Of this number Sydney is credited with between forty and fifty thousand. But the year appears to have been a bad one. Governor Gipps took to juggling with the land, alternately raising and depressing the price per acre; indeed, he at one stroke raised the upset price from 5s to 12s. After a while, he lowered it again, thus causing much uncertainty and financial distress on the part of the holders. Thus many became insolvent, and things generally, with most settlers, were at sixes and sevens. City lands, however, was steadily increasing in value. In 1834 a corner allotment in George-street had been sold at the rate of £18,150 per acre, and another at the rate of £27,928 per acre. Ten years or so earlier they might have been purchased for a few hundred gallons of rum. In 1840 one small lot brought at the rate of £40,000 per acre. It will thus be seen that speculation had not been quite crushed by the disasters of the recent land boom and the drought, and that investors had full faith in the future of the city, both as regarded it and its suburbs, especially choice spots, such as Rushcutter’s and Elizabeth Bays, which were becoming favorite residential sites. Listen to Mr. Stubbs (the auctioneer of the day), as he descants on the beauty of these places—Polack isn’t in it with him:—
“Of all the cherished objects of an amateur’s delight those most preferred beyond all others of our beautiful harbor, are Elizabeth and Rushcutter’s Bay. It is proverbial that every fresh visit to these beautiful spots only increases the desire of seeing them again. Hence it is that hardly an individual moves out of town but he goes for the enjoyment of his health to one of them. To live there is at once judgment and good taste—not to be there is a continually increasing want.”
Later on, speaking of Rushcutter’s Bay, he eulogises it as “really and truly the tout ensemble of good society.” The worthy auctioneer might have added that the society was limited as well, for, save private residences about Darling Point, Double Bay, and Point Piper, there was scarcely a house all the way to the Heads. Not unmindful of thoroughly sound business ethics, Mr. Stubbs announces, on a more than usually important occasion, “a champagne lunch will be provided on the day of sale.”
In 1842 Sydney was formed into a municipality, and the first election of councillors, aldermen, etc., took place on November 1 in that year. The house used for the meetings of the new Town Council was one built by Mr. Commissary Broughton, about the year 1813, on the site of a row of soldiers’ huts known by the expressive name of the “Rookery.” The building, often referred to in these papers, was afterwards the residence of the first Colonial Secretary, Major Goulburn; then it was occupied by Mr. Sydney Stephen; then it became a hotel, was called the “Pulteney,” and was kept by a Mr. Levien. It is now known as “Richmond House,” already mentioned as a boarding establishment, and as being the first quarters of the Australian Club. But the Town Council in those days was of an eminently migratory character. At one time it held its meetings in York-street, near where the old Masonic Hall now stands; thence it wandered to the Oxford Hotel, in King street; then we find it in a house on the site of the Imperial Hotel, in Wynyard Square, resting, finally, in a building on the opposite side, whence in, 1879, it removed to its present quarters. Alderman John Hoskins was the first Mayor, and Mr. John Rae the first Town Clerk, appointed in 1843. This gentleman afterwards became well known as Under-Secretary for Public Works and Commissioner for Railways. The Corporation managed to scrape along in some sort of fashion for eleven years; but, in 1854, it got into an even worse muddle than our late City Fathers did, and the Government found it necessary to place the affairs of the city in the hands of commissioners, who levied rates, and paid off the overdraft. They were three in number. Mr. Rae was the junior, his colleagues being Messrs. Gilbert Eliott, and Frederick Orme Darnall. In 1857 the council again became an institution, with what measure of success was well disclosed by the happenings of 1901.
In the latter forties a visitor to Sydney remarks: “The town councillors will do well to follow the more decorous example set by their seniors in the mother country, and it is to be hoped that, hereafter, they will not be quite so personal in their observations to each other as some of them were last year; such were then the proceedings that people actually compared the Town Hall to a bear garden.”
So we see that even over half a century ago our City Council was doing its best to live up to the reputation it has until quite recently done its very best to maintain.
Although Governor Gipps had not as yet taken full possession of his grand new house, still, in May 24, 1843, he opened a portion of it, including the ball-room, and gave a fine entertainment in that apartment in honor of her Majesty’s Birthday. Says an old writer enthusiastically of the new structure:—“May the solidity, the splendor, and elegance of this Vice-royal mansion be an emblem of Australia’s future history… Separated as we are by continents and oceans from our fatherland we have yet the pride of the British-born to rear in their land such buildings as their sons may be proud to contemplate; structures so firm and enduring that the storm may shake, but cannot destroy.”
The cost, when completed, was, it is said, well into £50,000, although the first estimate was only for half that sum. The stables are ornate to a degree, and have time and again been mistaken for the residential portion of the house—indeed, an English magazine once illustrated them as “a view of the seat of Government in New South Wales.”
At this first ball, just mentioned, it rained in torrents during the evening and night, and, as at that period the sheltering porch in front of the house had not been built, the approach became a regular bog; the ladies got their dresses soiled, and in the morning dozens of boots and shoes were seen sticking in the mud. Not until 1845 was the building finally occupied as a home by the Governor.
Just a few words about the often debated matter of these different Government Houses and their sites. We have long ago described Phillip’s portable canvas house, originally built in England by one Smith, of St. George’s Fields, under the personal direction of the Governor, and at a cost of £125. Supposing that it counted as the first Government House, temporary though it was, its position, judging from Hunter’s well-known picture, must have been somewhere close to the place where the copper plate was recently found embedded in old foundation-stones at a depth of 3ft 6in., under the pavement at the corner of Phillip and Bridge streets. And where the discovery was made is undoubtedly the exact site of the second and permanently built Government House, and probably the first building in Australia to be made of bricks and stones. Says Collins: “There having been found among the convicts a person qualified to conduct the business of a brickmaker, a gang of labourers was put under his direction… Another gang of labourers was put under the direction of a stonemason, and on the 15th (May, 1788) the first stone of a building intended for the residence of the Governor until the Government House could be erected was laid on the east side of the Cove.”
The projected building spoken of above was to have been on Church Hill, and, as nearly as can be gathered, on the ground where Petty’s Hotel now stands.
To return to the Bridge-street Government House, or number two, if we count it the next. It first contained only three rooms, but was subsequently enlarged to six. It was of one storey, and, although mention is made of a set of stairs, it is uncertain where they led to—perhaps to a loft or an attic. Contemporary pictures of the place show a wretched looking sort of a hut, with a “hip” roof, a door flanked by two windows of unequal size and a chimney at one end. And yet they called it “elegant,” which, perhaps, compared with its surroundings, it really was. However, it only lasted ten years, and then, finding his home threatened at any moment to fall and bury him in its ruins, Governor Hunter, in 1799, pulled it down and rebuilt it a little further along Bridge-street. This, number three, contained a drawing-room 50ft by 18ft, a dining-room 30ft by 18ft 6in, and a parlor 20ft by 16ft 6in. The rooms were 9ft, 11ft, and 7ft in height. And this edifice, transformed by Macquarie into a comfortable sort of country house with deep verandahs, serviced Vice-royalty as a home until the present building in the Domain was occupied by Governor Gipps. Thus it may be fairly said that there were, in all, four Government Houses; and it is thought that in the preceding brief account several vexed questions as to their sites, etc., have been correctly settled.
Some details of our city in these early forties will be of interest to the present generation as well as to the gradually dwindling remnant who can let their recollections carry back to the days of their youth and reconstruct the scenes among which those days were spent
Around the Cove itself the changes have been slighter since we last took a glance at it than in other parts of the town, and the new Government House dominates the landscape, standing out big and white above the surrounding trees; the Commissariat Stores still usurp the site of the Sailor’s Home and the Mariner’s Church; ships still lie off from the shore, and are approached by heavy stages forty or fifty in length. Circular Quay being yet in embryo, and all the work of reclamation only just thought of again. At the foot of George-street is a flight of steps where watermen ply for hire. Looking across to North Shore, scarcely anything but a dense mass of thick forest met the eye—eucalypti and banksia—practically unchanged since that day in 1789 when poor Francis Hill, the midshipman of the Sirius, landed at Milson’s Point, and was lost in trying to get through the scrub to his ship, then hove down in Careening Cove. Nor, despite many days of search, was he ever heard of again.
From the Cove “up town” there were still plenty of open spaces. A Mr. James Underwood owned a big slice of land extending from the “Herald” office right to the water’s edge. And on this grant he built not only houses known as “Underwood’s Buildings,” but also, in 1801, that first Australian ship, the “King George,” before referred to in the course of this book. Probably she was put together somewhere about the site of the present Paragon Hotel. The gaol was still in George-street, and the gallows stood on a hill at the back of it, where now is Princes-street.
The military barracks filled Wynyard Square, in the very heart of the town. The main building faced the east, and extended along York-street, from Margaret-street to Barrack-street. The officers’ quarters were in separate houses at each end. For some hundreds of yards a high wall shut off the barracks from George-street. Out on a sandhill, where Paddington is now, new barracks were in course of erection, having for outlook a dreary expanse of swamp and tea-tree scrub.
Between Hamilton and Pitt-streets there were no buildings at all, and standing on the banks of the Tank Stream you could see across to the back premises of the houses in George-street. In Bridge-street, on the site of the premises until lately occupied by the Union Steamship Company, was a big lumber-yard, and in one of these detached houses, which stood rather back from the street, once resided the Chief Justice, Sir Francis Forbes; and then for many years it gave accommodation for business matters connected with the Survey Department. Fine trees grew in front of the houses, which, with the buildings they beautified, have long since disappeared—the former before the axe of the Vandals who in turn have ruled our city; the latter to make room for some modern edifices.
The Government Printing Office consisted of some old wooden buildings in Bent-street; and close to these, too, were the structures used as an Emigration Depot. The emigrants, however, when the prisoners were shifted from Hyde Park Barracks, took possession of that place. In those days the building so well-known to us as Fort-street Model School was the Military Hospital. Opposite the main entrance to the Military Barracks in George-street was an old-fashioned massive stone house, “standing at a distance from the public road, and contained within railings.” This was the second bank of New South Wales, and its garden bordered the Tank Stream. Then, a little further to the south, stood the old General Post Office.
George-street was, of course, the great main artery, as it is to-day, and it extended from Dawes Point, the northern extremity of the city, to the old toll-bar, opposite the Benevolent Asylum, at the southern end, a distance of about two miles. Then for another mile it went under the name of Parramatta-street, connecting “the extensive and popular suburbs of Chippendale and Redfern with the city, and forming a grand approach from the southern and western districts.” Says good old Fowles, writing later on: “The newcomer cannot fail to be surprised with the bustle and animation that pervades this street (George) —numberless omnibusses in constant motion, hackney carriages, coaches, gigs, waggons, and every description of vehicle, from the humble ‘shay-cart’ to the regular four-in hand, passing and re-passing; with now and then a big bullock dray laden with wool or other produce, and drawn by eight or ten immense bullocks, wending its devious way to the merchants’ stores, gives character to the scene, and stamps it colonial.”
Hyde Park was still more generally known as the Racecourse, and was simply “a healthy, open common, fenced off in four different departments.” Lyon’s Terrace stood on the south side of the Park, and was considered the residential “plum” of the city. There were six houses in it; and among the early occupants at different intervals were General Wynyard, the Colonial Treasurer, C. D. Riddle, J. Thacker, W. H. Hart (manager of the Bank of Australia), Chief Justice Stephen, and A. W. Young (the Sheriff of the colony). The rent of these select and fashionable residences was from £280 to £400 per annum. At the corner of Elizabeth Street was a large house occupied by Mr. Prosper de Mestre, part owner of a whaler, the Cape Packet, and mentioned by Lang as “a highly respectable merchant of American origin, who has long settled in Sydney.”
On the east side of the park stood the Sydney College, nearly alone and now flourishing under its first head master, Mr. T. Cape. Near Governor Bourke’s statue stood the ugly School of Industry, and at the corner of King-street, the now vanished St. James parsonage. Crown-street boasted of some four or five houses only. Redfern was practically unknown till some years later, as a residential suburb, when Fowles speaks of it as “extensive and populous.” Macdonaldtown and the present “up the line” suburbs were, of course, undreamt of, although a Mr. Chisholm had a house in the neighbourhood of the former place, standing on land long since resumed by the Government for railway purposes; afterwards, it was occupied as a school by Dr. Sly. Oxford-street, more generally known as New South Head road, was still the favorite drive with many of the citizens, but there were no houses along it. The new court house at Darlinghurst was still unfinished, although one wing was utilised as a Museum, with Mr. Wall as curator; and in this most unsuitable place a gradually increasing collection of fine and valuable specimens remained until 1849, when they were removed to the present building, designed by the Colonial Architect (Mr. M. W. Lewis). But from beginning to end the contract appears to have been muddled, money wasted, and such a scandal incurred as caused the retirement of the Colonial Architect from his office.
And at Waverley there was only one house—a lofty, conspicuous building—but by whom occupied contemporary history is silent; although in recent years it did duty as a Roman Catholic school. Messrs. R. Cooper, T. Cape, F. Hely, and several other prominent citizens lived in the neighbourhood of the Glenmore-road. Paddington, Woollahra, Waverley, and Randwick were still in “the womb of futurity.” The Edgecliffe-road and its fellows of the present were so many rude and scarcely defined tracks, nameless, and formed by cattle and by wood-carters among the scrubby areas, interspersed with patches of rock and sand—worthless then, almost invaluable now. At Double Bay a solitary fisherman had built himself a hut; whilst under a projecting shelf of flat rock on the eastern side two old soldiers had taken up their quarters. They were known simply by the nicknames of “Albuera” and “Waterloo.” William-street was a sandy dray-track; and a little creek where the Asylum for the Blind now stands was spanned by a couple of decayed rails, off which unwary foot passengers now and again plumped into the water. Dr. Polding, the R.C. bishop, lived in a large house standing alone on the open stretch of ground between William-street and the head of Woolloomooloo Bay. But, gradually, as we have seen, the rich city folk were being enticed to make their homes around the foreshores of these bays, and already many fine mansions standing in extensive grounds dotted the high lands of this portion of the harbour. But so dense was the scrub, particularly about Elizabeth and Rushcutter’s, that much clearing was necessary before one of these old-time homes and its surroundings was completed.
Returning to the neighbourhood of the Cove, it may be of interest to some of the people who daily pass the Obelisk in Macquarie Place to reproduce the inscription it bears as it stands there forlorn and solitary in that most squalid and dirty patch of old Sydney, surrounded by rags, torn newspapers, decaying leaves, garbage, and refuse of all descriptions; an ancient but none the less eloquent protest against the ineptitude of these under whose care the historic space should by rights flourish in turf and blossom.
The inscription runs:—
(ON THE SOUTH SIDE.)
in Macquarie Place,
to record that all the
Leading to the Interior
of the Colony
are measured from it.”
Governor L. Macquarie, Esq.
(ON THE NORTH SIDE.)
Distance, Sydney to Bathurst,
Sydney to Windsor,
Sydney to Parramatta. 15½m.
Sydney to Liverpool, 20m.
To Macquarie Tower at South
The first mile stone is still to be seen at the corner of Liverpool and George streets, and the second a little way beyond the Newtown-road by the side of the University Grounds. The Obelisk is said to have been erected by one, Edward Cureton, a free man, and to have cost about £45.
Reference has, in the course of these papers, been often made to the site of what is commonly accepted as the original Bank of New South Wales—the one in front of the Barracks in George-street, and close to the General Post Office. But few people, even among the earlier historians, appear to know quite where the first bank stood, long before its quarters were removed to the old-fashioned George-street cottage, with its curious arched windows, garden, and orchard, and hut for the night-watchman, who with slug-loaded blunderbuss lay in wait for illegal exploiters of the bank’s treasure.
Through the kindness of the Hon. Reginald Black, M.L.C., the writer has been enabled to identify the house in which, on April 8, 1817, the young institution began its long and successful career. At the corner of Pitt-street and Macquarie Place stand the offices of the North Queensland Insurance Company, and next to them, partly hidden by a fruiterer’s shop and a tobacconist’s, rises an old weatherworn building, and in this, known afterwards as the Star Hotel, the present great corporation began its operations. Unless one knows just where to look for it, the house is hardly distinguishable, so hemmed in is it by others.
