Canterbury Bell February 1998

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The Canterbury Bell: newsletter of the Canterbury Genealogy Discusion Group was produced for many years by the Canterbury Genealogy Discussion Group in conjunction with the City of Canterbury Library and was exchanged exchanged with like minded groups across New South Wales.


The Earlwood/Undercliffe District

That portion of the municipality which extends over the Earlwood/Undercliff area has been said to have been the last in the municipality to develop. From earliest times Undercliffe seems to have been known as such, but Earlwood was known as Parkestown and Forest Hill. It is generally claimed to have been called Earlwood about 1906, but old records show that in February 1909, the Postmaster at Canterbury received a letter from the Forest Hills Progress association asking him to "strike out on all letters addressed here, any name of locality other than Forest Hill".

In May 1914 it was proposed to hold a meeting of delegates from the Forest Hill and Undercliffe Progress Associations to consider the change of name of the district. In June 1914 the meeting was held and a number of names were submitted for a preference vote, but it was apparent the only favourable name was Earlwood. It seems certain that either a mistake has been made in the year or it was an extreme case of "old habits die hard".

The area was described by one of the old residents as "a veritable beauty spot, abounding in giant trees, green valleys and wild flowers. In the bushland, Christmas Bush, Flannel Flowers, Rock Lilies and Native Fuchsias grew in profusion and added to its charm". While a great deal has been written regarding the more well known of our district's pioneers, little has been told regarding many of the early land grants in the Earlwood/Undercliffe area.

Early Land Grants in the Earlwood/Undercliffe Area

Another one of his acquisitions was "Bramshott" which was originally owned by the Rev. William Pascoe Cook. He is said to have purchased it in 1833 and actually farmed the property which was of 100 acres and lay south of Cooks River. A weatherboard cottage with a brick nogged verandah stood on the grant and the property was divided into paddocks with a "first rate garden" and a small orchard. an immense lagoon provided a never failing supply of fresh water. It was advertised, under instructions from Polack's trustees, in 1841 and was sold for $4.100.00.

The man himself had such colourful background, that a few details of his life may perhaps be of interest to readers. The son of a well known society painter, whose miniatures and engravings are now much sought after, he was sentenced to 7 years, transportation for the alleged stealing a lady's watch.

Abraham Brian Polack

By far the biggest landholder in the district was Abraham Polack. Between the years of 1835 and 1836, he acquired by auction, 790 acres ranging from Canterbury Road, along Cooks River and covering most of the area of Earlwood. A portion being known as the Undercliffe Estate. He arrived in the colony on the "Agamennon" in 1820 at the age of 25 years. He was married on September 27th 1824 at St.Phillips Church, Sydney, his wife Hannah having arrived as a free settler on the "Elizabeth" in 1824. By 1827 he had two children, a daughter Sarah and a son Sololom. On the birth certificate of his daughter in 1825 he was listed as a Clerk and shopman and on that of his son, as a publican. (Later a third child, a son was born).

He appears to have prospered considerably, for he is shown in the 1828 census as being an Inn Keeper and having one horse and twenty horned cattle. His inn the "London Tavern" was opposite the Police Court on the corner of Druitt and George Streets, Sydney. He became associated with Jacob Josephson who carried on business as a jeweller and silversmith in George Street, and later became an auctioneer. His last stand in that business was in a building in Charlotte Place (now Grosvenor). As an auctioneer he became very successful. His activities covering sales in Melbourne, Darling Downs, Wollongong and West Maitland to name just a few.

In the late 1830's he was associated with John Thomas Wilson an ironmonger to whom he sold his commission business. This person whose real name was James Abbott had a long history of crime as a "Confidence man". He had in England induced a young lady to elope with him and abandoned her, he robbed an old lady of a large sum of money and escaped to the United States of America, and started business as an auctioneer in Boston under the name of John Thomas Soanes. After "fleecing" the Americans, he fled to the Cape and having no success with the Dutch burghers, arrived at Hobart Town.

