William Fowles was following a good line of William’s. He was at least the third in a row! Born to William Fowles and Mary Ann Gattan or Gatton; in 1826 he was one of a good sized family.
William’s siblings were Sarah Ann, then himself, Elizabeth Ellen, Alice, Henry (died aged 8), John and Frederick. Elizabeth Ellen and her husband would also come out to Australia some years after William and Hannah.
William and Hannah (and again I have found her as Annie or Ann in different records), They were married on the 27th June 1847. The marriage was held at the Regent Street Chapel in Lambeth, Surrey. Regent Street Chapel was the worship place of the local Baptist community amongst whom Hannah and William had been raised.
As a young boy William attended the Union Chapel Sunday School in Brixton Hill. During this time he was awarded a certificate that reads; “this is to certify William Fowles was on the 24th March 1839 admitted as a member of the class of honor in this school as a boy whose principle and desire to act right his teachers have confidence”. Now there is a glowing testimony!
At the time of their marriage their addresses were given respectively as William, Acre Lane, West Brixton, Lambeth and Hannah, 4 Telegraph Place, Brixton, Lambeth. They were 22 and 24 when they married. (There is an error on their ages on their wedding certificate).
Hannah was the daughter of James Dean and Ann Edser of Walton on the Hill. She was born at Walton on the Hill and baptised on the 26th October 1823. An account was given of Hannah as a very small woman who weighed in at seven stone (44.5 kg in today’s money). She was reported to have jet black curly hair. The Dean’s had been at Walton on the Hill for at least three generations so were a local family in Surrey to the Fowles family.
The Dean family followed what was considered a non-conformist Anglican religion being Baptists.
In the 1841 census Hannah was living with a Samuel Colman and his wife and daughter in Brixton at the age of 18. There is no identifying record but it is possible that she was living there in service as a servant, not uncommon at the time.
It would appear from all intents and purposes that both William and Hannah were both from reasonably content families. If not quite middle-class their long established roots in Surrey might have put them into the ‘respectable poor’ class deemed so important by the upper and middle classes of eighteenth and nineteenth century England.
What they did not belong to was the thronging masses moving in from across England in search of work and sustenance so for the Fowles it must have been somewhat easier as they already had social capital in their established connections. The ability to find and sustain work would have been easier at least up until the 1840’s when the famines occurring in Ireland and the vast amount of people spilling in from across the continents of Europe to England with it’s more tolerant approach to minority groups created an overcrowded populace.
It was also around this time that the urbanisation of London progressed with gusto. The fringe settlements that had existed until this time began to merge together into a metamorphosis of mass housing and huge industrial enterprises. The land that the agricultural labourers had used was gradually being enclosed and taken up for other purposes.
The so called golden age of Queen Victoria and Prince Alfred brought England forward as the manufacturing hub of the developed world and trades and craftsmen alongside labourers began working in the new factories. Technology moved at such a rapid rate it was changing the very fabric that made up England’s society and workforce. For all its good the industrial revolution also did a great deal of damage to the poor and the disenfranchised.
Crime and punishment in London was pandemic. When I have found so many convicts on my paternal line; I never cease to be amazed that I have yet to find one of ours on the Fowles line. I can only think again that this has more to do with the fact that generationally they were already well settled in the area so may have had a better time of it than the poor and transient. I also note that the Fowles were educated to read and write. Both of these resources making it possible to communicate effectively with people in position to affect your opportunities.
This was the time that Dickens wrote Oliver Twist and the great divide between the classes began to be able to be seen by the richer classes for the first time.
Even so the thinking of the day was still very much one of a guilt culture. If you were poor – what had you done to contribute to this? The belief that the poor were lazy and a sub-culture of thieves and not to be trusted.
In the ten years prior to their marriage Queen Victoria had made colonisation an integral part of her rule and much encouragement was put on the people to emigrate to the colonies and thus relieve the burden of overcrowding, unemployment and general disharmony. The incentives to leave England for the free ordinary people were quite lucrative with assisted passage programs. It is highly likely that William and Hannah saw an opportunity to better their lot and took it.
