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William Briggs (1828 – 1910) and Charlotte Sarah neé Nicholson (1820-1879) Maitland Benevolent Society
William Briggs was born in 1828 in London, England, the third and youngest son of Thomas Briggs, a highly successful dressing case maker and general fine goods retailer of 27 Piccadilly, London, and Elizabeth Nicholson. It appears that the success of Thomas in business permitted his son to be apprenticed as an attorney. William would have served at least five years as an articled clerk in a law office, possibly Seymour Chambers, Duke Street, Adelphi (St James’). In 1853, he married his cousin Charlotte Sarah d’Argeavel neé Nicholson (1820-1879), the daughter of Robert Dring Nicholson, a soldier, and Anne Elizabeth Perry. Charlotte was purported to be the widow of Vicomte Alexandre Eugene Gabriel d’Argeavel. When six months pregnant, Charlotte married the Vicomte in Boulogne, France, in October 1839 and she bore him three children: Alice (1840-1876), Eugenie (1842-1913) and Robert (1844-1913). In 1845, the viscountess separated from her husband and she and her children went to live with her parents in Jersey.
In 1852, Charlotte said she ‘observed in the papers an announcement of the death of her husband (who did not in fact die until 1877)’ and on July 4, 1853, she went through a marriage ceremony with William. What is omitted from this account is that prior to this bigamous marriage a daughter Amy (1852-1919) was born to William and Charlotte in April of 1852. On July 28, 1853, two weeks after their ‘marriage’, William and Charlotte, with their children and Charlotte’s mother Anne Nicholson, boarded the Windsor and sailed to the colony of NSW arriving in Sydney on November 2, 1853. Why they decided to come to NSW is unknown, but perhaps they considered it prudent to remove themselves to a sphere where their past history was not known.
William applied for admission as a solicitor and proctor of the Supreme Court of NSW and was admitted on December 31, 1853, and commenced work as a solicitor in West Maitland in February of 1854. In 1855, he was appointed clerk of petty sessions for the police district of Maitland. During their time in Maitland, Charlotte gave birth to four sons: William (1854-1910), Hugh (1856-1929), Neville (1859-1859) and Alfred (1861-1933). Charlotte died in the February of 1879 and later that year, in November, William married Elizabeth Rourke (1837-1918), a family friend and co-worker with Charlotte in charitable work.
Maitland Benevolent Society
In 1885, some five years after Charlotte’s death and William’s marriage to Elizabeth, the Briggs left West Maitland and moved to Sydney. Upon the Briggs’ departure, the Committee of the Maitland Benevolent Society (MBS) expressed their
regret to record the loss (by removal to Sydney) of the valuable services of their late respected and energetic secretary Mr William Briggs, whose deep interest in the affairs of the Society, together with those of his estimable wife, from its very formation, contributed in a very great degree to raise it to its present important position. (more…)
John Thomas Neale died in Sydney in 1897 leaving an estate valued for probate at £804,945 ($12.2m current value) and in his will he made significant bequests to his wife Hannah as well as to family members and others. He also left some £18,500 ($2.8m current value) to various charitable organisations. As significant as these charitable bequests were, they were far exceeded by those made by his wife. Some 14 years after John’s death, Hannah died with an estate valued for probate at £758,997 ($13.9m current value) and she left some £47,500 ($5.7m current value) to various charities and the remainder of her estate to family and friends.
Who were John and Hannah Neale?
John Thomas Neal was born at Denham Court, Campbelltown, NSW, in 1823 to John Neale (1897-1875) an overseer and later a carcass butcher, and his wife Sarah Lee (1799-1855). John Thomas was one of 14 children; 12 lived to adulthood and in 1843, at the time of the birth of his youngest sibling, 10 still lived in the family home. John Thomas, the second son, married Hannah Maria Bull (1825-1911) the daughter of John and Elizabeth Mary Bull of Bull’s Hill, Liverpool, in August 1843; she was 18 and John 20 and they were never able to have children. John died at his Potts Point home, Lugarno, in September 1897, aged 74 and Hannah died at Lugarno in March 1911, aged 86.
John commenced building his fortune in the livestock trade following in his already wealthy father’s footsteps. Commencing initially in the Monaro district working on his father’s leased pastoral run Middlebank, he soon returned to Sydney to become a carcass butcher in his father’s business in Sussex Street.
As a carcass butcher, John would attend different cattle markets and purchase cattle or sheep. This required considerable skill and knowledge as there were no facilities for weighing the livestock and the carcass butcher needed to be able to estimate the weight and quality from an animal’s size and appearance. When the animal was killed, skinned and dressed, the carcass butcher would then sell it to a retail butcher.