In those days there was a well in Macquarie Place where when, as it often did in a dry season, the Tank Stream failed, the bank officials had to go for their water. “Busby’s Bore” was not yet in existence; but, later on, it for many years was, as already mentioned, the sole water supply of the city. The “bore” was, in reality, an aqueduct of over two miles in length, cut from the Lachlan swamp, near Botany. The channel was 5ft deep and 5ft wide, having its terminus in Hyde Park, whither folks used to go and fetch the water in tubs, buckets, carts,—any thing; and the supply was intermittent, giving out when least expected. In course of time water was laid on through pipes to many houses; but it came through very slowly, and to fill a bath often took three hours—when people indulged in a home luxury of the kind. Throughout the city there were, at this time, wells of varying depth. The one in particular in Macquarie Place was declared to be “very sweet;” and there was another just opposite the old Club House in Bent-street, the water of which was held in high repute.
In this particular chapter, dealing, as it does, so largely with the old topography of our city, it must be remembered that although every possible effort has been made to confirm and verify the statements contained therein, such a question as the absolute position of a long-departed landmark must, in many cases, be a matter far from reducible to the dimensions of an exact science and, therefore, a certain amount of approximate correctness must be allowed in such matters And it is curious how, in this respect, the old chronicles and records do themselves differ, in some instances even no two being agreed upon matters of position, custom, or fashion, that we who are interested in such things deem of much moment. Nor, when one comes to think of it is this so very surprising. Take, for instance, our ever changing city of to-day, and it will not be difficult to find three average men who will in nowise be able to agree as to the shape, use, and exact position of a building which they had passed every day of their lives for many years, then had as it were suddenly missed, and found its place taken by a stranger. And so with many other matters that will be of interest to our dependents but which no man among us considers worthy of note at the present.
It was on the 24th of January, 1843, that Sir George Gipps, acting then as President of the Council, addressed the members to the effect that their existence as a Council was almost at an end, seeing that the British Parliament had at last passed an Act which made that body elective. Thus the year of grace, 1843, saw the partial death of the nominee system, and the birth of one based on the will of the people. Partial, because the nominee leaven still obtained to the extent that six of the members were to be Goverment officials, and six others appointed directly by the Governor himself. The people were allowed twenty-four representatives, whose qualifications were either the possession of freehold valued at £200 per annum, or a fixed, income of £20 per annum, derived from a residential source. Of these, six were to represent Port Phillip, and eighteen New South Wales. The voting was, of course, open; and the state of the poll was declared every hour, as nearly as might be. The first election in our city is worthy of rather more than a general notice.
Somewhere as nearly as possible on the site of Thomas Mort’s statue in Macquarie Place—the witness of so many historic scenes—was the spot chosen for the first nomination for the city electorate, which resulted in the return of Messrs. Wentworth and Bland; and here the former made that unequivocal declaration that probably placed him at the top of the poll, to the effect that “either William Charles Wentworth was unworthy to represent Sydney, or Sydney was unworthy of being represented by William Charles Wentworth. To posterity he left the deciding the question.”
Between the partisans of these two men and those of the other candidates, of whom the principal were Robert Cowper, Captain O’Connell, and William Hustler, feeling was rather strained, and encounters were consequently more or less serious throughout the day; which gave Captain Innes, the then police magistrate, and his men all they knew to suppress. The crowd started from Miller’s Point, and travelled along Kent-street, via Charlotte Place, to “Smith’s Corner,” in Market-street, just about the site of the present Kidman’s Buildings. Smith was a popular “sport” of the time, and kept a large butcher’s shop. There, so the story goes, on one of the mob attempting to pull up some palings from the fence that then bounded a cottage garden opposite, a woman rushed out, and cut off his fingers with a meat axe. And, curiously enough, whether a fact or not, the writer happening to sit, quite recently, next to an old gentleman in one of the George-street electric trams, heard him relating the story as having been himself an actual witness of the occurrence. With the addition, however, that next morning there appeared in one of the newspapers an advertisement to the effect that the victim could have the missing digits returned on personal application!
When the crowd reached the Haymarket it attempted to rush the polling place there, and, by destroying the voting papers, at least delay the election. These roughs carried poles decked with green ribbons, and were simply spoiling for a fight with Wentworthites or Blandites. The attempt on the papers was frustrated by the presence of mind of a clerk who, having one of Hustler’s placards, shouted that if they destroyed the papers they would do as much harm to their own side as to the opposition, whereupon they gave cheers for Hustler, and rioted away to Hyde Park.
During the afternoon there was a fight near St. James’ Church, and Captain Innes and some of the police were chased into the adjacent barracks, where they took refuge. But, despite all opposition, Wentworth and Bland were easily first when the final count came.
Shortly afterwards Parramatta had its turn. Mr. Charles Cowper, a son of the Archdeacon, had been beaten for Camden, by Mr. Roger Therry, afterwards the well-known judge. So his supporters determined to give him a show for Cumberland. Time was short, and the opposition candidate, James Macarthur, strong and influential The excitement was at fever heat, and although people felt that the Sydney vote was secure for Cowper, the Macarthur connection and influence amid the strongholds of the family was too strong to allow very much hope.
Towards evening people began to muster around the committee rooms, situated in a new building where Lassetter’s ironmongery department stands now, for it was known that Cowper would ride in from Parramatta with the final pollings from that town and the neighbourhood. Crowds filled the Haymarket, and George-street was impassable, so that when, very late, distant cheering was heard, his committee could not get out to discover the cause. However, they presently saw Cowper borne aloft on six men’s shoulders, and after a time, he was landed safely among them, having beaten Macarthur by 132 votes. And thus was the future Sir Charles Cowper introduced to Australian political life, after a struggle, the keenness and bitterness of which we, at this latter day, find it rather hard to realise, pretty certain, as we are, that by no efforts of our own can we change the dreary level of mediocrity that has for years distinguished each legislative see-saw in the representative Chamber.
As going to show the insecurity of life and property in Sydney in 1844, two instances may here be given of the cool brutality and heartlessness that characterised the criminal class that still made up the great part of the population of the city. In the early part of the year a ticket-of-leave-man from Norfolk Island went into the shop of a poor old widow woman at the corner of Kent and Margaret streets, and asked to be served with some trifling article. Whilst Mrs. Jamieson was serving him, the scoundrel split her head open with a tomahawk. She lingered a few days, and then died, leaving two orphan children. The murderer, John Knatchbull, was what was known as a “gentleman convict”—i.e., well-connected at home. Indeed, his brother, Sir Edward Knatchbull, on hearing of the occurrence, sent out a sum of money to be invested for the benefit of the orphans. Strong efforts were also made to get the murderer off, and he was defended by Robert Lowe, afterwards Lord Sherbrooke, who then lived in Macquarie-street, opposite the old School of Industry, and whose wife, it is said, eventually took charge of Mrs. Jamieson’s children—a girl and a boy—and had them brought up respectably. But, although the plea of insanity was set up, the man’s record was so bad that he was condemned to death, and hanged in due course. The proceeds of his crime amounted to 3s 6d. Then, in the May of the same year, there happened another, and an equally cold-blooded murder. One Sunday evening Mr. Noble, a general estate agent, and a well-known and respected citizen, was sitting reading the Bible aloud to his wife and her sister, when three men entered, one of whom snapped a pistol at Mr. Noble’s head. That gentleman turned and grappled with his assailant; the women screamed, and two of the fellows escaped by the back door. But Mr. Noble, forced to release the first one he had seized, now collared another, and held him until assistance arrived. Not till then was Noble found to have been stabbed in the stomach. The wound proved mortal, and the unfortunate man died in two days. The captive (Martin) turned approver, and presently the others (Vigors and Burdett) were captured, tried, and, of course duly hanged. But what made the citizens so excited over this affair was the fact that the three criminals—all Norfolk Island convicts —were actually under sentence in Hyde Park Barracks when they escaped and murdered poor Noble. It seems that as they were entering St. Phillip’s on that Sunday they had slipped out of the gang, and, having plain suits concealed under their branded ones, had soon transformed themselves into free men, and without the delay of a minute recommenced their career of crime by a most barbarous murder. Then, of course, people wanted to know something about the state of discipline in a gaol where such goings on were possible; and, finally, on the motion of Dr. Nicholson, a select Committee of the Legislative Council was appointed to inquire into the condition both of the Sydney police and the Hyde Park Barracks; also to consider the expediency of remonstrating against the introduction of “Norfolk Island expirees” into the colony.
Long ago a price list of necessaries, etc., in the early days was quoted in this book. It will, perhaps, be of interest to contrast them with a few figures from 1844-5.
The Australasian Sugar Refining Company then had their works at Canterbury, “about six miles from Sydney, beyond the pleasant suburbs of New Town;” and for their produce they asked for “Fine loaves, on the spot, 4½d per lb; ditto, for exportation, 4½d per lb, free on board; crushed lump, 40s per cwt.; fine pieces, 30s to 36s per cwt.; molasses, none;” and the above list is signed “E. Knox, manager.” Tea was still a luxury at from 4s 6d to 5s 6d per lb. Flour of the best quality was £9 per ton. Butcher’s meat of every kind was plentiful, and the very best description. Beef, 1½d per lb retail; mutton, 2d to 2½d; pork, 4d to 5d; veal, 4½d to 5½d. Bread was 2½d the two-pound loaf. Grapes of the finest kinds were 3d per lb; but bananas were looked upon as somewhat of a luxury, though “plentiful at 2s per dozen.” Peaches sold at from 4d to 1s per basket—of what size is not stated; but, judging from the description of the plenteous crop, probably a clothes basket. Walthall’s best colonial tobacco was 1s 6d per lb; other sorts down to 8d. House rent was considered high, £30 per annum being paid for a small cottage in an unfavorable situation. “Time,” says an old writer, “will, however, certainly remedy this evil” In which statement he has not been so thoroughly borne out as one might altogether wish.
Until the last few years imprisonment for debt still formed part of the law of the land; but that was now abolished, and the debtor’s prison, situated close to the treadmill at the corner of Pitt and Gipps streets, was untenanted. At one time, on payment of 5s a week, any creditor could keep his unfortunate victim “walking the rules” for life if he so pleased. But that was all over now; and by virtue of an Insolvency Act, passed in these early forties, many hundreds of people had been released. Braim, “walking out of town by the road leading to the interior of the country,” found the old building “standing in solitary and untenanted gloom. It appears to frown now on the barbarism which could perpetrate this custom so long, and extend it so far; while some beautiful roses and plants blooming in the front speak eloquently of the blooming of brighter days.”
Originally the place was intended, and used as a boys’ penitentiary— something after the fashion of our Carpentarian Reformatory—where the youthful offenders were taught useful trades, and otherwise reclaimed. Then, at a period when public works were being rapidly erected, it was used as quarters for the Government carters, and, from this cause, for a long time retained the name of “Carter’s Barracks.”
Close to the site of the present “House” in Macquarie-street there stood in 1843, a mean-looking little building, in which the old Council used to meet. And here, in a stuffy, close room, the Governor, with the nominee members around him, sat at a table and discussed matters of state and the affairs of the colony. When, however, the new Constitution came into being, the place was found far too small to accommodate the thirty-six representatives, to say nothing of a stranger’s gallery, committee rooms, etc. There was, however, no money to spare just then for anything grand in the way of a new Chamber; also, Governor Gipps true to his economical instinct, set his face against any decent expenditure. So he told the colonial architect to do the job as cheaply as he could, with the result that the present barracks were run up in six months —looking exactly, exteriorly, as we see them today, but, of course with many improvements inside. Macquarie would have given us a palace ugly enough, perhaps, but, like everything else he put his hand to massive and enduring. He was no jerry-builder, and, therefore, none of his work is contemptible, like that ramshackle erection approved of Gipps and which has cost us almost as much in repairs as would suffice to build another Victoria Markets.
Notable among the buildings begun and completed, or nearly so during the reign of Gipps was the R.C. Church of St. Patrick, built by subscription, assisted by a grant of £1000 from the State. The first stone was laid on August 25, 1840, by the Archbishop, Dr. Polding, in person and four years later was dedicated by him, although the interior was not finished for some time afterwards. The first Jewish Synagogue was also built at a cost of £3600. Up till then the Jews had no recognised place of worship—used, indeed, to meet in a private house, that of Mr. P. J. Cohen, in Jamieson street, offered by him for the purpose. Later on, as their numbers increased, they took possession of a large room on the northern side of Bridge-street, afterwards used as a store by a Mr. Gordon. Then, towards the end of 1841, a site in York-street was purchased at auction, a Synagogue built, and in 1844, consecrated with all the ceremonies usual upon such an occasion.
When Dr. Polding, the first R.C. Bishop of Australia, went home in 1840, and was created an Archbishop, he ordered a peal of bells. They did not arrive, however, for two years; then a belfry was erected for them, and they ushered in the new year of 1843 with their music—the first of the kind that the Currency lads and lasses had ever heard.
Although churches of the established faith were plentiful enough at this date, we had as yet only the beginnings of a cathedral to boast of. There was, however, close to the site of the present edifice, a parish church of St. Andrew’s, capable of seating 520 people, with, as minister, the Rev. R. K. Sconce. “We should like to see,” remarks a writer of the time, “greater liberality evinced by our fellow-colonists in bringing to completion the first cathedral church in Australia. Protestants would do well in this respect to learn a lesson from the Roman Catholic community, and emulate their zeal and liberality in perpetuating their worship and extending their principles.” St. James’s was still the fashionable Church, attended by the Governor and his family, and all the high officials of the colony; also, perforce, by the convicts from the neighboring barracks. Says old Braim, quaintly—he was now headmaster of Sydney College, in succession to Cape—”It has sometimes struck us that if anything can touch the hearts of these unhappy men (and who should say nothing can?) it must be when in this land of their expatriation, weekly as the Sabbath returns, they hear all classes of the community in the great congregation joining in the beautiful prayers of our inimitable Liturgy, ‘That it may please Thee to show Thy pity upon all prisoners and captives.’ ” Judging from the instances already given of the way these gentry behaved when they got a little freedom, it would have taken more than the Liturgy to convert that gloomy audience in the old St. James’s gallery.
The attendance at St. James’s, in 1844 are given as: Morning service, 1400; afternoon, 500; and evening, 1000.
Apparently, our folk then spent the day very much as the majority of them do now. Says a writer: “We cannot forbear expressing our strong disapprobation of the practice, but too prevalent in Sydney, of devoting the latter part of the Lord’s day to amusement and pleasure. Dinner parties, water or land excursions, and a thousand means are devised to ‘kill the time’ of this sacred day, at least, so soon as the morning service is closed.” To attend Divine service three times, “and spend the intervals in silent communion with holy things” was a fashion of passing Sunday no more in favour then than it is now.
Spite, however, of its irreligiousness, the city throve apace, both by land and sea. Everywhere around the foreshores centipedal wharves thrust themselves into the water, whilst ever more and more ships came from oversea and rested alongside them to discharge the wares of the old land in return for the produce of the new. Such men as “Merchant” Campbell and “Bobby” Town were the fathers of the shipping interest, and it was through them, and the like of them, that the city was gradually being fringed with the tall spars that spelled commerce. And we had gone on building ships, too, all the time. In 1834 we built nine, amounting in all to 376 tons; but, in 1843, we put no less than 47 into the water, aggregating 1433 tons—small coasters, of course, but fine, handy, useful craft. Of vessels, exclusive of these registered in the port, there were less than 92, making up 7,022 tons altogether—only a little over the individual tonnage of some of the mail-boats of to-day, certainly; but then we were still very young, and it takes time to develop a mercantile marine. And, actually, we did more towards it during that first half-century than we have, comparatively, done ever since.