After more adventures he landed in Sydney under the name of J.T.Wilson, and entered the employ of Lancelot Iredale and was soon dismissed for immoral conduct. Later after a series of positions he became in possession of the extensive ironmongery business of Burekin & McDonald. He entered into auctioneering and being a man of fine presence and plausible manners he had no trouble in obtaining the confidence of the Sydney merchants. Suddenly he made a grand coup, filled a ship with cargo and joined her at the heads. It was discovered nothing could be done to apprehend the ship, as it had been regularly cleared at customs. While a great number of merchants were involved in the swindle, Abraham Polack declared himself the chief victim.

However, a newspaper item later reported that Mr Polack intends to leave the colony for Europe. His estate real and personal is estimated to be above $100.000.00 after liquidation of all claims against him. The same item also stated that the "residents of the Hunter River and environs" would be very pleased to hear that the steamers "Sophia Jane" and "Tamar" would run as usual, so evidently he was also interested in the shipping trade.

Despite his successes he appears to have attracted quite a bit of trouble. At a later date we read of the report of a trial in 1842 of George Jones, former clerk to Abraham Polack, for forgery. When Abraham Polack left the colony in 1839 he left a Promissory Note for $60.00. in favour of George Jones signed by himself to be presented to his trustees. Jones altered it to $600.00. The trial lasted a great length of time and the prisoner was convicted and sentenced to be sent to Van Diemans Land for ten years. feeling at the time was very high in view of his previous good character and the severity of the sentence and efforts were made to set the verdict aside.

An indication, however, of how well-known Abraham Polack had become is shown by a society clipping in a later newspaper which reported that Mrs. Polack had returned from London after seeing her family placed in the best schools suitable to their ages, "whence the boys will in due time be removed to one of the colleges, it being Mr Polack's intention to employ a portion of the ample reward which his industry and skill in business has brought, in giving his sons the best education in his power as well as the advantage of the best society".

Abraham Polack died at Newtown in 1873 at the age of 76 years. His must have been one of themany great success stories of his time and an indication of what could be achieved in the young colony by hard work and initiative.

Joseph Nobbs

Joseph Nobbs obtained sixty acres on the 5th January 1941. The land in question was described as extending to Mangrove Island in Cooks River and was "previously promised to George Tyrell on or before 4th July 1814, and now granted to said Joseph Nobbs in accordance with report on case No. 754 on the 25th November, 1840". It covered an area from Flinders Road to the river and was known as Nobbs Flat.

Joseph Nobbs was a widower and married Lucy Harding a widow at St James Church in 1827. A rather ambiguous entry in the church records under Joseph Nobbs reads "Margaret Silk-her name was taken as wife but she was not". Unfortunately, no further details are supplied so we are left in doubt as to what part she played in his life. A further complication arises when it is learned that among those buried in St Paul's Church of England cemetery at Canterbury are Joseph and Ann Nobbs.

Joshua Thorpe

Case No 73 before Commissioners appointed under Act of Colonial Legislature 5th William IV No. 21 who felt themselves compelled to deride against his claim the property being in the Crown. Governor Burke was pleased, however, notwithstanding such derision, of the Commissioners, to order a grant to issue in favour of said Joshua Thorpe, it appearing that he was a bona fide purchaser of the land and the Crown having been out of possession of the same since 1821".

Upon further research the only reference I could discover relating to Abraham Champion was an entry in R. Darling's Dispatch of 1827 with the very odd heading of " List of persons originally convicts who have cleared out of this part of Sydney and are supposed to have left the Colony during the year 1826. Among the names was that of Abraham Champion, free from servitude in 1825.

Joshua Thorpe married Sarah Ann Garratt in 1827 at St Phillips Church. Some time later there is a mention of Thorp's Punt crossing the river between Tempe Dam and Prout Bridge and it was still there in 1854 when permission was given to Mr. P. A. Thompson and T. J. Fisher to build a bridge which was erected at Undercliffe.

Undercliffe House

Undercliffe House was occupied by Mr.P.A.Thompson who was responsible for building Undercliffe Bridge. The house was described variously as a "handsome stone built residence with verandahs front and back, containing nine large rooms. There was an acre of garden and orchard". In 1868 it was described as "a large neat looking cottage with several out-buildings stood on the left bank of the river near the bridge. The bold and steep cliffs which lay to the rear of the place rendered it worthy of the name.