In the nineteenth century, livestock were driven to Sydney across the Blue Mountains for sale in Sydney. Instead of waiting for the stock to arrive at the sale yards as other carcass butchers did Neale, in partnership with other enterprising young men, on hearing their probable date of arrival, would ride a day or two’s journey and meet the drovers. The potential buyers would band together and purchase the livestock on the spot, thereby restricting the supply to the other older more established carcass butchers, which enabled them to sell at a profit to the Sydney-based carcass butchers. With the capital John acquired over many years of this business, he purchased land and became a large property owner, also leasing pastoral runs and raising cattle and sheep for the meat market.
Samuel Goold was born in 1820 in Norton Lindsay, Warwickshire, England, the son of William Goold, variously described as a miller or a grocer, and his wife Elizabeth Canning. Samuel was their fifth son of nine children. Two of his brothers, John and Jabez, also came to the colony of NSW at some stage. In 1847, Samuel married Mary Ann Johnson at the Tottenham Baptist Chapel and his profession was given as ‘Missionary’. Mary Ann was the daughter of Philip Johnson, a shoemaker, and his wife Mary and was born in 1819 at the workhouse of St Botolph, Aldgate, London. At the age of 13 she became a member of the Congregational Church, worshipping in the Poultry Chapel, London, then under the care of the Rev John Clayton Jnr (1780-1865).
Arrival in the colony of New South Wales
Together with Mary Ann’s mother and sister, Samuel arrived in Queensland in January 1849 aboard the Fortitude, Rev Dr John Dunmore Lang’s first chartered immigrant ship. Samuel had been an apprentice and was probably an apprentice draper, but his profession on the shipping lists was given as ‘bricklayer’. It has been suggested that he helped build the Roman Catholic Chapel in Elizabeth Street, Brisbane, but this cannot be possible as the Fortitude arrived in Morton Bay on 21 January 1849, and its passengers were quarantined as there were cases of typhus on board. The first mention of ‘Mr Gould, the builder’ in connection with the Roman Catholic Chapel, is on 31 January 1849 while Samuel Goold was still in quarantine.
Samuel and his wife did not remain in Brisbane but travelled to Sydney in September 1849. It is not known if their departure was a result of disillusionment with the unfulfilled promises of Lang concerning the provision of land for the immigrants or whether it was related to the death of their infant son, Samuel, which occurred a few weeks before. In Sydney, however, they wasted no time linking with the (more…)
Catherine (Kate) Gent nee Danne (1835-1899), Teacher and Vocational Philanthropist
A ‘Mr and Miss Danne’ were involved in the Ragged Schools of Sydney as part of a philanthropic attempt to assist the children of the poorest to gain some education and improve their situation in life. They were what might be termed ‘vocational philanthropists’ for they did not give financial support, other than by forgoing more lucrative employment, nor did they serve as committee members overseeing the work. Rather, they were employed by the committee to interface with the poor, assisting the parents and teaching their children, and the level of Miss Danne’s commitment and sacrifice meant that this employment was her vocation. They were both associated with the Ragged School as teachers and Miss Danne was appointed to the paid staff in October 1860 to teach the girls and to support Henry B Lee, the one paid male teacher. With Lee’s departure around May 1861, a Mr Danne was appointed to replace him. His salary was 30 shillings per week, while with his appointment, the salary of Miss Danne was increased from 30 shillings to 40 shillings per week.
So who were ‘Mr and Miss Danne’ of the Ragged School? The answer to this question is not immediately apparent as contemporary accounts refer to them simply as ‘Mr and Miss Danne’. The Danne Family, consisting of William Danne (more…)
Henry Brougham Richard Lee (1831-1883) The City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen Manager
The name of Henry Brougham Richard Lee, abbreviated to H B Lee, became synonymous with the work of the Sydney City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen in the period 1868 to 1883. His great gift to the organisation was not just his ability to relate to the ‘down and out’ of the community, but his skill in convincing merchants and business people to donate goods and food stuffs to this philanthropic work.
Lee was born at Finsbury, England, on February 26, 1831, to a shoemaker named Thomas Lee and his wife, Sarah Beal, and he came to the colony of NSW on the Plantagenet, arriving in July 1853. In 1860, he married Harriet Miller (1833-1878) and they had four children: Florence Mary Ann (1861-1909), Eveline Maud (1863-1937), Grace Hannah (1865-1867) and Alfred Ernest (1869-1953). It appears that Henry ‘had the misfortune to be deformed and short of stature’, but this did not impede him as he was frequently described as being energetic and indefatigable. In England he had been apprenticed to a nautical instrument maker, and went into partnership with Thomas Drinkwater in 1854 after his arrival in Sydney. They operated as Drinkwater and Lee, engineers who specialised in brass fittings, but the partnership was short-lived and was dissolved in April 1856. This was to be the first of a number of such short-lived and unsuccessful business and professional positions in which Henry was involved.