Nearing the latter end of Gipps’s governorship, an occurrence took place at the barracks, which at one period promised serious developments. At this time the 99th regiment were there under Lieutenant-Colonel Despard, “Stand-off-the-grass Despard,” so called because he had forbidden the public to walk on the turf in the barrack-square, and had put up a notice to that effect. In those days soldiers had a regular allowance of grog, and, presently, Despard stopped it. Then the troops became mutinous, and refused point-blank to obey orders. Sir Maurice O’Connell, at that time Commander, of the forces, went to the barracks, accompanied by his staff, to try and dissuade the men from their foolish action, the consequences of which he took good care to point out to them. But he spoke in vain. Then, becoming angry, he said he would arm the Cockatoo Island convicts, and lead them against the mutineers. This still more aggravated the 99th, and the men seized their arms and threatened Sir Maurice and his officers with personal violence.
At this time, H.M.S. Havanna was lying in the harbor, but her commander does not seem to have offered to help the authorities in any way whatever. Perhaps he thought colonial quarrels were none of his business.
So there seemed nothing for it but to send for troops to Hobart Town, where was quartered the 11th Regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Bloomfield. On receipt of the news, that officer at once chartered the barque Tasmania, and the 11th, 400 rank and file of them, set sail for Sydney. In three days, they were off Coogee Bay, the strong westerlies came up, and it was another week before they entered the Heads. During her beating about outside, the Havanna passed without taking the slightest notice of them.
In the meantime, the 99th, hearing of the expected arrivals, had thought better of things, made their submission, and returned to duty.
The 11th arrived on January 8, 1846, and were, as soon as possible, put in lighters, and landed at the Commissariat Wharf. There they formed up, and marched four deep, with fixed bayonets, towards the barracks, their band playing, “Paddy, Will You Now.”
When they arrived, they found the gates closed; but on Colonel Bloomfield’s command, they were at once opened, and the main-guard of the 99th turned out, and presented arms to the 11th, as they marched in and formed up, whilst nearly all the men, women, and children of the late mutinous regiment joined in three hearty cheers for the newcomers. And thus happily ended an episode that, but for the prompt action of the authorities, might have had a very different termination.
The 11th stayed in Sydney for a year, and Colonel Bloomfield, so far as his regiments’ portion of the barrack green was concerned, gave orders that no citizens were to be prevented from walking on it. It should be explained that, especially when the band was playing in the rotunda, it was a favorite resort of the city folk. There is still a rotunda in the square, but no band ever plays there, and “dead beats” sprawl over the grass at their own sweet will and pleasure. In the following January, the 11th returned to Van Diemen’s land, and were quartered at Launceston. But such a favorite had the regiment become in Sydney, that the townspeople petitioned the General to allow them to return, and take the place of the 99th—a noted lot of “hard cases”—and actually offered to bear the cost of the regiments’ transit both ways. This was acceded to. And, in August, 1848, the 11th returned, and were the first troops to occupy the new Victoria Barracks. As for the 99th, they were ordered from Van Diemen’s Land to India. Both colonies, apparently, being very glad indeed to get rid of them.
It may be mentioned, as showing the hold that fine soldier, Colonel Bloomfield, had over his men, that, although during the stay of the 11th in New South Wales, the gold discoveries took place, with all their ensuing excitement and feverish unrest, scarcely a soldier deserted from his regiment. Says a new arrival, writing in 1846, and staying at “Petty’s Hotel, a respectable, quiet establishment” Passing through Barrack Square to mine inn, shortly before 9 o’clock, I found tattoo going on, and drums and fifes of the 99th regiment rattling away at Mrs. Waylett’s the pretty old song of ‘I’d be a Butterfly,’ in the most spirited style, just as if we were not 16,000 miles away from the Horse Guards.”
With two regiments established in the heart of the city, the military element in those days was evidently an important factor in the social life of the place. And doubtless, conflicts between the soldiers and the “pushes”—then known as the Cabbage-Tree mob—were so common as to be hardly worth chronicling. The Cabbage-Trees are described as “an unruly set of young fellows, native-born, generally, who hung about the doors of the Sydney theatres, and, not being able to perhaps muster coin enough to enter the house, amuse themselves by molesting those who can afford that luxury. Dressed in a suit of fustian or colonial tweed, and the emblem of their order—the low-crowned cabbage-palm hat—the main object of their enmity seems to be the ordinary black headpiece worn by respectable persons.”
Well, we have improved somewhat on that sort of business, so far, at least, as the theatres are concerned; but although one of the favorite haunts of the up-to-date evolution of the cabbage-tree mob—the straw hat brigade—is a church porch, whence they can insult the worshippers at their exits and entrances, the change of venue has not improved their behaviour in any very great measure.
From time to time during the course of this chronicle a glance has been taken at the sports of the people, and the progress of horse-racing, yachting, etc., among them noted. Early cricket was also touched upon, as seen then, in a rather crude and incomplete condition; but during the forties more interest was taken in cricket than at any prior period. It may, indeed, from that time be said to become the Australian game par excellence. Some years ago Mr. Harry Hilliard says: “There were perhaps, in this year (1843) 100 cricketers in Sydney. Messrs. W. and R. still were both fine bats, as was also a gentleman named Palmer, connected with banking. I myself was also accounted an excellent bat. Rowley, a cabinetmaker, was the crack bowler, underhand, of course. His bowling had a natural break of five or six inches from leg. Oh! I can tell you that Rowley would have puzzled a lot of our modern bats—for a while, anyhow.” Of course, in these days there was no foot ball; horseracing seem to have gone much out of favour, and yachting was not very popular. Therefore, cricket throve amain, and clubs sprung up everywhere. There was the Currency, composed entirely of colonials, and to which Mr. Hilliard belonged; the Union, Victorian, Albert, and Australian.
The matches of importance were played in Hyde Park The city teams, too, then, as now, went inland to Parramatta, Liverpool and Windsor. And about one of these country matches Hilliard used to tell a curious little story:
The Australian Club, it appears, went to Windsor to play the locals for whom Hilliard stood umpire, whilst Mr. Saddler performed the same office for the visitors. Among the Windsor players were two brothers named Bushell; and Saddler gave one of them out “leg before.” The batsman, however, stoutly contested this decision, backed up by his brother, who exclamed. “Don’t ‘ee go out, Bill and if t’ umpire tries to put ‘ee out, knock him down with ‘ee bat.” And, finally to avoid a free fight, another innings had to be given to Bushell. Evidently country cricket was a thing to be taken very seriously in the forties.
“We used” says Hilliard, “to have great trouble to keep the wickets anything like decent. You see there was no supervision of the ground and even the clubs would fight among themselves for the possession of a choice pitch. Sometimes we would send up boys to hold a pitch for us from daybreak on the morning of the match. A device we had to keep the people off the grass was to tar the underside of the top rail of the fences. The tar hung down in drips, and as intruders came through it would smear their clothes.” None of the Governors except Sir William Denison, according to Mr. Hilliard, took any interest in cricket, although some of the young aides, and others of the staff, used occasionally to have a game. Sir James Martin, as a youngster, played a great deal, but never attained much, proficiency. In Mr. Hilliard’s opinion the real father of New South Wales cricket was Mr. Tunks. “It was he and I who put the first spade into the present Domain ground. He kept a publichouse in those days, but always encouraged the cricketers to drink tea. Whenever we had a match, we had tea with good old Mrs. Tunks. Also, Mr. Driver, a solicitor, and an M.P., and the son of the proprietor of an hotel called the Three Tuns, which stood at the corner of King and Elizabeth streets, just where Temple Court now stands, was another great patron of the game, but he was never much of a player, though he was always ready to help us with his money.”
Hilliard was one of six Currency lads, who played in the first intercolonial match with Victoria, and he says most of the team fielded barefoot. This was in 1856, and was won by New South Wales by three wickets. Then, in 1857, the Melbourne men came to Sydney, and met in the Outer Domain, being again beaten. The excitement was intense, the Governor and all sorts and conditions of people being present, to the number of 10,000. The match lasted two days and a half. Scores: New South Wales, 80 and 86; Victoria, 63 and 38. Slow bats and cautious in those days, with a top score (Gilbert) of 31. His batting, said the newspapers, “was the theme of universal admiration.” Well, truly times have changed since that stonewalling era, and the papers of to-day would doubtless comment on such a performance somewhat differently—unless the 31 were made in as many minutes.
The group portrait of New South Wales Rifle champions marks an interesting stage in the Australian volunteer movement, and particularly in that branch of it which has for its object the making of marksmen. The picture illustrates an account of the first intercolonial rifle match held in Australia, and, appropriately enough, the contestants were New South Wales and Victoria, whose representatives since then have met in many friendly shootings, with varying fortune. The mother colony proved victorious at the first trial of skill at the targets, and there is no doubt that the wider field of fame opened up to riflemen by this intercolonial meeting did much towards establishing the present satisfactory state of affairs. From beating the men of his own colony the champion began to covert honors further afield, and ultimately the pinnacle was reached when he was sent home to meet the best shots in Great Britain. The idea of the first match originated with the members of the Victorian Rifle Association, and, although all the colonies were invited to take part, none of them could see their way clear to accept the invitation. The conditions governing the match were that each colony should contribute £50 per annum for three years, for the purpose of purchasing a challenge shield which had to be won three times in succession before passing into the possession of any colony. In consideration of the first meeting being held in Melbourne, the Victorian Association donated a further sum of £50 to the successful competitors in the first year. Bona-fide volunteers alone were eligible, and the use of any rifle with a trigger pull of 3lb was allowed. Each competitor had ten shots at each of the respective distances of 200, 300, 500, 600, 700, 800, and 900 yards, making seventy shots in all, Hythe position, and Wimbledon system of scoring. Ten of the best shots in New South Wales were selected by the association, and a like number was chosen by the Victorian Association, from their shooting in four special practices. The two teams met at the Melbourne butt on November 3, 1862, when, after a keenly contested match, especially up to 700 yards, the men from the parent colony won with 64 points to spare. Their superiority over the Victorians was principally apparent at the long ranges. In these days of shooting with uniform weapons, it is almost impossible to compare with any degree of fairness present scores with those of the match of 1862. Still, the scores made in that contest were undoubtedly good, for shooting had not been reduced to the fine art it is now. The scores on the New South Wales side were: Corporal Lynch 182, Trooper Sharp 177, Private Rayner 168, Sergeant Webb 152, Private Wyndham 150, Lieutenant Campbell 144, Sergeant Strong 140, Sergeant-Major Hellyer 134, Private Dickson 125, Captain Windeyer 125; total, 1497. On the Victorian side the total was 1432 points, made up as under: Private M’Naughton 175, Sergeant Wright 154, Sergeant Douglas 154, Sergeant Sleep 152, Private Cole 151, Captain Radcliffe 141, Sergeant Templeton 140, Private Peterson 132, Private M’Ewan 124, Private Frost 109. A banquet in the evening wound up the event, and on the following day the Sydney men embarked for home on the City of Sydney. On the way up the coast she was wrecked near Green Cape (November 5, 1862). Fortunately, all lives were saved, but uniforms, private effects, and valuable small-bore rifles were lost.
A Mr. Davis, of Bourke- street, Melbourne, photographed the victorious ten, of whom six belonged to the Sydney Battalion Volunteer Rifles, one to the suburban battalion, and one to the country corps (West Maitland). The Mounted Rifles furnished the other two—Sergeant-major Hellyer and Trooper Sharp. Captain Harbottle, S.B.V.R., accompanied the team as captain, and Sergeant-major Lees, of the Staff, acted as marker.
If ever there was a nondescript sort of a city in these forties it was Sydney. And, yet, as every visitor allowed, it bore a pre-eminently English aspect Writes one in particular: “Sydney is, I think, more exclusively English in its population than either Liverpool or London. Were it not for an occasional orange tree in full bloom or fruit in the backyard of some of the older cottages, or a flock of little green parrots whistling as they alight for a moment on a house top, one might fancy himself at Brighton or Plymouth.” This would require a rather fervid imagination, one fancies; and our author gets nearer the mark when he says, “it might be Waterford or Wapping, with a dash of Nova Scotian Halifax.” Indeed, he and many others like him, seem to have been very considerably puzzled to find comparisons. But old pictures will thoroughly bear out his remark, that the “construction of the buildings is blameably ill-suited to a semi-tropical climate—barefaced, smug-looking tenements, without verandahs or even broad eaves.” Nor, indeed, is it necessary to consult contemporary views to see the justice of this criticism, inasmuch as, at the present day, you can see, in places, the same “smug, barefaced,” old houses still standing, forlorn, disreputable, blistered by the sun and rain of many years.
Goats were still a conspicuous feature of our streets. “Nearly every cottage has its goat or family of goats. They ramble about the highways and by-ways, picking up a haphazard livelihood during the day, and going home willingly or compulsorily to be milked at night. Woe betide the suburban garden whose gate is left for a moment unclosed… In an instant the bearded tribes rush in, and, in a few seconds roses, sweet peas, carnations, stocks, etc., are as closely nibbled down as though a flock of locusts had bivouacked for a week on the spot; and the neat flower-beds are dotted over with little clover feet, as if ten thousand infantine devils had been dancing there—a juvenile sabbat.” The man who wrote that wrote feelingly, and one can see that more than once his garden-gate had been left open, even as they still are, and with the same results. Like the poor and the unemployed, the goats we seem fated to have always with us.
Pitt-street, even half a century ago or more, appears to have been noted for its linen drapers’ shops: “Whether we regard the excellence of their arrangements, the sterling value of the commodities, the costliness of their large and showy windows, and at night, the glistening splendor of their lamps, sometimes most tastefully ornamented, we cannot but feel proud of our city; and even the stranger must acknowledge that those houses of business would not disgrace any of our older towns in the mother country.” Evidently, the predecessors of our Horderns, Ways, Farmers, etc., kept as well up-to-date as do their descendants.
A picture of O’Connell-street towards the end of the forties is worth re-producing. Referring to the similarity of the name with that of the celebrated Irish agitator the old writer says: “Start not, gentle reader, at the name; the place bearing this designation is calm and peaceful as you can desire. We have no ‘agitation’ here, save the calm agitation of shrubs and flowers, which adorn the little gardens smiling on either side, fanned as they are by soft zephyrs, gaily playing around. Whatever opinion may be entertained of the name, but one can be held regarding the street. It is one of the most “tasty” in Sydney. The houses, as we have already hinted, have gardens before them, some of which are kept with much neatness by their careful owners. Here may be seen our native and English plants, vying which shall outshine the other, which shall more adorn the garden plot, which more adorn the air.”
Of course, as the writer remarks later on, the street was named “in honor of our worthy Commander of the Forces, Sir Maurice O’Connell.” But, alas, the only zephyrs there to-day are formed of sand and dust, and the perfume is mostly chemical in its nature; whilst the “tastiness” of those bygone days has fled for ever.
And they thought a lot of their streets in those times. The running of Pitt-street right through to the Quay was then under discussion; “it will thus be rendered the main street of the town; and, when completed, the line of road for traffic, nearly two miles in length, will, besides its vast accommodation, be no small ornament to our fair city. We may remark of the streets of Sydney generally that they are very regular and well-formed.—Pitt and Castlereagh streets are almost in straight lines, though each extends about a mile and a half.”
By all visitors the palm was almost unanimously awarded to the Congregational Church in Pitt-street as the handsomest building in the city. It was designed by Mr. John Bibb, and erected under his supervision, the foundation-stone having been laid by Dr. Ross, on Anniversary Day, 1841. Then, by reason of the embarrassed state of affairs in the colony, it was soon afterwards thought prudent to discontinue building. In 1844 a fresh start was made; and in January, 1846, the church was first opened for public worship. The first ornamental iron columns cast in Sydney were made for this edifice by Mr. Dawson. They were fourteen in number, of the Ionic order, fluted, and finished an imitation bronze. The organ was also of colonial manufacture, and was built specially for the church by Mr. W. J. Johnson, also of this city. In the same year, under the direction of the same architect, the Union Bank of Australia, at the corner of Pitt and Hunter streets, was added to and enlarged, until it was regarded as one of the greatest ornaments of Sydney.