Australia was keen to populate and prosper. She wasn’t going to do it on forced convict labour alone. What she needed was tradespeople, agriculturalists and farmers who could open up the land and make it a successful colony. She also needed young families. With this in mind two problems could be solved at once and with that in mind the decision to assist the ‘right’ settlers to the colonies was made.
I wonder did William and Hannah stand on the the docks with their infant son James Henry waiting to board the Caroline Agnes for what would be 125 days at sea. Surely they would have known that the likelihood of them ever seeing their family again in England was remote?. They must have wondered whether their future was to be golden opportunities or a grave error of judgement? I like to think that they must have been quite excited at the prospect.
The Caroline Agnes was a sailing ship of 570 tons and on this journey she took 230 people aboard. The shipping register shows that William and Hannah were both able to read and write and owned a bible. They are recorded on the assisted immigrants records as being of the Baptist faith. William’s profession was recorded as farm labourer and brickmaker. Hannah was recorded as a housekeeper. Both of Brixton Hill, Surrey.
Both Hannah and William were assisted immigrants to Australia and being a young couple with a child they would have been ideal candidates as these were the exact people who the colonies were looking for to add some ‘quality’ to their growing nationhood.
As most likely steerage passengers the accommodations would have been quite simple and privacy minimal. You would be rubbing shoulders with people from all walks of life and having to keep a sharp eye out on your possessions. Boredom on the journey would have necessitated a requirement for people to talk at great length about their background, hope and plans and it is likely that they all got to know each other rather well. It was not uncommon for people to be appointed tasks to complete on a daily basis aboard ship as part of their payment for transport.
Two weeks out from embarking at Port Henry in Australia (5 kilometres from what we now know as Geelong City), twelve month old James Henry Fowles died aboard ship. According to the ship’s surgeon he had hydrocephalus (water on the brain). This was a term frequently used in those days and may not have been the actual medical reason for the little boys death but it might have been the best description the surgeon could offer. The little fellow was buried at sea.
One can only imagine how bereft William and Hannah must have been on that June day in 1849 in the middle of winter arriving in Geelong. Rather than landing amongst excitement they must have both come off the ship with empty arms and whatever goods they had brought from England to what would surely feel like an uncertain start.
At their time of arrival, Victoria was not even yet a colony. Ship records show the Disposal List of the Immigrants; (indicating the destination of the immigrants aboard).
William had been offered employment in advance by an affluent sponsor in the shape of Mr. F. Champion whose store in Malop Street Geelong sold a variety of much-needed wares as his advertisement in an 1852 copy of the Geelong Advertiser claimed. William was offered employment for three months as a storekeeper.
He was offered 35 pounds per annum plus rations. In current terms this translates to $1.35 per week plus board. This was a higher sum than usual which would indicate that William had some particular skills to offer.
In my notes from my grandmother she had said that her mother had told her that William had been offered a place as a shop-keep or in the term she used ‘miller’ at a shop in Lal Lal. (Which is in the Geelong area).
In July 1851 gold was discovered for the first time at Clunes in Victoria. Then on the 8th August of the same year gold was found at the foot of Mt Buninyong. By September of the same year folk in Geelong and Melbourne were hearing stories of nuggets being picked up in the creek beds of the Buninyong district. Buninyong was the original name for what would become known as Ballarat.
It was not very long at all before William decided he could be amongst this new-found wealth and took out a license and headed for the gold-fields. Before long a swarm of people followed him and left Melbourne and Geelong largely as ghost towns.
Some of the most profound changes to occur as a result of this social up-ending was the levelling of the classes. Rich alongside poor all sought gold cheek by jowl. Families lived in canvas tents little more than humpy existences. Slab huts soon went up for those whose outlook was somewhat permanent and as the river of riches flowed amongst the lucky so did the quickest development of towns and flourishing communities that even Victoria’s most earnest of pioneers would not have foreseen.
Those who didn’t drink or gamble it away and managed to hit it big suddenly had real money and an opportunity to make a real stake. Some of the most reliable income from the gold-rush was the traders who saw an opportunity to provide for the people heading to the diggings. I expect William caught onto this idea.
By 1852 The Argus newspaper in Melbourne was declaring ‘that things have come to a pretty pass indeed’ when it reported the growing crime, lawlessness and indecency that was now becoming prevalent on the goldfields.