In January of 1856, Lee published the first volume of The Australian Band of Hope Review and Children’s Friend which was a journal for the promotion of temperance. It was to be published fortnightly, cost three pence, and was to be a children’s magazine consisting of anecdotes, stories and poetry, and often promoting the temperance message. Over time, it changed its emphasis from children to a more general audience and changed its title to The Australian Home Companion, but it remained a temperance advocate. Whatever else the newspaper may have done, it had the distinction of being the first newspaper to publish a Henry Kendall poem in February 1859. The poem was entitled ‘Oh Tell Me Ye Breezes’ and was on the disappearance of Ludwig Leichhardt, the explorer. It is clear the newspaper was not a commercial success for as early as 1857, after only fourteen months of publication, it was in trouble as its circulation was just 1,000 copies. The paper was barely covering its expenses and attempts were made by the public to raise £100 to defray its expenses. By October 1859, the circulation had increased to 1,900 but the paper still struggled financially. Lee remained the proprietor until December 1860 when he was forced to sell the paper to cover his debts.
In 1860, Henry became the first teacher for the Sydney Ragged School, the school founded by Edward Joy. Joy had advertised for a special sort of teacher who was more than just a teacher of reading and writing, but also someone who ‘has a truly Christian interest in the welfare of the class of children for whom the school is intended and who has at the same time the gift of winning the attention and securing the affection of such children.’ Lee was engaged as a teacher and his (more…)
Joseph Paxton (1828-1882) Miner, Musician, Philanthropist and Churchman
Joseph Paxton was, to a remarkable degree, both a financial and a governance philanthropist. He was born on 10 May 1828 at Dunbar, Scotland, to James a journeyman boot maker and Margaret (nee Greig) Paxton. Though a brass founder by trade Joseph was a gifted singer and musician and he taught music and also led the singing in one of the Edinburgh churches for some six years. He married Elizabeth Bennett in 1853 and they left for the colony of NSW arriving in Sydney in early 1854. Their daughter Margaret born in 1854 died in 1855 but two further children, James Alexander (1856) and Elizabeth Bennett (1860) were born to the family at Tambaroora (Hill End).
Initially Paxton earned a living in Sydney by giving performances of Scottish Songs and he also toured giving concerts in the Hunter Valley. His singing was appreciated and was compared in style to the famous Scots singers Wilson and Templeton with ‘interest being sustained by anecdotes and explanatory remarks illustrative of the songs’. It would appear that Joseph, as an entertainer, was comfortable being a public figure and throughout his life was willing to express his opinions on various subjects. These public skills and attitudes would later lead him to often be chosen to chair public meetings of various organisations.
The Gold Miner
In late 1854 the family left for the Gold Diggings on the Turon River in NSW where Paxton took up a miner’s right on Hawkin’s Hill at Hill End. By 1866, Paxton entered a partnership with William Holman and some others to form Paxton, Holman and Co whose purpose was to mine a claim on Hawkins Hill. There were some 32 men employed on the site working both day and night and probably six days a week and after thirteen months of extremely hard work the first ore was crushed in March 1869. In the period June 1870-May 1871 the mine was producing some £16,000 (approximately $2 million current value) worth of gold and the value of the area was shown when, in 1872, one nugget was found which on its own was worth £16,000. Paxton was involved in numerous other mining ventures and partnerships at Hill End as mining required considerable capital to exploit the deposits. There were 255 Companies on the Hill End goldfield in 1872-1873 and they had a combined nominal capital of £3,673,937 of which Paxton’s company was the biggest by far with a nominal capital of £160,000. As a miner and mine owner, Paxton was concerned for the safety of mining and was part of a deputation to the Minister for Lands to seek the appointment of a mines inspector for gold mines. He said that many accidents which had taken place on the gold-fields were due in many instances to the incompetency and utter ignorance of men appointed by boards of directors as mine managers. He had no patience with those mine owners and companies that cited cost as a deterrence to the appointment of a mines inspector for such miners who were under capitalised had no right to exist if they did not have the funds to protect the lives of their men. He thought that by such an appointment the Government might incur the displeasure of some but would at the same time earn the gratitude of thousands of miners. (more…)