In King-street, in a shop on the left-hand side, going towards Queen’s Square, which, perhaps some old residents can still identify, lived and flourished the notorious Quaker, John Tawell, transported for forgery. This remarkable man reached Sydney in 1814, and his knowledge of drugs procured his retention as assistant in the convict hospital, instead of being assigned as a servant up country. In this situation he continued some three years, when he received his ticket-of-leave, and, shortly afterwards, one of emancipation. Then, in 1832, he set up as a chemist—the first regular business of the kind in the colony—and at once began to thrive. He also embarked in the shipping trade, engaged in oil speculation, bought up all the whalebone that came to the port and was the first person in the colony to convert it into an article of profitable export. Piety and good works seem in those days to have been the keynote of his life. He became a shining light among the Society of Friends, and built them a meeting-house in Macquarie-street. Judge Therry knew him well, and says that his whole aspect and demeanour proclaimed him a very saintly personage indeed. He it was who, having ordered a large consignment of spirits from England, and having, in the meantime, changed his views respecting “the liquor traffic,” caused the whole lot to be emptied into the harbor. And Backhouse, the travelling Quaker, must have witnessed the occurrence, for he says, although not mentioning Tawell by name:
“We had the satisfaction of seeing the destruction of five puncheons of rum, containing four hundred and ninety-two gallons, and two hogsheads of Geneva, containing one hundred and sixteen gallons. They were the property of one of our friends, whose agent in England had not been apprised of a change in the views of his correspondent with respect to the use and sale of spirits, in which he cannot now be conscientiously concerned. He, therefore, represented the case to the Governor, who allowed them to be taken out of bond free of duty, and under charge of an officer of Customs placed on board a staged boat, which took them out into the Cove, where the heads of the casks were removed, and the contents poured into the sea… We were much pleased with the hearty manner in which the Custom house officers superintended the sacrifice of property to principle.” Something like an advertisement for Tawell, too, this curious business!
After absence of sixteen years Tawell returned to England a rich man, or at least fairly so, although the troubles of 1843 affected him considerably. There he married a second wife (the first had followed him to Sydney, and died in the colony). Then becoming involved in a liason with a woman named Sarah Hart, be eventually killed her by poisoning; and was tried and executed, thus ending a life of most consummate hypocrisy, intermingled with adventurous and romantic incidents that would fill a volume to relate in detail
It was on the occasion of this murder that the electric telegraph began its long existence as a factor in the detection of crime. And Tawell was its first capture. From the Slough Railway Station there flashed along the line to Paddington the message: “An elderly man, between 50 and 60; short; in the garb of a Quaker, with broad-brimmed hat and white cravat. Left here 7.42 train; watch his movements.”
So much for John Tawell, forger and murderer, but, above all, arch-hypocrite of his time.
Mention must be made of the 54th anniversary, on which day there was a big demonstration on the harbor, no less than seven steamers puffing about, laden with people to view the regatta; whilst the band of the 28th Regiment aboard the flagship (the Royal Sovereign) played various patriotic airs. Lieutenant-Colonel Barney, of the Royal Engineers gave a sort of garden party on the Fort Macquarie green, at which were present Sir George and Lady Gipps, and most of the official notabilities.
The dinner took place at the Royal Hotel at 7 o’clock that evening, and Captain O’Connell, the native-born son of Sir Maurice, and, in due time, Sir Maurice in his turn, took the chair, with Robert Nichols as vice. There were 170 guests present, and James Martin, then a youngster of 22, and articled clerk to Nichols, was called upon to reply to the toast of “Civil and Religious Liberty,” a sentiment which gives a very broad hint of what some folks were striving after, even as late as that.
In ‘46 there took place the last of these meetings, which had then lost all political significance. But on the very same evening there was a public dinner, at which there was some very strong speaking indeed. Robert Lowe, for instance, made a speech on “Reform of the Colonial Policy,” in which he hit hard at the Government, and concluded by telling his audience that “If you would be free, yourselves must strike the blow—not at the men, but at the system that enslaves you.” James Martin was present as the champion of the press, with which he was then connected, writing weekly articles for the “Atlas,” and “making things hum” with the bold versatility of youth.
Whatever visitors may have thought of our city, they invariably went into ecstacies over our Botanic Gardens, which, under the fostering care of the noted botanist, Allan Cunningham, had long been noted far and wide as “the Eden of the East.” Poor Cunningham was lost, in 1835, whilst with Major Mitchell, upon one of the latter’s exploring trips in the neighbourhood of the Bogan River, and was never more heard of. But in one of the ponds of the lower portion of the gardens he loved so well, and did so much for, there is a stone obelisk erected to his memory, and surrounded by clumps of aquatic plants. Both explorer and botanist deserve well of their fellow-colonists, inasmuch as one gave us the water-bag and the other our Gardens. Certainly, Mitchell’s first bag was a primitive affair, being merely sacking smeared over with mutton fat; but it was the fore-runner of its canvas evolution, which has not only proved a source of immeasurable comfort to bushmen throughout Australasia, but, into the bargain, saved many hundreds of lives. No statue of Mitchell should be complete without the presentment of one.
In those days the Gardens were divided into two sections, known as the Upper and the Lower, the first of which was laid out in trim walks, partrerres, and flower beds; whilst the other was left more in its natural condition, diversified by lawns, rockeries, ponds, and clumps of shrubs. Both gardens were enclosed by walls and high paling fences, and between these ran a carriage drive, giving access to the Domain from Fort Macquarie. Of late years the drive has been closed, and the whole space practically thrown into one. Under the able management of Mr. Charles Moore, who for many years was the curator, extensive additions and alterations were made, much ground reclaimed from the sea, and now the gardens cover a space of some 150 acres. A familiar feature of the grounds is the noble Norfolk Island pine, towering to a height of 107ft, with a trunk measuring 30ft at the base. Nearly thirty years ago there appeared a picture of this fine tree in the “Illustrated Sydney News.” With the accompanying letterpress was a statement that it was not known when the great pine was planted. This brought the following interesting letter, which speaks for itself:—
March 23, 1872.
Sir,—My attention having been drawn to an article in your paper relative to the large Norfolk Island pine in the Botanic Gardens, in which you state that it is not known when the said tree was planted, I beg to inform you that I planted it in the year 1818, at which time I was employed in the Gardens. It had previously been planted in the lower garden, near the watercourse, and had been washed out during some heavy rains that occurred about that time. It was lying half-buried in sand for almost six months, when, it was removed and planted by me in its present situation, in the year above stated. Mrs. Macquarie was present on the occasion, and handed me the tree to place in the ground; it was then about two feet six inches in height.—Your obedient servant, John Richardson.”
Some time in 1847 improvements were started at the General Post Office, and a handsome portico was erected. “Six Doric columns support an elaborate entablature and pediment, with the Royal arms (executed by Mr. Abraham, an able sculptor resident in the colony) in the centre of the tympanum. The whole effect is chaste and severe, and much more befitting the aspect of a place of business than a mere ornamental and gaudy design would be. When the Barracks are removed the portico will afford a noble termination to the street which will be opened, forming a vista in front of the building.
What, one wonders, would old Fowles have thought of our present Post Office palace could he have lived to see it! And, by the way, it may be mentioned that at least three of those doric columns are still in existence. One is erected at Bradley’s Head to serve the purpose of a beacon, at that end of the measured mile between it and Fort Denison; the other two are, or were, until quite lately, serving as gate posts at the corner of Oxford and Queen-streets. Sic transit!
An old landmark that has recently disappeared, is the building once known as Hancock’s Tower, for over half a century a familiar object in the eyes of Sydney folk. Hancock, it seems, was a wheelwright, whose shop stood near the site of the present Roberts’s Hotel, at the corner of George and Market streets. Here he flourished, made much money, and eventually retiring from business, built himself the residence of which the curious tower formed a portion. Constructed of large squared stones, with battlemented walls, from whose lofty embrasures protruded dummy guns, or “Quakers,” it looked more like some mediaeval fortress than aught else; whilst, to heighten the effect, at each corner was the carved effigy of a knight in armour, and the low Norman roof was surmounted by a large weathercock.
All sorts of “fairy stories” clustered around this building, the favorite one being that Hancock had erected it for the purpose of therein immuring his wife, Bluebeard fashion, in some dim and gloomy chamber; and children used to look up half scared, half expectant, at the high windows, to catch a glimpse of the unfortunate lady peering from her prison.
Between the Tower and the old inn adjoining it, also once a prominent feature of the neighbourhood, Hancock had laid out a court yard with flower-beds and trellises. And here, too, he placed a statue, life-sized, and carved out of stone. This, Hancock left orders, so it is said, in his will, was to be erected over his grave. His wish was carried into effect, and the statue may still be seen by the curious at Rookwood.
No history of Sydney would be complete without some reference to its early suburbs and the appearance they presented in those days. Gradually the shores of the sequestered bays and inlets were being built upon; and Potts’ Point, Woolloomooloo, Rushcutter, and Elizabeth Bays, the North Shore, Balmain, Pyrmont, and others were becoming favorite residential resorts, of the wealthier citizens who built what were then considered fine mansions —as indeed most of them were—laid out grounds, and made themselves generally very comfortable. On Potts’ Point, at the end of the forties, there may have been half a dozen or so of houses all told. Equally with the old “Fig Tree,” it was then a favorite resort of swimmers who used to go out in parties and race from one point to the other, often paying for their temerity with their lives, by reason either of cramp or sharks. Mundy mentions that, in December, 1849, a man swimming near the Fig Tree, was seized by a very large shark; so close in shore was this, that some of the bathers present beat off the brute with their boathooks. But the poor fellow died from loss of blood in a few minutes.
For a great number of years Robinson’s Baths—a large hulk—moored and used as a public bathing place—lay in Woolloomooloo Bay, and was then the only place of the kind in the colony. Higher up towards the head of the bay, somewhere about the site of the present Art Gallery, was a peculiar pile of rocks known as the “Steps,” because somebody had once gone to the trouble of cutting a number of stairs in the cliff. But the “steps” and the surrounding ridges have long ago been quarried and filled up, and now form part of the reclamation upon which is Cowper’s Wharf. High water mark, then, extended to beyond Plunket-street of the present, some thirteen or fourteen hundred feet inland from the edge of the present wharf. There was also an arm of the harbor that ran up in the south-west corner of the bay nearly to Woolloomooloo-street. And although from the shallowness of the bay, there was a great expanse of sand and mud flats at low tide, yet at high tide it was possible to fish from some of the verandahs or windows of a few houses along the shore line.
Much diversity of opinion obtains respecting the name of this old suburb. Colonel Mundy writing forty years ago, says that it is merely a corruption of Wala Mala—the aboriginal term for “the Place of Tombs,” and that it was an old burial place of the blacks. Other authorities give the correct spelling as Wallahmulla, and say that it is derived from the fashion after which the natives tried to pronounce the word “windmill.” Mundy’s theory, or rather that of whoever gave him the information, seems the most feasible. However this may be, Woolloomooloo was originally a grant to Mr. Commissary Palmer, who formed upon it a sort of model farm. The boundaries of the estate reached from the water to the Old South Head road, now Oxford-street, and were defined by ditches and high stone walls. Mr. Palmer himself lived in a house near the junction of Palmer and William streets, which was later on occupied by Archbishop Polding. Afterwards, about a hundred acres of the grant were acquired by a Mr. Riley, and for long afterwards was known as the Riley estate.
Rushcutter’s Bay—so called from the fact that there, in 1788, two men, convicts employed in cutting rushes, were set upon by natives and speared to death—was in especial favor for residing in at this time. It must not be forgotten that the bay, or rather its foreshores, was the spot where was established what might be called the first Australian market garden. To the south, at the head of the bay, there spread a big flat enriched by alluvial washed down from the adjoining high lands and added to by silt from the shores. When the New South Head road was made, this valley above it was drained and formed into a big series of vegetable beds, which supplied the city for many years. Through the centre of the valley ran a creek, spanned by a strong bridge with a single arch just where it was crossed by the Lower South Head road. At a short distance from this Rushcutter’s Bay bridge, on the left-hand side, stood a house of call known as the “White Conduit House,” Early settlers in the colonies were prone to call places in the new land after other and well-known ones at home. And, in this instance, the “White Conduit” perpetrated its English namesake far away in Pentonville, noted for its arbors, fish ponds, and shady walks, also as a resort on Sundays of citizens, their apprentices and wives; where they could get hot loaves and butter, tea and fresh milk. And, in some sort, such were the inducements held out to visitors from the city by its Antipodean prototype at Rushcutter’s Bay. To reach it one took a pleasant stroll across the paddocks adjoining Hyde Park, through Woolloomoolloo Valley, and up to the eastern heights via the present William-street—then a pretty country lane, fringed at intervals with gardens; then past the great stone windmills on Darlinghurst, through some scrubby gullies, and to the White Conduit for a “long sleever” of Cooper’s XXX, or, perhaps, something stronger hailing from Underwood’s distillery not very far distant.
The old house, although a good deal altered, still stands, and is easily recognised by old residents.
As for Darling Point, to which, just past the “Conduit,” the road turned off, it was considered in those days rather too remote for a suburban residence. But, later on, T. S. Mort “took hold” on the point, and showed, in beautiful “Greenoakes,” what could be done by judiciously assisting nature with art. Those who remember “Greenoakes” in its palmiest days will endorse the success of his undertaking, and his taste in landscape gardening of a high order.
In 1849, was laid the foundation of the pretty church of St. Mark’s; the work went on until 1851, when the gold fever broke out in Australia; labour prices rose sky high, and the building was perforce stopped. It was, however, resumed in 1852, with the result of producing one of the prettiest churches in the colony. For a very long time Potts’s Point remained one of the most secluded of all Sydney’s suburbs. Its rocky foreshores, and rude, steep cliffs, clothed with thickets of lantana, and bunches of prickly pear and “pig-face,” formed indeed, an ideal spot for picnics; and it was easily got at by a short cut across the sands of Woolloomooloo Bay, But for many years there were only a few scattered dwellings.
Turning our attention to the North Shore, we find that so long ago as 1824 or 1825 Sir Thomas Brisbane made a grant to Mr. James Milson, sen., of 50 acres of land situated between Careening Cove and Lavender Bay. He might have had more, but as cultivation was the purpose he had in view, and the ground was decidedly unsuitable, he went further afield, and in the neighbourhood of Hornsby selected a large tract of the fertile soil there. Mr. Milson was one of the first residents on North Shore.
Another grant was made by Macquarie to William Blue of some 90 acres, now known as Blue’s Point, extending in an easterly direction towards Milson’s Point. Mr. (better known as “Billy”) Blue, was a native of the West Indies, and one of his daughters married Mr. Lavender, to whom was given by his father-in-law that part of the original grant now known as Lavender Bay. Prior to this it was known as Hulk Bay; and Mr. George Lavender was in charge of the hulks, on board of which the convicts were kept waiting transference to the Swan River settlement in Western Australia. A writer, to whose researches, made with great care and trouble, much of the information respecting North Shore here set forth is due, says he was informed by Mr. J. S. Abraham that the native name of Lavender Bay was Quilby. During the first fifty years of the colony’s existence the thickly growing timber of the North Shore forests was much made use of for building and other purposes. It seems to have been mostly big gum, and was felled and dressed by gangs of convicts. But there were fig trees, too, of great size. One specimen was, until recently, still standing at Milson’s Point, The roots and the earth about them were surrounded by a solid casing of cement. Notwithstanding this, however, some months ago a heavy gale smote the old warrior, and cast him to the ground.
So far as can be determined, the first house on Milson’s Point belonged to a Mr. H. T. Green, who lived not very far from where the tree stood. About 1850 his father, Mr. George Green, leased the house and an acre of ground that went with it from Mr. Robert Campbell; and for long afterwards the thoroughfare leading to the horse ferry was known as Green’s lane. A coloured plan, framed and glazed, attached to the tree, and which showed the ferry company’s land and its boundaries, often excited the curiosity of passers by who were not near enough to read it. The original landing-place, as shown in a contemporary picture, was a low stone wall, and this remained so until the erection of a wharf, upon which, however, was no shelter of any kind.