Frederick Wright Unwin

Adjoining Joshua Thorpe's grant and extending over the whole area bounded by Wolli Creek and Cooks River was the 100 acre grant obtained by Frederick Wright Unwin. His land was formerly the grant promised to Arthur Martin on or before 1814 and re-advertised at his request in To the west of Frederick Unwin's land extending from Wolli Creek to Cooks River were two grants of land given to Joshua Thorpe, one for 50 acres in 1836 and the other for 30 acres in 1838. The grant for 30 acres was for land previously promised to one, Abraham Champion and the entry reads "Obtained 30 acres on 6-1-1838 being land promised to Abraham Champion on or before 31-3-1821 and claimed by Joshua Thorpe.favour of Mr. Unwin in the Government Notice dated 14-12-1839 during the time of Governor Gipps. Mr Unwin was a Sydney Solicitor. He lived for some time in Argyle Street, Sydney, where he built a house in 1829. It was described as having the first slate roof in the town. He married Ann King in 1831. He built his home on that portion of his estate known as Unwins Hill and named it "Wanstead House" after his native home in Essex, England. This hill, on the point formed by the junction of Cooks River and Wolli Creek was said to command a magnificent view over Botany Bay and the adjacent country. Bayview Avenue is shown on the old parish maps as Unwins Bridge Road. Mr. Unwin's stables were on the opposite side of the river, and a bridge was constructed at his instigation. Unwin's Bridge as it was called was erected by 100 men whose services were provided by the Government. In 1889 it was removed and replaced by a more permanent structure built on pillars made of iron cylinders filled with concrete. This in turn has been replaced by the railway bridge now in use. He was one of the directors of the Sugar Works and Unwin Street Canterbury is said to have been named after him. However, in a copy of "The Echo" 2nd October, 1890, it stated that the name plate erected by the Council showed the name as "Unuin" and an article written by Mary Salmon for the "Evening News" suggested that it may have been a misspelling of "Union", although she agreed it could have been named after Mr.Unwin, so there is some doubt as to its origin.

Edward Campbell

Edward Campbell, a Sydney Merchant later occupied "Wanstead" and at his death it was occupied for many years by his widow. It was described in 1868 as "a very pretty object in the landscape with well wooded cliffs in the background and some beautiful gardens, groves and paddocks round or near it." The house was said to be a commodious family residence. A sandstone quarry had been opened upon the estate.

Thomas Sylvester

On the western side of the area, one of the earliest grants was that given to Thomas Sylvester. He obtained 100 acres on the 25th August, 1812. His land was bounded by what is now Bexley Road, William Street and Wolli Creek and as far to the east as roughly where the junction is now of Woodlawn Avenue and Homer Street.

John Riley

To the east of Thomas Sylvester's grant, John Riley obtained 30 acres on the 19th October, 1831. His grant was bounded by William Street to the north and extended almost to Wolli Creek to the south.

Winifred Flaherty

To the east of John Riley's land Winifred Flaherty obtained 30 acres also on the 19th October, 1831. Her land also bounded by William Street to the north and stretched southwards to Wolli Avenue and included the site of the present Earlwood Reservoir. Winifred Flaherty came out as a convict and received her certificate of emancipation in May, 1810.

John Perks

John Perks was sentenced to transportation for life in 1811. He arrived at the colony in the ship "Indefatigable" and obtained his ticket of leave in 1829. He also obtained a grant of land on the 19th October, 1831 which was bounded by Woolcott, Spark and William Streets and stretched almost to Earlwood Avenue. This contained the site of Earlwood Park.

Lewis Gordon

Lewis Gordon had two grants of land, one of 68 acres was obtained in 1838 and the other of 114 acres in 1841. These adjoining grants stretched from William Street and Hannah Laycock's acres to the west and lay north of William street and extended east to Woolcott Street. Cup and Saucer Creek flowed through the property and a small creek called Glenore Creek.