William did have some success as to how much I can’t say. What I do know is that he found enough gold to have a gold brooch made up which was later broken up amongst his children and made into a series of brooches that were shared amongst his children.
William must have done reasonably well as by 1856 he is listed on the Geelong Electoral Roll as a freehold owner of land in Sharp Street, Barrabool Hills. HIs occupation was given as farmer and market gardener.
Forest Creek, Bendigo and The Ovens were prominent sites of gold strikes during the 1850’s. Three of William and Hannah’s children were born at Barrabool Hills between 1853 and 1855. One daughter was born at Chilwell and three other children born at Gheringhap, Newton and Fyansford. (all in the Geelong area).
By 1878 William and Hannah were living with their family in Yendon. William worked as a bullocky carter and was often away from the home for months at a time. Some of his loads were supplies to the ‘diggings’.
During 1879 William and his son John George had travelled to South Gippsland which was being opened up to select some land at Mirboo North. There they were shown two blocks of 320 acres each and finding the land suitable they lodged their claims.
The selection was on fertile land with good access along the Morwell river and would reputedly have made excellent farming land. However due to an unscrupulous land agent who it is believed had some dodgy dealings with a Mr Black; they found on a further visit that the land they were originally shown and had lodged claims for was in the possession of said Mr Black.
The land agent tried to convince them that another nearby parcel of land was that which they had selected. Of course William and John were not fooled and in Williams words this parcel being shown was ‘terrible land’ and ‘would have been the greatest folly to take land they could not improve’. William wrote all of this in a series of letters to the Office of Lands and Survey. He also wrote ‘we have been grossly taken in and deceived by the land agent.
Letters written by Hannah and George at the time concerning the matter are held by the Public Records Office Victoria. One letter from Hannah requests an extension of time to pay the rent as both William and John were away carting and would not be expected back for two months.
In 1880 William bought 115 acres of land from James Barr in Blakeville. The family moved to Blakeville Road to what was called Colbrook. Colbrook was the name given by the locals to the Blakeville Road area.
What was left of the original neighbourhood area when I visited last in 1998 was some old chimney stack ruins in paddocks and signage on the road. Tracks leading into the bush harkened back to a day when the area was more know for the large-scale timber felling that was carried out in the area.
Neighbours to the Fowles on Blakeville Road included the Lorkins (who had been Larkin) and Potters, Whelehans amongst others. The inevitable occurred and John George Fowles married Lily Mary Lorkin, his brother Albert Edwin Fowles married Lucy Ellen Lorkin. Both couples would eventually take up selections in Ferndale near Warragul. Henry Alfred Fowles married Sarah Potter and so on.
The following excerpt has been taken from the book; “The Victoria and it’s Metropolis 1888”. A copy of this book can be found at the Genealogical Society of Victoria – which is where I got this from.
FOWLES – William, Blakeville Road, is a native of London who came out to Geelong (Lara) in June 1849 by the Caroline Agnes. He was first engaged in a store as storekeeper and when the diggings broke out he was one of the first to take out a license. He was in Ballarat for a time and then went to Forest Creek and Bendigo but ere long returned to Ballarat, thence going to The Ovens. He next went back to Geelong, where he carried on market gardening for a while and then took to carting on the roads from Geelong. He removed to Blakeville Road nearly twenty-eight years ago and now had 115 acres of land, 60 acres of which he cultivates.
The Fowles family largely stayed in the area before spreading further north-west and south-east into Victoria. By the 1890’s there were at least twenty-three Fowles cousins living locally.
Of William and Hannah’s children; William Frederick Fowles was born in 1853 at Barrabool Hills. He married Jane Charlotte Taylor they lived in Mount Egerton which is near Ballan before moving around but staying in the Buninyong, Ballan area before ending up over at Fish Creek. They went on to have nine children. William and Jane would outlive the last four of their children. One, Ernest Roy died as a little boy of three. The other three boys died as a result of the first world war. Herbert Arthur George Fowles and Walter Ernest Fowles were both ANZACS killed at Lone Pine at Gallipoli. Another brother who was also an ANZAC Edward Francis died after returning home as a result of illness and injuries sustained in Gallipoli.