“The Point” appears to have been a favorite camping-place of the blacks, notably the Cammeray tribe, then the most powerful on the northern side of the harbor. The first hotel opened on the Point was that known as the Figtree, at Blue’s Point road, kept by Mr. Thomas Redgrave. This was in 1841. In 1843, Mr. Burns opened the Union Inn, near the Crow’s Nest, on Lane Cove road, and in 1845 Mr. Whitford started business in the Lily of St. Leonard’s, still to be seen, modernised, on nearly the same site in Alfred-street. In explanation of the rather curious name of this last hostelry, the late Hon. Geo. Thornton told the writer already referred to, that, in the time of Mr. Dind, one of the landlords, the sign was the figure of an aboriginal woman; and that probably the title of the house was merely intended as an early day witticism.
The Milson family is, of course, intimately associated with the history of the point bearing its name. Mr. Milson, sen., was one of the earliest settlers upon it, and his son (Mr. James Milson) was among the first to establish a steam ferry across to the city. Deputy-Commissioners Miller and Walker, after whom two of the principal North Sydney streets are named, were also associated with Mr. Milson in this undertaking.
The first steam ferryboat to ply from the point was named the Princess, and was built at Balmain by Mr. Budevent to run as a punt transit of horses and vehicles. She, however, does not seem to have been a success financially. Some time afterwards Captains Joseph and Thomas Gerrard ran a steamer built by Mr. Chowne, of Pyrmont, and called the Fairy Queen.
In the early fifties a company was formed, which imported a steamer in sections from England. It was put together in Sydney, named the Herald, and ran between Blue’s and Miller’s Points. The Gerrards then changed their route to Milson’s Point. Messrs. J. Milson, jun„ F. Lord, W. Tucker, C. Firth, and others were the founders of a steam ferry company trading between Sydney and the North Shore. They owned three boats—the Alexandra and the Kirribilli for passengers, and the Transit for vehicles. After much keen competition the fares were reduced from a shilling each way to sixpence, and ultimately to threepence. In 1878 this company sold out to the North Shore Ferry Company, and the late Captain Summerbell was appointed manager. The fare was then reduced to twopence, and, then, some years ago to one penny each way.
Thirty odd years ago there was a steam ferry from Circular Quay to Milson’s Point, running boats every quarter of an hour; and at the same periods from Pottinger-street (Macnamara’s Wharf), near Windmill-street, to Blue’s Point all at threepenny fares each way. Total daily traffic, about 150 passengers. Settlement, it will thus be seen, was then scarce enough in our present big suburb of North Sydney. This was due in part to the expense of clearing the heavy timber, also to the fact that holders of land preferred to keep it unimproved in the certain hope of an ever-increasing value. Land in the early days of the Shore was leased for £3 per annum per acre; £50 per acre per annum would be nearer the present average rate in many spots there.
Manifestly, a history of the harbor would be out of place here. But a glance at the early aspect and history of two of its islands, inseparably bound up as they are with the story of our city, will be of interest.
Of Garden Island, where Phillip tried with but a small measure of success to grow vegetables for his infant colony, mention has already been made.
As to quite how many times the island we now know as Fort Denison has changed its name seems uncertain. When Phillip arrived it was a picturesque rock, called by the natives Mal-te-wan-ye. The Govenor altered that to Rock, or Rocky, Island. Then, at the first “criminal court assembled on February 11, 1788 (says one account), a convict found guilty of robbing another of some biscuit, was sentenced to be confined on this island for a week, and to be fed on bread and water alone. The other convicts promptly dubbed the spot “Pinchgut,” a name that may be said to have stuck to it until the present day. Another early historian says, speaking of the harbor islands: “The most noted being one fronting the Cove, bearing the unpoetical name of ‘Pinchgut’ on account of its having been the primitive prison of the colony, and the spot whereon malefactors were in olden times hung in chains!” Again one of the oldest writers, referring to this island, says: “On the 29th of November, 1796, eight men had sentence of death passed upon them, Francis Morgan, for murder, was executed and his body hung in chains on the island of Mal-te-wan-ye. This spectacle shocking to the refined mind, served as an object of ridicule to the convicts and terror to the natives, who, though hitherto particularly partial to that spot, now totaly abandoned it lest the malefactor should descend and seize them in the same way as their superstition prompted them to imagine spirits did.”
Respecting this island Lang writes: “There was a remarkable rock or islet which from time immemorial had occupied a prominent position in the harbor in the approach to the city, and which formed a striking object in the field view from the surrounding heights consisting as it did, of a vast mass of grey, weather-beaten rock rising perpendicularly in a slender column to an elevation of 75ft from the deep water… This natural ornament of the harbor, however, which no art could have equalled—this remarkable work of God, which had stood like a sentinel keeping watch upon the harbor for thousands of years—was at length destroyed by the folly of man; some official Goth or Hun, who must surely have had the organ of destructiveness largely developed, persuaded the local Government of the day to quarry down the rock very nearly to the water’s edge, with a view of being converted into a battery, forsooth, for the protection of the harbor! The work of destruction accordingly commenced, and proceeded apace till this fine object in the field of vision for miles and miles around in every direction was forever destroyed, and the romantic islet at length replaced for ten or twelve years thereafter by the unsightliness of an abandoned quarry. For, as usually happened with Government works under the beautiful colonial system of the past, the idea of having a fort on Pinchgut Island was given up after a large expenditure had been incurred in the work of destruction—perhaps from feelings of compunction on the part of its authors, if not in consequence of some unfavorable opinion respecting the proposed erection from the Ordnance Department in London; and huge piles of rough stones, heaped up in all possible forms of irregularity and confusion, were, for many years thereafter the befitting monument of this precious piece of official vandalism.”
Sir William Denison seems to have, in some sort, made a hobby of the place; and he it was who had the existing “fortification” constructed, an abnormal sort of martello—tower—cum—bastion business. A very nightmare of a fort, even as says “Peter Possum,” “decorated with a tower like a gigantic hat, a monstrously magnified drab ‘mountcastle’, which doth not add greatly to the harbor’s picturesqueness.”
And the crown of bathos was set on the whole affair by the discovery, presently, that, owing probably to the porous nature of the sandstone upon which it was built, it was not possible to fire a gun as a time signal, without shaking the island to its foundations! The most it can do, indeed, seems to be to display a red beacon light o’ nights.
Respecting Cockatoo Island, a writer in the forties says: “This natural hulk is situated about two miles above Sydney, just where Port Jackson narrows into a creek called the Parramatta River, and about a quarter of a mile from either shore. Here is all that remains of that stupendous machinery, which, from first to last, has introduced into and diffused through these colonies not less than 60,000 of Great Britain’s offenders, and by whose agency it may be said this great fifth portion of the globe has been redeemed from the savage and appropriated to the European family.
“The isle is a triangle in form, about 400 yards long by 280 in width. It contains at present about 300 prisoners under conviction for offences committed in the colony, or expirees from Norfolk Island. Many of these are regular incurables, doubly and trebly convicted. The prisoners are employed in quarrying stone, in laying down a clear and spacious wharf around this rugged isle, so that a few sentries can command the entire circumference. They are, moreover, engaged in the useful work of excavating a dry dock—a convenience that does not at present exist in these colonies.
“The establishment is admirably adapted, both by nature and art, to its purpose. Nevertheless, many desperate attempts to escape were made in my time. One wretched man flung himself into the water, loaded with chains, and, being a powerful swimmer, had got nearly a hundred yards from the pier before the sentry perceived him. Disregarding the soldier’s shouts and threats, the man swam steadily onwards, upon which the sentry fired and the wretch instantly sank; nor was his body ever found. Sharks in search of offal from the slaughter-houses haunt this part of the harbor, and act as an efficient ‘cordon.’
“The great curiosity of Cockatoo Island is the siloes—excavations in the solid rock, shaped like a huge bottle, 15 or 20 feet deep by 10 feet wide, with a narrow neck, closed by a stone capsule luted with plaster. About a dozen and a half of these siloes, filled in time of plenty with grain, were intended as a reserve of food for seasons of famine, which have more than once befallen the colony. It was a monopoly for the public benefit; but the plan was discountenanced and disallowed by the Home authorities—I suppose because it might interfere with the agricultural interests.”
These excavations were afterwards used to conserve a supply of fresh water for the island. Some of them are still in existence, and their sites may be readily traced.
Such was Cockatoo Island in the later forties, when Fitzroy ruled the land, and gave his name to the dock mentioned above, and since eclipsed by its big neighbor, the Sutherland. There is still a penal establishment there, known to us as Biloela. But the prisoners are only weak phantoms of their fierce and unruly prototypes—“drunk and disorderlies,” “no visible means,” etc., with a sprinkling of short time thieves, larrikins, and such-like gentry; many of them old, decrepit folk of both sexes, who hail the gaol more as a refuge than a place of punishment; an asylum where regular meals, enforced cleanliness, and a fair amount of work enable them to regain in part their shattered health before once more appearing in society.
There are, perhaps, other islands in our harbor whose stories are worth writing. But other chroniclers will doubtless be found to discourse upon Goat, Spectacle, Shark, and the rest of them that may have any tradition attached to their names, ancient or modern. The three strictly historical islands, however—Garden, Pinchgut, and Cockatoo—seem to be the only ones that by their early connection with the history of our city call for special mention in this work
Is June, 1849, the ship Hashemy arrived in Sydney with 212 convicts, and immediately the capital was thrown into a state of the greatest excitement, it being looked upon as an attempt of Earl Grey’s to revive transportation. “Public meetings were held in the open air,” says one writer, “close to the gates of the present Government House, and on the very site of the old Government House where Governor Macquarie, whose policy it was to create an upper class from among a population nearly exclusively convict, entertained at his table guests from this order. Under the splendid old Scotch firs planted by Captain Phillip, the first importer of convicts to these shores—on the very spot where the first convict camp was pitched—their descendents, their compeers, and a few of the free class who had grown rich upon the system, now assembled to launch and listen to anathemas against it.”
Contemporary newspapers of even date, i.e., June 18, 1849, however, without fixing the spot so exactly as does our author, are content with simply saying that the meeting took place at Circular Quay. There were at this particular one some 7000 people present, with Mr. R. Campbell in the chair. The purpose of the meeting was not only to petition the Queen that Earl Grey should be removed from the head of the Colonial Department, but also to ask that responsible government should be granted to the colony; also to pass a vote of censure on the Governor himself.
Let us see how vice-royalty in those days could receive, if it so pleased, a deputation of the lieges. Mr. Aaron said that the committee did not charge the Governor with actual discourtesy, “but it was of the cold repulsive chilling feeling with which he had received them, that he had acted discourteously,” they complained—two statements that, although somewhat at variance, seem to imply that Sir Charles Fitzroy was rude. The speaker, continuing, said, “He (the Governor) had first affronted the deputation by refusing to see the whole of them, and he had afterwards kept up the affront by the increasing chilliness of his manner and the deeper sinking of his brows, as he gradually retreated from them, although he stood strongly entrenched behind a table, where he had stationed himself to receive them. For the truth of this description he, Mr. A., could vouch, and he would ask the meeting if this was such a reception as should have been given by a Governor to the delegates of those from the produce of whose labours he was paid, fed, and clothed?”
At the same time, it must be remembered that the deputation came to Sir Charles with rather a large order, including in it the removal from office of his (Sir Charles’s) own chief. Earl Grey had promised to send out emigrants and convicts in a certain proportion; but he had only sent the last, and thus was “guilty of faithless and arbitrary conduct;” and this same speaker, already quoted, demanded at the meeting “that Earl Grey should be at once dismissed her Majesty’s service, and without a character, too.”
There was much talk, also, about the squatters, and much abuse of them; and someone suggested the formation of a colonial nobility, and proposed that “William Charles Wentworth should be raised to the first rank, under the title of ‘Duke of the Lash and Triangle.’ “
Mr. Parkes also addressed the meeting. Said he, among other things: “All they now sought to do, however, was so to reform and remodel the Government of the colony that it should live in the affections of the people —a game at which, as we all know, the speaker subsequently took many a hand himself, and with no small measure of success.
Mr. Lowe (afterwards Lord Sherbrooke) at this same gathering made a long and violent speech: “Was the Governor afraid of his spoons,” he asked; “or did he fear that some of them (the delegates) might sneak into his cellar and drink his claret; or did he dread them lest they should take Government House by storm; or did he think that six pairs of dirty shoes were quite sufficient at one time to soil the Vice-regal carpet?”
And Sir Charles really seems to have been afraid of a general rising, “for the kitchen was garrisoned with infantry, the stables were filled with cavalry, all ready prepared at the first signal to dash out upon the people; and this because the colonists had come humbly and quietly to remonstrate against an act of injustice.” All of which reads very curiously to-day. Nothing, however, could have been more decorous or orderly than the conduct of the great meeting we have been speaking of, which finally separated with three cheers for the Queen, three cheers for Mr. Lowe, a groan for Mr. Wentworth, and a groan for the Governor. Strange how that name of Wentworth, once synonymous with all that represented freedom and progress, should now have so lost its former power, and be held up to obloquy and contempt!
And, after all, the Hashemy’s crowd was simply rushed. Reports the Principal Superintendent of Convicts on June 24, 1849:—”After the completion of the muster of the prisoners… the men were permitted to make engagements with those persons who were allowed to go on board for the purpose by an order from me; and it seems worthy of remark that, although at the time of the Hashemy’s arrival there were four emigrant ships in the harbor, containing about a thousand souls, all these men, with the exception of 59, who were removed to Moreton Bay and Clarence River, where labour was urgently required, were hired to respectable householders and sheep farmers within six days of their being ready to engage, at wages varying from £12 to £16 a year, and some mechanics at £28 per annum, the boys receiving from £8 to £11 per annum. Besides which there are at my office applications from private individuals and others in different parts of the colony, for a larger number of this class of labourers than can be supplied by the arrival of several convict ships.” Which statement placed side by side with those made by the speakers at the representative meetings on Circular Quay, seems, to say the least of it, anomalous.
Among the applicants for ticket-of-leave labour, it was alleged that the Bathurst Bench of Magistrates alone applied for no less than 350 of them! Yet, it is said that fifteen out of the nineteen magistrates composing it signed the petition against the arrival of transportation!
A poet of the day, respecting the burning question, sings:—
“Turn to the Spot. An infant nation pleads;
Pleads for its Rights and injuries unredressed;
Beware, stern parent, lest Oppression’s deeds,
The arm of retribution should arrest;
Rouse all the alien in its gentle breast,
Till freedom’s spirit spurns its chains of clay—
Shade of departed Graecia here attest,
How in thy rugged straits, Thermopylae!
The Spartan Patriots bled and died for liberty!”
Many of these patriots, evidently, were more prepared to foster transportation than to do any bleeding or dying for the suppression of the system,
And thus ended, for a time, the excitement caused by the advent of the Hashemy.
Speaking of Parkes, and addressing the meeting, reminds one that in the “Atlas” of 1849, appears the following advertisement:
“PARASOL AND UMBRELLA REPAIRS.
“The Subscriber having Received a Complete assortment of parasol and umbrella furniture from the first house in London, begs to state, that in all repairs entrusted to him, only new articles will in future be used. Handles, hooks, pen-rules, eta, in ivory, coquilla, pearl, horn, and bone, to match any kind of furniture, fitted at ten minutes’ notice. Henry Parkes, Ivory Turning Manufactory and Toy Warehouse, No. 20 Hunter-street.” “No. 20” is the shop now occupied by Mr. M’Carthy, the well-know chemist.
But Parkes never seems to have been much of a business man, although he certainly advertised very freely in the newspapers of the period. Politics and shopkeeping, in a small way, as a rule, do not thrive in company, especially when represented in the guise of such an ardent, impatient, turbulent, ambitious soul as that of our own “Sir Henry.”
Auction sales seem to have been a feature, even as is the case now, of those times in Sydney. And some of the announcements are amusing. For instance: “Messrs. Brown and Jones, at their mart, at 11 o’clock, 150 dozen kangaroo skins, a second-hand gig, ship-biscuit, baby-linen, damaged ironmongery, bottled fruits, castor oil, canary birds, Bohemian glass, accordians, and the effects of a deceased clergyman, comprising robes, etc.”