Opening up of the District

Apart from Unwins Bridge, there was a bridge at Undercliffe, commonly called Thompsons Bridge and in 1892 there were sufficient residents at Nobbs Flat to petition the Council for a bridge to be built at Wardell Road. Canterbury Council and Marrickville Council both supported the idea but the bridge was not built. A petition was presented three years later to have a bridge built to connect Parkestown andKingsgrove with Fernhill (Hurlstone Park) Station. This was not supported by Marrickville Council as they favoured the Wardell Road Bridge scheme. Agreement was finally reached on this point and in 1898 work was begun on the Wardell Road Bridge and finished in May 1899. It was suggested that the bridge be named the Graham bridge but finally it was called Wardell Road.

Extract from the Sydney Morning Herald September, 1860


of long standing. An inquest was held at the Canterbury Arms Inn, Canterbury, yesterday, on the body of a

woman named Sarah Bennett, aged 75 years. It appears from evidence that the deceased supported herself and husband by carting wood into Sydney and selling it. On last Thursday evening she went with a cart load of wood to the Union Inn, O'Connell Town, (now Newtown) and left to return home at four o'clock in the afternoon; at about half-past five she was seen passing the Stanmore Hotel, some three miles from Canterbury.

Nothing more was seen of her till Friday afternoon, when her dead body was taken out of a large quarry, now filled with water, on the property of Miss Campbell, Canterbury Bush. The horse and cart were found at a distance of 300 yards from the quarry, when found it was discovered that the horse had brought one of the wheels of the cart in contact with the stump of a tree, and the wheel becoming entangled with some branches of the tree, the old women doubtless found it impossible to extricate it.

It is believed that she left the horse and cart, and proceeded towards Canterbury for assistance, and while so doing, fell into the water and drowned. This supposition is the more reasonable when it is considered that the night had closed in, and the women, though strong and hale for her age, suffered from defective eyesight.

Verdict; "Died from suffocation by drowning", said in a rider the jury expressed an opinion that the waterhole in which the deceased was drowned ought to be fenced in. Towards the end of the 1800's the large grants were being subdivided and more people were coming to the district. Bridges were being built over the river which made the area more accessible.

It is worthy of remark that the husband of the deceased, now eighty-three years of age, is one of the few surviving veterans of the Peninsular war. He is still strong and vigorous, and writes his name without the use of spectacles. He has, however, been a cripple for several years, and his wife- at the death of whom he was deeply affected - supported him by her industry.

He served in the 20th Regiment throughout the whole of the Peninsular War; and afterwards, for many years during the reigns of the third and fourth Georges, was employed as a night porter at Windsor Castle. Both the old veteran and his deceased wife came from Windsor, England. And arrived in this Colony in 1837. Thomas Bennett and his wife Sarah are buried in Moorefields cemetery, Canterbury. Also a son Thomas who died 16th August 1865.

Trade Routes of Danish and Scandinavian Ships and Barques by Ann Miller

These ships made great profits by sailing to the pacific and registering their vessels to trading firms at Hong Kong or Manila, or sometimes those ships which sailed by the Horn were registered at Valparaiso or San Francisco for the East Pacific Trade. They had the capacity for carrying a limited number of passengers, but were mainly traders. Profits were shared out among the crew after the trading firms took their share, and sailors also received a regular salary, good by European standards.

After leaving their home ports, the last European port was either Hamburg or Bremen, then the ships crossed the Atlantic to North America, and sometimes called at East Coast ports. They followed the West Atlantic route order to avoid becoming becalmed in the Doldrums at the Equator. Rio de Janeiro was a major port of call, and trading post. South American trade goods were carried from there to African ports, India and Ceylon. It is noted that large supplies of oranges were taken aboard for use of the crews. The ships then followed the trade routes and reached the west coast of Africa, and had regular ports of call on the Guinea coast, where crews had shore leave. The routes then lead along the coast to the Cape Negro region where there were more ports of call.

Cape Town was another major port of call, where a great deal of trading took place. Ships from scandinavia and Denmark often called at Port Dauphine in Mauritius before sailing en route for India and Ceylon. Here there was a general unloading of trade goods, and ships loaded cargoes of Indian and Ceylon teas for the Eastern Pacific trade, and sometimes they carried Indian cotton goods,. After leaving Indian and Ceylon ports such as Bombay and Colombo, they called at Bataan, then sailed direct to either Manilla or Hong Kong where the ships were registered to trading companies there, such as Hong Kong, and Montagnos of Manilla.