Hannah Elizabeth was born in 1853 at Barrabool Hills and became Mrs. Hannah Hall after marrying John Hall and moved to Perth in West Australia. I suppose as far as her family were concerned she might as well have moved to the other side of the world as travelling to WA was no small feat. She died in Parramatta NSW in 1917.
Emily Alice was born in 1854 at Chilwell near Geelong. She became Mrs. Emily Warne after marrying William Warne. They moved around Ballarat and the Geelong district before taking up selection and moving to Ferndale in Gippsland South. Not only did she have eleven children of her own but she went onto become the much appreciated and highly regarded local midwife. One of her deliveries was my grandmother! Sadly she tragically lost her son Ralph when he drowned aged 19 at Ferndale.
Frances Amelia was born in Newtown Geelong in 1860. She became Mrs. Frances Taylor after marrying George Taylor. (brother to her sister-in-law Jane Charlotte Taylor). They had six children and stayed in the district living at Scotchman’s Lead.
Albert Edwin Fowles was born in 1866 and went on to marry Lucy Lorkin and settled in Ferndale in Gippsland on a selection nearby to his brother John and his wife, Lucy’s sister Lily. The families remained close throughout their lives. Quite a contingency had made their way to Ferndale including some additional Lorkin’s. Albert and Lucy had two daughters. Apparently Albert was a crack shot with the gun and won awards back in Ballan as a young fellow. All his life he insisted on being called Bert and never Mr. Fowles. Even by those younger than him.
Henry Alfred Fowles married Sarah Potter and moved to Ferndale taking up selections like his brothers and in-laws. Indeed John and Bert were his neighbours. He was known as Harry. After some years he settled in Neerim South in Gippsland. Sadly his wife died in 1892 at a very young age of 31 after a long and protracted illness of ‘dropsy’. It’s quite likely that Sarah had congestive heart failure and dropsy was the common term of the day. She left behind a family of four little children Hannah, Albert, Henry and Margaret and a bereaved husband. Seven years later in 1899 Henry remarried Emma Louise Lay. They went on to have two more children Thomas and Florence, who was known as Flossie.
William and Hannah’s son John George was born at Gheringhap near Geelong in 1858. Most of his early adult life he worked alongside his father and brothers as bullocky carter and farmer. He married Lily Mary Lorkin. John pre-deceased his parents as a result of terminal damage done to his lungs following the Gippsland South bushfires of 1898. He left behind nine children and a widow. The oldest child being twelve and the youngest being nine months. John is my great-grandfather on my mother’s maternal line.
William died at Colbrook on the 6th August 1907 aged eighty one years. His cause of death was given as carcinoma liver asthenia, (cancer of the liver).
A very old resident of Colbrook in the person of Mr. William Fowles died on Tuesday morning aged 81 years. The funeral took place this afternoon, the interment being in the Ballan New Public Cemetery. – Ballan Times August 8th 1907.
After William’s death Hannah moved to Ferndale to live with her eldest daughter, Emily Warne. Most of her daughter’s were living in Ferndale at this time.
In a letter to the Supreme Court of Victoria Albert had written (as the executor of his father’s affairs); ‘that my mother Hannah Ann Fowles resides at Blakeville Road Colbrook – six miles from Ballan. She is eighty-three years of age and very feeble and unaccustomed to business and is desirous that letters of administration of the above estate (his father’s) should be granted and committed to me.’
Hannah died on the 9th May 1908 aged eighty-four years. Her cause of death was given as senile decay with heart failure. On the death schedule her name is given as Ann Hann Fowles
Death – Fowles, Mrs Hannah Ann, died on 9/5/1908 at Ferndale, South Gippsland. Hannah Ann relict of the late William Fowles, late of Colbrook via Ballan, aged 84 year 7months. – West Gippsland Gazette May 12th 1908.
Hannah’s family arranged for her body to be taken back to Ballan to be buried with her husband in the Ballan New Public Cemetery.
Both are buried in the Anglican section. Both are recorded on the death schedules as being Church of England.
A memorial erected to William and Hannah in the cemetery is still able to be clearly read, ‘Sacred to the memory of William Fowles died August 1907 aged 8 years. Also Hannah Ann beloved wife of the above died 9 May 1908 aged 84 years.