“Mr. Robinson will have the honor to offer to public competition on Monday, the 4th instant, the Crow’s Nest Station, in the district of Moreton Bay, with 10,000 sheep; after which arrowroot, blacking, lime-juice, lozenges, ladies’ companions, jams, bathbricks, damaged gunny-bags, Turkey figs, toothbrushes, 12,000ft of prime cedar plank, a four-roomed house, an anchor and chain, a mare, a horse, and twenty pigs.”
“At 3 p.m. precisely, the newly-rigged, copper-bottomed clipper Mary Anne, well known in the trade: One gross of egg spoons, a bass, viol, a superior Europe feather-bed, two lots of land, two bales of super-calico, Old Tom, soup and bouilli, toys, cutlery, and a cottage piano.” If the framer of these advertisements had purposely tried his hardest to do so, he could scarcely have got together a more incongruous selection of articles.
During these later years we get glimpses of the social life of the city lacking in the earlier ones. For instance, one visitor, writing of the theatre, says:
“In decency of demeanor the audience of the Sydney Theatre Royal is a prodigy compared with that of similar establishments in the seaport towns of the old country. The ‘gods’ are particularly well-behaved The dress-boxes are always unpeopled unless an impulse be given by a bespeak or by the benefit of a favorite. These appeals act as a sort of mental gadfly in society. The herd rushes together with one consent, and disports itself with crowded discomfort; and, once more for a month, perhaps, the playgoer, whom a love of drama only attracts, has the house to himself. In the pit of the Sydney theatre one misses the numerous bald heads of an European parterre, for the people of New South Wales have not yet had time to grow old. On the other hand the eyes of the stranger wander with surprise over the vast numbers of new-born babies—three or four dozen little sucklings taking their natural refection—whilst their mothers seem absorbed in the interest of the piece; their great long-legged daddies meanwhile sprawling over the benches in the simplest of costumes—a check shirt, for instance, wide open at the breast, moleskins, and a cabbage-tree hat.”
Well, could the writer revisit Sydney now, and enter one of the theatres he would see enough bald heads, in all conscience; indeed, well-thatched ones are the exception. We are growing old ever so much too quickly. Nor would he be troubled by the presence of “children in arms,” or by “moleskin trousers and cabbage tree hats.”
As a specimen of the entertainment provided for theatrical patrons in the late forties at the Royal Victoria Theatre, one taken at random from an old paper will give the reader some idea of what used to amuse our citizens and country visitors of half a century ago. It was on the occasion of a benefit to Mr. J. Thomson, and, by the kind permission of Colonel Despard, “the excellent band of H.M. 99th Regiment will be in attendance, and perform several of their most favourite pieces.” The first item on the programme was “the celebrated and much-admired classical delineation of Ancient Sculpture, the Death of Abel, and the Roman Gladiators, by Masters F. and W. Thomson.” Then came the solid part of the performance, in the shape of Luder’s much-admired opera in three parts, entitled “The Night Dancers.” A farce called “No Followers” concluded the entertainment. No prices were mentioned; but tickets were to be had at many shops, and “boxes may be secured at the Victoria Hotel.”
Bushranging was still rife throughout the colony, and in a Sydney paper of 1850 a writer, commenting on the fact, states that the nursery for such desperadoes may possibly exist in the capital itself. The young idlers of the city, it seemed, formed themselves into gangs, and took up positions on the roads leading to the interior. A favourite haunt of theirs, by the way, was the bridge, already mentioned in a previous article as crossing the creek running into Rushcutter’s Bay. And here these youngsters used to he in wait and “stick up” smaller boys who had been out in the bush gathering “five corners,” a wild berry of the scrub. Says a writer who had personal experience of one of these “pushes:” “A knife is held out, and under threats and oaths that would disgrace Norfolk Island the juniors were compelled to ‘dub up,’ or are seized and robbed by force. I myself witnessed and enacted Quixote in an act of puerile bushranging of the above nature—a case of robbery with violence.” “Hurrah for the road!” was the motto of these promising youngsters. “Spicers” was the name they were known by, but the origin of the word appears to be doubtful.
On May 15, 1851, the papers make an announcement of most vital importance to the future of the colony and the city. This was nothing less than the discovery by Mr. Hargraves of payable gold in the Bathurst district. The story has too often been told to need dilating on here;
But a short description of how Sydney took the news may not be out of place. Says one who was on the spot:
“The shops put on entirely new faces. Wares suited to the wants and tastes of general purchasers were thrust ignominiously out of sight, and articles of outfit for gold hunting only were displayed. Blue and red serge shirts, Californian hats, leather belts, “real gold-digging gloves,” mining boots, blankets, white and scarlet, became the show goods in the fashionable streets. The pavements were lumbered with picks, pans, and pots; and the gold-washing machine or Virginian “cradle,” hitherto a stranger to our eyes, became in two days a familiar household utensil, for scores of them were paraded for purchase “from 25s to 40s” in front of stores and stalls, so that a stranger or an absent-minded person who had not yet heard the gathering cry of “Gold, gold!” might have imagined that a sudden and miraculous influx—a plague, in short—of babies had been poured upon the devoted city.”
Many folk for some time refused to believe the news, and persisted in calling it a hoax, and a “cruel” one at that. But when from Summer Hill Creek (Ophir), Turon, and other places, the virgin ore began to flow into Sydney, then indeed, the most incredulous were forced to give in and join in the excitement that literally seethed throughout the city.
The newspapers teemed with advertisements and notices with the description: “Waterproof tents for the El Dorado;” “Quicksilver for amalgamating gold-soil” “Superfine biscuits, packed in tins;” “Wines, ales, and spirits, ready for carriage;” “Spring-carts for the diggings;” “Single and (double guns and pistols for self-defence;” “Conveyance to Ophir, etc.”
Nostrums and quack medicines took unto themselves a local habitation and a name. Thus we read that: “No one who values his health or comfort should proceed to the goldfields without a supply of Laver and Company’s Ophir cordial,” Also: “As the colony is now advancing to a state of unprecedented richness, and the Empire of Australia will yet rival the age called the golden, Leopold Morgan and Company offer their recently-compounded cordial, the Elixir of Life, which will expand the benumbed veins of the gold washers.”
Parties innumerable were made up to journey to the new finds, and such advertisements as the following studded the newspapers:—”Two strong, able young gentlemen are desirious of joining some respectable parties in making up a proper number for the gold fields. They are prepared to contribute a reasonable sum. Address, etc.”
Presently a nugget was found, and we read under the heading of “The Great Goliath of the Australian Diggings”:—“This magnificent specimen of virgin gold, just arrived from the Ophir mines, near Bathurst, weighing about four pounds troy, will be on view this day in the window of Messrs. Brush and Macdonald, jewellers, George-street, prior to its shipment for London, for the great Exhibition of All Nations.” But this was only a baby nugget compared with other finds later on. As might be expected, Sydney, during the first feverish weeks, talked of nothing but gold, and of the curious effects upon society that its discovery had given rise to. And everywhere there fell upon the ear bits of conversation that ran: “Are you going to the diggings? I’m off to-morrow.” “Have you seen the big nugget? They say you can pick ‘em up all over the place out yonder.” “Servants? No; I haven’t got one left. Coachman cleared out last night,” etc.
In a week the streets of the city showed a very perceptible thinning, as people literally stampeded across the Blue Mountains into the land of Promise beyond. The Government, taken by surprise, at such a rapid development, had made no provision to meet it in the way, among others, of police protection, in the big mining camps. To make matters worse, the 150 mounted police had recently been disbanded, and the greatest difficulty was experienced in getting a score or two of them together again for service on the gold fields.
Towards the end of May, Mr. Hudson, of Sydney, merchant, returned from the diggings with about £1000 worth of gold including a 46oz nugget. This was afterwards exhibited at the Crystal Palace, London, and did much, we may be sure, towards advertising the colony and its new and valuable product. New, however, only in the sense, of its being publicly worked, inasmuch as it was well known to many people that for some years past gold in its virgin state had been finding its way into the hands of the city jewellers, who, however, could never be brought to believe that it was indigenous. And so far back as 1823, it is said that a member of a chain-gang, working on the roads near Bathurst, was mercilessly flogged because he was found in possession of a piece of rough gold, which the overseer felt certain was obtained from melted jewellery.
Here is the description of a scene on the road to Homebush, where the writer was going to attend the races, during the early days of the rush:—
“Driving on those two days to Homebush—the Epsom of Sydney—I counted nearly sixty drays and carts heavily laden, proceeding westward, with tents, rockers, flour, tea, sugar, mining tools, etc—each accompanied by from four to eight men, half of whom bore firearms. Some looked eager and impatient, some half ashamed of their errand others sad and thoughtful… They must have thrown all they possessed into the adventure, for most of their equipments were quite new—good stout horses, harness fresh from the saddler’s hands, gay-coloured woollen shirts and comforters, and Californian sombreros of every hue and shape. It was a strange sight—a strange jumble of images. The mind could hardly reconcile a thoroughly English high-road, with toll-bars and public-houses—thoroughly English figures travelling on it to a country racecourse—stage-coaches and four, omnibuses, tandems, scores of neat, private equipages and hack-carriages; sporting butchers and publicans, in “spicy Whitechapels,” Sydney cockneys on square-tailed hacks; “happles and horanges,” “cards of the horses,” etc., with the concurrent stream of oddly-loaded drays, and other slow-moving vehicles piled with business-like stores and unfamiliar utensils, and escorted by parties, no less Englishmen, armed to the teeth, clad in a newly-adopted dress, utterly indifferent to, and apart from the merry scene of the racecourse… One’s mental obfuscation was hardly cleared up by the reflection that these British men, on this British-looking turnpike road were simply journeying some 150 miles—the distance from London to Manchester—for the purpose of digging gold!”
As may be imagined, this sudden and wholesale emigration of all sorts and conditions of men from the capital, affected almost every industry more or less adversely. And none, perhaps, more so than the building trade; indeed, works of this description, both public and private, almost all came to a standstill for lack of skilled and other labour; and, in some cases, their completion was delayed for years. Thus, architecturally speaking, the gold outbreak at first benefited Sydney in very small measure. But later on she reaped the full benefit of it.
August 3, 1852, was a day remarkable in the history of Sydney as that upon which the first mail steamer arrived in port. Her name was the Chusan, an iron screw-steamer, of 720 tons, barque-rigged—a beautiful model, and with more the look of a man-of-war than a merchant vessel. She was rather heavily armed, too, carrying a long 32-pounder aft, an 18-pounder forward, and a 12-pounder amidships. Even under canvas alone, the Chusan had often done her 14 knots. Melbourne was her first port of call, and off Cape Otway a seaman was lost overboard and drowned, notwithstanding a plucky attempt at rescue by two passengers, Lieutenant Pasco, R.N., and Mr. Bencraft, who, with four of the crew, got into one of the quarter-boats, and put off in a very heavy sea. But their efforts were in vain; indeed, it was with much difficulty and not until two hours had elapsed, that the steamer was able to pick them up. The Chusan brought a heavy mail and £70,000 in sovereigns. In Melbourne—then all excitement with the gold fever—a special armed guard was placed on the steamer in order to prevent the crew deserting, as so many others had done. Before the Chusan sailed for Sydney the Governor and some other officials visited her, together with the leading merchants of the city, when champagne was opened, speeches made, and the commander, Captain Henry Down, heartily congratulated on being the pioneer of steam communication between Australia and the old country.
Vessels of the British Navy were, of course, frequent visitors to Sydney; in 1851 there arrived a crack frigate called the Calliope, of 26 guns, besides the Pandora and the Fantome. In 1853 came H.M.S. Herald, 22 guns, with, among her officers, Mr. F. Hixson, afterwards so well known as president of our late Marine Board The fifties, too, were the years of many of the celebrated clippers whose names are historical, and will live as long as those of the colony whose wool they bore so swiftly to the little island standing far away in northern seas. Precursor of these was the barque Phoenician, which, in 1849, came out in 91 days, followed by the Walter Hood; and, later on, by a whole fleet of fast and noble clippers—the Centurion, Omar Pasha, Harlaw, Star of Peace, Maid of Judah, and others whose tall spars lined the sides of Circular Quay, now growing into something worthy of its name. But, though to George Thompson’s White Star line must be given pride of place in the work of developing our early commerce, there were vessels besides the Aberdeen clippers who traded regularly between Sydney and other Australian ports to and from British ones. There were, for instance, the Kate, Eliza, and George Marshall, belonging to the firm of Marshall and Eldridge; the Dunbar, wrecked in the later fifties near the Gap; the Duncan Dunbar, Dunbar Castle, and Phoebe Dunbar; together with the numerous family of Duthies—all vessels of note in their day, and all in time to give way before such flyers as the Thermopylae, the Salamis, Samuel Plimsoll, and the Patriarch—all Aberdeen clippers; and the last named, of which made the trip from Sydney to London in 68 days.
The inception of our steam fleet has already been referred to; and by now the vessels of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company were rapidly increasing in number. Still, in 1845, freight to Melbourne was £3 per ton; and passengers for saloon £10 10s., intermediate £7, and steerage £4 10s. In 1857, the A.S.N. vessels consisted of the City of Sydney, Wonga Wonga, Telegraph, Governor-General, Boomerang, Yarra Yarra, Waratah, Shamrock, Illalong, Collaroy, Thistle, Tamar, Ballarat, Samson, Eagle, Rose, Ben Bolt, Brisbane, and the City of Melbourne. Some of these are still keeping the sea, old and dirty and rusty, and smothered fore and aft in coal dust, it is true, but, still to all appearance, fit to last for many more years. When people built ships in those times, they put work into them that was meant to last, and disdained the jerry business that later became so common in-the trade.
By this time the whale and seal fisheries were becoming diverted from Sydney control into the hands of the Americans. But what with our land products fast increasing in value and quantity, we could well afford to let the somewhat precarious fisheries go.
Intimately bound up with the shipping and produce trade of the city, there is one street that more especially demands a brief notice. At the time of the Queen’s Accession, Sussex-street was a long rambling thoroughfare full of gaps. In 1853 nearly all the produce came there from the Hunter River. Dealers in wheat, poultry, potatoes, etc., secured premises as convenient as possible to the wharves, and thus gradually the street grew in size and importance as a market centre. In the fifties, there were still but a few houses in it; but it was noted for several big flour mills. Even then, butter came in large quantities from the South Coast. Mr. John Pemell at that time was the principal miller. He used to buy for cash, kept no books, and the receipts were torn up and thrown away. Bullock drays thronged “the Street.” even as horse teams do now. Butter and flour were sent in large parcels to Melbourne and the north; and, ever as trade increased, new business-men arrived, and set up in the centre of it, until today the commission and produce houses number considerably over a hundred. And the members of them have always prided themselves on the establishment of an honorable code in their dealings, in which each one’s word is his bond. In the making of a bargain between themselves neither sale-note nor witness to the transaction is considered necessary. They also pride themselves on having fewer law actions than any other branch of trade in the southern hemisphere.
In 1846 the first movement had been made with respect to railway communication inland. At a meeting in Sydney it was decided to survey a line from Sydney to Goulburn. Not for two years, however, did the scheme take practical shape by the formation of the Sydney Railroad and Tramway Company, capital £10,000. The object of the company as expressed in its circular, was to, at the present, construct railways to Parramatta and Liverpool, with, later on, extensions to Bathurst and Goulburn. Mr. Charles Cowper, afterwards several times Premier of New South Wales, was the first manager. On July 3, 1850, the first sod of the new enterprise, was cut by the Hon. Mrs. Keith Stewart, daughter of Governor Sir Charles Fitzroy. The spade with which this ceremony was performed was made in Sydney, out of Australian iron and is said to be still in possession of the Government.