The Danish ships generally engaged in the tea and sugar run, and traded in India, Ceylon and China teas, mainly from Hanchow, Hong Kong and Manilla, Sydney, Port Phillips and New Zealand, and usually managed two trips per twelve months. Most ships sailing from Sydney to Port Phillip, or Morton Bay and New Zealand, carried supplies for coastal settlements along the East Coast. This was extra private profits, and goods carried were mercery goods, groceries and grog, as well as any other need supplies. This was known to Sydney dockers as the "grog and grocery run".

Ships such as "Amalia", "Isobele", "Waldemar" and "Emelia" were regular visitors for long periods. Sailors did have a system of home on leave every three years, when their ships sailed home on leave, naturally carrying a good supply of Eastern goods for the European trade. It seems that ships were well maintained and crew welfare rather advanced for the time.

Around the World in Sixteen Weeks by Jean Nolan

This trip overseas was my "big" adventure and I could not but compare it with the journey my ancestor made willingly or forcibly to Australia. My friend, Gwen, and I endured twenty-three hours in a limited area in a Qantas jet compared with their four months in limited quarters on vessels slightly larger than our Manly ferries. London! A comfortable grandmother who wrapped her arms around our hearts. Amazingly it did feel home only on a much bigger sale. Sydney and London are largely unplanned cities. They just grew! Outlying suburbs expanded and linked up. Our rows of terraces houses in the inner areas are a reflection of the housing our settlers left behind.

Travelling on the Underground Railways began an exciting excursion but we soon learned our way around. People were helpful, the different lines were colour - coded and signs were easily seen. That first weekend I picked up a small map of the system at Kings Cross Station and it was well used. Much to our delight we were able to help a gentleman from Liverpool find his way to High Kensington.

We both made visits to the parts of London which our forefathers had lived in or had known - Postman Square my great, great grandfather committed his crime and Bethnal Green from where Gwen's people had moved to Australia. Because of bombing in World War II and redevelopment, little remains of these areas of buildings they would have known, but amid all the noisy traffic and rushing people we stood in these places that we felt belonged to us. All the time we were in Europe and the United Kingdom, we were aware of the history that "oozed" out of every brick and stone.

In the church of St Botolphus near St Paul's we touched our first ancient stone. It was dated 1068 - two years after the Battle of Hastings! This was a church where travellers prayed before and after their journeys. These were much more perilous than ours but we paused a moment to add our prayers to the echoes within this old church. On a foggy, wet day we crossed the Channel to Europe. Paris we found to a busy, scintillating city. At night it sparkled and the view from the Eiffel Tower (this is where the French have an Illuminated sign counting down the days to the end of the Millennium) was breath taking. A lovely city but the traffic !! All I had read about it was true.

Rome was a city that was coated in centuries of history and grime. I wanted to scrub it clean and restore its splendour. The history that was all around us there was hard to take in - ancient Roman ruins found buried under the refuse from succeeding settlers and the marvel of St Peters. So much to see all in one city.

One of my favourite places in Europe was the medieval village of St Paul de Vence on a high hill to the north of Nice. The streets were narrow and cobbled and twisted their way in all the directions. The view from the surrounding walls was magnificent - valleys with pale, ochre houses with their darker Spanish tiled roofs standing in groups in the green countryside. An artist's paradise. The island of Burano, a short boat ride from Venice, was such a contrast to what we had already seen. Every house was painted a different colour to its neighbour and there was a strange church steeple which from one direction seemed to lean and yet from another was straight. Here we were able to buy some beautiful lace made by the local women. Many of the designs had been devised by these women as they waited for their men to return home from their fishing trips. The story goes that the men knew where their homes were by the colour of the house.

Returning to the United Kingdom, we rented a studio apartment in Bloomsbury. We were on the second floor of a house built in 1820 where the windows, when opened, hung crookedly, the floors were uneven (Gwen woke one morning with her feet off the end of the bed! I had chosen the level bed!),thirty - six stairs to climb but a modern kitchen and bathroom.