But for some time little or no progress was made. Public opinion did not seem particularly stirred by the notion, for one thing, and for another, money did not come in as it had been expected to do. Later on, however, the Government took the business in hand. In August, 1852, a start had been made by the contractor, Mr. W. Randle, who afterwards completed the line. He began operations in Cleveland paddock, close to where Mrs. Keith Stewart had performed with the Australian spade nearly two years before. The first gang consisted of only five men; but presently more were put on, and the company imagined they were beginning to make headway. Then, as mentioned above, the Government stepped in, and pushed on the work quite vigorously, compared with the moribund S.R, and T. Company.
In May, 1854, the first cargo of iron rails came to hand, and the work progressed rapidly, because, hitherto, only wooden ones, which required renewing every two months, had been used. But at last the Parramatta portion of the line, or, more correctly speaking, the portion as far as the spot where the Southern line now branches off, was finished. This was, much to the disgust of the inhabitants, at the junction of the Dogtrap and Liverpool roads, fully a mile from the centre of the town.
And now that the work was actually completed, people seemed doubtful about travelling on the railway, and nervous fears were expressed as to the security of the bridges, rolling stock, etc., etc. A board was then appointed to report upon the work; and, accordingly, five gentlemen tested the line with two first-class carriages, and twelve waggons loaded with sand—the whole outfit, with engine and tender, weighing 130 tons. Then the five duly certified that things were safe, and invited the public to roll up. To make assurance doubly sure, Sir William Denison and his wife and family took a trip to and fro, and finally the opening day was fixed for September 26, 1855.
On that date, proclaimed a public holiday, the largest crowd yet seen in the colony assembled at the railway station to witness the starting of the train; volunteers and Friendly Societies escorted the Governor; and to the sound of a salute of 21 guns and the waving of flags and handkerchiefs was inaugurated the beginning of our present railway system of some 3000 miles. Parramatta, much to the surprise of many people, was reached without any accident; and here the Governor lunched and congratulatory speeches were made.
During the day 2000 passengers travelled to and fro by the novel means of locomotion. Six trains a day were run, with fares in three classes, for the single journey, 4s, 3s, and 2s respectively. Said a contemporary newspaper:—
“The event of yesterday was the triumph of science, not only over natural difficulties, but of the spirit of enlightenment and civilisation—over prejudice and worldly-mindedness. The great agent of civilisation, the best and most effective servant of progress, has been retained by the antipodean colonies of Australia within the same quarter of a century to which it became the liveried vassal of civilised Europe.”
The plant was moderate enough consisting, as it did, of only four engines; eight first-class, twelve second, and twelve third-class carriages; with six brake vans and sixty waggons.
At the present date, or rather at the last returns, the rolling stock of the colony’s railways included 494 engines, 419 tenders, 1050 passenger carriages, 9429 goods vehicles, and 1041 stock trucks.
It is noteworthy that by the failure of private individuals in the first attempt at railway construction in the colony any private ownership of such undertakings seems to have received its deathblow, and thus, with very few exceptions, all railways in these colonies, are owned by the State. Possibly the original pioneers might have been more fortunate in their adventure but for the gold discoveries, which, as already shown, simply paralysed almost every description of industrial enterprise. An interesting fact in connection with the first attempt is that Sir Alfred Stephen was the first citizen to take shares in the company, an example followed by other leading men, including Messrs. Charles Kemp and John Lamb—the last named the president of the board of directors.
What with the gold discoveries, the bringing of railway communication, and ocean mails; the finishing for all time of transportation to New South Wales; the granting in full of representative Government, well these years be called the “Fruitful Fifties!” Literature and art, too, flourished mildly. A curious incident in connection with the former was the publication, in 1854, in Sydney, of a book entitled “The Diary of a Visit to England.” Dr. Campbell the author, was an Irish clergyman of some note in his day as a writer on the history and the Church of his country, who visited England at various times during the years 1775-92. “He made,” says Mowbray Morris, in his introduction to Boswell’s “Life of Johnson” (Globe edition), “what may be called the provincials ‘grand tour’ of London; visited the theatres, coffee houses and auction rooms, heard all the popular preachers, and was introduced to the studios of Reynolds and Gainsborough; he met Johnson at the Thrales’s and elsewhere, besides visiting him at his own house, and, though they seem to have been good friends enough, his portrait of the doctor is certainly not flattering. In directness and vivacity he sometimes even runs Boswell close, and his diary often supplies an interesting commentary on the biography.”
The story of how such a work came to be published in an Australian city is interesting. Its existence even, it would appear was not generally known in England until the publication of an article in the “Edinburgh Review,” and which was written in 1859, at the instance of and partly from materials supplied by Macaulay “The manuscript” says Morris, “had been discovered in one of the offices of the Supreme Court at Sydney, behind an old press which had not been moved for years. Its authenticity has fortunately been placed beyond suspicion, and its strange hiding place has been explained by the fact that one of its author’s nephews was Sheriff and Provost-Marshal of the capital of New South Wales.”
The stage flourished freely in the fifties. In 1854 Miss Catherine Hayes took the city by storm with her voice, as two years later did G.V. Brooke by his acting. At the close of the great tragedian’s first engagement he was presented at Petty’s Hotel with a testimonial in the shape of a solid silver candelabrum and plateau, with 220 gs; whilst Miss Fanny Cathcart, the “principal lady” who supported him, came in for a diamond bracelet, valued at 70gs. To those who succeeded in pleasing them, the citizens of those years were nothing if not liberal.
In the fifties, too, Sydney had a patriotic fund. The Crimean War was raging, and money flowed freely in for the relief of the British soldiers fighting in the east. On two successive nights at the Victoria Theatre during July, 1855, the proceeds of the performances were devoted to the patriotic fund, and towards the erection of a monument to Captain Cook.
A but-little-heard-of contemporary of the Victoria Theatre in these days was the City, which stood in market-street, exactly opposite the office of the “Town and Country Journal.” Melodrama of the strongest type used to be played there, and the “leading man” was an actor who bore the illustrious name of Kemble. Other theatres, too, notably the Prince of Wales’s, were now in existence; and what with such vocalists as Catherine Hayes, Mme. Anna Bishop, and Sara Flower, and June Mathews, and such actors as G. V. Brooke, Nesbitt, Coppin, and Rogers, it will be seen that Sydney was far from being badly catered for in respect of amusements.
On the night of August 20, 1857, the passenger ship Dunbar was wrecked at the foot of the cliffs near the South Head Signal Station. The occurrence has so often been described as to render more than a passing reference to it needless. One curious incident, connected however, with the sad affair may not be generally known, Among the Dunbar’s passengers were a Mrs. Egan, her son, and daughter. Mr. Egan was a well-known citizen of Sydney, a member of the Legislative Assembly, and an ex-Postmaster-General. His wife and children had been “home” for a pleasure trip; meanwhile, he had built a fine house for their reception at Watson’s Bay, and not far from the fatal Gap itself. And there they perished, almost within sight of their new home. Then, as if that were not enough, thirteen years later, Mr. Egan, apparently in his usual good health, drove out to the Gap on a Saturday afternoon, put up at a hotel there, was found during the night in a comatose condition, and died the next day, nearly, one might say, on the site of the loss of his family so many years before. Besides the Egans, many well-known colonists were lost in the Dunbar, she being a favorite trader, and full of passengers. In all 120 souls perished, and, as will be recollected, only one man, Johnson, a member of the crew, escaped. He was for many years, and until quite lately, keeper of the Nobbys Lighthouse, at Newcastle.
In 1857 municipal government was re-established. It will be remembered that, although so far back as 1843 a municipal council, headed by a mayor, had been formed, so badly did the plan work, that, after something of like an eleven years’ failure, they had been superseded by three commissioners, appointed to look after the interests of the citizens of Sydney. They held office for three years, and it was during this period that the city waterworks were established at Botany, in place of Busby’s Bore and the old Hyde Park-Lachlan Swamp scheme; a system of underground sewerage was also began by the commissioners; the outlet was to be at Fort Macquarie, through a great valve of gun-metal. The late Hon. George Thornton was the first Mayor of the re-constructed council, which at that time sat in what is now the Oxford Hotel; and a memento of his term of office may still be seen in the big ventilator to the sewers in Hyde Park—Thornton’s Smelling Bottle. This upcast shaft was fitted with a furnace for establishing a draught; it is, however, doubtful whether, after it was handed over by the contractors to the council, a fire was ever lit in it.
Of all the stirring events of these well-named “Fruitful Fifties” the discovery of gold was, of course, the most important as affecting Sydney; it created a demand for all sorts of wares whose uses were undreamt of hitherto, or regarded as unnecessary; it introduced capital and immigrants into the colony; it opened up the interior, and encouraged the making of roads and railways; and, above all, it increased to a wonderful extent the value of property. Indeed, the accumulation of wealth in these years became so real, industrial development, both in city and country, so extensive, and the transformation of the social conditions of the people so amazing and complete, that the phases of life as witnessed in the colony during the fifties resembled more the imaginary scenes of Eastern fable than the prosaic realities of everyday existence.
Among other matters closely connected with the story of the now rapid growth of our city in these times were the inauguration and endowment of the University, with its affiliated colleges; the laying the first stone of the Fitzroy Dock, and the establishment of the Sydney branch of the Royal Mint.
Mention has already been made of the “Constitution of ‘56. And the efforts made by Parkes, Wentworth, Deas-Thompson, and others to guard against any undesirable amendments whilst passing through the English Houses were so practical and energetic that the two last named politicians actually travelled to England for that purpose. They were, however, unsuccessful. Lord John Russell had returned to the Colonial Office, and he, unlike Mr. Chamberlain and our Federation Bill, simply riddled the measure with amendments. The most important of these was one enabling a bare majority of members in both Houses, instead of a two-thirds majority, to alter the Constitution as they might please. Such a provision, of course, was more than likely to operate as a standing invitation to alter it; and subsequent events very soon showed the truth of this. Strangely enough, the one feature in the Constitution which provoked the greatest opposition—that of a nominee House—has never since been touched; although, as we are well aware, much discontent has often been expressed with it, right up to date, and in very strong terms, too.
The Draft Bill, however, passed through both Houses in ‘55, and became law in that year as a schedule to an Imperial Act. It was sent on to Governor Young, with a dispatch, in which Lord John Russell mentions, among other matters, that he had considered the expediency of inserting clauses to provide for a federal union of the Australian colonies; but had not been able to satisfy himself that the time had come for it.”
Well, the time has arrived now—nearly half a century later! Also the fact! But it seems remarkable that, even then, when the younger Colonies were still in the throes of their new birth, the federal idea should have crossed the mind of the great British statesman.
In the early sixties occurred the largest and most disastrous fire that had ever taken place in Sydney, and which resulted in the total destruction of St. Mary’s Cathedral. Says a newspaper of the day: “The intelligence of this deplorable catastrophe will cause a thrill of sorrow in the hearts of the Roman Catholic population throughout the country, and must excite feelings of the deepest regret in the minds of the community in general The cost of the building, it is thought, could not be less than £50,000; but from its hallowed associations and sacred memories it was of priceless value to thousands of Worshippers of the Roman Catholic communion.”
Besides the building itself, there appears to have been an immense amount of valuable property destroyed, not only in the shape of paintings in the church—one picture representing the death of St. Benedict was alone valued at £1000—but in the beautiful furniture of the Archbishop’s and other residences belonging to the high dignitaries of the cathedral. “Myriads of sparks ascended high into the air, and fell in showers in the direction of Woolloomooloo Bay, whither, for a considerable distances they were driven by the wind. From the top of the cathedral cloud, of yellow flame and smoke issued, which shed a lurid lustre on all around; and, at times, so bright was the glare, that the minutest objects in the remotest parts of Hyde Park, could be seen almost as distinctly as by daylight.”
As showing the magnitude of the illumination, it may be mentioned that Captain Hesselton, now residing in Balmain, but then in command of the steamer You Yangs, saw the reflection of the fire when off Port Hacking, and is of opinion that the glare must have been visible over twenty miles out at sea. A noteworthy incident of the fire was the fortunate escape from a horrible death of an old man named Anthony Brady. Brady was, it is said, 108 years of age, and stone blind. He slept under the sacristy, but was rescued just in time to save him perishing in the flames.
That the Roman Catholics were, if dismayed, still not disheartened by their losses can be shown in no better way than by the noble pile that now stands on the site of the destroyed church, of which Father Therry laid the foundation-stone in 1829.
Three years after the destruction of the Roman Catholic place of worship, the slow-moving church of England gathered in thousands to witness the consecration of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, of which, as far back as 1819, Governor Macquarie had laid the foundation-stone. But, and it is important that this should be remembered when the story of our city comes to be written more in detail, during the long time the project remained in abeyance, a change of site was for some reason or other decided upon, which, many years afterwards, necessitated a relaying of the stone.This ceremony fell to Sir Richard Bourke on May 6, 1837, on which date the old foundation stone was removed and placed in its present position. But, even then, not until January, 1856, was the grant from the Crown finally procured. Nor, stranger still, did the church authorities take it up until 1865. The structure seems to have made a little progress after the re-inception of the undertaking in 1837. But for years the building remained a mere unsightly shell, unroofed and devoid of any architectural beauty. But, at last, after all these tedious years, the end came, and assisted by a large body of bishops and clergy, the Metropolitan (the Right Rev. Dr. Frederick Barker), opened the building for the performance of Divine service. This was in December 1868, and it seems to have been a very solemn and impressive ceremony indeed, although, even then, the building was not nearly completed. But, as at the “sumptuous luncheon” which took place afterwards at the Masonic Hall, and which was attended by all the most eminent, both of the laity and the clergy in these colonies, the Earl of Belmore said: “It was now an edifice of noble proportions, and it had progressed at least so far as to be available for the worship of God. A great deal remains to be done to finish the exterior, but he had no doubt that ere another generation passed away the topmost stone would be laid.” A hope that we have seen happily fulfilled.
In these later sixties, and in the beginning of the seventies, we had the Duke of Edinburgh with us, and we made much use of him in laying foundation stones and opening public buildings before the unfortunate occurrence at Clontarf. Among other ceremonies of the kind in which H.R.H. took a prominent part was that of the inauguration of the long-deferred statue to Captain Cook. The papers of the day were, of course, full of the ceremony, which seems to have been attended by all in Sydney. In the cavity of the stone was placed a bottle containing copies of the “Sydney Morning Herald” and “Empire,” together with the cards of the officers of the Australian Patriotic Association. With these, was also a facsimile of Captain Cook’s handwriting, being a lithographed transcription of his log, containing the great navigator’s observations on the transit of Venus in 1769.
Referring to the occasion, a newspaper of the same date as the ceremony says:
“It is a curious fact that, although the landing place of Captain Cook in Botany Bay is not more than six or seven miles from Sydney, but very few persons have ever visited that secluded spot, or have even a definite idea where it is. This probably arises from the fact that it lies on the southern shores of Botany Bay; at the head of which great inlet from the ocean are two large rivers, terminating in a wild and almost impassable country.”
And, as we are aware, up till within a year or two, what was thus written over thirty years ago might have still stood good. But most people now know all about Kurnell, and the dedication of a public park there to the memory of the discoverer—even if they seldom visit it.
In these sixties and seventies, Sydney was progressing at such a rate that to keep in touch with a tithe of the buildings of importance, both public and private, that sprung up almost as if by magic, would reduce this chapter to a mere record of architectural dates and details; moreover, most of these improvements are well within the memory of thousands of citizens still among us. Nor did the social characteristics of our city apparently differ much from those of the present. It is most edifying and instructive, for instance, to note the fashion in which the story of our city Council was reproduced in one essential particular three generations ago. And the following description might have been written to-day. Indeed, during the existence of the Citizens’ Vigilance Committee, at the time of the plague, such reports were common enough:
“A butcher’s shop was visited in William-street last week by the Inspector of Nuisances and the Acting-Health Officer conjointly. The time was half an hour past noon, The back premises were found in a filthy condition. The dung-heap contained a quantity of hair, etc., and was alive with maggots. There were also a quantity of bones and meat in a state of putrefaction in the shed. The shed itself was filthy, and the premises generally dirty. The duty of the two officers was obviously to proceed, according to the law, against a person, who, by his uncleanliness, was perilling the lives of his fellow-citizens; and it was the duty of all aldermen, whose servants in the interests of the public these officers were, to support them in the execution of their duty.”
But, then, no more than nowadays, were things managed in that style. The butcher cleaned his premises, knowing that an information was sworn against him. Then, quite according to our best modern traditions, he got two aldermen to inspect his premises, and one of them to write to the magistrates at the Water Police Court, saying that he had found the place perfectly clean, while the other alderman attended at the court to depose to the same fact. And the testimony of the aldermen carried the day against the public officials. Mr. Dansey was the Health Officer of the period, and the newspaper calls upon him to do his duty in such instances without fear of aldermen who may prefer to “patronise stinks.” Of what effect the remonstrance was, so far as that particular City Council was concerned, as well as its immediate successors, may be judged from the plague revelations of 1900, and the accumulated masses of filth to which it was principally due.
In 1788, there were landed in Sydney some 200 marines; in 1790 the first detachment of soldiers arrived; and in 1870, Sydney saw the permanent departure of British soldiers from Australian territory. Although the crowd that witnessed their embarkation on the Silver Eagle was a large one, it watched the proceedings in silence, and with an entire absence of enthusiasm. The troops comprised only two companies of the 18th Line Regiment, and about 70 rank and file of the Royal Artillery, who had been hitherto stationed at Dawes Point. They boarded the Silver Eagle at Circular Quay, to the music of the band of the Naval Brigade, stationed in the Ordnance Yard. But though the crowd had increased to vast dimensions there was not the slightest demonstration. Perhaps the people felt that in some way the departure of these soldiers of the Queen typified an approaching severance from the mother country. And yet, of those silent, and perhaps doubtful, spectators, the majority must have lived to see native-born Australians in their thousands embarking to fight oversea for that same Queen.
In these days—the early seventies—our present post office had been begun; and the Town Hall, of which Prince Alfred had laid the foundation-stone, was in course of erection; Circular Quay was a quay in reality, although not, of course, equalling its present condition, susceptible of much bettering as that is. Endless improvements were going on everywhere. Prince Alfred and Belmore Parks had been formed, and were being beautified. Moore Park was under process of reclamation. Hyde Park, so long known to us as the Racecourse, bare and uninviting, now possessed an avenue of well-grown trees half a mile long, and was dotted with plantations; the Domain had been landscape-gardened out of all knowledge. We had newspapers by the dozen, churches by the hundred, banks and other financial institutions by the score; and over 100,000 inhabitants.
Besides constant steam communication with England and the sister colonies, Sydney steamers traded regularly to California, New Caledonia, and the Fijis; whilst “sailers ” hailing out of the port dotted every sea from the North Pacific to the Indian Ocean.
At Miller’s point there was a yard capable of turning, out ships of 500 tons burden; and many steamers, both screw and paddle, Gunboats, and dredges, had been built there. The native timber used was, for beams, the iron-bark, blackbutt, and the flooded, blue, red, and spotted gums; and for fittings, the tea-tree, iron-bark, blackbutt, and bungally. And as showing the wonderful excellence of some of these colonial timbers, may be instanced the case of the Fanny Fisher, built on the Manning River in 1847, and by turns whaler, passenger-packet and mail-carrier; and now, after her fifty-three years of service, still afloat as a collier, and in better preservation than many a comparatively new boat. She should be preserved intact when her time comes, and the surveyors shake their heads over her, as a specimen not only of what Australian hardwood is capable of, but as the oldest Australian-built vessel.
As to education in these years, it flourished mightily, and spread all over the colony, in the shape of 807 schools and 600,000 pupils with 1093 teachers—an eloquent commentary on the success of the public school system controlled by the Council of Education. Writing of the Sydney University, a visitor said:
“The glory of Sydney, in the way of education, is its University, and certainly a great deal of spirit has been shown by the colony in the creation of the institution and in the erection of the building. As regards the building, I think no one will dispute the assertion when I say that the college hall—or public room, for it is put to none of the comfortable festive uses for which college halls have been built at our universities—is the finest chamber in the colonies. If I were to say that no college either at Oxford or Cambridge possesses so fine a one, I might possibly be contradicted.”
In these days, however, from a financial point of view, the University was not a success. The people seemed satisfied with a primary education for their children, and did not yearn after a university one. Thus, in 1870, the total cost of the establishment, consisting chiefly of professional salaries, was £5938, of which £5000 was paid out of the taxes of the colony. There were 41 scholars, paying a little over £22 per annum each. As for the resident pupils at the affiliated colleges, there was one, and only one, at St. John’s, and but two or three at St. Paul’s. With as yet a very sparse population, we went in for such a scholastic luxury rather too soon. All young communities are apt to do the same, although not necessarily in the shape of a University. To quote Anthony Trollope: “There is no institution in the colonies which excites and deserves the sympathies of an English traveller more completely than does the Sydney University”—this, of course, applying to the time in which he wrote.
But of all our educational establishments, the celebrated novelist appears to have been most impressed with the Fort-street school, where for his edification some of the pupils were “put through their facings”—
“And certainly one little girl whom I questioned myself must have understood what she was saying (Anthony had just been astounded by a small boy’s feat in mental arithmetic, and jokingly professes a doubt as to whether there might not be collusion with the teacher). A passage in Shakespeare had been read, in which the word ‘strategy’ is used in its secondary, and not in its technical, sense. I asked the meaning of the word, and the little girl said that strategy was the art of military manoeuvering. She was a very nice little girl, and I hope she may live to be the wife of the first Commander-in-Chief of the forces of New South Wales.” In which case, by the way, the “nice little girl” would have had to marry the Right Hon. Sir Augustus William Frederick Spencer Loftus, PC:, G.C.B., who was the first to assume the title. Let us hope, that Trollope’s little girl is still flourishing and happy, although probably in a less exalted position. But to return: “The girls,” says he, “in some of these public schools are more wonderful even than the boys. They read better, and seem to have a clearer perception of things in general. I remember at such an exhibition in New York, hearing a roomful of girls questioned by the mistress. She asked why the Romans ran away with the Sabine matrons. One girl suggested that it was because the Sabine matrons were pretty; but she was soon taken down by a clearer-headed maiden, who told us that it was done for the sake of the population. The young girls at Sydney were perhaps not quite so far advanced as this; but, nevertheless, their condition amazed me. Putting aside all joking, I profess that the excellence of the teaching in the Fort-street school, at Sydney, was very high.”
Could our good-natured visitor leave his appointed place and return to us once more, and inspect the old school, he would probably be more astonished than ever at the advance that has been made there, both in the number of pupils, and in the quality of the teaching, during his absence.
It will be of interest to see what we could do in these years towards raising money for Imperial charitable purposes. There was then a “Patriotic Fund for the Relief of Widows and Orphans of soldiers and Sailors who fell in the Crimean War.” To that fund New South Wales gave £64,916 6s 6d; Tasmania, £28,375 5s 7d; Victoria, £47,711 10s 3d; and South Australia, £6297. But while the whole of our contributions was voluntary, £40,000 of the Victorian amount was voted by the Legislature.
In the Indian Mutiny Fund, Victoria comes first, with a level £25,000; New South Wales, £5821; and South Australia, £2803. Then comes the Cotton Famine Fund, with New South Wales to the front again with £21,311; Victoria, £5000; and West Australia, £603 11s 5d. In addition “Australia” is credited with a lump sum of £15,739 12s 1d, which amount was forwarded to the Lord Mayor’s Relief Fund.
It will thus be seen that this colony, to the extent of £92,048, had, up to the last months of 1870, responded with splendid liberality to all appeals for help from Great Britain—and has been doing so, at intervals, ever since then. Still, alongside the Cotton Famine figures just quoted, those of the late Indian Famine Fund look poor enough. We have now, however, more calls on our purse. It is doubtful whether to-day, backed even by the aegis of a Royal Prince, we could, in a very short time, gather £28,000, as was done to commemorate the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh by building a new hospital.
Trollope came to us in the early seventies, and fell desperately in love with the city, its people, and its surroundings. Unlike some of the latter day “trotters,” who have said nice things whilst partaking of our too-ready hospitality, and then gone away and mercilessly abused us. Anthony, although at times he poked a little mild fun at certain of our peculiarities, was, on the whole, very fair and impartial in his comments upon what he saw. In the light of recent events, one in particular of his utterances sounds curiously prophetic. He had been viewing the defences of the harbor, and was impressed, not only with the different batteries, but with the evident readiness of their defenders to use them in case of need:—
“I hope,” says he, “that New South Wales may never have to fight for England, and certainly that she may not have to fight America. But the feeling of loyalty in the colony is so strong that were there a fight on hand, she would be unhappy not to be allowed to take some share in it.”
A remarkable saying, when we consider it as made so many years before the spirit of Imperialism had been fostered and worked up to its present high pitch; when the sentiment was even discouraged by the British powers that were. It is a pity that Trollope did not live to see how completely his forecast had been justified by the sight of not only New South Wales, but Australasia, raising and equipping an army of 20,000 men to fight for the Empire oversea. Moreover, he appears to have visited us with the hope of being pleased, and not with the hope of cavilling at and picking holes in us and our institutions. Speaking about the city buildings, he mentions the Hospital and St. James’s Church: “The hospital, I was assured, is quite antiquated. It seemed to be airy, easy, and as pleasant as is compatible with the nature of such an institution. St. James’s Church is pewed all round with high, dark panels, and is as much like an English comfortless church of the last century as though it stood in an English town in an eastern county. I went there once, and found it impossible to hear a word from the gentleman who read the lessons, or from him who preached. But it is a fashionable church, and is supposed to be that at which the Governor and his family should say their prayers.”
Well, if our visitor could return, he would find something worthier of the name in place of the old hospital; and though the church still stands externally much as it did what time it dominated the Sydney landscape, internally the old things have given way to much that is new.
One more remark of Trollope’s must be quoted, because, although uttered so many years ago, it stands as good to-day as it did then. Speaking of the Legislative Assembly, he compares it to a pudding. Says he: “In the house of Assembly, at Sydney, there was a sufficiency of farinaceous matter to prevent the plums from clogging the appetite and hurting the digestion.”
In drawing this series of articles to a close at this particular epoch in the history of the city, it may be thought necessary to explain that such a fact is not due to want of material respecting the newer Sydney; but because old Sydney and its story having been fairly well exploited, that of the more recent capital would be lacking in interest for the general reader. Besides, during the last couple of decades or so, there is nothing doubtful, nothing that cannot be verified by a few minutes’ search, whether as to the acts of an individual, the age and position of a building, or the site of a celebration. On the other hand, some of the best authorities differ widely regarding the happenings of those old dark days of storm and stress, through which the infant settlement passed, only to emerge triumphant—the great capital city that we see it to-day. And if in this little book any new light, no matter how small, has been let in on the doings of those far off times, if any disputed point, no matter how apparently trivial, has been advanced towards assurance, then it will not have been written in vain.
One of the oldest and most picturesque portions of Sydney will soon be a thing of the past; and before such is the case a visit to “The Rocks” would well repay many of our citizens who, except by name, know nothing of the neighborhood, and would care to see how our ancestors, both rich and poor, builded in those far-off days. Hence it is thought the locality calls for more than the passing notice given to it in the foregoing pages. They still stand those wonderful old houses; the mansion of the merchant with massive walls, four square, staring out of shadeless windows over the little cottages perched in all manner of nooks and corners, weather worn and scarred, their sandstone steps hollowed by the feet of three generations, but, nevertheless, crouching, sturdy and grimly defiant of the modern city, scarce a stone’s throw away. Reminiscent, these old mansions, of the time when Dawes Point and its neighborhood was accounted one of the best residential quarters of the city; the cottages, higher up on the ridge, of the earliest settlement, when, as a writer remarks: “The Rocks was a term synonymous with St. Giles and Wapping in one.” In those days the place seems to have been a mixture of Sailor Town and Alsatia, studded thickly with the most nefarious dens and low pot-houses boasting such expressive names as the “Black Dog,” the “Sheer Hulk”, the “Whaler’s Arms,” the “Struggler,” “Evening Gun,” and the “Sailor’s Return”—this last one still in Cumberland-street.
Describing Gloucester-street in the early fifties, a visitor says: “It struck two as we crossed the high bare green by the windmill above St Phillip’s and walked, or rather tumbled and climbed, along Gloucester-street to our destination. At this time there could hardly be said to be a street; it was merely the space between two straggling lines of houses ranged along the side of a very rough, rocky declivity, and these were turning their backs or their sides or their faces to each other.” A description that, even at the present day, fits aptly enough more than one street on the Rocks, if the ground vacant then be filled in with hovels of a later growth; with a maze of blind allies, lanes, courts and passages, squalid backyards; children by the legion and goats by the score. But, presently, there will be no more Gloucester-street, no more Cambridge-street either. Light and air will be let into spots where they have been long strangers, and one of the finest portions of the city redeemed from insignificance and decay. Traversing the whole of the resumed area will be three main thoroughfares. New Harrington-street, 80ft wide, Princes-street 130ft in width, and New Cumberland-street 80ft wide, whilst George-street north will be broadened from its present 40ft to 100. The extra space given to Princes street is to allow for an elevated railroad connected with the North Shore extension scheme, as also for the proposed bridge over the harbor. Essex-street is to be widened to 70ft, and half way between it and Argyle-street a new one is to be formed.
All these streets will be wood-blocked; and under them it is proposed to construct tunnels to accommodate the sewers, water, gas, electric wires, etc., etc. Argyle Cut will also probably be widened; several bridges built here and there at intersecting streets in order to make the ascent easy for traffic, and practically the whole of the ridge from the Observatory downwards will be cut away to a gentle slope. At least one gathers so much from the official plan. But, of course, this will be subjected to many changes, so much so indeed, that it would take a seer to forecast with certainty the appearance of the big contract at its finish, years hence.
No mention of the resumed area would be complete without some allusion to the notable scheme propounded by the Advisory Board for the housing of the men who work along the wharves, and who reside mainly on or around “The Rocks,” in buildings five stories in height, and containing between them some five-hundred families, or, say, between three and four thousand souls. One will have frontages to Kent, Windmill, and Argyle streets. The other will be in Kent-street, somewhere at the foot of the Observatory Reserve. Each “tenement” will consist of from two to five rooms, lit by electricity, reached by lifts; and as sanitarily perfect as science can make them. In the great basement there will be a library, baths, and probably shops. The square will enclose a courtyard common to the use of all. Such, taken as a whole, is the gist of the plans put forward. Whether the Australian working-man himself will approve of the scheme has yet to be discovered. In London, tenement houses are common enough, and are thoroughly appreciated by the classes for whose benefit they were built.
Within the Rocks area are two historical churches St. Phillips and St. Andrews (the “Scot’s Church,”) besides Trinity Church, the fine Roman Catholic one of St. Patrick’s, and many large and important buildings, such as warehouses, hotels, etc., etc., that the path of improvement will most likely be conducted so as to spare. Probably, owing to the proximity of wharves along the foreshores of the resumed area, it will always be in great measure a workingman’s quarter, so far, at least, as residence is concerned, although, certainly, an ideal one, and possessed of some of the finest views in Sydney. A great commercial quarter it is sure to become, when the energetic Minister for Works has transformed the place from the mere congerie of rookeries that it now mostly consists of into one of broad streets and open spaces, whereon will presently rise piles of warehouses, offices, handsome shops, and either neat terraces of houses for the working men of the district or the tenement buildings already spoken of. The public, it is considered, owe a considerable debt of gratitude to Mr. O’Sullivan for his courage and patient persistence in promoting a scheme by which one of the finest parts of our city, hitherto hidden in squalid seclusion, will be thrown open and utilised for the lasting benefit of the community at large, and the commercial prosperity of Sydney in particular. Like all men, the Minister is liable at times to err; but in this particular instance he has made no mistake, and his wide grasp of affairs, his uncompromising energy and determination, together with the no small amount of business ability and enterprise he has brought to bear upon this resumption scheme, should ensure the success of an undertaking which, perhaps, in a greater measure than any other he has put his hand to, must appeal not only to the general public of the present but to posterity.
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