From here we explored - majestic St Pauls, Westminster Abbey with its cloisters, Chapter house(1235 AD), Pyx (a very old chapel) and hidden gardens, glorious Canterbury Cathedral, a very much alive Cambridge and a more sedate Oxford, Hampton Court with its magnificent ordered gardens, Windsor Castle and Queen Mary"s Doll's House and London itself.

We attended Evensong in many of the Cathedrals where the choristers' voices seemed to soar all the to the heavens. We enjoyed the Art Galleries with so many famous paintings to be seen and new ones to be admired . At one of the castles we went to, our guide suggested that no one in the old portraits smiled because their teeth were so bad or nonexistent. This makes me look at old family photos in a new light.

I had a wonderful moment in Chester Cathedral when I discovered a missing piece (very small) in my family history. My father, George munro, whose mother's maiden name was Spence, had a glorious bass voice. There in Chester I found a memorial to a William Spence who died in 1785 "and was allowed to have one of the strongest and finest toned bass voices in the Kingdom." This coincidence I cannot ignore though its accuracy will be very difficult, if not impossible, to prove.

Our weeks in Scotland were all that I hoped that they would be . During our time based in Edinburgh - to me a more gracious city than some we had seen. It's old but its heart is beating strongly. We visited Stirling. Here the castle appeared to be more of a family home than Edinburgh but the Wallace Monument made an even greater impression.It is situated on a hill three hundred feet high and the Monument soars another two hundred feet. I managed to climb the eighty -five steps (a twisting spiral staircase) to the first landing and watched a visual display - "The Talking Head" - about Wallace's deeds. All my Scottish genes rushed to the fore demanding independence for Scotland.

Throughout Scotland, the scenery was as magnificent as I had imagined with the added pleasure of fresh air and, in the northern Highlands, comparative quietness. In the far north, the Orkney Islands where we saw Skara Brae where ancient people lived over 5000 years ago , fences made of pieces of flat sandstones for hedges would be difficult to grow in these areas, the Island of Iona where ancient Scottish kings are buried and castles, many of them now owned by National Trust of Scotland, with sheltered gardens which we saw in all their glory.

Our short time on the Isle of Man was an experience we were glad to have had. It is a gem of an island, forgotten by many and yet it has a very rich heritage. Even today it has kept mush of its independence and the Manx people are among the kindest in the world.

To complete our "around the world in Sixteen weeks", we flew across the Atlantic to New York. I found this to be a busy, bustling, noisy city where every yellow taxi cab beeped its horn at the slightest problem. Nowadays it seems to be a safe city but I'm sure it has its dark side. Central Park was different to our Hide Park for it was full of earnest joggers, roller blade skaters and cyclists, most of them so serious in their urge to be "fit".

Niagara Falls were almost too enormous to be real. I wanted to turn the tap to slow down the flow of water. While we where there we saw in the local gardens standardised Lantana bushes which are carefully placed into hot-houses every winter.

The U.S.A. provided us with a different aspect of the history . I found the people to be friendly, very patriotic- flags flying at so many private homes- and 'big' thinkers about everything- meals,building and their country. Washington reminded me very much of Canberra but on a much bigger scale. Philadelphia was a ' warmer' city and the Ranger, who spoke to us when we saw the Liberty Bell, was one of the best speakers we had heard. A highlight of our stay in the U.S.A. was our time spent in Indiana. Gwen had friends in New Whiteland, south of Indianapolis, and they made us both very welcome. Here I was again aware of the wideness and the blueness of the skies and of how I had missed them in Europe and Britain. I marvelled at the size of their Supermarkets and Craft shops, their busy highways and the generosity of their friendship.

San Francisco was different again. It felt as though it was packed into a small area and that the Peninsula was packed tight. This gave the city a white appearance from a distance- for red roofs are visible. Cable car rides, Pier 39, gigantic redwood trees and homeless people are what I will remember of this city.

Being away from home I realised that we live in a big, wide, wonderful world, that the ordinary, average family is the same and that a smile is an excellent form of communication no matter what language is spoken. Even with all the wonders that I have seen, I was glad to board my Qantas flight to come home. Hearing the Australian voices of the crew and setting foot on Australian soil again was all I wanted to complete my "around the world in sixteen weeks".

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